There's battle lines being drawn.
Nobody's right if everybody's wrong.
Young people speaking their minds
getting so much resistance from behind

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Linkee-poo Tuesday Jan 24

"It's prime time to see the comet known as C/2022 E3, marked by its bright green nucleus and long faint ion tail. It's visible now with telescopes and binoculars, and the best chance of seeing it with the naked eye is coming up in early February."

John Scalzi wins the 2023 Heinlein Award. Considering Scalzi's close tie-ins to the Heinlein legacy (comparisons to Heinlein, and I believe John was toastmaster at a Heinlein anniversary event) it's well deserved and about time.

"Virginia Senate Democrats on Tuesday defeated several Republican efforts to repeal a so-called 'clean cars' law that aims to reduce carbon pollution through the adoption of California’s stringent rules for vehicle emissions."

"Unlike tip jars that shoppers can easily ignore if they don’t have spare change, experts say the digital requests can produce social pressure and are more difficult to bypass. And your generosity, or lack thereof, can be laid bare for anyone close enough to glance at the screen — including the workers themselves." The great tipping debate is back.

"Tesla video promoting self-driving was staged, engineer testifies." Yep.

"Amazon is ending a charity donation program it ran for a decade in its latest cost-cutting move… In a blog post on Wednesday, the company said the program, called AmazonSmile, will shut down by February 20 because it had 'not grown to create the impact' the retailer had hoped." Or, ya know, you could reduce the number of eligible charities. But this is mostly a smokescreen to hide that they're laying off 18,000 people.

"King Charles III has asked that annual profits from a 1 billion-pound ($1.2 billion) Crown Estate windfarm deal be used for the public good rather than the royal family."

"The men had been convinced to pay $20,000 each — an enormous sum in India — to come to the U.S. to rebuild storm-damaged oil rigs. But instead of receiving green cards, they were issued temporary H-2B visas that bound them to a single employer. That employer — Signal International — forced them to work round-the-clock shifts and to live squalid work camps, where they were fed frozen rice and moldy bread."

"The US’s transition to electric vehicles could require three times as much lithium as is currently produced for the entire global market, causing needless water shortages, Indigenous land grabs, and ecosystem destruction inside and outside its borders, new research finds… But ambitious policies investing in mass transit, walkable towns and cities, and robust battery recycling in the US would slash the amount of extra lithium required in 2050 by more than 90%." There's a lot of assumptions baked into this analysis, like Americans will still demand the huge vehicles they've been buying for the last 2 decades. It also leaves out the environmental aspects of drilling for new oil, shipping and processing of that oil. But yes, marrying the electric car revolution with other transportation changes would be a much better solution than just cars alone. But most of those other initiatives have also been tried for several decades with limited success. Also, this is based on lithium being the primary battery component, which may not be true in a few years.

"Poland said Monday it would ask Berlin for permission to send German-built Leopard tanks to Ukraine as its Western allies move to supply Kyiv with more powerful military hardware to thwart Russia’s invasion."

How's that "more guns make us safer" idea working out? "Seven people were killed in two related shootings Monday at agricultural facilities in a California coastal community south of San Francisco, marking the state’s third mass killing in eight days, including Saturday’s attack at a dance hall that killed 11 during Lunar New Year celebrations."

"Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis reiterated Monday the state’s rejection of a proposed nationwide advanced African American studies course, saying it pushes a political agenda — something three authors cited in the state’s criticism accused him of doing in return."

"A new documentary looks into the sexual misconduct allegations against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh and raises questions about the depth of the FBI investigation in 2018."

"McGonigal's (former special agent in charge of counterintelligence in the FBI's New York office) involvement with the Russian billionaire involved taking secret payments for investigating one of Deripaska's rivals. He also worked to get Deripaska off the U.S. sanctions list, in violation of federal law, prosecutors said." Charles McGonigal was one of the FBI agents that helped launch the probe into ties between the Trump Campaign and Russia. So Trump, in his usual measured response, said, "may he rot in hell." Ah, I'm not sure he sees the connection the rest of us see.

"Four members of the Oath Keepers were convicted Monday of seditious conspiracy in the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack in the second major trial of far-right extremists accused of plotting to forcibly keep President Donald Trump in power."

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Linkee-poo Wednesday January 18

Gina Lollobrigida and Charles Simic, and so it goes.

"Early forecasts suggest El Niño will return later in 2023, exacerbating extreme weather around the globe and making it 'very likely' the world will exceed 1.5C of warming. The hottest year in recorded history, 2016, was driven by a major El Niño." We're boned.

"Dust that billows up from desert storms and arid landscapes has helped cool the planet for the past several decades, and its presence in the atmosphere may have obscured the true extent of global heating caused by fossil fuel emissions… Atmospheric dust has increased by about 55% since the mid-1800s, an analysis suggests. And that increasing dust may have hidden up to 8% of warming from carbon emissions."

"While jurisdictions like California and New York move toward banning the sale of new gasoline-powered cars, one US state wants to go in the opposite direction. Wyoming’s legislature is considering a resolution that calls for a phaseout of new electric vehicle sales by 2035. Introduced on Friday, Senate Joint Resolution 4 has support from members of the state’s House of Representatives and Senate." Conservatives have become a joke.

"Eating one freshwater fish caught in a river or lake in the United States is the equivalent of drinking a month's worth of water contaminated with toxic 'forever chemicals,' new research said on Tuesday." Now ask me how many fish from Ohio you can eat. The answer is reality is "none." But because fishing (especially game fishing on Lake Erie) means a few hundred million to the state, you're allowed to eat one a month. But there are people who eat locally caught fish several times a week during the summer.

"A joint Egyptian-British mission doing excavation work in the city of Luxor in southern Egypt has unearthed a previously undiscovered ancient royal tomb, officials said over the weekend."

Cue the theremin music… "The Office of the Director of National Intelligence on Thursday released an unclassified version of the government's new report on UFOs. The annual report stems from a law that also requires the ODNI to send Congress a classified version of the report each year."

"The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline received over 1.7 million calls, texts and chats in its first five months. That's nearly half a million more than the old 10-digit Suicide Prevention Lifeline fielded during the same period the year before."

"Matthew is one of more than 7,000 union nurses who went on strike in New York City this past week, protesting staffing levels, which led to two of the city’s largest nonprofit hospital systems to agree to strengthen staffing ratios at some hospitals. On Thursday, hundreds of health-care workers from around the country protested understaffing at HCA Healthcare, the nation’s largest hospital system. That included one worker from El Paso who recently admitted herself into her own emergency room for dehydration and exhaustion after working four 12-hour days in a row, her union said."

"Socially isolated older adults have a 27% higher chance of developing dementia than older adults who aren't, a new study by Johns Hopkins researchers found." A couple of things here. First is people developing dementia tend to isolate themselves. This is actually a symptom of the disease, so I really hope this study was able to eliminate this factor. And two, wait, Alzheimer's is the most common dementia? Since when?

"Tens of millions of American workers face similar decisions when they need to care for themselves, a family member, or a baby. Wild variations in paid leave regulations from state to state and locally mean those choices can be further complicated by financial factors… And workers in rural areas face even more challenges than those in cities, including greater distances to hospitals and fewer medical providers, exacerbating health and income disparities. Companies in rural areas may be less likely to voluntarily offer the benefit because they tend to be smaller and there are fewer employers for workers to choose from."

"Tu is in the U.S. on a work visa, and like most work visas, it is tied to Tu's job. Losing that job meant Tu had 90 days to find a new one, or face having to leave the country… At Meta, Instagram's parent company, more than 15% of employees are on a work visa, like Tu."

"Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen notified Congress on Friday that the U.S. is projected to reach its debt limit on Thursday and will then resort to 'extraordinary measures' to avoid default."

"One defining feature of 21st century politics is that the nation keeps tip-toeing up to the edge of potential — and avoidable — economic ruin, in the form of threatening to default on its debt… And it's happening again…" Some options.

"Data from Edmunds shows the average price of a used car purchase in December at $29,533, down nearly $1,600 from the record high of $31,095 reached in April 2022. Today’s average used car price is about the same as the average new car price as recently as 2010."

How goes Twitter… "Are you in need of some mid-century modern furniture, industrial kitchen equipment or audio-visual systems? Or looking to brighten up your apartment with a giant neon bird sign?… Then you're in luck. Twitter's San Francisco headquarters is auctioning off 'surplus corporate office assets' online for a fleeting 27 hours, giving potential lucky bidders the chance to take a piece of the struggling company home with them."

"Schools across the country are considering whether to ban the new AI chatbot, ChatGPT. On this week’s On the Media, a look at the ever-present hype around AI and claims that machines can think. Plus, the potential implications of handing over decision-making to computers." Okay, so this podcast has altered my thinking on AI, a little. One, what we call AI is still defined by the new definition of AI, which is about 25% of the classic definition. So for us olds, while these tools are interesting, they are still not conscious or creative. Also note about how ChatGPT is a "people pleaser" and has been known to lie and fabricate things. Also I'm thinking of an old story about how the Furby could be considered as having feelings and emotions. True, it was simulated and the toy's programming was responding to outside stimulus, but is that really any different than ourselves? We feel emotion. Why? Because of reaction to external stimuli. And how to we know it's the correct emotion? Because we are responding with appropriate patterns. And isn't that exactly what the Furby was doing electronically what our body was doing chemically? So what exactly is the difference? We know it deep inside ourselves that it may be different, but weren't we taught how to process our emotions, shown how to behave? This could be a problem of not having the words to express the difference (see that argument here in the podcast of do words form our intelligence, or doesn't our intelligence form the word). While I initially rejected the Furby conundrum, I've come back to it time and again. And now I'm not so sure.

"And then he had an idea. What if he applied what he had learned at school over the last couple years to help the public identify whether something has been written by a machine?… On January 2nd, Edward released his app. He named it GPTZero. It basically uses ChatGPT against itself, checking whether "there's zero involvement or a lot of involvement" of the AI system in creating a given text." About halfway through this article I was wondering if it was composed by ChatGPT.

"A former commander with the Russian paramilitary Wagner Group has claimed asylum in Norway after deserting from the mercenary outfit… Andrey Medvedev, 26, crossed the border into Norway last Friday, where he was detained by border guards."

"Haiti, a country long beset by catastrophe and political turmoil, is facing perhaps its steepest challenge in recent decades as its piecemeal government, now lacking any democratically elected officials, struggles to chart a path forward amid gang violence and a cholera outbreak." Oh fuck.

"Authorities in Florida have been turning back growing numbers of undocumented Cubans and Haitians arriving by sea in recent weeks as more attempt to seek haven in the US… Local US residents on jet skis have been helping some of the migrants who attempted to swim ashore after making arduous, life-threatening and days-long journeys in makeshift vessels."

"FEMA fired the California company hired to translate the documents once the errors became known, but the incident was an ugly reminder for Alaska Natives of the suppression of their culture and languages from decades past."

"3D printing is taking home construction to new heights. In Houston, a giant printer is building what designers say is the first 3D-printed two-story house in the U.S.…The machine has been pouring a concrete mix from a nozzle, one layer at a time, in hot weather and cold, alongside a sparse on-site workforce, to create a 4,000-square-foot home."v "An administrator at Richneck Elementary School was notified that a student may have a gun hours before a six-year-old boy shot his teacher, according to the district's superintendent."

"A District Court ruled in 2021 that the government was 60% responsible for the massacre after shooter Devin Kelley, who was discharged from the Air Force after a felony conviction, wasn't entered into the national database that would have prevented him from buying a gun. A judge said the government also owed victims $230 million in damages." And now the government is appealing that decision.

"Missouri's House of Representatives kicked off its new session by tightening its dress code — but only for female lawmakers, to the dismay of Democrats who slammed the measure during floor debate and on social media."

Oh look, actual voter fraud… "The wife of a northwestern Iowa county supervisor has been charged with 52 counts of voter fraud after she allegedly filled out and cast absentee ballots in her husband's unsuccessful race for a Republican nomination to run for Congress in 2020, federal prosecutors said." Oh wait, it's another Republican. Never mind.

"A federal judge acquitted a Capitol Rioter on one obstruction charge while convicting him on five other charges because she said he had a 'unique stew in his mind.'" While probably true, this is also part of their legal strategy.

"Albuquerque police on Monday arrested the man they say is the 'mastermind' behind a recent string of shootings targeting Democratic lawmakers’ homes… The suspect, Solomon Pena, is a Republican who unsuccessfully ran for office in November, has made repeated claims that the election was rigged and appears to have attended the Jan. 6, 2021, riot in Washington, D.C." This is my shocked face.

"Lawyers for President Joe Biden found more classified documents at his home in Wilmington, Delaware, than previously known, the White House acknowledged Saturday… White House lawyer Richard Sauber said in a statement that a total of six pages of classified documents were found during a search of Biden’s private library. The White House had said previously that only a single page was found there."

"Questioned for a lawsuit, former President Donald Trump angrily hurled insults and threatened to sue the columnist who accused him of raping her in a department store in the 1990s, according to excerpts of his videotaped testimony unsealed by a court on Friday."

"Now, Trump is turning on some leaders in the movement for not being loyal enough after some have spoken out against his 2024 presidential campaign… 'That’s a sign of disloyalty,' the ex-president groused in an interview with David Brody on the right-wing network Real America’s Voice. 'There’s great disloyalty in the world of politics, and that’s a sign of disloyalty.'" Mostly it's because they see Trump as a losing proposition this time around. But for the authoritarian, there can be only one, and any disloyalty is met with harsh treatment.

Friday, January 13, 2023

Linkee-poo Friday 13 of January

Lisa Marie Presley, Robbie Knievel, and Jeff Beck, and so it goes.

"A massive storm system whipping up severe winds and spawning tornadoes cut a path across the U.S. South, killing at least seven people in Georgia and Alabama, where a twister damaged buildings and tossed cars in the streets of historic downtown Selma."

"Amid the frenzy leading up to Tuesday’s Mega Millions drawing, social media users are once again circulating claims that the lion’s share of such a jackpot will ultimately end up in the federal government’s coffers in the form of tax revenue." If you win the jackpot and take the winnings as a lump sum, you'll probably end up paying about 50% in taxes (federal, state, and local). There are, however, ways to protect that money and pay less. Which is why they will tell you to consult with a tax attorney before claiming the prize.

"Decades of research by scientists at Exxon accurately predicted how much global warming would occur from burning fossil fuels, according to a new study in the journal Science… The findings clash with an enormously successful campaign that Exxon spearheaded and funded for more than 30 years that cast doubt on human-driven climate change and the science underpinning it." In case you're wondering who is to blame for the climate crisis.

"Although the cause of PETM has been debated since it was discovered in the 1990s, more and more evidence has accumulated that points to massive quantities of CO2 and methane emitted due to volcanic activity in the North Atlantic as the primary cause… But there’s a problem with that explanation. The jump in temperatures at the start of the PETM took between 3,000 and 10,000 years, whereas the igneous activity lasted far longer, from about 63 to 54 million years ago."

"This year has a lot of celestial wonder in store, from stunning meteor showers to a super blue moon and a ring of fire eclipse."

"NASA's Webb telescope has discovered an exoplanet… for the first time… The planet, called LHS 475 b, is nearly the same size as Earth, having 99% of our planet's diameter, scientists said. However, it is several hundred degrees hotter than Earth and completes its orbit around its star in two days."

"Molly Sampson's favorite Christmas present was the one she went out and got for herself that morning: a 5-inch-long Otodus megalodon tooth from a shark that lived millions of years ago… The 9-year-old Maryland girl and her older sister, Natalie, had asked for and received insulated waders and fossil sifters so they could go shark tooth hunting further out in the waters of the Chesapeake Bay near the Calvert Cliffs, recalls Molly's mother, Alicia Sampson."

"California on Thursday announced it will sue the companies that make and promote most of the nation’s insulin, accusing them of scheming to illegally increase the price of the drug and demanding they return millions of dollars to some diabetics who state officials say were overcharged for the medicine they must have to survive."

"Moderna is considering raising the price of its COVID-19 vaccine by over 400 percent—from $26 per dose to between $110 and $130 per dose—according to a report by The Wall Street Journal."

"To accelerate the global move toward sustainable vehicles, Toyota is suggesting simply replacing the inner workings of vehicles already on the roads with cleaner technology like fuel cells and electric motors." Yes, but who is going to pay for that.

"The head of the National Transportation Safety Board expressed concern Wednesday about the safety risks that heavy electric vehicles pose if they collide with lighter vehicles." I expect this to be a new talking point of the right, when the real problem is how large vehicles (trucks and SUVs) have become lately and that they (and even some smaller vehicles) have reduced visibility to the road around them.

"Rising U.S. consumer prices moderated again last month, bolstering hopes that inflation’s grip on the economy will continue to ease this year and possibly require less drastic action by the Federal Reserve to control it."

"Reach said it installed employee-tracking software called TimeCamp on Besse’s work laptop after it found her assigned files were over budget and behind schedule, a strategy companies are increasingly taking in the era of remote work."

"(Tesla) dropped prices nearly 20% in the United States on some versions of the Model Y SUV, its top seller. That cut will make more versions of the Model Y eligible for a $7,500 electric-vehicle tax credit that will be available through March. It also reduced the base price of the Model 3, its least expensive model, by about 6%."

"A Syracuse University analysis did find that the IRS audits certain low-income wage earners more than five times more than other groups, in part because budget cuts have caused the agency to rely more on automated 'correspondence audits.' But the agency’s new infusion of funding will not fund 87,000 employees at once, nor will it fund only auditors. A new tax policy requires mobile payment apps and users to report information about commercial transactions above $600 to the IRS, but it won’t add an additional tax or apply to personal transactions." Why does the IRS audit the poor more? Because the Congress, when it was last under GOP control, directed them to do so.

"The Supreme Court on Tuesday debated the limits of the pressure unions can exert during a strike in a case about cement truck drivers who walked off the job with the trucks full of wet concrete." There seems to be a lot of concerns about the actions of the truck drivers who returned the trucks to the cement plant and left the barrels rolling and very little concern over the plant that knew the strike was coming but sent the trucks out full anyway.

"As Russian troops wage a ferocious house-to-house fight for control of strongholds in eastern Ukraine, a parallel battle is unfolding in the top echelons of military power in Moscow, with President Vladimir Putin reshuffling his top generals while rival camps try to win his favor." It seems Russia needs to relearn why you don't hire mercenaries.

"In an interview with NPR on Dec. 15, Netanyahu said he would control the far-right members of his coalition and that he'd be making the key decisions, saying, 'They are joining me. I'm not joining them.' But Pfeffer says that Netanyahu's disinterest in social policy opens the door for the ultra-Orthodox and ultra-right fundamentalists in the Knesset, Israel's parliament… One issue at the forefront is the definition of who is Jewish." Remember the conservative game is about excluding people.

"McCarthy said he told President Biden during a recent conversation that he'd like to sit down soon to address the concern, suggesting a cap on spending in exchange for temporarily raising the debt ceiling could be the way to go." My money is on a government shut down.

"Newly elected state Sen. Chris Trakel (R-Caldwell) 'displayed deplorable, belligerent behavior' when he berated Caldwell school board members Monday night at a meeting over a proposal to allow students to use bathrooms and locker rooms according to their gender identity and to permit LGBTQ students to participate in overnight trips…" It's going to be one of those summers again.

"Attorney General Merrick Garland on Thursday appointed a special counsel to investigate the presence of classified documents found at President Joe Biden’s home in Wilmington, Delaware, and at an unsecured office in Washington dating from his time as vice president."

"The Trump Organization was fined $1.6 million – the maximum possible penalty – by a New York judge Friday for running a decade-long tax fraud scheme, a symbolic moment because it is the only judgment for a criminal conviction that has come close to former President Donald Trump."

"Steve Bannon’s lawyers want out of his border-wall fraud case, telling a judge Thursday that he is unwilling to speak with them directly and that they have 'irreconcilable' differences about how to proceed."

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Linkee-poo Wed Jan 11

"The Mega Millions prize has grown again to an estimated $1.35 billion after there was no winner of the lottery’s latest giant jackpot."

A short course on art appreciation. "Wanting to see something beautiful is nothing to be "snuffed at,' (Jessica Lynne) adds. 'We all have an aesthetic perspective and beauty is so important to how we live and how we make ourselves in the world'… Either way, there's no right way to go through an art museum, says (PJ) Policarpio — so just follow your interests." Also, just because "everybody" loves it, that doesn't mean you have to as well. But we suffer from a poor education where things only have one right meaning that will be on the test. That you must like what the instructor likes or you're wrong. I know some people who don't want to go to museums, concerts or plays because they don't want to be "wrong." There is no test. Love what you love. Saying, "this makes me happy" is enough, although I will say that exploring why something makes you happy is a worthwhile exercise. As someone who goes to museums, plays, and concerts (of all stripes) and has a nasty habit of listening to other people, yes, a lot of people get it wrong. Including some people who should know better. And many people skim the information placards and that's their level of understanding.

"Kansas water experts are sounding an alarm decades in the making: Farmers and ranchers in the state’s western half must stop pumping more water out of a vast aquifer than nature puts back each year or risk the economic collapse of a region important to the U.S. food supply." We're boned.

"The rocket was set to make history, carrying satellites on what would be the first-ever orbital launch from the U.K. on Monday night. But Virgin Orbit says its LauncherOne rocket 'experienced an anomaly' just before it could deliver its payload, and the craft was lost." The achieved space but were unable to make their orbit.

"A comet known as C/2022 E3, marked by its bright green nucleus and long faint ion tail, will be on display in the Earth sky later this month — possibly for the first time ever or at least for thousands of years."

"One of the longstanding arguments against renewable energy like wind and solar is that it's not as reliable as conventional power plants. But the Christmas Eve rolling blackouts in North Carolina turned that conventional wisdom on its head… Single-digit temperatures across the region froze instrumentation and sensing lines and caused other mechanical problems that reduced output at several of Duke Energy's gas- and coal-powered plants." Funny how they forget to mention their own fragility. Don't worry, they're still going to blame it on renewables.

"The USDA says the best way to reduce food waste "is to not create it in the first place." But what does that actually entail?… Morning Edition spoke with Dzung Lewis and Emmy Cho, both chefs and YouTubers, about small steps people can take at the supermarket and in the kitchen to eat more sustainably — and creatively."

"Thousands of nurses at New York City hospitals went on strike Monday morning. The labor action has already begun to disrupt health care services at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx and Mount Sinai Hospital in Harlem, where about 7,100 members of the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) could join the picket line… The nurses are striking as they negotiate for higher pay and increased staffing in their first new contracts since the COVID-19 pandemic began. NYSNA members have reached contract agreements with several other hospitals across the five boroughs in recent days, narrowly avoiding similar strikes."

"The good news is… RSV cases have been falling steadily since the end of November, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention… At the same time, the flu… looks like it's finally receding in most places, according to the latest data out Friday from the CDC… The virus posing the biggest threat right now is — you guessed it — the one that causes COVID-19."

"First lady Jill Biden is having surgery on Wednesday after doctors found a small lesion above her right eye, the White House said… The lesion was found during a routine skin cancer examination, and President Biden accompanied her to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, where she is having it removed in a routine procedure known as Mohs surgery." I've had two Mohs surgeries. I wish Dr. "Jill" the best with hers. Fuck cancer.

"The new Dungeons & Dragons Open Gaming License, a document which allows a vast group of independent publishers to use the basic game rules created by D&D owner Wizards of the Coast, significantly restricts the kind of content allowed and requires anyone making money under the license to report their products to Wizards of the Coast directly, according to an analysis of a leaked draft of the document, dated mid-December." Wow. WoC just rolled a natural 20 on their attempted backstabbing of themselves. I mean, sure, you want to have some control over your IP, and there are a ton of new technologies that need addressing. Also, some of these changes are in the best interest of the continued growth and enjoyment of the game. However adding some of these compliance issues will create a nightmare for the smaller creators and most definitely for WoC who will now have to create a library of documents, handle issues of compliance, and auditing. The volume of that will be staggering. Also the explicit rights grab is not a big incentive. If they wanted to outline a boiler plate licensing agreement, yeah, sure. And in some fashion this is a legal protection for WoC developed materials (in the same way that fan fiction affects authors and how most authors explicitly state they do not read their fan fiction). But to state they have the right to reproduce successful works for free, wow. Just wow.

"In-N-Out Burger is 'double-doubling' down on growing its business, announcing it would open new locations in Tennessee, the farthest east the company has ever gone."

"What do all these innovators have in common? They were all immigrants to the United States… Many studies over the years have suggested that immigrants are vital to our nation's technological and economic progress. Today, around a quarter of all workers in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields are immigrants." A new research paper again demonstrates that immigrants are a driving force in our economy and technical leadership (although that leadership has been suffering since the late 90s).

"It’s a sentiment being echoed by conservative officials in red states across the country. The indefinite academic appointments that come with tenure — the holy grail of university employment — have faced review from lawmakers or state oversight boards in at least half a dozen states, often presented as bids to rein in academics with liberal views."

"More Americans are leaning on their credit cards in the face of rising prices. And as interest rates continue to climb, that debt is getting a lot more expensive… The average credit card user was carrying a balance of $5,474 last fall, according to TransUnion, up 13% from 2021."

"The world’s largest aircraft fleet was grounded for hours by a cascading outage in a government system that delayed or canceled thousands of flights across the U.S. on Wednesday."

"A kerfuffle about whether British actor Benedict Cumberbatch will have to pay reparations to descendants of slaves in Barbados made headlines this week. It's still unclear who exactly may become subject to legal action to atone for atrocities of slavery. But online buzz over famous Brits' ties to slavery, like Cumberbatch's, put wider attention on the fight for reparations in the Caribbean."

"Elon Musk has urged a federal judge to shift a trial in a shareholder lawsuit out of San Francisco because he says negative local media coverage has biased potential jurors against him."

"A white state lawmaker in Montana is questioning whether land set aside long ago for Native Americans should exist anymore." Lordy lordy. Can opened. Worms everywhere.

"California police were more than twice as likely to use force against Black residents than white residents during traffic and pedestrian stops in 2021, according to a new report on racial profiling… The annual report from a state board also found that law enforcement searched Black people at 2.2 times the rate of white people, and that Black youths ages 15 to 17 were searched at nearly six times the rate of white teenagers. Latino residents were stopped and subjected to force at 1.4 times the rate of white people, and Latino youths were searched at nearly four times the rate of white youths."

"A Virginia teacher who was critically injured when she was was shot by a 6-year-old student in Newport News is showing signs of improvement as authorities struggle to understand how a child so young could be involved in a school shooting, the city’s mayor said Saturday."

"Russian forces are escalating their onslaught against Ukrainian positions around the wrecked city of Bakhmut, Ukrainian officials said, bringing new levels of death and devastation in the grinding, months long battle for control of eastern Ukraine that is part of Moscow’s wider war."

What happens when you sit military leaders in a room? "Drone advances in Ukraine have accelerated a long-anticipated technology trend that could soon bring the world’s first fully autonomous fighting robots to the battlefield, inaugurating a new age of warfare." The sum of all their fears.

"Attorney General Merrick Garland has assigned the U.S. attorney in Chicago to review documents marked classified that were found at the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement in Washington, two sources with knowledge of the inquiry told CBS News. The roughly 10 documents are from President Biden's vice-presidential office at the center, the sources said. CBS News has learned the FBI is also involved in the U.S. attorney's inquiry." With a well reasoned section on how this differs from the Trump documents, although the GOP is trying to make them equivalent.

"Florida lawmakers will move to increase state control of Walt Disney World’s private government, according to a notice published Friday, the latest development in a feud over a law critics have dubbed 'Don’t Say Gay.'" So they're going to try and take the government responsibilities over, but not the debt? Well, they can try.

"The House of Representatives has approved the rules package for the 118th Congress in a near party-line vote, in what marked the first legislative test of newly elected Speaker Kevin McCarthy's narrow GOP majority… The full written agreement has not been made public. But it's clear that key provisions could empower the conservative wing of the party and ultimately weaken the office of the speaker." And the first thing out the door, transparency. That document should be public. There is no reason for it not to be.

"The federal government is on track to max out on its $31.4 trillion borrowing authority as soon as this month, starting the clock on an expected standoff between President Joe Biden and the new House Republican majority that will test both parties’ ability to navigate a divided Washington, with the fragile global economy at stake." Here we go again.

"Allen Weisselberg, the decades-long chief financial officer at former President Donald Trump's family business, was sentenced Tuesday to five months behind bars for financial crimes he committed while working as a top executive there… He also will serve five years' probation and pay some $2 million in penalties and back taxes."

"Echoing Bolsonaro's false claims of electoral fraud, thousands of Bolsonaro supporters ransacked the nation's Congress, Supreme Court and presidential office on Sunday, leaving a path of destruction, in stunning scenes reminiscent of the Jan. 6, 2021, U.S. Capitol insurrection."

"Long before Sunday's shocking attack on Brazil's Congress and other government buildings, warning signs on social media pointed to possible violence by backers of former President Jair Bolsonaro — one of several important parallels with the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol two years ago." You know, besides some of the same people being involved. They are learning and changing.

"Bullets flew through one home’s front door and garage. At another home, three bullets went into the bedroom of a 10-year-old girl in a series of shootings that had at least one thing in common: They targeted the homes or offices of elected Democratic officials in New Mexico."

Friday, January 6, 2023

Linkee-poo Friday, January 6, 2 years on

"From a feminist retelling of Pride and Prejudice, featuring Lydia Bennet as a witch, to a history of landmark trials and a host of magical wellness titles, 2023 is the year in which witch books will truly cast their spell. No longer a niche market, the titles coming out range from historical fiction to fantasy to self-help. Witches have permeated every corner of the publishing world, as well as our TV screens, with the Netflix Addams Family spin-off hit Wednesday, and a TV adaptation of Anne Rice’s Lives of the Mayfair Witches trilogy on the way." Seriously, "The Year of the Witch" as a headline was right there.

"In October, a court ruled in favor of the Department of Justice and blocked the merging of two publishing giants: Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster. On this week’s On the Media, hear what readers will lose if conglomerates further monopolize the market. Plus, it turns out readers do not want to curl up with a good ebook."

"The federal government has granted a conditional license for a honeybee vaccine, the developer of the drug announced Wednesday… The vaccine will be used to help fight American Foulbrood disease in the insects and was approved by the Department of Agriculture, Dalan Animal Health, the biotech company behind the vaccine, said."

"The South Carolina Supreme Court on Thursday struck down a ban on abortion after six weeks, ruling the restriction enacted by the Deep South state violates a state constitutional right to privacy."

"Why would the same item be worse years later? Shouldn’t it be better? But here’s the thing: My lackluster bra is far from the only consumer good that’s faced a dip in comparative quality. All manner of things we wear, plus kitchen appliances, personal tech devices, and construction tools, are among the objects that have been stunted by a concerted effort to simultaneously expedite the rate of production while making it more difficult to easily repair what we already own, experts say." Why everything is worse (tl/dr answer is "capitalism").

"Employers added 223,000 jobs in December, capping a year in which the economy added 4.5 million jobs, more than refilling the deep hole left by the coronavirus pandemic two years earlier."

"The application rate for young people seeking technical jobs — like plumbing, building and electrical work — dropped by 49% in 2022 compared to 2020, according to data from online recruiting platform Handshake shared with NPR." You mean Baby Boomers sitting on jobs for far too long and the lack of actual upward movement coupled with stagnating wages has consequences?

"But another month of brisk hiring would also make the Fed’s delicate task even harder. The central bank is trying to curb inflation by making borrowing and spending increasingly expensive for consumers and businesses without causing a recession in the process." This is bullshit as the current inflation isn't being driven by regular market factors but by corporate greed. Also, while the Fed's mandate is to enhance employment and keep inflation in check, our unemployment of 3.7% is significantly lower than the Fed's goals.v "The Federal Trade Commission took an a bold move on Thursday aimed at shifting the balance of power from companies to workers… The agency proposed a new rule that would prohibit employers from imposing noncompete agreements on their workers, a practice it called exploitative and widespread, affecting some 30 million American workers." How government should work for us.

"For several years, the meteoric rise of Tesla stock has captivated, thrilled and mystified Wall Street. But in 2022, that meteor blazed out… The electric-carmaker's stock lost 65% of its value in 2022. And the company kicked off the new year with yet another plunge, dropping 12% in a single day after disappointing sales figures were announced." That's gonna leave a mark.

The On the Media podcast with… "During this holiday season, you likely encountered public nativity scenes depicting the birth of Jesus, presenting the family with very rare exceptions as white. And the same can be said of his ubiquitous adult portrait –– with fair skin and hair a radiant gold, and eyes fixed on the middle distance. In this segment from 2020, Eloise talks to Mbiyu Chui, pastor at the Shrine of the Black Madonna in Detroit, about unlearning Jesus's whiteness. She also hears from Edward Blum, author of The Color of Christ: The Son of God and the Saga of Race in America, about how the image came dominate in the U.S., and psychologist Simon Howard on how White Jesus has infiltrated our subconsciouses. Lastly, Eloise speaks to Rev. Kelly Brown Douglas, womanist theologian and Dean of the Episcopal Divinity School at Union Theological Seminary, about the theology of the Black Christ."

"Mexican security forces captured Ovidio Guzmán, an alleged drug trafficker wanted by the United States and one of the sons of former Sinaloa cartel boss Joaquín 'El Chapo' Guzmán, in a pre-dawn operation Thursday that set off gunfights and roadblocks across the western state’s capital."

"Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday sent a frigate armed with the country’s latest Zircon hypersonic missile on a trans-ocean cruise in a show of force as tensions with the West escalate over the war in Ukraine." Oh noes, not dez hypersonic missiles!

"On the Media correspondent Micah Loewinger breaks down a short history of these TikTok panics, and looks into the failures of news outlets to judiciously report on overblown TikTok virality, as well as the cyclic paranoia that arises when we face new technology (think: comic books corrupting youth in the 1950s). He poses the question: haven't we been through this already?" A repeat, but of a good episode. I've already seen articles about how electric cars are bad for our society.

"In Mississippi, where elected officials have a long history of praising self-sufficiency and condemning federal antipoverty programs, a welfare scandal has exposed how millions of dollars were diverted to the rich and powerful — including pro athletes — instead of helping some of the neediest people in the nation."

"The House speaker election dragged through its third day as Republican leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy failed to secure a majority on five more ballots, surpassing the most ballots cast in a speaker's election since before the Civil War."

"The former chairman of the Wisconsin Republican Party said Republican Sen. Ron Johnson spoke to him weeks before Joe Biden assumed the presidency about having the state’s GOP-controlled Legislature, rather than voters, choose Wisconsin’s presidential electors, according to newly released documents from closed-door testimony to the House Jan. 6 committee."

Thursday, January 5, 2023

Linkee-poo Three Kings

Barbara Walters, Anita Pointer, Joseph Ratzinger, and a whole lot more, and so it goes.

"Officials in California ordered evacuations in a high-risk coastal area where mudslides killed 23 people in 2018 as a huge storm barreled into the state Wednesday, bringing high winds and rain that threatened widespread flooding and knocked out power to more than 100,000 people."

"Thirteen bison were killed or had to be euthanized after their herd was struck by a semi-truck involved in an accident with two other vehicles on a dark Montana highway just outside Yellowstone National Park, authorities said Friday."

The NPR Books We Love list. I think this is the first year that the list for speculative fiction holds mostly title I haven't at least heard of.

"Alongside the short-story collection 'The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes,' books such as Virginia Woolf’s 'To The Lighthouse,' Ernest Hemingway’s 'Men Without Women,' William Faulkner’s 'Mosquitoes' and Agatha Christie’s 'The Big Four' — an Hercule Poirot mystery — will become public domain as the calendar turns to 2023."

"The number of states that have legalized recreational use of cannabis more than doubled in the last five years. A new study finds that between 2017 and 2021, the number of very young children eating edible forms of marijuana spiked dramatically, with many kids ending up in hospitals." Sigh. Can't wait for next Halloween! But seriously, don't let kids into your stash.

"Players, coaches and football fans are anxiously awaiting updates about Damar Hamlin, the Buffalo Bills player who suffered a cardiac arrest during Monday night's game against the Cincinnati Bengals."

"Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin, who suffered a cardiac arrest during a Monday game, has shown "substantial" and "remarkable" improvement in the past 24 hours, according to his physicians and team."

"The Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday finalized a rule change that broadens availability of abortion pills to many more pharmacies, including large chains and mail-order companies."

"But until recently, neither Alexander nor any of her colleagues in the emergency department at Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis had ever performed one of the most common procedures for women of reproductive age — a uterine aspiration (also commonly known as a D&C) or the removal of tissue from the uterus via suction." And it's needed.

"Louisiana's near-total abortion ban, which took effect on Aug. 1, has raised fears among physicians that they could potentially be investigated for treating a miscarriage, since the same treatments are also used for abortion… During those early weeks of pregnancy, Joshua experienced symptoms she hadn't dealt with in her first pregnancy: mild cramping and spotting. Without access to a doctor, though, Joshua felt like she had nowhere to go for answers."

"U.S. job openings slipped in November but remained high, suggesting businesses are still determined to add workers, a blow to the Federal Reserve’s efforts to cool hiring and wage gains."

"Twitter says it will ease up on its 3-year-old ban on political advertising, the latest change by Elon Musk as he tries to pump up revenue after purchasing the social media platform last year." Duck and cover.

"Elon Musk is trying to slash expenses at Twitter as close to zero as possible while his personal wealth shrinks — and this apparently has included falling behind on rent payments at the company’s offices." I'm sure that will work out well.

How goes Brexit? "British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak pledged to halve inflation, grow the U.K. economy and stop illegal immigration Wednesday as he set out his Conservative government’s priorities in his first major speech of 2023."

"Grappling with the biggest flood of Cuban migrants in decades, the United States reopened their long-closed legal pathway on Wednesday by resuming all visa services at its embassy in Havana."

"An ancient wooden sarcophagus that was featured at the Houston Museum of Natural Sciences was returned to Egypt after U.S. authorities determined it was looted years ago, Egyptian officials said Monday." And in case you think this is some crime from the past when the rules we different, check out the dates in the article.

"An airline ground crew worker in Montgomery, Ala., died after being 'ingested into the engine' of a parked plane on Saturday, said the National Transportation Safety Board." The fuck?

"Amazon is laying off 18,000 employees, the tech giant said Wednesday, representing the single largest number of jobs cut at a technology company since the industry began aggressively downsizing last year."

"Natural gas storage levels in the European Union stand at nearly 84% and were higher in December than the average amount in reserve 4-6 years ago, the EU’s executive branch said Wednesday, despite Russian attempts to choke off supplies amid its war on Ukraine."

"Duke Energy Corp. executives on Tuesday blamed a convergence of widespread extreme cold, higher than projected demand, malfunctioning plant equipment and the inability to buy power elsewhere for rolling blackouts on Christmas Eve — the first for the company in the Carolinas."

"A Missouri judge has ruled that a pardon from the governor doesn’t mean the St. Louis lawyer and his wife who gained national attention for waving guns at racial injustice protesters in 2020 should get back the weapons they surrendered and fines they paid after guilty pleas last year."

"Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul signed legislation on Saturday to legalize natural organic reduction, popularly known as human composting, making New York the sixth state in the nation to allow that method of burial."

"According to the federal indictment from the U.S. District Attorney’s Office in Colorado, Hess and Koch would not follow family wishes, and neither discussed nor obtained authorization for Donor Services to transfer descendants' body parts to third parties… Hess and Koch offered to cremate bodies and provide the remains to families for $1,000 or more. Many of those cremations didn’t occur… They would instead sell remains of the deceased and deliver fake cremains to their loved ones."

"More than 30 graves at a historic Christian cemetery in Jerusalem were found toppled and vandalized, the diocese said Wednesday, jolting the Christian minority in the contested city."

"Last month, the U.S. Justice Department filed a motion to intervene in the legal wrangling over the fate of the child, arguing that Mast’s adoption should never have been granted. The government has said Mast’s attempts to take the child directly conflicted with a U.S. foreign policy decision to reunite the orphan with her Afghan family. They asked that the case be moved from a rural Virginia court to federal court, but were denied by Presiding Circuit Court Judge Richard E. Moore."

"Even in wealthy, developed nations with advanced technologies, heavy machinery and readily available protective equipment, mining can be a dangerous and sometimes deadly job. In Afghanistan, where much of the coal is mined by hand, every descent into the bowels of this mountain is a gamble." And it's mostly done by children.

"The Russian military’s top brass came under increasing scrutiny Wednesday as more details emerged of how at least 89 Russian soldiers, and possibly many more, were killed in a Ukrainian artillery attack on a single building." Serious failures of command, discipline, and tactics.

"Two men have been arrested and charged with vandalizing electrical substations in Washington state, attacks that left thousands without power over the holidays, and one suspect told authorities they did it so they could break into a business and steal money, U.S. authorities said Tuesday."

"Nearly 100 years ago, a local government in Southern California took Bruce's Beach away from its Black owners because of the color of their skin. The owners' descendants won a long effort to regain the land — and now they intend to sell it to Los Angeles County for nearly $20 million."

"The Maine Legislature cleared the way for $450 relief checks to help residents struggling with high winter heating costs Wednesday before decamping to the Augusta Civic Center to hear Democratic Gov. Janet Mills outline her priorities for her second term."

"Virginia Thomas, the wife of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, says she regrets sending texts to then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows after the 2020 election, telling the House Jan. 6 committee that 'I would take them all back if I could today.'" The non-apology. Note she doesn't apologize for the content, just that she sent the texts.

"The North Carolina Department of Justice will not bring charges against former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows or his wife, Debra, over allegations that they were illegally registered to vote in the state, the North Carolina Attorney General’s Office announced on Friday." Good thing they're white.

"The records show how Trump limited his tax liability by offsetting his income against corporate losses as well as millions of dollars in business expenses, asset depreciation and other deductions… The records also detail Trump’s foreign holdings."

So how goes it with the party who wants to rule, but not govern? "House Republicans flailed through a long second day of fruitless balloting Wednesday, unable to either elect their leader Kevin McCarthy as House speaker or come up with a new strategy to end the political chaos that has tarnished the start of their new majority." While the most politically expedient route would be for the Democrats to negotiate to get 6 more votes for Jeffries, whereas McCarthy would need 17 Democrats now, I doubt either option is being seriously considered by either leadership on the floor.

"A Democrat who promised to govern as an independent was elected speaker of the narrowly divided Pennsylvania House of Representatives in a surprising move Tuesday on the strength of every Democrat and more than a dozen GOP votes."