I watch the ripples change their size
But never leave the stream
Of warm impermanence
And so the days float through my eyes
But still the days seem the same
And these children that you spit on
As they try to change their worlds
Are immune to your consultations
They're quite aware of what they're goin' through

Sunday, April 14, 2024

Linkee-poo April 14

Robert MacNeil, and so it goes.

"Israel, its allies and other world leaders are assessing how to respond after Iran launched more than 300 drones and missiles toward Israel overnight. The great majority of strikes were shot down outside Israeli airspace by Israel, with help from allies that included the U.S. and U.K. Israel says at least one person, a young girl hit by shrapnel, was seriously injured. This is the first time Iran has directly attacked its regional foe from Iranian soil." And so begins the stupidity. Including a completely ineffectual "The House Supports Israel" bill because ignoramus Steve Scalise believes this was "unprovoked" (no, it may not be a proportionate response, but Israel destroyed the Iranian Consulate in Syria, that was an escalation calculated to provoke such a response no matter what Israel may say on TV).

"A spike in measles cases, largely caused by people not getting vaccinated, poses a 'renewed threat' to the declaration in 2000 that the highly contagious airborne disease had been eliminated in the United States."

"A St. Louis judge has ruled that Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey is entitled to Planned Parenthood’s transgender care records, ordering the nonprofit to turn over some of its most sensitive files to the man who has built his unelected political career on restricting health care access for trans people." One, HIPAA is quite specific here (from my training) that he will have to issue a subpoena for an active criminal investigation. Anyone's record given to this douche should sue him and Missouri for as much money they can for violation of their rights under HIPAA.

"Customers who purchased certain 'weighted goods' — including meat, poultry, pork and seafood products — and bagged citrus in person at Walmart locations across the U.S. and Puerto Rico between Oct. 19, 2018 and Jan. 19, 2024 may be eligible for cash payments, according to the settlement administrator's website."

"The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) said one person died and there were 'multiple serious injuries' Friday after a man drove a stolen 18-wheeler into its office in Brenham, which is about 75 miles northwest of Houston… Clenard Parker, a 42-year-old resident of nearby Chappell Hill, was arrested at the scene, according to DPS Sgt. Justin Ruiz, who said Parker had visited the DPS office the day before and was denied a commercial driver’s license. Local law enforcement was pursuing Parker at the time of the crash, Ruiz said."

"The U.S. Coast Guard and Navy were able to successfully rescue three sailors who were stranded on a small Pacific island for over a week, after they spelled 'help' in the sand with palm tree leaves… The three men, all in their 40s, left Easter Sunday on a 20-foot skiff from Polowat to Pikelot (both places are two small Pacific islands that make up the Micronesia archipelago), the Coast Guard said."

"The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum accepted on Thursday the remnants of the vandalized statue. The cleats will be added to an existing exhibit about the first Black American to break Major League Baseball’s color barrier."

"'Fortunately for me, and unfortunately for everybody else, counterintelligence, it turns out, is a growth business,' he told NPR in an interview. 'More players are getting into it with more tools, going after more targets.'… The list of concerns is a long one. The usual suspects — China, Russia, Iran and North Korea — lead the way, he says, but there are other actors, including private sector entities and cybercriminals who are also getting involved."

Both parties are both the same… "Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has signed a law that prevents cities or counties from creating protections for workers who labor in the state's often extreme and dangerous heat… Two million people in Florida, from construction to agriculture, work outside in often humid, blazing heat." One wants to regulate business and the other :: checks notes :: just wants workers to die.

"Google has temporarily blocked links from local news outlets in California from appearing in search results in response to the advancement of a bill that would require tech companies to pay publications for links that articles share. The change applies only to some people using Google in California, though it is not clear how many." I'm sure it's fine.

"Former President Donald Trump and House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., appeared together Friday to tout legislation aimed at stopping something that is already illegal in America: noncitizens voting in federal elections… Johnson gave a broad overview of a bill House Republicans will soon introduce that would implement new citizenship documentation requirements for people to register to vote, which experts have said would make voting harder for many eligible voters like naturalized citizens and young voters." It would be easy to say that Republicans love making illegal things which are already illegal, but the real focus of this is to discourage voting by people who have every right to vote. It's also to give the GOP a talking point for this coming election.

"President Joe Biden’s reelection campaign is wrangling with Republican-dominated state governments in Ohio and Alabama to assure he is listed on their fall ballots, as once-mundane procedural negotiations get caught up in the nation’s fractious politics."

Sunday, April 7, 2024

Linkee-poo pre-eclipse

"Baron, author of the 2017 book American Eclipse: A Nation's Epic Race to Catch the Shadow of the Moon and Win the Glory of the World, wants others to witness its majesty too. On April 8, millions of people across North America will get that chance — a total solar eclipse will appear in the sky. Baron promises it will be a surreal, otherworldly experience. 'It's like you've left the solar system and are looking back from some other world.'"

"When the container ship Dali struck the base of the Francis Scott Key Bridge early Tuesday morning, it set off a rapid chain of events. The bridge crumpled into the Patapsco River, its twisted metal draped over the ship and its thousands of containers. Eight construction workers and their cars tumbled into the water. Two of the workers are dead; four are still missing and presumed dead. And the whole disaster is now blocking one of the country's busiest ports, the Port of Baltimore."

"A few weeks ago, something from the heavens came crashing through the roof of Alejandro Otero's home, and NASA is on the case… In all likelihood, this nearly 2-pound object came from the International Space Station. Otero said it tore through the roof and both floors of his two-story house in Naples, Florida."

"During times when energy is abundant and cheap to produce, SRP pumps water from Saguaro Lake - one of the reservoirs it manages at a lower elevation - uphill to this reservoir. Then at times when energy production slows, SRP can release that same water back downhill to produce power. Then the process starts over again… This method of storing electricity has become especially critical as SRP has invested more in solar power."

"A mere 57 oil, gas, coal and cement producers are directly linked to 80% of the world’s global fossil CO2 emissions since the 2016 Paris climate agreement, a study has shown." But I'm sure your choice to drive a small car is what will save us.

"But while hundreds of thousands of new residents have flocked to (Florida) on the promise of beautiful weather, no income tax and lower costs, nearly 500,000 left in 2022, according to the most recent census data. Contributing to their move was a perfect storm of soaring insurance costs, a hostile political environment, worsening traffic and extreme weather, according to interviews with more than a dozen recent transplants and longtime residents who left the state in the past two years."

"On Monday, the Texas Department of State Health Services announced that a person who was exposed to dairy cattle presumed to be infected with bird flu had also caught the virus." Ahhh…

"Unauthorized enrollment or plan-switching is emerging as a serious challenge for the ACA, also known as Obamacare. Brokers say the ease with which rogue agents can get into policyholder accounts in the 32 states served by the federal marketplace plays a major role in the problem, according to an investigation by KFF Health News… Indeed, armed with only a person's name, date of birth, and state, a licensed agent can access a policyholder's coverage through the federal exchange or its direct enrollment platforms. It's harder to do through state ACA markets, because they often require additional information." Here's the thing, in my profession anything like this would result in the loss of the license, removal from the national registry, and a lifelong ban from working in healthcare.

"So anyone who's been told they have cancer must wrestle with difficult decisions about sharing the news. Do you tell little kids in the family? Elderly relatives? Colleagues at work? All your friends and neighbors?"

"You've heard that it's a tough time to buy a house, but exactly how tough is it?… A pair of recent studies predicts that you'd need to earn more than $100,000 per year to comfortably afford a typical home in much of the U.S. right now."

"The federal Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) appears poised to mandate a SawStop-type safety brake on all new table saws sold in the United States. The move would follow years of failed efforts and false starts by the agency to impose such a standard."

"Tesla has canceled the long-promised inexpensive car that investors have been counting on to drive its growth into a mass-market automaker, according to three sources familiar with the matter and company messages seen by Reuters… The automaker will continue developing self-driving robotaxis on the same small-vehicle platform, the sources said."

"All of the world’s billionaires younger than 30 inherited their wealth, the first wave of “the great wealth transfer” in which more than 1,000 wealthy people are expected to pass on more than $5.2tn (£4.1tn) to their heirs over the next two decades." And now you know why the conservatives were hell bent on removing the inheritance tax, but not willing to reform Medicaid claw back actions.

"José Andrés, the founder of the World Central Kitchen that feeds people in war and disaster zones, said Monday that his organization has lost 'several' of its international volunteers in an Israeli airstrike in the Gaza Strip… The Israeli military said in a statement it is investigating the report 'at the highest levels to understand the circumstances of this tragic incident.'"

"Iran said Monday that Israel killed two of its generals and several others in an airstrike on the Iranian consulate in the Syrian capital Damascus… Iranian state media said at least seven members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' elite overseas wing, known as the Quds Force, were killed when Israeli F-35s struck the building with six rockets, almost entirely demolishing it. Syrian state media said the airstrike leveled the Iranian embassy annex." That is what's called an escalation. I would like to be generous and say that it was a mistake, but unfortunately it's too easy to see this as deliberately provoking a response from Iran, widening the war in an attempt to justify the harshness and continuation of operations in Gaza.

"A doctor at a field hospital for detained Palestinians at Israel’s Sde Teiman army base has described 'deplorable conditions' and 'routine' amputations due to handcuff injuries, according to an exclusive report from the newspaper Haaretz."

"Michigan U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg suggested that nuclear weapons should be dropped on Gaza, which his office said was a metaphor to 'support Israel’s swift elimination of Hamas… It should be like Nagasaki and Hiroshima. Get it over quick,' Walberg says in a video circulating on social media, referencing the Japanese cities that the U.S. dropped atomic bombs on at the end of World War II." What an asshole.

"This would certainly be a worrying world news development. Earlier that week, Israel had conducted an airstrike on Iran's embassy in Syria, killing two generals as well as other officers. Retaliation from Iran seemed like a plausible occurrence… But, there was one major problem: Iran did not attack Israel. The headline was fake… Even more concerning, the fake headline was apparently generated by X's own official AI chatbot, Grok, and then promoted by X's trending news product, Explore, on the very first day of an updated version of the feature."

"Meta blocked a newspaper’s critical report about it on Facebook and its other social sites for hours, sparking a backlash that intensified after the company appeared to subsequently block links to the website of an independent journalist who republished the report."

"Newly released law enforcement footage captures the moment California police fatally shot an unarmed 15-year-old girl who was a reported kidnapping victim."

"Voters in Enid decided by a nearly 20-point margin Tuesday to remove a City Council member over his ties to white nationalist groups… Judd Blevins lost his seat on Enid’s six-member City Council by 268 votes, according to unofficial results from the Oklahoma State Election Board. Nearly 1,400 people turned out, about a quarter of Ward 1’s registered voters and hundreds more than voted when Blevins was first elected last year." Good.

"A judge ruled this week that a top Georgia Republican Party official, who has promoted former President Donald Trump's claims of widespread voter fraud affecting the outcome of the 2020 presidential election, has repeatedly voted illegally… Brian Pritchard, first vice chairman of the Georgia Republican Party and a conservative talk show host, was fined $5,000 for voting illegally and registering to vote while serving a sentence for a felony conviction. Pritchard was also ordered not to commit further violations, to face public reprimand for his conduct and to pay the State Election Board's investigative costs." There's a lot to unpack in there.

"Former President Donald Trump posted a $175 million bond Monday in his New York civil fraud case. Meanwhile, a judge approved the expansion of Trump's gag order in his hush-money case to include the judge's family."

"At RePlatform in Las Vegas, GabPay got to be the hero. But it's also possible that the company was part of why Stripe froze the conference's money in the first place. A few weeks earlier, a news story by Mother Jones about the event highlighted a promotional appearance that GabPay's executives had made on far-right conspiracy theorist Stew Peters' streaming show." It's so amazing that we keep hearing from all these people who have been "cancelled." It's almost like the claim of being cancelled is bullshit.

"Before Clark's testimony, his lawyer talked about wanting to prevent him from having to repeatedly assert his Fifth Amendment right and 'avoid us being on MSNBC for no good reason.'… Once his testimony got underway, Clark repeatedly asserted his Fifth Amendment right, as well as law enforcement privilege, deliberative process and attorney-client privilege."

Thursday, March 28, 2024

Linkee-poo March 28th

"Baltimore Key Bridge collapses after ship collision."

Photos: Baltimore's Key Bridge collapses; search and rescue efforts continue."

"On April 8, 2024, a total solar eclipse will cross North America, passing over Mexico, the United States, and Canada. A total solar eclipse happens when the Moon passes between the Sun and Earth, completely blocking the face of the Sun. The sky will darken as if it were dawn or dusk."

In the path of totality. For what is happening where on April 8th.

The Great American Eclipse.

"Most of the United States is expected to see warmer-than-average temperatures this spring, federal forecasters say, with dry conditions likely in the West." Here we go again.

"Now, in a new perspective paper in Nature Communications, Plowright and a team of 24 ecologists, infectious disease scientists and policy experts have distilled their collective observations into three recommendations to prevent spillovers and halt epidemics and pandemics before they even start."

"Dreaming of sleep? You could try a 'sleep vacation'." I have questions…

"A growing number of Americans are likewise eager to see more environmentally friendly alternatives to conventional burial and cremation. Human composting is the latest option."

(An older article, but one we missed) Let's check back with Brexit, shall we. "British children who grew up during the years of austerity are falling behind many of their European peers in terms of height, a study has found… GPs in poorer areas of the country have reported a resurgence of Victorian diseases such as rickets and scurvy caused largely, they say, by nutritional deficiencies. NHS data shows that about 700 children a year are admitted to hospital with malnutrition, rickets or scurvy in England." Okay, austerity predates Brexit. "Food experts point out that a diet of cheap junk food makes people simultaneously overweight and undernourished." Really?

"A majority of Supreme Court justices appeared skeptical Tuesday of the idea of a nationwide ban or new limits on mifepristone, the primary drug used for medication abortions... At issue in the case are lower-court rulings that would have rolled back recent Food and Drug Administration decisions to ease access to the mifepristone. A district court had instituted a nationwide ban as well."

"Consumers may also bear some of the blame for the use of pesticides. One example, Pritts said, is that growers have had to use pesticides on their apples to keep them free of spots and blemishes, because otherwise shoppers wouldn't buy them." Side eye intensifies.

“'Holy mackerel,' wrote John Swez, Duke Energy’s director for generation dispatch, in a recently released company email about losses from the old coal plants subsidized by House Bill 6, Ohio’s coal and nuclear bailout law. Critics say that and other emails show utilities knew the coal plants were run in a way that increased their losses and the resulting costs to consumers... 'Holy mackerel' can also apply to other developments in Ohio’s ongoing corruption scandal. Among other things..." And in other news I've been engaged in fighting anti-solar people on NextDoor. Apparently a landowner in a nearby community wants to install a solar "farm" on their land. The people fighting against it sound an awful lot like my interactions with First Energy. The 2 links they've shared to "prove" their position that solar energy installations are harmful to the environment and health were easily debunked as corporate propaganda. But of course that hasn't moved them off their position. If they're still checking this blog, I suggest they read this article and understand they're carrying these companies' water for them. Also note that those coal plants, which supply Ohio's baseline power, are neither profitable or maintained properly despite how much FE and AEP are sucking out of our economy because of Issue 6. '

"Plastic producers have known for more than 30 years that recycling is not an economically or technically feasible plastic waste management solution. That has not stopped them from promoting it, according to a new report… 'The companies lied,' said Richard Wiles, president of fossil-fuel accountability advocacy group the Center for Climate Integrity (CCI), which published the report. 'It’s time to hold them accountable for the damage they’ve caused.'" I know, weird, right?

"Immigrant children as young as 14 were found working illegally amid dangerous heavy equipment at a Tennessee firm that makes parts for lawn mowers sold by John Deere and other companies, according to Labor Department officials."

"As government officials debate how to handle the influx of new arrivals, the Girl Scouts — whose Troop 6000 has served kids who live in the shelter system since 2017 — are quietly welcoming hundreds of the city’s youngest new residents with the support of donations. Most of the girls have fled dire conditions in South and Central America and endured an arduous journey to the U.S."

"The California Labor Commissioner’s Office ordered Rafael Rivas’ RDV Construction Inc. and RVR General Construction Inc. to pay $16.2 million for defrauding more than 1,100 workers in Southern California. But the agency, which issued the citations for back wages and penalties in 2018 and 2019, had recovered just 2% as of last month, according to a department spokesman."

"The report found that some large firms “accelerated and distorted” the effects of supply chain snarls, including by pressuring suppliers to favor them over competitors. Food and beverage retailers also posted strong profits during the height of the pandemic and continue to do so today, casting doubt on assertions that higher grocery prices are simply moving in lock step with retailers’ own rising costs, the authors argued." This is my shocked face.

"Children who displayed aggressive behaviour at school, such as bullying or temper outbursts, are likely to earn more money in middle age, according to a five-decade study that upends the maxim that bullies do not prosper."

"Big changes are coming to the way people buy and sell houses in the United States. The National Association of Realtors settled a lawsuit last week that could up-end the way real estate agents are paid, doing away with the traditional agent's commission of 5-6%. That's prompting a reckoning for buyers, sellers and real estate agents. Here are six things to know."

"A union that’s organizing Waffle House workers filed a petition with the Labor Department on Monday, asking federal officials to investigate the iconic chain’s policy of deducting mandatory meal costs from workers’ paychecks… Waffle House takes at least $3 for each on-shift meal out of workers’ pay, whether they end up eating it or not, according to the petition from the Union of Southern Service Workers. The USSW called it 'especially alarming' since many workers are paid a tipped sub-minimum wage 'as low as $2.90 per hour,' not including gratuities."

"What are the new rules for tipping?,,, Businesses that never seemed to ask for a tip before — like grocery stores, self-checkout machines and fast food restaurants — are now asking for one these days." I've got an idea. We don't have a subminimum wage. We reform billing to remove all fees and tips and quote the actual price. "... It allows restaurants to get more money to workers while still keeping their prices low, says Sean Jung, a professor at Boston University's School of Hospitality Administration." Here's the thing, they're not keeping their prices low if you have to tip. Just like baggage fees and extra fuel fees and "touch tone dialing" fees and all the rest. That's a part of the price. How it's broken out is bullshit. Pay your workers a living wage and if you can't, maybe you shouldn't be in business. And Square Space is taking a piece of the tip? Whelp it's back to all cash tipping for me again. This reminds me of several years ago it came out that some Ohio restaurants were deducting the meal's swipe fees from workers tips (and also skimming, especially in a "shared tips" establishment).

"Israel says Hamas's rejection of a current proposal for a Gaza truce deal with Israel shows the 'damage' done by the UN Security Council resolution demanding an immediate ceasefire."

"A core tension in Israeli society has grown more urgent since the Hamas attack on Israel last October: Whether to draft the ultra-Orthodox into military service." Welp, that's one way to end the conflict.

"The controversial decision to allow international arms sales is expected to help secure Japan’s role in a year-old project to develop a new fighter jet together with Italy and the U.K., but it’s also part of a move to build up Japan’s arms industry and bolster its role in global affairs."

"A federal judge on Monday threw out a lawsuit by Elon Musk’s X that had targeted a watchdog group for its critical reports about hate speech on the social media platform… In a blistering 52-page order, the judge blasted X’s case as plainly punitive rather than about protecting the platform’s security and legal rights.' The champion of "free speech" is a lying douche canoe?

"Wenhold was among the last to speak. She looked to her left where her fellow representatives were sitting in a row. There was Scott Freeman, the board vice president, who had answered her many questions about the district’s budget process. There was Karen Beerer, a former teacher, who had helped her understand how the school system chose curriculums. And there was LeBlanc, whom she was still trying to figure out… This was a version of American democracy that bore little resemblance to the horror show that Green and Barton described each day on their podcast." Not sure it's a true or full conversion, but yes, if you come to the table ready to help and learn, you tend to find out that what a lot of uninvolved people told you was incorrect. The difference here between what happened in other nearby school districts is that the person who wanted to "bring change" actually could listen.

"New FBI data confirms previous indications that crime in the U.S. declined significantly in 2023, continuing a post-pandemic trend and belying widespread perceptions that crime is rising."

"Bailey, who is campaigning to keep his seat, said last week that he is investigating possible violations of the state’s human rights laws by the Hazelwood School District, after a March 8 fight left a girl hospitalized with severe head injuries." Racists gonna be racist.

"In a stunning decision announced just weeks before he was scheduled to face a jury, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has reached a deal with prosecutors to have the felony securities fraud charges against him dropped and his trial canceled."

"Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., has filed a motion to remove Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La., as House speaker."

"Susquehanna founder and TikTok investor Jeff Yass has avoided $1 billion in taxes while largely escaping public scrutiny. He’s now pouring his money into campaigns to cut taxes and support election deniers… Gregg Polsky, a University of Georgia law professor and former corporate tax lawyer who was retained by ProPublica to review Susquehanna’s tax records, said the tax agency may have more to scrutinize. The strategies revealed in Yass’ records, he said, were 'very suspicious and suggestive of potential abuse that should be examined by the IRS.'"

"A judge on Tuesday imposed a limited gag order on Donald Trump ahead of his criminal hush money trial in New York... Trump’s statements about various figures involved in the case “were threatening, inflammatory [and] denigrating,” Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Juan Merchan said in a court order." This is my shocked face.

"For the Trump campaign, Jan. 6, 2021 is not a moment of national shame but of celebration... To political scientists, that's been puzzling." Only for those who aren't paying attention. Trump is not concerned about the vote because it's his intention to steal the election. They've been working on the strategy for 4 years, getting people elected and appointed to oversee the next election. They learned from their failures in 2020.

"Trump's social media venture soared as much as 59% in its trading debut on Tuesday delivering a potential windfall of billions of dollars to the former president's net worth... Trading in Trump Media and Technology Group, the company behind the Truth Social app, was so frantic that it was briefly halted at one point. It's trading under the stock symbol DJT, or short for Donald J. Trump." Yeah, talk to me April 30.

"Former President Donald Trump is bringing together church and state in a gilded package for his latest venture, a $60 'God Bless The USA' Bible complete with copies of the nation's founding documents." He's now a Bible salesman. There are few cons older than selling Bibles at inflated prices.

"NBC's newest contributor hire is earning backlash — even from the network's own talent... Ronna McDaniel, the former chair of the Republican National Committee, has been hired by the news network, according to a statement from Carrie Budoff Brown, NBC News' Senior Vice President of Politics." There are a lot of calls to fire her. I disagree. She should be on every show, and the host and producers should fact check her on the air. This would continue to demonstrate the perfidity of the GOP. Of course that will be met with cries of censorship and "cancel culture."

"NBC News cut ties Tuesday with former Republican National Committee chief Ronna McDaniel less than a week after hiring her as an on-air political contributor, a decision that came following a furious protest by some of its journalists and commentators." And here it comes.

Sunday, March 17, 2024

Linkee-poo is Magically Delicious

"For years, Sen. Elizabeth Warren has railed against the excesses of private equity firms, including megadeals that leave companies bankrupt and their workers jobless as fund managers line their pockets with fees and ­performance bonuses. In 2013, for instance, Warren proposed legislation that would shrink PE’s sway by barring commercial banks—where most Americans hold their money—from ­investing in the ­industry. Two years later, she went after what Insider called PE’s “golden goose,” asking the Treasury ­Department and the IRS to crack down on waivers that allow fund managers to pass off their ­en­­tire compensation as 'carried in­ter­est,' which is taxed at a far lower rate than ordinary income." The best way to solve the inequality in America is to redefine a lot of these categories back to "income", remove the top limit on taxable income for Medicare and Social Security, and reinstate a 50% tax rate at over $5 million in income. But I agree, the sole purpose of private equity is to vacuum money from the economy into rich people's bank accounts. Their business plan is to find under leveraged (ie. low debt holding, typically less than 200% annual revenues) companies with sound financials to buy. They take out loans to purchase these companies for 150-250% of revenues. Once acquired these companies have potential debt levels of 500+%, which the new owners take out loans on to pay off their loans to purchase the company, invest typically less than 10% annual revenues back into the company, and pay themselves "bonuses" in the 200-300% revenues range. They then saddle the purchased company with that debt, plus management fees, plus profit payments to the private equity company. If the company goes under and can't service that debt, the private equity holder is not held liable for the company's debts. So they declare bankruptcy and either reorganize (while still paying management and profits to the PE), or they fold, eliminating the debt from the PE firm.

"Policies to help people walk and cycle such as low-traffic neighbourhoods can create public health benefits as much as 100 times greater than the cost of the schemes, a long-term study of active travel measures has concluded… The research, based on six years of surveys among thousands of people living in three outer London boroughs that introduced LTNs or similar schemes, found they tended to prompt people to switch some trips from cars to active travel, although the effects were varied."

"Family Dollar has pleaded guilty to operating a warehouse infested with rodents and has been fined nearly $42 million, the biggest criminal penalty in a food safety case, the Department of Justice said Monday."

"Popular artificial intelligence tools are becoming more covertly racist as they advance, says an alarming new report… A team of technology and linguistics researchers revealed this week that large language models like OpenAI’s ChatGPT and Google’s Gemini hold racist stereotypes about speakers of African American Vernacular English, or AAVE, an English dialect created and spoken by Black Americans." You mean AI behavior mimics human behavior, because all the models are based on historical data of how humans have responded and not by programming the ideal actions?

"Similar complaints can be heard all over the country. On average, insurance companies sought to raise homeowners' premiums by more than 11% last year, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence; Auto insurance premiums are climbing even faster, far outpacing overall inflation." And this article doesn't even cover the increasing practice of insurance companies buying data from car companies about your individual driving habits.

"Rather, it was part of a routine process the federal government requires of every state: to recover money from the assets of dead people who, in their final years, relied on Medicaid, the taxpayer-funded health insurance for the poorest Americans… A person’s home is typically exempt from qualifying for Medicaid. But it is subject to the estate recovery process for those who were over 55 and used Medicaid to pay for long-term care such as nursing home stays or in-home health care." This is the real death tax that needs to be eliminated.

"Last summer, as the United States and Vietnam finalized plans to upgrade the bilateral relationship, the Communist leadership in Hanoi issued a secret directive that aimed to limit outside influences and protect the party's grip on power in the face of growing exposure to the U.S. and its allies… Analysts say the six-page document — known as 'Directive 24' and issued by the ruling Communist Party's elite Politburo — offers a window into the motivations and concerns of party leaders as they committed to deepen Vietnam's links with an erstwhile enemy and leverage shifting geopolitical sands to upgrade the country's economy." This is presented as if it's some "sinister" thing and not something most countries have either formality or informily. For our own version f this I'll just refer to the continued battle over Tik-Tok.

"More than 100 Palestinians have been killed and some 700 others wounded after Israeli troops opened fire on hundreds waiting for food aid southwest of Gaza City, health officials say, as the besieged enclave faces an unprecedented hunger crisis." Yes, this is from the end of February. But that's a real fucking war crime and crime against humanity.

"The Safe Place to Park program will include 40 parking spots for those employed full-time within city limits. It requires participants to actively engage in case management with local social services — with an end goal of securing permanent housing after the program ends. The site will include temporary restrooms, showers and trash bins."

"Public housing can conjure images of bleak, boxy towers on the outskirts of a city, but this logement social was built in the former offices of the French Defense Ministry, in the Seventh arrondissement, one of Paris’s most chic neighborhoods. It’s part of an ambitious and aggressive effort to keep middle- and lower-income residents and small-business owners in the heart of a city that would otherwise be unaffordable to them — and by extension, to preserve the ineffable character of a city adored by people around the globe."

"ALM, the media and research company that organizes Legalweek, issued a statement saying it had 'been made aware of reports of highly inappropriate behavior including harassment and assault' during the week of the event. The statement said ALM wanted to 'vehemently condemn all such action and reiterate our strong position that any such behavior has zero place in any setting.'" Some industries have a long way to go to get current with the 1990's.

"The turnout gap between white and nonwhite voters in the U.S. is growing fastest in jurisdictions that were stripped of a federal civil rights-era voting protection a decade ago, according to a new study… The protections in Section 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act required some states and localities with a history of voting discrimination to obtain federal approval before they could make any changes to their voting laws or procedures." Who could have seen that happening (except everybody).

"Britt seemed to want viewers to imagine her in an apron, gazing lovingly upon her family and realizing she must sacrifice some measure of domesticity for 'the future of children.' It's all nonsense, of course. She is exactly the 'permanent politician' she accused Biden of being, as any perusal of her resume will show. Britt holds a political science degree and law degree from the University of Alabama. She went straight from graduation to work on the staff of her predecessor, Sen. Richard Shelby. She worked in private practice and government, but never as a full-time stay-at-home mother." Shocking, I know.

"The White House is launching a multi-agency “strike force” on Tuesday in an effort to curb unfair and illegal pricing across the economy, according to Lael Brainard, chair of the National Economic Council… Brainard will make the announcement at a meeting… of the White House competition council, a group stacked with Cabinet officials, and other agency heads. The move comes as President Joe Biden seeks new ways to show voters he’s cracking down on the so-called corporate greed that he has increasingly blamed for high prices."

"Projects that were once bipartisan, including one started by the Trump administration, have been recast as deep-state conspiracies to rig elections. Facing legal and political blowback, the Biden administration has largely abandoned moves that might be construed as stifling political speech… While little noticed by most Americans, the effort has helped cut a path for Mr. Trump’s attempt to recapture the presidency. Disinformation about elections is once again coursing through news feeds, aiding Mr. Trump as he fuels his comeback with falsehoods about the 2020 election."

"In the vein of political operations, Whatley told staff there will be a focus on organizing communities that are not traditionally Republican. The RNC is looking to launch a '"Grow the Vote" program geared towards reaching nontraditional Republican voters and low propensity voters,' according to the memo." And yet they cut the staff for those outreach offices to focus more on "… staffing up legal counsel related to its election integrity efforts. Whatley announced Christina Bobb, who has served as an attorney for President Trump, will now serve as senior counsel for election integrity."

"According to the second source, Trump said in recent days that he was being 'too nice' about the 'animals' and alleged gang members who cross the southern border, whom Trump routinely accuses of flooding the United States with drugs, diseases, and violent crime. This person relays to Rolling Stone that Trump also said he and his campaign will be rolling out newer, even 'tougher' policy proposals on immigration in 2024, and that his supporters should look out for them because they’ll be 'very happy.' His current slate of 2024 immigration policy prescriptions include militarizing the southern border to a shocking degree, reimposing and expanding his travel 'Muslim ban,' and building a vast network of new detention camps to house undocumented immigrants awaiting deportation."

Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Linkee-poo February 28

Richard Lewis, and so it goes.

"Firefighting crews on Wednesday continued battling a near-record size wildfire scorching the Texas Panhandle. As of Wednesday afternoon, the fire had already affected more than 850,000 acres, as high wind speeds and dry weather conditions continue to fuel the blaze." Totally normal, nothing to worry about here.

"As Bloomberg reports, the Boring Company's scarce output — which thus far amounts only to driving Teslas around a few miles of neon-lit tunnel underneath Sin City as they ferry convention attendees at no more than 40 miles per hour — has also come with a massive buildup of waste, the consistency of a milkshake, that's said to burn the skin of anyone who comes in contact with it." The supposed genius, everybody.

"The chatbot provided inaccurate information, encouraging Moffatt to book a flight immediately and then request a refund within 90 days. In reality, Air Canada's policy explicitly stated that the airline will not provide refunds for bereavement travel after the flight is booked. Moffatt dutifully attempted to follow the chatbot's advice and request a refund but was shocked that the request was rejected." Air Canada tried to argue that they couldn't be held liable for the chatbot's advice, which was wrong. Fortunately the court disagreed.

"Wendy's said on Wednesday it has no plans to raise menu prices at times of peak demand, after the burger chain was scorched on social media sites for comments its CEO made earlier this month suggesting the chain may start testing 'dynamic pricing.'" Well that's a relief. Too bad the damage has already been done.

"Apple has ended its secret plans of building a self-driving electric car, a decade-long effort that was seen as one of the most ambitious undertakings in the company's history."

"Michelle Mack is accused of paying as many as 12 women for their travel expenses, as well as providing them with a list of retail stores across the country to target — including stores in 21 counties across California… Those stores include a LensCrafters in Clairemont and an Ulta store in Mira Mesa, which was one of the 231 Ulta’s hit across the country. Several Sephora stores were also targeted." Just to keep in mind whom is directing those supposed "shoplifting gangs."

"The four-day workweek is proving to be the gift that keeps on giving… Companies that have tried it are reporting happier workers, lower turnover and greater efficiency. Now, there's evidence that those effects are long lasting." Still, don't expect it anytime soon.

"LLMs have what robots lack: access to knowledge about practically everything humans have ever written, from quantum physics to K-pop to defrosting a salmon fillet. In turn, robots have what LLMs lack: physical bodies that can interact with their surroundings, connecting words to reality. It seems only logical to connect mindless robots and bodiless LLMs so that, as one 2022 paper puts it, 'the robot can act as the language model's "hands and eyes," while the language model supplies high-level semantic knowledge about the task.'" I'd would be ROTFLMAO if it didn't mean a number of people will be killed before the techbros figure out that maybe this is a mistake. So let's take their opening scenario about a robot cooking dinner. Have you seen any of the stories about asking Chat-GPT/LLMs for recipes? Anyone who thinks this is a good idea has been sniffing their own farts and thinking it's ambrosia. Also the major problem here is that Chat-GPT/LLMs are not general intelligence, they're statistical modeling tools, they don't understand the meaning behind the words they're generating.

"More than a dozen students walked out of class Monday at an Oklahoma high school where a 16-year-old nonbinary student was beaten inside a restroom earlier this month and died the following day."

"A former member of the disbanded left-wing militant Red Army Faction group who is accused of participating in a string of robberies has been arrested after more than 30 years on the run, German authorities said Tuesday."

"Hunger and severe malnutrition are widespread in the Gaza Strip, where about 2.2 million Palestinians are facing severe shortages resulting from Israel destroying food supplies and severely restricting the flow of food, medicines and other humanitarian supplies. Aid trucks and Palestinians waiting for humanitarian relief have come under Israeli fire."

"Over the last couple of years, a mystery has been brewing in this small mountain town. Someone has been quietly buying hundreds of acres of land — stirring worries about rising housing prices and speculation among locals about what exactly is going on… Waimea is a tightknit community that has a large Native Hawaiian population, and the people here say they don't want to lose that culture." The billionaire class are buying their own volcano criminal mastermind headquarters believing the end times are coming soon. Like we won't drive out onto their land to bring them back to the guillotine.

"Congressional leaders reached a tentative agreement Wednesday to prevent a government shutdown for now, days before an end-of-the-week deadline that risked shuttering some federal operations, according to two people familiar with the situation and granted anonymity to discuss it." Not a solution, they're just kicking the can down the road.

"Amid yet more tumult and tense division in American public life, the Maricopa county supervisor announced this week that he’s not running again, choosing instead to prioritize his family – and get rid of the endless harassment that’s been a feature of his job the last few years and put him more than once in the national spotlight."

"But once the final proposal by Missourians for Constitutional Freedom was unveiled in January, the troubles quickly dispersed and the attention shifted to getting the over 171,000 signatures required to go before voters later this year."

"A magistrate ruled Wednesday that the oldest son of U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert could be released from jail a day after the 18-year-old was arrested in connection with a recent string of vehicle break-ins and property thefts." It's just salacious, but sure.

"Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell will step down as Republican leader in November."

"A New York appellate judge on Wednesday refused to halt collection of Donald Trump’s $454 million civil fraud penalty while he appeals, rejecting the former president’s request that he be allowed to post a bond covering just a fraction of what he owes."

"After months of contentious battles with House Republicans, Hunter Biden appeared Wednesday for a deposition in the GOP impeachment inquiry into his father, President Joe Biden. The younger Biden has been a central target in the GOP-led investigation of the president and his family."

"The Supreme Court on Wednesday agreed to decide whether former President Donald Trump can be prosecuted on charges he interfered with the 2020 election, calling into question whether his case could go to trial before the November election." And that's the point of them taking the case.

"'We have led a movement that is far exceeding expectations, using the ballot box to urge America to stop killing our families,' said Listen to Michigan spokesperson and Democratic strategist Abbas Alawieh at a watch party in Dearborn, Mich. 'That's all we're asking for. Just stop killing our families,' he added." Congrats to Listen to Michigan for their organization. I had a lot to say on Bluesky. So I won't reiterate it all here, but I'll just say that if their focus is just on Gaza is this group prepared to throw the election from Biden to Trump, from a person who will at least listen to them to the person who will most likely oppress, deport, and gin up "lone wolves" to attack the community? Or can Biden gamble that his working on a cease fire behind the scenes will bear fruit and bring those votes back in without bowing to any pressure from them?

"'Uncommitted' wins 2 Democratic delegates in Michigan, a victory for Biden’s anti-war opponents." While that's not for nothing, and it gives you some seats in the arena, but he won't need your delegates to win the nomination. And I certainly hope you're not waiting for the Convention to actually push for your agenda.

Saturday, February 17, 2024

Linkee-poo February 17

"Record hot seawater killed more than three-quarters of human-cultivated coral that scientists had placed in the Florida Keys in recent years in an effort to prop up a threatened species that’s highly vulnerable to climate change, researchers discovered." Well fuck.

"Officials reported Thursday that the Osiris-Rex spacecraft collected 121.6 grams (4.29 ounces) of dust and pebbles from asteroid Bennu. That’s just over half a cup and the biggest cosmic haul ever from beyond the moon."

"In fact, buprenorphine prescriptions for adolescents were declining as overdose deaths for 10-19-year-olds more than doubled. These overdoses, combined with accidental opioid poisonings among young children, have become the third leading cause of death for U.S. children." The staunch "cold turkey" brigade strikes again.

"As part of a growing effort among museums to reevaluate the curation of human remains, the Ivy League school laid some of the remains to rest last week, specifically those identified as belonging to 19 Black Philadelphians. Officials held a memorial service for them on Saturday... The university says it is trying to begin rectifying past wrongs. But some community members feel excluded from the process, illustrating the challenges that institutions face in addressing institutional racism."

"Yet in the United States, the economy motored ahead in last year’s fourth quarter for a sixth straight quarter of growth. It’s blown past many predictions coming into last year that a recession seemed inevitable because of high interest rates meant to slow the economy and inflation." Yes, our economy is doing very well, but this inflation being driven by corporate greed is really hurting. This is why we have governments, to protect our collective needs.

"Amazon is arguing in a legal filing that the 88-year-old National Labor Relations Board is unconstitutional, echoing similar arguments made this year by Elon Musk’s SpaceX and the grocery store chain Trader Joe’s in disputes about workers’ rights and organizing." The neo-gilded-age barons are upset that your puny labor issues might affect their whole pillaging of the American economy.

"And so, the same state that questioned Mayron’s fitness to care for her four children forced her to continue a pregnancy that risked her life to have a fifth, one that would require more intensive care than any of the others… Tennessee already had some of the worst outcomes in the nation when measuring maternal health, infant mortality and child poverty. Lawmakers who paved the way for a new generation of post-Roe births did little to bolster the state’s meager safety net to support these babies and their families."

And in "when you only have a hammer, everything is a nail" news… "In a video that has gone viral on social media this week both for its absurdity and terrifying implications, Deputy Jesse Hernandez hears an acorn drop onto his car. In response, he dramatically rolls on the ground while repeatedly shouting 'shots fired!' and unloading his sidearm into the vehicle, shattering its back window."

"Jackson County's Office of the Juvenile Officer charged two people under 18 with gun charges and resisting arrest on Thursday, in connection with the shooting at the end of the Chiefs parade and rally at Union Station... Police believe the shooting occurred because of a dispute, and not because of terrorism or extremism." Ah the "more guns make us a politer society" gang strikes again.

"The family of a disabled undergraduate who killed herself on the day of a 'truly terrifying' oral exam have won the latest stage of a legal battle to compel universities to take more care of students struggling with their mental health."

"Ukraine’s military chief said early Saturday that he’s withdrawing troops from the city of Avdiivka in eastern Ukraine, where outnumbered defenders battled a Russian assault for four months."

"(Ukrainian) Lieutenant General Kyrylo Budanov said that Russian troops have been communicating over the Starlink system 'for quite a long time' and acquired the terminals from private Russian firms that purchased them from intermediaries." Remember when Musk cut off Starlink access when Ukrainian troops crossed into Russian held territories on the eastern edge and southward toward Crimea? It's almost like Starling can pinpoint the ground stations with great accuracy and turn individual systems off. When they want to.

"The death of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny in a penal colony in Russia's Arctic north was shocking, but hardly surprising... For years, critics and opponents of Russian leader Vladimir Putin have fallen victim to shootings, poisoning with radioactive or nerve agents, or have plunged to their deaths from open windows." We all knew it was coming.

"Russia is trying to develop a nuclear space weapon that would destroy satellites by creating a massive energy wave when detonated, potentially crippling a vast swath of the commercial and government satellites that the world below depends on to talk on cell phones, pay bills, and surf the internet, according to three sources familiar with US intelligence about the weapon." And this is why we had treaties that the Trump Administration helped Putin dismantle. Also, it's not that hard, it's called a halo burst, and it is one of the first strike scenarios we've had on the books since the 70s.

"State lawyers said at the trial that LaPierre, who announced his resignation just days before the trial opened in early January, billed the NRA more than $11 million for private jet flights and spent more than $500,000 on eight trips to the Bahamas over a three-year span. They also say he authorized $135 million in NRA contracts for a vendor whose owners showered him with free trips to the Bahamas, Greece, Dubai and India, and gave him access to a 108-foot (33-meter) yacht." No no no, bribery and corruption are only done by those brown people.

"The Texas National Guard will expand its presence on the border in the form of a new operations center in Maverick County that can house more than 2,000 soldiers... Gov. Greg Abbott announced the construction of a base camp, which will be built on 80 acres of property near the banks of the Rio Grande, Friday afternoon." The problem with playing the tough guy is that you always have to one up the other person, do one better. It's a never ending cycle.

"Prosecutors say Smirnov falsely told FBI agents in 2020 that executives associated with the Ukrainian energy company Burisma paid Hunter and Joe Biden $5 million each in bribes in 2015 or 2016 to protect the company from investigators... The indictment also alleges that Smirnov repeated false claims when interviewed by the FBI last year and changed some of his story."

"A man expected to be a key witness for lawyers trying to get Fani Willis disqualified from the Georgia election interference case against Donald Trump instead refused to answer most of their questions on Friday, citing attorney-client privilege during the second day of a hearing that sometimes bordered on theater."

"The Friday decision from Judge Arthur Engoron orders Trump and his flagship organization to pay the bulk of that amount: almost $355 million. Trump's two sons and co-defendants, Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr., are each liable for $4 million. Allen Weisselberg, a former Trump Organization executive, is liable for $1 million. The total is even higher with interest — more than $450 million overall, according to the attorney general's office."

"The verdict in the civil fraud trial requires Trump to pay interest on some of the deal profits he has been ordered to give up. New York Attorney General Letitia James, who brought the case, said the interest payments totaled $99 million and would “continue to increase every single day until it is paid."

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Linkee-poo Valentines Day 2024

Bob Edwards, and so it goes.

"This year, Patronick – who lives in Hanover – hopes to do the same for other people who’ve suffered that kind of loss. On Wednesday, she plans to drive all over the Upper Valley, hand-delivering cards and roses to around 30 widows and widowers... She said she doesn’t have all the answers. She just wants people to know that someone else understands what they’re going through." Thinking about friends in similar situations.

"With Arctic sea ice shrinking from climate change, many polar bears have to shift their diets to land during parts of the summer. A study looking at Hudson Bay polar bears tries to figure out if they can keep up their roly-poly figure, which is what’s needed and found that an overwhelming number of them are dropping the pounds no matter what they do to try to beef up their weight."

"Nearly half of the world's already threatened migratory species have declining populations, the first of its kind U.N. report found. More than a fifth of the nearly 1,200 migratory species monitored by the U.N. – whales, sea turtles, apes, songbirds and others – are threatened with extinction."

"The debate is focused on the Uniform Determination of Death Act, a law that was adopted by most states in the 1980s. The law says that death can be declared if someone has experienced 'irreversible cessation of all functions of the entire brain.'... But some parts of the brain can continue to function in people who have been declared brain dead, prompting calls to revise the statute."

"A scientific paper that raised concerns about the safety of the abortion pill mifepristone was retracted by its publisher this week. The study was cited three times by a federal judge who ruled against mifepristone last spring. That case, which could limit access to mifepristone throughout the country, will soon be heard in the Supreme Court."

"In December, the House passed a bill that included a provision requiring Medicare to pay the same rates for medical infusions, like chemotherapy and many treatments for autoimmune conditions, regardless of whether they're done in a doctor's office or clinic owned by a hospital or by a different entity. The policy, known as site-neutral payment, has sparked a ferocious lobbying battle in the Senate, not the first of its kind, with hospitals determined to kill such legislation."

"Gov. Jim Pillen reversed himself and announced today/Monday that Nebraska will participate in the so-called 'Summer EBT' food program for kids from low-income families."

"For Perić, knowing that enslaved people lived and are buried in her neighborhood is haunting, she says. She's in synergy with Chapman about the goals, she says, 'to bring back that sense of dignity and humanity to people who never received it in their lifetime.'"

Instead of a snow day, NYC schools tried to do it all remotely. "Unfortunately for (Mayor) Adams, the plan didn’t go so well: Many students, teachers and administrators were unable to log in to their accounts — a problem that city officials blamed on a technology contractor."

"A 45-year-old man was arrested in the theft of a bronze Jackie Robinson statue that was cut off at the ankles and found days later smoldering in a trash can in a city park in Kansas, police announced Tuesday." Sure sounds like he was going to sell it for scrap. Not.

"House Republicans having failed to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas the first time are determined Tuesday to try again with a do-over vote to punish the Biden administration over its handling of the migrant crisis at the U.S-Mexico border." A do-over? I'mma not a parlimentarian, but I'm pretty sure that's not how business is supposed to go.

But they did it anyway. "The U.S. House voted Tuesday to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, with the Republican majority determined to punish the Biden administration over its handling of the U.S-Mexico border after failing last week in a politically embarrassing setback."

"Trump has yet to secure the GOP’s presidential nomination and just last week, he and current (RNC) Chair Ronna McDaniel privately agreed that no major changes would take place until after South Carolina’s Feb. 24 primary. But that didn’t stop Trump from announcing Monday on social media that he wants McDaniel to be replaced by Michael Whatley, the North Carolina GOP chairman. The new co-chair, Trump said, should be his daughter-in-law Lara Trump."

"Alabama lawmakers on Tuesday began debate on legislation to restrict assistance with absentee ballot applications." Let the season of election interference begin.

"The lawsuit by the Arizona Free Enterprise Club zeroes in on the manual’s instructions on operating ballot drop-off locations and preventing voter intimidation, saying the provisions are unconstitutional because they try to restrict protected speech. The group says the restrictions in the manual released in December by Democratic Secretary of State Adrian Fontes’ office put people at risk to criminal prosecution for monitoring drop boxes and polling locations."

How's that Jan 6 as a "peaceful protest" narrative coming along? "Newly unearthed footage from Jan. 6, 2021, appears to show a rioter — a man identified in an NBC News story nearly two years ago — firing a gun into the air outside the Capitol during the attack."

"Former President Donald Trump said America would not defend NATO allies against Russia if they did not meet his definition of contributing enough defense spending, threatening to upend the alliance if elected president again in 2024." Yeah, he did that in 2017 as well.

"Former President Donald Trump on Saturday questioned why Nikki Haley’s husband wasn’t on the campaign trail, drawing sharp responses from both the former U.N. ambassador and her husband, who is currently abroad on a National Guard mission... 'What happened to her husband?' Trump told a crowd in Conway, South Carolina, as he and Haley held events across the state ahead of its Feb. 24 Republican primary. 'Where is he? He’s gone. He knew. He knew.'" What did he know? This doesn't even make any sense.

Saturday, February 10, 2024

Linkee-poo Feb 10

"When Rachael Kay Albers was shopping around her book proposal, the editors at a Big Five publishing house loved the idea. The problem came from the marketing department, which had an issue: She didn’t have a big enough following. With any book, but especially nonfiction ones, publishers want a guarantee that a writer comes with a built-in audience of people who already read and support their work and, crucially, will fork over $27 — a typical price for a new hardcover book — when it debuts." The "artist as self-promoter" article all the cool kids were talking about. There's some things about "brand" in here and it makes me crazy because people misunderstand. But what I've just come to realize that for these people "brand" has the connotation of "commodification", and with that I'll agree. Do not become your product, do not create a brand around one product, but especially do not become the product (unless you intentionally want to be famous). There's a lot of mixing concepts and bemoaning the "current state of affairs," but having made a 30+ year career on my creativity I'm left with this; it's the same as it ever was.

"In a paper published today in the journal Antiquity, researchers report finding a cache of Roman-era black henbane from the first century C.E. hidden within the hollows of a goat or sheep bone from the Netherlands. Medical uses of the plant are described in Roman texts, but the find shows its powers were known even on the far fringes of the empire." One pill makes you larger…

"'They thought they were doing good but it made people worse': why mental health apps are under scrutiny." And not only do they have worse outcomes, there is a real privacy concern here. This is my shocked face.

"The European Union pumped out 8% less carbon dioxide from the fossil fuels it burned in 2023 than it did in 2022, the Guardian can reveal, pushing these emissions down to their lowest level in 60 years." While growing the economy. It's almost like the fossil fuel companies and lobbyists were lying to us the whole time. Okay, yeah, milder weather and Russia's fuckery with natural gas prices helped.

But then… "A nationwide analysis by USA TODAY shows local governments are banning green energy faster than they’re building it… At least 15% of counties in the U.S. have effectively halted new utility-scale wind, solar, or both, USA TODAY found. These limits come through outright bans, moratoriums, construction impediments and other conditions that make green energy difficult to build."

"A recent study claiming to describe more than 1,600 possible cases of a 'socially contagious syndrome' was retracted in June for failing to obtain ethics approval from an institutional review board. The survey examined 'rapid-onset gender dysphoria,' a proposed condition that attributes adolescent gender distress to exposure to transgender people through friends or social media. The existence of such a syndrome has been the subject of intense debate for the past several years and has fueled arguments against transgender rights reforms, despite being widely criticized by medical experts." Funny, I seem to remember the same bullshit being said about gays back in the 80s. Hell, it was even a joke on the show Friends.

"'It appears this all stems from a post made earlier this week by Chaya Raichik and her "Libs of TikTok" account,' Dvorak wrote in a report to her superiors… Raichik, 29, is not accused of making any bomb threats in Iowa or anywhere else. But about a day and a half before authorities responded to the threat at Coralville’s Northwest Junior High, Raichik posted that the school offers a 'pornographic' book in its library that 'teaches kids about gay sex.'" It's like there's some sort of connection here, like this stochastic terrorism is actually coordinated and directed in a roundabout way.

And then… "A man in the US state of New Mexico has pleaded guilty to helping a defeated Republican candidate carry out drive-by shootings at the home of Democrats… The defendant, Demetrio Trujillo, says the candidate, Solomon Peña, hired him after failing to win a seat in the state legislature in November 2022."

"That’s how things seemed in Pennridge until November’s school board election, when all five open seats were won by Democrats—a stunning turnaround in a district with a more than 3:2 Republican advantage. A week later, another page in an emerging playbook for fighting back was more quietly revealed, when a group of Pennridge community members charged that the policies Pennridge had adopted weren’t just partisan, but violated civil rights law, in a federal complaint that could have implications far beyond Bucks County." Yes, there is a playbook for right-wing takes of school boards. Yes this is coordinated. Yes it is well funded.

"A Utah high school student needs police protection after a state school board member publicly singled out and suggested the student was transgender — without evidence — inciting threats from her followers on social media… Natalie Cline later apologized — but not before many commenters personally attacked the player, the student’s school district had to provide extra security for her, and the lawmaker who wrote the state’s anti-transgender athlete bill weighed in sharing private information possibly in violation of her own measure." It's not like a lot of people said exactly this would happen. Parents are calling out girls for being transgender who aren't. It'll all come down to, "who is girly like enough." Also note there is absolutely no talk of preventing trans boys from playing on boys teams. It's almost like this is really about Title IX than anything else.

There' petty crime and then there's… "A radio station in Alabama was forced to go silent after thieves stole its 200-foot radio tower and other equipment from a building… The station, WJLX, sent a landscaping crew to the site Friday morning for spring cleaning, only to find the 200-foot radio tower gone. When a crew member called the station’s general manager to break the news, he was in disbelief."

"Prosecutors released new footage of a viral attack on two police officers that appears to conflict with police accounts of their initial interaction with a group of migrants that quickly escalated into a melee that triggered nationwide outrage." In any other profession falsifying an official document is grounds for immediate termination. But police just keep doing it.

"Tax revenues are expected to rise by as much as $561 billion from 2024 to 2034, thanks to stepped-up enforcement made possible with money from the Democrats’ Inflation Reduction Act, which became law in August 2022." It's almost like Democrats know what they're doing and the GOP has been stonewalling actual progress to benefit their rich friends this whole time.

"Elon Musk suffered one of the biggest legal losses in U.S. history this week when the Tesla CEO was stripped of his $56 billion pay package in a case brought by an unlikely opponent, a former heavy metal drummer." Couldn't have happened to a better guy.

"A sizable portion of right-wing media has recently become obsessed with the conspiracy theory that Swift and her relationship with Kansas City Chiefs player Travis Kelce is a 'psy-op' to influence NFL fans and the singer’s supporters to vote for President Joe Biden later this year. Others in right-wing media are now recognizing the absurdity of these claims and questioning why their colleagues are spreading them instead of focusing on issues that are important to voters ahead of the 2024 presidential election." Whackaloon quotient sky-high.

Thursday, February 1, 2024

Linkee-poo February 1

"A new study, published in the journal Science Advances, Wednesday, finds that hot droughts have become more prevalent and severe across the western U.S. as a result of human-caused climate change." We're boned.

"A prized statue of Jackie Robinson was stolen from a public park in Kansas, spurring a police search Friday and outrage across the city of Wichita... The statue honors the first player to break Major League Baseball's color barrier in 1947. Surveillance video was released of two people hauling the sculpture away in the dark. Wichita police said in a Facebook post that it went missing Thursday morning." I would like to think this is just about the bronze resale value, but I have a feeling it is not.

"While St. Patrick has long been the saint most identified with Ireland, Brigid has gained a growing following in the 21st century. Devotees draw inspiration from Brigid the saint — and from Brigid the ancient pagan goddess, whose name and attributes she shares — as emblematic of feminine spirituality and empowerment. This comes amid growing disenchantment with the patriarchal and historically dominant Catholic Church."

"New clues have emerged in what is one of the greatest mysteries of all time: the disappearance of legendary American aviator Amelia Earhart… Deep Sea Vision, an ocean exploration company based in South Carolina, announced Saturday that it captured compelling sonar images of what could be Earhart's aircraft at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean."

"When big-headed ants (Pheidole megacephala) invade the savanna, they kill off native acacia ants (genus Crematogaster), robbing local whistling thorn trees of their valiant defenders against hungry elephants. Without ants to bite them, the elephants rip up the thorn trees, opening up the grassland, which makes it harder for lions to catch their preferred zebra meals. Lions end up hunting buffalo instead. The findings, published online January 25 in Science, show that invasive species’ effects can be very indirect — and suggest that changes in different low-level mutualisms might also echo up food webs in other ecosystems."

"'Based on what we learned through this study, as well as the existing research, we recommend that most people avoid dieting, unless it is medically necessary. Our study also offers insights into how people can combat insidious aspects of weight cycling and challenge the cycle.'" The study is based on those who felt social pressure to lose weight, which can lead to slightly different outcomes. Also note that the number of people in the study is very small. But, if you want to lose weight, a "diet" is one of the worst ways to do it. Once you are on a diet, you are always on a diet. Eat less, exercise more. When I am able to stick to that, I lose weight. My main problem is that 1) I love food, 2) I'm a stress eater, 3) my life has a lot of stress, and 4) my work is a toxic food environment (most people bring snacks to share, because surprise, we're all stressed).

"The issue made headlines this week, as bogus pornographic images purporting to show pop superstar Taylor Swift proliferated on X (formerly known as Twitter), Telegram and elsewhere. Many postings were removed, but not before some of them racked up millions of views." The conservatives have a weird obsession with Taylor Swift. There are now major conspiracies that the NFL contrived to make the Chiefs win the Superb Owl (SIC) and at the end of the game, Taylor will be on field and announce Biden's re-election campaign, or just taking power by fiat. It keeps changing. We're going to have to launch satellites to measure this elections season's wackaloon quotient.

"The Biden administration has temporarily frozen consideration of new natural gas export facilities. The Department of Energy will now review the long-term implications of the facilities on climate change, and ultimately decide if they serve the public interest... Currently, there are 17 planned projects awaiting permits — all now delayed by the administration's decision. The pause doesn't affect more than a dozen plants that are already operating, or that are under construction or have received permits. Nor will it halt the export of gas."

"Questions about the possibility of a low-level regional war in the Middle East are rising after attacks there have escalated in the past 24 hours… On Sunday, an aerial drone strike killed three United States service members and injured at least 34 others. The strike happened at a support base known as Tower 22 in northeast Jordan near the Syrian border and likely hit a barracks."

"Employees from a Ukrainian arms firm conspired with defense ministry officials to embezzle almost $40 million earmarked to buy 100,000 mortar shells for the war with Russia, Ukraine’s security service reported."

"A Black man who was detained by police during an early morning walk in a quiet community northwest of Detroit says the white officer who threw him against a squad car, cuffed him and accused him of planning to break into a car also told a significant lie."

"Legislative efforts in Missouri and Mississippi are attempting to prevent voters from having a say over abortion rights, building on anti-abortion strategies seen in other states, including last year in Ohio."

"If presidential approval numbers are not perfect predictors of an incumbent's reelection, is there something else that is? Observers have long sought the True North by which to set their compass and their expectations." I dunno, maybe news should get out of the prognostication racket and maybe shift their focus away from horserace statistics.

"Myers says she also felt compelled to serve after Donald Trump and his supporters baselessly attacked the integrity of Fulton County's 2020 election and the people who ran it, including two Black women who endured threats and harassment once Trump and others falsely accused them of election fraud." Never mess with the Aunties.

"U.S. officials have told NPR that the dip is related to a series of meetings in late December between the Mexican government and White House officials regarding immigration enforcement. Nothing official was announced following the meetings — in fact Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador publicly criticized U.S. immigration policy after the meetings, saying that only addressing the root causes of migration (poverty, violence, repression) can work... But, official sources have told NPR that the Mexican National Guard is ramping up its enforcement. Suddenly, you can see them from Jacumba on the other side of the border fence."

"Activist who led ouster of Harvard president linked to ‘scientific racism’ journal… The rightwing activist Christopher Rufo has links to a self-styled “sociobiology magazine” that is focused on the supposed relationships between race, intelligence and criminality, and which experts have characterized as an outlet for scientific racism." Ah, I see we've arrived fully in the "find out" section of the equation. First his wife is found out to have more egregiously plagiarized in her academic papers, and now his background is coming out.

"House Republicans on Sunday released two articles of impeachment against Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas as they vowed to swiftly push forward with election-year efforts to oust the Cabinet member over what they call his failure to manage the U.S.-Mexico border. Democrats and the agency slammed the move as a politically motivated stunt lacking the constitutional basis to remove him from office."

"But, Eisen said, 'the wise thing to do at this point is for Mr. Wade to voluntarily end his time on this case.' Even though he is not legally required to do so, Eisen said, 'at this point, the conversation about these issues has become a distraction' from the 'overwhelming amount of evidence justifying the decision to prosecute Mr. Trump and his co-conspirators.'"

"In Taiwan, the response to disinformation was swift. Fact-checking groups debunked the rumors, while the Central Election Commission held a news conference to push back on claims of electoral discrepancies. Influencers like @FroggyChiu with more than 600,000 subscribers also put out explainers on YouTube explaining how votes are tallied." It takes coordination, preparedness, and a quick reaction to work.

"As Trump steamrolls to the nomination, there are ample questions in GOP circles about how – and whether – Trump can rebuild Senate alliances that were critical in his first term but are nonexistent now. The lack of relationship has become abundantly clear in recent days as Trump has publicly and privately lobbied rank-and-file senators and House GOP leaders to kill a major immigration and Ukraine deal that McConnell has worked for months to secure in the Senate."