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, June 18, 2024

Linkee-poo June 18

"Astronomers expect that this year you'll be able to see the explosion of a star system in our Milky Way galaxy by simply looking up at the sky."

"The tour was not organized by Reay’s publisher, Harper Muse, an imprint of HarperCollins, which organized its own promotion of the book. Reay footed the bill for the tour herself… This arrangement is far from unique. According to independent events planners, publicists and marketers, more and more authors are seeking out their services to augment the efforts of their publishers’ in-house staff… Depending on who you ask, the trend is a result of surging promotional workloads over decades – or publishers’ disinvestment in staff."

"The websites are tantalizing: 'You can catch conditions before they become crises,' reads one. Another promises to make cancer 'easier to beat' and claims it can detect 'over 500 other conditions in up to 13 organs.' Full-body scans are attracting celebrity promoters, tech mogul investors and long waiting lists of people hoping to identify life-threatening conditions, usually more treatable in early stages." These are scams. I work in radiology, and I have personally suffered the consequences of submitting images for report that show potential pathologies but that don't meet the criteria for quality imaging practices (and yes, two of those were cancer, and I received a "fail" for one comp and a "QC report"/professional reprimand on another). And yes, incidental findings are definitely a thing and many diseases do not show up symptomatically (pain, etc) until it can be too late. However, these full body scans are a scam run by unscrupulous fucks usually using outdated equipment and they don't do anything to help you. Human bodies are full of anomalies (look up sesamoid bones or "lumbar vertebrae L6") that have zero impact on your health BUT could be potentially an indicator of disease. You have cysts, muscle anomalies, calcifications (especially if you're older) and size variants that can be read as a pathology that have no real impact on your health now or in the future. These companies are banking on the latent hypochondria present in American culture. If you have a concern, most certainly talk with a doctor who will take your concerns seriously (this is a whole other very long conversation), but don't get a full body scan unless your real symptoms/family history warrant such a scan.

Why do we need a strong regulatory function in government? "The air throughout south-east Louisiana’s 'Cancer Alley' is probably being poisoned with a highly carcinogenic gas at levels much higher than previously thought, new research reveals… Using cutting-edge equipment that more accurately checks for the gas, ethylene oxide, which is primarily used in plastic production, researchers found levels more than 1,000 times above previous measurements, and about 10 times higher on average than regulators’ modeling."

"A federal judge on Monday ordered BNSF Railway to pay the Swinomish Tribe $395 million for illegally running mile-long oil trains through the tribe’s reservation for nearly a decade… BNSF has permission from the tribe to run two oil trains a day, totaling no more than 50 tanker cars, through its reservation… Instead, BNSF has been running oil trains with 100 or more cars each across the reservation’s northern end up to six times a day." Wow, actual consequences.

And talking about a strong regulatory function of government, from the FTC blog… "Your therapy bots aren’t licensed psychologists, your AI girlfriends are neither girls nor friends, your griefbots have no soul, and your AI copilots are not gods. We’ve warned companies about making false or unsubstantiated claims about AI or algorithms. And we’ve followed up with action, including recent cases against WealthPress, DK Automation, Automators AI, and CRI Genetics. We’ve also repeatedly advised companies – with reference to past cases – not to use automated tools to mislead people about what they’re seeing, hearing, or reading." Someone is about to open a big can of whoop ass.

"As far back as 2006, when Google launched Google Translate, the translation industry has been 'speculating about the potential for AI to replace human translators,' says Bridget Hylak, a representative from the American Translators Association… So, yeah, translators have been grappling with AI for a while. Yet, despite the fact that anyone with a smartphone has long been able to use this machine translation technology for free or at a relatively low cost — there are still a ton of jobs for human translators and interpreters out there."

"President Biden is set to announce Tuesday new executive actions that will offer protection against deportation to an estimated half a million undocumented spouses of U.S. citizens."

"Today, an eight-member jury in West Palm Beach, Florida, found Chiquita Brands International liable for funding a violent Colombian paramilitary organization, the United Self-defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), that was responsible for major human rights atrocities during the 1990s and 2000s. The weeks-long trial featured testimony from the families of the nine victims in the case, the recollections of Colombian military officials and Chiquita executives, expert reports, and a summary of key documentary evidence produced by Michael Evans, director of the National Security Archive’s Colombia documentation project." Unfortunately, though, no one will go to jail over it and their total fines ($35m from this judgement and $25m from having been found to supporting a terrorist organization) of about $60m are a drop in the bucket of their profits.

"A federal judge in Kentucky blocked a new Biden administration Title IX rule Monday in six states that would have banned discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation — not solely sex. The opinion applies to Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, Virginia and West Virginia… Chief Judge Danny Reeves of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky began his 93-page opinion by writing, 'There are two sexes: male and female.' He concluded by blocking the enforcement of the new rule that would have been implemented in August." As a medical worker and husband of a biologist I can tell you the judge is absolutely fucking wrong here.

"Other states considering wealth tax proposals, like Pennsylvania and Vermont, are taking note of Massachusetts' revenue numbers. The voter-approved surtax here brought in nearly a billion dollars more than the state budgeted for. But officials are still watching for whether the wealthy are leaving in droves; economists say there's not yet enough data to know."

"A federal jury in Delaware has convicted President Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, on felony gun charges stemming from his purchase of a Colt revolver in 2018 when he was addicted to crack cocaine."

"Like her husband, Mrs. Alito is unbowed by the criticism and controversy — as she makes clear in comments recorded by liberal documentary filmmaker Lauren Windsor. Windsor, posing as a Christian conservative, spoke at length with Mrs. Alito at a dinner reception hosted by the Supreme Court Historical Society last week. Windsor attended the dinner as a dues-paying member and bought a ticket; a colleague joined her."

"An influential group called the True Texas Project is hosting a conference in July that will actively promote Christian nationalism and the racist 'great replacement theory,' the Texas Tribune reports. The group, which subscribes to the idea of a 'war on white America,' has ties to many Texas GOP officials, the report says, including Senator Ted Cruz and Attorney General Ken Paxton, a major supporter of Donald Trump."

"The Republican-led House of Representatives voted 216 to 207 to hold Attorney General Merrick Garland in contempt of Congress, escalating a tug-of-war over audiotapes of President Biden’s interview with a special prosecutor."

"George E. Norcross III, a powerful executive and political figure in New Jersey for decades, was indicted Monday on racketeering and related charges, the state attorney general announced… The sweeping indictment alleges he led a criminal enterprise that used extortion to promote his vast business and political and philanthropic empire — in the process, illegally securing hundreds of millions of dollars in tax credits and rights to build developments on the valuable Camden waterfront, across from Philadelphia." Jaw drop. While the impact and focus of this is very local, the bringing of this indictment, IMHO, is even bigger than charging the former president with insurrection.

They're at it again. "Tens of thousands of Columbus-area voters are at risk of seeing their registrations canceled ahead of the upcoming presidential race, but they have about a month to prevent it from happening… By the numbers: A total of 158,857 Ohio voters face cancellation this year, Secretary of State Frank LaRose recently announced. That's around 2% of total registered voters."

Monday, June 10, 2024

Linkee-poo June 10

So, doing search for t-shirt designs for a general Radiology (instead of the specific topic I'm designing). And I gotta say in the last 4 years the t-shirt biz has produced a lot of good work for Radiology. Part of me is, "hey, that's great, I'm jazzed" and part of me is, "get the fuck off my lawn!"

The Hidden Brain podcast on… "Thinking is a human superpower. On a daily basis, thinking and planning and effort bring us innumerable benefits. But like all aspects of human behavior, you can sometimes get too much of a good thing. This week, we talk with philosopher Ted Slingerland about techniques to prevent overthinking, and how we can cultivate the under-appreciated skill of letting go." And I think this is in part what happened to my writing. In 2009 I was in a good place, I had learned enough and internalized enough that I was able to relax. I could hit the writing equivalent of my designing mind. Since my life was turned upside down in January 2010, I've learned more, but have been trying too hard because I'm 1) running out of time, and 2) need to break out quickly. And so I became like the centipede who was asked how they can walk with all those legs. I'm thinking about the process. Suddenly I couldn't. I would break down. It was too important to let go. I lost the "ease" of writing. Can I still find it? Sure, but not when I'm working on fiction. Instead of flow, my mind is racing, "am I building tension properly, and I including all the Chekov's guns I'll need, and I using the correct homophone?"

"A majority of Americans believe that the economy is in a recession even though it’s not. On this week’s On the Media, hear why there’s a mismatch between facts and feelings about the economy. Plus, how the outlandish claims of AI companies often go unchecked by the press." "On the wide open, grassy space on the National Mall, halfway between the U.S. Capitol and the Washington Monument, a temporary village has sprouted up in recent days. Several tiny houses line the paths, and workers assemble what looks like an instant log cabin. A few manufactured homes are clustered near the Smithsonian Castle." The problem, I've looked for these solutions, and I can't really find them.

"Enter the 'hospital facility fee': a charge hospitals can add to bills from doctors’ offices, outpatient surgical clinics and diagnostics centers that they own, rebranding them as 'outpatient hospital departments', even if the facility is miles from a hospital campus… 'It’s one of the most egregious examples of hospital financing at the expense of consumers,' said Liz Hagan, director of policy solutions at the United States of Care, a non-profit advocacy group that released a new report on the practice." My own hospital system does this, and it was announced to great fanfare as "what a wonderful thing." No, it's not. And I made my opinion known. It didn't do anything, of course, because the administrators don't think the patients are going to do anything at all about it (unlike me who sees a major reform coming).

"Demoralized doctors and nurses are leaving the field, hospitals are sounding the alarm about workforce shortages and employees are increasingly unionizing and even going on strike in high-profile disputes with their employers." Our hospital system has a 23% turnover rate for healthcare providers. And they think this is "normal" and "sustainable." And it was slightly possible (ignoring the morale and 'tribal knowledge' issues that level brings) when there were so many people graduating from nursing and allied health programs. But what's not mentioned here is that schools have hit the demographic cliff, that is the student population has plummeted. When I went through radiography there was a 2 year wait after you were accepted to the program (this was after 1 full year of pre-req courses which we had to pass before we could even apply to the program). Of the two schools we accept students for clinical experience, there is now no wait times. We may not even have students from one of the schools this Fall. Management has begrudgingly begun to work on this problem, but only on the recruitment side (we now have several "tech assistants", ie. student we pay nominally to lock them into working for the system before they realize all their options). There is zero work on the retention side.

"More than half of patients (60%) diagnosed with advanced forms of lung cancer who took lorlatinib were still alive five years later with no progression in their disease, data presented at the world’s largest cancer conference showed. The rate was 8% in patients treated with a standard drug, the trial found." "Battlefield medicine has come a long way. But that progress could be lost…" And then there was this part… "A Defense Department internal memo obtained by NPR found that outsourcing did not actually save the military money, but it did hurt readiness." Outsourcing government functions always costs more, and does not provide better services.

"Top-line results from two clinical trials were impressively positive, with MDMA therapy in combination with psychotherapy showing statistically significant, clinically meaningful improvements for PTSD symptoms. But, as the discussion dove deeper into the data, the experts identified a damningly large number of trial flaws, including missing data and bias, that threw the validity of those positive results into serious question." This really is on the poor record keeping and mismanagement of the company seeking the approval. Which is a shame, because it appears (except the double-blind portion of the test really wasn't) that it is an effective treatment.

"Now, new disclosures seen by HuffPost shed some light. Just weeks before she issued the ruling, Mizelle had discreetly attended an all-expenses-paid luxury trip from a conservative group whose primary mission is to persuade more federal judges to adopt the use of corpus linguistics. For five days, Mizelle and more than a dozen other federal judges listened to the leading proponents of corpus linguistics in the comfort of The Greenbrier, an ostentatious resort spread out over 11,000 acres of West Virginia hillside." JFC, there's this long running social media thing about, "but the dictionary defines this word to mean…" completely missing both the actual real definition (which is usually multipart) and the connotation of the words. And now we're going to have judges pulling this trolling bullshit. Great.

"Anna Harrold should have been celebrating her victory at the Great West Run in Exeter on Sunday, but instead she faced a barrage of abuse from people online who called her “disgusting”, 'revolting' and a 'disgrace'… The comments were centred on false claims she was born a man." Gee, who could have seen the anti-trans people trying to police women's bodies to see if they're "feminine enough"?

Prepare for eyerolls. No, I'm serious, you might want to stretch first because it's gonna be a big one. "But there are foods, the bullies and the priggish suggest, that alert the world you are gay in a negative way. It’s mostly the stuff of immature oooOOOOOooos and teenage razzing, but studies show men will avoid everything from yogurt to rosé to “products with rounded edges” because they are associated with femininity, and for a man to do a womanly thing could give someone the wrong idea. Because to come off as queer is still the “wrong idea.” The feeling behind the joke is that to be queer is to be lesser, and that you could be perceived that way with the slip of the tongue across a scoop of mint chip." The article does do a good breakdown on gender and how culture perceives it. This week we decorated the workroom with our names of Summer icons, cutouts of watermelon, sandals, icecream cones, etc. There was a brouhaha (not from me) because whomever did the names (it was the students I think) put my name on "pink" flip-flops. Much profuse apologies and a call for making a new item for me. I stopped it. I don't care if my name is on a pink piece of paper I told them to their objections. Seriously, my "maleness" and "manhood" was settled long ago and frankly cannot be affected in the slightest by something exterior to me, especially not by what someone else may say, think, or do. Pink as feminine is a 1950s marketing construct. Most of this bullshit is created by insecure social gatekeepers or by someone trying to sell you something. Don't fall for it.

"The Affordable Connectivity Program, which helped low-income Americans get online, is no more… On (May 31), the US government announced the final closure of the broadly popular federal program, which has helped tens of millions of households afford internet service, after Republicans in Congress ignored calls by consumer advocates and Democratic lawmakers to approve more funding this spring… The program’s lapse threatens to throw nearly 60 million Americans into financial distress, CNN has reported."

"Moreover, retailers’ decision to hike prices in the first place can’t all be attributed to inflation, Lindsay Owens, executive director of economic policy group Groundwork Collaborative, argued. She told the Washington Post that companies actually increased their margins in times of increased operating costs. A March 2024 Federal Trade Commission report found retail revenue for food and beverages increased 7% above total costs in the first three quarters of 2023, indicating that grocery stores’ decision to raise prices wasn’t just a result of inflation, supply-chain disruptions, or the rising prices of commodities." There's another name for this. It's called "price gouging." And some companies are realizing that they went too far, and even with their increased margins were starting to lose overall revenue.

"'When a cop tells you to do something, you fucking do it,' one officer told the shopkeeper… The surveillance video was shared with THE CITY on the condition that the identity of the shopkeeper be protected. The arrest and criminal charge was confirmed by police records… The shopkeeper’s lawyer, Steve Zissou, told THE CITY that the video shows both due process violations and personal civil rights violations." Well, there's a lawsuit waiting to happen. And it might be a class action.

"An off-duty armed security guard shot and killed a teen who he thought had a gun and was about to rob a Renton sporting goods store, detectives said. According to court documents, the teen didn't even have a real gun on him."

"Alex Jones, who spread lies about the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary that killed 26 first-graders and staffers, has dropped efforts to declare bankruptcy and agreed to liquidate his assets in order to finally start paying the nearly $1.5 billion in damages he owes the victims' families." That's a good start.

"Steve Bannon, a longtime ally of former President Donald Trump, must report to prison by July 1 to serve his four-month sentence for defying a subpoena from the House committee that investigated the U.S. Capitol insurrection, a federal judge ruled Thursday." Again, a good start.

"A liberal former neighbor of conservative Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito is publicly offering her account of a series of tense interactions she had with Alito’s wife, Martha-Ann, around the time of the 2020 presidential election and the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol." You mean the Alitoes lied? Shocked, shocked I am…

"A Manhattan jury on Thursday found Trump guilty of falsifying business records in order to influence the 2016 presidential election. Soon after the verdict was read, right-wing politicians and pundits including Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., Fox News contributor Guy Benson and far-right conspiracy theorist Ali Alexander shared images of an inverted American flag on social media. Alexander, organizer of the 'Stop the Steal' rally that pushed false claims about the 2020 election, posted the upside-down flag on Telegram with the message: 'No one is coming to save us. We must.'"

"When Donald J. Trump was found guilty on all counts in the hush money trial, some in the press were caught off guard. But the former president and conservative pundits primed for this result with a strategic messaging campaign. On this week’s On the Media, hear how Trump uses Truth Social to disseminate talking points to a web of right-wing influencers."

"Nine witnesses in the criminal cases against former President Donald Trump have received significant financial benefits, including large raises from his campaign, severance packages, new jobs, and a grant of shares and cash from Trump’s media company… The benefits have flowed from Trump’s businesses and campaign committees, according to a ProPublica analysis of public disclosures, court records and securities filings. One campaign aide had his average monthly pay double, from $26,000 to $53,500. Another employee got a $2 million severance package barring him from voluntarily cooperating with law enforcement. And one of the campaign’s top officials had her daughter hired onto the campaign staff, where she is now the fourth-highest-paid employee." Criminals gonna criminal.

"The Proud Boys say recruitment is growing and they’re ready to serve again as Donald Trump's unofficial protection force." As long as there have been supposed strong men, there have been toadies. However, the long term prospects of such groups, especially if the "strong man" gets into power, is not a good one. I think the Proud Boys really should look at Operation Hummingbird, or as it's more often called, the Night of the Long Knives.

Sunday, June 2, 2024

Linkee-poo June 2

"Heat-related howler monkeys deaths have now been reported in two more states in southern Mexico, after two other states reported die-offs earlier this month, environmental authorities said."

"'We are at record levels for 11 consecutive months now – so since last June through April,' she said. 'And we're still counting, of course.'… It's already been so hot that 2024 is guaranteed to be one of the five hottest years ever recorded. As another sweltering summer approaches, the potential for climate-fueled disaster comes with it."

"With this year’s Atlantic hurricane season expected to be yet another stampede, Florida and other states around the Gulf of Mexico should keep an eye out for an underappreciated ingredient in the Gulf that can quickly turn storms into lethal monsters: hot ocean eddies."

"The new initiative between the feds and 21 states aims to make faster fixes and improvements to the grid, committing to build a bigger and more modern grid as part of a larger effort to reduce power outages and increase electrical transmission capacity – a massive hurdle to getting more clean energy on the grid and reducing the planet-warming pollution causing the climate crisis."

"Wind farms have been the primary source of electricity in the United Kingdom for the past two consecutive quarters, marking the longest stretch on record that renewable energy has surpassed fossil fuels in U.K. electricity generation."

"These days, an unknown author’s chances of success hinge on cobbling together an audience through aggregate. Last fall, while reporting Esquire’s “Future of Books” predictions, I asked industry insiders about trends they’d noticed in recent years. Almost everyone mentioned that debut fiction has become harder to launch. For writers, the stakes are do or die: A debut sets the bar for each of their subsequent books, so their debut advance and sales performance can follow them for the rest of their career. For editors, if a writer’s first book doesn’t perform, it’s hard to make a financial case for acquiring that writer’s second book. And for you, a reader interested in great fiction, the fallout from this challenging climate can limit your access to exciting new voices in fiction."

"For decades, the Romance Writers of America (RWA) served as a champion for the mostly female authors of one of the country’s most popular – and denigrated – genres of fiction… But even as sales of romance novels have boomed in recent years, RWA has struggled, reporting that its membership has declined 80% amid bitter internal battles over racism within publishing, and within the group itself."

"Ohio lawmakers are advancing a new bill that would charge teachers and librarians with felonies for handing out books and materials deemed 'obscene.'" But they'll still allow Shakespeare, which just tells me these people have never read Shakespeare.

"South Australian public hospitals are under strain with the health department boss declaring a system-wide internal emergency due to many staff being sick with COVID… SA Health chief executive Robyn Lawrence called a code yellow on Thursday afternoon, opening all available beds and paused almost all elective surgeries in metropolitan and regional public hospitals."

"Antibiotics cannot cure COVID. They don’t help a bit. And yet, new data shows that, during the pandemic, COVID patients were given antibiotics – a lot of antibiotics… That’s bad because the overuse of antibiotics can breed superbugs that are resistant to medications. The impact of this pandemic overuse has lingered even as the pandemic has faded."

"She never expected a diagnosis of babesiosis, a dangerous and potentially deadly disease transmitted by the bite of the Blacklegged tick infected with the Babesia microti parasite. That diagnosis is on the rise in New England, due to climate change and more human interactions with ticks."

"A synthetic rubber manufacturer accused of increasing the cancer risk for the nearby majority-Black community in Louisiana told a federal appeals court it will have to shut down 'likely permanently' if it’s forced to meet the Biden administration’s deadline to reduce emissions." Don't threaten me with a good time.

"A trial to determine how much Ohio’s historical society must pay to restore public access to a set of ancient ceremonial earthworks that has been leased for over a century to a country club has been rescheduled for July 15."

"Erlinger acknowledged that he and many franchisees were frustrated by a post on X last summer about a Big Mac meal in Connecticut that cost $18, calling the price 'an exception.' He noted that franchisees own and operate 95% of U.S. McDonald’s locations and set their own pricing but 'work hard to minimize the impact of price increases.'" And they blame it all on their costs. So let's take a look at the numbers, shall we… "McDonald's gross profit for the twelve months ending March 31, 2024 was $14.688B, a 9.03% increase year-over-year, McDonald's annual gross profit for 2023 was $14.563B, a 10.26% increase from 2022, McDonald's annual gross profit for 2022 was $13.207B, a 4.98% increase from 2021, McDonald's annual gross profit for 2021 was $12.58B, a 29% increase from 2020." And… "According to McDonald's latest financial reports and stock price the company's current Operating Margin is 41.16%. At the end of 2022 the company had an Operating Margin of 33.76%." Razor thin margins my ass. This isn't, "ZOMG, we gotta pay our workers at least $15/hr" this is, "Hey, most low income workers are making $15hr, we can charge them more."

"The state department falsified a report earlier this month to absolve Israel of responsibility for blocking humanitarian aid flows into Gaza, overruling the advice of its own experts, according to a former senior US official who resigned this week." Oh look, an actual scandal. Probably won't hear of it again.

"Critics of a new Louisiana law, which makes it a crime to approach within 25 feet (7.6 meters) of a police officer under certain circumstances, fear that the measure could hinder the public’s ability to film officers — a tool that has increasingly been used to hold police accountable."

"Colorado legal officials on Tuesday approved an agreement with Jenna Ellis, a onetime attorney for former President Donald Trump, barring her from practicing law in the state for three years after she pleaded guilty to helping Trump try to overturn the 2020 election."

"CLAIM: New York Judge Juan M. Merchan told the jury in former President Donald Trump’s hush money trial that they don’t need a unanimous verdict to convict Trump… AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. Merchan said that to convict Trump the jury will have to find unanimously, on each of 34 felony counts, that he falsified business records and that he did so with the intent of concealing another crime — in this case, violating a state election law during his 2016 campaign. The judge said jurors could consider three different ways the law may have been broken and that they don’t have to be unanimous on this decision."

"Michael Fanone, a former police officer who was nearly killed by a mob during the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, spoke outside the courthouse during closing arguments in Donald Trump's hush money trial on Tuesday, calling Trump 'an authoritarian' with 'a violence fetish.'… Hours later, Fanone's mother was 'swatted' at her home in Virginia."

"Independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has condemned the removal of Confederate statues, saying he had a 'visceral reaction against' the destruction of monuments honoring southern leaders from the Civil War." Dumpster fire.

"The conservative media company behind the book and film '2,000 Mules,' which alleged a widespread conspiracy by Democrats to steal the 2020 election and was embraced by former president Donald Trump, has issued an apology and said it would halt distribution of the film and remove both the film and book from its platforms." To fucking late.