The Kids Are All Right!

❝ …when a fire alarm went off inside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and teachers began screaming “Code red!” as confused students ran in and out of classrooms, Delaney Tarr, 17, knew what to do. Run to the safest place in the classroom — in this case, a closet packed with 19 students and their teacher.

❝ “I’ve been told these protocols for years,” she said. “My sister is in middle school — she’s 12 — and in elementary school, she had to do code red drills.”

This is life for the children of the mass shooting generation. They were born into a world reshaped by the 1999 attack at Columbine High School in Colorado, and grew up practicing active shooter drills and huddling through lockdowns. They talked about threats and safety steps with their parents and teachers. With friends, they wondered darkly whether it could happen at their own school, and who might do it.

❝ Now, this generation is almost grown up. And when a gunman killed 17 people this week at Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland, Fla., the first response of many of their classmates was not to grieve in silence, but to speak out. Their urgent voices — in television interviews, on social media, even from inside a locked school office as they hid from the gunman — are now rising in the national debate over gun violence in the aftermath of yet another school shooting.

Most of our politicians – both sides of the mythical aisle – are taking their guidance from pimps for the gun industry. Not the people who specialize in sporting firearms; but, the greedy bastards who’ve grown fat over decades of taxpayer money poured into the military-industrial complex. They found a whole new market in fear-bound gun buyers. People so afraid of someone taking away their assault rifles they buy another half-dozen every time the NRA says “BOO!”

Let’s see if the kids can do it! Can they shake up the lame-ass political creeps who feel their shorts expand into safe re-election mode when that annual check rolls in the door from the NRA?

Apple Watch sales beats entire Swiss watch industry in Q4

More Apple Watches shipped in the fourth quarter of 2017 than the entire Swiss watch industry, a report claims, showing the Apple-produced wearable device is still growing in popularity, though analysis also indicates the Apple Watch still has some way to go before it can outpace Swiss watches on an annual basis…

❝ The chart reveals the Apple Watch shipped an estimated 8 million units during the fourth quarter of 2017, more than the 6.8 million Swiss watch shipments over the same period. It is also noted that the Apple Watch saw a year-on-year increase of 2 million shipments, representing growth of 33 percent, while Swiss shipments slightly contracted from 7 million in Q4 2016.

Across the entire year, Swiss watches continue to outsell the Apple Watch by a wide margin.

Guess the Swiss really aren’t supposed to worry, eh?

Japan’s “Lonely Deaths”

❝ There was a putrid smell emanating from the apartment. There was an obvious brown stain on the futon where the body had been. The futon, the clothes, the newspapers and horse-racing stubs were covered with maggots and flies.

Still, if the man had died in the summer and rotted for months in the sweltering heat, instead of drying to a shrivel as winter approached, it could have been much worse.

“I’d say this is a four out of 10,” said Akira Fujita, leader of the crew from Next, a company that specializes in cleaning up after “lonely deaths” — where people lie dead in their apartments for long periods before being discovered.

❝ Every country has cases where elderly people die alone, but none experiences it quite like Japan, home to the world’s fastest-aging population. More than a quarter of the population is over 65, a figure set to rise to 40 percent by 2050.

Lonely-death statistics are hard to come by — the central government doesn’t collect them — but regional figures show a sharp increase over the past decade. NLI Research Institute, a Tokyo think tank, estimates that about 30,000 people nationwide die this way each year.

❝ As the number of lonely deaths has grown, so too has the lonely-death-cleanup industry. Numerous firms offer this kind of service, and insurance companies have started selling policies to protect landlords if their tenants die inside their properties. The plans cover the cost of cleaning the apartment and compensate for loss of rent. Some will even pay for a purifying ritual in the apartment once the work is done.

RTFA. I have to wonder how healthier lifestyles contribute to this phenomenon, country by country. I’ve outlived many of my peers – especially within my immediate family.

Until I met the love of my life 26 years ago, I had consciously, reflectively, given up on anything other than living alone the rest of my life. It wasn’t an unhappy choice – just realistic for an old geek and activist.

Reversal: EPA withdrawing planned giveaway to mining interests in large salmon habitat

❝ In a surprise reversal, the Environmental Protection Agency announced it is withdrawing its plan to suspend environmental protections for an area of Alaska that is home to the world’s most valuable wild salmon fishery.

❝ The EPA proposed last year to “reverse clean water safeguards” for the Bristol Bay watershed, paving the way for a massive gold and copper mine to be built in the region.

The controversial proposal would have canceled an EPA protection put in place during the Obama administration. After years of study, the EPA found in 2014 that a mine “would result in complete loss of fish habitat” in some areas of the bay, and that “all of these losses would be irreversible. The Bristol Bay watershed is one of the most pristine ecosystems in the world, supplying about half of the world’s sockeye salmon.

❝ A CNN investigation last fall found that EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt ordered his staff to reverse the environmental protection within hours after meeting with the CEO of the mining company, Pebble Limited Partnership.

You really don’t needs reams of study to learn the EPA has become a criminal enterprise – now owned by even sleazier creeps than the last Bush administration.

Facial recognition for cows is a Cargill thing now…


Cargill and Cainthus photo

Cargill is backing an Irish startup that uses facial recognition software to help increase the productivity of dairy cows, the latest move by the largest closely held U.S. company to bolster its agricultural-technology efforts.

Cargill has taken a minority stake in Cainthus, which harnesses machine-learning and imaging techniques to identify cows and glean information on everything from their behavior to appetite, David Hunt, president and co-founder of Cainthus, said in a telephone interview Wednesday…

Hunt said Dublin-based Cainthus chose Cargill over venture capital firms because of the U.S. company’s footprint in agriculture. Cargill is still owned by the same family that founded it 153 years ago and it’s one of the world’s largest crop traders and meat producers.

Most farmers in my extended family don’t farm on a scale that would require recognition software to aid productivity. Those with any four-footed critters on the farm know them by their first name. But, of course, I can understand the problem for larger farms and, of course, factory-style farming.

Will Cargill also take the lead in the next logical advance? Eliminate the need for humans to run the farm, run the machinery, deal with harvesting crops – whether animal or vegetable?

Trump’s “model American manufacturer” – Harley-Davidson – closing Kansas City plant


Chicago Tribune

❝ A deepening slump in U.S. motorcycle demand is spurring more job cuts and a plant closure at Harley-Davidson Inc., a company President Donald Trump has cast as a model American manufacturer.

The Milwaukee-based motorcycle maker will close its factory in Kansas City, Missouri, and consolidate production in York, Pennsylvania…The restructuring will eliminate about 260 U.S. jobs, Chief Executive Officer Matt Levatich said on a conference call. Trump praised the company last year as a “great example” of a business creating jobs and building factories in the country.

In closing the Kansas City plant, Harley will eliminate about 800 jobs; it will add 450 in York, a mix of full-time, part-time and contract positions.

❝ “They didn’t even give us a call ahead of time,” Joe Capra, directing business agent for Local 778 of the International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers…“It is real devastation for these people who work here and work hard in the Kansas City area.”

Dunno if their problems are intrinsic to quality control or not. Since one of their biggest competitors in the Hog market – Polaris’ Victory – is shutting down, too, I expect their design team is simply as out of date as Trump.

Withdrawing from NAFTA Would Hit 187,000 US Exporting Jobs

❝ An analysis of US jobs that rely on exports to Canada and Mexico finds that withdrawing from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) would cost 187,000 of those jobs over a 1 to 3 year period…The most affected states are Arkansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Indiana. The most affected sectors are autos, agriculture, and manufacturing (non-auto).

❝ These estimates are based on the latest available World Trade Organization’s most favored nation tariff rates that would apply to US exports without NAFTA — and the fact that higher prices of US-made or grown exports will dampen sales to Canadian and Mexican consumers. The analysis assumes that firms would then cut production, leading to US job displacements. These estimates do not take into account the potential disruptive impact on supply chains from an elimination of NAFTA.

Just a reminder to Trump’s chump voters who think they benefit from Trumponomics.

Second Year in a Row – US Life Expectancy Drops

❝ The life expectancy at birth for Americans has dropped for the second consecutive year, according to data published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The average lifespan as of 2016 is 78.6 years, down 0.1 years from 2015. This marks the first time it has decreased for two years in a row since 1962 and 1963 when influenza had a pronounced effect on the population…

The drop is being attributed to the opioid epidemic, which is causing a significant number of deaths as a result of overdose among young and middle-aged people — which, in turn, is having an impact on the average lifespan of the country as a whole.

But, hey, it makes a lot of money for Big Pharma. The creeps who own more politicians than any other lobbyists in corporate America.

A sugar syrup in your ice cream may cause thousands of deaths/year

❝ In the early 2000s, a deadly gut infection began to surge. After decades of lurking in intestines and hospitals—more opportunistic nuisance than lethal threat—the bacterium Clostridium difficile abruptly exploded, spreading rapidly and causing more severe diarrheal disease than ever before. By 2011, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that C. diff infected nearly half a million people in the US that year, killing approximately 29,000…

❝ There was another, cryptic factor at play, it seemed…With a study published in Nature recently, scientists think they’ve finally figured out what that enigmatic element was — and it’s even more obscure than anyone may have guessed. It wasn’t some new weapon the bacteria acquired or a waning antibiotic. It was a boring, harmless sugar — one often found in ice creams…

Nice piece of scientific research for a starter. Nothing answers all the questions – yet. But, so far, it seems clear the sugar trahalose has helped the bad guys along.