The U.S. Air Force is Ready to Try Disposable Drones – $2 Million Each


Click to enlargeKratos

❝ The U.S. Air Force’s latest unmanned aerial vehicle is small, stealthy and cheap enough to be essentially disposable. The Low-Cost Attritable Aircraft, or LCAA, could radically change the way the world’s leading air arm wages war.

The U.S. Defense Department revealed the first LCAA prototype as part of the annual DoD Lab Day, an official even highlighting the work of various military research institutions. A photo accompanying a Lab Day handout depicts an angular, jet-powered drone with a silvery paint job that could have radar-absorbing qualities…

❝ The idea behind the LCAA is to build lots of inexpensive drones and send them into combat without worrying about losing them. Not coincidentally, the prototype builder, Kratos, made its reputation building expendable target drones…

❝ …To be “attritable,” the LCAA must be cheap. The Air Force’s contract with Kratos requires that the LCAA cost no more than $3 million apiece for 99 copies and $2 million or less for batches of 100 or more drones…

Cheaper than building schools, supporting growth industries that aren’t dependent on killing furriners. If you only look at the cost of onesies.

❝ The LCAA program is potentially revolutionary for the Air Force. Hundreds or even thousands of the new drones could augment dwindling numbers of expensive manned warplanes that take decades to develop and field.

Yup. And if you believe the Pentagon is going to stop billion$ war projects going to their buddies at Boeing or Lockheed – I have a deal for you in a bridge connecting Brooklyn to Manhattan.

Louisiana’s coastal subsidence already counts as a “worst case scenario”


Click to enlargeKaren Apricot

❝ It’s common knowledge that the coast of Louisiana is quietly sinking into the balmy Gulf waters. But new research suggests we may have been underestimating how quickly it’s happening.

A new paper, published…in the Geological Society of America’s bulletin GSA Today, includes an updated map of the Louisiana coastline and the rate at which it’s sinking into the sea, a process scientists call “subsidence,” which occurs in addition to the climate change-caused process of sea-level rise. The new map suggests that, on average, the Louisiana coast is sinking at a rate of about 9 millimeters, or just over a third of an inch, per year — a faster rate than previous studies have suggested…

❝ Scientists have long known that Louisiana is sinking. Subsidence is believed to be a natural process, which has likely been occurring in the region for thousands of years. But scientists believe the process has been enhanced by a variety of human activities in the Mississippi Delta over the past century, including oil and gas extraction, as well as the building of levees and other actions affecting the flow of the Mississippi River, which carries mud and sediment down toward the Gulf and helped build up the delta in the first place.

The combination of subsidence and sea-level rise along the Gulf shore has made coastal Louisiana increasingly vulnerable to erosion in recent years. Last year, residents of the region’s rapidly sinking Isle de Jean Charles received a $48 million grant from the federal government to be used for relocation, giving them the grim title of the nation’s first “climate refugees.” And in the future, as sea levels continue to rise, the problem is only expected to worsen along the Louisiana shore…

❝ And for now, the big picture suggests that coastal Louisiana is still sinking, and perhaps more quickly than some experts believed. Coupled with the continued invasion of the rising seas, the area remains one of the most vulnerable parts of the country. And while policymakers have already expressed deep concern about the region’s future — the state legislature recently approved a $50 billion plan for the protection and restoration of the coastline — experts note that there’s still need for more research on exactly how quickly the shoreline is slipping away.

Joshua Kent, an expert in geoinformatics at Louisiana State University, told The Washington Post by email that the new paper reiterates the need for increased monitoring along the coast. “Accurate and consistent monitoring will help reduce the uncertainties and improve strategies for sustaining this important landscape,” he said.

Or you could forget about science and technology and work at ripping as much profit as possible in the shortest conceivable time, take the money and run. Think anyone with their hands in the pants of the oil and gas industries will roll over and squeak? Think anyone in Congress funding their campaign on the American Petroleum Institute dole will grow a backbone overnight?

Global Energy Demand Stumbles Again — Coal Is Dead


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❝ Global energy demand continued its sluggish rise last year as growth in Chinese consumption fell to its lowest in nearly two decades, while renewables flourished, BP said in a report…

Slower demand growth helped stall the acceleration of greenhouse gas emissions for a third year to levels not seen since the 1980s, but emissions remained well above targets set out globally under the 2015 Paris accord on climate change.

❝ Coal’s share in the energy mix declined to its lowest since 2004 at around 28 percent, while production of the highly polluting fossil fuel saw its largest ever annual drop at 6.2 percent…

❝ China’s energy demand growth in 2015 and 2016, 1.2 and 1.3 percent respectively, although still the strongest in the world, marked its lowest over a two-year period since 1997-98…

❝ Cheaper and abundant gas supplies in the United States and China’s drive to switch to cleaner feedstock for its power plants led to a 1.7 percent drop in demand for coal, the most pollutant fossil fuel.

“It feels to me like we are seeing a decisive break in coal relative to the past,” BP Chief Economist Spencer Dale said…

❝ Renewables such as solar and wind power were the fastest-growing source of energy, rising by 12 percent and accounting for a third of the overall growth in demand…China, meanwhile, overtook the United States for the first time as the largest producer of renewable power.

The slowing growth in energy demand, the shift to cleaner fuels and energy efficiency meant carbon emissions grew by 0.1 percent last year, similar to the prior two years, making it the lowest three-year average for emissions growth since 1981-83.

Dullards like Trump, his peers, his followers, are fighting a vain and wasteful retreat – while blathering all the while about returning 19th Century glory to rustbelt industry. The only exportable segment of our traditional industrial base – capital goods – was sold off by conglomerate profiteers decades ago. The mostly foreign-based companies who bought up the companies whose machines make other machines – are rolling in profits while the backwards-looking crowd whines. Perish the thought they should notice it was the American one-percenters who sold them out.

Here’s a link to the whole report.

Colorado hasn’t reached peak pot sales, yet!


Colorado regulators tour grow facilityAP/Kristen Wyatt

❝ Three years, billions of dollars, and thousands of new jobs into Colorado’s legal marijuana experiment, we’re still nowhere near the economic ceiling of retail cannabis.

New monthly revenue figures indicate the state is on track to exceed last year’s massive sales totals for medical and recreational weed. Retail stores sold more than $125 million in product statewide in April, The Cannabist calculates based on state revenue numbers.

❝ Through the first four months of 2017, the state has collected over $76 million in taxes and fees on almost half a billion dollars in sales.

The figures project out to a wild increase over the previous year’s sales and revenue numbers. Raw-dollar sales totals are up about 27 percent despite falling prices, according to The Cannabist’s metrics.

State revenue collections from taxes and licensing fees are almost 50 percent above where they stood at the same point a year earlier. Colorado ended up netting about $199 million in public revenue from cannabis that year…

❝ Colorado’s own industry won’t keep lapping itself like this perpetually, of course. At some point — when enough other states have legalized, and when Coloradans have fully abandoned the black and “gray” markets for weed in favor of the fully sanctioned marketplace — the growth rates will soften.

The real story of the 2017 growth, Marijuana Policy Group research associate Clinton Saloga told ThinkProgress, is that legalization is still moving pot activity out of back alleys and into the light…“The continued rise in sales is due more to people leaving the black market and starting to shop in the regulated market, as opposed to a huge surge in total use,” said Saloga…

❝ Opponents of softer marijuana laws have often argued that decriminalization or legalization will increase usage. That’s not what MPG’s numbers show in Colorado, Saloga said…When masses of smokers, brownie aficionados, and chronic pain sufferers shift their dollars from illicit sources to official ones, they aren’t just providing a “peace dividend” to public spending for schools and other services. They’re depriving the organized drug networks and cartels of a major revenue stream.

Living in New Mexico – a state with a pretty straightforward medical marijuana protocol and with one ailment I recently learned responds well to cannabis treatment – sooner or later I figure I’ll check out the brownie cure. I quit smoking cigarettes 59 years ago. I don’t see myself starting, again, as treatment.

Still, getting our chickenshit politicians over the hump with the example of Colorado just next-door is sort of amazing. Not the Republicans. They’re mostly of the bible-thumping, Tea Party, Earth is 6000 years old variety. Nope, many of our Democrats have a great tradition of understanding class loyalty, supporting essential needs for the mass of low-income families in our state. They just need to get beyond their fear of [1] condemnation by the Catholic Church and [2] doing something newer than the government of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Should be, progressives – who helped drag the Roundhouse, our state legislature, back from a couple years of doing even less for the working class than our do-nothing-for-anyone-who-doesn’t-drill-for-gas-or-oil Republican governor – will succeed in including this issue more pointedly in electoral campaigns over the next few years. Overdue.

Madrid Maersk Lands at First Northern European Dock

The largest containership to ever visit northern Europe arrived at the Port of Felixstowe earlier this week as part of its maiden voyage from China.

The 20,568 TEU Madrid Maersk arrived in Felixstowe on Tuesday marking its first port call in North Europe as part of the 2M’s AE2 service from Asia to Europe. While at the port, crews were expected to unload over 6,000 TEU loaded in China and Malaysia for the UK…

❝ Here’s Madrid Maersk departing Felixstowe on June 8 with the assistance of four tugs…

Cripes! The first of eleven to be built for Maersk.

China Switches On World’s Largest Floating Solar Farm — On A Lake Over A Closed Coal Mine


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❝ Last week, workers switched on a solar energy plant capable of producing 40 megawatts of power, which floats on a manmade lake in China’s Anhui province near the city of Huainan…The array is the largest floating solar project in the world, though at the brisk pace China is building new renewable projects it’s unlikely to hold that title very long.

❝ Built by the company Sungrow Power Supply, the power plant will produce enough energy to power 15,000 homes…While the company has not revealed the exact size of the operation, it produces twice as much energy as the previous holder of the largest-floating-solar-plant title, which is located in the same area and was launched by the company Xinyi Solar in 2016.

❝ Anhui province is a coal-rich region, and the Sungrow plant is located on a lake that was once the site of intensive mining. Heavy rains filled the area with water…

So why build solar plants on top of lakes and reservoirs?…Building on bodies of water, especially manmade lakes that are not ecologically sensitive, helps protect agricultural land and terrestrial ecosystems from being developed for energy use. The water also cools the electronics in the solar panels, helping them to work more efficiently…

❝ While the floating solar plant is the largest in the world, it pales in comparison to some of China’s non-floating solar projects. The Longyangxia Dam Solar Park on the Tibetan plateau hosts 4 million solar panels that produce 850 megawatts of energy. Even that will soon be eclipsed by a project in the Ningxia Autonomous Region, which will have 6 million solar panels and produce 2 gigawatts of power.

If Trump’s chumps continue to keep the Republican Party in power, say, until 2024 — we may yet see coal become the cheapest source of mediocre construction stone in the United States. Keeping fewer people employed than Arby’s just to maintain welfare checks flowing into certain corporate bank accounts is an important part of the 18th Century lifestyle so beloved of today’s conservative politicians.

New York State tells insurance companies to offer Obamacare — or else

New York is sending a clear message to its health insurance plans: Stick with Obamacare’s insurance marketplace — or else.

The state announced Monday that it will bar insurers who quit the marketplace from bidding for future contracts with New York health programs. That’s a big deal: 6.4 million New Yorkers have Medicaid coverage, making those contracts lucrative opportunities that health plans won’t want to miss out on.

I wonder how many years it will take for politicos in New Mexico to stand up on their hind legs and back working folks, this way. Our state has a higher percentage of children born under Medicaid than anywhere else in the United States.

New York already has a competitive marketplace, so it’s not clear how much this step will matter. The state hasn’t had trouble attracting insurers to its marketplace in the way other states have. Every New York county had at least two plans signed up to sell coverage in 2017…

This type of provision would be a lot more meaningful in a place like Missouri or Iowa, two marketplaces badly in need of more competition. New York isn’t likely to struggle with empty Obamacare counties regardless…

New York isn’t the first state to tether Medicaid contracts to marketplace participation…Nevada has a similar regulation on the books. That state gives preference to health insurance plans that want Medicaid contracts if they also sell on the state marketplace.

The provision seems to have been successful in convincing two additional health plans to participate in the Nevada Obamacare marketplace. Medicaid is a lucrative enough program, it seems, that states can use it as a lure to bring insurance plans into other smaller programs like the marketplace…

If you run away – then stay away!

Right-wing moneygrubbers say they are being silenced by the folks who sign the checks

❝ There is a delicious irony when free market zealots become victims of the very system they celebrate…When the market tells them: “You know what? You’re losing us money. We couldn’t care less what you did or how much you made for us yesterday. Get lost.”…

❝ For critics and scholars who have for decades pointed to the acute dangers connected to corporate control of the media, howling from the far-right over O’Reilly, Hopkins and Hannity rings hollow for a couple of reasons.

First, an individual who invokes Nazi ethnic cleaning terminology in relation to Muslims, or was involved in so many sexual harassment lawsuits that his employer had to pay $13m in settlement deals, are hardly poster children for journalistic free speech. At the broader level, however, these are people who have served a political ideology that has pushed deregulated markets conducive to the concentration of corporate control – which in the case of media also means excessive advertiser influence…

❝ Breitbart, Fox News, the Daily Mail and Daily Express are all alive and well. Bill O’Reilly wasn’t replaced by Noam Chomsky. He was replaced by Tucker Carlson, who provides a very similar brand of far-right vitriol … just without the sexual harassment accusations. And will LBC now be bereft of far-right anti-immigration voices? Fear not. You can always tune in to Nigel Farage’s show on the same station.

❝ So when senior people at Breitbart and on-air talent at Fox News start saying they are only now realizing the extent of corporate and advertiser power? Cry me a river. They are liars, naïve or have been in a coma for the last 50 years.

RTFA for more dissecting of rightwing moneybags whining about losing their profitable squeeze. Couldn’t happen to a more perfect class of hypocrites and scumbags. Profits are still more important than people, guys. Isn’t that what you wanted?