Long live irony! A solar-powered coal museum

The Kentucky Coal Mining Museum, nestled in the heart of coal country, might seem like an odd place for a solar project. But the solar panels currently being installed on its roof will ultimately save thousands in electricity costs…

“It is a little ironic,” Brandon Robinson, communications director at Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College, which owns the museum, told WYMT. “But you know, coal and solar and all the different energy sources work hand-in-hand. And, of course, coal is still king around here.”

In the 2016 election, 85 percent of Harlan County, where Benham is located, voted for Donald Trump — likely in part because of his promise to bring back coal jobs, a promise that experts say is unrealistic.

Out-of-work coal miners could do lots worse than retraining for jobs in the solar trade. But, then, if you’re gullible enough to believe slogans and promises that matched the silliest, least likely, in the history of American campaigning lies – you’re more inclined to sit in your home town feeling sorry for yourself than get up, stand up, and fight for something better.

Reality TV is no source of legitimate solutions to any of life’s challenges in changing times.

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If China is unfair to US companies, why is GM the best-selling car?

❝ Will the world’s two largest economies finally come to a fight over the price of cars?

Ahead of a high-stakes summit with Chinese leader Xi Jinping, Donald Trump’s White House has made clear that it isn’t happy with China’s high tariffs on imported American automobiles. These contribute, it says, to the US’s total trade deficit with China, which was $347 billion last year. Former Obama economic advisor Larry Summers also brought up the issue in a recent meeting with China’s premier (paywall), Li Keqiang.

❝ While the US taxes imported cars and cars parts at a maximum of 2.5%, China charges tariffs of between 21% and 30%. This gives foreign automakers who want to sell in China a big incentive to manufacture there to avoid the import charge. But China also requires foreign subsidiaries to operate as 50-50 joint ventures with Chinese companies. These, of course, then become classrooms for Chinese engineers to gain foreign know-how…

❝ Further complicating everything: Now that China is the largest car market on the globe, US firms are reluctant to complain too loudly about the lopsided rules for fear of being cut off completely — US firms and their joint ventures have a major share of the market.

The articles points out some useful contemporaneous constraints. As history, it sucks. The processes described are typical of nations growing from 3rd World to developing and more. As true in Asia as Latin America. I worked in American industries in recent decades where complete products had low tariffs – and parts were charged 30-50% tariffs.

And, then, Japan doesn’t use tariffs at all to exclude American-built cars. They simply set manufacturing standards American companies can’t afford to meet. For decades, now.

❝ Witness the latest annual report from General Motors, which sells more cars in China (3.9 million) than in the US (3 million) and saw its China business grow 13% last year; one in 10 cars sold in China was a GM. “Maintaining good relations with our joint venture partners, which are affiliated with the Chinese government, is an important part of our China growth strategy,” the report said…

And, of course, Trump approaches the whole question in terms most Americans agree with. We’re the biggest and most important export market in the world and everyone should obey. We’re worth it.

As ignorant as Trump – since China’s biggest customer is the European Union and We’re #2.

Probably should mention the largest export market for 33 American states — is China. Gonna be some hollering if Trump starts a trade war.

This beautiful new cloud – Asperitas – now officially in the International Cloud Atlas


Click to enlargeInternational Cloud Atlas/Kairo Kiitsak

❝ Gavin Pretor-Pinney, the London-based president of the Cloud Appreciation Society, first saw the unusual cloud in 2006. A member of the amateur cloud-spotting group in Cedar Creeks, Iowa emailed a photo of an oddly wavy cloud, and asked how it would be classified…

Its shape was similar to what the World Meteorological Organization would categorize as an undulatus formation, but was “more intense, more chaotic.” The WMO’s International Cloud Atlas, first published in 1896, didn’t include anything like it.

❝ Every six months or so, a similar image would arrive, maybe from Scotland, or Australia. The president and others began to feel that a new label was needed to fit the unfamiliar cloud. In 2008, the amateur cloud-spotting group proposed the name asperitas, Latin for “roughness,” and submitted the idea to the WMO.

Nearly 10 years after they floated the idea, the society’s efforts paid off: the WMO has added the asperitas to the updated International Cloud Atlas, released online earlier this week…

❝ Naming clouds, says Pretor-Pinney, builds a deeper connection to what’s visible in our atmosphere, “which also makes us care more about what we’re doing to it.”

I’ll second that emotion. RTFA for details on cloud-naming in disciplined scientific fashion. An enjoyable read. Lovely photographs.

Weather may just be weather; but — The North Atlantic may get its 1st-ever named storm in March next week

Just one hurricane has ever formed in the northern Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, or the Gulf of Mexico in the month of March — a time when the oceans are still cold from the winter months in the northern hemisphere. This occurred in 1908 with an unnamed hurricane that, according to the Atlantic Hurricane database, reached sustained winds of 100mph and caused damage in the Caribbean islands.

As the 1908 cyclone formed long before the National Hurricane Center existed, there has never been a “named” storm in March. That could change next week, as an area of low pressure may develop several hundred miles to the east of Florida, in the Atlantic Ocean. This storm system is unlikely to be a major threat to landmasses, with the possible exception of Bermuda. Due to the rarity of March cyclones, however, it would garner significant attention…

Forecast models indicate a low pressure system will develop early next week. It may reach a “peak” in strength by Tuesday or Wednesday, potentially with 40 to 60mph winds, which would exceed the 39mph threshold for a storm to get a name. In this case, the storm would be named “Arlene.”

If we get lucky, it might even drop a little rain or hail on MAR-A-LAGO.

Why the women of Popular Science Mag are not working today


Click to enlarge

❝ You may notice that our website is looking a little light today. We’d like to explain. Today is “A Day Without a Woman,” a general strike for women’s rights and equality—so many of the women of PopSci aren’t working. And that means the website is going to be pretty quiet: While we get an awful lot of emails assuming we’re a bunch of “sirs,” the majority of the staff here is female.

❝ We happen to work with men who support and promote women’s rights, but we recognize that many women aren’t as lucky. So since this is Popular Science, we’d like to leave you some information to consider during our time away from the office:

Women earn more than half of all PhDs in the U.S., but as a 2008 study found, they comprise only 45 percent of all tenure-track faculty, 31 percent of tenured staff, and 24 percent of all full professors.

Women in science and engineering are paid an average of $60,000 a year, which is $24,000 less than their male peers. This is because science is institutionally sexist. It’s built on social structures designed to give men a leg up—or, depending on your perspective, structures designed to push women down.

When gender is the only variable, institutions are more likely to give male scientists a job offer—and they pay them better, too…

Even in science-related fields, such as nursing, where women are the majority, a 2015 study in the Journal for the American Medical Association revealed that men are still paid more—to the tune of around $5,148 a year. And yes, that’s after controlling for differences in experience and education.

RTFA for more solid info on living in a nation governed by the hypocrites we elect. Nationally, statewide and locally. Which is why we never did get round to passing an equal rights amendment.

Americans elect and re-elect footdraggers from both of the parties we’re allowed who spend more time excusing discrimination – than doing anything about it.

FBI Director asks Justice Dept. to publicly reject Trump’s nutball wiretapping rant

❝ The F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, asked the Justice Department this weekend to publicly reject President Trump’s assertion that President Barack Obama ordered the tapping of Mr. Trump’s phones, senior American officials said on Sunday. Mr. Comey has argued that the highly charged claim is false and must be corrected, they said, but the department has not released any such statement.

Mr. Comey, who made the request on Saturday after Mr. Trump leveled his allegation on Twitter, has been working to get the Justice Department to knock down the claim because it falsely insinuates that the F.B.I. broke the law, the officials said…

❝ Mr. Comey’s request is a remarkable rebuke of a sitting president, putting the nation’s top law enforcement official in the position of questioning Mr. Trump’s truthfulness. The confrontation between the two is the most serious consequence of Mr. Trump’s weekend Twitter outburst, and it underscores the dangers of what the president and his aides have unleashed by accusing the former president of a conspiracy to undermine Mr. Trump’s young administration…

❝ In addition to being concerned about potential attacks on the bureau’s credibility, senior F.B.I. officials are said to be worried that the notion of a court-approved wiretap will raise the public’s expectations that the federal authorities have significant evidence implicating the Trump campaign in colluding with Russia’s efforts to disrupt the presidential election.

RTFA if you haven’t been keeping up with this from the middle-of-the-road heart of American journalism. Yes, the Trump base will believe he walks on water while carrying blessed dollar$ from heaven to his True Believers. That’s their problem – not the nation’s.

The primo example of a career intelligence operative, Malcolm Nance put it best – Monday evening on the 11th Hour news show – saying, “Donald Trump is a pathological liar.”

Banksy opens hotel overlooking Bethlehem’s apartheid wall


Worst view in the worldQuique Kierszenbaum/Guardian

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❝ The Walled Off hotel may sound utilitarian, even bleak. Its owner says it has “the worst view of any hotel in the world”, while its 10 rooms get just 25 minutes of direct sunlight a day.

But, nestled against the controversial barrier wall separating Israel from the Palestinian territories, the West Bank’s answer to the Waldorf offers travellers something more elusive than any luxury destination.

The lodging in Bethlehem is a hotel, museum, protest and gallery all in one, packed with the artworks and angry brilliance of its owner, British street artist Banksy.

❝ From the disconcertingly lavish presidential suite where water splashes from a bullet-strafed watertank into the hot tub, to the bunk-beds in the budget room scavenged from an abandoned army barracks, the hotel is playful and strongly political.

All the rooms look out on to the concrete slabs of the wall and some have views over it to pill boxes and an Israeli settlement – illegal under international law – on the hillside beyond.

❝ Banksy’s reputation is likely to keep all rooms fully booked, but he wants guests to leave with more than just a selfie. “It’s a three-storey cure for fanaticism, with limited car parking,” he added in the statement.

The hotel opens to guests on 20 March, with bookings via the website. The team hope Israelis, who rarely see the barrier wall up close or visit Palestinian towns, will be among the guests, even though visiting means breaking the law…

Israelis are banned from visiting Bethlehem and its famous sites. And although Banksy has chosen a site officially under Israeli military control – meaning it is legal for Israelis to stay there – all the roads to reach it involve an illegal journey through Palestinian-controlled territory.

RTFA. Learn a little more about life in what American politicians uniformly call the leading middle East democracy.

Thanks, Honeyman –

– and just because you’re now certified for Level 1 Superbikes doesn’t mean you can double the speed limits in Tasmania! 🙂