Six maps that show America’s vast infrastructure — much of which is past its sell-by date


Click to enlargeRAILROADS

Probably 99% of these rails and roadbeds aren’t suitable for any traffic more demanding than 1950. Most industrial or wannabe-modern nations work at keeping the capability of their national rail system up-to-date. Or better.

We don’t.

Lots more in the article. Trump and the TeaPublican Party assign themselves the mantle of modern with their proposal for advancing, rebuilding infrastructure. It’s about 10% of the commitment the Chinese government has assigned for that nation.

Don’t worry, we’ll show ’em. Guaranteed we can spend more for less than anyone in the world.

Victory for the Standing Rock Tribe

❝ …“Today, the US Army Corps of Engineers announced that it will not be granting the easement to cross Lake Oahe for the proposed Dakota Access Pipeline,” Standing Rock Sioux Tribal chairman Dave Archambault II said…“Instead, the Corps will be undertaking an environmental impact statement to look at possible alternative routes.

“We wholeheartedly support the decision of the administration and commend with the utmost gratitude the courage it took on the part of President Obama, the Army Corps, the Department of Justice, and the Department of the Interior to take steps to correct the course of history and to do the right thing.”

“It took tremendous courage to take a new approach to our nation-to-nation relationship, and we will be forever grateful,” he said…

❝ Since August, thousands of demonstrators have camped at the Standing Rock site to stand with Native Americans in opposing the 1,172-mile long pipeline, which is designed to carry 20 million gallons of oil across the Midwest every day.

Tribe members and environmentalists feared damage to local water supplies and the desecration of sacred land…

The tribe successfully mobilized national support, with demonstrators marching in Washington DC and elsewhere to pressure the government to abandon the construction.

❝ Sunday’s decision represents a huge win for the local tribe and their supporters, as well as a dramatic shift in the reaction of authorities, who had previously ordered all demonstrators to leave the campsite by Monday…

❝ Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders also welcomed the announcement:

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❝ “I’m just thankful that there were some leaders in the federal government who have realized that something is not right even though it’s legal,” Archambault told MSNBC.

“I would say that it’s over,” he said.

I’m glad this was resolved before we move into populist foolishness. It should be difficult for Emperor Trump to overturn a decision like this one. Though, like any other fossil fuel flunky, no doubt he will try his best.

Investigative journalist takes a trip through America’s opioid epidemic

The U.S. opioid epidemic left roughly 30,000 people dead in 2014 — with overdose deaths outnumbering fatalities from car accidents in 16 states.

In his book, “Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic,” Sam Quinones, a former reporter for the Los Angeles Times, traces the history of this epidemic, and the forces that fueled the crisis to grow, unnoticed and unabated for years.

❝ The story begins in the “ranchos” of one small Mexican community, continues at paid speaker training seminars in Boca Raton, Fla., and slowly unravels in places like Portsmouth, Ohio; Huntington, W.Va.; and Denver.

Quinones met with addicts and others who’ve witnessed the crisis up close. He spoke with scientists, physicians, marketing representatives, and former drug dealers. He spoke with MedPage Today (MPT) about his quest to answer the question — how did this epidemic happen?…

MPT: What surprised you the most when you spoke with healthcare professionals about the opioid epidemic?

Quinones: I guess how many of them actually bought the idea that you could prescribe [opioids] without any consequences. That was weird…but when you have forces of economics and law and culture and peer pressure all in play, things like this can happen…

MPT: What about the environment physicians were working in as the opioid epidemic began to grow?

Quinones: Being a doctor in certain areas is a withering, wearying job, because you are constantly confronted with people whose health is part of a much larger issue — lack of work , maybe a culture of poverty, poor diet, there’s a long list of things. People tend to look at these doctors like keys to life strategies; a linchpin to a survival strategy: ‘Get me workers comp.’ How do I get [supplemental security income]?’ The only way you can get that is with a doctor…

MPT: What responsibility do healthcare providers have for the opioid crisis, and how can they help to resolve it?

Quinones: I feel for doctors. They were in a very difficult place. If they didn’t give people these pills, then people might be in horrible pain, and if they did, they might risk addiction.

RTFA. There’s a lot more – covering a broader analysis. Maybe you should read Quinone’s book.

My central criticism of the epidemic reflects the use of doctors to perform means testing to satisfy conservative creeps in Congress. The concept of healthcare as a privilege, not a right, permeates our politics. It’s lousy economics. It’s lousy politics. Neither of which means much to the beancounters Americans keep electing and re-electing.

Sarah Palin needles Trump over crony capitalism in his Carrier deal


Some things are harder to swallow than a Big GulpFacebook

❝ Sarah Palin, the Republican party’s 2008 vice-presidential cax candidate, warned Donald Trump against “crony capitalism” in the wake of Thursday’s deal to use tax incentives to keep 800 jobs at a Carrier Corp. factory in Indianapolis from moving to Mexico.

“When government steps in arbitrarily with individual subsidies, favoring one business over others, it sets inconsistent, unfair, illogical precedent. Meanwhile, the invisible hand that best orchestrates a free people’s free enterprise system gets amputated. Then, special interests creep in and manipulate markets,” she wrote on the Young Conservatives website, posted Friday. “Republicans oppose this, remember? Instead, we support competition on a level playing field, remember? Because we know special interest crony capitalism is one big fail.”

❝ President-elect Donald Trump and Vice-President-elect Mike Pence, who is still the governor of Indiana, visited the Carrier factory Thursday after Indiana gave parent United Technologies $7 million worth of tax breaks over 10 years to keep the factory open. Several hundred jobs will still be eliminated…

“Cajole only chosen ones on Main St or Wall St and watch lines stretch from Washington to Alaska full of businesses threatening to bail unless taxpayers pony up,” she concluded. “The lines strangle competition and really, really, dispiritingly screw with workers’ lives.”

While Aunt Sarah rambles on with the usual Reagan rant about needing tax giveaways for all corporations – neither TeaPublicans like Palin nor the financial press seem to make anything of the fact that Trump is also a shareholder invested in UTX, United Technologies.

He’s giving himself the tax breaks, after all.

This Burmese Python was caught with remains of 3 deer in its gut – not in Burma; but, Florida

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Click to enlargeWater District agent, Bobby Hill, with that 14 foot python

❝ Normally, what a snake eats for breakfast isn’t worth a headline. But this is no normal snake. And this was no normal meal.

The Burmese python is a massive snake native to Southeast Asia that arrived in South Florida in the 1980s, possibly released into the wild by careless pet owners. There are now as many as 300,000 of these invasive creatures slithering through the state, and they’ve been known to eat alligators, bobcats, rabbits, and birds.

❝ Now scientists have discovered that Burmese pythons — which can reach 18 feet in length and swallow a bobcat whole — are even more ravenous than they realized. In a new paper in Bioinvasions Records, a team of researchers describe slitting open the intestine of a dead 14-foot python and finding the remains of three different white-tailed deer. The snake appears to have gobbled them up, an adult and two fawns, in just 90 days.

❝ The implications are disturbing. “If this was just one snake that ate three deer in isolation, that’d be one thing” says Scott Boback, a biologist at Dickinson College and lead author of the study. But the incident comes alongside growing evidence that the Burmese pythons are ravaging native wildlife in South Florida’s Everglades. “When you put that all together, you’ve got to say, okay, something serious is going on here.”…

❝ However it happened, the notion that pythons may be gobbling up lots and lots of white-tailed deer is troubling. For one, deer are a major revenue source in South Florida, thanks to the sale of hunting licenses. There are also ecological implications — the elimination of deer could rearrange the region’s ecosystem in unpredictable ways.

But what’s even more worrisome, says Boback, is that it suggests there’s little limit to what pythons can devour. “They’re eating pretty much every vertebrate in the Everglades,” he says. “They’re basically taking all that diverse biomass and replacing it with python biomass. And we’ve seen this story before.”

❝ One huge worry is that the Everglades will see a repeat of what happened in Guam…

During World War II, heavy ship traffic brought the non-native brown tree snake to the island. There had never been a snake species on that island before, and the local birds had no idea how to evade it. In the decades since, 12 native bird species have gone extinct.

❝ …South Florida is struggling to figure out how to respond…The biggest challenge…is that Everglades National Park is so vast, stretching hundreds of miles across, and the pythons can easily hide in the park’s endless sea of grass. The snakes are rarely ever spotted unless they happen to cross over roads. “Roads are really the only place we can reliably detect them,” says Boback.

Back to the conventional wisdom that people are either ignorant or stupid. In the case of any invasive species everyone always pleads ignorant about what might happen when they release their old pet who got too big for apartment living. Not looking around for information in the age of the Internet – is stupid.

Tim the robot — monitoring the Large Hadron Collider

❝ Hundreds of feet below the French-Swiss border lays the Large Hadron Collider. The 17 miles of strange tunnels accelerate particles at close to the speed of light before smashing them together to see what happens.

That’s an oversimplification of a complicated process, one where a lot can go wrong. Someone has to monitor the miles of concrete, plastic, steel, and glass below the earth to avoid disaster and keep science moving. Someone does, someone called … TIM.

That tractor ain’t pulling a cargo trailer — it’s a huge hard drive!

snowmobileta

❝ Yes, today’s speediest internet connections make it faster to download movies than to go to the store and buy them. But downloading or uploading truly large amounts of data can still take days, months, or even years — think a film studio’s entire video archives or the satellite imagery collections of government agencies. That lag is a problem for Amazon, which wants companies to store their information in its lucrative cloud. But it’s also a natural one for Amazon — a logistics company at heart — to solve. So this week the company announced one of its strangest ideas yet: a tractor trailer that will transport your data to Amazon’s own data centers…

Amazon announced the new service, confusingly named Snowmobile, at its Re:Invent conference in Las Vegas this week. It’s designed to shuttle as many as 100 petabytes – around 100,000 terabytes – per truck. That’s enough storage to hold five copies of the Internet Archive (a comprehensive backup of the web both present and past), which contains “only” about 18.5 petabytes of unique data.

Amazon has long let businesses ship hard disks full of data to Amazon for uploading into the retail giant’s cloud. But copying 100 petabytes to individual hard drives isn’t practical. Snowmobile acts like a giant hard drive that comes to you…

❝ “On the security side, Snowmobile incorporates multiple layers of logical and physical protection, including chain-of-custody tracking and video surveillance,” Amazon cloud evangelist Jeff Barr wrote in a blog post announcing the service. In other words, Amazon is keeping a close eye on your data while it’s on the road. Each truck is weather-proofed and tamper-resistant and all data is encrypted, Barr says.

❝ …Amazon seems to believe that some companies will need multiple Snowmobiles. The site advertises itself as capable of handling data at the exabytes scale — or by Amazon’s new measurement, ten truckloads.

Cripes. Folks in logistics, nowadays, are solving problems that were’t even a figment of someone’s imagination just a decade ago.