Fake President may shutdown government over impeachment


AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

❝ “I’m increasingly worried that President Trump will want to shut down the government again because of impeachment,” House Majority Leader Chuck Schumer told reporters. “He always likes to create diversions. I hope and pray he won’t want to cause another government shutdown because it might be a diversion away from impeachment.”

Republicans have insisted the government will not shut down, but that was also their position in December when Trump kicked off the longest government shutdown in history over Democrats’ refusal to fund his border wall. Without action, the government will shut down Nov. 22.

Trump might shut the government down over Ivanka getting a hangnail.

Only you in the future will know if we saved glaciers


Rice University

❝ The first of Iceland’s 400 glaciers to be lost to the climate crisis will be remembered with a memorial plaque – and a sombre warning for the future – to be unveiled by scientists and local people next month.

❝ The former Okjökull glacier, which a century ago covered 15 sq km (5.8 sq miles) of mountainside in western Iceland and measured 50 metres thick, has shrunk to barely 1 sq km of ice less than 15 metres deep and lost its status as a glacier.

❝ “In the next 200 years, all our glaciers are expected to follow the same path,” the plaque reads, in Icelandic and English. “This monument is to acknowledge that we know what is happening and what needs to be done. Only you know if we did it.”…

❝ Cymene Howe, an associate professor of anthropology at Rice, said the plaque “would be the first to a glacier lost to climate change anywhere in the world”. Marking the moment should draw attention to what is being lost, she said.

Notice will be taken – and understood – by that small number of human beings who comprehend what is happening. And that even smaller number of politicians who care.

Will Cockroaches Inherit the Earth?


gocomics.org

❝ Acknowledging that many inspect species might continue to decline in the 21st century — a time when extinction rates are about 1,000 times that of natural, expected levels — I asked Dini Miller, an urban entomologist, if the stubborn, stalwart cockroach might really inherit the Earth if other species were to bite the dust. The answer isn’t simple, but in large part it comes down to the continued success of the human race: The seven or so cockroach species we call pests, the ones we view as indestructible, have learned to thrive in our human society. That means they will continue thriving, as long as we do.

“If it wasn’t for us they wouldn’t be flourishing,” said Tim Kring, the head of the Entomology Department at Virginia Tech. “But certain species have flourished because we’ve given them nice homes, food, and water…”

❝ …We’ve certainly tried to annihilate them, using insecticides to unleash large-scale, nation-wide warfare against any roach that enters our homes.

But the roaches have resisted. “They defeat the countermeasures we deploy,” said Rick Santangelo, a cockroach control research specialist at North Carolina State University.

Our chemicals might knock out 99 out of 100 roaches, but the remaining one percent will prove resilient. Then, they’ll breed. “The more you’re exposed to something, the more tolerant you become to it,” said Santangelo. That’s not to say the resilient critters can’t be exterminated from your house. With the right strategically-placed poisons — like placing bait in hundreds of places around a kitchen — the roach dwellers can be expunged. But that’s just your house.

You can get rid of them in a single structure, but we’re not gonna eradicate roaches,” said Santangelo.

Life might become tougher – for roaches – if we succeed in eradicating ourselves. They’ve evolved in symbiotic fashion alongside human beings. Regardless of whatever your particular bible tells you. Frankly, I’d bet their hardiness will prevail in the face of incompetent politicians and ignorant, uncaring populations of human beings.u

Replanting a forest from the air

❝ Wildfires are consuming our forests and grasslands faster than we can replace them. It’s a vicious cycle of destruction and inadequate restoration rooted, so to speak, in decades of neglect of the institutions and technologies needed to keep these environments healthy.

DroneSeed is a Seattle-based startup that aims to combat this growing problem with a modern toolkit that scales: drones, artificial intelligence and biological engineering. And it’s even more complicated than it sounds…

❝ Earlier this year, DroneSeed was awarded the first multi-craft, over-55-pounds unmanned aerial vehicle license ever issued by the FAA. Its custom UAV platforms, equipped with multispectral camera arrays, high-end lidar, six-gallon tanks of herbicide and proprietary seed dispersal mechanisms have been hired by several major forest management companies, with government entities eyeing the service as well.

RTFA. Please. Interesting, useful tech being used for progressive ends benefitting our species. Perhaps, if sufficient numbers of human beings get off their rusty-dusties and build political movements to support and involve solutions like this – we can turn around some of the decades of profits-before-anything-else ideology that has destroyed so much of this world, this nation’s potential.

US in group of nations calling for encryption back doors

The privacy of Internet users “is not absolute,” according to a statement from a five-country coalition that includes the United States following a meeting about security, with the overall theme demanding technology companies to make social networks and messaging services safer and to offer more support to government agencies to break encryption and access potentially sensitive data…

“Privacy laws must prevent arbitrary or unlawful interference, but privacy is not absolute,” the statement reads. “It is an established principle that appropriate government authorities should be able to seek access to otherwise private information when a court or independent authority has authorized such access based on established legal standards. The same principles have long permitted government authorities to search homes, vehicles, and personal effects with valid legal authority.”

Lockstep unity between these five English-speaking nations and they all sound like they’d have no problem with the divine right of kings, either.

OTOH, There is this letter to Washington politicians from lots of organizations concerned with our human rights – including privacy.

When Did Silicon Valley Become Brotopia?

❝ In engineering circles, some refer to Lena as “the first lady of the internet.” Others see her as the industry’s original sin, the first step in Silicon Valley’s exclusion of women. Both views stem from an event that took place in 1973 at a University of Southern California computer lab, where a team of researchers was trying to turn physical photographs into digital bits. Their work would serve as a precursor to the JPEG, a widely used compression standard that allows large image files to be efficiently transferred between devices. The USC team needed to test their algorithms on suitable photos, and their search for the ideal test photo led them to Lena.

❝ According to William Pratt, the lab’s co-founder, the group chose Lena’s portrait from a copy of Playboy that a student had brought into the lab. Pratt, now 80, tells me he saw nothing out of the ordinary about having a soft porn magazine in a university computer lab in 1973. “I said, ‘There are some pretty nice-looking pictures in there,’ ” he says. “And the grad students picked the one that was in the centerfold.” Lena’s spread, which featured the model wearing boots, a boa, a feathered hat, and nothing else, was attractive from a technical perspective because the photo included, according to Pratt, “lots of high-frequency detail that is difficult to code.”…To this day, some engineers joke that if you want your image compression algorithm to make the grade, it had better perform well on Lena…

❝ “When you use a picture like that for so long, it’s not a person anymore; it’s just pixels,” Jeff Seideman told the Atlantic in 2016, unwittingly highlighting the sexism that Needell and other critics had tried to point out.

“We didn’t even think about those things at all when we were doing this,” Pratt says. “It was not sexist.” After all, he continues, no one could have been offended because there were no women in the classroom at the time. And thus began a half-century’s worth of buck-passing in which powerful men in the tech industry defended or ignored the exclusion of women on the grounds that they were already excluded.

Uh-huh…RTFA, please.

Japanese electric utility admits to coverup during Fukushima nuclear meltdown


Warning sign on the road to Fukushima

The utility that ran the Fukushima nuclear plant acknowledged Tuesday its delayed disclosure of the meltdowns at three reactors was tantamount to a coverup and apologized for it.

Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) president Naomi Hirose’s apology followed the revelation last week that an investigation had found Hirose’s predecessor instructed officials during the 2011 disaster to avoid using the word “meltdown.”

I would say it was a coverup,” Hirose told a news conference. “It’s extremely regrettable.”…

And it only took five years and information released in an investigation to prompt a moment of honesty.

TEPCO instead described the reactors’ condition as less serious “core damage” for two months after the earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011, wrecked the plant, even though utility officials knew and computer simulations suggested meltdowns had occurred.

An investigative report released last Thursday by three company-appointed lawyers said TEPCO’s then-President Masataka Shimizu instructed officials not to use the specific description under alleged pressure from the Prime Minister’s Office, though the investigators found no proof of such pressure.

The report said TEPCO officials, who had suggested possible meltdowns, stopped using the description after March 14, 2011…Shimizu had a company official show Muto his memo and tell him the Prime Minister’s Office has banned the specific words.

Government officials also softened their language on the reactor conditions around the same time, the report said…Former officials at the Prime Minister’s Office have denied the allegation…

Deny, deny, deny. Political hacks, corporate hacks, still rely on the Big Lie to cover their tracks. If you do a crappy job at preserving the safety of ordinary citizens, you lie and deny – unless you can find someone else to blame.

Rooftop solar so popular in Western Australia power privatisation not an option

Western Australia would not be able to privatise its electricity assets “even if they gave it to them for nothing” because the popularity of rooftop solar panels has made state-owned power stations unprofitable, a renewable energy expert has said.

Prof Philip Jennings, a lecturer in energy and physics at Murdoch University, said the uptake of solar was a looming problem for the Barnett government, which has indicated it may consider privatising some or all of its energy assets after the 2017 state election.

An analysis of energy regulator data by Curtin University found that rooftop solar panels had the capacity to produce more electricity than any power station servicing the Perth grid.

WA’s electricity network is 66% over capacity, thanks in part to an unexpected increase in rooftop solar.

❝“Effectively we have built another very large power station on the rooftops of Perth, and that is what has thrown the government’s calculations out because they didn’t factor it into their calculations when they decided to go in and bring [coal-fired power stations] Muja A and B back online,” Jennings told Guardian Australia…

They are used intermittently at high-demand times.

The power stations, which Jennings described as “not particularly clean and not particularly efficient”, were tipped to be among the state assets up for sale in a bid by the treasurer, Mike Nahan, to curb WA’s credit rating.

But Jennings said unless the state’s energy profile changed, investors were unlikely to be interested in Muja or any other assets.

The cost of electricity in WA has increased 85% since 2008, and the number of houses with solar panels has increased by 40%.

“Every time they put up the tariff for coal-fired power in WA it just encourages people to put solar on their rooftops,” he said. “We’re not talking solar panels in Cottesloe [the beachfront inner-city suburb where the state premier, Colin Barnett, lives]. The general take-up rates are not in the wealthy suburbs, they are in the mortgage belt. People factor it into the cost of building a house.”

Backwards, greedy public utilities [is there any other kind] throughout the industrialized world face the same problem. Those with a significant number of politicians in their deep pockets try for the most egregious of solutions – for their balance sheet. They get the state to tax homeowners an exorbitant amount for the privilege of semi-independence from the “requirements” of the electric grid.

We face the same here in New Mexico even though solar power is a natural and the state engineer’s office determined decades ago we could be an electricity-exporting state on wind power alone. But, our utility is into coal – lousy quality coal at that – up to their conservative eyebrows.

Thanks, Honeyman

A chart putting mass incarceration in historical context

incarceration

The US prison population has exploded over the past few decades, creating the modern era of mass incarceration. But what’s less well-known is that the current incarceration rate isn’t just higher than what came immediately before it — it’s drastically higher than at any other time in American history.

This chart is based on the number of people in state and federal prisons, per 100,000 adult US residents at the time. That’s one major way the incarceration rate was measured during the early 20th century. (Unfortunately, the government wasn’t as consistent in recording the jail population, so that’s not included here — but rest assured that there are a lot more people in jail than ever before, as well.)

Recently, the government has stopped reporting the incarceration rate this way: partly because it’s better at recording how many people are in jail, on probation, or on parole as well as in prison, but partly because the incarceration rate is so damn high that it’s better expressed as a percentage — X per 100 — than as X per 100,000. We calculated the prison rate in recent years by dividing the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ stats for state and federal prisoners by its estimate (and the Census Bureau’s) of adult US residents.

RTFA if you think the details are needed. The process, the politics that lead to this situation – the war on Drugs, the War on Non-White Citizens, all stink on ice.