An AI model showed Flint how to find lead pipes. What do you think they did after that?

❝ …Volunteer computer scientists, with some funding from Google, designed a machine-learning model to help predict which homes were likely to have lead pipes. The artificial intelligence was supposed to help the City dig only where pipes were likely to need replacement. Through 2017, the plan was working. Workers inspected 8,833 homes, and of those, 6,228 homes had their pipes replaced — a 70 percent rate of accuracy.

Heading into 2018, the City signed a big, national engineering firm, AECOM, to a $5 million contract to “accelerate” the program, holding a buoyant community meeting to herald the arrival of the cavalry in Flint…

❝ As more and more people had their pipes evaluated in 2018, fewer and fewer inspections were finding lead pipes…The new contractor hasn’t been efficiently locating those pipes: As of mid-December 2018, 10,531 properties had been explored and only 1,567 of those digs found lead pipes to replace. That’s a lead-pipe hit rate of just 15 percent, far below the 2017 mark…

❝ There are reasons for the slowdown. AECOM discarded the machine-learning model’s predictions, which had guided excavations. And facing political pressure from some residents, Mayor Weaver demanded that the firm dig across the city’s wards and in every house on selected blocks, rather than picking out the homes likely to have lead because of age, property type, or other characteristics that could be correlated with the pipes.

After a multimillion-dollar investment in project management, thousands of people in Flint still have homes with lead pipes, when the previous program would likely have already found and replaced them.

Life in America seems about as predictable as ever. Doesn’t have to be. Still, don’t get smug about analyzing the causes. Just fix it!

A Giant Step Forward in the Flint, Michigan, Water Crisis

From Rhea Suh, President NRDC


Unless you’re a Republican, nowadays

❝ For once, I am excited to report that there is good news on the Flint water crisis front. The pipes at the heart of the disaster are going to be replaced. For the first time in the three years since this Michigan city’s water was turned to poison, Flint’s citizens have a guarantee that the resources are in place to replace its estimated 18,000 lead pipes. And for the first time, they know when the pipes will be gone.

Let’s be clear, Flint is not fixed. But things are going to get better.

❝ This did not happen because of the city, state, or federal governments that failed them. It happened because brave people in Flint stood up for their neighbors. They went to court. One of the genius parts of American environmental protections are the citizen suit provisions in our major environmental laws. When the government fails to protect its citizens, we are all empowered to go to court and force the government to do its job.

❝ That happened in Flint. After the city and state trashed the drinking water infrastructure through a series of mistakes and errors, we joined with the Concerned Pastors for Social Action and Flint resident Melissa Mays to petition the federal government to use its emergency powers to help the beleaguered city. They refused. So, along with ACLU Michigan, we sued the city and state. The Safe Drinking Water Act also has provisions for citizens to enforce drinking water rules. Though there have only been a handful of these kinds of cases filed under the act, we all thought Flint seemed like a textbook situation for this type of case…

And today, that suit comes to the end with a settlement that guarantees that in three years, the lead pipes will be replaced. It guarantees that the state kicks in $67 million to help fix the mistakes, along with tens of millions more from federal sources…

❝ …But for today, let’s just celebrate good news for Flint. A city that deserves far more of it in the years to come.

I’ll second that emotion. RTFA for more details, past and present. Rhea Suh is too politely politic to trash-talk the conservatives, mostly in the Republican Party – and some Democrats deserve their share of condemnation for foot-dragging.

Too many folks hold elective office who consider budgets and balance sheets more important than the lives of the human beings they represent.

Republican War on the Environment marches on — Michigan just banned banning plastic bags


The queen of a Republican fundraising festival

❝ A new law in Michigan will prohibit local governments from banning, regulating or imposing fees on the use of plastic bags and other containers. You read that correctly: It’s not a ban on plastic bags — it’s a ban on banning plastic bags…

The new public act prohibits local ordinances from “regulating the use, disposition, or sale of, prohibiting or restricting, or imposing any fee, charge, or tax on certain containers,” including plastic bags, as well as cups, bottles and other forms of packaging. This means individual cities and municipalities are not allowed to ban plastic bags or charge customers a fee for using them.

❝ Bans and restrictions on the use of plastic bags are widespread in other parts of the country and around the world. The rationale is simple: Plastic bags are infamous non-biodegradable sources of pollution — although they will eventually break down into tiny pieces, scientists believe this process can take hundreds of years, or even up to a millennium, in landfills…

❝ Bangladesh was the first country in the world to ban certain types of thin plastic bags in 2002, after they were found to have choked the nation’s drainage systems during a series of devastating floods. China instituted a similar ban in 2008, and also prohibits businesses from giving out thicker plastic bags to customers for free. Other nations, including South Africa and Italy, have also enacted similar restrictions.

San Francisco became the first U.S. municipality to institute a plastic bag ban. And in 2014, California became the first state. Many other municipalities around the country have bans or fees in place, including Austin, Seattle and Chicago…

❝ On the other hand, Michigan is not the only state to have implemented a ban on bans. Idaho, Arizona and Missouri all have enacted similar laws. In these cases, proponents of the laws have defended them as a way of protecting businesses from having to comply with additional regulations.

Today’s Republican mind considers any facet of economic life beyond profit margins to be trivial. Perhaps, suspect and subversive.

Here’s why Trump can’t save jobs in the coal industry?


Completed in 1974, Monroe Power Plant will be the last one standing in 2030

❝ All year, Donald Trump has been promising to rescue the US coal industry by repealing various Obama-era pollution rules and ending the “war on coal.” And all year, analysts have pointed out that he probably can’t stop the collapse of the coal industry — since coal’s woes go far beyond the Environmental Protection Agency.

But if you want a perfect example of why Trump will struggle to bring back coal, just look at Michigan.

❝ Last weekend, the CEO of Michigan’s largest electric utility reiterated that his company is still planning to retire eight of its nine remaining coal plants by 2030 — whether or not Trump tries to repeal President Obama’s climate policies…

Gerry Anderson’s reasoning was simple. Coal is no longer the economic choice for generating electricity, due to relentless competition from cheaper (and cleaner) natural gas and wind power. In Michigan, a new coal plant costs $133 per megawatt hour. A natural gas plant costs half that. Even wind contracts now cost about $74.52 per megawatt hour, after federal tax credits. “I don’t know anybody in the country who would build another coal plant,” Anderson said.

❝ What’s more, Anderson added, surveys show that most of Michigan’s consumers want to add more renewables “if it can be done at reasonable cost.”

❝ It’s not just Michigan. This dynamic is playing out all over the country, as coal plant after coal plant succumbs to competition from cheap natural gas and wind. Over at Politico, Michael Grunwald estimates that US power plants are now on track to emit 27 percent less carbon dioxide in 2016 than they did in 2005.

What’s remarkable is that this is all happening before Obama’s Clean Power Plan even takes effect. That rule, which is still tied up in court, aimed for a 30 percent cut below 2005 levels by 2030. We’re almost there already. So it’s clear that scrapping the CPP, as Trump has pledged, won’t help coal power make a huge comeback.

Not that reason, efficiency and cost mean much to Republicans and other Trump Chumps. The vicarious thrill of turning back regulations designed to make life healthier for most folks is almost as visceral a pleasure as, say, machine-gunning a basket of kittens.

An Arabic billboard in Michigan pokes fun at Donald Trump

❝ Over the weekend, a black billboard appeared alongside the highway heading into Dearborn, Michigan, the city that boasts the largest Arab population in the United States. The name “Donald Trump” is written in English, followed by Arabic script (which reads from right to left) that translates to “He can’t read this, but he is afraid of it.”

❝ The billboard is sponsored by a super PAC called Nuisance Committee, which was started by Max Tempkin, one of the creators of the racy Cards Against Humanity card game. The intent of the billboard is to spark conversation among non-Arabic speakers, encouraging them to ask their Arabic-speaking neighbors what the billboard means.

“We came up with it because we believe that Donald Trump’s hateful rhetoric is not based on reality. It’s based in fear,” Nuisance Committee spokeswoman Melissa Harris told the Detroit Free Press. “And we think that irrational fear is what’s driving his anti-immigrant message.”

Idjits will avert their eyes to keep from being struck by lightning.

Dumb crook of the day

A 25-year-old man who applied for a job at a Michigan sheriff’s department was arrested after a background check revealed he was wanted in Kentucky on sexual assault charges, officials said on Friday.

John Wesley Rose was arrested and will return to Kentucky, where he is wanted on six counts of sexual abuse, sodomy and rape, said Paula Bridges, a spokeswoman for the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office…

He was arrested on Tuesday after a background check showed the outstanding warrant from Madison County, Kentucky from March, the sheriff’s department said in a statement. The warrant had not been entered into the national database when Rose initially applied for an officer position in September.

The sheriff’s office asked Rose to return to complete paperwork and finalize the employment application, and at that time arrested him without incident

Anyone else remember Clem Kadiddlehopper? He wasn’t a crook; but, he surely was dumb.

A horrifying death in an American jail

During his 17-day stay in jail, 32-year-old David Stojcevski lost 50 pounds, hallucinated, and experienced seizures and convulsions. It was all caught on a security camera that jailers were supposed to regularly watch. But no one helped — and Stojcevski died.

Now, the FBI is investigating the death, according to Detroit News.

The horrifying death of Stojcevski in the Macomb County, Michigan, jail — first reported by Local 4 — is drawing national attention as the latest example of horrific neglect and brutality by the criminal justice system. And unlike previous cases, it was all caught on video — making it easy to see exactly what went wrong.

But beyond the gruesome images and FBI investigation, Stojcevski’s death speaks to a much larger problem in the criminal justice system: In many cases, jails aren’t staffed, trained, or resourced to deal with cases like Stojcevski’s. But they continue locking up excessive numbers of people, even when it might not be necessary…

Macomb County sheriffs picked up Stojcevski in 2014 after he failed to pay a $772 traffic ticket for careless driving. Stojcevski was placed in a jail cell and later a mental health cell, even though a nurse who evaluated Stojcevski suggested putting him in a drug detox unit.

He was supposed to serve 30 days in jail for not paying the ticket. But he would be held there, naked (inmates don’t wear clothes in the mental health unit, apparently for their own protection), until his death, 17 days after he was locked up…

Over 17 days, Stojcevski displayed typical withdrawal symptoms. He didn’t eat, likely due to withdrawal-induced nausea. He shook and appeared to experience seizures. He seemed to hallucinate, reenacting a previous fight with an inmate. On his last two days, he laid on the floor, shaking and in clear distress.

During all this time, staffers rarely tended to Stojcevski’s needs, even though his cell was under surveillance 24 hours a day. As he lay on the floor shaking and not eating his food over 48 hours, no one showed up to help until the very end. But it was too late — he was pronounced dead at the hospital…

By definition, an overcrowded jail doesn’t have the staff to handle all the problems that arise in these facilities. In Stojcevski’s case, it’s possible that staffers didn’t respond to his clear medical crisis because no one was available, either to watch the 32-year-old or to care for him…

There are also signs that jail staff simply didn’t know how to treat an inmate with medical needs like Stojcevski. As two mental health experts told Local 4, Stojcevski was clearly suffering from a medical condition even as jailers did nothing to care for him.

Or – as so often is the case – jail staff, administrators, county officials and, ultimately, voters, just don’t care a rat’s ass about what happens to people in jail.

Latest gun nut / Darwin Award candidate


What every well-dressed Republican woman [supposedly] needs

St Joseph Police say bodybuilder and Republican town official accidentally fires her own weapon while fitting her bra holster…

“She was having trouble adjusting her bra holster, couldn’t get it to fit the way she wanted it to. She was looking down at it and accidentally discharged the weapon,” St Joseph public safety director Mark Clapp told the Gazette about the woman, Christina Bond.

Bond reportedly shot herself in the eye on New Year’s Day, and had to be airlifted to Bronson Methodist Hospital. Her full autopsy hasn’t been released.

Gun accessories such as bra and purse holsters, designed for women, have grown in popularity over the last few years. Many businesses now cater specifically to female gun owners.

Did you think the combination of paranoia and stupidity was exclusive to men?

Bond was a delegate for St Joseph Township, in south-west Michigan. Bond was also a bodybuilder, winning the Miss Michigan Figure Overall Championship in 2013, and volunteered at the ministry at Berrien County jail.