January 23, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 6:21 PM


Pence: In spirit of Holocaust remembrance, we must stand strong against Iran (Times of Israel, 23 January 2020)

...like trying to starve a people we both have nuclear missiles aimed at...

Posted by orrinj at 5:19 PM


Posted by orrinj at 5:01 PM


Israeli-Made Electric Planes Set to Revolutionize Air Travel (United with Israel, Nov 12, 2019)

Alice hasn't even taken off yet, and already over 150 orders have been placed for her.

Who is Alice?

Alice is the name given to the all-electric nine-seat aircraft that Israel startup Eviation Aircraft created early this year. Alice has three electric motors on its tail and one on the tip of each wing. On a single charge, Alice's 3,500 kg battery can carry her 650 miles at 10,000 feet with a cruising speed of 276 miles per hour.

The electric plane will reduce direct operating costs by up to 70 percent, which would make the running costs come out to be about $200 per flight hour versus $1,000 for a turboprop, reports NoCamels.

Posted by orrinj at 9:59 AM


'Who is She?' - US Treasury Chief Takes Swipe at Thunberg (Associated Press, January 23, 2020)
At a press briefing at the World Economic Forum in the Swiss town of Davos, Mnuchin took a swipe at the 17-year-old environmental campaigner for her recommendation that both the public and private sectors should divest from fossil fuels.
When asked how that would affect the U.S. economic model, Mnuchin took a swipe at Thunberg.
"Is she the chief economist? Who is she? I'm confused," he said. Then following a brief pause, he said it was "a joke."
"After she goes and studies economics in college, she can come back and explain that to us," he concluded.

'This is not controversial': Bipartisan group of economists calls for carbon tax (Heather Long, Jan. 16, 2019, washington Post)

Forty-five top economists from across the political spectrum are calling for the United States to put a tax on carbon, saying it is by far the best way for the nation to address climate change.

"A carbon tax offers the most cost-effective lever to reduce carbon emissions at the scale and speed that is necessary," the economists wrote in letter published Wednesday evening in the Wall Street Journal. They called climate change a "serious problem" that needs "immediate national action."

Nearly every Republican and Democratic chair of the Council of Economic Advisers since the 1970s signed the letter, including Alan Greenspan, Ben Bernanke and Janet L. Yellen, who are also former chairs of the Federal Reserve. Numerous Nobel laureates in economics also added their names.

"Among economists, this is not controversial," said Greg Mankiw, who chaired the Council of Economic Advisers under George W. Bush and signed the letter. "The politics is complicated, the international relations is complicated, but the economics is really simple."

Economics is only controversial in the partisan political sphere, not in academics, business, nor in practice.
Posted by orrinj at 9:17 AM


US seeking to carve out Sunni state as its influence in Iraq wanes (Suadad al-Salhy, 23 January 2020, Middle East Eye)

Backed into a corner and influence waning, the United States has in recent weeks been promoting a plan to create an autonomous Sunni region in western Iraq, officials from both countries told Middle East Eye.

The US efforts, the officials say, come in response to Shia Iraqi parties' attempts to expel American troops from their country.

Iraq represents a strategic land bridge between Iran and its allies in Syria, Lebanon and Palestine.

Establishing a US-controlled Sunni buffer zone in western Iraq would deprive Iran of using land routes into Syria and prevent it from reaching the eastern shores of the Mediterranean.

For Washington, the idea of carving out a Sunni region dates back to a 2007 proposition by Joe Biden, who is now vying to be the Democratic Party's presidential candidate.

Had we moved on to do Syria instead of Occupying Iraq, the three constituent states would have developed naturally.  There is no Iraq.

Posted by orrinj at 9:12 AM


The material truth: Underlining his obstruction, President Trump says the quiet part loud again (DAILY NEWS EDITORIAL BOARD, 1/22/20, NEW YORK DAILY NEWS)

Wednesday, at the Davos conference 4,000 miles from Washington, President Trump boasted about his successful obstruction of the House's investigation of his Ukraine shakedown. Speaking of the impeachment trial, he declared: "Honestly, we have all the material. They don't have the material."

Trump couldn't have wrapped a neater bow around the rather impressive case that House Democrats have still built, obstruction notwithstanding.

Posted by orrinj at 8:55 AM


California needs clean energy after sundown. Geothermal could be the answer (Los Angeles Times, 1/22/20)

After years of playing third fiddle to solar and wind power, new geothermal plants are finally getting built.

Geothermal plants can generate emissions-free, renewable electricity around the clock, unlike solar panels or wind turbines. The technology has been used commercially for decades and involves tapping naturally heated underground reservoirs to create steam and turn turbines.

Geothermal accounted for 4.5% of California's electricity mix in 2018 -- about one-fifth the amount supplied by solar and wind, which made up the bulk of California's renewable energy supply.

Posted by orrinj at 8:51 AM


Share of union workers in the U.S. falls to a record low in 2019 (JEFFRY BARTASH, 1/22/20, Market Watch)
The percentage of American workers in unions fell to a record low in 2019, extending a long slide that began decades ago and shows little sign of abating.

The number of unionized workers slipped to 14.57 million last year from 14.74 in 2018, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said Wednesday in an annual report.

As a result, the share of workers belonging to unions dropped to a new post-World War Two low of 10.3% from 10.5%.

As much credit as Paul Volcker deserves for ending inflation and producing our 40 year economic boom, he could not have done it without Thatcher and Reagan removing wage pressure on prices.

Posted by orrinj at 8:49 AM


Latest research on vegetative state calls for new civil rights movement (Charles C. Camosy, 1/22/20, RNS) 

Remember Terri Schiavo? She was a beloved daughter, sister and (new) wife when, in 1990, at the age of 26, she had a heart attack. Though she was revived and breathed on her own, Terri sustained significant brain damage and was deemed to be in a permanent vegetative state.

A big part of the debate that gripped the U.S. in the mid-2000s about whether to take Schiavo off of life support had to do with her Catholic upbringing. While her husband maintained that Schiavo wouldn't have wanted to live with the aid of a feeding tube, her parents and brother said she would have agreed with Pope John Paul II, who weighed in on her case, that food and water are care, not medical treatment, and are basic to respect fundamental human dignity.

But leave those issues aside for a moment. The received view both during and after the debate over Terri's case, especially if you thought that she ought to have her feeding tube removed, was that someone in a vegetative state essentially had the functions of a "vegetable." This turns out to be wrong, but you can be forgiven for thinking so: after all, given the term "vegetative state" that we've all been taught to use.

In the 15 years since Schiavo died -- an eternity in the world of medical research and technology -- much has changed. And what has changed should make us totally rethink fundamental questions about patients thought to be "vegetative."

Even before Terri died, in fact, folks who were forthright about our limited understanding of the brain and consciousness knew that permanent vegetative state, or PVS, was a sloppy and ill-defined category. In 2002, for instance, certain PVS patients were categorized as being in "minimally conscious state." In 2006, a dramatic study found that a PVS patient could be understood to answer yes or no questions by watching the patient's brain activity on a live scan while asking her to think about playing tennis to answer yes and walking in her house to answer no. 

In his 2015 book, "Rights Come to Mind," Joe Fins, an attending physician and chief of medical ethics at New York Presbyterian Hospital and Weill Cornell Medical College, tells deeply researched stories of several patients thought to be vegetative but who ended up in a very different place. 

The insuperable difficulty with the end of life decision is that all the parties to it have a financial interest.

Posted by orrinj at 8:47 AM


The Number of Homes for Sale Is at a Record Low (Jeffrey Sparshott, Jan 23, 2020, WSJ)

There aren't enough homes on the market. The inventory of existing homes for sale last month fell to the lowest level in records dating back to 1982, a potential stumbling block for homebuyers and catalyst for accelerating price gains. "Low inventory remains a problem, with first-time buyers affected the most," said National Association of Realtors chief economist Lawrence Yun. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:58 AM


Understanding Conservative Anti-Capitalism (Mark Granza, 1/22/20, Areo)

Even Karl Marx appreciated capitalism's transformative capacity. As George Will writes in this piece from the early 1980s, "Marx got one thing right: capitalism undermines traditional social structures and values; it is a relentless engine of change, a revolutionary inflamer of appetites, enlarger of expectations, diminisher of patience." See, for example, the enthusiastic support many progressive causes currently enjoy among the American corporate world, a phenomenon known as woke capitalism. Will argues: "The Republican platform stresses two themes ... One is cultural conservatism, the other is capitalist dynamism. The latter dissolves the former. Republicans see no connection between the cultural phenomena they deplore, and the capitalist culture they promise to intensify." The GOP takes a far from laissez-faire approach to economics, yet the party is still prone to confuse any critique of capitalism with a leftist plot. But, if it weren't for capitalism's tendency to conserve certain hierarchical social structures, a glance at its contemporary cultural effects could lead one to think it had been designed as an antidote to conservatism itself.

In his April 2019 debate with Jordan Peterson on Marxism vs Capitalism, Slavoj Zizek argues that, "What the alt-right obsession with cultural Marxism expresses is the reluctance to confront the fact that the phenomena that they criticize as a Marxist plot--moral degradation, sexual promiscuity, consumerist hedonism--are outcomes of the immanent dynamic of capitalist societies." The debate exposes the problematic expectations surrounding any discussion of capitalism--"one is expected to serve either as an avatar of Western liberal order or a defender of the Soviet Union, as if it were still the year 1972," as Christian O'Brien puts it--and highlights the way in which conservatives tend to rely on a dogmatic defence of free markets. Peterson has never hidden his support for traditional values and his disdain for Marxist ideology. But, in his attempts to combat dangerous ideas, such as the communist abolition of private property, and the notion that government should seize the means of production, Peterson often reduces his analysis to the lowest possible level of resolution--adopting the kind of binary view of economics characteristic of TPUSA. The claim that we must continue to support free markets because of the shortcomings of The Communist Manifesto is simplistic and fails to address modern concerns about free markets.

...it is increasing capital, not consuming it. And every mechanism that works towards this end on a personal level is conservative: investment; conservation of private property; strong institutions (like marriage); self-control (to exploit the miracle of compound interest; etc  While, on a public level, it requires the adoption of the most effective means we can discover to grow capital in the first place: strong governing institutions and regulation; the free flow of goods and people; utilization of the capacity of every individual; universal education; support for innovation; a comprehensive social welfare net to take care of those who do not succeed in that economy, so that they do not seek to tear it down; etc. 

The Left/Right are not criticizing capitalism as we practice it; their complaints are with something else altogether.  What makes the Left oppose capitalism is the fact that it produces classes.  The results of a capitalist economy do not, and never can, include equality. What makes the Right oppose capitalism is the fact that groups (racial, religious, etc.) outside their own benefit from it, many to greater degrees than their own preferred group.       

Even more important, they are not criticizing failures of capitalism, but its successes.  For them the rapid global rise in living standards and the extraordinary wealth of even the poorest in the developed world are not phenomena to be celebrated, but mourned.  Ending starvation on Africa pales in comparison to the rise of oligarchs, if you Progressive.  While, if you are Nationalist/Nativist, simply the thought that the coloreds are catching up and that anyone can succeed just like you if they adopt our culture is appalling.  To a degree that is too seldom acknowledged, both oppose capitalism precisely because of its successes.  They prefer systems that they know are doomed to make us all poorer--Communism; Socialism; Protectionism; Segregation--because they are nostalgic for the societies they imagine existed prior to Free Market Capitalism.  Even subsistence living would be redeemed, for the Left, because they imagine it was extremely equal, for the Right, because we subsisted in discrete and homogeneous tribes.   

This is why Sam Huntington's Clash of Civilizations, attempted rebuke of The End of History, was so silly.  You can't have a clash when there are no competitors to the democratic protestant capitalist model.

Posted by orrinj at 7:47 AM


Half of Pro-Choice Americans Favor Restrictions on Abortion, Poll Finds (Virginia Aabram, January 22, 2020, Daily Signal)

Nearly half of self-described pro-choice Americans actually support "significant restrictions" on abortion, a new poll finds.

Maris Poll's annual survey on abortion, sponsored by the Knights of Columbus, found that 40% of those surveyed identified as pro-life and 55% as pro-choice, with 5% undecided.

But when the question was rephrased to ask whether those surveyed would support "significant restrictions" on abortion, 7 in 10 responded that they would. This included 47% of pro-choicers.

"A notable proportion (41%) of those who identify as pro-choice are more likely to vote for candidates who support restrictions, as are more than 9 in 10 who identify as pro-life (96%)," the survey summary says. 

It's like those polls on evolution where you get down to 14% Darwinists but then 5% has to be discounted because they still believe in God.
Posted by orrinj at 7:45 AM


A Few Bad Apples (Morning Dispatch, 1/23/20)

One problem the Republican Party has struggled with for decades has been its inability to distance itself from the bad actors in its midst. For many conservatives, a general conviction that the mainstream media and the left tend to operate in bad faith leads them to embrace any figure deemed a pariah by the media on "enemy of my enemy" grounds. In recent years, the problem has been less the party's inability to distance itself from bad actors as it has been the eager willingness of some in the GOP to embrace grifters, conspiracy theorists and bigots.

This week, we saw two striking examples of this phenomenon. The first took place at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, where the White House issued a press credential for the trip to Rick Wiles of TruNews. The problem: TruNews is a ludicrously anti-Semitic blog that peddles the absurd notion of a Jewish conspiracy to seize political power to carry out mass murder against American Christians. In recent months, Wiles has repeatedly insisted that Democrats' impeachment effort against the president was part of this "Jew Coup"--because "that's the way the Jews work, they are deceivers, they plot, they lie, they do whatever they have to do to accomplish their political agenda."

That's not an isolated example. It's typical of the aggressive anti-Semitism that characterizes the views of Wiles and the bigots who appear with him.

"This is by far, I think, the most prestigious event in the world," Wiles bragged in his broadcast from Davos. "It's an honor to be here, and we just want to thank President Trump and the White House for extending the invitation to be here. ... There's a lot of people in the news media that are very upset that TruNews is showing up at these places, but it's God's favor on us. Almighty God's favor is on TruNews."

The White House has not yet offered an explanation for its decision to credential TruNews in Davos.

Then there was the event that took place at the Florida Capitol on Tuesday, at which state Sen. Joe Gruters, who also serves as chairman of the Florida Republican Party, plugged a bill designed to stop big social media companies from allegedly silencing conservative voices.

The bill itself, which would expose companies like Facebook and Twitter to civil liability if they censor religious or political speech on their platforms, isn't particularly noteworthy in itself--it's the sort of thing that's trendy among a certain sort of market-skeptical conservatives right now, structurally similar to a federal bill Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley introduced last year. What was particularly noteworthy was who Gruters had there to introduce the bill with him: Laura Loomer, the loony internet conspiracy theorist and self-styled "proud Islamophobe" who has called for a permanent ban on Muslims entering the country, a prohibition of Muslims serving in elected office, and was kicked off most social media platforms last year over her constant inflammatory remarks. 

This is Donald's Base.

Posted by orrinj at 7:43 AM

THE MURPH 2020!:

Interview with Presidential Candidate William Murphy  (Hanover Cable TV)

January 22, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 11:16 PM


Posted by orrinj at 7:49 PM


White Nationalists Arrested ahead of Richmond Rally Planned to Kill Gun-Rights Demonstrators to Spark Civil War (MAIREAD MCARDLE, January 22, 2020, National Review)

Three alleged members of a white supremacist group were plotting to murder demonstrators at Monday's gun rights rally at the Virginia Capitol before they were arrested by the FBI last week, according to court documents.

The men were caught discussing their plans on a hidden camera set up in their Delaware apartment by FBI agents.

"We can't let Virginia go to waste, we just can't," said Patrik J. Mathews, one member of the hate group "the Base" that promotes violence against African-Americans and Jews.

According to authorities, the 27-year-old former Canadian Armed Forces reservist also discussed creating "instability" in Virginia by killing people, derailing trains, poisoning water, and shutting down highways in order to "kick off the economic collapse" and possibly start a "full blown civil war."

Posted by orrinj at 7:48 PM


Trump says reforming Social Security and Medicare is 'the easiest of all things' as he appears open to cutting entitlement spending (Joseph Zeballos-Roig, Jan. 22, 2020, Business Insider)

President Donald Trump left the door open to overhauling Social Security and Medicare in a CNBC interview on Wednesday, calling any attempt to rein in entitlement spending "the easiest of all things."

Posted by orrinj at 7:45 PM


Whistleblower Was Overheard in '17 Discussing With Ally How to Remove Trump (Paul Sperry, 1/22/20, RealClearInvestigations)

Barely two weeks after Donald Trump took office, Eric Ciaramella - the CIA analyst whose name was recently linked in a tweet by the president and mentioned by lawmakers as the anonymous "whistleblower" who touched off Trump's impeachment - was overheard in the White House discussing with another staffer how to remove the newly elected president from office, according to former colleagues. [...]

Democrats based their impeachment case on the whistleblower complaint, which alleges that President Trump sought to help his re-election campaign by demanding that Ukraine's leader investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter in exchange for military aid. 

Trump essentially admitted on live TV to doing the thing he's accused of in the impeachment inquiry (Sonam Sheth and Grace Panetta, Nov 22, 2019, Business Insider)

In a Friday interview on "Fox & Friends," President Donald Trump admitted to holding up military aid to pressure Ukraine's government to investigate a baseless conspiracy theory that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 US election.

No heavy lifting required.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Values We Share (or Why I Am A Republican): Remembering the values we share (BILL WELD  JANUARY 22, 2020, The Bulwark)

The Republican party I joined on the eve of the Reagan era brought different people and ideas together. That was the secret of its widespread support. But although it was diverse, it was not unprincipled. When Republicans remember the good old days, we remember the values we share.

What do we share? First, Republicans are conservatives. We value order, stability, prudence, honesty, and the preservation of our republic. We have always put a premium on respect for established institutions: they can be improved, but they should not be denigrated or assaulted.

What else are we? We are patriots. We love the Constitution, revere the Madisonian system for the political work of art that it is, respect those who defend our way of life, and are watchful against those who would threaten it.

We love freedom, and our heritage of freedom. I've always said I want the government out of your pocketbook and out of your bedroom. That basic American tradition of individual liberty--and personal responsibility, because to be free you must run your own life--goes back to Madison, Jefferson, and the Founders, who gave us not only our laws, but our greatest words.

We are capitalists. We might differ on any number of policies, but we firmly believe there is no such thing as "government money," only taxpayer money. In my time as governor of Massachusetts, I was named one of the two most fiscally conservative governors in the United States by the Cato Institute. But I don't consider it just a matter of pinching pennies. It's about a genuine belief that people are wealthiest and happiest when the government stays away from micromanaging their work, and that if you produce something, it's yours to keep.

And we are republicans, in the original sense: We believe, as Lincoln put it, in government of the people, by the people, and for the people, not that government is a separate entity that dominates its citizens. There's a place for government, but fundamentally it is there to protect your rights, not to dictate what they are.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Lebanon forms government with backing of Hezbollah and allies (Middle East Monitor, January 22, 2020)

The heavily indebted state has been without an effective government since Saad al-Hariri quit as premier in October, prompted by protests against politicians who have collectively led Lebanon into the worst crisis since the 1975-90 war.

New Finance Minister Ghazi Wazni said Lebanon needed foreign aid to save it from an unprecedented situation that had forced people to "beg for dollars" at the banks and fear for their deposits. He also described forthcoming foreign currency sovereign debt maturities as "a fireball".

The Iranian-backed Hezbollah and allies including President Michel Aoun nominated Diab as premier last month after efforts failed to strike a deal with Hariri, Lebanon's main Sunni leader and a traditional ally of the West and Gulf Arab states.

Weeks of wrangling over portfolios among Hezbollah's allies held up an agreement until Tuesday when the heavily armed group delivered an ultimatum to its allies to make a deal or suffer the consequences, sources familiar with the talks said.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


GM's Latest Has Sensors and Room for 6, but No Steering Wheel (Alex Davies, 1/21/20, Wired)

"It's what you would build if there were no cars," said Cruise CEO Dan Ammann. He told the crowd that once the shared service is up and running, it will save users $5,000 a year over the cost of owning a car and driving themselves. He didn't offer details on the math, but the driverless service would likely have to offer significantly cheaper fares than human-powered ride-hail services to make that happen. According to a 2018 AAA study, using Uber or Lyft costs about $20,000 a year--double what it costs to own a car. And given how the ride-hail giants have struggled financially, it's not obvious that ride-hailing, robotic or not, is a great business. Ammann did not offer details on how the service will work, but positioned it as a competitor to the likes of Uber and Lyft.

Ammann also showed an image of the Origin configured to carry packages, with a roll-up metal door in lieu of the metal and glass sliding doors on the passenger version. He offered no details on when Cruise might launch a delivery service, but that could offer another source of revenue if the people-moving business doesn't prove lucrative.

Designing a custom vehicle sets Cruise apart in the self-driving space. For the most part, its competitors have only shown off heavily modified existing cars, like Waymo's Pacifica minivan and Argo's Ford Fusion. Zoox is developing its own, yet to be revealed vehicle, but hasn't said much about how it will take on the complexities of manufacturing.

GM acquired Cruise as a startup in 2016 for a reported $500 million, when it had just 40 employees. Since then, the San Francisco-based outfit has grown more than 20-fold and raised more than $7 billion in funding from GM, Honda, and SoftBank's Vision Fund. It raised its last round, in May, at a $19 billion valuation. That cash has fueled Cruise's massive growth, and helped it field a fleet of modified Chevy Bolts (with human operators up front) that logged a million autonomous miles in San Francisco last year.

It's impossible to overstate deflationary pressures.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


'It's not a crime': French unions threaten more power cuts after huge Paris blackout (The Local, 22 January 2020)

A huge power cut in Paris that left businesses in the dark and residents stuck in lifts was just the latest of over 100 militant acts by workers fighting the French government's pension reform. And there may be more to come if the words of union chiefs are anything to go by.

In all France's electricity providers have lodged over 100 formal complaints linked to "malicious" power cuts since the start of the strike movement against pension reform.

But there may be more to come as the more radical of France's trade unions become more militant in their battle against the government.

"It's not criminal," (ce n'est pas de delinquance) said CGT union chief Philippe Martinez on Wednesday.

When asked on BFM TV if he would urge those militant workers who have been cutting power to residents and businesses to stop Martinez said "no".

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Hostages of History (CARL BILDT, 1/17/20, Project Syndicate)

During the recent flare-up between the United States and Iran, US President Donald Trump tweeted that he was prepared to bomb "52 Iranian sites (representing the 52 American hostages taken by Iran many years ago)." Some of these targets, he added, would be "important to ... the Iranian culture," suggesting that he was willing to strike Iranian national heritage sites.

Trump's tweet suggests that his entire Iran policy is rooted deep in the past, as if actions taken today represent a belated response to wounds inflicted long ago. If so, his administration has something in common with the Iranian regime, which has long dwelled on the real and perceived wounds of bygone eras.

After all, Iranians (and many others) point out ad nauseam that the US had a hand in the 1953 coup that deposed the democratically elected prime minister, Mohammad Mosaddegh, and installed the regime of Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, which itself was toppled in the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Likewise, Iranians note repeatedly that the US assisted Saddam Hussein during Iraq's ruthless war against Iran in the 1980s.

Listening to the litany of grievances on both sides, it is difficult to avoid the impression that both the US and Iran are hostages of history. 

January 21, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 7:20 PM


There is no dark matter. Instead, information has mass, physicist says (PHILIP PERRY, 21 January, 2020, Rightly Understood)

Since the '70s, astronomers and physicists have been unable to identify any evidence of dark matter. One theory is it's all tied up in space-bound objects called MACHOs (Massive Compact Halo Objects). These include black holes, supermassive black holes, brown dwarfs, and neutron stars.

Another theory is that dark matter is made up of a type of non-baryonic matter, called WIMPS (Weakly Interacting Massive Particles). Baryonic matter is the kind made up of baryons, such as protons and neutrons and everything composed of them, which is anything with an atomic nucleus. Electrons, neutrinos, muons, and tau particles aren't baryons, however, but a class of particles called leptons. Even though the (hypothetical) WIMPS would have ten to a hundred times the mass of a proton, their interactions with normal matter would be weak, making them hard to detect.

Then there are those aforementioned neutrinos. Did you know that giant streams of them pass from the Sun through the Earth each day, without us ever noticing? They're the focus of another theory that says that neutral neutrinos, that only interact with normal matter through gravity, are what dark matter is comprised of. Other candidates include two theoretical particles, the neutral axion and the uncharged photino.

Now, one theoretical physicist posits an even more radical notion. What if dark matter didn't exist at all? Dr. Melvin Vopson of the University of Portsmouth, in the UK, has a hypothesis he calls the mass-energy-information equivalence. It states that information is the fundamental building block of the universe, and it has mass. This accounts for the missing mass within galaxies, thus eliminating the hypothesis of dark matter entirely.

Information theory 
To be clear, the idea that information is an essential building block of the universe isn't new. Classical Information Theory was first posited by Claude Elwood Shannon, the "father of the digital age" in the mid-20th century. The mathematician and engineer, well-known in scientific circles--but not so much outside of them, had a stroke of genius back in 1940. He realized that Boolean algebra coincided perfectly with telephone switching circuits. Soon, he proved that mathematics could be employed to design electrical systems.

Shannon was hired at Bell Labs to figure out how to transfer information over a system of wires. He wrote the bible on using mathematics to set up communication systems, thereby laying the foundation for the digital age. Shannon was also the first to define one unit of information as a bit.

There was perhaps no greater proponent of information theory than another unsung paragon of science, John Archibald Wheeler. Wheeler was part of the Manhattan Project, worked out the "S-Matrix" with Niels Bohr and helped Einstein develop a unified theory of physics. In his later years, he proclaimed, "Everything is information." Then he went about exploring connections between quantum mechanics and information theory.

He also coined the phrase "it from bit" or that every particle in the universe emanates from the information locked inside it. At the Santa Fe Institute in 1989, Wheeler announced that everything, from particles to forces to the fabric of spacetime itself "... derives its function, its meaning, its very existence entirely ... from the apparatus-elicited answers to yes-or-no questions, binary choices, bits."

In the Beginning was the Word.

Posted by orrinj at 3:29 PM


Neo-Nazi Terror Group Leader Calls FBI Arrests 'Witch Hunt' (Ben Makuch and Mack Lamoureux, Jan 21 2020, Vice News)

After a nationwide FBI operation resulted in the arrest of eight members of The Base--a neo-Nazi terror group with cells of radical followers around the world--its shadowy leader released a statement on an encrypted chat network.

Roman Wolf--not a real name, but an alias--told followers on what is believed to be one of the group's official propaganda channels that the recent arrests of eight members wouldn't stop his militant organization from continuing its plans preparing for a "race war."

Wolf's defiance comes at a time when eight members of his group across the U.S. face various court cases and potentially lengthy sentences for serious crimes, as The Base continues to exhibit its evolution into a dangerous domestic terror threat on the radar of the FBI.

Posted by orrinj at 3:27 PM


The US Sanctions on Iran Are Causing a Major Humanitarian Crisis (Ahmad Jalalpour, 1/21/20, The Nation)

The plight of those sliding into the category known as "absolute poverty" is even more tragic. According to the Iranian Parliament's Research Center, in fiscal year 2016-17 (calculated in the Iranian calendar), 16 percent of the population lived in absolute poverty, defined as living on or less than $1.08 a day. In 2017-18, the figure increased by an average of 30 percent. That figure must have risen even higher in the past year. This means at least another 10 percent of the population has fallen into absolute poverty in just two years.

All you have to do to see the impact of the sanctions is observe buyers' behavior in municipal stores reserved for fruits and vegetables. "Before, except for the homeless people, you would hardly ever see anyone asking for rotting produce from us," said a manager at one of these stores. "We just threw them into giant bins to be picked up by garbage trucks the next day. Today, for every individual buying our 'normal' produce, twice, sometimes three times as many people could be seen scurrying about until the closing hours when we offer our rejected produce at reduced rates." He said the competition to grab this rejected produce could get quite fierce. "They just need to feed themselves and their family no matter what, pride be damned," he added wryly.

Available data for the economy are hard to come by, but from what is published, the emerging picture is of a society on the brink. For instance, according to the Central Bank of Iran, after a 12 percent growth in GDP in 2016, the first year after the conclusion of the multilateral nuclear agreement (officially, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action), it dropped to 3 percent growth in 2017, followed by a 4 percent contraction in 2018 and a further projected 10 percent contraction in 2019, showing the effect of the new sanctions imposed after Trump's 2018 withdrawal from the JCPOA. This is a cumulative contraction of 14 percent in just two years, which, when combined with the impact of the previous sanctions regime, easily surpasses the Great Depression in its severity and devastating consequences (this year's conditions are expected to be worse than those of the previous two years).
It seems that, for once, Trump is not exaggerating when he describes the sanctions against Iran as "the most severe ever imposed on a country." Indeed, the situation is uniformly bleak for all social and economic indicators. From suicide rates to divorce rates to substance abuse to air and water quality to crime rates, the story is the same.

Posted by orrinj at 3:23 PM


Half of Americans Say Trump Has Personally Invited Election Interference (ANDY KROLL, 1/21/20, Rolling Stone)

President Trump -- who in 2016 invited Russia to "find" Hillary Clinton's "missing" emails ("Russia, if you're listening ..."), who was impeached partly for soliciting Ukraine's help to damage Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, and who has also called on China to interfere in the 2020 campaign -- fared poorly in the NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist Poll. More than half of Americans (56 percent) said he has done little or nothing at all to prepare the country for interference and online propaganda in the upcoming election.

And almost as many people (51 percent) said Trump has personally invited election interference.

Posted by orrinj at 3:14 PM


Trump privately told donors new details about Soleimani airstrike at Mar-a-Lago fundraiser (Colby Itkowitz and David A. Fahrenthold, Jan. 18, 2020, Washington Post)

The official on the line told the president that Soleimani and the Iraqi military leader he was meeting with were "gone" and then hung up, according to Trump.

"I said, 'Where is this guy?' " Trump said. "That was the last I heard from him."

While the dramatic description of Trump's experience watching the strike is new, Trump has spoken at rallies and on Twitter about the Soleimani attack as he hones his reelection talking points on his capability as commander in chief.

In a separate audio clip, Trump is heard boasting about increasing the defense budget by $2.5 trillion -- a massive sum he may have gotten to by adding several years' budgets; the Pentagon budget for fiscal 2020 is $738 billion. To those who criticized his spending and the growing national debt, Trump said: "Who the hell cares about the budget? We're going to have a country."

For most of President Barack Obama's time in office, Republicans seemed to care very much about the budget, making fears around the national debt and deficit their top talking point. They've backed off those concerns under Trump.

...that the Tea Party was just racism in budget hawk dress. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Police: NH man chokes coyote to death after it attacked child near pond (Jim Morelli,  January 21, 2020, Boston 25)

KENSINGTON, N.H. -- A New Hampshire man fought off and eventually killed a coyote that attacked his family Monday near Judes Pond on the Exeter-Kensington line, local police departments confirmed to Boston 25 News. [...]
"There was no interest in it going away. [I] ultimately had to make the decision to become the aggressor and jumped on it, attacked it and [got] it to the ground," O'Reilly said. "When I was able to get on top of it, I put my hand on its snout so it wasn't able to attack me. There was quite a bit of snow on the ground, so I shoved the face into the snow and then eventually was able [to] put my hand on its snout and expire it through suffocation. Ultimately one hand on its windpipe and one hand on its snout did the trick."

O'Reilly was apparently bitten in the arm and chest by the coyote. The child involved was also bitten, though the animal did not break the child's skin due to the snowsuit he was wearing at the time. Since the incident, O'Reilly has already received his first round of rabies shots; he'll have four more follow-up visits with doctors for more.

The father of three said he was running off of adrenaline and instinct when the nearly 10-minute long struggle ensued. He added that he did not take any pleasure in killing the animal, but believed he had no choice but to protect his wife and kids, given the coyote's behavior.

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