March 9, 2017

Posted by orrinj at 5:39 PM


What is a species? Ornithologists consider ways to define it. (Eva Botkin-Kowacki, MARCH 9, 2017, CS Monitor)

Determining that, say dogs and cats, are different species isn't difficult. The two species of carnivorans don't just look and act very different, they also can't produce viable hybrid offspring. 

Most biologists use exactly that criteria to draw the line between species, whether or not the two groups can reproduce and yield fertile hybrids. 

The biological species concept, as it's called, seems simple enough. But it's not perfect.

To resolve such questions of speciation, biologists have dug into the genomes of organisms to see how readily two groups interbreed. But there's even ambiguity there. For example, ornithologists agree that the blue winged warbler and the golden winged warbler are distinct species. But their nuclear ge  nomes show remarkable similarities.

So now we're left to just make up pretend criteria.

Posted by orrinj at 4:56 PM


Al Qaeda appeals for help to repel Houthis in central Yemen (Reuters, 3/09/17)

Yemen's local al Qaeda wing appealed for help on Thursday to fend off an offensive by the armed Houthi movement in central Yemen, and accused the United States of coordinating attacks with the Iran-aligned group, according to an online statement.

Posted by orrinj at 3:36 PM


Trump ally Farage visits embassy where Julian Assange lives (MAX GREENWOOD, 03/09/17. The Hill)

A British politician who has emerged as a close ally of President Trump on Thursday visited the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where embattled WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is living, BuzzFeed News reported.

Nigel Farage, the former United Kingdom Independence Party leader and a top advocate for Britain's exit from the European Union, reportedly spent about 40 minutes at the embassy.

He told BuzzFeed News as he was leaving that he could not remember what he was doing there and refused to answer questions on whether he had met with Assange.

WikiLeaks released hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman last year during the presidential race, a series of leaks that damaged Clinton's candidacy.
Assange never explicitly endorsed Trump, but WikiLeaks's Twitter account has at times sought to defend him and attack his enemies.

Posted by orrinj at 12:18 PM


U.S. household net worth rose to $92.8 trillion in fourth-quarter: Fed (Reuters, 3/09/17) 

A continued rise in U.S. equities pushed the net worth of U.S. households to $92.8 trillion in the fourth quarter of last year, a report by the Federal Reserve showed on Thursday.

Posted by orrinj at 12:11 PM


Trump Likes Tweet Claiming Attorney General Sessions Committed Perjury (Lukas Mikelionis, March 9, 2017, Heat Street)

Last night, Trump "liked" a tweet from Fox Nation with a headline reading "Franken Says He Thinks Sessions Committed Perjury". The "liked" story is about Senator Al Franken, a liberal Democrat, accusing Attorney General Sessions of perjuring himself during his confirmation hearing when he claimed he had no meetings with Russian officials.

Posted by orrinj at 8:18 AM


Oil prices dive 5 percent as U.S. crude inventories balloon (Devika Krishna Kumar, 3/08/17, Reuters)

Oil prices plunged 5 percent to their lowest levels this year on Wednesday as U.S. crude inventories surged much more than expected to a record high, stoking concerns a global glut could persist even as OPEC tries to prop up prices with output curbs. [...]

The big daily price slide could signal a steep downward move if speculators are beginning to unwind long positions in crude oil, which were close to a record, traders and analysts said.

The Fed is about to make a big mistake...again....

Posted by orrinj at 8:09 AM


Authorities looked into Manafort protégé (KENNETH P. VOGEL and DAVID STERN, 03/08/17, Politico)

The operative, Konstantin Kilimnik, came under scrutiny from officials at the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the State Department partly because of at least two trips he took to the U.S. during the presidential campaign, according to three international political operatives familiar with the agencies' interest in Kilimnik.

Kilimnik, a joint Russian-Ukrainian citizen who trained in the Russian army as a linguist, told operatives in Kiev and Washington that he met with Manafort during an April trip to the United States. And, after a late summer trip to the U.S., Kilimnik suggested that he had played a role in gutting a proposed amendment to the Republican Party platform that would have staked out a more adversarial stance towards Russia, according to a Kiev operative.

Posted by orrinj at 7:37 AM


The Only Sovereignty that Truly Matters in Matters of Trade (DON BOUDREAUX, MARCH 8, 2017, Cafe Hayek)

By far the best and surest solution to this problem is for the U.S. to adopt, unconditionally, a policy of unilateral free trade.  Because such a policy would render U.S. membership in the WTO (and, indeed, in all trade agreements) pointless, our government could withdraw from that organization.  American consumers would be free to buy from whichever suppliers offer them the best deals, while American producers would be free to sell to whichever buyers make them the best offers.  With our market open on equal terms to any and all merchants, foreign and domestic, other governments would have no cause to complain that their producers are "unfairly" excluded from the American market.  And our policy - being unconditional and unilateral - would leave foreign merchants completely free to compete for the business of our consumers regardless of the number or types of restraints that those merchants' governments inflict on their citizens.

Posted by orrinj at 7:32 AM


The Crumbling of ISIS (James Wimberley, March 8, 2017, Washington Monthly)

The self-proclaimed caliphate will be gone in a few months. It may survive as a non-territorial conspiracy, a low-budget and even more extreme rival to al-Qaeda. But they don't have the latter's funding, organization, or experience. The attraction of ISIS to alienated young radical Muslim men across the world depended crucially on the caliphate claim, not just to statehood but empire. This absolutely required control of territory. I would not put it past them to pull a Jonestown rather than submit to shameful surrender. Not many of their enemies will be ready to leave them alive.

The end of the fake caliphate will be a victory for Obama's proxy strategy, though Trump will surely claim it. In retrospect, it was bound to fail. A claim to universal dominion exercised by forced conversion, enslavement, and massacre of everybody in its reach cannot possibly work. 

Critics of the war failed to understand that the ideology of ISIS made it impossible for them to succeed.

Posted by orrinj at 7:09 AM


Immigration projected to drive growth in U.S. working-age population through at least 2035 (JEFFREY S. PASSEL AND D'VERA COHN, 3/08/17, Pew Research)

The number of adults in the prime working ages of 25 to 64 - 173.2 million in 2015 - will rise to 183.2 million in 2035, according to Pew Research Center projections. That total growth of 10 million over two decades will be lower than the total in any single decade since the Baby Boomers began pouring into the workforce in the 1960s. The growth rate of working-age adults will also be markedly reduced.

The largest segment of working-age adults - those born in the U.S. whose parents also were born in the U.S. - is projected to decline from 2015 to 2035, both in numbers and as a share of the working-age population. The Center's projections show a reduction of 8.2 million of these adults, from 128.3 million in 2015 to 120.1 million in 2035.

That numerical loss will be partially offset by an increase in the number of working-age U.S.-born adults with immigrant parents, who are projected to number 24.6 million in 2035, up from 11.1 million in 2015.

But perhaps the most important component of the growth in the working-age population over the next two decades will be the arrival of future immigrants. The number of working-age immigrants is projected to increase from 33.9 million in 2015 to 38.5 million by 2035, with new immigrant arrivals accounting for all of that gain. (The number of current immigrants of working age is projected to decline as some will turn 65, while others are projected to leave the country or die.) Without these new arrivals, the number of immigrants of working age would decline by 17.6 million by 2035, as would the total projected U.S. working-age population, which would fall to 165.6 million.

Posted by orrinj at 7:05 AM


Chinese media confuse Trump satire with news (Sherisse Pham, March 9, 2017, CNN)

An explosive headline about President Donald Trump rippled through Chinese media this week.

But the outlets reporting it overlooked one important point -- the story wasn't real.

Its source was a well regarded U.S. publication: The New Yorker. Chinese news websites slipped up by taking as fact a satirical article by author and comedian Andy Borowitz.

Posted by orrinj at 7:00 AM


British FM: Alternative to two-state solution is apartheid (AFP, March 9, 2017)

"What we are saying is that you have to have a two-state solution or else you have a kind of apartheid system," Johnson said in an interview published in the English-language daily The Jerusalem Post.

Posted by orrinj at 5:21 AM


Christian Hip-Hop Still Isn't Quite Sure What to Make of Chance the Rapper (IMADE NIBOKUN, 3/07/17, LA Weekly)

"What Chance did," says Propaganda, a veteran emcee and spoken-word artist from West Covina, "is causing us to answer a greater question, which is: What is Christian music? And what makes an artist Christian? At the end of the day, we have yet to actually answer that."

Christian music, Propaganda explains, is unique in that "it's the only musical genre that is defined by its content. Every other genre is defined by its sound. So, if it's defined by its content, how can you not say that Chance or Kendrick [Lamar] put out a Christian album?" [...]

This unfruitful quest to please the gatekeepers of Christian hip-hop may be why some CHH artists feel disgruntled by Chance the Rapper's success. "Some of it is jealousy," DJ Wade-O, a longtime DJ and Christian hip-hop tastemaker, admits via email. "You have a guy who didn't really come up in CHH per se, reaching the highest level of success in the music industry and saying he is a Christian rapper, yet he curses in his music and has a lot of content that is not really Christian. A lot of us have been grinding for years, and so I totally understand how someone being successful but not really being totally 'sold out' to the Lord would ruffle feathers."

Canon, a rapid-fire lyricist in the Christian hip-hop scene, is dismissive of some of his peers' criticisms of his fellow Chicagoan, Chance. "There's always going to be an artist [that says] I've been putting out content, I've been rapping about Jesus, I've been rapping [from] a faith-based perspective my entire career [but] I don't get any kind of awards," he says. "First and foremost, you have to look into why we do what we do. We don't ... rap about what we rap about for awards or for a pat on a back."

Sketch the Journalist, a writer who documents Christian hip-hop, thinks many Christian rappers feel more conflicted than jealous regarding Chance's success. "Some people see Chance as a 'baby Christian' just trying to find his way and are thus open to showing him grace as he works things out on a public stage," he writes via email. "Others view him as a more lukewarm Christian and potentially dangerous from a 'follow-his-lead' perspective."

Chance's authenticity -- his willingness to mix the sacred and profane, to explore doubt as much as faith -- has, in some ways, exposed what's inauthentic about Christian music. "Just because you're making music that you deem acceptable doesn't mean you're living a Christian life," Propaganda says. "I know for a fact that a number of Christian artists, the people who are writing these songs, are not believers. They're just writing songs because they know [their audience will] like them."

Lyrical content aside, Chance's music has the potential to change Christian hip-hop in other ways. His use of gospel choirs might free up African-American Christian rappers to dig deeper into their cultural roots. Christian hip-hop is often funded out of the pockets of white evangelicals to appeal to predominantly white Christian youth groups, which can put black emcees in an uncomfortable place.

Posted by orrinj at 5:11 AM


For Trump, it's not business, it's personnel (Jonathan Swan, 3/08/17,  Axios)

The Trump administration has a personnel problem. Multiple government agencies are in a state of staffing gridlock, with cabinet secretaries having their chosen employees routinely returned by the White House's Office of Personnel Management. Steve Mnuchin at Treasury, Rex Tillerson at State, General Mattis at Defense, it's a problem across the Cabinet.

Why this matters: The failure to fill lower-level staff directly impacts the ability of government to function. Career people are working away, but senior political appointees lack their own staff. They're less effective -- and operating in a climate of distrust -- until they've got their team around them.

One example: Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who was only confirmed a week ago, has already taken his complaints directly to the President. According to a source briefed on the incident, Zinke went to Trump and demanded his staff be approved. Trump replied that Zinke will get his people "as long as they're our people," the source said. the quality of the loyalists.