August 7, 2017

Posted by orrinj at 6:43 PM


This insanely fast robot will make Adidas shirts cheaper - and kill hundreds of jobs (Rachel Kaser, 8/07/17, The Next Web)

A robotic sewing system will soon produce hundreds of thousands of shirts for Adidas, which could potentially change textile manufacture.

The machine -- called a "Sewbot" uses cameras and bots to cut and sew the soft fabric, a task which has eluded other forms of automation. Until now, the task was still best-suited to humans with sewing machines. According to Softwear:

The machines use a combination of cameras and needles to track the placement of a fabric before sewing the apparel at a reported higher level of accuracy than the human eye.

Posted by orrinj at 6:07 PM


Peter Thiel Has Been Hedging His Bet On Donald Trump (Ryan Mac, 8/07/17, BuzzFeed News)

Donald Trump's most prominent Silicon Valley supporter has distanced himself from the president in multiple private conversations, describing at different points this year an "incompetent" administration, and one that may well end in "disaster."

Posted by orrinj at 6:04 PM


GM is selling a $5,000 electric car in China (Peter Valdes-Dapena, August 7, 2017, CNN Money)

General Motors will start selling a tiny electric car in China this week that will cost about $5,300 after national and local electric vehicle incentives, according to GM.

Posted by orrinj at 4:02 PM


Trump says his political base is 'stronger than ever' despite polling to the contrary (John Wagner August 7, 2017, Washington Post)

Among the questions Trump posed to his supporters: "Do you find the news to be generally negative/hateful?" and "Do you feel that you cannot publically admit that you support Trump?"

A poll last week from Quinnipiac University found that just 33 percent of voters overall approve of Trump's job performance, a new low. Notably, support among white voters without a college degree -- a key Trump demographic -- had fallen off as well.

Just 43 percent of that group approved of Trump's job performance while 50 percent disapproved, the Quinnipiac poll found. In June, 53 percent of white voters without a college degree approved of the president.

In last year's election against Democrat Hillary Clinton, 66 percent of whites with no college degree voted for Trump, according to exit polls.

None of the racial stuff works as policy.

Posted by orrinj at 3:52 PM


Three Renewable Energy Numbers to Impress Your Friends With: 7, 43, 50 (John Rogers, 8/06/17, Ecowatch)

Wind's Growth = 7 [...]

Growth in renewable energy in recent years has meant we produced almost seven times as much wind-powered electricity in the U.S. in 2016 as we did in 2007. And wind's share of our national electricity generation increased from 0.8 percent to 5.5 percent.

All told, the tens of thousands of wind turbines dotting the landscape generate enough to cover the electricity needs of some 25 million typical American homes. [...]

Solar's Growth = 43

Recent gains have in some ways been even more impressive for solar. The baseline is maybe a little tough to pin down (and our own calculations suggest an even greater growth), but the new report says that we got 43 times as much electricity from solar in 2016 as in 2007. [...]

States Involved = 50

Posted by orrinj at 3:48 PM


With Trump in the White House, Obama science experts operate shadow network to press their positions (LEV FACHER, AUGUST 7, 2017, Stat)

Nearly all of the Obama administration's science staff has departed the White House since January, and the Trump administration has moved slowly to replace them. In the meantime, however, an unofficial shadow office, stocked with Obama loyalists, is quietly at work.

The network, described to STAT by officials from the previous administration who are involved, is informal yet organized, allowing for a far-reaching if largely inconspicuous effort to continue advocating for the Obama science agenda.

Participants have provided counsel to Democratic lawmakers and their staffs on Capitol Hill, and they have held group-wide strategy sessions much in the same fashion as they did when they worked out of a fourth-floor wing in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, adjacent to the White House.

At a time when the Trump administration has flouted the advice of the broader scientific community, they see themselves as filling a void within the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, which has been serving the president since 1976.

Posted by orrinj at 6:40 AM


BELICHICK HACKS NFL TRAINING CAMP (Ross Tucker, 8/07/17, Sports on Earth)

Three joint practice sessions with other teams during one training camp? It appears to be unprecedented, although accurate records aren't really kept in that regard.

The reasoning traces back to the new CBA with the NFL players union that was signed back in 2011. It cut back significantly on the amount of practice time each team could have with its players, including eliminating infamous two-a-day padded practices.

Belichick's solution? Make the most of the limited available time that you do have by getting better work in against other opponents.

The intensity of a joint practice far exceeds that of a regular practice, because the guys you are hitting are no longer your teammates. They're the "other guys."

Plus, it gives the coaches for both teams the chance to better evaluate their personnel against a larger sample size of opponents, whether that is during the one-on-one periods, seven-on-seven periods, or even in the eleven-on-eleven team periods. The more players you can watch compete against the competition, the better idea you have of what they can do in a game.

The fact that different opponents have different schemes and fronts only adds to the number of variables you can introduce to your team to get them ready for the season and evaluate their strengths and weaknesses.

As the expression goes, don't work harder, work smarter.

Or in Belichick's case, he has his teams working better because they aren't allowed to work longer. It's smart and something more teams should strongly consider to get the best quality work possible within the confines of the current CBA.

Posted by orrinj at 6:34 AM


Russia's Perpetual Geopolitics (Stephen Kotkin, May/June 2016, Foreign Affairs)

Throughout, the country has been haunted by its relative backwardness, particularly in the military and industrial spheres. This has led to repeated frenzies of government activity designed to help the country catch up, with a familiar cycle of coercive state-led industrial growth followed by stagnation. Most analysts had assumed that this pattern had ended for good in the 1990s, with the abandonment of Marxism-Leninism and the arrival of competitive elections and a buccaneer capitalist economy. But the impetus behind Russian grand strategy had not changed. And over the last decade, Russian President Vladimir Putin has returned to the trend of relying on the state to manage the gulf between Russia and the more powerful West.

With the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, Moscow lost some two million square miles of sovereign territory--more than the equivalent of the entire European Union (1.7 million square miles) or India (1.3 million). Russia forfeited the share of Germany it had conquered in World War II and its other satellites in Eastern Europe--all of which are now inside the Western military alliance, along with some advanced former regions of the Soviet Union, such as the Baltic states. Other former Soviet possessions, such as Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Ukraine, cooperate closely with the West on security matters. Notwithstanding the forcible annexation of Crimea, the war in eastern Ukraine, and the de facto occupation of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Russia has had to retreat from most of Catherine the Great's so-called New Russia, in the southern steppes, and from Transcaucasia. And apart from a few military bases, Russia is out of Central Asia, too.

Russia is still the largest country in the world, but it is much smaller than it was, and the extent of a country's territory matters less for great-power status these days than economic dynamism and human capital--spheres in which Russia has also declined. Russian dollar-denominated GDP peaked in 2013 at slightly more than $2 trillion and has now dropped to about $1.2 trillion thanks to cratering oil prices and ruble exchange rates. To be sure, the contraction measured in purchasing power parity has been far less dramatic. But in comparative dollar-denominated terms, Russia's economy amounts to a mere 1.5 percent of global GDP and is just one-15th the size of the U.S. economy. Russia also suffers the dubious distinction of being the most corrupt developed country in the world, and its resource-extracting, rent-seeking economic system has reached a dead end.

The geopolitical environment, meanwhile, has become only more challenging over time, with continuing U.S. global supremacy and the dramatic rise of China. And the spread of radical political Islam poses concerns, as about 15 percent of Russia's 142 million citizens are Muslim and some of the country's predominantly Muslim regions are seething with unrest and lawlessness. For Russian elites who assume that their country's status and even survival depend on matching the West, the limits of the current course should be evident.

They never get tired of losing nor we of beating them.

Posted by orrinj at 6:23 AM


Renault forms new joint venture company in Iran (Reuters, 8/07/17) 

French carmaker Renault (RENA.PA) said on Monday it had signed a new joint venture deal in Iran following an initial partnership agreement struck last year, which Renault said would boost its growth in the country.

Western companies, including Renault and French rival PSA (PEUP.PA), returned to do business in Iran last year after an international deal to lift sanctions in return for curbs on Tehran's nuclear activities.

Posted by orrinj at 6:21 AM


The Congressional Map Is Historically Biased Toward The GOP (David Wasserman, 8/07/17, 538)

When Democrats think about their party's problems on the political map, they tend to think of President Trump's ability to win the White House despite losing the popular vote and Republicans' potent efforts to gerrymander congressional districts. But their problems extend beyond the Electoral College and the House: The Senate hasn't had such a strong pro-GOP bias since the ratification of direct Senate elections in 1913.

Even if Democrats were to win every single 2018 House and Senate race for seats representing places that Hillary Clinton won or that Trump won by less than 3 percentage points -- a pretty good midterm by historical standards -- they could still fall short of the House majority and lose five Senate seats.