May 12, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 12:08 PM


Early universe much brighter than predicted (Andrew Masterson, 5/13/19, Cosmos)

Observations from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope have revealed that some galaxies within the early universe were much brighter than cosmologists had predicted.

Posted by orrinj at 7:46 AM


Trump lashes out at former White House counsel Don McGahn (QUINT FORGEY, 05/11/2019, Politico)

President Donald Trump lashed out at Don McGahn on Saturday, tweeting that he was "Never a big fan" of the former White House counsel amid an ongoing battle between House Democrats and the administration over documents and testimony related to special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation.

"I was NOT going to fire Bob Mueller, and did not fire Bob Mueller. In fact, he was allowed to finish his Report with unprecedented help from the Trump Administration," the president wrote online. "Actually, lawyer Don McGahn had a much better chance of being fired than Mueller. Never a big fan!"

The broadside follows a Friday report by The Wall Street Journal that McGahn rebuffed a request from the White House last month to publicly state that he did not believe the president obstructed justice when Trump ordered McGahn to seek Mueller's firing in June 2017.

According to the redacted version of the special counsel's report released by the Justice Department in April, Trump instructed McGahn to inform Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein that Mueller must be removed. McGahn refused Trump's subsequent request to refute press reports of the president's directive, according to Mueller's report.

Posted by orrinj at 7:36 AM


Palestinian-American lawmaker says Israeli policies pushed her to one-state view (Times of Israel, 5.12/19)

The Israeli government "gave up" on the two-state solution, Rep. Rashida Tlaib, the first Palestinian-American woman to serve in the US Congress, charged in an interview published Friday.

The only Democrat to openly challenge the party's two-state consensus on resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Tlaib, of Michigan, was challenged on whether she had "given up" on a two-state peace in an interview on the Skullduggery podcast.

"I didn't give it up," she said of the two-state solution. "[Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu and his party gave it up, and the Israeli government gave it up."

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She insisted it was Netanyahu who was working to ensure the proposal would not be achievable.

"If Netanyahu got up tomorrow morning and decided, 'You know what? I'm going to take down the walls. I'm not going to expand settlements. Enough is enough, I really want to push toward a two-state solution' -- he has every power to do that. And then people like myself and others will truly believe in that."

Michael Oren Cuts Short a Conversation About Israel (Isaac ChotinerMay 11, 2019, The New Yorker)

Is that what annexing settlements and building more settlements is about? The safety and security of the Jewish people?

It's assuring that you won't be withdrawing from them so fast. Remember, this is a deeply traumatized generation. This is a generation that--virtually everyone in it has lost friends and family members to terror. And Israel, in contrast to every other Western society, becomes more traditional, more religious, and you can't overlook the fact that people are deeply connected to the land of Israel.

Right, I am trying to disaggregate the ideas that this is being done for safety and security and there is no alternative, and that it is being done because people are traditional and religious--

That's my point. It's not just security. It's also ideology, it's also belief.

Do you think that there are moral consequences to those beliefs, if they include increasing settlements in the West Bank?

I have to distinguish between what's right and what's smart.

Increasing settlements is which?

Again, you want to put this in black-and-white terms, but it is not black and white. Increasing settlements where? They are not all the same.

Sure. I just didn't understand what you meant by right versus smart. I didn't mean to interrupt you.

It is definitely our right. I think it is our incontrovertible right as Jews to live anywhere in our ancestral homeland.


No question. No question about it. Anywhere. And a member of the Sioux nation has a right to live on Sioux-nation territory. These are our tribal lands. The cradle of our civilization.

Just to be clear: You were born in New York, correct?

I was.

So you think that you, as a Jewish person born in New York, have a right to be anywhere in Israel--


Plus the West Bank, plus Gaza.

Absolutely. Not Gaza. We can debate whether Gaza is part of the land of Israel.

O.K., Israel plus the West Bank.

Even if you wanted to include Gaza, I'd say absolutely, yeah. The question is what is smart. What's possible.

Who gave you the right to live anywhere you want in the West Bank? That's what I am trying to understand.


Where did you get that right?

It's my heritage for three thousand years. It's the same exact right I have from where I am talking to you. I am talking to you from Jaffa. I live in Jaffa. The same right I have to live in Jaffa I have in [the settlement] Beit El or Efrat, or in Hebron. Exact same right. Take away one right, the other right makes no sense. By the way, P.S., most of the lands of pre-1967 Israel are not even in the Bible. Haifa is not in the Bible; Tel Aviv is not in the Bible.

O.K., I just want to understand this because I don't want to misunderstand it. You are saying there are Palestinians living in various areas of the West Bank right now--

There are, indeed.

--which may or may not at some point become a state. But you are saying that, wherever they are living, they have less right to be there than you as a Jew born in New York.

I didn't say that. Don't impute words to me I didn't say.

I'm sorry, I thought you just said that.

No, I did not say that in any way. Listen, I don't think I want to continue this interview. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:25 AM


Jim Fowler, intrepid host of 'Wild Kingdom' nature series, dies at 89 (HARRISON SMITH, 5/11/19, The Washington Post)

He was charged by a herd of 200 elephants, escaping only with the help of a flatbed truck, and was once knocked unconscious by a surly chimpanzee named Mr. Moke, who punched him "square between the eyes." But neither incident compared to the time a 22-foot anaconda swallowed his arm, up to the shoulder.

"Luckily," said Jim Fowler, the longtime co-host of Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom, "I knew what to do." As the indigenous tribe gathered around him fled the scene, Fowler remained calm, waiting for the anaconda to tire itself out before he wriggled out of its grasp and returned to work, preparing for another episode the show.

For more than two decades, Fowler brought the wonders of the natural world to millions of Americans, mixing entertainment and adventure with storytelling that raised awareness of the planet's biological diversity and environmental woes. He was 89 and had a heart ailment when he died May 8 at his home in Rowayton, Conn., said his son, Mark Fowler.

Standing 6-foot-6 and weighing more than 200 pounds, the elder Fowler was known for swimming through snake-infested waters, diving with sharks and rappelling down remote cliff faces while his partner, zoologist Marlin Perkins, often watched from the Jeep or narrated from the studio -- much to the delight of Tonight Show host Johnny Carson. [...]

Fowler was honorary chairman of the Explorers Club and created several wildlife refuges, including at his former estate in New Canaan, Conn.

In interviews, he sometimes recalled that the first episode of Wild Kingdom nearly ended in disaster. Filmed in Chicago's Lincoln Park, it featured one of the massive harpy eagles that Fowler had captured and trained.

He said he kept the bird on a line to prevent it from escaping and frightening Chicagoans who might mistake the bird for "a pterodactyl." But after the crew encouraged him to let the bird fly free in an effort to improve the shot, Fowler tried an experiment, placing it in a tree but still on the line.

Unfortunately, he told the Omaha World-Herald, a woman and her poodle had made their way into the roped-off filming area. The bird took flight, apparently spotting a meal. "Thank goodness I was able to grab the line," Fowler said. "Had the eagle grabbed the woman or the dog, my career would have been over before it started."

Posted by orrinj at 7:18 AM


RETAIL ROBOTS (MELISSA HELLMAN, 5/11/19, The Seattle Times)

When an autonomous floor scrubber was rolled out in Walmart's Bonney Lake store last month, shoppers mistook the teal blue scrubber zipping down the aisles for a runaway machine, said manager David Klein. "Some customers are a little freaked out."

Klein said the Auto-C robot has relieved his employees of several hours of cleaning every evening, and has allowed him to avoid hiring another maintenance worker on the previously understaffed team. The 4-foot-tall scrubber, which resembles a riding lawn mower but is considerably quieter, uses sensors to scan its environment and to avoid people or objects in its way.

The San Diego-based tech company, called Brain Corp., that makes the Auto-C robot's operating system, also provides the software that powers autonomous floor cleaners at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

At Walmart, the automated machines are just part of a push to bring this pioneer of big-box discounting into the future of brick-and-mortar retail, with implications for its workforce that are still unknown.

Oh, they're known; they're just not accepted because they require finding an alternative way to distribute the wealth we create.

Posted by orrinj at 7:07 AM


GOP candidate Weld talks Trump at Valley News-sponsored forum (DAVID CORRIVEAU, 5/11/19, Valley News)

Near the end of his first visit to the Upper Valley as a 2020 candidate for president on Saturday, former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld estimated that he'd shaken the hands of some 240 people at three diners in Lebanon earlier in the day.

"I didn't meet a single person who didn't express disdain and dismay about Donald Trump," Weld recalled during a midafternoon forum at Hartford High School on Saturday.

The 73-year-old is counting on enough like-minded Republicans to show up for next winter's New Hampshire primary to boost his challenge to the incumbent president.

And just in case the anti-Trump voters aren't enough, Weld has been highlighting his own credentials as a hard-line federal prosecutor and a two-term, tax-slashing governor of Massachusetts; his libertarian stance on gun ownership; and his current policy positions including support for LGBTQ Americans and welcoming instead of demonizing immigrants.

All those issues came up at the forum on Saturday, which the Valley News co-sponsored with news website VtDigger and which the VN's News Editor John Gregg hosted. Gregg worked for Weld as his chief speechwriter when Weld was governor.

More than 100 forum attendees, a mix of New Hampshire and Vermont residents, seemed mostly open to Weld's candidacy -- even Democrats such as Strafford resident John Freitag.

"I like that he's a social liberal and a fiscal conservative, which I think a lot of Vermonters are," Freitag said after the forum. "And I like people who are willing to be forthright in their opinions, even ones I might disagree with. ... He represents the best of the Republican Party -- those who are committed to the Constitution and our republic."

Vermont's current Republican governor, who has often disagreed, politely, with many of Trump's policies and with much of the president's combative style, also listened with interest.