July 1, 2019

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Secret US Border Patrol hate group exposed on Facebook (TRISTAN GREENE, 7/01/19, Next Web)

Investigative journalist A.C. Thompson from ProPublica today exposed a secret Facebook group for US Border Patrol agents full of racist and misogynistic comments and memes, including calls for violent action against immigrants and Democrats.

The group, called "I'm 10-15," a reference to the Border Patrol code for "officer in custody of alien," has over 9,500 members and began in 2016. According to its introduction page it exists to serve as a Facebook "family" for Border Patrol agents:

Per the ProPublica report, agents on numerous occasions engaged in commentary or shared memes illustrating a community-wide hatred for undocumented immigrants, liberals, and Democrats.

Posted by orrinj at 2:42 PM


U.S. manufacturing stumbles under weight of trade tensions (Lucia Mutikani, 7/01/19, Reuters) 

U.S. manufacturing activity slowed to near a three-year low in June, with a measure of new orders received by factories tumbling, amid growing anxiety over an escalation in trade tensions between the United States and China.

Posted by orrinj at 12:42 PM


Posted by orrinj at 12:32 PM


Early life illuminated in 3D (Cosmos, 7/01/19)

Researchers at Rockefeller University in the US have used stem cells to create a 3D model of early embryonic tissues, allowing them to simulate developmental processes as they occur in time and space.

Writing in the journal Nature Cell Biology, they say they hope this tool will make it possible to further elucidate the processes that guide embryonic growth, and ultimately lead to innovations that promote healthy pregnancies.

...and on the 8th day, God printed shower curtain rings...
Posted by orrinj at 12:29 PM


John Bolton appears surprised by report Trump might propose North Korean nuclear freeze (Peter Weber, 7/01/19, The Week)

On Sunday, after President Trump's meeting with North Korea leader Kim Jong Un at the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) between North and South Korea, The New York Times reported that the Trump administration has being working for weeks on an offer for Kim to exchange some U.S. sanctions relief for what amounted to "a nuclear freeze, one that essentially enshrines the status quo, and tacitly accepts the North as a nuclear power, something administration officials have often said they would never stand for."

Chief among those administration officials is National Security Adviser John Bolton, who did not travel with Trump to the DMZ. While Fox News host Tucker Carlson and daughter Ivanka Trump were part of Trump's official party to the DMZ, Bolton "had been sent, or sent himself, to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia," The Guardian reports. And Bolton tweeted Monday that the Times report must be wrong -- the other possibility presumably being that Bolton is not privy to Trump's national security plans.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Everything Wrong with the Reagan Administration (Marcus Witcher, April 2019, Libertarianism.org)

When Reagan took office, the US economy was struggling under what was known as "stagflation" - high unemployment coupled with high levels of inflation. President Jimmy Carter had appointed Paul Volcker as Chairman of the Federal Reserve and Volcker was determined to get inflation under control by raising interest rates. Reagan, having read Milton Friedman and others, agreed with Volcker's approach and gave the Fed Chairman room to implement his monetary policy.[15] As expected, raising the interest rates sent the economy into recession and left Reagan with a low approval rating. [...]

Of course, Reagan also faced the challenge of getting spending cuts through a Democratic House - something that would prove extremely difficult. As such, Reagan decided to seek additional revenues in 1982 by raising taxes. He and Speaker of the House Tip O'Neil held a press conference in the Rose Garden explaining the legislation. The image alarmed some of his most ardent supporters who viewed Reagan's support for tax increases a betrayal of the Reagan Revolution.[19] Reagan explained to those who were concerned that "more than three-fourths of the revenue raised comes from increased taxpayer compliance and the closing of tax loopholes." Reagan would also maintain that O'Neil had promised him three dollars' worth of spending reductions for every dollar in tax increases. A promise - if it was indeed made - that would not be kept.

Despite the tax increases, by early 1983 the American economy was beginning to rebound. Volcker's hard medicine had tamed inflation and the Reagan tax cuts were now fully in effect. President Carter deserves some credit for appointing Volcker and for deregulating the transportation industry. Reagan built on Carter's deregulations ending price controls on gasoline. Furthermore, Reagan further decreased tax rates and simplified the tax code when he signed the Tax Reform Act of 1986.[20] The combination of sound monetary policy, tax cuts, deregulation, and increased military spending resulted in impressive rates of economic growth from 1983 through the end of the Reagan administration. Unemployment also began to decline as the American economy produced around 19 million new jobs from 1983 to 1988.[21]

Although the Reagan economic record is impressive, critics have claimed that Reagan did little to end the flow of manufacturing jobs overseas and that his policies exacerbated income inequality. The main criticism of Reagan, however, is that his administration increased the national debt by 186 percent. Reagan's insistence on dramatically increasing the defense budget (by around 35 percent) and his inability to decrease domestic spending led to an explosion of the national debt. During his administration the debt increased by $1.86 trillion.[22]

Another aspect of Reagan's economic legacy was his ability to compromise with O'Neil to save Social Security. Although Reagan had denounced the federal government's role in Americans' retirements, he signed the Social Security Reform Act of 1983 that "increased the Social Security payroll tax, raised the retirement age for recipients to sixty-seven, required federal employees to join the system, and placed taxes on the benefits of higher-income recipients"[23] Upon signing the bill, Reagan exclaimed that this "demonstrates for all time our nation's ironclad commitment to Social Security."[24] On the one hand, Reagan could be praised for his willingness to compromise his principles and work across the aisle to save a program that most Americans supported. [...]

Perhaps Reagan's greatest contribution to our political discourse today was his unflinching belief in immigration as a source of American greatness. Reagan signed comprehensive immigration reform in 1986 that granted almost 3 million people amnesty.[33] In his farewell address, Reagan described the United States as a shining city on a hill: "It was a tall, proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, windswept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace; a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity." Reagan continued that "if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here."[34]

Likewise, in his "Brotherhood of Man," speech, Reagan spoke about his desire to see a world where the people of the globe lived in harmony. Reagan insisted that the US was "the one spot on earth where we have the brotherhood of man." The former president declared that "if we continue with this proudly, this brotherhood of man [will be] made up from people representative of every corner of the earth, maybe one day boundaries all over the earth will disappear as people cross boundaries and find out that, yes, there is a brotherhood of man in every corner."[35] In the midst of the Trump presidency it is important to remember that an alternative Republican vision on immigration, trade, and general human flourishing exists. While Reagan's policies were a mixed bag, he continues to provide timeless rhetoric that elevates the individual above the collective and preaches tolerance rather than exclusion.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The New Science of Building Baseball Superstars: "Sabermetrics" changed the national pastime. Now another technological revolution is transforming the game, for good or ill. (JACK HAMILTON, JULY 2019, The Atlantic)

In the mvp machine: How Baseball's New Nonconformists Are Using Data to Build Better Players, Ben Lindbergh and Travis Sawchik set out to introduce the world to what they herald as yet another revolution, which represents a synthesis of sorts. Writers at The Ringer and FiveThirtyEight, respectively, they are at once steeped in advanced analytics and fixated on player improvement. As their subtitle indicates, they explore a growing movement within baseball to use statistical metrics, biomechanical data, and cutting-edge forms of player observation to help players hone their skills.

Their book is explicitly cast in the mold of Moneyball, to which the authors devote a substantial portion of their opening chapter. As Lindbergh and Sawchik rightly point out, Lewis had surprisingly little to say about player development. The philosophy that Beane brought to the A's organization was guided not so much by what players could be as by what they were--it was about how to construct a roster out of players whose specific usefulness had been undervalued in the market. The Beane model didn't have much to offer players who were interested in actually improving, aside from maybe "try walking more" and "don't bunt so much." By contrast, "this new phase is dedicated to making players better," Lindbergh and Sawchik write. "It's Betterball. And it's taking over."

The authors report from the front lines of a technological transformation in how we look at baseball itself. A sport that has lately been understood primarily through numbers on a spreadsheet is paying newly fine-grained attention to the game as a human activity. Among the innovations discussed are a high-speed camera called the Edgertronic, which can capture minuscule variations in pitch release; a Doppler-radar system called TrackMan, used to provide input on batters' swings and pitchers' spin rates; and even more bizarre machines with even more Marvel Comics-sounding names, such as Proteus and Rapsodo, whose stories I won't spoil here. The diamond has become a panopticon, and if this strikes you as a bit creepy, you're probably right, but you also probably don't play baseball for a living.

Lindbergh and Sawchik argue that these machines and the voluminous bodies of data they yield have helped players refine their skills and extend their careers with unprecedented effectiveness. They cite reclamation projects galore, like the relief pitcher Craig Breslow, who found himself nearly out of baseball before reinventing his release point with the help of the aforementioned Rapsodo and a device called a motusTHROW. And then there are star players who have ascended to superstar status through Betterball techniques. The MVPs of the book's title are the Boston Red Sox's Mookie Betts and José Altuve of the Houston Astros, the franchise that the authors hail as Major League Baseball's premier Betterball practitioner. Betts won the American League MVP Award in 2018 after coming under the tutelage of the Betterball swing guru Doug Latta, and Altuve won the award the previous season while leading his team to a World Series victory.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The "Child-Mothers" of America's Concentration Camps (Sady Doyle, Jun 27, 2019, Medium)

There are sorrows in this world that put speech beyond us. We've spent the past week flooded with them: Concentration camps are very real in our country, and they're being used to house children. Children are being left in dirty diapers, with matted hair and lice, "wearing clothes caked with snot and tears" untreated influenza and other diseases ravage the camps, and five children have already died. In one incident, a roomful of children was told to share a lice comb, and when they lost the comb, their beds were taken away.

And all that may seem like the limit, like the most barbarity you could stand to hear about, but it isn't. Because after you've absorbed all of that, then you hear the term "child-mothers."

"Child-mothers" doesn't mean mothers of children. It means mothers who are children. And they're locked up in the child detention camps, too. Many of them are survivors of sexual abuse, many have already undergone some kind of horror on their journey, and the conditions in the camp now put them and their babies at risk.