September 1, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 6:52 PM


'Poppycock!': Federal Judge Bars CBP Employees From Screening Asylum-Seekers (Vanessa Romo, 9/01/20, NPR)

U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents lack the training to take over the initial processing of asylum claims, a federal judge wrote in a ruling filed Monday.

For nearly 20 years, officers from Citizenship and Immigration Services have conducted all interviews with asylum-seekers and made what are called "credible fear determinations" for those who arrive at the nation's borders while fleeing to the U.S. to escape persecution.

But in January, Department of Homeland Security officials issued a memorandum delegating authority from CIS to Customs and Border Protection to allow CBP agents to handle the early screenings, arguing that their training was comparable to that of CIS. CBP and CIS are both agencies within the department.

"Poppycock!" U.S. District Judge Richard Leon wrote in his opinion blocking CBP from conducting the interviews of asylum-seekers.

Posted by orrinj at 3:42 PM


Michael Flynn's Trial Judge Wastes No Time After D.C. Circuit Win, Orders Lawyers to Prepare for Oral Arguments (MATT NAHAM, Sep 1st, 2020, Law & Crime)

It didn't take long for the federal judge presiding over former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn's trial to order the parties to the criminal case to provide updates on where things stand and to come to an agreement on the path forward.

U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan, just one day after the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit declined to force him to dismiss the case, issued a minute order. Sullivan ordered Team Flynn, the Department of Justice and court-appointed amicus curiae John Gleeson to provide a joint status report--including a briefing schedule--by Sept. 21 at the latest.

Posted by orrinj at 1:21 PM


Want free checking? Chances are the nearest credit union has it  (Robin Saks Frankel, Mar. 13, 2017, Bankrate)

If you're paying a monthly fee for your checking account, the big question is: Why? Make that: WHY??! Free checking is becoming more available every year, and that's particularly true at the nation's credit unions, Bankrate finds.

According to our 2017 Credit Union Checking Survey, 84 percent of credit union checking accounts now come with no monthly maintenance fees. That's a jump from 72 percent two years ago.

If you are one of the few paying for checking, it's time to do some serious shopping around.

When there are fees, they're easy enough to dodge. The survey found that an overwhelming 98 percent of standalone checking accounts at credit unions are either free or pretty close to it.

That means credit union accounts that have fees allow you to avoid those monthly charges if you meet certain criteria, such as having a companion account, signing up for direct deposit or maintaining a certain amount of transaction activity.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Russia's Only Aircraft Carrier is Total JunkKuznetsov rarely goes to sea and conducted just six patrols between 1991 and 2015. During a 2016 mission off of Syria, the ship's air wing lost two jets in just three weeks. (David Axe, 9/01/20, National Interest)

The aging, unreliable and now fire-ravaged Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov appears decreasingly likely ever to re-enter front-line service with the Russian fleet. Russia's leaders are eyeing two potential replacements for the damaged flattop.

But the cost could scuttle the replacement plan before it really gets underway.

The 60,000-tons-displacement Kuznetsov commissioned in 1990. Problems plagued the ship from the beginning. One of the carrier's major weaknesses is her lack of catapults for launching her fighters. Another is her powerplant. The vessel is powered by steam turbines and turbo-pressurized boilers that Defense Industry Daily generously described as "defective."

Her pipes are bad. "When it's this cold, water freezes everywhere including pipes which may cause a rupture," English Russia reported. "To prevent this, they just don't supply almost 60 percent of the cabins with water (neither in winter nor in summer). The situation with latrines is just as bad. The ship has over 50 latrines [for 1,900 crew] but half of them are closed."

Kuznetsov rarely goes to sea and conducted just six patrols between 1991 and 2015. During a 2016 mission off of Syria, the ship's air wing lost two jets in just three weeks.

Before late 2018, Moscow planned on extending the service lives of Kuznetsov and other warships from the 1980s in order to complement the newer, smaller vessels.

But Kuznetsov in October 2018 suffered serious damage at the 82nd Repair Shipyard in Roslyakovo, a northern port city, when the PD-50 dry-dock sank while the carrier was aboard for repairs.

We face no strategic threats.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Our Post-Privacy World (Thomas A. Bass, September 1, 2020, American Scholar)

During the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, as we abandon cities and face-to-face encounters and move toward digital marketplaces, "there is going to be no privacy," Kosinski says. "We are already living in the post-privacy world."

In 2002, the United States began a mass detection program based on the concept of predictive policing. Called Total Information Awareness (TIA), it was the "biggest surveillance program in the history of the United States," said Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon), whose Senate Select Committee on Intelligence had nominal oversight. Although TIA surveillance supposedly ended in 2003, after predictive policing had been discredited as little more than racial profiling, The New York Times reported in 2012 that a variant of the program was still "quietly thriving" at the National Security Agency.

Proposed in 2002, shortly after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, TIA was the brainchild of Rear Admiral John Poindexter, a former national security adviser to Ronald Reagan and a major player in the Iran-Contra scandal. Poindexter had been banished to a K Street consultancy until he managed to get back into the Pentagon as director of the newly created Information Awareness Office. From there, he launched a raft of surveillance programs and set about developing online futures markets that could be used to predict terrorist attacks by monitoring betting pools on future events. This "terrorism futures market," along with the divine overreach of his ambitions, forced Poindexter's resignation in 2003. But we know from Edward Snowden's revelations that mass surveillance continued unabated.

The Information Surveillance Center along the Ho Chi Minh Trail has been resurrected as the Utah Data Center built along the Mormon Trail in Bluffdale, Utah. This is where the NSA, in a $2 billion facility opened in 2019, is gathering the data used by "people sniffers" to monitor everything from computer keystrokes to eyeball iris scans. A program called mystic records and archives phone calls around the world. prism collects Internet communications. stingray tracks text messages. As its computers scroll through yottabytes of data, the NSA is trying to interdict enemy forces moving along the world's electronic trails. "The U.S. government," Snowden warned, "in conspiracy with client states, chiefest among them [co-members of the Five Eyes alliance]--the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand--have inflicted upon the world a system of secret, pervasive surveillance from which there is no refuge."

Although Poindexter's program got shut down, the idea of using futures markets to predict political events has since been implemented in the Iowa Electronic Markets, where one can bet on the outcome of elections, and in Augur, a decentralized market built on blockchain technology. Total information awareness has also been adopted as the business model for Silicon Valley, where Google, Facebook, and other companies gather every scrap of information they can find and sell it to advertisers, political parties, Vladimir Putin, Brexiteers, or anyone else who wants to buy it. We might be uncomfortable with the government's vacuuming up our data, but we have grown to love the companies that give us Alexa voice-activated speakers, crowd-sourced radar detection, and prepopulated, buy-again form fields. Poindexter's vacuum cleaner approach to signals intelligence and surveillance--a dubious enterprise because of its inability to distinguish signal from noise--has been repackaged as "big data," which allows Silicon Valley to form a comprehensive picture of people and their behaviors. The admiral was a man ahead of his times. The information coursing through NSA computers is indeed quite valuable, but markets and merchants, not spooks in the Pentagon, proved most nimble in using it.

Exploiting the wisdom of markets for Intelligence, rather than relying on secrecy and expertise, was the second best idea of the WoT. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Trump alleges Biden controlled by people in 'dark shadows' (DAVID COHEN, 08/31/2020, Politico)

President Donald Trump alleged unnamed people in "dark shadows" are controlling Democratic nominee Joe Biden in an interview with Laura Ingraham that aired Monday night on Fox News.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Laura Ingraham Cuts Trump off When He Compares Police Shootings to Golf (BRENDAN COLE, 9/1/20, Newsweek)

Fox News host Laura Ingraham appeared to cut off President Donald Trump during an interview in which he compared police officers accused of brutality with missing a golf putt.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Herman Cain May Have Died, but His Media Empire Is Going Strong (Lachlan Markay, Sep. 01, 2020, Daily Beast)

Cain himself may have succumbed to the virus, but his death hasn't changed the fact that coronavirus content is a potent draw for conservative advertisers and internet marketers such as those in business with Cain's media apparatus.

The most jarring example of that disconnect came on Sunday, when the Herman Cain twitter account--recently rebranded as The Cain Gang, but still tweeting under the same handle--shared a link to a Western Journal story with the caption: "It looks like the virus is not as deadly as the mainstream media made it out to be." 

It's so maddening when folks say black Republicans are just mouthpieces!

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Cheaper, cleaner, more reliable: How renewables are winning energy trifecta (Giles Parkinson, 1 September 2020, Renew Economy)

The fact that wind and solar offer the cheapest source of bulk generation has been known for some time. Solar prices have plunged  more than 90 per cent over the past decade, and wind by around 60 per cent.

The two leading expert bodies in Australia - the CSIRO and the Australian Energy Market Operator - have made this abundantly clear: Even with storage, wind and solar offer the cheapest option for dispatchable power, and battery storage costs continue to fall and the technology continues to amaze with its versatility.

All major bodies have recognised that the introduction of wind and solar has been a key factor is bringing down wholesale electricity prices over the last year - with some help from increased efficiency and lower gas prices.

And last week, AEMO made a point in its annual Electricity Statement of Opportunities that it was the addition of more than 4,200 megawatts of new wind and solar capacity over the past year that had improved grid reliability, so much so that it saw no shortfall of the country' strict reliability standards for the next 10 years.

Its chief concern was the increasing frailty of the ageing coal fleet, and the threat of sudden losses of large units as the machinery struggled to cope with intense heatwaves and other extreme conditions.

This week, The Australia Institute has reminded us how dramatically the grid has and is changing, and perhaps the most astounding figures have been the growing share of renewables which has matched a parallel fall in electricity emissions.

British wind sets new 60% power share record (Joshua S Hill, 1 September 2020, Renew Economy)

Strong winds helped Great Britain's wind energy fleet break a new generation record last week, as wind power accounted for 59.9% of Britain's electricity at 1:30am on August 26, according to Great Britain's Electricity System Operator.

It was a big week for Britain's wind energy fleet, with a new record set a few days earlier - at 1am on Saturday, August, 22 when Storm Ellen's strong winds helped generate 59.1% of Britain's electricity, or 13.5GW, according to National Grid ESO's Twitter account.