October 13, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 7:07 PM


Biden leads Trump by 17 points as election race enters final stage (David Smith,  13 Oct 2020, The Guardian)

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden's lead over Donald Trump has surged to a record 17 points as the US election enters its final sprint, an Opinium Research and Guardian opinion poll shows.

Some 57% of likely voters intend to vote for Biden, while just 40% say they will vote for the incumbent president, the survey shows.

The 17-point gap is even bigger than than 57%-41% margin found by CNN earlier this month. It is just short of the lead in the popular vote that Ronald Reagan enjoyed in his second landslide victory in 1984.

Posted by orrinj at 7:03 PM


Tom Rath, Longtime N.H. GOP Leader, Backs Biden For President (DANIELA ALLEE, 10/13/20, NHPR)

Rath said Trump has further divided the country, and that right now, he sees Biden as a president who can bring people together.

"It's not about policy, it's about character, decency and the way we should treat each other as Americans," he said.

In a statement Monday, Rath wrote that personal integrity and character are key in this election.

"Donald Trump has none of these qualities; Joe Biden has them all in abundance," Rath said. "Joe Biden understands who we are and who we can be as a nation. He does not demean, insult or divide."

Rath has been a longtime player in New Hampshire Republican politics. He spent a decade as a state Republican National Committeeman, served as delegate to multiple Republican National Conventions, and was an advisor to the presidential campaigns of George W. Bush and Mitt Romney, among others. He also helped lead the campaigns of two of New Hampshire's most prominent Republican U.S. senators: Warren Rudman and Judd Gregg.

Posted by orrinj at 6:49 PM


Solar becomes the new king of electricity...  (IAEA, October 2020)

Renewables grow rapidly in all our scenarios, with solar at the centre of this new constellation of electricity generation technologies. Supportive policies and maturing technologies are enabling very cheap access to capital in leading markets. With sharp cost reductions over the past decade, solar PV is consistently cheaper than new coal- or gasfired power plants in most countries, and solar projects now offer some of the lowest cost electricity ever seen. In the STEPS, renewables meet 80% of the growth in global electricity demand to 2030. Hydropower remains the largest renewable source of electricity, but solar is the main driver of growth as it sets new records for deployment each year after 2022, followed by onshore and offshore wind. The advance of renewable sources of generation, and of solar in particular, as well as the contribution of nuclear power, is much stronger in the SDS and NZE2050. The pace of change in the electricity sector puts an additional premium on robust grids and other sources of flexibility, as well as reliable supplies of the critical minerals and metals that are vital to its secure transformation. Storage plays an increasingly vital role in ensuring the flexible operation of power systems, with India becoming the largest market for utility-scale battery storage.

Posted by orrinj at 6:43 PM


'Unmasking' probe commissioned by Barr quietly concludes without charges or any public report (Matt Zapotosky and  Shane Harris, Oct. 13, 2020, Washington Post)

The federal prosecutor appointed by Attorney General William P. Barr to review whether Obama-era officials improperly requested the identities of individuals whose names were redacted in intelligence documents has completed his work without finding any substantive wrongdoing, according to people familiar with the matter.

The revelation that U.S. Attorney John Bash, who left the department last week, had concluded his review without criminal charges or any public report will rankle President Trump at a moment when he is particularly upset at the Justice Department. The department has so far declined to release the results of Bash's work, though people familiar with his findings say they would likely disappoint conservatives who have tried to paint the "unmasking" of names -- a common practice in government to help understand classified documents -- as a political conspiracy.

Donald may have a strozk.
Posted by orrinj at 4:58 PM


Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The electric car market is buzzing with Europe and China taking the lead (BLOOMBERG, October 13, 2020)

Sales of electric vehicles in Europe are growing at such a pace that the continent looks increasingly likely to outpace China in the near future.

That's one of the findings of a report released Tuesday by London-based automotive research firm Jato Dynamics. However, it found that Europe and the U.S. still have a few things to learn from China, the world's biggest EV market, including prioritizing affordability, centralizing planning, and using data to better understand consumers.

Demand for cleaner and smarter cars is rising globally, particularly in Europe where the market has been bolstered by tighter emissions regulations along with an increasing awareness of climate change. EV sales in Europe in the first half exceeded China for the first time since 2015.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The pandemic has provided fertile conditions for conspiracy theories and "conspirituality" in Australia (Anna Halafoff, Enqi Weng, Cristina Rocha, Andrew Singleton, Alexandra Roginski, and Emily Marriott, 13 Oct 2020, ABC REligion & Ethics)

Charlotte Ward and David Voas first coined the term "conspirituality" in 2011, to describe the merger of conspiracy theories and New Age spirituality. They argued that these conspiritualist movements are united by a "politico-spiritual philosophy," which posits that a group of elites has covert control of society and then calls for a "'paradigm shift' in consciousness" that harnesses cosmic forces to emancipate society from the grip of those elites.

It seems to us that Ward and Voas's insights remain highly applicable to the current viral outbreak of what we call "(con)spirituality," which has arisen in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and is focussed on a critique of modern technology, medicine, and governance. We chose to bracket the "con" because many spiritual people and groups' questioning of modernity is critical, informed, and non-violent, particularly where they are working toward more holistic and sustainable ways of living and healing, and employing ideas and practices whose validity is bolstered by science. Concurrently, there are rising numbers of people with conspiritual views who are claiming that the COVID-19 pandemic is a construct of the deep-state and a sign of end-times, often aligned with ideas emanating from the far-right, apocalyptic QAnon movement which frequently draws on Christian millenarianism.

Adherents to QAnon argue that COVID-19 isn't real, and instead was created by deep-state government officials and elites. The movement focuses on a "Great Awakening," whereby people will be able to discover this hidden truth. As Adrienne LaFrance highlights, QAnon "is a movement united in mass rejection of reason, objectivity, and other Enlightenment values" and "propelled by paranoia ... populism ... [and] religious faith." Facebook hosts thousands of QAnon groups with millions of members, and QAnon itself has been identified as a domestic terror threat by the FBI.

What QAnon and conspiritualists share with many other religious extremist movements are their exclusive religious and spiritual narratives which depict adherents as privy to the "real truth" and thus more enlightened than mainstream society. They tend to see themselves as persecuted and believe that they will ultimately be vindicated. Contemporary spirituality is individualised, based on personal choice, and commodified, which is why conspiritualists are particularly irate about coronavirus restrictions that threaten their personal freedom. At the same time, these individuals have formed conspiritual social movements -- what Nancy Ammerman calls "spiritual tribes" -- which are deeply social with distinct and exclusive beliefs, language, and codes, calling for societal transformation.

Eric Hoffer really nailed how empty peoples' lives have to be for them to join these movements.
Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Revisiting the Simon-Ehrlich Wager 40 Years On (Marian L. Tupy and Gale L. Pooley, 10/13/20, Quillette)

In fact, that's exactly what has happened to the affordability of 50 basic commodities between 1980 and 2018. Over those 38 years, the world's population rose from 4.458 billion to 7.631 billion or 71.2 percent. Over the same time period, basic commodities, including energy, food, materials, and metals became 71.6 percent more affordable on average. For every one percent increase in population, in other words, resources became slightly more than one percent more abundant. Put differently, the time it took to earn enough money to buy one unit in that basket of 50 commodities in 1980 bought 3.62 units in 2018. The compounded growth rate of abundance came to 3.44 percent per annum. That means that the affordability of our basket of commodities doubled every 20.49 years. This relationship between population growth and resource abundance is deeply counterintuitive, yet it is no less true. The facts surprised us, and they will surprise you too.

Generations of people throughout the world have been taught to believe that there is an inverse relationship between population growth and availability of resources, which is to say that as population grows, resources become more "scarce." That was, historically speaking, true. In the animal world, a sudden increase in the availability of resources, such as grass after unusually plentiful rain, leads to an animal population explosion. The population explosion then leads to the exhaustion of resources. Finally, the exhaustion of resources leads to population collapse. If you take the Theory of Evolution seriously--and we do--you'll appreciate that human beings evolved from much humbler beginnings and were, as such, much more exposed to vicissitudes of fortune.

Over time, however, humans have developed sophisticated forms of cooperation that increase their wealth and chances of survival. Consider, for example, trade and exchange. As the British writer Matt Ridley observed in his 2010 book The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves, "There is strikingly little use of barter in any other animal species. There is sharing within families, and there is food‐for‐sex exchange in many animals including insects and apes, but there are no cases in which one animal gives an unrelated animal one thing in exchange for a different thing." Trade is particularly important during famines. A country struck by drought, for example, can purchase food from abroad. This is not an option available to other animals.

But the most important difference between people and nonhuman animals is our superior intelligence and the use of that intelligence to invent and to innovate. "In a way, everything is technology," noted one of the world's greatest economic historians Fernand Braudel (1902-1985) in his book Civilization and Capitalism. "Not only man's most strenuous endeavors but also his patient and monotonous efforts to make a mark on the external world; not only the rapid changes... but also the slow improvements in processes and tools, and those innumerable actions which may have no immediate innovative significance but which are the fruit of accumulated knowledge."

And so, over many millennia of trial and error, we have accumulated a store of knowledge that has allowed us to reach escape velocity--from scarcity to abundance--somewhere toward the end of the 18th century. 

One of the core beliefs that unites Left//Right is zero-sum economics.  Of course, it also distances them from reality.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Cost of owning Tesla Model 3 much less than rival BMW 330i (Bridie Schmidt, 13 October 2020, The Driven)

Modelling by consumer advocacy group Consumer Reports has highlighted the fact that drivers can save significant amounts of money owning an electric car compared to a fossil-fuelled competitor.

How big? In the case of the Tesla Model 3, which is priced from $US49,990 before on-road costs, as much as $US17,600 ($A24,259) can be saved in total ownership costs compared to owning a BMW 330i (which has a sticker price from $US40,750 to $42,750 depending on options and before on-road costs), the US-based report says.

Electric cars are becoming an increasingly popular choice amongst drivers, particularly in markets like the US, Europe and China, but their higher sticker price is still cited as a key factor deterring buyers, even if they place reducing personal carbon emissions as a priority.

But according to the new report published by the group on Thursday (US time), if a buyer can make the stretch to buy a more expensive electric vehicle (EV) over a combustion engine car, it will pay off in the long term.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


"Checkerboard" solar cell design could boost output and make panels much cheaper (Joshua S Hill, 13 October 2020, Renew Economy)

The researchers found that the checkerboard grating design performed the best, so much so in fact that they show it could enhance light absorption by 125%.

The checkerboard design particularly improves diffraction, which in turn enhances the probability of light being absorbed, which is then used to create electricity.

"We found a simple trick for boosting the absorption of slim solar cells," said Dr Christian Schuster from the Department of Physics at the University of York.

"Our investigations show that our idea actually rivals the absorption enhancement of more sophisticated designs -- while also absorbing more light deep in the plane and less light near the surface structure itself.

"Our design rule meets all relevant aspects of light-trapping for solar cells, clearing the way for simple, practical, and yet outstanding diffractive structures, with a potential impact beyond photonic applications.

"This design offers potential to further integrate solar cells into thinner, flexible materials and therefore create more opportunity to use solar power in more products."

A potential major outcome from this study is not only the increased light absorption for solar cells, but the simplification of the design, which could lead to the production of thinner, lighter, and more flexible solar panels.

This, in turn, could lead to solar panels being used on more homes and in a wider array of products and applications. The researchers also believe these new grating designs will reduce the need for thicker, more complex solar panels, making them cheaper and more environmentally friendly.

"In principle, we would deploy ten times more solar power with the same amount of absorber material: ten times thinner solar cells could enable a rapid expansion of photovoltaics, increase solar electricity production, and greatly reduce our carbon footprint," Dr Schuster added.

"In fact, as refining the silicon raw material is such an energy-intensive process, ten times thinner silicon cells would not only reduce the need for refineries but also cost less, hence empowering our transition to a greener economy."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Why China Is Losing The Global Public Relations BattleHere's Beijing's problem: It takes us for fools. (Elisabeth Braw, 10/13/20, National Interest)

[F]or China, the presidency of Donald Trump and the world's struggle with coronavirus have been a splendid opportunity to reshape its image and indeed to gain power. I recall an occasion early on in Trump's presidency when an organization in a European capital hosted an event, funded by the Chinese embassy with the Chinese ambassador as a speaker, about China as a partner of Europe. Given the disapproval of Trump around the world, such a message is, of course, an easy sell. At Davos in 2017, President Xi Jinping explained why the world needed Chinese leadership.

The coronavirus pandemic presented another opportunity for Chinese power gains vis-à-vis America, the European Union, and other rivals. With China having managed to suppress the virus at a time when other countries were just descending into COVID-19 misery, it had the capacity to send facemasks, other personal protective equipment, and even ventilators to suffering countries around the world. And it did so with great fanfare. Chinese media energetically reported on the arrival in Italy of Chinese equipment and some medics, and Chinese diplomats and media likewise made sure the world learned about deliveries to Spain, France, Serbia, and many other countries. The delivery to Italy was, however, only partially a gift (the Italians had to buy the rest), and in some other countries the rather meager supplies turned out to be defective.

Now the results of China's attempts at global soft power are in, and they are devastating. According to a new Pew Research Center poll, the share of citizens in Western countries who hold unfavorable views of China has skyrocketed over the past year. 74 percent of Britons now view it unfavorably, up by 19 percentage points from last year; so do 85 percent of Swedes (up by 15 percentage points), 73 percent of Americans (up by 13 percentage points), and 71 percent of Germans (up by 15 percentage points). Even in Italy, long the target of Chinese charm offensives, 62 percent now hold unfavorable views of China, an increase of five percent since last year. That's remarkable given that this summer 25 percent of Italians said China had been the country's most useful ally during the coronavirus pandemic, compared to only four percent who said the EU.

Here's Beijing's problem: It takes us for fools. It thinks it can make us forget its Uighur internment camps, its persistent intellectual property theft, and its censorship of Hollywood movies (not to mention NBA teams) simply by sending some PPE and disseminating dance videos mixed with menacing messages such as one from China's ambassador to Sweden did earlier this year that compared Sweden to a light-weight boxer and China to a heavy-weight one.

And Donald will be forgotten by February.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Report: Second Hasidic leader secretly treated at home for COVID-19 (Times of Israel, 10/13/20)

A second Hasidic spiritual leader was secretly treated at home for the coronavirus by an Israeli hospital in recent months, a report said Monday.

Following reports that the rabbi at the head of the Belz Hasidic sect was treated by medics from Jerusalem's Hadassah Ein Kerem hospital, Channel 13 reported that the leader of the Sanz Hasidic dynasty received similar treatment.

Rabbi Zvi Elimelech Halberstam, based in Netanya, received medical equipment from the city's Laniado hospital after he refused to be hospitalized, according to the report. [...]

The treatment started after Rokeach, who has ordered his followers to ignore coronavirus restrictions, refused to be hospitalized, the report said. All the necessary medical equipment was brought to his home and his room there was effectively converted into a mini intensive care unit, the report said.

Why Hasidic Brooklyn Was Ready for MAGA Chaos (Elad Nehorai, Oct. 13, 2020, Daily Beast)

In fact, Tischler's rhetoric is not so different from the rhetoric that has come from many Haredi leaders for years.

As the community member explained, for over a decade, some Hasidic community groups have repeatedly used a simple argument to distract from their failures: They are coming for you.

"They always framed every failure as the government coming after them. And what's happening now is that these people grew up with this messaging, and so they're now acting on it," the community member told The Daily Beast. "Whether it was leadership by the measles crisis, by education reform, [controversial circumcision ritual] metzitzah b'peh... they framed it as 'we're hated.'"

All of these examples are moments when the government attempted to restrict the Haredi community, and when their leaders spread the message that the problem wasn't communal. For instance, the problem was not anti-vaxx sentiments leading to the measles crisis. The problem wasn't poverty caused by the lack of secular education in the community. The problem wasn't the dangers of the practice of sucking the blood from a baby's circumcision.

Instead, leaders said, the government--whether it was Gov. Andrew Cuomo, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, or someone else--had it in for the Jews.

The rise of Heshy Tischler, then--a nobody wannabe City Council candidate--should be seen as the logical extension of a rhetoric that simply hasn't fully been acted upon until now. As Asher Lovy, an anti-abuse activist who grew up in Orthodox Borough Park, put it, "I don't think it starts with Tischler. It just ends with him."

In other words, the way grievances of the Haredi and Hasidic communities in Brooklyn have been long nursed by self-interested leaders could be considered analogous or even deeply tied to the existential fear many Trump supporters feel about losing their version of America.

All Identitarianisms are the same.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Why Are We in the West So Weird? A Theory: a review of THE WEIRDEST PEOPLE IN THE WORLD: How the West Became Psychologically Peculiar and Particularly Prosperous By Joseph Henrich (Daniel C. Dennett, Sept. 12, 2020, NY Times)

According to Joseph Henrich, some unknown early church fathers about a thousand years later promulgated the edict: Don't marry your cousin! Why they did this is also unclear, but if Henrich is right -- and he develops a fascinating case brimming with evidence -- this prohibition changed the face of the world, by eventually creating societies and people that were WEIRD: Western, educated, industrialized, rich, democratic.

In the argument put forward in this engagingly written, excellently organized and meticulously argued book, this simple rule triggered a cascade of changes, creating states to replace tribes, science to replace lore and law to replace custom. If you are reading this you are very probably WEIRD, and so are almost all of your friends and associates, but we are outliers on many psychological measures.

The world today has billions of inhabitants who have minds strikingly different from ours. Roughly, we weirdos are individualistic, think analytically, believe in free will, take personal responsibility, feel guilt when we misbehave and think nepotism is to be vigorously discouraged, if not outlawed. Right? They (the non-WEIRD majority) identify more strongly with family, tribe, clan and ethnic group, think more "holistically," take responsibility for what their group does (and publicly punish those who besmirch the group's honor), feel shame -- not guilt -- when they misbehave and think nepotism is a natural duty.

These differences, and more, are manifest in surveys of attitudes and many other data sources, and more impressively in hundreds of psychological experiments, but the line between WEIRD and not WEIRD, like all lines in evolution, is not bright. There are all manner of hybrids, intermediates and unclassifiable variations, but there are also forces that have tended to sort today's people into these two kinds, genetically indistinguishable but profoundly different psychologically.

WEIRD folk are the more recent development, growing out of the innovation of agriculture about 10,000 years ago, the birth of states and organized religions about 3,000 years ago, then becoming "proto-WEIRD" over the last 1,500 years (thanks to the prohibition on marrying one's cousin), culminating in the biologically sudden arrival of science, industry and the "modern" world during the last 500 years or so. WEIRD minds evolved by natural selection, but not by genetic selection; they evolved by the natural selection of cultural practices and other culturally transmitted items.