November 23, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 7:23 PM


Colombia says Venezuela's Maduro to resume talks with opposition (AFP, 11/23/22)

The opposition is seeking free and fair presidential elections, next due in 2024, while Caracas wants the international community to recognise Maduro as the rightful president and lift sanctions.

Colombia's Petro has become involved since becoming his country's first leftist president in August.

He had worked to improve his country's relationship with Venezuela, resuming diplomatic ties for the first time since 2019, when former president Ivan Duque refused to recognise Maduro's election.

Venezuela is now also hosting peace talks between the Colombian government and the last official rebel group in the country, the National Liberation Army.

Posted by orrinj at 5:45 PM



In a bid to bolster its understaffed workforce of drivers, Domino's Pizza is splashing cash on a fleet of 800 electric Chevrolet Bolts, painted in Domino's livery.

As the largest pizza chain in the world, Domino's investment in EVs marks a particularly high profile adoption by the fast food industry of electric transportation.

"We've got a long way to go, but we will have the biggest fleet of electric vehicles in the pizza industry, period," Domino's CEO Russell Weiner told Wall Street Journal in an interview.

Posted by orrinj at 5:32 PM


Civilians Without Guns Take Out Mass Shooters More Often Than Civilians With Guns (SHIRIN ALI, NOV 23, 2022, Slate)

Richard Fierro became an overnight sensation after he took down the gunman of a mass shooting happening inside an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs, Colorado, over the weekend. Once bullets could be heard in the club, Fierro catapulted into action, running directly toward the shooter, pulling him down to the ground, and beating him with the shooter's own gun. By the time cops showed up, the shooter was no longer struggling. Fierro actually feared that he had killed him. He didn't--the 22-year-old gunman was hospitalized, and has been charged with five counts of first-degree murder and bias-motivated crime.

It helps to know that Fierro spent 15 years as an Army officer, with three tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan, making him uniquely qualified to intervene. He now joins a small but mighty number of unarmed civilians that have successfully stopped gunmen in mass shootings. From 2000 to 2021 there have been at least 433 active shooter attacks in the United States--a disturbing rise in recent years--and 249 of those attacks ended before the police arrived on the scene. In 64 of those situations, a bystander either subdued the attacker or shot at them. [...]

If unarmed civilians can successfully kneecap mass shooters, what about armed civilians? Martaindale told me the data just doesn't show that the "good guy with the gun" argument, often preferred by Republicans (we're looking at you, Ted Cruz) bears out. "There are plenty of incidents where people are armed but pulling out that weapon and shooting at that moment might cause more harm," he said. That's because bystanders can be in dangerously close range and a civilian also shooting out bullets can make the job of law enforcement confusing--once on the scene they have to figure out where the shots are coming from and who's responsible.

Based on ALERRT's analysis, out of 249 attacks that ended before police arrived on the scene, civilians shot at the attacker 22 times--less than the number of civilians who physically subdued the gunmen, which happened 42 times.

Posted by orrinj at 5:31 PM


Posted by orrinj at 5:14 PM


How the Hydrogen Revolution Can Help Save the Planet--and How It Can't: Many researchers see a huge role for hydrogen in decarbonizing economies (Davide Castelvecchi, Nature magazine on November 23, 2022, Nature)

[A] few hundred metres away from the LuleƄ furnace is a smaller one that makes iron with much less carbon pollution. This pilot technology replaces coal with hydrogen, and releases only water vapour. "This is the new way to make steel, and with this, we can in principle eliminate all the carbon dioxide," Pei says.

The hydrogen-to-steel route isn't entirely pollution-free; other steps in converting iron to steel still emit some CO2, and the iron ore must be mined. Still, last year, this site produced the world's first 'green steel', with the aid of hydrogen that was made using Sweden's abundant low-carbon electricity, generated from hydropower, nuclear and wind. The pilot plant is owned by HYBRIT, a joint venture that SSAB formed in 2016 with Swedish utility company Vattenfall and LKAB, the national mining company.

A Hybrit initiative employee shows fossil-free produced sponge iron, the raw material from which steel is made.
Sponge iron -- the raw material from which steel is made -- produced at the HYBRIT plant in LuleƄ, Sweden, without the use of fossil fuels. Credit: Steffen Trumpf/dpa/picture alliance/Alamy Stock Photo
Making steel green is just one of the ways that hydrogen is now expected to help decarbonize the world's economy. Although some have touted hydrogen's use as a transportation fuel, it's unlikely to have much impact in that sector or in heating, for which batteries and electrical power already provide more efficient low-carbon solutions. Rather, hydrogen's biggest contribution will be to clean up industrial processes, from producing plastics and fertilizers to refining hydrocarbons. These industries have conventionally been thought of as harder to decarbonize, and have received less attention from the media, investors and policymakers.

Hydrogen might find uses in energy production, too. Liquid fuels made from hydrogen might one day power air travel and shipping. And hydrogen could even help to decarbonize the electricity grid: excess solar or wind power could be diverted into making the gas, which could then be used in other industrial processes or simply to store energy. In this way, hydrogen is expected to act as a bridge between many different sectors of the economy.

"Hydrogen is sort of unique because of its versatility in the ways you can produce it and in the ways in which you can use it," says Dharik Mallapragada, a chemical engineer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge.

Policymakers anxious to reach net-zero emissions goals have begun a massive push for hydrogen, notably in the United States and the European Union. In some cases, they are subsidizing the price of low-carbon hydrogen; in others, handing out tax credits for hydrogen producers or for industries that use it.

Partly as a result, investment in hydrogen projects is experiencing a boom. The Hydrogen Council, an industry group in Brussels, estimates that the hundreds of large-scale hydrogen projects announced already amount to a possible investment of US$240 billion by 2030 -- although so far, only one-tenth of these are fully completed deals. By 2050, the council thinks the market for hydrogen and hydrogen technologies will be worth $2.5 trillion per year.

Posted by orrinj at 5:10 PM


What Happened? (Sean Trende, November 17, 2022, Real Clear Politics)

What makes it all the stranger is that it looks like Republicans will notch a significant victory in the popular vote. As of this writing, they've received 51.0% of the vote to Democrats' 47.1%. [...]

So, what happened? There are three theories that I think work. First, though, it is worth examining two theories that don't work that well. The first such theory is that the Dobbs decision cost Republicans dearly. This is facially plausible - there's little doubt that Democrats received a shot in the arm from seeing Roe overturned, and poll after poll show Americans would generally like to see abortion remain legal in the early stages of pregnancy. The issue likely cost the GOP some winnable House special elections over the summer as GOP vote shares in polls dipped nationally. But by October, the GOP had clawed its way back in most national polling. More likely, Dobbs elevated Democratic enthusiasm to fall levels early, and the GOP eventually caught up. 

More importantly, the Dobbs theory doesn't jibe with two things we see. First, there were substantial gaps in gubernatorial outcomes, where governors who backed - or even signed - abortion bans ran well ahead of other candidates. Ohio's Mike DeWine signed a "fetal heartbeat" law, which effectively bans all abortions. His attorney general cast doubt on a story that a 10-year-old had to travel to Indiana to receive an abortion, hours before the victim was identified. Yet they all received 60% of the vote, along with Republican Supreme Court candidates who could control the future of abortion rights in Ohio. Senator-elect J.D. Vance ran well behind them, although abortion was not placed at the center of that campaign. Brian Kemp ran well ahead of Herschel Walker. Joe Lombardo ran ahead of Adam Laxalt. Even Kari Lake ran ahead of Blake Masters. Greg Abbott - who signed Texas' infamous abortion "bounty" law, seemingly paid no price. 

Finally, we shouldn't lose sight of the fact that overall, Republicans received more votes. That's a problematic fact for the theory that the House underperformances were a function of abortion politics. [...]

So what does work? There are three parts to the explanation, none of which are mutually exclusive. 

1) The first is simply that candidates do matter. In the past decade, and especially after Trump's win in 2016, it has become fashionable among pundits (including myself) to wave away candidate issues. This cycle, though, candidate quality seems to have made a comeback. This fits the data nicely: Vance running behind DeWine (who was seen as governing in a more bipartisan manner than perhaps he deserved); Walker running behind Kemp; Masters running behind Lake. In the House there were scores of candidates who lost in swing districts that they probably should have won, and as you list the names you start to see why: Joe Kent, J.R. Majewski, Karoline Leavitt, Vega, and so forth. Even Lauren Boebert came remarkably close to losing.  

That many of these candidates were concentrated in swing seats didn't help the Republicans' cause, while better Republican candidates in bluer seats didn't quite get the push they needed. You can see this in Virginia, where 10th District Republican Hung Cao - an outstanding candidate - lost by just six points in a district Biden won by almost 20 points, while Vega lost by a similar margin in a district Biden won by half that margin.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


China may have 'passed the point of no return' as Covid infections soar (Evelyn Cheng, 11/23/22, CNBC)

Surging Covid infections across mainland China make it harder for the government to achieve zero-Covid without reverting to a harsh lockdown, Macquarie's Chief China Economist Larry Hu said.

In the last few days, the daily case count has climbed to around or more than 28,000 -- near levels seen in April during a stringent lockdown in Shanghai, according to CNBC calculations of Wind Information data. The figures showed the last time mainland China saw only a handful of daily infections was in June, shortly after Shanghai eased its restrictions.

The latest Covid wave has hit the southern city of Guangzhou, the capital city of Beijing and many central parts of China -- prompting local officials to tighten restrictions on business and social activity this month.

"China might have already passed the point of no return, as it's unlikely to achieve zero Covid again without another Shanghai-style hard lockdown," Hu said in a report Tuesday. "What policymakers could do now is to slow the spread of virus, i.e. flatten the curve, by tightening the Covid controls for the time being."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Accountant testifies Trump claimed decade of huge tax losses (MICHAEL R. SISAK, 11/22/22, AP)

Donald Trump reported losses on his tax returns every year for a decade, including nearly $700 million in 2009 and $200 million in 2010, his longtime accountant testified Tuesday, confirming long-held suspicions about the former president's tax practices. [...]

Bender's testimony came on a day full of Trump-related legal drama, including the U.S. Supreme Court clearing the way for Congress to get six years worth of tax returns for Trump and some of his businesses.

Also Tuesday, the judge in New York Attorney General Letitia James' civil fraud lawsuit against Trump and his company set an October 2023 trial date; a federal appeals court heard arguments in the FBI's Mar-a-Lago documents investigation; and Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Trump ally, testified before a Georgia grand jury probing alleged 2020 election interference.

Bender's tax loss testimony echoed what The New York Times reported in 2020, when it obtained a trove of Trump's tax returns. Many of the records reflected massive losses and little or no taxes paid, the newspaper reported at the time.

The Times reported Trump paid no income tax in 11 of the 18 years whose records it reviewed, and that he paid just $750 in federal income tax in 2017, the year he became president. Citing other Trump tax records, The Times previously reported that in 1995 he claimed $915.7 million in losses, which he could have used to avoid future taxes under the law at the time.