May 31, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 9:47 AM


The Illusory Truth Effect: Why We Believe Fake News, Conspiracy Theories and Propaganda (Farnham Street)

A recent Verge article looked at some of the unsavory aspects of working as Facebook content moderators--the people who spend their days cleaning up the social network's most toxic content. One strange detail stands out. The moderators the Verge spoke to reported that they and their coworkers often found themselves believing fringe, often hatemongering conspiracy theories they would have dismissed under normal circumstances. Others described experiencing paranoid thoughts and intense fears for their safety.

An overnight switch from skepticism to fervent belief in conspiracy theories is not unique to content moderators. In a Nieman Lab article by Laura Hazard Owen, she explains that researchers who study the spread of disinformation online can find themselves struggling to be sure about their own beliefs and needing to make an active effort to counteract what they see. Some of the most fervent, passionate conspiracy theorists admit that they first fell into the rabbit hole when they tried to debunk the beliefs they now hold. There's an explanation for why this happens: the illusory truth effect.

Not everything we believe is true. We may act like it is and it may be uncomfortable to think otherwise, but it's inevitable that we all hold a substantial number of beliefs that aren't objectively true. It's not about opinions or different perspectives. We can pick up false beliefs for the simple reason that we've heard them a lot.

If I say that the moon is made of cheese, no one reading this is going to believe that, no matter how many times I repeat it. That statement is too ludicrous. But what about something a little more plausible? What if I said that moon rock has the same density as cheddar cheese? And what if I wasn't the only one saying it? What if you'd also seen a tweet touting this amazing factoid, perhaps also heard it from a friend at some point, and read it in a blog post?

Unless you're a geologist, a lunar fanatic, or otherwise in possession of an unusually good radar for moon rock-related misinformation, there is a not insignificant chance you would end up believing a made-up fact like that, without thinking to verify it. You might repeat it to others or share it online. This is how the illusory truth effect works: we all have a tendency to believe something is true after being exposed to it multiple times. The more times we've heard something, the truer it seems. The effect is so powerful that repetition can persuade us to believe information we know is false in the first place. Ever thought a product was stupid but somehow you ended up buying it on a regular basis? Or you thought that new manager was okay, but now you participate in gossip about her?

The illusory truth effect is the reason why advertising works and why propaganda is one of the most powerful tools for controlling how people think. It's why the speech of politicians can be bizarre and multiple-choice tests can cause students problems later on. It's why fake news spreads and retractions of misinformation don't work. In this post, we're going to look at how the illusory truth effect works, how it shapes our perception of the world, and how we can avoid it.

Posted by orrinj at 8:44 AM


Trump White House Aides Subpoenaed in Firing of Election Security Expert (Maggie Haberman and Jonathan Swan, May. 31st, 2023, NY Times)

The special counsel investigating former President Donald J. Trump's efforts to cling to power after he lost the 2020 election has subpoenaed staff members from the Trump White House who may have been involved in firing the government cybersecurity official whose agency judged the election "the most secure in American history," according to two people briefed on the matter.

The team led by the special counsel, Jack Smith, has been asking witnesses about the events surrounding the firing of Christopher Krebs, who was the Trump administration's top cybersecurity official during the 2020 election. Mr. Krebs's assessment that the election was secure was at odds with Mr. Trump's baseless assertions that it was a "fraud on the American public."

Posted by orrinj at 8:29 AM


ChatGPT Is Cutting Non-English Languages Out of the AI Revolution (PARESH DAVE, MAY 31, 2023, Wired))

COMPUTER SCIENTIST PASCALE Fung can imagine a rosy future in which polyglot AI helpers like ChatGPT bridge language barriers. In that world, Indonesian store owners fluent only in local dialects might reach new shoppers by listing their products online in English. "It can open opportunities," Fung says--then pauses. She's spotted the bias in her vision of a more interconnected future: The AI-aided shopping would be one-sided, because few Americans would bother to use AI translation to help research products advertised in Indonesian. "Americans are not incentivized to learn another language," she says.

Not every American fits that description--about one in five speak another language at home--but the dominance of English in global commerce is real. Fung, director of the Center for AI Research at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, who herself speaks seven languages, sees this bias in her own field. "If you don't publish papers in English, you're not relevant," she says. "Non-English speakers tend to be punished professionally."

One language is the ideal.

Posted by orrinj at 7:03 AM


Sowell and the Unrestrained Right: Thomas Sowell's 'A Conflict of Visions' offers us a warning that if the Right ceases to be based upon a constrained vision of society, it ceases to be a meaningful alternative to the progressive Left. (BEN CONNELLY, MAY 6, 2023, Self Evident)

The New Right emphasizes the rejection of rationalism, and embraces human nature. But it prefers not to leave the exercise of discretion up to the self-interested individual and rather wishes to empower surrogates to act on behalf of the masses in pursuing the common good. It rejects the mode of societal decision-making that Sowell argues characterizes the constrained vision - that is, the emergent and unplanned direction that comes out of the chaotic interactions of millions of individuals who do not consciously seek to further the common good, but seek rather their own good. 

This is most clearly seen in judicial philosophy. Common Good Constitutionalism is the New Right's legal theory, which rejects strict adherence to text and tradition as 'value neutral' or 'positivist.' Instead, judges are to call upon their own understanding of morality when making decisions. And yet, according to Sowell, this is not a constrained approach to interpreting the law. Rather, the "black letter law" of William Blackstone, in which judges apply the law instead of sitting above it, is the approach of those who believe in the fallibility of human nature and who doubt the ability of individual judges to put aside their biases when making collective decisions for the common good. 

Black letter law favors the "evolved systemic rationality" of legal tradition over the "explicitly excogitated individual rationality" of judges seeking to ascertain the common good on their own. We see again the constrained preference for decision-making that evolves naturally over time via a process of trial and error, rather than reason that is axiomatic and worked out from first principles. Both conservatives, and nationalists, sometimes claim to be the true adherents to this principle, accusing their opponents of forgetting it. 

Common good constitutionalism at least pays lip service to the English common law tradition at times, of which Blackstone is perhaps the foremost jurisprudential figure. However, Blackstone did not merely advocate following "doctrines that are not set down in any written statute or ordinance but depend merely upon immemorial usage" (i.e., common law), but also "urged following the original intentions of those who wrote the law, seeking to 'interpret the will of the legislator...' by taking his words 'in their usual and most known signification' establishing their meaning 'from the context' if necessary and only as a last resort 'when the words are dubious' trying to carry out the intent or spirit of the law" (p. 199-200). In other words, Robert Bork and Antonin Scalia didn't invent the idea of using original legislative intent to guide judicial decision-making.  

This historical resonance of originalist thinking goes against the common claim of Common good constitutionalists that originalism has little precedent - that the Founders weren't originalists, and used their own beliefs about natural law to guide judicial thinking. While there is likely some truth to this claim, it isn't the whole story. Appellate judge J. Harvey Wilkinson, in Cosmic Constitutional Theory, cites ample evidence that "originalism has been around, in some form or another, since the first days of the Founding" (Wilkinson, p. 34).

It isn't just judicial decisions where the New Right likes to mock process and procedure. Supposedly, the rule of law, with its due process and neutrality, holds conservatives back, forcing them to keep their gloves on while the Left fights unfairly. Of anything in liberalism, it is perhaps this that most earns the scorn of nationalist critics. 

And of anything in liberalism, it is perhaps this that most earns the scorn of progressives and socialists. "Damn the rules, we know what is right and we are going to do it," has been the rallying cry for radicals and revolutionaries and technocrats and social reformers throughout the ages. 

And yet it is the constrained men and women who know that we do not in fact just know how to do the right thing, and that it is the rules that might possibly be the only thing we have that keeps us from doing the wrong thing. The hallmark of constrained thinking is an emphasis on process and procedure.

Unconstrained thinkers, who believe in results, think it is silly to care so much about how something is done when there are so many problems in the world to be solved, so many battles to be won. Constrained thinkers know that many of those problems cannot be solved (results can never be guaranteed - making it a fool's errand to focus on them). Often, every attempt to achieve a desired result will fail, and the only outcome will be unintended consequences which cause more harm than good. 

This is why constrained thinkers believe in leaving things well enough alone, focusing on that which can be controlled (process, rules), preserving that which has been tried and tested and is known to work well, showing skepticism towards that which is new and untested, and generally letting problems work themselves out in the emergent equilibrium of the marketplace. If we cannot trust men and women (including experts) to solve societal problems, we must let the common good come via natural bottom-up processes. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:25 AM


The Brilliant Bad Decisions of John Luther Adams (TED GIOIA, MAY 9, 2023, The Honest Broker)

Adams had every reason to go to New York. It was almost his home. After a childhood bouncing around from city to city because of his dad's job with the "telephone company" (there was only one back then), the future composer's father finally got transferred to AT&T's downtown Manhattan headquarters.

Adams was developing his skills as a rock drummer at the time, and made full use of his new home base, gravitating to the local musician hangouts--buying drumheads and equipment at Sam Ash or Manny's Music, listening to the eccentric street musician Moondog on 6th Avenue, and checking out clubs in the Village.

Then things took a turn for the worse--such a precipitous decline that, in retrospect, it's surprising Adams ever recovered from them.

"One evening in 1968 my dad came home and announced that the company had transferred him to Macon, Georgia," Adams recalls in his memoir Silences So Deep. "I felt as though the world as I knew it was coming to an end. Both my parents were alcoholic. In Georgia, their drinking escalated. So did my rebellion. . . . I never graduated from high school."

There aren't many good career options for a high school dropout in Macon, Georgia. Yet somehow, against all odds, Adams was able to convince California Institute of the Arts to accept him as a student.

It helped that Cal Arts was, in the minds of many, a new and unproven enterprise, one of the last visionary ideas of Walt Disney. The creator of Mickey Mouse had helped mastermind the merger of two struggling institutions--Los Angeles Conservatory of Music and Chouinard Art Institute--a marriage that led to the founding of this new school. After his death, others helped out; but in those days, it seemed less like a college, and more like an extension of Hollywood, where Adams lived during his student years.

Yet even this step forward proved short-lived. Adams's father complained about his son's choice of such a peculiar institution. When dad announced that he would no longer pay the bills for Cal Arts, it looked as if Adams would, once again, end up as a dropout. But he exercised his ingenuity and persuasive powers, somehow managing to secure a degree after only two years.

If he had just stayed in Hollywood, Adams would almost certainly have enjoyed a successful music career. I can practically hear those soundtrack albums playing in my head. Adams was already making his name, and showed tremendous promise. Lou Harrison praised one of his pieces. He won a small grant. He made valuable contacts with other composers.

But instead, John Luther Adams returned to Georgia for a while, then took a job as a ranch hand in Idaho.

Few would have predicted a glorious career of any sort for Adams at that juncture. He had already made too many bad decisions in his short life--and he was about make an even worse one.

Posted by orrinj at 12:17 AM


A Wasp Looks at Lizzie Borden (Florence King, Jan. 10th, 2016, National Review)

On the day before the murders, Lizzie joined Abby and Andrew for lunch for the first time in five years -- an air-tight alibi, for who would do murder after doing lunch? That evening, she paid a call on Alice Russell and craftily planted some red herrings. If Machiavelli had witnessed this demonstration of the fine Wasp hand he would have gone into cardiac arrest.

"I have a feeling that something is going to happen," she told Alice. "A feeling that somebody is going to do something." She hammered the point home with stories about her father's "enemies." He was such a ruthless businessman, she said, that "they" all hated him, and she would not put it past "them" to burn down the house.

When she returned home, Uncle John had arrived with plans to spend the night. Since she was Not Speaking to him, she went directly to her room.

The next day, August 4, 1892, the temperature was already in the eighties at sunrise, but that didn't change the Bordens' breakfast menu. Destined to be the most famous breakfast in America, it was printed in newspapers everywhere and discussed by aficionados of the murders for years to come: Alexander Woollcott always claimed it was the motive.

If Lizzie had only waited, Abby and Andrew probably would have died anyway, for their breakfast consisted of mutton soup, sliced mutton, pancakes, bananas, pears, cookies, and coffee. Here we recognize the English concept of breakfast-as-weapon designed to overwhelm French tourists and other effete types.

Posted by orrinj at 12:13 AM


Orwell's Rare Happy Ending (Susannah Pearce, May 1st, 2023, Imaginative Conservative)

Orwell's novels are not exactly where you turn when you are looking for uplifting reading with happy endings. The one lesser known exception is his short, bright novel, "Keep the Aspidistra Flying." I would go as far as to call it charming and delightful. It was published in 1936, following "Down and Out in London and Paris," "Burmese Days," and "The Clergyman's Daughter," and nine years before "Animal Farm." It may be fair to consider it the best of his fiction, as it is a marvelous story, unencumbered by analogy and didacticism. It is all sardonic humor and affection for all his characters.

Well, maybe not quite unencumbered:

    Our civilization is founded on greed and fear, but in the lives of common men the greed and fear are mysteriously transmuted into
    something nobler.  The lower-middle-class people in there, behind their lace curtains, with their children and their scraps of furniture
    and their aspidistras--they lived by the money-code, sure enough, and yet they contrived to keep their decency.  The money-code as they
    interpreted it was not merely cynical and hoggish.  They had their standards, their inviolable points of honour.  They 'kept themselves
    respectable'--kept the aspidistra flying.  Besides, they were alive.  They were bound up in the bundle of life.  They begot children,
    which is what the saints and the soul-savers never by any chance do.

    The aspidistra is the tree of life, he thought suddenly.

Posted by orrinj at 12:05 AM


A Case for American Monarchy (Robert Shaffern, 5/06/23, Crisis)

The most powerful attraction of monarchy today is leadership above politics, which is something that a critical mass of the body politic can rally around. Tory, Labor, and Liberal Democrat can all support the British monarchy because it has largely been above politics. 

Modern European monarchies survive because of the distinction between the offices of head of state (the crown) and head of government (prime minister, or equivalent). Working British royals rarely comment upon legislation being debated in the House of Commons or initiatives pursued by government ministers. Rather, they visit hospitals and schools and visit the nations of the British Commonwealth (over which they reign) on goodwill tours. 

The strength, then, of monarchy comes from the embodiment of the body politic in the ruler. The peasantry of old were, for this reason, the most royalist cross-section of European society. When asked by a Western journalist what Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria-Hungary believed to be his most important responsibility, he replied, "To protect my people from their government." 

It has not been tested in some time, but the real value of the monarch lies in the capacity to set aside a Court ruling or leader for the goof of the country. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


How solar power is keeping Lebanon's lights on (Laure Delacloche, 17th May 2023, BBC)

Lebanon's national grid has struggled to meet the population's full electricity requirements since the country's civil war began in 1975, forcing consumers to rely on expensive neighbourhood generators to fill the gaps. The civil war ended in 1990 but the grid problems continued. The state provider, Electricity of Lebanon (EDL), ceased supplying power altogether in 2021, when it ran out of fuel, plunging the country into near total blackouts. In Beirut, the blackouts continued for over a year and a half, with EDL only able to provide electricity for an average of 3-4 hours per day.

This was only one symptom of multiple new crises in the country, which started in 2019 with an economic and currency crisis deemed by the World Bank as "one of the top ten, possibly top three, most severe economic collapses worldwide since the 1850s". Inflation in Lebanon reached 171% in 2022.

Amidst the crisis, for many families rooftop solar panels have become a stand-in for both grid-supplied electricity and private diesel generators. While it remains an imperfect solution, Lebanon's situation has shown the power of solar and how it can provide a source of clean and reliable electricity when other electricity systems break down.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Could $3,200 'Baby Bonds' Help End Poverty in America? (Brenda León, May 12, 2023, WSJ)

A new investment program being tested in some states makes the case: what if the poorest children started life with some money in the bank.

That is the premise of a program catching on among Democratic leaders around the country. So-called baby bonds have been discussed in at least eight states and lawmakers have approved programs in Washington, D.C., Connecticut and California.

The idea is for the government to deposit a few thousand dollars into a trust account for each infant born to parents below a designated income level. As adults, the beneficiaries can use the money--plus investment returns--to help pay for education or a home.

Make the deposits much higher and continue them annually to age 18, but put them in index funds. Reparations should go into the same accounts. 
Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Mar-a-Lago prosecutors eye July episode with Trump surveillance cameras (Spencer S. Hsu, Josh Dawsey and Devlin Barrett, May 30, 2023, Washington Post)

A Mar-a-Lago employee who helped move boxes of documents last June has been questioned about his conduct weeks later related to a government demand for surveillance footage from Donald Trump's property, according to a person familiar with the federal probe of the former president's handling of classified material.

The employee's actions in June and July have caught the attention of special counsel Jack Smith's investigators as they try to determine whether Trump or people close to him sought to obstruct justice in the face of a grand jury subpoena to return all documents marked classified, or lied about what happened, according to people familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive investigation.

The Washington Post reported last week that the employee was questioned repeatedly by investigators after he was seen on video footage helping another Trump aide, Walt Nauta, move boxes into a Mar-a-Lago storage room on June 2, the day before a top Justice Department official arrived with FBI agents to collect classified material in response to the subpoena.

Authorities have also examined events in mid-July surrounding a different subpoena, which sought footage from security cameras on the property. Around that time, the employee allegedly had a conversation with an IT worker at the site about how the security cameras worked and how long images remained stored in the system, the person familiar with that aspect of the investigation said.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


"This is nuts:" European power prices go negative as springtime renewables soar (Joshua S Hill 31 May 2023, Renew Economy)

Energy analyst Gerard Reid has been highlighting these trends stemming not only from increased renewables and favourable weather conditions, but also the impediment to stable generation levels caused by nuclear power.

For example, according to Reid, Denmark "consistently meets 85% of its weekly energy needs from renewables. However, on particularly windy days ... Denmark's strong interconnections with neighbouring countries enable it to export up to 50% of excess power.

"This demonstrates the benefits of interconnection, but it also reveals the limitations when considering the current situation of excess power across Europe.

"Countries like Spain, France, the Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, and Sweden are experiencing zero or negative prices due to surplus production as they have reached the limit of what they can use or even export."

Starting to question the wisdom of the Petrophiles...
Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Can Republicans Hope To Outrun Trump In 2024 House Races? (Amy Walter, 5/25/23, Cook Political Report)

Let's start at the beginning. In 2016, 23 Republican House candidates won in districts that Trump lost. These Republicans didn't just barely outrun Trump; most of them out-performed their 2016 nominee by double digits -- by a 20 point margin, on average.   [...]

 In 2018, Democrats flipped all but two of those 23 Clinton/Republican districts. 

By 2020, these "swing districts" once again voted overwhelmingly Democratic. Biden won 21 of the 23 districts Clinton had carried in 2016, and House Democrats carried 15 of the 23. 

In 2020, Republicans found success with candidates who were female and/or people of color. These candidates didn't look, sound or act like Donald Trump or the stereotype of the GOP. Even so, almost all of the gains Republicans made that year were in districts that Trump had also carried. Only five challengers -- David Valadao (CA-21), Young Kim (CA-39), Michelle Steel (CA-48), Maria Elvira Salazar (FL-27) and Beth Van Duyne (TX-24) -- won in CDs carried by Biden. Another four incumbents -- Mike Garcia (CA-25), Don Bacon (NE-02), John Katko (NY-24), and Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-01) -- won re-election in Biden-won districts. 

In 2022, Republicans narrowly won control of the House thanks to the fact that 18 Republicans won in districts Biden had carried in 2020. However, Republicans' failure to flip other high-profile seats that Biden narrowly carried two years earlier (like MI-08, MI-07, PA-07, CO-08, NM-02 and OH-13) cost them a more robust majority. 

To hold the House in 2024, Republicans first have to limit their losses in Biden-held districts. The most vulnerable Republicans are the five freshmen who outperformed Trump's 2020 showing in their districts by double digits: John Duarte (CA-13), George Santos (NY-03), Anthony D'Esposito (NY-04), Mike Lawler (NY-17) and Lori Chavez DeRemer (OR-05). For example, Biden won the Central Valley-based 13th District by 11 points. Freshman Rep. John Duarte carried it by just under one point. 

The next tier of vulnerable incumbents are the four freshman Republicans who outperformed Trump by five to nine points: Tom Kean Jr. (NJ-07), Marc Molinaro (NY-19), Brandon Williams (NY-22) and Jen Kiggans (VA-02). 

Why did I single out the freshmen members? They are the least established, and as such are likely going to have the hardest time overcoming the pull of the national environment. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


PODCAST: Tyler Cowen on the Risks and Impact of Artificial Intelligence (Russ Roberts, May 15 2023, EconTalk)

Economist Tyler Cowen of George Mason University talks with EconTalk's Russ Roberts about the benefits and dangers of artificial intelligence. Cowen argues that the worriers--those who think that artificial intelligence will destroy mankind--need to make a more convincing case for their concerns. He also believes that the worriers are too willing to reduce freedom and empower the state in the name of reducing a risk that is far from certain. Along the way, Cowen and Roberts discuss how AI might change various parts of the economy and the job market.

An excellent case from Mr. Cowen on why the AI hysterics are so absurd.  

May 30, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Japan's fusion start-ups starting to roll in money  (SCOTT FOSTER, MAY 30, 2023, Asia Times)

Kyoto Fusioneering is raising big new money from domestic venture capital funds, banks and energy, engineering and trading companies, the latest indication that nuclear fusion energy ventures are becoming increasingly investible in Japan.

On May 17, Kyoto Fusioneering announced its 10.5 billion yen (US$75 million) Series C funding round had been oversubscribed, marking a repeat of its Series B fund-raising in February 2022.

The nation's most prominent nuclear fusion technology developer has now raised 12.2 billion yen ($87 million) since it was spun out of Kyoto University in October 2019.

Kyoto Fusioneering's management says it plans to use the new capital to hire more engineers, accelerate the development of fusion reactor materials and key components, develop its power plant engineering capability and continue its expansion in the UK and US.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The 'exploding' demand for giant heat pumps (Chris Baraniuk, 5/30/23, BBC)

Theirs is among the largest heat pump units in the world. Heat pumps work by compressing gently warmed refrigerants to raise the temperature of these fluids. That heat can then be passed on to homes or industrial machinery.

Heat pumps require electricity to work but can produce around three or four kilowatts of heat for every kilowatt of power they consume, making them highly efficient. Plus, some designs can provide cooling as well.

Heat pumps are increasingly popular with some home owners but domestic devices are relatively small and tend to have outputs of several kilowatts or so. MAN ES's biggest commercial heat pump is thousands of times more powerful - with a total heating capacity of 48 megawatts (MW).

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Deflation risk stalking China's economic recovery (WILLIAM PESEK, MAY 30, 2023, Asia Times)

Strategist Vincent Chan at Aletheia Capital speaks for many when he warns that China is at the "borderline of deflation."

That same goes for analyst Kelvin Wong at OANDA. "To address this ongoing growth slowdown in China that may lead to a deflationary spiral, which in turn can potentially trigger an adverse impact on countries that export goods and services to China such as Singapore, the Chinese central bank needs to switch away from its current conservative stance to loosen its liquidity tap further to stimulate growth," Wong argues.

Long-time Japan observers may detect some troubling echoes as Fu Linghui, spokesperson for China's National Bureau of Statistics, insists that there's "no deflation" in the economy. And if there is, it's "transitory."

This last word might trigger PTSD from similar assurances emanating from Tokyo in the late 1990s. Or their mirror image -- "don't worry, inflation is transitory" -- coming from Washington these last two years.

As Nikkei Asia points out in an investigative report this week, consumer prices in mainland provinces Jilin, Shanxi, Guizhou, Liaoning, Anhui, Henan and Shanghai turned negative in April. Data from Chinese research company Wind Show corroborate Nikkei's findings.

Nearly no one is planning for the future we actually face.  Technology will just keep reducing the need for labor, but also the cost of goods and services, so while we will need to redistribute wealth ever more widely we'll also need to expend ever less of it individually.    

May 29, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 8:54 AM



Shifted Energy adds cellular-connected control units to electric water heaters, which are in pretty much every home in the state. It allows the company to control the electricity going to water heaters to help balance the grid during sudden shifts in supply from wind and solar power. 

Getting a box hooked up to your water heater also knocks about $3 off your monthly utility bill. 

The technology is fascinating -- each water heater is equipped with artificial intelligence that learns what the user needs and when they need it, so there is no impact on people's hot water supply. 

With this technology, the water heaters can also take excess solar power off the grid during the day when too much is being generated for the grid to handle. 

Posted by orrinj at 8:51 AM


The deepening radicalization of Donald J. Trump (Isaac Arnsdorf, Josh Dawsey and Adriana Usero, May 24, 2023, Washington Post)

In the immediate aftermath of Jan. 6, 2021, President Donald Trump stayed mostly silent, and when he finally delivered his farewell address to the nation, he disavowed the attack on the U.S. Capitol as something that "all Americans were horrified by" and "can never be tolerated."

Now, as Trump seeks to return to the White House, he speaks of Jan. 6 as "a beautiful day." He says there was no reason for police to shoot the rioter attempting to break into the House chamber, and he denies there was any danger to his vice president, Mike Pence, who was hiding from a pro-Trump mob chanting for him to be hanged. He has promised to pardon many rioters if he becomes president again.

On this and a host of subjects, from sexual assault to foreign and domestic policy, Trump's positions have become even more extreme, his tone more confrontational, his accounts less tethered to reality, according to a Washington Post review of Trump's speeches and interviews with former aides.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Levin said to call for judges who 'understand' why Jews don't want to live near Arabs (Times of Israel, 5/29/23)

Justice Minister Yariv Levin, the chief architect of the suspended judicial overhaul legislation, reportedly told the cabinet on Sunday that the Supreme Court must feature justices who "understand" why Jewish Israelis would not be "prepared to live with Arabs" in mixed localities.

"Arabs buy apartments in Jewish communities in the Galilee and this causes Jews to leave these cities, because they are not prepared to live with Arabs. We need to ensure that the Supreme Court has justices who understand this," said Levin, according to the Kan public broadcaster.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


With Green Prescriptions, Getting Healthier Is a Walk in the ParkA growing movement promotes time in nature to improve health and happiness. (Peter Yeung, May 29, 2023, Reasons to be Cheerful)

Green prescriptions were pioneered decades ago. In 1982, doctors in Japan began encouraging therapeutic so-called "forest bathing," or ​​Shinrin-yoku, which is now available in 62 certified forest-therapy bases. In New Zealand, green prescriptions -- so-called Rōngoa Kākāriki -- have become a formal part of the health care system, with people even able to self-refer (and as of May, the prescriptions are free). More recently, Park Rx America, one of the world's largest green prescription programs, was launched in 2017 by pediatrician Dr Robert Zarr, who set out a mission to "decrease the burden of chronic disease, increase health and happiness, and foster environmental stewardship."

In one of the movement's latest growth spurts, Canada last year launched its first nationwide green prescription program. In 2019, PaRx, a health initiative launched by the BC Parks Foundation, partnered with Parks Canada to provide doctors across four provinces -- British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario -- with an initial run of 100 free passes giving a year's access to more than 80 of the country's national parks, historic sites and nature reserves. Demand quickly shot up and now the number of passes has been made unlimited. Today, 4,000 green prescriptions have been written by over 10,000 physicians -- more than five percent of Canada's total -- in all 10 provinces. In December, the Canadian Medical Association officially endorsed the program.

"In Canada, we have an outdoor-loving culture," says Melissa Lem, director of PaRx. "But we've been overwhelmed by the response. We must take this wonderful opportunity with both hands because nature has massive health benefits."

The benefits of spending time in nature are as established as a centuries-old oak trunk, and include reduced stress and improved sleep, happiness, attention, memory and creativity. In one 2015 study, researchers in Canada found that adding 10 more trees to a city block improved perceived health and well-being as much as increasing people's income by $10,000 or making them seven years younger. Time in nature even impacts the very functioning of our bodies: a study by a professor at University College London found that contact with microbes in the environment strengthens our immune systems, improving the resilience of our skin, airways and guts. These programs also help support the maintenance of parks themselves. And you don't have to go into wild places to feel the benefit of nature: a Finnish study found that just 15 minutes walking in a city park is enough to improve energy and vitality. 

May 28, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 11:10 AM


We Are Measuring Inflation All Wrong: Non-Housing Inflation is Very Low (Alan Reynolds, May 28, 2023, AIER)

A long data lag makes these overweighted housing inflation estimates so misleading the Fed Chairman Powell has warned against measuring inflation services without first removing housing. If we look at "CPI less shelter," the average annual rate of inflation over the past ten months was 0.6 percent. And the producer price index (PPI) - which also excludes housing - rose at a similar 0.9 percent rate.

The Fed and media define inflation as each month's increase from a year earlier. But that 12-month average remains exaggerated because annualized inflation rates in May and June of 2022 were 11-14 percent, partly due to the Russia-Ukraine invasion. Once we drop those oldest and most extreme months out of the 12-month year-to-year average, CPI inflation falls to 3.3 percent for the past ten months rather than 4.9 percent for twelve. 

Before that, from April 2021 to June 2022, CPI inflation averaged 8.6 percent. Getting inflation down from 8.6 percent to 3.3 percent belies the cliche about inflation being sticky or stubbornly high. Yet that 3.3 percent figure drops much further - to 0.6 percent - if we exclude shelter. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Is the Moral Panic Over Critical Race Theory Justified? A Conversation with Sam Hoadley-Brill (AARON ROSS POWELL, MAY 27, 2023, reimagining Liberty)

Aaron Ross Powell: Before we get to the current moral panic about critical race theory, let's start by clearing up for people just what it is and I think just as importantly, what it isn't--because like Marxism and postmodernism, a lot of right-wingers are against it without, it often seems, having much of a sense of what it actually is. To the extent that we can briefly summarize an entire academic sub-discipline, what is critical race theory?

Sam Hoadley-Brill: The term "critical race theory" was coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw. She is a law professor and executive director of the African American Policy Forum, which I currently work at. When she coined the term critical race theory or CRT as it's often referred to, that referred to a very niche at the time, intellectual movement in the legal academy in law schools and in works in law journals. It has since become influential in many other disciplines outside of law, disciplines in the humanities and social sciences like philosophy, education, sociology, and so on.

For a brief definition, I would say that critical race theory is a practice of examining the role of race and racism in society, the social construction of race and institutionalized racism, and how race intersects with identity, systems, and policies. Now, that seems like a very concise definition. Ironically, that definition actually comes from a proposed bill written by a Republican in Minnesota, to actually ban public schools from having any instruction required that related to critical race theory on that definition.

That proposal would've banned schools from requiring any instruction that examines the role of race and racism in society, the social construction of race, institutionalized racism, or how race intersects with identity, systems, and policies. Now, usually the people who are opposed to critical race theory aren't so accurate when defining it. That is a bit of an outlier in terms of the right-wing legislation proposed to ban critical race theory. The people who oppose CRT will usually define it by demonizing it, as you said, a lot like the right-wing proposed definitions of post-modernism and caricatures of Marxism.

May 27, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Trump workers moved Mar-a-Lago boxes a day before FBI came for documents ( Devlin Barrett, Josh Dawsey, Spencer S. Hsu and Perry Stein, May 25, 2023, Washington Post)

Two of Donald Trump's employees moved boxes of papers the day before an early June visit by FBI agents and a prosecutor to the former president's Florida home to retrieve classified documents in response to a subpoena -- timing that investigators have come to view as suspicious and an indication of possible obstruction, according to people familiar with the matter.

Trump and his aides also allegedly carried out a "dress rehearsal" for moving sensitive papers even before his office received the May 2022 subpoena, according to the people familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe a sensitive ongoing investigation.

Prosecutors in addition have gathered evidence indicating that Trump at times kept classified documents in his office in a place where they were visible and sometimes showed them to others, these people said.

So helpful of Donald to demonstrate exactly the intent required to make this criminal. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Freud save AmericaPsychoanalysis is back in vogue with the American left. But is that rejuvenation symbolic of the latter's failure? (Nick Burns, 5/27/23, New Statesman)

Links between psychoanalysis and the US left are not new. After his arrival in the US in 1939, Wilhelm Reich, an early pioneer of radical left psychoanalysis, agitator for sexual liberation and inventor of the "orgone energy accumulator", drew the close attention of writers like Saul Bellow and Norman Mailer. But it was theorists such as the Frankfurt School émigré Herbert Marcuse who helped make Freud one of the lodestars of the American New Left by the 1960s, as a wide array of social movements propelled the left away from an earlier, more exclusive attachment to Marx and historical materialism. [...]

The timing of the recent psychoanalytic turn on the US left is not incidental. The American left is turning to psychoanalysis as it navigates changing conditions on three levels: political, cultural and personal.

In political terms, the position of the American left is an ambivalent one. Even as a huge state-spending drive promises to address climate change, and the Joe Biden administration has stirred exuberant talk of "the death of neoliberalism", a sense of defeat predominates in many circles. At the local level, progressive gains have proved durable, defying predictions to the contrary. Waves of investment by the US government in green energy and infrastructure have kindled hopes for a Green New Deal. But not all see in these developments a recipe for real progress - some see only the temporary, political reallocation of winners in a losing economic game.

The organised left is still reeling from the demise of its national electoral ambitions in the shape of the 2020 Bernie Sanders campaign, followed by a lockdown that scattered the array of left forces accumulated during the previous decade. Recouping strength has proved difficult. A moment of hope for the left during the "hot summer" of 2020 turned to ash as reaction against its "defund the police" slogan reversed the movement's gains.

"As an empirical matter, the left is much more powerful," says Adler-Bell. "But the double gut-punch of Bernie losing the primary and moments later the lockdowns setting in is at the core of this sense of disappointment."

In that disappointment is borne a reflection that seeks explanations beyond the material. Perhaps psychoanalysis is becoming attractive for the same reasons it did in the 1920s and 1930s: a desire to explain why an apparently propitious moment (then, the First World War) did not lead to revolution.

Many of the protagonists in the US left's return to Freud, too, are part of a millennial generation whose young adulthood coincided with the 2010s, a decade that began with Occupy Wall Street and ended with the pandemic. Freud's tragic sensibility seems a match for a generation ageing out of youthful voluntarism and entering middle age - and which has struggled at times to distinguish political from lifestyle concerns.

"Being on the left was something that provided a lot of identity for people in my generation, [the sense] that doing politics was something that feels really good and whatever you do that feels good must be useful and correct," says Adler-Bell. "I think a lot of that is wrong and has been proven so - and thinking with psychoanalysis is helpful for understanding why that might be the case."

Thankfully, our anti-Intellectualism inoculated Americans against Darwin, Marx and Freud

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM



In a statement, the University of Massachusetts Amherst announced that electrical engineer Jun Yao and his team had built upon prior research in a new paper in the journal Advanced Materials into what they call the "Air-gen effect." The basic idea? Growing conducive nanofilms out of bacteria that can pull small amounts of electricity from the water vapor in the air.

"The air contains an enormous amount of electricity," Yao said in the school's statement. "Think of a cloud, which is nothing more than a mass of water droplets. Each of those droplets contains a charge, and when conditions are right, the cloud can produce a lightning bolt--but we don't know how to reliably capture electricity from lightning. What we've done is to create a human-built, small-scale cloud that produces electricity for us predictably and continuously so that we can harvest it."

Because of its bacterial foundation, the material's initial discovery in 2020 was heralded as an intriguing new avenue for green energy tech. Yao and his team have continued to explore the concept, and he says they've found the concept is more generalizable than previously believed.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Prosecutors in Trump's criminal case say they have recording of Trump and a witness (GRAHAM KATES, MAY 26, 2023 / 5:15 PM / CBS NEWS)

Prosecutors in former President Donald Trump's Manhattan criminal case have released to his attorneys a recording of Trump and a witness, whose identity was not disclosed, according to a document the office made public Friday.

The document, called an automatic discovery form, describes the nature of the charges against a defendant and a broad overview of the evidence that prosecutors will present at Trump's preliminary hearing or at trial. Trump's attorneys and media organizations, including CBS News, had repeatedly requested that such a form be made public in the weeks since Trump's arrest on April 4.

Trump is the first former president in American history to face criminal charges. 

May 26, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Has Science Evolved into Technology? (Marco Andreacchio, 5/26/23, Voegelin View)

Has science evolved into technology? This question deserves unpacking.  "Science" here refers to a modern variant of rationalism, the "autonomous" one that Edmund Husserl bashed as a farce.[1] Now, at first it would seem that science and technology are two distinct enterprises.  Science provides an epistemological grounding for technological praxis.  Yet, science, as Werner Heisenberg discovered speaking of "today's physics' picture of nature," is about our relationship with nature, rather than nature in and of itself.[2] What this means is that science can no longer be merely Cartesian: it cannot be "merely theoretical."  In fact, modern science never was.  But now we have a popular confirmation of what science really is, namely a process by which theory as formal method becomes eminently practical, or as Hegel would put it, "concrete." 

Being hostile to Intellectualism while embracing the practical has been a massive boon. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Path From The Tea Party Through Jan. 6 To Today (David Kurtz, May 25, 2023, TPM)

Rhodes incorporated the Oath Keepers in 2009 (gee, who became president that year?), and you can't divorce its creation from the then-emerging Tea Party movement.

The first mention of the Oath Keepers at TPM came in January 2010 in a story by Zachary Roth headlined: "Former Marine With Ties To Right-Wing Movements Charged With Child Rape, Possessing Grenade Launcher." A lot going on there, no? Here's an excerpt:

It's not clear what Dyer might want with a grenade launcher. But he has declared himself a proud member of Oath Keepers, an organization that aims to enlist ex-military and law enforcement personnel, and has stoked fears that the federal government may try to seize Americans' guns and round people up into concentration camps.

In this video, Dyer appears at a Tea Party event to promote the Oath Keepers and to rail against what the group -- perhaps uniquely -- sees as the federal government's overzealous response to Hurricane Katrina.

A month later, in February 2010, Stewart Rhodes made his first appearance at TPM in a story by Eric Kleefeld about a Tea Party candidate for Texas governor in the GOP primary against incumbent Gov. Rick Perry and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison:

Debra Medina, the Tea Party activist and candidate in the Texas Republican gubernatorial primary who has attracted attention for her favorable comments about 9/11 Truthers and Birthers, is also involved with another extreme ideological movement: The Oath Keepers.

Will Bunch at the Philadelphia Daily News points out that Medina will appear this Sunday at an event in San Antonio, called "Taking Back Texas." The other two top-billed speakers are Stewart Rhodes, founder of the Oath Keepers movement, and Oather activist Richard Mack, a former sheriff of Graham County, Arizona.

You can see in each of those initial stories the adjacency, to put it charitably, of the Oath Keepers and the Tea Party, with a little birtherism and 9/11 trutherism thrown in for good measure.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Texas lawmakers issue 20 articles of impeachment against state Attorney General Ken Paxton (Jake Bleiberg and Acacia Coronado, 5/26/23, AP)

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton teetered on the brink of impeachment Thursday after years of scandal, criminal charges and corruption accusations that the state's Republican majority had largely met with silence until now.

In an unanimous decision, a Republican-led House investigative committee that spent months quietly looking into Paxton recommended impeaching the state's top lawyer on 20 articles, including bribery, unfitness for office and abuse of public trust. The House could vote on the recommendation as soon as Friday. If it impeaches Paxton, he would be forced to leave office immediately.

The move sets up what could be a remarkably sudden downfall for one of the GOP's most prominent legal combatants, who in 2020 asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn President Joe Biden's victory. Only two officials in Texas' nearly 200-year history have been impeached.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Succession is a Christian psychodrama (Ed Prideaux, 5/25/23, UnHerd)
The story of Abraham and Isaac has always been one of the more confounding parts of the Hebrew Bible. Even millennia later, one can scarcely imagine the doom of Isaac's revelation, as Abraham brought the knife to his throat: "The fire and the wood are here, but where's the lamb for the burnt offering?" The sudden appearance of a ram and the merciful angel that spared Isaac's life, may have provided short shrift. One imagines Isaac shattered and dissociative, wracked with questions as they walked back to Beersheba.

Many great thinkers have sought to make sense of Abraham's deranged vision - Kierkegaard, Kafka, Derrida -- and the sort of God that could have sanctioned it. For Kierkegaard, the absurdity of a father trying to kill his own son can only be grasped in its own terms. By some flavour of supreme logic, in the terrible clarity of God's command, Kierkegaard surmised, Abraham must have expected a deliverance: if not the return of his son, at least a "substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen". By trusting in the absurd, his faith was commended.

Only philosophers and theologians could make such a hash of such a straightforward tale: Isaac represents Abraham's test of whether God is worthy of Man. Had He demanded the sacrifice be carried out we would not worship Him. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Fusion Race (Packy McCormick x Rahul Rana, 5/22/23, Not Boring)

Imagine a bizarro relay marathon in which one runner carries the baton for the first 26.0 miles, opens up a backpack full of batons, and hands them out liberally to a waiting horde of sprinters to dash all-out for the final 0.2 miles. That's the best analogy we can come up with for this moment in the Fusion Race. 

Global governments are the marathon runner. From the race to develop thermonuclear weapons after World War II, to the $22 billion, 50+ year cooperative ITER reactor currently being built in France, to the National Ignition Facility's ignition achievement in December 2022, governments have led fusion research efforts for the better part of eight decades. 

The world's governments have run a well-paced marathon, producing something akin to a Moore's Law in fusion for half a century. The triple product - of density, temperature, and time - is the figure-of-merit in fusion, and it doubled every 1.8 years from the late 1950s through the early 2000s, as one type of reactor - tokamaks, a form of magnetic confinement fusion (MCF) - got larger and more powerful. 

In December, scientists at the government-funded National Ignition Facility (NIF) at Lawrence Livermore made headlines when they achieved fusion ignition, or scientific energy breakeven, for the first time in a controlled environment That is, they got more energy out of the fusion reaction than they spent on the laser energy used to drive it. The NIF used a different approach: inertial confinement fusion (ICF). 

The world rejoiced - fusion energy is possible! - and then sobered up - it was like a AA battery's worth of energy and, experts pointed out, commercial-scale fusion power might not arrive for decades. 

That's the joke in fusion, that fusion power is "always 30 years away." Funny joke, to be sure, but it may no longer be true. 

We're at the handoff point, from private to public, thanks to improving compute and machine learning, better magnets and materials, the diverse range of technical approaches that are finally becoming feasible, and dramatically increased capital availability for startups. 

Companies like Helion, Commonwealth Fusion Systems, TAE Technologies, General Fusion, and Zap Energy are the sprinters. Armed with $5 billion in funding, most of which has come in just the past two years, and decades worth of research made feasible by new tools, fusion startups are locked in a mad dash to the finish in what might be called Fusion Race 2.0. At the end stands commercial fusion and a healthy chunk of the $15 trillion global energy market. 

May 25, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 2:16 PM


Oath Keepers founder sentenced to 18 years in Jan. 6 seditious conspiracy case (Ryan J. Reilly, Daniel Barnes and Gary Grumbach, 5/25/23, NBC News)

The founder of the far-right Oath Keepers has been sentenced to 18 years in federal prison in connection with the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol following his conviction on seditious conspiracy.

The sentence for Stewart Rhodes is the longest imposed on a Jan. 6 defendant to date. In a politically-charged speech in the courtroom just before his sentencing, Rhodes called himself a "political prisoner" and said that when he talked about "regime change" in a phone call with supporters earlier this week, he meant he hopes that former President Donald Trump will win in 2024.

The judge disagreed that Rhodes had been locked up for politics, saying it was his actions that led to his criminal convictions.

"You, sir, present an ongoing threat and a peril to this country and to the republic and to the very fabric of this democracy," Judge Amit Mehta said before handing down the sentence.

Posted by orrinj at 1:55 PM


DNA Suggests Modern Humans Emerged From Several Groups in Africa, Not One (Will Sullivan, May 25, 2023, Smithsonian)

The paper relies on modeling using the genomes of 290 living people from southern, eastern and western Africa. The findings suggest that modern humans descended from at least two groups of ancient humans that were closely related and mixed genes on occasion, writes Live Science's Charles Q. Choi.

"There is no single birthplace," Eleanor Scerri, an evolutionary archaeologist at the Max Planck Institute for Geoanthropology in Germany who did not contribute to the study, tells the New York Times' Carl Zimmer. "It really puts a nail in the coffin of that idea."

Rather than envisioning human evolution as a tree--with a single stem that splits into disconnected branches--the researchers describe ancestral human populations as intertwining stems, writes Nature News' Jude Coleman.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


5 "what ifs" that would have changed cosmic history (Ethan Siegel, 5/25/23, Big Think)

13.8 billion years ago, what we know today as our Universe began with the hot Big Bang. Filled with matter, antimatter and radiation in an almost uniform fashion, it expanded and gravitated in nearly perfect balance. As the Universe cooled, the matter and antimatter annihilated away, leaving a tiny, minuscule, but significant amount of matter behind. After 9.2 billion years, what would become our Solar System gradually began to form from a collapsing cloud of molecular gas, and after another 4.55 billion years or so, humanity first arose on planet Earth.

When we look out at the Universe from our perspective here and now, we only get a snapshot of existence, defined by the properties of the light, particles, and gravitational waves that we observe at the moment of their arrival. Based on all that we've seen, combined with our theories, frameworks, and models that reflect the fusion of those observations with the underlying laws of physics, we've come to understand the cosmos around us. But if things had been only a tiny bit different, our Universe would have been dramatically different. Here are five things that could have happened to change the course of our shared cosmic history.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Truths Unlooked ForGuardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is a return to the good action/adventure/sci-fi romp, with excellent story and spectacle and no wokeness. More surprisingly, it's also profound thanks to its shocking religious themes. (Jared Johnson, 5/24/23, Crisis)

Rocket was created as a throwaway experiment, but he manifests a unique consciousness and free will absent in the Evolutionary's other creations. The supervillain spends the film in a manic search to find Rocket and study his inexplicable mind. Rocket winds up grievously wounded in the High Evolutionary's first attempt, and so the Guardians race to save their friend and confront the past. 

The source of Rocket's intelligence turns out to be, of all things, divine Providence. Thanks to his materialism, the High Evolutionary is blind to this. It is by contrasting the Guardians and the Evolutionary that Gunn explores two responses to the problem of evil: hope in Providence, and despair. The High Evolutionary embodies the latter. 

His utopian ambitions reveal a desperate refusal to deny the fallenness of creation, and he believes he must weed it out himself. In real life, this despair is at the heart of every totalitarian ideology out there, from Machiavelli to Marx. All of them insist that the world is awful, there is no higher power to fix it, and so we must order the world ourselves. When his quest for Rocket devolves into madness, one henchman begs him to stop "for the love of God." He bellows: "There is no God! That's why I stepped in!" 

The context ensures that this is not a movie in which the filmmaker subtly speaks his worldview through the villain; rather, the heroic Guardians embody hope in Providence, posited as the correct answer. As he lies dying, Rocket's soul stands at the literal Pearly Gates. There he speaks to another experiment, a dear friend, murdered by the High Evolutionary. He reveals his grief over the monstrousness of his creation. He wants a purpose, but he has despaired of ever finding one. 

His friend tells him that "there are the hands that made us, and there are the hands that guide the hands." That is to say: we are shaped by our suffering, but that suffering is a tool for the good. I don't know any way to read that except as Christian Providence. You can't even render it a vague New Ageism like "the universe"; in saying the "hands that guide," Providence is implied to be personal, intentional, and benevolent. By the end of the film, each Guardian comes to a similar conclusion; and by embracing the mystery of Providence, they can fly off, free and joyful, to discover their true callings. 

The conceit that one could do better than God is hardly surprising to find in a comic book villain, but it is especially explicit here. And Anglospheric culture is so deeply premised on Man's Fallen nature and the impossibility of Rational utopianism that this theme too is unsurprising.  Still, it's nice to see hundreds of millions of dollars spent to remind the masses of it at a time when liberalism is under attack from the Left/Right.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Texas mall shooting suspect's alleged extremism part of growing trend in US: DHS bulletin (Luke Barr, May 24, 2023, ABC News)

The updated National Terrorism Advisory System (NTAS) bulletin says the coming months could be dangerous.

"Factors that could mobilize individuals to commit violence include their perceptions of the 2024 general election cycle and legislative or judicial decisions pertaining to sociopolitical issues. Likely targets of potential violence include US critical infrastructure, faith-based institutions, individuals or events associated with the LGBTQIA+ community, schools, racial and ethnic minorities, and government facilities and personnel, including law enforcement," it said.

In particular, officials said that a candidate who casts doubt on the election system "would contribute to the potential of violent acts."

Other incidents that were mentioned in the bulletin are the Nashville Christan school, plots against power substations and foreign terrorists who "continue to use media to call for lone offender attacks in the West, condemn US foreign policy, and attempt to expand their reach and grow global support networks."

May 24, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 3:27 PM


The Media Has Got Ron DeSantis Nailed (JACK SHAFER, 05/24/2023, Politico)

Not to mock the governor, but he exudes more coldness than coolness. He gives every appearance of not particularly liking people, and that feeling has been reciprocated in the recent national polls as his numbers have peaked and tumbled down.

Then there's the physical straitjacket he dons when he takes the podium or mingles with voters or walks through crowds protected by his ultra-protective retinue. Dead-eyed and dour, DeSantis speaks a body language that always seems to be looking for an exit. If no exit exists, he calms his demons by sparking some new senseless fight with the Disney corporation. If he becomes president, will the House of Mouse rank above or below China in his Axis of Evil?

Noting both his rigid demeanor and his deliberate avoidance of the nonpartisan press, the reporters covering DeSantis have gathered these behavioral cues to sew the candidate a straitjacketed image, portraying him as a locked up, frozen and vengeful character whose veins pump bile, not blood. He's now in a box -- likely for his entire 2024 campaign -- that will be difficult to break out of, even for the most talented escape artist.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Fearing indictment is imminent in classified docs probe, Trump team requests meeting with DOJ (Katherine Faulders and Alexander Mallin, May 23, 2023, Washington Post)

The letter asks Garland for a meeting at his earliest convenience to discuss what the attorneys describe as the "ongoing injustice that is being perpetrated" by special counsel Jack Smith and says that no president has been "baselessly investigated" in such an "unlawful fashion."

The one-page letter was signed by Trump lawyers John Rowley and James Trusty, and does not outline any specific allegations of wrongdoing by Smith and his team.

The request does not specifically detail what Trump's legal team wants to discuss with the attorney general.

The noose tightens.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


House Ethics Committee closes Swalwell investigation with no further action (Mariana Alfaro, May 23, 2023, Washington Post)

Per Axios, U.S. officials don't think Fang got classified information as she cozied up to politicians, including from Swalwell, and he was not accused of any wrongdoing. After U.S. intelligence officials briefed him in 2015 on their concerns about Fang, he cut ties with her. Swalwell said in a statement to Axios then that he provided information to the FBI about her and that he hasn't interacted with her in six years. Fang has since left the country.

May 23, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 4:30 PM


Donald Trump's Legal Team Is in Utter Turmoil (ROBERT KATZBERG, MAY 23, 2023, Slate)

Parlatore's departure follows that of Evan Corcoran, a Trump lawyer who resigned from the Mar-a-Lago investigation after being compelled to testify in the grand jury against his client in the classified documents matter. Despite resigning from the Mar-a-Lago investigation, Corcoran will remain counsel to the former president in other investigations. While Parlatore was also compelled to testify in the grand jury, he apparently saw no ethical or practical bar to his continuing to work for Trump until Epshteyn annoyed him sufficiently to trigger his exit. Both Parlatore and Corcoran have it wrong.

As a white-collar criminal defense attorney for four decades, I cannot fathom how any attorney who has testified in a grand jury investigation of a client can remain that client's lawyer. Justice Department attorneys did not subpoena Parlatore and Corcoran after randomly pulling their names from the phone book. They were subpoenaed because the DOJ must have had substantial evidence involving them in the criminal conduct of their client. Otherwise there would be no way to successfully litigate the matter over many months to break the attorney-client privilege under the "crime fraud" exception. 

Gonna need a bigger cell...

Posted by orrinj at 4:19 PM


Joe Biden and Walter Russell Mead Deserve an "F" on India (SALIL TRIPATHI, MAY 23, 2023, The UnPopulist)

Mead betrays no hint that he is aware that as chief minister of Gujarat in 2002, Modi presided over one of the worst episodes of anti-Muslim bloodletting since India's independence. Hindu militants--some tied to the BJP--massacred thousands of Muslims in a few days. Muslim women were beaten, gang raped and murdered. One survivor is Bilkis Bano, a pregnant woman whose toddler's head was bashed in front of her before she was raped by 11 neighbors and left for dead. After 17 long years, her tormentors were finally convicted--only to be released last year by the Gujarat government, which Modi or his party have ruled uninterrupted for just over a quarter century, due to "good behavior" in prison. Worse, Gujarat did so after obtaining a green light from Amit Shah, Modi's Home Minister and right-hand man. When the rapists got out, BJP leaders and activists greeted them with garlands. A BBC documentary earlier this year examining Modi's role in the Gujarat pogrom was effectively banned from the country. (To their credit, some Australian politicians and human rights activists have arranged to screen that documentary in the Australian parliament during Modi's visit.)

During Modi's first term from 2015 to 2018, Human Rights Watch found that Hindu "cow protection" vigilantes lynched 44 people--36 of whom were Muslim.

The BJP is targeting Muslims not just with violence but also abusive laws. Modi's notorious Citizenship Amendment Act, which has generated massive protests around the country, could potentially strip millions of Muslims of their citizenship unless they meet complicated conditions to prove they are Indians. Mosques that have allegedly breached municipal laws are being razed, and Muslims are increasingly facing restrictions over praying in public. Muslim girls and women are not allowed to wear the headscarf in academic institutions in one state. Muslim tenants are increasingly finding it hard to get rental property and many Muslims find their job applications go unanswered.

BJP activists take every opportunity to vilify Muslims. When the pandemic took off in India, they blamed Tablighi Muslims, who had gathered for a religious event, as super spreaders while initially ignoring large electoral rallies that Modi was addressing; the rallies were later canceled. Modi has repeatedly dog-whistled that you can tell who is violent by how they dress--a not-so-subtle effort to demonize observant Muslims. It is not surprising then that the BJP no longer has a single Muslim member of parliament even though nearly 14% of India's population is Muslim, not even a token one as had been the case in the previous BJP government.

But except for gesturing against BJP's efforts to pass anti-conversion laws, Mead maintains a stoic silence about the BJP's concerted and in-your-face, anti-Muslim crusade. Not even the BJP's efforts to make inter-faith marriages exceedingly hard to solve the entirely imaginary problem of "love jihad"--Muslim men seducing Hindu girls into marrying them--gets a mention.

An apartheid India can not be a US ally. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Why Inflation Erupted: Two Top Economists Have the Answer: Former Fed chair, IMF chief economist say it wasn't pandemic or stimulus; it was the pandemic, then the stimulus (Greg Ip, May 23, 2023 WSJ)

Inflation did shoot up, hitting 7% that December, 5.5% excluding food and energy. "The critics' forecasts of higher inflation would prove to be correct--indeed, even too optimistic--but, in substantial part, the sources of the inflation would prove to be different from those they warned about," Blanchard, one of those critics, and Bernanke write in their study.

To tease out the sources of inflation, Bernanke and Blanchard build a relatively conventional model in which inflation is a function of, among other things, the gap between the supply and demand for labor, the public's expectations of inflation, and idiosyncratic shocks. They include a variable for supply-chain disruptions derived from Google searches for "shortage."

Usually economists judge labor market tightness from how far unemployment is above or below its natural rate. But this time the labor market heated up before unemployment got that low. So instead, Bernanke and Blanchard use the ratio of job vacancies to unemployed workers. Finally, their model lets all these factors interact, with varying lags.

If stimulus caused the initial surge in inflation, it should have shown up in an overheated labor market, i.e., an unusually high ratio of vacancies to unemployed. In fact, labor market conditions put downward pressure on inflation through the third quarter of 2021, the authors concluded. Instead, the inflation that year was driven almost entirely by shortages and energy prices.

Demand shifted abruptly from services to goods in the early months of the pandemic. The overall effect should have been a wash as prices rose for goods and fell for services. It wasn't, because goods producers faced supply constraints, which caused costs and prices to spike, while costs to service producers didn't decline much. "These sectoral mismatches between demand and supply proved more intractable and longer-lasting than many had expected," the authors note.

These supply effects did eventually subside. Why didn't inflation then fall? The reason, the authors conclude, is that by this point demand was so strong, reflecting the legacy of low interest rates and fiscal largess, the labor market was significantly overheated with the ratio of vacancies to unemployed up dramatically. Moreover, the initial surge of inflation had an echo: It lifted workers' expectations of short-term inflation, which then partly found its way into their wages.

If anything, the study might understate the effect of pandemic disruptions. The labor market didn't just overheat because of excess demand, but reduced supply, as well. The rising ratio of vacancies to unemployed, which the model equates with a tighter labor market, reflects employers struggling to fill vacancies. The authors note much of that struggle was because of the pandemic: Firms that had laid off employees had to find new ones, while some workers left the labor force because of family obligations, illness or work-life balance priorities.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Massive Sails Power Ships Like Never Before (JACOPO PRISCO, May 23, 2023, Wired)

The Oceanbird Wing 560 isn't a wing, but it isn't a sail either. When it's first assembled a few months from now in a shipyard just north of Malmö, Sweden, it'll be 40 meters high with a 560-square-meter surface and will weigh around 200 metric tons. Its creators call it a wingsail, and they think it's the future of sea travel.

"It's more like an airplane wing that you put on top of a ship rather than a normal sail, that's why we call it a wingsail," says Niclas Dhal, managing director of Oceanbird.

The wingsail consists of two parts: a rigid main core and a flap that draws air onto the core in a system inspired by high-performance racing yachts, which can travel faster than the speed of the wind. The core is made of steel, surrounded by glass fiber and recycled PET, and the whole thing can contract to less than half of its total length and tilt down to lie flat over the deck. This summer, its prototype will be tested on land, and next year it will be fitted to a 14-year-old cargo ship, the car carrier Wallenius Tirranna.

Making the sail work on a vessel that's already in service is critical for a company that wants to help decarbonize the shipping industry, which is responsible for just under 3 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Building more fuel-efficient ships is the long-term mission, Dhal says, "but if you really want to change the world, you need to address all the existing vessels."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Chinese citizens sue Florida over law barring them from owning houses (ANDRES PICON, 05/22/2023, Politico)

The plaintiffs allege that the law, SB 264, is discriminatory and that it stokes racial biases against Chinese Americans and undermines their financial freedom. Gov. Ron DeSantis signed it into law and it is set to go into effect on July 1.

It's a proud racist tradition

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Republican witness faces questions over whether he lied under oath to key panel (David Smith, 22 May 2023, The Guardian)

At one point, O'Boyle was asked by Democrat Dan Goldman whether Kash Patel, who held multiple roles in the Trump administration, is helping finance O'Boyle's legal counsel. The witness replied: "Not that I'm aware of."

The answer has raised eyebrows because, during a previous interview with the House of Representatives' weaponisation subcommittee in February, O'Boyle disclosed that his legal fees are being paid by a nonprofit organisation called Fight With Kash, also known as the Kash Foundation and run by Kash Patel.

Furthermore, a Democratic staff report published in March notes that Patel arranged for Jesse Binnall, who served as Trump's top "election fraud" lawyer in 2020, to serve as counsel for O'Boyle. Binnall sits on the Kash Foundation's board of directors and has acknowledged working on past lawsuits funded by the foundation.

In light of these details, Democrats are concerned that O'Boyle was not fully truthful before the committee chaired by Republican Jim Jordan, a staunch Trump backer. Lying to Congress carries a penalty of up to five years' imprisonment.

On the other hand, at least they could find this "whistleblower" so he could lie to Congress.
Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The future of Dutch aerospace? Meet Fokker Next Gen's hydrogen plane (Next Web,  May 23, 2023)

With €25 million in funding from the Dutch government, and an additional EU Clean Aviation grant of undisclosed amount, Fokker is aiming at a 2035 entry into service of a clean-sheet aircraft design operating on liquid hydrogen. The plane's intended range is 2,500 km, meaning it could fly across Europe from London to Kyiv - without generating any CO₂ emissions.

May 22, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 7:43 PM


The liberal complacency of Martin Amis: His exquisite style hid a squalid sense of morality (TERRY EAGLETON, 5/22/23, UnHerd)

Hitchens's spiritual twin, Martin Amis, easily matched him for mordant wit. He was the great poet of the postmodern metropolis, his finger unerringly on the pulse of its hardboiled, streetwise, sexually libidinous inhabitants. His sensibility belonged as exactly to its time and place as that of Dickens or Faulkner. We are ushered into a depthless, deregulated world of appetite, self-interest, and purely vacuous freedom in which anything goes, held together only by the rigour of literary style. Style in Amis is what rises triumphantly above the squalor of his material. Its shapeliness, equipoise and finesse constitute an implicit critique of contemporary culture, which saved him from anything as uncool as having to pass explicit moral judgements on it. He once remarked that he would sell his grandmother for a finely turned phrase, and if I were his grandmother I would have taken this comment seriously enough to go into hiding. In a literary milieu in which style is sometimes considered "elitist", few modern writers can handle a sentence so superbly.

Posted by orrinj at 5:50 PM


Along the highways, Indian restaurants serve America's truckers: The roadside stops, called dhabas, run by Punjabi immigrants are sprouting up to serve a growing trucker population a slice of home (Meena Venkataramanan, May 20, 2023, Washington Post)

Long before dawn on a frosty February morning in Dallas, Palwinder Singh rises from the mattress in his sleeper cab and prepares to haul his cargo cross-country. After five hours of driving north along U.S. 287, and then west on Interstate 40, it's lunchtime.

Singh, 30, pulls his semi off Exit 36 into Vega, a quiet town in the Texas Panhandle along the historic Route 66. For lunch, he bypasses the typical long-haul trucker menu of convenience-store snacks and heat-lamp hot dogs at the large Pilot Travel Center and instead rolls into the parking lot of a modest white building across the street. A sign on the building's red roof spells out the words "Punjabi Dhaba" in the Punjabi language's Gurmukhi script, with the English translation below it.

The Vega Truck Stop and Indian Kitchen, as it's officially known, attracts truckers like Singh originally from Punjab, a region spanning northwest India and eastern Pakistan. The store is filled with Punjabi snacks, sweets, truck decorations and a restaurant, known as a dhaba, that serves fresh meals including paratha and butter chicken -- a slice of South Asia in the middle of rural Texas.

That afternoon, Singh parked his truck, decorated with colorful fabrics and ornaments called jhalars and parandas. He was promptly greeted in Punjabi by another trucker, Amandeep Singh, of Fresno, Calif., who had also stopped for lunch. As they each poured a cup of steaming chai indoors, the truckers chatted about their drives.

The Vega eatery is among an estimated 40 dhabas, and likely many more, that have popped up along American highways across the country in response to the growing number of Punjabi truckers, who have dominated the Indian trucking industry for decades. Punjabis now make up almost 20 percent of the U.S. trucking industry, according to Raman Dhillon, chief executive of the North American Punjabi Trucking Association. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Beyond Bakhmut's Destruction, The News From Ukraine Is Mostly Good (Lucian K. Truscott IV, May 22 | 2023, National Memo)

As Zelensky indicated in Japan at the G-7, what they are fighting over when it comes to Bakhmut is a town that has been completely destroyed. That Russia has been willing to spend the lives of so many of its troops - as many as 100,000 either killed or wounded since last December - is either proof of Putin's hubris, Prigohzin's hubris, or both. Sources inside Russia have indicated to Western reporters that the battle for Bakhmut is as much about a war going on between Putin and his erstwhile "friend" Prigohzin as it is about anything else.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Why was this massive Trump scandal hiding in plain sight for 28 months?A shocking allegation that then-President Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani was selling pardons for $2 million got lost. Why it matters now. (Will Bunch, May 21, 2023, Philadelphia Inquirer)

[T]rump had to race through some important unfinished business before the clock struck noon on Jan. 20, Biden's inauguration day. The night before, the ongoing president issued a whopping 144 pardons and commutations as he wielded one of his few utterly unchecked powers granted in the U.S. Constitution. Indeed, looking just at pardons, Trump issued 116 of just 143 during his four years in office in his final month, January 2021.

To the very end, Trump ignored the practices of past presidents -- who'd worked mostly off petitions that had been investigated by the Justice Department's Office of the Pardon Attorney -- and granted clemency largely for connected folks that he tended to know, from close cronies like Roger Stone and Steve Bannon to his reality-TV pal Rod Blagojevich, the disgraced Illinois governor, to his son-in-law's dad, Charles Kushner. Then there was an additional category: those who'd paid good money to Trump World insiders to plead their case.

On Jan. 17, 2021, the New York Times published an article headlined: "Prospect of Pardons in Final Days Fuels Market to Buy Access to Trump." Based on more than three dozen interviews with key players, the Times confirmed that wealthy convicted felons were paying tens of thousands of dollars to insiders like a former Trump personal attorney, John Dowd, in the rush to gain clemency. To be clear, hiring a lawyer promising special access -- while perhaps unseemly -- is not new and probably not unlawful. But a Times passage about convicted ex-CIA leaker John Kiriakou, who paid an unnamed Trump associate $50,000 with a contingent promise of $50,000 more if a pardon was granted, included a jaw-dropping if unproven allegation:

"And Mr. Kiriakou was separately told that Mr. Trump's personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani could help him secure a pardon for $2 million. Mr. Kiriakou rejected the offer, but an associate, fearing that Mr. Giuliani was illegally selling pardons, alerted the F.B.I. Mr. Giuliani challenged this characterization."

May 21, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 6:29 PM


Ron DeSantis's context-free history book vanished online. We got a copy. (Gillian Brockell, May 21, 2023, Washington Post)

In the lead-up to this spring's release of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis's book "The Courage to Be Free," a funny thing happened on the internet: His first book, published in 2011 before his political career began, disappeared. [...]

In his book, DeSantis, who has moved to stop history lessons in Florida that might make students uncomfortable and who attacked an AP African American Studies course he said "lacks historical value," dismisses slavery as a "personal flaw" of the Founding Fathers, irrelevant to the really important stuff: context-free, cherry-picked quotes from James Madison and Alexander Hamilton.

Posted by orrinj at 5:29 PM


PODCAST: How to Defuse Nativism in America: A Conversation with Justin Gest (AARON ROSS POWELL, MAY 21, 2023,  ReImagining Liberty)

I'm joined today by Justin Gest, an associate professor at George Mason University, and an author of a number of fascinating books digging into these critical issues. His latest is Majority Minority from Oxford University Press.

The following transcript has been lightly edited for flow and clarity

Aaron Ross Powell: America has had a turbulent political environment over the last 10 years at least. A lot of that seems to be driven by worries about immigration and worries about demographic change. Maybe we start there. What is happening demographically in America?

Justin Gest: Turbulent is I think the understatement of the week, Aaron. Demographically what is happening in the United States is on the one hand completely ordinary and mundane, but on the other hand anomalous and extraordinary. It just depends on your outlook. The most hyperbolic way of looking at things is that the foreign-born population of the country has reached about 14% of our national population in the United States. That is about as high as it has ever been in the nation's history. The last time it approximated this was close to the turn of the 20th century, a very long time ago. Another period when we witnessed a lot of political turbulence and nativism.

"The foreign-born population of the country has reached about 14% of our national population in the United States. That is about as high as it has ever been in the nation's history. The last time it approximated this was close to the turn of the 20th century, a very long time ago. Another period when we witnessed a lot of political turbulence and nativism."

We are also approaching what has been dubbed a "majority-minority" milestone demographically, where people of ethnic and racial minority backgrounds are approaching a milestone in which in about 20 years they might be of equal population size and share to white people in the country. Again, depending on how you define those boundaries, but nevertheless this is the way that the US Census Bureau thinks of race and ethnic differences. Those are pretty extraordinary milestones. The highest foreign-born population historically, and this momentous demographic milestone.

On the other hand, why is this mundane? Well, first, there are many other countries that are way beyond 14% foreign-born today. Not just historically but right now. Switzerland, Canada, Australia, all of which are democracies are in the high 20s or even approaching 30% foreign-born. I think Canada's actually slightly lower. I think they may be in the mid-20s now.

Then you have other countries that are not democratic, but that are near 90% foreign-born like Qatar and the UAE, (the United Arab Emirates) in the Middle East region. Now, that's a bit of apples and oranges because the immigrants who are coming into those countries don't have the same access to social, civil, and political rights as they do in democracies. Nevertheless, 14% is dwarfed by what we are seeing elsewhere in the world.

From the perspective of the majority-minority milestone, in some ways this is a story of American demographic history because we've also been there before too. The real difference is just that the definition of whiteness has changed. If we keep the definition of whiteness from the 19th century, which really only saw white people as those who were from Northern Europe and Protestant backgrounds, we've been a majority-minority country for a century, but we've simply extended the idea of whiteness to incorporate Italians or the Irish or Jews or Slavs or Greeks. 

These demographic milestones are in the eyes of the beholder. The fact that they're disputed in such a way really contributes to the politics and the sense of anxiety and discomfort around them.

Posted by orrinj at 5:25 PM


Russia's claimed Bakhmut win is anything but: experts (The New Arab, 21 May, 2023)

The US-based Institute for the Study of War reported that Ukraine's attacks on Bakhmut's flanks "forced Russian troops to allocate scarce military resources... as Ukrainian command likely intended".

Ukraine has tamped down speculation that the advances are its long-awaited offensive but drawing growing numbers of Russian troops into the deadly fight in Bakhmut carries significant advantages for Kyiv's fightback.

"What they [Ukrainians] needed to do was to, one, weaken the Russians as much as possible before they do that counteroffensive, and secondly, buy time to get that force ready," said Phillips O'Brien, professor of strategic studies at the University of St Andrews in Scotland.

"They calculated - I believe it was the right choice - that in fighting for Bakhmut, they could do both," he told US media outlet NPR in an interview aired on Saturday.

May 20, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


US antisemitism envoy pans attacks on Soros, after criticism by Diaspora minister (JACOB MAGID , 5/20/23, Times of Israel)

The Biden administration's antisemitism envoy on Friday decried attacks against Jewish billionaire George Soros, a day after Diaspora Minister Amichai Chikli came to the defense of Elon Musk, who came under fire for saying that Soros "hates humanity." [...]

US Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism Deborah Lipstadt became the first Biden official to weigh in on the matter, tweeting Friday that "irrespective of how one feels about George Soros's politics or policies, it is entirely disingenuous to deny that many ad hominem attacks on him rely on classic antisemitic tropes and rhetoric."

"In bygone eras, the antisemites invoked the Rothschild family to advance their conspiracies about Jews. Today they use Soros to do so," she said.

On the way up to the Temple Mount, Likud is becoming Otzma Yehudit (Shalom Yerushalmi, 5/20/23, Times of Israel)

The Likud is becoming more radical. These days, there are no longer any major differences of opinion between some senior Likud members and those of Otzma Yehudit. In the past, Likud MKs, like Moshe Feiglin and Yehuda Glick, who went up to the Temple Mount were quickly cast aside. Their places have been taken by a rising force in the party, religious MKs who don't heed either the religious ban on going up or the constraints of the security implications. [...]

It's no surprise that MK David Bitan, perhaps the real barometer of the old Likud, is horrified by the phenomenon.

"I view Knesset members from the Likud going up to the Temple Mount as inappropriate. It is not worthy. People have become extremists," Bitan said Thursday.

Moshe Gafni, head of the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism party and a coalition member,  also decried the phenomena, sending a letter to Netanyahu and asking him to prevent MKs from going onto the Mount. However, Gafni's motivations are largely religious and not political.

"Recently MKs and ministers have been going up to the Temple Mount, just today a large number of elected officials from different factions in the Knesset went up there. The decision is in your hands," Gafni wrote.

"I am turning and asking you to prevent the ascent to the Temple Mount; For the political reasons regarding world reactions, for the security reasons regarding the incitement it causes, particularly with the Muslim world, and mainly because there is no real reason for them to do so -- it is not an exercise in sovereignty, rather a desecration of God's name at the holiest site of the Jewish people," Gafni wrote.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


How America weaponised the West (Arta Moeini, May 20, 2023, UnHerd)

From the Euro-Atlantic standpoint, the Russian invasion of Ukraine was a galvanising event. The war reforged a long-dormant Manichaean framing of existential conflict between Russia and the "West". What is, for Ukraine, a physical and territorial conflict thus assumed ontological, apocalyptic dimensions. In the spiritual fires of the war, the myth of the "West" was rebaptised. For a Nato that was seeking a mission ever since the fall of the Soviet Union, here was an opportunity to renew its institutional and ideological rationale, as well as to project solidarity in an the face of an emergency crisis.

From the perspective of America's elites, meanwhile, the Ukraine war has underscored Europe's profound military dependence on Washington and further reinforced the US-centric basis of transatlantic relations. Not only did it ostensibly justify their long-held position that Europe must pay a much larger share for the privileges of a US security guarantee, but the debate over the strategic worth of Nato and its enlargement was effectively silenced. Since the invasion, the alliance has already expanded to Finland, while Sweden remains in the process of accession. All of this was cause for celebration, if not triumphalism, in liberal internationalist circles: America, along with the Western order it sponsors against great power challengers such as China, appeared to be vindicated.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


DeSantis' weakness as Trump slayer has GOP rivals smelling blood (CHARLIE MAHTESIAN, 05/19/2023, Politico)

No seasoned, successful politician runs for president without a theory of the case -- a detailed and plausible path to victory. And as more prospective candidates surface, it's becoming clearer what's at the heart of those plans: a growing belief within the party that DeSantis is a paper tiger.

At one time, the Florida governor looked to be the candidate best positioned to knock off Trump, en route to finishing off President Joe Biden. DeSantis was Trump without the baggage -- and 32 years younger.

He was coming off an epic 2022 reelection victory in the nation's third-largest state, marked by Florida's biggest winning margin in 40 years. Officials in both parties did a double take at his robust performance among all Latino groups.

With DeSantis, the GOP could get the same conservative policies as Trump, the same unyielding approach, the same judges, the same trolling of the libs. He was a party leader on Covid. The suburbs would be back in play. So would the five states Biden flipped from Trump in 2020.

But DeSantis' Disney jihad and his Ukraine-is-a-territorial-dispute stumble have undermined his aura of competence among donors and the business community. Trump's relentless attacks -- none of them answered -- and his drum beat of abuse have left the two-term governor bruised. Far from projecting strength, DeSantis suddenly appears to be a candidate who's thrived in a protective cocoon, isolated from media scrutiny, and surrounded by a compliant legislature afraid to test him.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Japan motorcycle makers revving up on hydrogen (SCOTT FOSTER, MAY 20, 2023, Deutsche-Welle)

Japanese motorcycle makers Kawasaki, Suzuki, Honda and Yamaha will work together to develop hydrogen-powered internal combustion engines for "small mobility." In addition to motorcycles, that is likely to include various hydrogen-powered mini-vehicles, small marine vessels, construction equipment and drones.

Each company will develop its own final products. Their current product lines give an indication of what those might be in addition to those mentioned above: three- and four-wheeled minicars, all-terrain and off-road vehicles, snowmobiles, jet skis, outboard motors for small boats, golf carts and multi-purpose engines for the likes of lawn mowers and generators.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


'It Will Perish When I'm Gone': Russian Language Usage Plunges In Wartime Ukraine (Aleksander Palikot, 5/20/23, RFE)

Millions of similar stories make up the most rapid shift away from using the Russian language in Ukraine's recent history. The number of Ukrainians who use Ukrainian exclusively or most of the time in their everyday life increased from 49 percent in 2017 to 58 percent in 2022, and the corresponding number for Russian dropped from 26 percent to 15 percent, according to a study conducted in December 2022 by prominent Ukrainian political scientist Volodymyr Kulyk and the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology.

The trend is even stronger in the public sphere, with 68 percent opting for Ukrainian and only 11 percent for Russian at work and during education. The transition is most significant in the south and east of the country, traditionally more Russian-speaking than western and central Ukraine, where switching to Ukrainian became the widespread sign of resistance to the occupiers.

The reality behind these numbers is more complex due to the nature of Ukrainian bilingualism, with almost everyone passively knowing both Ukrainian and Russian and many speaking their mixture, Surzhyk, minority languages such as Crimean-Tatar or Hungarian, and new trends, most notably the five-million-strong population of refugees who are developing new language practices abroad. But while many Ukrainians continue to use both languages in everyday life despite the anger at Russia that the invasion has ignited, the rapid shift from Russian to Ukrainian is apparent everywhere in Ukraine: in the streets, social media, bookstores, and, perhaps most significantly, private spaces.

May 19, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 4:53 PM


Paul Simon gets religion (Jeffrey Salkin, 5/19/23, RNS)

Paul Simon grew up in Queens. The Simon family belonged to a synagogue, but they were not especially religious. Simon once told an NPR reporter, "I was raised to a degree, enough to be, you know, bar mitzvahed and have that much Jewish education, although I had no interest. None."

And yet, there had been glimmerings of Jewish identity in his music.

Consider  "Silent Eyes," on his 1975 album, "Still Crazy After All These Years."

Simon longs and weeps for Jerusalem, in prayer-like phrases: "She is sorrow, sorrow/She burns like a flame / And she calls my name." It envisions a time when all will be called to account -- "We shall all be called as witnesses / Each and every one / To stand before the eyes of God / And speak what was done."

So, today, Paul Simon's musical elegy has dropped. 

And, why now?

The clue comes in the first words of the new work. "I've been thinking about the great migration..."

He is not referring to a geographical migration, nor an enforced exile.

He is singing about that great migration into old age.

Paul Simon will turn 82 years old this autumn. This puts him in the upper age echelon of aging popular artists: Ringo Starr, 83; Bob Dylan, 82; Paul McCartney, 81; Carole King, 81; the Stones, all pushing 80; James Taylor, 75; Bruce Springsteen, 74.

Paul Simon epitomizes the plea of the psalmist: "Do not cast us off when we are old." At an age when many peers in his age cohort would have settled back into retirement, he is still growing creatively.

But, nevertheless, you sense a flirtation with the Angel of Death, and your thoughts turn to eternity.

Posted by orrinj at 4:27 PM


Far-right MK threatens to vote against budget if 'Jewish identity' unit not formed (Times of Israel, 5/19/23)

Far-right MK Avi Maoz on Friday threatened to vote against the government's budget if funds are not allocated to establish a "Jewish identity" unit, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged when he agreed to join the coalition. [...]

The MK, an outspoken homophobe who has made misogynistic statements about women's role in society and non-Orthodox streams of Judaism, was also slated, as part of the coalition deal, to be given control over an Education Ministry department that oversees external programming vendors for public schools. 

The rewrite of the Basic Law made the state one.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


White Christian Nationalism vs. American Civil Religion (Philip Gorski, May 13, 2021, Currents)

America is at a crossroads. One path leads forwards towards a multiracial democracy, a nation of nations and a people of peoples. Another leads backwards towards Herrenvolk democracy: a nation of nativists and a people without pigment. 

America has been here before: in 1787, 1877, and 1968. Each time it took a step forward, then a step backward. Each time, racial equality was sacrificed on the altar of white power: by slaveowners (1787), so-called "Redeemers" (1877), and proponents of "law and order" (1968).

Which path will it choose this time? The answer is open. 

But much will depend on the choices white Christians make in the years to come. Will they join together with their Christian brothers and sisters--and with secular Americans committed to democracy and equality? Or will they once again confuse liberty with power and Christianity with whiteness? 

It's not confusion; they chose whiteness. That's why they're Nationalist.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Tensions persist after Israeli nationalists march into east Jerusalem (MENA, 19 May, 2023)

Tens of thousands of Israeli nationalists marched to Jerusalem's Old City on Thursday in an annual controversial flag-waving march commemorating Israel's occupation, as tensions on the Gaza border remained high. [...]

The United States, Israel's main ally, on Thursday, condemned demonstrators' "racist" chants calling for the killing of Arabs.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Post-Liberal Authoritarians Want You To Forget That Private Companies Have Rights (STEPHANIE SLADE | 5.18.2023, reason)

Vance here is channeling the neoreactionary blogger Curtis Yarvin, a.k.a. Mencius Moldbug, who has popularized the idea that "all the modern world's legitimate and prestigious intellectual institutions, even though they have no central organizational connection, behave in many ways as if they were a single organizational structure" with "one clear doctrine or perspective." He calls this decentralized entity "the Cathedral" and argues that the only way to combat it is by replacing America's liberal democratic regime with an absolute monarchy or (benevolent, one hopes) dictatorship.

But Vance goes further even than Yarvin, who defines the Cathedral as consisting of the mainstream media and the universities; Vance insists that government officials are also implicated. This step is critical, because the New Right, rejecting the classical liberal commitment to limited government and rule of law, openly calls on conservatives to wield state power against their domestic political "enemies," among whom it counts lefty corporations, universities, and nonprofits. 

I've made this point almost ad nauseam by now, but if you need a refresher, look no further than this illustrative quote from Heritage Foundation President Kevin Roberts: "This is our moment," he recently told The American Conservative, "to demand that our politicians use the power they have. This is the moment for us to demand of companies, whether they're Google, or Facebook, or Disney, that you listen to us, rather than ram down our throats and into our own families all of the garbage that you've been pushing on us. This is our time to demand that you do what we say. And it's glorious." 

For an even more concrete example, consider the time Vance went on live TV and proposed targeting left-wing institutions such as the Ford Foundation and Harvard for their political views. "Why don't we seize the assets," he asked, "tax their assets, and give it to the people who've had their lives destroyed by their radical open borders agenda?" 

This is obviously contrary to the laws of our land. The American constitutional system "protects private actors," says Notre Dame law professor Richard W. Garnett, while constraining how government officials can exercise their power. "Private actors have free speech rights. The government doesn't. Private actors have freedom of religion. Government doesn't. Private schools can train kids for their sacraments. Government schools can't. The whole landscape of our constitutionally protected freedoms depends on this conceptual distinction between state power and the nonstate sphere."

But that distinction is an obstacle preventing post-liberals such as Vance from using the government to punish private entities who express views or implement policies that they, the post-liberals, dislike. And so, to give themselves permission to do what they want, they have to get people to believe that the distinction is already obsolete. 

It's not. In fact, the "collusion" that Vance would use as justification to strip private actors of their rights consists of some of the very activities named in the First Amendment: voicing political opinions and advocating for changes to public policy. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Key exchanges highlight dicey GOP 'weaponization' hearing (Aaron Blake, May 18, 2023, Washington Post)

Another witness Thursday was Marcus Allen, an FBI staff operations specialist who, like Friend, had his security clearance revoked this month ahead of his testimony.

The FBI said this was done because of concerns about Allen's personal conduct and "allegiance to the United States." It said he urged caution to others about investigating Jan. 6 and failed to provide relevant information about a Jan. 6 defendant. This allegedly led to the case's being closed before another agent discovered "readily available" evidence that the defendant assaulted police officers on Jan. 6.

Allen was asked repeatedly Thursday whether it was appropriate for an agent to express support for those who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6. He at one point offered a brief "no" in the context of his answer, but he otherwise declined requests to state "yes or no," even asking for the question to be rephrased. Ultimately, he said, "You should not be voicing support for criminal conduct."

The final FBI witness was Garret O'Boyle, a suspended special agent. O'Boyle has allegedly liked tweets claiming the 2020 election was stolen and compared coronavirus vaccine mandates to Nazi Germany.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Tribal, and Philosophical, Basis of the Left and Right in American Politics (Andrew Busch, May 19, 2023, Public Discourse)

Today, the Lewises argue, "Left" and "Right" are competing bundles of unconnected and sometimes incompatible issue commitments held together by tribalism. The authors bring to bear a wealth of social science research that shows that people's issue commitments are more heavily influenced by group loyalties than by philosophical consistency. They also catalogue a history of various political stances that, for example, began as Right, then were considered Left, and sometimes back again, depending on the  the coalitions' needs. Trade protectionism, for example, was "Right;" then "Left;" now "Right" again (or maybe "Right" and "Left"). Foreign interventionism took the reverse course. Today what counts as "Right" and "Left" has become conflated with party, and party with the views of individual leaders. All of this, the Lewises contend, cuts strongly against the "essentialist" concept of ideology and in favor of their "social theory."

May 18, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 7:13 PM


Israel: Nationalists march through Jerusalem (DW 5/18/23)

The Times of Israel reported that apart from "racist chants and scuffles with Palestinian residents," the event went ahead without any major incidents.

Posted by orrinj at 7:06 PM


GOP witnesses undermined Jan. 6 cases with conspiracy theories, FBI says ( Ken Dilanian and Ryan J. Reilly, 5/18/23, NBC News)

Two of the three self-proclaimed FBI whistleblowers who testified before a House subcommittee on Thursday had their security clearances revoked because their conduct on Jan. 6 cases brought into question their allegiance to the United States, a bureau official wrote in a letter to members of Congress this week.

A third FBI employee, a special agent who did not testify before the committee, had his security clearance revoked because he was on the restricted grounds of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 but lied about his conduct, FBI Acting Assistant Director Christopher Dunham wrote in a letter to Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, which was obtained by NBC News.

Posted by orrinj at 6:50 PM


White nationalism is racism (Brian Lyman, 5/16/23, ALABAMA REFLECTOR)

Last Monday, WBHM published an interview with U.S. Sen. Tommy Tuberville about his holds on military promotions. Tuberville is blocking the promotions because of a Pentagon policy on abortion, a move that even Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell thinks a bit much. 

In the middle of a rambling answer to a question about what message his stand sends to foreign adversaries, Tuberville brought up white nationalism. 

"The Democrats are attacking our military, saying we need to get out the white extremists, the white nationalists, people that don't believe in our agenda, as Joe Biden's agenda," he said. "They're destroying it. This year, we will not reach any recruiting goals in the military. So, if we want to talk about -- looking weak -- that's where we're going to look weak."

If you read this as Tuberville saying that kicking racists out of the military is a sign of weakness, you're not alone.

When interviewer Richard Banks asked Tuberville if he believes white nationalists should be allowed to enlist, Tuberville said "They call them that. I call them Americans." 

Posted by orrinj at 2:34 PM


Israel's Internal Divisions Are its Mortal Enemy Now: The rightwing government's assaults on the judiciary will dissolve the glue uniting the country (AKIVA MALAMET, MAY 18, 2023, The UnPopulist)

As Abraham Lincoln pointed out quoting the Bible, a house divided against itself cannot stand. Israel, which recently celebrated its 75th anniversary, may be buckling from within. With the peace agreements that Israel recently signed with many of its former enemies in the region, the greatest threat to Israel's existence no longer comes from outside the country but from rising political divisions within. This was already the case before the new rightwing government proposed radical judicial reform. But if it goes forward, Israel will have a hard time balancing competing constituencies and values and could well come apart.

To outside observers, Israel has the appearance of social unity given the overwhelming domestic consensus that Israel should be a Jewish country. But that consensus obscures deep divisions and tribalism. There is of course the longstanding rift between Israel's Jewish and non-Jewish population (such Muslim Arab-Israelis but also Christians). But there are other fault lines too based on ethnicity, attitudes toward Judaism, and politics. Western Ashkenazi Jews, Eastern Sephardi/Mizrahi, and Ethiopian Jews are in tension with each other. Jews of color, whether of Middle Eastern or African origin, confront discrimination and have their own set of complaints. Less observant as well as Reform and other progressive Jews often bitterly resent the Orthodox, particularly ultra-Orthodox Haredim, because (unlike their Religious Zionist counterparts) they control Israeli religious institutions, are too dependent on public assistance, and won't serve in the military. Conversely, many Orthodox Jews dislike the cultural progressivism of the less observant. And then there are the intense divides between Israel's right, left, and center.

Posted by orrinj at 2:30 PM


What is Christian nationalism, anyway? (Bob Smietana, 5/17/23, RNS)

Perry and Whitehead have defined Christian nationalism this way: "a cultural framework that blurs distinctions between Christian identity and American identity, viewing the two as closely related and seeking to enhance and preserve their union."

In an interview, Perry contrasted that view with "civil religion"-- when the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. invoked the promises of the Declaration of Independence or President Barack Obama led a grieving congregation in singing "Amazing Grace." These moments combined spiritual ideas and political moments.

Christian nationalism, Perry said, is more about who should be in charge.

"The difference between Christian nationalism and civil religion is Christian nationalism says this country was founded by our people for a people like us and it should stay that way," said Perry.

It's why you can't be both Christian, which is universalist, and Nationalist, which is particular. 

ReAwaken America Tour Fuses Trumpism and Christian Nationalism (NOACH PHILLIPS, 5/15/23, Moment)

If you've heard of the ReAwaken America Tour, it is probably in the context of two of its most explicitly antisemitic participants, Scott McKay and Charlie Ward, being slated to share the stage with Eric Trump at his father's Doral Resort in Miami this weekend. [...]

But McKay and Ward are just the tip of the iceberg of conspiracy thinking, extremism and antisemitism at ReAwaken America events, where more than a hundred speakers affiliated with Q-Anon, election denial, vaccine denial, Christian nationalism, the January 6 insurrection, and Trump's presidential administration and businesses take the stage in a blur of 15-minute segments. The tour stops, also called conferences, are equal parts tent-revival, political conference and fever-dream. Since 2021, there have been at least 21 ReAwaken events in more than 15 states. Usually, the events are held at mega-churches to sold out audiences that reach into the thousands. Tickets cost about $250. This weekend is the first time the rally has been held at a Trump property, and another is scheduled for August at Trump's Las Vegas hotel. Friday's lineup includes the pledge of allegiance led by retired general and disgraced former national security advisor Michael Flynn, exposés of medical fraud by disgraced doctor and vaccine denier Christiane Northrup, evening baptisms on the patio, and more than fifty other speakers and performances.

"Each ReAwaken America Tour is a toxic extremist, radical and harmful blend of baptisms, praise music, election denial and QAnon misinformation--things that do not belong together--all presented to an audience of thousands in Jesus's hijacked name," Rev. Nathan Empsell, executive director of Faithful America, said during a press conference Friday afternoon. "The antisemitism, hatred, election denial, and outright embrace of political violence found at Trump Doral has no place in Miami, no place in Florida, no place in America, and no place in Christianity."

The Ringmaster

At the heart of the ReAwaken America tour--its founder, spokesman, and master of ceremonies--is Clay Clark. In fact, the tour's full name is "Clay Clark's ReAwaken America Tour" in a style reminiscent of Buffalo Bill or Barnum and Bailey, a parallel heightened by his manner of calling speakers on stage as if he's MCing a monster truck rally.

Clark, a 42-year-old Tulsa-based entrepreneur and business coach who was asked to leave the pentecostal Oral Roberts University after a parody rap song he produced mocking the school's president went viral. In 2020, when his media production company's projects declined due to COVID-19, he sued the city of Tulsa over its mask mandates. According to Sam Kestenbaum of Rolling Stone, it was during that time that "a network of pandemic defiers--churches refusing to close, alt-health physicians hawking treatments, politicians grandstanding about the incursions on personal liberties--was coalescing. Depictions of the pandemic as part of a scam to control the population swirled about and Clark seized the idea that the official narrative about the virus was not to be believed."

Rather, what Clark purportedly does believe is that the COVID-19 vaccine is a bioweapon containing "luciferase," which he says Bill Gates created by combining cryptocurrency technology with Jeffrey Epstein's DNA to create a new species of human. (Luciferase is actually a naturally occurring enzyme involved in bioluminescence.) All of this, Clark and his ilk contend, is in service to "the Great Reset," a real initiative by the World Economic Forum (WEF) to reshape global fiscal policy in the wake of the pandemic but seen by conspiracy theorists as a nefarious plot to take over the world through 5G, artificial intelligence, weather modification, Black Lives Matter, and virtually every other right-wing boogeyman.

In Clark's view, the bad guys include WEF head Klaus Schwab and his "high priest," Israeli historian Yuval Noah Harari. Clark's website points out (in capital letters) that Harari is "Openly Gay" and "Does Not Eat Meat," and that the biblical Yuval was a descendent of Cain--all indications that Harari is, or may be, the antichrist. Billionaire George Soros, who has been active at the WEF, also features prominently on team "Great Reset" on the website along with Bill Gates, Barack Obama, and many others.

Met one Nationalist you've met them all. 
Posted by orrinj at 7:28 AM


Exclusive: New evidence in special counsel probe may undercut Trump's claim documents he took were automatically declassified (Jamie Gangel, Zachary Cohen, Evan Perez and Paula Reid, 5/18/23, CNN)

The National Archives has informed former President Donald Trump that it is set to hand over to special counsel Jack Smith 16 records that show Trump and his top advisers had knowledge of the correct declassification process while he was president, according to multiple sources.

In a May 16 letter obtained by CNN, acting Archivist Debra Steidel Wall writes to Trump, "The 16 records in question all reflect communications involving close presidential advisers, some of them directed to you personally, concerning whether, why, and how you should declassify certain classified records."

The 16 presidential records, which were subpoenaed earlier this year, may provide critical evidence establishing the former president's awareness of the declassification process, a key part of the criminal investigation into Trump's mishandling of classified documents.

Posted by orrinj at 7:00 AM


Sovereignty Considered: What is sovereignty, how does sovereignty impact a free nation's outlook on foreign affairs, and why does federalism provide a unique safeguard to America's ideal of sovereignty? (JUSTIN STAPLEY, MAY 17, 2023, Self-Evident)

One of the things that confronts a nation built upon the idea of popular sovereignty is that once such a notion is embraced, it must be conceded that all people everywhere are sovereign. This reality necessarily directs how and why a free nation interacts with the other nations of the world. Specifically, war becomes a question of much more than basic national interest. The ideas of conquest, domination, and unprovoked attack are illegitimate when considering the reality of the sovereignty of foreign peoples. But at the same time, the ideals of popular sovereignty can compel a free nation to wage war in the interest of its universal principles.

Because people are sovereign, a nation or its government cannot itself claim sovereignty if it has subverted the sovereignty of its own people. When it comes to the moral question of a free nation going to war with another nation, the question isn't whether or not to "violate" another nation's sovereignty but whether that nation's government has violated its own people's sovereignty and/or has encroached the sovereignty of another nation.

For example, I would consider America's war in the Philippines at the turn of the century an unjust war because while we defeated the Spanish imperialists, we took their place as imperialists rather than establishing self-determination. On the flip side, I believe we should stand militarily by Ukraine because Russia has attacked their sovereignty and self-determination and indeed rejects that the Ukrainian people even have sovereignty or deserve self-determination.

But the decision to engage in a military campaign and interfere with a country's internal affairs is a complex consideration. While I would assert that defending sovereign nations from external aggression is nearly always in the interest of stability and the ideals of free nations (though the how is a matter of considered prudence), military intercession in every circumstance where popular sovereignty is violated through internal oppression is imprudent and could destabilize existing free nations and bring whole regions, and even the world, into conflict.

I believe that America, as the world's first modern republic and pre-eminent classically liberal society, is a city on a hill and has a duty to defend and secure the sovereignty of others where we can. The longest stretches of peace in modern history have resulted from free nations asserting the importance of popular sovereignty in the international realm and demonstrating the resolve to defend their principles through the contest of arms. But there must be limiting principles.

I would assert four basic requirements for a free nation to engage in a war to defend the sovereignty of another people from internal oppression: first, we can observe a full thwarting of popular sovereignty by a nation's government or a complete collapse of government into anarchy, second, the people in question have organized against their government and made overtures for assistance in their struggle, third, the people in question are unable to fully thwart the forces arraigned against them or escape cycles of anarchy pursuant to the collapse of their government without outside assistance, and fourth, our involvement would not precipitate a widening sphere of conflict or trigger regional and/or global war.

The rest follows.

May 17, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Electricity Prices Plunge By 75% As Finland Opens New Nuclear Power Plant (ZeroHedge,  May 16, 2023, OilPrice)

The Olkiluoto 3 (OL3) nuclear plant completed the transition from testing to regular output last month to become Finland's first new nuclear plant in more than four decades. It is expected to produce up to 15 percent of the country's power demand.
And while the plant's production is still in its early days, its launch has had a considerable effect on Finland's energy prices, lowering the electricity spot price in the country from €245.98 per megawatt-hour (MWh) in December to €60.55 per MWh in April, a reduction of more than 75 percent, according to physical electricity exchange, Nord Pool.

Energy prices had risen sharply in the Scandinavian country after the Finnish government banned electricity imports from neighboring Russia last year due to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. The utilization of nuclear power will be welcomed by Finnish consumers, particularly given the fact that Finland has the highest per-capita electricity consumption in the European Union.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Cops say they're being poisoned by fentanyl. Experts say the risk is 'extremely low' (Brian Mann, 5/16/23, NPR: All Things Considered)

Reports of police suffering severe medical symptoms after touching or inhaling powdered fentanyl are common, occurring "every few weeks" around the U.S. according to experts interviewed by NPR.

But many experts say these officers aren't experiencing fentanyl or opioid overdoses.

"This has never happened," said Dr. Ryan Marino, a toxicologist and emergency room physician who studies addiction at Case Western Reserve University. "There has never been an overdose through skin contact or accidentally inhaling fentanyl."

May 16, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 6:31 PM


'The Gulag Archipelago': An Epic of True Evil: Published 50 years ago, Alexander Solzhenitsyn's account of the Soviet Union's barbaric system of forced labor camps is arguably the 20th century's greatest work of nonfiction. (Gary Saul Morson, May 5, 2023, WSJ)

Dedicated to "all those who did not live" to tell their story, "The Gulag Archipelago" demonstrates a nadir of humanity with nearly unfathomable cruelty. In one memorable passage, Solzhenitsyn muses that if the intellectuals of Chekhov's plays who wondered what things would be like in a few decades had learned "that prisoners would have their skulls squeezed within iron rings; that a human being would be lowered into an acid bath . . . that a ramrod heated over a primus stove would be thrust up their anal canal (the 'secret brand'); that a man's genitals would be slowly crushed beneath the toe of a jackboot . . . not one of Chekhov's plays would have gotten to its end because all the heroes would have gone off to insane asylums."

Those who had admitted some of the horrors often blamed them entirely on Stalin, as if Lenin would not have done such things, but, Solzhenitsyn demonstrates, Lenin set up the system of terror and the Gulag while making clear that both were to be permanent features of the new regime. To those Westerners who imagine that this bizarre system of punishment could not happen in their country, Solzhenitsyn cautions: "Alas, all the evil of the twentieth century is possible everywhere on earth."

How was such evil possible? Shakespeare and Schiller clearly did not grasp evil, Solzhenitsyn instructs, because their villains "recognize themselves as evildoers, and they know their souls are black," but those who commit the greatest harm think of themselves as good. Before interrogators could torture prisoners they knew were innocent, they had to discover a justification for their actions. Shakespeare's villains stopped at a few corpses "because they had no ideology," nothing to compare with Marxism-Leninism's "scientific" and infallible explanations of life and ethics. "Ideology--that is what . . . gives the evil-doer the necessary steadfastness and determination . . . the social theory which helps to make his acts seem good . . . in his own and others' eyes."

Posted by orrinj at 2:40 PM


The failure of the Durham report (Andrew Prokop, May 16, 2023, Vox)

Buried in the middle of the report is a section explaining why Durham went down the rabbit hole for so long -- laying out what he tried and failed to prove.

Basically, Durham became enamored of an intelligence analysis by the Russian government from 2016 which had made it into American hands. The Russians assessed, per then-CIA Director John Brennan's summarized notes, that Hillary Clinton had approved a plan to "vilify Donald Trump by stirring up a scandal claiming interference by Russian security services." However, the US intelligence community did not know whether this Russian assessment was accurate.

Durham appears to have believed this could be the Rosetta Stone decoding the Trump/Russia scandal. Through his team's suspicious eyes, this Russian analysis could blow the whole thing wide open -- revealing the whole scandal as, per the phrase repeatedly used by the report, a "Clinton Plan." Maybe top DOJ and Obama White House officials were in on the plan and helping it along to hurt Trump. Further, if Clinton allies had given knowingly false information to the government in the hope of getting Trump investigated, that would be criminal.

But the reality fell far short of Durham's hopes -- as the report he produced attests. And in its discussions of the supposed "Clinton plan," Durham's investigation has been revealed to be sloppy and misleading, and betrays the kind of partisan bias it had projected on its adversaries.

The important thing to remember about the humiliating dry wells these guys keep digging is that they are successfully exposing everything Hillary and Joe did wrong: nothing.

Posted by orrinj at 2:35 PM


The Republican Party Isn't A Political Party (Anymore) (DENNIS SANDERS, MAY 16, 2023, Ordinary Times)

In a democracy, political parties select candidates, mobilize voters, raise money for candidates and hold government accountable, among other things. These are all duties that the Republican Party used to do. However, over the last few years, they have lost control of each of these functions. Some of this has happened under "reforms" that ended up weakening the power of political parties. Reforms like the primary system have weakened both major parties, but while it might have damaged the Democrats, it eviscerated the Republicans by driving out moderates and lifting up fringe candidates. One of the earliest examples came in 2010 when moderate Republican Mike Castle a representative from Delaware was on tap to become the next Senator for the First State. But an unknown candidate named Christine O'Donnell beat Castle in the primary and the seat went from a sure thing for the GOP to a Democratic seat.

You could say that O'Donnell's horrible showing was a fluke. But looking back from 2022, l'affaire "I'm not a witch" was prophetic. The GOP couldn't control keeping a nut job from winning the GOP nomination in a small state like Delaware. That was a warning Klaxon that the party structure of the GOP was brittle and ripe of someone to bring the entire national structure down.

Donald Trump may not be smart, but he can sense weakness and the GOP was a wounded animal in the woods. The national party had no way to stop him and the primary system allowed him to win a plurality. I can remember in 2016 commentators like Ross Douthat talking about how "the party decides," meaning the party had a way of getting rid of crazy candidates like Trump. But "the party decides" amounted to primary voters who wanted Trump.

The reason Trump won the GOP over isn't because of a racist, crazy base. Crazy people in a democracy is a given. Racist people in a democracy are a given. But political parties should be able to screen candidates before they happen to have their finger on the button. Political Parties aren't there to give the voters what they want but to give them competent candidates. The reason Trump is in control of the GOP and could possibly become president again is that the Republicans have no way of stopping someone like Trump from even becoming a serious candidate.

Once Trump was in control of the party he sought to make it a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Trump organization. He got rid of the rest of the decaying structure that didn't suit his purposes. For example, a political party spends a lot of time crafting a party platform that serves as a guide of what the party is all about and it is expected that party candidates will try to hewn as close to the platform as possible. But Trump didn't care about tax policy or the status or Puerto Rico. So, there was no platform in 2020 except supporting Donald Trump.

Donald Trump succeeded in finishing off the GOP as a political party. All of the functions of a party are spun off to other groups, many of which Trump controls. What the GOP is now is a lifestyle brand, and branding is something Donald Trump understands.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Flirting with anti-Semitism (Ian Buruma, 5/15/23, Qantara)

When political leaders and their admirers claim that George Soros, the Hungarian-American-Jewish philanthropist, is pulling the strings of world affairs, we know that anti-Semitism is not far off. But the anti-Semitic nature of these claims has not stopped Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban, former U.S. President Donald Trump, and their followers from propagating them.

Both Orban and Trump often point to their support for Israel as proof that they are not anti-Semites. "No president has done more for Israel than I have," Trump boasted in October. Orban, for his part, has cited Israel and Hungary as "models of successful conservative communities". But he has also said that Hungarians "do not want to become peoples of mixed race" - a statement more redolent of old-fashioned racism than of sympathy for the Jewish people.

In today's political environment, however, being pro-Israel and anti-Semitic is not a contradiction. In fact, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the even more radical members of his cabinet have a great deal in common with the right-wing nationalist figures in Europe and the United States with whom they have aligned. 

Nationalists everywhere love each other because they share hatred of the "other." Which other is just a detail.
Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


May 15, 2023 (HEATHER COX RICHARDSON, MAY 16, 2023, Letters from an American)

Last night, Hunter Walker of Talking Points Memo broke the story that the digital director for right-wing representative Paul Gosar (R-AZ) appears to be Wade Searle, a devoted follower of white supremacist leader Nick Fuentes. Fuentes has openly embraced Nazism and Russian president Vladimir Putin's authoritarianism, and he is one of those to whom the alt-right Groypers look up.

Although Fuentes calls the Groypers "Christian conservatives," historian of the far right in the U.S. Nicole Hemmer told Walker: "The Groypers are essentially the equivalent of neo-Nazis.... They are attached to violent events like Jan. 6. Nick Fuentes, as sort of the organizer of the Groypers, expresses Holocaust denialism, white supremacy, white nationalism, pretty strong anti-women bigotry, he calls for a kind of return to Twelfth Century Catholicism. They're an extremist group that is OK with violence."

Walker has also identified an intern in Gosar's office as another Fuentes follower.

A February study by the Public Religion Research Institute, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that conducts independent research on religion, culture, and public policy, found that the so-called Christian nationalism at the heart of those like Fuentes is closely linked with a willingness to commit violence to make the U.S. a white Christian nation. The PRRI poll showed that nearly 20% of those who sympathize with Christian nationalism agreed they were "willing to fight" to take the nation back to what they incorrectly believe it always was.

May 15, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 7:39 PM


Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Wagner chief offered to give Russian troop locations to Ukraine, leak says (Shane Harris and Isabelle Khurshudyan, May 14, 2023, Washington Post)

In late January, with his mercenary forces dying by the thousands in a fight for the ruined city of Bakhmut, Wagner Group owner Yevgeniy Prigozhin made Ukraine an extraordinary offer.

Prigozhin said that if Ukraine's commanders withdrew their soldiers from the area around Bakhmut, he would give Kyiv information on Russian troop positions, which Ukraine could use to attack them. Prigozhin conveyed the proposal to his contacts in Ukraine's military intelligence directorate, with whom he has maintained secret communications during the course of the war, according to previously unreported U.S. intelligence documents leaked on the group-chat platform Discord.

Open Source everything.

May 14, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


How Trump's anti-science meddling erased 3 years of crucial COVID research (Michael Hiltzik, May 12, 2023, LA Times)

The grant to New York-based EcoHealth Alliance has largely ended a political attack on research into COVID-19 that began in 2020 under the Trump administration.

It is undisputable that the Trump White House ordered the National Institutes of Health to terminate a $3.4-million grant to EcoHealth in April 2020, based on entirely unfounded right-wingers' claims that EcoHealth was funding so-called gain-of-function virus research in China, something they say could have allowed SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, to escape from a Chinese laboratory and infect the world.

The consequences for the independence of scientific research generally and for research into COVID's origins have been incalculable.

While it is "impossible to say what would have been accomplished if the hiatus in funding did not occur," former NIH director Harold Varmus told me by email, restoring the grant "cannot restore the three years in which [EcoHealth] was deprived of support for such critical work at a critical time."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


About Those 'Biden Family' Allegations (DAVID THORNTON, MAY 13, 2023, Ordinary Times)

I am not saying that President Biden is incapable of being corrupt, but at this point, his accusers have not presented evidence of wrongdoing by either the president or his family. What they have presented is their interpretation of bank records that they say they have.

At this point, I think the American people deserve better. Republican investigations into Joe and Hunter Biden started well back into the Trump Administration as a strategy for 2020. If, several years later, they have evidence of wrongdoing by the president, the voters deserve to see it and judge for themselves rather than being subjected to more innuendo. The fact that a centerpiece of the press conference was Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) rehashing tired old claims about Hunter's laptop does not instill me with confidence.

At one point, I might have taken Republicans at their word, but after hearing the same song and dance for so long, they should have something more substantial to bring before the country.

One of the first things that I noticed about all the coverage of the event and the allegations was that Joe Biden was not named. that the House Republicans did an exemplary job and uncovered everything there is.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The dissent among Putin's fighting forces (STEPHEN BRYEN, MAY 14, 2023, Asia Times)

Prigozhin's forces are leading the fight inside Bakhmut and continue to make slow but steady progress. But the Ukrainians have managed to rotate troops fighting in the city and feed in supplies. 

Russian forces, not so much PMC Wagner, have been trying to choke off Ukraine's supply lines to the city, mainly by sealing primary and secondary roadways and by bombing Ukrainian supply resources, particularly in Chasiv Yar, which is the primary feeder point for Ukraine's Bakhmut forces.

Yet the Russian army, which should have positioned strong forces on the flanks protecting the city and the roadways, chose to put largely untrained and poorly equipped regular army forces (and some "volunteers") on the flanks. These were overrun by the Ukrainians in a very strong reconnaissance in force. 

The Ukrainians used crack troops including elements of the Azov brigade, and armor, including tanks. According to what is being reported, the Russian troops were only equipped with small arms, had no armor, and had no anti-tank weapons.  The result was predictable.

This huge blunder sent Prigozhin off into a series of tirades, going so far as to accuse the "grandfather" - namely Putin - of being an a**hole, a statement he tried to walk back after he sent his blast to Russian social media outlets.

The important point is that PMC Wagner and the Russian army are estranged, and it is not so far afoot to suggest that the Russians put the poorest brigade they could find to handle the Bakhmut flanks.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Trust linked to porn-friendly bank could gain a stake in Trump's Truth Social (Drew Harwell, Matt Bernardini and Matei Rosca, May 13, 2023, Washington Post)

An obscure financial entity with connections to a Caribbean-island bank that bills itself as a top payment service for adult entertainment sites would gain a sizable stake in former president Donald Trump's media company if its merger deal proceeds, according to internal documents a company whistleblower has shared with federal investigators and The Washington Post.

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Yet the role ES Family Trust would assume in Trump Media and Technology Group has never been officially disclosed to the Securities and Exchange Commission or to shareholders in Digital World Acquisition, the special purpose acquisition company, or SPAC, that has proposed merging with Trump's company.

May 13, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 5:45 PM


Polling is shifting on conservatives' attitudes on immigration (JEFF BRUMLEY  |  MARCH 17, 2023, Baptist News)

"We found that there is incredible support among conservatives, Republicans and evangelicals for immigration reforms that are humane and sensible. I think that shows that the moment we're in right now is not a policy debate, but a cultural conversation."

The poll found 79% of white evangelical Protestants favor measures to increase border security, provide pathways to citizenship for immigrants brought to the U.S. as children, and ensure a reliable workforce for the nation's farmers and ranchers. Support among Republicans was 74%, with 16% opposed and the rest unsure.

Among all registered voters, 76% agreed that Democrats and Republicans in Congress should cooperate on boosting border security, helping Dreamers become citizens and provide a legal migrant workforce for farmers and ranchers, compared to 14% who were opposed.

The research also uncovered significant support for migrants seeking asylum in the United States.

"Strong majorities also said they would support 'the U.S. providing refuge for individuals and families fleeing serious persecution and torture' (68%-20% overall, 55%-35% among Republicans) and would agree 'that welcoming newcomers to our communities is an American value' (71%-20% overall, 58%-33% among Republicans)," the report said.

"To have 79% of evangelicals who support versus 9% of evangelicals who are opposed to immigration reform -- that's huge."

Murray said she was astonished by the findings: "To have 79% of evangelicals who support versus 9% of evangelicals who are opposed to immigration reform -- that's huge."

Posted by orrinj at 9:27 AM



Lithium-ion batteries are among the most commonly used energy storage devices on the planet. However, these batteries have a number of problems, including frequent overheating that sometimes leads to fires and a tendency to lose effectiveness as they age.

Lithium batteries also have a substantial environmental impact, as one ton of lithium necessitates 2.2 million gallons of water to obtain through mining -- which has a massive effect on the communities near the mines, such as Salar de Atacama in Chile, according to Azo Clean Tech. 

Additionally, lithium batteries include materials made of copper, nickel, and lead, which are all potentially toxic. Improper disposal of lithium batteries can cause major environmental issues.

Oxygen-ion batteries, on the other hand, solve all of these problems. 

Posted by orrinj at 6:34 AM


How Ukrainian forces denied Russia victory in Bakhmut by Victory Day (Siobhán O'Grady, Kamila Hrabchuk and Kostiantyn Khudov, May 12, 2023, Washington Post)

KYIV, Ukraine -- They started shelling at sunrise.

In the dawn haze, under the cover of their own artillery, small groups of Ukrainian soldiers advanced toward a Russian position on the outskirts of the embattled city of Bakhmut.

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Drone footage had identified an avenue of attack on Russian lines on the outskirts of the besieged city. Intelligence suggested the Russians were so focused on the intense street battles playing out inside they were not expecting an assault from this direction, according to two battalion commanders in Ukraine's Third Assault Brigade who helped plan and execute the operation and spoke by telephone.

For nine months, the bloody fight for this eastern city has dragged out inch by inch, with massive casualties on both the Russian and Ukrainian sides. Yevgeniy Prigozhin, the high-profile commander of the mercenary Wagner Group, promised to deliver the city by May 9, Russia's hugely important Victory Day celebration. By the end of April he claimed his forces had taken nearly the whole city.

Yet instead of giving Russian President Vladimir Putin a victory to announce in his speech in front of the Kremlin on Tuesday, Ukrainian forces scored a rare advance this week south of the city and held fast in the city center. The two commanders shared details of the surprise offensive, which Ukrainian ground forces commander Oleksandr Syrsky confirmed was successful.

Posted by orrinj at 6:08 AM


Balancing act: Newsom's plan to cover California's ballooning budget deficit (Alexei Koseff, May 12, 2023, CalMatters)

Legislative leaders have been largely optimistic about the budget situation, noting that the deficit is less drastic than during the last recession more than a decade ago and arguing that they have plenty of fiscal tools at their disposal to avoid deep spending cuts. Last month, Senate Democrats pitched increasing taxes on large corporations and suspending a major business tax credit to raise new funds, an idea that Newsom quickly rejected.

The governor reiterated today that it was not "the right time to raise taxes and I was crystal clear on that." He also also took off the table -- at least for now -- dipping deeper into the state's reserves, which he said should be maintained while the state weathers the broader economic uncertainties.

"No one can be wedded ideologically to conditions that may present themselves, but right now, we're able to submit a budget that we think is prudent and it's balanced," he said. "Those are conversations for another day."

Newsom closed his remarks by encouraging the Legislature to show restraint, both in what it seeks in a budget deal and with costly proposals that lawmakers may try to advance to the governor's desk later this year, which he said he would have to veto.

"You don't have to be profligate to be progressive," Newsom said, trotting out what has become a favorite turn of phrase. "We tend to write checks that we can't keep and then we let people down."

Posted by orrinj at 5:58 AM


When Populism Succeeds (FRANCISCO TORO, MAY 12, 2023, Persuasion)

The most dangerous political experiment in Latin America is underway in El Salvador. A strange breed of populism is tipping the scale in the region's age-old tug of war between authoritarianism and democracy. Rather than dividing the country, like populism usually does, it's uniting it solidly behind a new consensus. More than anything, though, it's succeeding, and doing so in the kind of impossible-to-miss way that turns heads up and down the hemisphere.

At the top of it all is the self-described "coolest dictator in the world," the startlingly energetic Nayib Bukele. Having rounded up tens of thousands of suspected gang members in a series of police and military actions that don't even pay lip service to due process of law, Bukele has become something of a national hero, with approval ratings now north of 90%. Under his watch, one of the most violent countries on earth has become considerably safer: a startling transformation that nearly all Salvadoreans seem profoundly grateful for. [...]

The standard account stresses how populists thrive on polarization. But whatever problems El Salvador may have, polarization isn't one of them. Rather than dividing the country, Bukele's extreme security approach has united nearly all Salvadoreans behind him. How wide is this consensus? In polls, a head-spinning 91% approve the job he is doing. 70% support his re-election, even though he is barred by term limits from seeking it. The 6.9% who oppose his autocracy are a tiny, marginal force in Salvadorean politics, about on the same level as the 7% of Americans who think the moon landings were faked.

Why? Because democracy had failed to protect Salvadoreans from the country's uniquely brutal gang culture--a bloody affair largely hatched in U.S. jails and brought over by gang members deported back to their country. Unlike in Mexico where organized crime makes the bulk of its revenue from drug trafficking, the maras in El Salvador live mostly off of extortion: terrorizing local people and violently squeezing every last dime out of them.

It made for a miserable, hopeless situation that seemed to elude orthodox solutions. Police hardly had the resources to investigate gang members and try them one at a time. That retail approach, even if it had been feasible, would have done little good: pick off 1 gang member out of 10 and the mara was still in place and, finding itself short-staffed, could well become even more violent. Salvadoreans were left to grimly conclude the only way to stop the maras would be to throw all their members in jail in one go: a crazy idea, too harebrained to be entertained seriously. Until Nayib Bukele went and did it.

The result is a civil liberties disaster. Yet Salvadoreans understandably have little tolerance for pious discourses about human rights from outsiders who've not been through what they've been through.

The minimum threshold any state must meet is providing physical security.  Establish that and you can start ratcheting back towards freedom, ideally arriving betwixt the two at liberty. 

May 12, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 7:42 AM


Posted by orrinj at 7:35 AM


How generative AI is building better antibodies: Language models similar to those behind ChatGPT have been used to improve antibody therapies against COVID-19, Ebola and other viruses. (Ewen Callaway, 5/04/23, Nature)

At the height of the pandemic, researchers raced to develop some of the first effective treatments against COVID-19: antibody molecules isolated from the blood of people who had recovered from the disease.

Now, scientists have shown that generative artificial intelligence (AI) can provide a shortcut through some of this laborious process, suggesting sequences that boost the potency of antibodies against viruses such as SARS-CoV-2 and ebolavirus. A study published last week in Nature Biotechnology1 is part of growing efforts to apply 'neural networks' similar to those behind the ChatGPT AI platform to antibody design.

Posted by orrinj at 7:31 AM


The New Right Loves the State: American conservatives are flirting with the authoritarian-adjacent European conservatism of old. (FRANCIS FUKUYAMA, MAY 10, 2023, Persuasion)

Conservative intellectuals have been trying to come up with a coherent justification for strong-state populist policies. Patrick Deneen has attacked the liberal project root and branch in his book Why Liberalism Failed, pointing to John Locke himself as the mistaken point at which Western thought turned away from religiously-defined (or what he calls "teleological") political authority. He has also called for a conservative rethinking of its embrace of the private sector and capitalism. Catholic integralists like Harvard Law Professor Adrian Vermeule have been open in their support for a more hierarchical system that would substantively define the "common good" in place of liberalism's agnosticism about final ends.

Finally, there has been a lot of open admiration expressed for strongman leadership and authoritarian government. Rod Dreher moved to Budapest and sees Viktor Orbán's Hungary as a model for the United States, while Tucker Carlson spent a week broadcasting from there. Donald Trump in a recent interview effusively praised Xi Jinping, Vladimir Putin, and Kim Jong Un, all of whom were very "smart" and effective leaders. He has made various proposals for using violence and summary judgments against drug dealers and wants to round up homeless people and put them in special camps. Other conservatives have expressed admiration for El Salvador's Nayib Bukele (including Senator Marco Rubio), a democratically elected leader who has used extrajudicial means to round up tens of thousands of gang members.

Make no mistake: this is not your grandfather's conservatism. American conservatives are now talking more like older European ones--not like, say, the German Christian Democrats, who today are in many ways to the left of the Democratic Party, but older ones like Spain's Francisco Franco or Portugal's Antonio Salazar who were happy to see democracy abolished in their countries altogether. There is plenty to criticize on the woke Left, but this new type of conservative is not talking about rolling back particular policies; they are challenging the very premises of the liberal state and toying with outright authoritarianism. They are not simply deluded by lies about the 2020 election, but willing to accept non-democratic outcomes to get their way. And they are providing ample support for a broad retreat in foreign policy away from liberal internationalism towards isolationism.

There's something undeniably delicious about the European nature of MAGA.  It is Anglospherics they hate. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:23 AM


Sweden to pave world's first permanent e-road for EV charging while driving (Ioanna Lykiardopoulou, May 10, 2023, Next Web)

As countries across Europe scale up efforts towards fossil fuel-free mobility, Sweden is working on the world's first permanent electric road -- allowing electric cars and trucks to charge while driving.

The project is led by the Swedish Transport Administration, Trafikverket, which has selected the E20 highway. Specifically, it will build the electric road system (ERS) on the 21km route from Hallsberg to Örebro, located between the country's two largest cities, Stockholm and Gothenburg.

The e-road is now at the procurement and final planning stage, while Trafikverket expects to complete and introduce it to the public in 2025/2026.

Posted by orrinj at 7:18 AM


Meet The Texas Startup That Recycles Rare-Earth Magnets, Bypassing China (Amy Feldman, May 10, 2023, Forbes)

At a factory in San Marcos, Texas, workers gather Bird scooters, computer hard drives, MRI machines and motors from hybrid cars in order to separate out the old rare-earth magnets so they can be ground down and shaped into new ones. These strong permanent magnets are everywhere, even if most people know nothing about them. They go into everything from electric vehicles to wind turbines to consumer electronics to missile guidance systems. Yet for years, the U.S. has been largely dependent on China for rare-earth processing. Noveon Magnetics, the startup behind this recycling effort, has a grand plan -- and some patented technology -- to make a dent in that dependance.

"We didn't realize till the last decade how big the potential shortfalls were," says Scott Dunn, Noveon's cofounder and chief executive. "You don't just get to turn on the spigot and produce these. They're not a commodity." [...]

Dunn figures that once its San Marcos facility is at capacity, by 2024 or 2025, it will be able to churn out 2,000 tons of magnets under long-term supplier agreements, using a mix of recycled and mined rare-earth materials, and bringing in revenue of $250 million with 40% Ebitda at current magnet prices. After that, he hopes to set up similar magnet factories in Europe and Asia (outside of China), with a goal of reaching $1 billion in revenue within five years.

Posted by orrinj at 7:14 AM


Supreme Court Outrages Republicans With Split Decision Ruling (NICK MORDOWANEC, 5/11/23, Newsweek)

Republican lawmakers and the pork industry are none too pleased with a Supreme Court decision on Thursday that upholds California's Proposition 12 ballot initiative, requiring pork sold in the state to be raised under strict guidelines among other ramifications.

The 5-4 decision was upheld by Justices Neil Gorsuch, Clarence Thomas, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Amy Coney Barrett. The majority reaffirmed a decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, arguing that this was not a constitutional issue.

"Companies that choose to sell products in various states must normally comply with the laws of those various states," Gorsuch wrote in the opinion. "Assuredly, under this court's dormant Commerce Clause decisions, no state may use its laws to discriminate purposefully against out-of-state economic interests. But the pork producers do not suggest that California's law offends this principle.

"Instead, they invite us to fashion two new and more aggressive constitutional restrictions on the ability of states to regulate goods sold within their borders. We decline that invitation. While the constitution addresses many weighty issues, the type of pork chops California merchants may sell is not on that list."

Posted by orrinj at 6:40 AM


US representative Rashida Tlaib defiantly leads Nakba day in Washington (Brooke Anderson, 11 May, 2023, New Arab)

Following the cancellation of the event at the Capitol by McCarthy, it was held in the Dirksen Senate Office Building, which Senator Bernie Sanders was able to secure with his position as chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. Chairs are able to approve rooms for events.

The attempt to cancel the event only seemed to give it more publicity and embolden Tlaib and other speakers, including Nakba survivors and their descendants, who tied the symbolism of being displaced from their original venue to the decades-long displacement of Palestinians from their homeland.

"We are here," human rights attorney Noura Erakat said repeatedly in her opening and closing remarks.

May 11, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 2:25 PM


Darwin's Dirty Secret Lives On: A recent book on evolutionary theory fails to reckon with the social side of natural selection. (JOHN G. WEST AND ERIC M. WALLACE, MAY 11, 2023, Christianity Today)

In 1904, thousands of indigenous people were brought to the St. Louis World's Fair to be put on public display. Scientists offered them as examples of lower stages of human evolution. Some were even presented to the public as "missing links" between humans and apes.

Two years later, an African named Ota Benga was exhibited in a cage next to an orangutan in the Bronx Zoo primate house. The display attracted hundreds of thousands of visitors. It also drew protests from Black and white clergy. Black minister James Gordon attacked the presentation for propagandizing on behalf of Darwinian evolution, which he regarded as "absolutely opposed to Christianity."

"Neither the Negro nor the white man is related to the monkey, and such an exhibition only degrades a human being's manhood," he declared.

Scientific and cultural elites, meanwhile, saw nothing wrong.

Leading evolutionary biologist Henry Fairfield Osborn of Columbia University praised the zoo exhibit, while The New York Times complained it was "absurd to make moan over the imagined humiliation and degradation" of Benga. The Times took special umbrage at Gordon's skepticism of evolution: "The reverend colored brother should be told that evolution, in one form or other, is now taught in the text books of all the schools, and that it is no more debatable than the multiplication table."

Only recently have many members of the scientific community begun to grapple with evolutionary biology's disturbing past. Last year, the science journal The American Naturalist published an article acknowledging that "the roots of evolutionary biology are steeped in histories of white supremacism, eugenics, and scientific racism."

Posted by orrinj at 10:30 AM



The increase in renewable generation was driven by growth in wind and solar generating capacity. According to the data report, utility-scale solar capacity went up from 61 gigawatts to 71 gigawatts (enough to power around 53.3 million homes by one estimate). Wind capacity increased from 133 gigawatts in 2021 to 141 gigawatts in 2022.

Posted by orrinj at 7:19 AM


Wind is main source of UK electricity for first time (Esme Stallard, 5/11/23, BBC News

Wind turbines have generated more electricity than gas for the first time in the UK.

In the first three months of this year a third of the country's electricity came from wind farms, research from Imperial College London have shown.

National Grid has also confirmed that April saw a record period of solar energy generation.

By 2035 the UK aims for all of its electricity to have net zero emissions.

Posted by orrinj at 7:13 AM


Microsoft signs nuclear fusion deal as part of sustainability push (Andrew Freedman, 5/11/23, Axios)

Helion plans to locate its fusion plant in Washington state, home to both companies, and sell power directly into the grid via Constellation.

Microsoft plans to use the electricity to power its data centers, chief sustainability officer Melanie Nakagawa told Axios in an interview.

The company, which attracted a $500 million funding round in 2021, says its Polaris fusion reactor is on track for the 2028 deadline. Fusion has long been viewed as the holy grail of clean energy, and recent advances have led to a mini-boom of funding fusion startups.

Helion has ambitious timelines, including proving it can produce electricity by 2024, but CEO David Kirtley told Axios they are confident they can be met.

Posted by orrinj at 6:09 AM


Has Putin's war arrived in Russia?: Assassinations, acts of sabotage and drone strikes on Russian soil could prove deeply destabilising. (MARY DEJEVSKY, 11th May 2023, spiked!)

The thwarted drone strike on the Kremlin may have been the incident that grabbed all the international headlines. But this was just one of a spate of apparent attacks in Russia in recent weeks. The war in Ukraine, it seems, is increasingly making itself felt in Russia itself.

On 6 May, an author and blogger, who goes by the name Zakhar Prilepin, became the latest Russian nationalist to be targeted by assassins. As he told it from his hospital bed, he was driving outside Nizhny Novgorod, a city more than 400km east of Moscow, when his car was struck by a bomb. His friend, sitting in the passenger seat, was killed. Prilepin survived, albeit with serious injuries. Social media showed pictures of the crater which had apparently been left by the explosion. Prilepin said a second bomb had been planned as well, but the presumed assassin had taken flight.

Over the past two weeks, small-scale shelling and acts of sabotage have also been reported, mostly in parts of Russia close to the Ukraine border. Four people were killed in the shelling of a village, Suzemka, just a few kilometres inside Russia. Then, two goods trains were derailed on successive days in the west Russian region of Bryansk. The railway authorities blamed these incidents on 'illegal interference in the work of railway transport'. The regional governor blamed them explicitly on explosive devices. The same week, there were two drone attacks on an oil refinery in the Krasnodar region of southern Russia, and reports of power lines being destroyed south of St Petersburg, again by explosive devices.

May 10, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


May 9, 2023 (Tuesday) (HEATHER COX RICHARDSON, MAY 10, 2023, Letters from an American)

President Biden spoke to reporters today after his meeting with House speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) about raising the debt ceiling. "I just finished, I thought, a productive meeting with the congressional leadership about the path forward to make sure America does not default--I emphasize does not default on its debt for the first time in history," he began. "And I'm pleased but not surprised to hear [the] Republican minority leader of the United States Senate our meeting that the United States is not going to default. It never has, and it never will. And he's absolutely correct." The teams will continue to meet before the principals reconvene on Friday.

Biden went on to lay out the differences between his plan and that of the Republicans under McCarthy. He began by warning that a default would create a "significant recession," devastating retirement accounts and increasing the cost of borrowing. He quoted Moody's Analytics that nearly 8 million Americans would lose their jobs and added that our international reputation would be ruined.

"Default is not an option," he repeated. "America is not a deadbeat nation. We pay our bills." Congress avoided default three times under Trump "without once--not one time--creating a crisis, rattling the markets, or undermining the unshakable trust the world has in America's commitment to paying its bills." Biden noted that Trump drove the debt up significantly and that in his own first two years he had reduced the debt by an unprecedented $1.7 trillion. has already won.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


U.S. Support for Nuclear Power Soars (Akielly Hu, 5/09/23, Grist)

A Gallup survey released in late April found that 55 percent of U.S. adults support the use of nuclear power. That's up four percentage points from last year and reflects the highest level of public support for nuclear energy use in electricity since 2012.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Abandoned coal mines may be gold mines for geothermal energy (Diana Olick, 5/09/23, CNBC)

Abandoned coal mines generally fill with water when the mining has ceased. That water contains heat from far below the earth's surface. People can drill bore holes to bring that heat to the surface, then pass it through heat exchanges and heat pumps in buildings and in homes.

The first neighborhood mine-water heating scheme in Great Britain just went into full operation at the end of March and will eventually serve over 1,200 homes.

"Each minable scheme poses its different challenges, and there will be expenses involved with drilling bore holes or laying district heat network pipes in the ground," explained Gareth Farr, head of heat and by-product innovation at the Coal Authority in Mansfield, England. "But hopefully most of these schemes, if not all of them, will be able to operate at a similar or better cost to the traditional fossil-fuel heating schemes we have at the moment."

Geothermal energy is not new, but taking it from abandoned coal mines is not yet common, especially in the United States.

Professor and director of the Environmental Studies Program at Ohio University, Natalie Kruse-Daniels, and her students are studying abandoned mines in Appalachian Ohio to see which ones are close enough to towns to be used for home heating.

May 9, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 4:23 PM


Donald Trump Sexually Abused and Defamed E. Jean Carroll, Jury Finds (Russ Choma, 5/09/23, moJo)

A federal jury has found Donald Trump liable for sexual abuse and defamation in a civil lawsuit brought by writer E. Jean Carroll, who alleged that Trump raped her in 1996 in the dressing room of a New York City department store. The jury found that Carroll's attorneys had failed to prove the rape allegation, but the jurors did agree that Trump had forcibly sexually abused her. The jury determined that Trump must pay Carroll $5 million. 

The nine-person jury--a panel of six men and three women--took less than three hours to deliberate. 

Posted by orrinj at 2:31 PM


May 8, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 5:42 PM


DOJ charges 'Pink Beret' Jan. 6 rioter IDed after an ex spotted her in a viral FBI tweet (Ryan J. Reilly, 5/08/23, NBC News)

A woman who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6 while wearing a pink beret and was recently identified to the FBI by an ex-romantic partner was charged with four federal counts on Monday.

As NBC News first reported, Jennifer Inzunza Vargas Geller of California was identified by an ex and reported to the FBI after she was featured in a viral tweet from the bureau last month. She now faces four misdemeanor counts: entering or remaining in a restricted building or grounds; disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building; disorderly conduct in the Capitol grounds or buildings; and unlawfully parading, demonstrating, or picketing in a Capitol building. She was not in custody on Monday, a law enforcement source said, but there's now a warrant out for her arrest. [...]

[L]ast weekend, a clothing designer Vargas Geller used to date was standing in the checkout line at a Joann Fabric and Crafts store when his buddy showed him a funny tweet from the FBI's Washington Field Office on his phone.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


On Tucker Carlson and the Fear of Being Replaced (RUSSELL MOORE, MAY 4, 2023, Christianity Today)

Every blood-and-soil form of fear-based identity politics thrives on defining us in terms of visceral categories like race, tribe, or nationality. This assumes a blatantly social Darwinian view of what human communities are or can be.

The problem for Christians is that the gospel contradicts this ideology at its very root.

If "Christianity" for you is white and American, then it is not only out of step with the Bible; it is also precisely the kind of religion that almost every chapter of the New Testament explicitly repudiates as carnal and pagan.

The gospel situates us in a whole new story--one based on the promise God made to Abraham (Rom. 4; Gal. 3:1-9). If the church is just another way for humans to protect their gene pools, then Jesus was a fraud from his first sermon onward (Luke 4:25-27). If the blood-and-soil nationalists are correct about what defines success, then the crowds were right to call out for a leader like Barabbas instead of Jesus (John 18:40).

But Jesus and his apostles gave us an entirely different vision of how we and us are ultimately defined. The apostle Paul is in sync with the rest of the New Testament canon when he reveals that "here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all" (Col. 3:11).

Once we lose that biblical sense of "we-ness" overall, any threat to the places where we do catch rare glimpses of it is considered an ultimate threat--capable of destroying "us" completely. If we have misplaced hopes, we will have misplaced fears. When we seek the wrong kingdom, we will fear the wrong apocalypse.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Can a State Flag Be Too 'Woke'? Some Utahns Say So (Natalie Andrews, May 6, 2023, WSJ)

"I was hoping this would be a thing that brings people together," said Gov. Spencer Cox, who signed the March flag bill. "I should have known better."

The path to a new Utah state flag involved years of effort in the legislature, including sorting through thousands of ideas. Many agreed it was important the design continue to feature a beehive, honoring the pioneers who arrived in the Salt Lake Valley on July 24, 1847, a date that is celebrated more than statehood.

"I did lay down the law on the beehive," the governor said. He threatened to veto any design that didn't have one.

The new flag's beehive sits inside a hexagon and has five stylized peaks above it, symbolizing Utah's mountain ranges, plus a swath of red below, a nod to Utah's red-rock canyons to the south. Designers made an amalgam of submissions from 72 people, each of whom was awarded a $100 gift certificate as a winner.

The governor said he recognized the need for a new flag when he attended the National Finals Rodeo, an event at which flags from many states were paraded. He looked for Utah's but found that it blended in with roughly two dozen others that also featured a state seal.

"We jokingly call those SOB flags--that's a seal on a bedsheet," said Ted Kaye, a vexillologist--flag scholar--and the compiler of a design booklet called "Good Flag, Bad Flag."

The old Utah flag--which was tweaked 12 years ago to fix a mistake that left the year 1847 in the wrong spot--wasn't simple or distinctive and it and didn't look good from a distance, said Mr. Kaye. He worked with state officials on the new one.

Critics unfurled a slew of complaints. Some accused the governor and state legislators of trying to cancel history.

May 7, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 5:48 PM


Texas mall shooter wore neo-Nazi symbol and shared 'white-supremacist content online': report (Maya Boddie, May 07, 2023, AlterNet)

Allen resident Mauricio Garcio, according to The Post wore a "patch on his chest" at the time of the shooting that read "RWDS," meaning "Right Wing Death Squad," a "phrase popular among right wing extremists, neo-Nazis and white supremacists."

Additionally, NBC reports Garcia "interacted with neo-Nazi and white supremacist content online."

Last year, an Anti-Defamation League's Center (ADLC) on Extremism report revealed "all extremist-related murders in 2022 were committed by right-wing extremists," adding, "More than four out of five extremist-related murders last year were committed by white supremacist right-wing extremists."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


In 1st, Ukraine says it downed Russian hypersonic missile with US Patriot system (DAVID RISING, 5/06/23, AP)

Ukraine's air force claimed Saturday to have downed a Russian hypersonic missile over Kyiv using newly acquired American Patriot defense systems, the first known time the country has been able to intercept one of Moscow's most modern missiles.

Air Force commander Mykola Oleshchuk said in a Telegram post that the Kinzhal-type ballistic missile had been intercepted in an overnight attack on the Ukrainian capital earlier in the week. It was also the first time Ukraine is known to have used the Patriot defense systems.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Best States Rankings (US News, 5/05/23)

Some states shine in health care. Some soar in education. Some excel in both - or in much more. The Best States rankings by U.S. News draw on thousands of data points to measure how well states are performing for their citizens. In addition to health care and education, the rankings take into account a state's economy; its roads, bridges, internet and other infrastructure; its public safety; its natural environment; the fiscal stability of state government; and the opportunity it affords its residents.

More weight was accorded to some categories than others, based on a survey of what matters most to people. Health care and education were weighted most heavily. Then came state economies, infrastructure, and the opportunity states offer their citizens. Fiscal stability followed closely in weighting, followed by measures of crime and corrections and a state's natural environment.

See the overall Best States rankings below, and check out the Best States methodology for a detailed look at the data behind the Best States rankings.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Arch Conservative Jurist Who Helped Save American Democracy From Trump (STEVE CHAPMAN, MAY 6, 2023, The UnPopulist)

A decisive moment leading up to the riot at the U.S. Capitol came when Vice President Mike Pence was considering whether he could reject electoral votes submitted by some states, thus blocking the certification of the 2020 presidential election. A lawyer for Pence reached out to J. Michael Luttig, a former federal appeals court judge, who told him that the vice president had no such authority.

In a series of tweets on Jan. 5, Luttig proceeded to refute the claim of John Eastman and others who told Donald Trump that Pence could keep him in office,. Luttig wrote: "The only responsibility and power of the Vice President under the Constitution is to faithfully count the electoral college votes as they have been cast. The Constitution does not empower the Vice President to alter in any way the votes that have been cast, either by rejecting certain of them or otherwise." Pence followed that guidance--and, despite the mob attack the next day, Congress proceeded with the transfer of power to Joe Biden.

The former judge has won considerable praise for his counsel to Pence. To many people familiar with Luttig's record as a devout conservative, his decision to oppose Trump's effort and to testify against him before the Jan. 6 House committee last summer may have been a surprise. But it was not the first time Luttig had shown the courage and integrity to stand up to an overreaching Republican president.

At first glance, Luttig would seem an unlikely candidate to become a hero to liberals and Never Trumpers.

As assistant attorney general under President George H.W. Bush, he helped to guide Clarence Thomas through his confirmation to the Supreme Court. Among his closest friends were Justice Antonin Scalia and Trump Attorney General William Barr. His law clerks included Alex Azar, who was secretary of health and human services under Trump, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who once described Luttig as "like a father to me," and John Eastman - the same one who told Trump that Pence could refuse to accept electors. Being highly conservative,  intellectually formidable and suitably young, Luttig was on George W. Bush's shortlist for the Supreme Court. Though he was passed over for two vacancies,  filled by John Roberts and Samuel Alito in 2005, he remained a strong contender for a future nomination.

But while innumerable prominent conservatives fell under the spell of Trump before or during his presidency, surrendering their principles in the process, Luttig did not.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


May 6, 2023 (HEATHER COX RICHARDSON, MAY 6, 2023, Letters from an American)

The Second Amendment to the Constitution, on which modern-day arguments for widespread gun ownership rest, is one simple sentence: "A well regulated militia, being necessary for the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed." There's not a lot to go on about what the Framers meant, although in their day, to "bear arms" meant to be part of an organized militia.

As the Tennessee Supreme Court wrote in 1840, "A man in the pursuit of deer, elk, and buffaloes might carry his rifle every day for forty years, and yet it would never be said of him that he had borne arms; much less could it be said that a private citizen bears arms because he has a dirk or pistol concealed under his clothes, or a spear in a cane."

Today's insistence that the Second Amendment gives individuals a broad right to own guns comes from two places.

One is the establishment of the National Rifle Association in New York in 1871, in part to improve the marksmanship skills of American citizens who might be called on to fight in another war, and in part to promote in America the British sport of elite shooting, complete with hefty cash prizes in newly organized tournaments. Just a decade after the Civil War, veterans jumped at the chance to hone their former skills. Rifle clubs sprang up across the nation.

By the 1920s, rifle shooting was a popular American sport. "Riflemen" competed in the Olympics, in colleges, and in local, state, and national tournaments organized by the NRA. Being a good marksman was a source of pride, mentioned in public biographies, like being a good golfer. In 1925, when the secretary of the NRA apparently took money from ammunition and arms manufacturers, the organization tossed him out and sued him.

NRA officers insisted on the right of citizens to own rifles and handguns but worked hard to distinguish between law-abiding citizens who should have access to guns for hunting and target shooting and protection, and criminals and mentally ill people, who should not. In 1931, amid fears of bootlegger gangs, the NRA backed federal legislation to limit concealed weapons; prevent possession by criminals, the mentally ill and children; to require all dealers to be licensed; and to require background checks before delivery. It backed the 1934 National Firearms Act, and parts of the 1968 Gun Control Act, designed to stop what seemed to be America's hurtle toward violence in that turbulent decade.

But in the mid-1970s a faction in the NRA forced the organization away from sports and toward opposing "gun control." It formed a political action committee (PAC) in 1975, and two years later it elected an organization president who abandoned sporting culture and focused instead on "gun rights." [...]

In 1972 the Republican platform had called for gun control to restrict the sale of "cheap handguns," but in 1975, as he geared up to challenge President Gerald R. Ford for the 1976 presidential nomination, Movement Conservative hero Ronald Reagan took a stand against gun control. In 1980, the Republican platform opposed the federal registration of firearms, and the NRA endorsed a presidential candidate--Reagan--for the first time.

...doesn't stop being judicial activism just because you personally prefer the result.

May 6, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 1:31 PM



Researchers have recently discovered a way to make an efficient battery out of zinc -- an inexpensive, commonly found metal -- instead of the rare metals used in lithium batteries. [...]

According to Tech Xplore, this new project, led by Xiulei "David" Ji of Oregon State University, offers yet another alternative to lithium-ion batteries: accessible, efficient zinc metal batteries.

The secret is a new electrolyte developed by Ji and his team, Tech Xplore explains. A battery electrolyte is a liquid inside the battery that helps aid the chemical reactions to store and release energy.

Posted by orrinj at 1:26 PM



Every flight costs thousands of dollars in fuel -- over $10,000 to cross from New York to Los Angeles and almost $30,000 to fly from New York to London. Airlines pass these costs on to passengers via rising ticket prices -- and meanwhile, the huge engines of traditional aircraft make airports noisy, dirty places.

In addition, jet fuel releases heat-trapping gases such as carbon dioxide when burned. According to Our World in Data, air travel accounts for 2.5% of all carbon dioxide produced worldwide, even though only 20% of the Earth's population uses airplanes. This is about six times more pollution than passengers would produce by driving the same distance, according to BBC News.

Ampaire is changing the game by installing its new AmpDrive electric system in existing aircraft.  So far, its fleet contains the three-passenger Electric EEL, the 11-passenger Eco Caravan, and the 19-passenger Eco Otter. The company is also hard at work on developing the fully-electric Tailwind aircraft.

These hybrid aircraft rely on battery power for the majority of each flight, dramatically reducing the amount of fuel consumed. According to the Ampaire website, its hybrid planes use 10% of the fuel, make 40% of the noise, and require 50% of the maintenance that traditional planes do. 

Posted by orrinj at 10:16 AM



According to the Psychiatric Times, there are multiple possible physical reasons that high temperatures affect human behavior. For example, the human body prepares for sleep by cooling down, and if people can't cool down, they have trouble sleeping. Lack of sleep is connected to all kinds of negative effects on health and mood.

One study also suggests that heat may impact serotonin, a chemical in the brain that helps regulate mood.

Regardless of how it works, there is a clear connection between heat and mental health. Since heat islands get so much hotter than surrounding areas, people living in urban areas without relief from high temperatures are the most affected.

Posted by orrinj at 7:29 AM


Did Trump's anti-glasses vanity doom his E. Jean Carroll defense? (Philip Bump, May 5, 2023, Washington Post)

Carroll's attorneys had handed Trump a black-and-white photograph showing Trump at a social event at some point generally contemporaneous to the time of the alleged rape. Trump considered it for a moment, identifying one man as former television anchor John Johnson. Then he pointed at a woman on the left side of the photo.

"It's Marla," he said, referring to his former wife Marla Maples.

There was a pause. Then the attorneys for Carroll prompted him: "You're saying Marla is in this photo?"

"That's Marla, yeah," Trump replied. "That's my wife."

Carroll's attorneys, hoping to clarify, asked him which woman he was pointing to. There was one of Trump's wives in the photo: his first wife, Ivana, who was on the right side of the photo. But Trump was pointing to the left.

That's when Trump's attorney, Alina Habba, jumped in. "No," she told her client, "that's Carroll."

As indeed it was. Trump had seen the photo and identified Carroll, the woman who was "not his type," as his second wife, Marla Maples. A bit later in the deposition, to put a fine point on it, Carroll's attorneys asked him whether "the three women you've married were all your type." Trump confirmed that they were.

Posted by orrinj at 7:24 AM


Trump 2024: Bring Back the 'Muslim Ban' -- and Expand It (Asawin Suebsaeng, Adam Rawnsley May 5, 2023, Rolling Stone)

If he wins again, Trump wants to bring back one of the most vile parts of his first stint in office

Donald Trump for months has been telling people close to him that he plans to bring back his infamous "Muslim ban" if he's reelected in 2024, according to two sources with direct knowledge of the matter. "Gotta bring it back," Trump has said of the policy, according to the two sources, who added he regularly calls the idea "beautiful."

Posted by orrinj at 7:00 AM


Masks Work. Distorting Science to Dispute the Evidence Doesn't (Matthew Oliver, Mark Ungrin, Joe Vipond on May 5, 2023, Scientific American)

In many scientific disciplines randomized trial methods are fundamentally inappropriate--akin to using a scalpel to mow a lawn. If something can be directly measured or accurately and precisely modeled, there is no need for complex, inefficient trials that put participants at risk. Engineering, perhaps the most "real-world" of disciplines, doesn't conduct randomized trials. Its necessary knowledge is well-understood. Everything from highways to ventilation systems--everything that moves us, cleans our air and our water, and puts satellites into orbit--succeeds without needing them. This includes many medical devices. When failures like a plane crash or catastrophic bridge collapse do occur, they are recognized and systematically analyzed to ensure they don't happen again. The contrast with the lack of attention paid to public health failures in this pandemic is stark.

"Does a mask protect me from aerosolized virus?" or "Does this seat belt keep me from flying through the window in an accident?" are different types of questions than "Does aspirin reduce death rates after a heart attack?" Imprisoning engineering and the natural sciences at the very bottom of an evidence hierarchy--at the same level as an expert opinion--is a mistake. As with seat belts, whether people use masks properly matters, but no randomized trial could conclude seat belts "don't work." At best, that type of trial would be a truly inefficient way to assess specific instructions and incentives to get people to use them properly.

A well-understood technology, respiratory protection has been validated over decades, with standards (NIOSH in the U.S., CSA in Canada) that codify protection from viruses and bacteria. Mining, biomedical research, chemical processing, pharmaceutical production and many more industries follow these laws and standards worldwide. Without exaggeration, millions of people trust their lives to the effective "real-world" science of respirators, with no need for randomized trial evidence.

It is therefore deeply concerning that prominent medical figures have misrepresented the protection provided by masks, when the evidence supports N95 respirators or better, ideally with two-way masking.

Medical policy makers failed to learn the lesson of the 2003 SARS-1 outbreak, exposed again in the current global pandemic: a novel pathogen requires a precautionary approach that includes airborne respiratory protections until proven otherwise. With millions dead and immense--and still growing--personal and economic damage inflicted by long COVID, failing to adjust now will continue to do enormous harm.

It is not too late to do better.

The biggest problem for opponents of the measures we took to reduce Covid transmission is explaining away the disappearance of the flu. 

Posted by orrinj at 6:57 AM


Harlan Crow and Clarence Thomas Are About to Learn About Gift Taxes (Martin Sheil, May. 5th, 2023, Daily Beast)

It is a reasonable question to ask, and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) appears to have formally done so, with a reported due date of a response May 8. In lieu of gift taxes, did Crow expense the value of the trips and tuition provided the Thomases on either personal or business income tax returns? Wyden wants to know.

If Crow took business expense deductions for the above referenced "gifts," then he can't claim they were gifts. And if that's the case, he wouldn't have had to file gift tax returns which--given a potential tax rate of up to 40 percent--would represent a pretty price for the billionaire real estate magnate.

The criteria for what constitutes an untaxed gift that exceeds the limit to avoid paying tax vary by year. For example, the limit was $13,000 per recipient in 2013, but $17,000 in 2023. The Indonesian junket--valued at over $500,000 by ProPublica--would generate gift taxes of approximately $200,000 for Mr. Crow.

Now, if Crow did take business deductions for the value of the luxury vacations provided to the Thomases, he would have opened up another can of worms for himself tax-wise. That's because Crow has publicly stated he did not discuss any business before the court with Justice Thomas.

If that is true, then it is possible that Crow falsified his income tax returns by expensing the cost of the vacation provided the Thomases. It's also possible the vacations provided the Thomas family could be viewed as income to Thomas--since he would be viewed as providing value to Crow through business discussions. To be very clear, this is speculative and none of this is proven, but the possibility alone makes it worth investigating.

What seems much more clear-cut is that Justice Thomas doesn't seem to think he has to report gifts from wealthy businessmen, who also are generous corporate political donors, like Harlan Crow.

Posted by orrinj at 6:54 AM


Surging Brain Activity in Dying People May Be a Sign of Near-Death Experiences (Will Sullivan, May 5, 2023, Smithsonian)

In a study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers report that two of four comatose dying patients experienced a surge in brain activity that resembles consciousness after they were taken off ventilators and their hearts had stopped.

The findings indicate scientists have more to learn about how the brain behaves while we're dying. The study "suggests we are identifying a marker of lucid consciousness," Sam Parnia, a pulmonologist at New York University who did not contribute to the research, tells Science's Sara Reardon.

Posted by orrinj at 6:36 AM


In Trump Probe, Special Counsel Zooms In on Possible Criminal Charges: Prosecutors' revisiting of earlier witness testimony points to effort to tie up loose ends (Aruna Viswanatha, Sadie Gurman  and C. Ryan Barber, May 5, 2023, WSJ)

Special counsel Jack Smith is racing through a roster of interviews in his wide-ranging investigations related to former President Donald Trump, including with former Vice President Mike Pence and other top aides, as he contemplates filing charges, according to people familiar with the matter. 

The steps prosecutors are taking, the people say, suggest Mr. Smith is in the late stages of his inquiry into Mr. Trump's efforts to remain in power after the 2020 election. The special counsel is also considering whether the former president tried to obstruct a separate probe into the handling of classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago resort by withholding material sought by the Justice Department.

May 5, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 7:16 PM


Westinghouse announces a new small nuclear reactor -- a notable step in the industry's efforts to remake itself (Catherine Clifford, 5/04/23, CNBC)

Westinghouse is offering a smaller-scale nuclear reactor in an effort to expand access to nuclear power as demand for clean energy soars.

The company announced the launch of a small version of its flagship AP1000 nuclear reactor on Thursday. The new reactor, called the AP300, aims to be available in 2027, and will generate about a third of the power of the flagship AP1000 reactor.

Westinghouse's move is a notable inflection point in the nuclear industry's effort to remake itself as a way to address climate change. Electricity generated from a nuclear fission reactor produces no greenhouse gas emissions.

Posted by orrinj at 6:47 AM


Wagner Chief Says Pulling Out of Bakhmut After Blasting Russian Military Top Brass (Moscow Times, 5/05/23)

Russia's Wagner mercenary group will exit eastern Ukraine's Bakhmut next week after suffering losses due to critical ammunition shortages, the private military contractor's founder Yevgeny Prigozhin announced Friday.

Wagner fighters, many of whom are convicts recruited from Russian prisons, have been at the forefront of Russia's efforts to capture Bakhmut, taking heavy losses in a brutal, monthslong battle. Tensions between Wagner and Russia's Defense Ministry have simmered during this time, with Prigozhin accusing the Russian army of taking credit for victories won by Wagner fighters and of slowing down Wagner units' advances in Ukraine.

"My soldiers will not suffer senseless and unjustified losses in Bakhmut without ammunition," Prigozhin said in a video address published by his press service in which he is flanked by masked Wagner soldiers.

Detente is evil. 

Posted by orrinj at 6:40 AM


DOJ finds 'insider witness' in Trump Mar-a-Lago documents probe: report (JULIA MUELLER, 05/04/23, The Hill)

The investigation, led by Special Counsel Jack Smith, has shown signs of intensifying. The new insider witness, the Times reports, appears as part of a broader effort to figure out whether Trump personally ordered boxes of the sensitive material to be moved out of the storage room. 

Investigators are looking into whether Trump failed or refused to comply with government requests for certain records to be returned after the end of his presidency, as is required under the Presidential Records Act. 

After the DOJ subpoenaed Trump for the documents believed to still be in his possession, FBI agents executed a search warrant at Mar-a-Lago and recovered classified documents last summer.

The Times also reported that "nearly everyone" who works at Mar-a-Lago has been subpoenaed in the probe.

Posted by orrinj at 6:37 AM


4 far-right Proud Boys convicted of seditious conspiracy in 2021 US Capitol attack (Times of Israel, 5/05/23)

Former Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio and three other members of the far-right extremist group were convicted Thursday of a plot to attack the US Capitol in a desperate bid to keep Donald Trump in power after the Republican lost the 2020 presidential election.

A jury in Washington, DC, found Tarrio, 39, the former "national chairman" of the neofascist organization, and three of his lieutenants -- Joseph Biggs, 39, Ethan Nordean, 32, and Zachary Rehl, 37 -- guilty of seditious conspiracy after hearing from dozens of witnesses over more than three months in one of the most serious cases brought in the stunning attack that unfolded on January 6, 2021, as the world watched on live TV.

Jurors cleared a fifth defendant -- Dominic Pezzola -- of the sedition charge, though he was convicted of other serious felonies. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Belt and Road Turns Into a 'Debt Trap' for Beijing: Xi Jinping's plan to provide infrastructure to the world backfires (Salman Rafi Sheikh, 5/29/23, Asia Sentinel)

With dozens of the member countries of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) club pushing to renegotiate their loans from China, the BRI is rightly said to have become a project of debt collection rather than one characterized by Beijing's 'win-win' formula of mutual development. With China's money virtually stuck - and even deeply buried - and its banks facing global pressure to renegotiate and/or provide additional financial help, it seems the trillion-dollar program is entering a self-defeating phase.

As the year-on data compiled by the US-based Rhodium Group shows, the pace of renegotiating, or even writing off, debt has increased sharply. Between 2017 and 2019, China renegotiated and/or wrote off loans worth US$17 billion. Between 2020 and March 2023, China renegotiated and/or wrote off loans worth US$78.5 billion - money otherwise invested in signature projects such as roads, railways, ports, airports, etc. China has also sharply cut the pace of funding BRI projects, especially as the Covid-19 Coronavirus crisis has bit into global economic growth.

This policy of renegotiation and/or writing off loans is in addition to the newish policy of doling out so-called 'rescue loans' to help the BRI recipients avoid sovereign default. In the past two months or so, China has extended this 'help' to Pakistan twice, providing over US$4 billion. Pakistan is where the flagship China-Pakistan Economic Corridor was initiated in 2013 but so far has failed to yield any positive results for the host cash-strapped country now facing a potential default.

May 4, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 6:55 PM


Some scientists speak of a "crisis in cosmology." They have a good reason (Adam Frank, 5/04/23, Big Think)

Welcome to another installment of our series exploring emerging and potentially serious challenges to the standard model of cosmology -- humanity's best and most expansive scientific understanding of the Universe. In a recent paper, astrophysicist Fulvio Melia articulated a list of problems that, for him, indicate something fundamental is wrong with the standard model. Melia is not alone in wondering whether the standard model's time might be up. The phrase "crisis in cosmology" is finding its way into a growing number of blogs and podcasts. But what is behind this crisis, and how seriously should we take it? 

Today we will take a look at another entry on Melia's list, one that has grabbed a good share of headlines: the problem of galaxies and what is called the age-redshift relation.

The story of cosmology given to us by the standard model says that about 400,000 years after the Big Bang, electrons and protons found each other to create the first hydrogen atoms. Before this, they had been running free along with the photons that would soon become the cosmic microwave background radiation. Once this recombination into hydrogen occurs, the Universe is largely composed of a fairly smooth gas of these atoms -- with some helium around, too -- and the left-over background radiation. 

Now gravity can get to work within perturbations -- small regions of overdensity in the hydrogen gas -- and slowly collapse them to form the first stars. It is inside these first stars, which are formed only of hydrogen and helium, that nuclear fusion begins to forge all the heavy elements we know today. Elements like carbon and nitrogen play an important role in the story of galaxy formation. That is because these are the elements that can absorb heat from surrounding gas and emit photons that cool that gas. This cooling process will be critical in helping gas coalesce into galaxies. 

Eventually these first-generation stars explode, and the resulting supernovae seed the gas that surrounds them with heavy elements. Each supernova, along with black holes which are also forming, pumps ultraviolet radiation into the Universe. This strips electrons from hydrogen atoms, making the Universe more and more transparent to UV radiation. After the Universe has run through a few generations of stars, there are enough heavy elements and UV radiation around to feed the formation of galaxies. Stars and vast quantities of gas collapse into gravitationally bound entities to pull these first galaxies together.

This is a good story, and observations confirm key parts of it. The problem comes when it is placed within the cosmological context of the expanding Universe. 

Posted by orrinj at 6:53 PM


Donald Trump's Rape Trial Goes From One Disaster to Another (Mitchell Epner, May. 04, 2023, Daily Beast)

Carroll's attorneys presented compelling testimony from an expert psychologist, who testified to the mental toll that Carroll has suffered as a result of the alleged rape.

Carroll's attorneys also presented testimony from Natasha Stoynoff, a reporter for People, who testified that Trump sexually assaulted her at Mar-a-Lago. As part of that testimony, attorneys presented the infamous Access Hollywood tape, where Trump bragged that he could "grab [women] by the pussy" without consent because he was "a star." The day ended with Carroll's attorneys playing the worst parts of Trump's deposition, which included numerous obvious lies.

To make matters worse, Trump's attorneys announced to the Court that their lone remaining proposed witness would not testify at trial. This leaves Trump with no witnesses and no evidence that he is offering at the trial. Rather, Trump is relying upon cross-examination of Carroll's witnesses - which (once again) went badly on Wednesday.

Posted by orrinj at 6:42 PM


New York Judge Sets Trump Criminal Trial For February Or March (AFP, 5/04/23) 

The New York judge presiding over Donald Trump's criminal case asked the prosecution and defense Thursday to agree a specific trial date for February or March next year.

The instruction means the historic trial over hush-money paid to a porn star will occur in the thick of the Republican primaries for the 2024 presidential race in which Trump is seeking to regain office.

Posted by orrinj at 7:38 AM


Judge Tosses Trump's Lawsuit Against NY Times, Orders Him to Pay All Legal Fees (Lachlan Cartwright, May. 03, 2023, Daily Beast)

A New York judge has tossed out Donald Trump's lawsuit against The New York Times, and ordered the former president to pay all attorneys fees, legal expenses, and associated costs.

Posted by orrinj at 7:23 AM


Biden's plan to win back Latino voters is built off his 2020 mistakes: After years of Democratic missteps with Latino voters, Biden's 2024 campaign has a plan -- and no excuses left. (Christian Paz, May 4, 2023, Vox)

That voter breakdown depends on what states you examine, but the challenge Biden will face this time remains the same: start your outreach early, fine tune an economic message, and remind voters of your accomplishments.

His campaign struggled with these tasks in 2020. During the 2020 primary, for example, Biden's Latino outreach operation was overshadowed by Bernie Sanders's in states like California, Nevada, and Texas, largely due to scarcity of staffing and funding during that ultra-competitive contest. Meanwhile in the general election, staffing struggles, the coronavirus pandemic, and leadership changes meant the campaign couldn't get out in front of voters themselves until later in the race, contributing to losses in Florida and Texas (which, at the time, were considered to be in play).

"The lessons have been out there for way longer than the last two cycles -- candidates matter, positions matter, and critical outreach is essential," Clarissa Martinez de Castro, the vice president of the Latino Vote Initiative at the civil rights group Unidos US, told me. "Generally speaking, we continue to see low and late outreach to Hispanic voters, when and if it happens."

Biden and Democrats faced tremendous criticism throughout the 2020 Democratic primary and into the general election for the state of their Latino voter outreach operations. Martinez de Castro was one of those voices, calling it "political malpractice" for candidates to wait until the last minute to engage them during the primary season. She, like other experts I spoke with, told me that politicians of both parties have no excuses now after the 2020 and 2022 wake-up calls to get serious about persuading these new swing voters.

Martinez de Castro said that Democrats had fallen particularly short in messaging to Latinos about kitchen-table issues. "[Democrats] need to actually reach out to and win over these voters and engage more on economic issues, which continue to be the top of mind issues for the Latino community as they have been for at least a couple of decades," she said.

The predominance of economic concerns in the minds of Latino voters isn't new -- inflation and the state of the economy were frequently the top issues for Latinos in polling throughout the 2020 and 2022 elections. But in both cycles, Democrats had fallback issues that gave them an edge over Republicans: the handling of the coronavirus pandemic and the future of abortion rights. On both issues, Latino voters preferred Democrats by about 11 points on abortion and 10 points on the pandemic, according to exit polls. But with inflation still high, rising interest rates, and the looming specter of a recession, it's clear that Biden will have to talk about the economy in a more nuanced way, Latino strategists told me.

That nuance means Democrats need to remind Latinos just how bad the situation Biden inherited was, address fears of inflation and a recession directly, and cast Latino voters as "protagonists" who Biden helped, Kristian Ramos, a Latino political consultant for various Democratic groups and former communications director for the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, told me. The economic message Latino voters are hearing should include that "We know the play," Ramos said, "At this point, are we going to be able to take that head on and be able to say, 'Listen, Democrats, actually, when you were down, we gave you the child tax credit to make sure that your kid was able to thrive, that you could buy groceries, to send your kids to school, and we tried to give you student loan relief but the Republicans tried to get rid of that,'" Ramos said.

Part of that tightrope act will also require Biden to build a better ground operation to understand the diversity of the country's Latino communities and craft messages suited for those places. 

Voters just want their egos massaged.

Posted by orrinj at 7:18 AM


Donald Trump's dig at Ron DeSantis over Disney wasn't a random attack (Shelby Talcott, May 4, 2023, Semafor)

But the Truth Social post wasn't one of Trump's reflexive, stream-of-consciousness remarks -- in fact, the campaign had been prepping its Disney attack for weeks prior to Trump's post, according to two sources close to the former president. Nor was it a one-off moment: As the DeSantis-Disney war continues to ramp up and move to court, it's expected to be a recurring focus as part of a broader plan to undermine DeSantis' strengths before an expected run.

Posted by orrinj at 6:57 AM


Americans are richer than ever. Here are 3 reasons why they aren't happier (Ross Pomeroy, 5/02/23, Big Think)

Americans are financially better off than they were 50 years ago. In 1972, the median income (adjusted for inflation) was just over $60,000. Today, it's a little over $70,000. [...]

 The median American home grew from a modest 983 square feet (91 square meters) in 1950 to a voluminous 2,436 feet (226 square meters) in 2018. And they have filled their habitats with a flabbergasting average of over 300,000 items! 

Americans are working fewer hours than before the pandemic (Emily Peck, 4/07/23,  Axios)

The average workweek was 36.9 hours in November 2022, down from 37.5 in January 2020, according to data the authors analyzed from the Labor Department's Current Population Survey.

...are obesity and more affluence for less work...

May 3, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 5:49 PM


Florida Lawmakers Don't Know What They're Doing With ESG (Molly Taft, 5/03/23, Gizmodo)

Incredibly, the bill's own sponsors seem to be in the dark as to how all these new restrictions will actually play out on the ground--and how they'll affect everyday Floridians.

"I'm sorry I forgot my magic 8-ball," Republican State Rep. Bob Rommel told a Democratic colleague when asked during a hearing in mid-March about how lawmakers would ensure Florida taxpayers don't lose money if the bill passes. In a follow-up question about the bill's green bond provisions, Rommel said that the state would be allowed to use a bond for projects like building a dike to protect portions of the Everglades.

"But if you're saying, 'hey, we're selling fairy dust to protect people from some unknown character in the world, they would be disqualified," he continued.

Unfortunately, the bill doesn't set parameters for making this distinction--and a lot of bonds used for climate mitigation projects, like building protections in the Everglades, are ESG bonds.

"It's unclear what the impact of this provision is going to be, but based on [Rommel's] description, it would invalidate some socially responsible bonds that would support some of the projects Rommel is describing," Haedtler said. "You could say the Florida attorney general is now empowered to decide which environmental projects they care about, and which they don't, and which green bonds they want to approve and which they want to scrutinize. That doesn't make me feel very good."

Many of the other states that have passed or considered anti-ESG laws have seen a lot of fallout from their decisions. Lawmakers in Indiana and North Dakota earlier this year backed down from proposed anti-ESG bills over concerns they would hurt small businesses; a board overseeing a Kentucky retirement fund in February told the state it would not comply with an order to divest from BlackRock. One study issued in January found that the countrywide push against ESG could cost taxpayers more than $700 million in higher payments. In January, Haedtler's consulting firm issued a memo that estimated that the cost of Florida's bill could be more than $300 million to taxpayers.

Of course, if there are any firms that do not consider what liability they may incur for violating environmental, social, and governance norms, Florida should be requiring them to do so. Happily, over 90% do now. 

Posted by orrinj at 1:17 PM


REVIEW: of Katharina T. Kraus, Kant on Self-Knowledge and Self-Formation: The Nature of Inner Experience (Reviewed by Pirachula Chulanon, 5/03/23, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews)

We make empirical judgments by which we ascribe mental states located in time (like occurrent thoughts, desires, and so on) to ourselves and, hence, to a self that is identical through time and across different mental states. Kant seems nowhere to deny the possibility of empirical judgments about oneself. On the contrary, it is plausible to identify these judgments, as Kraus does, with the conceptual content of what he calls inner experience (130). However, Kant also indicates that there is an important disparity between inner and outer experience: unlike outer intuition, inner intuition does not present us with any persistent object, and so it fails to meet the condition for applying the category of substance (and, consequently, the other relational categories). Kraus's account of inner experience seeks to address the problem of how, despite the disparity, inner experience is possible as empirical cognition of the thinker-qua-object or the psychological person. In Kraus's view, inner sense by itself does not yield an object-directed representation of a self that is identical across different representations and through time (Chapter 2). Neither can this self-representation be derived from transcendental apperception, since this constitutes only the "general form of reflexivity" that pertains to any conscious representations of objects (Chapter 3). Thus, the problem is how we get from inner intuition and the awareness of reflexivity of our representations to referential or reflective self-consciousness.

The first part of Kraus's solution (Chapter 4) explicates the relationship between the logical I (the subject of apperception) and the psychological I (the object of inner experience). As Kraus rightly insists, there must be a sense in which the two I-representations are "identical regarding their referent" (152). She fleshes out this identity claim as the claim that a successful referential use of 'I' must ascribe representations that are unified through their belonging to one and the same consciousness (expressed by the 'I think', 108-9) to one and the same real subject. Thus, the question is how 'I', which originally is a mere expression of the form of reflexivity of my representations, comes to refer to me as a real psychological entity. Kraus proposes that the answer is given in the Paralogisms. The positive contribution of the Paralogisms is the specification of the "logical predicates" of 'I', from which the "semantic rules" that fix its referent in experience can be derived. For instance, the minor premise of the second paralogism states that I must think of myself as "an absolute (though merely logical) unity" (A350). This entails, according to Kraus, the following semantic rule: "The mental equivalent of 'I' refers to a single referent who cannot be divided into self-standing parts" (149). Kraus's fundamental point, as I understand it, is that the 'I think' specifies a priori the determinations of oneself as an object of thought prior to that object being given intuition and in accordance with the condition of sensibility. In other words, the reflexive structure of my representations dictates how I must think of myself as an object of possible cognition: "If these logical predicates define conditions of how one must think of oneself, then they also define conditions of how one must cognize oneself, since cognition presupposes thought" (148). In this way, we can explain how 'I' can refer to myself as an object of inner experience (if it turns out that there is such an object).

This is a bold and intriguing thesis. However, it is unclear how the mere "logical exposition" of the 'I think' can yield rules that fix the referent of 'I' when employed in empirical contexts (unless, perhaps, it is supplemented with a metaphysical account of representational activity which maps logical features of representations to real features of the representing subject). How can an a priori representation that expresses the "mere form of consciousness" entail what the subject of that consciousness is like? If the 'I think' is merely formal and empty (cf. A346/B404), how can the determinations of the thinker-qua-object "follow analytically" from it? Indeed, Kraus emphasizes that these determinations are "logical" and not "real determinations of a real thinking agent" (146).

Making Descartes into even worse gobbledygook, only in German, is how Europe ended up so backwards.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


New documents show how Sandra Day O'Connor helped George W. Bush win the 2000 election (Joan Biskupic, 5/03/23, CNN)

Amid ballot recounts in various challenged counties, the Florida secretary of state certified a 537-vote margin on November 26 for Bush, from 6 million votes cast. Bush strove to stop the recounts as Gore continued to challenge the state's tallies. When the Supreme Court ruled on December 12, it ended the count, declaring that the Florida recount standards varied too widely to be fair and to meet the guarantee of equal protection of the law.

O'Connor laid the groundwork for that result in her December 10 memo to all her colleagues as she condemned a Florida state Supreme Court decision ordering selective recounts of "undervotes" in certain counties.

She opened by highlighting state legislative authority to set the rules for the appointment of state presidential electors but quickly focused on the flaws, as she perceived them, of the ongoing recounts ordered by the state court.

"The Florida Supreme Court provided no uniform, statewide method for identifying and separating the undervotes," O'Connor wrote, referring to instances when machines had failed to detect a vote for president. "Accordingly, there was no guarantee that those ballots deemed undervotes had not been previously tabulated. More importantly, the court failed to provide any standard more specific than the 'intent of the voter' standard to govern this statewide undervote recount. Therefore, each individual county was left to devise its own standards."

The system triggered by the Florida Supreme Court "in no way resembles the statutory scheme created by the Florida legislature" for the appointment of electors, said the justice who had once served as Arizona state Senate majority leader, the first woman nationwide to hold such the top post in a state senate.

The next day, Kennedy wrote to the chief justice, "Sandra's memorandum sets forth a very sound approach" and said he wanted to build on it. He suggested he would point up how the varying recount practices breached the guarantee of equal protection.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Most Financially Savvy U.S. States (Jon Jones, 5/02/23, Smartest Dollar)

While age and education are highly correlated with financial literacy, geography also appears to play a major role. States in the Midwest and Pacific Northwest have the largest shares of adults with high financial literacy, with nine out of the top 15 states located in those regions.

To determine the most financially savvy states, researchers at Smartest Dollar analyzed data from the FINRA Investor Education Foundation. States were ranked based on the share of adults with high financial literacy--defined as those who scored higher than the national median score of 42.9% on FINRA's Financial Literacy Quiz.

Here are the most financially savvy states in the U.S.

May 2, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Trump's Rape Trial Does Not Appear to Be Going as Well as His Lawyer Had Hoped (Bess Levin, May. 1st, 2023, Vanity Fair

[Trump's lawyer, Joe Tacopina]--who himself has had some interesting things to say about Trump in the past--also appeared to suggest that Kaplan is clearly on Carroll's side because the judge understood one of her literary references without having it explained.

MAGA does hate literacy. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Wind turbine recycling breakthrough delivers promise in a test tube - but can it be scaled up? (Amalyah Hart , 2 May 2023, Renew Economy)

A team of Denmark-based researchers say they've found a novel way to break down the tough plastic that makes up wind-turbine blades, recovering useful materials in the process.

As described in a new paper in the journal Nature, the researchers, from Aarhus University and the Danish Technological Institute, have developed a novel chemical process in which the blade material is submerged in a solvent spiked with a catalyst called ruthenium, and heated to 160°C.

After several days in this mixture, the blade material is broken down into its constituent parts, including bisphenol A (an expensive and useful material for building new composites), and the intact carbon and glass fibres that were embedded in the original material.

In their study, the researchers applied the method to unmodified epoxy resins as well as to commercial composites - epoxy-based products that had been created and used in practice, including the shell of a wind turbine blade.

The paper presents a proof of concept that these materials can be broken down into usable, retrievable parts.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Strange but true: the expanding Universe doesn't conserve energy (Ethan Siegel, 5/01/23, Big Think)

In all the Universe, one of the most fundamental rules of all is the law of energy conservation. In its simplest form, it states that energy can neither be created nor destroyed, but only transformed from one type into another. Regardless of transformations between different types of energy, including:

gravitational potential energy,
chemical energy,
the energy of radiation,
thermal (heat) energy,
kinetic (motion) energy,
rest mass energy,
as well as any other form of energy you can dream up,

the total amounts of "initial" and "final" energy in any physical system must always add up to the same values.

But there's an underlying reason for why energy is always conserved: it's because there's a physical symmetry that corresponds to the conserved quantity of energy. In this case, it's time-translation invariance: the notion that physical properties and laws don't evolve with time. But there is a very important physical property -- not on Earth, but on cosmic scales -- that actually does evolve with time: the distance between any two cosmic objects that aren't gravitationally bound together. In the expanding Universe, distant galaxies recede from one another, growing farther apart with time.

Does that imply that energy is no longer conserved in an expanding Universe? Bizarrely, it actually does. As strange as it may seem, it's actually true: energy is not conserved in the expanding Universe.

May 1, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 5:26 PM


The first arrests from DeSantis's election police take extensive toll (Lori Rozsa, May 1, 2023, Washington Post)

The fallout came fast when Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis's new election police unit charged Peter Washington with voter fraud last summer as part of a crackdown against felons who'd allegedly broken the law by casting a ballot.

The Orlando resident lost his job supervising irrigation projects, and along with it, his family's health insurance. His wife dropped her virtual classes at Florida International University to help pay their rent. Future plans went out the window.

"It knocked me to my knees, if you want to know the truth," he said.

But not long after, the case against Washington began falling apart. A Ninth Judicial Circuit judge ruled the statewide prosecutor who filed the charges didn't actually have jurisdiction to do so. Washington's attorney noted that he had received an official voter identification card in the mail after registering. The case was dismissed in February.

One by one, many of the initial 20 arrests announced by the Office of Election Crimes and Security have stumbled in court. Six cases have been dismissed. Five other defendants accepted plea deals that resulted in no jail time. Only one case has gone to trial, resulting in a split verdict. 

Of course, this wins Tiny Trump even more MAGA votes.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


An interview with Q Hydrogen: Creating a 'world's first' in New Hampshire's North Country (HADLEY BARNDOLLAR - MAY 1, 2023, NH Bulletin)

How will Q Hydrogen provide power?

The Groveton plant will serve a dual purpose. First, Q Hydrogen will look to facilitate direct and cost-favorable power connections for users building on the remainder of the site. The former paper mill and industrial property has approximately 140 acres available for new facilities or businesses to set up shop.

Ultimately, Q Hydrogen wants to connect to the regional electric grid via ISO New England to provide power on a larger scale. 

New energy resources that wish to connect to the regional grid have to go through ISO New England's interconnection process. ISO New England publicly lists the current status of requests for connection of new or increased capacity generating facilities. 

"We are going to work initially as a direct provider to (commercial) users on the site," Irvin said. "The end goal will be to produce electricity for the New England market."

Why did Q Hydrogen pick New Hampshire?

A Babson College graduate who for years resided in the Boston area, Irvin was very familiar with New England and noted the region was the first to deregulate its energy market. 

"We wanted to be in a regulatory environment where the idea of bringing out something new could be a bit more of a streamlined process," he said. "A collaborative environment between regulators, politicians." 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


ChatGPT might show more empathy than docs, study finds (Tina Reed, 5/01/23, Axios)

 In the study -- published Friday by the research journal JAMA Network -- researchers led by the University of California San Diego, La Jolla took a randomly drawn sample of about 200 patient questions from social media platform Reddit's AskDocs social media forum.

Then both human doctors and ChatGPT answered the questions.

They had a clinical team evaluate both of the answers to each of the questions, rating them on the quality of the answers and the empathy demonstrated.

The chatbot won. It wasn't close.

Evaluators preferred the response by the computer nearly 80% of the time over the human doctor's answer.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Japan's grand plan to power into the EV fast lane (SCOTT FOSTER, MAY 1, 2023, Asia Times)

Japan Inc's move should put further pressure on EV prices, accelerate the transition away from internal combustion engines and broadly benefit consumers.

Toyota currently sells more cars than any other company in the world while Honda and Nissan also ride high in global rankings. Yet Nissan, via the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance, is the only Japanese company that ranks among the top 15 EV producers.

In 2022, the Alliance ranked 10th with less than one-fifth the output of industry leader BYD. If they seek to remain auto industry leaders, Toyota and Honda must convert their large global franchises and popularity with consumers into meaningful shares of the EV market.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The puzzle of Neanderthal aesthetics (Rebecca Wragg Sykes, 30th April 2023, BBC)

Sometime between 135,000-50,000 years ago, hands slick with animal blood carried more than 35 huge horned heads into a small, dark, winding cave. Tiny fires were lit amidst a boulder-jumbled floor, and the flame-illuminated chamber echoed to dull pounding, cracking and squelching sounds as the skulls of bison, wild cattle, red deer and rhinoceros were smashed open.

This isn't the gory beginning of an ice age horror novel, but the setting for a fascinating Neanderthal mystery. At the start of 2023 researchers announced that a Spanish archaeological site known as Cueva Des-Cubierta (a play on "uncover" and "discover") held an unusually large number of big-game skulls. All were fragmented but their horns or antlers were relatively intact, and some were found near to traces of hearths.

While caves in the upper Lozoya Valley, about an hour's drive north of Madrid, had been known about since the 19th Century, the Des-Cubierta site was only found in 2009 during investigation of other cavities on the hillside. As researchers slowly uncovered the layers inside, a startling picture of the cave began to emerge. The skulls, they argued, pointed to something beyond the simple detritus of hunting and gathering. Instead, they saw the skulls as symbolic - perhaps even a shrine containing trophies of the chase.

If correct, it would raise a tantalising prospect - Neanderthals were capable of the kind of complex symbolic concepts and behaviours that characterise our own species.