September 27, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 6:28 PM


Trump fan who assaulted Officer Fanone on Jan. 6 sentenced to more than 7 years in prison (Ryan J. Reilly, 9/27/22, NBC News)

A Donald Trump fan who took his teenage son along as he assaulted Mike Fanone, then a Washington, D.C., police officer, and another officer at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, was sentenced to more than seven years in prison Tuesday.

Kyle Young, 38 -- an HVAC worker from Iowa whose lawyer said he was "injected" with lies about the 2020 election and who had asked his Facebook followers to join him at the "Stop the Steal" rally -- pleaded guilty in May to a felony count of assaulting, resisting or impeding officers.

Posted by orrinj at 6:03 PM


Germany plans to keep 2 nuclear power plants in operation (Deutsche-Welle, 9/27/22)

Germany will keep two of its remaining three nuclear power plants running until at least April, Germany Economy Minister Robert Habeck said on Tuesday.

Habeck said the two nuclear reactors located in the southern states of the country, Isar 2 in Bavaria, and Neckarwestheim in Baden-Württemberg, would continue running until mid-April. 

Nuclear power is clean and safe. Why aren't we using more of it? (Daniel Van Boom, Nov. 16, 2021, CNET)

Consider this thought experiment. What would the climate change debate look like if nuclear power was invented tomorrow? Imagine if humanity had only used fossil fuels and renewables up to this point, and an engineering visionary revealed that split atoms could be used to generate clean power. That's the hypothetical posed to me by Dietmar Detering, a German entrepreneur living in New York.

"I'm sure we'd develop the hell out of it," he said, before sighing. "We're looking at a different world right now." 

Detering thinks nuclear energy could be the key to solving the climate crisis. A former member of Germany's Green Party, Detering now spends his spare time as co-chair of the Nuclear New York advocacy group. He's part of a wave of environmentalists campaigning for more nuclear energy. 

Though the word evokes images of landscapes pulverized by atomic calamity -- Hiroshima, Chernobyl, Fukushima -- proponents like Detering and his colleague Eric Dawson point out that nuclear power produces huge amounts of electricity while emitting next to no carbon.

This separates it from fossil fuels, which are consistent but dirty, and renewables, which are clean but weather dependent. Contrary to their apocalyptic reputation, nuclear power plants are relatively safe. Coal power is estimated to kill around 350 times as many people per terawatt-hour of energy produced, mostly from air pollution, compared to nuclear power. 

"Any energy policy has pros and cons, and we feel, after putting a lot of scrutiny on it, that the pros outweigh the cons of nuclear energy," said Dawson, a grassroots campaigner at Nuclear New York.

Posted by orrinj at 5:47 PM

THE BANALITY OF MAGA (profanity alert):


The first-term Florida governor strutted onstage in a boxy suit and red tie, flinging white "Ron DeSantis" baseball caps into the sea of unmasked faces. The sound system blasted "Sweet Florida," a country tribute anthem the Lynyrd Skynyrd-adjacent band Van Zant wrote for him. The music wrapped and the crowd quieted. DeSantis gripped the lectern. He offered cursory praise for Mastriano and then uncorked a grievance-fueled stump speech that sounded like it had been written by AI plugged into Fox News. In DeSantis's telling, the honest people of Florida were besieged by a vast array of liberal scourges: big tech, IRS agents, George Soros, the Biden administration, the corporate media, illegal immigrants, Anthony Fauci, police defunders, Disney, China, communism, cancel culture, critical race theory, and woke gender ideology. Only Ron DeSantis was brave enough to confront these malign forces. [...]

DeSantis's offices have earned a reputation as very unhappy places to work. "When you work for Ron, he makes you feel like you're just lucky to be there," a former gubernatorial aide said. "I once had to drive him to the airport. We got stuck in traffic for an hour, and he didn't say a word," a former congressional staffer told me. "I describe him as having the personality of a piece of paper." Last year, Politico reported ex-DeSantis staffers had formed a "support group" to commiserate over their bruising experiences. "He's a terrible bully," a past adviser said.

The Herculean job of smoothing DeSantis's rough edges and repairing relationships falls to one person: his wife, Casey. A former local newscaster, Casey is by far DeSantis's closest confidant and adviser, multiple sources said. "The only person he listens to is Casey," a former congressional staffer said. DeSantis consults her on everything from hiring decisions and media appearances to policy positions and wardrobe choices. She's been known to write thank-you cards and make phone calls on his behalf. "She is his emotional tuning fork," a former congressional staffer said. Several sources compared her influence to that of the most famous Republican political spouse in recent memory: Nancy Reagan. But no one would mistake Ron DeSantis for Ronald Reagan, the former actor with an innate sense of his audience. Which means DeSantis's political future hinges on the following question: Can he lead the Trump cult of personality with no personality?

Posted by orrinj at 5:39 PM


No one in physics dares say so, but the race to invent new particles is pointless (Sabine Hossenfelder, 26 Sep 2022, The Guardian)

Imagine you go to a zoology conference. The first speaker talks about her 3D model of a 12-legged purple spider that lives in the Arctic. There's no evidence it exists, she admits, but it's a testable hypothesis, and she argues that a mission should be sent off to search the Arctic for spiders.

The second speaker has a model for a flying earthworm, but it flies only in caves. There's no evidence for that either, but he petitions to search the world's caves. The third one has a model for octopuses on Mars. It's testable, he stresses.

Kudos to zoologists, I've never heard of such a conference. But almost every particle physics conference has sessions just like this, except they do it with more maths. It has become common among physicists to invent new particles for which there is no evidence, publish papers about them, write more papers about these particles' properties, and demand the hypothesis be experimentally tested. Many of these tests have actually been done, and more are being commissioned as we speak. It is wasting time and money.

Since the 1980s, physicists have invented an entire particle zoo, whose inhabitants carry names like preons, sfermions, dyons, magnetic monopoles, simps, wimps, wimpzillas, axions, flaxions, erebons, accelerons, cornucopions, giant magnons, maximons, macros, wisps, fips, branons, skyrmions, chameleons, cuscutons, planckons and sterile neutrinos, to mention just a few. We even had a (luckily short-lived) fad of "unparticles".

All experiments looking for those particles have come back empty-handed, in particular those that have looked for particles that make up dark matter, a type of matter that supposedly fills the universe and makes itself noticeable by its gravitational pull. However, we do not know that dark matter is indeed made of particles; and even if it is, to explain astrophysical observations one does not need to know details of the particles' behaviour. The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) hasn't seen any of those particles either, even though, before its launch, many theoretical physicists were confident it would see at least a few.

Not that the zoology is testable.

Posted by orrinj at 5:32 PM


Ex-GOP Politician Is Worried Far-Right Congressmen Have 'Serious Cognitive Issues' (Paul Blest, September 27, 2022, Vice News)

Former Congressman Denver Riggleman says he suspected Republican Reps. Paul Gosar and Louie Gohmert "may have had serious cognitive issues," because they said such mind-boggling things during his interactions with them. [...]

During one meeting, Gohmert "promoted a conspiracy theory related to master algorithms" and said he "suspected there was a secret technology shadow-banning conservatives across all platforms," according to Riggleman, who believed this to be "crazy."

Wild Gohmert moments in the past include wondering if the National Forest Service could alter either the moon or Earth's orbit as a solution to solve climate change, claiming there was "no armed insurrection" on Jan. 6 despite a preponderance of video evidence showing rioters with makeshift weapons, and getting mad that he couldn't cook barbecue on his Congressional office balcony. 

Riggleman also wrote that Gosar was a "blatant white supremacist" along with former Rep. Steve King, according to the Guardian. 

"I had always bristled when I'd hear Democrats dismiss Republicans as 'racists,'" Riggleman wrote. "Now, here I was behind the curtain, seeing that some of my colleagues really seemed to hold these awful views."

If only.

Posted by orrinj at 5:29 PM


Starmer's big pitch to Middle England has thrown down the gauntlet to Liz Truss (Rakib Ehsan, 9/27/22, CapX)

An early tribute to the Queen - 'a remarkable sovereign' - set the tone for a speech that stuck resolutely to the centre ground. With Labour delegates singing the national anthem at conference for the first time a couple of days ago, the approach from Team Starmer is as clear as day - respecting Britain's traditional institutions is critical to winning over cultural and constitutional conservatives. And he was explicit about his targeting those potential Tory switchers with lines like: 'If you voted for a government to step in on your side... then I say to you that is what I will deliver.' 

It certainly signals a very different atmosphere to the days of Jeremy Corbyn's leadership, when the party was run in spectacularly amateurish fashion by anti-monarchist pseudo-revolutionaries.

It's also worth bearing in mind that small 'c' conservatism is of a piece with many voters on the centre-left and, whose own traditionalism Starmer tapped into with references to his working-class upbringing in the 1970s. His description of a pebble-dashed semi, with two hard-working parents offering the 'gift of opportunity' was as solidly centrist a message as you could imagine. Indeed, this was a speech peppered with talk of family stability, community spirit, pride, the public's desire for democratic control, economic self-sufficiency, and - importantly - a points-based immigration system.

Posted by orrinj at 12:41 PM


Posted by orrinj at 12:22 PM


Amazon's Satanic Mills (ANTARA HALDAR, 9/27/22, Project Syndicate)

With Britain suffering through its worst cost-of-living crisis in decades - owing to high inflation and soaring energy prices - hundreds of workers at an Amazon warehouse in Coventry this month demanded a wage hike. If the demand is not met, they say they will go on strike in November, just ahead of Black Friday and the holiday shopping season. As with other recent labor actions by US rail workers and British Royal Mail employees, the Amazon workers' move has kicked off a debate about who is to blame for the threatened disruption: the elves in the workshop or Father Christmas?

Amazon owes its success to a variety of factors, including a sophisticated data-driven approach. But its real genius lies in its logistics breakthroughs - including route optimization, fleet planning, and metadata management - that allow it to minimize "click-to-ship" time and provide customers with unprecedentedly fast and reliable on-time deliveries. Amazon Prime-branded planes and trucks shuttle packages around the world, operating like clockwork even through a pandemic that grounded much of the rest of the economy.

The mastermind behind the operation is a man named Jeff Wilke, who combined Taylorism (dividing production into narrow, closely monitored and measured repetitive tasks) and Fordism (assembly-line techniques) to create a warehouse model capable of processing more than a million units per day. With the help of robots and close surveillance, human "pickers" and "stowers" now process several times as much merchandise per hour as they once did.

But the system has become notorious for testing human employees' limits. Recent investigations have shown that much of the convenience that Amazon customers enjoy comes at the expense of Amazon's lowest-paid workers.


Amazon's robots are getting closer to replacing human hands (Jason Del Rey, Sep 27, 2022, Vox)

In 2019, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos predicted that within a decade, robotic systems will be advanced enough to grasp items with the dexterity of a human hand. Three years later, Amazon looks to be making progress toward that goal.

A recent video published on the company's science blog features a new "pinch-grasping" robot system that could one day do a lot of the work that humans in Amazon warehouses do today.

No one will miss jobs.

Posted by orrinj at 11:10 AM


Secret Service took the cellphones of 24 agents involved in Jan. 6 response and gave them to investigators (Julia Ainsley, 9/276/22, NBC News)

Senior leadership at the Secret Service confiscated the cellphones of 24 agents involved in the agency's response to the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the Capitol and handed them over to the Department of Homeland Security's inspector general, according to two sources with knowledge of the action.

The agency handed over the phones "shortly after" a July 19 letter was sent by Inspector General Joseph Cuffari's office around the time he launched a criminal probe into the Secret Service's missing text messages from Jan. 6, the sources said.

Posted by orrinj at 10:30 AM


Kremlin Says 'Extremely Concerned' By Nord Stream Damage (Moscow Times, Sep. 27th, 2022)

Russia is "extremely concerned" about the damage sustained by the Nord Stream 1 and 2 gas pipelines, the Kremlin said Tuesday. 

Three offshore lines of the Russia-built Nord Stream gas pipeline system sustained "unprecedented" damage, leaking gas into the Baltic Sea, pipeline operator Nord Stream AG said in a statement carried by Russian state agencies Tuesday. 

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said pressure in the gas pipeline has dropped significantly as a result of the three leaks and refused to rule out sabotage as a potential cause.  

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Offshore Wind 125 Times Better for Taxpayers Compared to Oil and GasA report finds per-acre revenue from offshore wind blows oil and gas out of the water. (Jessie Blaeser, 9/27/22,  Grist)

From 2019 to 2021, the average winning bid from offshore oil and gas lease sales was $47 per acre. By contrast, the average winning bid for a wind lease sale was 125 times higher -- just over $5,900 per acre. And that number is likely to get even higher given the American wind industry is still in its relative infancy, said Jenny Rowland-Shea, the Director of Public Lands for the Center for American Progress.

With such a high return on investment, the new analysis suggests offshore wind leases could be a promising source of public revenue in comparison to oil and gas leases, while also reducing energy and fuel costs. Freeman said this money could be redistributed to taxpayers in the form of funding federal agencies or paying for health and education programs: "Expanding offshore wind energy is good for [taxpayers'] driving, for their wallet, for the air that they breathe."

And of course, there are environmental benefits too. Energy produced by offshore wind does not result in the same climate consequences as offshore oil and gas energy production, which releases up to 87 metric tons of carbon dioxide per active acre in the Gulf of Mexico. That's roughly the equivalent carbon pollution of 19 cars driven for one year. And according to the report, the social cost of carbon emissions per acre for oil leases is over $16,000 and roughly $2,800 for natural gas leases. Meanwhile, the social cost of carbon emissions from offshore wind power is "essentially nil" per acre, Freeman said. "Clean energy really is clean."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM

THE TIGHTENING NOOSE (profanity alert):

'Let's get right to the violence': New documentary film footage shows Roger Stone pre-Election Day (Zachary Cohen, Holmes Lybrand and Jackson Grigsby, 9/26/22, CNN)

The day before the 2020 election, Roger Stone, the long-time Republican operative and ally of former President Donald Trump, said in front of a documentary film crew that he had no interest in waiting to tally actual votes before contesting the election results.

"F**k the voting, let's get right to the violence," Stone can be heard saying, according to footage provided by a Danish documentary film crew and obtained by CNN.

The clip is one of multiple pieces of footage obtained by CNN that the filmmakers also shared with the House select committee investigating the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol. The filmmakers tell CNN they came to an agreement to share certain clips with the committee after a subpoena for the footage was signed by the panel's chairman, Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, and delivered to the filmmakers in Copenhagen about two months ago.

Just another "concerned parent".

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Mastriano's Weirdness, Paranoia, And Prejudice Are Sinking His Campaign (Lucian K. Truscott IV, September 27 | 2022, National Memo)

[P]erhaps the most telling detail about the Mastriano campaign is revealed in the rest of its finance report. Mastriano reported paying no salaries for campaign staff. None. But he did report making payments of some $43,000 to something called Misfit Creates, whose website claims it does something to help you "re-imagine your narrative."

The website's owner is Vishal Jetnarayan, who Mastriano's campaign described in promotional emails as its campaign chairman. Although the Philadelphia NPR station WHYY describes Jetnarayan as "an unknown in Pennsylvania politics," he is not unknown in Christian nationalist circles. He lives in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, the same town where Mastriano lives, and on a religious website he runs, Jetnarayan claims that he works in two churches and describes himself as a prophet who speaks directly with God and can help others become able to do the same thing.

Mastriano has also made campaign appearances with Julie Green, another self-described prophet who is well-known in arch-conservative fundamentalist Christian circles. According to WHYY, she has previously accused Nancy Pelosi of drinking the blood of children and prophesied that "a wide variety of politicians will be killed for committing treason."

With nearly 20 prominent state Republican figures recently coming out against Mastriano and pledging to work for the Shapiro campaign, it was icing on the proverbial cake when Liz Cheney announced yesterday that she will campaign against Mastriano and Kari Lake, who is running for governor in Arizona, both of whom are prominent election deniers. "We have to make sure Mastriano doesn't win," Cheney told a crowd at the Texas Tribune Festival in Austin on Saturday.

But no tattoos!

September 26, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 6:14 PM


How to Hit Back The desperate, confused, righteous campaign to stop Asian hate. (Esther Wang, 9/26/22, New York)

For 72 hours after it happened, Brian Chin hardly left the building. He didn't sleep. He didn't eat. He had arrived at 111 Chrystie, the 23-unit apartment complex his family owns in the heart of Chinatown, at a little before 6 a.m. on February 13 after getting a call from one of his tenants. It was a chaotic scene: The street in front of the building was blocked off, NYPD squad cars and officers everywhere. The police let Chin inside, but no one would tell him what was going on. Outside, the sky was black. Snow was lightly falling. Inside, an alarm blared through the building until a cop took a sledgehammer and silenced it. Finally, an officer told Chin there had been an attack -- then asked to see the security footage.

By now, Chin has watched the tape so many times he's memorized the time stamps: At 4:21 a.m., Christina Yuna Lee, who lived on the sixth floor, returned home from a night out. The grainy video showed her getting out of a car and unlocking the door to the building and a man she didn't know following her. He trailed her up the stairs, and when she entered her apartment, he pushed his way in. Police arrived minutes later, called by neighbors who heard Lee's screams, but they couldn't get into the apartment until a tactical team arrived. By the time they entered, Lee was dead. Police officers found her slumped in her bathtub with dozens of stab wounds on her torso, and the man who had followed her still in her apartment; they arrested him and took him outside.

Lee was covered in so much blood that, according to Chin, the officers initially couldn't tell she was Korean American; he said they told him the victim was African American, and he thought she might be a stranger. When they said she could be Lee, Chin felt something in him snap. He'd had a kinship with Lee, who was 35 when she died; they had both attended Rutgers as undergraduates, and they would chat about their student days. The last time he had seen her was earlier that night as she passed him in the hall. Chin later recognized the man who followed her, too, even if he didn't know his name: Assamad Nash, a 25-year-old Black man who reportedly lived in a homeless shelter nearby and was part of a group that Chin said he frequently saw using and selling K2 -- synthetic marijuana -- on the corner of Chrystie and Grand Streets. Chin realized, he said, that "this was a crime that was just senseless."

As he paced around the building -- talking to the police, dodging the TV trucks that would fill the street -- he started thinking of everything he had seen change on the block since the beginning of the pandemic. He knew that the two Chinese women who ran the bodega on the ground floor had started closing earlier after being robbed several times. There had always been a community of unhoused people in Chinatown, but now those living on the street seemed particularly on edge and prone to outbursts. "For the most part, everyone used to sort of just leave everyone alone -- regular New York stuff. Over this past year or two, everything spiraled out of control," Chin said. "I started seeing this new breed that everyone in Chinatown saw, where there was this aggression that was just unprecedented."

Chin, 30, is a trained psychologist, a former Army reservist, and a TA in Harvard's extension program, in which he helps teach a class on the "psychology of diversity." He has a soft face and an easygoing demeanor and has never thought of himself as political. He said his family has lived in and around New York since the 1930s and bought the building in the early 1970s; Chin started managing it only last year. His family had always "kept a very, very low profile because that's how Asians survive in America." But Lee's death, combined with the other incidents he'd heard about, felt to him like a pattern; just the month before, an unhoused man had pushed a 40-year-old Asian American woman named Michelle Go in front of an oncoming subway train in Times Square, killing her instantly. "This is just a shift from what we've been used to," he said, "to a new type of violence -- a new type of racism against Asians."

He wasn't alone in drawing this conclusion. Asian America can feel nebulous, lumping together people as varied as a third-generation Chinese American landlord and a Hmong refugee. A kind of social invisibility has long been considered one of its few unifying qualities -- and in the nearly three years since Donald Trump started calling COVID-19 "kung flu" and the "China Virus," that has been replaced with hypervisibility. In New York, pandemic-era violence against Asians started more than a month before lockdown: The first widely reported attack occurred on February 2, 2020, when a man called a woman wearing a face mask "a diseased bitch" and punched her in the head. By late March, progressive advocacy groups had counted hundreds of news stories about similar assaults and confrontations around the country.

Posted by orrinj at 4:51 PM


Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Delhi's Electric Buses Are Making the City Healthier (Reasons to be Cheerful, September 21, 2022)

Researchers looked at the Delhi government's work to electrify the city's bus fleet and found that a 100 percent switch to EVs would have numerous benefits. For one, maintaining an all-electric fleet is cheaper. Even better, public health would improve. Less air pollution could mean 1,300 fewer deaths and 2,800 fewer hospitalizations each year -- which, the researchers said, would save $383 million.

The shift is already underway: 150 electric buses rolled onto Delhi's streets in May, and the goal is to have 80 percent of the fleet be rechargeable by 2025.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


How Kenya Became the World's Geothermal Powerhouse (Eric Krebs, September 26, 2022, Reasons to Be Cheerful)

Geophysicist Nicholas Mariita remembers when Kenya's geothermal sector wasn't the high-tech powerhouse it is today. In the early 1980s, he regularly joined teams of scientists on expeditions into the country's Great Rift Valley to survey for potential sites where the Earth could be tapped for a prime subterranean energy source. They weren't looking for oil or coal -- they were looking for heat, the key resource in geothermal power.

The Great Rift Valley was still wild then, so dodging snakes and buffalo was part of the job. "One in a while, we'd be chased by a buffalo and have to climb into a tree, and if it was a clever one, it'd flick urine at you with its tail," Mariita recalls. "Those were the kind of funny things we went through."

Their risk has yielded results. In 2020 and 2021, some 48 percent of all electricity generated in Kenya came from geothermal -- the highest share of any country. And as the world seeks to increase both the quantity and cleanliness of its electricity, it's a cheap, bountiful and low-carbon option Kenya plans to increasingly rely on.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Great American Bigot (Mark Harvey, 9/26/22, 3 Quarks)

It's one thing to live with this inherent contradiction of enjoying the fruits of low paid immigrant labor while trying to thoughtfully sort out our immigration issues, it's quite another to go full nuclear bigot. And these last few years have produced a bumper crop of bigots in the United States.

There are few things more reprehensible than watching some lilly-lotioned, pampered politician go on and on about how immigrants from Mexico, Central America, and South America represent a class of thieving, raping, drug-running people. Evidence suggests that both legal and illegal immigrants have significantly lower crime rates than native born Americans. A paper published in 2020 by the Cato Foundation (co-founded by Charles Koch and not exactly a liberal organization) found that crime rates among illegal immigrants were 782 per 100,000, among legal immigrants 535 per 100,000, and--wait for it--1,422 per 100,000 among native born Americans.

It doesn't take much imagination to deduce the desperation and desire for a better life that motivates people to risk it all, leave hearth and home, and cross great distances for the possibility of picking lettuce for poor wages in San Benito, California. In my experience as an employer, Latinos have a tremendous work ethic, a thriftiness, and loyalty that is simply hard to match.

On our ranch in Colorado, we have employed Mexicans, El Salvadorans, Guatemalans, and Peruvians. They've built miles of fence in the rockiest country, cared for livestock, irrigated, operated heavy machinery and more. I suppose you're not supposed to generalize about any group of people, but to a person they have been highly competent, loyal, non-complainers. Most are tough beyond measure.

One memory I have from about five years ago illustrates this. On an early spring day when it was still snowing one of our irrigation ditches blew out. I asked the Mexican man who was already working for me if he had a friend or two for extra help in repairing the ditch. He showed up with a cousin and I noticed the cousin was wearing work clothes but his shoes were cheap loafers. I mentioned the loafers and the snow and poor footing and the fellow said they were the only shoes he had and he'd be fine. We were too far out to get him another pair of boots. I was dubious but we set out to fix the ditch. The guy worked all day in the mud and snow moving huge logs and rocks--in cheap loafers with zero traction--and didn't gripe once.

One of the great ironies of American bigots is that once upon a time, their own ancestors likely had all the same reasons for leaving Italy or Ireland or Germany or Poland. And their ancestors likely had the same pluck of today's immigrants, bearing poor wages and abuse by earlier nativists. Italians or Irishmen came to America and were called WOPS or Paddies and suffered the indignities of those getting a foothold in a new land. Some of their great grandchildren now ferment in their smug certitude of being "true Americans." It's a rotten fermentation producing cheap vinegar, nothing like good wine.

One of those bigoted Italian descendants is Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who has taken his bigotry national. You've probably already read about his truly witless stunt shipping a group of 50 men, women, and children seeking refuge in the United States, from Texas to Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts. DeSantis took $12MM from the Florida coffers to lure the refugees with false promises of jobs, legal status, and relocation to Boston. He then had them flown to Martha's Vineyard without notifying any authorities there as a way to teach the northeastern "librulls" about the border problem. If that isn't the definition of human trafficking and criminal fraud, I don't know what is. Moreover, it is a heartless form of bigotry that should forever disqualify DeSantis from ever reaching his golden-ring ambition of becoming president.

As the genealogist Megan Smolenyak points out, DeSantis's great grandmother, Luigia, immigrated from Italy to escape poverty in 1917. She had been living in Italy supported by remittances sent by her husband working the United States (sound familiar?). While crossing the Atlantic on the way to America in February of 1917, the US government passed an immigration act that barred illiterates from entering the country. Records show that Luigia was illiterate. Fortunately the act was not implemented until May, 10 weeks after her arrival to Ellis Island. Luigia slipped in by a scant few weeks. When DeSantis talks about his ancestors immigration, he acts as if it was this very orderly, patient process, when in fact his great grandmother slipped in by a few weeks. Had the timing of the 1917 immigration act been just a few days different, his great grandmother would have been one of the "undesirables" refused entry.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Menorah  (Philippa Joseph, 9/25/22,  History Today)

The seven-branched menorah, an instantly recognisable symbol of Judaism, is much older than the Star of David. It has been in continuous use for longer than any other religious symbol in the western world; Rabbinic teaching dates it to the lifetime of the prophet Moses (1391-1271 BC).

We first read about the menorah - meaning 'candelabrum' - in Exodus, the second book of the Torah, when it is revealed to Moses on Mount Sinai. Moses is given instructions as to its form, the precise nature of which has caused debate ever since. A menorah should be a hammered work of pure gold and have a central shaft with three branches sprouting from either side. At the top of each branch and central shaft should be a cup shaped like an almond. These cups are to contain pure olive oil, which will light the Temple. It is written that a menorah was placed in the tabernacle that Moses was instructed to build as a portable place of worship for the Israelites after they had been freed from bondage in Egypt; there were ten golden menorot in Solomon's First Temple in Jerusalem. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Electric Vehicles Could Rescue the US Power Grid (AARIAN MARSHALL & MATT SIMON, SEP 19, 2022, Wired)

Cars are no longer just modes of transportation; they are increasingly integrated into the larger energy infrastructure. If your EV is sitting in your garage fully charged (cars are typically parked 95 percent of the time) and you lose power, that big battery offers an opportunity to keep the lights on. And when there's a sudden spike in demand for the grid--because everyone wants to turn on their AC during a heat wave or their heat during a deep freeze--utilities could pay homeowners for their excess battery power.

This is known as bidirectional or vehicle-to-grid charging (aka V2G), and it's "one of the legitimate game changers," says Clifford Rechtschaffen, commissioner of the California Public Utilities Commission. "If all the EVs in the state plug in during these peak load times and feed power back to the grid, they're acting as giant batteries. We could use them to greatly relieve stress on the grid during the periods of greatest need."

It's still early days for V2G. More than 100 V2G pilots are scattered worldwide, though most are in Europe. California's experimentation has been limited to small test programs. Still, more makers of cars and chargers are offering two-way charging, and experts think the concept could work on a large scale. Some 200 million electric vehicles could be on global roads by 2030, according to a recent estimate. California alone could have 14 million by 2035, the Natural Resources Defense Council estimates. If just local utilities could exploit all those batteries, they'd be able to power every home in the state for three days.

When someone plugs in a car to charge it, alternating current (AC) power is converted into direct current voltage, which is stored inside the car's battery. If the owner has a bidirectional charger, that DC power can be converted back to AC and added to the grid.

Bidirectional chargers are far from common today and can be expensive, often requiring additional specialized hardware. Yet automakers and other companies are starting to roll them out to help EV owners contribute to the grid, or to store and then convert power for their own purposes. Ford's new electric F-150 can power a home for up to three days--a serious perk in the climate-change-wracked dystopia to come. Volkswagen has touted the bidirectional charging capabilities of its newest and upcoming EVs. Just this month, Nissan approved the first bidirectional charger for the all-electric Leaf, a car that has been sold in the US for almost 12 years.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Riggleman says Mark Meadows text messages reveal 'roadmap to an attempted coup' (BRAD DRESS - 09/25/22, The Hill)

Former U.S. Rep. Denver Riggleman (R-Va.) said text messages to and from then-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows revealed a "roadmap to an attempted coup" as former President Trump attempted to overturn his 2020 election loss.

Riggleman -- who led a data analyst team for the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot -- told CBS' "60 Minutes" host Bill Whitaker in an interview aired Sunday that messages connected to Meadows revealed an extensive conspiracy within Trump's White House following the 2020 election.

"The Meadows text messages show you an administration that was completely eaten up with a digital virus called QAnon conspiracy theories," the former GOP lawmaker said. "You can look at text messages as a roadmap, but it's also a look into the psyche of the Republican party today."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Queensland coal giant unveils plans for 500MW state-owned wind farm (Sophie Vorrath 26 September 2022, Renew Economy)

Queensland government-owned energy giant Stanwell Corporation has unveiled plans to build a 500MW wind farm, as part of a shift from coal power generation to renewables that includes previously announced plans to install a big battery at its Tarong Power Station.

Stanwell said on Monday that it was working with global renewables developer RES to develop the proposed Tarong West wind farm at a site in Ironpot, 30km south-west of Kingaroy in the Southern Queensland Renewable Energy Zone.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Return of Fascism in Italy (Ruth Ben-Ghiat, SEPTEMBER 23, 2022, The Atlantic)

Meloni's enemies list is familiar: "LGBT lobbies" that are out to harm women and the family by destroying "gender identity"; George Soros, an "international speculator," she has said, who finances global "mass immigration" that threatens a Great Replacement of white, native-born Italians. Meloni shows affinity for authoritarian strongmen: Like Marine Le Pen, until recently the leader of the National Rally party in France, Meloni has expressed support for Russian President Vladimir Putin--although she has muted that enthusiasm since his invasion of Ukraine.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Kurdistan in Tehran: What the murder of Jina Amini means for the future of Iran (Loqman Radpey, 26 Sep 2022, ABC REligion & Ethics)

Since the 1990s, the Kurds have abandoned armed resistance in order to focus their energies instead on the liberalisation of Eastern Kurdistan -- for the most part remaining quiescent, though occasionally conducting military operations inside Rojhelat.

The murder of Jina Amini has sparked widespread protests, beginning in Eastern Kurdistan. In the ongoing demonstrations against the Iranian regime, for the first time Baluch, Arabs, Persians, Azeris, and other national and ethnic minorities have joined in support of the Kurds. They chant "Jin, Jiyan, Azadi" ("Woman, Life, Freedom"). This motto has been promoted by the Kurdish female fighters (Women's Protection Units) and is being put into practice in Rojava (Western Kurdistan in Syria) since the 2011 Syrian civil war. This suggests that the protests are now going beyond the question of the hijab -- which has never been an issue for the Kurds, though it remains a fundamental issue for the regime.

What happened to Jina has seemingly united the people in Iran, insofar as it represents an intersection between the Kurds' claim for self-determination and Iranians' desire to throw off the incumbent regime.

It is noteworthy that other Kurdistani segments of the population have also shown their support of the protests. The Kurds in East Kurdistan have the potential to change the status quo as they already built a fledgling Kurdish state, the Republic of Kurdistan, in 1946. Over the last three decades, Kurds in Southern Kurdistan (in Iraq) and Rojava (in Syria) have managed to keep stability and security and thriving economies in the territories under their control, in contrast to the mayhem and violence that has characterised in the wider Middle East. In terms of governability, the Kurdish regions are functioning much better than their neighbours. This has been achieved through the high price the Kurds have paid for their legitimate rights.

If the current protests continue, the Iranian government may lose its sway over Eastern Kurdistan -- this, in turn, could pave the way to implementing Kurdish self-determination. 

Cast out the Palestine out of thine own eye. 

September 25, 2022

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Queensland reaches 66 pct wind and solar for first time as it prepares massive green push (Giles Parkinson, 26 September 2022, Renew Economy)

Queensland - the state with the highest dependence on coal power - reached a new landmark on Saturday when two thirds of its local demand was met with just wind and solar for the first time, ahead of an expected massive green energy push to be announced on Wednesday.

The new benchmark was set on Saturday at 10.35am when wind and solar accounted for 66.8 per cent of the state's demand, beating the previous record of 62 per cent set in late July. Solar accounted for all but 1.5 per cent of that total, according to industry data analysts GPE NemLog2.

The peak in wind and solar share in the Queensland grid was just 55 per cent a year ago. In 2018, it had never been above 13 per cent.

Posted by orrinj at 12:27 PM


Giorgia Meloni is a danger to Italy and the rest of Europe (Roberto Saviano, 9/24/22, The Guardian)

It is in her support for people like Orbán that we see what appears to be the real danger posed by Giorgia Meloni.

Meloni's party has succeeded in expanding its electoral base in Italy over the years by poaching militants from other parties ready to jump on what was supposed to be a winner's bandwagon. This high-risk strategy has worked although it has drawn the Brothers of Italy into controversy and several ongoing judicial investigations, into candidates' alleged involvement in corruption, extortion, sleaze and illegal waste disposal. Yet Meloni has been able to reaffirm her credibility by expelling troublemakers and publicly distancing them. The only figures it seems she has difficulty disowning are politicians whose identity is built on far-right ideology.

Meloni denies that she is a fascist. I don't think it is the most important point of her party's programme, but it is worth addressing. it is a simple game: parties whose lineage can be traced back to neo-fascist movements have gone to lengths to detoxify and soften their image, declaring their opposition to antisemitism, racism and the historical fascist experience. [...]

Meloni's real beliefs and goals may not appear exactly the same, but her words can often carry echoes of Mussolini. Her speeches play on the need for identity, on the very human fear of being marginalised or going unrecognised. In her hands identity becomes a propaganda tool for dividing the world into Us and Them, where "they" are LGBTQ+ communities, migrants or those who don't see themselves represented in established structures or the labels imposed by others. The impression given is that they are the bad people, who jeopardise the identity of the entire nation. Totalitarianism has, since time began, leveraged such fears to convince people to voluntarily deprive themselves of their own rights, on the promise of being defended from an external enemy.

Although she denies any connection to fascism, Meloni appears to want to retain support from the wing of the radical right who consider her party too moderate, and only vote for it to make up the numbers against the left. Fully repudiating the party's fascist roots, it seems, would mean losing a lot of these votes.

On the other hand, continued association with neo-fascism would put Meloni in a very uncomfortable position internationally. She has opted therefore for a rebrand, but it is partial. The Brothers of Italy keeps the same logo - an Italian tricolour in the form of a flame - used by the now-defunct neo-fascist Italian Social Movement (MSI), founded in 1946 by such regime supporters as Pino Romualdi, a leading figure in the Fascist party and Giorgio Almirante, who was convicted of collaborating with Nazi troops. [...]

Meloni in her ambiguity, has directed her attacks on migrants. She has fuelled Italians' fears, created an enemy, a scapegoat on which to offload blame for public incompetence and mismanagement.

Posted by orrinj at 12:09 PM


Iran reformist party urges an end to mandatory veil laws amid Mahsa Amini protests (The New Arab, 25 September, 2022)

Iran's most prominent reformist party urged Tehran to overturn obligatory headscarf laws on Saturday in the wake of the ongoing Mahsa Amini protests that rocked the country.

Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish-Iranian, died on 16 September following her arrest in Tehran three days prior by the country's Morality Police, who apprehended her for not wearing the hijab "correctly".

The Islamic People's Union of Iran, formed by close associates of former reformist President Mohammad Khatami, said that it "demands" that authorities "prepare necessary legal elements that will pave the way for the abolition of compulsory hijab laws," according to a statement issued on Saturday, as reported by AFP.

Sadly, we undercut Khatami instead of welcoming him.

LESSONS FROM THE PAST: U.S.-IRAN PUBLIC DIPLOMACY (Sohaela Amiri, 10/07/14, Center on Public Diplomacy)

In 2002, the direct talks between Iran and U.S. officials begun during Khatami's presidency were restarted and led to a successful collaboration in fighting their mutual enemy: the Taliban in Afghanistan. There were even plans to collaborate in the fight against Al-Qaeda and the war in Iraq, but these plans were scrapped after the inclusion of Iran in Bush's "Axis of Evil." Until 2003, Iran presented successive American presidents with opportunities for rapprochement that were missed--mainly due to the United States' misunderstanding of Iran's political system. Khatami's private offers to the U.S. to discuss all outstanding issues were ignored by the Bush administration for a while, and only responded to in his State of the Union Address.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Could Balochistan secede from Pakistan? (Vivek Y. Kelkar, 25 September 2022, The Spectator)

The rain and the cold in Quetta, the capital of the Pakistani province of Balochistan, did not deter them. Neither did the floods that ravaged their homes. The families of Balochistan's missing had been protesting for days outside the provincial government's headquarters. On August 25, one of the protestors, Seema Baloch, the sister of Shabbir Baloch, a student leader who had been missing for weeks, fell unconscious and had to be taken to a nearby hospital. The others simply kept protesting.

Government officials gently asked them to leave, but when the protesters asked about the missing--all allegedly abducted by Pakistani security forces--the officials professed ignorance or, worse, helplessness.

Baloch activists claim that nearly a thousand people disappear every year, abducted by the Pakistani security forces. The security forces link nearly all of the missing to Balochistan's independence movement. The call for independence is rapidly gathering momentum there.

It's not a new call. On August 12, 1947, the eve of Pakistan's birth, the Khan of Kalat and ruler of most of Balochistan, Mir Ahmad Yar Khan, announced that Balochistan would be independent, part of neither Pakistan nor India.

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