July 24, 2021

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Will there be an mRNA vaccine for cancer? (Deutsche-Welle, 7/23/21)

It's not only the success of the COVID mRNA vaccines that has scientists interested in making mRNA vaccines for other diseases.

"RNA is a lot easier to make," Cooke told DW. A lot of vaccines are protein-based, but with mRNA vaccines, scientists just need to write the code for a protein, rather than making the proteins.

Phillip Sharp, a professor of biology at MIT, co-won the 1993 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine for his discovery of split genes and spliced RNA in the 1970s. His work contributed to the COVID mRNA vaccines that people around the world are being injected with today.

"Anyone who's ever experimentally studied RNA knows that your skin is covered with nucleases that destroy it, your blood is full of nucleases that destroy it," Sharp told DW.

The fact that scientists discovered a way to protect the RNA and make it in a sufficient quantity to be used as a vaccine was a big technical step forward, he said.

"It took a lot of innovation to do that," said Sharp. "Once you develop a new technology, such as the mRNA technology, man will use it for as long as there are societies who can deal with technology,"

Cooke doesn't think it is likely that there will be a universal vaccine against cancer, but he does believe that just like scientists have been able to eradicate some infectious diseases, the same will happen for some cancers.

"We're going to have another arrow in our quiver against cancer," Cooke said. 

July 23, 2021

Posted by orrinj at 5:42 PM


This is what conservative opponents of critical race theory don't want you to know (History News Network, July 23, 2021)

Critical Race Theory (CRT) has become a lightning rod for conservative ire at any discussion of racism, anti-racism, or the non-white history of America. Across the country, bills in Republican-controlled legislatures have attempted to prevent the teaching of CRT, even though most of those against CRT struggle to define the term. CRT actually began as a legal theory which held simply that systemic racism was consciously created, and therefore, must be consciously dismantled. History reveals that the foundation of America, and of systemic racism, happened at the same time and from the same set of consciously created laws.

Around the 20th of August, 1619, the White Lion, an English ship sailing under a Dutch flag, docked off Old Point Comfort (near present-day Hampton), in the British colony of Virginia, to barter approximately 20 Africans for much needed food and supplies. The facts of the White Lion's arrival in Virginia, and her human cargo, are generally not in dispute. Whether those first Africans arriving in America were taken by colonists as slaves or as indentured servants is still debated. But by the end of the 17th century, a system of chattel slavery was in place in colonial America. How America got from uncertainly about the status of Africans, to certainty that they were slaves, is a transition that highlights the origins of systemic racism.

Three arguments have been put forth about whether the first Africans arriving in the colonies were treated as indentured servants or as slaves. One says that European racism predisposed American colonists to treat these Africans as slaves. Anthony and Isabella, for example, two Africans aboard the White Lion, were acquired by Captain William Tucker and listed at the bottom of his 1624/25 muster (census) entry, just above his real property, but below white indentured servants and native Americans.

A second argument counters that racism was not, at first, the decisive factor but that the availability of free labor was. "Before the invention of the Negro or the white man or the words and concepts to describe them," historian Lerone Bennett wrote, "the Colonial population consisted largely of a great mass of white and black [and native] bondsmen, who occupied roughly the same economic category and were treated with equal contempt by the lords of the plantations and legislatures."

In this view, slavery was not born of racism, but racism was born of slavery. Early colonial laws had no provisions distinguishing African from European servants, until those laws began to change toward the middle of the 17th century, when Africans became subject to more brutal treatment than any other group. Proponents of this second argument point to cases like Elizabeth Key in 1656, or Phillip Corven in 1675, Black servants who sued in different court cases against their white masters for keeping them past the end of their indentures. Both Key and Corven won. If slavery was the law, Key and Corven would have had no standing in court much less any hope of prevailing.

Still, a third group stakes out slightly different ground. Separate Africans into two groups: the first generation that arrived before the middle of the 17th century, and those that arrived after. For the first generations of Africans, English and Dutch colonists had the concept of indefinite, but not inheritable, bondage. For those who came after, colonists applied the concept of lifetime, inheritable bondage. Here, the 1640 case of John Punch, a Black man caught with two other white servants attempting to run away, is often cited. As punishment, all the men received thirty lashes but the white servants had only one-year added to their indentures, while John Punch was ordered to serve his master "for the time of his natural life." For this reason, many consider John Punch the first real slave in America. Or was he the last Black indentured servant?

Clearly these cases show the ambiguity, or "loopholes," of the system separating servitude from slavery in early America. What is also clear is that one by one these loopholes were closed through conscious intent of colonial legislatures. In this reduction of ambiguity over the status of Africans, the closure of loopholes between servitude and slavery, are the roots of systemic racism.

Posted by orrinj at 11:33 AM


'It's time to start blaming the unvaccinated': Gov. Ivey on rise in COVID-19 cases, low vaccination rate (Phil Pinarski, Jul 22, 2021, WIAT)

"Let's be crystal clear about this issue. And media, I want you to start reporting the facts. The new cases of COVID are because of unvaccinated folks. Almost 100% of the new hospitalizations are with unvaccinated folks. And the deaths are certainly occurring with the unvaccinated folks. These folks are choosing a horrible lifestyle of self-inflicted pain," Gov. Ivey said during an event for Landing in Birmingham Thursday.

When asked how the state can get more shots into the arms of residents, Ivey did not hold back her displeasure with the lack of success previous plans have had.

"I don't know, you tell me. Folks are supposed to have common sense. But it's time to start blaming the unvaccinated folks, not the vaccinated folks. It's the unvaccinated folks that are letting us down," she said. "I've done all I know how to do. I can encourage you to do something but I can't make you take care of yourself. 

Posted by orrinj at 11:28 AM


Alabama city leader who used n-word in council meeting says he won't apologize and might run for mayor (CBS/AP, 7/22/21)

A White city leader captured on video using a racial slur toward Black people during a council meeting said he won't apologize, and might run for mayor. Others are calling for his resignation.

Tarrant City Council member Tommy Bryant told news outlets his use of the word Monday night reflected something the city's Black mayor, Wayman Newton, had said during an earlier private meeting.

During a public session, Bryant used the slur to refer to a Black female council member, Veronica Freeman. Before the outburst, neighbors asked Bryant about controversial social media posts allegedly made by his wife about race, CBS affiliate WIAT-TV reports. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The world's first 3D-printed steel bridge has opened in Amsterdam (Andrea Núñez-Torrón Stock and Qayyah Moynihan, 7/22/21 , Business Insider)

The world's first 3D printed steel bridge has opened in Amsterdam in the Netherlands.

While the construction is a fantastic structural achievement in itself, it will also function as a living laboratory so researchers can study how other more complex architectural work can be achieved in the future.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Matt Gaetz and MTG's new fundraising committee is losing money -- big time (ALEX HENDERSON, JULY 23, 2021,  AlterNet.

At a time when Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida is facing a federal sex trafficking investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia has jumped to his defense and joined forces with him for a fundraising tour. The far-right MAGA Republicans are both aggressive fundraisers, repeatedly stressing their unwavering devotion to former President Donald Trump. But according to Daily Beast reporter Roger Sollenberger, the Gaetz/Greene tour has "spent four times as much as" it has raised.

Sollenberger explains, "Since Gaetz and Greene kicked off their joint fundraising committee with a May 7 event at The Villages in Central Florida, their campaigns and joint fundraising committee have posted a combined loss of $342,000. And according to recent filings with the Federal Election Commission, that joint fundraising effort, 'Put America First,' reported only $59,345.54 in contributions. That sort of meager haul would be fine for a dinner or one-time event, but Gaetz and Greene have repeatedly held high-profile events and spent a whopping $287,036.19 to hold them -- meaning they're in the hole by more than $225,000."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Republican politicians lost in Medicaid expansion standoff, and Missouri voters won (THE KANSAS CITY STAR EDITORIAL BOARD, JULY 22, 2021)

Thursday, the Missouri Supreme Court -- with a clear, unanimous voice -- said expanded Medicaid is constitutional. That means 275,000 people now eligible for Medicaid must soon be enrolled in the program if they apply.

It was a good day for the rule of law. It was a great day for the working poor, who will be able to get someone to take a look at that nagging cough or skin infection.

All Missourians should celebrate. They won their case.

The court reached its conclusion based on law and logic. It's true, the judges said, that the state constitution prohibits a voter initiative "that authorizes the expenditure and disbursement of a specified amount for a specified purpose, without providing new revenue."

But that didn't happen when voters expanded Medicaid, the court said. The Medicaid amendment doesn't spend a dime. It merely tells the state to enroll Missourians up to 138% of the federal poverty level, and that's what the state must now do.

That means individuals earning up to $17,774 a year, or a four-person family earning up to $36,570, will soon be eligible for health coverage if they don't have it now.

"This decision restores faith in our democracy and that the power of the people will continue to prevail over political grandstanding," Caitlyn Adams, executive director of Missouri Jobs with Justice, said in a statement.

I don't think the GOP comes here for the hunting....

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


PA authoritarianism grows in the face of Palestinian unity (Ramona Wadi, 23 Jul, 2021, New Arab)

In the absence of much-needed answers, the PA's security services have been abusing and detaining demonstrators calling for justice and for PA leader Mahmoud Abbas to step down. Reports continue to emerge detailing the abuse of protesters at the hands of the PA's security services.

The demonstrations caught the world's attention, and for a brief period, the PA's reputation shifted from being lauded as a pragmatic partner for peace, to a repressive authority wielding violence. Though the link between the PA's violence and international funding is glaringly absent in much commentary.

The PA's latest action shows a cornered leadership, one that is resorting to extreme aggression out of its desperation to cling on to power"
The PA's response towards the Palestinian people was noticeably devoid of any attempt to act as a responsible state. Besides the contempt shown towards Banat's grieving family, the PA's Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh personally made calls to a detained demonstrator, offering what was seen as an empty apology.

"His apology is not accepted, because he promised accountability and we did not see any accountability," Ubai Aboudi, a Palestinian-American activist asserted. 

Some days later, with full knowledge that its last vestiges of "authority" may unravel at the hands of the Palestinian people, Fatah called for a rally in support of Abbas and his policies, against a backdrop of purported concern over the Israeli colonisation of Silwan and Sheikh Jarrah.

Unlike the demonstrations calling for Banat's murder, the Fatah rally would have gone unnoticed had it not been for the aggressive public relations spectacle orchestrated by the PA's official news agency, Wafa, in covering an event whose main purpose was to bestow legitimacy upon Abbas. According to PA propaganda, thousands of supporters attended, though the photos testify to the contrary.

Any remaining sliver of doubt regarding how genuine the rally was, was been dispelled by Wafa's statement: "The protesters also voiced support for the Palestinian security forces in their commitment to achieving the rule of law." 

Free Barghouti and force the national elections.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


World's largest floating solar farm - more than 2GW - to supply Singapore (Michael Mazengarb, 23 July 2021, Renew Economy)

Singapore-based clean energy developer Sunseap says it will build a giant 2,200MW floating solar farm on a reservoir on Indonesia's Batam Island, after securing a memorandum of understanding with Indonesian government authority Badan Pengusahaan Batam.

The project will cover an area of 1,600 hectares and is expected to become the largest floating solar farm in the world.

It will also be paired with more than 4,000MWh of energy storage, making it one of the world's largest combined solar and storage projects - floating or otherwise.

July 22, 2021

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Wind and solar set new production records as they reshape Australia's grid (Giles Parkinson 23 July 2021 , Renew Economy)

Wind and solar have set new production records in Australia's main grid, for average generation over a quarter, record output in a single interval, and a record renewable energy share of 57 per cent in one interval in April.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Over 500 Islamophobia incidents in US in just six months: CAIR (The New Arab, 22 July, 2021)

Over 500 anti-Muslim incidents have been recorded in the first half of 2021, a US Muslim civil rights group has found, adding to growing concerns about a rise in Islamophobia.

There has been an increase in anti-Muslim reports - particularly attacks on mosques and assaults  - with a sharp uptick in May and June when Israel launched its assault on Gaza and Palestinian protesters were attacked in East Jerusalem.

Following Start of Mideast Violence, Antisemitic Incidents More Than Double in May 2021 vs May 2020 (ADL, June 7, 2021)

New analysis from ADL's Center on Extremism reveals that antisemitic incidents in the U.S. more than doubled during the May 2021 military conflict between Israel and Hamas and its immediate aftermath compared to the same time period in 2020.  After peaking between May 20-22, 2021, incident levels have gradually returned to a baseline level. These numbers should still be considered preliminary and are likely to change as additional information becomes available.

Incidents began a steep upward climb on May 11 as military operations intensified between Israel and Hamas. ADL logged 251 incidents from May 11 -- the official start of military action -- through the end of the month, an increase of 115% over the same period in 2020, when 117 incidents were recorded. We tallied 305 incidents in the entire month of May 2021. And while the violence between Israel and Hamas animated many of these incidents, it does not account for the full increase; when incidents that include explicit references to Israel or Zionism are excluded, the number still increased by 15% in the 20-day period of May 2021 compared to the same time period in May 2020.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Today It's Critical Race Theory. 200 Years Ago It Was Abolitionist Literature.: The common denominator? Fear of Black liberation. (ANTHONY CONWRIGHT, SEPTEMBER+OCTOBER 2021,  Mother Jones)

There have been many contributions to help make sense of the Republican obsession with critical race theory, a framework developed some 40 years ago to analyze the ways racism is endemic to our laws and policies. Conservatives have decided it's a domestic threat, and, as of this writing, 11 states have already banned teaching it in public schools. But perhaps the best explanation for the hysteria is in a journal entry written on April 7, 1829, by a schoolteacher named Susan Nye Hutchison, who lived in Augusta, Georgia, and whose diaries illuminate a quarter century of life before the Civil War. "Great fear begins to be prevalent that the negroes are about to rise," Hutchison wrote.

Georgians had experienced a spate of fires, as rumors of insurrection made the citizens of Augusta both negro- and pyro-phobic. Four days before Hutchison's entry, another "terrible fire" burned about a third of the city, according to a contemporary news article. Estimated damages totaled half a million dollars, with nearly 350 homes destroyed. Hysteria ensued, and enslaved Black people were blamed, rounded up, and tried without evidence.

Months later, a pamphlet named the Appeal, David Walker's polemic against slavery, emerged in the South. "My object is, if possible," Walker, a free Black man, wrote, "to awaken in the breasts of my afflicted, degraded and slumbering brethren, a spirit of inquiry and investigation respecting our miseries and wretchedness."

Southern politicians viewed Walker's Appeal and its repudiation of their values as "incendiary," a pyrotechnic of another kind. When Walker's treatise reached his hometown of Wilmington, North Carolina, magistrate James McKee issued a warning to Gov. John Owen:

The dissemination of Walker's pamphlet...[proves] beyond a doubt that a systematic attempt is making by some reckless persons at the North to sow sedition among the slaves [of] the South, and that this pamphlet is intended and well calculated to prepare the minds of the slave population for any measure, however desperate, that they may propose for accomplishing their emancipation...unless some measures are taken to counteract this design in time, I fear the consequences may be serious to the extreme.

North Carolina quickly passed two laws aimed at stemming slave rebellions by repressing the spread of abolitionist literature. An Act to Prevent the Circulation of Seditious Publications made it a felony to import and distribute "any written or printed pamphlet or paper...the evident tendency whereof would be to excite insurrection, conspiracy or resistance." A second law banned "the teaching of slaves to read and write," saying it "has a tendency to excite dissatisfaction in their minds and to produce insurrection and rebellion to the manifest injury of the citizens of this State." [...]

From 2012 to 2019, critical race theory was mentioned on Fox News only four times. From June 2020 to May 2021, it was mentioned in 150 broadcasts. By July, it was 250 times a week. Christopher Rufo, a Manhattan Institute fellow who started banging the CRT drum on the network, was quite frank about how and why he'd engineered the upward trend. "The goal is to have the public read something crazy in the newspaper and immediately think 'critical race theory.' We have decodified the term and will recodify it to annex the entire range of cultural constructions that are unpopular with Americans," he tweeted in March.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Is Tennessee Whiskey Actually Bourbon? We Have the Answer (Lew Bryson, Jul. 22, 2021, Daily Beast)

Anyone who has ever visited a Facebook or Reddit bourbon group has probably seen something very similar to this exchange. Someone innocent--or a troll--will ask, is Jack Daniel's or George Dickel actually bourbon? It usually starts an argument, with statements brasher than mine flying about.

"You'd be surprised, but people are mean on the Internet," remarked Nicole Austin when we recently chatted. Austin knows this controversy all too well. She is the master distiller and general manager at the Cascade Hollow Distillery in Tullahoma, Tennessee, which is home to George Dickel. And she's got a sharp sense of humor. You might suspect that she was slyly poking fun at this bar debate by deciding to release George Dickel Bourbon Whisky, but she's completely serious about the category.

It's for real, and I've been drinking it with pleasure over the past several weeks. The new bourbon is going to be a regular bottling, not a one-off like the excellent bonded bottlings of Dickel Tennessee Whisky she released the past three summers. It's 90 proof, 8-years-old, at a suggested retail price of $33. Which...wow. As Austin said, "you're welcome, world."

But where did a Dickel bourbon come from? Has this been a secret project that's finally coming to fruition?

No, Dickel Bourbon comes from the same mashbill, yeast strain, distillation, filtration and aging regimen that produce Dickel No. 12 Tennessee Whisky.

So what is the difference between this bourbon and the brand's signature No. 12 Tennessee whisky?

Essentially whether the brand calls it bourbon or Tennessee whiskey is Austin's call.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


China says WHO plan to audit labs in Covid origins probe 'arrogant' (The New Arab, 22 July, 2021)

China on Thursday said a WHO proposal to audit Chinese labs as part of further investigation into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic showed "disrespect" and "arrogance towards science".

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Germany can fulfil entire energy demand with renewables in 10-15 years - report (Charlotte Nijhuis 22 July 2021, Renew Economy)

Germany's entire energy demand can be met through renewable energies alone within the next ten to fifteen years, according to a new report by the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW Berlin).

The prerequisite for this is that German expansion targets for both wind and solar energy are greatly increased, the authors write.

Onshore wind power will play a particularly important role, according to DIW, which is also calling for the expansion of wind farms - especially in the south of the country.

"100 percent renewable energies are technically possible and economically efficient - and above all urgently needed to be able to achieve the European climate protection goals," says Claudia Kemfert, Head of the Energy, Transport, Environment Department at DIW Berlin.

According to the calculations, not only the electricity demand, but the entire energy demand in this country could be secured with renewables.

We'll all be approaching it by 2030. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The U.S. Economy Desperately Needs Immigrants. Let's Reform the Process (Jonathan RussoJuly 22, 2021, RCM)

[I]t is time to be honest that the impoverished seeking work and hope believe that one way or another they can cross the border and disappear into the American economy. And you know what...they are correct. The labor shortage for unskilled and even skilled (carpenters, construction, cooks) will take them all. Law enforcement at the border cannot cope with the surge. Asylum laws are gamed, and the catch and release program is viewed as just another route into the underground economy.

There is tragic blowback to all this, however. The encouragement and strengthening of criminal gangs preying on the weakest of the weak. Girls and women are raped. Men are held in conditions so appalling most would get sick if they spent a minute in them. The more money that flows to these gangs the better their technology, their intelligence and the higher their rate of successful crossings. That of course draws more immigrants into their web. A super vicious circle starts, one that defeats all the noble humanitarian efforts of those who believe in lawful, dignified immigration.

For the life of me I cannot understand the failure of Congress to pass real immigration reform. Knowing what I do about immigrants' critical role in our economy, it defies logic to leave immigration to the law of the jungle. There is a crisis at the border and pretending there is not is only going to once again fuel the most ignorant and silliest of fixes. Like sending privately funded National Guard troops south. Nativists and those who have no understanding of how America became the global powerhouse it is will once again grandstand over the undocumented flood.

July 21, 2021

Posted by orrinj at 4:16 PM


McCarthy threatens to pull all his nominees from Jan. 6 committee after Pelosi rejects Republicans Jim Jordan, Jim Banks (Benjamin Siegel, July 21, 2021, ABC News)

After House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday rejected two of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy's recommendations for the select committee investigating the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol, McCarthy said he would pull all his Republican nominees unless she reverses course.

Pelosi rejected two of McCarthy's recommendations -- Reps. Jim Banks of Indiana and Jim Jordan of Ohio, a staunch defender of former President Donald Trump.

Banks and Jordan both voted to overturn the election results on Jan. 6 and Pelosi said their appointments could impact "the integrity of the investigation."

Posted by orrinj at 3:28 PM


African immigrants are uniquely poised to influence US policy (Yaw Okyere Thompson,  July 21, 2021, Quartz)

Before a crowded room of election-night supporters--many of whom looked like her--newly elected congresswoman Ilhan Omar described the historic occasion of her victory. "I stand here before you with many firsts behind my name: The first woman of color to represent our state in Congress; the first woman to wear a Hijab to represent us in Congress; the first refugee elected to Congress; and one of the first Muslims elected to Congress." The Somali American politician paved the way to victory with the support of the Somali community in Minnesota.

Increasingly, the African immigrant community bears the hallmarks of a group well on the way to self-determination within the American political system. In a way, they are not much different from the American Jews who built the American Israel Political Affairs Committee (AIPAC) into one of the most influential lobbying groups in Washington, or the Cuban Americans who could be considered political gatekeepers in Florida, one of the most important swing states on the electoral college map.

As of 2018, sub-Saharan African immigrants made up 44% of all black immigrants to the US, with almost 20% of them listing Nigeria, Ethiopia, or Ghana as their country of birth. Many others were refugees, or the children of refugees, who were granted asylum in the US in the wake of the Rwandan genocide, and the armed conflicts that defined the great lakes in subsequent years. And a growing number of them are settling in states critical to the presidential elections, including Florida, Texas, and Ohio.

Beyond their numbers, African immigrants are among the highest educated when compared to other growing immigrant populations and native-born US population, which is correlated with earnings potential and has an impact on their naturalization prospects. As capable taxpayers and consumers, they are important contributors to the US as a whole, and critical to smaller cities scattered across the country that needed revitalization in the wake of globalization and the changing nature of work.

Posted by orrinj at 8:37 AM


Revealed: assistant attorney general in Alaska posted racist and antisemitic tweets (Jason Wilson, 21 Jul 2021, The Guardian)

Many of the tweets under the JReubenCIark moniker suggest antipathy towards Jews, who are the subject of hundreds of tweets that suggest that they are involved in conspiracies against white people, or that they already control the commanding heights of the economy, the media or education.

In 2016, the account sent a tweet evoking a past time when "real history was taught in school, angry yentas didn't rule, white men didn't play the fool".

The tweet - which suggests the malign influence of Jewish women and the decline of white men as problems in the contemporary world - tagged in two then prominent alt-right accounts at a time when that movement was at the height of its influence on social media.

In February this year, JReubenCIark wrote in reference to the Republican Jewish Committee's push for the expulsion of Marjorie Taylor Greene that he supported their efforts "to combat the conspiracy theory that Jews run everything by getting any member of Congress they don't like expelled from Congress".

The account also regularly denied the reality of anti-Black racism, attacked Black public figures and showed an extraordinary hostility towards anti-racist protesters associated with the Black Lives Matter movement. He also made casually racist remarks about other groups including Mexicans and Native Americans.

In a March tweet, JReubenCIark claimed that accusations of racism were "purely a tool to control people on the right", going on to ask "try to think of example of an accusation of racism that helped the right, or Christians, or whites in the last 10 years".

On 15 June last year, he riffed on a catchphrase of the so-called Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski, tweeting: "The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and its Consequences Have Been a Disaster for the Human Race."

The account also repeated familiar white nationalist talking points about the relationships between race, crime and IQ. He tweeted: "Is it 'white supremacy' to note that some racial groups have higher IQs than others based on IQ tests? I believe that and I am only a Deseret supremacist."

JReubenCIark also evinced a dismissive animus towards Latinos. On 25 June last year he wrote: "I can't believe there's a faithful Latter-day Saint out there who can look at the collapse of birthrates among the Latter-day Saints and say, 'Well, hey, at least lots of Catholic Mexicans are coming to the US.'"

On 30 June, as the protests in the wake of George Floyd's murder were in full swing, the account told a Utah BLM supporter he was arguing with on Twitter: "You and all of your lying violent criminal friends belong in prison." He later added: "#BlackLivesMatter is a criminal enterprise that murders people and destroys property. In a sane world you would all be in prison or worse."

On 2 July, discussing an incident in Provo, Utah, in which a man appeared to drive his car into a crowd of BLM protesters, he remarked: "No one had a right to block his car. You all belong in jail."

Hating black lives matter is a package deal. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:38 AM

IT'S A 60-40 NATION:

Are Americans More Trusting Than They Seem?: Political scientists say that our confidence in our institutions--and in one another--is running perilously low. Economists see a different story. (Idrees Kahloon, July 19, 2021, The New Yorker)

If trust appears to be languishing in the political realm, though, it appears to be thriving in another important institution of modern society--capitalism. The modern sharing economy is premised on leaps of faith in perfect strangers: we rely on crowdsourced restaurant reviews on Yelp, climb into a stranger's car through Uber, stay at someone else's house via Airbnb, and look for love on Bumble, Hinge, and sundry other dating apps. A financial-trust index set up by the economists Paola Sapienza and Luigi Zingales during the Great Recession has shown consistent growth in the past decade. The supply of money has more than doubled since the recession, and yet we've seen few paroxysms of goldbuggery or other disorders of mistrust. Interest rates, which rise when investors lose trust in repayment, remain close to zero. What's really going on?

People don't see the phenomenal trust embedded in the modern economy for the same reason that David Foster Wallace's fishes could not fathom water: everything is predicated on its existence. Adam Smith concluded that trust was a fundamental feature of humanity. ("Nobody ever saw a dog make a fair and deliberate exchange of one bone for another with another dog," he wrote in "The Wealth of Nations.") Kenneth Arrow, just before winning a Nobel Prize, extolled trust as a "lubricant" of a social system, an "extremely efficient" mechanism for easing transactions and promoting prosperity. "Unfortunately this is not a commodity which can be bought very easily," he warned. "If you have to buy it, you already have some doubts about what you've bought." Even in the aftermath of the Great Recession, Joseph Stiglitz, the tireless critic of inequality (who has a Nobel Prize of his own), observed, "It is trust, more than money, that makes the world go round."

Ask yourself the simple question "What is money?" and you'll have to come to grips with the fact that, at least since the dollar came off the gold standard, in 1971, our currency has been nothing more than trust itself, its value sustained by the power of communal belief. The humble, crumpled dollar bill in your pocket evokes the concept: "In God we trust." Less grandly, the thing you're trusting is the full faith and credit of the United States government. Fractional-reserve banking, which allows a bank to lend far more in credit than it has in deposits, has driven capitalism for centuries. Many economic crises, when examined closely, turn out to be crises of confidence. This is obviously true of a bank run, when depositors lose faith in the fractional-reserve system, but it's also true of hyperinflationary spirals, when worries about a country's handling of monetary policy yank down the value of its currency. There is a reason that the core language of commerce--of bonds and credits--is all about belief.

We had to travel last week and every single person at every airport was wearing their mask.  The military unit we saw was not just multiethnic and mixed-gender but soldiers posed for pictures with their native flags--Mexico, Costa Rica, Puerto Rico-- gays and lesbians serve openly, and there are military-issue hijabs. America is not Left/Right.  It is American. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:32 AM


Promote Open Source to a Full Member of the Intelligence Community: The exploitation of publicly or commercially available information must be recognized alongside spies, signals intelligence, and other established branches of practice. (MARK QUANTOCK, DAVID DILLOW and MCDANIEL WICKER, JULY 21, 2021, Defense One)

The U.S. intelligence community should elevate open-source intelligence to a core "int," alongside signal intelligence, human intelligence, and geospatial intelligence, and its agencies should better "integrate OSINT into collection and analytic tradecraft." That's what the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) recently recommended, and based on our extensive experience in the intelligence community and DoD, including multiple combat tours to the Middle East and South Asia, we firmly concur.

The United States' intelligence agencies and military intelligence functions were established during a time when national assets were needed to address information gaps. Secrets uncovered through classified means were often the only way to understand the world and the intentions of other countries. Today, such intelligence still offers invaluable insight, but the exponential growth of publicly and commercially available information allows unprecedented amounts of actionable intelligence to be generated from these open sources, all while freeing up expensive and resource-conscribed Ints to fill more challenging intel gaps. 

Some visionaries within government have taken important steps in this direction. The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency was an early "tea leaf reader" and saw the value of integrating commercial imagery data into analyses. Similarly, the Defense Intelligence Agency was the first to establish an OSINT career field to grow and develop professionals with the unique skillsets required for this domain. But if we are to keep pace with the rapidly evolving and expanding world of open-source intelligence, the DoD and intelligence community must more fully embrace the CSIS recommendation to treat OSINT "as a cornerstone of U.S. intelligence, relevant across the IC enterprise and in all aspects of its current and future missions." 

Sophisticated intelligence professionals understand that operational and strategic intelligence depends on open sources--and increasingly, so does tactical intelligence.

Donald's ties to Russia are an excellent illustration of the problem with keeping some information classified, which tends to give it a false sense of greater value.  Nevermind that data like the Steele Dossier was useful for investigations and to the American public, but the fact that Russian interference followed Donald's promises to lift anti-Vlad sanctions was treated as less significant than secret details. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:12 AM


For cramped New York, an expanding dining scene (Lucas Kwan Peterson, April 1, 2019 , LA Times)

The bright lights of New York City beckon to the restless and the hungry. In the city that never sleeps, as they say, the marquees of Times Square nearly make one forget the concrete dystopia of what is seemingly an unlivable urban wasteland. Surrounded by rats, black trash bags and graffiti-tagged storefronts on Broadway Street, New York's primary thoroughfare, I wondered aloud if I would be able to find a decent meal in what was surely a culinary heart of darkness.

In Los Angeles, we're spoiled by the breadth and quality of our dining options. In addition to outstanding year-round produce, I can get great huaraches, refreshing mul naengmyeon and impeccable chả giò within 15 minutes of where I live. But what about New York, a largely culturally bereft island that sits curiously between the Hudson and East Rivers at the foot of the Catskill Mountains? Sure, we've all heard of hot dogs, a staple of every New Yorker's diet, famously gnawed on by rodent and human alike in that "toddling town."

But as it turns out, there's more. A lot more. A number of daring restaurants have opened in recent years, vastly improving the city's scrappy culinary scene and making it a legitimate dining destination. Others are emphasizing seasonal fruits and vegetables in what seems to be a clear nod to Los Angeles. A weekend spent in the "city so nice they named it twice" leads this writer to recommend, rightly or wrongly, that food enthusiasts consider paying a visit to New York (The Big Apple in local jargon), a city that just years ago was terrorized by "Son of Sam" David Berkowitz.

My first culinary encounter was with pizza, a mysterious kind of baked tlayuda, covered in macerated tomatoes and milk coagulation, and occasionally smothered with a type of thinly sliced lap cheong called pepperoni. The odd dish, sometimes referred to as a pie, washed ashore from Naples some years ago. While the taste takes some getting used to, pizza can be enchanting when done properly.

July 20, 2021

Posted by orrinj at 5:53 PM


Tom Barrack charged with illegally lobbying then-President Trump on behalf of UAE (Dan Mangan, Christina Wilkie, Kevin Breuninger, 7/21/21, CNBC)

Thomas Barrack, a private equity investor who is a close friend of former President Donald Trump, was arrested Tuesday morning in Los Angeles on federal charges of illegally lobbying Trump on behalf of the United Arab Emirates.

Posted by orrinj at 12:17 PM


To Free Cuba, Make Guantanamo the New Ellis Island (IRA STOLL, July 19, 2021, NY Sun)

The drowning risk for incoming Cuban refugees could be entirely eliminated by inviting the Cubans seeking freedom and democracy to make their way by land to Guantanamo. At the navy base, their applications could be processed, they could be vaccinated against Covid-19, and they could eventually be transported safely to America by airplane or in seaworthy vessels.

The images of this exodus would help advance what Mr. Biden professes to be a core foreign policy objective. In his July 15 "Washington Declaration" with Chancellor Merkel, Mr. Biden said, "We must act now to demonstrate that democracy delivers for our people at home and that democratic leadership delivers for the world."

There's no better demonstration to the world that freedom and democracy beat the so-called socialist paradise of Cuba than hundreds of thousands of people voluntarily picking up and leaving.

A little confused here about how the Ellis Island model works.  Put them everywhere and process then transport our new fellow citizens. 
Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Russian Tanks Move to Afghan Border Ahead of Drills (AFP, 7/20/21)

Russian tanks stationed at Moscow's base in Tajikistan have arrived at training grounds near the border with Afghanistan ahead of army drills next month, the Defense Ministry said Tuesday.

Getting Vlad, Xi and Pakistan bogged down in Afghanistan would be genius.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Henry Adams & The Force (Mark Tooley, July 19, 2021, Providence)

When Adams shared his unpublished memoir and its search for an imagined religious ideal with close friends, John Hay's widow admonished him: "But it seemed to me that you have studied too much to find that 'Force' you are still seeking. Why, instead of all those other books, you have gone to, to find it--did you not go back to your Bible?... I have wanted, for so long to tell you this, but have not had the courage."

Adams seems not to have heeded her counsel, preferring to idealize a past that never existed instead of finding God at work in the present. He aloofly condemned the supposed decadence of modern capitalist democracy, taking for granted his own extensive hereditary riches, comforts and privileges, while ignoring the unprecedented economic empowerment of millions who benefitted from industry and technology. His religious ideal was aesthetic and abstractly moral but largely indifferent to people outside his social class, whether arriving waves of immigrants or disenfranchised black people in the South after Reconstruction. He lamented the decline of religion but ignored the resurgent popular piety that infused his time, which he barely noticed and no doubt disdained.  After all, where were its great cathedrals and artworks?

A British diplomat described Adams in 1887 after his wife's death as "queer to the last degree; cynical, vindictive, but with a constant interest in people, faithful to his friends and passionately fond of his mother.... He has no cards and never goes out."

Adams was the archetype of a certain kind of American observer who revels in supposedly constant societal decline from the perspective of snobby reserve while disdaining improvements for and the popular piety of common, less erudite people. He was an ungrateful heir to the old New England Unitarian establishment. He rejected orthodox Christianity and even Unitarianism but wanted morality and a robust religious aesthetic.  

As Mrs. Hay discerned, Henry Adams was looking for "The Force" in all the wrong places.  So many are, in every age.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Motives of the Men Who Sought Hitler's Life (Christianity & Crisis Magazine on July 20, 2021, Providence)

"The Motives of the Men Who Sought Hitler's Life," by W. Von Eckardt
May 13, 1946

"Deo--Patriae--Humanitati," for God, country, and humanity, was the motto of the Germans who attempted to overthrow the regime which made their country the most hated nation in the world. The integrity and motives of the conspirators of the July 20th attempt to do away with Hitler are still doubted by many. The fact that the same group made any number of previous attempts since the first serious one was foiled by Mr. Chamberlain's fatal arrival in Munich on September 29, 1938, does not seem to clear it of the suspicion of having acted only in order to avoid total defeat. Defeatism was, of course, the motive of a few hard-boiled, calculating generals, who had refused for years to participate, playing both sides of the fence, and who were executed only for their last minute consent to support the putsch if it should succeed. The men, however, who had for years tried to move the army into action against the regime were motivated by even more than earnest patriotism. Throughout the utterances and convictions of all the real conspirators one finds a sincere spiritual premise, which seems sadly lacking in most of the victorious "anti-fascist" forces today.

Their basic conviction seems to me perfectly expressed in a passage of Peter Yorck von Wartenburg's testimony before the Nazi tribunal. We found the minutes of the People's Court trials of eight of the principal participants of the July 20th putsch when we came to Berlin. The trial was presided over by the notorious, sardonic Nazi "judge" Roland Freisler, who met his fate in an air-raid on Berlin early in 1945. Yorck von Wartenburg was one of the defendants charged with the attempted assassination of the Führer and conspiracy against the State.

Yorck von Wartenburg: "Mr. President, I have already stated during my interrogation, that the national-socialist ideology developed thus, that I..."

The President, Dr. Freisler: (interrupting) "...could not agree! To say it in concrete terms, you declared: In the Jewish question you disagreed with the extermination of Jews, you disagreed with the national-socialist conception of justice."

Yorck von Wartenburg: "The decisive factor, which connects all these questions are the totalitarian demands of the State towards the citizen, which force him to cast aside his religious and moral obligations to God."

It was the struggle against the totalitarian demands of the State which united the German opposition from the political left to the right. This strong anti-totalitarian feeling, based on a simple return to Christian ethics, dominated the thoughts and the, obviously rare, writings of all participants of the attempted putsch, in which almost all efforts of the German opposition culminated. Time and again we find this conscious return to Christian morality on which all was to be based, and which has nothing in common with church-politics, dogma, or ultramontane separatism.

Hellmuth von Moltke writes to his wife in his last letter, which was smuggled out of prison, that the Nazis could not prove his or his friends' active participation (he was, of course, most active). "But one thought remained: How can Christianity be an anker of salvation in times of chaos? This lone thought demands five heads tomorrow, and later those of Steltzer and Haubach."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


A Persistent Productivity Pickup (Goldman Sachs,12 July 2021)

Stronger productivity growth has been one of the silver linings of the pandemic, with 3.1% annualized growth in output per hour since the start of the crisis (vs. +1.4% in the previous business cycle). Higher-frequency measures indicate further gains in the middle of the year. In this Analyst, we explore the composition of the productivity acceleration to better understand its drivers and sustainability.

We find that productivity gains since 4Q19 are most pronounced in industries where virtual meetings are feasible and in-person expenses like travel & entertainment have scope to decline, for example information technology services, professional services, and product development/wholesale trade. These efficiency improvements from digitization continued in Q1 despite the reopening of the in-person economy and the partial return to corporate office buildings.

The retail sector ranks fourth across industries in terms of pandemic productivity performance, consistent with a boost from ecommerce and from evolving brick-and-mortar business models (expanding curb-side pickup, "Buy Online Pickup In Store"). Timely data indicate these gains persisted in Q2 even as malls reopened and the stimulus boost faded. The composition of retail employment is also consistent with efficiency gains from digitization, with four fewer cashiers and salespeople for every hundred workers (June 2021 vs. 2019).

The end of work is the rise or productivity. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Global investors pump hundreds of billions into renewables in shift from fossil fuels (Joshua S Hill, 20 July 2021, Renew Economy)

A total of $US501 billion ($A683 billion) was invested in the clean energy sector in the last financial year, an increase of 9% over the previous year and a new record level of clean energy investment.

Unsurprisingly, the renewable energy segment of the clean energy sector led the way with $US303 billion ($A413 billion), accounting for 60% of total investment committed towards the global low carbon energy transition.

These are the headline findings from a new report published on Monday by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) entitled Global Investors Move into Renewable Infrastructure.

The report highlights not only the record level of investment attracted by the low carbon energy transition, but also demonstrates the insistent move away from investing in fossil fuel projects caused by the threat of exposure to climate-related risks and the volatility in fossil fuel pricing and demand.

Hating environmentalists isn't actually good economics?  Who knew?
Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Using plastic waste to help solve sand shortages (Bernd Debusmann Jr, 7/20/21, BBC)

To try to reduce the need for sand, a small but growing number of researchers are turning to technology and innovation in the hunt for alternatives.

These include Dr John Orr, a lecturer in concrete structures at Cambridge University. His research has found that plastic waste can be sorted, cleaned, shredded and crushed into a sand alternative for use in concrete.

He has looked specifically at the potential impact of the solution in India. Here the cost of sand has skyrocketed - while at the same time estimates suggest that 15,000 tonnes of plastic waste is dumped every day in the country.

"We found that you can replace up to 10% of the sand in concrete with the plastic, and it has the same strength and the same longevity," says Dr Orr.

Unlike sand, plastic won't stick to the cement paste around it, so it can only replace 10% of the raw material, he says. "But that still saves the need for a huge amount of sand, and helps to reduce the vast amount of plastic waste on India's streets.

"From a cost perspective, using the plastic can be cheaper, broadly speaking, especially as sand goes up in price as it becomes more scarce. For countries like the UK this isn't really an issue, as we don't build much, but in nations with a construction boom, using plastic in concrete could grow in popularity."

Dr Orr reckons that if using plastic in making concrete were adopted across India it could save 820m tonnes of sand a year.

At the same time, other research is being done into using other waste materials in concrete in place of sand, such as shredded old car tyres or ground-down glass.

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