April 6, 2021

Posted by orrinj at 6:12 PM


IDS - I nearly walked out on Xi Jinping's address to parliament (Graham Stewart, 4/06/21, The Critic)

But Sir Iain is more hopeful that Boris Johnson's government is shifting away from a policy of appeasement in return for investment and that, in consequence, "at last that alliance is beginning to re-form" with the United States. The Biden administration understands the imperative of creating an alternative investment magnate for China's neighbours who are otherwise being drawn by the pull of Beijing's Belt and Road initiative.

He believes the still embryonic Trans Pacific Partnership "is absolutely determined to have us on board."  And that British membership will help bring the United States into the trade agreement as a counter to Chinese influence in the Pacific. Far from this being a distant prospect, he foresees the process being accelerated and much "can be achieved in the next two years."

If only Democrats were pro-trade instead of just anti-Donald. 

Posted by orrinj at 5:51 PM


Britain's electricity system 'greenest ever' over Easter (BBC, 4/06/21)

Great Britain's electricity system was the greenest it had ever been at lunchtime on Easter Bank Holiday Monday, its operator has said.

Sunny and windy weather, coupled with low demand for power, led to a surge in renewable sources of energy, National Grid Electricity System Operator said.

It meant zero-carbon power sources made up almost 80% of Britain's power.

There was no coal generation on the grid and just 10% of power was from gas plants, the operator added.

Posted by orrinj at 12:23 PM


Posted by orrinj at 9:07 AM


Sanctions Threat Pushes Foreign Share of Russian Debt to 6-Year Low (Jake Cordell, 4/06/21, Moscow Times)
Russian markets have been shaken by fears of sanctions following the jailing of Alexei Navalny.Alexander Avilov / Moskva News Agency
Foreign investors' holdings of Russian government debt fell below 20% for the first time in six years at the end of March, official data from Russia's National Settlement Depository shows.

International investors have been selling their holdings in Russia's state debt since the start of the year, fearful of being caught up in a possible hardening of sanctions against Russia in retaliation for the poisoning and jailing of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.

Why invest in something with no future?

Posted by orrinj at 8:47 AM


Why Republicans Can't Seem to Lay a Glove on Biden (The Daily Beast, 4/06/21)

Carville adds, "I think the most significant 24 hours in American politics was from 8 p.m. Eastern on the fifth of January to 8 p.m. Eastern on the sixth. And that time you had the two Georgia wins and you had the insurrection, and those events taken in tandem have been very, very underappreciated by contemporary commentators. They were just a different party on the night of Jan. 6. Everything changed in a 24-hour period. And you know, they're still off-balance."

"And while they are balancing, I think the Biden people are just staying focused and running as much through as they possibly can. But [the Republicans] don't have a coherent pushback. It's all CBS: cancel culture, the border, and senility. That's all they do," Carville adds.

"They just completely reinvented a coalition and their messaging overnight have gone from an Episcopalian, Presbyterian, white party [to] rural and non-college... They don't want to talk about free trade or anything like that," he continues. "And Biden is not this polarizing figure. I mean, you can't gin it up. I mean Obama, for obvious reasons, he could get them all ginned up. They try to get a charge out of Biden, but it just doesn't work that well... They'll get it back. But right now they're having a hard time."

You could gin old white men up against President Obama by pretending he was going to transfer welfare spending from them to younger people of cover.  Not only is Joe not a racial threat but he's giving white folks welfare checks.

Posted by orrinj at 8:34 AM


U.S. worker productivity seems to be rising, thanks to the pandemic. Also, workers say the pandemic has sapped their productivity (Peter Weber, 4/06/21, The Week)

"After a decade-long drought, worker productivity might be about to accelerate thanks to pandemic-induced technological adoption, which could lift economic growth and wages in coming years while staving off inflation pressure," The Wall Street Journal reports. Investments in productivity-boosting technology and automation, combined with a shift from bricks-and-mortar retailers to e-commerce and steep losses in lower-paying jobs in less-productive sectors, are "enabling companies to raise productivity, which is defined as output per hour worked," the Journal explains.

U.S. productivity should also be boosted by white-collar workers not having to travel to conferences or even the office, thanks to widespread adoption of teleconferencing and other remote-work software, some experts told the Journal. "Happier workers are more productive people," said Bart van Ark, director of the Productivity Institute in the U.K. "People who have more energy and are less tired are more productive people, as well."

Y2K, likewise, forced massive technology upgrades. 

Posted by orrinj at 8:10 AM


"Massless" battery breakthrough promises to help electric planes take off (Sophie Vorrath, 6 April 2021, Renew Economy)

Swedish researchers have produced a battery made of ultra-lightweight materials, including carbon fibre that works as an electrode, a conductor, and a load-bearing structure, in a breakthrough that could pave the way for lighter, more efficient electric cars and planes.

The breakthrough in the long-running quest to develop "massless energy storage" was reported late last month, as the result of a collaboration between Chalmers University of Technology and KTH Royal Institute of Technology, both in Sweden.

The technology works using types of carbon fibre which, as well as being stiff and strong, have a good ability to store electrical energy chemically - a discovery that was named by Physics World as one of 2018's ten biggest scientific breakthroughs, according to Science Daily.

"Previous attempts to make structural batteries have resulted in cells with either good mechanical properties, or good electrical properties," said Leif Asp, Professor at Chalmers and leader of the project.

"But here, using carbon fibre, we have succeeded in designing a structural battery with both competitive energy storage capacity and rigidity."

Posted by orrinj at 7:54 AM


After new law, McConnell warns CEOs: 'Stay out of politics' (LISA MASCARO, 4/06/21, AP)

The choice by the GOP leader to dive into voting politics lends heft to efforts nationwide to install strict new voting laws after Donald Trump's false claims of fraud that cost him the election to Biden. The new laws are aimed at scaling back early voting and other options that became wildly popular during the pandemic.

Even more, McConnell's warning to big business not to get involved shows the scramble Republicans face as progressive groups are shining a spotlight on corporate America to live up to its brands and values as Congress takes on voting rights, gun violence and other issues Republicans have resisted.

The Republican leader has been among the most outspoken champions of the role of big money in elections, promoting the free-flow of undisclosed dollars to campaigns as a form of Constitution-protected free speech.

But companies temporarily halted giving to many Republicans after the deadly Jan. 6 Capitol siege, when the former president urged like supporters to fight for him and hundreds stormed the Capitol.

One reform that the two parties could agree on right now is to forbid their creatures--corporations--from contributing to politics via corporations law. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:30 AM


Biden, Garland Taking Quiet But Firm Steps Against White Nationalist Violence (David Neiwert, April 06 | 2021,  Daily Kos)

Quietly and with little fanfare, the Biden administration has been taking all the right steps early in its tenure in confronting the threat of right-wing extremist violence and its spread--a mandate handed to Biden by the insurrectionists who attacked the U.S. Capitol on January 6. Rather than take a high-profile approach that might backfire, Biden's Justice Department and FBI, and to a lesser extent the Department of Homeland Security, have wisely taken a low-key route that emphasizes competence and effectiveness, as a New York Times piece explored last weekend.

But make no mistake, the Biden administration is taking the problem seriously. Indictments from the insurrection now number more than 300, prosecutors are establishing evidence of a clear chain of conspiracy leading to the attack focusing on Proud Boys and Oath Keepers, and arrests for criminal behavior by far-right extremists unrelated to the attack are occurring as well. It's a welcome change from the malign neglect of the matter by Donald Trump and his administration.

As we have argued consistently since the insurrection, an effective approach to right-wing domestic terrorism necessarily will eschew the trappings of the post-9/11 "war on terror"--that is, instead of creating new laws and giving law enforcement unneeded new powers, the phenomenon can most effectively be attacked by smartly deploying law enforcement to enforce the many laws already on the books.

According to Shaun Courtney at Bloomberg, that is in fact how the Biden administration has tackled the issue so far. It also appears to be the thinking of key lawmakers in Congress.

Posted by orrinj at 7:26 AM


Russian state TV is scared of Biden -- and even speculating they might need to go to war: report (Matthew Chapman, April 05, 2021, www.rawstory.com)

On Monday, The Daily Beast reported that Russian state-run media outlets are worried about the impact of Joe Biden's presidency on Russian power -- and are even speculating that war may break out.

"Instead of laughing about Trump's embarrassing subservience to Putin, experts and pundits on state TV are grim-faced as they anticipate harsh measures against the Kremlin by the Biden administration," reported Julia Davis. "Even Margarita Simonyan, editor-in-chief of the Kremlin-funded RT and Sputnik, whose bombastic anti-American rhetoric fills the air on multiple state media programs, admitted that Russia is not immune against U.S. sanctions. Appearing on the talk show Our Truth that aired on television channel NTV, controlled by state-owned Gazprom Media, Simonyan conceded: 'There could be sanctions that would cause us to end up living like we're in Iran... We have vulnerabilities, as you know.'"

Posted by orrinj at 7:18 AM


New Revenue Numbers Make NH Tax Relief More Likely, Despite Fed Threats (Andrew Mahaleris, 4/05/21, NH Journal)

Gov. Chris Sununu and his GOP allies in the legislature pledged they could make tax relief part of the new budget, even amid the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. And the latest numbers from the Department of Revenue Administration are likely to make it easier for them to keep that promise.

The report released Monday was the latest data point showing that predictions of the Granite State's economic demise were greatly exaggerated. Not only have revenues not collapsed, but the state will end the fiscal year in June with a surplus yet again.

In March alone, the state took in $701 million in revenue, 3.6 percent more than projected, which is $24.6 million more than anticipated. Nine months into the fiscal year, New Hampshire is up $181.5 million, or 9.6 percent over the previous fiscal year.

Posted by orrinj at 7:16 AM


George Floyd Death Leads States to Require Cops to Intervene (Associated Press, April 05, 2021)

When a police officer knelt on the neck of George Floyd in Minneapolis, other officers at the scene didn't intervene, even while Floyd said he couldn't breathe and stopped moving. 

That lack of action is leading a growing number of states to compel police to stop misconduct by a fellow officer. 

Since Floyd's death, Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Nevada, and New Jersey have passed laws requiring police to intervene when they see a fellow officer engaged in misconduct, said Katie Ryan of Campaign Zero, a group that encourages reforms to reduce police violence. 

Previously, many laws were aimed at compelling police to only report misconduct. But activists say Floyd's death makes clear that is not enough. 

"The one essential component is that, in real time, a fellow officer has to intervene when witnessing another officer of any rank using excessive force," Ryan said.

Posted by orrinj at 7:14 AM


Rise of the 'robo-plants', as scientists fuse nature with tech (CATHERINE LAI, 4/06/21, AFP)

Remote-controlled Venus flytrap "robo-plants" and crops that tell farmers when they are hit by disease could become reality after scientists developed a high-tech system for communicating with vegetation.

Researchers in Singapore linked up plants to electrodes capable of monitoring the weak electrical pulses naturally emitted by the greenery.

The scientists used the technology to trigger a Venus flytrap to snap its jaws shut at the push of a button on a smartphone app.

They then attached one of its jaws to a robotic arm and got the contraption to pick up a piece of wire half a millimetre thick, and catch a small falling object.

The technology is in its early stages, but researchers believe it could eventually be used to build advanced "plant-based robots" that can pick up a host of fragile objects which are too delicate for rigid, robotic arms.

Posted by orrinj at 7:10 AM


DOD Workers Want to Keep Teleworking, Despite Early Hiccups, Survey Finds (Mila Jasper, 4/06/21, Defense One)

Using unauthorized applications or sharing DOD information over improperly secured devices, even temporarily, increases the risk of exposing sensitive departmental information that could impact national security and DOD missions."

Survey respondents had ideas for how to improve telework, suggesting DOD provide them with more equipment like computers and monitors, and make the network more accessible but also asking for more management support of telework. 

One survey respondent management needs to "rid itself of their self-imposed psychological barriers" around telework and learn how to manage based on outcomes rather than who is coming into the office or not. Another called micromanagement "rampant." On the other side of the coin, managers reported telework has made it harder to ensure employees are doing their jobs.

Respondents also said they need more IT support to teach them how to use collaboration tools. Still, DOD OIG found productivity did not suffer because of connectivity issues, and overall, 80.3% of respondents who provided written comments expressed positive sentiments about telework. 

The survey also gave a peek into what DOD employees want the future of work to look like: for example, respondents said they want to be able to live anywhere and telework permanently. 

"If I can't trust an employee to get quality work done from offsite, then I likely cannot trust them to get quality work done while onsite," one employee wrote. "It seems counter-intuitive to me, and contrary to supporting the need for the most talented and flexible workforce, to restrict telework merely because that is 'how it's always been done.'"

Based on its findings, DOD OIG recommended the assistant secretary of Defense for homeland defense and global security update DOD's Implementation Plan for Pandemic Influenza to include the use of telework for essential and non-essential personnel and align the plan with the DOD Telework Policy as well as require DOD components to update their pandemic plans.