July 15, 2021

Posted by orrinj at 5:50 PM


Hydrogen, ammonia and a clean-fuel standard could help get the world to net-zero emissions (Rachel Koning Beals, 7/15/21, Market Watch)

Electrifying global transportation won't be enough to reach net-zero emissions in coming decades without pushing alternative fuels like hydrogen and ammonia, a large group of industry representatives and climate-change experts told the Clean Air Task Force.

The group, although not perfectly aligned in how best to reach the emissions target backed by President Biden, global leaders and many industry heads, also found some consensus that a clean-fuel standard can play a critical role in driving the carbon intensity of transportation energy down to zero, CATF said in their report out Thursday. [...]

Participants stressed in part their belief a transition to net-zero emissions must not hammer consumers with high costs, nor erode their bottom lines.

Make emissions so expensive that they hammer bottom lines and they'll transition quicker.

Posted by orrinj at 5:44 PM


Grand ayatollah warns against Iran's Taliban approach (July 15, 2021, Al Monitor)

Grand Ayatollah Lotfollah Safi Golpaygani, one of Iran's most senior clerics, lashed out at the Islamic Republic's softened policy at a moment of rapid Taliban advances and widespread atrocities in Afghanistan.  

Such an approach, the ayatollah warned, "is a grave and irreparable mistake." He cautioned the Iranian government not to trust a "terrorist" group "whose evil and murderous nature is no secret to the world." Golpaygani called on both Iran and the international community to "act with seriousness" to avert further "Taliban aggression against oppressed Afghans."  

the enemy of my enemy....is my enemy too.

Posted by orrinj at 4:31 PM


Babe Ruth's still-staggering, radical mental approach to hitting, a century later (COLIN FLEMING, 07/15/2021, The Smart Set)

Ned Williamson, stalwart third baseman of the Chicago White Stockings, his chest like a hogshead barrel, was viewed as a man who possessed insane pop during his 1880s heyday. He was massive for the post-Civil War era, standing just under six-foot-tall and tipping the scales at 210 pounds. In 1883, Harry Stovey, a Philadelphia Athletics first baseman, had clouted 14 home runs, breaking the single-season record set three years prior by Charley Jones of the Boston Red Caps with his 9 round-trippers. But Nasty Ned Williamson exploded through the dinger stratosphere, launching 27 home runs the following season.  

There was some juice to the ball that year, which had been like a sock puppet previously, with three other batsmen clearing the 20-homer threshold. Come 1885, in nearly the exact same amount of at-bats, Williamson's home run total plummeted to 3, but his record would not be going anywhere, standing for 35 years, one season longer than it took someone, in the form of Roger Maris, to best Babe Ruth's 1927 mark of 60 home runs, and two years less than it took Mark McGuire -- allowing that you acknowledge steroid-tainted numbers -- to surpass Maris.  

Williamson didn't get a lot of usage out of his glory -- he succumbed to a combo of dropsy and tuberculosis, aged 36, in 1894. But during the early era of baseball, his was a mark that batsmen chased, a line of statistical dominance that Babe Ruth finally nudged beyond in 1919, cracking 29 home runs in his first year with the New York Yankees. Ruth had been trending towards becoming the eventual record-holder, his days as a pitcher largely behind him, as he focused on the particular brand of magic he whipped up in the batter's box.  

And yet, there was nothing that could have prepared anyone for what Ruth did about a century ago over the course of the 1920 and 1921 seasons, which remain so far ahead of their time that we have to wrestle with the idea that they even happened, while simultaneously trying to comprehend that this athlete informs the core strategies of the game we now watch in 2021. 

Posted by orrinj at 3:49 PM

ALWAYS BET ON THE dEEP sTATE (profanity alert):

"If I was going to do a coup ...": Trump offers bizarre denial of report his generals feared a coup (JON SKOLNIK, JULY 15, 2021, Salon)

Milley, the book describes, was reportedly "on guard" for whatever uprising might take place ahead of Biden's inauguration, fearing that Trump's grandiose and baseless theory of election fraud might fuel "a Reichstag moment."

"They may try, but they're not going to f------ succeed," Milley told his deputies. "You can't do this without the military. You can't do this without the CIA and the FBI. We're the guys with the guns."  

At one point, the general called Trump's Big Lie "the gospel of the Fuhrer." 

Ahead of November's "Million MAGA March" - where thousands of Trump supporters gathered in D.C. to protest the results of the 2020 election - Milley apparently told his aides that the demonstration "could be the modern American equivalent of 'brownshirts in the streets.'"

Milley was specifically worried that the former was intentionally inciting violence as a pretense for invoking the Insurrection Act, which could have unilaterally allowed Trump to deploy the military to forcibly stop the election certification process on January 6. 

Trump, the general said in private, "the classic authoritarian leader with nothing to lose."

And still lost.

Posted by orrinj at 1:26 PM


20% of all deaths could be prevented if cities were better designed (TOLULLAH ONI AND RIZKA MAULIDA, 7/15/21, Fast Company)

The Mainz study synthesizes the existing evidence on the impact of several urban environmental risks. These include air pollution (more than half of the global deaths from air pollution are due to cardiovascular disease); transportation noise (which contributes to the risk of metabolic disease by raising stress hormone levels, heart rate, and blood pressure); and light pollution at night (associated with changes to the circadian rhythm, which is linked to conditions including obesity and heart disease).

The study then highlights how human health and climate change are linked, and what can be done to help. Urban infrastructure is destroyed and populations harmed by the effects of extreme weather, floods, and heat stress.

Scholars speak about this enmeshing of human health and the well-being of the natural systems on which we depend as planetary health. Increasingly, this is seen as a guiding principle that should drive all urban policies.

Building cities for cars and urban sprawl encourages car use, traffic congestion, air pollution, and noise. The result is more stress, road trauma, and physical inactivity as well as worse health overall and more deaths.

It follows that we need better designs for our cities. Research has shown, for instance, that 20% of all deaths could be prevented if cities were designed to meet the recommendations for physical activity, air pollution, noise, heat, and green space.

Move people to the suburbs.

Posted by orrinj at 1:09 PM


Glenn Greenwald: America First conservatives shouldn't support unrest in Cuba (Phillip Nieto, 7/15/21, The Spectator)

In an interview with The Spectator, journalist Glenn Greenwald broke down why he believes 'America First' conservatives should reevaluate their support for Cuba's protests. The Intercept co-founder argues that conservatives with nationalistic tendencies should prioritize American domestic policy without embroiling themselves in foreign conflicts.

PN: Why shouldn't conservatives who describe themselves as 'America First' support protests in Cuba and abroad?

GG: Well, if you go back and look at the leader of the kind of contemporary America First movement, which is obviously Donald Trump when he was outlining his foreign policy in 2016, it was very much against the idea that the United States should be involved in regime change operations to help other countries. At the time, the big debate was over Syria. That was one of the big differences between himself and Hillary Clinton on foreign policy. She argued that Bashar al-Assad is a hideous dictator, and we should go in to at least set up no-flyzones in Syria or strengthen the CIA further to overthrow Assad and bring freedom and democracy to the Syrian people. Trump's argument was, 'why do we have any interest at all in using our money and the lives of our soldiers to go and fight tyranny in Syria? How is that going to help steelworkers in Ohio, in Pennsylvania to go use our resources to go fix the government in Syria?'

So that's been the core of the argument, which is we have no right to be interfering in other countries and intervening in other countries to try and quote-unquote, fix them or help them or change their government. Every time we've tried, it's been a disaster. Our resources are better spent on helping Americans and not foreign nationals. It seems very inconsistent to me for people who have been advocating that to now turn around and use the neocon liberal interventionist argument to say we need to bring freedom and democracy to Cuba and liberate the Cuban people.

The Trumpists generally exist to amuse the rest of us, but stuff like their lip-lock with Putin operative Greenwald is especially delicious.

Posted by orrinj at 8:29 AM


Trump expresses regret he didn't lower White House flag for slain MAGA rioter (Travis Gettys, July 15, 2021, Raw Story)

Former president Donald Trump has been expressing regret in recent weeks that he didn't order the White House flag lowered to half-staff for slain U.S. Capitol rioter Ashli Babbitt.

The Qanon adherent was fatally shot by a Capitol police officer Jan. 6 as she attempted to break into an area where lawmakers had fled the mob of Trump supporters, and the twice-impeached one-term president has recently told associates that she deserved the public honor due to her years of service in the U.S. Air Force, reported The Daily Beast.

She got what she deserved from the government she once served.

Posted by orrinj at 8:26 AM


'The pee tape is real': Critics claim Kremlin leak confirms 'every awful thing said about Trump ends up being absolutely true'
(Travis Gettys, July 15, 2021, Raw Story)
Leaked documents confirm that Russian president Vladimir Putin holds compromising blackmail leverage over Donald Trump, and that's why he personally directed Kremlin spy agencies to secretly work to get him elected president.

The Guardian obtained documents that experts believe came from a Jan. 22, 2016, meeting of Russia's national security council that refers to "certain events" that took place during Trump's "non-official visits to Russian Federation territory" in the years before entering politics.

Posted by orrinj at 8:22 AM


Icelandair exploring electric or hydrogen-powered planes (Iceland Monitor, 7/15/21)

Icelandair Group has made preliminary deals with both Universal Hydrogen and Heart Aerospace with the goal of using planes fuelled by hydrogen and/or electricity on domestic routes.

Universal Hydrogen has developed a technology that could be used to retrofit Icelandair's Dash-8 passenger planes to have them run on hydrogen while Heart Aerospace plans to build passenger aircraft that will run on electricity, Mbl.is reports.

A news release from Icelandair Group states that in order to reach global goals for CO2 emissions more environmentally friendly solutions for air travel have to be introduced as quickly as possible.

The airline says that short domestic flight routes and good access to electricity generated using renewable sources make Iceland an ideal location for transitioning to cleaner energy. Doing so would also be in line with the goals of the Icelandic government with regards to creating a more sustainable tourism industry.

Posted by orrinj at 5:53 AM


Astronomers train AI to reveal the true shape of galaxies (PAUL RATNER, 14 July, 2021, Big Think)

The new study, published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, shows how the research team was able to counteract shape noise by utilizing ATERUI II, the most powerful astronomy supercomputer in the world. By feeding it pretend and real data from the Subaru Telescope, the scientists had the computer simulate 25,000 mock galaxy catalogs. They added realistic noise to these data sets while teaching their artificial intelligence network through deep learning to pick out the correct data from the noise.

"This research shows the benefits of combining different types of research: observations, simulations, and AI data analysis," shared team's leader Masato Shirasaki.

they look like whatever we decide they look like. 
Posted by orrinj at 12:05 AM


What If The U.S. Military Never Invaded Iraq? (Robert Farley, 7/11/21, 1945)

The biggest effects of the Iraq War, and the most enduring limitations, may have come in how the conflict affected the U.S. military, and changed the attitudes of Americans toward the use of force.

Let's go out on a limb and say the biggest effects were on the peoples of Iraq who no longer live under a genocidal dictatorship--and the accompanying mass murderous sanctions regime we imposed--and get to determine their governance themselves. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Giving a fiddle: The unlikely story of how bluegrass music swept JapanIt's a sound deeply rooted in American culture, but bluegrass found a new fanbase during the Seventies, more than 7,000 miles away in Japan. Alli Patton speaks to the bands about how the banjo-fuelled genre transcended enemy lines and is still a thriving scene today (Ali Patton, 7/13/21, Independent

Bluegrass is a sound as embedded in North America's landscape as the mountains themselves. It's a musical by-product of its birthplace, and its origins can be traced along the spine of the Appalachian Mountain range. But it travels, too, echoing off peaks, reverberating down in the valleys and transmitting across oceans. The fiddle sings a bright duet with the banjo's delicate twang - even the lightest touch creates a "snap". Steady guitar strums are paired against the mandolin's steel chirps, while a harmonica's metallic wail mingles with the heavy, hollow thumps of the upright bass.

The genre has its origins in classic tunes from the British Isles, old-time mountain music and traditional African-American blues, jazz and gospel. Kentucky-born Bill Monroe developed the earliest form of the genre during the Forties - it takes its name from his band, the Blue Grass Boys. It's a melting pot of styles and different instruments, but one of its most defining traits is the banjo, barrelling along the track like a runaway train. The arrangements rejoice in their own freedom to go anywhere. Yet it is also stylistically complex; improvisations, typical in rapid-tempo tunes known as "breakdowns", are a characteristic inherited from jazz.

The music has captivated fans from all over, but it may come as a surprise to learn that the world's second-largest bluegrass scene is almost 7,000 miles away from the American South, in Japan. It arrived there in the years following the Second World War, introduced via the Far East Network (or FEN), a military radio and TV service created to provide a source of news, information and entertainment for Japan-based US soldiers and their families. It was on this network that country and bluegrass were aired for an hour each day to troops and anyone else who could pick up the radio signal. By 1957, Japan had its first bluegrass duo, The East Mountain Boys, formed by brothers Yasushi and Hisashi Ozaki.

The Ozaki brothers fell in love with American music from a young age but the outbreak of war had forced them to learn about it in secret. "There would be great dissension if people knew they were listening to the enemy's music, so they hid their hand crank record player in a closet and played whatever records they could get," a 2013 article in Bluegrass Today explained. "There was little food or supplies available in Japan at the time, and metal was very hard to come by, so they had to make a needle for the record player from bamboo." The establishment of the FEN meant the duo had more freedom to listen to the music they loved, eventually becoming pioneers for the genre in Japan.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Here's why Richard Branson's flight matters--and, yes, it really matters"I absolutely believe this is that moment." (ERIC BERGER - 7/12/2021, Ars Technica)

The promise of suborbital tourism is that it could expand space access to many, many more people. Whereas orbital flights required tens of millions of dollars and months of training, suborbital spaceflight costs a few hundred thousand dollars and needs only a few days of training.

Making good on this promise has been challenging. For much of the last decade, it seemed like spaceflights such as Branson's were only a year or two away. But there were always setbacks, more technical issues to solve, more safety concerns to address. Time slipped away, and it seemed like the day may never come.

Nonetheless, behind the scenes, a furious race between Virgin Galactic and Jeff Bezos' rocket company, Blue Origin, raged. Both were competing to build, test, and fly suborbital launch systems that would take paying customers to space. The race, of course, came down to the wire. After Jeff Bezos said he would fly into space on his New Shepard rocket on July 20, Branson moved up his flight, which had been planned for late summer. On Sunday, Branson won the first leg of this space tourism race by a mere nine days.

As Garriott sees it, we were all winners. "It's very exciting to see either of them go to space, much less both of them," Garriott said.

Coincidentally, it's not just suborbital space tourism now reaching maturity. In as little as two months, SpaceX will launch a Crew Dragon spacecraft carrying four private astronauts. This "Inspiration4" mission was purchased by entrepreneur Jared Isaacman, who is using the flight to promote children's cancer research.

NASA supported development of Crew Dragon to have a transportation system to the International Space Station. It did so through a public-private partnership, which required SpaceX to invest in Crew Dragon as well. In return, SpaceX got more freedom to design Crew Dragon to its specifications, and the company was encouraged by NASA to seek out private customers.

Now, that is happening. As part of the buildup to the Inspiration4 flight, SpaceX founder Elon Musk has said he expects to fly more private flights on Crew Dragon than NASA-sponsored missions to the International Space Station.

From this moment onward, therefore, it's likely that the majority, and very probably the vast majority, of future flights to suborbital and orbital space will be privately funded. Private human spaceflight is finally ready for takeoff.

"I absolutely believe this is that moment," Rachel Lyons, executive director of Space for Humanity, told Ars.

Businessman and space investor Dylan Taylor founded the philanthropic organization in 2017 to expand access to space. Space for Humanity plans to sponsor people from all over the world to go to space, experience the overview effect, and return to Earth to share it with their communities. "We're working to seed people around the world who have had this experience," Lyons said.

Space for Humanity first took applications for the program in 2019, intending to purchase seats on Virgin Galactic, Blue Origin, and other similar spaceflight opportunities should they come along. Back then, neither company flew. The technology wasn't ready. Space for Humanity soon closed its applications.

In 2021, the time has come. As of last week, Space for Humanity reopened its application process.

Yes, but...

For various, understandable reasons, a lot of people look at what Branson and Bezos have done with disdain. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Palestinian Authority Study Endorses Sheikh Jarrah 'Popular Struggle' Model (Yaniv Kubovich, Jul. 11, 2021, Ha'aretz)

The younger generation of Palestinians is frustrated by the ruling Fatah leadership and views it as hesitant and weak, according to an internal study the Palestinian Authority commissioned from academics in Fatah.

The study also indicates that the clashes that broke out in May in East Jerusalem - particularly in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood and on the Temple Mount - and that led to the all-out military confrontation between Israel and Hamas in Gaza - are the correct model for the Palestinian struggle with Israel. The analysis by the PA has been obtained by Israeli security officials, who are concerned by the potential direct effect of the mood on the Palestinian street on the security situation in Israel.

The study was carried out at the request of senior Fatah officials following an unprecedented drop in confidence in the Palestinian Authority's leadership among Palestinian residents of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Among the reasons that the study was commissioned was an earlier opinion survey by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research that Hamas had gained support following its military confrontation with Israel.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Cave thought to hold unicorn bones actually home to Neanderthal artwork (Laura Geggel, 7/07/21, Live Science)

A German cave once famous for its "unicorn bones" during medieval times is home to a far-rarer non-mythical treasure: a piece of symbolic artwork created by Neanderthals, a new study finds. 

The artwork, a chevron design, was carved into the toe bone of the now-extinct giant deer (Megaloceros giganteus), said the researchers. The team dated the bone to 51,000 years ago, a time when Homo sapiens hadn't yet ventured into the region, suggesting that the Neanderthals had carved the bone on their own, without influence or help from anatomically modern humans, the researchers wrote in the study, published online Monday (July 5) in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution.

The symbolic artwork suggests Neanderthals had a greater cognitive capacity than previously thought. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Activating Animus: The Uniquely Social Roots of Trump Support (LILLIANA MASON, JULIE WRONSKI, and  JOHN V. KANE, 6/30/21, American Political Science Review)

To examine the nature of Trump support, we identified a unique and powerful predictor of his popularity--animus toward Democratic-linked and traditionally marginalized groups. As the Republican Party grows increasingly white, Christian, and male, it may be tempting to explain Trump's appeal with partisanship alone. However, that is not the case in these panel data. Trump appears to have been uniquely able to attract support based on preexisting animosity toward these groups. The same cannot be said for other Republican Party officials or the Republican Party itself. Similarly, we find no such pattern among Democratic officials or the Democratic Party.

It is important to highlight that these Democratic-aligned group feelings were measured before Trump became a serious nominee for president of the United States, making them exogenous to Trump's vitriolic rhetoric. Trump, therefore, seems to have attracted those who were already feeling hostile toward marginalized groups, regardless of their extant partisan affiliations. Thus, rather than generating such feelings in the electorate, Trump acted more as a lightning rod, attracting those who were already harboring animus toward Democratic-aligned groups.

An important implication is that, given Trump's success, future candidates may attempt to create a winning coalition based on activating group-based animosities through the explicit use of anti-out-group rhetoric. Without these kinds of explicit connections, citizens are left to merely infer whether their own out-group sentiments actually map onto elites' own sentiments. In that case, out-group sentiments may only be weakly related to support for elites who avoid explicit out-group rhetoric. Thus, future research could measure the degree to which politicians couch their stances in explicitly negative sentiments toward out-groups.

Future research should also examine the relationship between caustic political elite statements and media attention. On one hand, Trump's preexisting celebrity afforded him free media attention. However, as both mainstream and social media amplify outrage, relatively unknown politicians might make a national brand for themselves by publicly issuing combative group-based statements. In doing so, they can provoke outrage within the mainstream media and the political left, further satisfying the psychological needs of constituents harboring group-based prejudice (Cikara and Fiske 2013). Therefore, as with Trump, future Republican leaders may similarly be able to translate incendiary rhetoric levied at marginalized groups into a stronger base of political support.

Finally, this research reveals a wellspring of animus against marginalized groups in the United States that can be harnessed and activated for political gain. Trump's unique ability to do so is not the only cause for normative concern. Instead, we should take note that these attitudes exist across both parties and among nonpartisans. Though they may remain relatively latent when leaders and parties draw attention elsewhere, the right leader can activate these attitudes and fold them into voters' political judgments. Should America wish to become a fully multiracial democracy, it will need to reconcile with these hostile attitudes themselves.