July 19, 2021

Posted by orrinj at 6:43 PM


Senate Democrats propose requiring women to register for military draft (BURGESS EVERETT and CONNOR O'BRIEN, 07/19/2021, Politico)

Senate Democrats are proposing a sweeping rewrite of the military draft laws aimed at requiring women to register for the Selective Service System, according to a draft authored by Senate Armed Services Chair Jack Reed and obtained by POLITICO.

The changes to Selective Service could be attached to the National Defense Authorization Act, a defense policy bill that's one of the few pieces of legislation considered a "must-pass" by Congress. The move would reignite a contentious debate over whether women should be required to register for the draft, a move the House and Senate have each considered in recent years, though the change has never become law.

The language proposed by Reed (D-R.I.) would expand registration for the service to "All Americans," striking explicit references to males. It's expected to be considered during committee markup this week; floor action on the bill would wait until later this year. A spokesperson for Reed declined to comment.

...and expand it to other social services like teaching, health care, and replacing police patrols.

Posted by orrinj at 6:28 PM


Joe Biden Is Right: Facebook Is 'Killing People' Says Infectious Disease Expert (Ethen Kim Lieser, 7/19/21, 1945)

One notable expert is Dr. Nahid Bhadelia, the founding director of the Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases at Boston University, who recently told CNBC that "social media is playing a big role in amplifying misinformation, which is leading to people not taking the vaccine, which is killing them."

She added: "It's the honest truth. COVID, right now, is a vaccine-preventable disease."

Bhadelia also pointed to survey results released by the Kaiser Family Fund, which found that 54 percent of Americans either believe in or aren't able to distinguish whether a common coronavirus vaccine myth is fact or fiction.

She asserted that these large tech companies can do more to stop such misinformation from reaching the general public. "They need to invest a lot more resources, and better enhance their balance of taking that information down more quickly, invest more resources in changing their matrix, because, right now, what gets on top of your page is not what's correct, it's what's popular," she noted.

Posted by orrinj at 6:25 PM


It's official: The Covid recession lasted just two months, the shortest in U.S. history (Jeff Cox, 7/19/21, CNBC)

Though the drop featured a staggering 31.4% GDP plunge in the second quarter of the pandemic-scarred year, it also saw a massive snapback the following period, with previously unheard of policy stimulus boosting output by 33.4%.

Two months does not a recession make.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Inside California's Planned Floating Wind Farms (Matthew Lackner, 7/19/21, The Conversation)

Northern California has some of the strongest offshore winds in the U.S., with immense potential to produce clean energy. But it has a problem. Its continental shelf drops off quickly, making building traditional wind turbines directly on the seafloor costly if not impossible.

Once water gets more than about 200 feet deep--roughly the height of an 18-story building--these "monopile" structures are pretty much out of the question.

A solution has emerged that's being tested in several locations around the world: making wind turbines that float. In fact, in California, where drought is putting pressure on the hydropower supply and fires have threatened electricity imports from the Pacific Northwest, the state is moving forward on plans to develop the nation's first floating offshore wind farms as we speak.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Limitations of Black Conservative Thought (Aaron Hanna, 6/24/21, Quillette)

Why do racial disparities persist in our country? This is the key question that divides black intellectuals. Why do racial disparities in income, wealth, education, incarceration, healthcare, and homeownership persist, despite the fact that legal discrimination ended in the mid-1960s? Candidates for explanatory pre-eminence abound: current racism, past racism (the legacy of slavery and segregation), structural racism, institutional racism, implicit bias, excessive government intervention, insufficient government intervention, structural changes to our economy (deindustrialization, globalization, digitization, etc.), individual psychology, and black culture.

Rather than attempt to clarify these contested terms, I want to explore why black conservatives and progressives rank these explanatory factors so differently. Blacks of all political persuasions would agree that we are not yet free to alter our genetic inheritance, and that genetic differences do not explain current racial inequalities. Where conservatives and progressives disagree--without always recognizing the fundamental point of departure--is on the extent to which we can choose to alter, embrace, reform, or disown our cultural inheritance.

I intend to explore these differences by focusing on the two main strands of contemporary black conservative thought--the victimhood hypothesis and the cultural hypothesis, represented here by conservative writers Shelby Steele and Thomas Sowell, respectively. Most conservatives today would probably object to such a neat division. Nevertheless, this narrowing of the scope of this essay is justified, I believe. Not all simplifications are over-simplifications, and my hope is that this device will clarify more than it obscures.

To the great frustration of black conservatives, progressive black thought has dominated the intellectual and cultural landscape over the last few years (decades, many would complain). As a result, conservatives have spent a great deal of energy criticizing progressive intellectuals such as Ta-Nehisi Coates, Nikole Hannah-Jones, Ibram X. Kendi, and Isabel Wilkerson, rather than engaging in the kind of self-criticism that would help them develop their own arguments. Like most black conservatives, I am not convinced that racism/anti-racism is the best framework for advancing racial equality, that "caste" is the best metaphor for describing race relations in our country, or that movements to "defund" the police will decrease crime in majority black neighborhoods. But what do black conservatives offer other than criticism of progressive ideas? [...]

Sowell's work on race revolves around two fundamental questions. The first: what are the causes of racial inequality? The second: do welfare programs alleviate poverty, as they were intended to do, or exacerbate it? Sowell answers both questions with a degree of confidence that the evidence does not support. Throughout recorded human history, "grossly uneven distributions of racial, ethnic and other groups in numerous fields of endeavor" has been the norm. This is a point Sowell makes over and over again in his work, drawing on the experience of minorities here and abroad. We have different histories, religions, parenting styles, attitudes toward education, work traditions, and definitions of success, among other things, and these cultural differences, Sowell argues, lead to precisely the kind of inequalities that progressives attribute to racism.

It's important to point out that Sowell is not dismissive of the impact of racism. The history of race is a story of "hostility and hatred," he writes in Intellectuals and Race, and "racial issues show no sign of going away." At the same time, no subject is more in need of dispassionate analysis: race needs to be studied in an international, comparative context so that we do not misunderstand the nature of our own racial challenges. Two examples of the kind of comparative analysis he supports will make his argument more concrete.

In a 1979 essay for Commentary, Sowell presents data on the percentage of various ethnic and racial groups that were practicing lawyers, doctors, or teachers in our country. Most progressives would assume that white people would dominate these high-status jobs. Sowell reports that 15 percent of black West Indians fit into this employment category. The figures for Japanese- and Chinese-Americans were 18 and 25 percent, respectively. The percent of white Americans with the same impressive credentials? A mere 14 percent. Counterintuitive statistics like these do not prove that there was no racism in America in the early 1980s, but they should give progressives pause. Skin color certainly does not map as neatly onto socioeconomic status as many progressives assume.

A second example. The majority of Chinese immigrants who arrived in the United States before World War II came from a specific province in southern China. As a group they prospered, despite legal discrimination and widespread anti-Chinese sentiment. The majority of Chinese immigrants who arrived after World War II came largely from other parts of the country. They generally lacked the education and work experience of first-wave Chinese immigrants, and a dearth of marketable skills forced them to take low-paying jobs and live in poor urban neighborhoods. The difference between these two groups of Chinese immigrants was clearly something other than race.

At a minimum, data like these complicate the anti-racist narrative. How are we to explain the success of some black and other non-white groups in our society, if various forms of white supremacy have always reigned supreme? The answer, Sowell insists, is as obvious as it is unpopular. We no longer live in a society in which racism is a significant hurdle for black people. The primary reason some groups succeed in our country while other groups, unfortunately, struggle, sometimes for generations, is cultural. A group's norms and values--not its race or ethnicity--determines its relative success. The progressive assumption that black people are the victims of subtle or not-so-subtle forms of racism is simply mistaken. The success of black and other non-white immigrant groups proves that racism cannot explain the persistence of racial inequality.

The purpose of Sowell's comparative economics is not only to demonstrate that inequality is the norm throughout the world, rather than the exception that only government policy can fix, but to get his readers to focus on what successful minority groups have in common. Fixating on white and black differences in educational attainment or rates of homeownership, he argues, are distractions. Instead of asking why white people perform better than black people on some measure of success, and assuming it must be a consequence of some combination of past and present racism, we should ask why Japanese-Americans have higher incomes than Pakistani-Americans, why Nigerian-Americans have higher rates of entrepreneurship than Sudanese-Americans, and why immigrants from northern Italy have fared better socioeconomically than immigrants from the south of the same country. The answer, yet again: cultural differences. The disparities between groups in education, crime, income, and many other metrics are real and worthy of study. But attributing them uncritically to racism is as misguided as attributing them to differences in IQ, which was also once fashionable among progressive intellectuals.

Sowell has assembled a great deal of evidence over the course of his career in support of the claim that inequality among different racial and ethnic groups is natural and widespread. And yet, this evidence doesn't tell us anything about the cause of inequality in any particular case. Sowell and many other conservatives are convinced that a comparative analysis largely settles the debate over the cause of racial inequality here in the United States. But if ever there is a case in which the particulars matter, I would think it would be the case of African Americans. Is it really that methodologically sound to compare immigrants to our country--people who generally make great efforts to come here, and who arrive with the expectation of making substantial personal sacrifices to ensure their children have better lives than they did--with a native population that endured centuries of slavery, and then a hundred years of a state-supported racial discrimination? The majority of African Americans, after all, were deprived of the very education and work experience that Sowell rightly argues enabled past immigrant groups to flourish. Can conservatives who lean heavily on cultural differences to explain racial inequality really afford to ignore the culture-shaping legacy of slavery and segregation?

If the legacy of slavery and segregation at least partly explains the persistence of racial inequality, some kind of reparations or affirmative action program would be justified in the short- and medium-term. 

Which is where Mr. Sowell turns away from himself. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


THE FIRES CALIFORNIA GRIEVES--AND NEEDSIn Her Scorched Klamath Mountains Community, a Fire Advisor Contemplates Mortality and Renewal (LENYA QUINN-DAVIDSON | JULY 19, 2021, Zocalo Public Square)

Before European settlement in California, scientists estimate that at least 4.5 million acres burned every year across the state. That's right--California used to see more fire every year than what we saw in last year's "historic" fire season.

Though it's difficult to parse out historical ignition patterns, we know that Native Californians contributed in significant ways to California's fire regimes, actively shaping landscapes with fire to sustain their cultures and livelihoods. Some fire scientists estimate that Native Americans may have intentionally burned up to 2 million acres a year. Research from the Sierra Nevada tells us that during periods where people were most actively managing their landscapes, and using fire as a tool, climate fluctuations like drought and extreme temperatures were less likely to influence how fires burned.

However, in the early 1900s, this practice of cultural burning was criminalized when federal and state officials initiated an era of fire suppression. The stated goal was to save trees--to protect forests from the very process that had shaped and maintained them through time. Yet we know now those losses weren't avoided; rather, by removing fire, the losses were stalled, accentuated. It's clear that the fires that burn now are making up for generations of missed fire. The more we've rejected fire as the natural--and human--process that it is, the more volatile it has become.

During last year's devastating Slater Fire, Bill Tripp, the deputy director of eco-cultural revitalization for the Karuk Tribe, wrote a powerful op-ed reflecting on his people's connection with fire, and the federal and state policies and practices that continue to this day to threaten their ecology and culture. Just as the land was taken from the Karuk people, so too was their relationship with fire. Bill explained that Karuk people were shot for burning, even as recently as the 1930s, and he lamented the way that fire continues to be misunderstood and mismanaged:

Fire itself is sacred. It renews life. It shades rivers and cools the water's temperature. It clears brush and makes for sufficient food for large animals. It changes the molecular structure of traditional food and fiber resources making them nutrient dense and more pliable. Fire does so much more than western science currently understands.

Dominant society has missed the mark this last century or so, trying to make static what is so naturally dynamic. We suppressed fire in the name of the trees, but we forgot about the people and the plants and the landscapes that needed fire, as vital as rain or sunshine or snow. Fire can be deadly, but at its core it's a force of life--refreshing and renewing.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Can Silicon Valley Find God? (Linda Kinstler, Jul. 16th, 2021, NY Times)

The rise of pseudo-sacred industry practices stems in large part from a greater sense of awareness, among tech workers, of the harms and dangers of artificial intelligence, and the growing public appetite to hold Silicon Valley to account for its creations. Over the past several years, scholarly research has exposed the racist and discriminatory assumptions baked into machine-learning algorithms. The 2016 presidential election -- and the political cycles that have followed -- showed how social media algorithms can be easily exploited. Advances in artificial intelligence are transforming labor, politics, land, language and space. Rising demand for computing power means more lithium mining, more data centers and more carbon emissions; sharper image classification algorithms mean stronger surveillance capabilities -- which can lead to intrusions of privacy and false arrests based on faulty face recognition -- and a wider variety of military applications.

A.I. is already embedded in our everyday lives: It influences which streets we walk down, which clothes we buy, which articles we read, who we date and where and how we choose to live. It is ubiquitous, yet it remains obscured, invoked all too often as an otherworldly, almost godlike invention, rather than the product of an iterative series of mathematical equations.

"At the end of the day, A.I. is just a lot of math. It's just a lot, a lot of math," one tech worker told me. It is intelligence by brute force, and yet it is spoken of as if it were semidivine. "A.I. systems are seen as enchanted, beyond the known world, yet deterministic in that they discover patterns that can be applied with predictive certainty to everyday life," Kate Crawford, a senior principal researcher at Microsoft Research, wrote in her recent book "Atlas of AI."

These systems sort the world and all its wonders into an endless series of codable categories. In this sense, machine learning and religion might be said to operate according to similarly dogmatic logics: "One of the fundamental functions of A.I. is to create groups and to create categories, and then to do things with those categories," Mr. Boettcher told me. Traditionally, religions have worked the same way. "You're either in the group or you're out of the group," he said. You are either saved or damned, #BlessedByTheAlgorithm or #Cursed by it.

Paul Taylor, a former Oracle product manager who is now a pastor at the Peninsula Bible Church in Palo Alto, Calif. (he took the Silicon Valley-to-seminary route), told me about an epiphany he had one night, after watching a movie with his family, when he commanded his Amazon Echo device to turn the lights back on.

"I realized at one point that what I was doing was calling forth light and darkness with the power of my voice, which is God's first spoken command -- 'let there be light' and there was light -- and now I'm able to do that," he said. "Is that a good thing? Is that a bad thing? Is it completely neutral? I don't know. It's certainly convenient and I certainly appreciate it, but is it affecting my soul at all, the fact that I'm able to do this thing that previously only God could do?"

While turning on the light may be among the more benign powers that artificial intelligence algorithms possess, the questions become far weightier when similar machines are used to determine whom to give a loan, or who to surveil.

Mr. Taylor's congregation includes venture capitalists, tech workers and scientists. A few years ago, after he organized a lecture about the theological implications of technology -- on how everything from the iPhone to the supercomputer is altering the practice of faith -- he began noticing that church members would seek him out with questions on the subject. This inspired him to start a podcast, "AllThingsNew.Tech."

"I've been able to talk to a lot of Christian C.E.O.s and Christian founders and just get their perspective on how faith integrates with their technology," Mr. Taylor said. Their conversations didn't dwell on concerns over evangelism or piety, but on questions like, "Does my actual faith affect the technical decisions I'm making?" "Are you afraid that technology might be degrading our humanity?" "Through the conversations I've had," Mr. Taylor said, "in some senses all roads lead to the question of: What does it mean to be human?"

I began to encounter whole networks of tech workers who spend their days thinking about these questions. Joanna Ng, an IBM master inventor with about 44 patents to her name, told me that she left the company in 2018 to start her own firm because she felt "darkness" closing in on her from all sides of the tech industry. "Christ will rise before we see artificial super-intelligence," she said, describing industry efforts to develop the technology, and the vast sums spent pursuing it.

I also met Sherol Chen, a software engineer for A.I. research at Google who organizes meetings where her colleagues can discuss and practice their faith. "Not talking about politics and religion has created some circumstances that we find ourselves in today," she told me. "Because it's kind of a new thing, there's a new openness toward it." She helped inspire others in the industry to hold prayer meetings, including, for the past two years, 24-hour virtual "Pray for Tech" sessions, which are livestreamed from around the world.

During last year's event, I watched as the attendees joined together in prayer, asking for repentance and praying for their executives, co-workers and products. Ms. Chen invoked Google's mission statement, without saying the company's name. "We're seeing these answers and these solutions from heaven come through us into our code, into our strategies, into our planning, into our design," she said. "May we pray for every meeting we have, may we take captive every keystroke we make, everything that we type."

The technological and religious worlds have long been intertwined. For over a half-century, people have been searching for a glint of spirit beneath the screen. Some of the earliest A.I. engineers were devout Christians, while other A.I. researchers grew up believing they were descendants of Rabbi Loew, the 16th-century Jewish leader who is said to have created a golem, a creature fashioned from clay and brought to life by the breath of God. Some Indian A.I. engineers have likened the technology to Kalki, the final incarnation of the Hindu god Vishnu, whose appearance will signal the end of a dark age and the dawn of a golden era.

One of the most influential science fiction stories, "The Last Question" by Isaac Asimov, dramatizes the uncanny relationship between the digital and the divine. These days, the story is usually told in distilled and updated form, as a kind of joke: A group of scientists create an A.I. system and ask it, "Is there a god?" The A.I. spits out an answer: "Insufficient computing power to determine an answer." They add more computing power and ask again, "Is there a god?" They get the same answer. Then they redouble their efforts and spend years and years improving the A.I.'s capacity. Then they ask again, "Is there a god?" The A.I. responds, "There is now."

In 1977, when Apple unveiled its logo, some took it as a reference to the Garden of Eden. "Within this logo, sin and knowledge, the forbidden fruits of the garden of Eden, are interfaced with memory and information in a network of power," the queer theorist Jack Halberstam wrote. "The bite now represents the byte of information within a processing memory." (The rumored true story is less interesting: The apple is supposed to be a reference to the one that helped Isaac Newton establish the law of gravity; the bite was added to distinguish it from a cherry.)

Today, a sprawling orchard adorns the center of the Apple headquarters in Cupertino, Calif.; I've been told employees are encouraged not to pick its fruit.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Canada Funneled $23 Billion in Subsidies to Three Pipelines Since 2018 (Nick Cunninghamon, Jul 7, 2021, DeSmog)

The Canadian federal and provincial governments have handed over C$23 billion (US$18.5 billion) in subsidies to three major oil and gas pipeline projects in just the past three years, according to a new report by the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), defying global calls to phase out government support for fossil fuels.

But even that total is likely an undercount given the lack of transparency from the Canadian government over its support of the industry. "Canadian support to pipelines is higher than $23 billion dollars, but we don't know by how much. The access to information request that we filed resulted in thousands of pages either redacted or withheld," Vanessa Corkal, policy advisor at the IISD, and lead author of the report, said in a statement.

"Canadians deserve to know that their money is going towards a prosperous future and not putting that future at risk," she said.  

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Chinese electric carmaker Xpeng prices its new sedan at $24,700 undercutting Tesla (Arjun Kharpal, 7/19/21, CNBC)

Chinese electric carmaker Xpeng Inc. has priced its new P5 sedan as low as 160,000 yuan ($24,694) days after Tesla launched a cheaper version of its Model Y sports utility vehicle

The aggressive pricing from Xpeng comes as China's electric vehicle market continues to heat up with an increasing number of players.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The U.S. Shale Revolution Has Surrendered to Reality (Justin Mikulkaon, Jul 16, 2021, DeSmog)

"Drill, baby, drill is gone forever." 

That was the recent assessment of Saudi Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman of the American oil industry's future potential. As Saudi Arabia's energy minister, Prince Abdulaziz is one of the most influential voices in the global oil markets. Fortune termed it a "bold taunt," and a warning to U.S. frackers to not increase oil production. 

The response by the U.S. producers -- to shut up and take it -- quietly confirms this reality. Shale oil's era of growth appears to be over. The reason is that even as global oil demand and prices rise, the economics of the shale oil business model continue to not work. The U.S. shale industry has lost hundreds of billions of dollars in the past decade producing oil and selling it for less than it cost to produce.

This was possible because despite the losses, investors kept giving the industry money. But now investors appear to have grown tired of losing money on U.S. shale companies and new lending to the industry has dropped dramatically.

Those Nationalists would just keep throwing OPM at it. 
Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Snapshot USA: What Maine Tells Us About the Labor Shortage (Roger Lowenstein, Jul 15, 2021, Intrinsic Value)

Many of its former mill workers were never retrained, and simply dropped out of the work force. As manufacturing declined, various indicators of social dysfunction, including depression, suicide, opioids- and alcohol-related deaths, skyrocketed. Rural counties became highly dependent on social services.

Tourists visiting galleries and antique shops may not notice these dropped-out workers in the rocky seaside villages like the one where we have a second home. But they are here.

The problem of the white male worker, the problem of his disaffection, has been the political story of the decade. In Maine, it is the story, because Maine is the whitest state in the nation (less than 2% is African-American).

Maine is also the oldest state, with a median age of 44.7 compared to 38 nationwide. A high school principal in far northern Aroostook County, famed for its potatoes, once joked that their biggest export crop was the top third of the senior class. Yes, Maine leads the nation in lobster production. But what its lobstermen earn in a year, Nevada casinos gross every ten days. It isn't enough. So the young aren't staying.

The mystery is, jobs are going unfilled. Signs offering higher wages and signing bonuses line the eateries along Route 1. As one former food service worker explained, sort of, to the Bangor Daily News, "Restaurants are a grind."

This summer, the state offered a $1,500 bonus to people on unemployment who returned to work. It got few takers. Other programs seek to lure vacationers and others into moving here. The problem remains -- really two problems.

First, Maine has a people shortage. At 43 people per square mile, it's only half as dense as the U.S. overall. Neighboring New Hampshire is three-and-a-half times denser. Even Colorado is denser than Maine. (Judged from the Census tables, Maine can seem hardly a part of New England at all. Its median household income ranks 36th, ahead of a cluster of southern states. It ranks below average in poverty, health insurance coverage, and disability recipients, but ahead in high school graduations and Covid-19 vaccinations.)

Not surprisingly for an older state, deaths outnumber births. Its population is growing (just barely) thanks to a trickle of immigrants. But it's truly a trickle: only 4% of Mainers were born outside the U.S. In the country as a whole, 14% were.

The other significant issue is labor force participation, that is, the percentage of those who are here working or looking for work. In 2000, 69% of Mainers 16 and older were in the labor force. Now, only 62% are, a stunning drop. Maine was hit hard by the pandemic, due to its high proportion of tourism workers. But that's almost besides the point. As John Dorrer, a retired labor economist in Maine, says, the problem is long-term, and structural.

In many ways, the rest of the U.S. is better off. It has higher population growth, more immigrant men (who work at higher rates), more skilled workers. But if you look at the direction of the U.S. labor market, not so much. Even with the number of jobs down by 7 million from the pre-pandemic peak, the number of unfilled jobs is at an all-time high.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Removing the lead hazard from perovskite solar cells (Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, 7/15/21, Science Daily)
"The solar energy-to-electricity conversion of perovskite solar cells is unbelievably high, around 25%, which is now approaching the performance of the best silicon solar cells," says Professor László Forró at EPFL's School of Basic Sciences. "But their central element is lead, which is a poison; if the solar panel fails, it can wash out into the soil, get into the food chain, and cause serious diseases."

The problem is that in most of the halide perovskites lead can dissolve in water. This water solubility and solubility in other solvents is actually a great advantage, as it makes building perovskite solar panels simpler and inexpensive -- another perk along with their performance. But the water solubility of lead can become a real environmental and health hazard when the panel breaks or gets wet, e.g. when it rains.

So the lead must be captured before it gets to the soil, and it must be possible to recycle it. This issue has drawn much and intensive research because it is the main obstacle for regulatory authorities approving the production of perovskite solar cells on a large, commercial scale. However, attempts to synthesize non-water-soluble and lead-free perovskites have yielded poor performance.

Now, Forró's group has come up with an elegant and efficient solution, which involves using a transparent phosphate salt, which does not block solar light, so it doesn't affect performance. And if the solar panel fails, the phosphate salt immediately reacts with lead to produce a water-insoluble compound that cannot leach out to the soil, and which can be recycled. The work is published in ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces.

It's always a bad day to be a Luddite. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


2 more Texas Democrats test positive for COVID-19 in Washington, D.C., 5 total cases (Madlin Mekelburg and Nicole Cobler, 7/18/21, Austin American-Statesman)

During their first week on location, few members wore face coverings as they moved through the lobby and traveled through the city -- in accordance with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines that say fully vaccinated people do not need to wear masks or practice social distancing unless required by law or private regulation.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


WHY CALIFORNIA HOUSING IS SO EXPENSIVE (Randal OToole, 07/18/2021, New Geography)

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Warren targets racist place names (Russell Contreras, 7/19/21, Axios)

A new congressional bill seeks to create a board to help rename more than 1,000 towns, lakes, streams, creeks and mountain peaks across the U.S. still named with racist slurs.

Working at the digital mapping company that did much of the data you use to drive nowadays, the most depressing task was going through and changing these names, like Dead N*** Creeek. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Appeals court allows CDC to enforce rules for cruise ships in blow to DeSantis (Ivana Saric, 7/18/21, Axios)

A federal appeals court ruled Saturday night that the CDC can enforce its framework for cruise ships returning to operation, overturning an earlier district court ruling that would have made the CDC's guidelines mere suggestions.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The crackdown on Didi and companies like it could cost China as much as $45 trillion in new capital flows by 2030 (Frederick Kempe, 7/10/21, CNBC)

This was a clarifying week for global investors -- or for anyone concerned about authoritarian capitalism -- of just how much the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) would be willing to pay to ensure its dominance.

The answer, according to a rough calculation from a new partnership formed by the Rhodium Group and the Atlantic Council, is as much as $45 trillion in new capital flows into and out of China by 2030, if the party were willing to pursue serious reform. It's an immeasurable loss of economic dynamism.

You can't have a Clash of Civilizations when there is only one.