September 11, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 6:32 PM


Amazon acquires warehouse machinery and robotics maker Cloostermans (Annie Palmer, 9/09/22, CNBC)

Amazon has acquired Cloostermans, a Belgian company that makes technology used in warehouses, the company announced Friday. Terms of the deal weren't disclosed.

Amazon began working with Cloostermans in 2019, using its technology to help move and stack heavy palettes and goods, as well as package products together for delivery, the retail giant said.

Cloostermans will become part of Amazon Robotics, Amazon's division focused on automating aspects of its warehouse operations. The unit was formed after Amazon acquired Kiva Systems, a manufacturer of warehouse robots, for $775 million a decade ago.

Amazon continues to launch new machines in warehouses. In June, the company unveiled a package ferrying machine called Proteus, which it referred to as its first fully autonomous mobile robot. It's also deployed other robots that can help sort and move packages.

Posted by orrinj at 5:07 PM


Air pollution cancer breakthrough will rewrite the rules (James Gallagher, 9/11/22, BBC)

The researchers have produced evidence of a different idea. The damage is already there in our cell's DNA, picked up as we grow and age, but something needs to pull the trigger that actually makes it cancerous.

The discovery came from exploring why non-smokers get lung cancer. The overwhelming majority of lung cancers are caused by smoking but still, one in 10 cases in the UK is down to air pollution.

The Crick scientists focused on a form of pollution called particulate matter 2.5 (known as PM2.5), which is far smaller than the diameter of a human hair.

Through a series of detailed human and animal experiments they showed:

Places with higher levels of air pollution had more lung cancers not caused by smoking

Breathing in PM2.5 leads to the release of a chemical alarm - interleukin-1-beta - in the lungs

This causes inflammation and activates cells in the lungs to help repair any damage

But around one in every 600,000 cells in the lungs of a 50-year-old already contains potentially cancerous mutations

These are acquired as we age but appear completely healthy until they are activated by the chemical alarm and become cancerous

Posted by orrinj at 4:56 PM


Ukraine hails snowballing offensive, blames Russia for blackouts (Pavel Polityuk and Tom Balmforth, 9/11/22, Reuters)

Ukrainian forces kept pushing north in the Kharkiv region and advancing to its south and east, Ukraine's army chief said on Sunday, a day after their rapid surge forward drove Russia to abandon its main bastion in the area.

Posted by orrinj at 4:41 PM


'A nonconformist with a conservative's regard for tradition': Ralph Vaughan Williams at 150: a review of Vaughan Williams by Eric Saylor (Hugh Morris, 9 Sep 2022, The Guardian)

Writing with clarity of vision is tricky given how embedded Vaughan Williams is in British musical culture. He wore many hats in his time: symphonic composer, choral society conductor, folksong collector, hymn-tune compiler. Vaughan Williams enjoyed a combination of popularity and prestige unrivalled by many of his British contemporaries, and he remains the nation's favourite composer, even if others might have a stronger claim to be Britain's best.

Familiarity emanates from Vaughan Williams's musical language; its blend of folk modality, references to the English Renaissance and austere chromaticism creates a close conversation between present and past. Vaughan Williams once remarked that he didn't remember whether he had composed a piece or just remembered it. "I've not had a new musical idea since I was 30," he would later tell the conductor Christopher Finzi.

But as Saylor's new biography shows, Vaughan Williams was actively involved in building a tradition for the future - he did more than merely draw on the past. Where Saylor describes Vaughan Williams's work collecting folk songs as preservationist and promotional, Vaughan Williams's "revivalist and reformist" compilation of the New English Hymnal (confining his most hated Victorian hymns to an appendix nicknamed the Chamber of Horrors and replacing them with Tallis, Purcell, Gibbons and a lot of contemporary pieces - including some of his own) demonstrates his inclination to look afresh at traditions otherwise taken for granted. He was, according to previous biographer Michael Kennedy, "that extremely English product - the natural nonconformist with a conservative regard for the best tradition". But regard doesn't necessarily equate to reverence - a key duality Vaughan Williams battled with as he worked to find his own compositional voice and his own English tradition to situate it in.

In many ways the editorial approach taken by Vaughan Williams when compiling the hymnal - looking beyond received notions of taste - was mirrored in his music, which was criticised after the second world war. As Saylor notes, a new generation of composers and critics "took issue with the music and the aesthetic values that he had long promoted, such as his continued advocacy for the relevance of folksong and a robust culture of 'national music' for England".

Posted by orrinj at 12:09 PM


This Canadian company wants to build a train-plane 'hybrid' that can go 620 miles per hour--take a look (Tom Huddleston Jr., 9/11/22, CNBC)

Toronto-based TransPod recently unveiled plans for a "FluxJet," a fully-electric transportation system that's "a hybrid between an aircraft and a train." The project, currently in the conceptual stage, would involve 82-foot-long, magnetically levitated trains that would carry passengers at roughly 621 miles per hour.

That's faster than a commercial jet, and roughly three times the speed of most high-speed trains -- with zero emissions, no less. The FluxJet would rely on "contactless power transmission," where the train would pull power from the existing electric grid through magnetic fields, the company says.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Latino political power grows at the Massachusetts State House (Marcela García,  September 9, 2022, Boston Globe)

In the Latino-held seats, state Representatives Frank Moran, who represents Lawrence, Andover, and Methuen; Carlos González of Springfield; Andy X. Vargas of Haverhill; Jon Santiago of Boston; and Orlando Ramos, also of Springfield, all cruised to reelection. Representative Marcos Devers of Lawrence lost his primary to newcomer Latino candidate Francisco Paulino. On the state Senate side, Adam Gomez, who represents parts of Chicopee and Springfield, also won his unchallenged primary. They all are the presumptive winners since their races remain uncontested in the November general election. (Senator Sonia Chang-Díaz, the first Hispanic woman elected to the state Senate, gave up reelection to run for governor.)

Meanwhile, of the potentially new Latino legislators, just Chelsea's Judith Garcia and Chicopee's Shirley Arriaga face an opponent in November. The rest, Sam Montaño of Boston, Manny Cruz of Salem, and Estela Reyes, Pavel Payano, and Paulino of Lawrence, will be unopposed on the ballot.

"There were only three Latino legislators when I first got elected as state representative in 2003," Sánchez, now a senior adviser at Rasky Partners, told me. "[Tuesday's primary] election was a turning point for Latinos in Massachusetts. These victories reflect not only that Latinos can win in Latino districts but that Latinos can appeal to a greater electorate in the Commonwealth. We see it nationally and now we're seeing it here. It's about time."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


'A necessity': Lebanon's forced conversion to solar (Aya Iskandarani, September 11, 2022, AFP)

Thanks to solar energy, residents of the northern Lebanese village of Toula are finally able to enjoy ice cream again -- a treat in a sun-baked country plagued by power cuts.

Lebanon's economy collapsed in 2019 after decades of corruption and mismanagement, leaving the state unable to provide electricity for more than an hour or two per day.

Last winter, the mountain village of Toula barely had three hours of daily generator-driven electricity.

Solar power now helps keep the lights on for 17 hours, an engineer working on the alternative energy project said.

"For two years the kids have been asking for ice cream, now it's finally time," said Toula mini-market owner Jacqueline Younes, beaming.

"We are waiting for our first order of ice cream to arrive."

While many Lebanese rely on costly generators for electricity, a growing number of homes, companies and state institutions are turning to solar -- not out of environmental concern, but because it's their only option.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The green king: Charles the environmentalist (AFP, September 10, 2022)

At Highgrove, Charles has cultivated a garden, which is open to the public, as well as a fully organic farm.

It initially left some neighbouring farmers sceptical, but has gradually become a successful business and sells its produce under the "Duchy Organic" brand in the high-end supermarket chain Waitrose.

"His Royal Highness has taken many steps personally to live in a more sustainable way," his official website for his tenure as prince of Wales said.

It noted about 90 percent of energy for office and domestic use now came from renewable sources, with around half that generated from on-site renewable sources such as solar panels, biomass boilers and heat pumps and the remainder from electricity and gas purchased from renewable sources.

For several years Charles has published his annual carbon footprint -- including unofficial travel -- which amounted to 445 tonnes in the year to March 2022.

His car, an Aston Martin owned for over 50 years, has been modified to run on surplus English white wine and whey from the cheese-making process.

It runs on a mixture of 85 percent bioethanol, and 15 percent unleaded petrol.

The monarch has been president of the WWF-UK animal charity since 2011, emulating his late father Prince Philip, who performed the same role from 1981 to 1996.

He is also the patron of several other associations, such as "Surfers Against Sewage", and made numerous speeches warning of the disappearance of biodiversity.

More recently, in April, he wrote an article for Newsweek magazine -- and also graced its cover -- headlined "our children are judging us".

His vocal stances on issues including the environment have prompted some criticism that he is departing from constitutional norms which see the royal family remain politically neutral at all times.

Charles has repeatedly vowed to remain true to constitutional practices, as recently as this week when he ascended to the throne.

But he may not see environmental and conservation causes as overtly political.

It's not political.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Former Trump senior adviser Stephen Miller subpoenaed by Justice Department (Sara Murray, 9/10/22, CNN)

Stephen Miller, a former White House speechwriter and senior adviser under President Donald Trump, has been subpoenaed by the Justice Department, a source tells CNN.

The department is seeking information about the Save America PAC, alleged "fake electors," and communications between Miller and a long list of people.

CNN has previously reported that a federal grand jury is examining the Save America leadership PAC, one of former President Donald Trump's main political and fundraising vehicles, in an expansion of the criminal investigation into the events surrounding the US Capitol attack on January 6, 2021.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


'They're in on it': GOP hopefuls loyal to Trump see enemies within own party (CHRISTINA A. CASSIDY, 9/11/22, AP) 

Four US Republicans who have promoted false claims about the 2020 presidential election and are running for top state election offices said Saturday they were fighting against a corrupt system -- even pointing a finger at mysterious forces within their own party.

The candidates -- Arizona's Mark Finchem, Michigan's Kristina Karamo, Nevada's Jim Marchant and New Mexico's Audrey Trujillo -- said they want to overhaul how elections are run in their states. They appeared at a conference inside a South Florida hotel ballroom that featured numerous speakers falsely claiming that the 2020 election was stolen from former US president Donald Trump.

"Our biggest enemy is our own party," said Marchant, a businessman and former state lawmaker who was among Trump's most ardent supporters challenging President Joe Biden's 2020 win in Nevada. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


EXCLUSIVE: Royal beekeeper has informed the Queen's bees that the Queen has died and King Charles is their new boss in bizarre tradition dating back centuries (JOHN DINGWAL, 9/10/22, MAILONLINE)

The bees have also been told, in hushed tones, that their new master is now King Charles III

Speaking from the Buckingham Palace gardens, Mr Chapple told MailOnline: 'I'm at the hives now and it is traditional when someone dies that you go to the hives and say a little prayer and put a black ribbon on the hive.

'I drape the hives with black ribbon with a bow.

'The person who has died is the master or mistress of the hives, someone important in the family who dies and you don't get any more important than the Queen, do you?

'You knock on each hive and say, 'The mistress is dead, but don't you go. Your master will be a good master to you.'

'I've done the hives at Clarence House and I'm now in Buckingham Palace doing their hives.'

At the height of summer, Mr Chapple takes care of over a million bees though by late summer their numbers have dropped.

He said: 'In Clarence House there are two hives and in Buckingham Palace there are five.