Fri 3.23

pony-wallpapers1TODAY’S DOG AND PONY SHOWS
Feds announce that Iranians
hacked thousands of US academics

Gee, maybe setting the stage for some kind of “get tough” move against Iran??? Ya think???  This just happens to coincide with superhawk Bolton’s arrival on scene.
Ah, the stagecraft in DC!
>>>”You know, a government shutdown might provide a bit of distraction from other stuff. just sayin. ” >>>
— Charlie Sykes on Twitter

Putin won, but Russia is losing
Ian Bremmer in Time
— Putin should enjoy his victory celebration while it lasts. He and his country don’t have much else on the horizon.
>>> How Russia’s gangsters evolved into a criminal elite
The Guardian
A long, but enlightening, read.
The challenge posed by Russian organised crime is a formidable one – and not just at home. Across the world, it trafficks drugs and people, arms insurgents and gangsters, and peddles every type of criminal service, from money laundering to computer hacking. For all that, much of the rest of the world remains willing to launder these gangsters’ cash and sell them expensive penthouse apartments.

We’ll believe it when it happens
States look to hold Facebook accountable
Vice News
“… if we uncover the fact that Facebook failed to adequately protect your information and allowed… someone literally to go into the warehouse, take the information and leave, because they gave them the keys, there can be severe penalties…”

Four bumps in the road for (chickenhawk) John Bolton
The National Interest
— It is hard not to know John Bolton’s views. All one has to do is to turn on Fox News in order to know that he is hawkish on North Korea, hawkish on Iran, hawkish on terrorism and a strong supporter of Israel. He will not change those views when he moves into his West Wing office.
— Four factors will determine whether he will succeed as National Security Adviser.
>>> On the horizon with Bolton<<<
> In May  Trump will likely follow through on his instincts and effectively terminate the Iran deal, bringing back heavy sanctions on Tehran.
> The proposed summit with Kim Jong-Un — already an uncertain proposition — appears even more shaky. Bolton has an uncompromising attitude towards North Korea, and believes the only language Kim understands is the threat of military force.
>>>”The largest funder of John Bolton’s super PAC is Robert Mercer, co-founder of Cambridge Analytica.”>>> Scott Dworkin on Twitter

Craigslist, in fear of liability, drops its personals ads
— Craigslist announced early Friday morning that it would no longer host personal ads of any kind, in response to a bill that’s meant to curb sex trafficking.
— Wednesday, the Senate voted overwhelmingly to pass a bill mashup of the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA) and the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA). The bill will make websites like Craigslist, as well as social networks like Facebook and Twitter, more liable for what their users say and do on their platforms.

“We can’t take such risk without jeopardizing all our other services, so we are regretfully taking craigslist personals offline. Hopefully we can bring them back some day. To the millions of spouses, partners, and couples who met through craigslist, we wish you every happiness!”

 Thai government advises women not to dress “too sexy”
Bangkok Post
— Local authorities are telling women to avoid dressing in sexy outfits to prevent sexual harassment or sex assault during next month’s Songkran festival.

preiss“Best flight delay ever” on United worth $10,000
“On the upside, I wasn’t physically dragged off the plane and my dog wasn’t killed on board, so I’ve got that going for me…”
— Bumped flier Allison Preiss

Palm trees marching northward
Expect them to reach the White House lawn any day now. And then … Canada!
Windmill palms have recently been found in the forests of southern Switzerland—the foothills of the Alps—after one such decorative palm escaped and spread “simply because frost is not as prevalent as it used to be.”

MIT device said to extract water from air, even in deserts
Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers have created a concept device that can extract moisture from the air and turn it into drinking water, even in the driest places on Earth, potentially providing a solution to the problem of water scarcity in arid climates.

Greyhound passengers freak out as driver keeps falling asleep
— “We would go over the white line and everybody would be like wake up and she had tweezers she was poking herself with tweezers to keep herself awake it was awful. It got to the point where we had to raise our voice pull over we have children on this bus pull over.”

Fired cop gets $350,000 payoff after shooting unarmed man
USA Today
tensing— Former University of Cincinnati Police officer Raymond Tensing, who killed an unarmed black motorist during an off-campus traffic stop, received a settlement from the university worth almost $350,000.
(At right, Tensing during his 2017 trial.)

Pissing off parents mightily…
Revenge of the administrators!
School district declares the four-day week
USA Today
The new schedule follows the district’s six failed attempts to get more money through bond elections. With the new change, Fiedler said they hope to save around $1 million in three key areas. By not running school buses on the days with no classes, the district estimates to save around $700,000

YouTube bans gun bloggers, so they move to PornHub
— Karl Kasarda and Ian McCollum, who run the gun review site InRangeTV, said they had started posting their videos on Facebook and pornography site PornHub.
— “We will not be seeking any monetisation from PornHub… we are merely looking for a safe harbour for our content and for our viewers,” the pair said in a statement.


Thur 3.22


— Two doddering politicians claim they could beat the crap out of one another.
— Can’t wait for the YouTube video.
— We can only hope two ambulances are standing by.
> Now let’s get to the real news…


Trump replaces McMaster with Bolton as National Security Adviser
The Hill
Trump’s decision to bring Bolton aboard signals he is seeking to move to the right on national security issues. Both Tillerson and McMaster were seen as moderates and both men urged Trump not to scrap the Iran deal.

Just spoke to @POTUS and Gen. H.R. McMaster – contrary to reports they have a good working relationship and there are no changes at the NSC.
Sarah Sanders, taxpayer-funded White House liar, 3/15/18

Trump’s Russia probe lawyer quits
John Dowd had been spearheading negotiations with Mueller for a potential interview with the president.

China hits back with $3 billion in tariffs

Florida hospital allows tribal cops to snatch baby
Miami Herald
— A smiling baby with a thick head of black hair, Ingrid Ronan Johnson was born to a Miccosukee mother and a white father, inside Baptist Hospital in Kendall.
— Two days later, police detectives arrived at the hospital acting on a court order to remove the baby from the new parents.
— The order was not signed by a Florida judge, but by a tribal court judge on a reservation 32 miles away in the heart of the Everglades. The cops were from the Miccosukee police force, a department whose jurisdiction covers mainly the reservation and properties owned by the tribe.

MICCOSUKEE BABY 02 EKMRebecca Sanders, 28, who is part of the Miccosukee tribe, holds photos of her baby Ingrid Ronan Johnson. She and the girl’s father claim a Miccosukee tribal court issued a bogus order awarding custody of the child to the child’s grandmother, Betty Osceola, a high-ranking tribal member. PHOTO: Emily Michot

The political divide
Gender, education gaps growing wider
Pew Research
— As the 2018 midterm elections approach, women and especially college graduates have moved toward the Democratic Party. By contrast, the Republican Party’s advantage in leaned party identification among white voters without a college degree has never been greater, dating back more than two decades.
— As recently as two years ago, partisan identification among white college graduates was split (47% Democrat, 47% Republican).


Berkeley researchers: Beer brewers can ditch the hops
Eureka Alert
beer— Hoppy beer is all the rage among craft brewers and beer lovers, and now UC Berkeley biologists have come up with a way to create these unique flavors and aromas without using hops.
— The researchers created strains of brewer’s yeast that not only ferment the beer but also provide two of the prominent flavor notes provided by hops. In double-blind taste tests, employees of Lagunitas Brewing Company in Petaluma, California, characterized beer made from the engineered strains as more hoppy than a control beer made with regular yeast and Cascade hops.
— Growing hops uses lots of water, not to mention fertilizer and energy to transport the crop, all of which could be avoided by using yeast to make a hop-forward brew. A pint of craft beer can require 50 pints of water merely to grow the hops.

Courts have all but abandoned age bias laws
IBM, desperate to keep up, targets older workers for firings

— ProPublica estimates that in the past five years alone, IBM has eliminated more than 20,000 American employees ages 40 and over, about 60 percent of its estimated total U.S. job cuts during those years.
— In making these cuts, IBM has flouted or outflanked U.S. laws and regulations intended to protect later-career workers from age discrimination.

It’s absolutely fine that 11 Turkish thugs
attacked American protesters in D.C.
The Daily Beast
— Charges were dropped against four individuals in November, and then against seven others on Feb. 14—the day before then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (remember him?) flew to Ankara for talks with Turkey’s Chief Thug Erdogan.

Death by self-driving car
Arizona police release video
NPR (with video)
— Following the crash, Vasquez (the car’s “monitor”) reportedly told police “it was like a flash, the person walked out in front.” He said that “the first alert of the collision was the sound of the collision.”
— However, experts suggested that the technology employed in the Uber test vehicle should have been able to detect Herzberg and avoid a crash.

Sloppy or fabricated?
CDC director’s research questioned
— “Either he was egregiously sloppy with data or it was fabricated,” said former Air Force Lt. Col. Craig Hendrix, a doctor who is now director of  clinical pharmacology at Johns Hopkins. “It was somewhere on that spectrum, both of which were serious and raised questions about his trustworthiness.”

Anxious nation
City Lab

— America these days is not a happy place. Even though the economy is up, polarization is at an all-time high, and a feeling of malaise, or worse, grips the nation.

Astonishing 60,000% runup
South Africa publisher hits $175 billion venture capital jackpot
— Naspers Ltd. might have remained an obscure publisher of South African newspapers and operator of pay-TV services if not for its decision in 2001 to invest $32 million in Tencent, a then little-known Chinese startup. The stake is now worth $175 billion.
— Tencent Holdings Ltd is the Chinese operator of the WeChat messaging service.

Trump to announce $50 billion Chinese tariffs
— President Donald Trump is set to announce about $50 billion of tariffs against China over intellectual-property violations on Thursday, according a person familiar with the matter.
— The president is considering targeting more than 100 different types of Chinese goods, according to the person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The value of the tariffs was based on U.S. estimates of economic damage caused by intellectual-property theft by China, the person said.
>>> Agriculture is most likely target for China’s revenge

Pacific plastic dump now as big as France, Germany and Spain combined
Researchers based in the Netherlands used a fleet of boats and aircraft to scan the immense accumulation of bottles, containers, fishing nets and microparticles known as the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” and found an astonishing build-up of plastic waste.

“I’m not sure we shouldn’t be regulated.”
Mark Zuckerberg on CNN

> Score one for the police state
Israel deploys tear-gas drones over Gaza
Times of Israel
>>>Palestinian teen accepts jail term for slapping Israeli soldier
The Independent
Ahed Tamimi, 17, became a hero to Palestinians after the footage emerged of her hitting the soldiers at the entrance to her home in the village of Nabi Saleh in the occupied West Bank. 

Day 13 of his wife’s trial
Pulse murderer’s wife, mom testify they didn’t know …
Orlando Sentinel
But FBI agent points to Noor Salman’s deleted phone messages.

Wed 3.21 does not track its readers. Period.


— Mark Zuckerberg:
Facebook will do better,
blah blah blah blah blah
— Sheryl Sandberg:
Deeply regret blah blah blah

Trump readies $50 billion trade tariffs for China;
China draws up retaliation list

For best, latest coverage on the Austin bomber see…
Austin Statesman

Police say this may be a photo of Mark Conditt bringing a bomb package to a Texas Fed-Ex

Europe formally proposes 3% tax on Facebook, Google
— Economic Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici presented his proposals in Brussels aimed at recovering billions of euros from mainly US multinationals that shift earnings around Europe to pay lower tax rates.
— “This current legal vacuum is creating a serious shortfall in the public revenue of our member states,” France’s Moscovici told a press conference in Brussels.
— “We estimate this could generate at least five billion euros a year …”

Shareholders sue over Facebook revelations, decline in stock price
Courthouse News Service
— Facebook shareholder Fan Yuan says in a federal class action filed Tuesday that Facebook’s failure to protect its users’ data from mining by Cambridge Analytica caused a significant decline in its stock price and financial harm to stockholders.
>>> Facebook, Cambridge Analytica sued over data harvesting
— The proposed class-action complaint filed late Tuesday night by Lauren Price, a Maryland resident, is the first of what could be many lawsuits seeking damages over Facebook’s ability to protect user data, and Cambridge Analytica’s exploitation of that data to benefit President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign.
— “Every Facebook user has an interest in this lawsuit, and the enforcement of their privacy rights,” John Yanchunis, a lawyer for Price, said in a phone interview on Wednesday.
>>> In Canada, calls for regulation of Facebook

Section 230
“It’s the one line of federal code that has created
more economic value in this country than any other.”
— and with the Facebook debacle, it may be about to change.

“No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.”
–Section 230, Communications Decency Act



Former CIA chief John Brennan: “Russia may have something on (Trump) personally. I think he’s afraid of the president of Russia.” [Source: NY Times]

Amazon looking to buy some abandoned Toys ‘R’ Us storefronts
Chicago Tribune

US auctions off oil rights on and near public land
… including Bears Ears, Hovenweep and Canyons of the Ancients monuments.

Unarmed woman shot in alley
Minneapolis cop turns himself in on murder charge
— The Minneapolis police officer who fatally shot an unarmed woman last July was charged Tuesday with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter eight months after the case sparked protests, international outrage and the firing of the city’s police chief.
— Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said Mohamed Noor, 32, acted “recklessly” when he fired the shot into the dark that killed 40-year-old Justine Ruszczyk Damond after she called 911 to report a suspected rape in her south Minneapolis neighborhood.
The finest in Russian propaganda …
Moscow squirms, says Brits either “can’t protect their own soil”
or staged the Skripal nerve gas attack themselves
“Russia owes nothing and can bear no responsibility for the actions or lack of actions on British soil,” says Putin’s stooge.
… Speaking of propaganda
Breitbart’s readership cut in half
“As a talk radio host, I haven’t used a Breitbart story in at least six months,” said conservative commentator Erick Erickson. “They have a lot of readers and lot of people reading by habit, even if not as many. But they seem less able to stimulate a conversation or move an agenda now.”

UW-Stevens Point students stage protest
over elimination of English, humanities majors
Stevens Point Journal
— Outcry from the campus community and surrounding areas continues after UW-Stevens Point unveiled a proposal in early March to eliminate 13 liberal arts degree majors, including English, history and political science. The cuts of 13 majors and the additions or expansions of 16 majors are part of university efforts to deal with a projected deficit of $4.5 million through two years because of declining enrollment and lower tuition revenues.

Oregon closes “boyfriend loophole” in gun law,
but gun advocates say it’s a pointless move
The Guardian
… what Oregon did was close a gap in the federal statute, by expanding the definition of domestic partner to “intimate partner”. Under the new state law, someone who is convicted of a domestic abuse misdemeanor – who only dated their victim, never lived with them, and never had children together – cannot buy or own a gun.

Ben Carson blames wife in extravagant furniture buy
Business Insider

Realnews suggests somewhat less expensive furniture, above, for the Carson office.

— Ben Carson, the secretary of housing and urban development, suggested Tuesday that his wife, Candy Carson, was to blame for the purchase of a $31,000 mahogany dining-room set for his office.
— During testimony before a House committee, Ben Carson said the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s dining-room furniture needed to be replaced for safety reasons.
–“People were being stuck by nails — a chair had collapsed with somebody sitting in it,” Carson told the committee

Spring 3.20

dog-pony-sepiacropped>>> Saudi Prince visits Trumpy White House
>>> Congress in race to avoid shutdown
>>> Hillary Clinton says … whatever
>>> All dog/airline stories

FTC probing Facebook over use of personal data
— Under a 2011 settlement, Facebook agreed to get user consent for certain changes to privacy settings as part of a settlement of federal charges that it deceived consumers and forced them to share more personal information than they intended. That complaint arose after the company changed some user settings without notifying its customers, according to an FTC statement at the time.

Facebook whistleblower: “Utterly horrifying” covert data mining
The Guardian

Here’s how to share as little data as possible
without leaving Facebook
— Facebook can’t be trusted with your data. If you can’t quite bring yourself to close down your account—maybe there’s a support group or family connections you’d like to keep active—then here’s how to restrict the amount of data Facebook has got on you.
>>> How to delete your Facebook account

Fed Ex package bound for Austin explodes
Austin Statesman
Headline link goes to newspaper’s homepage for latest updates.

Two injured, gunman dead in Maryland school shooting
Baltimore Sun
shooting in a hallway at Great Mills High School in Southern Maryland on Tuesday morning, according to the St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Office.
— A school resource officer shot the student gunman, who fired back with a handgun, Sheriff Tim Cameron said. The school resource officer was not injured, Cameron said.

Arizona governor helped make Arizona “Wild West”
for driverless cars
— Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey began a push three years ago to attract makers of self-driving cars to the state and actively wooed Uber away from California as a venue for testing those vehicles.

Phoenix! How long can an unsustainable city hang on?
The Guardian
— “There are plans for substantial further growth and there just isn’t the water to support that,” says climate researcher Jonathan Overpeck, who co-authored a 2017 report that linked declining flows in the Colorado river to climate change. “The Phoenix metro area is on the cusp of being dangerously overextended. It’s the urban bullseye for global warming in north America.”
— One of those plans is Bill Gates’s new “smart city”. The Microsoft founder recently invested $80m (£57m) in a development firm that aims to construct 80,000 new homes on undeveloped land west of Phoenix, and a new freeway all the way to Las Vegas.

f35moneyF-35. America’s most expensive failure
The National Interest
— The F-35 has now entered an unprecedented seventeenth year of continuing redesign, test deficiencies, fixes, schedule slippages, and cost overruns. And it’s still not at the finish line.
… taxpayers have been told this exorbitantly costly system is necessary to combat advanced future threats. However, testing results show that the planes already delivered cannot even effectively address the current threats. That’s a problem.

US, EU hardwood imports driving Amazon rainforest destruction
— Scores of US and European companies selling the hardwood ipe for things like decks and garden furniture are fueling an illegal trade devastating the Amazon rainforest, Greenpeace said Tuesday.
— An investigation listed 37 US companies as the main clients of Brazilian exporters selling wood “with evidences of illegality.”

Pruitt’s EPA to restrict use of scientific data  
The Daily Caller
— EPA regulators would only be allowed to consider scientific studies that make their data available for public scrutiny under Pruitt’s new policy. Also, EPA-funded studies would need to make all their data public.

World Bank sees climate change forcing many millions to move
A new World Bank report projects that tens to hundreds of millions of people fleeing the gradual effects of climate change will shift centers of population within many countries in Latin America, South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. As many as 143 million “internal migrants” might move within their own countries.

Hmm. The beginning of a “financial apartheid” state?
Lower income folks fleeing California
— California saw a net loss of just over 138,000 people, while Texas had a net increase of more than 79,000 people. Arizona gained more than 63,000 residents, and Nevada gained more than 38,000.
— Based on the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey data, “lower income Californians are the ones who are leaving, not higher income,” said Christopher Thornberg, founding partner of Beacon Economics in Los Angeles.

And the biggest migration loser among US states: Illinois
United Van Lines
“This year’s data reflects longer-term trends of movement to the western and southern states, especially to those where housing costs are relatively lower, climates are more temperate and job growth has been at or above the national average, among other factors,” said Michael Stoll, economist and professor in the Department of Public Policy at the University of California, Los Angeles. “We’re also seeing continued migration to the Pacific Northwest and Mountain West as young professionals and retirees leave California.
— Click headline link to see the map on United Van Lines site.

I guess we won’t always have Paris
Au revoir, jambon baguette!
France goes mad for le burger

hamburger-baguette— For the first time, hamburger sales in France have soared higher than the classic baguette jambon-beurre sandwich.
— Burgers were on the menu at 85 percent of restaurants in France last year with 1.5 billion sold.
— Just 30 percent of the burgers were sold in fast food joints, with the majority sold at restaurants with full table service.

Mon 3.19

Self-driving Uber car kills Arizona pedestrian
NY Times
— A woman in Tempe, Ariz., died after being hit by a self-driving car operated by Uber, in what appears to be the first known death of a pedestrian struck by an autonomous vehicle on public roads.
— The Uber vehicle was in autonomous mode with a human safety driver at the wheel when it struck the woman, who was crossing the street outside of a crosswalk, the Tempe police said in a statement. The episode occurred overnight, although the authorities did not specify whether it was late Sunday or early Monday. The woman was not publicly identified.
— An Uber spokeswoman said the company was “fully cooperating” with the local authorities. The company said it had suspended testing of its self-driving cars in Tempe, Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Toronto.
>>>>Leader of top self-driving lab: we need to pull back
“Companies need to take a deep breath. The technology is not there yet.”

Cambridge Analytica’s weapons: prostitutes, bribes, spies, to sway politicians
— Executives at Cambridge Analytica, a political data firm that worked on digital ads for President Donald Trump’s 2016 election campaign, were caught on camera suggesting that the firm could use sex workers, bribes, ex-spies and fake news to help candidates win votes around the world, a new investigation has revealed.
— Britain’s Channel 4 News carried out an undercover sting of the company and caught top executives suggesting the tactics.

“Send some girls around to the candidate’s house, we have lots of history of things,” CEO Alexander Nix said. “We could bring some Ukrainians in on holiday with us, you know what I’m saying.”

On the horizon…
The potential of “differential privacy” online
— Differential privacy makes it possible for tech companies to collect and share aggregate information about user habits, while maintaining the privacy of individual users.
— For example, say you wanted to show the most popular routes people take walking through a park. You track the routes of 100 people who regularly walk through the park, and whether they walk on the path or through the grass.
–But instead of sharing the specific people taking each route, you share the aggregate data collected over time. People viewing your results might know that 60 out of 100 people prefer to take a short-cut through the grass, but not which 60 people.

dog-pony-sepiacroppedTrump calls for death penalty for drug dealers. Yawn.
> Has Mexico paid for The Wall yet?
> Has Trump “hired the best people”? and if so why has he fired 76 of them?
> Has he Repealed Obamacare?
> Destroyed ISIS?
So, don’t count on seeing any drug dealers on Death Row.

Austin “trip-wire” bomb adds new dimension
as 4th blast injures two people

Austin Statesman
— Investigators are more certain Monday morning that the explosive device that detonated in Southwest Austin was activated by a trip wire made to blend in with surroundings, a law enforcement official told the American-Statesman.
— They are investigating whether the blast, which injured two men, was the result of a copy cat or the same person responsible for three previous explosions that killed two people and seriously wounded a 75-year-old woman. That determination likely won’t be made until officials can more closely review the kind of shrapnel that was used in the explosive device.
>>> Cops: Man held in SXSW threat ruled out as bomb suspect

Panicked criminals trying to cash out of bitcoin
Vice News
— These dark web vendors were among the early investors in bitcoin, and, arguably, the drivers of its initial value when no one else was interested. Now, those holding virtual millions are stuck in limbo.

Poll finds most Americans believe “deep state” runs US
Most also believe US spies on its own citizens
— The majority of the country believes a group of unelected government and military officials secretly manipulate national policy, according to a new Monmouth Pollreleased Monday.
— Of those polled, 27 percent says the unelected group — known as the deep state — definitely exists and another 47 percent probably exists. Sixteen percent says it probably does not exists and 5 percent says it definitely does not exists.

That helicopter was “out-of-network”
Boy falls, fractures skull. Family faces $32,000 bill for air ambulance
Albany (Missouri) Democrat Herald

Ben Millheim fully recovered after fracturing his skull. Here he’s on a trampoline at his home in early March.

— What the family didn’t know at the time of the accident was that the air ambulance was out of network. Now they are on the hook for more than $32,000.
— “Patients are exposed to enormous financial risks if they need an air ambulance transport,” said Erin C. Fuse Brown, a health law expert at Georgia State University. “There is no way to tell whether the ambulance is in-network, no requirement that insurers have air ambulances within their network, and no way to anticipate or avoid a devastating balance bill if the air ambulance turns out to be out of network.”

— The air ambulance company says: The majority of patients they transport have government-sponsored health plans such as Medicaid or Medicare, or are uninsured. … the company relies more heavily on private insurance to make up for what it doesn’t earn on Medicaid or Medicare patients.

NYT Headline:
Newly Emboldened, Trump Says What He Really Feels
Note to NYT: Perhaps you were absent on the first day of journalism 101, but nobody knows what another person “really feels.”

Handshake on Brexit sets target date: December, 2020
— The UK and EU have agreed on a “large part” of the agreement that will lead to the “orderly withdrawal” of the UK.
— Brexit negotiators Michel Barnier and David Davis said they had agreed terms for a transition period, calling the announcement a “decisive step”.
— But issues still to be resolved include the Northern Ireland border.
— The transitional period is set to last from 29 March, 2019 to December 2020, and is intended to smooth the path to a future permanent relationship.

How to defeat toxic algae in waterways: Hydrogen peroxide?
Eureka Alert
— Moves to adopt use of hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) as an effective treatment against toxic algae are already underway following the results of new research by a team from the John Innes Centre and the University of East Anglia (UEA.)
— Successful trials last summer showed that H2O2 was effective against the golden algae, Prymnesium parvum. This is responsible for millions of fish kills worldwide each year and a threat to the £550m economy of the Broads National Park where trials are taking place.
— Now follow up lab tests have demonstrated that controlled doses of the versatile chemical compound could be even more effective in dealing with cyanobacteria commonly known as blue green algae – a major public health hazard and potentially fatal to dogs and livestock.

NASA’s developing spacecraft that would give
“nuclear nudge” to dangerous asteroids
Space Daily
— Unlike popular portrayals of a nuclear deflection mission – like the movie “Armageddon” – the nuclear deflection approach would consist of detonating a nuclear explosive some distance from the asteroid. This would flood one side of the asteroid with X-rays, vaporizing a layer of the surface, which would create rocket-like propulsion as vaporized material is ejected from the object. Unlike a kinetic impactor, the amount of energy deposited into an asteroid with a nuclear device could be tuned by adjusting how far it is from the asteroid when detonated.

Mice change their appearance after exposure to humans
Eureka Alert
— “The mice gradually lost their fear and developed signs of domestication. This happened without any human selection, solely as a result of being exposed to us regularly,” says Anna Lindholm. The evolutionary biologist has been studying the mice that live in the empty barn for about 15 years. These animals are regularly provided with food and water, and investigated by the researchers.

Canadian company taking orders for first electric snowmobiles
— The young company behind the TS2, Taiga Motors, said it has built six machines as prototypes for testing and demoing, and is planning to get 20 production candidates out to beta-testing partners next winter. It opened pre-ordering up earlier this month with the aim of delivering most of the orders in time for winter of 2019–2020. The company has already collected a few hundred preorders, according to Bruneau, with hopes to get to 1,000 by the end of the summer. The retail price is $15,000—about the cost of a high-end gasoline snowmobile.

Google makes bid for piece of  online purchases
… teaming up with retailers including Target Corp, Walmart Inc, Home Depot Inc, Costco Wholesale Corp and Ulta Beauty Inc.
— Under a new program, retailers can list their products on Google Search, as well as on the Google Express shopping service, and Google Assistant on mobile phones and voice devices.
— In exchange for Google listings and linking to retailer loyalty programs, the retailers pay Google a piece of each purchase, which is different from payments that retailers make to place ads on Google platforms.
— Google’s pitch to retailers is a better chance to influence shoppers’ purchasing decisions, a move that is likely to help them compete with Amazon. Google hopes the program helps retailers capture more purchases on desktop, cell phones and smart home devices with voice search – the next frontier for e-commerce.


St. Pat’s weekend 3.17 & 3.18


Voters who choose Putin exit through palmy door at the right. Those who choose his opponents go through door at left, never to be seen again.

Don’t believe the fake outrage from the UK
— they sold out to Russian oligarchs long ago
The Guardian
— Boris Johnson, then mayor of London, welcomed them in their language: Dobro pozhalovat!
— And they stayed, establishing property price records year after year, being chauffeured in customised Mercedes-Maybachs, shopping in Harrods and dining in restaurants where only they could afford to eat. They have been around for almost 20 years, a super-rich colony in the heart of the capital. Many maintain ties with Russia and most remain “non-doms” – a dazzling loophole in the British tax system.
The annual Russian Debutante Ball at the Grosvenor House hotel in London.
Photograph: Alamy

N.Carolina cops demand sweeping
Google/cellphone info in crime probes

— In at least four investigations last year – cases of murder, sexual battery and arson – Raleigh police used search warrants to demand Google accounts not of specific suspects, but from any mobile devices that veered too close to the scene of a crime, according to a WRAL News review of court records. These warrants often prevent the technology giant for months from disclosing information about the searches not just to potential suspects, but to any users swept up in the search.

 Court upholds warrantless search of cell phones
Courthouse News Service
ATLANTA – A divided 11th Circuit on Thursday upheld the conviction of a Florida man stemming from a warrantless search of his cellphone, holding that such searches do not violate the Fourth Amendment.
— The appellant in the case, Hernando Javier Vergara, was returning home to Tampa, Florida following a cruise to Cozumel, Mexico, when he was subjected to a search of luggage by a Customs and Border Protection officer.
— “The Supreme Court has consistently held that border searches are not subject to the probable cause and warrant requirements of the Fourth Amendment,” said US Circuit Judge William Pryor.

California sheriff deputies accused
of ripping off woman with dementia,
sending her to the Philippines,
and listing her house for sale

Raw Story
“a frail military wife who loved to play cards and was fluent in several languages but seemed lost and afraid since her husband died more than a year ago.” 

Massachusetts to probe Cambridge Analytica’s
theft of Facebook data

— It was used to help Trump win election.
— “We exploited Facebook to harvest millions of people’s profiles. And built models to exploit what we knew about them and target their inner demons. That was the basis that the entire company was built on.”

Trump lawyer: Shut Mueller probe
The Hill
Typical of this sloppy and inept administration, John Dowd first said he was speaking for the president. But he’s a Trumper, which means he speaks first and thinks later. So now, oh, he wasn’t actually speaking for Trump, but merely spouting his opinion. 
— Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) tweeted Saturday in response to the statement from Trump’s lawyer calling to shut down the probe that “every member of Congress, Republican and Democrat, needs to speak up in defense of the Special Counsel. Now.”

Plunging Bitcoin nears its “Death Cross” 
One strategist studied the virtual currency’s 2013 tumble for clues on how it may act this time round. His conclusion? Gear up for a 76 percent tumble from late February highs, which would take Bitcoin to a paltry $2,800, if the downtrend is repeated. Bitcoin fell 2.2 percent to $8,120 at 11:17 a.m. in London.

Feds open probe of NRA-Russia
— The preliminary investigation focuses on issues similar to those raised recently by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore), the ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, as part of his investigation into possible collusion between the NRA, the Trump campaign and Russia.
— Wyden is particularly interested in whether Russian-backed entities helped the Trump campaign by funneling contributions to the gun-rights group that “inappropriately and illegally influenced our election,” according to a Feb. 2 letter Wyden sent to the NRA.

Sessions under pressure to launch
special probe of FBI, Hillary etc. ad nauseum

The Hill
— The crux of the allegations leveled by conservatives is that Justice Department and FBI personnel made decisions during the 2016 election that were improperly influenced by bias against then-candidate Trump — in both the investigation into Clinton’s email server and the Russia probe.
— Critics say the allegations of bias and abuse are a transparent effort to undermine special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Trump campaign and Russia.
>>> McCabe: My firing is part of effort to undermine Mueller probe
The Hill

“Gone Girl” kidnapping
California city to pay couple $2.5 million
after cops accused them of kidnap hoax

San Francisco Chronicle
huskinsA couple accused by Vallejo police of fabricating a kidnapping — even though the woman was in fact abducted in the dead of night, held for ransom and sexually assaulted — have announced a $2.5 million settlement with the city.
See how the TV media and the cops conflated this case with a popular movie, and twisted the story until it seemed the kidnapping was a hoax. 
On YouTube

Jets fan, feeling suckered by $8000 seat license, sues team
Courthouse News Service
After he paid a ridiculous amount of money for the “privilege” of watching the Jets lose, he’s pissed that the team will sell similar seats to any old rube.

Dude who once won millions in lottery reduced to robbing banks
LA Daily News
hayes— A man who once won millions of dollars in the California Lottery pleaded guilty Thursday in downtown Los Angeles to four counts of bank robbery.
— James Allen Hayes faces up to 80 years behind bars, with sentencing set for June 7.
— Hayes was working as a security guard supervisor on the graveyard shift in January 1998 when he learned he had won the SuperLotto jackpot — a one-in-18 million chance. According to media reports, his ex-wife got half of the money and Hayes ended up with a $6 million lump sum and a $1,000-a-week heroin habit.
— When tracked down and arrested by the FBI in October, Hayes was living in a garage.

How the National Institutes of Health and booze execs
ginned up a study to say that alcohol’s OK
NY Times
happy-hour-20160205-13— Documents and interviews show that the NIH waged a vigorous campaign to court the alcohol industry, paying for scientists to travel to meetings with executives, where they gave talks strongly suggesting that the study’s results would endorse moderate drinking as healthy.
— Dr. Kenneth J. Mukamal, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and now the lead investigator of the study, and Dr. John Krystal, a Yale University neuroscientist, argued that a long-term randomized controlled trial could dispel lingering doubts about the benefits of moderate daily drinking.
— The presentations gave the alcohol industry an opportunity to preview the trial design and vet the investigators. Indeed, the scientist leading the meetings was eventually chosen to head the huge clinical trial.
— They also made the industry privy to pertinent details, including a list of clinical sites and investigators who were “already on board,” the size and length of the trial, approximate number of participants, and the fact that they could choose any beverage. By design, no form of alcohol — wine, liquor or beer — would be called out as better than another in the trial.
— Dr. Michael Siegel, a professor of community health sciences at Boston University School of Public Health who was shown slides from the scientists’ presentation by The Times, said the study “is not public health research — it’s marketing.”

In the future, a distillery, brewery or winery on every corner?
— Over the past seven years, the breweries, wineries and distilleries sector has been adding jobs at an 11.1 percent annual rate, compared with 1.7 percent for nonfarm payroll employment as whole. The contrast with the other half of the beverage manufacturing industry, soft drinks, is quite something …

It’s time to make these fat, lazy US airlines earn their money
Opinion by Glenn Harlan Reynolds
USA Today
Why not allow SwissAir, Lufthansa etc to compete on US routes?
“If American consumers wish to enjoy improved service quality in air travel, they should demand that Congress repeal 90 years of anti-competitive federal law. Less regulation of air travel, not more, is the solution.”

When teachers’ salaries are adjusted for cost of living…
— Michigan, Massachusetts, Ohio, Pennsylvania, NJ are top five.
— Bottom five: Utah, Arizona, South Dakota, Maine, and finally, Hawaii.
(However, that’s the cost-of-living figure for the whole state. In some of states, the cost of living in urban areas is significantly higher, so…)

Study finds self-employed most satisfied with their jobs
The Independent
— “They have the freedom to innovate, express their own views, have influence beyond their own role and compete with other companies and people.
— “They really get to use their own expertise, so don’t seem to mind working long hours. They can find meeting high standards really fulfilling.”

blmFederal land managers get new ID cards, featuring oil rigs
Vice News
— The Bureau of Land Management gave out new identification cards for all its employees to wear out in the field — complete with illustrations of oil rigs and cowboys. Under the heading “our vision,” the card also outlines the agency’s current vision: “to enhance the quality of life for all citizens through the balanced stewardship of America’s public lands and resources.”


Fri 3.16

Trump plans to punish China
with sweeping tariffs, investment restrictions

NY Times
— Mr. Trump and his top trade advisers are readying a raft of actions to penalize China’s theft of American intellectual property, including tariffs on at least $30 billion of annual Chinese imports, people familiar with the discussions said.
— The measures, which could be announced as early as next week, may also include investment restrictions, caps on visas for Chinese researchers and challenges to China’s trade practices at the World Trade Organization. Those familiar with the planning cautioned that the timing could be delayed, and that such measures are likely to be introduced in stages.

Russia could have switched off US power grid?
NY Times
— The Trump administration accused Russia on Thursday of engineering a series of cyberattacks that targeted American and European nuclear power plants and water and electric systems, and could have sabotaged or shut power plants off at will.
— United States officials and private security firms saw the attacks as a signal by Moscow that it could disrupt the West’s critical facilities in the event of a conflict.
— They said the strikes accelerated in late 2015, at the same time the Russian interference in the American election was underway. The attackers had compromised some operators in North America and Europe by spring 2017.
>>> skip the paywall and read it on Vice News

World Cup boycott to punish Russia?
Express UK

After $131 per-year raise, Arizona teacher posts salary on Facebook
Scallywag & Vagabond
(It’s pathetic when an amateur web site posts a better story than the professional media, but there we have it.)
milch— Elisabeth Milich, a second grade teacher at Whispering Winds Academy in Phoenix took to Facebook to vent her frustration after completing 60 hours of professional development work, which only scored her an additional $131.25 pay rise. Her annual teacher’s salary is $35, 491.
— ‘I buy every roll of tape I use, every paper clip I use, every sharpie I grade with, every snack I feed kids who don’t have them, every decorated bulletin board, the list could go on. I love teaching! BUT…the reality is without my husband’s income I could NEVER be an educator in this state!’

Oh, joy! More airport security!
Face-scanning devices coming to a long line near you
scan— At the Orlando International Airport, Britain-bound passengers — some wearing Mickey Mouse T-shirts and other Disney paraphernalia — lined up at Gate 80 recently for the evening British Airways flight to London’s Gatwick Airport. It looks like any other airport departure area, except for the two small gates with what look like small boxes on posts next to them. Those boxes are actually cameras.
— They were installed earlier this month by SITA, the Geneva-based company that develops information technology for the world’s airlines, in conjunction with British Airways and U.S. Customs and Border Protection, or CBP.

Some in GOP receptive to Trump’s plan to execute drug dealers
The Weekly Standard
Trump cheerleader Chris Collins was quick to offer his support for the proposal. “Absolutely,” said Collins. “I think we need to have real consequences.” And California Republican Darrell Issa, a member of the House Judiciary Committee, told me that using capital punishment for drug-related crimes could be a “useful tool” for law enforcement in fighting organized crime.

Why in the name of God did Wells Fargo
give their new CEO a 35% pay raise?
Vanity Fair
— Included on the company’s long list of bad behavior is a sham accounts scandal, plus: an incident wherein hundreds of thousands of customers were charged for car insurance they didn’t want or need; the overcharging of customers in the bank’s foreign-exchange business; a $108 million settlement over allegations it charged military vets hidden fees; and claimed improprieties in its wealth-management unit that are now being investigated by the Department of Justice.

Remember Doug Jones, Democratic hero who defeated
child stalker Roy Moore in Alabama?
He’s now sided with Repubs on the bank rollback
The Intercept

Some in GOP pushing for internet sales tax
Wall Street Journal
The Journal opposes this, writing: Big retailers like Amazon and Walmart have the resources to comply with disparate tax rules across thousands of jurisdictions. Small businesses don’t.

Plattsburg, NY restricts bitcoin mining
to keep techies from hogging cheap electricity
— Mining is the extremely energy-intensive computational process that secures the Bitcoin blockchain and rewards miners with bitcoins. The Bitcoin moratorium was proposed by Plattsburgh Mayor Colin Read earlier this month after local residents began reporting wildly inflated electricity bills in January. The moratorium affects only new commercial Bitcoin operations and will not affect companies that are already mining in the city.
— “I’ve been hearing a lot of complaints that electric bills have gone up by $100 or $200,” Read said. “You can understand why people are upset.”

US Senate candidate proposes arming the homeless — with shotguns

The Guardian
armhomeless— A Michigan candidate for US Senate has proposed arming homeless people with pump-action shotguns in an effort to reduce crime.
— Brian Ellison, who is running against Democratic incumbent Debbie Stabenow, says homeless people are “constantly victims of violent crime” and providing them with firearms would provide a deterrent.
— Ellison, a Libertarian who is expected to be the party’s candidate in the November midterm election, said he had settled on pump-action shotguns for practicality purposes.
— (T-shirt can be yours for $21.99. Order now, before they’re all gone!)

US troops who repelled Russian mercenaries prepare for more attacks
NBC News
The GIs are in Syria defending a refinery captured from ISIS. Everybody’s downplaying the fact that this pits GIs vs. Russian mercenaries.

For companies behind bridge collapse, this wasn’t the first time
Miami New Times
— Two of the biggest firms that built the Florida International University pedestrian bridge that collapsed today have recently been accused of unsafe practices. In one of those cases, another bridge project toppled onto workers.
— Update: The bridge collapse has now killed six people; the contractor behind the bridge is also a major political donor in Dade County.

Microsoft claims its machine can translate Chinese-to-English
as well as any human can
Microsoft announced that its labs have developed an AI machine translation system that can translate from Chinese to English with the same accuracy as can a human. The researchers are at Asia and U.S. labs of Microsoft.

Bullshit alert
No, Scott Kelly’s DNA did not change in space
Mark and Scott Kelly are still identical twins; Scott’s DNA did not fundamentally change. What researchers did observe are changes in gene expression, which is how your body reacts to your environment. This likely is within the range for humans under stress, such as mountain climbing or SCUBA diving.

Vancouver-Seattle-Portland high speed rail plan gets a look
The Province
On the heels of the Washington state legislature voting to move forward on further study of high-speed rail in the region, the B.C. government has announced Premier John Horgan will be joined in Downtown Vancouver on Friday by Washington Gov. Jay Inslee to make an announcement regarding ultra-high-speed corridor service connecting Vancouver with Seattle and Portland.

America’s coldest places are warming fast
NY Times
— Winters in the United States have gotten warmer in the past 30 years, and some of the coldest parts of the country have warmed up the most.
— In Minnesota, winters between 1989 and 2018 were an average of 3 degrees Fahrenheit warmer, compared to a 20th century baseline, according to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration analyzed by The New York Times. Florida’s winters were 1.4 degrees warmer, on average, during that time.
— The most significant temperature increases can be seen in the Northern Great Plains, a region stretching from Montana to Michigan.