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Posted by Amelia Urry

When Hurricane Irma scraped its way up the Florida peninsula, it left the state’s electrical grid in pieces. Between 7 million and 10 million people lost power during the storm — as much as half of the state — and some vulnerable residents lost their lives in the sweltering days that followed. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of electrical workers from around the country rushed to the Sunshine State to repair damaged substations, utility poles, and transmission lines.

But in Palm Coast, on Florida’s eastern seaboard, midway between Daytona and St. Augustine, Jim Walden never lost power. As he and his wife listened to debris clattering off their roof, 24 solar panels and 10 kilowatts of battery storage kept their lights on and their refrigerator cool. Over the ensuing days, as electric utilities struggled to return power to Florida’s storm-wracked communities, the only thing Walden and his wife missed was their air conditioner (which would have drained their batteries too quickly).

“It worked flawlessly,” Walden says of his solar-plus-storage system. “We had plenty of power for the fans to keep us cool and the lights when you walk into the bathroom at night. The wife would even run her hairdryer off of it.”

Walden’s setup — which draws power from the sun during the day and dispenses it at night, with or without the help of the grid — is an illustration of how we might reimagine our electrical system to be more modular, resilient, and renewable-powered. We’ve already been struggling with the question of how to build (or rebuild) our grids to better accommodate solar- and wind-generated energy. But this month’s run of record-making Atlantic hurricanes has made finding an answer — one that will help us better weather the storms of the coming century — even more urgent.

Questions about reliability have dogged renewable energy from the beginning. Simply put, when the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing, you’re not getting any energy from those sources. Our grid, by contrast, is set up to provide constant, unwavering power around the clock. We’re only just starting to address the challenge of reconciling these two basic facts in one functional system. (Hint: The solution involves batteries). But according to a Department of Energy report, wind and solar power have not made the U.S. power grid less reliable, even as the amount of renewable energy loaded onto it has shot up.

But the grid is getting less reliable overall. Thanks to perpetual delays in updating old infrastructure, the United States sees more power outages per year than any other developed country — costing an annual $150 billion in lost productivity.

And it’s likely to get worse before it gets better. Even as Florida’s lights turn back on, the Atlantic keeps serving up hurricanes like Maria, which left all of Puerto Rico in darkness that could last as long as six months. Overall, the average number of annual weather-related power outages doubled from 2003 to 2012, a Climate Central report found.

One basic improvement the United States could make to its power grid is moving power lines from above-ground utility poles to protected underground conduits. This is how Germany rebuilt its grid after World War II. The country now suffers through fewer than 12 minutes of blackout per customer per year, compared to the 244 minutes that plague Americans.

But moving America’s 300,000 miles of transmission lines underground would be an epic investment of time and labor — just the sort of massive infrastructure project we’ve been putting off.

Florida utilities did invest in some storm-hardening of their power infrastructure in the past decade, replacing wooden poles with concrete ones and placing them closer together as a response to hurricane damage in 2004 and 2005. The state’s largest investor-owned utility, Florida Power & Light, spent $3 billion on improvements over the last decade, including an $800-million smart-grid project completed in 2013 with backing from the Department of Energy. The initiative involved deploying more than 4.5 million smart meters, sensors, and flood monitors, all networked together to give the utility real-time information on how power is moving around the grid.

Those moves helped lessen the damage Irma caused, according to Florida Power & Light CEO Eric Silagy. During the hurricane, several power substations were able to shut down when flooding monitors indicated equipment was at risk, saving the utility several days of work and possibly millions in equipment repair.

Still, Silagy’s company had to deploy around 20,000 workers in camps across the state to patch power plants and transmission lines in the days after the storm. And a utility spokesperson told ABC News that parts of the electrical grid on Florida’s west coast will require a “wholesale rebuild.”

“This is going to be a very, very lengthy restoration, arguably the longest and most complex in U.S. history,” VP of Communication Rob Gould said.

Clearly, Florida — and the rest of the country — still needs to do much more. And according to Jim Walden, it’s going to require a change in attitude for many Americans.

“It’s amazing to me that we live in the Sunshine State, and it’s hard to get people interested in solar power whatsoever,” he explains.

Walden himself got interested because he wanted to save money on his electric bill. Later, with the help of a $7,500 federal tax incentive, he installed his own battery storage to become more self-sufficient, especially during power outages.

The solutions to our collective energy troubles, however, will also need to be collective. One way that could look is scaling up from individual battery-powered homes to networked storage hubs that could act as regional power sources, flexibly responding to the changing demands of the grid.

As one urban resilience expert, Thaddeus Miller, told ProPublica, increasing the defenses of our cities and systems will require deeper changes than any we’ve embraced so far. “Fundamentally, we must abandon the idea that there is a specific standard to which we can control nature,” he said.

That means, for instance, changing the way we think about resilient infrastructure. Rather than working to prevent flooding at all times with high-investment levees and reservoirs, we could work to build facilities that are better at weathering flooding without being totally compromised. These “safe-to-fail” approaches would leave less of a mess after a storm blows through.

Because storms are going to blow through places like Florida, and they’re likely going to get stronger.

“We lose electricity quite often here, believe it or not — there are thunderstorms that can come up and knock power out,” Walden says. “Just to have electricity during those times is a great comfort.”

This story was originally published by Grist with the headline Hurricanes keep bringing blackouts. Clean energy could keep the lights on. on Sep 22, 2017.

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Posted by Kate Yoder

This week, workers at the federal agency attended a one-hour training course on how to prevent leaks to the press.

In response, they disclosed memos and slideshows from the course to multiple outlets, including The Hill, Reuters, and the Associated Press. Politico received a leaked memo about the class before it even took place.

The training was part of a wider White House crackdown on leaks across federal agencies. Though most EPA staff don’t handle classified files, agency officials wanted to prevent workers from sharing what they called “controlled unclassified information,” citing national security concerns.

Numerous leaks have come out of the EPA this year, beginning with the Trump team’s plan for the agency back in January. Since then, the media has obtained government reports on climate science, Trump’s proposed budget cuts for the agency, and more.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions warned last month that anyone who leaked sensitive government information would be investigated and potentially prosecuted.

And yet, here we are. “It’s ironic that we have an anti-leaking story that is rooted from a leaked memo,” EPA spokesperson Jahan Wilcox told the Hill.

This story was originally published by Grist with the headline EPA employees eagerly leak documents from their mandatory anti-leaking class. on Sep 22, 2017.

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Posted by Cheryl Eddy

In the new It movie, Pennywise the Dancing Clown is a terrifying, sewer-dwelling killer who turns your worst fears against you. He is also, as his name suggests, capable of absolutely ripping up the dance floor no matter what song is playing, as a hilarious new Twitter account demonstrates.


Ternate Island in

Sep. 22nd, 2017 04:00 pm
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Maitara Island and Tidore Island seen from Ternate.

In an 1848 letter to a friend, English naturalist and biologist Alfred Russel Wallace wrote that he’d spotted an insect whose colorings were almost imperceptible against the muddy ground it was on. He was perplexed by the markings, but, he wrote, “I have lately worked out a theory which accounts for them naturally.”

The theory Wallace was mulling over was the theory of evolution by natural selection, which the almost-forgotten scientist identified at the same time as Charles Darwin, though it was Darwin who would go on to get most of the credit for the scientific discovery, achieving lasting fame while Wallace fell into obscurity.

While working in separate hemispheres, Darwin and Wallace were both full of curiosity, and committed to exploring these ideas. Wallace spent nearly a decade exploring the wildlife across a remote chain of islands east of Sumatra, what was at the time the Dutch East Indies, and studying the impact of a geographical boundary on the natural world. He collected tens of thousands of natural specimens that would lead to the formulation of his theory.

It was during this island-hopping expedition that Wallace rented a house in Ternate, a small, lush volcanic island in eastern Indonesia, to serve as a home base. Here is where he wrote many of his scientific papers and correspondences. It was from Ternate that he sent a letter on March 9, 1858 to Darwin along with a detailed paper describing his theory. 

Darwin had come to the same conclusion on his own years earlier, and was emboldened by Wallace's realization. They jointly published a paper arguing their groundbreaking and then-controversial theory that year. Darwin published The Origin of Species a year later, which became a sensation and would propel him to fame.

While both men were brilliant, Darwin had one major advantage: He had backing from the scientific community and the money to do his work, which meant that Wallace's work was largely unknown. Wallace collected specimens to prove his theories, and his trips to collect and learn more were funded by selling those specimens to museums throughout the world. When his funding ran out, Wallace would take a steamship back with as many specimens and sell them to fund his next expedition, all the while working on his theories.

During his travels, Wallace would take advantage of any time he spent in a city to send his findings back to Darwin, other scientists, and scientific journals. This collection of papers would later form his seminal work, The Malay Archipelago, a bio-geographical book outlining Wallace's finds and travels on the islands. Today, these islands are either Malaysia or Indonesian sovereignties, but as one researcher noted, in Wallace's time these would have been "a great Milky Way of land masses and seas and straits, little explored by Europeans, sparsely populated by peoples of diverse cultures, and harboring countless species of unknown plant and animal in dense tropical forests." In other words, a researcher's dream.

Wallace cataloged plants and animals ("It is remarkable that an animal so large, so peculiar and of such a high type of form as the orang-utan (sic) should be confined to such a limited district"), and tasted local foods (Wallace on durian fruit: "a rich butter-like custard highly flavored with almonds generally gives the best idea of it, but intermingled with it comes wafts of flavor that call to mind cream-cheese, onion sauce, brown-sherry, and other incongruities"). He wrote in flowery prose about catching butterflies ("My heart began to beat violently, the blood rushed to my head, and I felt much more like fainting than I have done when in apprehension of immediate death.”), and he tracked the months and miles and species that eventually led him to his most notable achievement.

The tiny island of Ternate may have been lost to obscurity as well if not for a resurgence of interest in the scientist. Today, tours of the island are even offered to allow visitors to follow in Wallace's footsteps. One of the local birds inhabiting the island is named Semioptera wallacii after the biologist who made it known to the scientific community in the west. Some 100,000 specimens collected during Wallace's exploration of the islands were donated to British museums. 

Unfortunately, there is no plaque honoring Wallace on Ternate, and, according to Wallace historian Dr. George Beccaloni, it is likely that the house where Wallace lived and worked is no longer there. However, the beauty of the island—which Wallace wrote as having "grand views on every side," and "lofty volcanic peaks" with huge mountains rising behind them covered in "perpetually faint wreaths of smoke ... calm and beautiful" is itself worth seeing. You can still walk along the same paths that the forgotten explorer did, and imagine the wonders he saw and the mysteries he wanted to unlock, ultimately forming a theory that would change the people thought about the natural world.

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Street lights on display.

Taking a trip to the Department of Public Works may not sound exciting, but for lovers of noir, history, and architecture, visiting the hidden Street Light Museum run by the Los Angeles Bureau of Street Lighting is an illuminating experience.

After being guided along corridors and through cubicle offices, you’ll reach a small room showcasing just a minute sample of specimens. There, you'll see the highlights from the city’s over 400 different styles of street lights. The tiny museum, which was dedicated in 2015, almost seems like a fantasy showroom for billionaires looking to decorate their new mansions.

All beautiful in different ways, these varying street lights have kept the streets of LA safe for over a century, ever since the first gas lamps were installed in 1882. For those peering over the velvet ropes that separate visitors from the collection, it comes as a bit of a surprise to see just how ornate many of the earlier designs were. The more extravagant lights feature details like dragons, fruit, stars, and Art Deco accents.

After visiting the museum, be sure to look up while walking throughout the city. Some of the ornate, historical lights are still in use, hidden between the more mundane ones. There are well over 200,000 street lights across the city, and downtown is a particular treasure trove.

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Posted by Katharine Trendacosta

We’re inundated with comic book movies and TV shows these days. But for a decade now, we’ve been in the age of the “practical” hero look. And that was fine in the beginning, when everyone was worried about getting regular people to take this genre seriously. But we are far past that point now, and there are some…



Sep. 22nd, 2017 07:16 pm
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Posted by Victor Mair

In recent weeks, President Trump has delivered a number of fiery speeches and incendiary tweets about what will happen to North Korea if Kim Jong-un launches nuclear missiles over Japan and toward Guam and the United States.

Naturally, the feisty dictator replied with some choice words of his own:

"North Korean leader responds to Trump: ‘I will surely and definitely tame the mentally deranged U.S. dotard with fire'", bThe Washington Post (9/21/17).

The Washington Post seems to have changed the title of the article, so I can no longer provide a direct link, but there are plentiful records of it on the internet.  In any event, countless other media outlets quoted the same odd word, "dotard".

Having been an English major in college, way back when, I was unflummoxed by "dotard", but it did send many readers scurrying for their dictionaries, where they would find something like this:

ˈdōdərd/<input ... >
          an old person, especially one who has become weak or senile.

That's not how I pronounce it.  For me, it is \dō′tərd\.

"Dotard" is related to the word for the mental condition referred to as "dotage" ("feebleness of mind associated with aging").

Many useful accounts of the history and meaning of "dotard" popped up on the internet this morning (e.g., here, here, and here).

James Griffiths has an article,"What is a 'Dotard'?" on CNN (9/22/17) in which he rightfully points out:

Kim, of course, did not say the word — he was speaking in Korean. "Dotard" was the official English translation provided by state news agency KCNA for the Korean "늙다리미치광이" ("neulg-dali-michigwang-i"), which literally translates as "old lunatic."

On the other hand, in "'Dotard' rockets from obscurity to light up Trump-Kim exchange, spark partisan war of words", Los Angeles Times (9/22/17), Mark Z. Barabak writes:

The Korean equivalent of dotard is “neukdari,” which is a derogatory term for an old person.

One possible explanation for Kim’s use of the antiquated insult came from Joan H. Lee*, who covered North Korea for the Associated Press. She said on Twitter that she had visited the offices of the government’s propaganda arm, the North Korean state news service, and “found the agency using very old Korean-English dictionaries for their translations.”

*[VHM:  I think that Barabak is referring to Jean H. Lee.]

There's been some confusion about just which Korean expression Kim applied to Trump.  The full epithet he employed was "neulg-dali-michigwang-i 늙다리 미치광이" (neulg-dali –> derogatory term for old/withered man/dotard; michigwang-i –> lunatic").  Google Translate renders that as "an old man lunatic".  Colloquially, one could translate the entire expression as "crazy old fool".

For a detailed discussion of the Korean expression, see this tweetstorm from Noon in Korea.

Prediction:  President Trump, whether directly or indirectly, will be the source of more new ("bigly", "covfefe") and resuscitated ("dotard") words than anyone since Shakespeare, though they are unlikely to last as long.

[Thanks to Ben Zimmer, Haewon Cho, and Jichang Lulu]

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Posted by David A. Graham

The start of the school year can be tough for anyone, even if you’re the 56-year-old former director of the FBI. While James Comey has found himself at the center of the country’s major political controversy this year, on Friday he was the object of protest for reasons that had nothing to do with Russia, Michael Flynn, or Donald Trump.

On Friday, Comey addressed Howard University’s convocation, the ceremony starting the year and welcoming the new freshman class. As a prominent public figure who’s teaching at Howard this year as the Gwendolyn S. and Colbert I. King Endowed Chair in Public Policy, Comey could look like a natural pick.

Or maybe not. When Comey came to the lectern at Cramton Auditorium in D.C. on Friday, he was met by cheers, jeers, and singing. For several minutes, as the enormously tall Comey stood quietly and awkwardly, a group of students protested his appearance. They sang civil-rights songs—“We Shall Not Be Moved”—and chants: “I love being black.” Other demonstrators gathered outside. Comey eventually got started, speaking through more disruptions.

However much Comey made sense as a convocation speaker, it makes sense that he’d face protests too. Even setting aside Comey’s specific background, Howard is a particularly engaged campus even among historically black colleges. Any former FBI director might have encountered a tough reception, but several of Comey’s statements during his tenure made him a particularly likely target for protests. The student group #HUResist has been criticizing Comey’s appointment for weeks, and it claimed credit for organizing Friday’s protests.

The FBI has long had a rocky relationship with African American communities, from spying on civil-rights activists and using its COINTELPRO operation to target the Black Panther Party on to the present day, with accusations of bias against both black civilians and black employees of the bureau. In a letter on Wednesday about Comey’s speech, Howard President Wayne A.I. Frederick tried to defuse some of those worries.

“When at the FBI, Mr. Comey made implicit bias an issue that the entire bureau had to understand. He made it mandatory for all agents and analysts to attend trainings, visit Martin Luther King’s monument, and study the FBI’s interaction with him,” Frederick wrote. (Notably, the bureau tried to push King to kill himself.) “He led this effort as a result of the FBI’s history of undermining Black-led organizations and leaders.”

#HUResist was having none of that. In a series of tweets, the group picked apart the letter, pointing to, among other things, FBI surveillance of Black Lives Matter activists during his directorship. Then the group disrupted the speech.

Over the past year, Comey has proven to be a political Rorschach test. When he announced he would not recommend charges against Hillary Clinton, he earned criticism from Republicans and praise from Democrats; his late October letter reopening the investigation won over Republicans and infuriated Democrats. When he fired Comey in May, President Trump reportedly believed Democrats would back the move, but suddenly they found reasons to respect Comey.

Comey’s record on race is similarly subject to interpretation. Comey may have been the most outspoken FBI director on race issues in the bureau’s history. Speaking to another campus crowd on the other side of Washington in February 2015, Comey said, “Little compares to the experience on our soil of black Americans. That experience should be part of every American’s consciousness, and law enforcement’s role in that experience—including in recent times—must be remembered. It is our cultural inheritance.” Speaking at Georgetown, he also focused on implicit bias in policing.

These were unusual sentiments for any FBI director to make, but other parts of Comey’s speech did not endear him to activists. “Let me be transparent about my affection for cops,” Comey said. “Racial bias isn’t epidemic in law enforcement any more than it is epidemic in academia or the arts. In fact, I believe law enforcement overwhelmingly attracts people who want to do good for a living.” And he argued that while police could do more to deal with racial bias, the impact of policing was limited.

Another speech, in October of that same year, raised more hackles. In that address, he lent credence to the idea of a “Ferguson effect”—the hypothesis that police officers, nervous about being filmed on cell phones after several high-profile shootings of black people by cops, were taking a hands-off approach, and consequently crime was rising. The problem was that despite various anecdotes, there was no evidence to support any nationwide crime wave, much less to connect that causally to intimidated officers.

“The question that has been asked of me, is whether these kinds of things are changing police behavior all over the country,” Comey said during a speech at the University of Chicago Law School. “And the answer is, I don’t know. I don’t know whether this explains it entirely, but I do have a strong sense that some part of the explanation is a chill wind blowing through American law enforcement over the last year. And that wind is surely changing behavior.”

The speech reportedly took other administration officials by surprise and upset them. A month later, Attorney General Loretta Lynch said there was no evidence for a Ferguson Effect.

In the same Chicago speech, Comey lamented mass incarceration of people of color but suggested it might have helped drive down the crime rate. “The pulling of those many weeds, as painful as that was, allowed churches, schools, community groups, and parents to plant seeds that have grown into healthy neighborhoods,” he said. “Neighborhoods that are free and alive in 2014 in ways that were unimaginable 25 years ago.” Most criminologists see no hard evidence that mass incarceration played more than a minor role in the the dramatic drop in crime rates.

Comey, then, might have been the most progressive FBI director on racial issues, but many of his views, and the bureau’s history, virtually guaranteed outcry.

Earlier this year, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos was heavily booed when she spoke at graduation and received an honorary doctorate from Florida’s Bethune-Cookman University, another HBCU. In that case, as with Comey, students were highly critical of the school’s president for inviting DeVos. (Conflict between HBCU students and administrators over treatment of speakers is nothing new.)

But Comey can take heart: He didn’t have the worst trip to Howard by a Republican in recent history. In 2013, Senator Rand Paul went to speak at the school and, underestimating the historical knowledge of his audience, asked whether they knew that Republicans had founded the NAACP. He also forgot the name of the first popularly elected black senator—Republican Ed Brooke of Massachusetts—and had to be educated by the crowd.

In a statement, #HUresist said, “James Comey represents an institution diametrically opposed to the interests of Black people domestically and abroad. While his tenure at the FBI is finished, his impact on our community remains.”

Some members of the audience were more favorable. At the end of the speech, Comey received a standing ovation. Comey, who is donating his $100,000 salary to a scholarship fund for students from foster homes, is scheduled to give several more lectures at Howard throughout the year.

During his speech, he told protestors that while he was happy to listen to them, he hoped they’d listen to him. But he also pointedly remarked that he’d chosen to come to Howard over several other offers. “I love the enthusiasm of young folks, but I wish they understood what a conversation is,” he added. That’s unlikely to win over his campus detractors, but there’s always the next speech. #HUresist is certain to be there, too.

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Posted by Rosie Gray

At first, conservative agitator Milo Yiannopoulos’s Free Speech Week in Berkeley, California, seemed like it might be a major event. Four straight days of provocative events on campus featuring right-wing luminaries, culminating with appearances by conservative writer Ann Coulter and former Trump White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, and all in the heart of one of the most symbolically resonant places Yiannopoulos could have chosen: the campus of University of California, Berkeley, a campus with a longstanding image as a hotbed of left-wing activism where protests shut down an event of his last year.

But things didn’t go according to plan.

Speakers whose names appeared on initial schedules have either pulled out or said they were never planning to go; the campus publication Yiannopoulos is working with, The Berkeley Patriot, never reserved indoor school venues and appeared to pull out Friday afternoon; and Yiannopoulos announced on his Instagram a planned march through campus on Sunday in protest of Berkeley’s supposed clamp-down on free speech. “It’s time to reclaim free speech at UC Berkeley and send shockwaves through the American education system to every other college under liberal tyranny,” Yiannopoulos wrote in his post.  The event would have been an important step in reviving Yiannopoulos’s wounded image on the right after a clip of him appearing to defend pedophilia caused him to be barred from CPAC and lose his job as a Breitbart editor in February.  Earlier this week, Yiannopoulos told me in a text message that “We will fight until the last man is ejected from the last step on Sproul Plaza.”

Some version of that may turn out to be true, but as of right now the original plans for Free Speech Week have fallen apart.

Some critics have suspected Yiannopoulos of never intending to hold the event in the first place, though Mike Cernovich, the right-wing activist and Twitter personality who was scheduled to speak on September 27, said he doesn’t believe this is the case.

“I believe Milo sincerely wanted Free Speech Week to happen because he approached me months ago to be involved,” Cernovich said. “I had a family visit planned, and he expressed some disappointment. This wouldn’t have made sense if he hadn't expected the week to go as planned. Thus I don’t buy into the theory that he never wanted Free Speech Week to happen.”

But Gateway Pundit’s Lucian Wintrich, who announced in a blog post earlier this week that he was pulling out of the event due to uncertainty about its future, accused Yiannopoulos on Thursday night of “unethical behavior” in a Periscope video. Wintrich said that Yiannopoulos and his company knew the event wouldn’t go forward as planned.

“Internally they knew it wasn’t happening [as of] Wednesday,” Wintrich said. “I saw no reason to string people along pretending that something was going to happen that wasn’t going to happen.” (“This would be the first I’d heard of it, if true,” Yianopoulos said in a text message. “We have gone through dozens of different iterations of proposals. For getting through the next few weeks. So I don’t know if someone shared a DISCUSSION. But the current plan is not that, and it isn’t true we’re cancelling or knew we’d be cancelling on Weds—I wouldn’t be flying people in today if that were the case.”)

Some of the names on the list had never been confirmed.

Coulter told me on Wednesday that she had not received a contract from her speakers bureau, “I’m sure because of the obstacles Berkeley is throwing out.”

Bannon is also not going. He is attending a conservative forum in St. Louis on Sunday and is going, according to a source familiar with his plans, to Alabama for the Republican Senate primary there. Bannon is backing hard-right conservative judge Roy Moore in this race against Trump-endorsed Senator Luther Strange in the contest to fill Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s old seat.

Blackwater founder Erik Prince, who had also been on a schedule, told me he had never planned to go to Berkeley.

“A typo,” he said in a text message. “I’m in Africa and was never planning to attend.”

One person who had been scheduled to appear who spoke on condition of anonymity said that the speakers had been confused and kept in the dark.

“People didn’t know how to get tickets, their travel wasn’t being booked, they heard Coulter pulled out and Bannon was never confirmed, and they kept getting the run around,” this person said. Vanity Fair reported that Yiannopoulos’s company had told speakers it would only give them 48 hours’ notice of their travel bookings, which the company presented as a way to prevent “sabotage,” but which could also be construed as a way to avoid booking people’s travel for an event that was not likely to happen.

Yiannopoulos said that waiting until 48 hours beforehand was “perfectly reasonable. We’ve already spent $100k. CEO is spending what he has to, when he has to. There’s nothing remarkable about that.”

“It was tough to wait,” said Lisa de Pasquale, a conservative commentator and former CPAC organizer who is slated to appear. But De Pasquale said she is still planning to go to Berkeley and as far as she knows will still speak on Sunday. She’s planning to fly back that night. So is Mike Cernovich, according to a person familiar with his plans; Cernovich had been scheduled to speak on the 27th.

De Pasquale has worked in the past for a speakers bureau, and said “I’m probably a little more forgiving than the average person on the outside because I know what’s going on as far as the moving parts of the campus and the students.”

“I’m hoping it still goes on,” she said. “I’m certainly planning to give my speech.”

Yiannopoulos announced on his Instagram on Thursday that he would give more information about Free Speech Week in an “eve of battle” press conference on Saturday. According to a source who had been scheduled to speak at Free Speech Week, Yiannopoulos is expected to announce that he has been told he can only hold outdoor events at Berkeley, and nothing indoors. According to another source with inside knowledge of Yiannopoulos’s plans, he will also claim that the school won’t let The Berkeley Patriot host the event for political reasons, though Yiannopoulos disputed this, saying “I know that Berkeley has asked for a police investigation. I doubt they have *instructed* Patriots that the event can’t go ahead. Would be very stupid—clear 1st Amd violation. Doesn’t sound likely.”) Berkeley spokesman Dan Mogulof said there is no investigation and the charge is “utter nonsense.”

“We have spent an incredible amount of time and energy trying to facilitate, even support their efforts,” Mogulof said.

“We’re announcing the final line up at the press conference tomorrow,” Yiannopoulos said in a text message. Asked which of the speakers will still attend, he said, “I don’t want to do this piecemeal any more. It’s too chaotic. Meeting the team when I land and calling everyone personally to confirm so I can announce with confidence tomorrow.”

“Too many people involved and too many moving parts,” he said. “Press conference only.”

Yiannopoulos has blamed Berkeley for running a PR campaign to cast doubt about the event, and said “Berkeley has sown so much FUD,” using an acronym for “fear, uncertainty, and doubt” that  “it’s hard to keep up.”

Berkeley has said that the organizers missed deadlines to book buildings on campus, a charge that Yiannopoulos and The Berkeley Patriot have countered; the Patriot’s news editor Pranav Jandhyala accused the school of “bureaucratic stonewalling” in a press release.  

Mogulof said that the school had offered the Patriot free indoor venues but that they had requested larger venues for which they would have to pay, and then missed three deadlines to reserve them. Mogulof said that organizers had reserved one of the free indoor venues, Anna Head Hall, but then canceled the reservation on Wednesday (“Not to my knowledge,” Yiannopoulos said.). He said that campus police is continuing to plan as though the event was going forward and that security costs for the event as planned could have mounted to a million dollars. University of California president Janet Napolitano had said earlier this week that the UC system would help cover security costs.  

“It’s a cost that the university is bearing to protect the speakers but also to protect the value of free speech,” Napolitano said.“But the rock and the hard place that the campus is in, is the value of free speech versus the need to protect the safety and the security of the students and the faculty.”

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Posted by The Voice

Vince said that it was no wonder the Brexiteers were terrified of giving the people a say on the deal:

Both the Conservatives and Labour have now essentially converged on the same position, which is to kick the can down the road and simply delay the economic pain caused by an extreme Brexit.

Neither are prepared to fight to keep Britain in the single market and customs union or to offer people a chance to exit from Brexit

Voters were promised £350m a week for the NHS, instead Theresa May is admitting the UK will have to pay a hefty Brexit bill worth billions of pounds.

No wonder the Brexiteers are terrified of giving the British people the final say through a referendum on the facts.

Willie Rennie said the “delinquent’ May was trashing our relationship with Europe.

Theresa May is kicking the can down the road. Sixteen months on from the Brexit referendum this delinquent Prime Minister is trashing our relationship with Europe.

She seems incapable of deciding what kind of relationship she wants with Europe and that prolonged uncertainty is causing economic damage.

We were promised Brexit would be an easy negotiation and that £350 million each week would be invested in the NHS. Neither are true.

This makes the compelling case for a Brexit deal referendum even stronger.

Yesterday, the Lib Dems laid out seven tests for Theresa May’s speech. Tom Brake said that only one of them was even slightly met. 

Theresa May’s speech in Florence was a failure. She ruled out staying in the single market, she failed to ring fence the rights of EU nationals, she has failed to take ‘no deal’ off the table.

Theresa May, six months since Article 50, has once again failed to give answers.

There was so much waffle in this speech she should have made it in Belgium.

The seven tests were:

  1. Clamp down on dissent within the Cabinet

❌ No evidence she has clamped down on dissent, Boris Johnson is still in the Cabinet.

  1. Seek to remain in the Single Market and Customs Union

❌ Confirmed we will not be in them long-term (although will be for the transition period).

  1. Try to secure the greatest possible degree of Freedom of Movement

❌ Confirmed Freedom of Movement will be scrapped long-term (although will be preserved during transition period).

  1. Ring-fence the negotiation on EU citizens’ rights

❌ Didn’t do this.

  1. Indicate how much the UK is willing to contribute to settle liabilities and participate in EU projects

✔️ May accepted there were liabilities and UK will be willing to contribute.

  1. Rule out the so-called ‘No Deal’ option which would have devastating consequences for UK Plc

❌ Didn’t do this.

  1. Announce you will legislate for a ‘Vote on the Facts’ (a referendum on the deal) before the UK leaves the EU

❌ Didn’t do this.



Gwennap Pit in Redruth, England

Sep. 22nd, 2017 03:00 pm
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Gwennap Pit

This striking turf-covered amphitheater started as a simple conical depression in the ground, caused by the collapse of a mine shaft hundreds of years ago. Due to the pit's excellent acoustics, it was a favorite preaching spot of John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist Church.

Wesley is said to have preached there 17 times between 1762 and 1789. Much later, to commemorate the religious leader, locals in the village turned this convenient natural amphitheater into a magnificent outdoor venue, adding terraces and preserving the natural acoustics.

Although named after the village of Gwennap, near Redruth, Cornwall, this beautiful amphitheater is actually nearly 2 miles to the of northwest of Gwennap, in Busveal, a small hamlet near St Day. 

Since 2001, the Gwennap pit has been owned by the Methodist Church and it is used as a place of worship on summer Sunday afternoons.  It is the site of an annual Methodist rally which was  first held on Whit Monday in 1807 and has taken place almost annually ever since (they missed two years in the 1820s).

The site is also used for music and drama events, charity walks, and as one of the most memorable weddings venues in the country. Because of its origins as a collapsed mine shaft, the pit is an important site in mining history as well as religious history. In 2006, it became part of the Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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Posted by James Whitbrook

We now know the premise of this year’s gigantic, two-night CW crossover between The Flash, Arrow, Supergirl, and Legends of Tomorrow, and it’s a doozy—and a take on the classic comic book storyline of heroes fighting evil, alternate versions of themselves. But there’s a lot more to it than Evil Supergirl’s awesome…


Tolerating golliwog toys

Sep. 22nd, 2017 07:42 pm
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[personal profile] mtbc
Via [personal profile] andrewducker I found a recent YouGov poll revealing that a majority of the British public does not consider it unacceptable or racist to sell or display a golliwog doll. Liberal Democrats tend to be among the minority but they are used to that. Regarding golliwogs I am in the majority so I felt obliged to reflect on this. For me it is not just about if things are in fun because I would have a problem with, for example, somebody using a Ku Klux Klan costume for fancy dress at Hallowe'en. So, why the difference in my instincts?

I suppose that I regard golliwogs as being of a more ambiguous character and I do not wish racist people success in defining things according to their favored interpretation. The significance of a KKK costume is unambiguous but many have used golliwog toys without ill meaning. My feeling is usually that it is worth the risk of reminding people of bad things if it allows other interpretations to prevail through still being used, or at least not to die into obsolescence without a fight.

This is why I have been irritated by the acceptance of words like oriental as being offensive. That a once fine word has been used offensively does not require that as a community we should accept that it now entails intent to demean. Offensive meanings gain power and occupy increasingly many symbols if innocent uses are denied currency.

Naturally I am open to being persuaded that I am wrong to want to preserve an innocent view of golliwogs but I suspect that whatever insulting baggage they bring is rather more a symptom than a cause of the societal issues that need fixing.
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[personal profile] redsixwing
Cut for pic. )

Bonus Muffin shows off her harness from the cat stand:

Pale cat in red harness

Blessings on the Autumn Equinox

Sep. 22nd, 2017 12:08 pm
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Sep. 22nd, 2017 08:01 pm
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Originally posted by [profile] xkcd_rss at Thread
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Posted by Nathanael Johnson

Avocado prices are shooting through the stratosphere. They’re so expensive that a real-estate mogul in Australia has blamed city-dwellers’ struggles with high housing costs on the millennial love affair with avocado toast. Avocados are about as trendy as a fruit can get (witness the avocado bar in Brooklyn).

Demand is high (the average American now eats seven pounds of avocados a year) and supply is low. A trend toward drier climate in growing regions, and Trumpian trade wars could make avocados still more precious. But there’s hope in form of basic economics.

Agricultural economist Marc Bellemare points out that when prices skyrocket farmers plant more avocado trees. It takes three years after planting for trees to produce fruit. During this lag time, prices keep climbing, and other farmers will decide to get in on the game. When the new orchards start pumping out avocados, prices could slump.

So help is on the way. In a few years, you still won’t be able to afford rent in a trendy part of town, but maybe your avocado smoothie will be cheaper.

This story was originally published by Grist with the headline Here’s how the avocado-toast bubble will burst. on Sep 22, 2017.

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Posted by Eve Andrews

Adrian Grenier is not coming to lunch.

This is the gist of the text that I receive from the former Entourage star and current activist’s publicist, approximately 45 minutes before said lunch date. I have carefully prepared a list of questions about plastic straws and his feelings about them, because that is why I am ostensibly having lunch with the actor and activist. To talk about the straws.

Grenier’s ocean advocacy organization, Lonely Whale Foundation, has organized a Strawless Ocean campaign. The landmark event of this campaign is “Strawless in Seattle,” in which roughly a hundred Seattle institutions agreed to forego plastic straws, using paper straws instead, for the month of September. The straw-free month teases an impending city-wide plastic utensil ban of July 2018, a development of significant fanfare.

The campaign — and its associated hashtag “#stopsucking” — spreads the good word about plastic straws, which is that they’re bad. They slip through most municipal recycling mechanisms to end up back in the waste-stream, and are eventually scattered into the ocean.

I was awakened to the straw gospel earlier this year, when we published a video proposing that civic engagement ought to be the focal tool of environmentalism, instead of traditional actions like tree-planting and recycling. The video used plastic straws as a prop, and commenters were enraged. How could we use such a symbol of waste to signify sustainability?

And then, suddenly, the straws were everywhere: Vehement straw detractors strewn across my Instagram feed; anti-straw propaganda in my bible, the Shedd Aquarium newsletter; and now, a much-publicized ban in my city. Straws! On the vast scale of environmental problems, in the face of devastating hurricanes and a pro-polluter administration, what could be more inconsequential?

But I have encouraged readers to find their unique causes, their points of entry into environmental action. I owed it to them to find out how the anti-straw movement has made its way into so many hearts.

While Grenier couldn’t make lunch at a pier-side Seattle restaurant — which helpfully advertised its straw-free status on every table — his team at the Lonely Whale Foundation could. Per the publicist, I’d meet Grenier at the “VIP Strawless Event” later, but for now, I was early to lunch. As was Aardvark Straws’ David Rhodes, and we immediately started talking about straws.

Aardvark, which originally launched as a paper straw company in 1888, went the way of plastic in the 1930s. Bendy straws, Rhodes explained almost apologetically, became all the rage, and the company pivoted. Aardvark debuted a paper straw again in 2007, but there wasn’t much demand for it at the time.

Then, in 2015, a turtle video changed everything. An ocean researcher at Texas A&M named Christine Figgener uploaded a painful video to YouTube that featured a sea turtle with a drinking straw bloodily lodged in its nasal cavity. The video went viral, with the attendant guilt-harvesting headlines: “You’ll Feel Awkward Just Watching This Turtle Get A Straw Pulled From Its Nose,” “This heartbreaking video shows scientists removing a plastic straw from a sea turtle’s nose,” and “Sea Turtle Has a Worm Stuck Up Its Nose — No, That’s a Straw.”

That, Rhodes says, was the “taking-off moment” for the anti-plastic straw movement. This is confirmed by Google Trends, which shows an unprecedented spike in plastic straw interest on August 10, 2015, the day the turtle video was posted to YouTube.

The three women of the Lonely Whale Foundation arrive at lunch. Over a plate of mediocre calamari, we discuss why the foundation, the goal of which is to connect people with the ocean, has taken up the straw mantle.

“I think the marine litter issue is so insanely bad that if we don’t stay focused on this, we’ll regret it,” says Lonely Whale Executive Director Dune Ives. “And you can see the plastic every day in your life, so it’s really actionable.”

Ives’ point is obvious. Straws are omnipresent, and you don’t really need them for most beverages, making each synthetic pipette essentially a tiny tribute to human laziness. This makes the moral calculation basic: You see a straw, recognize its uselessness, and become aware of its cumulative, detrimental impact on the world.

The straightforward, “I never realized how bad this was!” element of the straw argument makes it a simple, effortless message to spread. Social media then becomes a crucial part of the Strawless Ocean strategy. The #StopSucking Challenge involves Adrian Grenier issuing video-recorded challenges to abandon straws to many different famous people across Twitter, Instagram, and other social media platforms.

By raising anti-straw awareness with a wide audience — via social media influencers — Lonely Whale Foundation wants to make straws obsolete from consumers on up. You can’t convince businesses or governments to eliminate straws, after all, if they don’t have faith that people will be on board.

Lonely Whale found a happy trinity of all three — straw-curious business, government, and citizens — in Seattle, the West Coast’s most left-leaning puddle. The organization signed on big organizations like the Seahawks’ and Mariners’ stadiums for the campaign.

At the same time, by pure coincidence, the City of Seattle made plans to ban straws — and all single-use plastic utensils — on a municipal level. I called the Seattle Public Utilities Media Pager (a real thing) to illuminate a somewhat confusing timeline: In 2008, the city council first passed the ban as an ordinance, but then put it on hold given the lack of affordable and feasible alternatives to disposable plastics.

In March of this year, SPU reviewed the plastic-alternatives market, found it suitable, and decided to make the ban effective in July of 2018. Lonely Whale’s descent on Seattle for its campaign was simply good timing, but the city is capitalizing on it.

“We’re the government — we’re not good at this kind of thing,” says SPU’s Becca Fong over the phone, referring to the social media-savvy PR element of city policy change. “What’s nice about this campaign is it just makes people aware. They’re setting the expectation of no plastic straws.”

So much of environmental action is simply about habit-changing — change your transportation, change your diet, change your house. Foregoing a straw is an almost offensively simple lifestyle change, and yet formalizing that seems to require the collaboration of a municipal utility, a business community, and a significant chunk of the social media universe. I don’t know whether to be impressed or very tired.

It is finally time — I am going to find out how Adrian Grenier feels about the straws.

We’re sitting at a table together at the Seattle Aquarium several minutes before the launch of the Strawless in Seattle launch party, a “VIP event” that I have woefully failed to dress for. We are serenaded by bossa nova on the sound system and dwarfed by an enormous wall of live fish — a towering sheet of glass with hundreds of salmon shimmering across it.

Grenier, 41, is unnervingly gifted at maintaining eye contact, which I’d imagine is a well-practiced skill for someone who’s professionally good-looking. A 2005 Observer article that thoughtfully questioned whether “blue-eyed men are having a moment” quoted Grenier’s mother: “Sometimes they look green, sometimes they look gray, sometimes they look blue-blue. He was blessed.” Reader: It’s true.

As Poseidon intended, we begin to discuss the cause at hand.

“You know, if you look at evolution, from the early days — I’m talking billions of years ago, when we were just little amoebae — if you could imagine the daunting task of evolving to become human beings, you would never even start!” Grenier says. “You’d be like, fuck it, I’m just gonna be an amoeba for the rest of my life. For the rest of eternity.”

This is Grenier’s take on the straws: If you feel like an amoeba, on the environmental action scale, this is one way to advance to the next level.

“I imagine a lot of your readers enjoy the ocean, and have surfed,” Grenier posits. His take on environmental awareness-based activism, he explains, is that it’s a lot like surfing. “You wanna be fluid and flexible so you move with the wave. You’re too stiff, the wave will win. But if you’re too loose, you’ll just fall off. So you really have to find that personal balance.”

Grenier himself has struggled to find that balance, vacillating between periods of “extreme neurotic obsession and righteousness” and being “totally checked out,” unable to handle the immensity of issues like ocean health and climate change. But Strawless in Seattle, he says, is “a very tempered, accessible campaign. There’s a lot of plastic out there. We could have an extreme message and extreme position, but we’re just asking people to do one thing. One thing, simply.”

Perhaps Grenier is sensing and appealing to my skepticism: resistance to the notion that one thing can make a big impact. Recently, he says, he’s been feeling more militant, and perhaps a little wary of the mass accessibility of most ocean conservation causes. I ask what Grenier would be working on, ocean-issues-wise, if he had his way. He thinks for a minute: Illegal fishing.

“There’s no political will, there’s no money to finance those kinds of protections. So that makes me feel like a vigilante, like I want to go do something myself,” Grenier says. “But if you just have a bunch of rogue factions fighting each other, that’s not helpful.”

We don’t always get to fight for the causes nearest to the heart, or the ones that seem the most pressing. Sometimes, affecting change is simply a matter of asking for what you think people will give you — and hoping that they might eventually be willing to give a little more.

An hour later I am drinking white wine next to the Aquarium’s sea otter tank. The attendees have all gathered around the tank to gleefully watch the four creatures pawing at the clams tossed onto their silken bellies. I am pressed to the glass, decidedly not chill about the cuteness, but neither is anyone else, so it’s fine.

I am suddenly aware that Grenier is standing inches behind me, and a momentary shock of nerves gives way to the realization that he is holding an iPhone over my head, recording an otter video.

Just beyond the tank, it’s possible to catch a glimpse of the descending sun. It’s an apocalyptic ruby-red and the sky is covered in gray haze, due to the likely climate change-worsened wildfires that are covering the state of Washington. The haze, which has descended on and off the city all summer, has made everything seem a little bit overwhelming, a little bit more urgent, the world more on fire than usual.

But it would be also really sad, I realize, if that otter were gnawing on a straw.

This story was originally published by Grist with the headline Adrian Grenier, viral turtles, and Seattle’s big ban: Welcome to the wild world of plastic straws on Sep 22, 2017.

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Posted by Ryan F. Mandelbaum on Gizmodo, shared by Rob Bricken to io9

Even if you don’t know much physics, you probably know one of its core tenets: an object at rest stays at rest, and an object in motion stays in motion. In fact, in a vacuum where there’s literally nothing to slow things down, things don’t prefer being at rest or in motion. This plays out in real life all the…


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Posted by James Whitbrook

It feels like we’ve spent the past few months looking at the same footage from the very first trailer for The Gifted, recut and regurgitated repeatedly since May. But now we finally have a fresh look at the series in the form of a newly released gallery of pictures from episode two, “rX.”


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Posted by Russell Berman

Updated on September 22 at 3:28 p.m. ET

For the second time this year, Senator John McCain appears to have preserved the signature domestic achievement of the man who once kept him from the presidency.

The Arizona Republican on Friday announced that he could not “in good conscience” support the latest GOP proposal to substantially repeal the Affordable Care Act, all but certainly dooming the effort. McCain became the third Senate Republican to oppose the legislation offered by Senators Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, which was headed for a floor vote next week. Republicans could only afford to lose two of their 52 members and have Vice President Mike Pence cast a tie-breaking vote to pass the bill.

Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky has been denouncing the proposal as “Obamacare lite” and “fake repeal” for a week, drawing the ire of President Trump and other supporters of the bill. Senator Susan Collins of Maine has voted against each of the GOP repeal plans, and she strongly suggested she would oppose this one. Republicans were up against a September 30 deadline for using a budget process that would circumvent a Democratic filibuster and allow them to pass health-care legislation with only 51 votes.

McCain torpedoed the last GOP bill in July, returning to the Senate after being diagnosed with brain cancer only to cast a surprising and dramatic 50th vote against a limited-repeal of Obamacare offered by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. But until Friday afternoon, he was officially undecided on the Graham-Cassidy proposal, apparently torn between his disgust for the party’s rushed, partisan legislative process and his famously close friendship with Graham, its most vocal salesman.

“I would consider supporting legislation similar to that offered by my friends Senators Graham and Cassidy were it the product of extensive hearings, debate, and amendment,” McCain said in a lengthy written statement. “But that has not been the case. Instead, the specter of September 30th budget reconciliation deadline has hung over this entire process.”

He continued:

We should not be content to pass health-care legislation on a party-line basis, as Democrats did when they rammed Obamacare through Congress in 2009. If we do so, our success could be as short-lived as theirs when the political winds shift, as they regularly do. The issue is too important, and too many lives are at risk, for us to leave the American people guessing from one election to the next whether and how they will acquire health insurance. A bill of this impact requires a bipartisan approach.

I cannot in good conscience vote for the Graham-Cassidy proposal. I believe we could do better working together, Republicans and Democrats, and have not yet really tried. Nor could I support it without knowing how much it will cost, how it will effect insurance premiums, and how many people will be helped or hurt by it. Without a full CBO score, which won’t be available by the end of the month, we won’t have reliable answers to any of those questions.

McCain acknowledged that his friendship with Graham put him in a difficult spot. “I take no pleasure in announcing my opposition. Far from it,” he said. “The bill’s authors are my dear friends, and I think the world of them. I know they are acting consistently with their beliefs and sense of what is best for the country. So am I.”

The Graham-Cassidy bill had gained momentum rapidly after its authors introduced it last week, as Republican leaders seized on one final chance to keep the repeal-and-replace promise they had been making to conservative voters for seven years. The legislation was in some ways more modest than previous Obamacare repeal proposals, as it kept most of the tax increases Democrats used to pay for the 2010 law and converted the revenue into block grants for the states. But it went further in other respects by allowing states broad latitude to opt out of the laws core consumer protections, such as requiring insurers to cover “essential health benefits” and forbidding them from charging higher rates to people with preexisting conditions.

Most Republican senators backed the bill’s “federalist” approach even as they acknowledged they did not have time to fully scrutinize its potential effects. The Congressional Budget Office said it would not be able to fully evaluate the proposal for weeks, but with the September 30 deadline looming, McConnell announced his intention to bring the bill up for a vote anyway.

Democrats kicked their opposition campaign back into overdrive, aided by the late-night broadsides Jimmy Kimmel delivered against Cassidy, the first-term Louisianan who had earlier promised not to back legislation that would roll back protections for people with preexisting conditions. Their targets were McCain and Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who had opposed the legislation in July but remained undecided on Graham-Cassidy.

Hoping to pressure Republican senators, McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan leaned on Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee to pull out of bipartisan negotiations on a narrower Obamacare fix that he was holding as chairman of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee. But that move appears to have backfired: In his statement, McCain urged Alexander to continue seeking a bipartisan solution with Senator Patty Murray of Washington state, the top Democrat on the committee.

Democrats reacted to McCain’s announcement with the same mix of relief and praise as they did after his surprising thumbs-down in July. The word “hero” lit up Twitter timelines, as Obamacare supporters likened McCain’s decision to his years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam.

On Capitol Hill, Democrats quickly called for a return to bipartisan negotiations to shore up the law’s shaky individual-market insurance exchanges. “John McCain shows the same courage in Congress that he showed when he was a naval aviator,” said the Senate minority leader, Charles Schumer. “I have assured Senator McCain that as soon as repeal is off the table, we Democrats are intent on resuming the bipartisan process.”

But it was unclear what Republicans intended to do. There was no immediate word from McConnell on whether he would still bring up Graham-Cassidy for a vote next week that now is likely to fail. Meanwhile, Graham issued a statement saying that while he disagreed with McCain’s position, “My friendship with [McCain] is not based on how he votes but respect for how he’s lived his life and the person he is.” As for his bill, Graham said, “We press on.” But he did not lay out a path forward, either for the legislation he offered or for the GOP’s broader goal of repealing Obamacare—both of which appear, again, to be out of reach.

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Many extreme events—from a rogue wave that rises up from calm waters, to an instability inside a gas turbine, to the sudden extinction of a previously hardy wildlife species—seem to occur without warning. It's often impossible to predict when such bursts of instability will strike, particularly in systems with a complex and ever-changing mix of players and pieces.

Café Jack in Los Angeles, California

Sep. 22nd, 2017 02:00 pm
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Cafe Jack.

If the famous ocean liner Titanic had been wrecked in Los Angeles’s Koreatown rather than sunk to the depths of the Atlantic, and the passengers and crew had decided to add ramshackle extensions and decorate it with charming kitsch, this is what you would end up with.

Jack Shin, the cafe’s owner, happily admits to seeing James Cameron’s iconic weepy hundreds of times. Shin was so impressed by the blockbuster movie’s leading male character he even changed his name to Jack.

He searched diligently for boating materials, fixtures, and fittings that were just like he had seen on the big screen. Shin managed to procure a captain’s wheel, engine order telegraph, piano, photo stills, and posters before building this homage with his bare hands and opening the doors in 2007. Café Jack has a maze of private rooms, karaoke rooms, patios, snugs, and communal tables. The décor, despite its maritime theme, is very heavy on hearts, twinkling lights, and colorful fake plants. Despite its late opening hours and odd Titanic-themed, Asian Fusion menu of sushi, noodles, and pasta, people still make a point to stop by.

Café Jack doesn’t serve alcohol. However, a different type of spirit comes from Shin himself, who gives discrete tarot card readings in his booth. He might be able to warn you about a watery ending, but it’s probably more about your melting shaved ice or cooling green tea.

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Posted by Beth Elderkin

Even though directors are in charge of creating movies, selling those movies to people is usually none of their business. Sometimes that can have consequences, like how the “Bohemian Rhapsody” trailer for Suicide Squad reportedly led to a rewrite of the movie’s tone and structure. In other cases, it can actual spoil…


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Posted by Caroline Kitchener

On Friday, the Department of Education officially revoked the Obama administration’s guidance on college sexual assault, offering interim guidelines on how universities should handle the issue. Democratic Senator Patty Murray said in a statement the decision could send sexual assault survivors “back into the shadows.”

When DeVos gestured at these upcoming plans in a speech earlier this month, many Democrats made similar statements. All 56 Democratic members of Congress who tweeted about the speech criticized it. Democratic Senators Bob Casey and Kristen Gillibrand called DeVos’ decision “an insult to survivors of sexual assault” and “[a betrayal of] our students, plain and simple,” respectively.

Since her confirmation hearing, DeVos and her staff have largely been depicted as perpetrator-sympathizers with no concern for sexual-assault victims who, in part thanks to Obama’s policy changes, now feel empowered to speak out. (This criticism has, at times, been understandable.) But there is  serious disconnect between the harsh reaction to DeVos and the substance of what she said—one that underscores the deeply partisan nature of policy-building around college sexual assault.

As Emily Yoffe recently wrote for The Atlantic, DeVos would be “sensible” to change many of Obama’s policies on college sexual assault. “If [DeVos’s] statements were made by a different official in a different Administration,” Jeannie Suk Gersen wrote for The New Yorker, “they would seem rational, uncontroversial, and even banal.”

Reactions to the interim guidelines issued on Friday have been mixed. Victims advocates have argued they favor the rights of the accused by, for example, making it easier for such students to appeal a decision, while others have described the interim rules as sensible and necessary. Ultimately, though, they are only temporary—the Education Department will adopt binding regulations after it consults with the public—and they allow universities to maintain many of their existing policies. For instance, the department allows campuses to continue using the controversial adjudication standards put in place by the Obama administration. It also asserts that any agreements Obama-era Education Department reached with universities it had found in violation of Title IX would remain in place.

While colleges have historically neglected student sexual-assault victims by failing to adequately punish perpetrators, many believe the Obama administration may have gone too far with its reforms. In 2011, Obama’s Education Department issued what’s become known as the “Dear Colleague” letter, advising universities to, among other things, apply a “preponderance of the evidence” standard when adjudicating these cases. In other words, to find a student guilty, the university has to determine that it’s “more likely than not” that an assault has taken place (before the Dear Colleague letter, most universities required “clear and convincing” evidence, a much higher bar to meet). Six years later, approximately 170 accused students have filed lawsuits, accusing their universities of unfair treatment.

Since Obama implemented these new policies, college sexual assault has become a hyper-partisan issue, with Democrats indiscriminately defending the rights of victims—often ignoring the reliability of evidence—and Republicans indiscriminately defending the rights of the accused—at times questioning the existence of the epidemic of sexual violence on college campuses.

The politicization of sexual assault on campus is surprising, even in a hyper-partisan environment. For one, there’s evidence of a dramatic shift in how Democrats think about students’ rights. Ever since the 1950s and ‘60s, when the fiercely liberal Warren Court—an era of the Supreme Court during which Justice Earl Warren presided as Chief Justice—dramatically expanded the rights of the accused in landmark decisions like Miranda v. Arizona and Gideon v. Wainwright, defendants’ rights have been associated with progressive activism.

Yet that’s flipped in recent years, with Democrats overwhelmingly focused on the victims of sexual assault and Republicans overwhelmingly focused on the victimization of those accused of it. There have been a few bipartisan efforts to come to a consensus on how to handle campus sexual assault—most notably a 2014 letter from 28 Harvard Law School professors urging the university to revise Obama-inspired procedures around sexual assault—but policy recommendations remain largely divided along party lines.

This divide is most evident in state legislation. Red states like North Dakota and North Carolina have passed legislation to protect the rights of the accused, requiring that all students have lawyers in disciplinary hearings. The Blue states of California, Connecticut, Illinois, and New York, on the other hand, have all passed “yes means yes” legislation, which strongly favors victims’ rights. These latter laws mandate that, in order for sex to be consensual on college campuses, both parties need to explicitly provide consent.

As a national issue, debates over how to handle college sexual assault has always been at least mildly partisan. As Katharine Baker, a professor at the Chicago-Kent School of Law who focuses on sexual violence, pointed out, women’s advocacy groups and the Democratic Party have long had a “decent” coalition. “Women’s advocacy groups are generally concerned with protecting rape victims, so we see Democrats interested in protecting them, too,” she said in an interview.

On the right, Baker notes, many social conservatives see college sexual assault as an unfortunate repercussion of increased sexual freedom. “If a woman gets herself into that position, they think it’s her responsibility to get herself out of it.” And by extension, according to Baker, that makes them less likely to endorse policies that favor alleged victims over those who’ve been accused. Republicans are more likely to believe these college cases should be handled exclusively by the criminal-justice system—a stance victims’-rights activists adamantly oppose, as only a tiny fraction of sexual assaults reported to the police are ever taken on by a prosecutor.

When it was introduced, Title IX, the federal law prohibiting sex-based discrimination at any education institution that receives government funding, applied primarily to gender discrimination in athletics. It wasn’t until 1994 when the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) introduced the idea that the law also applied to college sexual assault, effectively giving it the authority to investigate how universities respond to it. Soon after that, in part because of pressure from feminist activists frustrated by police inaction on the issue, it announced that Title IX required universities to adjudicate sexual-assault cases. But for years, that guidance didn’t actually change much on campuses; the Education Department only got involved in a few cases, and no political campaign, including President Obama’s in 2008, included the issue in its platform.

“This was still an era in which student crime victims were culturally conditioned to report to the police, not to a campus bureaucrat (if they reported at all),” said KC Johnson, author of The Campus Rape Frenzy, which argues that the Obama-era policies led to unwarranted panic around the issue of college sexual assault. “There were also few accusers' rights organizations pushing the issue at the time, so there was very little public or media awareness.”

It wasn’t until 2011—after Obama issued the Dear Colleague letter and formed a White House task force to protect students from sexual assault—that college sexual assault became prominent in the national political conversation.Many politicians initially assumed that reforming policies as they pertained to college sexual assault would become a bipartisan issue (“Republican and Democrat parents all want their kids to be safe in college,” Congresswoman Speier said in an interview). But as accused students began complaining about unfair adjudication procedures, the parties quickly diverged.

So why did Obama adopt this stance in the first place, effectively bucking traditional Democratic norms by requiring universities to relax their standards for due process?

The answer is likely—and unsurprisingly—political. After a devastating 2010 midterm election, Democrats in Congress looked to Senator Michael Bennet’s campaign in Colorado—one of the few bright spots for their party in 2010—as a model. Bennet had relied heavily on identity politics, rallying women, minorities, and millennials. And he had triumphed.

In the lead up to the 2012 presidential election, Obama campaigned hard on a variety of social issues, including gay rights and support for Planned Parenthood. Some conservatives argue that, politically, it made sense for Obama to position himself as a champion for college victims of sexual assault. “Obama and the Democrats played into this narrative of standing up to campus patriarchy and a conservative view of sex,” The Campus Rape Frenzy’s Johnson said. “The narrative that campuses, which typically are the most gender-progressive institutions in society, were actually indifferent to these rapist animals in their midst was absurd. But there was enough evidence that you could wrap your arms around it.”

As Obama moved to make college sexual assault one of his administration’s signature causes, Republicans began associating him with the issue.

“When Obama (and Biden) became the symbols of politicians who wanted to take action to combat campus sexual assault, the issue was dragged into the anti-Obama narrative,” said Kelly Behre, a lecturer at the UC Davis School of Law who specializes in intimate-partner violence. “For example, in her speech this month, DeVos claimed Obama had ‘weaponized’ the Office for Civil Rights.”

Like many other issues in education, the divisiveness around college-rape policies has become more conspicuous since the 2016 election and the confirmation of DeVos. Throughout the campaign, conservatives, particularly members of Trump’s campaign, condemned “elites” and “snowflakes” on college campuses for being too sensitive on a variety of issues. “There is this idea that campuses are out-of-control and run by liberals promoting safe spaces,’” Behre said. From the perspective of many conservatives, colleges across the country reinforced that narrative by rolling out new, expansive policies to protect sexual assault victims under President Obama.  

Today, most issues that garner national attention are at least somewhat partisan. But college-sexual-assault policy is a particularly dangerous issue to divide along party lines. Key questions involved—What is consent? Who should be believed?—do not lend themselves to two different answers, one Democratic and one Republican. The process of adjudicating college sexual assault is already incredibly murky. If college sexual assault continues to be a hyper-partisan issue, it will become more and more difficult for everyone involved to remain open to the unique nuance and ambiguity of each case.

It is unlikely that universities, unless forced, will change the Obama-era policies. The interim guidance issued Friday generally allows universities to retain the procedures they adopted after the 2011 Dear Colleague letter, and many institutions have already spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on expanding bureaucracies charged with carrying out those procedures.

And as liberal institutions, many college presidents want to avoid aligning with President Trump—particularly on an issue like sexual assault. “These are institutions which, on any gender-related questions, are well to the left of the national norms,” said Johnson, the author. “Due-process advocates are not going to stage a campus sit-in in the president’s office, but if a president does anything to create a fairer process on this issue, she could be targeted by accuser’s rights groups. If the impression is that President X is indifferent to rape, President X is probably going to be out of a job.”

When I interviewed Congresswoman Speier, a longtime advocate for victims’ rights, for this article, I asked her if she thought DeVos should make any changes to the policies put in place by President Obama.“They’re adequate—they probably could even be enhanced,” she said.

Still, dozens of Republican lawmakers, at least 160 accused students, and countless right-leaning media outlets have called for their overhaul. Even some left-leaning journalists and intellectuals have raised concerns. To ignore that—and to shirk all forms of compromise—will make this issue more partisan than ever.

[syndicated profile] phys_breaking_feed
Pure diamond consists of carbon atoms in a perfect crystal lattice. But remove a few carbons and swap some others for nitrogen, and you get a diamond with special quantum-sensing properties. These properties are useful for quantum information applications and sensing magnetic fields, and as a platform for probing the mysteries of quantum physics.

Yelang Valley in China

Sep. 22nd, 2017 01:00 pm
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YeLang Valley

Stone figures tower above the grassy turf within a patch of forest in the Chinese province of Guizhou. Their eyes, forever open, gaze across the lush landscape. Though the rocky creatures look like the magical leftovers of a long-gone ancient settlement, they’re actually relatively new creations.

The stunning structures are the work of Song Peilun, an artist, cartoonist, and former professor. He spent 20 years designing the sprawling village of stone figures. Known as Yelang Valley, the massive collection of art spans over two million square feet and includes castles, lakes, and freestanding towers adorned with facial features.

Local masons helped with the construction, though since they had little artistic experience, Peilun instructed them to treat building the structures as if they were making pigpens.

Peilun began building Yelang Valley after visiting the Crazy Horse Memorial on a trip to the United States. He quit his job as a professor and purchased a then-isolated plot of land. The artist chose to build the mystical-looking sculpture park out of stone, as it was abundantly available and would therefore be environmentally friendly and cheap.

Yelang Valley is his way of honoring and remembering the Yelang tribes that inhabited the area nearly 2,000 years ago before disappearing and leaving few artifacts in their wake.

Though the area was once isolated and rural, there are now a handful of university buildings that have popped up nearby. Students sometimes help Peilun continue constructing the ever-evolving artwork.

[syndicated profile] phys_environment_feed
Health officials in Ohio are telling children, pregnant women and people with certain medical conditions not to swim in the river that flows through Toledo because of an algae outbreak.
[syndicated profile] io9_feed

Posted by Jennings Brown on Gizmodo, shared by Rob Bricken to io9

Many Californians’ regularly scheduled broadcasts were interrupted Thursday morning with strange emergency messages warning of extraterrestrial invasions and the beginning of Armageddon. The bizarre warnings aired on TVs in the Orange County area, affecting Cox and Spectrum cable users, according to the Orange County


havocthecat: angry christina ricci with a chainsaw (feelings kill them all)
[personal profile] havocthecat
Never try to mean girl at a Slytherin.

I just need to find a good picture. Suggestions?

People keep making the mistake of thinking that just because I'm nice, I'm a pushover. Or gullible. Or both.

That is...beyond hilarious as a concept.

Fuck everyone today.

(Work issues, though I've run into the same idea outside of work, I suppose. I will elaborate when I'm not vaguebooking on a work computer on a work network.)

(no subject)

Sep. 22nd, 2017 05:05 pm
thornsilver: (Default)
[personal profile] thornsilver
Hello. I hate everything and everybody.
[syndicated profile] atlas_obscura_places_feed

Color lantern slides.

Though the cramped attic studio in the Salvation Army building in Melbourne was only restored a few years ago, this hidden gem’s longstanding history traces back until 1891. It’s the home of the Limelight Department, one of the world’s first movie studios.

Within the studio, the Salvation Army produced around 300 films, short and long, for its faithful clients and also for private and government entities. The filmmakers initially used "magic" lantern slides that were created in the Coloring Room and used to project the hand-colored images onto a screen.

The organization used Salvation Army officers as its cast, and shot at its Girls Home and even in the rooms within the studio’s building. In 1900, it notably premiered Soldiers of the Cross, which some argue is perhaps the first feature-length movie ever made, after developing the live action film in the Dark Room here.

The film, which was a mixture of lantern slides, music, and live lectures, lasted nearly two and a half hours. Its violent scenes were controversial at the time. A death scene once even made women in the audience faint.

The The Limelight Department hit the big time when it was commissioned by the New South Wales government to make a multi-camera record of the celebratory inauguration of the Australian Commonwealth. Teams of musicians, lecturers, and projectionists would travel the country showing their films, all to raise awareness and funds for their work.

However, its glory did not last long. Later leadership decided that the department wasn't conservative enough, and it was wound down and eventually shuttered.

The attic studio that once housed the department now showcases some colored slides from the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia, vintage cameras and equipment, posters, and artifacts.

Only Mostly Dead

Sep. 22nd, 2017 11:51 am
blackmare: (artichoke)
[personal profile] blackmare
 I'm around, reading here more days than not, but life is, well, the usual. Classes, art-making, calling Senators and begging them not to kill citizens in order to give tax breaks to billionaires. You know. All that stuff. 

And I have another class in an hour so I do have to go. And then dog-and-horse-sitting through Tuesday morning. How are y'all? 
[syndicated profile] io9_feed

Posted by James Whitbrook

Next week, the Inhumans take their first big step into the world of TV when Inhumans arrives on ABC. We’ve told you about the origins of Marvel’s weird mutants in the past, but what are they up to in the comics right now? If you’re looking to dive in before Inhumans arrives, this is what you need to know.



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