Monday, May 21, 2018

Ordinary gun control measures probably can't stop major incidents, because so many weapons are around and because our culture prods unstable people

German Lopez of Vox has a detailed article explaining why assault weapons bans and similar laws won’t do much to make schools safer.  The bans may help prevent mass events like in Las Vegas or maybe Orlando.

Lopez also examines stricter procedural requirements in buying weapons, which he says may be helpful, but are hard to pass politically.  He says an Australian-style buyback is very unlikely.

Indeed, the Washington Post over the weekend had run a story to the effect that the Santa Fe school system had done everything right (Tim Craig and others).

This leaves everyone wondering about other cultural influences (especially Internet and media) that seem to prod otherwise vulnerable people into military-style hostility.

And FEE (Kerry McDonald) even says that more parents will consider home schooling.
WJLA7 in Washington has even done a report on “building your own guns” from parts. 

Friday, May 18, 2018

Could previous surgery lead to problems with TSA screening?

If someone has orthopedic surgery that resulted in the placement of metal in his/her body, could that person expect disruption when going through security with the TSA?

I had a plate placed on the left side of my pelvis after an acetabular fracture from a convenience store fall in Minneapolis in January 1998.  I was told that the plate was titanium and a new device. The surgery was successful and I recovered fully and relatively quickly, able to discharge crutches in late March.  I did not have an actual hip replacement.

Since 9/11, I have made at least twelve round trips by air (probably more) and this has never come up. My most recent air travel was by Southwest from Reagan to Florida in November, 2017.
Nevertheless, there is some literature on the issue. 

In 2008, the TSA wrote a posting saying that doctors’ notes didn’t do any good because a determined terrorist could fake one.  It admitted that extra pat downs were possible, although that has never happened with me.  The TSA said it was testing new equipment that could identify internal medical devices more accurately. 

Since then, there have been a couple of other posts(spinemd and Livestrong) that suggest that a note might help, and also say that screening is supposed to stop at the skin level.  (Theoretically, I guess a determined suicidal terrorist could swallow a device (as with drug mules), however, or even have one clandestinely surgically implanted, although this gets into Hollywood screenplay plots that we hope don’t ever happen – yet security experts say that writers and spy fiction authors are good for the industry by helping it keep up with “imagination”.)  

Recent articles say that medical identification cards are never required.  The recent TSA Bulletin (2017) confirms this. TSA does offer an optional blue notification card to carry. 
More interesting, there are comments that titanium doesn’t give out the same signature as steel, and that most surgical devices (like hip or knee replacements) have started using more titanium and plastic in the past decade.
I don’t personally have a problem with the idea of pat downs.  But in August, 2002, well after my layoff, I actually went to a job fair in Bloomington MN for TSA screener trainees.  I was concerned at that the time that, by analogy to “privacy” arguments that had been used to justify the now repealed “don’t ask don’t tell” policy for gays in the military, persons in my circumstances with self-publicized sexual orientation should not be allowed to take these jobs.  I withdrew from the job fair for other reasons, however (a miscommunication of the pay to be offered).

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Meghan Markle's volunteerism may outflank her gender equality activism

Many media sources are reporting on Prince Harry’s fiancĂ©e Meghan Markle’s activism back in 1993 when she wrote to Proctor and Gamble in Cincinnati for a Nickelodeon ad emphasizing that women do household cleaning (for their husbands), as well developed by an NBC Today Show report here
More subtle (not always mentioned) is her long term volunteering on skid row, as in Los Angeles, as reported here.  She even said that the welfare of others was more important than he own safety.

In more recent years (2016), I have refused to go into some areas by car in Washington DC for volunteering because of fear of carjacking.  I don’t have the social capital to deal with an incident like that.
Wikipedia attribution for picture of Proctor and Gamble HQ in Cincinnati. I passed by it in a rental car in 1992. 
CC BY 2.0, Link

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Ninth Circuit hears oral arguments on DACA, seems concerned about political appeals to base

The 3-judge panel Ninth Circuit heard oral arguments today on the Trump administration’s order to phase out DACA protection unless Congress intervenes, Los Angeles Times story here
The points raised were that the removal of people would be enforced more against some groups than others, and that Trump seemed to be trying to use DACA people as bargaining chips to get his Wall built to please his base.

This would be a good place to share Dave Bier's (Cato) analysis showing that Central American immigrants do assimilate well into the US.  

Update: May 17

Many in the House want to use a discharge petition to bring a vote on DACA, a vote opposed by Paul Ryan.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Individual "racial profiling" can undermine "see something say something" when it means something

I hadn’t really heard about this until the media reported it a lot this weekend.  But there have been sporadic incidents of white people calling police because POC are in the neighborhood “for no reason”.

It’s pretty obvious that this can undermine “see something say something” when it really is something.

Vox covers this in an article by P.T. Lockhart  .
Brandon Griggs at CNN has a detailed story on the incident at Yale, and here is the affected student’s Facebook video.

Yet there are times when decisive police and law enforcement action are essential, and this is getting undermined, for example today in southern Maryland. 

Monday, May 07, 2018

Breaking up California; Repeal the 17th Amendment? ; Keep the Electoral College?

Billionaire Tim Draper may very well get an initiative to split California into three states on the ballot in November.

The “New California” state would be centered around Los Angeles. “South California” would have San Diego as its largest city, and “North California” would include the Bay Area, and probably most of Silicon Valley.  (I think San Jose would be in it.)

Congress could conceivable approve it but it sounds like a long shot politically, especially if Democrats make gains in 2018.

Texas has the right to split into five states by budding or "asexual reproduction" (like that of jellyfish). 

There is some talk in conservative circles of repealing the 17tj Amendment, the direct election of senators.  That would make (local politics) and state elections more interesting to voters.

Rick Sincere carried on a debate about the 17th Amendment repeal on his own blog here
And, despite Trump’s election, George Will has called the Electoral College an “excellent system”. 

Thursday, May 03, 2018

Clean energy may be tainted with the bad karma of child labor

Clean energy could have a moral albatross that will attract Donald Trump’s attacks – child labor.

Tonight, CNN aired a short report on AC360 on how electric car makers have had to step up audits overseas, especially the Congo, to try to keep child labor out of the chain for making batteries for electric cars.  

We’re sort of back to “Blood Diamonds”.

This invocation of the Periodic Table could give us more ideas as to where we could have problems with rare elements.
Remember, Neptune has ice storms of diamonds, and there are whole planets made of diamond-grade carbon.

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

Climate Change activists warn of draconian measures against consumers in the future, sooner rather than later; "The Matrix"

David Roberts of Vox has published (April 28) a draconian paper on climate change, “It’s time to think seriously about cutting off the supply of fossil fuels”, link
Roberts goes into a discussion of “Restrictive Supply Side” (“RSS”) policies, and comes to the support of activists who have used vigorous demonstrations and the use of force or sitdowns to obstruct energy projects like the oil pipelines.
There is not enough attention in the essay, however, to the problem of what this should mean to individual Americans.  I still haven’t bought a hybrid car, although I could have in 2015 when another car was totaled in an accident (caused by the other party).  Moreover, I’ve insisted that any car I buy have long distance range because my own “business model” has always required some long trips alone.  Is there something wrong with this?
We saw previews of the implication of this kind of debate in the 1970s with gasoline rationing, prompted at the time by oil supply crises.
Roberts has a 2x2 matrix describing the four quadrants of climate policy:  Restrictive  and supportive (of substitutes) as rows, supply-side and demand-side as columns.
Roberts has a more recent paper, May 1, “The world’s bleak climate situation, in 3 Parts”, here .  Right now, we’re headed to 3 degrees C (5 F) by 2100, but it could be as bad as 5 C (8 degrees).  Instead of “climate science denial”, you could have a debate on how to live with it, from a policy perspective, if it happens. But you would have tremendous displacement of coastal populations, and much stronger storms, floods and droughts. 

Monday, April 30, 2018

One-third of American households have essentially zero liquid wealth

Market Watch reports a Consumer Financial Protection Board paper maintaining that one third of American households can’t afford food, shelter and medical care and are essentially in the hole. 

The median family net worth in 2017 was about $81000, and that presumes an average household size slightly larger than 2.5 people. So the per person average net worth would be about $35000, including minor children.

The report expands to a full dashboard, “The State of the American Wallet”.

But the tendency of the past three or four decades, with the increase in technology and the reduction in family size, has been a “winner take all” economy.
This was shared by conservatives on Facebook, and one person commented that “charity begins in the home.”

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Bill Gates warns about global avian influenza pandemics likely to happen

Bill Gates has raised the issue of global pandemics, and of the Trump administration’s lackadaisical approach to filling positions in the CDC, as in this story Saturday by Lena H. Sun, link

The biggest threat would be avian influenza, especially H7N9, which could kill 33 million people around the world in six months.  In China, it has killed 40% of the people it in infects.  The main danger is that it become possible to spread directly person to person rather than animal to person.

Gates wants the US to accelerate the development of a global universal flu vaccine, which has a different strategy block chemical processes in all influenzas.   A universal vaccine could have lessened the impact of H3N2 this past winter. 
Gates also believes that bioterror is one of the more likely forms of global terrorism.
The rapid increase in antibiotic resistant super bacteria could upend hospital and surgical sanitation protocols. Expect CNN’s Sanjay Gupta to say more about this soon.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Mainstream business news sites are getting more concerned about enemy EMP strike possibilities

While Trump and Moon keep working toward talks with Kim Jong Un, and given the appearance of conciliation by North Korea over the nuclear issue, a mainstream (only mildly conservative) site Bloomberg has picked up on the grave public safety threat (to say the least) were an enemy actually able to detonate a nuclear weapon at high altitude over the US.

The story by James Stavridle is titled “North Korea’sSecret Weapon: Electromagnetic Storm”. The byline is “A couple of nukes detonated at high altitude could be like thousands of lightning strikes hitting every home and business in the U.S.”
The article explains the difference between E1 and E3.  The former fries electronics;  the later can overload the power grid.  E3 would normally require a thermonuclear device, but is simulated by a severe solar storm with coronal mass ejection. The article is appropriately skeptical of scenarios like the novel “One Second After” (books July 20, 2012). 

The article encourages strengthening defenses of the power grid and of data centers (which I think is happening as some server farms seem to be installing shield around their buldings) and of strengthening NORAD and missile defense, which Vladimir Putin tried to belittle recently with his announcement of a super missile that can evade everything.
Friends actually asked me yesterday what I knew about data center defenses.  Tech may well be properly concerned.  This problem needs systematic reporting and fact checking by the mainstream media, not just conservative and “prepper” sites.

AOL has a detailed article and picture show about missile defense in Alaska here

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Increased attention to pancreatic cancer, soon to be #2 in cancer deaths

While Jack Andraka’s Twitter account shows promising work from Stanford on using nanobots and new tests for early detection and treatment of pancreatic cancer, Scientific American seems to throw cold water on all of this with an article in the April 2018 issue, p. 24, Claudia Wallis writes “Why a lethal cancer is on the rise”.  And a of lot of it is related to past smoking, obesity, and Type 2 diabetes. She writes that pancreatic cancer will soon be the number 2 cause of cancer deaths.

But on p. 34 there is an article by Jeffrey Townsend “The Cancer Tree”, tracing how early the neoplastic mutations can occur in a pre-cancer cell’s life.  
Video above: Steve Jobs had a very different kind of cancer.  The video mentions biomarker CA 19-9, also CEA. Ruth Bade Ginsburg had a small pancreatic tumor removed. 

Picture: kayaking stream near Bryson City, NC and the "Road to Nowhere". 

Monday, April 16, 2018

Most whites are socially unaware of "intersectionality" in their own "ranks"; Starbucks incident in Philly; NPR on self-defense

I saw this op-ed by George Yancy of Emory University in Atlanta,. “Should I Give Up on White People?” in the New York Times. And, yes, I remember the film "Dear White People."

The tone of the hate mail is rather shocking, as is the tone of what gets put online (and hopefully more likely to be taken down by moderators today).  I just never see this in my own circles.
And that may be some of the problem.  Within the European-ancestry community (to call it that), there are a lot of bubbles.  We are simply often socially indifferent to others we come across and don’t communicate at all, and then are shocked at the behavior we see online.  And we are shocked that enemies (like the Russians) could leverage this elite indifference and aloofness to create enormous and prospectively unexpected political consequences in the US. 
So, I attend a group called Better Angels.  Then I get emails asking if I can recruit people to more seminars.  And I see that is part of the problem.  I don’t have enough direct social influence myself to recruit people into anything.  I thought that the “mind your own business” approach was a good thing, and it usually is what is expected in my circles.  So a lot of cross-cultural communication never happens.
Here's an account of the Starbucks "loitering" arrest of two black men in Philadelphia, where the white people say they wait for friends all the time.  I wasn't far from there for a cybersecurity meeting in late March (picture above -- may not be the same Starbucks). ;   

Now let's also look at a New York Times editorial Sunday on a "black tax" on housing, feeding into the narrative of how hucksters sold subprime mortgages in the Bush years especially to minorities. But during this time there was a culture of pushy and aggressive salesmanship that was quite shocking to me when I was in the job market as a senior -- and it feeds into Trump's behavior today. 
I’ll also pass along an NPR story questioning 2nd Amendment advocate claims that people really use guns for self-defense, here. 

Friday, April 13, 2018

Science fair winner and Stanford student Jack Andraka will study the anthropology of Ebola in Sierra Leone

Jack Andraka’s current work at Sanford is described on this website about the 2018 Truman Scholars (his entry is third on the list). 
The article seems to imply that Jack will visit Sierra Leone this summer as he studies the relationship between the anthropology of the native people and the 2014 Ebola outbreak, which led to some edgy situations in the US when some doctors returned and later contracted Ebola and had to be treated in intensive care in places like Emory (CDC) in Atlanta, or NIH in Bethesda. 
Apparently an effective vaccine against Ebola has existed since 2016, according to Wikipedia

Thursday, April 12, 2018

David Hogg, turning 18, challenges Paul Ryan to bring gun control to a vote, since Ryan has "nothing to lose" now

David Hogg announced his eighteenth birthday on Twitter in the wee hours of this morning (Aries) with multiple videos, but moreover he challenged Speaker Paul Ryan to allow a vote on a gun control bill (most of all, some AR15 and bump stocks bans) since Ryan is not going to run for his seat in the 2018 midterm election.  That is, Ryan has nothing “to lose”.

Here is Hogg’s best tweetstorm reference .

In the meantime, the alt-right maintains a “Hoggwatch” website of conspiracy theories, as if a teenager could come along, displace Trump (“President Poopiepants” on Facebook) from the White House and take away everyone’s guns.  The paranoia on the lunatic fringe is that silly.
Hogg could legally be president on April 12, 2035.  Wikipedia needs to be updated.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Huge local carbon dioxide release near Australia may be part of climate feedback look.

Here’s a disturbing story about a large release of carbon dioxide from a particular seagrass off northwest Australia.  It has not been widely noticed.  We're all too sinful. 
The release comes from the death of a lot of sea plants in 2010 and 2011 after the water was much warmer than usual, which can set off a feedback loop and vicious cycle.

Yet the biggest concerns have been about releases from the permafrost.
Ironically, warmer weather at the North Pole has pushed colder air to the south, meaning unusually cold and snowy early spring in the northeast US.

Monday, April 09, 2018

Trump's tariffs, and DACA "bargaining refusal" can make individuals into Trump's own "losers"

I’m just back from a weekend trip, some of it off the grid, and I’ll be all braced for Zuck’s testimony tomorrow.

In the meantime:  It strikes me as totally wrong to tie giving (former) DACA recipients or Dreamers legal protection to “Build that Wall” to mollify an unintellectual power base.  These young adults did nothing wrong themselves;  their parents brought them here.  Of course, that’s individualism in my part (rejecting familial tribalism).  Congress should fix the DACA policies and make them acceptable from a security perspective without bargaining away the lives of people who made no bad choices.  Congress should also figure out the best border policy, whether it is building a Wall in spots, or using troops, or more surveillance, or rethinking the standards for asylum. 

Likewise, with his tariff policy, Trump is playing off one part of his base against another’s.  Many of the agricultural sectors hurt by the tariffs were Trump supporters and part of his base.
On Saturday, I had a conversation with a convenience store attendant in North Carolina, who said she had supported Trump and made no apologies if that “offended me”.   I thought about a line from “Call Me by Your Name”.  She had no concept of how the tariffs would affect the agricultural sectors of her own county.  OK, some of it is tobacco, which I am not a friend of, but that isn’t the point.

When the government picks winners and losers, it’s all to easy for anyone to become a loser.

To be expanded upon. 

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

"Nightmare" superbugs challenge hospital sanitation, and probably management of HIV

A variety of new “nightmare” superbugs are being described now, as increasingly found in hospitals and nursing homes.
They are resistant to all known antibiotics and can swap genes that increase resistance.  But they seem to live in the bodies of healthy people without symptoms (in nose and throat, in the gut, or even on skin) because healthy people, if not taking other medications, usually have harmless bacteria in their bodies that the dangerous bugs have to compete with.  Healthy people may become immune naturally (without antibiotics) to the bacteria, but in some cases be able to spread them.  (You tend to become immune to your own germs.)
NBC New has a typical story here

People with HIV would be susceptible to such bacteria -- yet I haven't heard much about this in conjunction with HIV.  We will probably hear more;  some of these bacteria are intracellular and behave somewhat like opportunistic infections. 
These would seem to require extraordinary sanitation in hospitals and nursing homes. 
In 2004, I had an unusual gum infection resulting in a granuloma and eventual loss of lower teeth.  There was extreme swelling, which resolved with clindamycin. The infection did not return because I would have become immune to the anaeronic germ. 

Sunday, April 01, 2018

Trump's tweet "severe thunderstorm" Easter Sunday puts Dreamers in danger of poverty

President Trump’s tweet storm Easter Sunday morning, saying suddenly “no deal on DACA” (after demanding one) seems motivated by the “caravan” moving through Central America, possibly intending to enter the US illegally and then seek asylum (defensively, from detention). Fox News seems to have wakened the president with this Buzzfeed story

So the Post reports that Trump has put the future of Dreamers in doubt in the millions.  

Of course, the previous orders are under litigation in the Ninth Circuit, but no new applications were being accepted.

The prospect for all of this is the possibility of dreamers who cannot work and will have to be supported by others, as the case already with some asylum seekers.  And there may be a huge increase of asylees in detention, possibly trying to be paroled out.

And, no, it’s probably not legal for Trump to try to make the military pay for the wall.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Police profiling by race seems to continue

One week ago it was the March for our Lives to End Gun Violence. The subject changes too quickly.

Today, as I return from a day trip, CNN is talking about the two major police shooting incidents in the news.

It looks like the cops in Sacramento were legally wrong in not stepping back in reassessing, according to CNN legal commentators.  Vox has the best explanation so far as to what happened. And there are reports that this was an agonizing death.

And the New York Times reports on the great length of time it took for Baton Rogue police to release all their video and to fire the officer who killed Alton Sterling. 
 These incidents can indeed undermine the rule of law over time.  It would be too risky to work as a police officer.