In this roundup: Recalling 25 years of Nirvana’s Nevermind, petro-pipeline-economic challenges, lead poisoning, anthrax, and cops gone wild. Read more
Hard to believe this was made in 1982. Yeah, the production quality doesn’t match today’s digital capabilities, but the story itself seems really prescient. How can an ethically-compromised bloviating bigot manage to fumble his way into office?
Now you know. Bet you can even offer constructive feedback on how director Danny DeVito could update this script for today’s social media-enhanced election cycle.
- NHTSA issues guidelines for self-driving cars (Detroit Free Press) — FINALLY. But is it a bit too late now that Uber already has a fleet on the streets of Pittsburgh and Tesla has been running beta cars? Let’s face it: the federal government has been very slow to acknowledge the rise of artificial intelligence in any field, let alone the risks inherent in computer programming used in vehicles. We’re literally at the end of a two-term presidency, on the cusp of entirely new policies toward transportation, and NOW the NHTSA steps in? We need to demand better and faster rather than this future-shocked laggy response from government — and that goes for Congress as well as the White House. Congress fails to see the importance of early regulation in spite of adequate warning:
Legislators warned automakers at the 15 March Senate hearing that the governing body took a dim view of the industry’s ability to self-regulate. “Someone is going to die in this technology,” Duke University roboticist Missy Cummings told the US Senate during a tense hearing where she testified alongside representatives from General Motors and Delphi Automotive, among others.
Senators Ed Markey and Richard Blumenthal, who questioned car executives at the hearing, had cosponsored a 2015 bill to regulate self-driving automobiles. The bill was referred to committee and never returned to the floor. [source: Guardian]
In the mean time, we have an initial 15-point guideline the NHTSA wants to address; are they enough? Is a guideline enough? Witness Volkswagen’s years-long fraud, flouting laws; without more serious consequences, would a company with Volkswagen’s ethics pay any heed at all to mere guidelines? Are you ready to drive on the road with nothing but non-binding guidelines to hold makers of autonomous cars accountable?
- Multiple Tesla car models hackable (Keen Security Lab) — Check this video on YouTube. At first this seems like an innocuous problem, just lights, mirrors, door locks…and then * boom * the brakes while driving. These same functions would also be controlled by AI in a self-driving car, by the way, and they’re already on the road. This is exactly what I mean by the feds being slow to acknowledge AI’s rise.
- ‘OMG COOL’-like impressions from early self-driving Uber passengers (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette) — Criminy. The naïveté is astonishing. Of course this technology seems so safe and techno-cool when you have an Uber engineer and programmer along for the ride, offering the illusion of safety. Like having a seasoned, licensed taxi driver. Why not just pay for an actual human to drive?
- Tesla caught in back-and-forth with Mobileye (multiple sources) — After analyzing the May 2016 fatal accident in Florida involving Tesla’s semi-autonomous driving system, Tesla tweaked the system. The gist of the fatal accident appears to have been a false-positive misinterpretation of the semi-trailer as an overhead road sign, for which a vehicle would not slow down. But this particular accident alone didn’t set off a dispute between Tesla and the vendor for its Autopilot system, Mobileye. Another fatal accident in China which occurred in January was blamed on Tesla’s Autopilot — but that, too, was not the point of conflict between Tesla and its vendor. Mobileye apparently took issue with Tesla over “hands on” versus “hands-free” operation; the computer vision manufacturer’s 16-SEP press release claims Tesla said the Autopilot system would be hands on but was rolled out in 2015 as hands-free. Mobileye may also have taken issue with how aggressively Tesla was pursuing its own computer vision technology even before the two companies agreed to end their relationship this past July. A volley of news stories over the last two weeks suggest there’s more going on than the hands on versus hands-free issue. Interestingly enough, the burst of stories began just after a hacker discovered there’s a previously undisclosed dash cam capturing shots of Tesla vehicle operations — and yet only a very small number of the flurry of stories mentioned this development. Hmm. Unfortunately, the dash cam feature would not have captured snaps for the two known fatal accidents because the nature of the accidents prevented the camera from sending images to Tesla servers.
- The fall of humans is upon us with our help (Forbes) — this article asks what happens when white collar jobs are replaced by artificial intelligence. Oh, how nice, Forbes, that you worry about the white collar dudes like yourselves but not the blue collar workers already being replaced.How about discussing alternative employment for 3.5 million truck drivers?
Or the approximately 230,000 taxi drivers?
How about subway, streetcar, and tram operators (number of which I don’t currently have a number)?
How about the administrative jobs supporting these workers?This is just a portion of transportation alone which will be affected by the introduction of AI in self-driving/autonomous vehicles. What about other blue collar jobs at risk — like fast food workers, of which there are 3.5 million? And we wonder why Trump appeals to a certain portion of the working class. He won’t be informed at all about this, will not have a solution except to remove persons of color as competition for employment. But the left must develop a cogent response to this risk immediately. It’s already here, the rise of machines as AI and algorithmic replacements for humans. Let’s not wait for the next Luddite rebellion V.2.0 — or is Trump’s current support the rebellion’s inception?
- But every business needs AI! (Forbes) — Uh…no conflict here at all with the previous article. Nope. Just playing the refs. Save America, people, just keep buying!(By the way, note how this contributor touts Hello Barbie chatbot as a positive sign, though Mattel’s internet-enabled Barbie products have had some serious problems with security.)
- The meta-threat of artificial intelligence (MIT Technology Review) — Doubt my opinion? Don’t take it from me, then, take it from experts including one who plans to make a fortune from AI — like Elon Musk.
Longread: Academia becomes the new white collar underclass
You may have noted Long Island University-Brooklyn’s 12-day lockout which was not really resolved last week but deferred by a contract extension. The dispute originated over a pay gap between Brooklyn and two other better paid LIU campuses. Ridiculous sticking point, given the small distance between these campuses LIU barred instructors from campus and halted their benefits during the lockout. Students walked out, infuriated by the temps who subbed in for the locked-out instructors — a cafeteria worker in one case filled in for an English instructor. LIU’s walkout won’t be the only such conflict over academic wages. To understand the scale of the problem, you’ll want to read this piece at Guernica, which explains how academia is being shaken down across the U.S., not just in Brooklyn. I remember asking an academic administrator back in 2006 what would happen when secondary education was commodified; they couldn’t imagine it ever happening. And now the future has arrived. What are we going to do about this while retaining U.S. standard in education?
Hope you’re liking the site revamp! Do leave a comment if you find anything isn’t working up to snuff.
I need a break — a change of pace after the last several day’s nonstop doom-and-gloom observing what has become an American version of the Day of the Dead. Add the nauseating bullshit misogynist circus piling on the “church faint” by a post-menopausal woman wearing too much clothing in humid weather while recovering from pneumonia. It’s unrelenting ridiculousness which can only be broken by the injection of dark humor.
I like this young director Almog Avidan Antonir’s body of short works, including this little zombie love story. Looking forward whatever he might have next up his sleeve.
- Lawmaker unintentionally makes armed law enforcement drones legal in North Dakota (Independent-UK) — Way to go, dude. Legislator submitted a bill to outlaw armed drones; wretched police union got to the bill with revisions and now law enforcement can use drones armed with non-lethal force. North Dakota is now the first state in the U.S. to legalize armed drones. Want to bet law enforcement is already preparing to use this technology against pipeline protesters?
- South Dakota Yankton Sioux filed suit against U.S. government over pipeline (Indian Country Today) — While media focused attention on North Dakota’s Standing Rock Sioux protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline, the Yankton Sioux in South Dakota filed against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Though the planned pipeline runs through tribal treaty lands, the government did not complete an environmental study or a consult with the affected tribe — same complaint in South as in North Dakota. The pipeline company, Energy Transfer, did not use tribe members to identify any challenges during planning of the pipeline route.
- Trespass charges against journalist Goodman blows off First Amendment and Justice Dept. (Committee to Protect Journalists) — CPJ’s Carlos Lauria said the warrant issued for Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman is “a transparent attempt to intimidate reporters” covering the NoDAPL protests. Morton County’s warrant ignores Justice Dept’s joint statement with Interior Dept halting pipeline construction, in which the departments said, “we fully support the rights of all Americans to assemble and speak freely. …” Goodman clearly identified herself as a reporter.
- Oil producers whine about pipeline delays interfering with cheap oil (Fortune) — These guys are just not catching the cluestick. It may take shareholder activism to wake these morons up about the end of fossil fuels and a need for entirely new business models instead of forcing oil pipelines through.
- Standing Rock: a new civil rights movement? (Guardian) — Op-ed looks at the birth of a new movement where environmental and civil rights activism join forces to protect indigenous people and Missouri River — the longest river in the continental U.S.
Flint Water Crisis
- Former state epidemiologist not talking about possible plea deal (MLive.com) — Corinne Miller, now retired, was arraigned in August on felony misconduct and misdemeanor neglect of duty. Miller suppressed action on children’s blood lead levels and told Michigan Dept of Health and Human Services employees to delete emails related to the blood lead data.
- Water bill moves forward in Senate (The Hill) — Emergency funding for Flint and its lead-contaminated water system closer to passing as part of a $9.4 billion bill for water-related infrastructure and clean drinking water. The bill also includes assistance for Louisiana’s flood recovery. Money for Flint’s aid may be paid by cutting the Energy Dept’s Advanced Vehicle Manufacturing Technology loan program.
- Water filters still needed by Flint residents through end of year, possibly longer (Detroit Free Press) — There’s no clear end to the water crisis, even though funding may soon be available. Thresholds for lead levels have not yet been agreed upon by state and federal officials. The amount of damage to the city’s water system continues to complicate recovery efforts.
Still Picking on Volkswagen
- VW engineer plead guilty to conspiracy, wire fraud and violating Clean Air Act (Jurist.org) — The record of engineer James Robert Liang’s June indictment was unsealed on Friday, revealing he and co-conspirators designed, implemented, and lied about emissions controls technology which evaded emissions standards. One interesting bit of new information is the involvement of an unnamed third-party engineering company partially owned by Volkswagen, referred to in the indictment as “Company A.”
- Awkward: Liang to be sentenced during North American International Auto Show (Detroit News) — Four months from now, smack in the middle press week for Detroit’s 2017 NAIAS, VW engineer Liang will be sentence in U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Michigan. This op-ed notes Liang’s plea hints at a much-larger conspiracy in VW pursued by investigators. Somebody had to sign off on this design, at a minimum. And somebody had to tell Bosch what and how to make the non-compliant electronic controls units.
Longread: Rakoff on Fiss and rights under a War on Terror
United States District Judge Jed S. Rakoff looks at a collection of essays by legal scholar Owen Fiss, written over the last 13 years while the U.S. the so-called “War on Terror.”
Since I missed a Monday post with a movie clip I think I’ll whip out a golden oldie for today’s post.
This movie — especially this particular scene — still gets to me 37 years after it was first released. The ‘chestburster’ as scene is commonly known is the culmination of a body horror trope in Ridley Scott’s science fiction epic, Alien. The horror arises from knowing something happened to the spacecraft Nostromo’s executive officer Kane when a ‘facehugger’ leapt from a pod in an alien ship, eating through his space helmet, leaving him unresponsive as long as the facehugger remained attached to his face. There is a brief sense of relief once the facehugger detaches and Kane returns to consciousness and normal daily functions. But something isn’t right as the subtle extra scrutiny of the science officer Ash foreshadows at the beginning of this scene.
Director Ridley Scott employed a different variant of body horror in his second contribution to the Alien franchise, this time by way of a xenomorph implanted in her mimicking pregnancy in scientist Shaw. She is sterile, and she knows whatever this is growing inside her must be removed and destroyed or it will kill both her and the remaining crew. The clip shared here and others available in YouTube actually don’t convey the complete body horror — immediately before Shaw enters this AI-operated surgical pod she is thwarted by the pod’s programming for a default male patient. In spite of her mounting panic and growing pain she must flail at the program to enter alternative commands which will remove the thing growing inside her.
I suspect the clips available in YouTube were uploaded by men, or they would understand how integral to Shaw’s body horror is the inability to simply and quickly tell this surgical pod GET THIS FUCKING THING OUT OF ME RIGHT THE FUCK NOW.
I don’t know if any man (by which I mean cis-man) can really understand this horror. Oh sure, men can realistically find themselves host to things like tapeworms and ticks and other creatures which they can have removed. But the horror of frustration, being occupied by something that isn’t right, not normal, shouldn’t continue, putting its host at mortal risk — and not being able to simply demand it should be removed, or expect resources to avoid its implantation and occupation in one’s self? No. Cis-men do not know this terror.
Now imagine the dull background terror of young women in this country who must listen to white straight male legislators demand ridiculous and offensive hurdles before they will consider funding birth control to prevent sexual transmission of Zika, or fund abortions of Zika-infected fetuses which put their mothers at risk of maternal mortality while the fetuses may not be viable or result in deformed infants who’ll live short painful lives. Imagine the horror experienced by 84 pregnant women in Florida alone who’ve tested positive for Zika and are now being monitored, who don’t know the long-term outcomes for themselves or their infants should their fetuses be affected by the virus.
Body horror, daily, due to occupation not only by infectious agents alien to a woman’s body, but occupation by patriarchy.
I expect to get pooh-poohed by men in comments to which I preemptively say fuck off. I’ve had a conversation this week about Zika risks with my 20-something daughter; she turned down an invitation this past week to vacation with friends in Miami. It’s a realistic problem for her should she accidentally get pregnant before/during/immediately following her trip there.
We also talked about one of her college-age friend’s experiences with Guillain–Barré syndrome. It’s taken that young woman nearly three years to recover and resume normal function. She didn’t acquire the syndrome from Zika, but Guillain–Barré’s a risk with Zika infections. There’s too little research yet about the magnitude of the risk — this vacation is not worth the gamble.
But imagine those who live there and can’t take adequate precautions against exposure for economic reasons — imagine the low-level dread. Imagine, too, the employment decisions people are beginning to make should job offers pop up in areas with local Zika transmission.
What’s it going to take to get through to legislators — their own experience of body horror? Movies depicting body horror don’t seem to be enough.
Put these two stories together — the next question is, “Who at VW ordered the emissions cheat device from Bosch before 2008?”
- Bosch asked Volkswagen for indemnification in 2008 (Bloomberg)
- Volkswagen and Bosch met shortly after ICCT revealed discovery of emissions cheat device in 2014 (WSJ)
Pretty strong incentives for Volkswagen to destroy email evidence. I wonder what Bosch did with their emails?
Self-driving electric cars are incredibly close to full commercialization based on these two stories:
- Michigan’s state senate bill seeks approval of driverless cars (ReadWrite) — Bill would change state’s code to permit “the motor vehicle to be operated without any control or monitoring by a human operator.” Hope a final version ensures human intervention as necessary by brakes and/or steering wheel. I wonder which manufacturer or association helped write this code revision?
- California now committed to dramatic changes in greenhouse gas emissions (Los Angeles Times) — State had already been on target to achieve serious reductions in emissions by 2020; the new law enacts an even steeper reduction by 2030 in order to slow climate change effects and improve air quality.
I don’t know if I’m ready to see these on the road in Michigan. Hope the closed test track manufacturers are using here will offer realistic snow/sleet/ice experience; if self-driving cars can’t navigate that, I don’t want to be near them. And if Michigan legislators are ready to sign off on self-driving cars, I hope like hell the NHTSAA is way ahead of them — especially since emissions reductions laws like California’s are banking heavily on self-driving electric cars.
- Google’s parent Alphabet-ting on burritos from the sky (Bloomberg) — No. No. NO. Not chocolate, not doughnuts, not wine or beer, but Alphabet subsidiary Project Wing is testing drone delivery of Chipotle burritos to Virginia Tech students? Ugh. This has fail all over it. Watch out anyhow, pizza delivery persons, your jobs could be on the bubble if hot burritos by drone succeed.
- API company Apigee to join Google’s fold (Fortune) — This is part of a big business model shift at Google. My guess is this acquisition was driven by antitrust suits, slowing Google account growth, and fallout from Oracle’s suit against Google over Java APIs. Application programming interfaces (APIs) are discrete programming subroutines which, in a manner of speaking, act like glue between different programs, allowing programmers to obtain resources from one system for use in a different function without requiring the programmer to have more than passing understanding of the resource. An API producer would allow Google’s other systems to access or be used by non-Google systems.
- Google to facilitate storage of Drive content at cloud service Box (PC World) — Here’s where an API is necessary: a Google Drive user selects Box instead of Drive for storage, and the API routes the Drive documents to Box instead of Drive. Next: imagine other Google services, like YouTube-created/edited videos or Google Photo-edited images, allowing storage or use by other businesses outside of Google.
Longread: Digitalization and its panopticonic effect on society
Columbia’s Edward Mendelson, Lionel Trilling Professor in Humanities and a contributor at PC Magazine, takes a non-technical look at the effect our ever-on, ever-observing, ever-connected technology has on us.
Catch you later!
Ride the train, I’m far from home
In a season of crime, none need atone
I kissed your face
— excerpt, Sue (or In a Season of Crime) by David Bowie
Bowie left us an amazing parting shot with his 25th and final album, Blackstar. The cut featured here is a free jazz/jazz-rock fusion work which sounds off-kilter or out of sync, the lyric melody not tracking with rhythm — until one looks at the lyrics as a story of confusion told at the same time as a driving lyric-less and inevitable story beats on at the same time.
Seems like an unintended metaphor for our general election politics.
Back to School, Fool
Guess who’s back in town? A bunch of Congressional lame ducks back from vacation — I mean — work in their districts where they glad-handed at county fairs between bites of deep-fried Twinkies and kissing babies for campaign photo ops.
Get back to work and produce funding for Zika research AND birth control, damn it. Your continued intransigence is costing lives — short, ugly, painful, deformed lives on which you are pitiless and merciless, you fundamentalist let-them-eat-cake hacks. It’s only a matter of time before somebody in your district ends up Zika-infected and pregnant after vacation trip to someplace warm like Miami — or mosquito-bitten during during their day job like lawn care or construction or mail delivery. Researchers are working incredibly hard with the limited funding they’ve had; there’s only so much they can do with inadequate funding. And birth control MUST be available to all who need it. Planned Parenthood can and does hand out condoms, you pathetic slack-handed weasels. Fund them.
STG if I was the president, I’d look at any way possible to trim funding to unusual projects in states with GOP senators and then declare an emergency, pull that trimmed funding to pay for subsidized birth control in the same damned states. With researchers now having found Zika infection may spread by bodily fluids like semen, vaginal fluid, saliva, and tears while documented cases mount, there’s ample grounds to write an executive order during a lame duck session.
Big Oil = Big Bully
- A temporary restraining order has been granted for a portion of the North Dakota Access Pipeline under construction (Reuters) — The TRO halted construction between Highway 1806 and 20 miles to the east of Lake Oahe. Construction to the west of Highway 1806 may continue.
- Though Army Corps of Engineers doesn’t oppose TRO, it thinks the Sioux will lose their case (NPR) — The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe filed suit earlier this summer with the U.S. District court for District of Columbia because the Army Corps violated numerous laws when it authorized the construction and operation of the NoDAPL. Had the Army Corp completed appropriate assessments required by the National Historic Preservation Act, National Environmental Policy Act, and the Clean Water Act, the pipeline’s construction would likely have been rerouted or its authorization denied.
- Enbridge doubled down on the North Dakota Access Pipeline (Bloomberg) — Same company responsible for the biggest domestic oil spill ever has now killed plans for the Sandpiper pipeline which was to run through Minnesota down to Wisconsin; they blame the collapse of oil pricing and the increased expense and timing due to state regulations. This Canadian company has instead chosen to rely on the NoDAPL from the Bakken shale oil field through the Dakotas to Iowa.
- Guard dogs and pepper spray used against protesters on Saturday (NPR) — We’ve seen this same kind of violence against peaceful protesters before, not unlike practices by extractive businesses mining in countries like Canada, Bolivia, Peru, Philippines, South Africa, and more. Absolutely unacceptable against unarmed persons particularly when children are present.
- Bulldozers ripped through Sioux graves and religious markers (Chicago Tribune) — Why did Army Corp of Engineers sign off on this? Why was this excavation allowed to happen without an assessment as requested by
- 150 tribes have now expressed solidarity with Standing Rock Sioux (White Wolf Pack) — Members from 60 or more Native American tribes have gathered to protest against the NoDAPL with the Standing Sioux — the largest gathering of tribes in over 100 years and the first time since 1875 that all the Lakota tribes have gathered at Cannonball River, ND.
- Excavation and attacks on protesters continued despite UN statement that the NoDAPL project violated U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (WaPo) — What. The. Hell? Did the pipeline company Energy Transfer, its partners and financiers think rushing the start of construction over a sovereign nation’s graves would make this rights’ violation go away?
The NoDAPL project is bad all around. There’s no good reason for it to proceed.
— The economics of oil supply and demand do not support it; the cost to proceed is simply not supportable.
— The environmental cost of this project and the oil it is intended to carry are untenable; investment of resources private and public should go toward non-fossil fuels.
— The project violates the rights of Native Americans in numerous ways and no good faith effort has been made to address them during planning, let alone now as construction begins. The current and future damage to the Sioux only exacerbates hundreds of years of abuses against their sovereign nation.
— The companies investing in this project including Enbridge cannot assure the safe operation of this pipeline given the history of pipeline leaks across this country. In Enbridge’s case, this foreign-owned corporation has already proven unreliable and opaque in pipeline operations.
— NoDAPL should not proceed for the same reasons Keystone XL pipeline did not proceed: it is not in our country’s best interest.
I don’t know how anyone can look at this bulldozing of land containing buried Native Americans and not see it as a direct, deliberate effort to erase their existence. This is accursed behavior which in no way addresses the needs for alternative energy outlined in the Defense Department’s Quadrennial Review or our nation’s need to secure its people by reducing carbon dioxide output.
- Disposal wells in Oklahoma including Osage Nation shut down after earthquake (Tulsa World) — Yet another case where extractive fossil fuel business on Native American tribal lands has been highly problematic. 17 wells were shut down by the EPA after Oklahoma’s M5.6 induced earthquake this weekend; these wells are in addition to 37 other disposal wells shut down this weekend near the quake’s epicenter. Haven’t seen yet whether another earthquake of this magnitude could set off an overdue 500-year magnitude earthquake along Missouri’s New Madrid fault.
- U.S. district judge denies federal plan to open 1 million acres of central CA public lands for fracking and drilling (IndyBay.org) — Bureau of Land Management didn’t do its homework on environmental risks from fracking, focusing too heavily on drilling instead. Sounds a lot like Army Corp of Engineers’ slap-dash disregard for externalities when it analyzed the NoDAPL, doesn’t it?
- OK’s earthquake insurance market already under review (Tulsa World) — Insurers have only paid out on 20 percent of earthquake-related claims since 2010; the market has also undergone consolidation and 300-percent rate increases. No word yet on how much damage this weekend’s M5.6 quake or subsequent aftershocks have caused. Hope the public lights a fire under Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner John Doak about his review of the market. It’s grossly unfair the public must bear the cost of risk created by extractive industries as it is.
Longread: Lawsuit against DMCA Section 1201
Johns Hopkins University professor and cryptographer Matthew Green filed suit against the federal government in late July to strike down Section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The current law prevents security researchers from adequately investigating products. Worthwhile read — this has huge repercussions on our safety and security given how much of the technology around us is copyrighted but leaky as hell and prone to hacking.
Crushed and filled with all I found
Underneath and inside
Just to come around
More, give me more, give me more
— excerpt, If I Had a Heart by Fever Ray
Today’s featured single is from Fever Ray’s eponymous debut album ‘Fever Ray’, the stage name for Swedish singer, songwriter and record producer Karin Elisabeth Dreijer Andersson. If her work sounds familiar, it may be that she and her brother Olof Dreijer also performed as The Knife. Karin’s work is reminiscent of Lykke Li’s and Bjork’s electronic/ambient works, redolent with dark rhythms and layers of deep and high-pitched vocals — very Nordic feminine.
Fever Ray has been very popular with television programmers; the cut featured here is the theme song for History Channel’s Vikings series. It’s also been used in AMC’s Breaking Bad and WB’s The Following. Other songs by Karin as Fever Ray including Keep the Streets Empty for Me have been used by CBS’ Person of Interest and Canadian TV’s Heartbeats as well as a number of films. I’m looking forward to her next work, wondering if it will be just as popular TV and film industry.
- TransCanada approval hearing delayed due to protests (Reuters) — Not just U.S. and Native Americans protesting oil pipelines right now; Canada’s National Energy Board deferred this week’s hearings due to security concerns (they say). The board is scheduled to meet again in early October about the planned pipeline from Alberta to Canada’s east coast. There may be more than security concerns holding up these hearings, though…
- Big projects losing favor with Big Oil (WaPo-Bloomberg) — The ROI on big projects may be negative in some cases, which doesn’t service massive debt Big Oil companies have incurred. They’re looking at faster turnaround projects like shale oil projects — except that these quick-hit projects have poorly assessed externalities which will come back and bite Big Oil over the long run, not to mention the little problem of fracking’s break-even point at $65/barrel.
- Big Insurance wants G20 to stop funding Big Fossil Fuel (Guardian) — Deadline the biggest insurers set is 2020; by then, Big Insurance wants the G20 nations to stop subsidizing and financing fossil fuels including Big Oil because subsidies and preferential financing skew the true cost of fossil fuels (hello, externalities).
- Standing Rock Sioux continue their protest against the North Dakota Access Pipeline (Guardian) — Video of the protest at that link. Calls to the White House supporting the Sioux against the DAPL are solicited. Wonder if anybody’s pointing out fracked shale oil is a losing proposition?
- Adult mosquitoes can transmit Zika to their offspring (American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene) — Study looked at infected Aedes aegypti and albopictus mosquitoes and found the virus in subsequent larva. My only beef with this study is that Culex species were not also studied; they aren’t efficient carriers of Zika, but they do carry other flavivirus well and there are too many cases with unexplained transmission which could have been caused by infected Culex. Clearly need to do more about pre-hatch mosquito control regardless of species.
- Three drugs show promise in halting Zika damage in humans (Johns Hopkins Univerity Hub) — Important to note some of the same researchers who demonstrated Zika caused damage in mice brain models earlier this year have now rapidly screened existing drugs to test against mice brain models. The drugs include an anti-liver damage medication (emricasan), an anti-parasitic (niclosamide), and an experimental antivirus drug. The limitation of this research is that it can’t tell how the drugs act across placenta to fetus and whether they will work as well and safely once through the placenta on fetuses. More research (and funding!) is needed.
- Contraception no big deal, says stupid old white male GOP senator’s staffer (Rewire) — Right. If only McConnell and his staff could experience the panic of being poor and at risk of Zika. Not everybody in Puerto Rico has ready access to the “limited number of public health departments, hospitals, and Medicaid Managed Care clinics,” let alone other states like Texas which has such awful women’s reproductive care in terms of access and funding the maternal mortality rate has doubled in two years, up 27%. Pro-life, my ass. By the way, this lack of access to contraception affects men, too, who may unknowingly be infected with Zika and tranmit it to their sexual partners.
Longread Must-read: Super court
If you haven’t already done so, you need to read this investigative report by Chris Hamby at BuzzFeed. While it answers a lot of questions about the lack of perp walks, it spawns many more.
Hasta luego, compadres!
By ‘bodies’ I mean sharing here pictures of cells you see in the embedded photos from a peer-reviewed study published this May.
In these images you’ll see the damage done to human tissue in lab conditions.
No pyriproxyfen was present.
How Researchers Studied Zika
This is the methodology researchers used:
1) The researchers used human stem cells to create neurospheres — the kind of cells which turns into nerve and brain tissue in an actual embryo.
2) They set aside control samples of neurospheres which were not infected.
3) They infected test samples neurospheres with Brazilian Zika virus.
4) They observed the changes in the infected neurospheres.
5) They compared them to the uninfected control samples.
6) They wrote and published a report on their findings.
The image above is the best example from their report of the difference between Zika-infected cells and the uninfected test samples.
What Researchers Found in this Study
In short, Zika inhibits, damages, and kills infected neurospheres.
This is what we can expect to happen to a fetus’ brain or nerve tissues when infected by Zika under the right conditions during early pregnancy.What Else Researchers Found in this Study
The researchers also conducted a very similar test on human brain organoids. These are not single neurospheres but neuro-tissue grown from stem cells so that they form a model like a tiny brain. Not a brain, a tissue-based model of a brain.
They used the same six steps above using a mock-infected model, a Zika-infected model, and a dengue virus-infected model. (Dengue fever is caused by a flavivirus — the same family of viruses to which Zika and yellow fever belong.) Researchers found Zika virus caused similar destructive damage on these larger models while limiting their growth; they did not find the same damage or destruction in the dengue-infected models and none in the mock-infected control models. Zika alone damaged neurological tissue models.
Researchers also studied neural stem cells (NSCs) — the simplest neuro tissue model — and found similar results in which the Zika virus killed off NSCs. Studying NSCs, neurospheres, and organoids, the researchers observed Zika’s actions on different stages of neuro tissue maturity. In each of these models, from the simplest (NSCs) to the most complex (organoids), Zika was destructive.Other Research on Zika Using Mouse Tissue
Three other studies published in May this year using mice or mouse tissues likewise showed evidences of neurological tissue and brain damage or growth suppression when infected by Zika virus. The studies came from research facilities in Brazil, China, and the U.S. — and in each study, pyriproxyfen was not included. The Zika-infected specimens showed damage and the control specimens did not.
The study from Brazil at the University of São Paulo also included research using human stem cells, comparing a Brazilian strain of Zika against an African strain:
Beltrão-Braga, Muotri, and their colleagues also grew brain organoids from human stem cells and infected these in vitro models with the Brazilian and African strains of the virus. In the human mini brains, both strains of the virus caused cell death, but the Brazilian strain appeared to also interfere with the formation of cortical layers. The virus didn’t replicate in the brain organoids grown from chimpanzee stem cells, suggesting it may have adapted to human tissue, the researchers noted in their paper.
Emphasis mine. Research published earlier showed Zika has already mutated rapidly after arriving in Brazil, with at least nine variants found inside the last two years.
What’s Next in Zika Research
What researchers don’t yet know, for starters: How Zika works — how does it damage or kill cells? When exactly does the virus do the most damage? What mechanisms interfere with Zika’s operations and can they be used in vaccines or drug therapy? What makes Zika different from dengue or other flavivirus? What does Zika do to adult neuro tissue to cause Guillain-Barre Syndrome? Which adults are most at risk? Will the different mutations in Brazil respond differently to vaccines? How long can humans carry live Zika virus? Has the virus mutated and become transmissible by bodily fluids or aerosol? These are just a few of the questions we still have about Zika.
There are some good guesses about Zika’s mechanisms — like this hypothesis focusing on vitamin A storage in the liver, which also suggests Zika may negatively affect liver cells (yet another avenue of research needed). But will a vaccine targeting this activity work for other flavivirus, too? What if this guess is wrong; are there other approaches we’ve yet to hear about?
We won’t have any of these answers in a reasonable period of time if we don’t have adequate funding.
It’s not just birth defects we are talking about here, either. Look at the damage in those images again; this virus not only damages fetal nerve and brain tissue, it kills fetuses. Infants born with Zika-related defects may be blind and may lead short, painful lives. And it may kill and maim adults, too, if they develop a serious case of Zika-related Guillain-Barre Syndrome.
Let’s not bring out any more Zika dead.
(Note: Forgive me for the simplistic terms used in this post if you have a background in science. I had to make this as brief and succinct as possible for those who don’t have that background.)
Zika virus impairs growth in human neurospheres and brain organoids
BY PATRICIA P. GARCEZ, ERICK CORREIA LOIOLA, RODRIGO MADEIRO DA COSTA, LUIZA M. HIGA, PABLO TRINDADE, RODRIGO DELVECCHIO, JULIANA MINARDI NASCIMENTO, RODRIGO BRINDEIRO, AMILCAR TANURI, STEVENS K. REHEN
SCIENCE13 MAY 2016 : 816-818
Zika virus infection in cell culture models damages human neural stem cells to limit growth and cause cell death.
Zika Studies Using Mice:
F. Cugola et al., “The Brazilian Zika virus strain causes birth defects in experimental models,” Nature, doi:10.1038/nature18296, 2016.
C. Li et al., “Zika virus disrupts neural progenitor development and leads to microcephaly in mice,” Cell Stem Cell, doi:10.1016/j.stem.2016.04.017, 2016.
J. Miner et al., “Zika virus infection during pregnancy in mice causes placental damage and fetal demise,” Cell, doi:10.1016/j.cell.2016.05.008, 2016.
I meant woe, not whoa. I do know the difference.
It’s woe I was thinking of when I wrote this next bit.
What would you do if you were told you wouldn’t be paid for last 2 months of a 9-month job?
Let’s say you have kids to feed, a mortgage/car payment/college loan payments to make, childcare to pay, out-of-pocket healthcare costs — you know, all the expenses the average working person has.
In spite of one or more obligatory college degrees, continuing education requirements and mandatory background checks, your job requires you to work in facilities where ‘mushrooms, black mold, fecal matter, dead rodents, no heat‘ are common. It’s a workplace functioning like Flint’s water crisis, and it’s been this way for more than a decade. Fellow employees have had to bring in paper towels and light bulbs from home or solicit them as donations to the workplace.
Because of your employer’s money woes, you may even have made a concession agreeing to collect your pay over 3-4 months instead of the next six to eight weeks you are actually scheduled to work.
And then your employer’s employer says they aren’t going to pay, and you might have to work without pay for the next six weeks. Unpaid, as in violation of labor laws unpaid.
And your employer’s employer has a history of acting both in bad faith and with prejudice. Your workplace hasn’t improved for years; children were permanently poisoned and adults died as a result of their awful handiwork on this and other projects.
What would you do? Quietly stay at your desk working and hope for the best, or walk out in protest to demand action?
The employer’s employer accuses you of all manner of bad things, and is actively undermining your rights to organize, by the way.
Welcome to Detroit Public School system, and welcome to more of Michigan’s obnoxious and toxic GOP-led legislating. Pretty sure the jerks who are causing this latest crisis by grandstanding on teachers’ backs don’t care if the president arrives here in Michigan today.
Dude caught on video sprinkling substance on food arrested by FBI
As if we didn’t have enough to worry about in Michigan, some whackjob has been sprinkling a mixture of hand sanitizer and rodent poison on food in stores, including salad buffets. He was caught on security camera in Ann Arbor, but he is alleged to have sprinkled this mix in multiple stores in Ypsilanti, Saline, Birch Run, and Midland. The mixture is not supposed to be toxic, but who wants to eat remnants of isopropyl alcohol and an anticoagulant? What the hell was this all about anyhow?
Canadian city of 80,000 forced to evacuate overnight due to massive wildfire
Mind-boggling to think of an urban center this size forced to flee on such short notice, but Fort McMurray did just that beginning late afternoon yesterday. Even the local hospital was emptied as fire leaped from undeveloped to developed areas, consuming neighborhoods. 80% of homes in the Beacon Hill neighborhood are ash. Conditions have been unusually warm and dry in the region; the local temperature was 83F degrees before the evacuation notice was issued. Weather conditions today are expected to be hotter (32C/90F) and WSW winds stronger ahead of a cold front, likely spreading the fire even farther to the northeast.
The area around Fort McMurray has only been in moderate drought conditions, yet the fire was explosive, doubling in size in a matter of hours. Can’t begin to imagine what might happen in areas where conditions are drier while this climate-enhanced super El Nino continues.
Volkswagen’s former head of engine and transmission development exits company
Wolfgang Hatz, suspended by VW for his role in Dieselgate, chose voluntarily to leave the company. This bit in NYT’s article is choice:
In 2007, shortly after being named head of engine and transmission development at Volkswagen, Mr. Hatz complained at an event in San Francisco that new rules on tailpipe emissions in California were unrealistic.
“I see it as nearly impossible for us,” Mr. Hatz said of a proposed regulation during the event, which was filmed by an auto website.
In other words, Hatz didn’t see the purpose of the regulation, didn’t perceive a challenge to design truly clean diesel — he saw an obstruction he needed to bypass. Auf wiedersehn, Herr Hatz.
Odds and sods
- Middle Eastern drought worst in 900 years (NASA) — Drought map of Cyprus, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, and Turkey looks awful, but Egypt — wow.
- Wars might be caused by lack of water (Scientific American) — I sense a theme developing…hey, guess when the Crusades were? 900 years ago.
- Study shows stocks overvalued often, too long (Phys.org) — Huh. Interleaves with economic social theory of reflexivity, that.
- Third leading cause of death in U.S.: medical errors (Science Daily) — Grok this: 250,000 deaths a year. You’d think insurance companies and policy makers would look into this, considering annual death toll is like ten times that on 9/11. Imagine if we spend tax dollars on fixing this and improving health care instead of militarizing against the rare-to-non-existent domestic terror attack.
- Tesla’s residential battery, Powerwall, now for sale (Bloomberg) — Residential solar may now explode with growth. We can only hope.
It’s supposedly downhill from the top of this hump. Race you to the bottom!
Y me lamento por no estar alla
Y hoy te miento para estar solos tu y yo
Y la distancia le gano al amor
Solo te veo en el monitor
— excerpt, Monitor by Volovan
Sweet little tune, easy to enjoy even if you don’t speak Spanish.
Speaking of monitor…
Flint Water Crisis: Michigan State Police monitoring social media
Creeptastic. MSP is following social media communications related to Flint water crisis, which means they’re watching this blog and contributors’ tweets for any remarks made about Flint. Whatever did they do in the day before social media when the public was unhappy about government malfeasance?
MDEQ personnel told Flint city water employee to omit tests with high lead readings
The charges filed last week against two Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and a Flint city employee were related to the manipulation and falsification of lead level tests. From out here it looks like Mike Glasgow did what the MDEQ told him to do; with the city under the control of the state, it’s not clear how Glasgow could have done anything else but do what the state ordered him to do. Which governmental body had higher authority under emergency management — the city’s water department, or the MDEQ? And what happens when personnel at the MDEQ aren’t on the same page about testing methodology?
MDHHS too worried about Ebola to note Legionnaire’s deaths in 2014-2015?
Michigan’s Department of Health and Human Services director Nick Lyons maintains a “breakdown in internal communication” kept information about the Legionnaire’s disease outbreak from reaching him. He also said MDHHS was focused on Ebola because of its high mortality rate overseas. There were a total of 11 cases of Ebola in the U.S. between 2014 and 2015, none of which were diagnosed or treated in Michigan. Meanwhile, 10 people died of Legionnaire’s due to exposure to contaminated Flint water in that same time frame. Not certain how MDHHS will respond to an imported biological crisis when it can’t respond appropriately to a local one created by the state.
Other miscellaneous monitoring
- Charter Communications and Time Warner tie-up approved, with caveat (Reuters) — Charter can’t tell content providers like HBO they can’t sell their content over the internet – that’s one of a few exceptions FCC placed on the deal. I think this is just insane; the public isn’t seeing cheaper broadband or cable content in spite of allowing ISPs to optimize economies of scale. Between Charter/TWC and Comcast, they’ll have 70% of all broadband connections in the U.S.
- Mitsubishi Motors fudged its fuel economy numbers for last 25 years (AP) — This investigation is exactly what should happen across EU, because EU-based manufacturers have done this for just as long or longer. And the EU knows this, turns a blind eye to the tricks automakers use to inflate fuel economy ratings.
- Goldman Sachs has a brand new gig: internet-based banking (Fortune) — This is the fruit of GS’ acquisition of General Electric’s former financial arm. Hmm.
- BAE Systems has a nice graphic outlining the SWIFT hack via Bangladesh’s central bank (BAE) — Makes it easy to explain to Grampa how somebody carted off nearly a billion dollars.
Toodledy-doo, Tuesday. See you tomorrow morning!