Categories 20

  • Sep, 2021
  • 12-09-2021
  • Canadian govts go for mandatory vaccines

    ... but there were large protests outside city halls and hospitals over the freedom to chose. A further concern has to do with people not feeling the vaccines currently being offered are not adequately tested, we don't know enough about them, and they don't feel comfortable putting it in their bodies.

    Legally, people have the freedom to choose they don't want a vaccine, according to Canadian employment lawyer Lior Samfiru. It can't be forced on them. He said it's actually a human rights violation (to require a medical procedure and also to distinguish between people who have and don't have Covid) as well. He said it's not legal for employers to impose it on employees, and if they let employees for this they are liable to pay severance (possibly up to 2 years). Samfiru said people who challenge their employers have a good chance of success.

    In the US, however, it might be different. Dorit Reiss, law professor at the University of California Hastings, told CNBC there was a history of vaccine mandates in the workplace. Health care employers have required vaccines, and some restaurants have required Hep A vaccines. Employment is at will, which means the employer gets to set many of the workplace rules, and vaccine rules are health and safety rules, making the workplace safer. But there is a question whether the government can mandate a vaccine under an emergency authorization (which it is currently under in the US). However, the EUA only limits the Federal government and doesn't say anything about other employers. Citizens don't have constitutional rights against employers, although they may have some legal rights.

     
  • Aug, 2021
  • 20-08-2021
  • New China data privacy law

    ... goes into effect Nov. 1.

    It targets digital companies. Collecting a lot of random info on users in order to 'provide a better service' seems it'll be not as available to businesses. The restrictions in the bill target businesses and don't really apply to the CCP.

    Under the law, companies are required to only collect the minimal amount of data for a service, and must obtain consent for collecting sensitive info (like biometrics), offer easy opt-out options, and if they want to transfer data overseas they have to get govt approval first.

    Does this put China ahead of the West in internet privacy?

     
  • Aug, 2021
  • 06-08-2021
  • Some Afghanis are fleeing to cities to escape new Taliban law

    'If they don't kill us today, they'll kill us tomorrow,' a husband told a wife who worked as a teacher for years before being promoted to principal, after death threats began. She worked at a government-run school in an increasingly Taliban-controlled town. Schools are attacked by rockets and suicide bombers sometimes. The Taliban have their own schools. The couple moved to the city where Taliban holds no real sway, although some of her sons remained in the town.

    A typical punishment for women: public whippings for an unmarried woman talking on the phone with a man. A married woman who did something similar could be hanged.

    A local government head sitting at a local trial said to France24: 'Today, just like yesterday, all Taliban decisions must be in harmony with Islamic law. Whether it be stoning to death, decapitation, or mutilation of the hand, these are strong principles of Islam. They're strong principles of Sharia. And we will never change thm until judgement day.'

     
  • Jul, 2021
  • 30-07-2021
  • Hong Kong man jailed 'under national security law'

    The man, during pro-democracy protests in HK against the Chinese government, purposefully rode his superbike at a line of police. He carried a flag which read 'Liberate Hong Kong.'

    Western media is headlining this as the first person to be charged under Hong Kong's new national security law, and highlighting the law's restrictions on protest slogans that are 'capable of inciting others,' on secessionist activity, and that without a guilty plea there should be no leniency.

    ... despite this man's actions being clearly not just protest oriented.

    This may logically make China appear unfairly presented, and give China a valid claim to such. American commenters on the story noted that the man would probably have been gunned down by US police if he tried that in NY. ... However, China may follow this trial of what many consider an aggressive act with trials of peaceful protesters, journalists (which reportedly it has lined up about 30 of them), etc.

    9 years. He will appeal.

    (following this video clip, the motorbike was on the ground with police surrounding him. It appears he slowed and turned to the side and did not hit any police once he charged up close to them.)

     
  • Jul, 2021
  • 22-07-2021
  • Tanzania government rounds up members of opposition party, talk they might charge them with terrorism

    Previous VP now president after death of previous president extending authoritarian tendencies used by previous president?

  • Jul, 2021
  • 19-07-2021
  • Design trolls lose another lawsuit over their copyrights

    Design Basics is a website that uploads lots of house plans, copyrights them, then sues home builders (they've sued over 100 in recent years).

    Introduction from KANNE, SCUDDER, Circuit Judge:

    Copyright law protects individual expression while encouraging creativity and maintaining the public interest in spreading ideas. In recent years, however, a cottage industry of opportunistic copyright holders—earning the derisive moniker “intellectual property trolls”—has emerged, in which a troll enforces copyrights not to protect expression, but to extract payments through litigation. Design Basics, LLC fits that bill.

    The firm, which holds copyright in 2 Nos. 18-3202, 19-3118 & 20-1515 several thousand single-family home floor plans, has brought over 100 infringement suits against home builders in recent years. But many defendants—the targets of the settlement-extraction scheme—are starting to push back. This case is a good example.

    We have affirmed dismissal of Design Basics’s lawsuits twice in recent years. See Design Basics LLC v. Signature Con-struction, Inc., 994 F.3d 879 (7th Cir. 2021); Design Basics, LLC v.Lexington Homes, Inc.,858 F.3d 1093 (7th Cir. 2017). We do so again today. In dismissing Design Basics’s copyright in-fringement suit against the Kerstiens family’s home building business, the district court recognized that the firm has a thin copyright in its plans because they consist largely of standard features found in homes across America. We agree and affirm.

    #Copyright #Design #Trolling

    Design Basics, LLC v. Kerstiens Homes & Designs, Inc, No. 18-3202 (7th Cir. 2021)
     
  • Climate litigation on rise

    ... like the German case on human rights climate grounds.

    Norway is facing a climate suit (from Friends of the Earth) for its plans to drill in the Arctic.

     
  • Jun, 2021
  • 30-06-2021
  • Bill Cosby released, conviction overturned (vacated) on rights issue

    ... after serving 2 years of his 5 - 10, sentenced for giving quaaludes to a woman who said he later sexually assaulted her.

    The judge said Cosby's due process rights had been seriously violated in the trial because a prosecutor had made a deal with Cosby under the table, after which Cosby in his statement included that he had given quaaludes to a woman he was pursuing years earlier.

    Some have said the judge with this move has set a precedent that, although police are notoriously allowed to lie to pursue convictions, when a prosecutor makes a deal saying he won't prosecute that's basically equivalent to an immunity deal. If later judges follow his lead. However, I don't know that DAs were ever allowed to lie to get testimony the way police currently are.

    Another option the court could have taken is to send the case down for another trial, without using the evidence the judge said he didn't like.

    From the ruling: "In accordance with the advice his attorneys, Cosby relied upon D.A. Castor’s publicannouncement that he would not be prosecuted. His reliance was reasonable, and itresulted in the deprivation of a fundamental constitutional right when he was compelledto furnished self-incriminating testimony. Cosby reasonably relied upon theCommonwealth’s decision for approximately ten years. When he announced hisdeclination decision on behalf of the Commonwealth, District Attorney Castor knew thatCosby would be forced to testify based upon the Commonwealth’s assurances. Knowingthat he induced Cosby’s reliance, and that his decision not to prosecute was designed todo just that, D.A. Castor made no attempt in 2005 or in any of the ten years that followedto remedy any misperception or to stop Cosby from openly and detrimentally relying uponthat decision. In light of these circumstances, the subsequent decision by successorD.A.s to prosecute Cosby violated Cosby’s due process rights. No other conclusioncomports with the principles of due process and fundamental fairness to which all aspectsof our criminal justice system must adhere."

    However, legal professionals have asked whether Cosby should be saved from bad legal advice to wave his fifth, which he may have done in the interest of not looking guilty in front of the jury.


     
  • Jun, 2021
  • 29-06-2021
  • Mexico decriminalized recreational marijuana

    ... by video conference, the Supreme Court 'recognized the right to the recreational use of marijuana.'

    It's still not legal. The Supreme Court can just cross out unconstitutional laws. Legalization (rules for consuming, growing and selling) is for the Senate and Congress.

  • Jun, 2021
  • 16-06-2021
  • Word is both sides of US Congress is taking aim at Big Tech

    Usually, they seem quite antagonistic but people say they're aligning on this issue.

    Antitrust bills.

  • DOJ used powers to legally spy on Journalists and elected members of Congress

    We don't know everything about the story, or what led to the Trump admin investigating journalists, because of the US's secrecy (even in its court trials).

    Rather than investigating the journalists, they went to the tech companies that had the emails and other information and served them not only a warrant for the information, but a gag order (non-disclosure order). Once the gag orders expired, companies were able to notify the journalists.

     
  • Jun, 2021
  • 13-06-2021
  • right to speak from his expertise and experience.  

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  • Aug, 2021
  • 31-08-2021
  • Funny or interesting headlines this month

    Afghanistan will return to 'safe haven for terrorism': Retired Brigadier General Kimmitt : CNBC

    French youth: Politically active but not voting : France24
  • Aug, 2021
  • 13-08-2021
  • Nicaragua newspaper out of paper

    They can't get more imported, and they expressed doubts about the reason. They said they'd continue to publish online. The paper is La Prensa.

     
  • Jul, 2021
  • 21-07-2021
  • Some funny or interesting headlines this month

    'Biden’s Against Hate-Crimes, Unless They Are In Israel' | By Robert Inlakesh : RT

    Blinken vows to support journalists - critics raise Assange case (regarding the Secretary of State's 'defense' of Iran-critical VOA journalist Masih Alinejad) : RT

    Haiti president assassination suspects trained by Pentagon : RT (This is completely false and not journalism - the report was just about that the assassins had some American training or something in their lives, not that the Pentagon had anything to do with the assassination.)

    9/11 families want Biden to declassify documents or stay away from 20-year memorials: CNBC (Bush, Obama, Trump admins all declined to release them. The DoJ is likely to order a review of them, while they have been classified under the state secrets)

    US Spent $89 Billion & 20 Years Building Afghan Army and All of It was Toppled in Just Days : The Free Thought Project


     
  • Jul, 2021
  • 08-07-2021
  • Saudi Arabia is going to have a news platform with a studio in DC.

    It will have journalists who were formerly part of AJ, Fox, NBC, and Sirius XM. It is expected before the end of the year.

    It's part of a new lobbying effort aimed at the White House and Congress.

    This is according to the DOJ: SA's foreign lobbying disclosures.

    The news org will be owned by Taqnia ETS, a SA-based subsidiary of SA's $400b PIF (Public Investment Fund). Taqnia is supervised by the Saudi Ministry of Info.

     
  • Jun, 2021
  • 26-06-2021
  • Americans trust in news down to 29%

    According to Digital News Report's study of many countries. US trusted their news the least of all countries included. Canadians trusted their news 45%. Finlanders trusted theirs the most at 65%.

    The US level has declined steadily from 40% in 2017, and it is thought to be due in part to the pandemic, the media relationship with Trump, and increasingly prioritizing their audience's preferences or reactions to presenting quality news.

    The business model of creating hate and outrage to sell news to a particular demographic is considered to probably continue to increase, according to some analysts.


     

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  • Jul, 2021
  • 27-07-2021
  • Some say diplomacy in the US done less by (career) diplomats and more by people from political backgrounds

    Highlighted by the recent talks between China and the US in Anchorage, where the US government was represented by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in which the US reportedly brought a list of demands/complaints against China, and which didn't go over very well with the Chinese.

    Now Wendy Sherman will head a mission to China. China may send only lower level officials to talk to her.

    Wendy Sherman is a diplomat and politician since the Clinton presidency, and also active under Hillary.

    But the question being raised is 'How much does Sherman know about China or Chinese?' She might have some superficial armchair knowledge, but no real competency, it is thought.

    The Russians and Chinese do use career diplomats, real career professionals.

    This idea came to our attention by a vlog by Alexander Mercouris.

    US is criticized for trying to 'coerce' China into doing things the US wants. Treating China as an adversary or enemy, and only talking to China really when the US wants it to do something.

    China's diplomacy

    China has also been considered to alienate its global partners through it's foreign policy. China frequently makes criticisms of America that are a great stretch, such as equating China's current human rights abuses with those that took place in America 100 years ago.

    China's 'wolf warrior diplomacy,' where it acts forcefully abroad, may be popular within China, but it may be alienating other countries, including Asian countries (reported rise in anti-Chinese sentiment in the region). What place do wolves have in society?

    'I think (the non-issuance of Chinese visas to US students, due reportedly to China's non-infection policy during the pandemic, while China wants removed the US political sanction on Chinese students who want to study in the US) is a good thing actually. The US side should put forward such demands, such concerns, because this is engagement. The US side will say, "I want Beijing to do this and that," the Chinese side will say, "I want Washington to do this and that." In this way, we can cooperate and reduce their concerns," commented Qinduo Xu of Pangoal and CGTN.

      

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  • Jul, 2021
  • 02-07-2021

  • People know, or at least reveal info about, their friends and family more accurately than about themselves, researchers say.

     
  • Jul, 2021
  • 01-07-2021
  • New material lattice

    ... which looks similar to a 3d honeycomb, and whose cells have 14 sides each, 3d printed from flexible polymer, then heated until only pure carbon remained.

    They shot sand-like particles at the lattice (similar to what space debris does). At low speeds it bounced off. At high speeds it gouged out craters, crushing the lattice, and remained lodged in the material (didn't pierce the material).



     
  • 'Time neurons' that help brain know when something happened (episodic memory)

    "The activity of the population of hippocampal cells allowed for decoding one temporal epoch from another."


    Human hippocampal neurons track moments in a sequence of events - Leila Reddy et al. at the French national research agency CNRS in Toulouse
     
  • 3d printing tiny lattices water climbs up

    The lattice cells are only 1mm wide.

    New printers are allowing for tiny cells to be printed which, similar to the way trees use capillary action and surface tension to draw water upwards from roots to leaves (which was the model copied here), overcome a problem we have when we try to use liquids (and gasses), which is that we have only been able to use a small part of their mass as their exposed surfaces (like the surface of a container of water). If we can arrange the liquid to have more surface, we can increase its ability to perform things like cooling and exchanging gasses.

    The lattices not only increase the amount of water we can have facing outward. They also bypass the downward pull of gravity (and in the future we'll be able to control the path the liquid takes along a lattice design).


     
  • May, 2021
  • 01-05-2021
  • Convicts in private prisons serve 90 days longer than public prisons

    This is about 5% longer.

    In private prisons, the company's contract has it that they are payed a per diem for each occupied bed.

    "The delayed release erodes half of the cost savings offered by private contracting and is linked to the greater likelihood of conduct violations in private prisons. The additional days served do not lead to apparent changes in inmate recidivism," according to the author.*

    Mukherjee, Anita. "Impacts of Private Prison Contracting on Inmate Time Served and Recidivism."

     
  • How much is a dollar difference?

    A lot more than a dollar, according to research that concluded that Americans pay an average $33 more on auto loans, after analyzing a data set of 35m such loans.

    People perceive the difference between prices that end in 9 and one number higher that ends in 0 as being more different that just one dollar. This is especially true with numbers ending in 99 and 00.

    *An Empirical Bargaining Model with Left-Digit Bias: A Study on Auto Loan Monthly Payments. Zhenling Jiang

  • Conversations don't end when we want them to

    In fact, on average they last twice as long as desired, according to some new research at Harvard, which concluded that the reason for this is a 'coordination problem': conversants have no idea when their partner wants to end and think their partner wants to keep going.

    The reason for this 'unsolvable' problem is that conversants require information they usually keep from each other to know when to end a discussion.

    We usually end conversations through highly routine practices, they noted, such as re-stating the reason they started the conversation ("Well, I just wanted to see you you were doing") or making arrangements ("So let's sort out what time on Monday").

    *Do conversations end when people want them to? Adam M. Mastroianni et al.

  • Wasp benefits

    UC London and U East Anglia researchers studying wasps ave found that while people generally hate them, that hate is in large part due to ignorance about the benefits they bring.

    Their recent study points out that wasps are effective pest controllers. There are 33,000 wasp species. Some are specialized in which aphids, caterpillars or other insects they hunt as food, and can be used as pest control for crops that have to deal with those specific insects. Other wasps hunt insects more generally and can be used for multi-crop farms.

    They're also important pollinators, and some plant species are completely dependent on wasps for reproduction.

    There is also some evidence, although not much as yet, about various values of wasps for making medicine and as a food source.

    *Ryan E. Brock, Alessandro Cini, Seirian Sumner. Ecosystem services provided by aculeate wasps.

     

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  • Sep, 2021
  • 18-09-2021
  • Dan Ellsberg interviewed by Tutsi Gabbard (US Rep Hawaii)

    (In 2019 or 2020)

    "I was the first person charged under the charges he [Assange I think he's talking about] is now facing. But I was charged as a source, and there wasn't one for 10 years after that. ... and then 3 and 9 and 1 other. There were 3 cases and then 9 under Obama. They were all either plea bargains or won in court. It's never gone to the Supreme Court.

    "Mainly they were sources like me, and they were using the Espionage Act, which was designed for spies, and has no provision in it for pleading any public interest. You can't argue in court. I wasn't allowed to speak in court to answer the question--I spoke for four and a half days--but I wasn't allowed to answer the question, 'Why did you copy the Pentagon Papers?'

    "So my lawyer, a consitution lawyer, said, 'Your honor, I've never heard of a case where the defendant was not allowed to tell the jury why he did what he did,' and Judge Burns said, 'Well, you're hearing one now,' and that's been true of every case since then..

    "So you can't get a fair trial as a whistleblower. ... you can't say anything about what the impact has been, whether there was harm, what you wanted to accomplish.

    "But it was never meant to be an official secrets act, a British type official secret s act. ... and in fact they said at the time, in 1917 when they passed this, we don't want an official secret act. The question was could you use it against a source like me. Well, that never had been done since 1917. So it was an experiment with me.

    ... But the new thing about this [Assange] is that it's the first time a journalist has been tried as a defendent, and that makes it into a full British official secrets act.

    "So it's not even just that he can't argue motives effectively, as a journalist he should not be ... it's always been clear to papers that sources, like me, should not be tried under the Espionage Act where they can't plead public interest at all. But the newspapers never got behind us very much.
     
  • Aug, 2021
  • 06-08-2021
  • Apple to put software on iPhones that will scan all photos user-side

    ... unlike things Microsoft and Dropbox currently do, which is scan images people upload to their cloud storage, Apple has said they are going to actually scan users phones themselves. They cited 'harm against children' as their auspice.

    Commenters have pointed out that in addition to just being privacy-invading and certain to lead to governments around the world monitoring journalists, dissidents, and everyone else, it means there will be unknown people in a room somewhere reviewing any photos they take of their children being bathed in a sink, etc.

    Commenters say it marks a change in direction for Apple, who had built a (somewhat dubious but somewhat popular) rep as going against attempts to invade their customer's privacy.

  • Jun, 2021
  • 28-06-2021
  • Turkish underworld figure, hiding out in Dubai, is blogging regularly about the dirt on Turkish politicians

    His name is Sedak Peker. Turks tune in every week for his updates, and the majority think there is at least some truth in them. Although many of the things he says are already known, that he is saying them and the evidence (although it seems there's not much in the way of evidence) makes people listen.

    His most recent video said he was now on a 'red list,' meaning there was a high chance he'd be killed, but said he would still do what he had said, which is talk about Erdogan. Erdogan has called it a 'conspiracy.'

    'People listen to him because the media here in Turkey has been silenced. They can't report many facts, so people prefer to believe what a Mafia leader says,' according to a DW Turkish Service worker.

  • Jun, 2021
  • 26-06-2021
  • US seized and blocked 33 Iranian media websites

    The US justice dept said the publishers, including a channel used by Yemen's Houthi rebels and 3 websites using by a Hezbollah group in Iraq, were using the sites to spread misinformation.The domains for the sites are registered in the US.

    Iran recently elected a new president who reportedly has already ruled out meeting with Biden, while negotiators from Iran, the US, Russia, China and other countries are working on revising the 2015 nuclear deal. Negotiators reportedly are close to a deal that would bring Iran again into compliance.

    Some wonder if the action has the possibility to derail the negotiations.

    Some critics point out that there is a concern in turning the domain name system (DNS) into a tool of geopolitical info warfare because that threatens the integrity of the internet and the global network.

    "What the US did to Iranian websites was a breach of all principles of freedom of speech, which the United States is proud of." - Some guy not identified by RT

    Who gets to decide what is info and what is misinformation? The censor of the internet?

     

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  • Sep, 2021
  • 13-09-2021
  • Some experts disagree with US gov over booster

    Key FDA meeting coming up. The US gov plan is Sept 20, 8 months after the 2nd dose people can get a booster. FDA Commissioner Woodcock said "We conclude that a booster shot will be needed to maximize ... protection ..."

    In the Lancet today 2 doctors from the FDA (who have announced their retirements due to frustration over how the FDA is handling the booster plan) and 16 other scientists published a letter saying they think current protection is holding up so "Current evidence does not, therefore, appear to show a need for boosting in the general population."

     
  • Jul, 2021
  • 01-07-2021
  • New way to lower blood pressure: Strength training breathing muscles

    You suck at a straw that has resistance to sucking. The current regimen being used by researchers is 30 inhalations per day at high resistance.

    "IMST can be done in five minutes in your own home while you watch TV."

    The benefits were significant. Systolic bp dropped 9 points on average (exceeding benefits of 30 minutes walking 5 days a week), and equivalent also to some bp-lowing drug regimens. 6 weeks after the 36 older adults tested quit the training, most of the health benefits remained. (They' got funding to do another test with 100 people.)

    It's not yet known how it works: How strengthening breathing muscles ends up lowering blood pressure. A guess they have is that it causes cell lining blood vessels to provide more nitric oxide, causing them to relax.

    It also strengthens diaphragm muscles.

    IMST stands for High-Resistance Inspiratory Muscle Strength Training.
     

  • Jun, 2021
  • 27-06-2021
  • Biohackers aim at producing $7 insulin, compared with $300 insulin from Big Pharma

    Reportedly, insulin costs $1.50 to $5 per vial to make, but is sold for around $300. Biohackers are working on reverse engineering insulin to produce a recipe they will make public, and say they will sell vials for $7.

    Three large companies own 90% of the insulin in the world. Novo Nordisk, Lilly, and Sanofi. Millions of people need insulin, and some can't afford what they need.

    The FDA wants to open the market for insulin, according to some, and therefore they will approve the molecules created by the 'biohackers' [Open Insulin project]. Once they complete their work, they will make the recipe public so community labs around the world can produce it locally.

    'There was a time for being angry,' said one of the Open Insulin workers, 'It's not anger anymore. It's just determination.'


  • Jun, 2021
  • 14-06-2021
  • Pakistani town HIV outbreak among children

    As it it a poor, rural town where the parents work every day from the early morning, it is proving difficult to administer medicine to the young children in Rato Daro (in Sindh) who may require it for life.

    The outbreak is believed to stem from one doctor who was using unclean needles a couple of years ago. Although he was punished in the legal system, many say he was scapegoated and the responsibility lies with the government for providing good medical equipment.

     
  • Jun, 2021
  • 12-06-2021
  • FDA advisors are resigning because of Biogen's Alzheimer's drug approval

    The drug was approved, but when supporters were interviewed they couldn't say anything more compelling than that they were receiving the news positively because people suffered from Alzheimer's, without being able to say anything in favor of the drug itself.

    The drug came out a while back, and was not approved upon review last year (because no benefits were substantially proven, the FDA advisory board voted 10 against, 1 uncertain, 0 in favor), and since then nothing has changed, but the FDA decided to approve it now.

    It is rare for this type of decision to be overturned, and usually when it does happen, it's after a vote that is closer than the Biogen drug was.

    There are millions of potential consumers for the drug, and Biogen has priced it at $56,000 per year.

    Commenters said that after the third resignation, there might be some real attention on what's going on here.


    3 prestigious FDA advisors who quit:


     

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  • Sep, 2021
  • 11-09-2021
  • EU fined WhatsApp (FB) $270m for privacy violations

    Someone commented that until it's over a billion or double-digit billions FB will view these fines as costs of doing business, and that the EU is using the company as an ATM.

    #BigTech #EU #Law
     
  • Aug, 2021
  • 30-08-2021
  • Luxury brand loss, China

    45% of luxury spending is by the Chinese consumer, ahead of the US.

    More purchases are within China than before and this trend is expected to continue (rather than go abroad to buy them cheaper).

    The government may be making it sort of culturally taboo to flaunt wealth with luxury purchases. China is cracking down on wealthy spenders.

    4 big luxury stocks, LVMH, Richemont, Kering and Hermes, have lost $85b together in last 2 weeks. Arnot was the world's richest man at the beginning of this month, but his $200b went down $22b and he's now 3rd.

     
  • Aug, 2021
  • 19-08-2021
  • Chip shortage touches Toyota

    Inventory reaching limits (it is suspected the reason), Toyota is cutting N America production from 150k to 90k.
     
  • 60% of Americans paid no federal income tax last year (2020)

    107m households paid none. So around 20m households paid, ti looks like. For reference to a normal year, in 2019 76m households didn't pay any -- it's been around this number for the last decade.

    Tax credits and higher unemployment during the pandemic is the reason. An example is a household that almost reached the income rate where they would pay taxes, but then received a few stimulus payments, which put them into the category of nonpayers.

    Fed income taxes don't include payroll taxes. 80% of households paid at least payroll taxes in 2020.

    The number is expected to go down this year just a few percent (to 57%) and then return to around 40% in 2022, as long as the economy recovers. However, Congress made some changes for 2021 which will have less households paying, such as an increased child tax credit, earned income tax credit, and child and dependent care tax credit (affects millions of families).

    The country is undecided how to deal with tax revenue. In 2020 80% of fed income taxes were paid by the top 20% of earners (30% of fed income taxes were paid by the top 1%, which is up from 25% in 2019). Democrats want high earners to pay more, while Republicans say they already pay quite a bit.


    CNBC: 61% of Americans paid no federal income taxes in 2020, Tax Policy Center says   
  • Aug, 2021
  • 12-08-2021
  • China economics, summer 2021

    We have got more info from the CCP on which sectors they really want to promote, as opposed to those whose recent growth has been seen to cause them problems (as usual for closed, authoritarian governments, this includes industries that control information).

    EV, clean energy, and industrial upgrading have policy tailwinds, according to JPM's Julia Wang.

     
  • Jul, 2021
  • 31-07-2021
  • Breakfast economics

    In the past year, bacon went up 10%, fruit 6%, and just 0.2 and 0.3 for cereal and for coffee (but sugar is up over 3% because its ocean-freight transported). Consumer price index went up 4.2% yoy in April.

    Corn is up 50%, which is 96% of what farmed animals eat in the US, which exports to the world. China is importing a ton to try to build up its hog supply again, while other countries like Brazil and Argentina have recently had drought (which also narrows rivers and reduces transport ability). Also, 10% of US gas is ethanol. Shipping costs are up, too, because of the labor issue. As you see, a lot of the costs in these products involve labor costs.

    Restaurant meals are up 4% in cost. Takeout trays are yet another part of this--prices went up after a Texas storm took out a factory.

    Some economists talk about 'wage price spirals,' where both wages and prices go up in a relationship. It was an issue in the 70s. The Fed says inflation is transitory.

    This was an idea from Wall Street Journal.

     
  • Jul, 2021
  • 22-07-2021
  • Economic concerns raised by former Wells Fargo CEO

    ... Kevin Kovacevich: Inflation (2-3% increase in salary for average worker, and 4-5% inflation on just the basics like food, gas, consumer goods); trillion dollar deficits already and trillion more if Biden admin gets budget passed.

    Markets at all time high. Kovacevich's idea is that the market is priced alright based on where rates are now, but once that changes in the coming year or years the market will look differently.

     
  • Jul, 2021
  • 19-07-2021
  • Tigray war may cost $2.5b according to estimates

    TPLF has conquered most of the north and south of Tigray.

    Ethiopia is one of Africa's largest aid recipients. The US alone contributed a billion in 2020, and therefore has some leverage. Investing in Ethiopia right now comes with significant reputational risks, making companies more reluctant to submit massive investment bids.

    Ethiopia is finishing their dam and stressing tensions with Egypt and Sudan. The dam fits in with Abiy's plan to lift Ethiopians into a higher economic class. Sudan might benefit from a huge energy production facility on it's border for it's own energy needs.

    Getting ahead of things, but if Egypt was to take up a campaign against Ethiopia, due to the huge distance, it would have to use Sudan.

     
  • OPEC reached a deal to increase 400k barrels per day to production

    Oil was down about 2.5% (although the Dow was down 2% on inflation, stagflation, and Delta variant concerns) and oil company stocks more than that. Natural gas was up less than a percent.

    However, projections have it that demand will want 1m or more barrels more per day next year, assuming no more lockdowns.

    US producers could surge new production and crash the market. But no one wants to invest in new exploration. Most companies are hedged at a $50 range.

     
  • Jul, 2021
  • 09-07-2021
  • Alibaba wants to compete with Amazon in shipping

    Arguably, this is the one real strength Amazon currently has, as it's catalog seems less and less impressive.

    Alibaba already has good warehousing and distribution, as shown in how it handles China's 'Singles' Day.'

    Ali also has a payment company and other businesses that help speed up shipping.

    For delivery, Ali depends on partnerships with airlines and ground-based delivery co's (DHL).

    Ali wants to expand the products it offers to its 190 countries and charge $3 per year for fast (like 2-day) shipping. Amazon currently charges between $13 and $130 per year, depending on location (India, UK).

    Ali's product prices are comparatively cheaper than Amazon, because Ali has direct access to the Chinese producers.

    Ali sells a lot of alleged counterfeits, though, which hurts the real companies. Amazon also has faced these criticisms, but less so.

     
  • Jun, 2021
  • 29-06-2021
  • Americans overwhelmingly don't want to go back to their jobs this year

    A recent poll found almost 100% of people don't want to return to the office after being in their homes over the past year. They prefer the life of spending more time with friends and family. They're considering finding a new job.

    There are also more jobs available then ever. 9.3m jobs in April.

    People are asking whether the stimulus so far or the stimulus expected in the future have contributed to people not wanting to get jobs, but data doesn't seem convincing one way or another.

     
  • Jun, 2021
  • 27-06-2021
  • China industrial profits slowing, reportedly

    Their numbers are still growing, but according to analysts the growth is slowing, comparing the same month in different years. China's economy is still projected to grow 8% in 2021: strong growth.

    Also, small company profits are growing less than those of bigger companies.

    Rising commodity prices are squeezing profits for downstream companies, accounting for some of the slowdown in profits.

     
  • Jun, 2021
  • 16-06-2021
  • Tech subsidies ending, but damage might already be done

    For years, maybe since around 2012 people were not paying the 'true price' for tech commodities, but now that the tech subsidies are ending, they might have already killed all their competition, leaving consumers with higher prices and less selection.

    The most commonly cited example is Uber. Years ago, you could get an Uber for less than a yellow cab. Real businesses can't compete with artificially low prices, so many of the taxis have gone out of business, and now there's just Uber and only a few cabs in some areas, but at Uber prices double or triple what they were when Uber was 'competing' with its competitors.

     
  • Nord Stream 2 almost finished, despite US sanctions along the way

    The U.S. will have a hard time competing with Russian gas anyway, in serving Europe. Russian gas is cheaper and is said to be greener.

  • Jun, 2021
  • 14-06-2021
  • Lordstown Motors CEO and CFO have resigned

    ... amid shortselling investigation, but having more to do perhaps with the company saying they had 'substantial doubt' they could continue next year. Shares were down 10%.

     
  • Jun, 2021
  • 13-06-2021
  • Turkey has approved development of a new canal beside the Bosporus

    The Bosporus is Turkey's, but due to the 1936 Montreux Convention it can't allow non-Black Sea State navy ships to pass through, and it can't charge for the passage of civilian vessels during peacetime. The new Istanbul Canal would not have such restrictions.

    It is expected to be around 45km long, 21m deep, and 360-275m wide (top and bottom) and cost $15b. It will sit around 30km west of the Bosporus Straight, and will be spanned by 6 bridges, all high enough to clear the largest ships (which will cost another $1.4b).

    Currently, ships have to wait around 14 hours to enter the Black Sea due to congestion of the Bosporus. Estimates have it that revenue from the canal could amount to $8b per year eventually, if vessels decide to pay, which it is uncertain they will. Turkey will also be able to send dangerous cargo on a route further away from the city center.

    Istanbul citizens polled in 2020 opposed the project (80% opposed) due to environmental and other effects they will be faced with. It's also opposed by Russia which sees the potential ability of US and NATO warships to enter the Black Sea as a national security threat. 104 former Turkish naval officers also publicly opposed the project (the next day 10 were arrested).

      
  • Between 2019 and 2020, toy sales were up 16%, and figures appear to be up even more for the current year.

    Hasbro, as the biggest maker of board games, stood out because they saw a lift to their entire business, as did the makers of Lego.
  • Lots of talk about billionaires not paying taxes

    No one knows how the journalists at ProPublica got hold of tax records for several years for some of the richest Americans.

    Bezos, Musk, Soros, Buffet, etc., paid what appear to be small dollar figures in income tax for certain years (some years $0, some years around $70k were the most quoted figures, dating back to the year 2011). This is because they don't generally make income (particularly when you're talking about each year). Instead, they hold assets. Their largest asset is generally company stock, which is only taxed if it is sold (capital gains). Some years, they need to raise cash and so they take loans against their assets. This is not taxable.

     
  • Jun, 2021
  • 12-06-2021
  • El Salvador adopts Bitcoin

    The country doesn't have their own currency and uses USD. This means they can't print money, and that can be an issue when you're a net importer like El Salvador is (they could run out of dollars without the ability to print).

    They also have high unemployment, and 70% of the population doesn't have a bank account, and many Salvadoreans receive money from relatives working in more prosperous countries (about 25% of Salvadoreans live outside the country, and the money they send accounts for 20% of El Salvador's GDP). Money transfers are always a challenge with conventional institutions, and can involve high fees for each transfer (sometimes as high as 10%, which is of course good for banks).

    The bill passed Congress (62 out of 84 votes) to make El Salvador first country to accept crypto as an official method of payment ('unrestricted legal tender') beside the USD.

     
  • May, 2021
  • 20-05-2021
  • Bitcoin drops 30%

    Basically all crypto dropped significantly, after months of increased speculative buying.

    Other factors in the drop: further talk of regulation, ESG (energy use) concerns regarding mining, and China cracking down on crypto.

    In somewhat related crypto news, Bitmix reportedly ceased operations, not long after the tentative conclusion of the DarkSide pipeline hack. Bitmix was a crypto money laundering service used by ransomware hackers.

    Musk tweeted a "diamond hands" image, signifying he wasn't selling.

    About a month later, Musk tweeted a more positive comment on energy concerns with crypto mining, causing Bitcoin to rise from around $35k to around 40k.



     
  • May, 2021
  • 08-05-2021
  • Corn, soy, wheat prices up

    The reasons include China buying more because the country is rebuilding its hog herd after major losses in 2019 and last winter (African Swine Fever); draught in Brazil and ongoing dry conditions in the U.S (two major suppliers); and traders trying to hedge inflationary risks.

    The robust Chinese demand is expected to continue for 2-4 years. Additionally, rising incomes in developing countries could keep food prices moving upward.

    There isn't much alternative (such as rice and wheat) to feeding livestock good grains (corn and soy beans) when a livestock economy is focused on maximizing gains and quality, as China's is.

    Offsetting factors to inflation in food prices have started to be seen in more elastic demand factors, such as Chinese animal protein demand, where indications are consumers are starting to pull back due to prices. Also, the supply side, if robust enough, could put downward pressure on prices. We'll see how robust U.S. production turns out to be this year in the June Acerage Report, as the U.S. is still planting this years crops.

    Rice prices aren't up in the same way because stocks have been built up over the past few years.


    USDA Acreage Reports
     

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  • Sep, 2021
  • 12-09-2021
  • Protonmail logged IP of French activist upon order by Swiss authorities

    ... his alleged crime was truancy. He was a member of Youth for Climate Action in Paris, and they were using Protonmail to schedule and organize an event where they would skip school to go and protest, reported Mental Outlaw on YT. The youths were going to protest governments and corporations they believed were causing climate change.

    Have you ever skipped school?

    Protonmail does not have any userside/clientside encryption. Tor or mixnet would have put something between the user and Protonmail.

    Mental Outlaw pointed out that although Protonmail may not comply with a request from an outside state (France, US, whoever), they could just go through Switzerland.

    Protonmail updated it's privacy policy to more accurately reflect what they do.

     
  • Sep, 2021
  • 11-09-2021
  • Reportedly, US drone strike killed an aid worker and children

    According to NYT.

    DailymailUK: 'The drone strike that the Pentagon claimed killed an ISIS-K suicide bomber in Kabul actually targeted an aid worker who had filled his car with water jugs, rather than explosives, according to a shocking new report.'

    According to the family, 10 were killed in that car, although the Pentagon says 3 civilians.

    Congresswoman Ilhan Omar  wrote of a recent drone strike (I don't know if it was the same strike):

    "This is the lastest in 20 years of innocent lives taken and children orphaned in Afghanistan and covert drone warfare around the world. Impunity for these attacks continues to create a neverending cycle of violence and retribution. Where should these victims go to seek justice?"


    ‘Imminent Threat’ or Aid Worker: Did a U.S. Drone Strike in Afghanistan Kill the Wrong Person? - The New York Times  
  • Sep, 2021
  • 03-09-2021
  • US collected biometric records on 5m Afghanis

    ... and now those people are at risk due to this very thing, according to some like Margaret Hu, who calls it a lesson in the life-and-death consequences of data collection.

    The US left this data behind, along with iris scans and names.

    Consortium News commented that the US is going after Assange in part because (they allege) Assange endangered lives by revealing names of informants (when he was actually redacting them).


    The Taliban reportedly have control of US biometric devices – a lesson in life-and-death consequences of data privacy  
  • Aug, 2021
  • 31-08-2021
  • IUDs. Women are pulling them out themselves to not pay removal fee

    IUD insertion is free but removal can cost hundreds, so women are just removing them themselves and posting videos on social media.

  • Aug, 2021
  • 23-08-2021
  • Daniel Hale awarded Sam Adams for drone info

    Of 200 people killed in a 1-year period in 2012-2013 US special forces airstrikes (using drone) only 35 were the intended targets.

    The innocent civilians were routinely categorized as 'enemies killed in action.'

    Hale was a defense contractor in 2013 when his conscience caused him to release classified documents to the press. Hale was charged under the Espionage Act and received 45 months.

    In a hand-written letter to Judge Liam O’Grady Hale explained that the drone attacks and the war in Afghanistan had “little to do with preventing terror from coming into the United States and a lot more to do with protecting the profits of weapons manufacturers and so-called defense contractors.”

    Hale also cited a 1995 statement by former U.S. Navy Admiral Gene LaRocque: “We now kill people without ever seeing them. Now you push a button thousands of miles away … since it’s all done by remote control, there’s no remorse … and then we come home in triumph.”

    Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence  
  • Aug, 2021
  • 19-08-2021
  • China's sponge cities

    Instead of building barricades to water, they want to absorb and release the water when needed.

    How it's done usually is combining grey infrastructure like drainage and water treatment with green spaces.

    People also like to go to the green spaces to use them. Trees, elevated walkways, etc.

    They also use some bioswales, which are several KMs in length now. They're grooves water can seep into and go down into the earth rather than enter drainage systems.

    They also use permeable road surfaces. Polyurethane binders combined with gravel or stones let water through.

    These are all designed to deal with regular heavy rain, and aren't as useful for extreme weather events.

    The US and Russia have also done sponge city stuff, but not to the same level as China.

     
  • Aug, 2021
  • 17-08-2021
  • Indonesian 'rainwater communities'

    There isn't access to clean water in many places, and there are sometimes long droughts, and drinking rainwater isn't appealing due to cleanliness concerns, although people use it.

    Indonesians were (many still are, of course) buying their drinking water. Clean water sales long ago passed into the hands of private companies.The companies own the clean water springs.

    Many communities there now use electrolysis, passing a current through the water. It kills microbes and increases the PH value.

    Credit for this is attributed to a pastor of one of the communities, Romo Kirjito, who worked for years in his lab trying solutions to get everyone clean water for free (or close to free).



     
  • Aug, 2021
  • 16-08-2021
  • Daniel Hale, who leaked information on US drone warfare, sentenced to 45 months in prison for violating Espionage Act

    “I believe that it is wrong to kill, but it is especially wrong to kill the defenseless,” Hale told the court. He said he shared what “was necessary to dispel the lie that drone warfare keeps us safe, that our lives are worth more than theirs.”

    “Hale did not in any way contribute to the public debate about how we fight wars. All he did was endanger the people who are doing the fighting.” This was said by Assistant U.S. Attorney Gordon Kromberg.

    “You are not being prosecuted for speaking out about the drone program killing innocent people. You could have been a whistleblower ... without taking any of these documents." This was said by U.S. District Judge Liam O’Grady.

    The defense said it was a public service. WP reported: 'The documents included a report finding that reliance on deadly attacks was undermining intelligence gathering. During one five-month stretch of an operation in Afghanistan, the documents revealed, nearly 90 percent of the people killed were not the intended targets.'



    Intercept: Leaked military documents expose the inner workings of Obama’s drone wars  
  • Aug, 2021
  • 13-08-2021
  • Russia using cloud seeding to create rain

    ... it's a dry hot summer.

    Here's what the canisters look like. They're filled with silver iodide which provides a base for the formation of snow and rain inside clouds. Planes go on missions to seek out clouds and shoot them with the canisters.




     
  • Jul, 2021
  • 31-07-2021
  • Agroforestry

    ... such as 'alley cropping.' It means more effort and a reduced farming space (the trees take maybe 10%), but rows of fast-growing easy-to-manage poplars divide some German farms now.

    The trees 'sequester' co2 (and therefore mitigate climate change). Hens enjoy the forest floor, and eat the greenery there, which reduces co2 because most of the co2 associated with farming chickens comes from producing the feed (partially, because some of their feed is still bought). The hens trample fallen leaves and the soil regains nutrients. The roots of the tree also improve soil quality, and trees form a wind break so soil isn't blown away, and anchor moisture into the ground, and (with the shrubbery planted beside the strips of trees, like multiyear wildflower) provide a habitat for beneficial insects like hoverflies, dung beetles, and wild bees, and worms and fungi.

    So three things--chicken farming, producing feed for them, and having trees to convert co2 to oxygen (and glucose) are now done in one location, so less land needed and less transportation costs.

    However, a lot of the trees are eventually chopped down to 20cm once they are fully grown, and burnt as firewood, rereleasing 70% of their co2, which mitigates their mitigation of co2.

    The first year after planting trees on a farm field takes more work, because you have to tend the area around the tree shoots so they can live.

    There are some farming areas where the ground is not thick enough to really have large trees, though, and watery rice fields and hilly regions also aren't always idea for trees.

    Familiar facts: 25% of greenhouse gas emissions come from agriculture. Monoculture sucks nutrients out of soil. Farms take up a lot of land. Using lots of trees on farms was historically practiced everywhere but went out of fashion in the early 20th century, when it was seen as inefficient (tractors and machinery played a part).

    #tab-dashboard-02">EEA: Greenhouse gas emissions by aggregated sector

     
  • Jul, 2021
  • 19-07-2021
  • Pegasus spyware, capable of switching on cameras and mics, linked to list of 50,000 phone numbers

    ... and targeting journalists in 50 countries, targeted by 10 states.

    One Mexican journalist was on the list and 2 months later was killed, although journalists are frequently killed in Mexico.

    The spyware is reportedly from Israeli company NSO Group (although there are many other similar companies). The software is sold to governments (only those who have been 'approved by Israel') to deal with 'terrorism' and 'criminals,' but is used by governments against their own civil society (journalists, activists, dissidents, lawyers) and heads of state.

    The software is almost undetectable on your phone. It is not the kind of malware that you have to stupidly click something to have it install (spearfishing). It uses a zero-click exploit, using some app on your phone. It's not known which apps, but one is WhatsApp: it infected phones using a WhatsApp call and you don't even have to pick up the call. It has root access to the device (can do anything, including see all keystrokes, use camera, mic, contacts, archives, location). It might be stored in a temp file in RAM instead of on the hard drive.

    The only way to get rid of it currently is get a new phone and new SIM.

     
  • Jul, 2021
  • 11-07-2021
  • Audacity turns bad

    ... according to everyone in the privacy forums and bloggers, because it updated it's policies to tell users it would be collecting unknown data from them and using it in unknown ways.

    Audacity was bought by Muse Group (which owns Musescore and Ultimate Guitar). The new owners pledged to keep it 'free and opensource' but it seems they might have found another way to monetize their investment here).

    One of the things people were most excited to point out about the new policy for Audacity was they added a 'only use if over age 13' type line, because under GDPR 'The age threshold for obtaining parental consent is established by each EU Member State and can be between 13 and 16 years.'

    Many people just said they wouldn't use it anymore and deleted it from their machines. Other options offered by the community were to fork or use a previous version, or to limit port access.


     
  • Jul, 2021
  • 06-07-2021
  • Virtual influencers

    On social media, the use of these characters is a bit of a thing. They're CG attractive women (usually) used to promote and sell products.

    Some have lots of followers. Some are modelling agencies offering a roster of character options. They've been used by some big fashion brands.

    About 40% of people reportedly follow a virtual influencer without knowing it.

  • Jun, 2021
  • 27-06-2021