Friday, August 31, 2018

ANS -- New non-addictive compound could treat pain and opioid abuse

Another short article.  this sounds like a promising drug -- takes away pain but is not addictive.  Lets hope it really works.  

New non-addictive compound could treat pain and opioid abuse

A compound known as AT-121 has shown promise as a non-addictive form of pain relief and...

A compound known as AT-121 has shown promise as a non-addictive form of pain relief and treatment for opioid abuse(Credit: leck/Depositphotos)

With addiction to prescription painkillers a major part of the current opioid crisis in the US, the search for an effective but non-addictive pain medication is on in earnest. And researchers at Wake Forest School of Medicine appear to have found a likely candidate in the form of a chemical compound called AT-121. With promising results seen in non-human primates, hopes are high the compound will work just as well in people.

Unlike the current most effective prescription painkillers that only work on the mu opioid receptor, such as fentanyl and oxycodone, the researchers were looking for a compound that also works on the nociception receptor, which blocks the dependence-related side effects of opioids that target the mu opioid receptor.

"We developed AT-121 that combines both activities in an appropriate balance in one single molecule, which we think is a better pharmaceutical strategy than to have two drugs to be used in combination," says Mei-Chuan Ko, Ph.D., professor of physiology and pharmacology at the School of Medicine, part of Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. "In addition, this compound also was effective at blocking abuse potential of prescription opioids, much like buprenorphine does for heroin, so we hope it could be used to treat pain and opioid abuse."

The researchers say that in testing with non-human primates, AT-121 provided pain relief equivalent to an opioid, but in a 100-time lower dose than morphine. The same dose also blunted the addictive effects of oxycodone. In addition to providing pain relief without the potential for abuse, the researchers say AT-121 didn't produce other common negative side-effects commonly associated with opioids, such as itchiness, respiratory depression, tolerance and dependence.

"Our data shows that targeting the nociceptin opioid receptor not only dialed down the addictive and other side-effects, it provided effective pain relief," says Ko. "The fact that this data was in nonhuman primates, a closely related species to humans, was also significant because it showed that compounds, such as AT-121, have the translational potential to be a viable opioid alternative or replacement for prescription opioids."

If all goes well in additional preclinical studies designed to collect more safety data, the team will apply to the FDA for approval to conduct clinical trials of the compound in people.

The team's study appears in Science Translational Medicine.

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ANS -- Humanity may be nearing the point of no return for climate action, according to new study

Not to be negative about it, but we have been warned about climate collapse for a hundred years.  Now we are about to reach the point of no return.  Short article on what we have to do by when to save ourselves.  

Humanity may be nearing the point of no return for climate action, according to new study

Image of Earth captured by NASA's Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) satellite

Image of Earth captured by NASA's Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) satellite(Credit: NASA)

An international team of scientists has proposed a series of deadlines by which humanity must take serious action to combat climate change if it is to meet the ambitious goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement, and stave off potential disaster. The team behind the study hopes that these points of no return will help inform debate, and spur leaders to take action to mitigate the threat of climate change while there is still time.

In December 2015, 195 countries signed up to a legally-binding global climate deal known as the Paris Agreement. Signatories would work together to limit the increase in global average temperature to a total below 2 °C relative to pre-industrial levels, up to the year 2100. The agreement also set out an even more aspirational target of capping the rise in temperature to 1.5 °C by the end of the century.

The Paris goals were set in an attempt to mitigate the potential dangersposed by climate change. These include rising sea levels due to melting polar ice shields, and an increase in extreme weather events, such as droughts and flooding.

"In our study we show that there are strict deadlines for taking climate action," says Henk Dijkstra, a professor at Utrecht University in the Netherlands, and one of the study authors. "We conclude that very little time is left before the Paris targets [to limit global warming to 1.5°C or 2°C] become infeasible even given drastic emission reduction strategies."

The study is a joint effort between scientists from the Netherlands and the UK. The points of no return (PNR) set out in the new paper represent the thresholds after which it would be too late to take strong action on climate change with the hope of avoiding the worst of its effects. The team estimate that the thresholds have a 67 percent probability of being correct at this point.

The researchers used data from numerous climate models to define PNRs for the goals of the Paris Agreement, dependent in part on how quickly humanity can reduce emissions using renewable energy.

One set of PNRs deal with a moderate scenarios in which the share of renewable energy is increasing by 2 percent year on year from the point that serious action is taken. Another set of PNRs were calculated contingent on humanity increasing the share of renewable energy by 5 percent each year.

According to the results of the study, the PNR for using a moderate approach in the hope of keeping warming under 1.5 °C by the end of the century has already passed us by. However, if emissions could be cut by 5 percent each year, the governments of the world would have until 2027 to take extreme action.

For the more realistic target of capping warming to 2 °C by 2100, the moderate 2 percent scenario calls for action to be taken by 2035. If the share of renewable energy were to increase at a pace of 5 percent year on year, the PNR would be pushed back to 2045.

The authors also note that the PNRs could potentially be delayed by 6 to 10 years with the use of negative emissions technology, which remove greenhouse gasses already present in the atmosphere.

"We hope that 'having a deadline' may stimulate the sense of urgency to act for politicians and policy makers," concludes Dijkstra. "Very little time is left to achieve the Paris targets."

A paper detailing the findings has been published in the journal Earth System Dynamics.

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ANS -- Meet the Economist Behind the One Percent’s Stealth Takeover of America

This is a long and very scary article about why our country is in such a bad fix right now.  It was done on purpose using the ideas of an economist named James Buchanan, and the money of Charles Koch.  

Meet the Economist Behind the One Percent's Stealth Takeover of America

Nobel laureate James Buchanan is the intellectual linchpin of the Koch-funded attack on democratic institutions, argues Duke historian Nancy MacLean

Ask people to name the key minds that have shaped America's burst of radical right-wing attacks on working conditions, consumer rights and public services, and they will typically mention figures like free market-champion Milton Friedman, libertarian guru Ayn Rand, and laissez-faire economists Friedrich Hayek and Ludwig von Mises.

James McGill Buchanan is a name you will rarely hear unless you've taken several classes in economics. And if the Tennessee-born Nobel laureate were alive today, it would suit him just fine that most well-informed journalists, liberal politicians, and even many economics students have little understanding of his work.

The reason? Duke historian Nancy MacLean contends that his philosophy is so stark that even young libertarian acolytes are only introduced to it after they have accepted the relatively sunny perspective of Ayn Rand. (Yes, you read that correctly). If Americans really knew what Buchanan thought and promoted, and how destructively his vision is manifesting under their noses, it would dawn on them how close the country is to a transformation most would not even want to imagine, much less accept.

That is a dangerous blind spot, MacLean argues in a meticulously researched book, Democracy in Chains, a finalist for the National Book Award in Nonfiction. While Americans grapple with Donald Trump's chaotic presidency, we may be missing the key to changes that are taking place far beyond the level of mere politics. Once these changes are locked into place, there may be no going back.

An Unlocked Door in Virginia

MacLean's book reads like an intellectual detective story. In 2010, she moved to North Carolina, where a Tea Party-dominated Republican Party got control of both houses of the state legislature and began pushing through a radical program to suppress voter rights, decimate public services, and slash taxes on the wealthy that shocked a state long a beacon of southern moderation. Up to this point, the figure of James Buchanan flickered in her peripheral vision, but as she began to study his work closely, the events in North Carolina and also Wisconsin, where Governor Scott Walker was leading assaults on collective bargaining rights, shifted her focus.

Could it be that this relatively obscure economist's distinctive thought was being put forcefully into action in real time?

MacLean could not gain access to Buchanan's papers to test her hypothesis until after his death in January 2013. That year, just as the government was being shut down by Ted Cruz & Co., she traveled to George Mason University in Virginia, where the economist's papers lay willy-nilly across the offices of a building now abandoned by the Koch-funded faculty to a new, fancier center in Arlington.

MacLean was stunned. The archive of the man who had sought to stay under the radar had been left totally unsorted and unguarded. The historian plunged in, and she read through boxes and drawers full of papers that included personal correspondence between Buchanan and billionaire industrialist Charles Koch. That's when she had an amazing realization: here was the intellectual linchpin of a stealth revolution currently in progress.

A Theory of Property Supremacy

Buchanan, a 1940 graduate of Middle Tennessee State University who later attended the University of Chicago for graduate study, started out as a conventional public finance economist. But he grew frustrated by the way in which economic theorists ignored the political process.

Buchanan began working on a description of power that started out as a critique of how institutions functioned in the relatively liberal 1950s and '60s, a time when economist John Maynard Keynes's ideas about the need for government intervention in markets to protect people from flaws so clearly demonstrated in the Great Depression held sway. Buchanan, MacLean notes, was incensed at what he saw as a move toward socialism and deeply suspicious of any form of state action that channels resources to the public. Why should the increasingly powerful federal government be able to force the wealthy to pay for goods and programs that served ordinary citizens and the poor?

In thinking about how people make political decisions and choices, Buchanan concluded that you could only understand them as individuals seeking personal advantage. In an interview cited by MacLean, the economist observed that in the 1950s Americans commonly assumed that elected officials wanted to act in the public interest. Buchanan vehemently disagreed — that was a belief he wanted, as he put it, to "tear down." His ideas developed into a theory that came to be known as "public choice."

Buchanan's view of human nature was distinctly dismal. Adam Smith saw human beings as self-interested and hungry for personal power and material comfort, but he also acknowledged social instincts like compassion and fairness. Buchanan, in contrast, insisted that people were primarily driven by venal self-interest. Crediting people with altruism or a desire to serve others was "romantic" fantasy: politicians and government workers were out for themselves, and so, for that matter, were teachers, doctors, and civil rights activists.  They wanted to control others and wrest away their resources: "Each person seeks mastery over a world of slaves," he wrote in his 1975 book, The Limits of Liberty.

Does that sound like your kindergarten teacher? It did to Buchanan.

The people who needed protection were property owners, and their rights could only be secured though constitutional limits to prevent the majority of voters from encroaching on them, an idea Buchanan lays out in works like Property as a Guarantor of Liberty(1993). MacLean observes that Buchanan saw society as a cutthroat realm of makers (entrepreneurs) constantly under siege by takers (everybody else) His own language was often more stark, warning the alleged "prey" of "parasites" and "predators" out to fleece them.

In 1965 the economist launched a center dedicated to his theories at the University of Virginia, which later relocated to George Mason University. MacLean describes how he trained thinkers to push back against the Brown v. Board of Education decision to desegregate America's public schools and to challenge the constitutional perspectives and federal policy that enabled it. She notes that he took care to use economic and political precepts, rather than overtly racial arguments, to make his case, which nonetheless gave cover to racists who knew that spelling out their prejudices would alienate the country.

All the while, a ghost hovered in the background — that of John C. Calhoun of South Carolina, senator and seventh vice president of the United States.

Calhoun was an intellectual and political powerhouse in the South from the 1820s until his death in 1850, expending his formidable energy to defend slavery. Calhoun, called the "Marx of the Master Class" by historian Richard Hofstadter, saw himself and his fellow southern oligarchs as victims of the majority. Therefore, as MacLean explains, he sought to create "constitutional gadgets" to constrict the operations of government.

Economists Tyler Cowen and Alexander Tabarrok, both of George Mason University, have noted the two men's affinities, heralding Calhoun "a precursor of modern public choice theory" who "anticipates" Buchanan's thinking. MacLean observes that both focused on how democracy constrains property owners and aimed for ways to restrict the latitude of voters. She argues that unlike even the most property-friendly founders Alexander Hamilton and James Madison, Buchanan wanted a private governing elite of corporate power that was wholly released from public accountability.

Suppressing voting, changing legislative processes so that a normal majority could no longer prevail, sowing public distrust of government institutions— all these were tactics toward the goal. But the Holy Grail was the Constitution: alter it and you could increase and secure the power of the wealthy in a way that no politician could ever challenge.

Gravy Train to Oligarchy

MacLean explains that Virginia's white elite and the pro-corporate president of the University of Virginia, Colgate Darden, who had married into the DuPont family, found Buchanan's ideas to be spot on. In nurturing a new intelligentsia to commit to his values, Buchanan stated that he needed a "gravy train," and with backers like Charles Koch and conservative foundations like the Scaife Family Charitable Trusts, others hopped aboard. Money, Buchanan knew, can be a persuasive tool in academia. His circle of influence began to widen.

MacLean observes that the Virginia school, as Buchanan's brand of economic and political thinking is known, is a kind of cousin to the better-known, market-oriented Chicago and Austrian schools — proponents of all three were members of the Mont Pelerin Society, an international neoliberal organization which included Milton Friedman and Friedrich Hayek. But the Virginia school's focus and career missions were distinct. In an interview with the Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET), MacLean described Friedman and Buchanan as yin and yang:

"Friedman was this genial, personable character who loved to be in the limelight and made a sunny case for the free market and the freedom to choose and so forth. Buchanan was the dark side of this: he thought, ok, fine, they can make a case for the free market, but everybody knows that free markets have externalities and other problems. So he wanted to keep people from believing that government could be the alternative to those problems."

The Virginia school also differs from other economic schools in a marked reliance on abstract theory rather than mathematics or empirical evidence. That a Nobel Prize was awarded in 1986 to an economist who so determinedly bucked the academic trends of his day was nothing short of stunning, MacLean observes. But, then, it was the peak of the Reagan era, an administration several Buchanan students joined.

Buchanan's school focused on public choice theory, later adding constitutional economics and the new field of law and economics to its core research and advocacy. The economist saw that his vision would never come to fruition by focusing on whorules. It was much better to focus on the rules themselves, and that required a "constitutional revolution."

MacLean describes how the economist developed a grand project to train operatives to staff institutions funded by like-minded tycoons, most significantly Charles Koch, who became interested in his work in the '70s and sought the economist's input in promoting "Austrian economics" in the U.S. and in advising the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank.

Koch, whose mission was to save capitalists like himself from democracy, found the ultimate theoretical tool in the work of the southern economist. The historian writes that Koch preferred Buchanan to Milton Friedman and his "Chicago boys" because, she says, quoting a libertarian insider, they wanted "to make government work more efficiently when the true libertarian should be tearing it out at the root."

With Koch's money and enthusiasm, Buchanan's academic school evolved into something much bigger. By the 1990s, Koch realized that Buchanan's ideas — transmitted through stealth and deliberate deception, as MacLean amply documents — could help take government down through incremental assaults that the media would hardly notice. The tycoon knew that the project was extremely radical, even a "revolution" in governance, but he talked like a conservative to make his plans sound more palatable.

MacLean details how partnered with Koch, Buchanan's outpost at George Mason University was able to connect libertarian economists with right-wing political actors and supporters of corporations like Shell Oil, Exxon, Ford, IBM, Chase Manhattan Bank, and General Motors. Together they could push economic ideas to public through media, promote new curricula for economics education, and court politicians in nearby Washington, D.C.

At the 1997 fiftieth anniversary of the Mont Pelerin Society, MacLean recounts that Buchanan and his associate Henry Manne, a founding theorist of libertarian economic approaches to law, focused on such affronts to capitalists as environmentalism and public health and welfare, expressing eagerness to dismantle Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare as well as kill public education because it tended to foster community values. Feminism had to go, too: the scholars considered it a socialist project.

The Oligarchic Revolution Unfolds

Buchanan's ideas began to have huge impact, especially in America and in Britain. In his home country, the economist was deeply involved in efforts to cut taxes on the wealthy in 1970s and 1980s and he advised proponents of Reagan Revolution in their quest to unleash markets and posit government as the "problem" rather than the "solution." The Koch-funded Virginia school coached scholars, lawyers, politicians, and business people to apply stark right-wing perspectives on everything from deficits to taxes to school privatization. In Britain, Buchanan's work helped to inspire the public sector reforms of Margaret Thatcher and her political progeny.

To put the success into perspective, MacLean points to the fact that Henry Manne, whom Buchanan was instrumental in hiring, created legal programs for law professors and federal judges which could boast that by 1990 two of every five sitting federal judges had participated. "40 percent of the U.S. federal judiciary," writes MacLean, "had been treated to a Koch-backed curriculum."

MacLean illustrates that in South America, Buchanan was able to first truly set his ideas in motion by helping a bare-knuckles dictatorship ensure the permanence of much of the radical transformation it inflicted on a country that had been a beacon of social progress. The historian emphasizes that Buchanan's role in the disastrous Pinochet government of Chile has been underestimated partly because unlike Milton Friedman, who advertised his activities, Buchanan had the shrewdness to keep his involvement quiet. With his guidance, the military junta deployed public choice economics in the creation of a new constitution, which required balanced budgets and thereby prevented the government from spending to meet public needs. Supermajorities would be required for any changes of substance, leaving the public little recourse to challenge programs like the privatization of social security.

The dictator's human rights abuses and pillage of the country's resources did not seem to bother Buchanan, MacLean argues, so long as the wealthy got their way. "Despotism may be the only organizational alternative to the political structure that we observe," the economist had written in The Limits of Liberty. If you have been wondering about the end result of the Virginia school philosophy, well, the economist helpfully spelled it out.

A World of Slaves

Most Americans haven't seen what's coming.

MacLean notes that when the Kochs' control of the GOP kicked into high gear after the financial crisis of 2007-08, many were so stunned by the "shock-and-awe" tactics of shutting down government, destroying labor unions, and rolling back services that meet citizens' basic necessities that few realized that many leading the charge had been trained in economics at Virginia institutions, especially George Mason University. Wasn't it just a new, particularly vicious wave of partisan politics?

It wasn't. MacLean convincingly illustrates that it was something far more disturbing.

MacLean is not the only scholar to sound the alarm that the country is experiencing a hostile takeover that is well on its way to radically, and perhaps permanently, altering the society. Peter Temin, former head of the MIT economics department, INET grantee, and author of The Vanishing Middle Class, as well as economist Gordon Lafer of the University of Oregon and author of The One Percent Solution, have provided eye-opening analyses of where America is headed and why. MacLean adds another dimension to this dystopian big picture, acquainting us with what has been overlooked in the capitalist right wing's playbook.

She observes, for example, that many liberals have missed the point of strategies like privatization. Efforts to "reform" public education and Social Security are not just about a preference for the private sector over the public sector, she argues. You can wrap your head around those, even if you don't agree. Instead, MacLean contends, the goal of these strategies is to radically alter power relations, weakening pro-public forces and enhancing the lobbying power and commitment of the corporations that take over public services and resources, thus advancing the plans to dismantle democracy and make way for a return to oligarchy. The majority will be held captive so that the wealthy can finally be free to do as they please, no matter how destructive.

MacLean argues that despite the rhetoric of Virginia school acolytes, shrinking big government is not really the point. The oligarchs require a government with tremendous new powers so that they can bypass the will of the people. This, as MacLean points out, requires greatly expanding police powers "to control the resultant popular anger."  The spreading use of pre-emption by GOP-controlled state legislatures to suppress local progressive victories such as living wage ordinances is another example of the right's aggressive use of state power.

Could these right-wing capitalists allow private companies to fill prisons with helpless citizens—or, more profitable still, right-less undocumented immigrants? They could, and have. Might they engineer a retirement crisis by moving Americans to inadequate 401(k)s? Done. Take away the rights of consumers and workers to bring grievances to court by making them sign forced arbitration agreements? Check. Gut public education to the point where ordinary people have such bleak prospects that they have no energy to fight back? Getting it done.

Would they even refuse children clean water? Actually, yes.

MacLean notes that in Flint, Michigan, Americans got a taste of what the emerging oligarchy will look like — it tastes like poisoned water. There, the Koch-funded Mackinac Center pushed for legislation that would allow the governor to take control of communities facing emergency and put unelected managers in charge. In Flint, one such manager switched the city's water supply to a polluted river, but the Mackinac Center's lobbyists ensured that the law was fortified by protections against lawsuits that poisoned inhabitants might bring. Tens of thousands of children were exposed to lead, a substance known to cause serious health problems including brain damage.

Tyler Cowen has provided an economic justification for this kind of brutality, stating that where it is difficult to get clean water, private companies should take over and make people pay for it. "This includes giving them the right to cut off people who don't—or can't—pay their bills," the economist explains.

To many this sounds grotesquely inhumane, but it is a way of thinking that has deep roots in America. In Why I, Too, Am Not a Conservative (2005), Buchanan considers the charge of heartlessness made against the kind of classic liberal that he took himself to be. MacLean interprets his discussion to mean that people who "failed to foresee and save money for their future needs" are to be treated, as Buchanan put it, "as subordinate members of the species, akin to…animals who are dependent.'"

Do you have your education, health care, and retirement personally funded against all possible exigencies? Then that means you.

Buchanan was not a dystopian novelist. He was a Nobel Laureate whose sinister logic exerts vast influence over America's trajectory. It is no wonder that Cowen, on his popular blog Marginal Revolution, does not mention Buchanan on a list of underrated influential libertarian thinkers, though elsewhere on the blog, he expresses admiration for several of Buchanan's contributions and acknowledges that the southern economist "thought more consistently in terms of 'rules of the games' than perhaps any other economist."

The rules of the game are now clear.

Research like MacLean's provides hope that toxic ideas like Buchanan's may finally begin to face public scrutiny. Yet at this very moment, the Kochs' State Policy Network and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a group that connects corporate agents to conservative lawmakers to produce legislation, are involved in projects that the Trump-obsessed media hardly notices, like pumping money into state judicial races. Their aim is to stack the legal deck against Americans in ways that MacLean argues may have even bigger effects than Citizens United, the 2010 Supreme Court ruling which unleashed unlimited corporate spending on American politics. The goal is to create a judiciary that will interpret the Constitution in favor of corporations and the wealthy in ways that Buchanan would have heartily approved.

"The United States is now at one of those historic forks in the road whose outcome will prove as fateful as those of the 1860s, the 1930s, and the 1960s," writes MacLean. "To value liberty for the wealthy minority above all else and enshrine it in the nation's governing rules, as Calhoun and Buchanan both called for and the Koch network is achieving, play by play, is to consent to an oligarchy in all but the outer husk of representative form."

Nobody can say we weren't warned. 

ANS -- Collective Behavior Creates Sustainability

This is a YouTube video, it's almost 22 minutes long.  I recommend it -- when you are alert and awake.  It uses an example of a Petri dish of bacteria to explain the dynamics of population and how they can end or not depending on the choices we make.

Collective Behavior Creates Sustainability 5.0c

Uploaded on Aug 24, 2018

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

ANS -- Your Phone is Listening and it's not Paranoia

My friend Waleed posted this on Facebook.  I don't quite know what to make of it.  But it's pretty scary on the face of it:  our phones are listening to us even when they are not being used.  This is quite short.  

About this website
Here's how I got to bottom of the ads-coinciding-with-conversations mystery.

«A couple years ago, something strange happened. A friend and I were sitting at a bar, iPhones in pockets, discussing our recent trips in Japan and how we'd like to go back. The very next day, we both received pop-up ads on Facebook about cheap return flights to Tokyo. It seemed like just a spooky coincidence, but then everyone seems to have a story about their smartphone listening to them. So is this just paranoia, or are our smartphones actually listening?

According to Dr. Peter Henway—The senior security consultant for cybersecurity firm Asterix, and former lecturer and researcher at Edith Cowan University—the short answer is yes, but perhaps in a way that's not as diabolical as it sounds.

For your smartphone to actually pay attention and record your conversation, there needs to be a trigger, such as when you say "hey Siri" or "okay Google." In the absence of these triggers, any data you provide is only processed within your own phone. This might not seem a cause for alarm, but any third party applications you have on your phone—like Facebook for example—still have access to this "non-triggered" data. And whether or not they use this data is really up to them.

"From time to time, snippets of audio do go back to [other apps like Facebook's] servers but there's no official understanding what the triggers for that are," explains Peter. "Whether it's timing or location-based or usage of certain functions, [apps] are certainly pulling those microphone permissions and using those periodically. All the internals of the applications send this data in encrypted form, so it's very difficult to define the exact trigger."

He goes on to explain that apps like Facebook or Instagram could have thousands of triggers. An ordinary conversation with a friend about needing a new pair of jeans could be enough to activate it. Although, the key word here is "could," because although the technology is there, companies like Facebook vehemently deny listening to our conversations.

"Seeing Google are open about it, I would personally assume the other companies are doing the same." Peter tells me. "Really, there's no reason they wouldn't be. It makes good sense from a marketing standpoint, and their end-use agreements and the law both allow it, so I would assume they're doing it, but there's no way to be sure."

With this in mind, I decided to try an experiment. Twice a day for five days, I tried saying a bunch of phrases that could theoretically be used as triggers. Phrases like I'm thinking about going back to uni and I need some cheap shirts for work. Then I carefully monitored the sponsored posts on Facebook for any changes.

The changes came literally overnight. Suddenly I was being told mid-semester courses at various universities, and how certain brands were offering cheap clothing. A private conversation with a friend about how I'd run out of data led to an ad about cheap 20 GB data plans. And although they were all good deals, the whole thing was eye-opening and utterly terrifying.

Peter went on to say that just because tech companies value our data, it doesn't keep it safe from governmental agencies. As most tech companies are based in the US, the NSA or perhaps the CIA can potentially have your information disclosed to them, whether it's legal in your home country or not.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

ANS -- Brad Hicks on John McCain

Since everyone is eulogizing John McCain, I thought I would send you Brad Hicks' version.  Please, if you read it, read it all the way to the end.  It's not long.  

I generally wait until the funeral to say something unfavorable about the recently deceased, but I feel like this doesn't count because my take on John McCain is merely mostly negative: the self-created myth of "John McCain, Man of Honor" rested on one shallow foundation block. John McCain was a man who did a some really awful things in his life, but every time those things blew up on him and made him look awful, he went way above and beyond to redeem whatever honor he could.

So the thing he's most famous for is using his father's pull to get himself assigned to Navy fighter pilot school because he thought that was his best way to get hot babes, because hot babes love fighter pilots. He was shot down over Hanoi in the act of bombing civilian targets. The Communists tortured him into confessing to bombing civilian targets, which John McCain resisted heroically because he was genuinely dumb enough to believe the shallow excuse that we weren't bombing Hanoi, we were bombing military targets in and around Hanoi -- despite the fact that the President of the US was on TV night after night bragging about bombing Hanoi, while Secretary of State Kissinger talked openly to any reporter who would listen about how we were bombing North Vietnam's capital city in an attempt to wrest further concessions out of them.

But once thrown into the Hanoi Hilton as a war criminal caught in the act, McCain went to genuinely heroic lengths to protect and uplift the men now under his command; he may have been one of America's greatest ever Senior POW Officers. A dozen or more men say that the only way they lived through their time in the Hanoi Hilton and stayed sane was because of the lengths their Senior POW Officer went to on their behalf. So you have to give him that.

He then parlayed that fame into a successful Senate run where he rapidly acquired a reputation as a really stupid person who thought he was really smart. That made him easy prey for Charles Keating, a horrifying scammer who kept McCain in a steady stream of easy cash, free resort vacations, and the endless company of pretty young "lobbyists" hired to tell McCain how smart and handsome he was. In exchange, John McCain tried to tell banking regulators that they had to be wrong when they said that Charles Keating was a crook. Charles Keating was obviously a very wise and honest person, because he was one of the only people in America wise enough and honest enough to see and say just how smart and how important John McCain was.

People, Charles Keating was convicted of paying John McCain a bribe that John McCain was acquitted of accepting, because people sincerely believed that John McCain was so vain and so dumb that he could have honestly not realized he was being bribed.

And that is why John McCain went on to become America's loudest, staunchest champion of getting corrupt money out of politics, the cause that got him labeled a centrist Republican and made him a Democratic darling -- it was the only way that John McCain could convince himself, and the public, that he wasn't a corrupt guy who tried to protect a professional crook in exchange for a six-figure bribe. But because he was trying just as hard to sell "John McCain, Man of Honor" to his own stupid self, he didn't just make a few gestures and fall back on that -- he really plugged away at that cause for the rest of his life.

John McCain served as a vivid reminder that you don't have to be smart or even terribly moral in your daily life to be a hero; being a hero just requires stepping up and taking the risks and doing the right thing once you DO realize that you have to. Even if you are doing it out of vanity and stubbornness, it's still heroism. So there's that in his favor, too.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

ANS -- EPA Announces Roll Backs To Clean Power Plan; Industry Reacts

Here's a short article about what's happening with EPA rules -- essentially it's changing to "states rights" and the coal lobbyists like it and the renewable energy folks don't.  I included it because there a link to comment if you are inclined.

EPA Announces Roll Backs To Clean Power Plan; Industry Reacts

August 21, 2018
By  [Chief Editor]

Continuing on U.S. President Trump's campaign promises to revive the coal industry, on Tuesday, August 21, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced plans to significantly alter the Clean Power Plan (CPP), shrinking some of the emission reduction targets that were set in place under the CPP by former President Obama.

Background: Renewables Help States Meet Clean Power Plan Goals

The new plan, which is called the Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) Rule, removes the nation-wide target for reducing carbon emissions and gives states more authority to set their own rules for coal-fired power plants, encouraging them to run more efficiently. The rule offers guidelines for states to use when developing their own plans. It would also give states the authority to create no rules around coal-fired power plants as long as they explain why they don't need them.  

The rule also makes changes to the New Source Review permitting program, which in its current form requires power plant owners to seek permits when they plan to make changes to their power plants that might increase carbon emissions.

"The ACE Rule would restore the rule of law and empower states to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and provide modern, reliable, and affordable energy for all Americans," said EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler. 


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"Today's proposal provides the states and regulated community the certainty they need to continue environmental progress while fulfilling President Trump's goal of energy dominance," he added.

Trump is expected to announce the plan at a rally in West Virginia on Tuesday evening.

Industry Reacts

Proponents of clean energy technologies are not fans of the new rule.  Dan Lashof, Director at the World Resources Institute said the plan is "backward thinking."

"We've seen a surge in climate action across the U.S., with states, cities, and companies ramping up their commitments to clean energy, and markets delivering new jobs and innovation. Yet, the Trump administration is now trying to put its thumb on the scales to prop up older, dirtier energy sources," he said in an emailed statement.

"This is backward thinking that will lead to more pollution, more health problems, higher bills, and less security," Lasof added.

The director of the lobbying group for the energy-intensive mining association believes the new rule is a step in the right direction. Hal Quinn, President and CEO of the National Mining Association said in a press release that the replacement rule shows that the EPA "has returned to a lawful framework for regulation of power plant emissions," adding that the proposal reflects the same constructs that were set forth in the Clean Air Act.

Ken Kimmell, president of the Union of Concerned Scientists, criticized the plan for not following the law, which requires EPA to adopt the 'best system of emissions reductions.'

"The EPA has instead opted for the 'lamest system of emissions reduction,'" he said, adding that the changes to the New Source Review permitting program could have implications on the health of U.S. citizens.

 "This proposal would also result in more pollution from nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide, mercury and other harmful pollutants. That health burden will likely fall disproportionately on low-income communities and communities of color," he said.

Last December at POWER-GEN, Emily Fisher of the Edison Electric Institute offered her thoughts on the current administration's view on energy and power plants. Watch the video below.

EPA will take comment on the proposal for 60 days after publication in the Federal Register and will hold a public hearing. More information including a pre-publication version of the Federal Register notice and a fact sheet are available at the EPA website