Links 5/21/19

Links for you. Science:

A mystery illness killed a boy in 1969. Years later, doctors learned what it was: AIDS.
Neanderthals and modern humans diverged at least 800,000 years ago
The moon is shrinking, and a new study shows it’s racked by moonquakes
The Rise of the First Animals
African swine fever keeps spreading in Asia, threatening food security


The Emoluments Clause Could Be a Tipping Point in Trump’s Downfall
Who’s Afraid of China’s Internet Vigilantes? It isn’t just government censorship that is restricting free expression in China. It’s also the “human flesh searches.”
A Friend to Israel, and to Bigots: Viktor Orban’s ‘Double Game’ on Anti-Semitism
Why Politics Should Be Kept Out of Miscarriages
I No Longer Believe House Democrats Will Uphold Their Constitutional Duty: And, as a result, the president*’s chances of reelection are better than anyone thinks.
Sara Nelson’s Art of War
How Silicon Valley’s successes are fueled by an underclass of ‘ghost workers’
How Deep Is Boeing’s Hole?
Trump Administration to LGBT Couples: Your ‘Out of Wedlock’ Kids Aren’t Citizens
Ocasio-Cortez Decries Biden ‘Middle-Of-The-Road Approach’ On Climate Change
The Forward’s “Both Sides” Approach Has Failed
Managed Obsolescence: Homelessness in America’s Gilded Cities
The vast majority of Republicans support Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Bernie Sanders’ plan to cap credit-card interest rates at 15%
This tail has too many dogs
A Rival to Botox Invites Doctors to Party in Cancun, With Fireworks, Confetti and Social Media Posts
Group Of Ward 4 Elected Officials Calls On Brandon Todd To Run His ‘First’ Clean Campaign
The 5 Percent New Grocery Store Rent Premium
How Gerrymandering Leads to Radical Abortion Laws
Elizabeth Warren Has a Plan to Fight the Opioid Crisis. Why Don’t Other Democrats?
Mayor Muriel Bowser Wants Big Changes for the City’s Arts Commission (these seem to be really awful)

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Observed on 14th St NW, between R and S, Logan Circle, D.C.:

Big Ben

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What Internet Era Luddites Actually Look Like

You can find them at D.C.’s* National Airport (boldface mine):

Every night, several times a night, Uber and Lyft drivers at Reagan National Airport simultaneously turn off their ride share apps for a minute or two to trick the app into thinking there are no drivers available—creating a price surge. When the fare goes high enough, the drivers turn their apps back on and lock into the higher fare.

It’s happening in the Uber and Lyft parking lot outside Reagan National airport. The lot fills with 120 to 150 drivers sometimes for hours, waiting for the busy evening rush. And nearly all the drivers have one complaint:

Uber doesn’t pay us enough, what the company is doing is defrauding all these people by taking 35-40 percent,” one driver told ABC 7.

“They are taking all this money because there’s no system of accountability,” another unidentified driver said.

ABC7’s Sam Sweeney asks: “Do all you guys agree with that?”

“Yes, yes, yes, yes!!!!,” the driver says.

Drivers say after three years of pay cuts, they now have to fight back. By turning off their apps at certain times, drivers are able to artificially manipulate the Uber and Lyft apps into higher fares.

“All the airplanes we know when they land. So five minutes before, we turn all our apps off all of us at the same time. All of us we turn our apps off. They surge, $10, $12, sometimes $19. Then we turn our app on. Everyone will get the surge,” one driver says.

This driver explains how they organize it.

“Someone is standing by that corner. I stand by this corner and the other one stands at this corner and we say turn the app off and then go online.”…


“You gotta wait, you gotta wait. Wait, wait, wait, wait.”

A man running the operation , alerts drivers that the time to shutdown is just around the corner. Using another app, he knows the precise moment to have everyone power down, ensuring the largest surge.

“Hey! We gotta wait, we gotta wait.”

“Alright—go off go off. Go, go, go, go, go, go.”

“10-12 10 -12.”

The surge rises to $12 within seconds. The organizer watches his phone closely.

“It’s still going up. It’s still going up.”

“It’s 13 still going up, it’s still going up. It’s 13. Don’t go on yet! You up?? Refresh it!”

In less than 2 minutes it’s over. Passengers now pay an additional $13 on their fares.

“When we find out what the highest surge is, that’s when we say everybody on. And that’s when everybody gets paid what we think we should be getting paid,” the man who ran the operation says.

“And does everyone oblige? Does everyone do it?, Sweeney asks.

“Yes 100 percent. Everyone do it. Everyone knows it’s not worth it. They know if they take a ride from here without surge, without pumping the surge up, it’s not worth it.”

In less than a minute, about 50 drivers are locked into the surge.

It’s like we work as a family, like a team together. Like as a team. We do it. Every night. We do it again. We drop off, come back again, it’s a routine. We do it to 12 o’ clock.”

These drivers tell ABC 7 they do have a sense of guilt. They say they don’t want to do this, but because Uber and Lyft keep reducing their pay, they tell us they have no choice. They can’t afford to pickup people at Reagan for $4 in rush hour traffic.

They shouldn’t feel any guilt, since the ‘ride-sharing’ services are exploiting them. Of course, there will be some Red Queen action, with the programmers at Uber and Lyft altering the algorithm, followed by the taxi drivers (let’s just be honest, that’s what they are–no shame in that either) coming up with a new trick, and so on.

Good for them.

*The airport is in Arlington, VA, across the river, but if I said Arlington’s National Airport, no one would have any idea what I’m talking about.

Posted in Automobiles, Bidness, Economics | 4 Comments

Links 5/20/19

Links for you. Science:

Los Angeles Fire Season Is Beginning Again. And It Will Never End. A bulletin from our climate future.
Owner personality and the wellbeing of their cats share parallels with the parent-child relationship
The Fusion Reactor Next Door
New Jersey gets official state microbe: Streptomyces griseus
Scientists discover why grocery store tomatoes don’t taste like anything


Joe Biden is a retreat from the age of Obama (“From Brooks to Cockburn, from Todd to Greenwald, this was the 2008 consensus: Obama chose Biden to shore up his right flank.”)
Georgia’s Terrible Law Doesn’t Have to Be the Future of Abortion
Power to the people: DC residents could soon issue parking tickets
Four Industries Big Tech Has Ruined
Pay Transparency and the Gender Gap
Republicans Call Tlaib Anti-Semitic for Saying Something Nice About Israel (when you’ve gone too far for Chait…)
Rashida Tlaib and the anatomy of a smear
What Is Journalism
D.C.’s Emergency Vehicles Have Long Faced Mechanical Issues. Will This Year’s Funding Help?
She always feared gunfire. Instead, she lost her son to a shattering hit-and-run.
Three Definitions of “Gentrification” Apply to Seven DC Census Tracts
Bowser ties fate of empty school building to D.C.’s gentrification fight
On the Trail With Bernie Sanders 2.0
Tell Your Mee-Maw And Them To Break Up With Joe Biden. I’m Bored
Council Set to Vote Down Mayor in Battle Over Shaw Junior High Site
Democrats: Trump’s GOP Is a Threat to Democracy — So We Better Play Nice
An Alt-Right Pool Party Loses Its Pool
Diners Love Using Food Delivery Apps. Restaurants Say That’s Not Always A Good Thing
Local bicycle shops ask Mayor Bowser to get serious about road safety
No Medical Care For Women

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How Is This Not Disqualifying for Biden?

As usual, when discussing the Democratic primaries, my disclosure that, were I voting today, I would vote Warren.

I had heard about part of this story, but this is really bad for Biden (boldface mine):

Centrist Democrat Joe Biden campaigned in October for Republican Rep. Fred Upton just ahead of the midterms.

Biden, who is considering a 2020 run for the presidency, did so at a time when Democrats were desperate to take control of the House and gain some power to stop Trump.

This, I had heard about. Not good. Especially since Upton is opposed to legal and safe abortion. But it gets worse:

The New York Times reports that Biden was paid $200,000 to speak at a rally in Benton Harbor, and he and the GOP were successful as Upton edged Democrat Matt Longjohn by four points.

How is this remotely acceptable? It’s bad enough he campaigned for him, but to get paid to do it?

Considering some Democrats get bent completely out of shape over whether or not Sanders is a real Democrat, if Sanders had done this, they would be howling for him to drop out.

They would be correct in doing so, too.

Posted in Bidness, Democrats | 1 Comment

The Incompetency of ‘The Best People’: The 5G Edition

Admist all of the awfulness of the Trump administration, it’s worth noting just how incompetent they, on the whole, are. Consider this item about 5g networks (boldface mine):

A US Navy memo warns that 5G mobile networks are likely to interfere with weather satellites, and senators are urging the Federal Communications Commission to avoid issuing new spectrum licenses to wireless carriers until changes are made to prevent harms to weather forecasting.

The FCC has already begun an auction of 24GHz spectrum that would be used in 5G networks. But Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) today wrote a letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, asking him to avoid issuing licenses to winning bidders “until the FCC approves the passive band protection limits that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) determine are necessary to protect critical satellite‐based measurements of atmospheric water vapor needed to forecast the weather.”

Wyden and Cantwell said that the “ongoing sale of wireless airwaves could damage the effectiveness of US weather satellites and harm forecasts and predictions relied on to protect safety, property, and national security.” They chided the FCC for beginning the auction “over the objections of NASA, NOAA, and members of the American Meteorological Society (AMS). These entities all argued that out-of-band emissions from future commercial broadband transmissions in the 24GHz band would disrupt the ability to collect water-vapor data measured in a neighboring frequency band (23.6 to 24GHZ) that meteorologists rely on to forecast the weather.

…The Navy memo cited NOAA and NASA studies on interference from 24GHz spectrum, which is intended for mobile use and is adjacent to spectrum used for weather operations.

“[A]s such, it is expected that interference will result in a partial-to-complete loss of remotely sensed water-vapor measurements,” the Navy memo said. “It is also expected that impacts will be concentrated in urban areas of the United States first.”

The problem could affect Navy and Marine Corps forecasts of tropical cyclones as well as rain, ice, and snow, the memo said. The Navy memo recommends asking the FCC to “tighten out-of-band interference by reducing bleed-over limits to -57dB.” The memo also says the Navy should “work with NOAA and NASA to continually assess and quantify actual impacts” and develop mitigations including “limited use of other channels, substitution of lesser-fidelity parameters, and the development of new techniques and algorithms through new research and development.”

Unlike immigration, this isn’t a matter of ideology or campaign promises: I doubt that Trump or Stephen Miller even understand the problem.

The 5G problem speaks to the general incompetency of Republican governance. FCC Pai would likely be appointed in any Republican administration. Only the best people.

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Links 5/19/19

Links for you. Science:

USDA Employees Unionize As Buffer Against Trump White House
Gray whales starving, washing up dead in startling numbers along SF coast
Is Noise Pollution the Next Big Public-Health Crisis?
Threats By Text, A Mob Outside The Door: What Health Workers Face In The Ebola Zone (“Huster says instead the government and the World Health Organization — which is coordinating the contribution by foreign experts — need to massively lower the profile of the Ebola response.”)
Early-career setback and future career impact


Congress isn’t just a co-equal branch. We’re first among equals.
These are the questions that presidential candidates should dwell on. How can they speak to rural areas where decline has been the rule since 1920?
Homelessness Is Not a Crime
Back to the past: Panoramic photos come alive at the new DC History Center
Slowly, Slowly, The Word Gets Around (read the linked thread)
Keanu says John Wick is too busy killing dudes to pursue his real passion: Antique book restoration
Under George Norcross’ autocratic rule, Camden has become a full-blown kleptocracy (there’s a small chance a Warren or Sanders presidency would have incentives to break Democratic machines; other candidates won’t)
If North Americans are put in charge of the Notre Dame reconstruction
No Man’s Land: Historians have largely discarded the lie that the “frontier” was an empty Eden waiting for American expansion—but not David McCullough.
At an Essex burial site, a find that rewrites early English history
I employ hundreds of American workers. I’d hire more if not for Trump’s tariffs.
The rise of fear-based social media like Nextdoor, Citizen, and now Amazon’s Neighbors
“Am I a bad person?” Why one mom didn’t take her kid to the ER — even after poison control said to.
I Could’ve Voted For A Democrat, But Then They Nominated That Communist Joe Manchin
Lead in the District’s water is still a problem. Will the DC Council fund a plan to fix it?
In a pivotal year, Danica Roem uses her spotlight to boost other Virginia Democrats
Bowser and D.C. Council spar over keeping Circulator free and whom it benefits
Talking to the Law Student With a Novel Theory About Amazon’s Power
Joe Biden’s surprisingly controversial claim that Trump is an aberration, explained
The National Gallery of Art Has Tintoretto Fever

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