Links 10/25/16

Links for you. Science:

Keep politics out of science? Fugghedaboutit
Yes, you can actually work yourself to death. But is that a surprise?
It’s Time for the Fur Trade to Protect Big Cats in the Wild
People are hunting primates, bats, and other mammals to extinction
Social Media Causes Polarization? Not So Fast.


When Liberals Became Republicans and Republicans Became Goons
The Looniest Economic Fantasies of the Third Debate Came From Chris Wallace
D.C. considers ways to strengthen rent control for low-income tenants (as best as I can tell, D.C. has ‘rent control’, not actual rent control. A guaranteed profit of twelve percent defines a rentier class)
A once nearly all-white district now has a new largest group: Hispanic students
A Donald Trump Win Would Signal The Biggest Poll Failure Ever (or a combination of registration restrictions and electronic voting irregularities)
I’ve been reporting on race for 40 years. Can we ever fix what’s broken?
Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer Says Top Priority for Next Year Is Giant Corporate Tax Cut
Bike lock developed that makes thieves immediately vomit
Idiot Mitosis
Hillary Clinton, In Paid Speeches To Wall Street, Promoted Commission That Pushed Social Security Cuts (Simpson-Bowles is awful. I wonder what Krugman would have done had he known about this in the primary…)
D.C. Hivemind Mulls How Clinton Can Pass Huge Corporate Tax Cut
Damaged brand: New Trump hotels will no longer bear his name
Suburban. Comma. Transit
I’m getting really irritated by moronic discussions about “The White Working Class,” as if it’s a fucking monolith.
The Price I’ve Paid for Opposing Donald Trump (now if they were only horrified by what ob/gyns who provide abortions experience…)
Twitter’s Anti-Semitism Problem
Chris Wallace And The Banality Of Conservative Dishonesty

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Scary Box

Observed at the corner of 15th and Swann NW, Shaw, D.C.:

Scared box

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It’s Still The Handguns Stupid

I know I’m shouting into the wind about handguns–which cause the overwhelming majority of gun deaths, both suicides and homicides–but Gary Younge makes an interesting point (boldface mine):

Having identified the problem, but without being able to envision any political remedy, Williams grudgingly understands the ubiquitous presence of guns as a banal fact of death in this country. Herein lies the central challenge for the national gun-control movement: It has rallied many good people who are doing good work, but it has failed to connect with the communities most keenly affected by gun violence. Indeed, the people who need it most—low-income communities of color—are the very ones we hear from least.

Segregation is a serious barrier to empathy. So when poor black and brown people are shot dead in areas deprived of resources, the media, the police, and a sizable portion of the political class are confirmed in their view that these are dysfunctional places where dysfunctional people live and die. It doesn’t challenge their worldview; it confirms it.

“If you’re a reader of The New York Times, then a child who is shot by a stray bullet during a gang shooting is not easy for you to imagine,” says Dan Kois, the culture editor of Slate, who in 2013 ran an online, crowdsourced death tally to record all the people who were shot daily. “Sandy Hook was easy for people to imagine.”

When there are mass shootings, the nation’s attention becomes concentrated on the issue. National gun-control advocates come to the fore and make the case for the kind of common-sense laws that would keep more Americans safe. But most people who are shot dead do not die in mass shootings—and most children and teens who are shot dead are not that young and not that white. Indeed, most people who are killed by a gun use one to kill themselves, and many of the remaining deaths come in the form of routine interpersonal violence. So the readers of The New York Times (and The Nation, for that matter) are going to have to broaden their imaginations if they’re going to mount an effective, sustainable challenge to the gun lobby.

While there is a racial component to this–and a decidely non-trivial one–I think there’s also an urban versus suburban/rural divide. Overwhelmingly, in urban areas, homicides are caused by handguns–it’s not like the movies where every hardcase has a long-barrel semi-automatic. That’s what people in cities, regardless of race, worry about: someone pulling out a hidden handgun and shooting you over something stupid (an argument or a robbery), not some spree shooter. Instead of a fist fight or even a knife, someone pulls a trigger, and, bang, you’re dead. People in the suburbs, unless they’re truly paranoid, don’t worry about this. Yet handguns, far and anyway, are the leading cause of death, not assault rifles (not saying people should have easy access to those either).

But we won’t get a handle on gun violence until we get serious about handguns.

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Links 10/24/16

Links for you. Science:

A changing climate for coral reefs
STD rates hit record high in U.S. as screening clinics close
Hillary Clinton vs Donald Trump on science, energy, and the climate
Use of strongest antibiotics rises to record levels on European farms
Facial expressions—including fear—may not be as universal as we thought


To Feed Energy Demand, There Will Be Sprawl
Scenes From an American Rally
Pizza Man. He’s the hero that we deserve and the one that we need
You just never know when you’ll make a new friend
Railway worker saves a drunk on a rail line.
Facebook’s Child Workforce
Arguing For Return Of Late-Night Service, Advocates Pack A Metro Hearing
Disenfranchised by Bad Design: There is in fact a widespread problem with ballots in the United States: they’re often horribly designed
Would-be Bethesda Condo Buyers Can’t Sell Their Mega Mansions
What 130 of the Worst Shootings Say About Guns in America
“All the black and brown people have to leave”: Trump’s scary impact on how kids think
Panic, Anxiety Spark Rush to Build Luxury Bunkers for L.A.’s Superrich (excellent allocation of capital)
Tattoo Politics
An architecture expert reveals 20 of the ugliest McMansions in America
Documenting Trump’s Abuse of Women
How Humanities Can Help Fix the World
Americans Work 25% More Than Europeans, Study Finds
Student Writing in the Digital Age

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I Ain’t Afraid Of No Ghosts

Observed on Corcoran St. NW, between 13th and 14th, Logan Circle, D.C.:

Afraid of no ghosts

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Our Scientific Infrastructure Is Decaying

Let’s ignore for a moment that we just shut down a fusion power research center that recently set a scientific record. Because that’s just too depressing to think about. Instead, let’s move on to how we’re getting our butts kicked in weather forecasting.

Somehow that didn’t cheer me up…

Anyway, this is a problem (boldface mine):

Nobody I’ve spoken to doubts the superiority of ensembles [a computationally intensive forecasting method]. Yet they haven’t been widely adopted in the United States at the resolution required to forecast localized, or “mesoscale,” events — specifically, thunderstorms, flash floods and tornadoes — because high-resolution ensembles require more computing power than the National Weather Service can currently provide. Higher-resolution ensembles translate to greater accuracy in the same way that HDTVs are clearer than analog sets. I met with a scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder who showed me a prototype mesoscale ensemble for the United States. But at the moment, he can’t exploit its full potential because the supercomputing cluster at the Weather Service simply couldn’t handle the load.

Mass also contends that the Weather Service should be spending far more to exploit Tropospheric Airborne Meteorological Data Reporting, or Tamdar, developed in the late 1990s. Regional airlines, like SkyWest, have Tamdar sensors on their aircraft, capturing data for Panasonic Weather Solutions’ new global model, which often outperforms Weather Service predictions. In 2008, the Weather Service began buying this proprietary data, but budget constraints in 2013 put an end to that. The Federal Aviation Administration funded NOAA to study the value of Tamdar observations. The results were staggering: Without it, forecast accuracy plummeted up to 50 percent. Last year, the Weather Service found a budgetary workaround that let it purchase a small amount of limited, low-resolution Tamdar data, but it’s nowhere near enough to make a difference in the accuracy of its models….

In October 2012, the European Center’s supercomputing cluster — the most powerful forecasting system in the world — correctly plotted Hurricane Sandy’s path into the Mid-Atlantic United States eight days in advance, while the National Hurricane Center predicted the storm would veer harmlessly offshore. Al Roker told me, “In a sad way, it took something like Sandy for people to say, Wait a minute, this is crazy.”

Because hurricanes form over oceans, where there are very few weather stations, predicting their routes and strength requires satellite data. What frustrates Roker and other meteorologists is that many satellites carry outdated technology and are nearing the ends of their life spans. “There is stuff circling the earth that’s been up there for 20 to 30 years,” Roker says. Replacements were scheduled to be sent into orbit last year, but their launches were postponed in part because the inspector general at the Department of Commerce, which oversees NOAA, found engineering and manufacturing defects in their components.

There is this belief, in large part due to ridiculous movies and TV shows, that we have this massive scientific infrastructure. The reality is that much of it is held together on shoestring budgets and is quite fragile. Of course, this wasn’t mentioned at all during the presidential debates (but we did get lots of questions about budget deficits! WHEEEEE!!!).

Again: saying you love science, but refusing to fund it adequately, isn’t loving science, that’s just ogling its breasts (or perhaps grabbing it by the pussy, to use a phrase…).

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Links 10/23/16

Links for you. Science:

Rock-Smashing Monkeys Unintentionally Make Sharp Stone Tools
5 Ways a Post-Antibiotic Era Could Change Medicine
Jennifer Lopez Sets Futuristic Bio-Terror Drama at NBC (not sure this is helping…)
Tasmanian devil milk fights superbugs
Greenland Is Melting


Economic Anxiety and the Limits of Data Journalism (excellent)
Young Minds in the Era of American Depravity (excellent)
End of An Alley: Blagden Alley was once a haven for D.C.’s underground arts scene. Now its last remaining artist is being priced out (important natural history of gentrification)
The Drug Trafficker Donald Trump Risked His Casino Empire to Protect
Trump’s rhetoric is not really 1860 it is 1890 language
How Hackers Broke Into John Podesta and Colin Powell’s Gmail Accounts
How Russia Pulled Off the Biggest Election Hack in U.S. History
No, Late-Term Abortions Don’t ‘Rip’ Babies Out Of Wombs — And They Exist For A Reason
Trump And GOP’s Ignorance About Abortion Will Kill Women
Donald Trump confuses birth with abortion and no, there are no ninth month abortions
Does America Really Need Overseas Bases?
Some see a nightmare with a Trump loss, but they may be looking at the wrong boogeyman
‘Nothing to See Here’ Is Pundit Takeaway on DNC Leaks
The Return of the Repressed Critique of Rentiers – Veblen in the 21st Century
Here’s What Economists Don’t Understand About Race
Larry Sanders on brother Bernie and why Tony Blair was ‘destructive’
Conservatism Never Fails: How the Republican Party will try to explain away Donald Trump’s disastrous campaign
Chris Wallace, Supply, Demand, and the Government Budget Deficit

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