17 January 2017

The case baffled investigators; now a new theory

From The Washington Post: an article by Amy Wang about a decades-old mystery:

It was “one of the longest and most exhaustive investigations” in FBI history and, to this day, remains the only unsolved skyjacking in the United States.
In 1971, a well-dressed passenger hijacked a Northwest Orient flight, demanded $200,000 and later escaped by parachuting out of the back of the plane with the ransom money.
But who exactly was D.B. Cooper, the mysterious man who managed to pull off the heist and disappear without a trace? More than four decades later, three amateur scientists think they may have found evidence that would narrow down Cooper’s identity to that of an aerospace engineer or a manager.
The scientists, working for a group called Citizen Sleuths, said they have been analyzing particles found on a clip-on necktie that Cooper left on his seat, 18E, before jumping out of the plane.
To the naked eye, the piece of fabric was a nondescript black tie from J.C. Penney. But, to the modern-day scientists, the tie was an “incredibly fortunate” piece of evidence in the investigation. “A tie is one of the only articles of clothing that isn’t washed on a regular basis,” reads a section on the Citizen Sleuths website devoted solely to the tie. “It picks up dirt and grime just like any other piece of clothing, but that accumulation never truly gets ‘reset’ in the washing machine. Each of those particles comes from something and somewhere and can tell a story if the proper instruments like electron microscopes are used.”
Using a powerful electron microscope, the scientists say they have identified more than a hundred thousand particles of “rare earth elements” on the tie, including cerium, strontium sulfide, and pure titanium, according to The Associated Press. Of those, titanium was the most notable.
“Titanium was a very rare metal in 1971, and this makes it extremely unlikely it is a post-event contamination,” Citizen Sleuths notes on its site, which lays out in painstaking detail all of the findings from the case. “Its presence constrains Cooper to a limited number of managers or engineers in the titanium field that would wear ties to work.”
At the time, they noted, the element was used extensively by the military in aircraft and helicopters.
Scientists think he may have worked at Boeing, which at the time happened to be developing a Super Sonic Transport plane that used those elements, Tom Kaye, a lead researcher with Citizen Sleuths, told King 5 News. “The tie went with him into these manufacturing environments, for sure, so he was not one of the people running these machines,” Kaye told the news station. “He was either an engineer or a manager in one of the plants.” He added that the group was asking anyone from the public with information to contact researchers through the Citizen Sleuths website. “Someone may be able to look at those particles and say, ‘Oh my gosh, I know what that means having those particles on the tie,’ ” Kaye told the news station.
The mystery began on 24 November 1971, when a nondescript man going by the name of Dan B. Cooper purchased a one-way ticket from Portland, Oregon to Seattle, Washington directly from the Northwest Orient Airlines counter on the day of the flight.
He used cash to pay for his ticket, then boarded the plane. Authorities later described him as someone in his mid-forties, dressed as an “executive” in a suit, a white shirt, and what probably is the now-infamous black tie.
The agency’s official summary of how the hijacking unfolded reads like the plot of a Hollywood thriller from another era:
He ordered a drink, bourbon and soda, while the flight was waiting to take off. A short time after 1500, he handed the stewardess a note indicating that he had a bomb in his briefcase and wanted her to sit with him.
The stunned stewardess did as she was told. Opening a cheap attaché case, Cooper showed her a glimpse of a mass of wires and red colored sticks and demanded that she write down what he told her. Soon, she was walking a new note to the captain of the plane that demanded four parachutes and $200,000 in twenty-dollar bills.
When the flight landed in Seattle, the hijacker exchanged the flight’s 36 passengers for the money and parachutes. Cooper kept several crew members, and the plane took off again, on a course for Mexico City.
Somewhere between Seattle, Washington and Reno, Nevada, a little after 2000, the hijacker did the incredible: he jumped out of the back of the plane with a parachute and the ransom money. The pilots landed safely, but Cooper had disappeared into the night, and his ultimate fate remains a mystery to this day.
The FBI pursued hundreds of leads. No body or parachute was ever found, but in 1980, a boy digging near the Columbia River found three bundles of $20 bills whose serial numbers matched the money Cooper had demanded.
The Cooper case baffled the FBI for 45 years, and in July of 2016, the agency announced it would no longer actively pursue the “NORJAK investigation,” for Northwest hijacking.
Over the decades, hundreds of tips had poured in, but none that could help prove culpability beyond reasonable doubt, the agency said. “Every time the FBI assesses additional tips for the NORJAK case, investigative resources and manpower are diverted from programs that more urgently need attention,” the FBI said in a statement.
Soon after the FBI dropped the case, Geoffrey Gray, the author of Skyjack, announced that he would make available hundreds of FBI files related to the Cooper case on True Ink, an online magazine Gray founded. By opening everything up to the public, Gray said he hoped to use people’s enduring curiosity about the case to crowdsource, once and for all, Cooper’s identity. “We’re trying to solve one of the greatest unsolved mysteries of our time,” he wrote on True Ink, “and we need your help.”
Rico says we may never know...

16 January 2017

Puppet? If so, who's holding the strings?

From The New York Times, an op-ed article by Max Boot:

Donald Trump: A Modern Manchurian Candidate?
The onus is on the president-elect to prove he is not Putin's puppet.
In recent days, two intelligence dossiers have been published making sensational charges involving President-elect Donald J. Trump and the 2016 election. Although they will be lumped together in the public mind, in truth they are as different as chalk and cheese.
The first of these reports, published last week, was an unclassified version of a US intelligence community assessment that concluded with “high confidence” that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia had ordered an “influence campaign” aimed at the presidential election, and that his goals included damaging Hillary Clinton and electing Trump. All intelligence contains an element of uncertainty, but this is as good as it gets: a judgment corroborated by the FBI, the CIA, and the NSA, based on human intelligence, electronic intercepts, and forensic investigation into the hacks of the Democratic National Committee and Democratic party officials.
The second report, dumped on the internet by BuzzFeed News on Tuesday, is a very different animal. As BuzzFeed wrote: “The document was prepared for political opponents of Trump by a person who is understood to be a former British intelligence agent” ( now identified as Christopher Steele) and its allegations are “unverified.” If true, the claims in the BuzzFeed dossier are sensational, including extensive contacts between Trump aides and Russian operatives and the Russian accumulation of dirt on Trump to be used for blackmail.
But are they true? No one knows. This could either be a Watergate-style scandal that engulfs the Trump presidency or a Hitler Diaries-style hoax, or anything in between.
It is worrisome that this material was published by BuzzFeed when major news organizations, which are not particularly friendly to Trump, declined to do so because they could not verify its claims. BuzzFeed made a serious mistake in simply posting all of this unverified information online, ignoring the journalistic practice of checking and corroboration. And the publication of the material is damaging, not least because the questionable character of this dossier can be used to impugn the integrity of the American intelligence community, even though it was not the source.
Just because the allegations are unproven, however, does not mean they are all false. CNN reported that “US intelligence agencies have now checked out the former British intelligence operative and his vast network throughout Europe and find him and his sources to be credible enough to include some of the information in the presentations to the President and President-elect a few days ago.”
Trump himself is doing nothing to dispel suspicions with his hyperbolic attacks and his denials that he has business interests in Russia when his dealings there go back decades. He accused the intelligence agencies of releasing this “fake news” to take “one last shot” at him, and outrageously compared their acts to those of Nazi Germany, as if the Nuremberg Trials were held to punish the leaking of raw intelligence.
At the same time that Trump continues to exhibit paranoia about American intelligence agencies, he displays a trust verging on gullibility in the mendacious and murderous government of Putin. “Russia just said,” he tweeted, “unverified report paid for by political opponents is ‘A COMPLETE AND TOTAL FABRICATION, UTTER NONSENSE.’ Very unfair!”
Well, yes, of course Russia said that. But why should anyone believe what Putin says? The fact that Trump seems to give greater credence to the Kremlin than to United States intelligence agencies is precisely what has set off so much speculation about his real motives in cozying up to Putin.
There is only one way to get to the bottom of this tawdry affair: appoint a bipartisan, 9/11-style commission to investigate all of the allegations and issue a public report. The former CIA directors Leon E. Panetta and Michael V. Hayden, among other possible choices, would provide instant credibility if they were appointed to lead such a panel.
If Trump is genuinely innocent of any untoward connections with the Kremlin, wouldn’t he want a full investigation to clear his name? That he so adamantly opposes any such inquiry speaks volumes.
Yet the speculation, which was gaining currency even before the publishing of the dossier by BuzzFeed, isn’t going away. The reason is obvious: Trump appears to be infatuated with the autocrat in the Kremlin. As the Russian dissident and chess champion Garry Kasparov noted: “Trump has criticized Republicans, Democrats, the Pope, the US elections, CIA, FBI, NATO, and Meryl Streep. But Trump has not criticized Vladimir Putin.”
The closest Trump has ever come to directly criticizing Putin was at his news conference on Wednesday, when, speaking of the hacking (which he admitted for the first time was the work of the Kremlin), he said, “He shouldn’t have done it.” This was pretty mild censure, however, compared with his scorching suggestion that American spies were employing Nazi-like tactics. Even that mild rebuke was vitiated by Trump’s boast that “If Putin likes Donald Trump, I consider that an asset, not a liability.”
If it persists in office, Trump’s slavish devotion to the Russian strongman will continue to raise questions about the exact nature of their relationship. If the president-elect wants to put such suspicions to rest, he should get as tough with the Kremlin as he vows to do with America’s other enemies.
Rico says you heard it here first... (And maybe we should all re-read Clancey's bookThe Cardinal of the Kremlin...) 

Pendant may be a link to Anne Frank

From Time:


Rico says they killed her anyway...

The real history behind PBS’ Victoria UF

From Time, a debunking article by Kate Samuelson about Victoria, the television show:

The British television drama Victoria premiered on PBS as part of the channel’s Masterpiece anthology on 15 January 2017. Starring Jenna Coleman (from Doctor Who) as Queen Victoria (photo), the series follows the monarch’s early life, from her accession to the throne in 1837 at eighteen, to her courtship and early marriage to her cousin, Prince Albert.
Victoria launched in the UK in August of last year, receiving a number of positive reviews. The Daily Mail called it a “proper costume drama” that follows the Downton Abbey template “with rapid cutting and short scenes”, and Digital Spy described Coleman’s performance as “terrific”.
However, some critics weren’t as impressed: The Telegraph called the series finale “a right royal yawn” and The Spectator described the show as “silly, facile and irresponsible.” And while screenwriter Daisy Goodwin drew inspiration from the Queen’s own diaries, historians and critics have remarked on the many liberties the show’s writers took. Here are a few examples:
1. It’s very unlikely Queen Victoria was in love with Lord Melbourne
“We would certainly know if Victoria was in love with Melbourne,” writes English historian Professor Jane Ridley in The Telegraph, referring to the British Prime Minister who acted as the Queen’s confidant and ally. “Victoria’s frank, vivid and detailed account makes it abundantly clear that she didn’t fancy Melbourne, let alone contemplate marrying him. [He] was urbane and witty, but at sixty he wasn’t nearly as handsome as [actor] Rufus Sewell – and he had become enormously fat.”
Indeed, Lord Melbourne was 40 years the queen’s senior, but in Victoria he is portrayed as far younger.
2. Coleman’s monarch appears more together than the real queen
The real Queen Victoria was said to be a “short, vulgar-looking child” with bulging eyes. In fact, she was so portly in her latter years that she had a 50-inch waist, reports The Sunday Post. She was tiny (roughly 4ft 11in) and is said to have had a throne specially made for her because of her height.
In contrast, Coleman is 5ft 1in, conventionally attractive and slender. “[She’s] more like Kate Middleton, controlled and poised, than the historical tempestuous, wilful, plump young queen,” says Ridley.
3. Queen Victoria wasn’t known as a philanthropist
According to Ridley, the queen “took little interest in the starving poor.” A plot-line about Victoria intervening to pardon the Newport Chartists—rebels from the Newport Rising of 1839 who wanted to improve life for the working classes—which did not happen in real life.
In the episode, Victoria intercedes on behalf of the Chartists sentenced to be hung, drawn and quartered after discovering one of them is related to her dresser, Mrs. Jenkins. In fact, as the Radio Times reports, leaders of the march were initially sentenced to death but were instead sent to Australia after a nationwide campaign. Victoria herself made no personal intervention.
4. There’s no evidence a plague of rats infested the Palace
Despite a rather memorable scene in Victoria, there is no historical evidence that a plague of rats infested the Palace—or that the Queen screamed in horror in reaction.
“There was almost certainly never a moment in young Queen Victoria’s life when she was frightened into hysteria by vermin suddenly materialising on a giant cake, thus causing onlookers to speculate that she might have inherited the Madness of George III,” writes James Delingpole in The Spectator.
5. Victoria and Albert’s relationship was love at first sight
Victoria is portrayed as finding Albert irritating at first, but it wasn’t like that in real life. “On the contrary,” Ridley told the Mail, “Victoria fell madly in love at first sight. She wrote ‘Albert is beautiful’ in her diary. He was much less excited, though.'”

Rico says no worse than any other historical drama...

A White House built by blacks

From the BBC:


Rico says more forgotten history...

Sent from my iPhone

The moment that changed Picasso

From the BBC:


Rico says then he changed art forever...

Kyrgyzstan plane crash landed on top of a village

From the BBC:


Rico wonders wassup with the Turks? They keep hitting the ground...

Why Wells Fargo rejected a teacher’s Black Lives Matter debit card design


Rico says another corporate clusterfuck...

Philippines protests China’s weapons installation on islands

From The Washington Post:


Rico says like China even noticed...

‘Europe’s last dictatorship’ has a new plan: tourism


Rico says he won't be going any time soon... (For one thing, note the snow...)

Video shows police tackling and beating a black man suspected of stealing a car. It was his.

From The Washington Post:


Rico says that was stupid...

Researchers identify Japanese tapeworm parasite in Alaskan-caught salmon

From The Washington Post:


Rico says so much for eating salmon...

15 January 2017

Big booms

Rico says he watched, courtesy of his friend Kelley, a YouTube video in which they tried to recreate what would have happened if Guy Fawkes (rendered as Forces, Fawks, and Forks in the incredibly bad subtitling) had succeeded in blowing up the then-smaller Parliament building:


Rico says it would have changed British history...


Rico says his mother died on 25 March of this year.
If there is an afterlife, he's hoping she went straight into the loving arms of her husband Peter, who predeceased her:

13 January 2017

Walling off Mexico

The Washington Post has an article by Mike DeBonis, who covers Congress and national politics for The Washington Post, about Trump's impending wall:
In a bid to swiftly deliver on one of President-elect Donald Trump’s chief campaign promises, congressional Republicans are exploring ways to begin funding a barrier on our southern border starting as soon as April of 2017.
Multiple lawmakers described the plans recently, which would use authority under a 2006 law, supported by Republicans and Democrats alike, to justify spending that could eventually reach into the billions of dollars.
From the beginning of this campaign, Trump pledged to “build a wall and make Mexico pay for it”. While the funding under discussion in Congress would be from taxpayer funds, it would not preclude Trump’s administration from seeking reimbursement from Mexico, as Trump himself has discussed on the campaign trail.
“I said Mexico is paying for the wall, with the full understanding that the country of Mexico will be reimbursing the United States for the full cost of such a wall, okay?” he said during a 22 October 2016 speech in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. “We’re going to have the wall. Mexico is going to pay for the wall.”
On Friday, Trump took to Twitter with the assertion that Mexico will eventually cover the costs of what he called “the Great Wall”, although Mexican officials strongly reject offering any funds. “The dishonest media does not report that any money spent on building the Great Wall (for sake of speed), will be paid back by Mexico later!” Trump tweeted.
A number of Republican lawmakers believe that Trump has authority under the Secure Fence Act of 2006 to commence construction on a wall. That law, backed by President George W. Bush, mandated seven hundred miles of “reinforced fencing” along the US-Mexico border, along with enhanced surveillance systems that came to be known as a “virtual fence”. But the full complement of barriers was never completed, and GOP lawmakers believe that the law provides sufficient authority to complete a full border wall like that described by Trump.
That would allow Congress, without passing a new piece of legislation, to start funding the wall through the normal appropriations process. Current federal spending authority expires on 28 April 2017, and Republicans could push to include border wall funding in any spending legislation that would follow. While Democrats could well block a separate border wall bill, it would be more difficult for them to block spending legislation, thus risking a government shutdown.
Several high-profile Democrats, including then-Senator Barack Obama and current Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, voted for the Secure Fence Act.
“It’s an existing law that hasn’t been implemented, in part based on the ideology and philosophy of the outgoing president,” said Representative Luke Messer (a Republican from Indiana), chairman of the House Republican Policy Committee, who said he was one of several lawmakers pushing the approach. “I see nothing partisan about trying to comply with existing laws.”
Key policy decisions have not yet been made: where to start building, for instance, or whether the barrier ought to be a fence or a solid wall. Messer said a broader border security bill could follow a move to start spending on a wall. “It would be a proposal that would cost billions of dollars to get done, but if it’s an appropriate priority for our country, it’s worth spending that kind of money,” Messer said.
Another lawmaker, Representative Steve King (a Republican from Iowa), a fierce opponent of illegal immigration, said he did not know precisely how Trump wanted to proceed with the wall, but speculated on what his considerations might be. “I think what he’s asking is: What do you have now? What are the assets we have to work with, and what are the challenges for right-of-way acquisition?” King said. “What are the tools they have within the departments? How much money is sitting around in the Department of Homeland Security that could be reallocated? What do they have in the books for design, and how much engineering have they done? He’s got the authority to do a lot without moving legislation, but he wants to know what would require legislation.”
King said he was not especially concerned that Congress, not the Mexican government, would be writing the first checks.
“If we build that wall, and Donald Trump hasn’t figured out how to get Mexico to pay, I’m not going to be the guy who says ‘Let’s wait until we get this in pesos,'” he said.
Rico says it ain't gonna be cheap, in dollars or pesos, but the Chinese already built theirs...

Rogue One had problems

Esquire has an article by Matt Miller about issues with the recent Star Wars prequel:

Rogue One does everything it needs to do. It has all the little nods to the original that'll trigger your nostalgia, it fills the gaping Star Wars void in your soul (or at least your year), and keeps the struggling small business known as Disney afloat until the next movie in the franchise premieres in 2017.
Because this is a stand-alone film, it's removed from much of the pressure that made the prequels and The Force Awakens so stressful to watch. It's kind of okay if Rogue One isn't perfect because it's just A Star Wars Story; this ain't the main event, folks, so we can just sit back and have fun. You don't have to watch it with the fear that director Gareth Edwards fucked up a beloved Star Wars movie. It's a spin-off; chill out and have fun!
With that, Rogue One finally puts you down into the trenches to truly get the sense of this war between good guys with lasers and evil guys with lasers. Most importantly, it introduces audiences to the best new character in the Star Wars universe, K-2SO— a reprogrammed droid who is the film's only comic relief and also presents the ethical dilemma of droid slave labor and the morally ambiguous ideological "choices" of machines. Plus, the final five minutes are fucking awesome.
It's easy to overlook the half-baked characterization, a few truly dull performances, and a script that would even embarrass George Lucas, because Rogue One is a relentlessly exciting, and often beautiful looking, space adventure. But what I really can't forget is one annoying plot hole that bothered me throughout the entirety of Rogue One:
How are Storm Troopers incapacitated by getting hit with a blunt stick?
I get it. Storm Troopers go down easy. They always have, for better or worse, in the Star Wars universe. Lasers, lightsabers, grenades, magic powers, whatever— they always kill Storm Troopers, despite their armor. I can suspend disbelief there. I could even be forgiving when the Ewoks took down that AT-AT with two tree stumps in Return of the Jedi, because that was the fucking 1980s.
But how can a wooden stick knock out, or even kill, a Storm Trooper? When I was a kid, I played lacrosse for some reason (I was not good). Since I spent most of my time on the bench, we would entertain ourselves by hitting each other in the head with our lacrosse sticks. Those were made of metal, and we swung those damn things as hard as we could into each other's heads. All we were wearing were helmets designed to protect us from the body weight of a skinny teenage boy. Assuming the Storm Trooper helmet is at least the same toughness of a sports helmet, a wooden stick wouldn't do too much. Hell you'd probably only be dazed if you were wearing a bike helmet.
If this happened one or two times in Rogue One, it would be fine, but it keeps happening in this movie. Again and again. Watch as Jyn takes down a few armed Storm Troopers with the space equivalent of a night stick.
Sure, there are other plot holes in Rogue One: Why does the Empire always just send a few guys to check out a strange docked ship? Why is it always so easy to fit into a Galactic Empire uniforms and armor? Why are very important computer consoles located at the end of narrow walkways hundreds of feet in the air? Why is it so easy to fake Empire landing codes? These I'm also willing to overlook, because it's just an entertaining movie about spaceships that shoot lasers. The movie would be no fun if the Empire sent a large team of truly competent soldiers to kill the heroes in the first scene. But couldn't the writers have come up something a little more compelling or believable than a wooden staff and a night stick? It would be the same movie; hell, even put some electricity on the damn stick and it would make sense.
Maybe the reason it bothers me so much is that the entire story of Rogue One is essentially correcting a plot hole from the original Star Wars: why was there such a gaping design flaw in this very important space station? As we learn in Rogue One, the guy who built the Death Star intentionally included this flaw for the rebels to destroy it. If we're now in the business of making movies to fix other movies' plot holes, couldn't we at least do it without adding additional plot holes?
Anyway, I'm sure some fan out there has a very detailed explanation for this phenomena in Rogue One, and, if that's the case, please let me know.
Rico says the whole Zatoichi blind-swordsman thing (photo) was silly, too...

Bad subtitling

Rico says he's been watching, thanks to his friend Kelley, a YouTube video about Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot.

Given the accents, and Rico's bad hearing, he's been running the available subtitles. Awful. They can't even get Fawkes right, rendering it as 'Force' or 'Fox'...

12 January 2017

History redux

Rico says that, being a lover of history, he had to watch The Gunpowder Plot, recommended by his friend Kelley (also a history junkie), about Guy Fawkes' plan to blow up the then-much-smaller House of Lords.

Yahoo! no longer

The Washington Post has an article by Elizabeth Dwoskin, the Silicon Valley correspondent for The Washington Post, about Yahoo!'s new name:

Yahoo! was already a shell of its former self. Now part of the company is getting an obscure new name: Altaba.
When Verizon agreed to buy the company for nearly five billion dollars in July of 2016, it planned to purchase just Yahoo's core Internet businesses, which include its email service, sports verticals, and various apps. What's left of the embattled technology company would essentially be its ownership in the very valuable Chinese Internet giant Alibaba. When the deal closes, the remaining part will change its name to Altaba, the company announced in security filings. The sale is expected to be completed by late March of 2017, Yahoo! said.
The new name is meant to be a combination of the words “alternative and Alibaba,” according to a person familiar with the company’s thinking, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the individual was not authorized to speak on the record about the name change.
Today Yahoo! owns roughly fifteen percent of Alibaba, holdings that are worth about $35 billion. The idea behind the name is that Altaba’s stock can now be tracked as an alternative to Alibaba because Yahoo! owns a sizable chunk of the Chinese company.
The name change reflects just how far Yahoo! has fallen. The company that was once an Internet giant, and is still the third most visited internet property in the United States, is now essentially a vehicle for holding Alibaba's stock.
The new company, which will be publicly traded and, until now, has been referred to as RemainCo in security filings, also owns a 35.5 percent stake in Yahoo! Japan, the company’s Japanese affiliate, and Yahoo’s cash, as well as a patent portfolio that is being sold off in a separate auction.
Yahoo! spokeswoman, Suzanne Philion, would not comment on the name. She emailed the following statement: “We are confident in Yahoo!’s value and we continue to work towards integration with Verizon.”
The company also announced in the filings that Eric Brandt is now the chairman of Yahoo!'s board. He is a former finance chief of semiconductor company Broadcom. Marissa Mayer remains chief executive and plans to step down from the board when the deal closes. Philion declined to comment further on these changes. 
Rico says it's just as stupid as the old one...

11 January 2017

Big ice

The Washington Post has an article by Chris Mooney about climate change (no matter what Trump says):
Last week, British scientists announced a disturbing finding: a crack in the Larsen C ice shelf (photo) in the Antarctic Peninsula had dramatically accelerated its spread, increasing eleven miles in length in the space of a month. This means the floating ice shelf, which is nearly as big as Scotland and the fourth largest of its kind in Antarctica, is poised to break off a piece nearly two thousand square miles in size, or over ten percent of its total area. An ice island the size of a small American state would then be afloat in the Southern Ocean.
That’s dramatic enough, but there is uncertainty in the science world about what would happen next. On the one hand, the researchers with Project MIDAS, who announced the growth of the rift, have published research suggesting that, in their words, it “presents a considerable risk to the stability of the Larsen C Ice Shelf.” If they’re right, it’s hard to understate how big a deal it is; Antarctica has lost ice shelves before, but not one so enormous. Not only would a loss of Larsen C change the map of the Earth itself; the shelf holds back glaciers capable of contributing about four inches of global sea level rise over time.
The rift is now largely following the second, and worse scenario from their research, said glaciologist Daniela Jansen of the Alfred Wegner Institute in Germany, if it is correct. “This calving will be a test for our calving front stability criterion,” she said by email.
However, other analyses have suggested that most of the ice that would be lost is so-called “passive ice” that does not play a key role in holding the glaciers behind the shelf in place. Bit some scientists have expressed skepticism about whether what’s happening at Larsen C is “cause for alarm”.
Time, ultimately, will show who is right. But in the meantime we can sketch, a little, the kinds of things that scientists are thinking about as they watch all of this unfold:
First, they are very mindful that what’s happening to Larsen C could be part of a broader pattern for ice shelves both globally and on the Antarctic Peninsula, including Larsen A, which collapsed in 1995, and most of all Larsen B.
Much of Larsen B, located just north of Larsen C on the other side of a peninsula, collapsed dramatically in 2002, and scientists have shown that this is probably not something that has happened in the last twelve thousand years or even, perhaps, in more than a hundred thousand years, since the last interglacial event. What’s more, the collapse followed closely upon a large break in 1995, a possible analog for what is now happening to its southern cousin.
Larsen C has also apparently been in place for a very long time. Whether the pending loss of its enormous iceberg would ignite a fast retreat, researchers agree the event will bring it down to a size smaller than anything humans have observed before.
Indeed, whether the retreat is slow or fast, a number of scientists have also documented that Larsen C is changing in a way suggestive of a weakening due to a warming climate. In all ice shelves, ice flows slowly from inland glaciers out through the shelf toward the sea. But recently, the flow rate at the northern sector of Larsen C has sped up. “This is a sign of instability, akin to the twenty percent increase in the flow speed of Larsen B between 1996 and 2000 prior to its collapse,” noted a 2011 scientific paper by University of California at Irvine geoscientist Eric Rignot and his colleagues.
Larsen C is also very slowly lowering in the water. This is happening because the ice that composes the shelf is getting thinner, whether due to melting from above or from below. The thinning process is slow enough that it would not result in any sudden loss of the ice shelf, but it’s still another sign of weakening.
What’s striking is that all of this is occurring even though, because it is farther south along the Antarctic peninsula, Larsen C is in a colder place than the other ice shelves that have already collapsed. Scientists have suggested that there is a kind of threshold in annual temperatures for where ice shelves cease to be feasible: a temperature above minus-9 degrees Celsius (15.8 Fahrenheit), averaged annually. Larsen C turns out to be right at the cutoff for this to happen.
Larsen C is at the limit of break up, its northern side (which is not far from Larsen B) is close to the limit of viability of ice shelves,” said Rignot. “The southern side is more protected.”
With all of that in mind, what happens next? Let’s start with the argument from the researchers affiliated or working with Project MIDAS, who do think this one break could destabilize the shelf, and liken it to what happened with the Larsen B ice shelf nearby.
Their model of the ice shelf suggests that its front, facing the ocean, could remain in a partly unstable state after the break and lose considerably more ice afterward. The reason, they say, is that the break will remove regions of ice that were more stable because in these areas, the ice was subject to offsetting stresses and counter-stresses that had the effect of hemming it in and keeping it in place. But if some of these ice regions are gone, the argument goes, that would leave behind ice whose main tendency is to flow outward, toward the sea.
In addition to these balancing stresses near its front, the ice shelf also contains what scientists call a “compressive arch”, which you might think of as a line across the shelf where the stresses on the ice switch from causing it to be compressed, to causing it to stretch outward. This is further inland, but if that area is breached, the ice shelf is expected to collapse. At present, it looks like the break will cut through some of the arch, but not all of it. 
If you really want to nerd out, here is a recent scientific paper, explaining these shelf mechanics in depth. But, despite such debates, other researchers remain unsure just how badly the breakup will damage the larger shelf. “We studied the current rift in the past few years, it has been progressing rather ‘normally,’ the recent acceleration in the rift progression is ‘expected’ in my opinion,” said Rignot by email. “The consequences on the rest of the ice shelf are not clear at this point. If the calving continues and goes past the compressive arch … then the ice shelf will break up.”
A recent study in Nature Climate Change, however, found that the calving event would largely remove “passive ice” from Larsen C, ice that is not doing a great deal of work to hold glaciers back, and so will be “unlikely to instantly produce much dynamic change.” Granted, that study agreed that the remaining ice shelf will have a concave shape, just as Larsen A and Larsen B did before they collapsed.
“These authors have results that indicate a low level of concern, but not zero,” said Richard Alley, a glaciologist at Pennsylvania State University, referring to the Nature Climate Change study.
If scientists are hedging a bit about what happens next at Larsen C, perhaps that shouldn’t be surprising, in light of the fact that we are about to see a rare event. Moreover, it’s one whose precise effect on the shelf ultimately depends on incompletely understood and highly complex processes of ice fracture, one that the models may or may not be able to capture.
“The details of how any particular fracture will propagate depend very sensitively on local conditions, and the exact loading and precise distribution of flaws in the material, in ways that make it fairly easy to predict the average behavior of the breakage of a lot of things, but very difficult to predict the breakage of one particular thing,” explained Alley. “Engineers generally deal with this by designing their structures so that they do not need to predict one fracture; make the bridge or the airplane wing or other structure tough enough that it is very very unlikely to break, because if a lot of structures are close to breaking, sooner or later one will, with potentially very bad outcomes.”
“Exactly where the break will go on Larsen C, and how it will affect the breaks behind it, fall into the category of predicting one break,” Alley finished.
Rico says that, eventually, even Trump will have to admit to the problem, when the Potomac backs up into the White House basement...

Dinosaurs, still extinct

The Washington Post has an article by Sarah Kaplan about one reason dinosaurs died out:

For dinosaurs, hatching eggs was a long-term commitment. A nest pinned the parents down to the spot where the eggs were laid. As long as they were incubating their eggs, they couldn't venture off in search of food, or to flee predators, nd their eggs incubated for a very long time.
That's according to Gregory Erickson, a paleobiologist at Florida State University and the lead author of a new study on dinosaur hatching times in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Close examination of embryos found fossilized inside their eggs suggests that dinosaurs took as many as six months to hatch, far longer than their closest modern descendants, today's birds.
This long period of development may have been what doomed them, Erickson said. After an asteroid crashed into the earth sixty million years ago, triggering a mass extinction, it would have been harder for slowpoke reproducers like dinosaurs to recover.
“I think it's an important piece for understanding why dinosaurs went extinct,” he said.
To understand why, we have to rewind a bit, to about ten million years before the asteroid strike. It's the end of the Cretaceous Period. In what is now Mongolia's Gobi Desert, a clutch of twelve eggs the rough size and shape of potatoes has just been laid by a Protoceratops andrewsi, a relative of the more famous Triceratops. Around the same time, near Alberta, Canada, a duck-billed Hypacrosaurus stebingeri laid a huge egg the size of a volleyball. (“Ridiculous,” Erickson said of the almost ten-pound Hypacrosaurus egg.)
While the dinosaurs did whatever it is dinosaurs do while nesting (scientists think some species sat on their nests like birds, while others probably buried their eggs like reptiles), the embryos inside slowly develop. Just before the halfway point of their incubation period, they start to grow teeth.
In humans and reptiles, teeth are formed from dentin, a liquid that gets laid down every day and then mineralizes, forming a hard layer. Over time, the layers build up like tree rings, one for each day the embryo developed.
“You can basically just count those up and figure out how long it took the dentition to form,” Erickson said. He wondered if dinosaur embryos might exhibit the same phenomenon. So he talked with scientists at the American Museum of Natural History (which houses the Protoceratops eggs) and the University of Calgary (which has the Hypacrosaurus egg) into letting him sample a small amount of tooth from each fossil.
As soon as he popped his slide under a microscope and saw the telltale dentin layers, “I knew we were in business,” Erickson said.
The number of layers let him calculate a conservative estimate of the incubation times for the two species: about three months for the smaller Protoceratops hatchlings, six months for the larger Hypacrosaurus. Most birds' eggs hatch in a fraction of that time (chickens take three weeks, canaries need just thirteen days). Even emperor penguin dads, who famously huddle around their eggs for extended periods to protect them from the harsh Antarctic winter, incubate their young for two months at most.
“It's really surprising,” Erickson said. “I don’t think that people would have entertained the idea that they would have incubated over the better part of the year.”
David Varricchio, a paleontologist at Montana State University not involved in the study, was less surprised by the long incubation times, noting that modern reptiles also take a long time to hatch. But the method of calculating incubation periods was a compelling one, he said, and it provides another line of evidence for understanding dinosaurs' lives.
Spending a long time caring for a clutch of eggs probably cramped dinosaur parents' styles. It restricted their habitats to regions where the weather was right for incubating an egg, made migration more difficult, and exposed attending parents to predators, natural disasters, and hunger, “all the rigors that go with trying to protect the nest for long periods of time,” Erickson said. Basically, this could have been an extreme version of the lengthy parenting depicted in the film March of the Penguins.
And that probably had consequences when the asteroid struck and wiped out most dinosaurs, along with three-quarters of all life on Earth. If a species was going to survive, it needed to be holding all the right cards when it came to physical and life history attributes. Successful creatures were small and adaptable animals that lived fast and died young. For the ancestors of birds, quick incubation times may have boosted their ability to repopulate and evolve to fill ecological niches left vacant after the disaster.
But dinosaurs were large and probably endothermic (warm-blooded), which made them “profligate wasters of energy,” Erickson said. They also took a long time to reach sexual maturity. On top of all this, a slow incubation might have been a “black ace”, contributing to long generational times that made it harder for dinosaurs to bounce back.
“Dinosaurs found themselves holding basically a dead man's hand,” Erickson said.
Rico says that,  Jurassic Park to the contrary, we don't need dinosaurs any more...

Roof, dead

The Washington Post has an article by Kevin Sullivan about the outcome of Dylan Roof's trial:

A Federal jury in Charleston, South Carolina sentenced Dylann Roof to death on Tuesday for killing nine black parishioners during a massacre in a church here in 2015.
Roof was convicted last month of 33 counts of Federal hate crimes. The same jury that found him guilty on all counts last month deliberated Tuesday for just under three hours before deciding his sentence.
Relatives of the victims said the decision was a just outcome. “Justice was served,” said Kevin Singleton, whose mother, Myra Thompson, was killed. “It still doesn’t change anything for the families, but I hope it can be a deterrent in the future.”
“I didn’t think the verdict would affect me the way it has; I haven’t stopped crying,” said Aja Risher, granddaughter of victim Ethel Lance. “But I’m so happy that their lives matter. It’s not just a terrible tragedy that happened. It renews my faith a little bit.”
“If this case didn’t warrant the death penalty, what case would?” Risher said in a telephone interview. “He took it upon himself to take nine beautiful lives. Now twelve people of all races have said his life is the price he needs to pay for that.”
Risher’s mother, the Reveremd Sharon Risher, said that she “felt like my heart was going to pop” as she sat in the courtroom and listened to the sentencing decision. She said that she had been ambivalent about the death penalty, but had resigned herself to accept whatever decision the jury made. “But now that they have said he will get the death penalty, I feel that they have given him what he deserves,” she said. “It is well with my soul.”
Earlier Tuesday, Roof, 22, had stood before the jury and delivered a halting and cryptic closing argument, suggesting that the prosecution “hates me” and that his killing of nine parishioners at a Bible study meeting in 2015 was not motivated by hatred of black people. “Anyone that thinks I’m filled with hatred has no idea what real hatred is,” said Roof, a self-described white supremacist who has said he hoped his high-profile killings would incite a race war in America. “They don’t know anything about me. They don’t know what real hatred looks like. They think they do, but they don’t. I would say that, in this case, the prosecution and anyone else who hates me are the ones that have been misled,” Roof said in a soft voice, standing before the eight women and four men who, shortly after, began deliberating whether to sentence him to death or life in prison without the possibility of parole. “Wouldn’t it be fair to say that the prosecution hates me?” Roof said, noting that prosecutors were seeking the death penalty.
Roof told the jury they might think, “‘Of course they hate you; everyone hates you. They have good reason to hate you.’ I don’t deny it.”
For the first time, Roof also obliquely seemed to raise the possibility that some emotional or mental condition may have led to his killing rampage. Previously, Roof had clashed with his court-appointed attorneys who wanted to introduce evidence of mental illness.
“Um, I think it’s safe to say that no one in their right mind wants to go into a church and kill people,” said Roof, wearing a light blue cable-knit sweater and gray khakis, at the start of his seven-minute closing argument.
Roof pointed out to the jury that, in his confession to the FBI, “I told them I had to do it. Obviously that’s not true. Nobody made me do it.” Without directly explaining his meaning, Roof then said, “I felt like I had to do it, and I still feel like I had to do it.”
Roof also noted that he had a right to ask the jury to spare his life, but “I’m not sure what good that would do.”
Roof said FBI officials in his interrogation asked him “So is it safe to say that you don’t like black people?” “My response to them was, ‘I don’t like what black people do,’ ” he said. If he hated black people, Roof said, “wouldn’t I have just said, ‘Yes, I don’t like black people?’” He noted that imposition of the death penalty required a unanimous decision by the jury. “Only one of you needs to disagree,” he said, noting that each of them said during jury selection that they would stand up for what they thought was right.
With that, Roof paused, looked up and said: “That’s all, thank you.”
Roof’s closing statement followed a detailed two-hour closing argument by prosecutor Jay Richardson, who recapped the facts of the case, which have been uncontested by Roof.
Roof’s guilt was never in doubt; he admitted to FBI interrogators that he had planned for months to kill black worshipers at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, known as Mother Emanuel, because of the church’s historic significance in the black community; he said it would “make the biggest wave” and hopefully inspire other white people to kill black people.
The only question was whether Roof, a ninth-grade dropout, would be sentenced to death or to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Roof seemed to all but guarantee his fate by choosing to fire his court-appointed lawyers, including a respected death-penalty specialist, and represent himself during the penalty phase of the trial.
Richardson told the jury how Roof had planned the shootings for months and had become a radicalized racist online in recent years, especially since the killing of black Florida teenager Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman, a white man.
“He feels no remorse, because it was worth it to him,” Richardson said, displaying photos of all nine victims, who ranged in age from 26 to 87, contrasting photos of them smiling in life and lying crumpled and bloody on a church basement floor after being shot by Roof.
Richardson also noted that Roof considered Adolf Hitler “an icon, someone to be emulated,” and even loaded 88 bullets into his gun’s magazines; a common white supremacist symbol, as H is the eighth letter of the alphabet, and 88 represents Heil Hitler.
Richardson urged the jury to “speak the truth and hold this defendant accountable for his actions. Sentence this defendant to death.”
Following the jury’s decision, US Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch said in a statement it will “hold him accountable for his choices”. “No verdict can bring back the nine we lost that day at Mother Emanuel. And no verdict can heal the wounds of the five church members who survived the attack or the souls of those who lost loved ones to Roof’s callous hand. But we hope that the completion of the prosecution provides the people of Charleston, and the people of our nation, with a measure of closure.”
Rico says good riddance to bad rubbish, as the saying goes...

10 January 2017

Russian hackers, at it again

Rico says his Mail administrator sent this:

Someone recently used many different passwords to try to sign in to your mail account. We prevented any further sign-in attempt from the computer in case this was a hijacker trying to access your account. Please review the details of the sign-in attempt:
IP Address:
Location: Russian Federation 
Rico says feel free to abuse them at

Another dead kid, found

The Washington Post has an article by Sarah Larimer about a missing child, missing no longer:

The body of a child, which this week was discovered under the ice of a frozen Colorado pond, is that of a six-year-old who went missing days ago, authorities said.
“It is with a heavy heart that we have to report that we were notified by the Arapahoe County Coroner’s Office that the boy who was discovered in the icy pond in Olympic Park has been positively identified as David Puckett,” the Aurora Police Department said on Facebook.
The autopsy was performed Wednesday, police said. Officials didn’t find any “traumatic injuries” according to the Facebook post, and the cause and manner of Puckett’s death are still pending. An investigation remains open as authorities work “to determine the circumstance surrounding David’s death,” the Facebook post noted.
Officials  located a child’s body in the pond earlier this week, but the remains were not immediately identified as six-year-old Puckett, who was thought to have wandered away from his home, according to the Aurora Police Department.
The city’s police chief told reporters that crews did find “the body of what appears to be a child inside the pond, underneath the ice”. “At this time, we are not able to give a definitive identification on that individual,” Aurora Police Chief Nick Metz said. “I will say, however, that because of this information, because of our suspicion, I had the unfortunate experience of having to inform David’s family of what we found.”
The pond where the body was discovered, and the area around it, was being treated as a crime scene, Metz said, though he could not say whether there were signs of foul play or whether this was simply a horrible accident. “That’s a really good question, but that’s why we’re going to treat it as a crime scene and that’s why we’re going to process it and make sure that we do everything humanly possible to get a good idea of what occurred,” Metz said.
David went missing on New Year’s Eve, according to Aurora police. Authorities were called to his home that evening, after his family had searched for the child for about an hour before contacting police.
The boy was thought to have strayed from his home; he had “wandered from his home in the recent past, and was located by citizens,” an Aurora police blog post on the case stated. David was wearing only a light jacket when he went missing, authorities said.
David’s mother issued a tearful plea at a news conference Sunday, describing her son as friendly and energetic, and asking for the public to help in the search:
“If you guys can, please help me find him. If you see him, please call the police immediately,” she said. “If, by any chance, you picked him up last night because it was New Year’s Eve and thought it would just be safe for him to pick him up, please just call. Please bring my baby home.”
More than a hundred members of the law enforcement community, including personnel from the FBI, the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office, and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children were involved in the search for David, according to police. Additionally, more than two hundred citizens were part of the effort.
Crews also used bloodhound dogs, one of whom alerted authorities to the pond. The bloodhound “expressed interest” in the pond, which is in a park, police said in a blog post. A fire-rescue team was deployed and located the child’s body.
Police said in the post that the area has been heavily searched before, and there was “never any evidence someone fell into the pond or through the ice”. “A lot of folks went around the pond,” Metz said. “There was no indication that there had been breakage of the ice. In fact, even the family members said that they had gone around and didn’t see anything. But again, when the dog hinted there, the divers went in.”
Rico says at least they found him...

03 January 2017

Sherlock, returns, sort of

CNet has an article by James Hibberd about the return of Sherlock:

At first, Sherlock's season four started with the gang happier than ever. But that didn’t last long.
Yahoo has an Entertainment Weekly interview with the show's producer:

Entertainment Weekly spoke to producer Steven Moffat about Mary’s death and how it changes Sherlock moving forward.
Entertainment Weekly: Just so fans don’t misinterpret that ending, Mary’s really dead right? 
Steven Moffat: Yes, we’re not playing games. She’s dead. 
Entertainment Weekly: What made you decide to get rid of Mary? She died in Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories, but the cause of death was never even mentioned.
Steven Moffat: The truth is, it’s never established that she did die in the stories. We just assume she died because Watson refers to his “sad loss”, which is probably a death, but not necessarily. The reality of this, of course, is that Sherlock Holmes is about Sherlock and Dr. Watson and it’s always going to come back to that. They had fun making it a trio, but it doesn’t work long term. Mary was always going to go and we were always going to get back to the two blokes. That’s the format. Mark Gatiss and I do not have the delusion that we know better than Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. That’s how the show works and always will. We reset to the most traditional and famous version of the format.
Entertainment Weekly: I like your use of the death fable early on and aquarium water you’d overlay into a few shots. There was also the black sharks that comprised Baby Watson’s mobile. It was all a great way of foreshadowing to the ending and undercutting the happy optimism leading up to it. 
Steven Moffat: It was a proper problem that Mark and I talked about a lot. We knew where we were going but wanted to bring it back with a proper adventure for the boys. But if you just turned dark at the end that would feel like a cheat. You have to feel like you were warned and then forgot the warning. Twists only work if you have a fair chance to work it out. A dark turn in a show only works if you were sort of warned but preferred not to listen. 
Entertainment Weekly: What made Mary decide to take a bullet for Sherlock
Steven Moffat: Well, she saved her friend. There wasn’t a lot of time to do anything about it. Throughout the episode, she’s really quite protective of them. She’s actually better at all this than they are. She regards them as a couple of talented amateurs. She doesn’t make a huge decision about it, she does what she can with no time to think.Her postmortem message said “Save John”, meaning protect him from being lost without her? 
Steven Moffat: Yes, you can assume we’re going to elaborate on that next week. 
Watson made such an agonizing wail during that scene, and of course, Freeman and Abbington were partners in real life (but recently announced they’re separating). What was it like to shoot that? 
Steven Moffat:  It was emotional but, at the same time, we did that scene a million times. There was a sense this was a hugely important moment in a show we’ve been making all this time and it was Amanda’s exit from a show that she’s been part of for a few years. So it was a big deal. 
Entertainment Weekly:  You said this will “reset” the relationship between Sherlock and Watson, but this seems like a rift that can never fully heal. 
Steven Moffat:  We take that rift head-on in the remainder of the series. We don’t ignore it. We don’t have John come back and say “Well I’ve thought about it and it’s all fine.” If anything, the rift gets worse. We decided if we were doing this we’re doing grief properly. We were doing the consequences properly. We tried to have people go through what they’d actually go through in this circumstance which, of course, is hellish. And as emotionally reticent as Sherlock Holmes is, it doesn’t take a twelve-year-old to figure out he’s a profoundly emotional man. We don’t skirt around it. We don’t just get on with the story of the week, although there is a story of the week. There’s a big villain to fight. But front and center are the consequence of Mary’s death and Sherlock’s culpability. He could have done better, it’s his lifestyle that killed her in the end. It was interesting because, very clearly, that whole situation could have been wrapped up without bloodshed had Sherlock not kept egging her on in that moment.
We spent a long time trying to work out what his culpability was. Obviously, it wasn’t his fault. Mary tried to save his life. But having Sherlock unable to stop himself from showing off and that’s what riles her up to take the shot, I think it adds another layer. We were determined to make it as difficult for us as possible to take on the following things: We will do grief in a big way, we will have the rift between them, and it will be real and will never completely go away, because you’ll always think about that, however imperishable that friendship is. At the same time, we’ve got to be a proper detective show with proper action, proper villains, proper mystery solving. We really went for it. There was a big debate about whether to kill her in episode one, instead of more traditionally in episode three at the end of the series. But let’s not give ourselves that two years to forget how mad they are at each other. Let’s do it in a circumstance where we have to come back in a week and make this show work again. I think it does. Obviously, I’m not the person who makes the judgment. All the consequences are believable and painfully in place with a Sherlock Holmes plot and with some kind of resolution to it all that makes continuing possible. If we do pull that off that will be great. Which isn’t to say the rest of the cast is safe for the next two episodes either?
Anything can happen to anyone. I think it’s safe to say we couldn’t do Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson without Holmes and Watson. But nobody’s safe, and consequences are everywhere and there’s some emotionally grueling stuff coming. There’s proper humor too. We showed episode two to some people and, though it’s the darkest one we’ve ever done. there were still people laughing.
Rico says it was, unfortunately, ultimately unsatisfying. (Caution: spoiler alert)
Far too much about poor Mary (played by Amanda Abbington) and her mysterious background prior to marrying John Watson (played by Martin Freeman) and getting whacked in the dark of the London Aquarium by a nebbish, but saving Holmes' (played by Benedict Cumberbatch) life...

The arc of history doesn't include this Ark

The Washington Post has an article by Vicky Hallett, a freelancer and former MisFits columnist, about more pseudo-history:

Folks who identify as “creation scientists” have no problem with the notion that dinosaurs once roamed the Earth. They just think the beasts lived alongside humans on a planet that’s only about six thousand years old.
Their extinction theory? The dinosaurs were wiped out four thousand years ago in the worldwide flood described in Genesis.
This is the version of history on display at the Ark Encounter (photo), a hundred-million-dollar theme park in Williamstown, Kentucky, that features a reproduction of Noah’s boat. And it’s the subject of We Believe in Dinosaurs, an upcoming documentary that is fundraising through Indiegogo.
The secular team behind the film, including Morgan Spurlock of Super Size Me fame— believes in evolution and promises to tell viewers “the story of the unsettling and uniquely American conflict between science and religion”. They have three years of footage of the building of the new Ark, the protests against it, and interviews with individuals on both sides of the issue. Two of the big names in the film are Ark Encounter leader Ken Ham and science educator Bill Nye, who squared off in a high-profile debate about evolution in 2014.
You’re less likely to have heard of former creationist David MacMillan. He joined the directors of We Believe in Dinosaurs for a recent Reddit Ask Me Anything to explain why some people accept “creation science.” 
One key question: Why is it called “science”?The label is popular with creationists, MacMillan writes, because it allows them “to set themselves up as participants in an equal controversy, as if there are two equal sides to choose from”. To bolster that idea, he adds, “some creationists also try to mimic the appearance of hypotheses, research, and so forth.”
When a child is raised with creationism— as MacMillan was— it’s the default position. If that’s what’s taught in school, the curriculum limits exposure to the mainstream evidence that life on Earth is far older than some Bible-based believers insist it is.
“The whole focus of organized creationism is advancing the idea that all the evidence can be interpreted in a variety of ways and everyone is biased,” MacMillan writes. “Plausible deniability, you know?”
So dinosaur fossils, which should make creationism a pretty tough sell, are actually considered “talking points”. MacMillan offers some stock responses to people who question creationism: “Well, maybe humans just were better organized and made it to high ground faster than dinosaurs. Or maybe we just haven’t found the fossils together yet because there are not a lot of human fossils.”
Although these ideas are easy to debunk, he adds, even analyzing the evidence for himself wasn’t enough to change his mind. “It still took a lot of exposure to outside voices before I fully accepted it,” he writes.
Rico says that 'creation science' is a non-sequitur...

SpaceX, flying again

The Washington Post has an article by Christian Davenport, who covers the defense and space industries for The Post's financial desk; he joined The Post in 2000 and has served as an editor on the Metro desk and as a reporter covering military affairs; he is the author of the book As You Were: To War and Back with the Black Hawk Battalion of the Virginia National Guard, about the next flight by Elon Musk's company:

SpaceX said that it has discovered the cause of its September of 2016 explosion and plans to return to flight soon. The conclusions of the company’s investigation have yet to be approved by the Federal Aviation Administration, and the agency has yet to provide it a license to launch. But SpaceX’ statement means that it has confidence that Federal agencies will approve its remedies for the problem, and that it will soon receive the green light.
SpaceXFalcon 9 rocket exploded (video, above) while being fueled on a launchpad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station ahead of an engine test firing on 1 September 2016. No one was on board the rocket, and there were no injuries, but the blast touched off a massive fireball and caused extensive damage, including the loss of a commercial satellite.
In its statement, SpaceX said it traced the cause to a pressure vessel in the second-stage liquid oxygen tank. The tank buckled, the company said, and supercooled liquid oxygen pooled in the lining. The fuel was ignited by breaking fibers or friction. The company said that, in the short term, it plans to change the way it loads fuel. Eventually, it plans to change the design of the pressure vessels to prevent buckling.
SpaceX led the investigation, which was overseen by the FAA, the Air Force, NASA, and the National Transportation Safety Board. Shortly after the explosion, Musk had said it was “turning out to be the most difficult and complex failure we have had in fourteen years” and asked the public for help. Over the past four months, the investigation took several bizarre twists and turns. Musk said there was a mysterious “bang sound” that may have come from “the rocket or something else” seconds before the explosion. And at one point, SpaceX officials asked for access to the roof of a nearby facility used by rival United Launch Alliance, implying sabotage.
The explosion was a major setback for SpaceX, which has a significant backlog of commercial satellite launches. The company is also under contract to fly cargo and, eventually, astronauts to the International Space Station. But the accident, the company’s second failure in less than two years, touched off concerns about its ability to fly safely and reliably.
If all goes according to plan, SpaceX plans to launch communications satellites for Iridium, a McLean, Virginia-based company, on Sunday from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
In an interview in November of 2016, Matt Desch, Iridium’s chief executive, said he wasn’t worried about entrusting its three billion dollars worth of satellites to Musk. “We’ve been privy to the thinking and the analysis and the data involved at a very deep level,” Desch said. “So, yes, we know why he is saying what’s he’s saying and concur that they have found the issue. We’re encouraged, too, that it was procedural. We are back on the path for a first launch and, yes, I feel very confident that the issue that was found won’t be repeated for our launch.” Still, he said on Twitter that the company would wait to load the satellites onto the rocket until after the prelaunch engine test.

Rico says hopefully this'll fix the problem...

Apple for the day

The Washington Post has an article by Cleve R. Wootson Jr., a general assignment reporter for The Washington Post, about a road accident they want to blame on Apple:

Buckled in her booster seat in the back of her family’s Toyota Camry, Moriah Modisette got the worst of the crash. It was the day before Christmas of 2014, and Moriah and her family— father James, mother Bethany, and older sister Isabella— were in Denton County, Texas, headed south on Interstate 35W.
There was some kind of police activity ahead that brought traffic to a standstill, so James Modisette pressed the brake, bringing the car to a stop in the left lane. Garrett Wilhelm never saw their brake lights, police believe.
Driving behind the Camry, he was using Apple’s FaceTime video chat application on his iPhone 6 Plus, and slammed into the Camry at full highway speed, says a lawsuit filed by the family, obtained by Courthouse News. The nearly five-thousand-pound SUV tore into the Camry, then rode up over the driver’s side.
Everyone was injured, but Moriah and her father were wedged inside and had to be pried out by rescue workers. “Bethany Modisette and Isabella Modisette visibly and audibly witnessed rescue workers’ grueling efforts to extract James Modisette and Moriah Modisette from the mangled vehicle, as well as their serious and life-threatening injuries and struggles to stay alive,” the lawsuit says.
James Modisette survived. Moriah Modisette was flown to a nearby children’s hospital, but her injuries were too severe, and she died there.
Wilhelm’s iPhone survived the crash. When police found it, FaceTime was still running.
Wilhelm was charged with manslaughter in the case, which is working its way through court, according to The Associated Press, but the family thinks the iPhone’s manufacturer, Apple, is also to blame. At issue is the FaceTime app, which comes preloaded on iPhones and iPads. The Modisettes’ lawsuit says iPhones should detect whether a user is driving a car and disable the attention-consuming video chat app.
In a lawsuit filed a day before the second anniversary of the crash, the family says iPhones have the ability to tell whether the phone is in motion and how fast it’s going, via built-in accelerometers and GPS.
“Yet defendant Apple, Inc., failed to configure the iPhone 6 Plus to ‘lock-out’ the ability for a driver to utilize Apple’s FaceTime application, while driving at highway speeds,” the lawsuit says.
The Modisettes’ case is yet another example of drivers’ crashing while distracted by apps on their smartphones. A motorist playing Pok√©mon Go on his smartphone crashed into a marked patrol car in Delaware. Another person did it in Baltimore, Maryland. Last week, a Canadian teenager who crashed his vehicle was charged with texting while driving.
British government officials are to meet with smartphone manufacturers this year to pressure them to introduce a “drive safe” mode, according to the International Business Times.
Apple did not respond to messages from The Washington Post seeking comment over the weekend. The company has also not responded to the Modisettes’ lawsuit, according to The Associated Press.
From January to June of 2016, highway deaths increased ten percent compared with the same period a year earlier, according to The New York Times. A major cause: the use of apps on Internet-connected smartphones. Another Times story on distracted driving said phone and technology companies argue that such lockout services are unreliable. “They argue that they cannot shut down a driver’s service without the potential of mistakenly shutting off a passenger’s phone or that of someone riding on a train or bus,” The New York Times said.
In a statement issued for that story, Apple stressed its view that responsibility lies with drivers. “For those customers who do not wish to turn off their iPhones or switch into Airplane Mode while driving to avoid distractions, we recommend the easy-to-use Do Not Disturb and Silent Mode features,” the statement said.
Rico says that's as logical as blaming the car company for the driver's stupidity... (And the iPhone was still running; one tough phone.)

Spam for the day

My Dearest Friend,

I am Mr. Musa Fara, the chief auditor in the Bank of Africa (BoA) Burkina Faso, West Africa. One of our customers, along with his entire family, was among the victims of plane crash and, before his death, he had an account with us valued at $37.5 million dollars (thirty seven million five hundred thousand dollars) in our bank and according to Burkina Faso law, at the expiration of thirteen years, if nobody applies to claim the funds a grace of one year also will be given before the money will revert to the ownership of the Burkina Faso government.
My proposals is that I will like you as a foreigner to stand in as the next of kin or distant cousin for us to claim this money, so that the fruits of this old man’s labor will not get into the hands of some corrupt government officials who will later use the money to sponsor war in Africa and kill innocent citizens in the search for political power.
As a foreign partner which this money will be transfer into your account, you are entitled to forty percent of the total money, while fifty-five percent will be for me as the moderator of this transaction and five percent will be mapped out for any expenditure that may be incur during the course of this transaction. Please note that there will be no
problem as my bank has made all effort through to reach for any of his relation but all was fruitless.
My position as the chief auditor in this bank guarantees the successful execution of this (deal) transaction. Please send the following to this email address: mrmusafara8@gmail.com

1)your full name.....
2) sex.....
3) age.....
4) country.....
5)passport or photo.....
7) personal Mobile number.....
8) Personal fax number.....
9) Home & office address.....


Mr Musa Fara
Rico says it's a classic... (But surely the Bank of America, also known as BoA, will want to stomp this flagrant misuse of their name...)

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