06 December 2016

Death in the wild

Rico's friend Kelley forwards this video:

History for the day: 4 December: United Nations joined

On 4 December 1945, the Senate approved American participation in the United Nations.

Real winter

Rico's friend Kelley, living in Wisconsin, sends this:


Rico says he knows it's coming, but he's not looking forward to it...

Not the Vulcan UF

The New York Times has an article by Thomas Fuller, Eli Rosenberg, and Conor Dougherty about a deadly fire in Oakland, California:



Anguished family members awaited news of the fate of dozens of people still unaccounted for on Saturday after a fire gutted a makeshift nightclub in Oakland, California, leaving at least nine people dead.
In one of the deadliest structure fires in the United States in the past decade, partygoers at the two-story converted warehouse were asphyxiated on Friday night by thick black fumes, which poured from the building’s windows for several hours. Survivors stood across the street in a Wendy’s parking lot, watching firefighters try to put out the blaze and rescue those inside.
Oakland officials said the building, a rambling warehouse in the Fruitvale district they described as “a labyrinth of artist studios”, had been under investigation for several months. They said escape from the building, which had only two exits, might have been complicated because the first and second floors were linked by an ad hoc staircase made of wooden pallets.
By Saturday afternoon, a list of those missing, compiled by friends and family, had grown to about 35 people. Officials said that the nine bodies recovered were in areas accessible to rescue crews, and that they had not been able to search the rest of the smoldering, unsafe building for at least two dozen people still missing and feared to be dead inside. “We know that there are bodies in there that we cannot get to, that have been seen but not recovered,” Sergeant Ray Kelly of the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office said at an evening news conference. Others who were believed to be missing have been accounted for, he said, adding, “We have been able to put some families’ fears at ease.”
Earlier on Saturday, Sergeant Kelly said the authorities were “expecting the worst, maybe a couple dozen victims.” “It appears that people either made it out or they didn’t make it out,” he said. Firefighters arrived just before midnight on Friday, and the fire was still smoldering more than twelve hours later.
One survivor, Aja Archuleta, 29, a musician, was scheduled to perform at the electronic music party with her synthesizers and drum machines around 0100 and was working at the door when the fire broke out around 1100. “There were two people on the first level who had spotted a small fire that was growing quickly,” she said. “It was a very quick and chaotic build, from a little bit of chaos to a lot of chaos.” She added that “I have lost twenty friends in the past 24 hours.”
Family members of the missing expressed anguish over spending hours waiting to know if their relatives were inside. Daniel Vega, 36, said he was “infuriated” waiting to hear news about his 22-year-old brother, Alex Vega, who had not answered his phone Saturday morning. Vega said he had heard from a friend that his brother was at the party. “Give me some gloves. I’ve got work shoes. I’m ready,” Vega said. “Let me find my brother, that’s all I want.”
The building’s roof had collapsed, and the site was a dangerous scene of debris, beams, and other wreckage. The structure had a permit to function as a warehouse, but not as a residence or for a party. Officials said they were investigating reports that the building had also been used as a living space.
At the news conference, Mayor Libby Schaaf said: “This is complicated. And it’s going to take us time to do the investigation that these families deserve.”
The building, known as the Ghost Ship, located in the Fruitvale neighborhood, was the site of an event that was to feature a range of experimental and electronic music, performed by a synth musician drawing from the “black, queer diaspora” and others, as well as a visual installation. On Saturday morning, the event’s Facebook page said admission to the show was ten dollars for those who arrived before 1100 and fifteen dollars after that. By the end of the day, the pricing had disappeared and the page had turned into an emergency message board, as dozens of friends and family members posted about missing loved ones.
“A lot of these people are young people,” Sergeant Kelly said. “They are from all parts of our community.” Some of the dead may be citizens of other countries, he said.
Images from the building’s website depict a wooden studio filled with antiques, sculptures and curios. Old lamps, musical instruments, suitcases and rugs decorated the ornate space.
Emergency workers said they arrived to find the building filled with heavy smoke and flames. Bodies were found on the second floor of the building, Chief Teresa Deloach Reed of the Oakland Fire Department said Saturday.
Mayor Libby Schaaf of Oakland called the fire “an immense tragedy. In my career of thirty years, I haven’t experienced something of this magnitude,” she said.
Even without a full accounting, the fire was one of the deadliest in the United States in many years. In 2003, a hundred people were killed in a fire in a nightclub in West Warwick, Rhode Island. An explosion at a fertilizer plant in Texas in 2013 killed fifteen people.
Chief Deloach Reed said there were “no reports of smoke alarms going off.” At least two fire extinguishers were inside, she said.
On the event’s Facebook page, people distributed a spreadsheet that listed identifying information— age, height, weight, hair color, tattoos— and contact numbers for many of those unaccounted for.
Oakland’s music and art scene was already struggling with high rent prices. The city’s underground bands and artists live a semi-nomadic existence in search of warehouses, homes, and other spaces to show art, play music, and dance into the early hours.
Diego Aguilar-Canabal, 24, a blogger and freelance writer who lives in Berkeley, California and plays guitar in a band called the Noriegas, estimated he had been to three dozen house and warehouse parties over the past two years. “The basic idea is people want to do loud things late at night, and industrial space is really good for that because there aren’t many neighbors to complain,” he said. “There’s a lot of anxiety about income inequality and class warfare, and a lot of these artists are trying to do the best they can to have a community.”
Aguilar-Canabal had been to the Ghost Ship (image and map, above) once last summer, and remembered it as a dim and cluttered area with a “maze” of furniture, canvas paintings on the walls, and papier-mâché hanging from the ceilings (photo, above). “The reason we left was that it had only had one source of water, which was a sink, and the water tasted really gross,” he recalled. “We went to a corner store to get something to drink and were like ‘let’s just go home.’”
Aguilar-Canabal flew to Vancouver, Canada early Saturday morning, and first read about the blaze on Twitter. Instead of going to bed, he stayed up tracking the fire on social media until it was time to go to the airport. He spent most of the day looking for the names of friends who he thinks were killed, and calling Highland Hospital in Oakland.
“It’s just a really surreal experience to be refreshing a window to see if names are confirmed to be missing or not missing,” he said. “I’m keeping track of a couple names and hoping they end up being in a hospital.”
Rico says Fruitvale is close to where he used to live, but it wasn't the Vulcan, fortunately...


Apple for the day: drones: UF

Money has an article by Kerry Close about drones:

In order to keep up with Google, Apple is turning to drones. The drones would collect data to give users real-time traffic updates. The tech giant plans to fly the unmanned vehicles in an effort to improve its Maps app and keep up with Google‘s industry-leading product, Bloomberg reported. The drones will be able to collect and update maps information faster than Apple’s current fleet of minivans with cameras and sensors.
The company is in the process of creating a team of robotics and data collection gurus to operate the drones and analyze the data they come back with. Apple is hoping the drones will be able to examine street signs, track road changes, report if areas are under construction, and send the information back to teams who would quickly update the iPhone’s Maps app to provide users with real-time updates.
Apple is reportedly also working on new Maps features, including views inside buildings and improvements to car navigation. The iPhone’s Maps app was released in 2012, five years after Google’s, and with glaring errors, like a grocery store marked as a hospital. At the time, Apple didn’t have the technology it needed to quickly collect data from many sources.
Since then the Maps app has improved, with more quickly updated data, an added mode for navigating public transit, and opening the feature to outside services like Uber and the restaurant reservation app OpenTable.
Rico says his friend Mike is a drone pilot, and Rico uses the Map app nearly every day.

History for the day: 7 December 1941: Pearl Harbor UF

Rico says lest we forget:





What happened at Pearl Harbor, Hawai'i on 7 December 1941, is still, 75 years after the event, one of the most notorious events in American memory. The surprise Japanese attack precipitated the entry of the United States into World War Two, one of the twentiety century’s defining conflicts, and in turn altered the shape of global power. Post-war American dominance, the economic impact of the fight, the balance of interests in the Pacific; these developments still affect our world today.
And now, in the virtual reality experience Remembering Pearl Harbor, you can see Pearl Harbor from a whole new perspective.

The interactive room-scale experience, produced for LIFE VR by Deluxe VR in partnership with HTC and AMD, brings you back to 1941, as you experience Pearl Harbor and its aftermath through the eyes of Lieutenant Jim Downing, who was postmaster on the USS West Virginia. Now 103, he is one of the oldest living American veterans to have survived that day. His emotional story is a window into how Pearl Harbor changed, not just the world, but also the lives of the thousands of people directly affected by the attack.
Through Downing’s story, you’ll see how Pearl Harbor played out for one person on the home front, in Hawaii and in the years that followed. Flip through the issues of LIFE Magazine that would have been in American homes at that time, listen to FDR address the nation over the radio, interact with personal mementos and much more.

Remembering Pearl Harbor was created using resources from the National WWII Museum and the Library of Congress, which provided expertise, artifacts and primary-source references; and with award-winning author and Pearl Harbor expert Craig Nelson as historical adviser.

Remembering Pearl Harbor will be available exclusively on Viveport for the HTC Vive beginning Thursday, and a 360° trailer can be viewed in the LIFE VR app for iOS and Android. A full-length 360° edition of the experience will be released in the LIFE VR app later this month.
Slate has an article by Josh Voorhees , a Slate senior writer who lives in Iowa City, Iowa about Pizzagate and other Trump family stupidities:

Last Sunday, Edgar Maddison Welch walked into a popular pizzeria in Washington, DC carrying an assault rifle and opened fire, according to police. His reason? Authorities say the 28-year-old man from North Carolina claimed he was there to “self-investigate” a conspiracy theory that Hillary Clinton was running a child sex ring out of the back of the neighborhood restaurant.
First thing’s first: there is absolutely no credible evidence, as in zero,that Clinton or anyone else is running a child sex ring out of Comet Ping Pong. The establishment’s owner, James Alefantis, is friends with a few prominent Democrats and was a Clinton supporter, but as The New York Times reported last month, “he has never met her, does not sell or abuse children, and is not being investigated by law enforcement for any of these claims.”
That, however, hasn’t stopped the fact-free Pizzagate conspiracy theory from gaining purchase in the more extreme corners of the internet, and Alefantis and his employees have increasingly been the subject of harassment online and off in recent weeks, culminating in Sunday’s shooting. Thankfully, no one was physically injured during that incident, but the fact it happened at all would hopefully be enough to convince people to stop spreading the spurious story. Of course that’s not the world we live in these days.
Michael G. Flynn, the son of retired Lieutenant General Michael T. Flynn, whom President-elect Donald Trump has tapped to be his national security adviser, sent this out after the attack:
Until #Pizzagate proven to be false, it'll remain a story. The left seems to forget #PodestaEmails and the many "coincidences" tied to it.
Flynn subsequently retweeted a message from a Trump supporter, suggesting that he was simply urging the news media to fully debunk the story, though he quickly abandoned any such pretense when he spent part of Sunday retweeting other Pizzagate peddlers. He also shared direct messages purportedly from CNN’s Jake Tapper, who appears to have admirably taken Flynn to task: 
Tapper, according to the shared screenshots, privately told Flynn “spreading this nonsense is dangerous”; Flynn responded publicly by claiming Tapper was “trolling” his family. 
Junior is more than just his father’s son. He’s also served as his dad’s chief of staff, an employee at his consulting firm, and an editor of his books. This is the man who will advise the man who will advise Donald Trump on issues of national security. What he thinks and, sadly, what he tweets, matters. It’s worth noting, then, that his foray into Pizzagate was hardly an isolated trip into the land of dangerous speculation and hate.
The younger Flynn’s social media feeds are a hot bed of conspiracy theories, along with homophobic and/or racially charged missives, as CNN’s Andrew Kaczynski and Nathan McDermott documented on Monday:
Flynn frequently shares unfounded conspiracy theories, like ones claiming Hillary Clinton and President Obama would be tried for treason if Trump was elected. He also posted a unfounded story claiming hackers would release a video of former President Bill Clinton raping a teenage girl. In one post, he called alt-right social commentator Mike Cernovich, who frequently shares unfounded news stories, "a source I trust."
In a Facebook post from October, Flynn shared a fake news story claiming Obama flaunted an erection to female reporters in 2008. Flynn tweeted multiple times unfounded claims about Senator Marco Rubio's "coke house, gayish dance troupe, and foam parties." These tweets included a baseless article about Rubio being a homosexual who lived in a drug house and went to "foam parties" where "mutual masturbation is an occasional component, generally beneath the cover of foam."
None of that is grounded in anything resembling reality. But it’s stuff Flynn Jr. thinks the world, and presumably his father, should know about.
The younger Flynn often peppers his Twitter timeline and Facebook page with references and links to InfoWars, an online clearinghouse of conspiracy theories, and CNN captured screenshots of since-deleted tweets from him that were racially charged. One replied to a Vox story about whites-only dating sites with this rejoinder in January 2016: "soooo African Americans can have BET, but whites can't have their own dating site? Hmmm.” The other, posted the day after the 2012 election, claimed that “the only reason minorities voted for Barack Obama is the color of his skin and not for the issues.”
The elder Flynn will not need Senate confirmation to become Trump’s national security adviser. Flynn Jr., according to CNN, already has a presidential transition email address. It seems both will fit in just fine with their new boss.
Rico says it's gonna be a long, ugly four (and hopefully not eight) years...

History for the day: 1884: Washington Monument completed

From History.com:

 

  Dec
6
THIS DAY IN HISTORY
   
1884
Washington Monument completed
On this day in 1884, in Washington, D.C., workers place a nine-inch aluminum pyramid atop a tower of white marble, completing the construction of an impressive monument to the city's namesake and the nation's first president, George Washington. As early as 1783, the infant U.S. Congress decided that... read more »
American Revolution
1777
Whitemarsh skirmishes turn in Americans' favor »
Automotive
1976
Deaf stuntwoman Kitty O'Neil sets women's land-speed record »
Civil War
1865
13th Amendment ratified »
Cold War
1987
Protests against Soviet treatment of Jews take place in Washington and Moscow »
Crime
1868
Train robbers reach the end of the line »
Disaster
1917
Ships explode in Canadian harbor »
General Interest
1907
The Monongah coal mine disaster »
1917
The Great Halifax Explosion »
1921
Irish Free State declared »
Hollywood
2005
Brokeback Mountain premieres »
Literary
1933
Ulysses is ruled not obscene »
Music
1969
The Altamont Festival brings the 1960s to a violent end »
Old West
1749
French-Canadian explorer La Verendrye dies »
Presidential
1884
Monument to Washington completed »
Sports
1992
Jerry Rice scores record-breaking touchdown »
Vietnam War
1961
Operation Farm Gate combat missions authorized »
1972
Fighting continues in South Vietnam while negotiators talk in Paris »
World War I
1917
Munitions ship explodes in Halifax »
World War II
1941
Roosevelt to Japanese emperor: "Prevent further death and destruction" »
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Iceland

Seen and heard at the 'Rogue One' press event

IMDb watched a half hour of sneak-peek footage of Rogue One at George LucasSkywalker Ranch in advance of the film's release, and also attended a press event:
What we can report (and not spoil): elements of the movie are entirely evocative of the Star Wars saga but, right from the outset, viewers will know they are watching something completely different in tone and point of view. Rogue One is indeed a war movie, with complex characters weighing moral decisions, despite some of the familiar Star Wars trappings.

People in the photo above: Felicity Jones and Diego Luna
From Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, released in 2016

Columbus Reports on His First Voyage, 1493

From The Gilder Lehrman Institute:


05 December 2016

"Our House"

Rico says it reminds him of where, and with whom, he lives...

04 December 2016

Doomsday: ten ways the world will end

From History.com:

Doomsday: ten ways the world will end
Sixty-five million years ago, an asteroid impact caused a cascade of catastrophes that led to the downfall of the dinosaurs.
But what would happen if the same-size space rock struck near the same spot again? How would modern humans cope with a hailstorm of falling rocks and debris, mega tsunamis, out-of-control fires, blast-furnace temperatures, and a destroyed ozone layer? In the wake of worldwide destruction, who would survive and who would perish?

Rico says as soon as he can get the video, it'll appear here:

VIDEO

29 November 2016

The five-second rule Is bullshit

Esquire has a debunking article by Sarah Rense:


The CDC reports that cross-contamination by surfaces is the sixth leading cause of food-borne illness. And yet we eat food off the floor; especially if that food has been on the floor for less than five seconds. Which, as it turns out, is a bullshit number, and one that just got disproved by researchers at Rutgers University.
Over two years, the team tested a whole lot of elements to get a whole lot of measurements— nearly three thousand to be exact— and concluded that, no matter how briefly food touches a surface, it still picks up bacteria "instantaneously". However, what you drop where and how long it stays there matters. According to The New York Times, the study showed the longer food was left on the floor, the more gunk it picked up. It also found that watery food like watermelon sucked up the most bacteria, and carpet transferred less bacteria than tile or stainless steel, while wood varied.

Rico says that's too bad, as he's been known to eat stuff (as have you, admit it) that was on the floor a lot longer than five seconds...

Trump’s attack on our freedom to dissent

From Slate, an article by Mark Joseph Stern about dissent:

Donald Trump’s horrifying post-election Twitter spree continued apace when the president-elect declared that flag-burning should be outlawed in the United States, possibly in response to reports that college students protesting his victory burned an American flag: 
Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag; if they do, there must be consequences. perhaps loss of citizenship or a year in jail!
First, the obvious: the Supreme Court has repeatedly held that flag-burning is a form of symbolic speech protected by the First Amendment. In 1989 and 1990, the court struck down both state and Federal flag desecration bans as unconstitutional censorship. It is “a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment”, the court explained, that “the government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable.” Flag-burning is a quintessential form of dissent, a forceful protest against the United States itself. Such political expression lies at the heart of the First Amendment. “We do not consecrate the flag by punishing its desecration,” the court wrote in 1989’s Texas v. Johnson, “for, in doing so, we dilute the freedom that this cherished emblem represents.”
Second, the less obvious: the involuntary loss of citizenship for engaging in dissent would constitute an outrageous violation of the Constitution’s most critical guarantees. Free speech issues aside, revocation of a flag-burner’s citizenship without his consent would violate both the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment as well as the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment, which bars punitive expatriation.
Trump appears to believe that the government can revoke a dissenter’s citizenship and, along with it, a panoply of constitutional rights, including the right to vote, because her speech is exceptionally noxious. This specious conception of citizenship as a privilege to be stripped of dissidents reflects Trump’s authoritarian impulse to control the thoughts of the citizenry by chilling and punishing dissent. Indeed, Trump even believes that citizens who fail to comply with the patriotic orthodoxy should be thrown in prison, a classic method of authoritarian indoctrination.
Third, the bizarre: Trump has repeatedly praised Justice Antonin Scalia’s legacy and insisted that he plans to appoint a justice in his mold. Yet Scalia was perhaps the court’s fiercest defender of the rights of flag-burners. He provided the fifth vote in Texas v. Johnson, the five to four ruling invalidating flag desecration bans, and dominated oral arguments in the case. From his perch on the bench, Scalia deftly revealed the contradiction at the heart of Texas’ argument: the Texas government asserted that it banned flag desecration not as a means of censorship, but to preserve its status as a national symbol; Scalia pointed out that its status as a national symbol is precisely why its desecration is such a powerful, and protected, form of expression.
One final point: Trump’s tweet presents an important test for Republicans. In response to Democrats’ efforts to overturn Citizens United and restore campaign finance reform, many Republicans alleged that the Democratic Party wished to “repeal the First Amendment”. Now the GOP’s leader, the president-elect of the United States, has promoted a policy that would directly violate the First, Fifth, and Eighth Amendments. His proposal involves, quite literally, throwing dissenters in prison, nullifying their right to vote, and potentially expelling them from the country. All for expressing themselves in a manner Trump dislikes.
This unconstitutional crackdown on free speech has no place in American political discourse. Yet so far, only Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a longtime defender of flag-burning rights, has criticized Trump’s tweet with appropriate vigor. The silence or tepid ambivalence of other Republican leaders should alarm us all. These men and women would do well to remember the Supreme Court’s admonition against mandatory displays of patriotism which is, unfortunately, more relevant today than it has been for decades. As Justice Robert Jackson wrote in defending Jehovah’s Witnesses’ right to not salute the flag: “Those who begin coercive elimination of dissent soon find themselves exterminating dissenters. Compulsory unification of opinion achieves only the unanimity of the graveyard.”
Rico says so much for the First Amendment... (And Rico doesn't know about you, but he's already tired of Trump's smirk, and also says that, while it may be a little premature to bring it up, there is an interesting list of people who tried to solve this very problem...)

Will Trump wipe out the recent opening to Cuba?

From Slate: an article by Joshua Keating about Trump and Cuba:

Donald Trump’s initial response to the death of longtime Cuban leader Fidel Castro was a factually correct but not-quite-presidential tweet: 
Fidel Castro is dead!
After taking some time to digest this news, Trump followed up with a pledge to get a “better deal” from Cuba than the Obama administration had:
If Cuba is unwilling to make a better deal for the Cuban people, the Cuban-American people, and the US as a whole, I will terminate deal.
The thing about Obama’s “deal” with Cuba is that there actually is no deal. There’s an ongoing diplomatic process involving talks on dozens of issues and a number of changes to regulations and diplomatic policy. So where does our president-elect stand on all of those? Even by Trump standards, he’s all over the map on Cuba.
During the GOP primary last year, Trump told the Daily Caller that although he thought he could have gotten a better deal from the Castro regime, the Obama administration’s diplomatic opening to Cuba was “fine” and that, referring to the longtime US embargo, “fifty years is enough”. This echoed the language used by opponents of the embargo on Cuba, in place for more than five decades, and put Trump at odds with opponents like the Cuban-American Senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, all pro-embargo hardliners. Perhaps this was because, as Newsweek reported, one of Trump’s companies may actually have done business in Cuba in the 1990s, despite the embargo.
But in the last months of his campaign, Trump seemed to have a conversion on the road to Little Havana, telling a Miami rally in September that he would reverse all of Obama’s Cuba moves “unless the Castro regime meets our demands. Not my demands. Our demands.”
Campaign talk is cheap of course, but even before Castro’s death, Vice President–elect Mike Pence vowed that Trump would follow through on his pledge to reverse Obama’s executive orders on Cuba. Some Cuba-watchers I talked to also pointed to the naming of hardline anti-Castro activist Mauricio Claver-Carone to Trump’s economic transition team as evidence that the next president may have meant what he said (the last time, anyway).
Like many of Obama’s diplomatic achievements, the opening to Cuba that began in December of 2014 was accomplished through executive orders, without the approval of Congress. (The embargo itself will remain in place until Congress acts to lift it.) So Trump is correct when he says that he can “terminate” it all. There’s precedent for this: Jimmy Carter lifted most of the travel ban in 1977, a move that was reversed in 1982 with Ronald Reagan in office. If Trump wants to, he could put Cuba back on the state sponsors of terrorism list, reimpose the restrictions on travel and commerce in Cuba that were eased under Obama, and once again shutter the American embassy in Havana that was reopened with much fanfare in August 2015.
As with the Iran nuclear agreement, Trump has suggested that, rather than completely blowing up the diplomatic process set in motion by Obama, he can simply negotiate better terms. Incoming Chief of Staff Reince Priebus said over the weekend that “repression, open markets, freedom of religion, political prisoners— these things need to change in order to have open and free relationships.” But getting better terms from Raul Castro’s government isn’t going to be that easy. “They may return to the negotiating table, but they’re not going to grant major concessions to the United States,” says Jaime Suchlicki, director of the  Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies at the University of Miami. “The next year is going to be the year of remembering Fidel Castro, the glory of Fidel, the victory of Fidel. So nothing is going to change. Beyond that, maybe something small and something very gradual.”
While Fidel remained an active and influential presence in Cuban politics, he ceded power to his brother in 2008, and his death is unlikely to lead to any immediate political changes in Cuba. Cuba is likely to continue the very slow economic liberalization and even slower political opening that has been taking place under Raul. The younger Castro brother is leaving the presidency in 2018, and there’s little evidence to suggest that he or his successors are open to major political transformation.
But Trump’s initial skepticism was correct: fifty years of isolation did little to weaken the Castro regime’s hold over the island or increase political freedoms for Cubans. If he does return the US to the more hostile posture toward Cuba it had prior to Obama, the goals outlined by Priebus would be even harder to achieve. “There’s been a fairly public debate about whether or not Obama’s policy is sincere,” says William LeoGrande, a professor at American University and expert on the US-Cuba relationship. Cuba’s recent political and economic openings are very limited and tenuous to begin with but could quickly be reversed if tensions with the US return to their previous level. “They will close down some of the political space that’s opened up in the last couple of years, they’ll get tougher on dissidents and start sending them back to prison, they’ll start using nationalist appeals to rally support for the regime, and they’ll go back to blaming the economy on the United States,” says LeoGrande.
Trump’s moves could also have wider diplomatic implications for the US, particularly in Latin America, where there’s significant public support for the Castros and the embargo (which is almost universally opposed internationally) has long been a source of tension. Ecuador’s left-wing President Rafael Correa suggested in October that, if Trump were elected, like George W. Bush before him, that would lead to the election of more left-wing governments in the region. Trump is already mistrusted and disliked there because of his immigration rhetoric, notes Michael Shifter, president of Inter-American Dialogue, adding that “if Trump acts on his Cuba rhetoric, I think it’s going to create a lot of strong reactions and anti-Yanqui feeling, and not just on the left.”
Trump may not care that much about any of that, but there’s still reason to be believe he might not actually follow through on his threat to re-sanction Cuba. “Only a cold warrior would do that— someone with deep ideological convictions against the Cuban regime,” notes Shifter. And Trump’s fondness for dictators such as Vladimir Putin and Bashar al-Assad doesn’t suggest human rights are going to be a major priority of his foreign policy. Also, if we assume, as evidence so far suggests, that Trump intends to use US foreign policy to advance his own business interests, then locking down Cuba makes little sense. “He’s a hotelier and a golf course developer. And that’s prime real estate,” says Chris Sabatini, a lecturer at Columbia University and editor of the website Latin America Goes Global. A rollback would also be opposed by American companies, from JetBlue to MasterCard, already doing business in Cuba under the new rules.
It also wouldn’t be that much of a political winner. Trump did win Cuban-Americans in Florida, but by a lower margin than Mitt Romney, and the trend lines suggest this constituency is no longer a reliable Republican stronghold. A majority of Americans, including Cuban-Americans, supported Obama’s moves on Cuba, and the staunchest defenders of the embargo in Washington, such as Rubio and Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, aren’t exactly die-hard Trumpians.
Most likely, Trump’s sudden focus on Cuba is driven by the news cycle, and the issue won’t ultimately be high on his agenda. Trump seems unlikely to help bolster Obama’s legacy by continuing the opening, as Hillary Clinton might have done, but it would also be surprising if he made facing down Raul Castro a major priority.

Rico says he better not, the fuck, at least until Rico can afford to take the fiancée...

Apple’s next iPhone

From Time, an article by Lisa Eadicicco about the next iPhone:

The iPhone 7 just debuted in September of 2016, but the rumors are already circulating about what Apple fans should expect from next year’s model. The successor to the iPhone 7, which may be called the iPhone 7s or iPhone 8, could be a more noticeable departure from the current iPhone’s design. Next year’s release will also mark ten years since the original iPhone launched in 2007. 
Here’s a look at what’s been reported about Apple’s next iPhone so far: 
Better screen technology
Apple may use an OLED (organic light emitting diode) screen for its next iPhone instead of an LCD display, according to reports from The Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg. These types of screens offer better contrast than LCD displays, and are often brighter. The blacks in OLED screens are also deeper than those of LCD displays, making colors pop more prominently.
Apple already uses OLED display technology for the Apple Watch, while other tech giants, like Samsung, have been using variants of OLED screens in their smartphones for years. It’s unclear whether or not all new iPhone models will feature an OLED screen or if Apple will reserve them for its high-end variant, as a report from Nikkei Asian Review indicates.
Apple made several new product announcements recently, most notably a new MacBook Pro laptop with a touchscreen strip above the keyboard. 
A curved screen
Certain iPhone models may feature a screen that’s curved on both sides, similar to Samsung’s Galaxy S7 Edge, according to Nikkei Asian Review. This rounded model will likely be more expensive than the standard edition, and may be 5.5-inches or larger, says the report. If Apple indeed decides to give its next iPhone a curved screen, it will likely use an OLED display, as those types of screens are more flexible than their LCD counterparts. 
Three models to choose from
The introduction of a curved iPhone could mean that Apple plans to offer its next smartphone in three variants instead of two. Apple may release 4.7 and 5.5-inch iPhones with flat screens and then an additional model with a rounded display, according to Nikkei Asian Review.
A new design with no home button
Apple hasn’t significantly redesigned its iPhone since it unveiled the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus in 2014; that could change in 2017. The company reportedly plans to overhaul the next iPhone with a new design that includes an edge-to-edge glass screen and no home button, according to The Wall Street Journal. The Touch ID fingerprint sensor, meanwhile, would be built directly into the iPhone’s screen.
These changes would let Apple get rid of the borders around the iPhone’s display, potentially allowing it to make the phone’s screen larger without having to increase the size of the overall device. Further changes could include a glass back similar to that of the iPhone 4 and 4s rather than the aluminum design of Apple’s more recent iPhones, says a note from KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. 
Wireless charging
Future iPhone owners may not have to plug their phones into a power cord to charge it. Apple is said to be testing wireless charging technology that could appear in iPhones as soon as 2017, according to reports from Bloomberg and Nikkei Asian Review. Wireless charging has existed in certain Android smartphones for years, but Apple could be exploring a method that makes it possible to power iPhones from a distance, Bloomberg reports. It’s unclear how close that technology is to a commercial release, however. 
Rico says maybe he'll wait and skip a generation...

The F Word

From Guernica, an article by Eliza Kostelanetz Schrader, who has published fiction and nonfiction in Hanging Loose, Blunderbuss, XOJane, and De Correspondent, and is at work on her first novel, The Blue Wig, about a young queer working with developmentally disabled adults in San Francisco, California; she teaches writing at the Pratt Institute and the Parsons School of Design; an earlier version of this essay was published in De Correspondent in Dutch, about redefining "family":

When my partner, Natasha, and I decided to have children, the natural choice for a donor was our college friend Michael. The three of us were in the same women’s and gender-studies senior seminar; he and I were queer activists together in college; the two of them had been coworkers at a local cafe, where he helped convince Natasha that it would be a good idea to date his housemate (me). He was exactly the type of man who would understand that we were asking for his sperm and not his fatherhood. The night we asked him was warm, late-summer Brooklyn muggy. Michael was visiting us from San Francisco. I said something about how we didn’t want to put pressure on him to answer in the moment, but we loved him very much and hoped he would consider giving us his sperm. As I spoke, Michael’s smile seemed to extend through his entire body. He told us he had goose bumps (I think I saw them on his arms), and he said “Sure, I’ll think about it, but yes.”
We discussed a lot of details that night, and more in the subsequent months— he would have no financial responsibility for our future offspring; he could be as involved or uninvolved as he wanted to be, perhaps as an “uncle” or something similar. We never had to explain to Michael that he wouldn’t be our child’s “father”, that this wasn’t a role we wanted or needed from him. Besides, we joked, he had recently adopted a kitten and she would demand all the paternal and maternal energy he could muster. The trouble has been explaining this all to our friends, family, and acquaintances as we search for the words to describe who exactly he will be in our family.
Natasha and I would be the sole parents. We all agreed that the term “donor” sounded too clinical. Michael was already a part of our queer family and would be important to our baby whether or not he gave us his genetic material. Queer family can refer to the chosen family one has after a childhood, adolescence, or longer spent ill-at-ease in one’s body, in the world, being an outsider because of how one looks or acts or what one cares about. It’s feeling at home in other people; it’s becoming yourself through community. Maggie Nelson, in her fresh and poetic take on queer family in The Argonauts, argues that “queer family making” is an “umbrella category under which baby making might be a subset, rather than the other way around.” It’s why Michael isn’t just the “donor” and why the current words and norms wouldn’t suffice. So Natasha coined “benefactor”. Benefactor made us laugh; it playfully equated providing sperm with financial provision, but, more importantly, unlike the one-time donation implied by “donor”, a benefactor could be a continual source of support. It wasn’t perfect, but it seemed to encompass a bit more of the queer family making we were embarking on.
Kara and Kristina, two queer friends of mine with a ten-month-old child, agree that we are lacking in terminology to describe our families. Even though they used the word “donor”, they felt frustrated with the term from the beginning because, they said, “he is so much more than a donor”. In regards to the F word, which would seem to displace Kristina as the non-birth parent and set up a heteronormative paradigm in a family that neither warrants nor wants it, they liked to “get out in front of it” by explaining how they got pregnant and how their family would work. Not only are they eager to avoid hurtful remarks, but also they are both invested in being upfront about their family as a way to “normalize alternative family structures.” However, after they established their parent-ness in the months following the birth, they both felt they could “ease up on the clinging to boundaries” around language and now don’t care as much about how others refer to their donor or, eventually, how their child will refer to him. “Daddy,” Kara tells me, “wouldn’t mean that he is an actual parent,” but rather would be a “term of endearment.” When I ask how they would feel about “father” being used, Kristina is quick to clarify, albeit while laughing, that “that would be going too far”. The F word, in all its officialness, still has the power to cut in a way that “daddy” doesn’t. It signals that while there may be a version of a family at play (in this case, two mothers and a child) a real family is out there, and that of course includes a father.
Hearing people refer to Michael as the “father” is a punch to the gut. It feels like the heterosexual world infringing on my family. Why must my child have a father, simply because our donor is known? What’s wrong with just having two mothers, even though I might feel more like a dad on some days? Calling someone else the “father” or the “dad” would seem to supplant me, not only as the non-birth mother but also in terms of my masculinity. Why would Michael, with his short shorts and lingerie tops (his style is one of the many things I love about him), automatically trump me for the patriarchal title of the family? And why would we want to involve patriarchal terms, and thereby norms, in our family, anyway?
It’s crucial that non-normative families are de-stigmatized (while retaining our beautiful queerness) precisely because of our potential to alter the meaning of family for queers and non-queers alike. There are families comprised of single mothers, single fathers, two fathers, grandparents, stepparents, families that are communally led, and all kinds of other compositions. The conjoined labels of father and mother can offer solace in the normal (even if it’s just an illusion), and a single-parent father, mother, or other aggregation of terms appears to be less legitimate. In terms of my gender and nonbiological parent status, my being a “mother” also resists the traditional idea of what “mother” means. As a masculine woman with a child— something I never saw on television or read about growing up— I am a different type of parent to my child, one who expands a cookie-cutter definition of what a “mother” is. And to be a parent without a biological connection to her child pushes up against and enlarges the very idea of what family is, challenging the erroneous, age-old notion that biology breeds the strongest form of kin. Everyone stands to gain from questioning and transforming the rigidness of what it means to be real family.
Perhaps, someday— when it’s come to represent something else, other than the rightful place at the head of the table or the missing puzzle piece that might supply normalcy to my family— the word “father” won’t feel like an erasure to the non-gestational partner. But for now, it does. It’s not that I don’t understand that “father” is the default term for the male person who contributes sperm to the project of a child, because, of course, I do. Most people have fathers, whether or not they are in their lives. It’s a term that varies in its cultural, political, and personal meaning, but it’s also a touchstone, a common reference point to which many people can relate. And what’s wrong with being or having a father? Absolutely nothing. I love my father. I consider myself a daddy’s girl. Yet I resent how ubiquitously instilled it is, and the resulting limitations for the family Natasha and I are creating.
A few weeks before Natasha gave birth, Michael visited us in Brooklyn and the three of us carved out an hour in the middle of a Wednesday to talk to a therapist about our project of family making. As a lifelong lover of and believer in therapy, the visit had been my idea, but Michael and Natasha were happy participants. With Natasha very pregnant and me urging her to put her feet up, we discussed, among other things related to the three-person relationship we were founding, how it might feel for our child to want to refer to Michael as her father or dad. I was the person hardest hit by this hypothetical. Michael said something about his willingness to talk to our child about the limitations of language. Natasha seemed surprisingly unperturbed by the scenario, although I suppose she’s always been stoic, and tends to be more flexible than me in myriad ways. Our therapist advised us to consider how unpredictable children and child-rearing can be, and to be open to our child’s needs. He wasn’t arguing that we do something that makes us uncomfortable, but simply acknowledging that it’s impossible to plan out everything ahead of time when children are involved.
Of course this made sense. I guess I’d assumed our child would follow our lead in the language we use for our family, but I’m only starting to realize the reality of parenting, which is to say that I can’t control much in the world, including how our child will react to the norms foisted upon her (or him, or whatever gender identification our child decides is most fitting). However, I can try to raise her to be comfortable existing in difference, something I’ve had to work hard for myself. I can tell her that “uncle”, “donor”, and “benefactor” are the words we have for Michael for now, even if they aren’t enough. But then I can also listen to what she says, open to the idea that she might come up with a name for him herself, even if I’ll hope it isn’t the F word.
Rico says some families are more f-d than others, but they'll still need males for sperm...
 

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