22 September 2017

McCain deals the GOP a blow

Joe Perticone has a Yahoo article about McCain:

Senator John McCain of Arizona, the Republican who delivered the final blow to the previous attempt to overhaul the US healthcare system, may have done the same when he came out against the GOP's latest healthcare legislation on Friday afternoon. In a statement, McCain said the lack of "regular order" in crafting the legislation was what pushed him away.
"I would consider supporting legislation similar to that offered by my friends Senator Graham and Senator Cassidy were it the product of extensive hearings, debate, and amendment," McCain said. "But that has not been the case. Instead, the specter of the 30 September budget reconciliation deadline has hung over this entire process.
"We should not be content to pass health care legislation on a party-line basis, as Democrats did when they rammed Obamacare through Congress in 2009," McCain added. "If we do so, our success could be as short-lived as theirs when the political winds shift, as they regularly do. The issue is too important, and too many lives are at risk, for us to leave the American people guessing from one election to the next whether and how they will acquire health insurance. A bill of this impact requires a bipartisan approach."
McCain's opposition puts the bill, known as Graham-Cassidy for two of its authors, Senator Bill Cassidy and Senator Lindsey Graham, on the brink of defeat.
Senator Susan Collins of Maine, a fellow Republican, said on Friday that she was leaning against voting for the bill, and Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky has also come out strongly against it. Republicans can afford only two defections for the legislation to pass.
McCain also pointed to the lack of clarity surrounding the effects of the bill if it were to become law. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office announced it would not be able to provide a full estimate of the bill's impact by 30 September, the deadline for the GOP's ability to bypass the Senate's usual sixty-vote threshold and instead pass the bill with a simple majority.
The longtime Arizona lawmaker also said he thought some senators were making a genuine attempt to fix what he believes is a broken healthcare system, but that the process of the Graham-Cassidy bill was not in accordance with how the upper chamber should operate. "I hope that in the months ahead, we can join with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to arrive at a compromise solution that is acceptable to most of us and serves the interests of Americans as best we can," McCain said.
Rico says that we'll still be at this next year...

Why tackle football is bad

Yahoo has an Associated Press article by Jimmy Golen about why tackle football is bad:

Aaron Hernandez' lawyer says the former New England Patriots tight end's brain showed severe signs of the degenerative brain disease known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). In a news conference at his offices, attorney Jose Baez says testing showed that Hernandez (photo) had a severe case of the disease.
CTE can be caused by repeated head trauma, and leads to symptoms like violent mood swings, depression, and other cognitive difficulties. Hernandez killed himself in April in the jail cell where he was serving a life-without-parole sentence for a 2013 murder. His death came just hours before the Patriots visited the White House to celebrate their latest Super Bowl victory.
CTE can only be diagnosed in an autopsy. A recent study found evidence of the disease in 110 of 111 former NFL players whose brains were examined. CTE has been linked with repeated concussions and involves brain damage, particularly in the frontal region that controls many functions including judgment, emotion, impulse control, social behavior, and memory.
A star for the University of Florida when it won the 2008 title, Hernandez dropped to the fourth round of the NFL draft because of trouble in college that included a failed drug test and a bar fight. His name had also come up in an investigation into a shooting.
In three seasons with the Patriots, Hernandez joined Rob Gronkowski to form one of the most potent tight-end duos in NFL history. In 2011, his second season, Hernandez caught 79 passes for 910 yards and seven touchdowns to help the team reach the Super Bowl, and he was rewarded with a forty million dollar contract.
But the Patriots released him in 2013, shortly after he was arrested in the killing of semi-pro football player Odin Lloyd, who was dating the sister of Hernandez' fiancee. Hernandez was convicted and sentenced to life in prison; the conviction was voided because he died before his appeals were exhausted, though that decision is itself being appealed.
A week before his suicide, Hernandez was acquitted in the 2012 drive-by shootings of two men in Boston, Massachusetts. Prosecutors had argued that Hernandez gunned the two men down after one accidentally spilled a drink on him in a nightclub, and then got a tattoo of a handgun with the words God Forgives to commemorate the crime.
Rico says he's just as happy he stopped playing (in junior high school) before his aneurysm blew...

20 September 2017

PR, clobbered again

Good Morning America has a Yahoo article by Mark Osborne and Morgan Winsor about the plight of Puerto Rico:

All of Puerto Rico was without power by Wednesday afternoon, officials said, just hours after Hurricane Maria made landfall on the island as a Category 4 storm.
The Puerto Rico office of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) confirmed that a hundred percent of the territory has lost power, noting that anyone with electricity is using a generator.
Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello said Maria has caused severe damage to infrastructure. A Category 4 storm has not hit the island since 1932. Rossello told local newspaper El Nuevo Dia, which streamed the telephone interview live on Facebook, windows had shattered, rivers were overflowing and trees had fallen.
As of 1400, Maria had weakened to a Category 3 hurricane with maximum sustained winds down to 155 mph as the storm moved over Puerto Rico, according to the National Hurricane Center.
A weather station near Arecibo, some 43 miles from San Juan, reported a sustained wind of 71 mph and a wind gust of 91 mph on Wednesday morning. "This is an extremely dangerous and life-threatening situation," the National Hurricane Center warned.
Hurricane Maria is over four hundred miles wide and hurricane-force winds extend up to sixty miles from its center.
Storm surge was predicted to be six to nine feet in coastal Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. Rainfall totals for Puerto Rico were projected at twelve to eighteen inches, with as much as forty inches in isolated areas.
Felix Delgado Montalvo, the mayor of Catano, some seven miles southwest of San Juan, told ABC News on Wednesday there are hundreds of people in shelters and over a thousand homes were damaged or destroyed in the communities of Juana Matos, La Puntilla, and Puente Blanco. Most of the homes are flooded and are missing roofs or have collapsed walls, he said. About eighty percent of residences in the Juana Matos community were destroyed from storm surge and flooding. Homes there are filled with at least three to four feet of water, according to Montalvo.
Puerto Rico will experience hurricane-force wind gusts through Wednesday afternoon, though the wind will weaken as the day goes on. Maria is forecast to move off Puerto Rico's northern shores and into the open Atlantic on Wednesday night, potentially allowing the storm to strengthen, according to ABC News meteorologists.
Maria is also forecast to approach the Dominican Republic on Wednesday night, but the Caribbean nation is not expected to get directly hit. Still, Punta Cana could experience hurricane conditions. By Friday, Maria will pass to the east of the Turks and Caicos, where there's a potential for hurricane-force winds and heavy rain, but the storm is not expected to make a direct hit.
From there, the hurricane is forecast to pass by the southeast Bahamas on Friday into Saturday. "At this point, it looks like Maria will miss the United States and will move out to sea sometime later next week," ABC News senior meteorologist Max Golembo said. "But this will be a close call, so we will be watching carefully."
Forecast models currently show the storm continuing to weaken next week as it travels far offshore of Florida and the Carolinas.
Rico says he went to Puerto Rico when he was two, so doesn't remember anything of the place. Different now, anyway, thanks to the hurricanes...

Test, underground

History.com has this for 19 September:
On 19 September 1957, the United States detonated a 1.7 kiloton nuclear weapon in an underground tunnel at the Nevada Test Site (NTS), a 1,375 square mile research center located 65 miles north of Las Vegas. The test, known as Rainier, was the first fully contained underground detonation and produced no radioactive fallout. A modified W-25 warhead weighing just over two hundred pounds and measuring two feet in diameter and eighteen inches in length was used for the test. Rainier was part of a series of nuclear weapons and nuclear weapons safety tests known as Operation Plumbbob that were conducted at the NTS between 28 May 28 and 7 October 1957.
In December of 1941, the U.S. government committed to building the world’s first nuclear weapon when President Franklin Roosevelt authorized two billion dollars in funding for what came to be known as the Manhattan Project. The first nuclear weapon test took place on 16 July 1945, at the Trinity site near Alamogordo, New Mexico:
A few weeks later, on 6 August 1945, with the US at war with Japan, President Harry Truman authorized the dropping of an atomic bomb named Little Boy over Hiroshima, Japan. Three days later, on 9 August, a nuclear bomb called Fat Man was dropped over Nagasaki. Two hundred thousand people, according to some estimates, were killed in the attacks on the two cities and, on 15 August 1945, Japan surrendered to the Allied Powers.
1957’s Operation Plumbbob took place at a time when the US was engaged in a Cold War and nuclear arms race with the then-Soviet Union. In 1963, the US signed the Limited Test Ban Treaty, which banned nuclear weapons testing in the atmosphere, underwater, and in outer space. A total of just over nine hundred tests took place at the Nevada Test Site between 1951 and 1992, when the U.S. conducted its last underground nuclear test. In 1996, the U.S signed the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which prohibits nuclear detonations in all environments. 

Rico says that the Nevadans thought it was a good idea, at first...

Bugs, not ghosts

Rico says that he's just catching stupid flies, but the concept is the same:

Apple for the day

Lisa Eadicicco has a Time article reviewing the the iPhone 8 and the iPhone X:

The good: more storage space, slightly faster camera, improved screen, wireless charging
The bad: it doesn't feel radically different from the iPhone 7
Who should buy: those upgrading from an older model like the iPhone 6s who don't want to spend $999 on the iPhone X.
When Apple unveiled the iPhone 7 in 2016, all anyone could talk about was that it would not have a headphone jack. Then on 12 September of this year, Apple announced it was nixing another iPhone staple: the Home button.
But there's a crucial reason things are different this year. For the first time in its history, Apple announced three new smartphones in one event: the iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, and iPhone X (pronounced "iPhone ten"), giving potential buyers more choices than ever. In short, it means that if you're not ready to embrace the iPhone X's radical changes and premium price, you don't have to.
The iPhone 8 and 8 Plus look an awful lot like last year's iPhone 7 and 7 Plus because they are, but Apple has also added a few noteworthy changes. Both phones include a new glass back that enables wireless charging, a faster processor and improved cameras (that Apple says are better suited for augmented reality), and a slightly enhanced screen. The iPhone 8 and 8 Plus also come in the same size options as the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, and both phones still sport a Home button. Most importantly, they're almost the same price as last year's iPhones. The iPhone 8 starts at $699, about $50 more expensive than the $649 iPhone 7, but the base model offers twice as much storage (64GB vs. 32GB). The iPhone 8 Plus begins at $799, while the iPhone X starts at $999.
Apple's iPhone upgrades have been relatively unsurprising the past two years. September 2015's iPhone 6s gave us 3D Touch (the phone can trigger secondary functions if you push harder, a feature I still rarely use even now), and September 2016's iPhone 7 included water resistance, a feature that should have been standard by that point anyway. By contrast, the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus, though they lack the more advanced sensors on the iPhone X, feel refreshed in more significant ways.
Some of that's the not-instantly-apparent convergence of all these upgrades working together to support a technology that now seems poised to erupt. Apple's been talking up the potential that augmented reality can bring to smartphones since it unveiled its new ARKit platform in June. The first apps that run on ARKit will begin to roll out with iOS 11, Apple's new operating system for iPhones and iPads that launches on 19 September. The company reiterated on 12 September that the iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, and iPhone X were optimized for the new technology.
Apple Needs the iPhone X More Than You Do
Let's start with the iPhone 8's True Tone screen technology, which previously debuted on the iPad and enables the display to adapt to ambient light levels. I found this often gives the screen more of a warmer, yellowish hue that tones down the blue light that typically comes from smartphone screens. As a result, text appeared crisper and bolder, making it slightly easier to read news articles. The iPhone 8's display is definitely an improvement over that of the iPhone 7, though not as vibrant as the OLED display on Samsung's Galaxy phones.
The iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus are also getting a speed boost compared to the iPhone 7, thanks to Apple's new A11 Bionic processor. This new chipset includes four high-efficiency cores and two performance cores, meaning it has six total cores contrasted with the iPhone 7's four. It's designed so that the performance cores only kick in when needed by demanding tasks, while the efficiency cores handle easier everyday duties, like email and web browsing. After spending a few days with the devices, I noticed minor speed improvements: Touch ID is much snappier at unlocking the phone, and the camera shutter has no lag whatsoever. The A11 Bionic's biggest job is powering other new features, such as the ability to record 4K video at sixty frames per second, or the iPhone 8 Plus' new Portrait Lighting mode. 
How to Get Apple's Big New iPhone Update When It Launches Today. The latter is the most noticeable addition to the new iPhone's camera. When shooting in Portrait Mode on the iPhone 8 Plus, you can toggle between different lighting options. These include natural light, studio light, contour light, stage light, and stage light mono shooting modes. Each setting changes the way the light in your environment hits the subject's face, resulting in images with effects and accents that differ from one another. It's a much more practical and creative way to build on the iPhone's existing Portrait mode feature than the approach Samsung took with its Galaxy Note 8Samsung's smartphone allows you to fine-tune exactly how blurry the background becomes when snapping a photo, allowing for more control over how sharply the subject appears against its surroundings. It's a nice option to have, but I find the ability to alter lighting much more valuable for taking higher quality portraits. Apple's Portrait lighting effects aren't perfect: some of them make the subject look artificially placed into the photo. But the current version of Portrait Lighting is in beta, so it's likely to improve over time. Take a look at the sample shots on the website to get a better sense of how Portrait Lighting can change a photo.
Otherwise, you can expect camera performance that's similar to that of the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus. Apple's new phones have a twelve-megapixel sensor, just like their predecessors, which are capable of capturing intricately detailed photos in vibrant colors. But the sensors on Apple's new phones are faster than those on the 7, and I noticed that the iPhone 8's shutter snaps a bit more quickly than on Apple's older phones. The iPhone 8 Plus was also able to focus on a subject just a hair faster than the iPhone 7 Plus, especially in low-light environments.
Apple's smartphones are slightly better at taking pictures than Samsung's Galaxy Note 8, too. While Samsung's cameras are top-notch, I found that photos taken with the Note 8 were in certain cases a little washed out compared to those taken on the iPhone. When I shot the same portrait on both phones, I noticed the iPhone 8 Plus' image showed more facial details and more accurately represented the subject's skin tone. Samsung's photo was slightly brighter and made the subject's skin look smoother, but the iPhone's camera showed the subject more as they look in real life. The iPhone 8 Plus also preserved more detail in the dimly lit scenario, which you can see by looking at the brick wall in the background in the sample shots on the website. 
The iPhone's cameras play another crucial role: providing augmented reality experiences. Some of the first ARKit apps for the iPhone, such as The Machines (the game Apple demonstrated on stage) and Insight Heart, already work impressively well. Both apps lay high resolution 3D graphics over your surroundings, making it possible to interact with these elements by tapping or swiping. Though still in beta, both apps ran smoothly without any hiccups. Insight Heart in particular was interesting. It's an app that's meant to help educate users about the human heart its various conditions. The app makes it possible to zoom in on a realistic rendering of the human heart and explore it from multiple angles. It's apps like these that hint at the potential augmented reality holds for education, whether it be in the classroom or at home. It's also important to note that apps like Insight Heart will work on any iPhone that supports iOS 11 (meaning the iPhone 5s forward), and I didn't notice any meaningful differences in performance when using it on the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus versus the older iPhone 7.
Another one of the iPhone 8's headline features is its ability to charge wirelessly, by way of its new full-glass back. That means the phone can be juiced up by placing it flat on a compatible power mat instead of plugging in a power cable. It's a small but important convenience (Android phones have had it since as far back as 2012), though you'll have to pony up another sixty bucks for a charging plate like the one Mophie sells. (Apple plans to sell a wireless charging pad itself, dubbed the AirPower, but not until sometime in 2018.)
Wireless charging doesn't address the biggest annoyance about charging your phone, of course, which is that you still need to be near an outlet (solar and motion charging apparently remain elusive technologies). But the pad does make it easier to snatch up your iPhone while it's charging, though the convenience appears to sacrifice charge speed. When I rested my sixty-percent-charged phone on the charging plate, the battery still hadn't topped up over three hours later. That could have been an anomaly, since Apple says this doesn't reflect typical performance. Charging wirelessly should take about the same amount of time as charging your iPhone through its Lightning cable, and the company is pushing out a software update later this year that will enable faster wireless charging.
That said, the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus' battery respective lives are just as lengthy as last year's models. I can easily get through an entire day with the iPhone 8 Plus and still have a little juice left over for the next day. Expect slightly less mileage from the basic iPhone 8 model.
The iPhone 8 and 8 Plus may not be as flashy as the iPhone X, but anyone upgrading from an older model will appreciate the jumps. Coming from the iPhone 6s, for instance, you're getting double the storage, the option to wirelessly charge your iPhone, a refreshed design, and a faster camera. If you're coming from the iPhone 7 family, on the other hand, it's harder to make the case. If you have last year's iPhone and want a comparable leap, I'd say boost than rainy day reserve for Apple's duly next-gen iPhone X.
Rico says the iPhone X ain't gonna be cheap, but worth it.

Mexico hit hard

Christopher Sherman, Peter Orsi, and Mark Stevenson have a Yahoo article about the Mexican quake:

Police, firefighters, and ordinary Mexicans dug frantically through the rubble of collapsed schools, homes and apartment buildings on Wednesday, looking for survivors of Mexico's deadliest earthquake in decades. The number of confirmed fatalities stood at 225.
Adding poignancy and a touch of the surreal, Tuesday's magnitude 7.1 quake struck on the 32nd anniversary of the 1985 earthquake that killed thousands. Just hours earlier, people around Mexico had held earthquake drills to mark the date.
One of the most desperate rescue efforts was at a primary and secondary school in southern Mexico City, where a wing of the three-story building collapsed into a massive pancake of concrete slabs. Journalists saw rescuers pull at least two small bodies from the rubble, covered in sheets.
Volunteer rescue worker Dr. Pedro Serrano managed to crawl into the crevices of the tottering pile of rubble that had been Escuela Enrique Rebsamen. He made it into a classroom, but found all of its occupants dead. "We saw some chairs and wooden tables. The next thing we saw was a leg, and then we started to move rubble and we found a girl and two adults, a woman and a man," he said. "We can hear small noises, but we don't know if they're coming from above or below, from the walls above crumbling, or someone below calling for help."
A mix of neighborhood volunteers, police, and firefighters used trained dogs and their bare hands to search through the school's ruins. The crowd of anxious parents outside the gates shared reports that two families had received WhatsApp messages from girls trapped inside, but that could not be confirmed.
Rescuers brought in wooden beams to shore up the fallen concrete slabs so they wouldn't collapse further and crush whatever airspaces remained.
The federal Education Department reported late Tuesday that two dozen bodies had been recovered from the school's wreckage, all but four of them children. It was not clear whether those deaths were included in the overall death toll of over two hundred reported by the Federal civil defense agency. Pena Nieto had earlier reported twenty bodies found and said thirty children and eight adults were reported missing.
In a video message released late Tuesday, Pena Nieto urged people to be calm and said authorities were moving to provide help as forty percent of Mexico City and sixty percent of nearby Morelos state were without power. But, he said, "the priority at this moment is to keep rescuing people who are still trapped and to give medical attention to the injured people."
People across central Mexico already had rallied to help their neighbors, as dozens of buildings tumbled into mounds of broken concrete. Mexico City Mayor Miguel Angel Mancera said buildings fell at over forty sites in the capital alone, as high-rises across the city swayed and twisted and hundreds of thousands of panicked people ran into the streets.
The huge volunteer effort included people from all walks of life in Mexico City, where social classes seldom mix. Doctors, dentists, and lawyers lined up alongside construction workers and street sweepers, handing buckets of debris or chunks of concrete hand-to-hand down the line.
Even Mexico City's normally raucous motorcycle clubs swung into action, using motorcades to open lanes for emergency vehicles on avenues crammed with cars largely immobilized by street closures and malfunctioning stoplights.
Dust-covered and exhausted from digging, thirty-year-old Carlos Mendoza said two people were pulled alive from the ruins of a collapsed apartment building in the Roma Sur neighborhood during a three-hour period. "When we saw this, we came to help," he said, gesturing at the destruction. "This is ugly, very ugly."
Blocks away, Alma Gonzalez was in her fourth-floor apartment when the quake collapsed the ground floor of her building, leaving her no way out. She was terrified until her neighbors mounted a ladder on their roof and helped her slide out a side window.
The official Twitter feed of civil defense agency head Luis Felipe Puente said nearly a hundred dead had been counted in Mexico City and seventy in Morelos state, just south of the capital. It said forty were known dead in Puebla state, where the quake was centered. Twelve deaths were listed in the State of Mexico, which borders Mexico City on three sides, four in Guerrero state and one in Oaxaca.
At the site of a collapsed apartment building in Mexico City, rescuers worked atop a three-story pile of rubble, forming a human chain that passed pieces of rubble across four city blocks to a site where they were dumped.
Throughout the day, rescuers pulled dust-covered people, some barely conscious, some seriously injured, from about three dozen collapsed buildings. At one site, shopping carts commandeered from a nearby supermarket were used to carry water to the rescue site and take rubble away. As night fell, huge flood lights lit up the recovery sites, but workers and volunteers begged for headlamps.
Where a six-story office building collapsed in Mexico City, sisters Cristina and Victoria Lopez Torres formed part of a human chain passing bottled water.
"I think it's human nature that drives everyone to come and help others," Cristina Lopez said. "We are young. We didn't live through the quake in 1985. But we know that it's important to come out into the streets to help," said her sister Victoria.
Ricardo Ibarra, 48, did live through the 1985 quake and said there hadn't been anything like it since. Wearing a bright orange vest and carrying a backpack with a sleeping bag strapped to it, he said he and his friends just wanted to help. "People are very sensitive because today was the 32nd anniversary of a tragedy," he said.
Buildings also collapsed in Morelos state, including the town hall and local church in Jojutla, near the quake's epicenter. A dozen people died in Jojutla.
The town's Instituto Morelos secondary school partly collapsed, but school director Adelina Anzures said the earthquake drill held in the morning came in handy.
"I told them that it was not a game, that we should be prepared," Anzures said of the drill. When the quake came, she said, children and teachers rapidly filed out and nobody was hurt.
The US Geological Survey said the magnitude 7.1 quake hit at 1314 and was centered near the Puebla town of Raboso, 76 miles southeast of Mexico City. Much of Mexico City is built on former lakebed, and the soil can amplify the effects of earthquakes centered hundreds of miles away.
The quake appeared to be unrelated to the magnitude 8.1 temblor that hit on 7 September off Mexico's southern coast, which was also felt strongly in the capital.
US Geological Survey seismologist Paul Earle noted the epicenters of the two quakes were four hundred miles apart, and said most aftershocks are within sixty miles.
Rico says they obviously didn't upgrade their building standards; they will now.

Another hurricane UF

Danica Coto has an Associated Press article about the latest hurricane:

One of the strongest hurricanes to ever hit Puerto Rico pummeled the island on Wednesday, as officials warned it would decimate the power company's crumbling infrastructure and force the government to rebuild dozens of communities.
Maria made landfall early Wednesday in the southeast coastal town of Yabucoa as a Category 4 storm with winds of 155 mph, and it was expected to punish the island with life-threatening winds for 12 to 24 hours, forecasters said.
Maria had previously been a Category 5 storm with 175 mph winds.
"This is going to be an extremely violent phenomenon," Governor Ricardo Rossello said. "We have not experienced an event of this magnitude in our modern history."
Metal roofs were already flying and windows were breaking as the storm approached before dawn, with nearly a million people without power and one tree falling on an ambulance. Those who sought shelter at a coliseum in San Juan were moved to the building's second and third floors, reported radio station WKAQ 580 AM. The storm was moving across Puerto Rico on Wednesday morning at ten mph, with a gust of 113 mph reported in the capital of San Juan, according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida.
Maria ties for the eighth strongest storm in Atlantic history, when measured by wind speed. Coming in second is this year's Irma, which had 185 mph winds and killed nearly forty people in the Caribbean and another three dozen in the US earlier this month.
Puerto Rico had long been spared from a direct hit by hurricanes that tend to veer north or south of the island. The last Category 4 hurricane landfall in Puerto Rico occurred in 1932, and the strongest storm to ever hit the island was San Felipe in 1928, with winds of 160 mph.
As Maria approached, President Donald Trump offered his support via Twitter: "Puerto Rico being hit hard by new monster Hurricane. Be careful, our hearts are with you. Will be there to help!"
More than four thousand people were in shelters by late Tuesday, along with a hundred pets, Rossello said.
The storm's center passed near or over St. Croix overnight Tuesday, prompting US Virgin Islands Governor Kenneth Mapp to insist that people remain alert. St. Croix was largely spared the widespread damage caused by Hurricane Irma on the chain's St. Thomas and St. John islands just two weeks ago. But this time, the island would experience five hours of hurricane force winds, Mapp said.
"For folks in their homes, I really recommend that you not be in any kind of sleepwear," he said during a brief news conference. "Make sure you have your shoes on. Make sure you have a jacket around. Something for your head in case your roof should breach. ... I don't really recommend you be sleeping from 11 o'clock to 4 (a.m.). ... Be aware of what's going on around you."
Maria killed one person in the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe when a tree fell on them Tuesday, and two people aboard a boat were reported missing off La Desirade island, just east of Guadeloupe, officials said.
About 40 percent of the island — 80,000 homes — were without power and flooding was reported in several communities.
The storm also blew over the tiny eastern Caribbean island of Dominica late Monday, where Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit sent out a series of dramatic posts on his Facebook page, including that his own roof had blown away.
"The winds are merciless! We shall survive by the grace of God," Skerrit wrote before communications went down.
The storm knocked out communications for the entire island, leaving anyone outside Dominica struggling to determine the extent of damage, though it was clearly widespread. "The situation is really grave," Consul General Barbara Dailey said in a telephone interview from New York.
She said she lost contact with the island about 4 a.m. At that point, officials had learned that 70 percent of homes had lost their roofs, including her own.
Flooding was a big concern, given the island's steep mountains, cut through with rivers that rage even after a heavy rain. Dominica was still recovering from Tropical Storm Erika, which killed 30 people and destroyed more than 370 homes in August 2015.
Forecasters said the storm surge from Maria could raise water levels by 6 to 9 feet (1.8 to 2.7 meters) near the storm's center. The storm was predicted to bring 10 to 15 inches (25 to 38 centimeters) of rain across the islands, with more in isolated areas.
To the north, Hurricane Jose weakened to a tropical storm Tuesday night. Forecasters said dangerous surf and rip currents were likely to continue along the U.S. East Coast but said the storm was unlikely to make landfall. Big waves caused by Jose swept five people off a coastal jetty in Rhode Island and they were hospitalized after being rescued.
A tropical storm warning was posted for coastal areas in Rhode Island and Massachusetts, and tropical storm watches were up for parts of New York's Long Island and Connecticut.
Rico says he's still glad he didn't move to the Keys...

19 September 2017

Trump for the day

Yahoo has an article by Olivier Knox and a video of the President speaking  at the United Nations:

President Trump bluntly warned, in a speech to the United Nations on Tuesday, that the United States may be forced to “totally destroy North Korea” if that country proceeds with its nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missile programs.
Condemning the “depraved” North Korean regime as a major threat to global security, Trump mocked its leader, Kim Jong Un, saying: “‘Rocket Man’ is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime.”
“The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea,” the President told world leaders in his first address to the annual General Assembly.
That unusually martial language from the U.N. rostrum drew a rebuke from Senator Dianne Feinstein, a top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, who said that the president used the United Nations “as a stage to threaten war” and said his “bombastic threat” did nothing to help defuse the crisis.
Trump’s stark message came in a roughly forty-minute speech in which he also sharply criticized China, mildly rebuked Russia, condemned Venezuela’s government, and suggested he might scrap the Iran nuclear deal. Overall, the tone was a nod back to his 2016 campaign’s unapologetically nationalist approach to world affairs.
“I will always put America first, just as you, as the leaders of your countries, will always and should always put your countries first,” the President said. “In America, we do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone, but rather to let it shine as an example for everyone to watch.”
Some of Trump’s toughest language targeted China, North Korea’s primary patron and trading partner. “It is an outrage that some nations would not only trade with such a regime, but would arm, supply, and financially support a country that imperils the world with nuclear conflict,” he said, without explicitly naming Beijing. “No nation on earth has an interest in seeing this band of criminals arm itself with nuclear weapons and missiles.”
Chinese President Xi Jinping skipped the General Assembly, as he frequently does. Other absent leaders included Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Trump also pressed for global action to rein in Tehran and hinted that he could either tear up the Iran nuclear deal, which he pronounced “one of the worst and most one-sided” accords Washington has ever signed, or declare that the Islamic Republic is not in compliance with the agreement. “We cannot abide by an agreement if it provides cover for the eventual construction of a nuclear program,” he said. “Frankly, that deal is an embarrassment to the United States, and I don’t think you’ve heard the last of it, believe me.”
Russia rated only a couple of passing mentions in the speech: Trump lumped its invasion of the Ukraine among “threats to sovereignty” that deserve condemnation, but praised Moscow for joining recent unanimous 15-0 Security Council votes to tighten sanctions on North Korea.
But Trump, who in mid-August had floated a “possible military option” to respond to Venezuela’s slide into chaos, railed at length against that country’s leader, Nicolas Maduro:
“The Venezuelan people are starving, and their country is collapsing. Their democratic institutions are being destroyed. This situation is completely unacceptable, and we cannot stand by and watch,” the President said. “We are prepared to take further action if the government of Venezuela persists on its path to impose authoritarian rule on the Venezuelan people.”
Trump further vowed to “stop radical Islamic terrorism,” a phrase he had left out of recent speeches, and declared that “it is time to expose and hold responsible those countries who support and finance terror groups.” He did not name names.
Again and again, the President returned to the theme of national sovereignty, describing international trade deals and immigration as threats to America’s identity.
“The United States will forever be a great friend to the world, and especially to its allies,” he promised. “But we can no longer be taken advantage of, or enter into a one-sided deal where the United States gets nothing in return.”
He blamed “mammoth multinational trade deals, unaccountable international tribunals and powerful global bureaucracies” for lost jobs and shuttered factories in the United States.
Returning to a core theme of his campaign, Trump said: “Our great middle class, once the bedrock of American prosperity, was forgotten and left behind. But they are forgotten no more, and they will never be forgotten again.”
Trump’s presidency has been shaped by a range of clashes with foreign allies. The president has suggested that he would not honor NATO’s mutual-defense provision unless partner nations stepped up defense spending. He scrapped US participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, upsetting leaders in Japan, South Korea, and a number of other countries worried about being in the shadow of a rising China. He called for ending the US trade deal with South Korea, shocking Seoul at a time when both countries need to cooperate on North Korea. He withdrew from the Paris Agreement to fight climate change, a step French President Emmanuel Macron has urged him to reconsider. And Trump has repeatedly said Mexico will pay for the border wall he promised during his campaign, something America’s southern neighbor flatly rejects.
Trump made no mention of the Middle East peace process or international efforts to combat climate change in his remarks.
(Rico would say Trump was pontificating, but that would impugn the Pope.)

The Man Who Saved the World

Matt Novak has a Gizmodo article about a man who saved us all, and we didn't even know it...

On September 26, 1983, then-Soviet military officer Stanislav Petrov (photo) received a message that five nuclear missiles had been launched by the United States and were heading for Moscow. He did not launch a retaliatory strike, believing correctly that it was a false alarm. With that, he saved the world from nuclear war. Reports have surfaced that Petrov died this past May at seventy-seven years old.
Karl Schumacher, a political activist in Germany, was one of the first people to publicize Petrov’s story back in the late 1990s. But Schumacher reportedly learned of Petrov’s death this month after contacting Petrov’s home. Petrov’s son Dmitry reported that the man who saved the world all those years ago had died on 19 May 2017. Schumacher confirmed Petrov’s death to Gizmodo this morning.
Lieutenant Colonel Stanislav Petrov was 44 years old and working at a missile detection bunker south of Moscow in the then-Soviet Union on 26 September 1983. His computer told him that five nuclear missiles were on their way and, given their flight time, he had just twenty minutes to launch a counter attack. But Petrov told his superior officers that it was a false alarm. He had absolutely no real evidence that this was true, but it probably saved millions of lives.
“The siren howled, but I just sat there for a few seconds, staring at the big, back-lit, red screen with the word ‘launch’ on it,” Petrov told the BBC’s Russian Service back in 2013. “I had all the data to suggest there was an ongoing missile attack. If I had sent my report up the chain of command, nobody would have said a word against it,” Petrov said.
“There was no rule about how long we were allowed to think before we reported a strike. But we knew that every second of procrastination took away valuable time; that the then-Soviet Union’s military and political leadership needed to be informed without delay,” he told the BBC. “All I had to do was to reach for the phone; to raise the direct line to our top commanders, but I couldn’t move. I felt like I was sitting on a hot frying pan,” Petrov said.
Perhaps importantly, Petrov noted that he was the only officer around that day who had received a civilian education. Everyone else were professional soldiers, and he believed that they would have simply reported the attack at face value. The men around him were “taught to give and obey orders.” Luckily, Petrov disobeyed what simply didn’t feel right to him.
Petrov reasoned that, if the Americans were going to launch a first strike, they’d send more than five missiles, despite the fact that five could still do an enormous amount of damage. He also believed that, since the alert system was relatively new, it seemed likely that it could be sending a false alarm.
If Petrov had been wrong, he would have compromised the then-Soviet Union’s ability to retaliate against a nuclear strike. But, if he was right, World War Three would be averted. Thankfully, he was right. And sadly, his wasn’t the first, nor the last, close call that the world has seen. The Cold War saw far too many false alarms triggered by everything from a computer simulation in 1979 to a NATO military exercise in 1983, just two months after Petrov’s false alarm. And then there was the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 and the captain who defied his direct orders.
Remember the 1983 movie War Games? The film is about a computer “game” with the potential to start World War Three.
It’s truly amazing that the world survived the Cold War. And it’ll be even more amazing if we survive the current missile crisis that’s heating up on the Korean peninsula.
Rest in peace, Stanislav Petrov. You may not have gotten the recognition you deserved in life, but hopefully you’ll be remembered in death. Those of us living in the twenty-first century owe you a tremendous debt. And the best most of us can do is hope that the nuclear powers of the world learn something from your heroism.
Rico says some heroes shouldn't be forgotten...

18 September 2017

Yet more hurricanes

Three powerful storms are churning in the Atlantic, including Hurricane Jose, whose impact will be felt up and down the East Coast, especially in New England. Meanwhile, Hurricane Maria threatens Puerto Rico.

NBC has an article by Rachel Elbaum, Daniella Silva, Jason Cumming, and Corky Siemazzko about 
what's coming:
Hurricane Maria was strengthening fast into a monster storm Monday as it barreled towards Martinique, Puerto Rico, and the other Irma-battered Caribbean islands. As of 1400 Eastern time, Maria had grown into a "rapidly intensifying" Category 3 storm with maximum sustained winds of over a hundred miles per hour, and was just forty-five miles east of Martinique, a French island home to some four hundred thousand people, the National Hurricane Center said. Maria could grow into a "major hurricane" overnight and begin threatening the Virgin Islands on Tuesday evening and Puerto Rico by Wednesday morning, the hurricane center said. Puerto Rico has not been hit by a Category 4 or 5 hurricane since 1928, said NBC News meteorologist Bill Karins.
Maria, however, could be "catastrophic" for Puerto Rico, which was largely spared by Hurricane Irma, Karins said. It passed fifty miles north of the island and caused only wave damage, but even that was enough to knock out power to around a million people.
"There's an excellent chance that Maria will be a major hurricane very close to Puerto Rico in 48 hours," he said, adding that it could also hit the Irma-devastated US and British Virgin Islands.
Hurricane watches and warnings were in effect for Puerto Rico and a string of islands reaching from St. Lucia north to the US and British Virgin Islands.
Tropical storm warnings and watches were also issued for Barbados, St. Vincent, and the Grenadines, Martinique, and Antigua and Barbuda, among others.
"Maria is expected to produce total rain accumulations of six to twelve inches, with isolated maximum amounts of twenty inches across the central and southern Leeward Islands, including Puerto Rico and the US and British Virgin Islands, through Wednesday night," the hurricane center warned.
Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló warned Sunday that the storm could bring more rain, wind and water than Irma, which killed three people there. Rosselló said nearly fifty thousand people, about 85 percent of customers in the metropolitan area of the capital, San Juan, remained without electricity. Another six thousand were still without drinking water.
Help was already on the way. A ship from the Federal Emergency Management Agency was expected to arrive early Tuesday with more than a million gallons of water and more than a hundred generators, and the island was ready to house over sixty thousand people in nearly five hundred shelters, Rosselló said. "The priority is to be prepared and save lives," he said.
In Condado, just east of historic old San Juan, Sonia Yanguas was appealing for help to the Almighty. "We're praying to God that it will weaken out at sea," said Yanguas, 76, who lives in a ninth-floor apartment by the sea. "I’ve already made the essential purchases, especially water. I have my equipment, I have a radio and batteries, all the things that are so important to making sure you don’t end up without a way to communicate."
But she's not sticking around for Maria. She's heading inland to the city of Miramar.
"I’m going to prepare my apartment right now, and then I’m going to a hotel," said Yanguas. "I’m going with my two sons and four grandchildren."
Ivelisse Rodriguez, who lives just south of San Juan in Guaynabo, said people were really frightened, with many lining up at gas stations trying to purchase fuel. "There's a collective hysteria," said Rodriguez, 42. After Irma, she said, "we were without power for six or seven days and without water for nine or ten." "Being without water was the worse than being without power," she said. "There’s thing’s you can do if you lose power, but there’s nothing that can substitute water.”
Irma killed four people and did "apocalyptic" damage in the US Virgin Islands. Will Tuttle, who flew down from Hyannis Port, Massachusetts to the island of St. John help his mother rebuild after Irma, said they're boarding everything up again for Maria.
"We covered the windows with plywood and are now putting up more plywood to reinforce them," Tuttle said. "We’ll throw everything from outside into the pool: lawn chairs, chaises. It sinks, it’s safe, it doesn’t go anywhere."
On St. Thomas, Omari Williams said everybody is heeding the call to get out of their houses. "People here are trying to get safe," he said. "Officials are encouraging more people to come to public shelters especially if their home is already compromised."
Farther south, on St. Croix, Lisa Mackay said they're ready for Maria and all they can do now is wait.
"There wasn't much we had to do for Maria because we did everything we had to do for Irma," said MacKay, who is from Memphis, Tennessee, but married to a man whose family has living on the island for generations. "We are seriously concerned about the storm. Our homes are well built, mine included. We have hurricane shutters we put up, but the reality is it’s an unknown."
In the British Virgin Islands, where Irma killed four, Governor Augustus Jaspert warned Maria could dump six to twenty inches of rain. He warned Maria's powerful winds could turn anything not battened down into projectiles.
Severin Pradel, who lives on Anguilla, said they're sick of storms. "People are frustrated and saying, 'Oh my god, I can’t believe it, we can’t take another one,'" he said. "If Maria comes then we’ll get beat up again and will have to start all over."
Carlisle John Baptiste and Danica Coto have an Associated Press article about the latest:

Hurricane Maria smashed into Dominica with 160 mph winds, ripping the roof off even the prime minister's residence, and causing what he called "mind-boggling" devastation Tuesday as it plunged into a Caribbean region already ravaged by Hurricane Irma.
The storm was on a track to wallop Puerto Rico on Wednesday "with a force and violence that we haven't seen for several generations," the territory's governor said.
Dominica Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit said on his Facebook page that "initial reports are of widespread devastation", and said he feared there would be deaths due to rain-fed landslides. "So far the winds have swept away the roofs of almost every person I have spoken to or otherwise made contact with," Skerrit wrote. "The roof to my own official residence was among the first to go." And he appealed for international aid: "We will need help, my friend, we will need help of all kinds."
Maria's eye roared over the island late Monday night. The storm briefly dipped to Category 4 strength early Tuesday before regaining Category 5 status. Fierce winds and rain lashed mountainous Dominica for hours. A police official on the island, Inspector Pellam John Baptiste, said late Monday night that there were no immediate reports of casualties, but that it was too dangerous for officers to check conditions.
"Where we are, we can't move," he said in a brief phone interview while hunkered down against the region's second Category 5 hurricane this month.
"The winds are merciless! We shall survive by the grace of God," Skerrit wrote at the start of a series of increasingly harrowing posts on Facebook. A few minutes later, he messaged he could hear the sound of galvanized steel roofs tearing off houses on the small rugged island. He then wrote that he thought his home had been damaged, and added: Rough! Rough! Rough!
On the nearby island of Martinique, officials said about twenty-five thousand households were without electricity and two small towns without water after Maria roared past.
The head of French civil security, Jacques Witkowski, told reporters that it was too soon to say whether the French department of Guadaloupe had fared as well.
Prefect Eric Maire, the highest French official of Guadaloupe, said in a video on Twitter that some roads and homes were flooded and heavy rain expected to continue. He told the population to "remain inside".
Authorities in the American territory of Puerto Rico, which faced the possibility of a direct hit, warned that people in wooden or flimsy homes should find safe shelter before the storm's expected arrival there on Wednesday. "You have to evacuate. Otherwise, you're going to die," said Hector Pesquera, the island's public safety commissioner. "I don't know how to make this any clearer."
Maria had maximum sustained winds of 160 mph on Monday when it slammed into Dominica.
The National Hurricane Center said Maria weakened briefly before recovering sustained winds of 160 mph (260 kph). Its eye was located about 150 miles southeast of St. Croix on Monday morning and was moving west-northwest over the Caribbean at ten mph.
Forecasters warned Maria would remain a Category 4 or 5 storm until it moves over the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.
The storm's hurricane-force winds extended out about thirty-five miles and tropical storm-force winds out over a hundred miles.
Hurricane warnings were posted for the US and British Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Guadeloupe, Dominica, St. Kitts, Nevis, and Montserrat. A tropical storm warning was issued for Martinique, Antigua, Barbuda, Saba, St. Eustatius, St. Maarten, and Anguilla.
Forecasters said storm surge could raise water levels by six to nine feet near the storm's center. The storm was predicted to bring ten to fifteen inches of rain across the islands, with more in isolated areas.
Close to its path is the island of St. Croix in the US Virgin Islands, where territorial Governor Kenneth Mapp said Tuesday would be "a very, very long night."
St. Thomas and St. John are still stunned from a direct hit by Hurricane Irma, which did extensive damage and caused four deaths on the two islands.
Barry University said it chartered a private plane to carry students and staff from its St. Croix facility to Florida in preparation for Maria. It said 72 people connected to the Barry's Physician Assistant Program and a few pets were on Monday's evacuation flight.
In neighboring Puerto Rico, nearly seventy thousand people were still without power following their earlier brush with Irma, and nearly two hundred remained in shelters as Maria approached.
Governor Ricardo Rossello said Puerto Rico had five hundred shelters capable of taking in over a hundred thousand people in a worst-case scenario. He also said the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) was ready to bring drinking water and help restore power immediately after the storm, which could hit as a Category 5 hurricane.
"This is going to impact all of Puerto Rico with a force and violence that we haven't seen for several generations," he said. "We're going to lose a lot of infrastructure in Puerto Rico. We're going to have to rebuild."
Rossello warned that an island-wide power outage could last a "long time" given the power company's deteriorated and weak infrastructure.
To the north, Hurricane Jose stirred up dangerous surf and rip currents along the East Coast, though forecasters said the storm was unlikely to make landfall. Big waves caused by Jose swept five people off a coastal jetty in Rhode Island and they were hospitalized after being rescued. A tropical storm warning was posted for coastal areas in Rhode Island and Massachusetts, and tropical storm watches were up for parts of New York State's Long Island and parts of Connecticut.
Jose's center was about 350 miles south-southwest of Nantucket, Massachusetts early Tuesday and moving north at nine mph. The storm had maximum sustained winds of 75 mph.
Rico says that Paradise comes with a price, but poor Nantucket is gonna get hit again...

Still out there, just not nearby

Rico says he's been trying to find a source, but may have to travel to get it:

Seems Rico's local grocery store can't get it anymore, for no apparent reason, but others nearby can...

Another good one gone; their man Flint

Michael Balsamo has an Associated Press article via Yahoo about an Israeli flier:

Mitchell Flint (photo, above, from 1949), an American aviator who helped form the Israeli Air Force in 1948 and served in Israel's first fighter squadron, has died. He was 94. Flint, a former American Navy fighter pilot, died Saturday in Los Angeles of natural causes, said his son, Michael Flint.
Flint was one of the founding members of Mahal, a group of non-Israelis who fought in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. He was one of the original members of the Israeli Air Force's first fighter squadron and helped train Israel's first military pilots, his son said.
Flint and other members of the Mahal had flown in German planes that were captured during World War Two, covering the Nazi insignia with Stars of David. He flew in rebuilt Messerschmitts, Germany's main fighter plane during World War Two, as well as P-51 Mustangs (as in the photo) and Spitfires.
When he returned to the United States, Flint moved to Los Angeles, California and became a lawyer. He continued flying until last year, his son said. "He was a humble man who did what he did and never looked for glory," Michael Flint said of his father. "He was proud of what he did until the very end."
Rico says that, all too soon, the last of the World War Two generation will be gone... (And Rico says he apologizes for the Our Man Flint reference, but not much.)

Hemingway's cats are safe

Katherine Brooks has a Huffington Post article about some cats and Irma:

Among the residents of Key West, Florida, who opted to stay put and brave the 130 mph winds that ravaged the state this weekend were over fifty six- and seven-toed cats that call Ernest Hemingway’s former limestone abode home.
Despite officials’ calls for a full evacuation of the region, the cats, along with Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum manager Jacque Sands and curator Dave Gonzales, opted to ride out Hurricane Irma’s wrath within the comforts of the institute’s eighteen-inch walls, and it seems they made the right decision.
This week, the humans temporarily residing in the Hemingway Home reported to multiple outlets that they and the cats had survived the extreme weather that came their way. The museum itself lost access to water and the internet and is relying on three generators to power appliances like the refrigerator, Gonzales told NBC.
“The cats are accustomed to our voices and our care,” he explained of their desire to hunker down rather than truck the cats out of harm’s way. “We love them, they love us. We all hung out last night together.”
A total of ten employees stayed at the house with the cats, many of whom are feline descendants of the classic author’s famously polydactyl pet. (That’s a ratio of five cats to one human, Gonzales noted to NBC.)
Ahead of the storm, some were worried about the fate of Hemingway’s house and those who live there. “Get in the car with the cats and take off,” Mariel Hemingway, granddaughter of the Farewell to Arms writer, advised.
The Hemingway Home, a Spanish Colonial–style building located on the western end of Key West, was constructed in 1851 by architect Asa Tift. Hemingway bought it in 1931, and it was named a historic landmark in 1968. Before Irma hit, Gonzales predicted that the sturdy building would easily withstand the impending storm.
More than six million people were left without power in Florida as of Monday afternoon. Irma was, at its peak, a Category 5 hurricane.
“The cats seemed to be more aware sooner of the storm coming in,” Gonzales added. “In fact when we started to round up the cats to take them inside, some of them actually ran inside knowing it was time to take shelter. Sometimes I think they’re smarter than the human beings.”
CORRECTION: Mariel Hemingway is the granddaughter, not the daughter, of author Ernest Hemingway.
Rico says he's glad they rode it out so well, and the house...

History for the day: 17 September: Battle of Antietam

Rico says he did the reenactment in 2016; it was hot.

Beginning early on the morning of 17 September 1862, Confederate and Union troops clashed near Maryland’s Antietam Creek in the bloodiest one-day battle in American history.
The Battle of Antietam marked the culmination of Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s first invasion of the Northern states. Guiding his Army of Northern Virginia across the Potomac River in early September of 1862, the general daringly divided his men, sending half of them, under the command of General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, to capture the Union garrison at Harper’s Ferry, Virginia.
President Abraham Lincoln put Major General George B. McClellan in charge of the Union troops responsible for defending Washington, DC, against Lee’s invasion. McClellan’s Army of the Potomac clashed first with Lee’s men on 14 September, with the Confederates forced to retreat after being blocked at the passes of South Mountain. Though Lee considered turning back toward Virginia, news of Jackson’s capture of Harper’s Ferry reached him on 15 September. That victory convinced him to stay and make a stand near Sharpsburg, Maryland.
Over the course of September 15th and 16th, the Confederate and Union armies gathered on opposite sides of Antietam Creek. On the Confederate side, Jackson commanded the left flank with General James Longstreet at the head of the center and right. McClellan’s strategy was to attack the enemy left, then the right, and finally, when either of those movements met with success, to move forward in the center.
When fighting began in the foggy dawn hours of 17 September, this strategy broke down into a series of uncoordinated advances by Union soldiers under the command of Generals Joseph Hooker, Joseph Mansfield, and Edwin Sumner. As savage and bloody combat continued for eight hours across the region, the Confederates were pushed back, but not beaten, despite sustaining some fifteen thousand casualties. At the same time, Union General Ambrose Burnside opened an attack on the Confederate right, capturing the bridge that now bears his name around 1300. Burnside’s break to reorganize his men allowed Confederate reinforcements to arrive, turning back the Union advance there as well.
By the time the sun went down, both armies still held their ground, despite staggering combined casualties of nearly a quarter of the hundred thousand soldiers engaged, including almost four thousand dead. McClellan’s center never moved forward, leaving a large number of Union troops that did not participate in the battle. On the morning of 18 September, both sides gathered their wounded and buried their dead. That night, Lee turned his forces back to Virginia. His retreat gave President Lincoln the moment he had been waiting for to issue the Emancipation Proclamation, a historic document that turned the Union effort into a fight for the abolition of slavery.
Rico says he won't be around, alas, for the Bicentennial of Da Wawah, but he's glad he could participate in the Sesquicentennial...

Bluetooth is bad, it seems

Lifehacker has a Gizmodo article by Emily Price about turning off Bluetooth:

If you always leave Bluetooth on your phone on, you might want to rethink things.
A vulnerability known as BlueBorne was discovered this week by security research firm Armis. With it, researchers were able to infiltrate Samsung Galaxy Phones and Google's Pixel as well as an LG Sports Watch and a car audio system, all by exploiting the Bluetooth connection.
Other devices are also vulnerable. Specifically, iPhones and iPads that have not been upgraded to iOS 10, as well as a number of other Android, Microsoft, and Linux products. A BlueBorne attack reportedly only takes ten seconds to do and can give a hacker control of your Bluetooth-enabled device, even if it isn’t connected to anything when the attack begins.
Google and Microsoft put out security patches to get rid of the vulnerability this week. If you haven’t updated your phone in the past few days, you should go ahead and do that right now. No really, do it now.
The issue brings up a much bigger problem: you shouldn’t be leaving your Bluetooth on in the first place. Wired notes that, when you leave Bluetooth on, it’s constantly open to and waiting for other devices to connect to. That’s great when you want to sync your Fitbit or listen to some jams on your wireless headphones, but that also means that your device is constantly available for nefarious things to try and connect to it as well. Sure, use it to connect to your headphones or car. But if you’re not using it, you should power the feature off.
The way BlueBorne works, it constantly scans for devices that have Bluetooth on and, when it finds one that has relevant vulnerabilities, it can hack into the device quickly. Once connected, hackers can take control of the device and even steal data from it.
The attack can also spread from device to device. So, while attackers would technically need to be in Bluetooth range of your phone (33 feet) to pull something like this off, they can get some extra distance when there are other infected devices around as well.
Even though this specific vulnerability has been patched, it’s only a matter of time before something similar pops up.
The easiest line of defense? Don’t leave your Bluetooth on. Wired compares leaving Bluetooth on to leaving a door to your home unlocked. Yes, it will be easier to get in when you get home if you just don’t lock it, but you’re also making it much easier for robbers to come in and steal everything you have while you’re away.
Rico says he turned his off...

Mysterious document

Live Science has an article by Stephanie Pappas about an odd document:

Credit: Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library
The story was tailor-made for headlines: The indecipherable Voynich Manuscript, that once stumped the best code breakers of World War Two, had finally been cracked, and it was a simple health-and-wellness guide for medieval women.
Or not.
The Voynich Manuscript is a heavily-illustrated book on parchment written in what looks like an unknown language. It's been the subject of intense debate since its acquisition in 1912 by antiquarian Wilfrid Voynich, who gave the manuscript its name. The parchment dates back to the early 1400s, but no one has ever managed to figure out what the manuscript says, or even if it says anything at all.
For the latest theory, published on 5 September 2017 in the Literary Supplement to The Times of London, a researcher used the book's illustrations of herbs and bathing women, plus some speculations about the text deriving from Latin abbreviations, to suggest that it is a hygiene guide, sort of a medieval Self magazine geared toward upper-class women. But longtime experts in the manuscript quickly shot down this proposed theory.
"There's nothing there," said René Zandbergen, an aeronautical engineer who runs a website about the infamous document and is well-acquainted with the various theories hobbyists have invented to explain it. "It's like some generic bits of possible history without any real evidence, and then only two lines that really don't generate anything meaningful at all."
So, if the latest Voynich media maelstrom is yet another dead end in the centuries of attempts to crack the manuscript, what is it about this bound stack of parchment that makes it so complex? Why can't experts even agree if the manuscript is a language or gibberish? And will we ever really know what was going through the mind (or minds) who put ink to paper to create this medieval marvel? 
Lost language, code or hoax?
The fundamental problem with the Voynich Manuscript is that it inhabits a gray area, Zandbergen said. In some ways, Voynichese, the nickname for the writing, acts as a language. In other ways, it doesn't. The fact that people have been trying to translate the manuscript since at least the 1600s, to no avail, could indicate that it's either gibberish or a very, very good code.
What is clear is that the manuscript is truly medieval. The chain of ownership is fairly clear reaching back to the early seventeenth century in Prague, when the manuscript was owned by someone affiliated with the court of Habsburg emperor Rudolf II, Zandbergen said, and possibly by Rudolf himself. (It's held today at the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Yale University.) There are over two hundred and forty pages in the manuscript, that, based on the illustrations, seem to be split into thematic sections: herbs, astronomy, biology, pharmaceuticals, and recipes. Experts generally agree that the parchments are not a modern forgery; radiocarbon dating led by the University of Arizona places them firmly in the 1400s, and all of the parchments are the same age, suggesting they weren't cobbled together later and written upon. (However, given the uncertainties inherent in radiocarbon dating, and the fact that the parchment may not have been used right after it was made, the text could have been written as recently as the early 1500s.)
The question is whether the medieval or early modern-era writer of the Voynich Manuscript was writing in a language, in code, or in gibberish. The idea that the manuscript contains a forgotten or unknown language is the most far-fetched, said Gordon Rugg, a researcher at Keele University in the United Kingdom, who has studied the properties of the manuscript's text and written about them in depth on his blog.
"This is clearly not a language," Rugg told Live Science. "It's just too different from all the languages in the world."
For instance, Rugg said, it's universally accepted that the most common words in a language are the shortest ones (think "a," "an", and "the"). That's not the case in the Voynich Manuscript. Nor do the patterns of words make much sense. In a typical book, words with meanings related to the illustrations appear more frequently near an illustration of those words. So, in the Voynich Manuscript, plant words, like root and stem should show up more often on the pages about botanicals than on the other pages, Rugg said. And they should do so in particular patterns, so that color words, like red or blue, appear in conjunction with the word flower, for example.
"There isn't a pattern like that" in the Voynich Manuscript, Rugg said. "All there is, is a bit of a statistical tendency for some of the words to be a bit more common on the plant pages than elsewhere, and that's it."
There are other oddities about the Voynich text that seem un-language-like, Rugg added. For instance, words at the beginning of lines are longer, on average, than words at the ends of lines in the book. That "doesn't make much sense" for a language, Rugg said. The distribution of syllables, which is typically the same throughout a text, is weirdly skewed in the manuscript. In addition, the manuscript doesn't have a single crossed-out or scratched-out word, Rugg said. Even the best scribes of the time made errors. If the manuscript is written in a language, it beggars belief that the person who wrote it never messed up, he said. 
Code breakers
Option two is that the manuscript is a code based on a known language. This is what drew World War Two-era code breakers to the Voynich Manuscript, Rugg said: they hoped they could crack the manuscript and use its secrets to develop new kinds of codes that would defy decipherment. That didn't work out.
In many ways, the Voynich Manuscript should make a terrible code, Rugg said. It has too much repetition and structure, which code-makers try to avoid because it can provide too many clues to code breakers.
Nevertheless, some researchers think the manuscript does contain a message. Marcelo Montemurro, a physicist at the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom, argued in a 2013 paper in the journal PLOS ONE that the word frequency in the manuscript looks language-like. In particular, the manuscript abides by Zipf's law, an equation that describes the relationship between the absolute number of times a word is used in a text and its rank on the list of how frequently words are used. The relationship, briefly, is a power law, meaning that a change in rank is always accompanied with a proportional change in absolute number of times used.
"If it's a hoax, it's so well done that it mimics the statistics of actual language," Montemurro told Live Science. "Which would be really odd, given that, at the time when the Voynich was conceived, no one knew anything about the statistical structure of language."
This opinion puts Montemurro and Rugg squarely in opposition. In 2016, Rugg published research in the journal Cryptologia that used a grid system of suffixes, prefixes, and roots to quasi-randomly generate text that shares a lot of features with the Voynich Manuscript, including adherence to Zipf's law. Thus, Rugg argued, language-like features don't prove that the manuscript is a language. 
Low-tech hoax?
If the Voynich text was created using Rugg's method, it would have involved filling out a grid with syllables in various frequencies that mimic those of real language. The creator might put the Voynichese syllable that looks like a fanciful 89 in every third box, for example, and then fill in other, rarer syllables every fifth box or every twelfth box, nudging the syllables around here and there when they would otherwise overlap boxes. (Two of the same syllables would be side by side.) Next, the creator would take another sheet of paper with three holes cut out and move it over the grid, making words with the syllables that show through as he or she randomly moved the top sheet.
The trick to making the result look "real," Rugg said, is that this method is neither truly random nor strictly patterned. It's quasi-random. You can't "crack" the code or reverse-engineer the creation of the text, because there are too many repetitions of syllables in the grids to ever be totally sure where the grid was positioned to develop any given word in the text, and too many fudged areas where the creator could have made a mistake or where he or she moved syllables around to prevent them from overlapping. But the method also produces patterns, including weird clusters of word lengths and frequency patterns that look language-ish. In other words, a truly random method would create no patterns in the text. A language or code would create much clearer patterns than Voynichese displays. But a quasi-random method could result in total nonsense that still looks patterned enough to fool people into thinking it's meaningful.  
This grid method might seem a little laborious for creating a gibberish book, but code breaking had gotten fairly sophisticated by 1470 or so, Rugg said. If the book was written that late, which is possible, its creator would have known that stream-of-consciousness lettering would have been obvious as fake, while a quasi-random approach would look more convincing. It's also pretty mentally challenging to generate nonsense text page after page, Rugg said; the grid system would have actually been easier.
"I'm not saying it definitely is a hoax; I can't show that," Rugg said. "But what I can show is, you can produce text that has the quantitative and qualitative features of the Voynich Manuscript using low-tech, medieval technology."
Montemurro disagrees, arguing that Voynichese is still too complex to be explained by this quasi-random method. (Other critics have argued that the table-based method Rugg used was historically unlikely.)  In the contentious history of the manuscript, it's another standoff. 
Why make a manuscript?
Some Voynich experts have lost interest in the translation itself and have become more interested in the document as a phenomenon.  "There's not going to be big secrets in there," Zandbergen said. What piques his interest is how the manuscript was made, not what it means.
In that sense, the people puzzling over the Voynich Manuscript are puzzling over human weirdness, and likely just one person's weirdness, at that. The manuscript could have been conceived for any number of reasons. Perhaps its creator really was a super-genius who invented a new language or code that breaks every known rule of each. Perhaps it was a private language, Zandbergen said, or maybe the book was made to prove the creator's cleverness as part of an application for one of the numerous secret societies that flourished in the late Middle Ages, he added.
Or perhaps it was a hoax. If so, the hoaxer simply might have been out for cash, Rugg said. A book like the Voynich Manuscript could have fetched a pretty penny as a curiosity in the medieval or early modern era, he said, perhaps the equivalent of a skilled workman's annual salary.
Or maybe the motivation was personal. Hoaxers sometimes enjoy the thrill of pulling the wool over everyone's eyes, Rugg said. Or they may target their prank toward a particular person. In 1725, for example, the colleagues of University of Würzburg professor Johann Bartholomeus Adam Beringer planted a series of carved limestone "fossils" to fool Beringer into thinking he'd discovered something carved by God himself. Eventually, the hoaxers admitted in court that they wanted to bring the "arrogant" Beringer down a notch.
Sometimes, hoaxers are just hobbyists who want to make something beautiful, Rugg said. Other times, they believe their own stories. The nineteenth-century French medium Hélène Smith, for example, claimed to be able to channel the language of Martians. A 1952 book by psychologist D. H. Rawcliffe, Occult and Supernatural Phenomena, examined her case and concluded that Smith experienced hallucinations and probably truly believed her bizarre writings to have come via a psychic connection with Mars.
At this point, there's no single clear way toward resolving the mysteries of the Voynich Manuscript. Rugg is developing his own rule-breaking codes (and he's offering a signed canvas to anyone who can crack them). Montemurro suspects that linguists and cryptographers will need to work together, not in isolation, to make any headway on Voynichese. Zandbergen thinks there might be clues in some of the weird flourishes in the book, like unique characters that appear only in the first line of paragraphs.
"What is absolutely certain," Zandbergen said, "is that somebody made this. Somebody sat down and was writing it, with ink, on this parchment. It's real, so there must have been a method."
Original article on Live Science.

Rico says it's hard to believe that anyone in the 1400s would put in that much work just to fuck with our heads, five hundred years later...

Blade Runner 2045 preview

Rico says he, of course, will see it:

Killing ISIS before they kill us

The Clarion Project (who else) has an article about the latest threat by ISIS:

ISIS is encouraging its members to attack Hurricane Harvey relief centers (photo, top) in Houston, Texas. A social media post by the terror group, quoted by Newsweek, reads:
“To all the lone mujahids in the US, pop down to Houston and drop in at any of the relief centers housing displaced people from the Houston floods. Make sure to bring lots of supplies/gadgets/toys to see if you can help put any (unbeliever) out of their misery.”
One analyst quoted by CNBC says that “these posts appear to be more aspirational than operational, with hopes that their followers would then act on calls for attacks. Incidents involving lone wolf attackers have demonstrated the potential danger, lethality, and effectiveness of a rehearsed small arms or knife attack carried out by a single individual with little or no training. It also underscores the potentially higher consequences of an assault attack involving multiple operatives.”
An alert put out by Homeland Security in Florida warns police officers to “maintain situational awareness of their surroundings.”
ISIS jihadis not only view centers set up for those displaced by the recent hurricanes as ripe for attack opportunities, they also view the devastation wreaked by the storms as divine retribution by Allah.
Ahmed Mansour, an Egyption journalist for the Qatari-based al-Jazeera channel, wrote that Hurricane Irma was  a “display of Allah’s greatness, which many dare to deny.”
On Facebook, Mansour posted a picture of cars backed up on a Florida highway driven by people evacuating from the hurricane with the caption, “The grand escape from Florida: twenty million American running away in fear of Hurricane Irma which is wiping out everything in its wake.” He added the verse from the Quran, “and He will show you His signs, and what signs of Allah will you deny?”
After tremendous backlash, Mansour removed the post.
Rico says we gotta figure out how to take these assholes out permanently... (But Rico suggests that showing up armed with bad intent anywhere in Texas could get your ass shot off.)

Casino Deposit Bonus