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Showing posts from 2017

Today's Trumpery

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A $125,000 Snow Machine Is the Latest Toy of the Superrich

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[Guillotine watch. "The fastest-growing group of customers is private landowners who want to get to their mountain retreats in style. Snowmobiles, after all, are cold and relatively crappy for listening to classical music. It’s a great market for us, and we’ve definitely noticed a spike this year" *RON*]
Kyle Stock, Bloomberg, 29 December 2017

After 75 years, the market for Tucker Sno-Cat is hitting its peak.

Way back in the snow-choked mountains, miles from any road, curb appeal is still a thing.

Consider the Tucker Sno-Cat. It sits on four treads, seemingly designed for a tank, that nevertheless appear to float atop fluffy snow that’s swimming pools-deep. The cab is painted an industrial orange that contrasts cartoonishly against the cottony landscape. A Tucker, like all great vehicles, is a cross between a serious machine—purpose-built for a job—and a child’s toy. It’s difficult to look at one and not feel an urge to climb inside, …

More than 3,600 stores will close in 2018 — here's the full list

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[On the ongoing bricks and mortar retail collapse. Obviously this is very bad for some corporations - Walgreens, Payless - but I wonder what the typical closure rate is? Surely it is normally a somewhat volatile industry? *RON*]

Hayley Peterson, Business Insider, 31 December 2017


The record-high rate of store closures that rocked the retail industry this year is expected to spill into 2018, with more than 3,600 closures already on tap for next year, according to an analysis by Business Insider.

Walgreens, Payless, Toys R Us, and Gap are among the many retailers expected to shutter hundreds of stores in 2018.

Some companies' closures will take effect immediately, such as Sears and Kmart, which plan to close a total of 63 stores in January.

Other closures are already underway and could last several months before completion. The children's clothing retailer Gymboree, for example, announced in July that it would close 350 stores. As of November,…

Berkeley Scientists Are Building a Quantum Computer

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[Good that they're doing this, but it's about time, really. The Chinese are currently whuppin' the West's butt where research on developing practical quantum computers is concerned. *RON*]

Kali Persall, Cal Alumni Association UC Berkeley, Winter 2017


To the average technology consumer, a quantum computer sounds like something out of science fiction. But these machines are real, and scientists at Berkeley are working on one right now.

So what is a quantum computer?

Well, a “classic” digital computer, like the one at your desk, stores information in bits, a basic unit of information. Binary bits, found in the computers we use daily, can only be zero or one, or on or off.

A quantum computer, on the other hand, operates on quantum bits, or qubits, which are subatomic particles that can be zero and one at the same time, or anything in between. “If you go down to zero and a half or zero and a quarter,” says Bert de Jong, who heads the…

What went right in 2017

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[Twenty examples of progress and possibility for the New Year! *RON*]

Lucy Purdy, Positive News, 30 December, 2017


From wrangling over Brexit to war clouds over Korea, 2017 was a tough year on many fronts. But it was full of inspiring stories too. We delve behind the headlines for signs of progress and possibility

1. The value of UK ethical markets grew to almost double that of tobacco

At £38bn, the UK’s ethical goods market is worth twice that of tobacco, research released in January suggested. From electric cars to sustainably sourced fish, 2015 saw an average 8.5 per cent increase in sales of ethical goods.

2. Premature deaths for four major non-infectious diseases dropped

Premature deaths for the world’s four biggest noncommunicable diseases –cardiovascular, cancer, diabetes and chronic respiratory –  have declined by 16 per cent since 2000 according to World Bank data released this year.

3. There has been big progress in treating HIV and Ai…

UBC to lead international research network on greening the maritime supply chain

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[Badly needed. This is one of the dirtiest, most unregulated industries on earth. Locally, of course, we also worry about invasive species and harm to killer whales. It sounds like this project will involve identifying and disseminating information on best policy and practices. I had no idea that shipping was excluded from the Paris Agreement. *RON*]

UBC Sauder School of Business, 12 December 2017


Whether it’s particulate and greenhouse gas emissions, collisions with wildlife or the introduction of invasive aquatic species, the environmental impacts of the maritime industry often go unseen. Yet, its role as the transmission belt of the global economy is hard to ignore, with ships transporting an estimated 90 per cent of the world’s trade.

In this Q&A, we speak to Jane Lister, UBC’s Green Shipping Partnership research director. She discusses how a new international collaborative research network spearheaded by the UBC Sauder School of Business w…

Today's Trumpery

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[Welcome to the monkey house. A daily pastiche of Trumpisms and responses thereto. *RON*]



Donald Trump: the Grinch who turned Christmas into a political battleground, The Guardian

Donald Trump's Mother Is the Key to Understanding His Towering Insecurity, AlterNet
Former Federal Judge: Trump Is Packing the Courts With Unqualified Conservative Extremists, Truthout
Russian tankers reportedly smuggling oil to North Korea, Think Progress

Anti-sharia laws proliferate as Trump strikes hostile tone on Muslims, The Guardian

‘The world is watching!’ Trump tweet calls on Iran to respect protester rights, Al Arabiya [This while the Inauguration Day protest witch hunt continues, along with the mass incarceration and trial of activists protesting Keystone XL and Standing Rock]

What Makes the U.S. Retirement System a Bad Example

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[An excellent interview with a leading authority on the Netherlands' retirement savings system, one of the world's best. *RON*]
Justin Fox, Bloomberg, 27 December 2017

The headline from the Dutch business newspaper Het Financieele Dagblad caught my eye on Twitter a few weeks ago: “America is the example of how not to do pensions.” 1The quote was from an interview with Angelien Kemna, who stepped down on Nov. 1 from the top finance job at APG Groep NV, which manages the Netherlands’ biggest (and world’s fifth-biggest) pension fund. After reading it, it struck me that it might be useful to let U.S. readers know what one of the leading figures on the global pension scene thought was wrong with the way this country handles retirement savings. 2

The Dutch retirement savings system, considered one of the world’s best, is built around defined-benefit workplace pensions -- as the U.S. system used to be. But while some pension funds are affiliated…

Surveying the Ruins of Merkelism

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["The Merkel era has been characterized by a deep yearning for stability. Yet her tenure has led to Germany's current period of instability. It is time to move on from Merkelism." See also: Waning support puts Merkel’s future in doubt. Whereas the real problem is the global inability to deal with poverty and inequality in Islamic nations. *RON*]

Dirk Kurbjuweit, Der Spiegel, 15 December 2017

Power? Politicians in Germany don't seem to want it. The Free Democrats (FDP) already ran away from it and the Social Democrats (SPD) have been fussing over it for weeks. What's wrong with these politicians? Isn't power supposed to be the ultimate aphrodisiac? People used to say that birds would fly strangely before natural disasters like earthquakes or volcanic eruptions. The same seems to apply to some politicians. They sense that something is about to happen -- something big -- the end of the Merkel era. As a result, they are beh…

Into the Brexit Abyss

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[For the UK, "anything short of complete separation from the EU would be akin to the situation in which France found itself after withdrawing from NATO’s military command in 1966. Until France reversed that decision in 2009, it remained bound by the constraints of other NATO members, but lacked any say in political or military decisions." See also: Labour voters could abandon party over Brexit stance, poll finds. *RON*]
Dominique Moisi, Project Syndicate, 26 December 2017


PARIS – I have a British friend who never travels without his Irish passport, at least not since June 2016, when the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union. “Just in case,” he likes to say. “You never know what may happen.”

Ever since Brexit, the Irish passport has become something of an insurance policy against irrationality, and represents, for my friend at least, the possibility of retaining his European identity. If things turn out badly in London, he re…

The Water Will Come: A Must-Read Book on Sea Level Rise

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["The main take-away message from the book is this: we can retreat from the coast and protect what we can in an intelligent and orderly fashion, or we can go through a chaotic abandonment of the coast forced upon us at much greater cost. Goodell is pessimistic about our prospects of doing an orderly retreat from the sea, writing, 'retreat also requires city and state officials to willingly shrink their tax base and politicians to willingly give up power. Who wants that?'" *RON*]

Dr. Jeff Masters, Weather Underground, 20 December 2017



The Water Will Come: Rising Seas, Sinking Cities, and the Remaking of the Civilized World—the title of Jeff Goodell’s new must-read book on sea level rise—says volumes. Goodell, a contributing editor at Rolling Stone and the author of the excellent 2011 book How to Cool the Planet: Geoengineering and the Audacious Quest to Fix Earth’s Climate, argues that there is little we can do to stop the inexo…

The Plot to Bomb Garden City, Kansas

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[An important story. How angry racists plotted to kill Somali refugees in Kansas. So many Trump supporters fear that the US is being overrun with Muslims who are recruiting terrorists intent on killing Americans, and that the US government doesn’t care, yet some of these white working class men who fear Islamic radicalization have become radicalized themselves. *RON*]

Jessice Pressler, New York Magazine, photographs by Benjamin Rasmussen, 12 December 2017


The town welcomed hundreds of Somali refugees. Then a private militia decided to go “ISIS hunting.”

For all of Patrick Stein’s life, Southwest Kansas — “God’s country,” he called it — had looked basically the same. Golden fields, white grain elevators, blue sky. But lately it was starting to look different. “Here come a couple of fucking raghead bitches,” Stein announced as he spotted a group of dark-skinned women in long, colorful robes and gauzy scarves walking up the avenue named for the gre…