Friday, January 15, 2016

A Quick Run Around the Web--January 15, 2016 (Updated)

Astronomy Picture of the Day (Jan. 10, 2016): Sun Storm: A Coronal Mass Ejection 
  • "In Tierra Caliente (Hot Land) It Is Getting Hotter and Hotter."--Borderland Beat. "This past Monday at least 30 men dressed as police officers terrorized the Technical Secondary School No. 114 in Santa Ana del Águila in the municipality of Ajuchitlán in Guerrero and [kidnapped]  principal Joaquín Real Toledo four other staff members." As of the date of the article, the four had not been found.
  • "Ten [sic] Theses on Immigration"--Ross Douthat writing at the New York Times (H/t Vox Popoli). He actually only lists 9 in his article (he skips from 6 to 8). But the nine are: 
  1. The nation-state is real, and (thus far) irreplaceable.
  2. Immigration is a perilous solution to demographic decline.
  3. Culture is very real, and cultural inheritances tend to be enduring.
  4. Cultural commonalities help assimilation; cultural differences spur balkanization.
  5. Punctuated immigration encourages assimilation; constant immigration limits it.
  6. Cosmopolitanism is unusual; tribalism comes naturally.
  7. Native backlash against perceived cultural transformation is very powerful, and any politics that refuses to take account of it will fail.
  8. Liberal societies are not guaranteed survival.
  9. Europe and America are different.
I wonder if the missing thesis was something along the lines of "not all cultures are of equal value." 
  • Related: "Civilian defense groups on the rise in Germany"--Deutsche Welle. Although the article tries to scare the reader about the rise of "right-wing" nationalists, the reality is that the German government and police have failed at the basic function of government--protection. Having abdicated its role as protector, it is only natural that others will step in. 
  • "On the Bright Side: A Deceleration of Sea Level Rise Along the Indian Coastline"--Cato Institute. "Parker and Ollier (2015) set the tone for their new paper on sea level change along the coastline of India in the very first sentence of their abstract: 'global mean sea level (GMSL) changes derived from modelling do not match actual measurements of sea level and should not be trusted' (emphasis added)."
  • "Humans Were in the Arctic 10,000 Years Earlier Than Thought"--Smithsonian Magazine. An article detailing evidence that humans had hunted and killed a Siberian mammoth, indicating that humans had penetrated to 70 degrees north 45,000 years ago. Trying to explain how humans could have advanced so far north so long ago, the article notes:
The answer might simply be that the Arctic was not as harsh as it is now, so humans readily used their advances in mammoth hunting techniques to follow their prey farther north. Evidence from Greenland ice core records, for instance, suggests that the Northern Hemisphere was undergoing a very warm period 45,000 years ago, Hoffecker says.
One of the fundamental logical flaws to the modern environmentalist movement is that environmentalists implicitly believe in the "steady-state" theory of the earth's environment, and that the "state" to be maintained is pre-human. 
    Women in the United States are waiting longer than ever to have babies, with the average age for first childbirth rising to a record high of 26.3 years as fewer teens give birth and adults postpone parenthood, a federal study found on Thursday.
      First births to mothers under age 20 dropped 42 percent from 2000 to 2014, from 1 in 4 births to 1 in 7, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study.
        Overall, the average age at which women had their first child increased to 26.3 years in 2014 from 24.9 years in 2000.
          Teens' increased awareness of the realities of pregnancy, and greater job and education opportunities for women, are among factors behind the change, said CDC demographer T.J. Mathews, adding that the United States still has a younger average childbearing age than countries in Europe and Asia.
          • "What Is This ‘Wage Insurance’ Obama’s Talking About?"--The Atlantic. Dear Leader's SOTUS included a reference to "wage insurance": "Say a hardworking American loses his job — we shouldn’t just make sure he can get unemployment insurance; we should make sure that program encourages him to retrain for a business that’s ready to hire him. If that new job doesn’t pay as much, there should be a system of wage insurance in place so that he can still pay his bills." Essentially, a wage gap subsidy.
          • "Huge currency zones don’t work – we need one per city"--Aeon Magazine. From the article:
          The East Coast wanted – and got – a central bank controlling all US banks. The Midwest had – and lost – banks free to issue their own bills of deposit. Although all nominally denominated in dollars, wholesalers would discount each note differently based on each bank’s reputation for creditworthiness. And as Galbraith points out, Free Banking coincided with the fastest half-century of growth in the US, 1800 to 1850, still unbeaten. After the Civil War, financial centralisation moved on from the Free Banking regime of banks crashing in ones and twos all the time. Instead, all US banks started overlending in step for years (boom), collapsing together (crash), then underlending in step for years (depression). The Great Panic of 1873 was the first nationwide crash in that new pattern.
            In other words, the fastest ever half-century of growth in the US did not take place within a currency union. It was a multi-currency era, even if all the different currencies had the word ‘dollar’ printed on them. Such a result can seem anomalous only from the perspective that leads to our two diagnoses of the euro crisis. But there is another point of view.
              In the 1970s, the American/Canadian economist Jane Jacobs reached a radically simple insight. Her lifelong interest in urban history convinced her that cities, not countries, drive economics. Cities are messy, unplanned places where people who otherwise would never meet devise joint projects. Hence, Jacobs argued, all innovation happens in cities. It made sense, then, that each city’s currency should follow its business cycle. Forcing two or more cities to share one currency slowly pumps up one city and sickens the others. See southern Italy’s or northern England’s longstanding lag behind Milan or London, despite decades of subsidies.
                This focus on cities as the true engines of economics neatly explains both eurozone and pre-euro failures. European national currency zones were already too big – the eurozone made something already oversized even worse. The US is rich despite having one currency, and it suffers huge damaging cycles from being locked into that single currency zone. Long protected by exceptional rates of internal labour mobility (three times the rate within France), there are signs that US labour mobility is slowing, and a dollar-bloc handicap is becoming more visible.
                  From the Jacobs view, the US, or countries such as Canada, Australia, Brazil etc, aren’t rich because they constitute one big currency bloc. On the contrary, they would be richer without it. Meanwhile social discontent is rising. It is not hard to imagine a world in which Americans see more of the troubles already engulfing the eurozone.
                    HACKS THAT CAUSE physical destruction are so rare they can be counted on one hand. The infamous Stuxnet worm was the first, causing physical destruction of nuclear centrifuges in Iran in 2009. In 2014, Germany reported the second known case of physical destruction involving a furnace at a steel mill. Both of these attacks required extensive knowledge to pull off. But now a researcher has found an easy way for low-skilled hackers to cause physical damage remotely with a single action—and some of the devices his hack targets are readily accessible over the Internet.
                      The hack focuses on variable-frequency drives that control motors operating fans and pumps in water plants, mining operations and in heating and air conditioning systems. The drives are digital devices used to set and maintain the electrical frequency fed to the motors to control their speed. These motors in turn control things like water pumps, rock-crushing systems and air-compression equipment.
                        Reid Wightman, a security researcher with Digital Bond Labs, found that at least four makers of variable-frequency drives all have the same vulnerability: they have both read and write capability and don’t require authentication to prevent unauthorized parties from easily writing to the devices to re-set the speed of a motor. What’s more, the variable drives announce the top speed at which motors connected to them should safely operate, allowing hackers to determine the necessary frequency to send the device into a danger zone.
                        • "Is China's PLA Now Xi's Army?"--The Diplomat. China has restructured the chain of command in its military. The article gives the specifics, but concludes: "As Xi is the architect of this reorganization, no doubt the new commanders will all be personally loyal to him. Through the restructuring, Xi is effectively creating an army of his own."
                        • "Low-Fiber Diets Cause Waves of Extinction in the Gut"--The Atlantic. 
                        Fiber is a broad term that includes many kinds of plant carbohydrates that we cannot digest. Our microbes can, though, and they break fiber into chemicals that nourish our cells and reduce inflammation. But no single microbe can tackle every kind of fiber. They specialize, just as every antelope in the African savannah munches on its own favored type of grass or shoot. This means that a fiber-rich diet can nourish a wide variety of gut microbes and, conversely, that a low-fiber diet can only sustain a narrower community.
                         Updated: I received an email from The Realist noting the following in regards to the story noted above as to demographics:
                        Children are expensive to raise... assuming you intend to pay for them yourself. Many people limit the number of children they have because of financial constraints - they must pay taxes to support the reproductive proclivities of those who aren't concerned about paying for the offspring they produce. That is, people who view life from a "K" perspective are forced to pay taxes to subsidize people who view life from an "r" perspective. 
                        This picture illustrates the dilemma: 

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