New Horizons: Mapping at System’s Edge

New Horizons: Mapping at System’s Edge

Dust between the stars usually factors into our discussions on Centauri Dreams when we’re considering its effect on fast-moving spacecraft. Although it only accounts for 1 percent of the mass in the interstellar medium (the other 99 percent being gas) its particles and ices have to be accounted for when moving at a substantial fraction of the speed of light. As you would expect, regions of star formation are particularly heavy in dust, but we also have to account for its presence if we’re modeling deceleration into a planetary system, where the dust levels will far exceed the levels found along a star probe’s journey.

Clearly, dust distribution is something we need to learn more about when we’re going out from as well as into a planetary system, an effort that extends all the way back to Pioneers 10 and 11, which included instruments to measure interplanetary dust. Voyager 1 and 2 carry dust detecting instruments, and so did Galileo and Cassini, the latter with its Cosmic Dust Analyzer (CDA).

And I’m reminded by a recent news release from the New Horizons team that the Student Dust Counter (SDC) aboard New Horizons is making a significant contribution as it moves ever deeper into the Kuiper Belt. You’ll recall that the SDC played the major role in identifying what may be an extended Kuiper Belt in findings published in January (citation below). Alex Doner (University of Colorado Boulder) is lead author of the paper on that work. He serves as SDC lead:

“New Horizons is making the first direct measurements of interplanetary dust far beyond Neptune and Pluto, so every observation could lead to a discovery. The idea that we might have detected an extended Kuiper Belt — with a whole new population of objects colliding and producing more dust – offers another clue in solving the mysteries of the solar system’s most distant regions.”

Image: Artist’s impression of a collision between two objects in the distant Kuiper Belt. Such collisions are a major source of dust in the belt, along with particles kicked up from Kuiper Belt objects being peppered by microscopic dust impactors from outside of the solar system. Credit: Dan Durda, FIAAA.

We have to account for the variable distribution and composition of dust not only in terms of spacecraft design but also for fine-tuning our astronomical observations. Scattering and absorbing starlight, dust produces what astronomers refer to as extinction, dimming and reddening the light in significant ways. It’s a part of the cosmic optical background, which on the largest scale includes light from extragalactic sources as well as our own Milky Way. This background can tell us about galactic evolution and even dark matter if we know how to adjust for its effects.

Joel Parker (SwRI) is a New Horizons project scientist who notes that even as the craft continues to make observations within the Kuiper Belt (and the search for potential flyby targets continues), its instruments are also returning data with implications for astrophysics at large:

“New Horizons is uniquely positioned to make astrophysical observations that are difficult or impossible to make here on Earth or even from orbit. Many things can obscure observations, but one of the biggest problems is the dust in the inner solar system. It may not be obvious when you look up into a clear night sky, but there is a lot of dust in the inner part of the solar system. There is also a great deal of obscuration at certain ultraviolet wavelengths at closer distances due to the hydrogen that pervades our planetary system, but which is much reduced out in the Kuiper Belt and the outer heliosphere.”

Image: New Horizons mission scientists and external colleagues are taking advantage of the New Horizons spacecraft’s position in the distant Kuiper Belt to make unique astrophysical and heliospheric observations. Alice, the ultraviolet spectrograph on the spacecraft, performed 75 great circle scans of the sky in September 2023, for a total of 150 hours of observations. These data focus on the light from hydrogen atoms in the ultraviolet Lyman-alpha wavelength across the sky as seen from New Horizons’ vantage point in the distant solar system. This map shows the data from the scans overlaid on a smoothed model of the expected Lyman-alpha background. (Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/SwRI).

We’ve recently talked about hydrogen-alpha transitions, which are a factor in astronomical observations (we saw this in the Project Hephaistos Dyson sphere papers). The Lyman-alpha transitions referred to above produce different emissions as electrons change energy levels within the atom, and are primarily useful for studies of the interstellar and intergalactic medium. So New Horizons is on point for helping us clarify how local dust levels may affect our observations of these distant sources.

Parker puts it this way:

“It’s like driving through a thick fog, and when you go over a hill, it’s clear. Suddenly, you can see things that were obscured. When you’re trying to look for a very faint light far outside our solar system or beyond our galaxy, that obscuration creates a challenge. If we measure how the ‘fog’ changes as we move farther out, we can make better models for our observations from Earth. With more accurate models, we can more easily subtract the effects of light and dust contamination.”

New Horizons records the cosmic ultraviolet background and maps hydrogen distribution as it moves through the outer regions of the heliosphere and eventually through the heliopause and into the local interstellar medium. This is going to be useful in telling astronomers something about the evolution of galaxies by yielding data on star formation rates as we learn how to remove the contaminating signature of interplanetary dust from our observations.

It’s fascinating to see how a single spacecraft can, as have the Voyagers, function as a kind of Swiss army knife with tools useful well beyond a single target. Successors to New Horizons will one day extend these observations as we learn more about dust distribution all the way out to the Oort Cloud.

The paper on a possible extended Kuiper Belt is Doner et al., “New Horizons Venetia Burney Student Dust Counter Observes Higher than Expected Fluxes Approaching 60 au,” The Astrophysical Journal Letters Vol. 961, No. 2 (24 January 2024), L38 (abstract).

That Yorkshire sound

An animated day-in-the-life of this historic English county travels from market to dale to capture its northern essence

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Assigning an identification to a satellite

Objects in satellite catalogs can be lost and recovered, making it a challenge to identify which object came from which launch. Charles Phillips describes one approach that uses one aspect of an object's orbital elements to help identify it.

Review: Weapons in Space

The Strategic Defense Initiative was a controversial program decades ago to develop a space-based missile defense system. Jeff Foust reviews a book that provides a new history of SDI and lessons it offers to today's debates about missile defense and anti-satellite weapons.

Russian research on space nukes and alternative counterspace weapons (part 2)

In the second part of his examination of Russian research into counterspace weapons, Bart Hendrickx examines work on alternative concepts like plasma and electromagnetic pulse weapons.

Architecting lunar infrastructure

What sort of infrastructure is needed on the Moon to enable visions of a lunar economy? Jeff Foust reports on a DARPA study that brought together companies to develop an ecosystem of lunar services, although who will pay for it is less certain.

Boeing Starliner launch Saturday ruled out as helium leak analysis continues

The United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket that will carry Starliner, pictured on pad 40 at Cape Canaveral prior to its first launch attempt in early May 2024. Image: Michael Cain/Spaceflight Now.

Plans to launch Boeing’s oft-delayed Starliner spacecraft on its first crewed test flight Saturday were put on hold Tuesday night to give managers more time to evaluate a small helium leak in the ship’s propulsion system. A new launch target was not announced.

The Starliner’s crew — commander Barry “Butch” Wilmore and co-pilot Sunita Williams — remained at the Johnson Space Center in Houston awaiting word on when to head for the Kennedy Space Center to make final preparations for launch to the International Space Station.

They had hoped to blast off at 3:09 p.m. EDT Saturday, assuming NASA and Boeing managers agreed it would be safe to launch the spacecraft “as is,” with a small-but-persistent leak in the ship’s propulsion pressurization system.

But multiple sources said earlier Tuesday that option was no longer on the table as additional meetings were planned to discuss the rationale for launching the spacecraft assuming the leak would not worsen in flight.

In a short statement late Tuesday, NASA said “the team has been in meetings for two consecutive days, assessing flight rationale, system performance and redundancy. There is still forward work in these areas, and the next possible launch opportunity is still being discussed.”

NASA did not announce when the analysis might be complete or when another launch attempt might be made. Near-term launch opportunities beyond Saturday and Sunday, based on the Starliner’s ability to match the station’s orbit, are May 28, June 1 and 2 and June 5 and 6.

The latest delay was a familiar setback for the hard-luck Starliner, which has suffered a steady stream of frustrating setbacks since an initial unpiloted test flight in 2019 was derailed by software problems and communications glitches. A second uncrewed test flight was launched and while it was generally successful, more problems were discovered after its return to Earth.

The helium leak was first detected during a launch attempt on May 6. At the time, engineers concluded the leak rate was small enough to permit launch, but the countdown was called off after engineers with Atlas-builder United Launch Alliance noted unusual behavior in an oxygen pressure relief valve in the rocket’s Centaur upper stage.

Managers eventually decided to haul the rocket back to the company’s Vertical Integration Facility to replace the valve. That work was completed without incident and the new valve was cleared for flight.

Boeing engineers took advantage of delay to carry out a more thorough assessment of the helium leak, which was traced to a specific reaction control system thruster in one of four “doghouse” assemblies mounted around the exterior of the Starliner’s drum-shaped service module.

Each doghouse features four orbital maneuvering and attitude control — OMAC — thrusters and four smaller reaction control system maneuvering jets. Pressurized helium gas is used to push propellants to the rocket motors in each doghouse as well as to four powerful launch abort engines that would only be fired in the event of a catastrophic booster failure.

Engineers tightened bolts around the flange where the leak was detected, pressurized the lines and then ran tests to determine if the leak was still present. In the meantime, launch was re-targeted for May 21 and then, when tests revealed the leak was still present, to Saturday to give engineers more time to assess the data.

The flight is now on hold indefinitely, pending results of the ongoing analysis.

Can a gas cloud eat a galaxy?  Can a gas cloud eat a galaxy?


The first crew launch of Boeing’s Starliner capsule is on hold indefinitely

Boeing's Starliner spacecraft on the eve of the first crew launch attempt earlier this month.

Enlarge / Boeing's Starliner spacecraft on the eve of the first crew launch attempt earlier this month. (credit: Miguel J. Rodriguez Carrillo/AFP via Getty Images)

The first crewed test flight of Boeing's long-delayed Starliner spacecraft won't take off as planned Saturday, and could face a longer postponement as engineers evaluate a stubborn leak of helium from the capsule's propulsion system.

NASA announced the latest delay in the Starliner test flight late Tuesday. Officials will take more time to consider their options for how to proceed with the mission after discovering the small helium leak on the spacecraft's service module.

The space agency did not describe what options are on the table, but sources said they range from flying the spacecraft "as is" with a thorough understanding of the leak and confidence it won't become more significant in flight, to removing the capsule from its Atlas V rocket and taking it back to a hangar for repairs.

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Surviving reentry is the key goal for SpaceX’s fourth Starship test flight

SpaceX's fourth full-scale Starship rocket undergoes a fueling test Monday.

Enlarge / SpaceX's fourth full-scale Starship rocket undergoes a fueling test Monday. (credit: SpaceX)

After three test flights, SpaceX has shown that the world's most powerful rocket can reach space. Now, engineers must demonstrate the company's next-generation Starship vehicle can get back home.

This will be the central objective for the fourth Starship test flight, which could happen as soon as early June, according to Elon Musk, SpaceX's founder and CEO.

"Starship Flight 4 in about 2 weeks," Musk posted on X, his social media platform, following a Starship countdown rehearsal Monday at the Starship launch site in South Texas. "Primary goal is getting through max reentry heating."

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What are your favorite non-violent movies?

From Jonathan Birch on Twitter:

What are your favourite nonviolent movies? I don’t mean romcoms, I mean movies that in some way exemplify or explore the idea of nonviolence.

Sorry, but Gandhi doesn’t do it for me.  What actually comes to mind is that old Bruce Dern movie Silent Running.  Or how about Babette’s Feast?  The LLMs in general cough up politically sanctimonious movies.  Is it crazy to suggest Vincent Ward’s Map of the Human Heart, admittedly a tragic work too?  Terence Malick’s Tree of Life is a natural pick, but somehow it has never registered with me.  Bergman’s Smiles of a Summer Night surely is in contention.

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What I’ve been reading

1. Alexander C.R. Hammond, Heroes of Progress: 65 people who changed the world, with a forward by Steven Pinker.  Starts with Gutenberg, of course Norman Borlaug is included, don’t forget Cobden, Bentham, Frederick Douglass, and many others.  An Auto-Icon to those who spurred progress!  Who knew that Virginia Apgar was born in Westfield, N.J.?  Well done.

2. Cixin Liu, Supernova Era.  An A+ plot premise (I won’t spoil it), the story goes downhill somewhat but still worth reading.

3. Martin Plaut and Sarah Vaughan, Understanding Ethiopia’s Tigray War.  Clear and to the point, the best book I know on this topic.  It is also especially clear on the roles of Eritrea and Somalia.

4. Kunal Purohit, H-Pop: The Secretive World of Hindutva Pop Stars.  If you are an outsider and looking for a good “micro-study” to understand India, this is a good place to start.  Trying to better understand a country typically should consist of both macro overviews and micro-studies, of course.

5. Asimov Press, Origins.  Their first publication, this volume is a series of essays on biotechnology.  The key mission is learning how to conduct science better, and you can get updates here on synthetic biology, transgenic ants, macrophages, and other topics of recent (and earlier) note.

Anastasia Berg and Rachel Wiseman, What Are Children For?: On Ambivalence and Choice is not a book for me right now (thus I haven’t read it), but the authors are very smart and thus it is worthy of mention.

In return for a referee report, I requested Chen-Pang Yeang, Transforming Noise: A History of Science and Technology from Disturbing Sounds to Informational Errors, 1900-1955.  This book is good background for understanding late Fischer Black, as ideas derived from Brownian motion lie behind both options pricing theory and Black’s essay “Noise.

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Global navigation jamming will only get worse. The U.S. needs to move fast

A 1983 illustration of a GPS satellite.
A 1983 illustration of a GPS satellite.

Jamming and spoofing attacks on GPS and other global navigation satellite systems (GNSS) are becoming increasingly common as geopolitical crises escalate, creating major challenges and risks for aviation, shipping and other critical services across the world. 

The post Global navigation jamming will only get worse. The U.S. needs to move fast appeared first on SpaceNews.

Ariane 6 inaugural launch planned for first half of July

Ariane 6 and booster
Ariane 6 and booster

The first launch of the Ariane 6 is expected in the first half of July as the vehicle takes shape at its French Guiana launch site.

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China to expand commercial spaceport to support upcoming launch surge

Rollout of the first Long March 5B to the pad at Wenchang, South China in April 2020.
Rollout of the first Long March 5B to the pad at Wenchang, South China in April 2020.

China plans new phases of expansion for its new commercial spaceport to support an expected surge in launch and commercial space activity.

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U.S. claims recently launched Russian satellite is an ASAT

Robert Wood
Robert Wood

The U.S. government claims that a recently launched Russian satellite is a counterspace weapon placed in nearly the same orbit as an American reconnaissance satellite.

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A Death and the Chill of War

Global Tensions Rise: Accidental Deaths of Iranian President and Foreign Minister Amplify Fragile Geopolitical Climate

Perhaps it is a sign of our times that the first reaction to hearing about the apparently accidental death of the president of Iran is worry about any sudden imbalance of the world’s tension into new conflict.

Iran President Ebrahim Raisi and Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian died Sunday in a helicopter accident in bad weather in a rugged area of the country, setting off speculation about what’s to come both inside Iran and in its regional clashes.

There was only a modicum of official Western sympathy for a leader who has cracked down on individual liberty, who has locked up critics, who has run Iran’s economy further into the ground, and who has been a steady source for terror attacks on U.S. troops and on Israelis. Yet, the death feels to be an oversized moment for world fragility.

From all accounts, the deaths seem unlikely to change either the harsh domestic policies for Iranians, immediately alter the knife’s edge tensions in the Middle East, or Iran’s tenuous standoff with world powers over nuclear weapons. The power of the country resides with the Ayatollah, Ali Khamenei, 85, who, despite declining health, calls the shots.

If anything, we have learned, Raisi’s death may alter the succession plans for the ayatollah.

But the immediate reaction was apprehension, even a chilling fear, that a misplaced announcement blaming, say, Israelis or U.S. intelligence figures for causing the accident could send us around the bend into global war.

A Period of High Tension

The deaths come as military tensions are high and when the leadership of Iran, Israel and the United States all are in question, with war in the Middle East, Europe and clashes building in Asia. They come as European leaders seem to be coiling their defenses in recognition of populist fever against counting on U.S. commitments as a serious ally, and as aggressive acts by Russia, China, North Korea, and any number of Iranian-fronted terror groups are on the increase.

It feels all too easy for errant diplomacy and policy as well as an errant missile launch to move us into a cataclysmic global war.

Considering the tensions, you would think the ability to listen, analyze, and chart a foreign policy would be the top priority for a U.S. presidential election. Instead, as we know, we’re awash in simplistic sloganeering about culture issues, the high prices at the supermarket, and the battle over whether our normal laws even apply to a president, former president, or candidate for the presidency,

Instead of thoughtfulness, we seem increasingly to value “strength,” as measured in ballistic and bombastic language — exactly at a time in which true strength more likely should be measured by the ability to keep the calm as the parties work through the most recent violation of the human code.

The idea of a pending presidential debate between two old foes who speak entirely different language about how to keep us safe should be as unsettling as hearing that a major foe is changing leaders. Donald Trump will bellow about American image, while Joe Biden will defend dependence on layered diplomacy.

The chill at hearing of an accidental death of an adversary should make us think twice about who we need in a tense world.


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Starliner crewed test flight remains on hold

Atlas 5 Starliner
Atlas 5 Starliner

NASA and Boeing have further delayed the launch of a crewed test flight of the company’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft, this time not offering a new launch date as work to resolve a helium leak continues.

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SpaceX nears next Starship test flight as Starbase expansion continues

Starship WDR at Starbase
Starship WDR at Starbase

As SpaceX prepares for its next Starship test flight, the company is also working to scale up facilities in Texas to build and launch those vehicles.

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Boston University wins Collegiate Space Competition

Boston University students proposed pushing defunct satellites from geosynchronous Earth orbit to a graveyard orbit with cubesats.

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Pentagon working with SpaceX to cut off Russian military’s illicit use of Starlink internet

DoD official John Hill: "SpaceX has been very cooperative with the entire United States government and the government of Ukraine."

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Wednesday: Existing Home Sales, FOMC Minutes, Architecture Billings Index

Mortgage Rates Note: Mortgage rates are from MortgageNewsDaily.com and are for top tier scenarios.

Wednesday:
• At 7:00 AM ET, The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) will release the results for the mortgage purchase applications index.

• At 10:00 AM, Existing Home Sales for April from the National Association of Realtors (NAR). The consensus is for 4.18 million SAAR, down from 4.19 million. Housing economist Tom Lawler expects the NAR to report sales of 4.23 million SAAR.

• During the day, The AIA's Architecture Billings Index for April (a leading indicator for commercial real estate).

• At 2:00 PM, FOMC Minutes, Minutes Meeting of April 30-May 1, 2024

Tuesday 21 May 1661

Up early, and, with Sir R. Slingsby (and Major Waters the deaf gentleman, his friend, for company’s sake) to the Victualling-office (the first time that I ever knew where it was), and there staid while he read a commission for enquiry into some of the King’s lands and houses thereabouts, that are given his brother. And then we took boat to Woolwich, where we staid and gave order for the fitting out of some more ships presently. And then to Deptford, where we staid and did the same; and so took barge again, and were overtaken by the King in his barge, he having been down the river with his yacht this day for pleasure to try it; and, as I hear, Commissioner Pett’s do prove better than the Dutch one, and that that his brother built.

While we were upon the water, one of the greatest showers of rain fell that ever I saw.

The Comptroller and I landed with our barge at the Temple, and from thence I went to my father’s, and there did give order about some clothes to be made, and did buy a new hat, cost between 20 and 30 shillings, at Mr. Holden’s. So home.

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In which British writers scold America on trade

As I wrote in my post about Biden’s tariffs last week, protectionism is now a bipartisan consensus in America; you cannot find a major party or political faction that is not fully on board with the idea of taxing Chinese-made goods. And as I wrote in my weekly roundup, this is likely to put pressure on other countries to follow suit, because U.S. tariffs will focus the huge wave of Chinese exports on an even smaller set of countries. Protectionism is thus likely to become the world’s new default approach to trade, at least as far as China is concerned.

Not everyone is happy about this, of course. In particular, a number of prominent British publications have been issuing full-throated denunciations of the protectionist turn. For example, here’s The Economist arguing that various trade policy interventions, from sanctions to industrial policy, will inevitably hurt the world’s poor:

This unhappy regression—call it deglobalisation, for want of a better term—is beginning to become visible in the economic data…

[T]he world’s governments are imposing trade sanctions more than four times as often as they did in the 1990s…Governments are also screening foreign investments more carefully and often barring investments in “strategic” companies…The second big change is the rise of industrial policy. Politicians are frantically competing to build up domestic supply chains and local industries…in clean energy, electric vehicles and computer chips…

Not only has global trade in goods stagnated; the same problem now afflicts services, too. Cross-border investment is in retreat, as well, as a share of global GDP. Both long-term (direct) and short-term (portfolio) flows are well below their peaks. Companies are retrenching, to avoid geopolitical rifts in particular…

The reduced efficiency that this entails does not seem to bother the many politicians who are embracing deglobalisation…The golden age of globalisation caused an unprecedented decline in global poverty…Moving away from global integration thus presents a massive risk to the world’s poor, in particular.

The article acknowledges that these harms haven’t manifested yet — the world economy is still growing at about the same pace it was 10 or 20 years ago. And the article also acknowledges the possibility that poor countries like India will grow faster due to friendshoring. But it sticks stubbornly to the assertion that eventually, the global poor will be the ones to suffer.

And here’s Ed Luce in the Financial Times, arguing that tariffs will hurt consumers, slow the transition to green energy, and exacerbate tensions with China:

America’s direction of travel is ominous. At one speed or another, Republicans and Democrats alike are now in favour of pulling up the global drawbridge…As Biden knew in 2019 but appears to have forgotten, the costs of tariffs are borne by consumers not by importers…For the symbolic gain of a handful of muscular jobs, Biden is imposing a broad tax on the middle class and undermining US competitiveness…

Then there is the hit to his climate change policy. The cost of all forms of renewable energy has nosedived in the last decade, chiefly because of China…The Biden effect will be to raise the US domestic price of EVs, solar panels and other green inputs and delay America’s energy transition…

[Then there] are the uncounted national security costs of deglobalisation. The last time the world was confronted with rising populism was in the 1930s. America’s initial response was to make it worse. The 1930 Smoot-Hawley Act raised US tariff barriers and triggered beggar-thy-neighbour protectionism elsewhere. This time, again, America’s instinct is to disengage: Trump across all fronts, including military alliances; Biden only on the economic front. 

Another Economist article makes similar arguments. And an FT editorial makes them yet again. A third Economist piece tells us that we really just need to remember the wisdom of David Ricardo from Econ 101:

Return, for a moment, to first principles. As David Ricardo laid out more than two centuries ago and experience has since shown, it makes sense for governments to open their borders to imports even when others throw up barriers. Residents in the liberalising country enjoy lower prices and greater variety, while companies focus on what they are best at producing. By contrast, tariffs coddle inefficient firms and harm consumers…

America learned this the hard way in the 1980s, when Japanese carmakers—in Washington’s crosshairs—agreed to quotas, driving up their prices in America. And for what? The “big three” carmakers continued to churn out clunkers. Today’s American firms fear competition from BYD’s Seagull, some versions of which cost less than $10,000 in China. Now, they can sell inferior cars for three times the price.

And so on, and so forth. Tariffs, folks: Is there any calamity they can’t cause?

The truth is, I’m sympathetic to many of these arguments. Managed poorly, the new system of trade barriers really could leave many poor countries bereft of investment and markets for their exports, slowing their growth. American consumers definitely will pay a price for not being able to buy Chinese EVs (though they were never going to sell for $10,000 in the U.S.; that was a flight of fancy on the part of the Economist writer). Taxes on cheap Chinese solar panels, batteries, and EVs really will slow the green transition, if only modestly. And some American companies probably will become complacent due to a lack of competitive pressure.

Under a Trump administration, the consequences could be even worse. In his first term, Trump was in the habit of slapping tariffs on U.S. friends and allies, like Canada, Europe, Mexico, and Japan. This practice would fragment U.S. alliances and prevent the emergence of a democratic trading bloc that could rival China’s immense size.

So I definitely acknowledge the costs and risks of tariffs. And yet I feel that in their rush to condemn Biden’s new policy, the British writers have made an incomplete and weak case. In particular, they have failed to grapple with the main reason that tariffs — not to mention other new policies like export controls, industrial policy, and sanctions — are being deployed.

The primary reason for all of these policies is national defense. Yes, political considerations like protecting the auto industry and catering to populist sentiment certainly play a role. But the most important motivation for the tariffs and other interventionist policies — the reason that so many U.S. elites embraced the new policies with so little pushback — was the military threat that China represents.

Without manufacturing industries, it is very hard to fight an industrial war. Fine wine, management consulting, and overpriced eldercare may command high prices in peacetime, but when bombs are dropping on your city, they will not offer a means of fighting back. If the U.S. and its allies find themselves without substantial manufacturing industries during a war with China, the result could be far more dire than higher consumer prices or slower adoption of EVs.

A world ruled from Beijing and Moscow is unlikely to value the economic rules and institutions that the writers of the Economist and the Financial Times hold so dear. Instead, a world where the power of the U.S. and other democracies have been smashed is likely to be a dirigiste one, where global trade is arranged primarily for the benefits of strongmen like Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin. Such strongmen are unlikely to listen to British pundits lecturing them about David Ricardo. In fact, they are unlikely to listen to British pundits about much of anything. (As far as I know, Russians and Chinese people generally lack the peculiar American reverence for anything uttered in a British accent.)

Every single one of the Biden administration policies that the Economist and FT writers revile — the tariffs, the subsidies, the export controls, and so on — is aimed at making sure the U.S. does not lose critical manufacturing industries that it would need in order to mount a defense against China and Russia. We do not know — at least, I do not know — if they will be effective in this task. But this is undoubtedly their core purpose and reason for existence.

Export controls are intended to stop China from dominating high-end semiconductors — the most strategic of all industries. Investment restrictions are intended to prevent China from appropriating America’s remaining technological secrets and handing them to its own military-industrial complex. Tariffs and industrial policy are intended to prevent America from deindustrializing in the face of Chinese competition. It’s all about national defense.

And yet the British writers basically never acknowledge this at all. Only Luce mentions potential national security benefits from Biden’s policies, and only in passing, and only regarding chip export controls. Otherwise, crickets. When the Economist declares that “first principles” prove that “it makes sense” for the U.S. to engage in unilateral trade liberalization with respect to China, the “principles” and the “sense” are purely economic, with zero mention or consideration of the benefit of a strong national defense.

I know David Ricardo’s theory well; I have taught it to undergraduates. Regardless of whether it’s a good theory of the gains from trade, it does not contain any provision whatsoever for national security. There are things that matter in the real world that Econ 101 simply doesn’t tell you how to deal with. And yet we must deal with them all the same.

How can you intelligently criticize a policy if you don’t even acknowledge its purpose? You cannot. What better alternative policy for national security do these British writers suggest? They suggest none. We do not know if they still hew to the 1990s-era American belief that economic engagement would pacify China (though Luce sort of hints at this idea), or the 2010s-era German belief that buying Russian gas would pacify Putin. We do not know if they have some alternative suggestion for promoting manufacturing without engaging in industrial policy or trade barriers.

We do not know these things because they did not feel the need to tell us. They decided that simply listing the costs and risks of Biden’s policies, and waving in the direction of Econ 101 theory, would be sufficient to make their case.

Because it does not address the reasons our leaders enacted these policies in the first place, Americans are highly unlikely to listen to Economist and FT writers’ advice to scrap them — our reverence for British accents notwithstanding. But I should probably mention that another reason we’re unlikely to take this advice is that we can see the cautionary tale of Britain itself.

During the heyday of the British Empire’s victories over France in the 1700s and early 1800s, manufacturing was a relatively minor part of military might. Armies were bought rather than built, and so a strong tax system and a strong finance industry were the key to winning wars in that era. Britain was better at these things than France, and so it triumphed. Meanwhile, trade with its far-flung colonies enriched Britain. This wasn’t exactly free trade, given the fact that colonies were captive markets and their industrial specializations were largely dictated from London, but the pro-trade rhetoric of the time seems to have given British intellectuals an enduring attachment to the idea.

But when the 20th century came along, Britain was presented with a very different sort of foe. Germany promoted its heavy manufacturing industries quite heavily, and Britain’s withered under a combination of foreign competition and lack of investment. This worked out to Britain’s disadvantage in World War 2, in which Britain’s defense-industrial base was unable to keep pace with the Nazi war machine.1 Only by allying with the world’s two premier manufacturing powers was the UK able to fend off the German menace, and even then its empire was fatally weakened.

Fast forward to the present day, and Britain’s long-term neglect of manufacturing still seems to be holding it back. As Brad DeLong and Stephen Cohen wrote in Concrete Economics, a “lack” of industrial policy actually ends up being a pro-finance industrial policy. And so it has gone with Britain, whose relentless NIMBYism, low R&D spending, and general aversion to industrial policy caused it to lose export competitiveness in manufacturing industries, but which still managed to thrive economically as the financial center of the European Union.

Even without the outbreak of war, this model demonstrated distinct weaknesses. The financial crisis of the late 2000s caused UK productivity to abruptly flatline after centuries of steady growth:

This graph ends before Brexit; the stalling of UK productivity and living standards was not due to sudden deglobalization. It was due to the fact that a modern economy of any significant size needs high-value industries other than finance in order to prosper.

But it’s in the security realm that the UK has suffered most. With its military having shrunken steadily over the years, Britain now depends even more on the U.S. for its safety from the resurgent Russian threat. Its lack of manufacturing capacity means that it would have difficulty finding assembly lines to convert to defense production in case Putin or one of his successors ever made it to Britain’s doorstep.

And now British pundits want America to walk down that same road? When Britain deindustrialized, it could rely on America’s mighty factories for its defense; if and when American deindustrializes, what protector can we turn to? There is none. The advocates of dogmatic, Econ 101-style unilateral free trade have no plan.

Fortunately, Americans are unlikely to listen. Much as with degrowth, we are likely to reject unilateral free trade as just another quaint, misguided idea from across the pond. Whether the kind of policies we’re now using can actually succeed at preserving and improving our manufacturing industries is still a very open question. But simply giving up doesn’t feel like a viable option.


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1

Some have criticized my assertion that the UK’s war machine was unable to compete with Germany’s in WW2, noting that the UK actually had a higher percent of its workforce in manufacturing at the time. The key to defense production, at least at that time, was actually heavy and chemical industries, in which Germany had a substantial productivity lead. In fact, industrial policy in the mid-20th century was usually about promoting heavy and chemical industries over light industry like textiles; this was probably MITI’s main industrial policy goal in Japan through the 1960s, for example. The UK’s deficiencies in heavy industry required it to get a lot of aid and assistance from the U.S. Lend-Lease program, in the form of equipment like aircraft, machine tools, and tanks. But it is true that the industrial disparity between Britain and Germany in World War 2 pales in comparison to the vast, yawning gulf between the U.S. and China today, which is all the more reason for us to be worried right now.

NHC Eastern North Pacific Outlook


Eastern North Pacific 2-Day Graphical Outlook Image
Eastern North Pacific 7-Day Graphical Outlook Image


ZCZC MIATWOEP ALL
TTAA00 KNHC DDHHMM

Tropical Weather Outlook
NWS National Hurricane Center Miami FL
1100 PM PDT Tue May 21 2024

For the eastern North Pacific...east of 140 degrees west longitude:

Tropical cyclone formation is not expected during the next 7 days.

$$
Forecaster Hagen/Blake
NNNN


SpaceX launches first batch of satellites for the NRO’s reconnaissance satellite constellation

A Falcon 9 lifts off from California on a mission for the National Reconnaissance Office. Image: SpaceX.

The National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) began start building a constellation of unknown size with a middle-of-the-night launch from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California. The mission, dubbed NROL-146, featured an undisclosed number of satellites riding onboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

Liftoff from Space Launch Complex 4 East (SLC-4E) happened at the start of a launch window that opened 1 a.m. PDT (4 a.m. EDT, 0800 UTC).

The Falcon 9 first stage booster supporting this mission, tail number B1071 in the SpaceX fleet, launched for a 16th time. It’s first two flights were for NRO missions and it also launched a pair of Transporter rideshare flights.

A little more than eight minutes after liftoff, B1071 landed on the SpaceX droneship, ‘Of Course I Still Love You.’ This was the 91st recovery for OCISLY and the 310th booster landing to date for SpaceX.

Starshield takes flight

While the details of the mission are largely under wraps, the payload onboard is believed to be a batch of Starshield satellites. These are government-specific versions of SpaceX’s Starlink satellites, which the company previously stated focus on three main areas:

  • Earth observation
  • Communications
  • Hosted payloads

In the lead up to the final Delta 4 Heavy launch with the NROL-70 payload, Dr. Chris Scolese, the head of the NRO, noted that agency began launching prototypes for its constellation “about five years ago.”

“We recognized that we had challenges, as we’ve mentioned, with Russia and China trying to deny our ability to operate in space,” Scolese said in March. “So, that was one reason. The other reason we needed it is we recognized that we needed to have more persistent coverage of the Earth. So, we needed to proliferate.”

An illustration of the NROL-146 mission patch design. Graphic: NRO

Scolese said that involved working with commercial providers to bring down the cost. He didn’t name check SpaceX in his comments, but he was responding to a question that referred to reporting about Starshield from Reuters.

In April, Reuters was first to report that Northrop Grumman was working with SpaceX to test some of the Starshield satellites as well as to provide sensors for some of the spacecraft. The planned constellation will reportedly consist of “hundreds of satellites,” though a more specific number hasn’t been reported.

The wire service was also first to report that SpaceX was tapped in 2021 to receive a previously undisclosed $1.8 billion contract for the NRO’s new constellation.

Dr. Troy Meink, NRO Principal Deputy Director, gave a keynote address at the 39th Space Symposium in Colorado. Image: NRO

During his comments at the 2024 Space Symposium in Colorado, Dr. Troy Meink, the NRO’s principal deputy director, made note of the forthcoming NROL-146 launch, stating that the NRO has “already launched a number of demonstrations over the last few years to verify cost and performance, but this will be the first launch of an operational system.”

“These systems will increase timeliness of access, diversify communications pathways, and enhance our resilience,” Meink said. “Approximately half a dozen of these launches are planned for 2024, with additional launches expected through 2028. You’ll hear more details about launch locations, dates, and times as they approach.”

The NRO isn’t the only government agency to call upon the use of the Starshield satellite bus. SpaceX also built some of the satellites for the Space Development Agency, part of the U.S. Space Force, which launched in 2023 as part of its Tracking Layer Tranche 0A and 0B missions.

Links 5/21/24

Links for you. Science:

Ancient Chesapeake site challenges timeline of humans in the Americas
The Risk of SARS-CoV-2 Transmission in Community Indoor Settings: A Systematic Review and Meta-AnalysisMichigan reports 3 more H5N1 outbreaks in dairy herds (the part about housecats with no agricultural contact is very discouraging)
Hostility Unmasked: Scientists on the Frontlines of the COVID-19 Pandemic (behind a paywall, unfortunately)
Prevalence and co-occurrence of cognitive impairment in children and young people up to 12-months post infection with SARS-CoV-2 (Omicron variant)–infrequent, but not rare
Doff Thy Gown — Shedding Contact Precautions for COVID-19
Farm Animals Are Hauled All Over the Country. So Are Their Pathogens.

Other:

The Real Entitlement Crisis: Good Reporting Is in Short Supply. The preferred journals of the power elite peddle the myth of pending Social Security catastrophe, which is catastrophically wrong. (excellent, must-read)
What’s Missing From the Debate Over Israel-Palestine and the Election: It’s about power, the purpose of activism, and a guy named Trump.
A water war is brewing between the U.S. and Mexico. Here’s why.
Toxic Gaslighting: How 3M Executives Convinced a Scientist the Forever Chemicals She Found in Human Blood Were Safe
Biden trumpets progress for Black Americans at Morehouse College
Why we support ICC prosecutions for crimes in Israel and Gaza (the report, which is very readable, is here)
Meet the Cops Running the NYPD’s 86-Member Public Relations Team
The CFPB Ruling Strikes a Blow for Governing
A Quick Survey of Numbers, Vibes and the Inner Lives of Campaigns (gift link)
Meta-panic — intensified panic over the lack of panic in another.
‘Notice Is Not Required’: Letter Says UNC Chapel Hill Secretly Records Professors
The US supreme court is neither honorable nor functional any more
Expose The Shadow Docket… and other secrets Samuel Alito would like to keep hidden.
Seniors and Safe Streets
Robert F Kennedy Jr lists foreclosed New York home as voting address
Their Guy
For $35,000, you could own the Boston area’s last remaining typewriter shop
Troubling signs at Healey’s transportation funding task force
Biden Fared Well at Morehouse. So You Didn’t Hear About It.
The People Deliberately Killing Facebook
An Idaho Public Library Will Become Adults-Only July 1, 2024
I created the Leahy law. It should be applied to Israel. Requiring Israel to respect human rights does not imply “moral equivalence” with Hamas
New Windows AI feature records everything you’ve done on your PC (NO ONE ASKED FOR THIS)
Hakeem Jeffries Calls Out Samuel Alito For ‘Sympathizing’ With Jan. 6 Rioters
Disaster of the House: To solve the housing crisis, kill the Reagan in your head

Trump Is Trying to Outflank RFK Jr. on (Anti-)Vaccination

As the kids used to say, the stupid it burns (boldface mine):

In recent months, he [Trump] has escalated his attacks on Covid mandates in particular. And he is using his sweeping anti-vax pledge as a wedge issue against Robert F. Kennedy Jr., another notorious vaccine skeptic. In a recent video posted on his Truth Social platform, Trump denounced Kennedy for being insufficiently hostile to vaccines.

“So, Republicans,” Trump said, “get it out of your mind that you’re going to vote for this guy because he’s conservative. He’s not. And by the way, he said the other night that vaccines are fine. He said it on a show, a television show, that vaccines are fine. He’s all for them. And that’s what he said. And for those of you that want to vote because you think he’s an anti-vaxxer, he’s not really an anti-vaxxer.”

As Trump ramps up his anti-vaccine rhetoric, he is pushing the opposition of vaccines away from the fringe and toward the center of the culture wars. The danger is that, in doing so, he could turn opposition to vaccine mandates more broadly into the same kind of litmus test for the right as hostility to mask mandates and other Covid-era restrictions.

Removing vaccine mandates for schoolchildren would be a disaster. Probably not a COVID-pandemic level disaster, but kids will be disabled and killed (murdered actually) without these mandates. For most diseases, we need around 95% vaccination to stymie the spread of disease, but it would drop much lower than that without mandates.

Stupid and murderous.

Links 5/22/24

Links for you. Science:

Highly Pathogenic Bird Flu Detected in Birds in New York City
Integrated Genomic and Social Network Analyses of SARS-CoV-2 Transmission in the Healthcare Setting
International Nucleotide Database Collaboration (INSDC) Introduces Enhanced Website: Aims to broaden INSDC membership and attract diverse new members
Protection Conferred by COVID-19 Vaccination, Prior SARS-CoV-2 Infection, or Hybrid Immunity Against Omicron-Associated Severe Outcomes Among Community-Dwelling Adults
Scientists just discovered a massive reservoir of helium beneath Minnesota
Enrichment of a subset of Neanderthal polymorphisms in autistic probands and siblings

Other:

How many people did we save with social distancing and COVID vaccines? CU researchers say nearly a million
Style Rules for Radicals: The more extreme your politics, the more conservative the dress (“Imagine saying that the President is allowed to murder his opponents and stage coups. Do that as some bedraggled wide-eyed loon on a street corner, and people will cross the road and avoid eye contact. Say it in a suit, and you are arguing before the Supreme Court.”)
With I.C.C. Arrest Warrants, Let Justice Take Its Course (gift link)
A Hidden Variable in the Presidential Race: Fears of ‘Trump Forever’ (gift link)
Israel Defense Chief Says Military Rule in Gaza Would Extend IDF Compulsory Service to Four Years (gift link)
After Anti-Israel Speeches, a Law School Curtails Graduation Traditions
The Investigation into John Falcicchio’s Sexual Harassment Scandal is Finally Public. It Leaves Many Questions Unanswered. The probe reveals Falcicchio harassed a third D.C. government employee, but stops short of reaching other meaningful conclusions.
The End of Civic Compassion: On education in a fascist America
The Rise of Large-Language-Model Optimization
Donald Trump says he’d consider Ken Paxton for US attorney general
Heads Up: The Supreme Court Loves To Wild Out This Time Of Year
The Liberal Fantasy Is Just That: On the military in a fascist America
Samuel Alito’s snide denial of his Jan. 6 flag is just as ugly as flying it in the first place
New Covid-19 Wave In Singapore, Minister Advises Wearing Of Masks After 25,900 Cases Recorded In A Week
HPO Recommends Approval For Project At Adams Morgan’s SunTrust Plaza
Have You Seen A Cybertruck Yet?
Texas police used a monster truck to promote seat belts. It shows all that’s wrong with U.S. road safety
‘Millionaires tax’ has already generated $1.8 billion this year for Massachusetts, blowing past projections

Thinkie: Else?

Pattern: You have a situation where a condition has a consequence.

Transformation: What happens if the condition does not hold?

The best example I have of this Thinkie is TCR, an alternative coding workflow. I was telling a coding camp at Iterate about wanting to always be able to get back to green tests. I described a shell command I used—”test.sh && git…

Read more

May 21, 2024.   Deadly Turbulence.

As you probably heard, one passenger was killed yesterday, and multiple more injured, when a Singapore Airlines Boeing 777 encountered severe turbulence en route from London to Singapore. The encounter happened over Myanmar and the flight diverted to Bangkok.

The media is off and running, no doubt triggering panic among the many flyers for whom turbulence is an acute fear.

If you’re one of those people, let me do two things. The first is to refer you to the turbulence essay found in the Q&A section of this website. You can read it here.

The second is to emphasize the rarity of incidents like this one. Any turbulence encounter powerful enough to kill a passenger, and to tear away ceiling panels and overhead lockers, is a frightening prospect. And as climate change intensifies weather patterns and creates more powerful storms, we may see more of them. But they are, and should remain, exceptionally uncommon.

What happened is unfortunate and scary, but it’s not a reason to freak out and cancel your flight because the turbulence app on your iPhone shows yellow. This was the kind of thing even the most frequent flyer (or pilot) won’t experience in a lifetime.

If I’m counting right, the last turbulence-related fatality occurred in 2009. Before that, a passenger was killed aboard a United Airlines flight in 1997. That’s two or three deaths in a roughly 25-year span, during which close to thirty billion — with a b — passengers traveled by air, aboard tens of millions of flights. Try to let those numbers sink in.

It’s unclear at this point if the passenger who died was struck by an object or, importantly, was wearing a seatbelt.

 

Related Story:
EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT TURBULENCE.

Photos by the author.

The post May 21, 2024.   Deadly Turbulence. appeared first on AskThePilot.com.

A Schulhoff moment

What exactly is the national security argument here?

Janet Yellen, the US treasury secretary, has urged the EU to intervene urgently to dampen the growing export levels of Chinese cut-price green technology including solar panels and wind turbines, pushing European leaders to move to a full-scale trade war.

Here is the full story.  And from the FT two days ago: “A number of major European power companies have scaled back or are reviewing their targets to develop renewable energy because of high costs…”  Where again is the net national security argument?  The biggest risk is that China will stop sending future wind turbines to Germany?  Which is somewhat in China’s lap in any case?  And according to GPT-4o those turbines have an average life of 20-25 years?  C’mon people, we are not stupid…

The post What exactly is the national security argument here? appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.

       

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Daily Telescope: Black holes have been merging for a long, long time

Scientists have determined the system to be evidence of an ongoing merger of two galaxies and their massive black holes when the Universe was only 740 million years old.

Enlarge / Scientists have determined the system to be evidence of an ongoing merger of two galaxies and their massive black holes when the Universe was only 740 million years old. (credit: ESA/Webb, NASA, CSA et. al)

Welcome to the Daily Telescope. There is a little too much darkness in this world and not enough light, a little too much pseudoscience and not enough science. We'll let other publications offer you a daily horoscope. At Ars Technica, we're going to take a different route, finding inspiration from very real images of a universe that is filled with stars and wonder.

Good morning. It's May 21, and today's photo comes from the James Webb Space Telescope. It showcases the coming together of two massive black holes in the early Universe, just 740 million years after the Big Bang.

Each of the black holes has an estimated mass of roughly 50 million times the mass of our star, the Sun. The discovery of this merger so early in the Universe indicates that the growth of these objects in the centers of galaxies occurred very rapidly.

Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Can the rich world escape its baby crisis?

Governments are splurging on handouts to avert demographic catastrophe

LA Port Traffic Increased Year-over-year in April

Container traffic gives us an idea about the volume of goods being exported and imported - and usually some hints about the trade report since LA area ports handle about 40% of the nation's container port traffic.

The following graphs are for inbound and outbound traffic at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach in TEUs (TEUs: 20-foot equivalent units or 20-foot-long cargo container).

To remove the strong seasonal component for inbound traffic, the first graph shows the rolling 12-month average.

LA Area Port TrafficClick on graph for larger image.

On a rolling 12-month basis, inbound traffic increased 1.4% in April compared to the rolling 12 months ending in March.   Outbound traffic increased 0.8% compared to the rolling 12 months ending the previous month.

The 2nd graph is the monthly data (with a strong seasonal pattern for imports).

LA Area Port TrafficUsually imports peak in the July to October period as retailers import goods for the Christmas holiday, and then decline sharply and bottom in the Winter depending on the timing of the Chinese New Year.  

Imports were up 16% YoY in April, and exports were up 10% YoY.    

In general, it appears port traffic is returning to the pre-pandemic patterns.

‘Pathways’ — New Apple Developer Learning Resources

Apple, last week:

Pathways are simple and easy-to-navigate collections of the videos, documentation, and resources you’ll need to start building great apps and games. They’re the perfect place to begin your Apple developer journey — all you need is a Mac and an idea.

Mildly interesting to me that this was announced in May, not at WWDC.

 ★ 

iOS 17.5.1 Includes Fix for Bug That Resurfaced Deleted Photos

MacRumors, quoting Apple’s own release notes (which at this writing are not yet on the web):

This update provides important bug fixes and addresses a rare issue where photos that experienced database corruption could reappear in the Photos library even if they were deleted.

That’s a nasty bug, so it’s no surprise that 17.5.1 is here just one week after 17.5.0.

Last week MacRumors also reported on a claim that iOS 17.5 was resurfacing photos on devices that had been wiped and resold (or given away), but that was an extraordinary claim that didn’t jibe with our understanding of how “wiping” an iOS device works. All storage on iOS devices is encrypted, and when you wipe the device (Settings → General → Transfer or Reset iPhone/iPad → Erase All Content and Settings), the encryption key is destroyed. The system doesn’t, and doesn’t need to, overwrite the storage with 0’s or random bits. It just destroys the encryption key from the Secure Enclave rendering the data already written to storage unrecoverable. That report was based on a single post on Reddit, but that Reddit post has since been deleted. (MacRumors has an update appended to that report, but I think they should move that update to the top of the post, not the bottom. All evidence suggests that it was a false alarm.)

 ★ 

Apple’s 2023 App Store Transparency Report (PDF)

One segment that caught my attention:

Apps removed from the App Store subject to government takedown demands: 1,462

By country or region:

  • China mainland: 1,285
  • South Korea: 103
  • India: 30
  • Russia 12
  • Indonesia: 8
  • Lithuania: 5
  • Ukraine: 5
  • Malaysia: 2
  • Mexico: 2
  • Philippines: 2
  • Thailand: 2
  • Türkiye: 2
  • Hungary: 1
  • Libya: 1
  • Pakistan: 1
  • Vietnam: 1

There are footnotes on the China and South Korea numbers. For China it says “There were 1,067 game apps removed for lack of a legally required GRN license.” That’s a 2020 law that requires a government license for any paid game. For South Korea, which one doesn’t think of as a repressive country, it says “There were 102 game apps removed for their inappropriate age rating”, which accounts for all but one of them.

A few other items:

  • Average weekly app downloads: 787,999,950
  • Average weekly app redownloads: 1,656,894,821

I long suspected users engage in frequent churn with certain apps installed on their phones, but this seemingly puts a number to it: redownloading previously installed apps is more than twice as popular as downloading new apps. But 788 million weekly app downloads is a big number.

  • Average weekly automatic app updates: 52,623,848,130
  • Average weekly manual app updates: 562,782,228

No surprise that automatic app updates dwarf manual updates, given that automatic updates have been the default setting for many years. These numbers indicate there are almost 100× more automatic updates than manual ones. (I update manually, typically each day, because I enjoy perusing the release notes, just in case there’s anything interesting in them. I’m glad Apple still offers manual updates as a setting.)

 ★ 

The Information: ‘Apple Plans a Thinner iPhone in 2025’

Wayne Ma and Qianer Liu, reporting for The Information (paywalled — MacRumors has a summary):

Apple is developing a significantly thinner version of the iPhone that could be released as early as 2025, according to three people with direct knowledge of the project. The slimmer iPhone could be released concurrently with the iPhone 17, expected in September 2025, according to the three people with direct knowledge and two others familiar with the project. It could be priced higher than the iPhone Pro Max, currently Apple’s most expensive model starting at $1,200, they said.

The people familiar with the project described the new iPhone, internally code-named D23, as a major redesign — similar to the iPhone X, which Apple marketed as a technological leap from previous generations and which started at $1,000 when it was released in 2017. Several of its novel features, such as FaceID, the OLED screen and glass back, became standard in subsequent models.

The iPhone X was a true ground-up redesign of the iPhone. No more Home button (replaced by a gestural interface), Face ID, all-screen design with round corners, and more. It effectively created a fork in the platform.

Left unsaid by The Information is how Apple plans to market this new iPhone. I suspect they’re either describing what Apple plans to call the iPhone 17 Pro, or that it’ll have a new name but replace the iPhone Pro in the lineup. That is to say, I do not think Apple plans to make regular iPhone 17’s, 17 Pros, and this new redesigned and more expensive thinner iPhone.

The screen will measure somewhere between the 6.12-inch diagonal display of the standard iPhone and the 6.69-inch display of the iPhone Pro Max, the person added. The rear cameras could be relocated from the upper-left corner of the phone’s back to the top center as part of the redesign, another person with direct knowledge said. [...] Ross Young, CEO at Display Supply Chain Consultants, later said on X that this model would have a 6.55-inch display, which would make it slightly smaller than the iPhone Pro Max.

The Information isn’t coming out and saying there will only be one size, but it sure sounds like that’s the rumor — and that one size is the current Max size. It’s also worth remembering that there was only one size of the iPhone X (5.8 inches) but its 2018 follow-up, the iPhone XS, added the Max size (6.5 inches). Perhaps Apple plans to ship a 5.8-inch-ish smaller iPhone 18 Pro? Or, perhaps, 6.5 inches is the new regular size and an even larger-display iPhone Pro will come in the iPhone 18 generation?

Speaking of larger-sized iPhones, though, The Information says the Plus models are going away:

In recent years, Apple has released four iPhone models. It plans to drop the iPhone Plus, one of its less-expensive models, which has a large screen but lacks the latest-generation processors and cameras, in 2025, three people said. The Plus, which debuted with the iPhone 14 and will still be part of the iPhone 16 lineup this year, has sold below expectations, they said.

 ★ 

Sleep tight, ELT

Growing is hard work — and this Picture of the Week, taken on 3 April 2024, shows ESO’s Extremely Large Telescope (ELT) taking a well-deserved night-time rest. The view from inside the telescope’s dome shows progress on this giant structure, 80 metres high and 88 metres wide, which will protect the world’s biggest eye on the sky from the extreme environment of Chile’s Atacama Desert. 

The dome’s steel skeleton is complete, and now a protective insulated cladding — the dark blue panels seen above — is being applied over it. This cladding consists of different layers, including thermal insulation and aluminium sheets outside. Together with air conditioning — active during the day, when the dome is closed —, this will keep the air inside the dome at the same temperature as the outside environment, minimising turbulence that could otherwise blur the images the ELT will capture.

In the centre, on a separate concrete foundation to protect it from vibrations propagating through the ground, stands the azimuth structure that will hold the telescope and its array of scientific instruments

Right now, the ELT structure can enjoy a stunning view of the Milky Way during its night break. In the future, the telescope will be working nights — but will have access to the same view when the dome opens its large observing slit to see the sky.

Link

[Sponsor] WorkOS

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Today, hundreds of high-growth scale-ups are already powered by WorkOS, including ones you probably know, like Perplexity, Vercel, and Webflow.

 ★ 

Microsoft’s New Flex Keyboard for the Surface Pro Tablet

Also from Tom Warren:

The basic silhouette of the hardware hasn’t changed much, save for the new Flex Keyboard attachment. The tablet with an integrated kickstand has been a Surface staple for years now, and Microsoft continues to refine it rather than trying to reinvent it.

I got a chance to try this new Flex Keyboard, and I’m surprised at how much more stable it is than previous models. There’s no noticeable bounce when you’re using it on a desk, and even on my lap, it felt a lot more study than the previous Surface Pro keyboards.

You can even use this keyboard away from the Surface Pro as it automatically switches over to a Bluetooth connection once you undock it. Microsoft has a tiny battery inside the base to enable this and the new haptic feedback on the trackpad in this Flex Keyboard. The haptic feedback doesn’t feel as prominent as on the Surface Laptop Studio 2, but it’s still nice to have inside this new keyboard.

The basic idea of the Flex Keyboard is that it’s like the bottom part of a laptop — an integrated keyboard and trackpad, with a little dock for for the included Slim Pen stylus. Unlike Apple’s iPad Magic Keyboard, the Flex Keyboard has a battery and works wirelessly over Bluetooth. I spitballed a similar idea for Apple’s Magic Keyboard on my podcast last month with Federico Viticci.

The appeal of working wirelessly isn’t so much, to my mind, for tablets. I can’t recall ever wishing my iPad Magic Keyboard would remain connected to my iPad over Bluetooth. In fact, I could see that being annoying when I want to use my iPad all by itself, with its on-screen keyboard. There’s a certain “you know what you’re getting” aspect to the fact that the Magic Keyboard is only active when the iPad is magnetically attached. The appeal I see of the Flex Keyboard design would be using it with a headset like Vision Pro. Vision Pro has great support for Bluetooth keyboards and Apple’s Magic Trackpad, but that makes two things you need to carry around with your Vision Pro if you want to use it for productivity. Better would be a single keyboard with an integrated trackpad.

Microsoft can use this design because they’ve steadfastly stuck to their guns on including a kickstand with Surface Pro tablets. Apple has never released an iPad with a kickstand, and almost certainly never will. But without a kickstand on the iPad itself, the Magic Keyboard needs that big cantilevered magnetic hinge to attach and support the iPad, which in turn renders the design unfeasible for pairing with a Vision headset. Even if the new Magic Keyboard had a battery and supported Bluetooth, it wouldn’t be a graceful peripheral for Vision Pro because of the hinge.

So Microsoft has an integrated keyboard/trackpad peripheral that seems perfect for use with a headset, but they only make headsets that no one seems to care about. And Apple has a headset that would be great with an integrated keyboard/trackpad, but their integrated keyboard/trackpad is designed exclusively for the new iPad Pros.

The Flex Keyboard With Slim Pen isn’t cheap, either: $450. A 13-inch iPad Magic Keyboard costs $330 and Pencil Pro costs $130.

 ★ 

‘Inside Microsoft’s Mission to Take Down the MacBook Air’

Tom Warren, writing for The Verge:

On a recent morning at its headquarters in Redmond, Washington, Microsoft representatives set out new Surface devices equipped with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon X Elite chips inside and compared them directly to Apple’s category-leading laptop. I witnessed an hour of demos and benchmarks that started with Geekbench and Cinebench comparisons, then moved on to apps and compatibility.

Benchmark tests usually aren’t that exciting to watch. But a lot was at stake here: for years, the MacBook Air has been able to smoke Arm-powered PC chips — and Intel-based ones, too. Except, this time around, the Surface pulled ahead on the first test. Then it won another test and another after that. The results of these tests are why Microsoft believes it’s now in position to conquer the laptop market.

Microsoft’s comparison were all against M3 MacBook Air models. Fair enough, insofar as the MacBook Air is by far Apple’s best-selling line of laptops, and the M3 models shipped just two months ago. But the MacBook Airs are fanless. A lot — most? all? I’m not sure — of the new “Copilot+ PCs” Microsoft showed off today have fans. (Or if you prefer, “active cooling systems”.) Microsoft’s own new Surface Laptops has MacBook-Air-esque pricing (13-inch starts at $1000; 15-inch starts at $1300) but they weigh about 0.3 pounds more than the equivalent-sized MacBook Air. Those weights puts them more in the class of the M2 13-inch MacBook Pro.

All of this app compatibility and performance is nothing without battery life, though. Microsoft uses a script to simulate web browsing. On 2022’s Intel-based Surface Laptop 5, it took eight hours, 38 minutes to completely deplete a battery; the new Surface Copilot Plus PC lasted three [sic] times that, hitting 16 hours, 56 minutes. That’s an incredible jump in efficiency, and it even beats the same test on a 15-inch MacBook Air M3, which lasted 15 hours, 25 minutes. That’s a whole hour and a half more.

Microsoft ran a similar test for video playback, which saw the Surface Copilot Plus PC hit more than 20 hours in a test, with the MacBook Air M3 reaching 17 hours, 45 minutes. That’s also nearly eight hours more than the Surface Laptop 5, which lasted 12 hours, 30 minutes. If those battery gains extend beyond basic web browsing and video playback, this will be a significant improvement for Windows laptops.

I presume Warren meant that the new Surface Laptop lasted twice as long as the old Intel-based model, not three times as long. But this highlights my main hardware takeaway from today’s event: the M3 MacBook Air served as a good foil/benchmark for all these comparison — performance, battery, price — but the real comparison was Qualcomm’s Snapdragon X Elite vs. Intel’s and AMD’s x86 offerings.

I’ll go out on a limb and say that today marks the beginning of the end for x86. Either the x86 architecture has reached an inevitable endpoint, or Intel and AMD are just unable to compete talent-wise. (Or both.) But as of today the performance-per-watt gulf between ARM and Intel/x86 is no longer just an Apple silicon thing — it’s now a PC thing too. If there was any chance for Intel or AMD to catch up it had to happen between the M1’s breakthrough introduction in 2020 and now. But they couldn’t do it.

The saddest part of the event were the cursory appearances — both by pre-recorded videos, despite it being an in-person event in Redmond — of Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger and AMD CEO Lisa Su. Their token appearances felt like Microsoft pretending they haven’t moved on from x86, during an event whose entire theme was, effectively, “moving on from x86”. Qualcomm’s Snapdragon X Elite is only being compared to Apple’s base M3, so it’s still up to Intel and AMD to offer chips with performance on the level of the M3 Pro and Max, but the writing is on the wall. The future belongs to ARM system architectures.

 ★ 

OpenAI and Sam Altman Ripped Off Scarlett Johansson’s Voice, Supposedly Using an Unnamed Soundalike Voice Actress

Scarlett Johannson, in a statement released to several media outlets:

Last September, I received an offer from Sam Altman, who wanted to hire me to voice the current ChatGPT 4.0 system. He told me that he felt that by my voicing the system, I could bridge the gap between tech companies and creatives and help consumers to feel comfortable with the seismic shift concerning humans and AI. He said he felt that my voice would be comforting to people.

After much consideration and for personal reasons, I declined the offer. Nine months later, my friends, family and the general public all noted how much the newest system named “Sky” sounded like me.

When I heard the released demo, I was shocked, angered and in disbelief that Mr. Altman would pursue a voice that sounded so eerily similar to mine that my closest friends and news outlets could not tell the difference. Mr. Altman even insinuated that the similarity was intentional, tweeting a single word “her” - a reference to the film in which I voiced a chat system, Samantha, who forms an intimate relationship with a human.

Two days before the ChatGPT 4.0 demo was released, Mr. Altman contacted my agent, asking me to reconsider. Before we could connect, the system was out there.

At 11:30pm PT last night, OpenAI tweeted:

We’ve heard questions about how we chose the voices in ChatGPT, especially Sky. We are working to pause the use of Sky while we address them.

They’ve “heard questions”.

This plays into every bad stereotype about Silicon Valley “tech bros”. I mean, if they had never contacted Johansson and simply hired an actress who sounds like her, to some degree, that’d be one thing. But to negotiate with her to provide her voice officially, and go ahead with a soundalike after she turned down the offer? Some choice: work with them or get ripped off. How in the world did Sam Altman expect to get away with this? One can only presume Altman expected Johannson to roll over, but why would he expect that? She’s the highest-grossing actress in the history of Hollywood, and Hollywood talent isn’t known for rolling over. And Johansson in particular has a reputation for standing up for herself against deep-pocketed companies.

Also, given the mix of arrogance and the tidbit in Johansson’s statement about Altman reaching out again just two days before OpenAI’s demo, does anyone actually believe this “Sky” voice was not trained on recordings of Johansson herself? The best case scenario for OpenAI is that they really did find a soundalike actress, but that whole story has strong “I found a girlfriend this summer but she lives in Canada” vibes.

 ★ 

AI Ambitions vs. Carbon Neutrality Goals

Justine Calma, writing for The Verge:

Microsoft’s producing a lot more planet-heating pollution now than it did when it made a bold climate pledge back in 2020. Its greenhouse gas emissions were actually around 30 percent higher in fiscal year 2023, showing how hard it could be for the company to meet climate goals as it simultaneously races to be a leader in AI.

Training and running AI models is an increasingly energy-hungry endeavor, and the impact that’s having on the climate is just starting to come into view. Microsoft’s latest sustainability report is a good case study in the conundrum facing big tech companies that made a slew of climate pledges in recent years but could wind up polluting more as they turn their focus to AI.

The Verge ran this under the headline “Microsoft’s AI Obsession Is Jeopardizing Its Climate Ambitions”, which I think correctly pegs Microsoft’s priorities. I wonder whether for Apple the problem is flipped, and Apple’s climate obsession is jeopardizing their AI ambitions? Apple has not backed off one iota from the goal it declared in 2020 to be 100 percent carbon neutral by 2030. At the time, the Apple Car struck me as the biggest obstacle to that goal. That’s not a problem now that they’ve cancelled Project Titan. But AI strikes me as the new biggest obstacle — a wildcard industry change they didn’t foresee in 2020.

 ★ 

Perhaps the New Ultra-Thin iPhone Rumored for 2025 Is in Addition to, Not Replacing, the iPhones Pro

Re: my idle speculation on rumors of a more expensive, thinner-than-ever iPhone 17 model slated for 2025, Ryan Jones writes:

For maybe the first time, I suspect you’re off.

They tried upmarket, iPhone X, it worked. They tried Mini, not enough sales. They tried Plus, not enough sales. Pro Max became most popular.

So what do you do?

  • Make the Pro Max even bigger (they are, this year, 6.7″ → 6.9″)
  • cut the “extra” non-Pro phone, smaller didn’t work, bigger didn’t work
  • go up market again

Thus:

  • iPhone 18 (6.1″)
  • iPhone 18 Pro (6.1″)
  • iPhone 18 Pro Max (6.9″)
  • iPhone “Ultra” (6.7″)

Oh, I like this thinking a lot. It fits with Apple’s historic strategy. When they try new things and they aren’t hits, they move on. The iPhone 5C was a one-off — no more colorful “beautifully, unapologetically plastic” iPhones. The iPhone Mini only lasted two years (iPhone 12 and 13), and these rumors suggest the iPhone Plus will only last three (iPhones 14, 15, and this year’s upcoming 16).

But when iPhone models prove popular, Apple doesn’t sweep them away. The revolutionary iPhone X, notably, appeared alongside the decidedly evolutionary iPhone 8 and 8 Plus, all three of which phones sported the then-new A11 Bionic chip. Two years ago Apple added the Ultra to the Apple Watch lineup, but only eliminated the titanium “Edition” models of the traditional Watches. It makes all the sense in the world that Apple might create a four-model iPhone exactly like Jones suggests: keep the regular-sized standard iPhone, keep the Pro and Pro Max, and add a new, thinner-than-ever, more-expensive-than-ever, “Ultra” model at the top. Going upmarket is a strategy that has worked every time they’ve tried in the past. If they sell $2000+ iPads, why not sell $2000+ iPhones? iPhones are more important to more people than any device Apple makes.

Spitball: So how could Apple make an iPhone so thin that, like the new iPad Pros, it’s the first thing people notice about the device? How about getting rid of the glass back? Make the back aluminum or titanium, increasing rigidity, decreasing weight, and eliminating a point of failure for drops. This would require a new method for inductive charging — the whole reason all high-end phones, not just iPhones, have glass backs is that inductive Qi charging doesn’t pass through metal. Maybe something more like MagSafe on MacBooks?

The thinnest iPhone to date was 2014’s iPhone 6, at 6.9mm (not including camera lenses).

 ★ 

Low Energy

For all the endlessly merited outrage about Justice Alito being outed as the second pro-insurrection Justice (I mean, more evidence, no surprise), it seems like the response on Capitol Hill is truly low energy.

From TPM Reader HS

I’ve been a reader since the 2000 election and live in San Francisco.  When the story on Alito came out last week, I called Senator Padilla, a Judiciary committee member, and left a message about how outrageous it was and hoped that as a member of the committee, he would call for hearings and investigations (no one answered).  I also called Senator Durban’s office (picked up on first ring) and communicated the same. 

Today, I called my Senator again.  His staff person said “I haven’t been briefed on his position and I will be happy to pass on your message”   That’s it.  No response at all.  CALIFORNIA! 

Indeed, that’s the best a senator from California can do?

Your Primal Scream Is Good Therapy, Not Good Campaign Advice

After a short bout of mea culpas and self-flagellating in response to Biden’s State of the Union speech in early March, Ezra Klein is back with a laundry list of complaints about the campaign. He starts by taking as gospel an Axios report about Biden campaign polling denial and proceeds to whine and perseverate about every possible aspect of the campaign.

This passage from the lead in to the piece offers some illustration …

Biden, it seemed, was calling Trump’s bluff. He wanted the fight. But Biden wants fewer debates, not more. On the same day, he pulled out of the three debates scheduled by the Commission on Presidential Debates for September and October. He rebuffed the Trump campaign’s call for four debates. “I’ll even do it twice” is misdirection. He’ll only do it twice.

This is bad precedent and questionable politics. Debates do more to focus and inform the public than anything else during the campaign. Biden is cutting the number of debates by a third and he’s making it easier for future candidates to abandon debates altogether.

Strategically, it’s easy to see why a candidate in the lead wouldn’t want to blow his margin on a bad debate. That’s why Trump skipped the Republican primary debates. But Biden is behind. He needs opportunities to prove to voters that they are wrong about him. He needs opportunities to persuade them to ditch their nostalgia for Trump. He could have had three chances, or four, maybe more. Now he has two and only one will come after Labor Day, when it matters most.

Biden, in other words, is continuing to run like a candidate who is winning rather than one who is losing. He and the Democrats need a theory of why he’s trailing in the polls and what to do about it.

If there was one unambiguous win for Biden last week it was bum-rushing Trump into debating on Biden’s terms. Classic power move. It’s proactive. Biden got what he wanted.

So despite Biden finally getting two debates on the calendar, Klein’s upset with him for not wanting even more debates. He appears to take for granted Trump’s dubious boast that he wants to debate an unlimited number of times, which actually undermines his own point. He’s upset with Biden about undermining the “norm” of the Commission on Presidential Debates and canceling its three debates, a kind of early onset homage to the late David Broder. He manages to be upset because he claims debates are a tool for civic education in themselves (debatable) and Biden is setting a bad precedent for the future (truly not Biden’s problem). He’s even worried that Biden maybe have delivered a terrible self-inflicted wound by not leaving himself any times to debate in October.

It’s challenging to know how to react to Klein. Because criticizing him can seem like defensiveness or denial. You either get on board with Klein’s vent-fest or you become part of the problem. The structure of his argument is like a trap to fall into. But whining and perseverating is neither strategic nor constructive. It’s a self-indulgent kind of doom-scrolling dressed up as analysis. These are the kind of frantic mental gestures I was writing about, or I guess anticipating, in this Backchannel from last Thursday.

Along the way Klein manages to subtly and sometimes not so subtly misstate what people say about polling, about the campaign and a lot of other things. He also seems to rely almost entirely on the Times own house poll. That’s understandable in way but not really appropriate for this kind of piece. He should at least engage those who are making contrary arguments in a serious way. When we actually hear from Biden and his campaign they virtually never say the polls are “wrong.” They say they believe current polls understate the strength of their campaign. That’s a very different and very reasonable argument and one that has a decent shot at being true.

I don’t think any of this comes from any willful bad faith. I think Klein’s just not engaged with these debates about polls or campaign strategies and there seems to be a decent amount of cherry-picking of fact points to plug into an existing argument.

In the litany above you can see it’s like someone having a breakdown, looking at bad things and seeing them as bad, looking at good things and seeing them as bad and getting more and more upset as he goes, in a kind of tizzy of self-confirmation. The meat of the column is Klein going through seven possible reasons why Biden is behind, not deciding on which of them he thinks is the case, but insisting the campaign needs to decide which it is. He then declares that he “fears” that the campaign will use its polling denial as an excuse not to “change course.” But when he gets to suggesting how to change course the best he can come up with is a new campaign strategy focused on Jared Kushner and Medicaid cuts.

The perpetual challenge of electoral campaigns is to both recognize and account for problems while also maintaining morale, positive enthusiasm and forward momentum for the campaign. There’s no either/or. Every winning campaign does both. That’s very hard and it’s one of the reasons that there are so many ways to lose. But that calculus is key. And it’s why you look at something like this which is 100% anxious navel gazing and 0% plan to do better and absolutely need to run for the hills.

Klein is upset and worried Biden is running slightly behind Trump (only he doesn’t say slightly); he appears unable to decide why Biden is behind; and when it comes to proposing what a changed course might be he has only a few throwaway lines about policies or scandals that are at best edge cases in electoral terms. What he really seems to want is for leading Democrats to engage in a collective “WE’RE LOSING!!!!” primal scream. But after that he doesn’t have any clear suggestion about anything to do differently.

Taking Aim at Apple’s Fanless MacBook Airs With Fans

Andrew Cunningham, writing for Ars Technica:

One caveat that I hadn’t seen mentioned in Microsoft’s presentation or in other coverage of the announcement, though — Microsoft says that both of these devices have fans. Apple still uses fans for the MacBook Pro lineup, but the MacBook Air is totally fanless. Bear that in mind when reading Microsoft’s claims about performance.

Are any of today’s first batch of “Copilot+ PCs” fanless? If not, can any of them truly be said to have “taken aim” at the MacBook Air?

  • Acer Swift 14 AI: I couldn’t find any mention of fans or cooling, which makes me think it has fans.
  • Asus Vivobook S 15: “Plus, dust filters for both fans keep your laptop pristine.”
  • Dell: No mention.
  • HP: No mention.
  • Lenovo: No mention.
  • Samsung Galaxy Book4 Edge: Only mention of “fan”: “Galaxy Book4 Edge also brings fan-favorite features, Chat Assist and Live Translate, to the PC.”

If any of these are fanless, I’d expect that to be a touted feature. If I’m wrong and one or more of these are fanless, let me know and I’ll post an update. But if they’re not fanless, it’s hard to say they’re MacBook Air peers.

 ★ 

Tuesday assorted links

1. Anthony Edwards jersey for sale at Sotheby’s at 20k.

2. On the disbanding of AI safety operations.

3. On the heritability of fertility, more from Robin Hanson.  And Cremiaux differs.

4. It seems the House Republicans’ crypto bill will proceed.  Maybe that is why ether was up 23% yesterday?

5. The growing importance of desalination.

6. “Our results consistently show fewer childcare regulations are associated with smaller fertility gaps.

7. Again, a generative AI directory of EV winners, by Nabeel.

8. TNSSjobs, or is this manufacturing?:

The post Tuesday assorted links appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.

       

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Single Family Built-for-Rent Up 20% Year-over-year in Q1

Today, in the Calculated Risk Real Estate Newsletter: Single Family Built-for-Rent Up 20% Year-over-year in Q1

A brief excerpt:
Along with the monthly housing starts report for April released last week, the Census Bureau also released Housing Units Started by Purpose and Design through Q1 2024.

The first graph shows the number of single family and multi-family units started with the intent to rent. This data is quarterly and Not Seasonally Adjusted (NSA). Although the majority of units built-for-rent’ are still multi-family (blue), there has been a significant pickup in single family units started built-for-rent (red).

Units started 'built-for-rent'In 2020, there were 44,000 single family units started with the intent to rent. In 2023, that number almost doubled to 85,000 units. There were 18,000 single family units started in Q1 2024 built-for-rent, up 20% from 15,000 in Q1 2023.

For multi-family, there were 56,000 units started to rent in Q1 2024, down almost 50% from 108,000 in Q1 2023.
There is much more in the article.

Cross-border gunshot arbitrage markets in everything, Jean Baudrillard gone wrong edition

Federal prosecutors on Friday announced charges against five people in connection with a Chicago-based scheme that staged armed robberies so the purported victims could apply for U.S. immigration visas reserved for legitimate crime victims…

Officials believe hundreds of people, including some who traveled from out of town, posed as customers in dozens of businesses across Chicago and elsewhere, all hoping to win favorable immigration status by becoming “victims” of pre-arranged “armed robberies.”

During a staged hold-up in Bucktown last year, one of the “robbers” accidentally fired their gun, severely injuring a liquor store clerk, according to one source. During that caper alone, five “customers” were “robbed.”

Here is the full story, via Ian.

The post Cross-border gunshot arbitrage markets in everything, Jean Baudrillard gone wrong edition appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.

       

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Detecting Malicious Trackers

From Slashdot:

Apple and Google have launched a new industry standard called “Detecting Unwanted Location Trackers” to combat the misuse of Bluetooth trackers for stalking. Starting Monday, iPhone and Android users will receive alerts when an unknown Bluetooth device is detected moving with them. The move comes after numerous cases of trackers like Apple’s AirTags being used for malicious purposes.

Several Bluetooth tag companies have committed to making their future products compatible with the new standard. Apple and Google said they will continue collaborating with the Internet Engineering Task Force to further develop this technology and address the issue of unwanted tracking.

This seems like a good idea, but I worry about false alarms. If I am walking with a friend, will it alert if they have a Bluetooth tracking device in their pocket?

Britain's Infected Blood Inquiry Report: Prime Minister's apology, and the benefits and perils of hindsight

 After the publication  yesterday of Britain's Infected Blood Inquiry Report, the UK's Prime Minister apologized to the nation. Here's the BBC story:

PM apologises after infected blood scandal cover-up  By Nick Triggle and Jim Reed, BBC News

"Prime Minister Rishi Sunak says he is truly sorry for the failures over the infected blood scandal, calling it a decades-long moral failure.

"He was responding to the public inquiry's report into the scandal, which has seen 30,000 people infected from contaminated blood treatments.

"It found authorities covered up the scandal and exposed victims to unacceptable risks.

"Mr Sunak described it as a "day of shame for the British state".

...

""Today's report shows a decades-long moral failure at the heart of our national life. I want to make a wholehearted and unequivocal apology."

"He said the attitude of denial was hard to comprehend and was to "our eternal shame".

...

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer apologised too, describing it as one of the "gravest injustices" the country had seen and saying victims had "suffered unspeakably".

***********

I've now had the opportunity to read some of the (2000 page) report, and it leaves me in two minds.  On the one hand, as summarized in various news stories about the report, it deals with a long history during which British clinicians could have responded faster to growing evidence about hepatitis and HIV in the blood supply, and the various British governing coalitions could certainly have acknowledged earlier and more fully that people had been infected.

On the other hand, some of the harms to people who were infected by blood-borne pathogens are clearer in hindsight than they were at the times that they began to occur.

The cases of hemophila patients (many of them children, many of them at Treloar's, a school for disabled children including many with severe hemophilia) are particularly jarring.  Many of those children are no longer living, having been infected with HIV in the  1980's, before it was positively identified as the cause of AIDS (but after there was evidence that something in the blood carried the infection). The clotting factors (extracted from plasma pooled from many donors) that were being explored to treat hemophilia patients, are  (today standard treatments for hemophilia, but in the period covered by the report they were subjects of research, and were, tragically, infected with HIV, and hepatitis C before it's virus had been identified.

Here's a passage (from Vol. 1, p23) of the report that crystallizes why I think it's easier to assess blame in hindsight than it was at the time: (NANBH stands for non-A non-B Hepatitis, as Hep C was still something of a mystery.)

"By 1978 there were a number of reports showing that NANBH was linked to persistent liver damage. Amongst them was a paper published in September 1978 in The Lancet, authored by Dr Eric Preston and colleagues in Sheffield. In his oral evidence to the Inquiry, Dr Mark Winter said that this paper “blew out of the water instantly the idea that this [NANB hepatitis] was nothing to worry about because their study showed, as did other studies, that most of these patients had very significant chronic liver disease”. He thought doctors had been unwilling to think that NANBH might be a problem, because factor concentrate had brought “such spectacular benefits”: it was this reluctance to face the facts described in scientific journals that had prevented earlier acceptance of the seriousness of the problem."

The report also dwells on the difficulties that the UK faced in becoming self-sufficient in non-commercial plasma and clotting factor from domestic sources.  But self sufficiency is a world-wide problem today in states that depend on unpaid domestic donors. So it's not clear how culpable the British blood services should be considered on that account.

And it's a complicated question, because some of the U.S. commercial suppliers started heat treating their plasma to effectively destroy many pathogens, before this became common in the U.K.

The report states (Vol 1, p49)
"Some clinicians were reluctant to embrace commercial heat-treated products. There was as yet little direct evidence of how reliable the claims about commercial heat-treated products were in practice. Although there was no evidence of side-effects after a year of use in the US, heat-treated commercial products were not licensed for use in the UK until early in 1985. It is not difficult to see why clinicians may have preferred to wait for domestic product rather than change their treatment practices. Further, commercial products were believed to be more likely to carry hepatitis than domestic ones. Understandable though this reluctance may have been, it did not excuse continued use of unheated products beyond a short period into 1985."

So, British physicians were caught between desire for domestic plasma (from unpaid donors, which they believed was safer), and reluctance to use U.S. commercial plasma as it became the safer alternative.  And British plasma processors waited until 1985 to start producing their own heat treated plasma products. The results were tragic, but (unlike some of the later delays and evasions that the report spells out) I don't see that there is in every instance a clear case of blame.

The chair of the Infected Blood Inquiry is Sir Brian Langstaff , "a former judge of the High Court of England and Wales."  Judges have experience at hearing evidence, and may have some professional inclination to explain events in terms of guilt.  Not that there isn't plenty to apologize for.
#######
Here are all my posts on blood plasma.


What Happened to "Paying off the National Debt"?

We are seeing scary articles about the debt again.  It is worth remembering that at the turn of the millennium, the concern was that the US was paying off the debt too quickly!

Here are a few excerpts from a speech by then Fed Chair Alan Greenspan in April 2001: The paydown of federal debt
"Today I want to address a subject in which your group and the Federal Reserve share a keen interest--the paydown of the federal debt and its implications for the economy and financial markets. While the magnitudes of future federal unified budget surpluses are uncertain, they are highly likely to remain sizable for some time. ...

[C]urrent forecasts suggest that under a reasonably wide variety of possible tax and spending policies, the resulting surpluses will allow the Treasury debt held by the public to be paid off. Moreover, well before the debt is eliminated--indeed, possibly within a relatively few years--it may become difficult to further reduce outstanding debt to the public because the remaining obligations will mostly consist of savings bonds, well-entrenched holdings of long-term marketable debt, and perhaps other types of debt that could prove difficult to reduce."
What went wrong over the last 20+ years?

Here is a list of events and policy choices that significantly increased the debt after 2000:
1) The 2000 projections were overly optimistic.
2) The 2001 recession.
3) The 2001 and 2003 Bush Tax Cuts.
4) 9/11, Homeland Security Spending and the War in Afghanistan
5) The War in Iraq
6) The Finacial Crisis and Great Recession
7) The Trump Tax Cuts
8) The Pandemic.

Here is a brief discussion ... (books have been written on each of these topics):

1) Overly Optimistic Projections: Here are the CBO projections from July 2000: The Budget and Economic Outlook: An Update

CBO Deficit Projection Click on graph for larger image.

The CBO projections showed an almost $6 Trillion in debt reduction in the 2001 through 2010 period.

I argued in 2000 that these projections ignored possible negative events such as an investment led recession due to the bursting of stock bubble. These projections were clearly overly optimistic.

2) The 2001 Recession: Although Greenspan mentioned "the current slowdown in economic activity" in his April 2001 speech, he didn't realize the economy was already in a recession. From the May 2000 FOMC minutes:
"The information reviewed at this meeting suggested that economic growth had remained rapid through early spring."
The economy was already in a recession! 

3) Bush Tax Cuts: These tax cuts were sold as slowing the growth of the surpluses (using Greenspan's speech for cover)!  Instead, the tax cuts (mostly for the wealthy) turned the surpluses into deficits and reduced revenue by $1.5 trillion or more over the 2001 - 2010 period.

4) 9/11, Homeland Security Spending and the War in Afghanistan: The 9/11/2001 attacks led to a sharp increase in homeland security spending and the War in Afghanistan.

5) The War in Iraq: The Bush administration argued the war would cost around $80 billion.  VP Dick Cheney said on Meet the Press: "every analysis said this war itself would cost about $80 billion".  Instead, the war cost well over $1 trillion (and countless lives were lost).  Note: Years ago, I mentioned on this blog that "I opposed the Iraq war and was shouted down and called names like "Saddam lover" for questioning the veracity of the information."

6) The Financial Crisis and Great Recession.  This was the worst US recession since the Great Depression.   This led to the first $1 trillion annual budget deficit in US history and dramatically increased the national debt.   The causes of the bubble were rapid changes in the mortgage lending industry, rating agencies that didn't account for those changes, combined with a lack of regulatory oversight.  I was talking with field regulators in 2005 and 2006, and they were all terrified.  I was told the appointees at the top of the agencies were blocking any effort to tighten standards. 
Cutting Red TapeThere were various Inspector General reports that the Fed and FDIC field examiners were expressing significant concerns in 2003 and 2004, but Greenspan was blocking all efforts to tighten standards - and the Bush Administratio was loosening bank regulations!

This photo shows John Reich (then Vice Chairman of the FDIC and later at the OTS) and James Gilleran of the Office of Thrift Supervision (with the chainsaw) and representatives of three banker trade associations: James McLaughlin of the American Bankers Association, Harry Doherty of America's Community Bankers, and Ken Guenther of the Independent Community Bankers of America.

7) The Trump Tax Cuts: These tax cuts - mostly for the wealthy - were sold with several promises - all failed. See: The Failed Promises of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA). A couple of quotes:
“Not only will this tax plan pay for itself, but it will pay down debt,” Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, Sept 2017

“I think this tax bill is going to reduce the size of our deficits going forward,” Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA), November 2017
Complete nonsense.

8) The Pandemic: Deficit spending increased sharply due to the pandemic.

Annual Budget DeficitsHere is a graph of the actual annual deficits since 2000.

Note: This is not adjusted for the growth of the economy. 

So, what happened to "paying off the debt"? A series of adverse events (9/11, pandemic), and poor policy choices.

Note that all the "poor policy choices" were by Republicans including tax cuts, the Iraq War, and failure to properly regulate prior to the great recession.

We cannot always avoid adverse events like 9/11 and the pandemic, but I opposed each of these poor policy choices as they happened - so these are clearly avoidable.

Those scary stories?  They seem to ignore history.

Folk music was never green

Don’t be swayed by the sound of environmental protest: these songs were first sung in the voice of the cutter, not the tree

- by Richard Smyth

Read at Aeon

It seemed like night, but part of the sky glowed purple. It seemed like night, but part of the sky glowed purple.


We take a stab at decoding SpaceX’s ever-changing plans for Starship in Florida

SpaceX's Starship tower (left) at Launch Complex 39A dwarfs the launch pad for the Falcon 9 rocket (right).

Enlarge / SpaceX's Starship tower (left) at Launch Complex 39A dwarfs the launch pad for the Falcon 9 rocket (right). (credit: NASA/Aubrey Gemignani)

There are a couple of ways to read the announcement from the Federal Aviation Administration that it's kicking off a new environmental review of SpaceX's plan to launch the most powerful rocket in the world from Florida.

The FAA said on May 10 that it plans to develop an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for SpaceX's proposal to launch Starships from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The FAA ordered this review after SpaceX updated the regulatory agency on the projected Starship launch rate and the design of the ground infrastructure needed at Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A), the historic launch pad once used for Apollo and Space Shuttle missions.

Dual environmental reviews

At the same time, the US Space Force is overseeing a similar EIS for SpaceX's proposal to take over a launch pad at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, a few miles south of LC-39A. This launch pad, designated Space Launch Complex 37 (SLC-37), is available for use after United Launch Alliance's last Delta rocket lifted off there in April.

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Is the internet bad for you?

A global, 16-year study1 of 2.4 million people has found that Internet use might boost measures of well-being, such as life satisfaction and sense of purpose — challenging the commonly held idea that Internet use has negative effects on people’s welfare.

“It’s an important piece of the puzzle on digital-media use and mental health,” says psychologist Markus Appel at the University of Würzburg in Germany. “If social media and Internet and mobile-phone use is really such a devastating force in our society, we should see it on this bird’s-eye view [study] — but we don’t.” Such concerns are typically related to behaviours linked to social-media use, such as cyberbullying, social-media addiction and body-image issues. But the best studies have so far shown small negative effects, if any2,3, of Internet use on well-being, says Appel.

From separate Gallup polls:

Pryzbylski and his colleagues analysed data on how Internet access was related to eight measures of well-being from the Gallup World Poll, conducted by analytics company Gallup, based in Washington DC. The data were collected annually from 2006 to 2021 from 1,000 people, aged 15 and above, in 168 countries, through phone or in-person interviews. The researchers controlled for factors that might affect Internet use and welfare, including income level, employment status, education level and health problems.

…The team found that, on average, people who had access to the Internet scored 8% higher on measures of life satisfaction, positive experiences and contentment with their social life, compared with people who lacked web access. Online activities can help people to learn new things and make friends, and this could contribute to the beneficial effects, suggests Appel.

Do note that in these latter data sets women ages 15-24 still are worse off from internet access.

Here is the Nature piece, via Clara B. Jones.

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Blue Origin resumes human flights to suborbital space, but it wasn’t perfect

Ed Dwight, 90, exits Blue Origin's crew capsule Sunday after a 10-minute flight to the edge of space.

Enlarge / Ed Dwight, 90, exits Blue Origin's crew capsule Sunday after a 10-minute flight to the edge of space. (credit: Blue Origin)

More than 60 years after he was denied an opportunity to become America's first Black astronaut, Ed Dwight finally traveled into space Sunday with five other passengers on a 10-minute flight inside a Blue Origin capsule.

Dwight, a retired Air Force captain and test pilot, had a chance to become the first African American astronaut. He was one of 26 pilots the Air Force recommended to NASA for the third class of astronauts in 1963, but the agency didn't select him. It took another 20 years for America's first Black astronaut, Guion Bluford, to fly in space in 1983.

“Everything they did, I did, and I did it well," Dwight said in a video released by Blue Origin. "If politics had changed, I would have gone to space in some kind of capacity.”

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Emergent Ventures, 34th cohort

Kaavya Kumar, 16, Singapore, AI safety.

Asher Ellis, Yale, Indonesia studies and Pacific national security.

Sohi Patel and Teo Dimov, Yale, to work work on medical devices in the cardiovascular field.

Diego Sanchez de la Cruz, Madrid, to translate his new book on liberalism in Madrid into English.

Michael Ryan, Dublin, to build medical devices to monitor health.

Aden Nurie, 16, Tampa, to build an app to help people find soccer games.

Robert Davitt, Dublin/SF, starting a company to bring together visiting children with family and farm experiences.

Ulrike Nostitz, Dublin, to build out an Irish space law association.

Onno Eric Blom and Vinzenz Ziesemer, Netherlands, For a Dutch progress studies institute and a study on Dutch tech policy.

Katherine He, Yale, project to use LLMs to read and interpret legal codes.

Dan Schulz, San Francisco, podcasting.

Andrew Fang, Stanford, AI and real estate data project.

Ivan Zhang, San Francisco, AI safety.

Samuel Cottrell VI, Bay Area, general career support.

Julian Gough, Berlin/Ireland, book on black holes and the evolutionary theory of the universe.

Sean Jursnick, Denver,  architect, website, competition, and Medium essays for single-stair reform to improve building codes.

Julia Willemyns and David Lawrence, London, to support studies for improving UK science policy.

Adam Mastroianni, Ann Arbor, to run a Science House.

Jacob Mathew Rintamaki, Stanford, Nanotech.  Twitter here.

Agniv Sarkar, 17, San Francisco, neural nets.

Ukraine tranche:

Maria [Masha] O’Reilly, Kyiv, Instagram videos on Ukraine and its history.

Yanchuk Dmytro, Kyiv, to develop better methods for repairing electric station short circuits.

Yaroslava Okara, Kyiv/Kharkiv/LSE, to study internet communications, general career support.

Julia Lemesh, Boston, to send young Ukrainian talent to elite boarding schools abroad, Ukraine Global Scholars Foundation.

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How Privateer aims to slash Earth imagery costs

Privateer’s recent acquisition of Orbital Insight sheds new light on the Hawaiian startup’s ambitious plans, which are likely to include future acquisitions.

The post How Privateer aims to slash Earth imagery costs appeared first on SpaceNews.

Starfish Space lands $37.5 million Space Force contract for on-orbit servicing vehicle

Starfish’s Otter space servicing vehicle would provide “augmented maneuvering” capabilities to military satellites

The post Starfish Space lands $37.5 million Space Force contract for on-orbit servicing vehicle appeared first on SpaceNews.

Space Force plans deep-dive study on pros and cons of orbital refueling

Col. Rich Kniseley: ‘We need to make sure there is a business case for commercial companies to survive if the government is not there’

The post Space Force plans deep-dive study on pros and cons of orbital refueling appeared first on SpaceNews.

National Security Memorandum-22 omitted space entirely. Here’s a path forward.

A photo taken from a space station showing Earth's cloud cover illuminated by a sunrise.
A photo taken from a space station showing Earth's cloud cover illuminated by a sunrise.

As the stardust settles after the release of NSM-22, the space community should take a moment to see the opportunity it has been presented.

The post National Security Memorandum-22 omitted space entirely. Here’s a path forward. appeared first on SpaceNews.

China launches four high-resolution remote sensing satellites

China sent a new set of four Beijing-3 optical remote sensing satellites into orbit late Sunday.

The post China launches four high-resolution remote sensing satellites appeared first on SpaceNews.

Unlocking Connectivity: The Satellite Industry’s Approach to Achieving Interoperability with Telco

Interstate 95 is America’s busiest highway. Spanning over 1,900 miles between Miami in the south and the Canadian border with Maine in the north, it hosts more than 72,000 vehicles […]

The post Unlocking Connectivity: The Satellite Industry’s Approach to Achieving Interoperability with Telco appeared first on SpaceNews.

BAE Systems wins $450 million contract to build weather satellite instrument

BAE Systems won a $450 contract to develop an ocean-color instrument for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s next geostationary weather constellation.

The post BAE Systems wins $450 million contract to build weather satellite instrument appeared first on SpaceNews.

Viasat taps OneWeb to provide multi-orbit maritime broadband

Geostationary fleet operator Viasat is buying capacity from OneWeb’s low Earth orbit satellites for maritime customers in the latest multi-orbit challenge to Starlink’s growing dominance. 

The post Viasat taps OneWeb to provide multi-orbit maritime broadband appeared first on SpaceNews.

"Mortgage Rates Close Enough to Unchanged Over The Weekend"

Mortgage Rates From Matthew Graham at Mortgage News Daily: Mortgage Rates Close Enough to Unchanged Over The Weekend
Technically, today's average mortgage rates are higher for a third straight business day, but most prospective borrowers won't even notice. For many lenders, the changes are so small that the average borrower won't see any change from scenarios quoted on Friday afternoon. In cases where there is a difference, that difference would be very small. [30 year fixed 7.10%]
emphasis added
Tuesday:
• No major economic releases scheduled.

Monday 20 May 1661

At home all the morning; paid 50l. to one Mr. Grant for Mr. Barlow, for the last half year, and was visited by Mr. Anderson, my former chamber fellow at Cambridge, with whom I parted at the Hague, but I did not go forth with him, only gave him a morning draft at home.

At noon Mr. Creed came to me, and he and I to the Exchange, and so to an ordinary to dinner, and after dinner to the Mitre, and there sat drinking while it rained very much. Then to the office, where I found Sir Williams both, choosing of masters for the new fleet of ships that is ordered to be set forth, and Pen seeming to be in an ugly humour, not willing to gratify one that I mentioned to be put in, did vex me.

We sat late, and so home. Mr. Moore came to me when I was going to bed, and sat with me a good while talking about my Lord’s business and our own and so good night.

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Microsoft Introduces ‘Copilot+ PCs’

Microsoft today held an event on the eve of their Build developer conference to introduce their new “AI first” class of PCs, which they’re calling Copilot+ PCs. The event video is not on YouTube (yet?), and the URL (https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/event) is not a permalink.

The most notable new Windows feature is Recall (which conceptually seems much like Rewind, which has been available as a third-party app for MacOS for a while now):

We set out to solve one of the most frustrating problems we encounter daily — finding something we know we have seen before on our PC. Today, we must remember what file folder it was stored in, what website it was on, or scroll through hundreds of emails trying to find it.

Now with Recall, you can access virtually what you have seen or done on your PC in a way that feels like having photographic memory. Copilot+ PCs organize information like we do — based on relationships and associations unique to each of our individual experiences. This helps you remember things you may have forgotten so you can find what you’re looking for quickly and intuitively by simply using the cues you remember. [...]

Recall leverages your personal semantic index, built and stored entirely on your device. Your snapshots are yours; they stay locally on your PC. You can delete individual snapshots, adjust and delete ranges of time in Settings, or pause at any point right from the icon in the System Tray on your Taskbar. You can also filter apps and websites from ever being saved. You are always in control with privacy you can trust.

Recall can “view” and remember everything that appears on screen because it’s integrated with the Windows 11 graphics system. That’s the sort of “AI feature” that truly benefits from being a first-party solution that can integrate at lower levels of the OS than third-party apps can.

One of the more impressive demos they showed was using Copilot as a voice-driven assistant that helps you cooperatively play Minecraft. The game still gets the entire GPU for graphics because Copilot is running on the NPU.

 ★ 

MBA Survey: Share of Mortgage Loans in Forbearance Remains at 0.22% in April

From the MBA: Share of Mortgage Loans in Forbearance Remains at 0.22% in April
he Mortgage Bankers Association’s (MBA) monthly Loan Monitoring Survey revealed that the total number of loans now in forbearance remained unchanged at 0.22% as of April 30, 2024. According to MBA’s estimate, 110,000 homeowners are in forbearance plans. Mortgage servicers have provided forbearance to approximately 8.1 million borrowers since March 2020.

In April 2024, the share of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac loans in forbearance declined 1 basis point to 0.11%. Ginnie Mae loans in forbearance dropped 1 basis point to 0.39%, and the forbearance share for portfolio loans and private-label securities (PLS) stayed the same at 0.31%.

“The number of loans in forbearance has remained stagnant for the first four months of 2024,” said Marina Walsh, CMB, MBA’s Vice President of Industry Analysis. “While forbearance is still a viable option for homeowners needing temporary mortgage payment relief, its usage has diminished without a major natural disaster or labor market downturn. Moreover, the performance of servicing portfolios and post-forbearance workouts remains strong, despite some fluctuations from month-to-month.”
emphasis added
At the end of April, there were about 110,000 homeowners in forbearance plans.

Ocean Loop

I can't believe they wouldn't even let me hold a vote among the passengers about whether to try the loop.

Links 5/20/24

Links for you. Science:

Traces of bird flu have made it into store-bought milk in New England, but at very low levels
Mosquitoes are swarming around Houston. The future could bring even more.
A mountainous country loses its last glacier
Repeat COVID-19 vaccinations elicit antibodies that neutralize variants, other viruses
Reconstructing prehistoric viral genomes from Neanderthal sequencing data
There’s a New Covid Variant. What Will That Mean for Spring and Summer? (gift link)

Other:

This Is Just How Journalism Works, You Fool, You Imbecile, You Moron
The U.S. just took its biggest step yet to end coal mining. The Biden administration’s decision ends new leasing in the Powder River Basin in Wyoming and Montana, the nation’s biggest coal-producing region. (BuT tHeRe Is No DiFfErEnCe BeTwEeN tHe TwO pArTiEs)
Newsom Boosted California’s Public Health Budget During Covid. Now He Wants To Cut It.
What’s stalling Miami Beach road-raising projects? Complaints about parking, to start
Jail Donald Trump. Justice Juan Merchan has no choice now, and shame on Democrats, particularly the powerful ones representing New York, for not standing up for the rule of law.
An Interview With Sara Nelson About “One Member, One Vote”
Should Joe Biden Really Be Worried About Black Voters?
Can Democrats Ever Learn From Experience? When the “safe” middle path leads directly into a brick wall of right-wing sabotage, liberals will march down it anyhow.
It Is Simple For Companies to Treat Employees Ethically. And Yet.
Rudy Giuliani Served With Arizona Indictment During Birthday Bash
In asking if Biden is responsible for Roe’s fall, the Times misinforms the public
Columbia Professor Says School Discriminated Against Her For Being Muslim
Dabney Coleman, actor who portrayed comic scoundrels, dies at 92
The Immediately Outdated Renovation
Watchdog readies crackdown on predatory lending after Supreme Court win. More than a dozen lawsuits and investigations faced delays as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau battled back a constitutional challenge over its funding. (BuT tHeRe Is No DiFfErEnCe BeTwEeN tHe TwO pArTiEs)
Archie, the Internet’s first search engine, is rescued and running. A journey through busted tapes, the Internet Old Farts Club, and SPARCstations.
Fed’s Powell tests positive for COVID-19 for second time
As Bird Flu Looms, the Lessons of Past Pandemics Take On New Urgency
We’re letting Trump distract us from his corrupt, anti-climate agenda: There is a strange, substantive vacuum in this campaign cycle.
Daniel Perry and the Republican Meaning of “Law and Order”: In the Republican view, the purpose of the law is to inflict harm on your enemies.
‘We’ll See You at Your House:’ How Fear and Menace Are Transforming Politics
And What Does That Say About Them
Does Biden Understand Netanyahu’s Aims in Gaza?
A Cowed Normality: On daily life in a fascist America
Are the Republicans Sneakily Trying to Cut Food Stamps?
Why Are Hiroshige’s Woodblock Prints Still So Moving?

Beautiful motivations

Programmers are often skeptical of aesthetics because they frequently associate it with veneering. A thin sheen of flashy marketing design covering up for a rotten or deficient product. Something that looks good from afar, but reveals itself to be a disappointing imitation up close. They're right to be skeptical. Cheap veneers are the worst. But discarding the value of aesthetic on behalf of cheap imitations is a mistake.

Not just because truly beautiful objects and concepts inevitably reveal a deeper and designed experience. That's the whole "I'm writing you a long letter because I didn't have time to write you a short one". Making something beautiful takes extra steps. Steps that are commonly also associated with extra care the rest of the creation.

No, the primary reason I appreciate aesthetics so much is its power to motivate. And motivation is the rare fuel that powers all the big leaps I've ever taken in my career and with my projects and products. It's not time, it's even attention. It's motivation. And I've found that nothing quite motivates me like using and creating beautiful things.

I don't think that would come as any surprise to people of the past. The history of creation is in part a tale of pursuing beautiful outcomes and rewards. But in our age, we've managed to deconstruct and problematize so much of what is self-evidently beautiful that it's harder to take the chase for granted.

It's in the context of this age that I labor for programmers to rediscover beauty. Beautiful code, beautiful patterns, beautiful tools. Not to create a single, monoculture of aesthetics. That's never going to happen. But to elevate the work of making things look not just good, but sublime. To revel in it, to celebrate it.

And beauty isn't binary. It's the journey of a thousand little decisions and investments in making something marginally prettier than it was before. To resist the urge to just make it work, and not stop until you make it shine. Not for anyone else, even, although others will undoubtedly appreciate your care. But for yourself, your own motivation, and your own mission.

The Atlantic hurricane season begins soon—hold on to your butts

Hurricane Dorian's satellite appearance on a Sunday morning in 2019.

Enlarge / Hurricane Dorian's satellite appearance on a Sunday morning in 2019. (credit: NOAA)

Later this week, the US federal agency charged with weather forecasting will release its outlook for the 2024 Atlantic hurricane season at a news conference in Washington, DC. But we already know what the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) forecast will say: This year will likely be extremely active in the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico, and Caribbean Sea.

The Atlantic season formally begins on June 1, and based on current trends, the first named storm may not develop until the middle of the month or later. But make no mistake—when the light switches on later this summer, the season is likely to be a blockbuster.

Why? Because the oceans are screaming at us.

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Britain's Infected Blood Inquiry Report published today

 The UK commissioned a report on infections in its blood supply in the 1970's and 80's, and on the government's belated responses during and afterwards, as some 3,000 people died from HIV and other infections.  It's a long and complicated report, which came out today, and is available at

Infected Blood Inquiry Report

I've started to read it, and hope have more to say in a few days.  (It condemns many past decisions about maintaining the blood supply, providing medical care, and then failing to acknowledge past harms, which the current report is particularly aimed at addressing.)

In the meantime, here are some news reports.

From the BBC:

NHS and government covered up infected blood scandal By Nick Triggle and Jim Reed, BBC News

From the NYT:

Report Finds ‘Catalog of Failures’ in U.K. Contaminated Blood Scandal - A six-year inquiry found that the deaths of about 3,000 people and the infection of tens of thousands of others could have mostly been avoided.  By Aurelien Breeden  May 20, 2024


Monday assorted links

1. George Miller talks movies, silent movies, Mad Max, and Furiosa (New Yorker).

2. In this Greg Clark study, fertility seems not very heritable.

3. Mennonites smuggle illegal drugs from Mexico to Canada.

4. Yes the Fed is subject to political pressure.

5. “Ironically, the best hopes for a vibrant open source AI ecosystem might rest on the presence of a “rogue” technology giant, who might choose openness and engagement with smaller firms as a strategic weapon wielded against other incumbents.”  Link here.

6. Eel vs. octopus (NYT).

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4th Look at Local Housing Markets in April; California Home Sales Up 4.4% YoY in April

Today, in the Calculated Risk Real Estate Newsletter: 4th Look at Local Housing Markets in April; California Home Sales Up 4.4% YoY in April

A brief excerpt:
The NAR is scheduled to release April existing home sales on Wednesday, May 22nd. The consensus is for 4.18 million SAAR, down from 4.19 million in March.

Housing economist Tom Lawler expects the NAR to report sales of 4.23 million SAAR for April.

The NAR reported sales of 4.22 million SAAR in April 2023. If sales increased YoY in April, this will be the first YoY increase since August 2021, following 31 consecutive months with a YoY decline in sales.
...
Closed Existing Home SalesAnd a table of March sales.

In April, sales in these markets were up 7.1% YoY. In March, these same markets were down 9.7% year-over-year Not Seasonally Adjusted (NSA).

Sales in most of these markets are down compared to January 2019. Sales in Grand Rapids and Nashville are up compared to 2019.

This is a year-over-year increase NSA for these markets. However, there were two more working days in April 2024 compared to April 2023, so sales Seasonally Adjusted will be lower year-over-year than Not Seasonally Adjusted sales.

More local markets will release data after the NAR release on Wednesday!
There is much more in the article.

At long last, Europe’s economy is starting to grow

Now for the hard part

Encyclopedia Sasser and The Case of the Forged 1977 Apple Employee Badge

My suspicions were immediately raised by the photograph. That’s just not what ID card photographs looked like in the ’70s or even ’80s. But when #8 calls it fake, you know it’s fake. Go home, Bugs Meany.

 ★ 

Tweet URLs Finally Redirect to X.com

Only took 300 days. (And, as I noted in a footnote a few months ago, with this change I’ll just call it X, not “Twitter/X”.)

 ★ 

Fed Vice Chair Philip Jefferson on Housing Dynamics

From Fed Vice Chair Philip Jefferson: U.S. Economic Outlook and Housing Price Dynamics.  An excerpt on housing:
The Housing Market

The Fed sets policy to promote its dual-mandate objectives of maximum employment and price stability, and employment and inflation depend on conditions in the entire economy. Still, given our gathering today, I thought it would be appropriate to dive a bit deeper into the housing and home finance markets.

As I said earlier, the housing sector is one of the most interest rate–sensitive parts of the economy. We have seen that sensitivity in mortgage rates and mortgage originations. As shown in figure 4, 30-year fixed-rate mortgage rates were close to 3 percent when the federal funds rate was near the zero lower bound in 2020 and 2021. Rates surged in 2022 as the federal funds rate increased. Consistent with the increase in mortgage rates, mortgage origination volume has fallen significantly.

The current restrictive stance of monetary policy has weighed on the housing market. That is helping to bring supply and demand into better balance and put downward pressure on inflation. One aspect of inflation that has gotten a fair amount of attention is housing and rental costs. This is because housing costs make up such a large share of household budgets. To calculate housing services inflation, government statistics don't use home prices because a home is partly an investment. Instead, housing services inflation is computed using monthly rents that capture what tenants pay to rent a house or apartment and what homeowners would, in theory, pay to rent their own home. The way this calculation is derived means changes in market rents—or what a new tenant pays to rent—take a long time to pass through to PCE housing services prices, as shown in figure 5. In this figure, notice that increases in market rents, the blue and red lines, peaked in 2022, and PCE housing services inflation, the black line, lagged market rents and peaked in 2023.

Lags in Housing Services Inflation

The primary reason for this lag is that market rents adjust more quickly to economic conditions than what landlords charge their existing tenants. This lag suggests that the large increase in market rents during the pandemic is still being passed through to existing rents and may keep housing services inflation elevated for a while longer. This observation is important because it is an example of one of the underlying sources of lags with which monetary policy affects inflation.

Another factor affecting pass-through of restrictive monetary policy is that fixed-rate mortgages are common in the U.S. It is often argued that this loan structure dampens the effect of monetary policy. Figure 6 shows that the 30-year fixed mortgage rate is about 7 percent, while the average outstanding mortgage rate is about 4 percent. This lower outstanding mortgage rate is due to households who locked in rates during lower-interest periods, including when the Fed cut the target range for the federal funds rate to near zero shortly after the pandemic took hold. Fixed-rate mortgages do dampen the effect of monetary policy, but, according to recent research, not as much as previously thought.

There is a delay between when mortgage rates go up and when household mortgage payments go up, as shown in figure 7. Board staff research documents that mortgage payments go up over time because many households continue to refinance their mortgage or move. Despite higher rates, households in the U.S. borrowed over $1.5 trillion in new mortgage loans in 2023. These borrowers include first-time homebuyers, existing homeowners moving between homes, and homeowners obtaining cash-out refinances. The payment they owe on that recently obtained mortgage is higher than it would have been had lower rates been maintained, and their consumption may be correspondingly lower. The cumulative effect of a higher interest rate on aggregate mortgage payments grows over time as more new loans are originated at the higher rate. The staff's research documents that, historically, borrowers like these who are not deterred by higher rates are responsible for a little over half of the pass-through of interest rates to mortgage payments.

Conclusion

In closing, let me reiterate why we care about housing. The housing sector is where many households have made, or will make, their largest investment. Therefore, the prices that families pay for that housing can affect their overall well-being. The work you do to make housing accessible is an important part of the economy. The housing sector is also a key part of the transmission mechanism of monetary policy. That is one reason why policymakers will continue to pay close attention to this vital sector.
emphasis added
As Jefferson notes, rents for existing tenants are still increasing, even while new leases are mostly flat year-over-year. A key point is that Fed policy can not change what happened a year or two ago, and that is why we need to look at inflation ex-housing.

Some Very Hasty Thoughts (Questions Akshually) About the ICC Warrants

If you haven’t heard the International Criminal Court is seeking arrest warrants for Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, Defense Minister Gallant, as well as Hamas leaders Yehya Sinwar, Mohammed Deif, and Ismail Haniyeh for crimes against humanity and war crimes. A few questions come to mind:

  1. This presents a tremendous opportunity to resolve the conflict, at least over the short and mid-term. Will it be seized by various parties?
  2. Netanyahu was supposed to speak in front of the U.S. Congress–and last time he did that, it was an unpaid campaign commercial for Trump. It’s going to be hard to invite Netahyahu now, and it paints attempts to do so in a different light. Will he still get the invitation? Will support for an invitation break down by party lines?
  3. These appear to be strong cases in my non-expert eyes–here’s a view by human rights experts (full report)–that rely primarily on what the entire world has seen. Will various supporters of either of the accused parties outside of Israel and Palestine scale back their support for them?

Anyway, I hope this moves things towards a cessation of violence.

Housing May 20th Weekly Update: Inventory up 1.7% Week-over-week, Up 36.0% Year-over-year

Altos reports that active single-family inventory was up 1.7% week-over-week. Inventory is now up 17.0% from the February bottom, and above the maximum for inventory last year!

Altos Home Inventory Click on graph for larger image.

This inventory graph is courtesy of Altos Research.

As of May 17th, inventory was at 578 thousand (7-day average), compared to 568 thousand the prior week.   

Inventory is still far below pre-pandemic levels. 

The second graph shows the seasonal pattern for active single-family inventory since 2015.
Altos Year-over-year Home Inventory
The red line is for 2024.  The black line is for 2019.  Note that inventory is up 84% from the record low for the same week in 2021, but still well below normal levels.

Inventory was up 36.0% compared to the same week in 2023 (last week it was up 35.0%), and down 36.4% compared to the same week in 2019 (last week it was down 36.6%). 

Back in June 2023, inventory was down almost 54% compared to 2019, so the gap to more normal inventory levels is slowly closing.

Mike Simonsen discusses this data regularly on Youtube.

Exploring the Effectiveness of Study Help Websites in Modern Learning Environments

While in college, students always face plenty of challenges and expectations. They are expected to be active in the classroom, handle a bunch of schoolwork, and nail every exam. The standards are high, and meeting them is uneasy.

To complicate matters, students also have to combine these daily academic struggles with work, extracurriculars, and personal life. Focusing solely on your studies isn’t only impossible but quite risky. If you lose the balance between college and other spheres of your life, it can have a devastating effect on your physical and mental health.

Is there a way to break out from this circle? Luckily, there is. Professional study help websites are designed just for that. These sites equip students with additional support that can help them cope with a hefty academic load and balance their lives for success in college and beyond.

What Are the Websites That Help You Study?

In today’s digital world, students have access to a wealth of tools and resources aimed at simplifying their studies. Yet, we’re going to talk about one specific type of study help websites that can change your life in college forever.

A help study website is a web-based service that provides students with expert assistance on various types of academic tasks and projects to help them attain their study goals. Such services can assist you with a broad range of assignments, including math problems, essays, and so on. And they typically cover a wide range of subjects, enabling everyone who needs help to find it.

When you use websites to help you study, you get a chance to hire qualified experts in the needed field of study. These experts can not only complete tasks for you. They help you understand your assignment, gain mastery of your coursework, and start studying better.

All in all, academic aid services are designed to promote students’ development and success. They help mitigate college-related stress and refine your skills to give you everything you need to perform at the top of your abilities.

Why Use Websites to Help Study

Modern students have to deal with a wide array of daily challenges. Some of the biggest stumbling points on their academic paths are:

  • Complex coursework;
  • Frequent and challenging homework assignments;
  • Tight deadlines that are hard to meet;
  • Plagiarism, grammar, and related issues in academic work;
  • Part-time or full-time work;
  • Financial insecurity;
  • Lack of time for rest, personal life, etc.

Most students are familiar with these challenges, which can make it nearly impossible to find balance in life and maintain peace of mind.

What’s the role of websites that help you study in this? These websites are designed to help you overcome a variety of challenges that come along your way. With them, you can have a professional to guide you through your studies and help you do your best academically.

The benefits you get from this are huge. With a reliable supporter by your side, you can understand your subject better, figure out how to tackle even the most complex assignments, improve your time management, and ensure that you always get your tasks done on time.

5 Benefits You Can Get From a Help Study Website

If you have never tried academic help services, you might be wondering how exactly these sites can help you.

Apart from addressing common student challenges, these services can also bring you the following benefits:

  1. Professional academic help services can give you support tailored to your specific requirements and study goals, while also adhering to universal academic standards.
  2. These services can help you reduce stress levels and optimize your schedule for a perfect study-life balance.
  3. Professionals can teach you how to handle your assignments right on time, even when deadlines are tight.
  4. If you use the right websites to help study better, they can help you get rid of plagiarism issues in your schoolwork and ensure academic integrity.
  5. By hiring professionals, you will have someone to learn from, enhancing your own mastery and skills.

Using such sites is the key to a balanced life in college. Hence, if you are looking to enhance your grades, want to manage your schedule more efficiently, or just need a mentor to learn from, then using professional help will never hurt.

Pick DoMyEssay for Maximized Outcomes

So, you already know that study help websites can play a huge role in your well-being and academic success. Now, how do you find a helper worth your time and trust?

Unfortunately, detecting trustworthy services can be rather hard. Luckily, you don’t need to look any further!

DoMyEssay is a reputable help site for students who want to excel academically. This service brings you benefits that go far beyond the basics. Namely, here are the key reasons to use this site:

  • Top-rated experts matched to your needs – This service has a large pool of experts who know how to guide you to success, and it carefully matches them to your specific needs and expectations.
  • Flexible offerings – DoMyEssay is a single site where you can request support for any assignment and nearly any academic discipline. It also helps you handle all kinds of deadlines.
  • Security – This website ensures your confidentiality and safety at all times.

On top of that, it also ensures a custom approach to your situation, academic honesty and originality, 24/7 support, and much more. Check out DoMyEssay reviews to learn about all the benefits.

Conclusion

When you feel incapable of handling your tasks, too tired to deal with loads of homework, or just looking for a way to boost your grades, now you know that there is a solution that can help. A trusted and high-quality case study help website is a handy educational tool that plays a massive role in the modern learning environment.

Sites that deliver professional academic assistance can help you overcome a bunch of challenges, including a lack of time or knowledge, complex topics, short deadlines, and many others. Professional writers can help you get on the right track and cope with your tasks quickly and efficiently. Most importantly, they can help you get rid of excessive stress and thus, boost your well-being along with your performance.

So don’t wait any longer and start using websites to help you study and enjoy a wealth of benefits!

Author Profile

Content writer Nicole Hardy is celebrated for her detailed and thoughtful journalism within the realms of education and the arts, with a special emphasis on performing arts education. Over the course of her decade-long career, Hardy has earned a reputation as a trusted expert in her field. Her writing is marked by thorough analysis and a captivating style of storytelling. She earned her Master’s degree in Journalism from the University of Arts, with a focus on arts and culture journalism.


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The Perks of Using a Reliable College Homework Helper: Unlocking Academic Success

A modern student’s life is an everyday struggle. Young people tend to have lots on their plates every single day. They study full-time, participate in extracurricular activities, sports, and clubs, and undertake jobs to make money for a living, and they still need to carve out at least a bit of their time for leisure and personal life. Needless to say, all these chores put too much stress and pressure on students. And daily homework assignments that come with tight deadlines and take plenty of time to complete only complicate the matter.

With all these challenges it may seem like pushing yourself to the limits is the only way to maintain an outstanding academic performance and have some time left for other important things. Though it may work for some time, eventually, this approach can lead to even greater struggle.

Luckily, most of these issues can be solved easily with the right homework helper for college students.

College Homework Helper: What Is It and How Does It Work?

If you are struggling academically and feel like a bit of professional help won’t hurt, homework help services are just for you. These are online services designed to help college students take off some load and unlock greater academic success with less effort.

These services employ qualified experts with advanced degrees and years of experience in the academic field. These experts cover a broad range of disciplines to let every student find the kind of academic support they need.

What does a college homework helper do for you? They can complete an assignment or paper for you in the defined time, following your specific instructions. But that’s not all. A truly reliable help service will not just complete a task for you but also contribute to your own understanding of the subject and help you master the skills needed to study better.

Such services equip you with professional academic mentorship through which you can develop a variety of crucial study skills, such as critical thinking, research, analytical, and many others. At the same time, they reduce your daily load and stress.

How Can College Homework Helper Services Help You Study Better?

These days, students’ lives are filled with a myriad of challenges. They have to keep up with a hefty academic load and handle piles of complex homework assignments, meeting tight deadlines and incredibly high teacher expectations. At the same time, they have to put up with constant pressure and anxiety, which often negatively affects their ability to perform well in college. And they have to find a balance between these academic challenges and their personal lives, which is easier said than done.

That’s where a qualified homework helper can play a massive role. By enlisting the support from experts, you can achieve several big goals at once:

  • Learn from field experts;
  • Boost your subject mastery;
  • Acquire effective study skills;
  • Mitigate homework-related stress;
  • Start managing your time like a pro, etc.

By bringing you these and many other perks, professional homework services can eventually help you build a stress-free and balanced life in college. With their help, you can learn to juggle all your daily chores effectively without giving up on your personal life or work. As a result, you can become a better student while also ensuring your well-being and personal growth.

Unique Benefits of Using Top Homework Helper Help

The value of a high-quality homework helper for college students is over and beyond. As you already know, services that offer this kind of academic support do much more than simply get your tasks done for you. Instead, professional helpers share their expertise and knowledge with you to help you expand your horizons and achieve greater results.

What about other benefits? There are plenty of them! Namely, with a reliable help provider by your side, you get:

  • More free time. Forget about tedious academic writing and complicated assignments. Instead, start managing your time wisely and achieve greater success with fewer efforts.
  • Custom academic support. Get professional assistance tailored to your specific situation, subject area, academic level, and other expectations, and receive the most authentic result.
  • Less stress. Don’t get stressed over complex topics or tight deadlines that you cannot meet. With professional support, you can overcome any hurdles easily.
  • Better grades. Learn from professionals to become a better student yourself. Acquire crucial study skills and deepen your subject knowledge to start performing better in school.

Pick EssayService and Reach the Top

So you’ve decided that you need a reliable college homework helper by your side. What’s next and where do you find helpers that you can actually trust?

Despite a large number of offers out there, not all online homework services can really meet your needs. There are many poor-quality and fraudulent sites that aren’t worth your time. That’s why it’s especially crucial to pick a trusted helper if you want to unlock academic success. And you don’t have to look any further!

EssayService brings together many years of expertise, dedicated professionals, and exceptional customer service to give every student the support they need to perform at the top of their abilities. This service is the best place to find your top homework helper, and here’s why:

  • A large pool of qualified and experienced writers in all subject fields;
  • Friendly and efficient customer support;
  • Flexibility and customizability;
  • Customer-centered approach to every order;
  • No-plagiarism policy;
  • Strict security and satisfaction policies;
  • And much more!

Thousands of students are choosing this service for quality and satisfaction. Check out an unbiased EssayService review to see it for yourself and decide whether it matches your needs!

Verdict

Being a college student in the modern age isn’t a walk in the park. While the value of education remains unchanged, its cost, load, and intricacy increase every year. Endless challenges and pressing tasks often leave students with excessive stress and even burnout. But there is a solution that helps!

Finding a reputable homework helper for college students can save your day and equip you with everything you need to attain academic success. Professional homework help services offer you a wide range of assignment types and subject matters they can deal with, qualified writers at your disposal, and original solutions to your academic challenges. Moreover, top-notch services give you even more benefits in the form of 24/7 support, a tailored approach, zero plagiarism, and more.

So, do you want to take your academic performance to the next level? If yes, don’t waste time and take advantage of professional homework support right now!

Author Profile

Content writer Nicole Hardy is celebrated for her detailed and thoughtful journalism within the realms of education and the arts, with a special emphasis on performing arts education. Over the course of her decade-long career, Hardy has earned a reputation as a trusted expert in her field. Her writing is marked by thorough analysis and a captivating style of storytelling. She earned her Master’s degree in Journalism from the University of Arts, with a focus on arts and culture journalism.


CLICK HERE TO DONATE TO DCREPORT’S NONPROFIT NEWS EFFORTS

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Blue Origin resumes passenger flights, carries crew of six and 90-year-old aerospace pioneer to space

An elated Ed Dwight, at 90 the oldest person to fly in space, shows his emotion after finally reaching space more than 60 years after he was denied the opportunity to become the first African American astronaut. Image: Blue Origin.

Ed Dwight, a 90-year-old artist and former Air Force test pilot who was denied a chance to become the first African American astronaut six decades ago, finally rocketed into space Sunday, fulfilling a cherished dream in a brief up-and-down flight out of the lower atmosphere.

“Absolutely fantastic!” he exclaimed after touchdown. “A life-changing experience. Everybody needs to do this!”

Strapped into a Blue Origin New Shepard capsule, Dwight and five crewmates — a retired accountant, an Indian pilot and adventurer, a software engineer, a French entrepreneur and a venture capitalist — blasted off from company owner Jeff Bezos’ west Texas launch site just after 10:35 a.m. EDT, climbing away into a cloudless sky.

It was the company’s first New Shepard flight with passengers aboard since a booster failure two years ago that derailed an unpiloted research flight. A successful repeat mission late last year, also without a crew on board, cleared the way for the resumption of passenger flights.

“There was a part of my career that wasn’t quite fulfilled, and here’s a grand opportunity at this late date to fulfill that for self-satisfaction, yes,” Dwight said in a pre-launch interview with CBS News.

“But more importantly, to satisfy all the wonderful people that have showered me with love for all these years. Because it is those people that wanted me to go into space in the worst kind of way. To them (this) is justice.”

During the 10-minute sub-orbital flight Sunday, the New Shepard’s single-stage hydrogen-fueled rocket accelerated the crew capsule to more than 2,100 mph at an altitude of 185,000 feet before releasing it to continue coasting upward. Weightless at that point, the crew reached an altitude of about 65 miles, a few miles above the internationally recognized “boundary” between the discernible atmosphere and space.

Blue Origin’s New Shepard booster and crew capsule thundered away from the company’s West Texas launch site Sunday to kick off the first crewed flight since a booster failure two years ago. Image: Blue Origin.

Between booster cutoff and the capsule’s re-entry, the six crew members were able to unstrap and enjoy about three minutes of weightlessness, taking in spectacular views of the Earth below as the spacecraft arced over the top of its trajectory for descent to a parachute-assisted touchdown a few thousand yards from the launch pad.

“I didn’t think I needed this in my life,” Dwight said after climbing out of the capsule. “I lied!”

One of the spacecraft’s three main parachutes failed to fully inflate, but the spacecraft is designed to safely land with just two chutes and the crew, all smiles after touchdown, obviously had no problems.

At 90 years and eight months old, Dwight is the oldest person to ever fly in space, edging out actor William Shatner, who launched aboard a New Shepard at age 90 in 2021, by a few months. Aviatrix Wally Funk, who joined Bezos for the company’s first piloted flight, ranks third on the list of “most senior” astronauts, flying at age 82.

A ticket to ride on a New Shepard is believed to cost around $500,000. Dwight’s seat was sponsored by the non-profit Space for Humanity with support from the Jaison and Jamie Robinson Foundation. Jaison Robinson flew aboard a New Shepard in 2022.

Dwight’s crewmates — venture capitalist Mason Angel, French entrepreneur Sylvain Chiron, software engineer Kenneth Hess, retired accountant and adventurer Carol Schaller and Gopi Thotakura, a commercial airline pilot and the second Indian national to fly in space — are believed to have paid for their seats, but the actual costs are not known.

Before launch, Dwight told CBS News he looked forward to seeing “the beautiful little round ball we call the Earth that we’re not doing a very good job of taking care of, by the way. But it allows you to have a different perspective.”

“I have this theory that I think every politician that runs for public office in the United States of America needs to do at least three orbits around the Earth so they can see what this place is all about,” he said. “And they would stop destroying it. That’s my wish. That would be a requirement for everybody that ran for political office on a national level.”

As NASA’s Mercury program was ramping up in the early 1960s, President John F. Kennedy let it be known that he wanted an African American in the space agency’s astronaut corps. Dwight got the nod, and trained at the Aerospace Research Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base, passing through the initial round of training.

But NASA did not select him as an astronaut, and he resigned from the Air Force in 1966 with the rank of captain. After stints in the private sector, Dwight earned a master of fine arts degree in sculpture, focusing on black history pioneers. He owns and operates Ed Dwight Studios in Denver.

The crew of New Shepard mission 25 (left to right): French entrepreneur Sylvain Chiron, software engineer Ken Hess, former astronaut candidate Ed Dwight, Indian pilot and adventurer Gopi Thotakura, investor Mason Angel and retired accountant and world traveler Carol Schaller. Image: Blue Origin.

“I’ve had, you know, 60 years to sit on and think about all the parts and pieces of this,” he told CBS News correspondent Jericka Duncan. “But the reason I have even the slightest bit of interest in going into space right now is that I’ve had a group of fans that have followed me from 1964, several generations, the fan mail has never stopped.

“The more I thought about it, what better way to fulfill my fans for the things that they’ve been asking me about for the last 60 years? And the opportunity came to fly into space.”

He said African American astronaut Leland Melvin first broached the idea while the two were working on “The Space Race,” a documentary about the history of black astronauts and engineers in NASA’s space program.

“This all happened in relatively short period of time,” Dwight said. “We had been working on ‘Space Race,’ and we had been traveling around the country doing film festivals. We were involved in Q & A’s (and) how would you like to go up?” Melvin had contacts at Blue Origin, he added, “so it just evolved.”

Blue Origin was on a launch-per-month pace in September 2022 when an uncrewed New Shepard carrying 36 experiments suffered a booster failure one minute after liftoff, triggering an automatic abort. The capsule was propelled away from the booster and landed normally a few minutes later.

The abort was blamed on the failure of the nozzle of the BE-3 engine powering the New Shepard rocket. After an extensive investigation, Blue Origin modified the rocket to prevent any similar malfunctions and successfully launched another unpiloted research flight in December 2023, clearing the way for resumption of passenger flights.

Blue Origin’s New Shepard is competing against Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic to carry space tourists, professional astronauts and others on sub-orbital space flights. Virgin Galactic has launched 55 passengers on 11 flights of the company’s Unity spaceplane so far while Blue Origin has now launched 38 men and women on seven flights.

While Virgin is focused solely on sub-orbital flights, Blue Origin also is building a moon lander and a partially reusable orbital-class rocket — the New Glenn — to compete against SpaceX’s workhorse Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy boosters.

The labor market for OnlyFans chatters

 Here's a story by a professional writer and journalist, who appears to be a middle-aged dad, about his efforts to find and then master a job impersonating a 20-something female sex performer chatting with her fans on the website OnlyFans.

Wired has the story:

.I Went Undercover as a Secret OnlyFans Chatter. It Wasn’t Pretty. Your online influencer girlfriend is actually a rotating cast of low-wage workers. I became one of them. by BRENDAN I. KOERNER

"Like many of OnlyFans’ top earners, she had hired a management agency to help keep up with her customers’ demands for personal attention. “The chat specialists they give you, that was a huge deal for me,” she said. The agency provided a team of contractors whose sole job is to masquerade as the creator while swapping DMs with her subscribers. These textual conversations are meant to be the main way that OnlyFans users can interact with the models they adore.

"The existence of professional OnlyFans chatters wouldn’t have surprised me so much if I’d given just a few moments’ thought to the mathematical realities of the platform. OnlyFans has thrived by promising its reported 190 million users that they can have direct access to an estimated 2.1 million creators. It’s impossible for even a modestly popular creator to cope with the avalanche of messages they receive each day. The $5.6 billion industry has solved this logistical conundrum by entrusting its chat duties to a hidden proletariat, a mass of freelancers who sustain the illusion that OnlyFans’ creators are always eager to engage—sexually and otherwise—with paying customers.

...

"Gradually I realized that my best shot at understanding how chatters operate would be to join their ranks. As an English major who’s been fortunate enough to make a living with words for more than 20 years, I naively assumed I was qualified to land a gig. And as a writer, I was curious to learn what kind of artistry the job would require—what it takes to ensure that OnlyFans users never doubt they’re really interacting with the objects of their desire.

"AS I EMBARKED on my job hunt, I asked the owner of a top-tier OnlyFans agency for tips on how to make myself an appealing candidate. He was pessimistic about my odds of getting hired, mainly because I’m American. He said agencies tend to favor contractors who reside in lower-wage countries. That insight was borne out as I poked around the online communities where chatters find help-wanted ads; though the vast majority of OnlyFans users live in the US, the bulk of my competitors were based in places like the Philippines and Venezuela. Judging by their posts on the r/OnlyFansChatter subreddit and in an invite-only Facebook group, these workers are relatively well-educated, with university-level English and ace typing skills that some developed in high-pressure call centers. They also put up with all manner of abuses: OnlyFans agencies are notorious for stiffing their freelancers, forcing them to work 70-hour weeks, and summarily firing them if they miss a shift due to a power outage."


Late Admissions

NYTimes: Glenn C. Loury’s new book, “Late Admissions,” is unlike any economist’s memoir I have ever read. Most don’t mention picking up streetwalkers. Or smoking crack in a faculty office at Harvard’s Kennedy School — or in an airplane at 30,000 feet. Or stealing a car. Or having sex on a beach in Israel with a mistress and attracting the attention of the Israel Defense Forces. Or later being arrested and charged with assaulting her. Or cuckolding a best friend….“Late Admissions” passes the Orwell Test. “An autobiography is only to be trusted when it reveals something disgraceful.”

Of course, even given all this, Loury has had a successful career as an economist and as a public intellectual.

Here’s a less salacious Conversations with Tyler and here is EconTalk both with Loury.

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Innovation Matters

Innovation Matters a podcast of the United Nations Economic Cooperation and Integration Group interviews me on matters related to innovation.

If productivity growth had continued on the WWII-1973 track we would today be living in the world of 2097 rather than the world of 2024.

The education sector in the United States is underdoing a revolution. Since the pandemic we have had millions of children start homeschooling, private education with vouchers and charters are exploding. I hope with AI we can give every student a personal tutor, one who never gets tired, never gets grumpy.

In my view we should be subsidizing degrees with the greatest externalities and yet we are subsidizing degrees with the lowest wages and smallest externalities and we expect innovation out of that…no way, it’s not going to happen.

The US is a welfare-warfare state. We spend a tiny amount on innovation.

There can be multiple equilibria. If you focus on redistribution you can get low growth and then it makes sense to focus on redistribution because that is the only way to get more. But if you focus on innovation you can get high growth and then people are much less concerned with redistribution. Both equilibria can be stable. Which do we want?

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IBM Sells Cybersecurity Group

IBM is selling its QRadar product suite to Palo Alto Networks, for an undisclosed—but probably surprisingly small—sum.

I have a personal connection to this. In 2016, IBM bought Resilient Systems, the startup I was a part of. It became part if IBM’s cybersecurity offerings, mostly and weirdly subservient to QRadar.

That was what seemed to be the problem at IBM. QRadar was IBM’s first acquisition in the cybersecurity space, and it saw everything through the lens of that SIEM system. I left the company two years after the acquisition, and near as I could tell, it never managed to figure the space out.

So now it’s Palo Alto’s turn.

Plunge into a black hole

This NASA simulation lets viewers into the extraordinary spectacle of entering a blackhole (minus the spaghettification)

- by Aeon Video

Watch at Aeon

A United States of Europe

A free and unified Europe was first imagined by Italian radicals in the 19th century. Could we yet see their dream made real?

- by Fernanda Gallo

Read at Aeon

*Unit X*

The subtitle of this new and excellent book is How the Pentagon and Silicon Valley are Transforming the Art of War.  It is written not by journalists but two insiders to the process, namely Raj M. Shah and Christopher Kirchoff.  Here you can read about Eric Schmidt, Brendan McCord, Anduril, Palantir, and much more.

I am not yet finished with the book, in the meantime here is one short excerpt, one that sets the stage for much of what follows:

It turned out that before Silicon Valley tech could be used on the battlefield, we had to go to war to buy it.  We had to hack the Pentagon itself — its archaic acquisition procedures, which prevent moving money at Silicon Valley speed.  In Silicon Valley, deals are done in days.  The eighteen- to twenty-four month process for finalizing contracts used by most of the Pentagon was a nonstarter.  No startup CEO trying to book revenue can wait for the earth to circle the sun twice.  We needed a new way.

And this bit:

Ukraine avoided power interruptions in part because its over-engineered power grid boasts twice the capacity that the country needs — ironically, the system was originally designed by the Soviets to withstand a NATO attack.

The authors understand both the worlds of tech and bureaucracy very well, kudos to them.  Due out in July.

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Have Wildlife Crossings Become More Common in North America?

Earth Talk

Dear EarthTalk: Have Wildlife Crossings Become More Common in North America, and Are They Effective at Reducing Wildlife Kills and Improving Conservation Efforts Overall? – T.R., Detroit, MI

In recent years, North America has seen a notable increase in the implementation of wildlife crossings, reflecting a growing recognition of their importance in reducing wildlife fatalities from vehicle collisions and enhancing conservation efforts. These structures, ranging from underpasses to overbridges, are becoming more prevalent as part of a concerted effort to address the environmental impacts of roads.

The significance of these crossings is underscored by projects like one in Southern California designed largely to protect mountain lions. This project, among others, demonstrates a shift towards integrating wildlife conservation into public infrastructure planning . Similarly, the Federal Highway Administration has incorporated wildlife crossings into its programs, emphasizing safety for both animals and motorists .

Research consistently shows the effectiveness of these structures. Jennifer S. Holland of the Pew Trusts highlights the sheer number of reports of roadkill incidents, with “drivers hit[ting] 1 to 2 million animals each year,” and reports of significant decreases in road kills in areas with wildlife crossings, which also support animal migration patterns . The economic rationale is also strong: In regions like Banff, Alberta, the initial costs of wildlife crossings are often offset lowered expenses related to wildlife collisions .

Beyond the immediate benefits of reducing kills, wildlife crossings play a key role in maintaining ecological connectivity, essential for the survival and health of many species. In Banff National Park, a series of crossings allows wildlife such as grizzly bears and elk to safely navigate across busy highways.

Community engagement and educational programs have helped raise awareness about the benefits of wildlife crossings, promoting broader public support and involvement, vital for securing funding and political support for new projects . Moreover, international examples of successful wildlife crossings provide valuable lessons and inspiration. In Costa Rica, crossing designs that cater specifically to the needs of jaguars demonstrate the global applicability and adaptability of crossing technologies .

The U.S. has recognized the importance of these initiatives and is supporting them through federal funding programs, with Lauren Sforza of The Hill writing, “$110 million in grants will be awarded to 19 wildlife crossing projects across 17 states.” This national support is instrumental in expanding wildlife crossings across the country, highlighting a commitment to biodiversity and road safety .

The proliferation of wildlife crossings in North America is a positive development that not only mitigates wildlife-vehicle collisions but also significantly contributes to biodiversity conservation. The continued expansion and improvement of these crossings are vital. As such, these structures represent a critical intersection of road safety, animal welfare and environmental stewardship.


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Devers Hits Home Run In Sixth Consecutive Game, Setting New Red Sox Record

Rafael Devers homered for the sixth consecutive game, setting a new Red Sox record in a 5-0 win over the Rays.

Tanner Houck allowed only two hits in seven shutout innings and Ceddanne Rafaela also hit a two-run homer. Neat and tidy in only 2:08.

Red Sox Players With Home Runs In 6 Consecutive Games (Team Record)
Rafael Devers  2024  (5/15-20)

MLB Players With Home Runs In 8 Consecutive Games
Dale Long, Pirates, May 19-28, 1956
Don Mattingly, Yankees, July 8-18, 1987
Ken Griffey, Jr., Mariners, July 20-28, 1993
MLB Players With Home Runs In 7 Consecutive Games
Jim Thome, Cleveland, June 25-July 3, 2002
Barry Bonds, Giants, April 12-20, 2004
Kevin Mench, Texas, April 21-28, 2006
Kendrys Morales, Blue Jays, August 19-26, 2018
Joey Votto, Reds, July 24-30, 2021
Mike Trout, Angels, September 4-12, 2022

Rafael Devers is one of seven Red Sox players to hit a home run in five consecutive games.
Devers stroked his ninth dong of the season in Boston's 11-3 win over the Cardinals on Sunday. Tyler O'Neill hit his team-leading 11th.

Devers will have a chance to set a new franchise record Monday evening in Tampa Bay.

Red Sox Players With Home Runs In 5 Consecutive Games (Team Record)
Jimmie Foxx    1940  (8/13-17)
Ted Williams 1957 (7/12-16)
Dick Stuart 1963 (6/11-16)
George Scott 1977 (6/14-19)
Jose Canseco 1995 (8/21-25)
Bobby Dalbec 2020 (9/05-10)
Rafael Devers 2024 (5/15-19)
Devers has hit safely in his last nine games and 21 of his last 23 games, slashing .337/.416/.652/1.068 in that time (since April 24).

How Does Flexible Incentive Pay Affect Wage Rigidity?

Perhaps not as much as you might think:

We introduce dynamic incentive contracts into a model of inflation and unemployment dynamics. Our main result is that wage cyclicality from incentives neither affects the slope of the Phillips curve for prices nor dampens unemployment dynamics. The impulse response of unemployment in economies with flexible, procyclical incentive pay is first-order equivalent to that of economies with rigid wages. Likewise, the slope of the Phillips curve is the same in both economies. This equivalence is due to effort fluctuations, which render effective marginal costs rigid even if wages are flexible. Our calibrated model suggests that 46% of the wage cyclicality in the data arises from incentives, with the remainder attributable to bargaining and outside options. A standard model without incentives calibrated to weakly procyclical wages matches the impulse response of unemployment in our incentive pay model calibrated to strongly procyclical wages.

That is from a new and interesting paper by Meghana Gaur, John Grigsby, Jonathon Hazell, and Abdoulaye Ndiaye.  My take is that effort is often relatively fixed with personality and temperament, and thus more net flexibility results than this paper indicates.  Nonetheless this is an interesting result worthy of some pondering.

The post How Does Flexible Incentive Pay Affect Wage Rigidity? appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.

       

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It was bright and green and stretched across the sky. It was bright and green and stretched across the sky.


Kolide

My thanks to Kolide for sponsoring last week at DF. The September 2023 MGM hack is one of the most notorious ransomware attacks in recent years. Journalists and cybersecurity experts rushed to report on the broken slot machines, angry hotel guests, and the fateful phishing call to MGM’s help desk that started it all.

But while it’s true that MGM’s help desk needed better ways of verifying employee identity, there’s another factor that should have stopped the hackers in their tracks. That’s where you should focus your attention. In fact, if you just focus your vision, you’ll find you’re already staring at the security story the pros have been missing.

It’s the device you’re reading this on.

To read more about what Kolide learned after researching the MGM hack — like how hacker groups get their names, the worrying gaps in MGM’s security, and why device trust is the real core of the story — check out the Kolide blog.

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Severe Thunderstorms Across Portions of the Midwest; Hazardous Heat in Southern Texas

NHC Atlantic Outlook


Atlantic 2-Day Graphical Outlook Image
Atlantic 7-Day Graphical Outlook Image


ZCZC MIATWOAT ALL
TTAA00 KNHC DDHHMM

Tropical Weather Outlook
NWS National Hurricane Center Miami FL
200 AM EDT Wed May 22 2024

For the North Atlantic...Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico:

Tropical cyclone formation is not expected during the next 7 days.

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Forecaster Hagen/Blake
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