Operation Tame Finance

Gary Gensler has big ambitions for the SEC, but may not have the big bucks

Is China already the world’s most dominant economy?

By one measure, yes

Labour’s share in national income is both over- and under-explained

A new paper shows why economists’ understanding of the labour share is murky at best

How America should spend on child care

More money is not a guarantee of success

Inspiration4 crew ‘healthy, happy’ after first days in space

The Inspiration4 crew during an in-flight mission update broadcast. Credit: SpaceX

The Inspiration4 crew during an in-flight mission update broadcast. Credit: SpaceX

Since their launch two days ago, the Inspiration4 crew has settled in and begun working on their scientific research while making calls to St. Jude patients.

Commander Jared Isaacman, Pilot Sian Proctor, Chief Medical Officer Hayley Arceneaux and Mission Specialist Chris Sembroski, all non-professional astronauts, launched at 8:02 p.m. EDT Sept. 15 (00:02 Sept. 16), 2021, in a Crew Dragon spacecraft atop of a Falcon 9 rocket from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.

Inspiration4 Chief Medical Officer Hayley Arceneaux looks out of Dragon's massive Cupola window. Credit: SpaceX

Inspiration4 Chief Medical Officer Hayley Arceneaux looks out of Dragon’s massive Cupola window. Credit: SpaceX

“The [Inspiration4] crew is healthy, happy and resting comfortably,” SpaceX updated via a tweet on Sept. 16. “Before the crew went to bed, they traveled 5.5 times around Earth, completed their first round of scientific research, and enjoyed a couple of meals.”

Crew Dragon was launched into a roughly 365-mile (590 kilometer) orbit around Earth, inclined roughly 51.6 degrees.

Shortly after launch, the crew spoke with SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, who reported they were doing well on orbit following their ascent.

SpaceX said the crew spent their first full day conducting additional research, spent time talking to St. Jude patients in private video calls back to Earth. The four even got to get their first views out of the massive Cupola window, which is the largest single window ever placed in space.

On the crew’s second day in space, they conducted an in-flight broadcast to show off how they were adapting to microgravity and some of the science experiments they were performing. They also gave a tour of the Cupola window.

Inspiration4 is set to remain in orbit for three days, which would put their return to Florida Saturday evening with a splashdown lasted for 7:06 p.m. EDT (11:06 UTC) Sept. 18 off the Atlantic Coast, likely somewhere between Jacksonville and Melbourne.

Mission Specialist Chris Sembroski takes a picture inside the Cupola window. Credit: SpaceX

Mission Specialist Chris Sembroski takes a picture inside the Cupola window. Credit: SpaceX

Video courtesy of SpaceX

While it was only two days ago, relive the Inspiration4 launch via these photos from Spaceflight Insider’s photography team.

Liftoff of Inspiration4 from Launch Complex 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center. Credit: Theresa Cross / Spaceflight Insider

Liftoff of Inspiration4 from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. Credit: Theresa Cross / Spaceflight Insider

Credit: Matt Haskell / Spaceflight Insider

Credit: Matt Haskell / Spaceflight Insider

Credit: Theresa Cross / Spaceflight Insider

Credit: Theresa Cross / Spaceflight Insider

Credit: Theresa Cross / Spaceflight Insider

Credit: Theresa Cross / Spaceflight Insider

Credit: Theresa Cross / Spaceflight Insider

Credit: Theresa Cross / Spaceflight Insider

Credit: Theresa Cross / Spaceflight Insider

Credit: Theresa Cross / Spaceflight Insider

Credit: Theresa Cross / Spaceflight Insider

Credit: Theresa Cross / Spaceflight Insider

The Falcon 9 rocket with Inspiration4 moments before stage separation. Credit: Matt Haskell / Spaceflight Insider

The Falcon 9 rocket with Inspiration4 moments before stage separation. Credit: Matt Haskell / Spaceflight Insider

Credit: Matt Haskell / Spaceflight Insider

Credit: Matt Haskell / Spaceflight Insider

Credit: Matt Haskell / Spaceflight Insider

Credit: Matt Haskell / Spaceflight Insider

The post Inspiration4 crew ‘healthy, happy’ after first days in space appeared first on SpaceFlight Insider.

Friday Squid Blogging: Ram’s Horn Squid Shells

You can find ram’s horn squid shells on beaches in Texas (and presumably elsewhere).

As usual, you can also use this squid post to talk about the security stories in the news that I haven’t covered.

Read my blog posting guidelines here.

AFDLOX September 17, 2:06pm

FXUS66 KLOX 172106 AFDLOX Area Forecast Discussion National Weather Service Los Angeles/Oxnard CA 206 PM PDT Fri Sep 17 2021 .SYNOPSIS...17/205 PM. Below normal temperatures will continue through the weekend with low clouds and fog over most coastal and valley areas. Gusty Santa Barbara County Sundowner winds are likely Sunday evening. Locally breezy offshore winds are expected Monday and Tuesday focused over the mountains and valleys of Los Angeles and Ventura Counties. Warmer conditions with less marine layer likely for the first half of next week.

NHC Atlantic Outlook

Atlantic 2-Day Graphical Outlook Image
Atlantic 5-Day Graphical Outlook Image


Tropical Weather Outlook
NWS National Hurricane Center Miami FL
200 PM EDT Fri Sep 17 2021

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

The Weather Prediction Center is issuing advisories on
Post-Tropical Cyclone Nicholas, located over Louisiana.

1. Recent satellite images indicate that a new and better-defined
center of circulation has developed in association with a low
pressure area located about 250 miles east of Norfolk, Virginia.
In addition, shower and thunderstorm activity is becoming more
organized near this new center. If these development trends
continue, then a tropical depression or tropical storm is likely to
form later today or tonight while the low moves toward the
northeast or east-northeast at 10 to 15 mph, away from the United
States Mid-Atlantic and Northeast coasts. The low is expected to
transform into a non-tropical gale-force low Saturday or Saturday
night while it is located south of Atlantic Canada, and it is
likely to bring strong winds and heavy rains to portions of
Newfoundland by Sunday and Sunday night. This system is also
expected to bring high surf to portions of the Mid-Atlantic and
Northeast U.S. coasts and Atlantic Canada through this weekend.
Additional information on this system, including gale warnings, can
be found in High Seas Forecasts issued by the NOAA Ocean Prediction
* Formation chance through 48 hours...high...80 percent.
* Formation chance through 5 days...high...80 percent.

2. Showers and thunderstorms associated with a tropical wave and broad
area of low pressure located about midway between the Lesser
Antilles and the Cabo Verde Islands have become a little better
organized since yesterday. Environmental conditions are expected
to be conducive for further development during the next couple of
days, and a tropical depression is likely to form over the weekend
or early next week while moving toward the west-northwest at about
15 mph across the central tropical Atlantic and then near the
northern Leeward Islands by Monday and Tuesday. Upper-level winds
could become less conducive for development over the southwestern
Atlantic by the early to middle part of next week. Interests in
the Leeward Islands should monitor the progress of this system
during the next few days.
* Formation chance through 48 hours...high...70 percent.
* Formation chance through 5 days...high...80 percent.

3. A broad area of low pressure located a few hundred miles
south-southeast of the Cabo Verde Islands continues to produce
disorganized showers and thunderstorms. This system is expected to
move toward the west and then northwest at 5 to 10 mph over the far
eastern Atlantic, and some gradual development is possible over the
weekend before upper-level winds increase and the low moves over
cooler waters.
* Formation chance through 48 hours...low...20 percent.
* Formation chance through 5 days...low...30 percent.

Public advisories issued by the Weather Prediction Center on
Post-Tropical Cyclone Nicholas can be found under AWIPS header
TCPAT4, WMO header WTNT34 KWNH, and on the web at
https://www.wpc.ncep.noaa.gov or hurricanes.gov

High Seas Forecasts for the system off the United States
Mid-Atlantic coast issued by the NOAA Ocean Prediction Center can
be found under AWIPS header NFDHSFAT1, WMO header FZNT01 KWBC, and
online at ocean.weather.gov/shtml/NFDHSFAT1.php

Forecaster Berg

Urban Institute: Median 95% LTV for New Mortgage Originations (Only 5% Downpayment)

NYU Stern professor Arpit Gupta tweeted today:
A common intuition is that borrowers put 20% down on a home.

The median down payment is actually closer to 5%, and has been for 12 years.
He included a chart from the Urban Institute showing the median LTV for new mortgage loan originations is 95% - and has been at that level for the last 12 years.

Gupta linked to the Housing Finance Policy Center's Monthly Chartbook

Here is the chart that also includes FICO and Debt-to-income (DTI).   The median DTI is at 37.5%.

Note that this is combined LTV, and probably includes 2nd loans.   Legend at top.

Chris Sale Returns To Start Red Sox's Final Homestand

The Red Sox begin their final homestand of the season tonight, eight games against the Orioles (3), Mets (2), and Yankees (3).

Chris Sale returns to the team and the mound this evening.

Matthew Kory (Sox Outsider) looks at the team's remaining 14 games and estimates a 10-4 record (which seems a bit optimistic to me; a more likely finish is 8-6, which is also their record so far in September):

That would put them at 93 wins and give them an overwhelming shot at one of the Wild Card spots. According to FanGraphs, they have a pretty good at pulling that off. FanGraphs has Boston with the second best chance to make the playoffs of any AL East team behind the Rays, who are at 100 percent. FanGraphs has the Red Sox at 75.1 percent, ahead of Toronto (68.3 percent), New York (51.8 percent), and Baltimore (0.0 percent).

Why? Likely due to the Red Sox remaining schedule as much as anything. . . . [T]he average winning percentage for all remaining Red Sox opponents is .468, the equivalent to facing a 76-86 team every night. The Yankees remaining schedule offers them a .513 opponents average winning percentage.  . . .

Right now, the Yankees are playing for their playoff lives. If they don’t do very well in their next six very winnable games, they're in some serious trouble.

The Red Sox have the easiest schedule of the three AL East teams battling for an invitation to the Wild Card Game, with the Yankees being the only one of their four remaining opponents with a winning record.


Blue Jays  82-64  ---   vs Twins
Red Sox    83-65  ---   vs Orioles
Yankees    82-65  0.5   vs Cleveland
Athletics  79-67  3.0   at Angels
Mariners   78-68  4.0   at Royals

AFDSGX September 17, 1:12pm

FXUS66 KSGX 172012 AFDSGX Area Forecast Discussion National Weather Service San Diego CA 111 PM PDT Fri Sep 17 2021 .SYNOPSIS... Fair and seasonally cool weather this weekend will give way to warmer weather next week under building high pressure aloft. Hottest days are expected midweek, when temperatures will be back above average. Areas of low clouds and patchy fog will continue west of the mountains nights and mornings this weekend, becoming more scarce next week. Some cooling is favored during the latter half of next week.

September 17th COVID-19: Over 180 Million Fully Vaccinated

Note: There will be no weekend updates.

The CDC is the source for all data.

The 7-day average deaths is the highest since March 1st.

According to the CDC, on Vaccinations.  Total doses administered: 383,994,877, as of a week ago 378,569,717. Average doses last week: 0.78 million per day.

COVID Metrics
Percent fully Vaccinated54.4%53.6%≥70.0%1
Fully Vaccinated (millions)180.6177.9≥2321
New Cases per Day3🚩142,736139,221≤5,0002
Deaths per Day3🚩1,4641,253≤502
1 Minimum to achieve "herd immunity" (estimated between 70% and 85%).
2my goals to stop daily posts,
37 day average for Cases, Currently Hospitalized, and Deaths
🚩 Increasing 7 day average week-over-week for Cases, Hospitalized, and Deaths
✅ Goal met.

IMPORTANT: For "herd immunity" most experts believe we need 70% to 85% of the total population fully vaccinated (or already had COVID).  

This is all from the CDC - state data may differ!

KUDOS to the residents of the 11 states that have achieved 60% of total population fully vaccinated: Vermont at 68.8%, Massachusetts, Maine, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Maryland, New Jersey, Washington, New York, New Mexico, New Hampshire at 60.9%.

The following 18 states and D.C. have between 50% and 59.9% fully vaccinated: Oregon at 59.6%, District of Columbia, Virginia, Colorado, Minnesota, California, Hawaii, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Florida, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Michigan, South Dakota, Kentucky, Arizona and Kansas at 50.0%.

Next up (total population, fully vaccinated according to CDC) are Texas at 49.8%,  Nevada at 49.6%, Ohio at 49.4%, Utah at 49.2%, Alaska at 48.8% and North Carolina at 48.4%.

COVID-19 Positive Tests per DayClick on graph for larger image.

This graph shows the daily (columns) and 7 day average (line) of positive tests reported.

Guerilla Grazing and Ingenious Off-Grid Living

In this engaging video we meet Aaron Fletcher, a traveling shepherd who has been “guerrilla grazing” and living off the land for 12 years.

He lets his sheep graze — with permission — public parks and side lots. Homeless by choice, he offers his services to small farms in exchange for food or a place to stay (though half his calories come from his sheeps’ milk).

With a tiny metal cart home pulled by his sheep, he has a bed, a refrigerator/evaporative cooler, a shower (he uses a pesticide sprayer to pump up the water pressure), power (solar panel), sun oven, a mailbox stove for heat, bicycle tire wheels and a corrugated plastic roof.

Fletcher makes cheese and butter from his sheep milk and forages for seeds, fruits, vegetables and herbs.

I heard about this from @hova414, who teases it better than I can:

An “anti-consumer” gives one of the most impressive product demos I’ve ever seen; a nonstop highlights reel of ingenious off-grid inventions. Come for the wearable teepee, stay for the solar banana bread.

My jaw legit dropped open at the solar bread part — that solar oven! It’s absolutely fascinating to listen to him explain how he efficiently uses space, public resources, and a limited amount of tightly curated technology products to live a happy and healthy life, an outcome many of us have been told by capitalism is impossible. I also enjoyed his distinction between being a selfish prepper and a community prepper:

By the way I’m a prepper, but I’m not like a normal prepper as in… I call it selfish prepping. I’m a community prepper. I’m not so interested in trying to survive in a post-apocalyptic situation if everyone around me is suffering. So I’m trying to figure out how to bring up the community so that they can all thrive.

You can learn more about Fletcher’s life and how he lives it on his website and check out his YouTube videos for more clever DIY tips.

Tags: Aaron Fletcher   video

The FAA releases initial report on Boca Chica launches, and it’s not terrible

Photograph from beneath a giant rocket component.

Enlarge / SpaceX's Booster 4 is lifted onto its orbital launch mount in South Texas. (credit: Elon Musk/Twitter)

The Federal Aviation Administration released a draft environmental review of SpaceX's plans for orbital launches from South Texas on Friday, kicking off a 30-day public comment period.

The long-awaited procedural step is the first of several regulatory hurdles that SpaceX must clear before obtaining final permission to launch its Super Heavy booster and Starship upper stage from a site near Boca Chica, Texas. Such a launch likely remains months away, but it now appears that the feds will ultimately greenlight South Texas for orbital launches. That seemed far from assured before today.

The document, formally called a Draft Programmatic Environmental Assessment, evaluates the potential environmental impacts of SpaceX’s Starship program, including launch and reentry. It also reviews debris recovery, the integration tower and other launch-related construction, and local road closures between Brownsville and Boca Chica beach.

Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Local news

Bowls club Dad

2 September 2021

Buxton Advertiser

Schadenfreude 318 (A Continuing Series)

Yankees - 020 000 000 0 - 2   7  0
Orioles - 000 001 001 1 - 3  10  0


Blue Jays  82-64  ---
Red Sox    83-65  ---
Yankees    82-65  0.5
Athletics  79-67  3.0
Mariners   78-68  4.0

Kristie Ackert, Daily News:

No one said it was going to come easy for this Yankees team, but no one imagined a loss this hard. The Bombers were just one strike away from escaping Camden Yards with a sweep when it absolutely fell apart. Clay Holmes coughed up the one-run lead on two wild pitches in the ninth and then Wandy Peralta gave up an RBI-single to Austin Hays in extras as the Orioles rallied for a 3-2 win, 10-inning upset of the Bombers at Camden Yards.

"I thought Clay threw the ball well . . .", Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. . . .

The loss . . . was a blow to their playoff hopes. They are now half a game behind the Red Sox and Blue Jays in the American League wild card race and currently out of a playoff spot. With 15 games to go . . . the road gets tougher with nine games to end the season against the Red Sox, Blue Jays and American League East-leading Rays.

At least the Yankees are done with the Orioles, finishing the season series 11-8. . . . Baltimore has no more than four wins against any other team this season. . . .

Holmes could not work around a one-out single from DJ Stewart in the bottom of the ninth. Pinch runner Kevin Gutierrez advanced to second on a wild pitch and scored the tying run on another, a 98-mile an hour sinker that he yanked and it got away from catcher Gary Sanchez.

That was the 16th blown save for the Yankees in the second half of the season, the most in the big leagues over that span.

Orioles shortstop Richie Martin laid down a perfect bunt along the third-base line to lead off the 10th, advancing the ghost-runner to third base. Wandy Peralta intentionally walked Cedric Mullins to load the bases. He struck out Ryan Mountcastle on a change-up away for the first out. Austin Hays singled through the hole at shortstop to score the winning run.

The Yankees have been riding their bullpen hard this season because their offense has underperformed and it's showing down the stretch. . . .

As has been the case all year, the Yankees failed to support Montgomery with any runs. The lefty came into Thursday's game with 3.64 runs per start, which is the fourth-worst run support for a starter in AL and the sixth-worst in the majors. . . .

[T]he Yankees were unable to score again. The Bombers went 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position and stranded 10 runners.

In the top of the 10th, ghost-runner Brett Gardner was stranded at second when Aaron Judge grounded out, Anthony Rizzo flew out and Gleyber Torres lined out to shortstop.

Dan Martin, Post:

One of these losses is bound to be one too many.

The Yankees, a strike away from a fourth straight win that would have moved them back into the AL wild-card lead over the idle Red Sox and Blue Jays, instead added to their list of ugly endings with a 3-2, 10-inning loss to the lowly Orioles on Thursday night at Camden Yards.

"It sucks,'' starter Jordan Montgomery [who had a career-high 12 strikeouts in just 5⅔ innings] said. . . .

Manager Aaron Boone said Gary Sanchez should have done a better job of getting to the high pitch on which Gutierrez scored [the tying run], but Holmes took the blame for the sinker that got away.

After the Yankees failed to score in the top of the 10th, Wandy Peralta gave up a bunt hit to Richie Martin that sent the extra runner — pinch-runner Jahmai Jones — to third.

An intentional walk to Cedric Mullins loaded the bases for Ryan Mountcastle, who struck out.

Austin Hays hit a chopper past third to end it. . . .

[T]he Yankees didn't score after the second inning.

Greg Joyce, Post:

There was no doubt in Joey Gallo's mind that he had hit a grand slam in the fifth inning Thursday night, only to see his fly ball land in the glove of Orioles center fielder Cedric Mullins on the warning track.

Five innings later, that stung even more. . . .

"I didn't even think about that ball being caught, so that was kind of heartbreaking to see it get caught," said Gallo . . . 

After the Yankees scored two runs in the second inning . . . Orioles pitchers recorded eight straight innings without allowing a run for the first time since Aug. 27-28, according to YES Network.

That included 5¹/₃ shutout innings from a bullpen that entered the day with the highest ERA (5.71) in the big leagues.

Doug Kern says:

Jordan Montgomery & Clay Holmes: Second Yankees teammates ever to uncork multiple wild pitches in the same game.  Terry Mulholland & Donn Pall at CLE, Jun 24 1994.

Jordan Montgomery: First pitcher in Yankees history to strike out 12 opponents but also throw 2 wild pitches in the same game.

Jordan Montgomery: First Yankees pitcher with 12+ strikeouts in a game they lost since Luis Severino at CHW, Jun 27 2017.

Clay Holmes: First Yankees pitcher to blow a save by wild-pitching in the tying run when down to last out since Aroldis Chapman at TB, Jul 4 2019.

Of course he does.
The Post has begun putting some columnists behind a paywall. (And football is now crowding baseball off the back pages of the tabloids.)

The Astronomy Photographer of the Year for 2021

360-degree view of the Milky Way galaxy

the crescent moon rising over the desert

The Royal Museum Greenwich has announced the winners of the Astronomy Photographer of the Year for 2021. Zhong Wu won the galaxies category with a 360-degree view of the Milky Way (above, top), a mosaic which took two years to create — the northern hemisphere portion of the galaxy was photographed in China and the southern part in New Zealand. Jeffrey Lovelace’s photo of the crescent moon over Death Valley sand dunes (above, bottom) took the prize in the skyscapes category.

Tags: astronomy   best of   best of 2021   photography   space

CesiumAstro plots in-house satellite production ramp-up after debut launch

A CesiumAstro satellite

CesiumAstro expects to be building satellites mostly by itself in two years to house the active phased arrays it has been developing, aiming to shift the paradigm for electronically steered antennas with commercial-like industrialization processes that lower costs and speed up production.


Lawler: Early Read on Existing Home Sales in August

From housing economist Tom Lawler (see important comments on inventory):

Based on publicly-available local realtor/MLS reports released across the country through today, I project that existing home sales as estimated by the National Association of Realtors ran at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.90 million in August, down 1.5% from July’s preliminary pace and down 1.2% from last August’s seasonally adjusted pace. Unadjusted sales should show a very small YOY gain, with the SA/NSA difference reflecting this August’s higher business day count relative to last August’s.

Local realtor reports, as well as reports from national inventory trackers, suggest that while the inventory of existing homes for sale remained low last month, the YOY decline in August was significantly less than in July. What this means for the NAR’s inventory estimate for August, however, is unclear.  As I’ve noted before, the inventory measure in most publicly-released local realtor/MLS reports excludes listings with pending contracts, but that is not the case for most of the reports sent to the NAR (referred to as the “NAR Report!”), Since the middle of last Spring inventory measures excluding pending listings have fallen much more sharply than inventory measures including such listings, and this latter inventory measure understates the decline in the effective inventory of homes for sale over the last several months. Having said that, however, it is clear that seasonally adjusted inventories have been trending higher over the past several months.

Finally, local realtor/MLS reports suggest the median existing single-family home sales price last month was up by about 14.7% from last August.

CR Note: The National Association of Realtors (NAR) is scheduled to release August existing home sales on Wednesday, September 22, 2021 at 10:00 AM ET. The consensus is for 5.88 million SAAR.

My podcast with Auren Hoffman

A bit on time management, a bit on talent, a bit on organizational capital, and indeed a bit on almost everything!

Auren is a very good interviewer, here is the link, 43 minutes.

The post My podcast with Auren Hoffman appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.



Related Stories


CPHC Central North Pacific Outlook

Central North Pacific 2-Day Graphical Outlook Image
Central North Pacific 5-Day Graphical Outlook Image


Tropical Weather Outlook
NWS Central Pacific Hurricane Center Honolulu HI
800 AM HST Fri Sep 17 2021

For the central North Pacific...between 140W and 180W:

No tropical cyclones are expected during the next 5 days.

Forecaster EATON

NHC Eastern North Pacific Outlook

Eastern North Pacific 2-Day Graphical Outlook Image
Eastern North Pacific 5-Day Graphical Outlook Image


Tropical Weather Outlook
NWS National Hurricane Center Miami FL
1100 AM PDT Fri Sep 17 2021

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

Tropical cyclone formation is not expected during the next 5 days.

Forecaster Brown

5 More Local Housing Markets in August

In the Newsletter: 5 More Local Housing Markets in August

This brings the total to 25 local markets for August. This includes active inventory, new listings and sales added for Alabama, Austin, Maryland, Phoenix, Rhode Island

So far active inventory is down 1.1% compared to July for these markets

Three Quick Links for Friday Noonish

This piece by @tressiemcphd (feat. @shrinkthinks) about Covid denial, empathy, and grief is really interesting. "I am afraid that the onslaught of Covid denial stories is robbing me of [my humility] by undermining my empathy for others." [nytimes.com]

Movie posters generated by an AI program based on brief text descriptions of the films. [noahveltman.com]

Before Food Trucks, Americans Ate 'Night Lunch' From Beautiful Wagons. (Working on my night lunch!) [atlasobscura.com]


Note: Quick Links are pushed to this RSS feed twice a day. For more immediate service, check out the front page of kottke.org, the Quick Links archive, or the @kottke Twitter feed.

Friday assorted links

1. Nona Gaprindashvili, female chess pioneer, to sue Netflix (NYT).

2. World Bank to discontinue Doing Business index (NYT).  And more coverage here.

3. A sensory revolution in video games?

4. Sondheim writing a new show at age 91 (NYT).

5. The world’s most expensive animals.

6. Don’t believe the Haiti/DR graph.

The post Friday assorted links appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.




The Avocado Test

the avocado test

That’s Meredith Southard’s cartoon for the New Yorker, a play on the marshmallow test. It’s funny because it’s true. I have an avocado in the fridge that I’m planning on using for lunch — but maybe it’s all brown inside?! So excited to find out if I’m actually eating lunch or not in a few minutes.

Tags: cartoons   food   Meredith Southard

Space Force to consider space sustainability in any future conflict


The U.S. military will take space sustainability factors into account should it have to respond to an attack on its satellites, a Space Force official said Sept. 16.


To Understand Milley’s Worries We Should Look at the Trump DOJ

Follow-on reporting about General Mark Milley’s crisis talks with his counterpart in the PLA just add more confirmation that these communications were entirely appropriate. We should be thankful they happened. We now know the calls were coordinated with the current and later the acting Secretaries of Defense. So it’s all very much by the book. As Tom Nichols explains here, the US military – and most professional militaries – invest great resources, often over decades, in military to military talks and liaison precisely for moments like this. If you need to make direct contact to defuse a potential crisis it helps a lot to have preexisting relationships in place. All of that investment is geared to moments like the ones described in the Woodward and Costa book.

There are reports that Trump, Mike Pompeo and the then-National Security Advisor didn’t know about Milley’s calls. If that’s true, then that is on the Secretaries of Defense, not Milley.

Nichols is right that the conversation about nuclear launch policy are much closer to the line. But he thinks Milley didn’t go over the line. He certainly didn’t do what James Schlesinger did in the dying days of the Nixon administration. For what it’s worth, I agree with Nichols on this: he’s the expert on just these questions, not me. So again, for what it’s worth.

There’s notable context to Milley’s actions that hasn’t received enough discussion.

Milley’s meeting with top officers at the Pentagon appeared aimed at short-circuiting a worst case scenario in which a deranged Trump reached into the Pentagon, found a relatively junior officer or appointee and tried to launch a nuclear strike without anyone else knowing what they were doing.

This is to put it mildly a pretty outlandish scenario. And, as we’ve noted, it’s a complicated question whether anyone would have the legal or constitutional authority to stop a president doing this. The President is the commander-in-chief of the US armed forces. All laws and procedures about the operation of the military are subsidiary – or arguably subsidiary – to the President’s powers as commander-in-chief.

But the scenario actually isn’t that outlandish. We still don’t know just what information, what signals or comments Milley was reacting to. But remember what was happening at the Justice Department. At this point Trump had dispensed with Bill Barr and had a new acting Attorney General at the helm, Jeffrey Rosen. Rosen, who one imagines Trump believed would be more tractable, was resisting Trump’s attempts to overturn the results of the election. So Trump reached down into the org chart of the DOJ to find a toady who would work with him. He found that toady in a guy named Jeffrey Clark, the acting head of the DOJ Civil Division. Clark thought Trump’s election reversal and coup plans sounded reasonable enough. So Trump was plotting to oust Rosen and replace him with Clark, who would back Trump’s coup efforts.

The precise details of the Rosen/Trump/Clark saga have been detailed extensively elsewhere. For our purposes what is relevant is that Trump was actively plotting a DOJ version of Milley’s outlandish worst case scenario around the time he held the meeting about control of the country’s nuclear arsenal. We can’t be sure Milley knew what was happening at DOJ. But there are many indications that top cabinet level officials were in communication with each other during this period. What’s more, after firing Secretary of Defense Esper right after the election, Trump had resorted to a range of stratagems to install a slew of Trumpite anti-Deep State true believers in critical positions at DOD on an acting basis. If Trump were hunting around for a DOD version of Jeff Clark, he had already installed several.

This all gets very hypothetical. It was a chaotic time. We can’t know for certain just who knew what. In the event, we know that Trump was neither organized enough nor committed enough to make even his gambit at DOJ work. Rosen and other officials were ready to resign en masse if Trump followed through on his plan. What is relevant is that Trump was doing at DOJ something very similar to what Milley appears to have feared Trump might be planning at the Pentagon. Identical? No. But similar enough to more than freak out even the steadiest person. Trump had already fired the Secretary of Defense without any Senate-confirmed replacement. He had stacked the Department with a list of cronies and toadies – a fact that looked ominous to outside observers at the time. Milley had good reasons to be concerned. And he probably knew of even worse things we don’t know about yet.

Q3 GDP Forecasts: Around 4.5%

GDP forecasts had been downgraded sharply for Q3 due to COVID, but now seem to have stabilized. 

Here is a table of some of the forecasts over the last two months.


From BofA Merrill Lynch:
We continue to track 4.5% qoq saar for 3Q GDP following the retail sales data as our forecast was far above consensus. [Sept 17 estimate]
emphasis added
From Goldman Sachs:
Following the stronger-than-expected retail sales report, we boosted our Q3 GDP tracking estimate by 1pp at +4.5% (qoq ar). We are also lowering our 2021Q4 and 2022Q2 GDP forecasts by 0.5pp to reflect a smaller rebound from 2021Q3. [Sept 16 estimate]
And from the Altanta Fed: GDPNow
The GDPNow model estimate for real GDP growth (seasonally adjusted annual rate) in the third quarter of 2021 is 3.6 percent on September 16, down from 3.7 percent on September 10 after rounding. [Sept 16 estimate]

Filtered for calibration


Hello, World!

From the Jargon File: Traditionally, the first program a C coder is supposed to write in a new environment is one that just prints “hello, world” to standard output.

C is an ancient language. The first documented appearance of “Hello, World!” is in the 1972 training manual for C’s predecessor language B, written by Brian Kernighan (source).

I use it, whenever I’m writing a new program in any language. Perhaps you do too. It’s half habit, half being connected with the lineage, and half a proof that everything deeper in the stack is working as expected… the terminal is outputting text so I can see it; the language interpreter was compiled properly; the OS has enough memory; the electrons are still doing their electronic thing – all these things have to be tested once, they can’t be assumed.


Ich bin ein Paradigm Shifter, Karlheinz Brandenburg, the inventor of the MP3 and his muse: Suzanne Vega.

MP3 is remarkable not just because it makes music into a very small digital file format, but because that file format was the lynchpin of an entire industry. Files can be played, bought, and sold. A multiplayer economy! The power of the file!

To create MP3, Brandenburg had to appreciate how the human ear perceives sound.

He heard Suzanne Vega’s wonderful acappella song Tom’s Diner playing down a corridor and adopted it.

Because the song depends on very subtle nuances of Vega’s inflection, the algorithm would have to be very, very good to select the most important parts of the sound file and discard the rest. So Brandenburg tested each refinement of his system with “Tom’s Diner.” He wound up listening to the song thousands of times, and the result was a code that was heard around the world. When an MP3 player compresses music by anyone from Courtney Love to Kenny G, it is replicating the way that Brandenburg heard Suzanne Vega.


In 1974, Martin Newell made important contributions to the rendering of 3D graphics as part of his PhD at the University of Utah.

But he needed a sufficiently complex object for his demos.

One day over tea, Newell told his wife Sandra that he needed more interesting models. Sandra suggested that he digitize the shapes of the tea service they were using, a simple Melitta set from a local department store. It was an auspicious choice: The curves, handle, lid, and spout of the teapot all conspired to make it an ideal object for graphical experiment. Unlike other objects, the teapot could, for instance, cast a shadow on itself in several places. Newell grabbed some graph paper and a pencil, and sketched it.

The Utah teapot.

These days, the Utah teapot has achieved legendary status. It’s a built-in shape in many 3D graphics software packages used for testing, benchmarking, and demonstration. Graphics geeks like to sneak it into scenes and games as an in-joke, an homage to their countless hours of rendering teapots; hence its appearances in Windows, Toy Story, and The Simpsons.

The traditional test that you run through the pipeline to check everything’s working. I guess every specialism has something like this – testing, testing, 1, 2, 1, 2. I wonder if they have a generic name. It would be fun to collect them.


The Forgotten ‘China Girls’ Hidden at the Beginning of Old Films (Atlas Obscura): Used as quality control, these haunting images were never meant to be public.

Faces of people (typically women, almost always white) at the beginning of a film reel, to help the projectionist check that everything is functioning as expected.

The image carries bias with it. Colour film was terrible at depicting people of colour for years and years and years, with the issue being addressed only in the 1970s in response to advertisers: wood furniture and chocolate makers began complaining that Kodak film wasn’t capturing the difference in wood grains and chocolate types. Shocking.


Beagle 2 was the ESA lander dispatched to the surface of Mars in 2003… and lost. Cameras on landers have calibration images for colour correction etc, checking against a known image, and Beagle 2 used a custom Damien Hirst spot painting.

Here it is: “Beagle 2 Calibration Target”, 2002, natural pigments on aluminium, .35 x 3 x 3 in.

When we get people to Mars, if we settle the surface, they should go to where the lander was eventually found (it was found by satellite in 2015) and build a gallery around it. Leave the art in situ.

Lingering Heavy Rain Threat Along the Central Gulf Coast; Rain in the Pacific Northwest; Critical Fire Weather

Watch Flamingos Eat Underwater

As we learned from reading about the pink salt ponds of Camargue, France, flamingos get their distinctive pink coloring from the food that they eat — halophile algae and tiny animals like shrimp that feed on the algae. In this video from the San Diego Zoo, we get to see an underwater view of a flock of flamingos, at once graceful and gawky, feasting on the tiny critters. What a neat view! (via colossal)

Tags: birds   video

Lectures on equilibrium in markets for indivisible goods at U. Tokyo by Teytelboym, Baldwin and Jagadeesan, Sept 21-24

 Towards a general theory of markets with indivisible goods: special lectures at The University of Tokyo Market Design Center (UTMD)

September 21-24, 2021 (Japan time) 


Fuhito Kojma, Director, UTokyo Market Design Center, and Professor, the University of Tokyo

Michihiro Kandori: Vice Director, UTokyo Market Design Center, and University Professor, the University of Tokyo

Yuichiro Kamada: Associate Professor, UC Berkeley, and Global Fellow, the University of Tokyo

Venue: Zoom online  Language: English


*All times shown below are Japan time.

*Each lecture will be followed by 30 minutes Q&A session.

Lecture 1 9/21 (Tue) 16:00-17:30

Introduction to Markets for Indivisible Goods (by Alexander Teytelboym)

In many settings, such as auctions, the indivisibility of goods is a key market feature. But in markets with indivisible goods, competitive equilibria might not exist.  We explore conditions, such as substitutability of goods, that ensure existence of competitive equilibria. We also discuss connections between conditions for existence, tâtonnement, and cooperative properties of equilibria.

Lecture 2 9/22 (Wed) 16:00-17:30

The geometry of preferences: demand types, equilibrium with Indivisibilities, and bidding languages (by Elizabeth Baldwin)

An equivalence theorem between geometric structures and utility functions allows new methods for understanding preferences. Our classification of valuations into “Demand Types”, incorporates existing definitions regarding the comparative statics of demand (substitutes, complements, “strong substitutes”, etc.) and permits new ones. Our Unimodularity Theorem generalises previous results about when competitive equilibrium exists for any set of agents whose valuations are all of a “demand type”. Contrary to popular belief, equilibrium is guaranteed for more classes of purely-complements, than of purely-substitutes, preferences. Our Intersection Count Theorem checks equilibrium existence for combinations of agents with specific valuations by counting the intersection points of geometric objects. Applications include the “Product-Mix Auction” introduced by the Bank of England in response to the financial crisis. In that context, we show that all substitutes preferences can be represented, and no other preferences can be represented, by appropriate sets of permitted bids in the Substitutes Product-Mix Auction language; an analogous result holds for strong substitutes, when we refine the characteristics of the language. These languages thus also provide new characterizations of (all) substitutes, and of strong substitutes, respectively.

Lecture 3 9/23 (Thu) 16:00-17:30 The Equilibrium Existence Duality (by Alexander Teytelboym)

We show that, with indivisible goods, the existence of competitive equilibrium fundamentally depends on agents’ substitution effects, not their income effects. Our Equilibrium Existence Duality allows us to transport results on the existence of competitive equilibrium from settings with transferable utility to settings with income effects. One consequence is that net substitutability—which is a strictly weaker condition than gross substitutability—is sufficient for the existence of competitive equilibrium. Further applications give new existence results beyond the case of (net) substitutes. Our results have implications for auction design.

Lecture 4 9/24 (Fri) 09:30-11:00 Matching and Prices (by Ravi Jagadeesan)

Indivisibilities and budget constraints are pervasive features of many matching markets. But gross substitutability — a standard condition on preferences in matching models — typically fails in such markets. To accommodate budget constraints and other income effects, we instead assume that agents’ preferences satisfy net substitutability. Although competitive equilibria do not generally exist in our setting, we show that stable outcomes always exist and are efficient. We illustrate how the flexibility of prices is critical for our results. We also discuss how budget constraints and other income effects affect the properties of standard auction and matching procedures, as well as of the set of stable outcomes.

  Recorded lecture will be posted on UTMD’s YouTube channel within 6 hours.


Black Knight: Number of Homeowners in COVID-19-Related Forbearance Plans Decreased

Note: Both Black Knight and the MBA (Mortgage Bankers Association) are putting out weekly estimates of mortgages in forbearance.

This data is as of September 14th.

From Andy Walden at Black Knight: Forbearances Below 1.6M For First Time Since Start of Pandemic
The number of active forbearance plans fell by 22K (-1.4%) this week, bringing the total number of U.S. homeowners in COVID-19 forbearance below 1.6M for the first time since the start of the pandemic.

Matching 15,000 declines in plans among both GSE and FHA/VA loans were partially offset by an 8,000 rise in PLS/portfolio plans. Overall, forbearances are now down 156K (-8.9%) from the same time last month.

As of September 14, nearly 1.6 million mortgage holders remain in COVID-19 related forbearance plans, representing 3% of all active mortgages, including 1.7% of GSE, 5.2% of FHA/VA and 3.8% of portfolio held and privately securitized loans.

Both new forbearance plans and plan restarts rose this week, with new plan starts trending higher since mid-August.

The rise in new plan starts is almost solely limited to FHA/VA loans, coinciding with the deadline for entry into forbearance for such loans expiring at the end of September. That said, unemployment benefits lapsed over the Labor Day weekend and COVID caseloads continue to rise, so it’s difficult to pinpoint the exact cause.

With two weeks left in the month, we have already seen 218,000 plan exits over just the first half of September. Meanwhile, plan extensions are at their lowest since the onset of the pandemic, with only 45,000 plans extended this week.

With more than 462,000 plans scheduled for review for extension/removal in September, exit volumes could be poised to rise sharply at the start of October. As many as 330,000 are set to reach their final plan expirations based on current allowable forbearance term lengths.
emphasis added

Gödel Prize Winners Don’t Cosplay

Tim Roughgarden, a top-notch computer scientist (co-winner of a Gödel Prize), is teaching a class on blockchains. He’s only just begun to put up material but I liked this bit of “hype” from Lecture One.

It’s worth recognizing that we’re currently in a particular moment in time, witnessing a new area of computer science blossom before our eyes in real time. It draws on well-established parts of computer science (e.g., cryptography and distributed systems) and other fields (e.g., game theory and finance), but is developing into a fundamental and interdisciplinary area of science and engineering its own right. Future generations of computer scientists will be jealous of your opportunity to get in on the ground floor of this new area–analogous to getting into the Internet and the Web in the early 1990s. I cannot overstate the opportunities available to someone who masters the material covered in this course–current demand is much, much bigger than supply.

And perhaps this course will also serve as a partial corrective to the misguided coverage and discussion of blockchains in a typical mainstream media article or water cooler conversation, which seems bizarrely stuck in 2013 (focused almost entirely on Bitcoin, its environmental impact, the use case of payments, Silk Road, etc.). An enormous number of people, including a majority of computer science researchers and academics, have yet to grok the modern vision of blockchains: a new computing paradigm that will enable the next incarnation of the Internet and the Web, along with an entirely new generation of applications.

I share Tim’s excitement at the possibilities. Indeed, I had the pleasure of working with Tim advising a blockchain project (sadly killed by the SEC). By the way, Silvio Micali, another winner of the Godel prize, is a prime mover behind the Algorand blockchain.

Addendum: Here’s a perfect example of a mainsteam media article stuck in 2013.

The post Gödel Prize Winners Don’t Cosplay appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.



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Zero-Click iMessage Exploit

Citizen Lab released a report on a zero-click iMessage exploit that is used in NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware.

Apple patched the vulnerability; everyone needs to update their OS immediately.

News articles on the exploit.

Rocket Report: Virgin Galactic delays flight, Falcon Heavy nets NASA mission

Light streaks across the sky.

Enlarge / Inspiration4 reflected in the shores of the St. Johns River on the space coast of Florida. (credit: Trevor Mahlmann / Ars Technica)

Welcome to Edition 4.16 of the Rocket Report! We've experienced an inspiring week of spaceflight thanks to the launch of the Inspiration4 mission on Wednesday, but there is much more happening around the world when it comes to launch.

As always, we welcome reader submissions, and if you don't want to miss an issue, please subscribe using the box below (the form will not appear on AMP-enabled versions of the site). Each report will include information on small-, medium-, and heavy-lift rockets as well as a quick look ahead at the next three launches on the calendar.

Virgin Galactic delays next flight. The space tourism company said Friday that it was delaying the next flight of its VSS Unity vehicle to no earlier than mid-October. As a reason, Virgin Galactic said, "During preparation for the Unity 23 test flight, a third-party supplier recently flagged a potential manufacturing defect in a component of the flight control actuation system that they supply to Virgin Galactic."

Read 28 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Inflation Has Turned $15 an Hour Wages Into a Setback

U.S. generals planning for a space war they see as all but inevitable

The Pentagon has declared space is a warfighting domain. Generals and executives in the space industry are preparing to defend the ultimate high ground.


Why do we sleep?

Why do we sleep? | Aeon Essays

Adults sleep less than babies. Sperm whales sleep less again. A new mathematical theory unlocks the mysteries of slumber

- by Van Savage & Geoffrey West

Read at Aeon

Shenzhou-12 astronauts return to Earth after 3-month space station mission

The three Shenzhou-12 astronauts outside of the return module after landing in Dongfeng, Sept. 17, 2021.

Three Chinese astronauts safely returned to Earth Sept. 17 after completing the first crewed mission aboard the Tianhe space station module.


What should I ask David Rubinstein?

I will be doing a Conversation with him.  From Wikipedia:

David Mark Rubenstein (born August 11, 1949) is an American billionaire businessman. A former government official and lawyer, he is a co-founder and co-executive chairman of the private equity firm The Carlyle Group,[ a global private equity investment company based in Washington, D.C. He is chairman of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, former chairman of the Smithsonian Institution, chairman of the Council on Foreign Relations, and president of The Economic Club of Washington, D.C. According to Forbes, Rubenstein has a net worth of $3.7 billion.

David also has a new book out The American Experiment: Dialogues on a Dream.  So what should I ask him?

The post What should I ask David Rubinstein? appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.




What I’ve been reading on Ireland

1. Susan McKay, Northern Protestants on Shifting Ground, and also Northern Protestants: An Unsettled People.  These two books straddle a journalistic and anthropological approach to what the titles indicate.  As one Protestant in the text remarked, Irish reunification would work just fine, it is the ten years getting there that everyone is afraid of.  It seems increasingly muddled what actually the Northern Irish Unionist is supposed to stand for — passionate attachment to union with an unwilling or indifferent partner, namely England?

2. David Dickson, The First Irish Cities: An Eighteenth-Century Transformation.  One of the best books on cities in recent years, and more general than the title might indicate.  I had not known that Waterford was once a rival for Dublin, or fully realized that Ireland has no significant city which is not right next to the coast.  Readable throughout, and gives you an excellent sense of how the Irish pecking order for cities evolved.  Recommended.

3. Fintan O’Toole, Modern Ireland in 100 Artworks.  Most educated outsiders approach Ireland through the lens of its rather prominent literary history (Joyce, Yeats, etc.).  That’s fine, but also somewhat misleading.  This book gives you an alternate tour — focused on modernism and the 20th century — through the visual arts, design, television, theatre, and more.  It should prove eyeopening to many people, and is also a wonderful book for browsing or as a guide to further study.  Harry Clarke’s stained glass “Eve of St. Agnes” work, located in Dublin and produced in the 1920s, is much more central to the Irish narrative than many people realize.

The post What I’ve been reading on Ireland appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.



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The Right Stuff Is For Everyone

Live coverage: Chinese astronauts return to Earth

Live coverage of China’s Shenzhou 12 mission, a three-month expedition to the Tiangong space station. Text updates will appear automatically below. Follow us on Twitter.

CGTN Landing Webcast

Get Real, Folks

Especially since the withdrawal from Afghanistan the insider sheets have been relentlessly hostile to President Biden. Last night the Axios evening headline was “Biden’s China Fail”. Tonight it’s “Scoop: Biden Bombs”. Apparently Biden didn’t convince Joe Manchin to drop his opposition to a $3.5 trillion reconciliation package in their well-publicized-in-advance sit-down at the White House.

Axios’s gloss aside, this does not surprise me. At the most optimistic this is Manchin’s bargaining position going into a critical 6 weeks or so of negotiating within the Democratic caucuses in the House and Senate. Manchin’s just going to give way in advance because Biden asks him to? That makes no sense to me at all.

At our Wednesday event there were a lot of calls for Biden to drop the hammer on Manchin and Sinema to get a vote on the latest version of the For the People Act. As I said at the event, my great worry is that he’s not dropping the hammer because he knows it won’t work. If a leader says something has to happen and then it doesn’t happen the leader is much off worse than he started. The thing he wanted to happen didn’t happen in any case.

We keep hearing about LBJ and how he knew how to bring the power of the presidency to bear. But wow … this is just bad history. How did LBJ get people to fall in line? In the 89th Congress, which was sworn in in January 1965, the Democrats held 68 senate seats. Just think about that for a second. 68 seats! Sure, there were a bunch of pro-segregation Dixiecrats. But LBJ had plenty of votes to spare. And there were only relatively few of them who opposed him in the way an opposition party might.

Frankly, I don’t know why the White House announced this meeting in advance. You don’t have to publicize it. This result doesn’t surprise me. But it doesn’t help to have these sit-ons and have Manchin stiff the President. But I hope people get that this idea that the President can compel obedience in a situation like this is just false. Thinking otherwise leads to bad things.

SpaceX emphasizes coordination with other satellite operators

Starlink Screenshot

Two years after the close approach of a Starlink satellite with a European Space Agency satellite alarmed some in the space industry, SpaceX says it’s working closely with a wide range of satellite operators to ensure safe space operations.


Heavy Rain Threat Along Central Gulf Coast and in the Pacific Northwest

‘Crisis Standards’ in Idaho

Facing a wave of COVID hospitalizations Idaho today activated its ‘crisis standards of care’ for the entire state. In effect this means a system of rationing care based on who is most likely to survive rather than who is in most immediate need of medical care.

“The situation is dire — we don’t have enough resources to adequately treat the patients in our hospitals, whether you are there for COVID-19 or a heart attack or because of a car accident,” state health director Dave Jeppesen said in an afternoon press release.

The California Recall and Mail-in Voting

From a distance, I hadn’t focused on the importance of mail-in voting for the result of Tuesday’s California recall election. I am not saying that Newsom owes his win to that. I think the more important factors are the ones we discussed yesterday. But it clearly played some role in sky-high turnout for an off-schedule election. Articles in the LA Times and NY Times illustrate some of the dynamics.

California has continued with a temporary, COVID-era mail-in voting regime. In the recall every registered voter who had voted in a recent election was mailed a ballot. You could also vote in person. But basically every regular voter could vote by dropping a ballot in the mail – a very easy choice and easy lift for anyone who wanted to.

It’s notable that at the outset of the pandemic this temporary plan had strong bipartisan support. But in the face of Big Lie activism, Republicans have turned against it. The most recent extension of the temporary system was on a party line vote. This is partly Big Lie activism. But it’s also unsurprising based on what we know about voting in general: Republicans benefit disproportionately from low turn out elections. They also benefit disproportionately from long wait times at polls. Some of this is by design. Some is simply that Democrats tend to be in high population precincts and Republicans are in more suburban or rural areas. It’s no surprise that making it really easy to vote is not great for Republicans. We know this from everything we know about how elections work in the US.

The two articles I linked above are from before election day. But they report that the state legislature is passing a law to make this system permanent. Presumably Gov. Newsom will soon sign that bill and it will be in effect next year.

It’s no mystery why Donald Trump made mail-in voting the centerpiece of his Big Lie activism, before and after election day. So much of the politics of voter suppression turns on various ways to make voting harder: No early voting. Fewer drop off points for ballots. No Sunday voting. If everyone votes on one day you’re inevitably going to have lines, confusion, questions that can’t be resolved on election day. It’s like pushing a lot of water through a small pipe. The pressure on the water increases and only so much water can get through the pipe at one time. Most of the politics of voter restriction turns on increasing that pressure, dialing up the scarcity. Vote by mail changes all of that. It doesn’t just reduce scarcity. It short-circuits the whole ecology of voter restriction. Obviously I’m not the first to notice this. That’s the whole point. But you can see why it amounts to an existential challenge to Republicans who’ve placed all their bets on controlling the size and shape of the electorate.

The biggest threat is that, as I understand it, vote by mail has been wildly popular in the half dozen or so states that have adopted it. Some people still prefer to vote in person. One of the articles I linked above mentions that in California young voters and Hispanic voters tend to want to vote in person. The optimal policy really is to provide both options, though I guess if there’s less and less demand for in-person voting, the logic of funding in-person apparatus keeps diminishing. But these problems seems largely self-correcting.

How World Bank leaders put pressure on staff to alter a global index

An investigation puts paid to the Doing Business rankings, and puts Kristalina Georgieva in the spotlight

Video: Flash on Jupiter

There has been a flash on Jupiter. There has been a flash on Jupiter.

Some beneficial North Coast rain this weekend, though wind-related fire weather concerns elsewhere. Plus: thoughts about the rainy season to come…

Widespread lightning event last week wetter than expected, though still sparked a few major fires The best news to come out of last week’s widespread lightning event in NorCal (and, somewhat unexpectedly, in coastal SoCal as well) is that the thunderstorms ultimately were a bit wetter than initially expected. Thousands of lightning strikes did occur, […]

Doing The Inspiration4 Media Rounds

Keith's note: Yesterday I was on Bloomberg Radio live - twice - doing launch commentary for their morning show in Asia and was on Deutsche Welle at 9:00 pm EDT. I was CNN New Day this morning morning to talk about the mission. I cut an interview on CGTN tomorrow afternoon about China's space station crew's return to Earth and ... no doubt ... talking to someone else about space in the next few days. Update: I just did an Al Jazeera Arabic interview.

Keith Cowing · SpaceRef On Al Jazeera: Inspiration4 Mission Update

Keith Cowing · SpaceRef on Deutsche Welle: Inspiration4 Launch

Where Things Stand: There Have Been 500,000 Child COVID Cases In Last 2 Weeks

The American Academy of Pediatrics has new data on the number of COVID-19 infections among children in recent weeks. The statistics are stunning. While 5.3 million children total have contracted COVID since the pandemic hit the U.S. last year, August and September were particularly infectious months for children, according to the new report.

From Sept. 2-9, more than 243,000 children were diagnosed with the virus, per the AAP’s metrics. The week prior saw 251,781 new cases among children, the highest number of child cases in a single week overall. In short, as children return to school for in-person learning this fall, there’s been an uptick: “child cases have increased exponentially, with nearly 500,000 cases in the past 2 weeks,” the AAP report said.

Hospitalizations of children with COVID also saw a spike in late August. From August 29 to Sept. 4, an average of 371 kids were hospitalized with the virus per day. That’s the highest it’s ever been among that age group, according to NBC News and data from the CDC (which classifies a child as anyone 17 and under). Hospitalization rates among unvaccinated children (no one under the age of 12 can get the vaccine yet) are 10 times higher than among fully vaccinated people from age 12-17.

Since the beginning of August, 57,760 kids have been hospitalized for COVID treatment, according to the CDC.

And since the beginning of the pandemic, 439 American children have died of the virus, the CDC reports.

While public health experts initially believed children were far less likely to contract the virus, let alone face serious health issues from an infection, experts cite the Delta variant’s contagiousness, coupled with the return to in-person learning as explanations for the surge. Infection rates among children look dramatically different this year than they did last year, a pediatric doctor told NBC News, as parents attempt to enroll their kids in school in-person and school officials across the country fight GOP-fueled culture wars around mitigation measures, like universal masking, in their school districts.

A handful of red state governors have been particularly hellbent on keeping school districts in their states from passing mask mandates for in-person learning. Since the beginning of August, we’ve seen the culture war play out most dramatically in school board meeting rooms in Florida and Texas as school officials defy Republican Govs. Ron DeSantis and Greg Abbott’s orders against mask mandates. Abbott has faced a number of legal setbacks in Texas, but Florida state officials are investigating schools that defied the order and the state has announced funding cuts from districts that bucked it.

In Texas, nine school districts — including one that opted to implement mask mandates in its dress code as a workaround to the state’s anti-mask mandate order — have been sued by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, he announced this week. Overall Paxton has sued 15 school districts for implementing mask mandates. A state district court issued a temporary restraining order against Paris Independent School District, the dress code loophole district, ruling the school district doesn’t have the “authority to issue or enforce a face mask mandate in light of Governor Abbott’s executive order GA-38,” according to ABC News. 

The Best Of TPM Today

Here’s what you should read this evening:

Jan. 6 Committee will look into Milley revelations: Jan. 6 Panel Investigating Pentagon Reax To Capitol Insurrection

Kinzinger calls out his colleagues: Kinzinger Says Some GOPers Are Trying To Score ‘Political Points’ With Milley Uproar

On Saturday’s right-wing rally at the Capitol: For Upcoming D.C. Protesters, Jan. 6 Was Just ‘Boomers Doing A Self-Guided Tour’

Reports: Durham Said To Be Seeking Indictment Of Lawyer At Firm With Ties To DNC

Some more reveals from the Woodward book: Paul Ryan Researched Narcissistic Personality Disorder ‘For Weeks’ After Trump’s 2016 Win

Yesterday’s Most Read Story

Carlson Issues A Rare Correction To His Coverage Of Nicki Minaj’s Cousin’s Friend’s Testicles — Cristina Cabrera

What We Are Reading

‘Court-Packing’ Doesn’t Seem So Radical After TX Abortion Law — Eleanor Clift

Dems: newly approved Ohio district map ‘falls far below what’s considered to be fair,’ lawsuit likely — Jessie Balmert

Red Sox, Blue Jays, Yankees Tied For Two AL Wild Card Spots

A six-run tenth inning on Wednesday night gave the Red Sox a 9-4 win in the rubber game of their three-game series against the Mariners. It was the first time Boston had come out on top in a series in Seattle since 2013.

No series wins in almost eight seasons? That doesn't sound very good. But how bad was it?

You can check all-time head-to-head games at Baseball Reference. Here is Red Sox-Mariners.

2013: July 8-11: Lost the first game 4-11, won the next three 11-8, 11-4, 8-7 (10).

2014: June 23-25: Lost the first two games 3-12 and 2-8, won the finale 5-4.

2015: May 14-17: Split a four-game set: 2-1, 1-2, 4-2, 0-5.

2016: August 1-4: Split a four-game set: 2-1, 4-5, 1-3, 3-2 (11).

2017: July 24-26: Lost the first two games 0-4 and 5-6 (13), won the finale 4-0.

2018: June 14-17: Split a four-game set: 2-1, 6-7, 0-1, 9-3.

2019: March 28-31: Lost three of four: 4-12, 7-6, 5-6, 8-10.

2021: September 13-15: Won two of three: 4-5, 8-4, 9-4 (10).

In the games between those two series wins (i.e., 2014-19), the Red Sox went 9-13 (.409) in Seattle, splitting three of the six series.

They also played a series at Fenway in each of those seasons. From 2013-21, Boston went 16-9 (.640).

Total record against Seattle, 2013-21: 30-24 (.556).

The Red Sox, Blue Jays, and Yankees are tied for the two AL wild card spots. All three teams are 8 GB the Rays.

AL WC                         RUNDIFF  EXPWL
Blue Jays  82-64  .562  ---    +175    90-56
Yankees    82-64  .562  ---    + 34    77-69
Red Sox    83-65  .561  ---    + 60    80-68
Athletics  78-67  .538  3.5    + 60    79-66
Mariners   78-68  .534  4.0    - 65    66-80

The Blue Jays are eight games worse than their expected record. Toronto's run differential is second-best in the AL (Houston +190) and 4th best in MLB (Dodgers +244, Giants +184). Toronto "should" have a one-game lead over the Rays (+169) right now. Instead, they might not make the postseason. (The Mariners, 12 games better than their expected record, have no business being where they are.)

Boston, New York, Oakland, and Seattle are all 4-6 in their last 10 games. Toronto is 8-2.

The only AL East game today is MFY at Orioles. At 6:00 PM ET, New York leads 2-0 (T3).

L3Harris opens manufacturing facility in Indiana for DoD missile-defense satellites

L3Harris Technologies on Sept. 16 opened a classified facility in Fort Wayne, Indiana, where the company will assemble and test satellites for U.S. missile-defense programs. 


Four Quick Links for Thursday Afternoon

Mirroring most of Europe (where recycling rates are high), Maine has passed a law that makes manufacturers (and not consumers) cover the costs of recycling. Fantastic...companies should be responsible for this. [nytimes.com]

1 out of every 500 Americans has died from Covid-19. Greatest country in the world, etc. [theguardian.com]

Colson Whitehead's latest book is Harlem Shuffle, a crime novel. Love authors who range widely over format and genre. [bookshop.org]

Rolling Stone's list of the best 500 songs of all time, updated for the first time since 2004. Lots to argue about here but also lots to enjoy. #1 is Aretha Franklin's Respect. [rollingstone.com]


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September 16th COVID-19: Over 180 Million Fully Vaccinated

The CDC is the source for all data.

The 7-day average deaths is the highest since March 1st.

According to the CDC, on Vaccinations.  Total doses administered: 383,038,403, as of a week ago 377,622,065. Average doses last week: 0.90 million per day.

COVID Metrics
Percent fully Vaccinated54.2%53.4%≥70.0%1
Fully Vaccinated (millions)180.1177.4≥2321
New Cases per Day3🚩146,182137,783≤5,0002
Deaths per Day3🚩1,2331,447≤502
1 Minimum to achieve "herd immunity" (estimated between 70% and 85%).
2my goals to stop daily posts,
37 day average for Cases, Currently Hospitalized, and Deaths
🚩 Increasing 7 day average week-over-week for Cases, Hospitalized, and Deaths
✅ Goal met.

IMPORTANT: For "herd immunity" most experts believe we need 70% to 85% of the total population fully vaccinated (or already had COVID).  

This is all from the CDC - state data may differ!

KUDOS to the residents of the 11 states that have achieved 60% of total population fully vaccinated: Vermont at 68.8%, Massachusetts, Maine, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Maryland. New Jersey, Washington, New York, New Mexico, New Hampshire at 60.8%.

The following 16 states and D.C. have between 50% and 59.9% fully vaccinated: Oregon at 59.5%, District of Columbia, Virginia, Colorado, Minnesota, California, Hawaii, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Florida, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Michigan, South Dakota, Kentucky and Arizona at 50.0%.

Next up (total population, fully vaccinated according to CDC) are Kansas at 49.9%, Nevada at 49.5%, Texas at 49.5%,  Ohio at 49.3%, Utah at 49.1% and Alaska at 48.6%.

COVID-19 Positive Tests per DayClick on graph for larger image.

This graph shows the daily (columns) and 7 day average (line) of positive tests reported.

Inspiration4 crew chats with Elon Musk, works through first full day in space


A view of the cupola window on SpaceX’s Crew Dragon Resilience spacecraft. Credit: SpaceX

The first all-civilian, privately-funded crew to reach orbit came through their initial hours in weightless environment of space “healthy, happy and resting comfortably,” SpaceX reported Thursday.

Company founder Elon Musk added: “Just spoke with (Inspiration4) crew. All is well.”

But no immediate word on what they talked about or any details about the progress of the historic mission.

Unlike NASA space flights, in which space-to-ground communications between astronauts and flight controllers are carried out in the open, there has been no public radio traffic with the Inspiration4 crew and no downlinked photographs or video since reaching orbit Wednesday after launch from the Kennedy Space Center.

The only updates so far have come in a handful of Twitter postings from SpaceX, verifying two rocket firings Wednesday night to put the Crew Dragon capsule in a record 365-mile-high circular orbit — slightly higher than planned — and reporting the crew is in good shape.

“Dragon continues to remain in its intended target orbit, with altitudes as high as 590km above the Earth’s surface,” the company tweeted Thursday. “The @Inspiration4x crew is healthy, happy and resting comfortably. Before the crew went to bed, they traveled 5.5 times around Earth, completed their first round of scientific research, and enjoyed a couple of meals.”

Even Amazon-founder and space rival Jeff Bezos tweeted congratulations “to @ElonMusk and the @SpaceX team on their successful Inspiration4 launch last night. Another step towards a future where space is accessible to all of us.”

The three-day mission, referred to by SpaceX as Inspiration4x, is expected to end with an Atlantic Ocean splashdown Saturday evening, weather permitting.

Billionaire entrepreneur and adventurer Jared Isaacman paid for the flight as part of a project to raise $200 million for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. At the same time, he can claim the distinction of leading the first all-civilian non-government flight to orbit.

Isaacman, who covered half the fund-raising goal himself, said he wanted to raise money for the famed hospital “because I do know how lucky I’ve been in life.”

“There are a lot of families that have been dealt a really, really horrible hand in life that don’t get to grow up and experience anything close to what we’re able to go through (with Inspiration4), he said. “So just felt like we had to do something about it. That’s why St. Jude became such a big part of the mission.”

Elon Musk poses with the Inspiration4 crew members before their launch Wednesday. Credit: Inspiration4 / John Kraus

Joining him aboard the Crew Dragon capsule are Sian Proctor, a science educator, artist and one-time astronaut candidate; aerospace engineer Chris Sembroski; and Hayley Arceneaux, a childhood cancer survivor who was treated at St. Jude and now works there as a physician assistant.

Arceneaux was recommended by St. Jude while Proctor won her seat in an on-line contest using Isaacman’s Shift4 payment processing company to sell her art and raise money for St. Jude. Sembroski entered and lost, but was given his seat by a friend who won and decided not to fly.

The crew is working 16-hour days aboard the Crew Dragon, getting up around 1 p.m. EDT, and carrying out medical research to learn more about the physiological effects of weightlessness. They were expected to chat with St. Jude patients Thursday afternoon or evening, but no live broadcasts from orbit were expected.

Along with their planned research, the Inspiration4x fliers will be enjoying the view from an orbit 100 miles higher than the International Space Station, taking advantage of a transparent dome added to the Crew Dragon in place of the docking mechanism used by space station-bound astronauts.

SpaceX tweeted a photograph of the cupola overnight Wednesday showing a visibly smaller Earth in the background than what astronauts see from the space station. SpaceX said the crew would open the capsule’s upper hatch Thursday to get their first views from the cupola.

“After the crew wakes up today, they will conduct additional research and get their first look out of Dragon’s cupola!”

Satellite operators need more accurate SSA data

Space situational awareness data used by satellite operators isn’t accurate enough to support the decisions they need to make on whether and how to maneuver their spacecraft to avoid potential collisions.


The Winners of the 2021 Drone Photo Awards

Drone Award 2021 01

Drone Award 2021 02

Drone Award 2021 03

Drone Award 2021 04

Drone Award 2021 05

Drones have been around for awhile now, but I have yet to tire of the bird’s-eye images captured from above this remarkable planet of ours. The gallery of the winning images in the 2021 Drone Photo Awards is full of tiny doses of the overview effect. I’ve chosen a few of my favorites above. Photo credits, from top to bottom: Ran Tian, Terje Kolaas, Yoel Robert Assiag, Oleg Rest, and Md Tanveer Hassan Rohan.

See also this drone photo of Cao Bang, Vietnam that I shared recently. (thx, caroline)

Tags: best of   best of 2021   drones   photography

OneWeb signs distribution deal with Peraton, broadens reach into military market

Under a new agreement with U.S. defense contractor Peraton, OneWeb’s satellite communications services will be more widely available to military users in hard-to-reach areas, including ships at sea. 


How to Cut & Serve Every Different Kind of Cheese

Join cheesemonger Anne Saxelby as she shows us how to cut, serve, store, and accompany more than two dozen cheeses that cover the entire spectrum of cheese-dom, from Parmigiano-Reggiano to Cheddar to Roquefort to Burrata. This video is like a private cooking class with a very thoughtful & knowledgable host — and it made me incredibly hungry. A good pairing might be Saxelby’s recent book, The New Rules of Cheese.

But….. at the first mention of the word “fridge”, I could not help but think of this classic interview with French marketing consultant Clotaire Rapaille: In America, the Cheese Is Dead.

For example, if I know that in America the cheese is dead, which means is pasteurized, which means legally dead and scientifically dead, and we don’t want any cheese that is alive, then I have to put that up front. I have to say this cheese is safe, is pasteurized, is wrapped up in plastic. I know that plastic is a body bag. You can put it in the fridge. I know the fridge is the morgue; that’s where you put the dead bodies. And so once you know that, this is the way you market cheese in America.

Tags: Anne Saxelby   cheese   food   how to   video


I normally write in that annoyingly plain and chatty way that grow up with blogging and involves saying 'stuff' a lot. But, for some reason, possibly overexposure to the Book of Common Prayer, I do this...

"Polysyndeton is, in a nutshell, the overuse of conjunctions. It can give an emphatic sense of grandeur to a bare list of things, however. The King James Version of the Bible is full of it, as witness Genesis I, 26: ‘And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.’ The opposite of asyndeton."

Apparently it's called polysyndeton.

From You Talkin To Me by Sam Leith

Thursday assorted links

1. “Moreover, we find a marked decay in background parental relatedness co-occurring with or shortly after the advent of sedentary agriculture.

2. Dwarkesh on Emergent Ventures and searching for talent.

3. The first mention of America in European chronicles?

4. New issue of Works in Progress.  Including update on the future of weight loss.

5. Why do no large U.S. cities vote Republican?

6. Experts worried about carbonated water (NYT).

7. The opposite of rational intertemporal substitution: “…as vaccinations roll out and the end of a pandemic feels closer, policies aimed at increasing social distancing will be less effective, and stricter policies might be required.”

The post Thursday assorted links appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.




Household Formation Drives Housing Demand

In the Newsletter: Household Formation Drives Housing Demand

If all the missing households from 2020 were formed in 2021, we’d expect about 2.3 million additional households formed this year!

California Said No

A new episode of The Josh Marshall Podcast is live! This week, Josh and Kate discuss the failed effort to recall California Gov. Gavin Newsom and the President’s meetings with a certain couple of senators who are threatening his whole agenda.

Watch below and email us your questions for next week’s episode.

You can listen to the new episode of The Josh Marshall Podcast here.

Two Quick Links for Thursday Noonish

China Has Fully Vaccinated More Than 1 Billion People, over 70% of its total population. [bloomberg.com]

The History of Drag, "a collection of shows and shorts about the history of drag, including a major documentary, a musical history show and audio shorts by drag artists from across the UK". [audiocontentfund.org.uk]


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Watch A Cook’s Tour, Bourdain’s First Travel/Food TV Show, for Free Online

After Anthony Bourdain died in 2018, I listened to the audiobook version of his fantastic Kitchen Confidential (read by Bourdain himself) and in retrospect, the trip he took to Tokyo documented in one of the final chapters was a clear indication that his career was headed away from the kitchen and out into the world. His long-time producer Lydia Tenaglia saw this too…she cold-called him after reading the book and pitched him on doing a TV show called A Cook’s Tour, where the intrepid Bourdain would travel to different locations around the world to experience the food culture there.

I met him at a point in his life where he had never really traveled before. He had written a book, Kitchen Confidential, and I had read somewhere that he was going to try to write a follow-up book called A Cook’s Tour. I approached him — I kind of cold-called him — and I said, “Listen, I work in television.” And at that point I was freelancing for other companies as a producer and a shooter and an editor. I called Tony, and he was still working in a kitchen at the time, and I said, “Would you mind if me and my husband, Chris, came and shot a short demo and we try to sort of pitch the idea of A Cook’s Tour — meaning you traveling the world, kind of exploring the way other people eat — as a television series?” And he was like, “Yeah, sure. Whatever.” I don’t think he had any expectations at that point. Again, he hadn’t really traveled.

A Cook’s Tour intrigued the folks at the Food Network and the show ended up running for 35 episodes over two seasons. And they are now all available to watch for free on YouTube. I’ve embedded the first episode above, where he goes (back) to Tokyo, but he also visits Vietnam, San Sebastian, Oaxaca, Scotland, Singapore, and Brazil during the show’s run. More from Tenaglia on how the show came about:

So that was the start of our relationship and our time together. We, fortunately, were able to pitch and sell that idea, A Cook’s Tour, to the Food Network. Me and Chris, my husband, and Tony, just the three of us, all went out on the road together for that first year, and we shot 23 episodes of A Cook’s Tour, and we kind of figured out the format of the show on the road. It was really Tony tapping into the references he did have — you know, films and books and things he had seen and knew about only through film and reading.

So he was able to bring all of those cultural references to the table, and the three of us together were able to kind of play with the format of what those visuals would look like, so that it wasn’t just about him eating food at a restaurant. It was really about everything that was happening around him — or the thoughts he was having internally as he had these experiences or the references that he had seen through film that he loved and books that he had read, like The Quiet American, and how those things related to what he was experiencing.

So it became this kind of sort of moving, evolving format that was very much based on, predicated on the location that we were in and those references that he could call up. The show just kind of began to take shape. I mean, really there was no format of the show going into it. We just said, “Hey, we’re going to travel around the world, and this guy … he’s a chef, and he’s written this great book, and he’s going to try food in other countries.” And that’s what sold the project to the Food Network at the time. Then, as we went and actually made the show, we really started to play with the format and turned it into something else.

I would say that 17 years later the show has gone through various iterations. We did the two seasons of A Cook’s Tour on the Food Network, and then we did eight seasons of No Reservations on the Travel Channel, and now we’re on Parts Unknown. And the show has evolved as Tony has evolved, as the crew has evolved, as the technology has evolved. The show has sort of turned into this kind of, you know, one man’s initial foray into the world, and I think today, 17 years later, he’s really kind of evolved into more of a cultural anthropologist.

The show’s very sociopolitical — it’s about people and characters. The food and the people are just the entry point. It’s really about all the context around it. The more you can bring story to that and the more you can bring references to that — film references … character references — the more you can introduce interesting, unique characters into the equation, I think that’s what keeps the show very fresh and why it’s continuing to evolve all these years later. Each show is very different from the one before it.

It’s fun to watch the prototype of what eventually became a very beloved and different show. (via open culture)

Tags: A Cook’s Tour   Anthony Bourdain   books   food   Kitchen Confidential   Lydia Tenaglia   travel   TV   video

Hotels: Occupancy Rate Down 13.6% Compared to Same Week in 2019

Note: The year-over-year occupancy comparisons are easy, since occupancy declined sharply at the onset of the pandemic.

The comparison to 2019 was difficult this week due to the timing of Labor Day.  Last week the occupancy rate was unchanged year-over-year.  If we average the last two weeks, occupancy is down about 7% compared to the same two weeks in 2019.

From CoStar: STR: Labor Day, Rosh Hashanah Contribute to US Hotel Performance Declines
U.S. hotel performance fell slightly from the previous week, according to STR‘s latest data through September 11.

September 5-11, 2021 (percentage change from comparable week in 2019*):

Occupancy: 60.0% (-13.6%)
• Average daily rate (ADR): $130.82 (-1.4%)
• Revenue per available room (RevPAR): $78.46 (-14.8%)

Despite the week-over-week dip, performance levels were solid on an absolute basis considering it was the week of Labor Day as well as Rosh Hashanah from Monday through Wednesday. Neither of those holidays were a factor in the corresponding week two years ago, thus creating steeper declines in comparison with 2019.
emphasis added
The following graph shows the seasonal pattern for the hotel occupancy rate using the four week average.

Hotel Occupancy RateClick on graph for larger image.

The red line is for 2021, black is 2020, blue is the median, dashed purple is 2019, and dashed light blue is for 2009 (the worst year on record for hotels prior to 2020).

Note: Y-axis doesn't start at zero to better show the seasonal change.

With solid leisure travel, the Summer months had decent occupancy - but it is uncertain what will happen in the Fall with business travel - usually weekly occupancy increases to around 70% in the weeks following Labor Day due to renewed business travel.

ABL Space Systems to launch NASA technology demonstration mission

RS1 first stage

Small launch vehicle developer ABL Space Systems has won a contract to launch a NASA technology demonstration spacecraft in 2023.


NASA awards five contracts for lunar landers to follow SpaceX demonstration

A Lockheed Martin concept for a lunar lander.

Enlarge / A Lockheed Martin concept for a lunar lander. (credit: Lockheed Martin)

NASA is moving ahead with plans to bring competition into the development of landers for its Artemis Moon program. This week, the space agency said it had selected five US companies to conduct additional work toward refining lunar lander concepts to take astronauts down to the Moon's surface later this decade.

The combined value of the fixed-price awards is $146 million, and the work is to be completed during the next 15 months. The winning companies are:

  • Blue Origin Federation of Kent, Washington, $25.6 million
  • Dynetics of Huntsville, Alabama, $40.8 million
  • Lockheed Martin of Littleton, Colorado, $35.2 million
  • Northrop Grumman of Dulles, Virginia, $34.8 million
  • SpaceX of Hawthorne, California, $9.4 million

According to NASA, each of these companies will further develop lander design concepts and evaluate the landers' performance, design, mission assurance requirements, and more. The companies will also mitigate lunar lander risks by conducting critical component tests and advancing the maturity of key technologies.

Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Fiat’s Rooftop Racetrack

a photo of the racetrack on top of the Fiat factory in Turin, Italy

a photo of the racetrack on top of the Fiat factory in Turin, Italy

When it was built in the 1920s in Turin, Italy, the Fiat factory was designed with a racetrack on the top of the building, both for car testing purposes and for racing.

The factory’s best-known symbol is the test track, which is a superb piece of design modeling, and construction that occupies the whole roof surface of the workshops. Two 443 meters straights, joined by parabolic bends, form a continuous track for testing the cars.

Originally, as soon as the cars left the assembly lines they could flow directly upward to the test track through the snail-shaped ramps completing the whole processing cycle inside the factory. Moreover, these spiraling ramps inside the building allowed the cars to be driven back down and into showrooms.

The track was a little over 1/2 mile long. Many more views at Rare Historical Photos. (via @laxgani)

Tags: architecture   cars   Fiat   Italy

The Urgency Gap

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 06: President Donald Trump is seen on a screen as his supporters cheer during a rally on the National Mall on January 6, 2021 in Washington, DC. Trump supporters gathered in the nation's capital today to protest the ratification of President-elect Joe Biden's Electoral College victory over President Trump in the 2020 election. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Donald Trump

It would seem that the Trumpian made-up threats to democracy–Deep State, mass election fraud, etc–are taken much more seriously by Republicans than the actual threats to democracy – insurrection, Big Lie, political violence – are by Democrats.

As Cristina flagged in the Morning Memo, a new CNN poll shows Republicans are much more likely (75%) to say that democracy is under attack than Democrats (46%).

Digging a bit deeper into the numbers, it look like this:

American democracy is under attack: GOP 75%, Dems 46%

American democracy is being tested, but is not under attack: GOP 22%, Dems 48%

American democracy is in no danger: GOP 3%, Dems 7%

For those of us with our hair on fire that the insurrection isn’t over but merely on pause, that the threat to democracy is as great now as on the afternoon of Jan. 6, that Democrats in Congress as a whole lack the urgency of the historical moment, these numbers are daunting.

We often talk about the enthusiasm gap in electoral politics, but we now face an urgency gap. Republicans under Trump have not only succeeded in selling the lie that Democrats are out to destroy democracy, they’ve got Republicans more stoked about it than Democrats are about the verified, believe-your-own-eyes threat to democracy that reached its current pinnacle with a GOP-led violent attack on the Capitol to subvert an election.

I don’t know how to gauge the electoral consequences of this urgency gap (for example, will it be reflected in turnout numbers?). But that polling question is a strong signal that rank-and-file Democrats are taking their cues from the slow-footed, ambivalent, conflicted response of elected Democrats – not the other way around (though it probably functions as a self-reinforcing feedback loop).

When the people fomenting political violence are more fired up by their made-up pretexts to justify violence than their opponents are by the actual violence, I don’t know how that possibly ends well.

Retail Sales Increased 0.7% in August

On a monthly basis, retail sales were increased 0.7% from July to August (seasonally adjusted), and sales were up 15.1 percent from August 2020.

From the Census Bureau report:
Advance estimates of U.S. retail and food services sales for August 2021, adjusted for seasonal variation and holiday and trading-day differences, but not for price changes, were $618.7 billion, an increase of 0.7 percent from the previous month, and 15.1 percent above August 2020 ... The June 2021 to July 2021 percent change was revised from down 1.1 percent to down 1.8 percent.
emphasis added
Retail Sales Click on graph for larger image.

This graph shows retail sales since 1992. This is monthly retail sales and food service, seasonally adjusted (total and ex-gasoline).

Retail sales ex-gasoline were up 0.8% in August.

The stimulus checks boosted retail sales significantly in March and April.

The second graph shows the year-over-year change in retail sales and food service (ex-gasoline) since 1993.

Year-over-year change in Retail Sales Retail and Food service sales, ex-gasoline, increased by 13.4% on a YoY basis.

Sales in August were above expectations, however sales in June and July were revised down, combined.

Weekly Initial Unemployment Claims increase to 332,000

The DOL reported:
In the week ending September 11, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 332,000, an increase of 20,000 from the previous week's revised level. The previous week's level was revised up by 2,000 from 310,000 to 312,000. The 4-week moving average was 335,750, a decrease of 4,250 from the previous week's revised average. This is the lowest level for this average since March 14, 2020 when it was 225,500. The previous week's average was revised up by 500 from 339,500 to 340,000.
emphasis added
This does not include the 28,456 initial claims for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) that was down from 94,638 the previous week.

The following graph shows the 4-week moving average of weekly claims since 1971.

Click on graph for larger image.

The dashed line on the graph is the current 4-week average. The four-week average of weekly unemployment claims decreased to 335,750.

The previous week was revised up.

Regular state continued claims decreased to 2,656,747 (SA) from 2,662,844 (SA) the previous week.

Note (released with a 2 week delay): There were an additional 5,487,233 receiving Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) that increased from 5,090,524 the previous week (there are questions about these numbers). This is a special program for business owners, self-employed, independent contractors or gig workers not receiving other unemployment insurance.  And were an additional 3,805,795 receiving Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) up from 3,805,008.

Weekly claims were higher than the consensus forecast.

ESA to be anchor customer on commercial lunar satellite

Lunar Pathfinder

The European Space Agency has signed a contract with Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. (SSTL) to be the anchor customer on a commercial lunar communications satellite that company is developing.


David Grether, 1938-2021

 David Grether, a pioneer in experimental economics at Caltech has died.

Here's the initial Caltech announcement, promising more to come: 

David Grether, Caltech Frank Gilloon Professor of Economics, Emeritus, passed away on September 12. He was 82.

The paper of his that I remember best (and that I have taught whenever I cover preference reversals) is his incentivized replication of the preference reversals first noticed in hypothetical choice psychology experiments:

Grether, David M., and Charles R. Plott. "Economic theory of choice and the preference reversal phenomenon." The American Economic Review 69.4 (1979): 623-638.

Here are the papers he listed prominently on his web page:


"Mental Processes and Strategic Equilibration: An fMRI Study of Selling Strategies in Second Price Auctions" with C. Plott, D. Rowe, M. Sereno and J. Allman Experimental Economics Vol. 10 (2007) pp. 105-122

Sequencing strategies in large, competitive, ascending price automobile auctions: An experimental study with Charles R. Plott  Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization Vol. 71 (2009) pp.75-88 http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jebo.2009.02.018

The preference reversal phenomenon: Response mode, markets and incentives, with James Cox. Economic Theory 7 (1996): 387-405.

Individual behavior and market performance. American Journal of Agricultural Economics 76 (1994): 1079--1083.

Are people Bayesian? Uncovering behavioral strategies, with Mahmoud A. El-Gamal. Journal of the American Statistical Association 90 (1995): 1127-1145.

Scott Gottlieb’s Uncontrolled Spread

Scott Gottlieb’s Uncontrolled Spread is superb. I reviewed it for the WSJ. Here’s one bit:

If there’s one overarching theme of “Uncontrolled Spread,” it’s that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention failed utterly. It’s now well known that the CDC didn’t follow standard operating procedures in its own labs, resulting in contamination and a complete botch of its original SARS-CoV-2 test. The agency’s failure put us weeks behind and took the South Korea option of suppressing the virus off the table. But the blunder was much deeper and more systematic than a botched test. The CDC never had a plan for widespread testing, which in any scenario could only be achieved by bringing in the big, private labs.

Instead of working with the commercial labs, the CDC went out of its way to impede them from developing and deploying their own tests. The CDC wouldn’t share its virus samples with commercial labs, slowing down test development. “The agency didn’t view it as a part of its mission to assist these labs.” Dr. Gottlieb writes. As a result, “It would be weeks before commercial manufacturers could get access to the samples they needed, and they’d mostly have to go around the CDC. One large commercial lab would obtain samples from a subsidiary in South Korea.”

At times the CDC seemed more interested in its own “intellectual property” than in saving lives. In a jaw-dropping section, Dr. Gottlieb writes that “companies seeking to make the test kits described extended negotiations with the CDC that stretched for weeks as the agency made sure that the contracts protected its inventions.” When every day of delay could mean thousands of lives lost down the line, the CDC was dickering over test royalties.

In the early months of the pandemic the CDC impeded private firms from developing their own tests and demanded that all testing be run through its labs even as its own test failed miserably and its own labs had no hope of scaling up to deal with the levels of testing needed. Moreover, the author notes, because its own labs couldn’t scale, the CDC played down the necessity of widespread testing and took “deliberate steps to enforce guidelines that would make sure it didn’t receive more samples than its single lab could handle.”

Read the whole thing.

Addendum: My previous reviews of Michael Lewis’s The Premonition, Slavitt’s Preventable and Abutaleb and Paletta’s Nightmare Scenario.

The post Scott Gottlieb’s Uncontrolled Spread appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.



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Debugging by starting a REPL at a breakpoint is fun

Hello! I was talking to a Python programmer friend yesterday about debugging, and I mentioned that I really like debugging using a REPL. He said he’d never tried it and that it sounded fun, so I thought I’d write a quick post about it.

This debugging method doesn’t work in a lot of languages, but it does work in Python and Ruby and kiiiiiind of in C (via gdb).

what’s a REPL?

REPL stands for “read eval print loop”. A REPL is a program that:

  1. reads some input from you like print(f"2 + 2 = {2+2}") (read)
  2. evaluates the input (eval)
  3. print out the result (print)
  4. and then goes back to step 1 (loop)

Here’s an example of me using the IPython REPL to run a print statement. (also it demonstrates f-strings, my favourite Python 3 feature)

$ ipython3
Python 3.9.5 (default, May 24 2021, 12:50:35) 
Type 'copyright', 'credits' or 'license' for more information
IPython 7.24.1 -- An enhanced Interactive Python. Type '?' for help.

In [1]: print(f"2 + 2 = {2+2}")
2 + 2 = 4

In [2]: 

you can start a REPL at a breakpoint

There are 2 ways to use a REPL when debugging.

Way 1: Open an empty REPL (like IPython, pry, or a browser Javascript console) to test out something.

This is great but it’s not what I’m talking about in this post.

Way 2: Set a breakpoint in your program, and start a REPL at that breakpoint.

This is the one we’re going to be talking about. I like doing this because it gives me both:

  1. all the variables in scope at the breakpoint, so I can print them out interactively
  2. easy access to all the functions in my program, so I can call them to try to find issues

how to get a REPL in Python: ipdb.set_trace()

Here’s a program called test.py that sets a breakpoint on line 5 using import ipdb; ipdb.set_trace().

import requests

def make_request():
    result = requests.get("https://google.com")
    import ipdb; ipdb.set_trace()


And here’s what it looks like when you run it: you get a REPL where you can inspect the result variable or do anything else you want.

python3 test.py
> /home/bork/work/homepage/test.py(5)make_request()
      4     result = requests.get("https://google.com")
----> 5     import ipdb; ipdb.set_trace()

ipdb> result.headers
{'Date': 'Thu, 16 Sep 2021 13:11:19 GMT', 'Expires': '-1', 'Cache-Control': 'private, max-age=0', 'Content-Type': 'text/html; charset=ISO-8859-1', 'P3P': 'CP="This is not a P3P policy! See g.co/p3phelp for more info."', 'Content-Encoding': 'gzip', 'Server': 'gws', 'X-XSS-Protection': '0', 'X-Frame-Options': 'SAMEORIGIN', 'Set-Cookie': '1P_JAR=2021-09-16-13; expires=Sat, 16-Oct-2021 13:11:19 GMT; path=/; domain=.google.com; Secure, NID=223=FXhKNT7mgxX7Fjhh6Z6uej9z13xYKdm9ZuAU540WDoIwYMj9AZzWTgjsVX-KJF6GErxfMijl-uudmjrJH1wgH3c1JjudPcmDMJovNuuAiJqukh1dAao_vUiqL8ge8pSIXRx89vAyYy3BDRrpJHbEF33Hbgt2ce4_yCZPtDyokMk; expires=Fri, 18-Mar-2022 13:11:19 GMT; path=/; domain=.google.com; HttpOnly', 'Alt-Svc': 'h3=":443"; ma=2592000,h3-29=":443"; ma=2592000,h3-T051=":443"; ma=2592000,h3-Q050=":443"; ma=2592000,h3-Q046=":443"; ma=2592000,h3-Q043=":443"; ma=2592000,quic=":443"; ma=2592000; v="46,43"', 'Transfer-Encoding': 'chunked'}

You have to install ipdb to make this work, but I think it’s worth it – import pdb; pdb.set_trace() will work too (and is built into Python) but ipdb is much nicer. I just learned that you can also use breakpoint() in Python 3 to get a breakpoint, but that puts you in pdb too which I don’t like.

how to get a REPL in Ruby: binding.pry

Here’s the same thing in Ruby – I wrote a test.rb program:

require 'net/http'
require 'pry'

def make_request()
  result = Net::HTTP.get_response('example.com', '/')


and here’s what it looks like when I run it:

$ ruby test.rb
From: /home/bork/work/homepage/test.rb:6 Object#make_request:

    4: def make_request()
    5:   result = Net::HTTP.get_response('example.com', '/')
 => 6:   binding.pry
    7: end

[1] pry(main)> result.code
=> "200"

you can also do get a REPL in the middle of an HTTP request

Rails also lets you start a REPL in the middle of a HTTP request and poke around and see what’s happening. I assume you can do this in Flask and Django too – I’ve only really done this in Sinatra (in Ruby).

GDB is sort of like a REPL for C

I was talking to another friend about REPLs, and we agreed that GDB is a little bit like a REPL for C.

Now, obviously this is sort of not true – C is a compiled language, and you can’t just type in arbitrary C expressions in GDB and have them work.

But you can do a surprising number of things like:

  • call functions
  • inspect structs if your program has debugging symbols (p var->field->subfield)

This stuff only works in gdb because the gdb developers put in a lot of work doing Very Weird Things to make it easier to get a REPL-like experience. I wrote a blog post a few years called how does gdb call functions? about how surprising it is that gdb can call functions, and how it does that.

This is the only way I use gdb when looking at C programs – I never set watchpoints or do anything fancy, I just set a couple of breakpoints in the program and then poke around at those points.

where this method works

languages where this works:

  • Python
  • Ruby
  • probably PHP, but I don’t know
  • C, sort of, in a weird way (though you might disagree :))
  • in Javascript: it seems like you can use debugger; to get a REPL through either node inspect or the browser console. There seem to be some limitations on what you can do (like node won’t let me use await in its REPL), but I haven’t done enough JS to fully understand this.
  • In Java, apparently IntelliJ lets you evaluate arbitrary expressions at a breakpoint, which isn’t quite a REPL but is cool

languages where this doesn’t work:

  • most compiled languages

REPL debugging is easy for me to remember how to do

There are (at least) 4 different ways of debugging:

  1. Lots of print statements
  2. a debugger
  3. getting a REPL at a breakpoint
  4. inspect your program with external tools like strace

I think part of the reason I like this type of REPL debugging more than using a more traditional debugger is – it’s so easy to remember how to do it! I can just set a breakpoint, and then run code to try to figure out what’s wrong.

With debuggers, I always forget how to use the debugger (probably partly because I switch programming languages a lot) and I get confused about what features it has and how they work, so I never use it.

China rolls out cargo mission rocket as Shenzhou-12 astronauts leave space station

The Long March 7 (Y4) rocket to launch Tianzhou-3 being vertically transferred to the pad, September 16, 2021.

China is preparing to launch its second space station cargo mission just as its Shenzhou-12 astronauts are set to return to Earth.


Four private citizens ride SpaceX rocket into orbit on historic mission

A Falcon 9 rocket streaks into orbit Wednesday night from Kennedy Space Center, kicking off the Inspiration4 mission. Credit: Michael Cain / Spaceflight Now / Coldlife Photography

With the backing of a billionaire businessman, four private citizens blasted off Wednesday night from Kennedy Space Center in Florida on a first-of-its-kind fully commercial three-day spaceflight aboard a SpaceX crew capsule, riding to an altitude higher than any person has flown in two decades.

The Inspiration4 mission includes a wealthy entrepreneur with a penchant for aerobatic flying, a science educator with a lifelong ambition to fly in space, a physician assistant who survived childhood cancer, and an Air Force veteran turned data engineer.

A Falcon 9 rocket lit up Florida’s Space Coast with a roaring liftoff from pad 39A at Kennedy at 8:02:56 p.m. EDT Wednesday (0002:56 GMT Thursday). The launch kicked off SpaceX’s fourth-ever crew mission to low Earth orbit, but the first without any NASA astronauts on-board.

Within about a minute, the 215-foot-tall (65-meter) Falcon 9 was traveling faster than the speed of sound, trailing a flickering orange flame as nine kerosene-fueled Merlin engines powered the launcher through a clear evening sky.

Two-and-a-half minutes after liftoff, the rocket’s reusable first stage booster shut down and dropped away to descend to landing on a SpaceX recovery ship positioned downrange in the Atlantic Ocean. Moments later, the second stage’s single engine ignited to send the Crew Dragon capsule into orbit.

SpaceX, founded and led by Elon Musk, hailed the mission as a turning point in the history of spaceflight. The Inspiration4 mission follows suborbital commercial launches space in July by Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin, space companies established by billionaires Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos.

Branson and Bezos flew on their own spaceships, but they barely scraped the boundary of space.

Virgin Galactic’s rocket plane reached an altitude of about 53 miles (86 kilometers), above the U.S. government’s definition of where space begins, giving Branson and his five crewmates a few minutes of weightlessness before returning to a runway landing in New Mexico.

Bezos launched to a higher altitude — 66 miles (107 kilometers) — above the internationally-recognized edge of space. Like Branson, Bezos and three other passengers floated in their New Shepard spacecraft for several minutes before Earth’s gravity pulled them back to the ground.

The Inspiration4 crew is commanded by billionaire businessman Jared Isaacman, 38, who paid SpaceX to charter the four-seat Crew Dragon spacecraft for three days in orbit. He’s joined by Sian Proctor, 51, a professor at an Arizona community college who serves as the mission’s pilot.

The other crew members are Hayley Arceneaux, a 29-year-old physician assistant at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, and Chris Sembroski, a 42-year-old data engineer from the Seattle area who works for Lockheed Martin.

The mission is fully automated, but the Inspiration4 crew — all new to spaceflight — trained for six months to prepare for living in space. The crew could intervene and execute emergency commands if something goes wrong during the flight.

Isaacman’s crew blazed through the 66-mile altitude reached by Bezos’s suborbital mission just three minutes after blastoff from Florida. They kept going.

The Falcon 9 rocket accelerated the Crew Dragon capsule to a speed of some 17,000 mph (27,400 kilometers per hour) to reach orbital velocity. That’s equivalent to traveling 5 miles every second.

That speed will keep the spacecraft in space for three days, when the Inspiration4 mission will come back to Earth. Weather permitting, splashdown off the coast of Florida is scheduled around 7 p.m. EDT (2300 GMT) Saturday.

“Few have come before, and many are about to follow,” Isaacman said moments after reaching orbit. “The door is opening now. It’s pretty incredible.”

Flying over the North Atlantic, the Crew Dragon capsule deployed from the Falcon 9’s upper stage about 12 minutes after liftoff. A few minutes later, the ship’s nose cone unlatched and opened, revealing a new three-layer plexiglass dome window, or cupola, flying in space for the first time on the Inspiration4 mission.

The cupola replaces the docking port used Dragon flights to the International Space Station. The Inspiration4 mission will travel solo, without linking up with the station, and the cupola will offer the Isaacman and crew panoramic views of the planet from space.

The crew will access the cupola by opening the spacecraft’s forward hatch.

A pair of post-launch “phasing” burns using the spacecraft’s Draco thrusters Wednesday night adjusted the ship’s orbit from an elongated shape to a more circular path around Earth. SpaceX said the orbit’s altitude is at 363 miles (585 kilometers), a record for a Dragon spacecraft.

Inspiration4 is orbiting above the altitude of the International Space Station, and higher than any humans have flown in some two decades, since a space shuttle servicing mission to the Hubble Space Telescope.

Isaacman conceived of the Inspiration4 mission last year, in part, to raise money and awareness for St. Jude. An experienced civilian pilot in fighter jets, Isaacman established four pillars, or values, for the mission, with each seat representing one pillar.

“We set out from the start to deliver a very inspiring message about what can be done up in in space and the possibilities there, but also what we can accomplish here on Earth,” Isaacman said in a press conference before launch.

Isaacman said he chose four mission pillars — leadership, hope, prosperity, and generosity — “to assemble a very inspiring crew, who all have so many amazing qualities and contribute so many interesting firsts of this mission.

“And we also chose to do it through the largest fundraising effort in the history of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, acknowledging the real responsibilities we have here on Earth, in order to earn the right to make progress up in space,” said Isaacman, who took the commander’s seat on the mission to represent leadership.

Chris Sembroski, Sian Proctor, Jared Isaacman, and Hayley Arceneaux pose in their SpaceX pressure suits before launch Wednesday. Credit: Inspiration4 / John Kraus

Isaacman donated $100 million to St. Jude, and started a fundraising effort linked to the Inspiration4 mission to try to raise $100 million more.

Fewer than 600 people have flown in space, and most have been professional astronauts or cosmonauts employed by a government agency. A handful of “space tourists” have flown into orbit, but all launched on spacecraft commanded by a professional astronaut.

Arceneaux, who works at St. Jude, was selected as part of the mission’s “hope” pillar. As a child, she was a patient at the medical center after her diagnosis with bone cancer.

She became the youngest American to fly in orbit, and the first person with a prosthetic body part to go to space.

Proctor, the fourth Black woman to fly in space, was selected in a competition for the “prosperity” seat on Inspiration4. She used Shift4 Payments, a company bounded by Isaacman, to promote sales of her art and poetry, and submitted a Twitter video for consideration to be a part of the mission.

Sembroski entered a lottery for the “generosity” seat by donating to St. Jude. A college friend won the sweepstakes, but passed on the seat and offered it to Sembroski.

Former first lady Michelle Obama, who spoke with the Inspiration4 crew by phone earlier this week, tweeted Wednesday night that the crew is “inspiring us all with their courage, curiosity, and passion.”

“I’m thinking of all the young people who’ll be looking up to this crew and dreaming big thanks to them. Ad astra!”

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket climbs off pad 39A to begin the Inspiration4 mission. Credit: SpaceX

SpaceX ended its live coverage of the Inspiration4 launch shortly after the mission reached orbit. The company plans no continuous video coverage of the flight, as NASA does with Dragon missions to the space station, but there are several live events in the flight plan, according to Scott “Kidd” Poteet, Inspiration4’s mission manager.

The in-flight events include a discussion with patients and staff at St. Jude, plus a few more “surprises,” Poteet told Spaceflight Now.

The mission schedule is planned to the minute, Poteet said. The crew will participate in several biomedical experiments before, during, and after their three-day spaceflight.

“I’m so excited about the medical research that we’re going to be doing on this flight,” Arceneaux said. “We’re going to be collecting a lot of swabs to learn about the microbiome, how that changes in flight. We’re going to be performing ultrasounds to evaluate for fluid shifts, as well as performing some cognitive tests, and studying radiation effects of going to our high altitude.”

The crew will also record personal messages for supporters and capture video for a Netflix documentary about the mission. Some of the footage will be debuted in a finale for the documentary miniseries to be released Sept. 30.

The capsule is carry personal mementos, plus up to 70 pounds of hops to be auctioned off to a brewery after the flight, with the money going to St. Jude.

The Crew Dragon will splash down at one of seven return zones off the coast of Florida, either in the Gulf of Mexico or off the Atlantic coast. SpaceX will establish a primary return area around 24 hours before the homecoming, based on forecasts of weather and sea conditions.

SpaceX’s recovery team will be on standby to pull the capsule from the ocean and help the crew exit the spacecraft. The crew members will fly back to Kennedy Space Center by helicopter.

The Inspiration4 mission is an all-commercial affair that leaves NASA largely on the sidelines. That’s just fine with NASA Administrator Bill Nelson.

“It’s another opening up of space,” Nelson said Tuesday during the Humans To Mars Summit. “In this particular one, other than the fact that the spacecraft, in this case the Dragon spacecraft, was built under the auspices of NASA because of the safety of astronauts. But other than that … This is SpaceX’s deal.

“NASA is not involved in it because this is a totally commercial operation of which they are not touching or, in this case, docking with the International Space Station,” Nelson said.

Private spaceflight will become the norm, if NASA gets its way. The space agency has turned over astronaut transportation to low Earth orbit to the private sector, through contracts with SpaceX and Boeing, and eventually wants a commercial space station to replace the International Space Station.

“It’s another example of where we’d like to go in low Earth orbit eventually,” Nelson said. “We want to keep the International Space Station going until 2030, and then we want to phase that out. We want commercial operations to take over low Earth orbit. We want them to do the manufacturing. We want them to have their own space station, so that NASA can continue to push outward into the solar system, and beyond.”

Under that scenario, NASA, international space agencies, companies, and private citizens would be able to purchase rides to a commercial space station. That frees governments from the cost burden of building and operating an orbiting complex, allowing NASA to spend its resources on deep space exploration, such as missions to the moon and Mars.

A NASA spokesperson said SpaceX is paying NASA around $1 million for limited support of the Inspiration4 mission.

The space agency’s support includes communications links with the Crew Dragon capsule through ground stations and NASA’s Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System, a network of satellites in geostationary orbit also used to communicate with the space station.

Before Inspiration4, SpaceX had launched four Crew Dragon missions to date, all under contract to NASA. Three of the previous missions carried astronauts to the space station.

NASA awarded $6.8 billion in contracts to SpaceX and Boeing in 2014 to complete development of new commercial crew capsules. SpaceX got $2.6 billion in government funding to design and build the human-rated Crew Dragon spacecraft, and Boeing received a similar $4.2 billion deal for its Starliner spacecraft.

Both programs ran into delays, but SpaceX launched its first astronaut mission for NASA in May 2020, ending a nearly nine-year gap in U.S. orbital crew launches since the retirement of the space shuttle.

Boeing’s Starliner program, on the other hand, still has not flown into space with a crew.

Isaacman said before launch that SpaceX’s track record and process “inspires a lot of confidence for us.”

“Any jitters are the good kind,” Arceneaux said. “I’m just so excited for tomorrow to get here.”

The Inspiration4 crew poses with SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket on pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center, moments before riding the elevator to board the Crew Dragon capsule Wednesday. Credit: Inspiration4 / John Kraus

Benji Reed, director of SpaceX’s human spaceflight programs, said the Inspiration4 crew completed “many months” and “hundreds of hours” of training at SpaceX locations across the country.

“They’ve been doing all kinds of training,” Reed said Tuesday. “They’ve studied over 90 different kinds of training guides and manuals and lessons to learn how to fly the fly the Dragon, and what to do in emergency situations. They’ve done their own kinds of preparations, a zero-G flight, they’ve climbed Mount Rainier together. And they’ve done a lot of jet fighter flights.”

SpaceX’s training included 12-hour and 30-hour simulations in a mock-up of a Crew Dragon spacecraft at the company’s headquarters in Hawthorne, California. The simulations, or sims, tested the crew’s response to emergencies and to living in isolation on the Dragon capsule.

“We’re happy to say that this crew and our operations team (are) ready and certified, and ready to fly,” Reed said.

Reed said SpaceX’s corporate mission to extend human life to other planets requires “putting millions of people in space one day.”

“So the long term vision is its spaceflight becomes airline-like, right?” he said. “You can buy a ticket, and you go. But right now, the appropriate thing is that we still train people significantly.”

SpaceX has other private crew missions on the books, beginning with the launch of another four-person team on a Dragon spacecraft in early 2022. On that mission, sponsored by the Houston-based company Axiom Space, the Dragon spacecraft will dock with the space station, and the private astronauts will spend about a week living and working there under an arrangement with NASA.

There are also more dedicated NASA flights with SpaceX’s fleet Crew Dragon capsules. SpaceX’s next NASA crew flight is set for launch Oct. 31 from Kennedy Space Center to kick off a six-month expedition to the space station.

“As we look for ways to evolve toward that airline-like model, we’ll look for how we can cut back on the amount of training that’s necessary to ensure safety,” Reed said.

“The reality is that the Dragon manifest is getting busier by the moment,” Reed said. “We’re gearing up to fly three, four, five, six times a year, at least.”

Email the author.

Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1.

Covid markets in everything

A pastor is encouraging people to donate to his Tulsa church so they can become an online member and get his signature on a religious exemption from coronavirus vaccine mandates. The pastor, Jackson Lahmeyer, is a 29-year-old small-business owner running in the Republican primary challenge to Sen. James Lankford in 2022.

Lahmeyer, who leads Sheridan Church with his wife, Kendra, said Tuesday that in the past two days, about 30,000 people have downloaded the religious exemption form he created.


Some institutions request a signature from a religious authority, but Charles Haynes, senior fellow for religious freedom at the Freedom Forum in Washington, said that those institutions could be on a shaky ground constitutionally. Haynes said that if a person states a sincere religious belief that they want to opt out of vaccination, that should be enough.

“He’s not really selling a religious exemption,” said Haynes, who compared Lahmeyer’s exemption offer to televangelists who sell things like prayer cloths. “He’s selling a bogus idea that you need one.”

Here is the full story, via Brett D.

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Shenzhou crew departs Chinese space station, heads for Earth

Artist’s concept of China’s Shenzhou 12 spacecraft undocking from the Tianhe core module of China’s space station. Credit: CCTV

China’s three-man Shenzhou 12 crew floated into their return craft and undocked from the Tiangong space station Wednesday, heading for landing in remote northwestern China to close out a three-month mission, the longest human flight to date in the country’s space program.

As the Shenzhou 12 spacecraft departed the space station, a Chinese ground teams rolled an unpiloted cargo ship to its launch pad at the Wenchang launch base on Hainan Island, China’s southernmost province, for liftoff Monday on a resupply flight to the Tiangong complex.

The Shenzhou 12 crew undocked from Tiangong at 8:56 p.m. EDT Wednesday (0056 GMT Thursday) and backed away from the space station. The spacecraft performed a “radial rendezvous” test, a circumnavigation maneuver to fly the ship from a position in front of the space station to a point below the complex.

The test demonstrated an approach to a different Tiangong docking port, that will be used by future missions to link up with the space station, according to the China Manned Space Agency.

Shenzhou 12 halted its radial approach before docking, as planned, then flew away from the station as the three-man crew readied for re-entry and a parachute-assisted landing Friday.

Chinese officials have not officially announced the scheduled landing time, but Chinese authorities released an airspace warning notice for the landing zone between 1:14 a.m. and 1:44 a.m. EDT (0514-0544 GMT) Friday. The landing window opens at 1:14 p.m. Beijing time.

The return zone in Inner Mongolia region, known as Dongfeng, is a new location for Shenzhou landings. Previous Shenzhou missions parachuted into a different part of Inner Mongolia known as Siziwang Banner.

Nie Haisheng, commander of the Shenzhou 12 mission, is wrapping up his third flight into orbit. Crewmate Liu Boming is in the home stretch of his second space mission. First-time space flier Tang Hongbo rounds out the crew.

Shenzhou 12 is the seventh crewed spaceflight in China’s space program. The mission broke the record for the longest-duration Chinese human spaceflight, exceeding Shenzhou 11 mission’s 32 days in orbit in 2016.

Chinese astronaut Tang Hongbo (left), commander Nie Haisheng (center), and astronaut Liu Boming (right) inside the Tianhe core module of China’s space station. Credit: CCTV

Shenzhou 12 launched June 16 on top of a Chinese Long March 2F rocket from the Jiuquan space center in the Gobi Desert, a barren region in northwestern China. The craft docked with the Tiangong space station about six hours later, then the astronauts opened hatches to become the first crew to enter the new Chinese space lab.

The first element of the Tiangong space station launched in April. The Tianhe core module contains a regenerative lift support system, which produces breathing oxygen through electrolysis and recycles urine to make drinking water.

The Tianhe module also has astronaut living quarters, medical equipment, a command and control element, and an airlock and exterior handrails for spacewalks. There are three sleeping berths — one for each astronaut — and one toilet on the Tianhe core module, Chinese officials said.

The core module of the Chinese space station also has a treadmill and a stationary bicycle for astronauts to get some exercise.

A resupply spacecraft named Tianzhou 2 launched in May and docked with the Tianhe module, pre-positioning supplies and provisions to support the Shenzhou 12 crew once they arrived in June.

During their three months on Tiangong, the Shenzhou 12 astronauts completed two spacewalks July 4 and Aug. 20 totaling more than 12 hours. The astronauts also tested the space station’s robotic arm and performed science experiments, according to Chinese state media.

After the return of Shenzhou 12, Chinese officials plan to launch the Tianzhou 3 cargo ship to the Tiangong space station Monday on a Long March 7 rocket from the Wenchang space center at Hainan.

The Tianzhou 2 spacecraft, currently attached to the aft port of the Tianhe core module, is expected to soon detach and move to the forward port vacated by Shenzhou 12. Tianzhou 2 will perform in-orbit refueling tests there.

The next mission to launch to the space station after the Tianzhou cargo ship will be the next piloted Shenzhou flight, set for launch in October. The Shenzhou 13 crew mission is expected to last up to six months, breaking the Chinese spaceflight endurance record set by Shenzhou 12.

Email the author.

Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1.

RIP Norm Macdonald (1959-2021)

"That's a draw."

My January 2020 Bloomberg column on Covid

I thought this one worthy of a redux, here are a few segments:

First, most emergency rooms are not equipped to handle a very high volume of cases, especially infectious diseases…The general economic problem is that emergency rooms typically are not equipped with full surge capacity, nor are there enough emergency room add-ons or substitutes available on very short notice.


Very often, when a pandemic breaks out, talk turns to macro remedies such as air travel bans and quarantines, as China is instituting. Yet often the more important factor is the strength, resilience and flexibility of local public health institutions, and those qualities cannot be created overnight. Just as the Chinese health-care system is undergoing a major test right now, there is a good chance that the U.S. will too.


An additional test could concern child-care and telecommuting. Will U.S. schools need to be shut? At the very least it is something officials should have been planning for. Even if schools are not closed, some number of parents will keep their children at home, whether out of rational fear or not. Anti-vaccine sentiment is fairly high and rising, after all, and even the wisest parents will prefer to be safe than sorry.

Keeping one’s children at home means that fewer people will go to work. Even those with external child-care options, such as day care, may be reluctant to leave their children outside the home for the same reasons they fear the schools. The new question then becomes how robust are work plans, and U.S. supply chains, to a higher than usual rate of workplace absenteeism. There also may be an especially high level in China, which could strain U.S. and other supply chains relying on Chinese producers. Many businesses may need to amend their plans on the fly.

Once again, pandemic preparation is about the flexibility of decentralized institutions. These are not problems that can be solved by top-down planning. Instead, they rely on longstanding institutional capacities, high levels of social trust and improvisational skill.

If and when a good vaccine becomes available for the virus, that will again be about the improvisation and flexibility that will allow for scalability and eventual production and distribution. It is usually difficult to solve such problems quickly, but still there is better and worse performance — and that can make a big difference.


The very first problem the U.S. is likely to face is one of risk communication. Of course the correct message will depend on how the data evolve, but in general there is tension between warnings that get people to take notice, and those that scare them underground or into counterproductive forms of panic.

If you tell people how terrible things are, they feel a loss of control. Many will retreat into conspiracy theories, spread mistrust of health-care institutions, or withdraw altogether from social or professional activity. Those who are sick may be afraid to seek medical attention, for fear of having their movements constrained, driving the disease further underground and distorting the data. Again, trust is of paramount importance.


The post My January 2020 Bloomberg column on Covid appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.



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Space Force backs development of commercial orbital debris removal systems


A Space Force general endorsed the development of commercial systems for removing space debris, saying they can address congestion in Earth orbit without the policy concerns a government-run alternative might have.


Inspiration4 soars into orbit with 4 non-professional astronauts

SpaceX's Inspiration4 mission launches in a Crew Dragon with four non-professional astronauts for a three-day trip to orbit. Credit: Matt Haskell / Spaceflight Insider

SpaceX’s Inspiration4 mission launches in a Crew Dragon with four non-professional astronauts for a three-day trip to orbit. Credit: Matt Haskell / Spaceflight Insider

Less than eight months after its announcement, the all-private civilian Inspiration4 mission has launched into orbit.

38-year-old billionaire Jared Isaacman, along with three ordinary people — 29-year-old Hayley Arceneaux, 51-year-old Sian Proctor and 42-year-old Chris Sembroski — launched in a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft atop a Falcon 9 rocket at 8:02 p.m. EDT Sept. 15 (00:02 UTC Sept. 16) from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.

An infographic over the Inspiration4 crew and its mission. Credit: Derek Richardson / Spaceflight Insider / Orbital Velocity

An infographic over the Inspiration4 crew and its mission. Credit: Derek Richardson / Spaceflight Insider / Orbital Velocity

This flight, the first all-private civilian orbital spaceflight, sent the four non-professional astronauts into space on a three-day trip.

Dubbed Inspiration4, the mission is designed to inspire the world to dream big and to look to the future. The flight found half of its crew as part of nationwide contests, which are part of a $200 million donation drive for the St Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Each of the crewmembers were chosen to fill the four seats based on their representations of the mission’s four core values: Leadership, hope, generosity and prosperity.

Isaacman, the mission’s commander and financial backer, represents the pillar of leadership. Proctor, the winner of an entrepreneurship competition, is the mission’s pilot and represents the pillar of prosperity. Chief medical officer and childhood cancer survivor Hayley Arceneaux will represent the pillar of hope. Finally, mission specialist and U.S. Air Force veteran Sembroski represents the pillar of generosity.

A long exposure of the Inspiration4 launch. Credit: Theresa Cross / Spaceflight Insider

A long exposure of the Inspiration4 launch. Credit: Theresa Cross / Spaceflight Insider

Following the launch, the Falcon 9 first stage booster returned to touch down on the company’s Autonomous Drone Ship Just Read the Instructions. The SpaceX Dragon capsule rode the second stage farther into space before arriving to an orbit apogee higher than the Hubble Space Telescope, not seen by humans since the Apollo program to the Moon.

The mission will last a total of three days, with a planned splashdown in the ocean off the coast of Florida, either the Gulf of Mexico or the Atlantic Ocean.

The Falcon 9 rocket with Inspiration4 moments before stage separation. Credit: Matt Haskell / Spaceflight Insider

The Falcon 9 rocket with Inspiration4 moments before stage separation. Credit: Matt Haskell / Spaceflight Insider

During those three days, the crew and their actions will be extensively documented, with much of the footage becoming part of a Netflix documentary series. The mission isn’t all fun and games, however, as the crew will perform various tests as part of scientific research on humans ability to perform in spaceflight. These tests will mirror tests completed prior to the flight, with more to be done after.

The successful launch of the crew brings big implications for the future of spaceflight. For the first time, a crew of regular people have launched into orbital space without NASA or other government space agency crew.

While Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin made their first successful suborbital tourism flights earlier this year, the launch of Inspiration4 opens a new world of possibilities for orbital adventures, while also adding another option to space tourism.

With the planned Axiom Space crew missions to the International Space Station just on the horizon, the future of space tourism is becoming more of a reality.

While the current cost of such an endeavor is astronomical to the average person, these events mark only just the beginning of what decades from now could be a regular and affordable form of travel. In the early days of the airplane, tickets were priced at such height that only the ultra rich could afford the luxury of an airplane flight.

Comparatively speaking, 118 years after the first flight, commercial air travel is now an affordable reality that millions utilize.

Time will tell what the future holds, but for now, four regular people are orbiting Earth for the very first time, marking the beginning of a new era in commercial spaceflight.

Video courtesy of SpaceX

Video courtesy of Orbital Velocity

The post Inspiration4 soars into orbit with 4 non-professional astronauts appeared first on SpaceFlight Insider.

Thursday: Retail Sales, Unemployment Claims, Philly Fed Mfg

• At 8:30 AM ET, The initial weekly unemployment claims report will be released.  There were 310 thousand initial claims last week.

• Also at 8:30 AM, Retail sales for August will be released.  The consensus is for a 0.7% decrease in retail sales.

• Also at 8:30 AM, the Philly Fed manufacturing survey for September. The consensus is for a reading of 20.0, up from 19.4.

SpaceX launches Crew Dragon on first private mission

Falcon 9 Inspiration4 launch

SpaceX successfully launched a Crew Dragon spacecraft carrying four nonprofessional astronauts on its first private crewed mission Sept. 15, a long-awaited milestone in the commercialization of spaceflight.


A perfect storm for container shipping

Will prolonged disruptions shift the pattern of trade?

America’s consumer-price inflation stays above 5% in August

“Trimmed means” are less alarming than headline gauges, but reveal widespread pressures

China takes on Delta and its property developers at the same time

New activity figures reveal the economic cost of recent covid outbreaks

Using Podman with BuildKit, the better Docker image builder

BuildKit is a new and improved tool for building Docker images: it’s faster, has critical features missing from traditional Dockerfiles like build secrets, plus additionally useful features like cache mounting. So if you’re building Docker images, using BuildKit is in general a good idea.

And then there’s Podman: Podman is a reimplemented, compatible version of the Docker CLI and API. It does not however implement all the BuildKit Dockerfile extensions. On its own, then, Podman isn’t as good as Docker at building images.

There is another option, however: BuildKit has its own build tool, which is distinct from the traditional docker build, and this build tool can work with Podman.

Let’s see where Podman currently is as far as BuildKit features, and how to use BuildKit with Podman if that is not sufficient.


North America and the Pelican

North America and the Pelican North America and the Pelican

★ Various Single-Paragraph Thoughts and Observations Regarding Yesterday’s ‘California Streaming’ Apple Event for the iPhones 13, Apple Watch Series 7, and New iPads

The Event

Staging-wise, I’m not sure I get Apple’s “let’s make this all about California” strategy. The footage from various scenic locations across the state was beautiful, but I don’t get why it mattered for this particular event. Apple’s always been in California, they’ve always been proud of being from California. My best guess is that it’s as simple as needing a theme of some sort, and “California scenic beauty” was as good as any, for yet another COVID era event that couldn’t be held inside with an audience. Joz presented outside at Apple Park, and Cook was on stage in the Steve Jobs theater, but I get the feeling they wanted to break away from Apple Park as the set dressing for the whole show, too.

To that point, I thought Kaiann Drance’s segment introducing the iPhone 13 and 13 Mini was the most stunning. Standing on stage, alone, at the San Diego Symphony’s outdoor theater, in front of all those empty seats. It was both beautiful and an instant reminder of what we’re all missing.

The iPhones 13

Last year, the iPhone 12 and 12 Pro — the two “regular” sized new iPhones — shared the exact same protective cases. This year, there are different cases for the iPhone 13 and 13 Pro. I think that’s because the three-lens camera module on the back of the iPhone 13 Pro is bigger than the two-lens module on the iPhone 13. The width, height, and depth of the 13 Pro and regular 13 are identical.

Last year, the 12 Pro Max had a better camera system than the 12 Pro. Only the 12 Pro Max had the sensor shift optical image stabilization, and only the 12 Pro Max had a 2.5× (as opposed to 2×) telephoto lens. This year, both Pro models have identical camera systems. (And, like last year, the regular iPhone 13 and 13 Mini share the same camera system as each other.)

The iPhone 13 Pro camera modules are entirely different from the non-Pro 13 and 13 Mini, though. Not just the existence of the new 3× telephoto, but the 1× (wide) and 0.5× (ultra wide) cameras are better on the Pro models. The 1× Pro camera has a maximum aperture of ƒ/1.5; the 1× non-Pro camera is ƒ/1.6. (Lower values for aperture let in more light; photographer lingo is that they’re “faster”.) The 0.5× Pro camera has a fast ƒ/1.8 aperture; the 0.5× non-Pro camera is ƒ/2.4.

Macro photography is a Pro-only feature, I believe because the 13 Pro 0.5× ultra wide camera has autofocus, and the non-Pro 0.5× camera is fixed-focus.

The front-facing camera on all iPhone 13 models appears to be the same, but only the Pro models can shoot in the ProRes format. (Not sure why anyone would want to shoot ProRes with the front-facing camera, though. But I guess why not enable it?)

The AI-driven automatic focus changes in Cinematic Mode video seem too good to be true. Very futuristic feature, if it works as promised.

I really missed having a hands-on experience with the new devices, if only to consider their colors. “Starlight” appears to be silver with a slight hint of gold. I’m tempted to say champagne, but maybe that implies too much gold. “Midnight” isn’t quite neutral dark gray or near-black — it has a hint of blue or indigo. (Blue is seemingly the color of the year. Anecdotally, it seems like a lot of people I know are planning to get the Pro models in Sierra Blue.)

Apple Watch Series 7

A bigger screen, with a brighter always-on display mode, and faster charging are OK year-over-year improvements. But clearly Series 7 is a minor, not major, refresh. That’s fine, and inevitable for a maturing product. You’re not supposed to buy a new $500 Apple Watch every year, and while I know a lot of people who buy a new iPhone each year (including yours truly), I don’t know anyone, even devout fitness enthusiasts, who buys a new Apple Watch annually. Even every other year feels pretty frequent. A Series 5 or Series 4, purchased new, should still be a really great Apple Watch. [Update: I should have known my audience better. A bunch of you buy a new Apple Watch every year. I think we can all admit it’s atypical, though — and that developers who buy a new one every year for testing are an edge case.]

Quinn “Snazzy Labs” Nelson flagged Apple for an unfair comparison, regarding just how much more text the larger Series 7 displays can show at a time. The font was the same size, but the line spacing was quite a bit tighter in the Series 7 screenshot. I would also argue that Apple chose text that line-wrapped inefficiently on the Series 6 display, but the difference in line heights is clearly unfair. Apple doesn’t usually play games like that in comparisons. Yellow card issued.

The entry model $199 Apple Watch remains the now-kinda-long-in-the-tooth Series 3. I was really hoping for the Series 4 to take that spot in the lineup. I know developers of WatchOS apps were too. The Series 3 has an outdated screen size that developers are going to have to support for years to come.

New iPad Mini and 9th-Generation Just-Plain iPad

The iPad Mini has always been on a unique upgrade cycle. It goes years between refreshes, but when Apple does update it, they tend to bring it up to current specs. The new iPad Mini has the same A15 SoC as the iPhones 13 — in fact, it has the 5-core GPU like the iPhone 13 Pro models, not the 4-core GPU like the iPhone 13 and 13 Mini. The previous iPad Mini had the A12.

The iPad Mini is really more like an iPad Air Mini. The new regular “iPad” still has a home button and sharp-cornered display. The Mini has the modern round-cornered display, no home button, and a Touch ID sensor on the power button — just like the current iPad Air. Also like the iPad Air, the new Mini has a USB-C port instead of Lightning. The volume buttons for the Mini are on the top of the device — a first for iPad. I’m guessing that decision was mainly about supporting the magnetic Pencil 2 along the long side of the device where the volume buttons traditionally go for iPads.

TV+ and Fitness+

One thought that occurred to me is that it’s good to see Apple pushing forward on their own original service products. Even putting aside the legal and legislative attention regarding the App Store — big things to put aside, at the moment — I just don’t think it’s healthy for Apple to depend on rent-seeking to grow Services revenue. Getting 30 percent of the revenue from subscriptions to other company’s services is a fine business, financially, but it’s like junk food for any company’s culture. Apple is a great company because they make great original things that people want to pay for. TV+ and Fitness+ are exactly that. Collecting 30 percent of another company’s in-app subscription revenue is not.

Yours Truly on CNBC This Morning

I enjoy that I’m credited in the headline simply as “expert”. I’ll take that.


Photos: Inspiration4’s rocket ready for launch on pad 39A

Photographers visited launch pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center early Wednesday to set up remote cameras. Photographer Michael Cain captured these views of the 215-foot-tall (65-meter) Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft ahead of liftoff on the Inspiration 4 private crew mission.

Credit: Michael Cain / Spaceflight Now / Coldlife Photography
Credit: Michael Cain / Spaceflight Now / Coldlife Photography
Credit: Michael Cain / Spaceflight Now / Coldlife Photography
Credit: Michael Cain / Spaceflight Now / Coldlife Photography
Credit: Michael Cain / Spaceflight Now / Coldlife Photography

Email the author.

Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1.

Where Things Stand: Pastor Trades Vax Exemptions For Church Dues

Jackson Lahmeyer is a Tulsa-based 29-year-old pastor, small business owner and GOP candidate challenging Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) in 2022. And he’ll get you out of getting the COVID-19 vaccine for religious reasons if you pay the right price.

According to the Washington Post, Lahmeyer, the pastor of Sheridan Church has created his own religious vaccination exemption form that is downloadable from his church and his campaign website. He told the Post that he modeled the form after one created by Oklahoma state officials and claimed that more than 30,000 people have downloaded it thus far. The form reportedly asks for a pastor’s signature, which, he told the Post he would sign no-questions-asked. But there’s a catch.

“I’m willing to sign it no matter what,” he reportedly said. “But I want it to have weight. In order for it to carry any weight, you have to be an online member of our church.”

Lahmeyer explained his hands were tied by his 70-year-old church’s bylaws. In order to become an online member of the church, a person must watch church services through one of the Sheridan Church’s online platforms and donate at least $1 to the congregation, he said. Once those minor logistics are taken care of, no explanation is required for him to sign the exemption.

“What if someone says, ‘God told me not to get a vaccine.’ I don’t know if God told them that. I’m not going to argue with that,” he told the Post.

Laws about religious exemption requirements vary by state, and one religious freedom legal expert told the Post that in most cases a clergy member’s signature isn’t required to opt-out of a vaccine. But the pay-for deal has garnered the Republican candidate some national attention.

Most of Lahmeyer’s political campaign has been centered on the Big Lie and his grievances with Lankford, who did initially say he would vote against certifying President Biden’s electoral college victory, but changed his mind in the hours after the Jan. 6 Capitol attack. That about face inspired Lahmeyer to challenge Lankford in the midterms. The pastor and GOP challenger has also very openly campaigned on his opposition to vaccine mandates, describing the Biden administration executive order on vaccine requirements for federal workers last week as a livelihood-stealing endeavor coated in “wickedness.”

And he’s gained support from at least one Big Lie guy. Former National Security Adviser and convicted QAnon-flirting Trump ally Michael Flynn endorsed the pastor’s campaign earlier this year. 

The Best Of TPM Today

Here’s what you should read this evening:

We’re on this: 5 Points On The Heightened Concern Over Saturday’s Right-Wing Rally At The Capitol

Grateful for this storyline. What a time to be alive, etc: Carlson Issues A Rare Correction To His Coverage Of Nicki Minaj’s Cousin’s Friend’s Testicles

Report Reveals Alleged Actions Of Capitol Police Officers Facing Jan. 6 Discipline

👀 👀 👀 Biden To Meet With Sinema, Manchin Over Their Threats To The Reconciliation Package

From TPM Cafe: GOP’s Critical Race Theory Outrage Serves As Another Reminder Of White Evangelicals’ Political Influence

Yesterday’s Most Read Story

The 5 Biggest Bombshells In The Woodward-Costa Book — Josh Kovensky

What We Are Reading

Facebook Knows Instagram Is Toxic for Teen Girls, Company Documents Show — Georgia Wells, Jeff Horwitz and Deepa Seetharaman

Right-wing sting artist James O’Keefe says hackers scammed his Project Veritas out of $165,000 — Mikael Thalen

Trump, Elder’s campaign falsely claimed fraud before California votes were counted — a growing GOP tactic — Elise Viebeck and Tom Hamburger

Four Quick Links for Wednesday Afternoon

Ikea is launching a US program to buy back used furniture and resell it as part of "the company's ambitious goals to become circular and carbon positive by the end of the decade". [fastcompany.com]

A visualization of the 7,102 known languages in the world today. [visualcapitalist.com]

Fossil Fuel Capitalism Is Cutting Our Lives Short. "A new study shows that 17 billion life years could be saved if air pollution was reduced to WHO standards." [tribunemag.co.uk]

Whoa, Hoefler&Co has been acquired by Monotype. [typography.com]


Note: Quick Links are pushed to this RSS feed twice a day. For more immediate service, check out the front page of kottke.org, the Quick Links archive, or the @kottke Twitter feed.

September 15th COVID-19: 2,000 Deaths Reported Today, Most since February

The CDC is the source for all data.

The 7-day average deaths is the highest since March 2nd.

According to the CDC, on Vaccinations.  Total doses administered: 382,294,795, as of a week ago 376,955,132. Average doses last week: 0.76 million per day.

COVID Metrics
Percent fully Vaccinated54.1%53.3%≥70.0%1
Fully Vaccinated (millions)179.7177.1≥2321
New Cases per Day3🚩145,675141,275≤5,0002
Deaths per Day3🚩1,3581,125≤502
1 Minimum to achieve "herd immunity" (estimated between 70% and 85%).
2my goals to stop daily posts,
37 day average for Cases, Currently Hospitalized, and Deaths
🚩 Increasing 7 day average week-over-week for Cases, Hospitalized, and Deaths
✅ Goal met.

IMPORTANT: For "herd immunity" most experts believe we need 70% to 85% of the total population fully vaccinated (or already had COVID).  

This is all from the CDC - state data may differ!

KUDOS to the residents of the 11 states that have achieved 60% of total population fully vaccinated: Vermont at 68.7%, Massachusetts, Maine, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Maryland. New Jersey, Washington, New York, New Mexico, New Hampshire at 60.8%.

The following 15 states and D.C. have between 50% and 59.9% fully vaccinated: Oregon at 59.4%, District of Columbia, Virginia, Colorado, Minnesota, California, Hawaii, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Florida, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Michigan, South Dakota, and Kentucky at 50.3%.

Next up (total population, fully vaccinated according to CDC) are Arizona at 49.9%, Kansas at 49.8%, Ohio at 49.4%, Nevada at 49.4%, Texas at 49.4%, Utah at 49.0% and Alaska at 48.5%.

COVID-19 Positive Tests per DayClick on graph for larger image.

This graph shows the daily (columns) and 7 day average (line) of positive tests reported.

Crew Dragon has flown four more people—all private citizens—into space

The Crew Dragon spacecraft separates from the second stage of a Falcon 9 rocket.

Enlarge / The Crew Dragon spacecraft separates from the second stage of a Falcon 9 rocket. (credit: SpaceX)

8:30pm ET Wednesday update: As the Sun set over the Florida launch site on Wednesday evening, a Falcon 9 rocket soared into the darkening sky carrying four private citizens into space. About 12 minutes later the spacecraft separated from its second stage, and the Crew Dragon spacecraft began the first of nearly four dozen orbits around planet Earth. The Inspiration4 mission had a flawless start.

So opened the new age of space commercialization, with SpaceX now capable of flying orbital commercial human spaceflights, and Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin selling commercial suborbital flights. Before this summer, more than 95 percent of all people who went to space were professional astronauts. After this summer, 95 percent of all people who go to space will likely be private citizens.

Original post: There has been a minor kerfuffle in the space community over the last few weeks about what to call the Inspiration4 mission that is set to launch this evening from Florida on SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket.

Read 12 remaining paragraphs | Comments

What Civic-Moral Calculus Should We Apply to Mark Milley?

UNITED STATES - JUNE 23: General Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testifies during the House Armed Services Committee hearing titled “The Fiscal Year 2022 National Defense Authorization Budget Request from the Department of Defense,” in Rayburn Building on Wednesday, June 23, 2021. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

In seeing the day two commentary on Joint Chiefs Chair Mark Milley’s actions in the final weeks of the Trump administration I’m more inclined to praise than to criticize him.

Josh Kovensky spoke to a number of experts who say Milley eroded civilian control of the military with his actions. In the abstract they have a good argument. Indeed, in every sense they have a good argument. The top uniformed officers in the military should not be taking it on themselves to second guess or derail the decision-making of their civilian superiors – especially the lawful commander-in-chief of the armed forces. Indeed, Alex Vindman, one of the heroes of the first Trump impeachment, said Milley should resign if the reports are accurate. But these moments are not in the abstract. They were in the midst of a unique and historic crisis in the stability of the American republic.

It is important to remember that at the time there was no Senate-confirmed Secretary of Defense. In substantive ways the legitimate chain of command had already been eroded or broken. The ability of a renegade President to reach down into command structure of the military and issue an illegitimate order was much higher than it normally would be. At the time the President was already involved in a slow motion coup and them a kinetic attempt to overthrow the republic using an armed mob of his supporters.

My overall take on this news is that Milley seems to have acted honorably and judiciously given the extreme circumstances in which he was operating. But there are two additional points that I think clarify how we should see these historic events and irregular decisions.

The first is that this is a very good example of why we need the current special investigation. I don’t know just what is in the book. But my understanding at least is that Milley was acting on intelligence which suggested China believed we might be about to launch a military attack. Just what did that intelligence say and how credible was it? We can’t evaluate Milley’s actions without knowing more about that.

The other point is that Milley appeared to be acting on the belief that Trump was dangerously unstable and capable of committing grave crimes either out of spite or in an effort to retain his hold on power. Those of us who are Trump’s critics probably have little difficulty believing that. But Milley is no Never Trumper. Indeed, at the time of his appointment reporting suggested that he had more effectively ingratiated himself with Trump than his top rival. So we need to know just what information he was operating on. What had he seen? What had he been told? Again, we can’t evaluate his actions without those details. There’s a very good chance those details are much worse than we anticipate.

In short, we can’t evaluate Milley’s actions which are certainly highly irregular without a searching investigation of the events of the winter of 2020-21. It’s almost comical to think we can do so without one.

The other point takes us far back into the deepest reaches of the American republic. Thomas Jefferson ascended to the presidency in 1801 with a belief in a highly circumscribed role for federal power. He then proceeded to use federal power in one of the most far-reaching and audacious moves then imaginable when he bought a big chunk of North America from Napoleonic France and added it to the United States.

Some years later Jefferson was discussing with a correspondent how he justified this action. I discussed this in a post from 2004.

Jefferson’s argument, however, wasn’t that the president had the prerogative to set aside the law. It was that the president might find himself in a position of extremity in which there was simply no time to canvass the people or a situation in which there was no practicable way to bring the relevant information before them. In such a case the president might have an extra-constitutional right (if there can be such a thing) or even an obligation to act in what he understands to be the best interests of the Republic.

The clearest instance of this would be a case where the president faced a choice between letting the Republic be destroyed or violating one of its laws.

But that wasn’t the end of his point. Having taken such a step, it would then be the obligation of the president to throw himself on the mercy of the public, letting them know the full scope of the facts and circumstances he had faced and leave it to them — or rather their representatives or the courts — to impeach him or indict those who had taken it upon themselves to act outside the law.

As I recall Jefferson’s argument there was never any thought that the president had the power to prevent future prosecutions of himself or those acting at his behest. Indeed, such a follow-on claim would explode whatever sense there is in Jefferson’s argument.

If you see the logic of Jefferson’s argument it is not that the president is above the law or that he can set aside laws, it is that the president may have a moral authority or obligation to break the law in the interests of the Republic itself — subject to submitting himself for punishment for breaking its laws, even in its own defense. Jefferson’s argument was very much one of executive self-sacrifice rather than prerogative.

Though he has been taken down several notches in esteem in recent years I still think Jefferson tends to be overrated compared to many other members of the founding generation. But here I think he wrotewith great clarity and civic-moral insight. It’s an insight highly relevant to the Milley case. As I said, we don’t really know even what Milley did, let alone which facts or justifications were before him when he acted. But extraordinary situations can require a person in authority to act outside the normal bounds of law and propriety. The key is that you have to level with the people about what you did and why you did it. And you have to accept their judgment. This is the critical second part of the equation which supporters of a vastly powerful presidency habitually leave out. And the principle applies to a Joint Chiefs chair as much as it does to a President.

Based on what we know I think Milley was operating within his oath. But let’s find out the details. It’s important not only for evaluating Milley’s actions. But it also will force us to contend with the unfinished business of Trump’s attempted coup which too many of us are trying to sweep under the rug.

Trumpism on the Run, California Recall Shows

Getting Out Facts and Making Sure Voters Cast Ballots Beats Trumpism

The overwhelming failure in the recall of California Gov. Gavin Newsom should send a powerful message to those Republicans who think their future lies with Donald Trump and Trumpism. It doesn’t.

By any measure, the vote to retain Newsom was a landslide. Almost 64% of voters cast ballots against recalling Newsom.

That’s better than the record margin by which Newsom won in 2018. He won that race with just under 62% of the vote. It also equals the share of California votes for Biden against Trump in 2020.

Trumpers are a slowly dwindling minority…  Many are as closed-minded as the Taliban.


The recall vote is a clear repudiation of the Trumpian tactic of trying to disrupt and delegitimize government when anyone but a Trumper wins the popular vote. Havoc will continue, but it can be defeated – always — if enough sensible Americans cast ballots.

Trumpism isn’t dead, not yet. But it’s not attracting new adherents, either. That’s because all it offers is anger, the lethal rejection of medical science and cultish devotion to a deeply disturbed con artist who just makes stuff up like his very recent delusional claim of being rescued on 9/11 by two firefighters.

Trumpism is not an ideology, just political masturbation.

And no one in America is more captured by self-love than Donald Trump.

General elections, especially when the presidency is on the ballot, draw far more voters than special elections. That’s why the Republican Party has long relied on them to put its people in office. The GOP simply does better at turning out the vote than the Democrats, or at least it did until 2020.

In spring, it looked like Newsom could become the third governor in American history to be recalled because rank-and-file Democrats weren’t paying attention. Neither were the independents, whose numbers equal those of Republicans in California.

Newsom had loaded himself up with political baggage in the way he handled the worst of the Covid pandemic. His public health emergency order last fall imposed mask and indoor activities limits that infuriated not just the freedumb crowd but some struggling small business owners.

In an act of maddening arrogance and political stupidity, the governor enjoyed dinner in a Napa Valley French restaurant without a mask. He violated other Covid protocols as well. And he got photographed.

“Do as I say and not as I do” has ended the careers of more than a few politicians, yet Newsom is coming out of the recall much stronger than ever.

Newsom got lucky, but that stroke of political luck contains a valuable lesson for defeating Trumpism.

The leading candidate to succeed Newsom if the recall worked was Larry Elder, a deranged Trumper radio talk show host. Elder made clear the recall was a referendum on Trumpism, a novice political move that professional Democrats exploited fully.

Under California’s century-old populist recall rules, a small minority can force an election. Then if 50% plus one voter favor recall, the new governor is whomever gets the most votes the same day. That could, literally, be someone who earns less than 10% of the vote. Elder polled at about 18% but won 45% of the vote in a field of almost 50 gubernatorial wannabes. Still, Elder secured far fewer votes than the number of votes favoring recall.

Let us hope the populist California recall, initiative and referendum rules will get modernized to make putting items on the ballot harder.

There is a lesson in what happened between June and Sept. 14.

Elder is a longtime fixture in the Los Angeles radio market, a robust marketplace of music, news, ideas and nonsense.

A true-red Trumper, Elder spouts crazy, illogical, half-baked, fact-free, absurd and downright offensive ideas, sometimes contradicting himself just like his hero does.

After Elder complained that  Los Angeles Times never reviewed his books, the paper obliged. The devastating result is an object lesson in being careful what you wish for because it may come true. Wrote reviewer David L. Ulin after reading four of Elder’s seven books:

Elder is not a writer but a brand. As such, he is always on brand, regardless of the issue: the economy, the unhoused, law enforcement, immigration rights. His columns represent not so much a voice in conversation as a series of diatribes. When it comes to public policy, Elder offers neither subtlety nor nuance, not least because that isn’t what his audience wants.

Facts are to Elder just as they are to Trump: They don’t matter. Like Trump, Elder creates his own reality.

That goes over well among the American Taliban and their uncouth cousins, the American Yahoos. California is not poor Alabama or Mississippi or home to Covidiocy leaders as in Texas and Florida.

California, where I grew up and lived for 36 years, is rich. It would boast Earth’s fifth-biggest economy if it were a nation because of education and science.

Be it growing strawberries year-round, making movies or splicing genes, California’s economy is science-driven. Trumpism rejects science as it preys on the minds of people who didn’t pay attention in high school and couldn’t explain the function of RNA if their lives depended on it. Among Trumpers, it’s OK, indeed more than OK, to be ignorant.

Elder promotes some wildly crazy ideas. He proposed  reparations for slave owners because their “property” was taken away by President Abraham Lincoln. He also said he would have voted against the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

By the way, Elder is Black.

On the day before the recall vote ended, Elder posted on his website assertions that the recall vote results were fraud and statistical analysis proved that.

That’s a remarkable claim to make before any vote results are known and before the election ends. But it’s consistent with the Trumpism practice of just making stuff up. The week before the election, Trump said the election was rigged for Newsom. He reiterated that on election day.

Larry Elder
Youtube screengrab

Elder’s campaign also made clear that he intended to govern California in pure Trumpian style, by tweet rather than substance. That also alarmed voters in a state whose economy is heavily based on science.

Most Californians had never heard of Elder before the recall. Only when Democratic strategists started to get out the word about what a crazy loon Elder is, Democrats, independents and those Republicans not infected with Trumpism began mailing in their ballots in large numbers.

The lesson: Who votes is all that matters in elections.

Trumpers are a slowly dwindling minority. As a class, they don’t understand how the world works, don’t embrace logic, think they are smarter than the scientists they denounce, embrace stupidity and incompetence [see Dunning-Krueger Effect] and are easily taken in by slogans rather than substance. Many are as closed-minded as the Taliban.

Those people love Trump because he freed the inner racism of the Republican Party, which has always been there. Witness opposition to civil rights and voting rights. Trump told his followers that it was OK to use racial slurs and that violently attacking those you disagree with meant you were “fine people.”

The insurmountable problem for Republicans – unless they steal elections – is that white supremacy continues to slowly fade despite its vicious public displays during the brief Trump era. That’s because humans evolved toward cooperation, not Trump’s Hobbesian notions of brutal power abused to make life nasty, brutish and short for the many.

The lesson about building a better America is that to defeat Trumpism its opponents must make sure they get out the story of who Trumper candidates are and what they believe. Letting them hide behind slogans is a terrible strategy.

But most of all, people must vote. All that matters is turning out the vote. Period. Elections are won by those who cast ballots.

That’s the whole point of the GOP proposing — and in many states enacting — laws to suppress the votes of people not in line with either what’s left of traditional Republicanism and politically flaccid Trumpism.

America is home to far more good, decent and caring people than losers drawn to Trump.

Vote. Be an owner of our government, not a renter or, worst of all, a squatter.






The post Trumpism on the Run, California Recall Shows appeared first on DCReport.org.

The Winners of the 2021 Small World Photomicrography Competition

Trichome (white appendages) and stomata (purple pores) on a southern live oak leaf

Eye of a horsefly

Table salt crystal

Filamentous strands of Nostoc cyanobacteria captured inside a gelatinous matrix

Sensory neuron from an embryonic rat

Epithelial cells covering the intestine villi

This is always a favorite of mine… Nikon has announced the winners of the Small World Photomicrography Competition for 2021. As always, I’ve shared a few of my favorites above. Photo credits from top to bottom: Jason Kirk, Oliver Dum, Saulius Gugis, Martin Kaae Kristiansen, Paula Diaz, and Caleb Dawson.

Tags: best of   best of 2021   photography

LA Area Port Traffic: Solid Imports, Weak Exports in August

Notes: The expansion to the Panama Canal was completed in 2016 (As I noted a few years ago), and some of the traffic that used the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach is probably going through the canal. This might be impacting TEUs on the West Coast.

Also, incoming port traffic is backed up significantly in the LA area with around 50 ships at anchor waiting to unload.

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 was up 0.1% in August compared to the rolling 12 months ending in July.   Outbound traffic was down 1.3% 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 February or March depending on the timing of the Chinese New Year.

2021 started off incredibly strong for imports - and with the backlog of ships, will probably continue strong.

Imports were up 1% YoY in August (recovered last year following the early months of the pandemic), and exports were down 14.0% YoY.

Space SPACs struggle to lift off

None of the companies that recently completed SPAC deals have seen a dramatic increase in share price. Meanwhile, share SPAC redemptions are growing, indicating a lack of enthusiasm.


Does The Recall Result Tell Us Anything About the Rest of Country?

It’s hard to make too much of the California recall. It is after all one of the most Democratic states in the union. The moribund state Republican party coalesced around a standard bearer whose top policy position may have been credible reports he pulled a gun on his fiance during a fight. The only conceivable way Larry Elder could have become governor is with very low turnout and a majority of voters deciding narrowly to recall Newsom and allowing Elder to slip through with like 35% of the vote.

But it doesn’t mean nothing.

One thing it clearly shows is that Democrats can turn out their voters with no presidential ticket, no Trump and even what seems like a defensive vote. By defensive vote, I mean voting just to hold on to what you have. That’s always going to be harder.

That alone is a pretty big thing, especially when we consider Democrats’ experiences in 1994 and 2010. Those were demoralized, low turnout elections which were devastating for Democrats on numerous levels. This is September 2021 not November 2022. But it at least shows a path toward maintaining high levels of engagement and high turnout.

The biggest thing is around Trump. You can apparently do this without Trump being on the ballot or even in office.

I’ve seen numerous commentators portray this as somehow a cheap tactic, living off the past or juicing voters with what amounts to a sugar high. This is wrong. It’s worth remembering that Republicans ran against Jimmy Carter for more than a decade after his defeat. But unlike Jimmy Carter Trump is still, unquestionably at the center of our politics. That’s reality. Unless things change drastically over the next 18 months there’s little question he will be the Republican nominee for President if he chooses to run. Not only is he the leader of the Republican party. There’s really no significant opposition to him within the Republican party. If you’re an anti-Trump Republican you’ve already been driven out of the party. Trump – all he represents and the man himself – is the price of letting Democrats lose elections. It would be political malpractice in addition to dishonesty not to put him at the center of any Democratic campaign.

Also notable is the power of aggressive COVID mitigation policies. Like Biden, Newsom has spent recent weeks pursuing what we might call an “out of patience” COVID strategy. Enough of persuasion, we’re going to use the power of government to end the pandemic as soon as we can. Voters said COVID was their top issue and they appear to have rewarded Newsom.

Again, it’s a Democratic state. So this only tells us so much. It’s interesting to me for a different reason. We see the polls showing that these measures – stuff like Biden’s new vax or test mandate – are generally popular. But there’s always a question about whether an energized minority can punch of above its numerical weight. This result suggests the answer is no – at least in one state, in this one election.

The final point is Larry Elder himself. He was clearly a gift to Newsom inasmuch as he became the de facto challenger. No one with any familiarity with Elder over the years will be surprised about the various positions and news that emerged about him. But Elder wasn’t a crazy stroke of luck for Newsom. His ascension is part and parcel of Trumpism. There was a credible Republican candidate – the former Mayor of San Diego. He basically went nowhere. Trumpite radicalism made Larry Elder the de facto challenger. And this isn’t the only race where Trumpite radicalism will have that result. That is another factor that will help Democrats in some races next year.

So yes, it’s a Democratic state. The result only tells us a limited amount about the national political environment going into 2022. But what it does tell us is encouraging for Democrats and points a path forward for a kind of Biden-era Democratic politicking that can be effective.

Blog all dog-eared pages: Contact

Contact by Mark Watson is full of insightful thoughts about the now, technology and life.

"The fact was, she quite obviously couldn’t go to sleep while all this was going on. And that thought was cheering in its own right. No point in going to sleep. Insomnia couldn’t touch her while she was handling this crisis. The night seemed so thick when you were trapped in it, but being up and busy reminded you of how brittle it was. Soon, there would be no night left."

"It had been a terrible, painful slog to achieve a distance which many runners would do a couple of times a week. But even three months ago he wouldn’t have been able to run if an axe-murderer was after him. Through the exhaustion he recognized, with a swelling of the chest, that he’d surprised and surpassed himself."

"‘Are you still liking it, the driving?’ asked Karl, in a tone which contained a number of male ingredients James correctly identified: a little envy, a little regret, and a total refusal to admit either of those even to himself."

"That night, James did look up the relevant form. File a Customer Abuse or Harassment Report, said the heading, in a cheerful font which would have been at home on the website for a boutique hotel. As soon as he started typing, a pop-up box asked whether he would be interested, after filing this report, in answering some questions about how easy it was to use; he could win a case of champagne."

"This was his fourth round of toast since all the chaos began. They were going to have to get a new toaster if he kept going like this. He was trying so hard. If the loss of her son was a problem that could be solved by carbohydrates alone, as he seemed to believe it was, it would all be over by now. But this was what Lee did, she supposed. If he sensed she was a bit down, he put up a shelf. If she talked about a health complaint he immediately emptied the dishwasher."

"Sports news was showing on the TVs which played to an empty bar: subtitles over red and blue jumpers playing rugby. Tomorrow’s match in Eddie Blair, said the caption, and then the correction: Tomorrow’s match in Edinburgh."

"We often hear that technology is fragmenting the world, reducing our relationships to screen exchanges rather than the real stuff, and so on, as if machines – rather than humans – were responsible for maintaining our mental health. I wanted to write something which explored the opposite possibility: that phones give us a power to affect and improve each other’s lives that we have never had in history before. Contacts was of course written before the bewildering events of 2020, but the lockdown has reminded a lot of us how dependent we all are upon the core relationships in life, on our networks, and perhaps how much we’ve taken some of those relationships for granted. Contacts is about the fact that, for all its dangers, the age of instant communication gives us what is basically a superpower … If we only choose to use it."

Every Sport a Bowling Ball

What if you substituted a bowling ball for the ball in sports like ping pong, golf, cricket, tennis, and soccer — but also in darts and skeet shooting? This very funny video imagines just that.

Tags: bowling   sports   video

Four Quick Links for Wednesday Noonish

Season 5 of the excellent Scene on Radio podcast is about the climate crisis. "We'll trace the evolution of the colonizing, extractive Western culture that has driven us into the ecological ditch, and we'll look at potential solutions – the repair." [sceneonradio.org]

Ah man, Norm MacDonald is dead at the age of 61. I loved him on SNL's Weekend Update. [deadline.com]

Gas stations make most of their money on convenience store items, not selling gasoline. (It seems like this would make it easier for them to eventually supplement w/ EV chargers?) [thehustle.co]

Katalin Karikó and Drew Weissman have won a $3 million Breakthrough Prize for their research on mRNA technology, which has been used to great effect in Covid-19 vaccines. [breakthroughprize.org]


Note: Quick Links are pushed to this RSS feed twice a day. For more immediate service, check out the front page of kottke.org, the Quick Links archive, or the @kottke Twitter feed.

The Old Last-Minute Hardware Design Switcheroo

Killian Bell, writing at Cult of Mac:

Apple Watch Series 7 is not the upgrade most of us expected to see from Tuesday’s Apple event. The new model doesn’t sport the big design refresh multiple sources said was coming. It doesn’t even pack a new chip.

Is this the upgrade Apple wanted to deliver this year? Or is it a last-minute substitution that Cupertino had to settle on because the refresh it really wanted to deliver just wasn’t ready to roll out?

Based on the evidence, we’re going to say it’s the latter.

The only way this could be funnier is if Bell included the theory that perhaps Apple changed the hardware at the last minute because the flat-edge designs leaked.

This is not how hardware works. These designs are set long in advance. In fact, from what I’ve heard, the flat-edge watch designs might be legitimate leaks, but they’re next year’s designs. That’s how far in advance Apple works on hardware — they were already in the advanced stages of designing the 2022 Apple Watches months ago. (Aesthetically, I am not sold on a flat-edge design for the watch. The round edges are iconic and organic.)

You can argue that Series 7 is a marginal upgrade over Series 6, but with an all-new screen (brighter and bigger), all-new crystal (more durable), and 33 percent faster charging, there are upgrades, and none of them could be slapped together.


Wednesday assorted links

1. Big excerpt of me on crypto, link now corrected, with Ezra Klein.

2. What should we conclude from the Bangladesh mask study?

3. New Yorker profile of Colm Tóibín.

4. It seems the NBA won’t require player vaccinations?

5. History of mRNA vaccines.

6. New Emily Oster Covid-19 School Data Hub, valuable.

7. Hedgehogs and foxes, for real, not just the usual b.s.

The post Wednesday assorted links appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.




NSO Group iMessage Zero-Click Exploit Captured in the Wild, Patched by Apple

Citizen Lab:

In March 2021, we examined the phone of a Saudi activist who has chosen to remain anonymous, and determined that they had been hacked with NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware. During the course of the analysis we obtained an iTunes backup of the device.

Recent re-analysis of the backup yielded several files with the “.gif” extension in Library/SMS/Attachments that we determined were sent to the phone immediately before it was hacked with NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware.

Because the format of the files matched two types of crashes we had observed on another phone when it was hacked with Pegasus, we suspected that the “.gif” files might contain parts of what we are calling the FORCEDENTRY exploit chain.

Citizen Lab forwarded the artifacts to Apple on Tuesday, September 7. On Monday, September 13, Apple confirmed that the files included a zero-day exploit against iOS and MacOS. They designated the FORCEDENTRY exploit CVE-2021-30860, and describe it as “processing a maliciously crafted PDF may lead to arbitrary code execution.”

The files with the “.gif” extension weren’t actually GIF files — they were carefully-crafted malformed PSD and PDF files that triggered image processing bugs. What makes attacks like this particularly dastardly is that the victim apparently doesn’t even see anything. It’s invisible.


Identifying Computer-Generated Faces

It’s the eyes:

The researchers note that in many cases, users can simply zoom in on the eyes of a person they suspect may not be real to spot the pupil irregularities. They also note that it would not be difficult to write software to spot such errors and for social media sites to use it to remove such content. Unfortunately, they also note that now that such irregularities have been identified, the people creating the fake pictures can simply add a feature to ensure the roundness of pupils.

And the arms race continues….

Research paper.

Another 5 Local Housing Markets in August

In the Newsletter: Another 5 Local Housing Markets in August

Active inventory, new listings and sales added for Boston, Des Moines, Jacksonville, Minnesota, South Carolina

So far sales are up 0.2% YoY, Not Seasonally Adjusted (NSA).

Surrealist Architecture

a tall building with surreal addiitons coming out the top

a tall building with surreal shapes

an apartment building that's bent at a 90 degree angle

For his City Portraits series, Victor Enrich digitally modified photos to create absurdist and surrealist buildings that look like a lot of fun to live in.

See also 13 Jaw-Dropping Examples of Photoshopped Architecture.

Tags: architecture   remix   Victor Enrich

Inspiration4 Might Be Flying Your Neighbors

'They could be your neighbors' and they're going to space. SpaceX gets ready to fly the Inspiration4 crew., Washington Post

"But the Inspiration4 mission is of particular importance because three of the crew members are not wealthy, [Alan] Ladwig said. "They're not billionaires," he said. "They are people that could be our neighbors, people you went to school with, people you work with. And for them to get this opportunity is pretty fantastic."

Live coverage: Inspiration4 crew to give update on their mission

Live coverage of the countdown and launch of a Falcon 9 rocket from Kennedy Space Center with the Inspiration4 mission, the first all-private human spaceflight to low Earth orbit. Text updates will appear automatically below; there is no need to reload the page. Follow us on Twitter.

Inspiration4 Mission Update

SpaceX Launch Webcast

Inspiration4 Crew Q&A

Industrial Production Increased 0.4 Percent in August

From the Fed: Industrial Production and Capacity Utilization
Industrial production increased 0.4 percent in August after moving up 0.8 percent in July. Late-month shutdowns related to Hurricane Ida held down the gain in industrial production by an estimated 0.3 percentage point. Although the hurricane forced plant closures for petrochemicals, plastic resins, and petroleum refining, overall manufacturing output rose 0.2 percent. Mining production fell 0.6 percent, reflecting hurricane-induced disruptions to oil and gas extraction in the Gulf of Mexico. The output of utilities increased 3.3 percent, as unseasonably warm temperatures boosted demand for air conditioning.

At 101.6 percent of its 2017 average, total industrial production in August was 5.9 percent above its year-earlier level and 0.3 percent above its pre-pandemic (February 2020) level. Capacity utilization for the industrial sector rose 0.2 percentage point in August to 76.4 percent, a rate that is 3.2 percentage points below its long-run (1972–2020) average.
emphasis added
Capacity Utilization Click on graph for larger image.

This graph shows Capacity Utilization. This series is up from the record low set in April 2020, and slightly above the level in February 2020.

Capacity utilization at 76.4% is 3.2% below the average from 1972 to 2020.

Note: y-axis doesn't start at zero to better show the change.

Industrial ProductionThe second graph shows industrial production since 1967.

Industrial production increased in August to 101.6. This is 0.3% above the February 2020 level.

The change in industrial production was slightly below consensus expectations.

Join Space Team Biden: Apply For The National Space Council Users' Advisory Group

Call for Nominations: National Space Council Users' Advisory Group

"The Users' Advisory Group (UAG) is a federal advisory committee comprised of experts from outside the United States Government (USG) created as part of the National Space Council (NSpC). The NSpC is an Executive Branch interagency coordinating committee chaired by the Vice President, which is tasked with advising and assisting the President on national space policy and strategy. UAG members provide counsel on any and all space policy issues. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has sponsored the UAG on behalf of the NSpC since 2018."

Keith's note: There is also a new Space Council Users' Advisory Group website but you need username/password to enter. That said, it remains to be seen if the Biden Administration intends to use the NSpC or the UAG to make real accomplishments or if these bodies are just mouth pieces for policy already generated internally. For the most part, the previous Administration filled the UAG with political allies, big aerospace reps, and people with minimal knowledge or interest in space. NSpC also bled the NASA PAO budget dry to put on NSpC and UAG circuses at showy venues to read scripted statements and do little else. Let's hope that this incarnation of NSpC and UAG shuns the glitz and focuses on the policy. Otherwise, we can punt on serious space policy for another 4 years.

National Space Council UAG Goes Through The Motions Of Being Interested, earlier post

"There are no real "users" of space on this panel. Nor are there any members from the next generation who will inherit and conduct America's space activities. All we see are sellers. Yet another choir practice session amongst the usual suspects in an echo chamber."

NASA Internal Memo: National Space Council UAG Update from Chair, ADM Jim Ellis (2021), earlier post

"Our composition has also evolved to appropriately include scientific and regional economic insights, as well. Our diverse representation has been our key strength since it has enabled discussion across many disciplines."

- National Space Council Users' Advisory Group News (Yawn), earlier post
- Space Council Users' Advisory Group Meets Without Any Users, earlier post
- National Space Council User Advisory Group Is Purging Innovation From Its Ranks, earlier post
- National Space Council UAG Wants You To Think They Did Something Important, earlier post

School choice in Latin America, in BBC News Mundo

 A news story with an unusually detailed account of school choice algorithms discusses some of the issues in Latin America, in Spanish, in BBC News Mundo. (Google translate does an adequate job...).  One of the issues discussed is that geographic priorities for schools give wealthier families an advantage, and perpetuate geographic segregation.

Qué es el Mecanismo de Boston y por qué expertos denuncian que hay segregación en las asignaciones de escuelas en América Latina  Analía Llorente  BBC News Mundo

[G translate: What is the Boston Mechanism and why experts denounce that there is segregation in school assignments in Latin America]

Some snippets:

"The Boston mechanism allows for a lot of parenting strategy and that means that it generates a lot of inequalities " [says] Paula Jaramillo, Associate Professor in Economics at the Universidad de los Andes in Colombia


"The criticism is against the Boston Mechanism because it continues to be applied, but it is also against the deferred acceptance method because it is generating segregation at the neighborhood level," says Caterina Calsamiglia, a leader in the investigation of these methods.

"The specialist refers to the fact that a student obtains more points for his proximity to the preferred school, therefore he has a greater chance of being admitted to it.

"This creates one of the main strategies is the moving neighborhood, decision can only carry out families with middle income to high, creating inequality."


"In many places in Latin America the selection method is not even regulated, and where it is, they are not very transparent with parents in communicating the methods.

"We know a lot about what is done by cities in the United States, in Europe, in Asia, we don't know so much about Latin America," says Paula Jaramillo.


"In conclusion, the experts believe that there is no magic method that can be applied uniformly in the countries of the region to avoid segregation and inequality in school selection.

"They agree that the deferred acceptance method is the "fairest" but not perfect. There are many factors to take into account from the quality of the schools to their location."

Commercial spaceflight industry sees Inspiration4 as a pathfinder but not a model

Inspiration4 briefing

SpaceX’s first fully commercial Crew Dragon mission is being closely watched by both NASA and other companies in the commercial human spaceflight sector, who see it as a pathfinder for future missions but not necessarily a model for them.


‘Taiwan must secure a strategic position in space industry’s supply chain’: president

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen said Sept. 14 the country “must secure a strategic position in the space industry’s supply chain” by leveraging its competitive edge in semiconductor and precision engineering.


What’s the Right Dose for Boosters?

The Biden administration says booster shots are coming, but the FDA hasn’t decided on the dose. Moderna wants a half-shot booster. Pfizer a full shot. But could the best dose for Americans and for the world be even less?

COVID-19 vaccines are the first successful use of mRNA vaccine technology, so a lot remains unknown. But identifying the smallest dose needed to provide effective boosting is critical to protect Americans from adverse effects, increase confidence in vaccines, and mitigate global vaccine inequity.

We’ve known since earlier this year that a half-dose of the Moderna vaccine produces antibody levels similar to the standard-dose and newer information suggests that even a quarter-dose vaccine may do the same. If a half or quarter dose is nearly as effective as a standard dose for first and second shots then a full dose booster may well be an overdose. The essential task of a booster is to “jog” the immune system’s memory of what it’s supposed to fight. Data from the world of hepatitis B suggest that the “reminder” need not be as intense as the initial “lesson.” And in the cases of tuberculosis, meningitis, and yellow fever vaccines, lower doses have been as good or better than the originals.

Lower doses could also reduce risks of adverse effects.

That’s myself and physicians Garth Strohbehn and William F. Parker on the Med Page Today. Strohbehn is an oncologist and specialist in optimizing doses for cancer drugs. William Parker is a pulmonologist and professor of medicine at the University of Chicago.

The post What’s the Right Dose for Boosters? appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.



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MBA: Mortgage Applications Increase in Latest Weekly Survey

From the MBA: Mortgage Applications Increase in Latest MBA Weekly Survey
Mortgage applications increased 0.3 percent from one week earlier, according to data from the Mortgage Bankers Association’s (MBA) Weekly Mortgage Applications Survey for the week ending September 10, 2021. This week’s results include an adjustment for the Labor Day holiday.

... The Refinance Index decreased 3 percent from the previous week and was 3 percent lower than the same week one year ago. The seasonally adjusted Purchase Index increased 8 percent from one week earlier. The unadjusted Purchase Index decreased 5 percent compared with the previous week and was 12 percent lower than the same week one year ago.

Purchase applications – after adjusting for the impact of Labor Day – increased over 7 percent last week to their highest level since April 2021. Compared to the same week last September, which was right in the middle of a significant upswing in home purchases, applications were down 11 percent – the smallest year-over-year decline in 14 weeks,” said Joel Kan, MBA’s Associate Vice President of Economic and Industry Forecasting. “Both conventional and government purchase applications increased, and the average loan size for a purchase application rose to $396,800. The very competitive purchase market continues to put upward pressure on sales prices.”

Added Kan, “While the 30-year fixed rate was unchanged at just over 3 percent, it was not enough to drive more refinance activity. Refinance applications slipped to their slowest pace since early July, and the refinance share of applications fell to 65 percent, which was also the lowest since July.”
The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with conforming loan balances ($548,250 or less) remained unchanged at 3.03 percent, with points decreasing to 0.32 from 0.33 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent loan-to-value ratio (LTV) loans.
emphasis added
Mortgage Refinance IndexClick on graph for larger image.

The first graph shows the refinance index since 1990.

With low rates, the index remains elevated.

The second graph shows the MBA mortgage purchase index

Mortgage Purchase IndexAccording to the MBA, purchase activity is down 12% year-over-year unadjusted.

Note: The year ago comparisons for the unadjusted purchase index are now difficult since purchase activity picked up in late May 2020.

Note: Red is a four-week average (blue is weekly).

Henry Ford Heads for the High Frontier

For decades, skilled engineers and technicians have been building satellites designed for unique missions and making them one at a time.


New York City Has Once Again Defied the Doomsayers. Here's Why.

China campaign of the day

But a shift in investor sentiment suggests the days of China’s youth going under the knife in pursuit of perfection might be numbered, as President Xi Jinping tries to reshape the country’s cultural and business landscape as part of a “common prosperity” drive. S

ince the start of July, the market value of the country’s three biggest publicly traded medical aesthetics companies has fallen by a third, representing a collective loss of more than $17bn, despite the popularity of cosmetic procedures. Investment bank Citic estimated sales revenues in China’s aesthetic medicine market were more than Rmb330bn ($51bn) in 2020.

But analysts warn that the industry could suffer a heavy blow if Beijing concludes that the sector’s negative social influence is on a par with private tutoring and online gaming — industries where strict regulations have crushed the market values of dominant groups in recent months.

“It is perfectly possible we may see another industry disappear,” said Mark Tanner, managing director of China Skinny, a marketing company.

Here is more from the FT.

The post China campaign of the day appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.



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Covid and intertemporal substitution

That is the topic of my latest Bloomberg column, here is one bit:

Before the vaccines came along, it made great sense to enforce masking norms. If infections could be shifted into the future, an eventually vaccinated citizenry would be much better protected.

There is a less obvious corollary: Those same mask norms make less sense when large numbers of people are vaccinated. Masking still will push infections further into the future, but if the vaccines become marginally less effective over time, as some data suggest, people may be slightly worse off later on (they’ll also be a bit older). The upshot is that the case for masking is less strong, even if you still think it is a good idea overall.

Still, many people prefer to abide by fixed rules and principles. Once they learn them and lecture others about them, they are unlikely to change their minds. “Masking is good!” is a simple precept. “Exactly how good masking is depends on how much safer the near future will be!” is not. Yet the latter statement is how the economist is trained to think.

And this:

Some of the consequences of intertemporal substitution are a bit ghastly, and you won’t find many people willing to even talk about them.

For example: Say you are immunocompromised, and you either can’t or won’t get vaccinated. You might be justly mad about all the unvaccinated knuckleheads running around, getting Covid, and possibly infecting you. At the same time, you wish to minimize your required degree of intertemporal substitution.

So if you are (perhaps correctly) afraid to go out very much, you are better off if those same knuckleheads acquire natural immunity more quickly. Yes, it would be better if they got vaccinated. But barring that, a quick pandemic may be easier for you to manage than a long, drawn-out pandemic, which would require heroic amounts of intertemporal substitution.

Recommended.  And yes there is a “don’t overload your health system” qualifier (most of the U.S. is OK on this front right now), which I’ve written about multiple times including as early as January 2020.

The post Covid and intertemporal substitution appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.



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Most Games With 3+ Hits & At Least 1 RBI

Doug Kern tweeted this information on Monday night:

Most games with 3+ hits and at least 1 RBI, Cardinals history (incl post):
Stan Musial     251
Rogers Hornsby  160
Albert Pujols   133
Jim Bottomley   124
Enos Slaughter  121
Lou Brock       116
Joe Medwick     107
Frankie Frisch  105
Yadier Molina   100 (incl Mon)
Ken Boyer        99

There is such a difference between #1 and #2 in that list, I wondered who the career leaders in all of MLB were. This list is regular season only.

Ty Cobb         304
Stan Musial     250
Al Simmons      243
Pete Rose       237
Lou Gehrig      228
Rogers Hornsby  226
Henry Aaron     224
Willie Mays     215
Harry Heilmann  210
Goose Goslin    209
Alex Rodriguez  206
Paul Waner      203
Tris Speaker    201
Miguel Cabrera  201

That's the Top 14, everyone with 200+ games with 3+ hits and at least one RBI.

Babe Ruth and Roberto Clemente are tied for 15th with 197 games. Albert Pujols leads all active players with 185 (he's 23rd), two behind Ted Williams.

Red Sox Top 10:

TSW               187
Carl Yastrzemski  174
Jim Rice          161
David Ortiz       124
Wade Boggs        123
Bobby Doerr       106
Dwight Evans       98
Dustin Pedroia     91
Nomar Garciaparra  87
Mike Greenwell     81

Xander Bogaerts is 14th with 73.

What about 3+ hits, 2+ runs scored, and 2+ RBI?

Lou Gehrig      111
Babe Ruth       101
Alex Rodriguez  100
Stan Musial      93
Willie Mays      93
Al Simmons       92
Ty Cobb          92
Albert Pujols    85
Henry Aaron      85
Ted Williams     81
Jimmie Foxx      81

Manny Ramirez is 18th all-time, with 71 games.

How about reaching base five times in a game (excluding reaching on an error)?

Ted Williams      65
Ty Cobb           51
Barry Bonds       50
Lou Gehrig        49
Stan Musial       48
Babe Ruth         45
Jimmie Foxx       41
Wade Boggs        41
Pete Rose         38
Charlie Gehringer 37

If you include reaching base on an error, TSW still leads with 69. Gehrig moves up to #2, with 58, followed by Cobb (54), Ruth (53), Musial (53), and Bonds (53).

Reaching base six times in a game (excluding ROE):

TSW tops this list also, with nine games. (Three of those games came within a three-month stretch in 1946.) Jimmie Foxx had seven games. Williams hit .821 (23-for-28) and Foxx  hit .875 (28-for-32). 

Larry Walker had five games and he batted 1.000 (14-for-14). Kiki Culyer had four games and he went 19-for-19.

OneWeb’s broadband constellation reaching halfway mark

OneWeb is about halfway through deploying its low Earth orbit constellation, after Arianespace successfully launched another 34 satellites for the broadband operator Sept. 14 .


NASA selects five companies for lunar lander studies

NASA will provide $146 million to five companies, representing the three teams that previously competed to develop the Artemis lunar lander, to perform studies for future lunar lander concepts.


Wednesday: NY Fed Mfg, Industrial Production

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

• At 8:30 AM ET: The New York Fed Empire State manufacturing survey for September. The consensus is for a reading of 18.6, up from 18.3.

• At 9:15 AM: The Fed will release Industrial Production and Capacity Utilization for August. The consensus is for a 0.5% increase in Industrial Production, and for Capacity Utilization to increase to 76.4%.

Hubble Tension

Oh, wait, I might've had it set to kph instead of mph. But that would make the discrepancy even wider!

[RIDGELINE] Book Hiatus

Ridgeliners — As you may have noticed, we’re on break. I’m on book hiatus, which is a real thing old magazines use to offer up to fancy writers. And if you were mega fancy, you still got paid while on hiatus. What a thing. (And it turns out, some magazines still offer it if you know how to wrangle it into your contract, but the era is generally over .)

Cyclone Paths on Planet Earth

Where on Earth do cyclones go? Where on Earth do cyclones go?

September 14th COVID-19: Almost 1 Million Doses per Day

The CDC is the source for all data.

According to the CDC, on Vaccinations.  Total doses administered: 381,453,265, as of a week ago 374,488,924. Average doses last week: 0.99 million per day.

COVID Metrics
Percent fully Vaccinated54.0%53.0%≥70.0%1
Fully Vaccinated (millions)179.3176.0≥2321
New Cases per Day3139,897149,796≤5,0002
Deaths per Day3🚩1,2621,147≤502
1 Minimum to achieve "herd immunity" (estimated between 70% and 85%).
2my goals to stop daily posts,
37 day average for Cases, Currently Hospitalized, and Deaths
🚩 Increasing 7 day average week-over-week for Cases, Hospitalized, and Deaths
✅ Goal met.

IMPORTANT: For "herd immunity" most experts believe we need 70% to 85% of the total population fully vaccinated (or already had COVID).  

This is all from the CDC - state data may differ!

KUDOS to the residents of the 11 states that have achieved 60% of total population fully vaccinated: Vermont at 68.7%, Massachusetts, Maine, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Maryland. New Jersey, Washington, New York, New Mexico, New Hampshire at 60.7%.

The following 15 states and D.C. have between 50% and 59.9% fully vaccinated: Oregon at 59.3%, District of Columbia, Virginia, Colorado, Minnesota, California, Hawaii, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Florida, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Michigan, South Dakota, and Kentucky at 50.2%.

Next up (total population, fully vaccinated according to CDC) are Arizona at 49.8%, Kansas at 49.7%, Ohio at 49.3%, Nevada at 49.3%, Texas at 49.2%, Utah at 48.9% and Alaska at 48.5%.

COVID-19 Positive Tests per DayClick on graph for larger image.

This graph shows the daily (columns) and 7 day average (line) of positive tests reported.

With tenth launch, OneWeb nears halfway mark in deploying satellite fleet

A Soyuz rocket takes off Tuesday from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan with 34 OneWeb satellites. Credit: Roscosmos

A day after SpaceX launched 51 Starlink broadband satellites from California, a Russian Soyuz rocket fired into orbit Tuesday from a spaceport halfway around the world, shepherding 34 more satellites for the commercial internet network being constructed by rival OneWeb.

The back-to-back missions continue the rapid deployment of the dueling internet networks, with more Starlink and OneWeb launches scheduled next month.

OneWeb’s launch took off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 2:07:19 p.m. EDT (1807:19 GMT; 11:07:19 p.m. Baikonur time). The 34 satellites rode a Soyuz-2.1b launcher and a Fregat upper stage into orbit.

The kerosene-fueled Soyuz fired away from Baikonur on a northerly heading to reach a 280-mile-high (450-kilometer) polar orbit.

Less than 10 minutes after liftoff, the Soyuz rocket’s third stage shut down and deployed the Fregat upper stage. The Fregat, fed by a mix of storable hydrazine and nitrogen tetroxide propellants, fired its main engine two times to place the 34 satellite into the targeted orbit, according to Roscosmos, the Russian space agency.

Tuesday’s launch marked the 100th flight of a Fregat upper stage since 2000. The space tug, designed for orbital maneuvers to place satellites into different types of orbits, is built by the Russian company NPO Lavochkin.

The satellites, each the size of a mini-refrigerator, released from a dispenser on the Fregat upper stage in groups of two and four over the course of several hours. Within four hours of launch, all 34 satellites were deployed, and OneWeb confirmed each of the spacecraft transmitted signals to mission control, confirming their health after arriving in space.

With the new satellites, OneWeb has launched 322 spacecraft on 10 Soyuz rockets since February 2019, nearly half of the company’s planned fleet of 648 internet satellites.

The OneWeb spacecraft are built by OneWeb Satellites, a joint venture between OneWeb and Airbus, in a factory just outside the gate of NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The satellites, each fitted with a xenon-fueled ion thruster, beam broadband internet signals to users on the ground, at sea, or in the air, providing high-speed, low-latency connectivity for consumers, large companies, and governments. OneWeb is competing with SpaceX’s Starlink network, along with planned internet constellations from other companies.

So far, the pace of launches for the Starlink network has outrun efforts by SpaceX’s competitors.

SpaceX has authorization from the Federal Communications Commission to eventually launch and operate 12,000 Starlink satellites. The company has launched 1,791 Starlink satellites to date.

The OneWeb satellites fly at higher altitudes than the Starlink spacecraft. The difference in architecture means OneWeb can reach global internet coverage with 648 satellites, a significantly smaller constellation than Starlink.

Amazon is planning its own commercial satellite internet constellation, but hasn’t started launching. China is also developing a broadband network that could include thousands of small satellites.

A Soyuz launch in July gave OneWeb enough spacecraft to provide internet services to customers north of 50 degrees latitude, once the satellites move into their proper orbital planes and complete testing. Another 34 OneWeb satellites launched Aug. 21 from Baikonur.

OneWeb filed for bankruptcy in March 2020 after failing to secure enough funding to continue building and launching satellites. The reorganized company emerged from bankruptcy last year under the ownership of Bharti Global and the UK government.

OneWeb announced Aug. 12 a $300 million equity investment from Hanwha, a South Korean tech and manufacturing firm. The funding brings the total equity investment in OneWeb since November 2020 to $2.7 billion, the company said.

Neil Masterson, CEO of OneWeb, said last month that the company has enough funding to complete its 648-satellite constellation by next year.

Thirty-four OneWeb satellites, mounted on their deployment fixture, are raised onto a Fregat upper stage at the Baikonur Cosmodrome during pre-launch preparations. Credit: Roscosmos

Masterson sees strong demand for internet connectivity, a market that is driving billions of dollars in private investment in networks like OneWeb and Starlink.

“We don’t know yet quite how big that demand is, and we don’t know how many participants in the marketplace that will support, but I think it’s a lot bigger than people think,” Masterson said in a panel discussion at the Space Symposium.

“There are millions and billions of people that do not have access to decent internet,” said Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX’s president and chief operating officer. “So that’s a pretty big market. I am not worried about the number of organizations that are interested in doing this. I’m interested and concerned about their sustainability when it comes to the space environment.”

OneWeb hopes to begin internet service to users above 50 degrees north latitude by the end of this year. Global service should begin in 2022, OneWeb says.

Arianespace is OneWeb’s launch provider. The French company is responsible for managing procurement of Soyuz rockets and Fregat upper stages from Russian industry.

OneWeb’s contract with Arianespace covers 19 Soyuz launches. With 10 missions complete, nine more launches are planned over the next year.

The next Soyuz flight for OneWeb is set for liftoff Oct. 14 from the Vostochny Cosmodrome in Russia’s Far East.

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Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1.

Capella shares SAR data with researchers, app developers

Capella Space announced plans Sept. 14 to share synthetic-aperture radar (SAR) data gathered by its satellite constellation with researchers, nonprofit organizations, application developers and disaster response organizations.