Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for May 5th, 2014

It’s extremely difficult to see this as anything other than outright extortion

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Tim Lee writes at Vox.com:

f you’re the customer of a major American internet provider, you might have been noticing it’s not very reliable lately. If so, there’s a pretty good chance that a graph like this is the reason:

route_info_1-1024x202

These graphs comes from Level 3, one of the world’s largest providers of “transit,” or long-distance internet connectivity. The graph on the left shows the level of congestion between Level 3 and a large American ISP in the Dallas area. In the middle of the night, the connection is less than half-full and everything works fine. But during peak hours, the connection is saturated. That produces the graph on the right, which shows the packet loss rate. When the loss rate is high, thousands of Dallas-area consumers are having difficulty using bandwidth-heavy applications like Netflix, Skype, or YouTube (though to be clear, Level 3 doesn’t say what specific kind of traffic was being carried over this link).

This isn’t how these graphs are supposed to look. Level 3 swaps traffic with 51 other large networks, known as peers. For 45 of those networks, the utilization graph looks more like this: . .

Continue reading. It’s extortion. And the FCC allowed it.

Written by Leisureguy

5 May 2014 at 9:06 pm

Posted in Business, Technology

Malaria: A profile of a persistent scourge

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Fascinating article, and it’s worth noting that global warming will bring more tropical diseases to the US, particularly in the Southeast, where climate is (so far) humid. Indeed, mosquitoes carrying dengue fever are already here, I believe. And Ed Yong explains well how difficult it is to stop malaria:

The meandering Moei river marks the natural boundary between Thailand and Myanmar. Its muddy waters are at their fullest, but François Nosten still crosses them in just a minute, aboard a narrow, wooden boat. In the dry season, he could wade across. As he steps onto the western riverbank, in Myanmar, he passes no checkpoint and presents no passport.

The air is cool. After months of rain, the surrounding jungle pops with vivid lime and emerald hues. Nosten climbs a set of wooden slats that wind away from the bank, up a muddy slope. His pace, as ever, seems relaxed and out of kilter with his almost permanently grave expression and urgent purpose. Nosten, a rangy Frenchman with tousled brown hair and glasses, is one of the world’s leading experts on malaria. He is here to avert a looming disaster. At the top of the slope, he reaches a small village of simple wooden buildings with tin and thatch roofs. This is Hka Naw Tah, home to around 400 people and a testing ground for Nosten’s bold plan to completely stamp out malaria from this critical corner of the world.

Malaria is the work of the single-celled Plasmodium parasites, and Plasmodium falciparum chief among them. They spread between people through the bites of mosquitoes, invading first the liver, then the red blood cells. The first symptoms are generic and flu-like: fever, headache, sweats and chills, vomiting. At that point, the immune system usually curtails the infection. But if the parasites spread to the kidneys, lungs, and brain, things go downhill quickly. Organs start failing. Infected red blood cells clog the brain’s blood vessels, depriving it of oxygen and leading to seizures, unconsciousness, and death.

When Nosten first arrived in Southeast Asia almost 30 years ago, malaria was the biggest killer in the region. Artemisinin changed everything. Spectacularly fast and effective, the drug arrived on the scene in 1994, when options for treating malaria were running out. Since then, “cases have just gone down, down, down,” says Nosten. “I’ve never seen so few in the rainy season—a few hundred this year compared to tens of thousands before.”

But he has no time for celebration. Artemisinin used to clear P. falciparum in a day; now, it can take several. The parasite has started to become resistant. The wonder drug is failing. It is the latest reprise of a decades-long theme: We attack malaria with a new drug, it mounts an evolutionary riposte.

Back in his office, Nosten pulls up a map showing the current whereabouts of the resistant parasites. Three colored bands highlight the borders between Cambodia and Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand, and Thailand and Myanmar (Burma). Borders. Bold lines on maps, but invisible in reality. A river that can be crossed in a rickety boat is no barrier to a parasite that rides in the salivary glands of mosquitoes or the red blood cells of humans.

History tells us what happens next. Over the last century, almost every frontline antimalarial drug—chloroquine, sulfadoxine, pyrimethamine—has become obsolete because of defiant parasites that emerged from western Cambodia. From this cradle of resistance, the parasites gradually spread west to Africa, causing the deaths of millions. Malaria already kills around 660,000 people every year, and most of them are African kids. If artemisinin resistance reached that continent, it would be catastrophic, especially since there are no good replacement drugs on the immediate horizon.

Nosten thinks that without radical measures, resistance will spread to India and Bangladesh. Once that happens, it will be too late. Those countries are too big, too populous, too uneven in their health services to even dream about containing the resistant parasites. Once there, they will inevitably spread further. He thinks it will happen in three years, maybe four. “Look at the speed of change on this border. It’s exponential. It’s not going to take 10 or 15 years to reach Bangladesh. It’ll take just a few. We have to do something before it’s too late.”

Hundreds of scientists are developing innovative new ways of dealing with malaria, from potential vaccines to new drugs, genetically modified mosquitoes to lethal fungi. As Nosten sees it, none of these will be ready in time. The only way of stopping artemisinin resistance, he says, is to completely remove malaria from its cradle of resistance. “If you want to eliminate artemisinin resistance, you have to eliminate malaria,” says Nosten. Not control it, not contain it. Eliminate it.

That makes the Moei river more than a border between nations. It’s Stalingrad. It’s Thermopylae. It’s the last chance for halting the creeping obsolescence of our best remaining drug. What happens here will decide the fate of millions.

THE WORLD TRIED TO eliminate malaria 60 years ago. . .

Continue reading.

I wonder how those who deny evolution explain the development of resistance to pesticides and antibiotics. From an evolutionary point of view, it’s simple: organisms that are vulnerable die without reproducing, but in a population there’s enough genetic diversity to (almost always) result in some who are less affected. These go on to reproduce, with offspring also less affected. Any that are totally unaffected leave a lot of similar progeny, so soon we say “the mosquitoes have become resistant to DDT.” And evolutionarily, it’s easy to understand. But how do non-evolutionists explain it? and the genetic changes in the immune population?

Written by Leisureguy

5 May 2014 at 4:46 pm

“Inventing a failure”

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Paul Krugman has a good column, as usual, in which he makes an interesting point at the very start:

Last week, House Republicans released a deliberately misleading report on the status of health reform, crudely rigging the numbers to sustain the illusion of failure in the face of unexpected success. Are you shocked?

You aren’t, but you should be. Mainstream politicians didn’t always try to advance their agenda through lies, damned lies and — in this case — bogus statistics. And the fact that this has become standard operating procedure for a major party bodes ill for America’s future.

Read the whole thing.

Of course, when you are actively and explicitly trying to convince young people to go without healthcare insurance in a deliberate effort to sabotage the program, with no concern for the uninsured young people whose lives are upended by unexpected medical expenses, it shows that you are pretty much willing to anything, no matter how dishonorable.

Written by Leisureguy

5 May 2014 at 4:13 pm

Posted in GOP, Healthcare, Politics

Economists and resistance to change

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John Cassidy has an interesting essay at the New Yorker:

n the wake of the 2008 financial crisis and the Great Recession, there was a lot of talk about the failure of economics and the need for a new paradigm. That was the context in which Paul Krugman wrote what became a famous essay on saltwater versus freshwater economics (“How Did Economists Get It So Wrong?”); the filmmaker Charles Ferguson, in his documentary “Inside Job,” unmasked several prominent economists as highly paid Wall Street consultants; and George Soros set up the Institute for New Economic Thinking, which was intended to finance research that challenged the prevailing orthodoxy.

It was an exciting time to be involved in economics. For my own part, I wrote a book about market failures and economic theory, seeking to elucidate how seemingly rational behavior at the individual level can scale up into collective madness. (That’s where the name of this blog came from.) And, in 2010, I went to Hyde Park, the spiritual home of free-market thinkers, to talk to some high priests of the Chicago School, the most eminent of whom was Gary Becker. He died on Saturday, at the age of eighty-three. In a post on Monday morning, I put up my interview with Becker in full, but here I want to draw attention to one of his answers. It came in reply to a question about whether we would see a historic transformation in economics to match the one in the nineteen-thirties and forties, when Keynesianism came to the fore. This is what Becker said: . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

5 May 2014 at 4:09 pm

White House seeks legal immunity for firms that hand over customer data

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This is pretty rich. When Obama was running for president, he promised that he would vote against granting telecom companies immunity for simply handing over customer data when they were asked. Then he promptly voted in favor of it, and apparently he is still working to make sure telecom immunities suffer no accountability. Spencer Ackerman reports in the Guardian:

The White House has asked legislators crafting competing reforms of the National Security Agency to provide legal immunity for telecommunications firms that provide the government with customer data, the Guardian has learned.

In a statement of principles privately delivered to lawmakers some weeks ago to guide surveillance reforms, the White House said it wanted legislation protecting “any person who complies in good faith with an order to produce records” from legal liability for complying with court orders for phone records to the government once the NSA no longer collects the data in bulk.

The brief request, contained in a four-page document, echoes a highly controversial provision of the 2008 Fisa Amendments Act, which provided retroactive immunity to the telecommunications companies that allowed the NSA to access calls and call data between Americans and foreigners, voiding lawsuits against them. Barack Obama’s vote for that bill as a senator and presidential candidate disappointed many supporters. [Well, especially since he promised that he would vote against it—quite an explicit promise. – LG]

A congressional aide said the telecommunications companies were expected to “fight hard” for the provision to survive in any surveillance bill. Those firms, including Verizon and AT&T, have typically kept far more silent in public about NSA surveillance and their role in it than internet giants, like Yahoo and Google, which have pushed for reforms.

Unlike in 2008, the firms are not facing a spate of lawsuits, although Verizon was named as a defendant in Larry Klayman’s suit against the Obama administration challenging the constitutionality of bulk phone metadata collection.

A senior administration official noted that the provision is typical for surveillance law, to protect companies who comply with Fisa court orders for customer data.

“This would refer to any new orders issued by the court under the new regime we are proposing. This is similar to the way the rest of Fisa already operates, and Fisa already contains virtually identical language for its other provisions, including Section 215,” the official said, referring to the portion of the Patriot Act cited as justification for bulk phone data collection.

The telecommunications immunity is already contained within a bill authored by the House intelligence committee leadership, key legislative allies of the NSA.

But another aspect of the White House document points to an obstacle that congressional sources said is holding up the House intelligence bill – something its opponents consider an opportunity.

That bill, sponsored by Republican chairman Mike Rogers of Michigan and ranking Democrat Dutch Ruppersberger of Maryland, would permit the government to access phone records without specific prior approval by a judge. Ruppersberger said while unveiling the bill in late March that they were “very, very close” to a deal with the White House, though the principles document favors prior court orders.

“Absent an emergency situation, the government would obtain the records only pursuant to individual orders from the Foreign intelligence surveillance court approving the use of specific numbers for such queries, if a judge agrees based on national security concerns,” it reads.

Several congressional aides said that the discrepancy between the White House and the intelligence committee on the issue had stalled the momentum of a bill backed by the House leadership over a rival effort in the judiciary committee – also stalled – that would go far further in reining in bulk data collection. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

5 May 2014 at 10:18 am

WW II era magazine ads

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Those were the days. Here’s one. I’ve always loved the Lockheed P-38 Lightning despite the fact that Glenn Miller was killed in one (a passenger returning to England—the plane was accidentally hit by bombs dumped into the English Channel from bombers returning from a mission: they were at a great altitude, Miller’s P-38 at a low altitude).

1940sAd.11.11.44

 

And here’s a collection of New Yorker covers from the 1940s.

Written by Leisureguy

5 May 2014 at 8:43 am

Posted in Daily life

A very nice lemon shave

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SOTD 5 May 2014

Extremely good shave this morning, but then I had a two-day stubble and used a slant.

The prep was citrus throughout: I skipped the usual pre-shave formula in favor of MR GLO once more, and it is still quite good for me. Then two different lemon shave soaps: Fresh Lemon by HoneybeeSoaps.net ($5) and Lemon by Art of Shaving ($22). I used a Whipped Dog 22m silvertip with the Fresh lemon and a Thäter with the AOS lemon. You’l note the Thäter has a dome-shaped knot, which Germans tend to favor over the fan shave that the British like.

The lather quality seemed about the same from the two soaps, but the Honeybee Soaps fragrance was noticeably better than the AOS fragrance, at least to my nose. Honeybee Soaps really captured a fresh lemon scent. Given the price differential and the superiority of the HS scent, I know which I’ll pick.

Three passes with my Merkur 37G holding a Gillette 7 O’Clock SharpEdge blade resulted in perfect smoothness with no nicks. A good splash of Thayers Lemon witch hazel with aloe vera—and it’s an astringent (10% alcohol) rather than a toner (no alcohol)—and I’m ready for the week.

Written by Leisureguy

5 May 2014 at 8:17 am

Posted in Shaving

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