Later On

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

Archive for August 25th, 2018

A light dinner and a note on Siegerrebe wine from De Vine Vineyards

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The Wife wanted something light, so:

Dressing I mix in a little jar so I can shake it:

1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
good pinch of Maldon salt
about 1 Tbsp ground pepper
about 2 tsp smoked paprika
about 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce

Shake well and hold in readiness.

In large bowl, put:

1 handful (fairly large) baby arugula
1 handful (likewise) baby romaine
2 yellow bell peppers chopped
12-14 San Marzano cherry tomatoes, trisected
(bunch of scallions chopped: I would do this but omitted in deference to The Wife)

Then cook the prawns:

300g tiger prawns, peeled and cut in half
1 Tbsp butter
6-8 cloves garlic (and we’re now getting the hard-stem red Russian garlic, very easy to peel and delicious), peeled and minced

Mince garlic and let sit 15 minutes.

Melt butter in 11 7/8″ carbon-steel pan, add garlic, sauté for a couple of minutes, then add prawns, salt them, and stir as they cook. When done, add to bowl of salad greens, shake jar containing dressing and pour over, then toss well.

I had this with a glass of De Vine Siegerrebe, and they’re right: it’s very like Gewurtztraminer, which I like.

Since we split it, 4 WW points each.

Written by Leisureguy

25 August 2018 at 6:02 pm

A peculiar pattern that shows up in seemingly unrelated contexts

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Written by Leisureguy

25 August 2018 at 10:55 am

Posted in Math, Science, Video

First walk after visit from TYD—and after smoke invaded Victoria

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Victoria last week had some very bad smoke days from the wildfires, particularly Wednesday, when the shifting winds brought the smoke directly here. The Eldest had strongly recommended getting a mask that filters out particulate matter (e.g., smoke particles), and I ordered these.

Today before I went for my walk—first walk in a week—I checked the Air Quality Health Index for Victoria:

The bottom of the “Moderate Risk” category does not seem all that bad (particularly since this past week some days were at 10+), but I did click the “Find out if you are at risk” link, where I read:

Oh, all right. I’ll wear the damn mask. I wore it for the first outbound leg, which is strongly uphill at the end, and that’s where I really start breathing heavily and deeply. No problems from air quality, but the mask was not exactly comfortable and kept my hot damp breath trapped around my mouth, so I thought “The hell with it” and removed the mask.

I had not gone 50 meters before I was coughing hard and wheezing and my throat felt sore. Wow. Mask went right back on and I wore it the rest of the (64-minute, 7200-step) walk.

I’m very glad I got the masks (20 for CDN$19), and I’ll definitely check the AQHI before my walk each morning. Smoky air is no joke.

If we have a lot of smoky days, I’ll get vented N95 respirator masks, which would be more comfortable.

Update: Important note on selecting a mask. The one I got is good, some others are not so good.

Written by Leisureguy

25 August 2018 at 9:49 am

Posted in Daily life, Fitness, Health

Secret Israeli Report Reveals Armed Drone Killed Four Boys Playing on Gaza Beach in 2014

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Robert Mackey reports in the Intercept:

A CONFIDENTIAL REPORT by Israeli military police investigators seen by The Intercept explains how a tragic series of mistakes by air force, naval, and intelligence officers led to an airstrike in which four Palestinian boys playing on a beach in Gaza in 2014 were killed by missiles launched from an armed drone.

Testimony from the officers involved in the attack, which has been concealed from the public until now, confirms for the first time that the children — four cousins ages 10 and 11 — were pursued and killed by drone operators who somehow mistook them, in broad daylight, for Hamas militants.

The testimony raises new questions about whether the attack, which unfolded in front of dozens of journalists and triggered global outrage, was carried out with reckless disregard for civilian life and without proper authorization. After killing the first boy, the drone operators told investigators, they had sought clarification from their superiors as to how far along the beach, used by civilians, they could pursue the fleeing survivors. Less than a minute later, as the boys ran for their lives, the drone operators decided to launch a second missile, killing three more children, despite never getting an answer to their question.

Suhad Bishara, a lawyer representing the families of the victims, told The Intercept that Israel’s use of armed drones to kill Palestinians poses “many questions concerning human judgment, ethics, and compliance with international humanitarian law.”

Remotely piloted bombers “alter the process of human decision-making,” Bishara said, and the use of the technology in the 2014 beach attack “expands the circle of people responsible for the actual killing of the Bakr children.”

Just hours before the attack, on the morning of July 16, 2014, the public relations unit of the Israel Defense Forces had been promoting the idea that the live video feeds provided by drones enabled its air force to avoid killing Palestinian civilians.

The PR unit released operational footage, apparently taken from the screens of Israeli drone operators, which documented how three Israeli airstrikes had been called off that week because figures, identified as civilians, had appeared close to targets in the densely populated Gaza Strip.

Those images were released one week into Israel’s Operation Protective Edge, a 50-day offensive against Hamas militants in Gaza in which Israel would eventually kill 1,391 civilians, including 526 children.

Later that same day, at about 3:30 p.m., an Israeli Hermes 450 surveillance drone hovering over a beach in Gaza City transmitted images of eight figures clambering from the strand onto a jetty.

A small shipping container on the jetty had been destroyed by an Israeli missile the day before, based on intelligence indicating that it might have been used by Hamas naval commandos to store weapons. Some analysts have questioned that intelligence, however, since there were no secondary explosions after the structure was hit and journalists staying in nearby hotels reported that no militants had been seen around the jetty that week.

The Israeli military police report reviewed by The Intercept documents what happened next. After one of the figures on the jetty entered the container that had been destroyed the previous day, an Israeli air force commander at the Palmachim air base, south of Tel Aviv, ordered the operators of a second drone, which was armed, to fire a missile at the container.

AS MY COLLEAGUES Cora Currier and Henrik Moltke reported in 2016, although the Israeli government maintains an official stance of secrecy around its use of drones to carry out airstrikes, hacked Israeli surveillance images provided to The Intercept by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden showed an Israeli drone armed with missiles in 2010.

Speaking privately to a visiting American diplomat after Israel’s 2009 offensive in Gaza, Avichai Mandelblit, who was the country’s chief military prosecutor at the time and now serves as its attorney general, acknowledged that two missiles that injured civilians in a mosque had been fired from an unmanned aerial vehicle, according to a leaked State Department cable.

One reason that Israel might decline to acknowledge that its drones have been used to kill Palestinian children is that such information could complicate sales of its drones to foreign governments. In June, the state-owned company Israel Aerospace Industries signed a $600 million deal to lease Heron drones to Germany’s defense ministry. That deal was initially delayed by concerns from German politicians that the drones, to be used for surveillance, could also be armed. The same state-owned company has also sold drones to Turkey, a strongly pro-Palestinian nation, which has nonetheless used the Israeli technology to bomb Kurds in Iraq.

The Israeli military police report on the 2014 strike seen by The Intercept offers the most direct evidence to date that Israel has used armed drones to launch attacks in Gaza. Testimony from the drone operators, commanders, and intelligence officers who took part in the attack confirms that they used an armed drone to fire the missile that slammed into the jetty, killing the person who had entered the container, and also to launch a second strike, which killed three of the survivors as they fled across the beach.

According to the testimony of one naval officer involved in the strikes, the mission was initially considered “a great success,” because the strike team believed, wrongly, that they had killed four Hamas militants preparing to launch an attack on Israeli forces.

Within minutes of the two strikes, however, a group of international journalists who had witnessed the attack from nearby hotels reportedthat the victims torn apart by the missiles were not adult militants but four small boys, cousins who were 10 and 11 years old. Another four boys from the same family survived the attack, but were left with shrapnel wounds and deep emotional scars.

Harrowing images of the children running desperately across the beach after the first missile had killed their cousin were quickly shared by a Palestinian photographer, an Al Jazeera reporter and a camera crew from French television.

A brutal image of the immediate aftermath captured by Tyler Hicks of the New York Times, one of the journalists who witnessed the attack, made the killing of the four boys, all of them sons of Gaza fishermen from the Bakr family, reverberate worldwide. . .

Continue reading. More at the link, including photos.

Written by Leisureguy

25 August 2018 at 7:51 am

Louisiana Senate President Sank Ride-Sharing Bill. His Close Pal Sells Insurance to Cabs.

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This is an example of how broken politics in the US have become. Rebekah Allen reports in ProPublica:

Gordy Dove has begged Uber and Lyft to make their ride-sharing services available in Terrebonne Parish, where he serves as parish president.

The sprawling coastal parish of 112,000 people is not easily walkable, and Dove worries about how students at colleges in the area will get home from the bars after they’ve had a few drinks.

But the big ride-sharing companies aren’t coming to places like Houma, the parish’s biggest city, or many other parts of Louisiana anytime soon. That’s because Louisiana does not have legislation in place allowing them to operate. The state is one of only five that lacks such a law, instead requiring the companies to go through the costly and time-intensive process of getting approval in each locality.

A bill to change that has garnered widespread and bipartisan support. It was backed by the governor, a Democrat, and sponsored by the House speaker, a Republican. It had 56 co-sponsors from both parties — nearly 40 percent of the state’s lawmakers — in both chambers and from all corners of the state. It was favored by the potent Louisiana Association of Business and Industry and other economic development groups.

But the bill is not going anywhere, thanks to one man, Senate President John Alario, R-Westwego.

The powerful politician twice used parliamentary maneuvers this year to sideline the bill.

More than a dozen legislators, lobbyists and Capitol staff pointed to Alario’s close personal, professional and political alliance with former Sen. Francis Heitmeier, who makes a living selling insurance to cab companies and lobbied against the ride-sharing bill.

The cab industry was one of the few opponents of the bill.

In interviews with The Advocate, the legislators, lobbyists and Capitol staff said they didn’t want to speak about Alario on the record for fear of antagonizing the most powerful man in the Legislature, who has more say over what becomes law in Louisiana — and what doesn’t — than any other person, except perhaps the governor.

Those willing to speak publicly hinted at Alario’s influence on the bill but stopped short of using his name.

“There’s one really important person who’s just not on board,” said Rep. Tanner Magee, R-Houma, a frustrated proponent of the bill. Asked if that person was Alario, Magee said he didn’t want to answer the question.

This year, The Advocate is partnering with ProPublica to investigate conflicts of interest in the Louisiana Legislature. The news organizations have shown how legislators routinely sponsor, speak on behalf of and vote for bills that benefit their own businesses or help their relatives and clients. Another story illustrated how financial disclosure reporting is so poorly policed in Louisiana that lawmakers can easily hide how they earn their income — even when the source is public money.

Alario, in an interview, said that he had not taken a position on the ride-sharing bill and that his actions were not motivated by a desire to kill it. He said he and Heitmeier may have “talked about it in passing,” but their friendship had no impact on his actions.

“Francis is a dear friend of mine, but that would not sway me. I have friends on all sides, a whole slew of lobbyists that I’m friends with,” Alario said. “Sometimes I’m on the same side as them and sometimes I’m not.”

He said he believes the accusations stem from people who are unhappy that the bill died.

Heitmeier said in an email that his opposition to the bill “has always been a case of public safety.”

Proponents of the failed ride-sharing bill say it makes no sense that Louisiana, which depends on tourism but lacks reliable public transportation, would reject a bill designed to allow ride-sharing. Lyft called the political landscape in Louisiana “tough” but said it would keep trying to bring service to the state. Uber has been careful not to blame players by name, but it is getting close.

“The personal allegiances of a few powerful people shouldn’t obstruct the ability of Louisianians to earn flexible income and get a reliable ride,” Uber spokeswoman Evangeline George said.

Pearson Cross, a political science professor and an associate dean at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, said the situation illustrates the way business is conducted in Louisiana and every other state legislature.

“It seems clear that personalities, interests and webs of influence matter a great deal to what does and what does not get passed by the state legislature,” he said, adding that legislators are within their legal and ethical rights, per state law.

Sent to a Committee “So It Could Be Killed”

The bill, which would have legalized ride-sharing and outlined uniform regulations for drivers, was sponsored by House Speaker Taylor Barras, R-New Iberia. Such high-profile backing was meant to ensure its passage.

“We thought we could neutralize the Senate with having the speaker’s name on it, thinking they wouldn’t quite put up the opposition,” said Rep. Kenny Havard, R-St. Francisville, who sponsored the bill in 2017, when it also was killed.

But after the bill easily passed the House 97 to 1 in April, Alario used a parliamentary maneuver that doomed the bill from the start.

The bill’s sponsors and other supporters wanted it to be heard in the Senate transportation committee, where it would have passed easily, according to the committee chairman Sen. Page Cortez, R-Lafayette. However, in April, Alario assigned it to the committee known as Judiciary A, which typically handles bills concerning criminal justice and civil law and procedure.

Barras found the move confusing.

“I assigned it to House Transportation for that very reason. It’s a transportation company asking to do business in the state; that would have been a logical assignment to me,” he said in an interview.

But the Judiciary A committee also happens to have several members who oppose the bill.

Sen. Jack Donahue, R-Mandeville, a member of Judiciary A who supported the bill, said he thought the assignment was strategic. “I think it was sent to Judiciary A so it could be killed,” he said.

Asked about the assignment, Alario said it was “the proper subject matter” for Judiciary A without elaborating. He added that he was unsurprised that Barras, the bill’s sponsor, wanted it to be assigned to a committee where it had an easier path to victory.

In 2017, when Alario assigned a similar ride-sharing bill to the same committee, Havard, the House author, withdrew it before debate, sensing it was dead.

In the committee this year, the bill faced tough questioning from Sen. Danny Martiny, R-Metairie, an ardent defender of the taxi industry who has been open about his distaste for companies like Uber and Lyft.

“For those of you who are cab drivers, I have led the charge to stop what they are trying to do to you with the Uber and Lyft people,” he said in 2017 while stumping for a seat on the Jefferson Parish Council, a race he ultimately lost.

During the committee hearing, Martiny sometimes angrily questioned Uber and Lyft representatives about what he said was the lax way in which their companies are regulated in other states, and how they were proposing to be regulated in Louisiana. He also questioned why the bill called for the state Agriculture Department to oversee ride-sharing, rather than the Public Service Commission.

Martiny had an ally in Sen. Wesley Bishop, D-New Orleans, who works with a law firm that represents 50 taxicab drivers and companies that sued Uber in March, saying the ride-sharing firm’s aim was ”to unfairly compete, crowd the market and eliminate competition.”

Bishop is “of counsel” to attorney Ira Middleberg’s law firm, meaning he is not directly employed by the firm but has a close relationship with its lawyers. The status is sometimes used for high-profile attorneys, such as politicians, who serve as rainmakers. Bishop’s connection to Middleberg was first reported this summer by WVUE-TV.

In the end, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

25 August 2018 at 7:42 am

Interesting snooker game between Ronny O’Sullivan and Sean Murphy

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Interesting to see calm recovery from a few bad spots—and impressive precision on the pots made.

Written by Leisureguy

25 August 2018 at 7:38 am

Posted in Games

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