Later On

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

Archive for March 7th, 2020

Useful Covid-19 facts

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Read this informative and useful article. And wash your hands.

Written by LeisureGuy

7 March 2020 at 7:16 pm

Posted in Daily life, Medical

Erik Prince Recruits Ex-Spies to Help Infiltrate Liberal Groups

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The degree — and speed — that the US is changing is stunning. Mark Mazzeti and Adam Goldman report in the NY Times:

Erik Prince, the security contractor with close ties to the Trump administration, has in recent years helped recruit former American and British spies for secretive intelligence-gathering operations that included infiltrating Democratic congressional campaigns, labor organizations and other groups considered hostile to the Trump agenda, according to interviews and documents.

One of the former spies, an ex-MI6 officer named Richard Seddon, helped run a 2017 operation to copy files and record conversations in a Michigan office of the American Federation of Teachers, one of the largest teachers’ unions in the nation. Mr. Seddon directed an undercover operative to secretly tape the union’s local leaders and try to gather information that could be made public to damage the organization, documents show.

Using a different alias the next year, the same undercover operative infiltrated the congressional campaign of Abigail Spanberger, then a former C.I.A. officer who went on to win an important House seat in Virginia as a Democrat. The campaign discovered the operative and fired her.

Both operations were run by Project Veritas, a conservative group that has gained attention using hidden cameras and microphones for sting operations on news organizations, Democratic politicians and liberal advocacy groups. Mr. Seddon’s role in the teachers’ union operation — detailed in internal Project Veritas emails that have emerged from the discovery process of a court battle between the group and the union — has not previously been reported, nor has Mr. Prince’s role in recruiting Mr. Seddon for the group’s activities.

Both Project Veritas and Mr. Prince have ties to President Trump’s aides and family. Whether any Trump administration officials or advisers to the president were involved in the operations, even tacitly, is unclear. But the effort is a glimpse of a vigorous private campaign to try to undermine political groups or individuals perceived to be in opposition to Mr. Trump’s agenda.

Mr. Prince, the former head of Blackwater Worldwide and the brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, has at times served as an informal adviser to Trump administration officials. He worked with the former national security adviser Michael T. Flynn during the presidential transition. In 2017, he met with White House and Pentagon officials to pitch a plan to privatize the Afghan war using contractors in lieu of American troops. Jim Mattis, then the defense secretary, rejected the idea.

Mr. Prince appears to have become interested in using former spies to train Project Veritas operatives in espionage tactics sometime during the 2016 presidential campaign. Reaching out to several intelligence veterans — and occasionally using Mr. Seddon to make the pitch — Mr. Prince said he wanted the Project Veritas employees to learn skills like how to recruit sources and how to conduct clandestine recordings, among other surveillance techniques. . .

Continue reading. There’s much more.

The US is falling.

Written by LeisureGuy

7 March 2020 at 1:07 pm

Utah nourishing a growing core of dystopia

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Jason Koebler, Emanuel Maiberg, and Joseph Cox have a long and disturbing article of how eagerly Wyoming (Wyoming!) is rushing to become a surveillance panopticon. I suppose in truth conservatism is not all that distant from authoritarianism. It certainly seems evident in the fervent Republican support for President Trump (extremely authoritarian) and in the report in Vice Motherboard, which begins:

The state of Utah has given an artificial intelligence company real-time access to state traffic cameras, CCTV and “public safety” cameras, 911 emergency systems, location data for state-owned vehicles, and other sensitive data.

The company, called Banjo, says that it’s combining this data with information collected from social media, satellites, and other apps, and claims its algorithms “detect anomalies” in the real world.

The lofty goal of Banjo’s system is to alert law enforcement of crimes as they happen. It claims it does this while somehow stripping all personal data from the system, allowing it to help cops without putting anyone’s privacy at risk. As with other algorithmic crime systems, there is little public oversight or information about how, exactly, the system determines what is worth alerting cops to.

In its pitches to prospective clients, Banjo promises its technology, called “Live Time Intelligence,” can identify, and potentially help police solve, an incredible variety of crimes in real-time. Banjo says its AI can help police solve child kidnapping cases “in seconds,” identify active shooter situations as they happen, or potentially send an alert when there’s a traffic accident, airbag deployment, fire, or a car is driving the wrong way down the road. Banjo says it has “a solution for homelessness” and can help with the opioid epidemic by detecting “opioid events.” It offers “artificial intelligence processing” of state-owned audio sensors that “include but may not be limited to speech recognition and natural language processing” as well as automatic scene detection, object recognition, and vehicle detection on real-time video footage pulled in from Utah’s cameras.

In July, Banjo signed a five-year, $20.7 million contract with Utah that gives the company unprecedented access to data the state collects. Banjo’s pitch to state and local agencies is that the more data that’s fed into it, the better its product will work. Thus, the company has spent the last year trying to get as many state and local agencies as possible to give it access to its CCTV and traffic cameras, audio sensors, and other data. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

7 March 2020 at 12:06 pm

The creativity of ADHD

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Holly White writes in the Scientific American:

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is typically described by the problems it presents. It is known as a neurological disorder, marked by distractibility, impulsivity and hyperactivity, which begins in childhood and persists in adults. And, indeed, ADHD may have negative consequences for academic achievement, employment performance and social relationships.

But ADHD may also bring with it an advantage: the ability to think more creatively. Three aspects of creative cognition are divergent thinkingconceptual expansion and overcoming knowledge constraints. Divergent thinking, or the ability to think of many ideas from a single starting point, is a critical part of creative thinking. Previous research has established that individuals with ADHD are exceptionally good at divergent thinking tasks, such as inventing creative new uses for everyday objects, and brainstorming new features for an innovative cell phone device. In a new study, college students with ADHD scored higher than non-ADHD peers on two tasks that tapped conceptual expansion and the ability to overcome knowledge constraints. Together with previous research, these new findings link ADHD to all three elements of the creative cognition trio.

Prior knowledge can be an obstacle to creativity. When we look to a prior model or example for inspiration, we may actually become stuck: designers refer to this as “fixation.” In creative generation research, when participants are given examples before a task that requires them to invent something new, such as a new toy, their inventions tend to incorporate aspects of the examples—and thus are less novel. The ability to overcome recently presented information is therefore essential to creative thinking.

Similarly, knowledge of the world can stunt one’s ability to imagine it differently. For instance, if asked to invent an animal or fruit that might exist on another planet, most people would start by thinking of a typical animal or fruit on Earth and then modify it somewhat into an “alien” version. Research suggests that . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

7 March 2020 at 11:49 am

“I Lived Through SARS and Reported on Ebola. These Are the Questions We Should Be Asking About Coronavirus.”

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Carolina Chen has an article worth reading in ProPublica. It begins:

I grew up in Hong Kong and was 13 when SARS swept through the city, infecting about 1,750 people and killing nearly 300. As a teenager, the hardest part was being stuck at home and missing my friends. I only started to pay attention to the daily death toll after my parents decided that’s what would dictate when I could go back to school. But the experience shaped me. I picked up personal hygiene habits, like pressing elevator buttons with my knuckles. And I developed a deep respect for front-line medical workers, many of whom labored around the clock until they, too, succumbed.

That was only my first experience with an outbreak.

In 2014, I was a rookie reporter on the Bloomberg News health desk helping to cover the growing Ebola crisis in West Africa when we got word that the U.S. had its first diagnosed patient. My editor looked down his row of reporters and his eyes fell on me, the one with no familial obligations. “Hey Caroline,” he said, “want to go to Dallas today?” The experience gave me a deeper look into how governments and scientists grapple with a fast-moving, deadly target. I learned about contact tracing as I tagged along with CDC disease detectives. A colleague and I delved deep into how the government’s cumbersome contracting process delayed the development of a possible treatment for Ebola. I later covered Zika, reporting on Florida’s lonely fight against the virus, as Congress gave the state little assistance.

Every time, I’ve seen the same gaps emerge in the public’s understanding of what’s really happening. On one side, I have epidemiologists and lab directors explaining to me, in excruciating detail, nuanced models and technicalities, like how PCR assays work. On the other side, I see oversimplified headlines and misleading statistics touted by government officials.

Now I’m on ProPublica’s coronavirus reporting team, speaking to dozens of sources every day, from epidemiology experts and worried medical workers to members of the public, who are not sure what to take from the headlines they’re seeing. ProPublica specializes in accountability journalism, and our goal is to find out what’s happening and let the public know of any shortfalls in emergency response.

Here’s what you need to know: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

7 March 2020 at 11:43 am

Cascades in a variety of settings

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This post that explores a variety of cascades is worth reading. Above video is one example.

Written by LeisureGuy

7 March 2020 at 11:39 am

Posted in Daily life

Fish nowadays (with ocean polluted) not so healthful

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Very interesting:

Written by LeisureGuy

7 March 2020 at 11:36 am

Posted in Food, Health, Science

New batch of black beans with some changes

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The photo above is before they go into the oven. Below will later appear a photo of them after they’ve cooked. This version:

1 lb dried black beans
2 teaspoons salt

Cover black beans to a depth of a couple of inches and dissolve the salt into the water. This will help tenderize the skins and keep the skins from breaking. The beans themselves absorb very little salt. Soak 5 hours or overnight.

In a 3- or 4-cup measuring cup, put:

1 teaspoon powdered mustard
1.5 tablespoons blackstrap molasses
1.5 tablespoons tomato paste (no salt added is best)
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons liquid smoke
2 teaspoons ground black pepper (or some crushed red pepper)
1 tablespoon baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) — because of the acidic ingredients, but now I might try it with 2 teaspoons of baking soda instead of 1 tablespoon. Experiment.

Add enough low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth — or water — to make a total of 2.25 cups, and mix well.

Drain beans of the brine in which they soaked and put the beans in a cast-iron dutch oven or bean cooker. (See this post for recommended cookware — I use a 2-liter (2.25-quart) Staub round cocotte, but that seems to be no longer available.)

Add:

8-10 cloves garlic, crushed or minced
1 jalapeño pepper, chopped small — see note below: 1/2 is better, or omit — or try a few chipotles in adobo

Mix well, cover, put into a 235ºF oven for 2 hours and then test for tenderness.

I’ll update with the results. … And here they are:

The beans cooked longer than expected. We had to go out briefly, and apparently the timer went off while we were gone. When I noticed the wonderful aroma issuing from the kitchen, I checked to see how much time was left, and I noticed that my timer was now in count-up mode. The time had gone off 1 hr 24 minutes earlier.

One nice thing about low-temperature cooking: you can let the time extend with no real harm done. Beans were tender and tasty.

I think I would cut back on the amount of jalapeño: it’s pretty spicy. Next time I’ll go with 1/2 jalapeño or omit altogether. The other seasonings seemed to work well. The blackstrap molasses was ample, and the liquid smoke and Worcestershire sauce added depth without being blatant.

It’s a keeper.

Update — Even better: Finely dice 1/2 large red onion and chop small 1 bunch cilantro and stir that into the beans along with 1.5 tablespoons olive oil and the juice of 2-3 limes. I had about 1/4 cup of that with 1/4 cup hulled barley I just cooked — delicious snack!

Written by LeisureGuy

7 March 2020 at 9:44 am

Unconditional Surrender, with the WSP Monarch

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The Wet Shaving Products Monarch is a superior brush. With a slightly longer loft than the Rooney Victorian, it has more give, which I like. The feel is quite smooth, and the lather this morning from Declaration Grooming’s Unconditional Surrender was everything one could want: fragrant, dense, and satisfying. One beneficial side effect of such lathers is that one spends more time in prep, enjoying the spreading of lather and working with it.

So when I picked up my Phoenix Ascension, the shave was effortless and the result a totally smooth face. I noticed this time with the Chatillon Lux matching aftershave lotion not only the fine fragrance but the very pleasant feel on the face, possibly from the calendula extract or cat’s claw bark extract. At any rate, a wonderful aftershave, of which they have several with the same basic formula:

Denatured alcohol, chamomile extract, calendula extract, witch hazel, aloe vera, cat’s claw bark extract, polysorbate 20, fragrance, vegetable glycerin, menthol

 

Written by LeisureGuy

7 March 2020 at 9:31 am

Posted in Shaving

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