Later On

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

Archive for April 3rd, 2020

And yet people believe

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Watch this video:

Written by Leisureguy

3 April 2020 at 8:20 pm

Posted in Media, Medical

Incompetence hurts the US: Donald Trump Did Nothing to Stop the Export of Respirator Masks

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President Trump does not know how to do his job — and unfortunately has never had any interest in learning it. Kevin Drum blogs at Mother Jones:

The 3M mask story keeps getting weirder, and neither 3M nor the Trump administration seems eager to provide details of exactly what their dispute is about. However, it’s been widely reported that 280 million masks were sold overseas in a single day last month even though American health care workers were desperate for them. This number originates from a Forbes story by David DiSalvo, who spent a day in mid-March with a mask broker named Remington Schmidt:

When contacting potential buyers, Remington needs two things to secure a deal with a seller: a letter of intent to purchase and proof of funds. “If you are working with a seller who has masks but you can’t quickly show proof of funds, someone else is going to buy them,” he told me.

And I watched that happen repeatedly throughout the day. Buyers from state procurement departments and hospital systems expressed desperate need for masks, but the deals bogged down when it came to providing proof that they could commit and follow through. In the meantime, another buyer provided proof of funds and the masks were gone, sometimes within the hour.

By the end of the day, roughly 280 million masks¹ from warehouses around the U.S. had been purchased by foreign buyers and were earmarked to leave the country, according to the broker — and that was in one day. To his knowledge none of the masks had been purchased by buyers in the U.S.

Remington told me that his focus now is to try to sell masks to federal agencies like FEMA, responsible for securing PPE so the items can go directly to the states that will distribute to hospitals, but it’s been challenging to close a deal and the number of “middle men” in the negotiations keeps rising.

Somebody please stop me if I’m wrong, but halting these shipments didn’t require use of the Defense Procurement Act. It required two things: (a) an executive order banning the export of masks unless approved by federal authorities² and (b) purchasing authority for FEMA to buy as many masks as it wants. You could add to that . . .

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Written by Leisureguy

3 April 2020 at 4:47 pm

How Tea Party Budget Battles Left the National Emergency Medical Stockpile Unprepared for Coronavirus

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The GOP in general and the Tea Party in particular would sell the life boats off cruise ships because, “They’re not being used and they’re taking up space.” Yeganeh Torbati and Isaac Arnsdorf report in ProPublica:

Dire shortages of vital medical equipment in the Strategic National Stockpile that are now hampering the coronavirus response trace back to the budget wars of the Obama years, when congressional Republicans elected on the Tea Party wave forced the White House to accept sweeping cuts to federal spending.

Among the victims of those partisan fights was the effort to keep adequate supplies of masks, ventilators, pharmaceuticals and other medical equipment on hand to respond to a public health crisis. Lawmakers in both parties raised the specter of shortchanging future disaster response even as they voted to approve the cuts.

“There are always more needs for financial support from our hardworking taxpayers than we have the ability to pay,” said Denny Rehberg, a retired Republican congressman from Montana who chaired the appropriations subcommittee responsible for overseeing the stockpile in 2011. Rehberg said it would have been impossible to predict a public health crisis requiring a more robust stockpile, just as it would have been to predict the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

“It’s really easy to second-guess and suggest we didn’t do as much,” he said. “Why didn’t we have a protocol to protect the Twin Towers? Whoever thought that was going to happen? Whoever thought Hurricane Katrina was going to occur? You tell me what’s going to happen in 2030, and I will communicate that to congressmen and senators.”

There were, in fact, warnings at the time: A 2010 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-funded report by the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials urged the federal government to treat public health preparedness “on par with federal and state funding for other national security response capabilities,” and said that its store of N95 masks should be “replenished for future events.”

But efforts to bulk up the stockpile fell apart in tense standoffs between the Obama White House and congressional Republicans, according to administration and congressional officials involved in the negotiations. Had Congress kept funding at the 2010 level through the end of the Obama administration, the stockpile would have benefited from $321 million more than it ended up getting, according to budget documents reviewed by ProPublica. During the Trump administration, Congress started giving the stockpile more than the White House requested.

By late February, the stockpile held just 12 million N95 respirator masks, a small fraction of what government officials say is needed for a severe pandemic. Now the emergency stash is running out of critical supplies and governors are struggling to understand the unclear procedures for how the administration is distributing the equipment.

The stockpile received a $17 billion influx in the first and third coronavirus stimulus bills that Congress passed in March. But there had not been a big boost in stockpile funding since 2009, in response to the H1N1 pandemic, commonly called swine flu.

After using up the swine flu emergency funds, the Obama administration tried to replenish the stockpile in 2011 by asking Congress to provide $655 million, up from the previous year’s budget of less than $600 million. Responding to swine flu, which the CDC estimated killed more than 12,000 people in the United States over the course of a year, had required the largest deployment in the stockpile’s history, including nearly 20 million pieces of personal protective equipment and more than 85 million N95 masks, according to a 2016 report published by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine.

“We recognized the need for replenishment of the stockpile and budgeted about a 10% increase,” said Dr. Nicole Lurie, who served as the assistant secretary for preparedness and response at the Department of Health and Human Services during the Obama administration. “That was rejected by the Republican House.”

Republicans took over the House of Representatives in the 2010 midterms on the Tea Party wave of opposition to the landmark 2010 health care reform law, the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. The new House majority was intent on curbing government spending, especially at HHS, which administered Obamacare.

Congressional Republicans, led by Mitch McConnell in the Senate and House Speaker John Boehner, leveraged the debt ceiling — a limit on the government’s borrowing ability that had to be raised — to insist that the Obama administration accept federal spending curbs. . .

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Written by Leisureguy

3 April 2020 at 4:06 pm

Breakthrough Fluidic Propulsive System Could Power the Drones & Aircraft of Tomorrow

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And speaking of interesting ideas, Tim Ventura describes an aircraft propulsion innovation in Medium:

The props on today’s aircraft are inefficient, noisy, and dangerous — but an innovative new bladeless propulsion system offers an alternative for 21st century aviation. We’re joined by Dr. Denis Dancanet, the CEO of Jetoptera, an aerospace startup developing lightweight commuter VTOL aircraft using a revolutionary technology called the Fluidic Propulsive System.

Denis, welcome! Let me start out by asking about your background, and the background of Jetoptera as well. You come from the financial & data-science world, but also have a background in aerospace — how did that bring you to Jetoptera?

Thank you, Tim. I should start by mentioning that I’m not the inventor behind all the patents of Jetoptera. My background is in business, and while I do have technical experience, my role at Jetoptera is as the CEO.

The inventor is actually my best friend from high school in Romania — Andrei Evulet, who has 15 years of experience working at GE Aviation. He was in charge of the technology that goes into the largest jet engine in the world, the GE9X, which just flew for the first time on the Boeing 777X. It’s so huge its diameter is about the same size as the fuselage of a Boeing 737.

Andrei and I were best friends in high school in Romania under communism. In my case, I defected before the the wall fell, coming to the US as a political refugee when I was 18, and then going to undergrad and later grad school here. I’m a computer scientist, and I’ve worked on Wall Street doing statistical arbitrage. I’m a pilot and I like flying, but I haven’t invented anything in the aerospace sector.

While I was on my career path, becoming a so-called Wall Street rocket scientist, my friend Andrei became a real rocket scientist, with about 40 patents so far. This was originally his idea, and we’d first talked about doing it around 5 years ago — back when drones started making news headlines. At the time, Bezos was talking about Prime Air, and we knew this is going to be a big, important market, but the drones in the news just don’t seem particularly powerful. They’re small, can’t carry a lot, and don’t go fast.

Around this time the Kathmandu earthquake happened, and we began to hear about people with drones trying to help — but other than taking pictures, there really wasn’t much they could do. We asked ourselves how we could make an improvement and create drones that are powerful and scalable in size from drones all the way up to a flying car.

The answer is our entirely new propulsion system. If you look at the history of aviation, the big changes always start with a propulsion system. That’s really what enables everything, so we started Jetoptera with the idea that we’d create a new propulsion system that would be ideal for VTOL and enable powerful drones and eventually flying cars . We decided on the name because “ptera” means wing in Greek, so Jetoptera literally means “jet wing”.

Now is it fair to describe the aircraft that you’re developing as a lightweight commuter air-transportation vehicle? Can you describe the aircraft a bit for us?

You should think of us as a propulsion system company first, and we’ve built aircraft in order to demonstrate our technology. We don’t really want to be in the business of building complete aircraft ourselves. It’s expensive, complicated to achieve certification, and overall very capital intensive. If the market demands of us to be more vertically integrated, however, that is something we would consider.

We think our edge is in the propulsion system, especially since it gives us the unique ability to do fast VTOL. We’d love to see that end up powering flying cars, but drones are a great start — they have a lot of future potential to help people, and that’s something we want to see. Ultimately our end goal is to be the propulsion platform for the next generation of air mobility.

Let’s talk about applications: your website discusses roles in emergency services, logistics, mapping, military, and even commuter applications. Can you describe those in more detail, and how this technology fits better than a helicopter might in those roles?

How come helicopters never evolved into flying cars? They’ve . . .

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Written by Leisureguy

3 April 2020 at 8:10 am

Posted in Business, Technology

Beer bottles designed to be recycled as building blocks

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Nifty idea that has not yet taken off. Yuka Yoneda writes in habitat:

Upcycling is a 21st century term, coined by Cradle to Cradle authors William McDonough and Michael Braungart, but the idea of turning waste into useful products came to life brilliantly in 1963 with the Heineken WOBO (world bottle). Envisioned by beer brewer Alfred Heineken and designed by Dutch architect John Habraken, the “brick that holds beer” was ahead of its ecodesign time, letting beer lovers and builders alike drink and design all in one sitting.

Mr. Heineken’s idea came after a visit to the Caribbean where he saw two problems: beaches littered with bottles and a lack of affordable building materials. The WOBO became his vision to solve both the recycling and housing challenges that he had witnessed on the islands.

The final WOBO design came in two sizes – 350 and 500 mm versions that were meant to lay horizontally, interlock and layout in the same manner as ‘brick and mortar’ construction. One production run in 1963 yielded 100,000 bottles some of which were used to build a small shed on Mr. Heineken’s estate in Noordwijk, Netherlands. One of the construction challenges “was to find a way in which corners and openings could be made without cutting bottles,” said Mr. Habraken.

Despite the success of the first “world bottle” project, the  . . .

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It’s clever marketing because it encourages repeat business: “I have almost enough to finish the garden fence, then I’m going to start saving up for the shed…”

Written by Leisureguy

3 April 2020 at 8:03 am

Fendrihan Mk II: an excellent razor

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The Mk II is, as you might expect, version 2 of Fendrihan’s own stainless steel razor (here with a bronze coating). Version 1 struck me as very harsh, but the Mk II is really excellent: efficient and comfortable and feels in the hand quite robust.

First, of course, I did a good prep: MR GLO, then a Yazu/Rose/Patchouli lather from Declaration Grooming’s excellent shaving soap. I’m really tempted to try their new formula, but I have so many soaps that it seems senseless to add more.

RazoRock’s 400 brush produce a superb lather, and three passes later I had a perfectly smooth and undamaged face, to which I applied a good splash of Chatillon Lux’s fine aftershave lotion with the matching fragrance.

Written by Leisureguy

3 April 2020 at 7:51 am

Posted in Shaving

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