Later On

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

Archive for December 15th, 2022

Does Your Sheriff Think He’s More Powerful Than the President?

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Maurice Chammah writes for the Marshall Project:

One morning last year, around 60 sheriffs and deputies gathered outside Houston for a training that proved to be less about enforcing laws than about subverting them. After a prayer from a pastor dressed like George Washington (wig, frilly collar, musket), the crowd heard from Gary Heavin, the founder of the Curves International fitness chain, who called the 2020 presidential election of Joe Biden “blatantly, in-our-faces stolen.” Then he turned to the reporters in the room (“propagandists”) identifiable by our masks (“diapers”), and said, “I don’t know whether this is going to scare you or comfort you, but just about every person in this room is armed.” The room erupted in cheers.

Heavin was helping the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association fund this training, but the dominant presence that day was the group’s founder and director, Richard Mack. With his Reaganesque swoosh of dark hair and the cadence of a country preacher, he delivered his organization’s central message: that sheriffs, within their counties, are more powerful than any state or federal authority, and that they can resist “tyranny” by refusing to enforce laws they believe violate the U.S. Constitution. “This is a peaceful and effective process, à la Martin Luther King, à la Gandhi, à la Rosa Parks,” he said.

The Anti-Defamation League calls Mack’s organization an “anti-government extremist group,” while he prefers to invoke Barry Goldwater’s 1964 battle cry: “Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice.” Since founding the group in 2011, Mack estimates it has trained at least 800 sheriffs. Agencies in several states, including Texas and Virginia, have allowed officers to use these events for professional education credits.

While Mack once focused on gun rights, now he’s pushing sheriffs to investigate the 2020 election. One of his sheriff allies is facing a state investigation over his role in seizing a voting tabulator, while others are talking about boosting surveillance during future elections, raising concerns that they will try to intimidate voters. “I don’t think any sheriff is trying to intimidate people not to vote,” Mack recently told The New York Times.

But how influential are Mack’s views? Very, as it turns out.

The Marshall Project collaborated with political scientists Emily Farris and Mirya Holman on a survey of America’s 3,000-plus sheriffs last year. More than 500 responded, and more than a dozen agreed to be interviewed after taking the survey. (Read about our methodology at the end of the accompanying story.) Though only a handful claimed membership in Mack’s group, more than 200 (nearly half of the respondents) agreed with him that their own authority, within their counties, supersedes that of the state or federal government. (Another 132 clicked “neutral.”) More than 300 — which account for one-tenth of America’s roughly 3,000 sheriffs — said they are willing to place themselves between a higher government authority and their constituents, an action they call “interposition.” . . .

Continue reading.

The US seems to be falling apart as cohesion weakens.

Written by Leisureguy

15 December 2022 at 7:27 pm

5 steps to making better cities

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Brent Toderian, a global thought-leader on cities, an acclaimed city planner and urbanist with Toderian UrbanWorks advising cities and progressive developers all over the world, and the former chief city planner for Vancouver, writes (no paywall) in Fast Company:

One of the most common questions I get asked is “what are the best cities in the world?” I have a few different answers, but I usually look to shift the conversation to a question I think is more interesting: Which cities out there are doing remarkable things to get much better right now?

Since most of my work around the world advising cities on what I call “advanced urbanism” is in its simplest sense about helping cities get better, inspiring examples of recent successful urban change can be worth their weight in gold. On the other hand, cities that have been great for a really long time can ironically be less helpful as examples, as they can be too easy for cynics to write off. How often have you heard this one: “Come on, [insert great city here] has always been like that! We could never be like [insert great city here]!”

Plus let’s be honest: Great cities can easily rest on their laurels, coasting on smart decisions made decades or even hundreds of years ago. Think New York before Mayor Bloomberg, or Paris before Mayors Delanoë and Hidalgo. Or maybe your own city comes to mind. But the cities out there that are currently doing bold, creative things to get better–whether they’re currently great or not–those are inspiring, and hard for any city to ignore.

Every city in the world is going through a learning curve, working hard to improve, albeit from very different starting points. It’s true that “better” is open to opinion and debate (including answering the really important question, “better for whom?”), and even when the difference between better and worse is well proven, some cities sadly are still doubling down on the wrong path (more freeways, anyone?). But I find even those cities with clear visions of what better means can easily struggle with the “how” part, and the fact that the path to success is often not a straight line.

Over many years working with cities at all points in that learning curve, I’ve developed a simple conversation starter that I call the “five steps toward better cities.” I’ve found it can help break the ice around how to improve, if people are really honest about where they’re starting from.


Sadly, many cities still exhibit plenty of evidence of being stuck in this step: Picture every city out there, from Dallas to Melbourne, that’s still building new freeways in and through cities; widening already too wide roads; or building more low-density, car-dependent subdivisions and retail power centers. There’s ample evidence of the costs and consequences of continuing these wrongheaded practices, but decision-makers keep doing them anyway, often due to wrong-headed rules and policies, market momentum, silo thinking, or just poor leadership. Really achieving better cities requires that we not only start doing the right things, but also stop doing the wrong things — which can often be harder.


This one usually generates the most interesting discussions, both in and outside city halls. Cities can put remarkable energy and effort into . . .

Continue reading. (no paywall)

Written by Leisureguy

15 December 2022 at 5:52 pm

A microbiome-dependent gut-brain pathway regulates motivation for exercise

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The gut microbiome certainly seems to be deeply involved in many bodily processes, including psychology — e.g., depression — and behavior — including exercise, according to a recent research report:


Exercise exerts a wide range of beneficial effects for healthy physiology1. However, the mechanisms regulating an individual’s motivation to engage in physical activity remain incompletely understood. An important factor stimulating the engagement in both competitive and recreational exercise is the motivating pleasure derived from prolonged physical activity, which is triggered by exercise-induced neurochemical changes in the brain. Here, we report on the discovery of a gut–brain connection in mice that enhances exercise performance by augmenting dopamine signalling during physical activity. We find that microbiome-dependent production of endocannabinoid metabolites in the gut stimulates the activity of TRPV1-expressing sensory neurons and thereby elevates dopamine levels in the ventral striatum during exercise. Stimulation of this pathway improves running performance, whereas microbiome depletion, peripheral endocannabinoid receptor inhibition, ablation of spinal afferent neurons or dopamine blockade abrogate exercise capacity. These findings indicate that the rewarding properties of exercise are influenced by gut-derived interoceptive circuits and provide a microbiome-dependent explanation for interindividual variability in exercise performance. Our study also suggests that interoceptomimetic molecules that stimulate the transmission of gut-derived signals to the brain may enhance the motivation for exercise.

Written by Leisureguy

15 December 2022 at 5:15 pm

Navi Boys | #1 Avatar Fan Podcast | Episode 654

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Written by Leisureguy

15 December 2022 at 4:54 pm

Posted in Movies & TV, Video

US war crimes seem to get little press — or accountability

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ProPublica has a striking story of the CIA’s night raids in Afghanistan, which routinely murdered civilians. The report is by Lynzy Billing with a video by Mauricio Rodríguez Pons. The written report begins:




On a December night in 2018, Mahzala was jolted awake by a shuddering wave of noise that rattled her family’s small mud house. A trio of helicopters, so unfamiliar that she had no word for them, rapidly descended, kicking up clouds of dust that shimmered in their blinding lights. Men wearing desert camouflage and black masks flooded into the house, corralling her two sons and forcing them out the door.

Mahzala watched as the gunmen questioned Safiullah, 28, and 20-year-old Sabir, before roughly pinning them against a courtyard wall. Then, ignoring their frantic protests of innocence, the masked men put guns to the back of her sons’ heads. One shot. Two. Then a third. Her youngest, “the quiet, gentle one,” was still alive after the first bullet, Mahzala told me, so they shot him again.

Her story finished, Mahzala stared at me intently as if I could somehow explain the loss of her only family. We were in the dim confines of her home, a sliver of light leaking in from the lone window above her. She rubbed at the corner of her eyes; her forehead creased by a pulsing vein. The voices of her sons used to fill their home, she told me. She had no photos of them. No money. And there was no one who would tell her, a widow in her 50s, why these men dropped out of the sky and killed her family or acknowledge what she insisted was a terrible mistake.

But now there was me. I had ended up in Rodat in the heart of Nangarhar province while researching my own family’s story of loss in this desolate rural region in eastern Afghanistan.

Mahzala’s neighbors had pressed me to meet her; I was a foreigner, I must be able to help. Three months had passed since the raid. The neighbors believed it was the work of the feared Zero Units — squadrons of U.S.-trained Afghan special forces soldiers. Two more homes in the area were targeted that night, they said, though no one else was killed. Everyone acknowledged the Taliban had been in the area before; they were everywhere in Nangarhar province. But Mahzala’s sons? They were just farmers, the neighbors told me.

That trip was the first time I’d heard of the secretive units, which I’d soon learn were funded, trained and armed by the CIA to go after targets believed to be a threat to the United States. There was something else: The Afghan soldiers weren’t alone on the raids; U.S. special operations forces soldiers working with the CIA often joined them. It was a “classified” war, I’d later discover, with the lines of accountability so obscured that no one had to answer publicly for operations that went wrong.

Back in Kabul, I tried to continue my personal hunt, but Mahzala’s story had changed the trajectory of my journey. Her words and her face, with its deep-set wrinkles that mirrored the unforgiving landscape, lingered in my thoughts. Who were these soldiers? And what were they doing in remote farming villages in Afghanistan executing young men under the cover of night? Did anyone know why they were being killed?

As a journalist, I knew that Afghanistan’s story was most often told by outsiders, by reporters with little cause to explore barren corners like Rodat. Far from the world’s eyes, this story felt like it was being buried in real time. It was clear no one would be coming to question what happened that night or to relieve Mahzala’s torment.

Mahzala’s sons’ lives, it seemed, were being shrugged away, without acknowledgement or investigation, disappearing into the United States’ long war in Afghanistan. I began to focus on a basic question: How many more Mahzalas were there?

As I write this today, America’s war in Afghanistan is already being consigned to history, pushed from the world’s consciousness by humanity’s latest round of inhumanity. But there are lessons to be learned from the West’s failures in Afghanistan. Other reporters, notably at The New York Times, have documented the cover-up of casualties from aerial bombardment and the drone war in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan. This story is a deep look inside what happened after America embraced the strategy of night raids — quick, brutal operations that went wrong far more often than the U.S. has acknowledged.

As one U.S. Army Ranger ruefully told me after the Taliban’s triumph last year: “You go on night raids, make more enemies, then you gotta go on more night raids for the more enemies you now have to kill.”


Getting Started . . .

Continue reading. And do read this.

Experts Warn ChatGPT Could Democratize Cybercrime

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Phil Muncaster reports in InfoSecurity Magazine:

A wildly popular new AI bot could be used by would-be cyber-criminals to teach them how to craft attacks and even write ransomware, security experts have warned.

ChatGPT was released by artificial intelligence R&D firm OpenAI last month and has already passed one million users.

The prototype chatbot answers questions with apparent authority in natural language, by trawling vast volumes of data across the internet. It can even be creative, for example by writing poetry.

However, its undoubted talents could be used to lower the barrier to entry for budding cyber-criminals, warned Picus Security co-founder, Suleyman Ozarslan.

He was able to use the bot to create a believable World Cup phishing campaign and even write some macOS ransomware. Although the bot flagged that phishing could be used for malicious purposes, it still went ahead and produced the script.

Additionally, although ChatGPT is programmed not to write ransomware directly, Ozarslan was still able to get what he wanted.

“I described the tactics, techniques and procedures of ransomware without describing it as such. It’s like a 3D printer that will not ‘print a gun,’ but will happily print a barrel, magazine, grip and trigger together if you ask it to,” he explained.

“I told the AI that I wanted to write a software in Swift, I wanted it to find all Microsoft Office files from my MacBook and send these files over HTTPS to my webserver. I also wanted it to encrypt all Microsoft Office files on my MacBook and send me the private key to be used for decryption. It sent me the sample code, and this time there was no warning message at all, despite being potentially more dangerous than the phishing email.”

Ozarslan said the bot also wrote an “effective virtualization/sandbox evasion code,” which could be used to help hackers evade detection and response tools, as well as a SIGMA detection rule.

“I have no doubts that ChatGPT and other tools like this will democratize cybercrime,” he concluded.

“For OpenAI, there is a clear need to . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

15 December 2022 at 4:29 pm

Potatoes and me

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For a long time I could not seem to eat potatoes without seeing a spike in my fasting blood glucose the next morning. Then I learned about refrigerating potatoes after cooking, which makes the starch resistant (not so quickly digested) and about purple sweet potatoes, whose phytochemicals help with insulin resistance. (I refer specifically to potoatoes whose flesh is purple; some potatoes are sold as “purple potatoes” because their skin is purple though their flesh is white. Those potatoes lack the nutritional benefits of purple-fleshed potatoes.)

I now eat Stokes Purple® potatoes regularly, that being the variety the local markets carry — there are other varieties. (See comments on this post.) I rinse them well, let them dry, rub them with some olive oil (left photo below), put them in the air fryer basket (top photo on the right, the first of two batches), and then roast them on the “fries” setting (usually 350ºF for 25 minutes, though with the big potato in the middle, I went for 27 minutes for this batch). 

Once they’re done (like those in the bottom photo on the right), I refrigerate them. They typically occupy the same dietary niche as bananas — sweet, eaten from one’s hand — though they offer considerably more nutritional value than a banana. (I do eat the skin — of potatoes, not bananas.) Sometimes I cut a cooked, chilled potato into disks to use in a stir-fry or other cooked dish. 

Overall, things seem to be working. Yesterday I had a large portion of roasted tiny white potatoes that a local grocery, Root Cellar, offers. They were very tasty, and despite my eating them all, my fasting blood glucose this morning was 5.6 mmol/L (101 mg/dL), very close to “normal” (lesss than 5.6 mmol/L, or less than 100 mg/dL). This qualifies as very good control for a diabetic.

Average of fasting blood glucose readings:
past 7 days 5.8 mmol/L
past 14 days 5.8 mmol/L
past 30 days 5.9 mmol/L
past 90 days 5.9 mmol/L

In fact, my fasting blood glucose levels currently look quite good. At right are my averages for the past 90 days. I attribute the good control to a few things:

• genetics — people vary; my diabetes has responded well
• exercise — I have been Nordic walking as weather permits
• diet — I continue to follow a whole-food plant-based diet
• fasting — I stop eating at 5:00pm and don’t resume until 7:30am – 8:00am the next morning.

My diet is based on Greger’s Daily Dozen template with an eye on Heber’s color palette. Using the guidance I get from those ensures a good variety along with getting the macronutrients and micronutrients I need. (I do, of course, take a B12 tablet each day, along with two D3 capsules.)

I’m inexplicably surprised by how greatly one’s diet affects their health. That’s been known (in general) for a long time, even though most strenuously ignore it.

Written by Leisureguy

15 December 2022 at 3:07 pm

Russia now openly praising Elon Musk for blocking Ukraine from using Twitter

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Russian propaganda accounts are now openly praising Elon Musk for blocking Ukrainians from Twitter. (Click the link to see the image.)

Written by Leisureguy

15 December 2022 at 1:58 pm

Big vehicles driven by unskilled drivers = Big danger

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Four-panel cartoon. Panel 1 shows how 10 children fit into the front-end blind zone of an F-150 pickup. Deadly frontover accidents have more than soubled since 2008. Second panel shows exaggeratedly tall F-150 with children on equally tall stilts. "Obviously, we need taller children." Third panel shows a cop on stilts giving a ticket to a woman and saying "Ma'am, I'm going to have to cite you for shortwalking," with the caption that adult pedestrians should also meet height requirement. Panel 4: "as the trucks grow ever higher, we must rise to met them" shows two men on extremely tall stilts, with one saying "Uh.. maybe we should try regulating vehicle sizes?" and the other responding, "Are you kidding? That would be ridiculous!"
Cartoon by

Written by Leisureguy

15 December 2022 at 1:46 pm

The rise and fall of peer review

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Adam Mastroianni writes in Experimental History:

For the last 60 years or so, science has been running an experiment on itself. The experimental design wasn’t great; there was no randomization and no control group. Nobody was in charge, exactly, and nobody was really taking consistent measurements. And yet it was the most massive experiment ever run, and it included every scientist on Earth.

Most of those folks didn’t even realize they were in an experiment. Many of them, including me, weren’t born when the experiment started. If we had noticed what was going on, maybe we would have demanded a basic level of scientific rigor. Maybe nobody objected because the hypothesis seemed so obviously true: science will be better off if we have someone check every paper and reject the ones that don’t pass muster. They called it “peer review.”

This was a massive change. From antiquity to modernity, scientists wrote letters and circulated monographs, and the main barriers stopping them from communicating their findings were the cost of paper, postage, or a printing press, or on rare occasions, the cost of a visit from the Catholic Church. Scientific journals appeared in the 1600s, but they operated more like magazines or newsletters, and their processes of picking articles ranged from “we print whatever we get” to “the editor asks his friend what he thinks” to “the whole society votes.” Sometimes journals couldn’t get enough papers to publish, so editors had to go around begging their friends to submit manuscripts, or fill the space themselves. Scientific publishing remained a hodgepodge for centuries.

(Only one of Einstein’s papers was ever peer-reviewed, by the way, and he was so surprised and upset that he published his paper in a different journal instead.)

That all changed after World War II. Governments poured funding into research, and they convened “peer reviewers” to ensure they weren’t wasting their money on foolish proposals. That funding turned into a deluge of papers, and journals that previously struggled to fill their pages now struggled to pick which articles to print. Reviewing papers before publication, which was “quite rare” until the 1960s, became much more common. Then it became universal.

Now pretty much every journal uses outside experts to vet papers, and papers that don’t please reviewers get rejected. You can still write to your friends about your findings, but hiring committees and grant agencies act as if the only science that exists is the stuff published in peer-reviewed journals. This is the grand experiment we’ve been running for six decades.

The results are in. It failed.


Peer review was a huge, expensive intervention. By one estimate, scientists collectively spend 15,000 years reviewing papers every year. It can take months or years for a paper to wind its way through the review system, which is a big chunk of time when people are trying to do things like cure cancer and stop climate change. And universities fork over millions for access to peer-reviewed journals, even though much of the research is taxpayer-funded, and none of that money goes to the authors or the reviewers.

Huge interventions should have huge effects. If . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

15 December 2022 at 12:29 pm

Posted in Daily life, Science

Tuba Skinny live Shake It and Break It on Royal St JF 2016

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Personnel not listed.

Written by Leisureguy

15 December 2022 at 12:26 pm

Posted in Daily life, Jazz, Video

Reprising Dr. Selby, and where to get it

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Shaving setup with a striking shaving brush — black synthetic fibers for the knot, with a red, rounded-octagonal hand on a black base. The brush stands next to a closed tub of shaving soap whose lid supports a double-edge razor lying on its side, its handle of stainless steel. At the right is a tall tapered dark-green bottle with a faceted ivory-colored cap and a label that reads "Lavanda."

I’m immediately reprising Dr. Selby’s 3X Concentrated Shaving Cream for two reasons. First, I greatly enjoyed using it. The quality of the lather is remarkably good, and the lather is in fact more like a shaving-cream lather than a shaving soap lather, even though the product presents much as a soap: a hard greenish puck in a bowl, from which you load the brush as you would with a soap. But Dr. Selby’s lathers remarkably easily (assisted today by the very nice Amici shaving brush from Italian Barber), and the lather has a creamy thickness typical of a shaving-cream lather and unlike a shaving-soap lather.

The second reason for the immediate reprise is that, as Ron L pointed out in a comment to yesterday’s SOTD post, Dr. Selby’s 3X Concentrated Shaving Cream is now available — and currently at a discount. That link is not an affiliate link and I get no remuneration from the recommendation, I just like Dr. Selby’s shaving cream a lot and highly recommend it. 

With my stubble well prepped, I set to work with today’s razor, which has Charcoal’s clone of the Edwin Jagger head mounted on an interesting stainless steel handle from Wolfman Razors. The shave was excellent because the Edwin Jagger/Mühle design is excellent. Three passes left my face totally smooth.

I used a smidgin of Grooming Dept Rejuvenating Serum on my face, followed by a splash of Lavanda aftershave. The sun has now emerged and we have a brilliantly bright winter morning.

The tea this morning is Murchie’s Library Blend: a “blend of Ceylon, Jasmine, Keemun, and Gunpowder teas:

Written by Leisureguy

15 December 2022 at 11:44 am

Posted in Caffeine, Shaving

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