• Florida Republican says vaccination is "the mark of the beast"

    Peter Feaman is a top Republican official in Florida and has a blog where he describes vaccination as "the mark of the beast" and compares the effort to vaccinate people against Covid to Nazi brownshirts.

    In May, Feaman called Covid-19 vaccines a "mark of the beast" — a reference to a symbol from the biblical Book of Revelations showing allegiance to Satan — and called Michigan Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer "diabolical" for encouraging vaccines. "Diabolical Michigan Governor Whiter wants her citizens to get the Mark of the Beast to participate in society," Feaman wrote.

    "Now the Michigan Democrat has announced that she is going to prolong the state's suffering until residents submit to getting 'the jab' and if enough of them comply with her demands, then she and Joe Biden might permit them to celebrate Fourth of July," he added, seemingly referencing the Biden administration's goal to have 70% of the US adult population with at least one dose of the vaccine by that holiday. (The goal was not met.) He later added, "Hey Whitmer, we will not bow to your false god."

    You can't negotiate, compromise or reason with this. You either win or lose to it.

  • Lindsey Graham's Covid infection may have come from Joe Manchin boat "gathering" he insists wasn't a party

    South Carolina GOP Senator Lindsey Graham tweeted yesterday that he has Covid and credited the mildness of his symptoms to having gotten vaccinated. The origin of the infection is likely to be a party on a boat attended by at least seven other U.S. Senators, hosted by Joe Manchin (D-W.V.)

    Other senators present at the party included Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., Chris Coons, D-Del., John Thune, R-S.D., and Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., their offices and NBC News confirmed. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., and Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., also attended, their offices confirmed with NBC News.

    Speaking to reporters on his way out of the Capitol Monday, Manchin said he did not have a party, instead saying, "When you say party, there's no parties, basically there's gatherings we have on 'Almost Heaven'… so we know each other and talk to each other."

  • Pitchfork reviews the Peppa Pig album

    Peppa's Adventures: The Album is not the four-eyed piglet's first outing, but it is the first to be reviewed by Pitchfork.

    On My First Album, Peppa made a careful study of Brian Wilson's sunny melodies and progressive pop structure. She hews closely to this formula throughout Peppa's Adventures, particularly on the wistful "Perfect Day" and on "Recycling," which evokes Fiona Apple in its percussive use of glass bottles and tin cans. Reaching further into pop's past, she interpolates British and American folk music on the cheery "The School Bus Song" and the contemplative "Winter Days." The traditionalist approach to production pairs well with Peppa's efficient songwriting. She's adept at mining the mundane stuff of suburban life for glittering moments of camaraderie.

  • McDonalds bans unmasked customers "in areas with high or substantial transmission"

    All customers and staff must be masked in its restaurants, McDonalds confirmed Tuesday, making it one of the largest employers to restore mask mandates after an explosion in Covid cases caused by the Delta variant.

    The resurgence of COVID-19 cases in the United States due to the Delta variant and the new guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that requires fully vaccinated individuals to wear masks have led companies to change their plans on vaccinations and masking. Last week, major companies including Alphabet Inc's (GOOGL.O) Google, Uber Technologies Inc (UBER.N) and Facebook Inc (FB.O) said all their U.S. employees must get vaccinated to step into offices.

    All to be enforced by minimum wage teens with no backup or authority, made to deal with whoever staggers in at midnight looking for a fight.

  • Last year's lockdowns reduced carbon emissions. This year's wildfires undid all that.

    From a recent story in the MIT Technology Review, focusing on carbon emissions in the West Coast of the United States:

    Together, California, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington saw fossil-fuel emissions decline by around 69 million tons of carbon dioxide last year as the pandemic slashed pollution from ground transportation, aviation, and industry, according to data from Carbon Monitor. But from July 1 to July 25, fires in those states produced about 41 million tons of carbon dioxide, based on data provided to MIT Technology Review from the European Commission's Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service.

    That's far above normal levels for this part of the year and comes on top of the surge of emissions from the massive fires across the American West in 2020. California fires alone produced more than 100 million tons of carbon dioxide last year, which was already enough to more than cancel out the broader region's annual emissions declines.

    The Washington Post published a similar story of shattered hope for the climate, based in Australia:

    The 2019-2020 Australian wildfire season resulted in 0.1 degrees Fahrenheit of cooling by mid-2020. The cooling, however, was tacked atop a continued net warming of the climate and had a negligible effect on slowing the pace of human-induced climate change from fossil fuel burning.

    […]

    Covid-19 sparked a marked drop-off in travel, manufacturing and commerce that peaked in March of 2020. While that meant a lesser emission of greenhouse gases, which warm the climate, cleaner air in places like Asia yielded a reduction in areal coverage of smog and haze. That comparative absence of smog, which ordinarily reflects some sunlight back into space, may have produced a warming influence. … Overall, the National Center for Atmospheric Research team [in Boulder, CO] thinks that 0.09 degrees of warming may have resulted globally from the covid-19 shutdowns. 

    So, I suppose the positive takeaways from this are: that it's not too late to reverse some damage from climate change!…by enacting large-scale, long-term changes to the way our society functions. Also, geoengineering can really make a difference!…which means that maybe our best hope for long-term planetary survival is literally blocking out the sun with reflective clouds. Of course, just because incidental solar geoengineering in a tropical location produced a slight cooling effect, that doesn't mean it's necessarily a good thing overall for the planet, as MIT News noted last year:

    Scientists at MIT have found that solar geoengineering would significantly change extratropical storm tracks — the zones in the middle and high latitudes where storms form year-round and are steered by the jet stream across the oceans and land. Extratropical storm tracks give rise to extratropical cyclones, and not their tropical cousins, hurricanes. The strength of extratropical storm tracks determines the severity and frequency of storms such as nor'easters in the United States.

    The team considered an idealized scenario in which solar radiation was reflected enough to offset the warming that would occur if carbon dioxide were to quadruple in concentration. In a number of global climate models under this scenario, the strength of storm tracks in both the northern and southern hemispheres weakened significantly in response.

    Weakened storm tracks would mean less powerful winter storms, but the team cautions that weaker storm tracks also lead to stagnant conditions, particularly in summer, and less wind to clear away air pollution. Changes in winds could also affect the circulation of ocean waters and, in turn, the stability of ice sheets.

    Ah, foiled again.

    The pandemic slashed the West Coast's emissions. Wildfires already reversed it. [James Temple / MIT Technology Review]

    Australian fires had bigger impact on climate than covid-19 lockdowns in 2020 [Matthew Cappucci / The Washington Post]

    Image: DoD photo by Master Sgt. Christopher DeWitt, U.S. Air Force [Public Domain]

  • US Police failed to act on massive warning of clown threats

    Five years ago, there was a massive uptick in clown-related crime alerts. Was it just people generally being scared of clowns? Or had the Joker finally succeeded in his 80-year-long schemes? The answer remains unclear. But, as the US Joint Regional Intelligence Center noted at the time (emphasis added):

    In the most recent trend since August 2016, dozens of sightings of people dressed as menacing clowns, often in dark or secluded areas, have been reported to police and news media nationwide. Many alleged, unverified sightings have been shared on social media. Some variants involve unsubstantiated, mass- forwarded claims on social media that groups of clowns plan to attack schools.

    The JRIC has no information to indicate any specific, credible threat involving clown sightings, including any organized criminal or terrorist plotting. Law enforcement personnel investigating reports of suspicious clowns should be aware they may sometimes carry items which could be used as weapons. Increased public awareness of the trend and unchecked social media propagation of related text and images is likely to generate additional clown sightings of copycats eager to join in this activity.

    Again: this was real life, not the Gotham City Police Blotter.

    That distinction is crucial, because at least in Gotham City, the police would consider looking into a sudden rash of reports about menacing clowns carrying deadly weapons disguised as clown props. But as Motherboard recently reported, that's the exact opposite of how US Police actually responded:

    Motherboard recently asked police across the U.S. for specific clown-related records from fall 2016. Departments in Amherst, Austin, Champaign, Chicago, Columbus, Fort Worth, Houston, Jacksonville, Lansing, Newark, Phoenix, San Francisco, and San Jose, though, reported that diligent searches revealed no records of a response to the clown menace, no surveillance of clown-themed social media accounts, and no comprehensive analyses of the issue. Left unchecked, the clowns have flourished, raising the question of just what the ultimate costs of police inaction may be. Last October, residents of London, Ontario were faced with a mysterious, balloon-wielding clown; recently, residents of Annandale, Minnesota have been unnerved by a local jester.

    "The guy is standing in front of somebody's house," said a local tavern owner, "making their dog bark."

    That being said, some Police Departments did heighten surveillance on clown-related activity, particularly among high school students. From The Guardian:

    Vague threats from social media users dressed as menacing clowns in 2016 led to intense police monitoring of their accounts and an effort to "identify those who may be responsible", according to records from Washington DC's Metropolitan police department (MPD).

    […]

    An 3 October 2016 document, entitled Social Media Clown Threats, laid out measures taken over the previous four days in relation to "threats coming from accounts created by unknown persons with profile pictures of clowns" on "the popular Social Media sites today like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc".

    The reported incidents in the police intelligence document included a middle schooler who was suspended for bringing a clown mask to school, and some failed attempts to obtain warrants in order to get information about several clown social media accounts. In one particularly harrowing case, an eighth-grade girl reported, "that she definitely saw two individuals wearing Clown Masks while they were walking on the dirt path from Somerset heading towards Alabama Ave near the Liff's Market." The clowns were unarmed, according to the student, and did not threaten her, or really do anything other than be clowns. Still, the police concluded, the situation merited "further investigation."

    There was no further information on a follow-up to this clowning menace.

    Cops Ignored Threat Posed by Menacing Clowns [Tim Marchman / Vice]

    Threats by menacing clowns led DC police to surveil online accounts [Jason Wilson / The Guardian]

    Image: Public Domain via NeedPix

  • Google claims it's figured out how to make a time crystal

    In a new pre-publication scientific paper posted on July 28, 2021, researchers at Google say they have used quantum computing to demonstrate the "novel dynamical phases" of what's known as a discrete time crystal. That's some real sci-fi sounding shit, so here's how Quanta Magazine explains it:

    A novel phase of matter that physicists have strived to realize for many years, a time crystal is an object whose parts move in a regular, repeating cycle, sustaining this constant change without burning any energy.

    […]

    Time crystals are also the first objects to spontaneously break "time-translation symmetry," the usual rule that a stable object will remain the same throughout time. A time crystal is both stable and ever-changing, with special moments that come at periodic intervals in time.

    The time crystal is a new category of phases of matter, expanding the definition of what a phase is. All other known phases, like water or ice, are in thermal equilibrium: Their constituent atoms have settled into the state with the lowest energy permitted by the ambient temperature, and their properties don't change with time. The time crystal is the first "out-of-equilibrium" phase: It has order and perfect stability despite being in an excited and evolving state.

    Earlier in July, another group of researchers also claimed to have made a breakthrough with time crystals by, "demonstrat[ing] the characteristic long-lived spatiotemporal order and confirm[ing] that it is robust for generic initial states."

    What are the implications of this? As I understand it, this could be a quantum leap for quantum computing — a path towards creating a computer processor that breaks beyond the limitations of naturally-occurring geometry in order to work faster while consuming less energy.

    In other words: it's some real sci-fi-sounding shit.

    Eternal Change for No Energy: A Time Crystal Finally Made Real [Natalie Wolchover / Quanta]

    Image: Nevit Dilmen / Wikimedia Commons (CC-BY-SA 3.0)

  • Passengers stranded and Spirit airlines canceled hundreds of flights

    According to travel news website Live and Let's Fly, Spirit Airlines canceled at least 277 flights today, representing 36% of its schedule according to FlightAware data. 159 flights have been delayed, representing 20% of its schedule.

    Though the weather is the primary factor, it is not the sole cause of the delay. In addition to staffing issues, Spirit reportedly also set an unrealistic timeline.

    The situation at Spirit Airlines has deteriorated to the point where extraordinary measures have been taken, according to the travel site. There have been unconfirmed reports of riots and bedlam in Florida and Puerto Rico. 

    From Live and Let's Fly:

    But Spirit Airlines, as a so-called "ultra-low-cost-carrier" does not have interline agreement with other airlines. When delays and cancellations happen, passengers are hung out to dry…it is the risk you take when you book with a carrier like Spirit Airlines.

    A tweet suggests the situation in San Juan, Puerto Rico is spiraling out of control, with passengers rioting, flights ordered to divert, crew members told to change out of uniform, and ground staff huddling behind locked doors.

  • Turn any room into a relaxing oasis with this $13 smart LED light strip

    Staying home for birthdays, date nights, or just a regular Thursday used to be boring, but by tweaking your surroundings, just a little bit, you'd be surprised at how different your space can feel, even if it's just your good old living room. 

    If you want to create an ambiance that you'll always remember, these Gosund Smart RGB LED Lights are just the thing you've been searching for. Whether you're throwing a party or chilling at home with a special someone, these lights let you use the power of color to completely transform your room with just the tap of a finger.

    The way the Gosund Smart RGB LED Light Strip works is simple. Compatible with both Amazon Alexa and Google Home, the lights can be changed by the sound of your voice or controls on your phone with the accompanying app. You'll get to choose from a jaw-dropping 16 million hues, setting the mood the exact way you want it. You can even have the colors change on their own for a truly unique vibe.

    And if you really want to take your room's ambiance up a notch, try pairing the lights with your favorite tunes, creating a fully immersive experience right in your own home. You can even set them to match your favorite shows to set the mood during movie nights. And if you already know ahead of time what type of lighting you'll want, you can schedule them to turn on whenever you want, and then ensure they'll shut off automatically so you don't even have to think about it.

    Named Amazon's Choice with a rating of 4.4/5 stars and over 750 reviews, the lights are making their way into more and more homes all over the world. From its easy syncing capabilities to its bright, luminous glow, it's pretty clear why this LED light strip is changing the way people view "staying in."

    Right now you can snag the Gosund Smart RGB LED Light Strip with Voice Control & Music Sync for just $12.74 (reg. $19) with code ANNUAL15.

  • Watch this orangutan looking cool in a found pair of shades

    A visitor at a zoo in Indonesia accidentally dropped her sunglasses inside the orangutan enclosure, but they didn't go to waste. Remarkably, a curious orangutan picked them up and slipped them right on. With a baby in tow, the shaded primate posed as a human in front of spectators, looking pretty cool indeed. Once boredom set in, the orangutan flung the sunglasses towards the crowd, and caught a bunch of tossed leaves in return. And no, the owner of the glasses never got them back, but she said it made for "a very good story."

    (Originally posted yesterday on TikTok by @minorcrimes.)

    @minorcrimes

    So I'm down a pair of sunglasses but up a very good story #monke

    ♬ original sound – Lola Testu
  • Watch this insane video of people tumbling down a dangerously steep hill to try to catch a cheese wheel

    This five-minute video of Cheese Rolling Day May 31, 1982 features footage of people haphazardly rolling and leaping down a steep hill, in hopes to catch a wheel of Double Gloucester, which is tumbling down the hill as well. After reading the following facts about Cheese Rolling Day,

    I began to wonder if the participants in this race have a death wish.

    From Cheese Rolling:

    The hill drops away at a near 70-degree angle, then shifts to 50 degrees, then plunges again, then levels out, then falls before abruptly flattening at the bottom. The wheels of Double Gloucester hurled down the hill weigh nearly eight pounds, measuring three inches thick and nine inches in diameter. Technically, they could be classed as missiles under local bylaws. By the time they hit the safety net at the bottom of the 250-yard racecourse, the cheese wheels are spiraling unpredictably at up to 70 miles an hour.

    I'm not surprised to have learned that many people have, in fact, been seriously injured during Cheese Rolling Day.

  • This highly-rated power strip is a must-have for your home office

    Whether you work from home, are a gamer, or simply own a smart gadget or two, finding enough outlets to plug everything into feels a lot like hunting for the world's hottest toy at Christmas time. In other words, it's a little chaotic, to say the least. And while traditional power strips are an obvious solution, they're not always the safest option out there. 

    Look, it's 2021, and technology has a lot more to offer us these days, especially when it comes to safe power. And that's where the Smart Power Strip comes into play. This smart outlet is capable of powering up to six devices at a time, whether they need traditional AC outlets or USB ports.

    Unlike the other power strips, you're used to using, this little guy doesn't pose the threat of overheating. In fact, the circuit breaker automatically breaks off when the current exceeds the threshold, so no high temps will damage your electric devices or potentially start a fire. It also boasts overload protection and automatically shuts off to keep things completely safe. 

    Another modern feature this smart strip is toting around is its voice-control capabilities. Compatible with both Amazon Alexa and Google Home, you can control things completely hands-free. It even has the accompanying Gosund App, giving you even more control, allowing you to schedule plug-ins and set up countdowns to turn the plug on at certain times.

    With its smart capabilities and multi-tasking powers, it's no surprise that the Smart Power Strip is making a splash online, earning it an impressive 4.5 stars on Amazon. From its conveniently shaped size to its accomodating ports, users all over the country are throwing out their old school power strips and never looking back. 

    In honor of the current semi-annual sale, the Smart Power Strip with Surge Protector is just $12.74 (reg. $19) when you use the code ANNUAL15 at check-out. 

  • The Venice Beach boardwalk is pretty much clear of homeless encampments

    Apparently, the circus that is Los Angeles' homeless outreach and service programs aligned well enough to cooperate, and maintained their resolve long enough to find housing for most of the folks who had staked out a very visible shantytown on the Venice Beach Boardwalk.

    The real heroes of this effort are the sanitation workers who had to comb approximately 2 miles of the beachfront tourist district, removing mountains of rat-infested, packed with used hypodermic needles, random flammable and explosive materials, collections of trash. Frequently the owners of these piles of detritus screamed at them, regardless of multiple and frequent warnings and reminders from Park Rangers, homeless outreach councilors, LA Sheriff's, and Police that overnight camping would not be allowed after July 30th.

    $5 million dollars was allocated by the City of Los Angeles to find temporary housing and 'guaranteed' pathways to long-term solutions for the several hundred people who had set up camp along the quirky and bohemian beachfront. Initially, no one, long-term residents or unhoused, believed the effort would amount to much. An early rush of folks either moving to other places, as neighboring Santa Monica complained, or taking advantage of now-available services depopulated the area by what appeared to be a third, gave some hope the program would work!

    Another third of the population simply picked up their stuff and moved 100' out onto the sand.

    What appeared to be happening was now a program of concentration.

    'Zones' were set up and each week unhoused people were pushed towards the center of the commercial district along the beach, boardwalk, and now on the sand proper. Each week the people who could be reached or convinced to accept public assistance did.

    Each week the group of folks remaining compressed into a smaller space, with fewer and fewer rational folks around to act as a buffer. Communities that formed were dissolved. The plan seemed to be "keep pushing problematic people closer and closer together, that'll drive them to take services."

    Things became more violent and more unhinged. Daytime walks thru the final zones were simply dangerous. Some people had lived here for a year or more and were deep into their own stories about why they should be permitted to stay indefinitely. It seemed even more fights, arson and general mayhem ensued.

    Soon only the unconvinceable remained. Folks who need other sorts of care to be gotten thru to, or just need permanent care, and folks who just didn't want to go.

    With a lot of patience, respect, and effort the social assistance teams were able to find places for almost 200 people. Probably, that many people were also simply displaced, and shuffled elsewhere.

    Walking the boardwalk this weekend was an amazing thing, however. Venice was at maximum Venice and it felt safe to walk around during the day and night with only normal levels of urban alertness.

    Just a block or so away, however, begins a swath of 1000s more people in need of housing, food, and health care. In Los Angeles alone there are estimated to be 66 thousand or more folks out on the streets, or living in cars.

    As the eviction moratorium has expired we can expect to see that number increase.

  • Charlie Kirk wins Meidas Touch's "Weirdo of the Week" for smearing champion gymnast Simone Biles

    Simone Biles is an American gymnast. She has won 31 Olympic and World Championship medals, making her the most decorated American gymnast of all time. 

    Charlie Kirk is a conservative talk radio host. The New York Times said by "[m]ixing, matching and twisting facts, Mr. Kirk has come to exemplify a new breed of political agitator that has flourished since the 2016 election by walking the line between mainstream conservative opinion and outright disinformation."

    On a recent show, Kirk expressed indignance about Biles' decision to protect her mental well-being by deciding not to participate in the Olympics.

    "We are raising a generation of weak people like Simone Biles," he said. "If she's got all these mental health problems: don't show up. She's totally a sociopath. What kind of person skips the gold medal match? Who does that? It's a shame to the nation. You just gave a gift to the Russians.… If you're not ready for the big time, we've got thousands of young gymnasts that would love to take your place. Thousands. Simone Biles just showed the rest of the nation that when things get tough, you shatter into a million pieces."

    There are thousands of other reasons why Charlie Kirk is deserving of Meidas Touch's "Weirdo of the Week," but his latest infantile outburst was the tipping point.

    Congratulations, Charlie, you weirdo!

  • Watch: A boy sets a butterfly free, only to see it gobbled up by the family dog

    A father records his young boy setting his captured butterfly free. It takes a few moments as the kid figures out how to encourage the white butterfly to leave the large plastic jug, but finally it flutters out into the garden.

    "It's free!" the father says, completing his lesson on the joy of respecting nature.

    Seconds later he changes his tune as the family dog immediately eats the butterfly "Marvel? You idiot!"