Usher’s News & Analysis, Mar. 4, 2020

“It’s a slow, difficult process,” Putnam County Sheriff Eddie Farris said. “This tornado absolutely demolished and devastated everything in its path.”

At Least 25 People Killed in Tennessee Tornadoes; Putnam County Hit Hard; Nashville Sees Severe Damage

It’s difficult to process mentally.

Tennessee Governor Declares State of Emergency After Multiple Tornadoes


What Bernie Sanders suffered and endured in 2016 was outrageous. Yet, he persisted and to this day attempts to help common Americans as much as he can. He does what he believes to be the right thing. His integrity and his record of fighting for working Americans are not the points of contention in this race.

His opponents have instead opted for every nonsensical conspiracy theory and McCarthyite smear they can concoct, including the most ridiculous of all: the Putin theory, without a single shred of evidence to support it.

Let’s Talk About Your Alleged “#Resistance”

A very deep dive:

When you drill down into plastics recycling, you realize it’s a myth.

The success of blue states, from Hawaii to New York, in banning plastic bags has been countered by the industry-led push. PLASTICS says it has parted ways with ALEC, but some 15 red states now have laws pre-empting local plastic bans, with Oklahoma, North Dakota, and Tennessee joining the pack in 2019. (ALEC did not respond to questions from Rolling Stone.)

For now, the state bans on bans are holding up in court. …

Across the plastics industry, executives buzz about the potential of “chemical recycling” — a process that breaks down plastic to its molecular components, which can then be reprocessed to make like-new plastic. “We could truly keep all of these materials in circularity without any degradation,” Kim Holmes, the vice president of sustainability for PLASTICS, tells me. “I like to think of it as getting us to that infinite polymer state.”

To assess the viability of the technology, I visit an Oregon company called Agilyx, which sells itself as providing “the world’s only circular-economy solution for plastics.” As I pull into the parking lot, in an industrial zone outside Portland city limits, I encounter a middle-aged man unloading long styrofoam blocks, nearly as tall as he is, from his van into a grubby dumpster marked “Public Polystyrene Drop Off.”

Agilyx recycles that notorious eco-villain, styrofoam. The feedstocks here include coolers from transporting frozen fish, foam packaging for TVs, and styrofoam bricks used by the timber industry to grow seedlings for replanting. On the day of my visit, these weathered bricks are piled some 20 feet high inside the company’s warehouse. “We don’t need to preprocess it,” says CEO Joe Vaillancourt. “We don’t need it cleaned. We’re going right back to the molecule.”

The process begins by crushing styrofoam and breaking it into pebbles that resemble quartz. This material is mixed with shredded pieces of unfoamed polystyrene — material used to make red Solo cups. The mix travels up a conveyor belt and gets dumped into a reactor that turns the plastic into a gas, unzipping the plastic polymer to produce a styrene oil that’s cooled and pumped into black barrels for shipment back to a styrofoam manufacturer.

The factory handles 10 tons of material a day. But it’s not waste-free. The reactor spits out a heavy, black-carbon residue from the contaminants in the plastic, and produces a propane-like waste gas that’s flared into the atmosphere. The gasification process — known as pyrolysis — is also energy-intensive, relying on heat and high pressure. But Agilyx insists its product creates 70 percent less greenhouse pollution than starting with fossil fuels.

Vaillancourt pitches chemical recycling as environmental-harm reduction. …

Washington is late to the game when it comes to plastics regulation, and Udall’s strategy is to adopt best practices from across the globe. The Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act would mimic Europe in banning commonly polluted single-use plastics, including plastic bags, styrofoam cups and carry-out containers, and plastic utensils. Plastic straws would be allowed only by request.

The bill would expand the market for recycled plastics by creating a minimum recycled content for beverage containers, while also imposing a 10-cent deposit on each container sold — roughly nationalizing the models of Michigan and Oregon, where residents return nearly nine in 10 containers for recycling.

The bill would create “extended producer responsibility” — making the industry responsible for the waste it creates by requiring that producers “design, manage, and finance programs to collect and process waste that would normally burden state and local governments.”


Promises, promises, promises. The toxic world of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and industrial agriculture is built on false promises.

Genetically Engineered Food – the Lie That Won’t Die

Something not mentioned in the article is that the hippocampus shrinks upon psychological trauma. You find people eating larger quantities for comfort after suffering mentally. Therefore, it could be an even worse vicious circle than the article suggests.

“After a week on a western-style diet, palatable food such as snacks and chocolate becomes more desirable when you are full,” said Richard Stevenson, a professor of psychology at Macquarie University in Sydney. “This will make it harder to resist, leading you to eat more, which in turn generates more damage to the hippocampus and a vicious cycle of overeating.”

Previous work in animals has shown that junk food impairs the hippocampus, a brain region involved in memory and appetite control. It is unclear why, but one idea is that the hippocampus normally blocks or weakens memories about food when we are full, so looking at a cake does not flood the mind with memories of how nice cake can be. “When the hippocampus functions less efficiently, you do get this flood of memories, and so food is more appealing,” Stevenson said.

Researchers find a western-style diet can impair brain function

… China could report negative growth in the first quarter of 2020 for the first time since the Cultural Revolution in the late-1960s and early-1970s.

Coronavirus: China manufacturing collapse confirmed as private sector factory survey hits record low

I thought Bernie was wasting his time and energy in 2016 and said so publicly. I hope I’m wrong this time around; but, as in 2016, I won’t be holding my breath.

The logic set forth by Klobuchar in her endorsement speech, which is no doubt shared across vast stretches of the Democratic professional/media class, is that Bernie would ‘divide the party’ and therefore hand Trump an easy win in November. Oddly, it doesn’t seem to occur to them that this coordinated establishment intervention done for the purposes of blocking Bernie will also inevitably ‘divide the party’, and probably more gravely so. Bernie’s most ardent backers are already absolutely incensed. They will not fall in line behind…Joe Biden. They just won’t. And yes, they are members of the Democratic party insofar as anyone who participates in the Democratic party primaries is a member. If you enrage and alienate them by appearing to rig the process against their candidate (for the second time) then you are inescapably ‘dividing the party’ and in all likelihood assuring a Trump victory.

What could divide the Democrats more than conspiring to stop Bernie?

Told ya so.

The Pecherskyi District Court of Kyiv ruled last month that Shokin’s lawyers had provided sufficient evidence to warrant a probe and “obliged the authorized officials of the State Bureau of Investigation” to accept the ex-prosecutor’s complaint and “start pre-trial investigation of the reported data,” according to an official English translation of the ruling provided by Shokin’s attorney.

Ukrainian court throws wrench into Joe Biden’s 2020 election plans

A sophisticated hacker group pwned Amazon Web Services (AWS) servers, set up a rootkit that let them remotely control servers, then merrily funnelled sensitive corporate data home to its command and control (C2) servers from a range of compromised Windows and Linux machines inside an AWS data centre.

That’s according to a report from the UK’s Sophos published late last week, which has raised eyebrows and questions in the security industry. The attackers neatly sidestepped AWS security groups (SGs); which, when correctly configured, act as a security perimeter for associated Amazon EC2 instances.

The unnamed target of this attack had correctly tuned their SGs. But the compromised Linux system was still listening for inbound connections on ports 2080/TCP and 2053/TCP: something that eventually triggered alerts, and Sophos’ intervention.

Rootkit in the Cloud: Hacker Group Breaches AWS Servers

Hurricane Irma caused $50 billion of damage in Florida when it hit the state as a Category 4 storm in September 2017. Using the results from their study of the prior 21 years, Sun and Carson were able to estimate how much damage would have been avoided if Florida hadn’t lost 2.8% of its wetlands in that period: $430 million. “This is substantial for a single storm,” they write, and conclude from it that “wetland preservation is likely to be a comparatively effective way of protecting coastal communities against tropical cyclones.”

One Square Kilometer of Wetlands Worth $1.8M in Storm Damage Prevention

California Residents Sue Nearby Cannabis Growers Over Smell

This is what powerful industry-regulation looks like.

New York Insurers Required to Waive Cost-Sharing for Coronavirus Testing

Mom Asks South Carolina Lawmakers To Require Balcony Inspections After Son’s Death

We’ve been hit the hardest so far in the US.

Live updates: Sea-Tac adds more hand sanitizer

He pointed to Amazon and Disney raising workers’ wages after he called for a minimum wage of $15 (£12) an hour, a rate that seven US states have also now adopted — although some Sanders campaign staffers have complained they earn less.

Mr Sanders added he had helped pass ”the most significant veterans’ bill” of recent history, put $11bn (£8.6bn) for community health centres into the Affordable Care Act, and force the US to end its involvement in the war in Yemen.

He suggested his calls for free university tuition had instigated “states, cities, counties moving in exactly that direction”, and claimed his focus on the climate emergency during the 2016 Democratic primaries had helped put the issue on the map.

Mr Sanders said he was “proud of his record”, which involved “year after year” passing more roll call amendments than any other member of the House of Representatives.

Sanders responds to Warren claim he fails to get things done with two-minute list of things he got done

The government must subsidize those businesses that can’t afford to offer enough sick leave and those individuals who can’t afford to miss work by just staying home due to the Wuhan virus.

A 2010 report by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, estimated that people infected with the H1N1 virus who showed up to work had caused up to 7 million coworkers’ infections. “Presenteeism — attending work while ill — among private-sector employees without paid sick days may have extended the duration of the outbreak in that sector,” the report said.

CDC urges sick workers to stay home — but what if you don’t get paid leave?

Elizabeth Warren will rue the day. Omar’s analysis is solid.

“Imagine if the progressives consolidated last night like the moderates consolidated, who would have won?” Omar wrote. “That’s what we should be analyzing. I feel confident a united progressive movement would have allowed for us to #BuildTogether and win MN and other states we narrowly lost.”

Biden surges to victory across Super Tuesday map, as Sanders claims delegate prize in California

Elizabeth Warren better make a mad scramble by immediately dropping out and throwing her support and delegates to Sanders. If she doesn’t, her political career could end in utter disaster. It may, in fact, already be too late.

His goal is to charge rent of about $600 per month. Rent increases would be tied to an index so would only go up when there are changes in taxes, insurance, new fees, or utility increases.

To address affordable housing in Burien, one businessman is thinking big…and small

Generally speaking, plunging Treasury yields, while inflation is rising, are not a sign of confidence, other than confidence in yields falling even further due to fears of more mayhem coming at the markets which would make the Fed react even more vigorously by cutting rates even further.

Yield Curve Gets Ugly, 10-Year Treasury Yield Falls Below 1% for First Time Ever, 30-Year at Record Low, on Rising Inflation

If things continue the way they have the last couple of weeks, the Fed won’t have the ammo. Congress will have to step in with fiscal stimulus. Naturally, it will be too little and late because they’re mostly economic illiterates who rely upon political-economy illiterates pretending to be expert economists.

Ban neonicotinoids!

To do the study, the researchers spiked bees’ nectar with pesticides belonging to a class called neonicotinoids. The chemicals are used widely worldwide.

After the pupal bees hatched, researchers measured their learning abilities after 3 and 12 days. They tested the bees to see if they were able to associate a certain smell with a food reward. Pesticide-exposed bees performed worse than bees which were not exposed at both time benchmarks.

Baby bee brain scans are bad news for humans

Here are today’s key developments:

The WHO warned that protective gear “rapidly depleting”, amid panic buying and the manipulation of markets.
South Korea has reported 516 new Covid-19 cases, a day after the president, Moon Jae-in, declared “war” on the illness.
Mainland China confirmed 119 new cases. There were 38 new deaths from the virus on 3 March. China’s services sector collapsed in February to its lowest level since the global financial crisis.
There are now 41 cases of the virus in Australia, including a health care worker at an aged care home in Sydney. The Australian government extended self-quarantine requirements for those recently arrived from Iran.
A second case of coronavirus was confirmed in New Zealand, with the infected woman having recently arrived in the country from Italy.
Japan’s total number of cases has hit 1,000, with one new case confirmed today.
US Vice President Mike Pence announced new screening measures, including for all travellers to the US on direct flights from South Korea and Italy, as Washington state residents voiced their frustrations over obstacles to getting tested.

Coronavirus live updates: WHO warns of protective gear shortage as global recession fears mount


… a doctor who works at several nursing homes, who asked not to be named for fear of drawing undue attention to those facilities, said she worries that not enough is being done. One problem, she said, is they don’t have a way of testing residents and staff on-site. If people haven’t been tested, she said, they could be carrying the virus even if they haven’t yet developed symptoms. So just asking people to refrain from visiting if they have symptoms, or relying on residents to self-report, won’t necessarily work.

Outings canceled, visitors screened: Seattle-area nursing homes scramble to keep vulnerable residents safe

Civil society and foreign agents | 20 Questions with Vladimir Putin

Why communicate with vocal members of society by slugging them with nightsticks? Why do we need a law on foreign agents? Why is Putin sticking up for the United States?

In this latest episode of “20 Questions with Vladimir Putin” the President explained how the non-systemic opposition influences society, what could upset the country’s balance and how to defend Russia’s domestic affairs from foreign meddling.

Professor dropped from festival amid links to women’s rights group

Professor Selina Todd was dropped from speaking at a festival allegedly for her links to the group Women’s Place UK, which backs sex-segregated sports.