Wednesday, September 21st, 2022


Mean Streets

I grew up in a Bay Area suburb where drunk driving accidents were the biggest threat teens faced. We were all lucky enough to come of age in a place where there was no war, little serious violence, and enough healthy food to go around. But anyone who grew up in my community knew a kid who didn't make a turn, and we can all still point out the street poles that stopped cars and lives. Even in the age of Uber, when getting a ride is easier than ever, drunk driving is still a major cause of death. So while I worry about privacy invasions, I welcome the news that the National Transportation Safety Board is trying to draw a line between car and carcass by calling for an alcohol-impairment detection systems to be installed in all new cars.

+ This idea is a long way from becoming a law, but some car manufacturers are already building in systems that can protect drivers from themselves. Volvo's EX90 electric SUV will have laser sensors and cameras that can detect drunk driving. "A lidar sensor mounted on the roof of the EX90 will aid the driver in avoiding exterior obstacles, while two cameras inside the vehicle will monitor the driver's eye behavior to determine whether they are paying attention or even perhaps impaired."


Nobody Puts Baby in a Corner

"Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a partial mobilization of reservists Wednesday, taking a risky and deeply unpopular step that follows humiliating setbacks for his troops nearly seven months after invading Ukraine ... In his seven-minute nationally televised address, Putin also warned the West that he isn't bluffing over using everything at his disposal to protect Russia — an apparent reference to his nuclear arsenal." On one hand, it's not so easy to remake a military after years of diverting defense spending to yachts and mansions and months of suffering humiliating losses on the battlefield. On the other hand, a cornered, desperate megalomaniac with a nuclear arsenal is a worrisome thing.

+ "'Let us speak plainly: A permanent member of the United Nations Security Council invaded, attempted to erase the sovereign state from the map,' Biden said, calling Russia's invasion of Ukraine 'a brutal, needless war' that was 'chosen by one man.'"

+ We focus so much on strategic moves and geopolitical shifts that we often overlook the brutal impact one monster can have on the world. WaPo (Gift Article): Kharkiv children went to summer camp in Russia. They never came back.


Tator Bots

"This summer, a self-driving tractor was spotted working rows of vines in Napa valley. Described as resembling a "souped-up golf cart", the tractor runs on an electric battery and can be operated remotely with an app. Farther south, strawberry harvesting robots have been picking fruit. Complete with wheels, clipper-tipped arms and a catchment tray, its maker claims the machine can pick almost as many berries as a human with 95% accuracy." Grapes, berries and robots: is Silicon Valley coming for farm workers jobs?

+ At this point, it might be more accurate to ask if Silicon Valley will be required to fill out open positions. Don't tell this to dictator tots like Ron DeSantis, but we have a labor crunch in America. And yes, you can get fries with that. WaPo: The robots are here. And they are making you fries.


Judgement Day is Coming

"When Babe Ruth hit his 60th home run to break his own mark in 1927, he said after the game: "Sixty! Count 'em, 60! Let's see some other son of a b---- match that!'" Well, Aaron Judge just matched that. And he's done it as part of what could be the greatest offensive season in baseball history.

+ The historic home run ball that tied Babe Ruth isn't going to auction. It went back to Aaron Judge.


Extra, Extra

Fraud Squad: "According to James, Trump's operation 'repeatedly and consistently manipulated the value of assets' in order to win favorable loan terms from banks and to reduce tax payments. 'This conduct was all in violation of New York state law,' James said. James is seeking roughly $250 million in penalties and also seeks to ban Trump, his children and members of their executive team permanently from operating businesses in New York state." New York's attorney general sues Trump and 3 of his children for alleged fraud. (If only there were a law against openly attempting to overthrow a US election.)

+ Robert Baron: "As a man of faith, I believe in atonement and the path to forgiveness. I expected that the commissioner's one-year suspension would provide the time for me to focus, make amends and remove my personal controversy from the teams that I and so many fans love. But in our current unforgiving climate, it has become painfully clear that that is no longer possible -- that whatever good I have done, or could still do, is outweighed by things I have said in the past." (Oh poor you and your faux faith.) Robert Sarver, banned from the NBA for a year over racist and sexist behavior, says he's starting process to sell NBA's Phoenix Suns, WNBA's Phoenix Mercury. This doesn't have shit do with atonement or faith or ethics. It has to do with the fact that big money was putting a full court press on Sarver and his fellow owners.

+ Meal Ticket: 48 people in Minnesota were charged "in the largest pandemic-related fraud scheme yet, stealing $250 million from a federal program that provides meals to low-income children ... Prosecutors say few meals were actually served, and the defendants used the money to buy luxury cars, property and jewelry." (Apparently, these criminals have never seen Goodfellas.)

+ Freedom Isn't Free: "Women have been at the forefront of escalating protests in Iran sparked by the death in custody of a woman detained for breaking hijab laws.
Crowds cheered when women burned their hijabs on a bonfire in Sari on Tuesday, the fifth successive day of unrest ... At least seven people are now reported to have been killed since protests against the hijab laws and morality police erupted after Mahsa Amini's death." AP explainer: What kept Iran protests going after first spark? "Mahsa Amini was picked up by Iran's morality police for her allegedly loose headscarf, or hijab, has triggered daring displays of defiance, in the face of beatings and possible arrest."

+ Electric Charges: "In their lawsuits and their interviews, the women describe a workplace rife with sexual harassment and a culture of indifference or hostility to their concerns and complaints." Rolling Stone: ‘How Many Women Were Abused to Make That Tesla?' Sexism not your thing? Try this story instead: Black workers accused Tesla of racism for years. Now California is stepping in.

+ Beached: "More than 200 whales have been found stranded on a remote beach on the west coast of Tasmania, Australia. Half of the pod, thought to be pilot whales, are believed to be still alive. Rescuers are being sent to the area." This is not the first time this has happened and no one is quite sure why.

+ Pill Skill: "Researchers at Johns Hopkins University have found whether you're standing upright or leaning, as well as which side you're leaning to, could affect how fast the contents of a pill are absorbed into your body." WaPo: Have you been taking pills wrong? Here's what science says.


Bottom of the News

"We conservatively estimate our planet harbours about 20 quadrillion ants. That's 20 thousand million millions, or in numerical form, 20,000,000,000,000,000 (20 with 15 zeroes). We further estimate the world's ants collectively constitute about 12 million tonnes of dry carbon. This exceeds the mass of all the world's wild birds and wild mammals combined. It's also equal to about one-fifth of the total weight of humans."

+ Among the many who paid their respects to the queen: The Shining Twins.