Today’s Reads

Some good ones today:

A Tidal Wave of Mud- A mining dam collapsed and buried more than 150 people. Now Brazil is casting an anxious eye on dozens of dams like it.

Not a long read- a rather quick one, but notable for its clarity: Is Religious Freedom for Christians Only?

We were covering the Iranian revolution. A single gunshot still haunts me.

Amazon’s Home Security Company Is Turning Everyone Into Cops

The Young and the Reckless (about teens hacking the XBOX network)

The Case for Transmissible Alzheimer’s Grows

The Trump Administration Is Trying to Make It Easier for Doctors to Deny Care to LGBTQ People

OPINION: By Simply Repairing Infrastructure, We’re Missing Huge Opportunities to Make Cities More Resilient and Responsive to Citizens’ Needs

Tainted water: the scientists tracing thousands of fluorinated chemicals in our environment

America’s Original Identity Politics

Imperial Exceptionalism

BTW- When I say these are today’s reads, they aren’t necessarily from today or even recent. They’re just things that stood out as interesting or well-written among the tidal wave of bullshit I subject myself to voluntarily every day.






57 replies
  1. 1
    NotMax says:

    the tidal wave of bullshit I subject myself to voluntarily every day

    Translation: Twitter.

    ;)

  2. 2
    Martin says:

    Last night I finished watching Dirty Money on Netflix, and thought it was quite good. Highly recommended.

  3. 3
    Anotherlurker says:

    John, please keep sharing these wonderful articles! This is a wonderful service, for curious, avid readers.
    Thanks!

  4. 4
    NotMax says:

    Found out on Friday my best, closest friend here is planning to abandon the island and move to Seattle this fall.

    Slowly processing the information. The circle contracts and it’s vexatious.

  5. 5
    Martin says:

    Is Religious Freedom for Christians Only?

    Just append ‘Yes.’ to the title and it will be even more succinct and clear.

  6. 6
    debbie says:

    Is Religious Freedom for Christians Only? Of course it is! As is their right to discriminate against whoever they want to!

    That was a very petty move on the part of the warden, but the chaplain him/herself could have stepped forward to allow the imam to take his/her place.

  7. 7
    debbie says:

    @NotMax:

    Even taking Seattle’s current weather into consideration???

  8. 8
    NotMax says:

    @debbie

    I said best and closest, not sanest.

    :)

    As he turns 60 this year and will be looking for employment there, it will be no doubt harrowing for him aside from the weather.

  9. 9
    Brachiator says:

    @Martin:

    Is Religious Freedom for Christians Only?

    Just append ‘Yes.’ to the title and it will be even more succinct and clear.

    I said before and say again that denying the inmate the comforting presence of his cleric was the deliberate infliction of cruelty.

    What hateful people some have become, made more so by invoking law and authority to attempt to shroud their meanness with reason and respectability.

  10. 10
    WaterGirl says:

    @Martin: Laughing because I thought the exact same thing when I saw that title.

  11. 11
    Laura Too says:

    @Anotherlurker: Agreed, the links are great. I don’t have enough time to read everything and it helps to have some handed to me. The Case for Transmissible Alzheimer’s Grows is frightening!

  12. 12
    WaterGirl says:

    @Brachiator: That was truly appalling, and like Jamal Khashoggi, the memory will not soon fade.

    That the so-called Supreme Court supported this sickens me. Whatever happened to no cruel and unusual punishment?

  13. 13
    luc says:

    On the topic Alzheimer’s, this recent research seems to very relevant:
    https://alzheimersnewstoday.com/2019/02/06/gum-disease-bacteria-involved-alzheimers-development/
    Evidence grows that gum disease bacteria play a role and that they and there products can be found in diseased brain and are elevated in patients.

  14. 14
    NotMax says:

    @Brachiator

    The thing which gives pause is that the person who was present is always described as being employed there as a chaplain. If trained and tasked to provide multi-denominational support, it casts the situation into a slightly – emphasis on slightly – different light.

    Then again, it’s Alabama….

  15. 15
    jimmiraybob says:

    Is Religious Freedom for Christians Only?

    Given the Evangelical nature of today’s Christian nationalist movement and the long, long history of conservative Christian zealotry then the answer is yes. What will be awkward, if things work out for them, is coming to terms with whether or not Mormons and Catholics are true Christians and can share in the 1st-class citizen pie (not to mention all of the heretical sects under the umbrella of Protestants.

    “Orthodoxy is my doxy – heterodoxy is another man’s doxy” – 17th C William Warburton (orthodox Presbyterian Church)

  16. 16
    Laura Too says:

    @luc: Good stuff from AU and NZ, I’ve read other research from there. Thanks for the link.

  17. 17
    PsiFighter37 says:

    The article about the mining disaster in Brazil is shocking. The idea of damming these ore mines by adding dikes on top of the existing waste is a stupid fucking idea. As soon as there’s an undertow of liquid, the whole thing crumbles in seconds.

  18. 18
    The Pale Scot says:

    Is Religious Freedom for Christians Only?

    Just for clarity’s sake, I assume the snake handling nonsense yammering witch doctor they have uplifted as a “christian” is a nothing but a godless pagan to those of the one true faith. The 69th Reg. rioted when a Prod minister showed up. They’re cultist christianists FFS.

    I’m a Foundationalist, but all these tiny southern churches declaring they’re the One True Way cracks me up. I guess that goes for Islam too, no central authority, any smuck who can remember and site some scripture charismatically is a prophet.

    I’d insist on a Satanist, wanna go where all my friend are

  19. 19
    NotMax says:

    @The Pale Scot

    We joke locally that since it is absolutely forbidden to bring snakes into Hawaii, what would they do here? Puppy handling?

    “Ooh, watch this. He’s going to pick up the husky!”

  20. 20
    debbie says:

    @PsiFighter37:

    Plus, there was absolutely nothing they could do to stop the water. People were told to expect it to arrive at their town in X number of days. I can’t remember the name of the town, but people had 10 days to anticipate.

  21. 21
    H.E.Wolf says:

    @NotMax:

    Found out on Friday my best, closest friend here is planning to abandon the island and move to Seattle this fall.

    Sympathies on the departure of a dear friend for distant parts, and best wishes to him for his job search.

    If and when you come to visit, if you’d like to have a meet-up with the Seattle-area jackals, please let the front-pagers know…

  22. 22
    Emerald says:

    I’m wondering if they’d allow a Catholic priest in, if they’re only allowing representatives of the state-approved religion. After all, evangelicals don’t like Catholics, except for their solidarity on the abortion issue.

    And I note that the state didn’t want the Imam because of “security” issues. Did they think the Imam might try to blow up the prison?

  23. 23
    The Pale Scot says:

    @NotMax: Didn’t know that, Hawaii and Ireland have commonalities. Someday I’ll get there I hope. Good friend grew up in the interior valleys and raved about her Chinese grandma’s cooking. But I guess a lot of that scene is gone now.

    A much younger me wanted to surf the Pipeline. That was before Utube, I had no idea what it meant. Might as well as had the ambulance idling on the beach

  24. 24
    trollhattan says:

    @NotMax:
    At least he won’t have sticker-shock with housing.

  25. 25
    trollhattan says:

    @PsiFighter37:
    Our equivalent is how we store coal ash. Stupid, avoidable, cost-effective. #3 always wins.

  26. 26
    Fair Economist says:

    @PsiFighter37: Have you seen the video? That’s exactly what happened. I’ve seen video of failing earthen dams and they erode away, although the erosion gets very fast in the end. But with this it was as if the whole dam instantly turned to mud.

    Also, these sites will need centuries of management. Even good earthen dams wouldn’t be suitable.

  27. 27
    Brachiator says:

    @NotMax:

    The thing which gives pause is that the person who was present is always described as being employed there as a chaplain. If trained and tasked to provide multi-denominational support, it casts the situation into a slightly – emphasis on slightly – different light.

    I think it is absurd to pretend that the chaplain is some kind of multi-purpose all denomination super preacher. Such a minister might be able to mouth the words of various religions, but obviously to a believer, the substance of religion is much deeper.

    It would be the same if the condemned asked for his mother to be present and the state brought in a female employee who had children.

    I think of all the prison movies where a Catholic priest is present just before the condemned man goes to the electric chair. Substitution of a Baptist preacher would not be the same thing.

    More seriously, execution is a deeply serious, final ritual murder. It has its formalities, including this last ritual witness by the religious shaman. The presumption has been that this person would be Christian. That assumption is no longer true, and to hide behind bureaucratic BS rubber stamped by the Supreme Court is noxious and offensive.

  28. 28
    chopper says:

    @NotMax:

    i assume it’s because he likes snow?

  29. 29
    Mike G says:

    Is Religious Freedom for Christians Only?

    Yes. Fundagelicals fervently believe you should be free to practice THEIR religion.
    Because your religion isn’t a real religion to them. How fortunate that of the 2000+ religions in the world they were born into the one that is true.

  30. 30
    Brachiator says:

    @The Pale Scot:

    I’m a Foundationalist, but all these tiny southern churches declaring they’re the One True Way cracks me up.

    I’m an atheist and all religion, including whatever in the heck a Foundationalist might be, cracks me up.

    I just figure that if we are going to snatch a person’s life away we should allow that person something in those last hours that might be consoling.

  31. 31
    NotMax says:

    @chopper

    Step-daughter (he’s been divorced for decades) and her (third!) husband live there, along with their infant child.

    @trollhattan

    Well, as he lives here rent free…

  32. 32
    Brachiator says:

    @NotMax:

    Found out on Friday my best, closest friend here is planning to abandon the island and move to Seattle this fall.

    The phrase “abandon the island” is interesting.

    Is leaving fairly uncommon among your social circle?

    Will you be able to at least throw a nice going away party?

  33. 33
    trollhattan says:

    @Fair Economist:

    Also, these sites will need centuries of management. Even good earthen dams wouldn’t be suitable.

    The American West is nearing two centuries since the Gold Rush and the toxic legacy of mining is strewn across the entire region. California has a mine with runoff so acidic it has a negative pH. Just one of thousands.

  34. 34
    trollhattan says:

    @NotMax:
    Who among us wouldn’t welcome an infinite rent increase?

    As a random data point, took my kid past my Seattle childhood home last summer and dialed up the Zillow zestimate. It was exactly 100x what my folks paid for it.

  35. 35
    NotMax says:

    @Brachiator

    He grew up here, his parents having moved here when he was still of pre-school age.

    Is leaving fairly uncommon among your social circle?

    Indubitably.

    Will you be able to at least throw a nice going away party?

    Probably will be a shindig. And Mexico will pay for it.

    ;)

  36. 36
    JR says:

    An interesting wrinkle about fluorinated compounds — biotech/drug makers like them because the fluorine generates a strong, well-resolved NMR signal, which is great for structure/biochemical studies. In medical uses they are handy because C-F bonds are hydrophobic, which means that the drugs are readily absorbed in the body. And of course, everything that applies to fluorinated compounds in the environment also apply in the body (e.g. they don’t degrade and have fairly long half lives).

    If you want tangible examples of fluorinated drugs pretty much any SSRI will do.

  37. 37
    The Pale Scot says:

    @Brachiator:

    Foundationism appeared on Earth around the year 2157 in response to contact with other intelligent species in the universe. Dr. Franklin explains that “the idea behind the Foundation is that to get back to the roots of all the Earth religions, get past the doctrines to the core of each belief system to find out what they have in common. And they’ve got a lot more in common than you think. It’s just when politics and money and nationalism get in the way that things get a little messed up.”[1] He also explains that Foundationists believe that “The closer you get to defining God, the further away it gets.

    138 trillion galaxies in the observable universe. To me it’s not that there’s a god, it’s that why the fuck would it/they give a fuck about what happened on one spinning ball of rock and mud on the outer arm of a galaxy that has on its own at least 10 million planets much like earth

    I describe art as “The Arrogance of Man” OOO… We’re So Special”

  38. 38

    On the “Tidal Wave of Mud” article, a small clarification.

    They refer to both the dam and what is contained behind it as “dams.” I would call what is contained a tailings pond.

    That’s what I helped to remediate at Sillamäe, Estonia. It was a kilometer long and half a kilometer wide. You could see different angles of repose for increments of the dam that were built at different times. I don’t know if they used the tailings, but that would make sense in terms of the quantities of material that would have had to have been brought in.

    If that dam had failed, the tailings would have gone into the Baltic Sea.

  39. 39
    NotMax says:

    @The Pale Scot

    The thing that always got me about the religious “Earth is the center of the universe” thing is that they believe a literal underworld is inside the Earth, thus ipso facto the vital core of the entire universe, the one thing around which everything else is dependent, that keeps everything together, is Hell.

  40. 40
    JR says:

    @JR: I should add that fluoride doesn’t apply here, since it is ionic fluorine. Its properties and how our body/environment deal with it are completely different. Of course it is also toxic in high doses but that should never show up in normal exposure.

  41. 41
    Dev Null says:

    @Anotherlurker: Concur. Excellent links.

    I’ve been doing a lot of (online) reading since I retired, but I hadn’t seen any of these articles.

    Tangentially relevant to several comments:

    The Best God Joke Ever

    with apologies to everyone who’s heard it (which is to say, almost everyone.)

  42. 42
    The Pale Scot says:

    @Dev Null:

    He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912.” I said, “Die, heretic!” And I pushed him over.

    I’ve been retelling that one for years

  43. 43
    RSA says:

    The Young and the Reckless (about teens hacking the XBOX network)

    This one was a fascinating story. It’s interesting in part because it sounds so much like other cybercrime stories, going back decades.

  44. 44
    trollhattan says:

    Will leave this here.

    Fox News host Pete Hegseth explained on Sunday that he doesn’t wash his hands because “germs are not a real thing.”

    Following a commercial break, Fox & Friends co-host Jedediah Bila revealed that Hegseth had been munching on day-old pizza that was left on the set. “Pizza Hut lasts for a long time,” Hegseth replied, defending himself. “My 2019 resolution is to say things on air that I say off air. I don’t think I’ve washed my hands for 10 years. Really, I don’t really wash my hands ever.”

    “I inoculate myself,” he continued. “Germs are not a real thing. I can’t see them. Therefore, they’re not real.”

    Hegseth argued that his unsanitary habit leaves him immune to sickness. “These hands look pretty clean to me,” he remarked.

    May they all follow his lead and Fox broadcast HQ have a lovely norovirus outbreak.

  45. 45
    James E Powell says:

    @Brachiator:

    I’m an atheist and all religion, including whatever in the heck a Foundationalist might be, cracks me up.

    If it weren’t for all the ruined and prematurely ended lives, I’d be laughing my ass off.

  46. 46
    joel hanes says:

    @Cheryl Rofer:

    The Minnesota DNR is in the process of permitting a skeevy mining company called PolyMet to construct a sulphide mine on the very edge of the Boundry Waters wilderness. They have accepted the company’s assurances of tailings and outflow confinement, and the company’s assurances of remediation. PolyMet has a bad record on all those fronts, and once polluted with mine runoff, the wilderness cannot be fixed.

    Local Chamber of Commerce boosters in Ely are in favor of the mine because “jobs”.
    The current economy of Ely depends on the canoe wilderness, and will be crushed if the mine contaminates the entry lakes.

    See the Friends of the Boundary Waters web site for ways you can help prevent this travesty.

  47. 47
    Brachiator says:

    @The Pale Scot: Ah. Do Foundationalists and Jedi fight over which is the true religion inspired by science fiction?

    I describe art as “The Arrogance of Man” OOO… We’re So Special”

    Might be a common theme throughout the universe.

  48. 48

    @joel hanes: Sigh. We know enough about these tailings ponds and their dams that something like this should never happen again.

    But it would cost the companies a tiny bit more and would require state inspectors that billionaires shouldn’t have to tax themselves for.

  49. 49
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    John, thanks for highlighting the NYT piece on the mining dam disaster in Brazil. I have a good friend/former colleague who just got back yesterday from a multi-week vacation in Brazil. He knows the country very well — was in the Peace Corps there in the early 1960s, married a Brazilian woman, and still has scores of friends and former in-laws scattered throughout that vast country. He emailed me a day or so after the dam collapse to ask whether US media were covering the story at all. He was quite close to the area when it happened, and in fact had to rearrange a big chuck of his itinerary because of it. I expect to have lunch with him later this week, and I’ll make sure to provide him with the link to “A Tidal Wave of Mud” in case he missed it in the flurry of return travel.

  50. 50
    James E Powell says:

    @joel hanes:

    They have accepted the company’s assurances of tailings and outflow confinement, and the company’s assurances of remediation.

    Accepting a corporation’s assurances is always a bad idea. Even though it is actual live persons who are giving the assurances, none of them will ever be held accountable when things go wrong. An artificial entity, a creature of statute, will simply disappear and there will be no one held accountable.

  51. 51
    James E Powell says:

    @Brachiator:

    Do Foundationalists and Jedi fight over which is the true religion inspired by science fiction?

    Don’t forget about the Fosterites!

  52. 52
    debbie says:

    @trollhattan:

    Let me know when he doesn’t show up for work. //

  53. 53
    Robert Sneddon says:

    @Brachiator: The more SCIENCE! probes the cosmos the more we wonder just how we, the human race, actually made it this far. It seems that the during early times after the Big Bang, after matter had settled out from the primordial soup and stars began to form, gamma ray bursters (GRBs) were common. These are cosmic events that can sterilise any multicellular life over an area several thousand light years in radius, maybe 10% of the diameter of the galaxy. GRBs are way more intense than the radiation from stellar black holes or the lobes of pulsars which are still very common, only our distance from any such entities protects us from their radiation. We’re also lucky to be well out of the galaxy’s core and to have remained there for several complete rotations (we take about 200 million years to complete an orbit of the core). A lot of stars and their accompanying planets have an eccentric orbit, passing in and out of the core every few hundred million years getting sterilised on each pass through thanks to the dust and gas and radiation from the large population of black holes there.

    It doesn’t really matter, in a couple of billion years the Milky Way will collide with the Large Magellanic Cloud which will sterilise both galaxies and then about five billion years later, just after some multicellular life might develop again on surviving planets or newly formed solar systems the remnants of that smash-up will run into the Andromeda Galaxy and get wiped out again. After that stars will begin burning out as much of the hydrogen produced just after the Big Bang will have been fused into higher elements hence no more stars and planets will be formed leaving cold rocks orbiting brown dwarfs and neutron stars.

    TL,DR: what we are learning from astronomical studies suggests cellular-based intelligent life in the Universe is a trillions-to-one fluke, and in this Galaxy at least it’s highly probably we are currently alone or perhaps one of a small number of such entities (less than ten, perhaps).

  54. 54
    Brachiator says:

    @Robert Sneddon:

    TL,DR: what we are learning from astronomical studies suggests cellular-based intelligent life in the Universe is a trillions-to-one fluke, and in this Galaxy at least it’s highly probably we are currently alone or perhaps one of a small number of such entities (less than ten, perhaps).

    When I was a school kid, my science texts sagely noted with the considered wisdom of all learned experts that our solar system was the only one with planets. Don’t bother looking for anymore anywhere else. Done and concluded.

    They didn’t even have the imagination to consider how wrong they might be.

    Today you can’t stick a telescope out the window without finding a shit load of planets.

    The universe may have more surprises in store.

  55. 55
    Robert Sneddon says:

    @Brachiator: I never saw any science texts myself at school or later that stated “no planets exist anywhere else”. At the time there was no observational or even indirect evidence of planets elsewhere outside our Solar System. It was thought unlikely we were unique in that regard, we could see binaries and multiple star systems but extra-solar planets were not proven to exist. That’s not the same as the categorical statement you claim to have read.

    The Universe is a harsh place with lots of disrupting radiation events around, in the past and into the future. Even in our own Solar System SF writers wrote about terraforming places like Ganymede and Titan since they didn’t know about the radiation environment around the gas giants which were only discovered and categorised after the first deep space probes such as Voyager ran into them and barely survived. A lot of the other stars and planets haven’t been as fortunate as our star and planet which is the only worked example of multicellular life with a sense of self and intelligence that we know of.

    There might be other forms of life, even intelligent life but its way too easy for multi-cellular creatures like us to get wiped out, not just by meteorite impacts but by collapsing black holes hundreds of light years away. It takes about a billion years to go from chemical reactions to people like us able to plan and solve problems (my own definition of intelligence) and any time in that rise a single GRB could have reset the clock back to zero.

    ObSF short story: “They’re Made Out Of Meat”

  56. 56
    EthylEster says:

    Thanks for posting just the links.
    And for including no twitter captures.

  57. 57
    Dev Null says:

    @The Pale Scot: It’s a fave in my circles. :-)

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