05 June, 2020

Economists predicted 20 percent unemployment in May. How did they get it so wrong?

Economists predicted the official U.S. unemployment rate would hit 20 percent — or really close to it — in May. Instead, the world learned Friday morning that the official rate is actually 13.3 percent, an improvement from 14.7 percent in April.
It was, as economist Chris Rupkey emailed, the “biggest forecast miss of our life.”

04 June, 2020

Ahmaud Arbery was hit with a truck before he died, and his killer allegedly used a racial slur, investigator testifies

William Bryan told investigators he heard Travis McMichael use a racial epithet after fatally shooting Ahmaud Arbery in Glynn County, a Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent testified Thursday during preliminary hearings.
The hearing lasted about seven hours, with the judge ruling all three defendants -- McMichael; his father, Gregory McMichael; and William "Roddie" Bryan -- would stand trial on all charges.
GBI Assistant Special Agent in Charge Richard Dial testified that Bryan told police Travis McMichael said "f***ing n***er" after three blasts from his shotgun left Arbery dead in the street in the Satilla Shores neighborhood in February. Body camera footage also showed a Confederate flag sticker on the toolbox of McMichael's truck, he said. [...]
there were "numerous times" on social media and via messaging services that McMichael used the same slur, once messaging someone that he loved his job because there "weren't any N-words anywhere.
In another instance sometime before the shooting, he replied in an Instagram message saying things would be better if someone had "blown that N-word's head off," Dial testified. Dial did not say to whom McMichael was referring.

03 June, 2020

Report of Investigation Concerning Inadequate Oversight and Misconduct at the District of Columbia Board of Elections and Ethics and the Office of Campaign Finance

Investigation 2002-0252
This report summarizes the investigation conducted by the Investigations Division of the District of Columbia Office of Inspector General (OIG) into allegations of certain improprieties by officials and employees of the District of Columbia Board of Elections and Ethics and the Office of Campaign Finance.
Overall, the investigation disclosed a significant number of serious issues at the District of Columbia Board of Elections and Ethics and the Office of Campaign Finance, which indicate that oversight of these offices is limited and ineffective. Our contacts with the Chairman of the Board of Elections and Ethics during the investigation demonstrated that the Chairman lacks the objectivity to exercise effective oversight or to address the issues disclosed by our investigation.
We found that executive-level officials of the District of Columbia Board of Elections and Ethics (BOEE) and Office of Campaign Finance (OCF) have used their positions improperly to enrich themselves at the expense of District of Columbia taxpayers and to selectively enforce campaign finance laws. In addition, we found that these same officials failed to refer potential violations of law to the appropriate authorities, failed to cooperate with the OIG investigation, and may have retaliated against employees who did cooperate with our investigation.

31 May, 2020

Priest supported closing churches during 1918 flu pandemic, lamented loss of Mass

https://www.al.com/coronavirus/2020/04/priest-supported-closing-churches-during-1918-flu-pandemic.html
Ah, brethren, let us today reflect on the meaning and the history of that great sacrifice at which we may not assist, a sacrifice that links us with the saints and sages of every age from Christ’s time till now, and let us beg God in his mercy to remove from us that sickness that keeps us deprived of the great sacrifice, so that soon we may again with glad, worshipful hearts, meet in our churches and assist in offering to the All High that clean oblation, seen by the prophet Malachy in vision,[3] that sacrifice that is offered in every place from the rising to the set of sun.

Rage, fear, and confusion

There was a young data scientist that pulled me aside before a meeting on how data and technology might be able to help on community policing. He showed me data that he had cobbled together from multiple systems where he showed the rate over time of how police stopped white vs blacks and it was about equal. And then he showed me the search rates after they were stopped and they were staggering. It showed how much more likely you were to be searched if you were black. As we dug in, he showed how you could tell which officers contributed to doing the most searches and matching it to those that had the most complaints. When I showed his results to the other police chiefs they all asked how they could get that kind of data so get those officers off the streets. The chiefs didn’t have the basic data systems to know which officers were a problem.
What gets measured gets fixed. Yet, we won’t track even the basics of policing.

Now is the moment to sign Colin Kaepernick

It was only in the second preseason game that an NFL Network reporter, an employee of the league, noticed it and reported the story. Once it broke, https://www.cnn.com/2020/05/29/opinions/now-is-the-moment-to-sign-colin-kaepernick-lockhart/index.html
Kaepernick worked with a former Green Beret, Nate Boyer, to find a more acceptable way to protest, and the National Anthem kneel -- "taking a knee" -- was born.
That played out for the whole 2017 season. Some players joined Kaepernick, but by the end of the season, there were only a handful of players kneeling. But those protests started important discussions within the league, specifically involving Goodell, during the offseason. I participated in several long conference calls where the commissioner and leaders of the newly formed Players Coalition grappled with how to use the NFL's vast platform to promote racial justice in America.
The new season started with very productive dialogue and work proceeding between the players and the league. That all changed on a Friday night in Alabama at a rally for Republican Senate candidate Luther Strange, where President Donald Trump called for kneeling players to be fired.
NFL owners should respond to those players "taking a knee" (who were overwhelmingly black) by saying "Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, he's fired!" he told the crowd.
That one rally changed everything. Although Kaepernick had not been signed in the off season, players' protests to that point were primarily off the field -- not during the anthem or on the field during games. But starting the following Sunday, hundreds of players were now kneeling and a full-blown battle with the President was drawn.

I’m a CEO, a retired Army officer and a black man

I shudder with each death of a black man killed by a police officer. I often shed another tear, reflecting upon the times I was stopped, for little more than driving while black or being followed while shopping in stores. I’ve been stopped and searched far more times than my white colleagues and through intimate discussions with them, most simply can’t or won’t try to understand.
Sadly, I have grown accustomed to being profiled and treated like a criminal for no legitimate reason.
It happened during high school in Palm Beach County.
Following my freshman year in college it occurred when I returned to Florida.
As a young Army captain following my nearly five years serving overseas it happened.


On a cold rainy night in South Georgia I was stopped for speeding in my new truck. The young white police officer screamed and pointed his pistol in my face while my hands were on the steering wheel. I yelled repeatedly, “I am an Army officer.” He removed me from my vehicle and pressed my face against the hot truck hood. I never resisted him, but that situation quickly spiraled out of control until his supervisor arrived and acknowledged the big mistake. They quickly backed down and ushered me away in the rain while I sobbed for 45 minutes with mixed emotions; feeling lucky to be alive and quite upset that I was treated with such violence and disrespect.

30 May, 2020

Why those sometimes annoying launch, landing weather rules exist

https://www.nasaspaceflight.com/2020/05/why-weather-rules-exist/
Some of those launch operator-specific weather criteria include how close rain can be to the pad at launch, wind speed and direction, upper level wind shear limits, and others.
Two of these launch-vehicle specific criteria gave the U.S. the absolute hardest lesson it has had to learn about space flight on 28 January 1986 when the Shuttle Challenger was launched in near-freezing temperatures that were 20℉ colder than the lowest certified operational limit of the Solid Rocket Boosters.
The cold temperatures caused the failure of the primary and secondary O-Ring seals on the aft field joint of Challenger’s right-hand Solid Rocket Booster.  The failure method caused a temporary seal to form as O-ring material became jammed in the hole.
This temporary seal was shattered when Challenger encountered the most-intense upper-level windshear ever for a Shuttle (even through to the end of the program). 
Overriding those two vehicle-specific weather rules resulted in the loss of seven people that January morning.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/may/30/boris-johnsons-test-and-tracing-system-britain-lockdown

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/may/30/boris-johnsons-test-and-tracing-system-britain-lockdown
To this day I remain a “key worker”, paid £10 an hour to sit in a chatroom – alone, lost, without support or help. Despite what the government is saying, it seems the relentless problem “with the system” is another pandemic without a cure. Motivated as I am to help out during this difficult time – and after two weeks of doing “pretend” work on the track-and-trace programme – I have decided to quit and try to find a real way to help people. 
If Boris Johnson or Matt Hancock are reading this, I’d ask them to please go into the chatrooms you created and read what people are saying. You will see a lot of anger and confusion from a lot of people. And none of them have any faith that we’re properly set up to fight any increase in infection rate from this pandemic.

25 May, 2020

Why the media is so polarized — and how it polarizes us

Misperceptions were particularly high when people were asked to describe the other party. Democrats believed 44 percent of Republicans earned more than $250,000 a year; it’s actually 2 percent. Republicans believed that 38 percent of Democrats were gay, lesbian, or bisexual; the correct answer is about 6 percent. Democrats believed that more than four in 10 Republicans are seniors; in truth, seniors make up about 20 percent of the GOP. Republicans believed that 46 percent of Democrats are black and 44 percent belong to a union; in reality, about 24 percent of Democrats are black and less than 11 percent belong to a union.
Here’s the kicker: As the charts below show, the more political media people consumed, the more mistaken they were, in general, about the other party. This is a damning result: The more political media you absorb, the more warped your perspective of the other side becomes.

The little-known story of Vietnamese communist leader Ho Chi Minh’s admiration for the US

https://www.pri.org/stories/2017-09-18/little-known-story-vietnamese-communist-leader-ho-chi-minh-s-admiration-us
Ho Chi Minh's admiration for the US is most clearly seen in the language he wrote in Vietnam’s own declaration of independence, which he issued on Sept. 2, 1945, just as the Japanese empire was crumbling in defeat. The first line of that declaration is a direct quote from the American version: "All men are created equal; they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights; among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness."
It’s likely this was partly sincere, and partly a play for US help in decolonization, based on Franklin Delano Roosevelt's anti-colonial rhetoric.
This has all led some writers to speculate counterfactually, that the US missed an opportunity to "flip" Ho Chi Minh, and thus could somehow have avoided the Vietnam War. Most historians think that's a step too far. Ho Chi Minh was a committed communist from the 1920s. He was persecuted for it and yet stuck to his guns. And however much he may have liked America's anti-colonial history, he could never have been a sincere partner for the US. The anti-communist forces in South Vietnam were much more natural partners for the US.

24 May, 2020

We Chat, They Watch: How International Users Unwittingly Build up WeChat’s Chinese Censorship Apparatus

In this report, we present technical experiments which reveal that WeChat communications that are conducted entirely among non-China-registered accounts are subject to content surveillance. We found that documents and images that were transmitted entirely among non-China-registered accounts were analyzed for Chinese political sensitivity. Upon analysis, files deemed politically sensitive were used to invisibly train and build up WeChat’s Chinese political censorship system. We also conducted analysis of WeChat’s public-facing policy documents, made data access requests, and engaged with Tencent data protection representatives to assess whether those methods could also explain, or uncover, the content surveillance carried out towards international users’ communications. We found that none of the information WeChat makes available to users explains the rationales for such surveillance or the transmission of content hashes from WeChat International to WeChat China.

How ‘Jakarta’ Became the Codeword for US-Backed Mass Killing

https://www.nybooks.com/daily/2020/05/18/how-jakarta-became-the-codeword-for-us-backed-mass-killing/
In total, it is estimated that between five hundred thousand and one million people were slaughtered, and one million more were herded into concentration camps. Millions more people were indirect victims of the massacres, but no one came around to inquire how many loved ones they had lost.
Their silence was the point of the violence. The Armed Forces did not oversee the extermination of every single communist, alleged communist, and potential communist sympathizer in the country. That would have been nearly impossible, because around a quarter of the country was affiliated somehow with the PKI. Once the killings took hold, it became incredibly hard to find anyone who would admit to any association with the PKI.
Around 15 percent of the prisoners taken were women. They were subjected to especially cruel, gendered violence, which sprung directly from the propaganda spread by Suharto with Western help. Except for a tiny number of people possibly involved in the planning of the disastrous September 30th Movement, almost everyone killed and imprisoned was entirely innocent of any crime. Magdalena, an apolitical teenage member of a communist-affiliated union, was innocent.
The rank-and-file card-carrying members of the unarmed Communist Party, who made up a large proportion of the victims, were also entirely innocent. They didn’t do anything wrong at all, yet they were condemned to annihilation, and almost everyone around them was sentenced to a lifetime of guilt, trauma, and being told they had sinned unforgivably because of their association with the earnest hopes of left-wing politics.