Saturday, October 21, 2017

If Trump Can't Help Puerto Rico Don't Look For Salvation In A "Zombie Apocalypse"

Image result for Zombie Apocalypse images
Artist's depiction of the "Zombie Apocalypse" : a generic term designed to embody all possible real apocalypses including from CMEs and extinction level asteroid strikes.
Image result for images of Puerto Rico damage
Devastation in Puerto Rico today - still 85 % without power, water after 4 weeks. How about waiting four YEARS for those essentials to arrive?

As the popular 'Walking Dead' series returns this Sunday, millions waiting with bated breath for Rick & Gang to hollow out the Saviors' skulls, the Zombie Apocalypse resumes once more.  Of course there is no actual possible apocalypse of that sort, i.e. with "walking dead" or  "biters" rampaging across the ravished terrain, though one sometimes wonders about the Trump followers. But we can acknowledge that the term kind of covers all generic end-of world scenarios in the sense of the remaining humans having to fend form themselves to survive day to day. 

In defining these I consider potential catastrophes that have the capability of halting all electric power, as well as water, not just for months - but YEARS. Given electric power can mean the difference between life and death - as we've seen in dozens of scenes from the island of Puerto Rico after Maria struck (mainly in hospitals), and water is essential for life (again as we've seen in Puerto Rico, i.e.

this is a no brainer.  And not a Zombie no brainer either.  Is Puerto Rico an outlier? I don't believe so, and let's dismiss right now Dotard's giving himself a "ten" for dealing with the aftermath. No, this egomaniacal simpleton earns a '1' if that much (disallowing fractional ratings). He's completely blown it, e.g.

If we get struck with any of the major catastrophes in Trump's miserable term, you can basically phone it in, as in 'all over'.

The major takeaway of this year full of catastrophes - from Harvey, to Irma, to Maria and the California wildfires is that counting on your federal government to help save or rescue you is a lost cause. Not if the catastrophe is in the mega class, or if you have to live amongst a lot of brown or black people. But forget even those differences, I am convinced - after seeing the pathetic response in Puerto Rico - NO one will be rescued after a major catastrophe. 

And look, FEMA is overstretched now with the aftermath of 3 major hurricanes and major wildfires, how would they be able to handle a mega catastrophe that wipes out the nation coast to coast?  Over the past decade alone, FEMA's denials and reversals have generated uncertainty and anger in many communities, left others (like in Puerto Rico) at the mercy of water borne diseases, and led to long rounds of appeals in others.

What major catastrophes are we looking at? I list them now in the order of their likelihood:

1) Dotard goes ape shit and in a moment of manic pique punches in all the nuclear codes.

This is likely to happen if the Dotard's minders are unable to control his worst, most degenerate impulses after he loses it. After John Kelly's performance two days ago, I am convinced no one - no "adult" - exists to put a leash on this asshole and stop him from exercising his most depraved instincts..

If he punches in all the nuclear codes, a la Greg Stillson's fantasy in 'The Dead Zone',  we are looking at over 11,000 nuclear warheads landing in a matter of hours from China, N. Korea, U.S. and Russia, Israel. All electric power be out as in vamonos after the first strikes - probably within 1-2 hours - from multiple EMPs (electromagnetic pulses from air burst) across continents.  To get an idea of what this will be like for any survivors, go and watch the movie 'Threads'.

The film is about 1hr and 47 mins long, Brit-made but if it doesn't scare the bejeezus out of you, you are either already: a) brain dead, or b) a zombie and amongst the walking dead.

'Threads' is set in the industrial city of Sheffield, UK, and to be sure one needs to get adjusted to the peculiar accent. But once one does, he or she will be granted an inside look at a future none of us want to face. (One U.S. reviewer said that "Threads makes 'The Day After' look like a day at the races".) Having seen both I concur.

Threads is not for the squeamish or faint-hearted but I do think all those yammering for war or confrontation with North Korea need to see it and let its message soak in. In fact, I think every critically-thinking red blooded citizen ought to see it, if for no other reason to be motivated to let reps know this thing isn't on - not now or ever. (In a recent poll, 46 % of Republican voters indicated they wanted Trump to launch a preemptive strike on North Korea)

Max. estimated time with no power or water: Up to 10 years.

2. Meridian- centered coronal mass ejection (CME)

The coronal mass ejection, such as shown in the image below:
Image result for brane space, CME you don't want to see

is the ultimate plausible nightmare catastrophe. While it is true it's unlikely to cause the loss of life such as for (1) in the worst case scenario you will be looking at months or years without electric power or water. In other words, you will be in the situation of Puerto Rico after a massive Cat 5 hurricane - except there'll be no place to go for succor or help.

We narrowly dodged such a monster five and a half years ago. But let's not fool ourselves, the day is coming when we may not be so lucky and can't expect to continue to escape with a glancing blow or solar "wrist slap" -  as we have.

While it is true - as I noted in previous posts - that flare energy (as well as that to power coronal mass ejections) is limited by the magneto-hydrodynamic potentials available on a star like the Sun, this is not really much consolation if and when a major energy burst whacks us straight on broadside with 1 million amp field-aligned induction currents that have the potential to take out all our power grids in a cascade of failures. Space weather aficionados call such maxi-catastrophes "Carrington Events" after the signature original event that transpired in September, 1859, which incepted geo-magnetic currents so large that for days telegraph operators could actually disconnect their equipment from battery power and send messages solely via the emergent "auroral currents".

In our own current situation, we've become a more vulnerable society by constructing mammoth, interlocked  power grids which can crash if the right combination of factors is imposed. While we do have high voltage transformers that connect directly to the ground (zero or earth potential) to neutralize power surges from lightning strikes, these don't afford any protection against powerful geo-magnetic currents that are induced in the earth and flow upward into the grid. Then such mammoth event, could spark calamity. Possibly no electric power for days, maybe longer ...over vast swatches of North America.

In addition, if a monster flare hurls a super stream of charged particles along with the CME we could expect adverse effects on all GPS positioning satellites. Bear in mind that GPS, besides providing directions for road users, allows synchronized cell phone conversations, as well as orchestrates air traffic not to mention 'date stamping' on most financial transactions and guiding the dynamic positioning of the majority of deep sea oil drilling and gas operations.

Imagine then the same deep sea operations and financial transactions (say if you wish to redeem mutual fund shares) occurring when erroneous GPS info is received because a monster flare's radiation has knocked the timing off by even 1 millionth of a second (given the geo-spatial positioning measures accuracy to a few billionths of a second accuracy)? The resulting hundred fold or more time divergence would have catastrophic consequences.

Given the preceding a proactive solution would be advance protection of our power grids from upward directed geo-magnetic currents. Many experts agree a simple solution would be to install large enough resistor -capacitor systems at critical locations (e.g. near power plants or major cities)  in order to sever any CME-driven upward field aligned current connection to the grid. (Recall from my basic physics blog, e;g.     that resistors act to limit current and also capacitors can do the same by collecting charge.)

The problem? Major U.S. power companies don't want to assume the cost for any voluntary installations, which could run $100,000 per transformer. Hence, the grid remains unprotected against the rare - but potentially calamitous - Carrington event CME that smacks us broadside. (As opposed to the glancing blow.)

Even a bit of help could be available if we knew the direction of an oncoming powerful CME event and had some time to prepare. Right now such an entity exists: the Advanced Composition Explorer (ACE) satellite which can measure the intensity and magnetic orientation of any CME that sweeps by it. The problem is that ACE is nearly on its last legs and a replacement monitor is needed, lest we become "blind" to the killer CME with our name on it.

Fortuitously, a fully -ready space craft that can undertake ACE's duties exists.  This Deep Space Climate Observatory (or DSCOVR) could stand between us and utter catastrophe. The problem? The Repukes may want to cut its budget to let it become another useless piece of junk   like the solar satellite shot down as part of a missile test back in the Reagan era.

Max. estimated time with no power or water: Up to 2 years.

3. Asteroid strike:

Of course, the ultimate catastrophe would be  a Torino scale 9 impact, i.e. an "Earth sterilizing event".  Such a calamity would most likely come from an Apollo object, especially a massive Earth orbit crossing object - perturbed out of the asteroid belt.   For example, a  Gaspra (12.5 x 7 x 7.5 miles)  e.g.

impact would obliterate all life on Earth - never to arise again. The crater and blast effects alone would eliminate most of the population on the continent it struck. An ocean strike, creating tidal waves upwards of 2 miles in height, would be even worse. The debris, for its part, would block out most solar radiation for years and probably usher in massive extinction of plants.

The size of object needed is >> 1 km, and an Explosive release: >> 100,000 megatons TNT equivalent.

This is an extreme case and fortunately the odds are in our favor  However, a mass extinction event which could render the entire North American continent rubble is a lot more probable.  The relevant Torino scale would require an object 330' diameter to 1 km (3330') dia. Also an explosive release of  100 Megatons to 100,000 megatons TNT equivalent.

Max. estimated time with no power or water: Up to 10 years.

Let's make this really simple and easy to grasp: the failure to provide power and water access to Puerto Ricans by now - even after 4 weeks after Maria's strike - means there is zero chance the government will help you get through in the case of any of the preceding cataclysms.  And when I write 'you" I refer to anyone in North America and the U.S. in particular.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Facebook Follies - Yep, The Russkies Used Fake News To Toss The 2016 Election To Dotard

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The conclusion in the front page story of the WSJ Business and Investing section ('Russian Accounts Scored on Facebook' Oct. 17) makes it clear the Russkies did indeed wreak havoc in our election - and manipulate just enough gullible brains to toss the election to Trump.  As the article by Georgia Wells and Deepa Seetharaman puts it:

"Two accounts that Facebook Inc. said have ties to Russian operatives amassed more than a half million followers in the past couple of years with posts, ads and events that stoked strong emotions over such issues as race and immigration.  Most followers never suspected that people with possible Russian ties were behind the accounts."

Of course, the ignorance of the recipients or followers rendered the texts, messages and fake news perfectly weaponized vehicles for brainwashing and propaganda.

Most ominously the piece goes on to note that "most users said the content seemed like something their peers would share."

In other words the Russians on troll farms like the Internet Research Agency were able to get right inside the heads of the targets. We now know, thanks to research published in the Atlantic, these mind manipulators were mainly elite Russian college students specializing in linguistics, journalism and psychology trained at a central troll farm in St. Petersburg.

These were savvy kids who mastered their "Americana" politics by watching cynical, Machiavellian fare like "House of Cards".   By also using emotions and reading Americans' own emotional responses to race, Trump and immigration they were able to jack up their messages and twist them into fake news to mindfuck millions. How so? By using specially manipulated videos guaranteed to be shared by the gullible.

These included (ibid.): videos of two Baltimore homies ("Blacktivists") supporting causes in the black community while skewering Hillary Clinton as a "witch" at the same time usng hashtags such as #BlacklLives Matter.  The fake videos included police allegedly shooting unarmed black men.

Another memetic infection compliments of these trolls was named "Secure Borders" which railed against illegal immigration.  Their weaponized shtick was to publish "material such as a photoshopped image of a woman holding a sign reading 'Give me more free shit!'"

Such an image alone was worth about a million and a half shares - say on Facebook, or a half million retweets- multiplying the mindfuck effect.  The reason? It deliberately embodied sentiments already felt by millions in key states, descendants of those who used to riff on about "welfare queens" in the Reagan era.

The primary social media platforms used for memetic infection were: Facebook, its Messenger and Instagram services, Twitter and YouTube. In other words, any medium that could easily be mounted for use as a memetic weapon to burrow inside suspectible brains - already amenable to the necessary predispositions.

The WSJ piece noted that "470 Russia-backed Facebook accounts including Blacktivist and Secured Borders quietly infiltrated communities on social media. The issues they targeted spanned the U.S. political and social spectrum, including religion, race, immigration, gun rights, and gay rights. "


"Facebook said the accounts were created by Russian entities to exploit tensions among Americans and interfere with U.S. elections".

To now take the time to quantify things a bit, the Columbia University Center for Digital Journalism found that 6 of the 470 Russkie fake accounts had reached 340 million people. That is a helluva lot of bang for the buck.  Further, that tiny fraction "elicited 19.1 million interactions including likes, shares, and comments."    Here the shares are the most crucial aspect because of the meme multiplier effect.  One emotionally charged fake video shared with ten initial people who then share it with 10 others each, has enhanced the memetic infection power by 100.  The magic of memetic compounding at work!

We may further inquire as to the extent of direct interference? In a separate WSJ article ('Russia-Tied Ads Set For Release', Oct. 12, p. A8) we learn:

"U.S. intelligence officials have concluded that a campaign authorized by the highest levels of the Russian government hacked into state election board systems and the email networks of political organizations to damage the candidacy of Democratic presidential nominess Hillary Clinton."

It is important to grasp here that the election board hacking and social media fake news strategies were not mutually exclusive The hacking attacks in fact complemented the initial propaganda, or information warfare attacks. The latter rendered hundreds of thousands of brains more averse to Hillary while the election hacking delivered dozens of vulnerable systems that might be useful - if compromised-  to reinforce the scale of interference.  If 1000 names in each precinct of the "Brexit" states (MI, WI, PA) could have the names or voter attributes altered, then overturning the election could became a real possibility since their electoral votes  ultimately determined the winner.

Despite the facts of the case, and the fact the effects of subtle and not so subtle propoaganda are well known,  there remain hardheads that don't accept it. For example, WSJ op-ed writer Mark Penn ('You Can't Buy The Presidency For $100,000') claims that "56 % of the ads ran after the election" meaning that only about "$44,000 was available to influence the result".   But he mistakes money value for influence potential. Anyone who's really familiar with Russian tactics knows they are perfectionists in doing things on the cheap. What may seem like cheap to us, is gravy train status for them

Take the St. Petersburg troll farm, with its IRA contingent of elite university students - maybe a thousand of them. $44,000 could buy their talents for months - and at rate 2 or more times what they'd earn (in rubles) in any normal Russian job.  Clearly, Penn is not au fait with different economies of scale and the impact differences.

Penn is also blinded by the "media tidal wave" trope.  He writes:

"Every day, Americans see hundreds of ads on TV, in newspapers and magazines, on bill boards and smart phones. North Americans post to Facebook something like a billion times a day, and during the election many of those messages were about politics."

I brought this up with my psychologist niece Shayl (now completing a doctotate on the adverse effects of social media) and she saw through Penn's argument immediately.  As she put it:

"People are bombarded by so many ads, so much stimuli daily that they simply tune out most as noise. It's kind of like a fly buzing in the background, very little notice is taken. It's only when a message strikes a particular emotional chord that it has any chance of actual psychological effect or influence. "

The thing is the weaponized Russkie Facebook stimuli - whether from Blacktivists or Secure Borders, were superbly designed to send hooks into millions of emotionally susceptible brains. If even a hundredth of them were influenced - say in the "Brexit" states (WI, MI, PA) - it could have tossed the 2016 election to Trump.  I and many others, including Shayl, believe it did.  The current media narrative is "that never happened" but to quote the late astronomer Carl Sagan: "Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence."

Penn in the remainder of his op-ed repetitively discloses how mesmerized he is by money and numbers, e.g. "even a full $100,000 of Russian ads would have erased just 0.025% of Hillary's financial advantage" - still failing to process the power of one viral meme.  He really needs to read biochemist Jacque Monod's final chapter of 'Chance and Necessity' - articulating the sheer infection power of a meme prepared just right - i.e. to parasitize a brain.

He confirms his memetic cluelessness by asserting:

"It takes tens of millions of dollars to deliver meaningful messages to the contested portion of the electorate."

In fact, as Shayl points out, given the "contested portion" is usually more emotionally volatile and  vulnerable it only takes a few powerful meme- laden videos . If these are then shared by perhaps ten thousand followers, then it's feasible to alter an election outcome. This would be based on targeting three or so swing states with enough electoral votes to put Dotard over the top.

But don't wait for the media narrative to change. It's more important to get 'Muricans' to accept their elections are sacrosanct and totally secure - even if a few ads, fake news and hacks manifest. "Sure, we had some problems, yuh know, but none of them changed the outcome!"

Yeah, right! And I have two square miles of beach front in Barbados to sell you for a buck. A Bajan buck.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Kelly Proves He's Trump's Bitch - After Smearing Congresswoman, Widow Of Slain Vet

John Kelly said he was ‘broken-hearted’ by the politicization of fallen troops.
John Kelly blabbering in defense of President Dotard A. Pussygrabber  today, 

And the degenerate Kelly was so busy defending.

I once upon a time had respect for Gen. John Kelly, like I did for H.R. McMaster. I believed each could truly step into the role of adult in the White House day care center, and bring a measure of control and sanity.  But it appears - as in the case of McMaster, e.g.

I was flat wrong.

Kelly is just another subservient tool, aka a bitch. McMaster became just a puppet by virtue of his twisting facts and attacking the media. Kelly, however, became a supine bitch for not only disrespecting the widow of a slaughtered vet - but referring to an African-American congresswoman (Fredericka Wilson) as an "empty barrel".  A term, as Lawrence O'Donnell noted, which would have been the least objectionable epithet used in Kelly's White Boston neighborhood. (Desegregation came late to Boston schools, long after Kelly finished high school.)

Let's bear in mind Ms. Wilson was not alone in her interpretation of the controversial phone call in which Trump told LaDavid Johnson’s  widow that "he knew what he signed up for". This from a punk who dodged service using every excuse known to humans. Johnson's mother also took issue with Trump’s tone, telling reporters on Wednesday: “President Trump did disrespect my son and my daughter and also me and my husband.”

On this basis, and Kelly lost all credibility  with his sad and sorry high horse moralizing to try to save a turd embodying moral turpitude.  And if Kelly's the only thing between Dotard and activating  the nuclear football we all have much to fear.

Breaking years of silence over the death of his own son in Afghanistan, Kelly said he was “broken-hearted” by the politicization of troops who died on the battlefield.  Seeming to forget that Dotard initiated the politicization earlier in the week by claiming that no previous presidents had made calls of condolence.  Kelly went on to babble:

It stuns me that a member of Congress would have listened in on that conversation, absolutely stuns me,”

No  remote inkling by this dumb Trump clone that Ms. Wilson was not eavesdropping behind a door, but in a car when a car phone speaker sounded Dotard's voice. What was she supposed to do, you holier than thou prick? Put her hands to her ears?

He then went on to whine like the bitch he is, because anyone who'd grovel for Dotard IS a bitch,

I thought at least that was sacred … but it [was] eroded a great deal yesterday by the selfish behavior of a member of Congress.”

Selfish behavior? You mean like YOU putting the rapacious interests and ego of Dotard above the interests of the nation?   You ought to be fucking ashamed and as Lawrence O'Donnell stated tonight: "It stuns me that Kelly could so callously echo the worst parts of the culture." As O'Donnell elaborated later:

"I was stunned when Kelly dehumanized Fredericka Wilson and refused to even give her the dignity of a name, calling her an empty barrel. He went out of his way to do it."

One way of looking at that, given his Boston background, is that if he'd had his own wish he'd have maybe used the N  -word. Who knows? The level of disrespect and dehumanization was essentially the  same.

Kelly proved what a useless tool he is when he failed to even acknowledge that this week’s furor began when Dotard himself launched an unprompted attack on his predecessors Barack Obama and George W Bush over their (claimed)  lack of outreach to bereaved military families.

He went on to offer a protracted justification for what he said was Trump’s attempt to offer his condolences to LaDavid Johnson’s wife, Myeshia. Kelly said there was “no perfect way to make that phone call”.  Note that Kelly never once denied that Dotard said what Ms. Wilson claimed, i.e. 'he knew what he was signing up for."

And while there may not be "perfect" ways of expressing sympathy to a grieving military widow there are definite bounds of propriety and these demand at least two attributes: 1) you  do NOT refer to the deceased as "your guy", and 2) You never,  EVER say "he knew what he signed up for."

Doubling down,  Kelly said "He knew what he was getting into by joining that 1% [who serve in uniform],He knew what the possibilities were, because we’re at war.”

Yeah, Kelly, Johnson knew that but you do not tell a grieving widow that, for god's sakes. What kind of mutt are you, a mutt like Dotard?

The most mind boggling part of Kelly's incoherent rant? Describing Trump as “brave” for making the call. This about the most cowardly, dishonorable and degenerate president in history.  After hearing this one was left with only two judgment choices of Kelly: either he's a fucking dumbass moron or he is Dotard's bitch. Since I do not believe the first, I have to go with the second.

What Kelly proved today is that the amoral atmosphere of the White House is corrosive and its rot threatens and wears on anyone in that  environment. As one commentator put it:

"The fact the chief of staff went out and confirmed that the president has lied has been lost as far as I can see."

Indeed, and recall Trump said the congresswoman's words were "totally fabricated" while Kelly said "that's  just the way he talks". (Transl. He's a dumb shit what would you expect?)  In a way then he confirmed Trump's dishonesty and added a layer of his own. This was by focusing his moral wrath on Fredericka Wilson, in particular suggesting Wilson was intruding on the conversation between Trump and the Johnson family when Wilson had been invited by Johnson's widow to be in the car.

One generous take has been that Kelly went out to try to be a "good soldier" today. In that case, it's a pity he's actually come off as Trump's bitch.

A "good soldier" by contrast would have marched Dotard's sorry ass out to deliver an apology to Johnson's mother, his widow and Fredericka Wilson. A "good soldier" Kelly isn't, though many in the lamebrain mainstream media - like John Dickerson on CBS News last night - will try to spin it that way. Or bring up the terrible divisions of the country again but never mentioning their source: DOTARD TRUMP!!

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Yes, Puerto Rico's Debt Needs To Be Forgiven

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Scene of desolation in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria.

In the wake of Hurricane Maria's devastation of Puerto Rico the issue of bringing the island territory of the U.S. back to economic viability has come to the fore.  Let's recall one of the issues even before the monster storm (barely 2 mph less than category 5) was Puerto Rico's  debt.  But in the wake of  Maria, which could cost the island up to $95 billion, more than double its current debt, there are few good options available. The most likely of which is that, under the existing law, all debt holders, including PREPA (electric utility) bondholders, will be those left largely footing the bill.

Even econ maven Steve Rattner, who initially inveighed against debt forgiveness,  stated flatly in a CNN interview a week ago that investors will have no choice but to "take a haircut".  There is simply no way it can ever be in a position to repay the debt especially after the hurricane's ravages. Rattner of Willett Advisors, originally told Bloomberg TV  that Congressional action might be needed to wipe out the debt.

But this isn't true. (A realization that may have subsequently caused Rattner to change his tune)

Under the PROMESSA act, according to UN sovereign debt consultant Eric LeCompte, the potential for Puerto Rico's debt to be significantly forgiven is a real possibility that will not take an act of Congress. Under the law, the bankruptcy judicial authority has significant latitude to consider the U.S. territory’s ability to pay the debt. The territory also has $50 billion in unfunded pension liabilities.

LeCompte pointed out that the super bankruptcy process includes a key provision that pins debt payments to the economic ability of a sovereign region to pay. The provisions of the PROMESA act are more sweeping in this regard than credit leniency afforded to states or other sovereign governments, he said.  Adding - in one online interview with an investor site (ValueWalk):  "When PROMESA legislation was written, it was very specific to Puerto Rico.  It would be very difficult for other territories to have the same latitude under the law.”

LeCompte also noted that money earmarked to pay bondholders is currently being diverted to hurricane relief.  This in itself makes it incomprehensible why Congress would recently pass - as part of general emergency relief-  a $4.9 b  package for the island territory but via a LOAN with interest attached. WTF?!  With bondholder debt diverted to hurricane relief why on Earth would you add more debt as a component of relief?  It's idiotic, but also passing sadistic.

Basically, what the Repukes in Congress have done is to essentially charge Puerto Rico "a leasing fee for the life raft as they drown", in the words of one commentator. How about, instead of treating the people of Puerto Rico like second class citizens, we treat them like the  hurricane victims of Houston? Give them hurricane relief with NO strings, i.e. no interest-bearing loans attached. This so they can get a head start on rebuilding and get on with their lives.

But the zeitgeist appears to be one of calculated cruelty combined with economic stupidity, such as exemplified in a recent WSJ piece ('Forgiving Debt Would Hurt Puerto Rico') by John Tamny. According to Tamny,  Puerto Rico's debt troubles "were the direct result of policies that hurt growth so forgiving its debt would only free Puerto Rico's politicians from having to address the policies that were suffocating its policies to begin with".

What is Tamny's solution? It is "to allow the government to feel the pain of its debt"  then this would "leave politicians no choice but to adopt pro growth policies".  And what pray tell does this mean? Well "a reduction in income taxes for the highest earners".  So, in the analogy of a foot race, Tamny would have the island cut its legs another foot shorter. 

He clearly is still hostage to the supply side nonsense, which almost brought Barbados to ruin in 1991 thanks to its adoption of Reagan's bunkum in 1986.

The fact is that any drop in revenue from whatever source will not help Puerto Rico, given any island state is already behind the financial 'eight ball' by virtue of its geographical situation - being an ISLAND.  Islands (such as Barbados and Puerto Rico) have to have all resources come in from outside - ship or plane - which naturally increases the cost of living. No surprise then that Puerto Rico's cost of living is some 13 percent higher than any location in the U.S.  Barbados cost of living is even higher than Puerto Rico's - as we relearn each time we visit and go the grocery mart.

Puerto Ricans also can’t claim the Earned Income Tax Credit or Child Tax Credit, which serves to both cushion the blow of living in poverty while enticing people into paid work. Those would be useful in a place where the labor force has fallen by about 20 percent over the last decade.

The territory’s economic struggles -  like those of Barbados -  led it to borrow heavily by issuing bonds in an attempt to keep its budget balanced. But it hasn’t been able to climb out of the hole, and in 2015 its governor announced that it couldn’t keep paying its creditors. Because Puerto Rico isn’t a state, it has been denied the ability to go through municipal bankruptcy. Congress instead set up a Financial Oversight Management Board to come up with a plan. So far, the plan calls for austerity measures that include $25.7 billion in spending cuts. The plan even acknowledges that his will lead to another “lost decade” of economic growth for the island (which could easily end up being worse than their projections).

However, economists Joseph Stiglitz and Martin Guzman have pointed out that if the territory’s economy can’t recover, it will continue to have trouble paying anything to creditors, not to mention prolonging the suffering of its residents. Conversely, if the economy is allowed to regain its health, it will have more revenues that it can use to pay people back.

Another option would be to push for the hedge funds and other firms that own Puerto Rico’s debt to write off large portions of it. Under Congress’s plan, the island can unilaterally reduce its debt with the approval of a federal judge. Doing so could have other ramifications—such as increasing borrowing costs—but it’s also worth remembering that investments are inherently risky. Rattner following his change of heart pointed this out. So the same way a stock investor needs to expect the inevitable losses, so also bond investors need to expect the inevitable "hair cuts" if they happen to invest in places, or products, utilities that go under - for whatever reason.

Let's also bear in mind that allowing Puerto Ricans to  continue to suffer will do no one any good and  - if anything - drive hundreds of thousands to abandon the island to come to the mainland U.S. And, as U.S. citizens, there isn't a god damned thing Trump or his Reich wing cronies can do to stop such a mass migration. Don't like it? Then forgive the damned debt, and offer no strings attached money for relief - to rebuild!

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Was the Cancer Cryotherapy Successful? Good Question (The PCA-3 Test)

On arriving at UC Health in Aurora on Oct. 11 for my 4 month post op assessment, following the prostate salvage cryotherapy treatment in June, see. e.g.

I was optimistic that the  PSA test would reveal a reading lower than  2.0 mg/ dl which was the level one month after the therapy. We had to arrive by 1: 30 so I could first go to the on site Oncology hematology lab for the PSA and % free PSA test.. I had to wait about 30 minutes and this meant the results would be roughly an hour delayed in getting to the urology professional assistant (Kristen) with whom I had to meet by 2:30.  

The test was done expeditiously by a medical tech and she said it would immediately be sent for analysis.  Meanwhile I went up to the 2nd floor Urology center to wait to be called for my appointment with Kristen. 

On being called right on time, I first had to have weight and BP taken by the RN assistant, then turned in a sheet with ratings for different urological -sexual functions, e.g. frequency of urination, retention of urine, erectile quality etc.  This data was then entered by her into a computer for the Urological PA to access.

Ten minutes later, Kristen appeared with her computer screen open and we went through the responses. She remained concerned about the urinary and erectile difficulties but assured me this was often a side effect of the cryotherapy - especially for older patients undergoing a salvage treatment (i.e. a second treatment, usually after a primary radiation treatment).  In my case, the primary treatment - the HDR brachytherapy done in September, 2012 at UCSF.

Again, she reiterated the erectile issues were not merely sexual but the importance of getting blood into the tissues, to remain healthy.  Hence, she prescribed a  low dose (5 mg) PDE inhibitor .  Recall the chemical pathways here: the cavernous nerves close to the prostate gland secrete nitric oxide which stimulates release of an enzyme (cyclic GMP) inside the smooth muscle cells. This promotes relaxation of smooth muscles and erection. An enzyme known as PDE5 prevents this,  else there may be a prolonged erection. Hence, a PDE5 inhibitor works to suppress secretion of the PDE5 enzyme.

About fifteen minutes later after the free PSA and PSA test results arrived on her laptop, she informed me of the results: 2.09 PSA and 4.8 % free PSA.  As she explained to wifey and me these results were not sanguine, especially the latter. In the case of free PSA you want the % as high as possible to indicate most of the prostate specific antigen is bound up with normal prostate cells.  The combination of the two results, she noted - using an on site software program developed by Dr. David Crawford - yielded a 55 percent probability the PSA was due to malignant cells.

This then led to her doing a urine test called the PCA-3, which is well explained by this UK site,


"The test is in two parts. You have a rectal examination and then a urine test. A rectal examination is where the doctor puts a gloved finger into the back passage (rectum). It is possible to feel the prostate gland by doing this. You need to have a rectal examination because this massages the prostate gland and helps the PCA3 to go into the urine. You have to give the urine sample straight after the rectal examination. You normally get the results within a few days"

So with this in mind, she had me prepare and bend over her examination table, warning me in advance this would entail not only the usual DRE but also a prostate massage to force the biomarker into the urine tract.  Hence, there would be a degree of discomfort.  In this she wasn't kidding, and  while the entire procedure lasted just  over three minutes it felt like three hours.  While not painful like a trans-rectal biopsy it was definitely no 'walk in the park' - even a short one.

As she massaged the gland she told me what she felt, including "lumpiness" which was a "result of the cryotherapy".  She said that the process of the massage should also relieve pressure on the nerves as well as pushing fluids into the urinary tract.

Immediately following the procedure she handed me the specially labelled cup to produce a urine sample, using the bathroom across from the exam room. I confess it took seven or eight minutes to produce a stream of urine even adequate to get 1/3 the cup filled.  She later explained this was normal and was a result of the massage.

With the sample delivered, we left - prescription in hand - and booked the next three month visit on the way out. As I mentioned to wifey, I just hoped the numbers - including from the PCA-3 test- would be much better next time. Else, what was the point of going through yet another prostate cancer treatment?

Any positives? Anything? Well, after turning in on the night of the procedure I experienced the first nocturnal emission in nearly fifty years.  While irritated about having to change underwear, sheets, I did consider that the prostate massage -though extremely uncomfortable- did produce at least one  seeming positive "return".  In fact, on four successive nights I also experienced nocturnal erections that had been absent since the cryotherapy on June 20.  As wifey joked, "the trick is to translate them into day time erections".  Well, one step at a time!

See also:
And a detailed published paper on the PCA-3:

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Small Asteroid Early Warning And Targeting Just Got Real With Passage of 2012 TC4

Image result for images for Chelyabinsk asteroid
Image of the Chelyabinsk asteroid's exploded trail  over Chelyabinsk in 2013.

Who could forget the passage of the Chelyabinsk small asteroid as it passed over the city by that name in central Russia in February, 2013? The event was energetic enough to injure over  1,000 people by flying debris as the shock wave from the explosion swept across the Russian city, shattering windows and leaving a trail of damage.  The explosion was estimated to have had a force greater than 30 Hiroshima atomic bombs, according to NASA scientists, and the shock wave was so powerful it travelled twice around the world.

As reported in Physics Today (Sept., 2014, p. 32) the object has now gone down in infamy as being 20 m (66 feet)  diameter, entering the Earth's atmosphere at 19 km/s.   Based on a 3-dimensional simulation using a shock code developed at Sandia National Laboratories (originally intended to model nuclear explosions). the Lab's supercomputer showed that the Chelyabinsk blast was at least a half megaton, or comparable to the yield of many U.S. warheads on ICBMs, like the 'Minuteman'.
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Scandia Lab simulation panel for Chelyabinsk event.(From Physics Today, Sept., 2014)

Some of the ancillary information and insights that the Sandia team has assembled with other data:

- The entry at 19 km/s meant that it originated from the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter - not from a ballistically launched missile whose velocity would only be about 11.2 km/s or a short period comet with a mean speed of 35 km/s.

-  The altitude of the blast indicated the object was small and weak. The diameter of 20 m (66 feet) was estimated base on the observed velocity factored together with the assumed density of the material.

- The asteroid first felt the presence of Earth's atmosphere while it was thousands of miles above the Pacific Ocean and for a dozen minutes the 10,000 ton rock fell swiftly and unobserved passing at shallow angle through the atmosphere where the molecular mean free path was much greater than the 20 m diameter.

- When it crossed over the border into Russia at 3:20:20 UT and was 100 km in altitude 99.99997 % of the atmosphere still lay beneath it.

- For the better part of 10 seconds the asteroid hurtled through the air as a rigid body moving at a shallow angle, 17 degrees relative to the horizon and descending 1 km for every 3 km of flight.

- At about 45 km altitude the entry dynamics began to change. The dynamic pressure then built up from 0.7 Mpa (millions of Pascals, where 1 Pa = 1 atm equivalent), Within a couple more seconds, below 40 km, pressure on the now fracturing asteroid increased past 1 MPa, breaking it into a number of smaller fragments.

- As the pressure then grew exponentially the process cascaded and formed ever smaller fragments that rapidly increased the surface to volume ratio. As the fragments ablated the hot gas between them built up finally resulting in a chain reaction and a massive explosion converting the asteroid's kinetic energy into heat and pressure (yielding the shock wave that shattered windows).

All of the preceding is again relevant as learned of the recent close passage of the small asteroid 2012 TC4 over Antarctica  at a too close distance of 27, 200 miles. TC4 was estimated to be travelling through space at roughly 16,000 mph - 4.5 miles a second.

Artist's conception of 2012 TC 4 passing in vicinity of Earth.

2012 TC4, was first spotted five years ago by the Pan-STARRS telescope at the Haleakala Observatory, in Hawaii, before disappearing as it orbits the sun. It then reemerged in July on a trajectory well inside our lunar orbit.  A sketch of the object's trajectory is shown below:
Close approach of asteroid 2012 TC4 poses no danger to Earth
Depiction of the trajectory of 2012 TC 4 on Oct. 12.

Observations reveal that 2012 TC4 is an elongated and rapidly rotating object that has been known to make many close approaches to Earth in the past. The space rock orbits the sun approximately every 1.67 years at a distance of about 1.4 AU. Astronomers estimate that 2012 TC4 has a diameter between 26 to 85 feet (8 to 26 meters).   Note the size which is near the diameter range of the Chelyabinsk object. In other words, had TC 4  entered the Earth's atmosphere it could have delivered a similar air blast to that arising from the Chelyabinsk object.

Thankfully, TC 4's approach was planned for in advance as a test object for an asteroid early warning network - something I've been harping on for over three decades.  Thus, long before it got within a tenth of the Moon's distance NASA had planned to use the flyby to test early warning for incoming space rocks.  Observatories world wide - part of the International Asteroid Warning Network - had been focused in an TC 4 for weeks to test communication and coordination.

Before this close pass, researchers had relied on "tabletop" tests - or computer simulations with no actual asteroids involved.   These sort of simulations make for nice abstract exercises but don't deliver much in terms of real time, actual asteroid threat factors.

What still remains is how one of these beasts might be stopped say if it's trajectory was determined to be headed for New York City, or New Orleans.  Back in March, 2013 I noted the development of  a high-powered 50kW laser by a German firm ( had the power to knock down a drone from two miles away, and cut through a steel girder from 1kilometer away. Yet it was accurate enough to hit a target the size of a mortar round which got me to thinking of using multiple similar lasers in an effort to deflect small (< 50m dia.) asteroids. These would be similar to the Chelyabinsk object that recently exploded over central Russia. The German defense firm Rheinmetall Defence that developed it – could conceivably get its name in lights.

Think then of several Russian and U.S. craft carrying these devices to intercept an oncoming small (‘city buster’) asteroid before it can wreak havoc. If the detailed effects and dynamics can be worked out before hand, I see no reason why the oncoming threat can’t be stopped. Or, would we rather spend $20 billion more on missile “defense” systems that have been shown to be useless?

After the close pass of 2012 TC 4 this becomes much more than an abstract, academic exercise. The recent encounter shows me that it is crucial we not only be able to confidently track small asteroids, but also come up with ways to destroy them - say if one is bearing down on a major population center.

As the hackneyed phrase goes, "if we can send men to the Moon and back......."/

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Heavy Elements Problem May Finally Be Solved By New Gravitational Waves Detection From Colliding Neutron Stars

Neutron star merger seen in gravity and matter

Diagram of laser interferometer such as employed by LIGO (from Wikipedia)

The news that a collision of two neutron stars has precipitated another detection of gravitational waves by LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory), has the world of astrophysics abuzz and with good reason. It confirms the import of the laser interferometer principle used in gravitational wave detection (see diagram 2) and biw in the setting of another type of collision- between two neutron stars. Recall the original report occurred in February, last year, based on detecting gravitational waves from two colliding black holes in late 2015.

LIGO’s  original discovery, accepted for publication in Physical Review Letters,  is summarized in the  abstract below:

Based on the data cited in the above link, the two black holes were each roughly 30 times the mass of the Sun. They evidently merged some 1.3 billion light years from Earth. The  gravitational waves themselves were generated in the final moments before the black holes merged. The signal was brief but definitive and we on Earth have now received it.

LIGO features 2 L-shaped detectors (one in Hanford, WA, the other in Livingston, LA)  made up of two perpendicular arms totaling 2.5 miles long. Then a laser beam is split and travels along both arms, bouncing off respective mirrors to return to the L-intersection. Normally, the beams are aligned so they balance each other out and hence there's nothing to detect. But if a gravitational wave is intercepted it creates a tiny mismatch which is what LIGO detects. (One of the authors of the paper has referred to it as a "chirp".  The effect of this chirp or ripple changes the arms' lengths by a tiny amount, and that change can be detected by lasers.)

To determine the specific location of the source multiple detectors are used, both to distinguish signals from other "noise" by confirming the signal is not of earthly origin, and also to determine direction by means of triangulation.  In such triangulations a third LIGO site is used, namely one near Pisa, Italy, with a 3 km interferometer. The technique uses the fact that the gravitational waves travel at the speed of light and will reach different detectors at different times depending on their source direction. Although the differences in arrival time may be just a few milliseconds, this is sufficient to identify the direction of the origin of the wave with considerable precision.

In 1915 Albert Einstein, in a remarkable achievement of theoretical physics, used an abstruse form of math known as tensor calculus to predict the existence of gravitational waves. This was by way of showing how gravitational distortions arise when mass or energy warp space-time.  The ground breaking field equation that relates these parameters was summarized:

G mn   =  - ½ g mn  G=  - 8 p T mn   

Where the  T mn    denotes the associated  “stress-energy” tensor which incorporates internal stresses, the density of matter and its component velocities (u, v, w or in some texts: u1, u2 and u3).  

Now, the collision of a pair of neutron stars has again brought gravitational waves front and center given it may finally  resolve how the heaviest elements originated. The collision itself occurred some 130 million years ago when dinosaurs still walked the Earth, but the signal was only detected on August 17, 2016 given light propagates at a finite speed: 300,000 km/s.

Recall that the current theory of stellar evolution postulates that elements are built up in the cores of heavy stars (> 10 solar masses)by nucleosynthesis a la successive fusion reactions.  A key transition point occurs after carbon is formed in the core, and reaches a critical density and temperature to detonate. The resulting deflagration, which includes the core separating from the exploding outer layers, turns the star into an instant nuclear factory. Nickel and iron are formed as well as lighter elements in the imploding shells including of: magnesium, sulphur, silicon, manganese, chromium and a host of lesser atomic weight elements- are evolved.

The problem is that no heavier elements than iron can be envisaged although some theoreticians have postulated they can arise in the context of supernova explositions.  In the latter case a stage is reached whereby differing  neutron fluences  arise. These fluences, if conditions are right,  can then produce the elements known as actinides such as uranium and thorium but no longer containing  the A=130 abundance peak.  This is believed to occur over seconds time scales via the r-(rapid  neutron capture) process.  But the only modern nearby supernova, 1987A, has not revealed r-process enhancements. Modern thinking is that the r-process yield may be ejected from some supernovae but swallowed up in others as part of the residual neutron star.

Note that the neutron star is an ultradense stellar remnant of a  core-collapsed by supernova. The neutron star is the smallest, densest  known to exist with diameter scales typically about 12 miles wide.  One  teaspoon of neutron star material would have a mass of about a billion tons. The core is a soup of pure neutrons, while the crust is smooth, solid and 10 billion times stronger than steel. Basically to achieve neutron star status protons and electrons are forced so closely together that they fuse, merge. e- + p +  ->   n.

So the current excitement is that the gravitational wave data from these colliding neutron stars may finally solve the heavier- than- iron elements origin problem.  Dave Reitze, executive director of LIGO, said in an interview with the Guardian: “What is amazing about this discovery is it is the first time we’ve got a full picture of one of the most violent, cataclysmic events in the universe. This is the most intense observational campaign there has ever been.”

The 100-second hum picked up by LIGO has told the story of how the two neutron stars to be, each slightly heavier than the Sun, approached their demise. Initially separated by 200 miles, they circled each other 30 times a second. As they whirled inwards, accelerating to 2,000 orbits each second, the signal rose in pitch like a train whistle or ambulance alarm approaching. Two seconds later, NASA’s Fermi space telescope picked up an intense burst of gamma rays, emitted as shockwaves propagating through jets of matter funneled out of the poles during the energetic impact of the collision.

  The chief problem here is the estimate of the source volume.  This is facilitated in the neutron star case given we have that the components are separated by less than 300 km and accelerating to 2,000 orbits each second. This necessitates a tiny volume and implies that a lot of mass-energy will be distorting the associated region of space-time, and in this case leading ultimately to a black hole from the collision.  This distortion itself is bound up with the stress-energy tensor T mn.

Note that the most common parameter describing the amplitude  for a gravitational wave is a dimensionless "strain" h = 2 ∫∫ g' dt ². ... Thus h is twice the fractional change in displacement between two nearby masses due to the gravitational wave. 

According to Prof Andreas Freise, a LIGO project scientist at the University of Birmingham: 

Neutron stars are at this sweet spot between a star and a black hole.  When two of them collide, we expect them to immediately collapse into a black hole, leaving behind a bit of dust and stuff.”

David Shoemaker, spokesman for the LIGO Scientific Collaboration, said: “It’s [probably] the first observation of a black hole being created where there was none before, which is pretty darn cool.”

The recent observations also herald a new era of rapid-response astronomy, in which transient and unexpected cosmic events can be observed in detail for the first time. When LIGO's software picked up a signal at 13:41  GMT on 17 August, Shoemaker was one of a small team at LIGO to be alerted by a ringtone on his phone reserved for when black holes or neutron stars collide.

Within an hour, the detection had been confirmed by Virgo, a European gravitational wave detector near Pisa, the source of the signal had been triangulated to a small patch of sky and a global alert was triggered.

Prof Stephen Smartt, of Queen’s University Belfast, had been leading a five-day observation run of supernovae on the New Technology Telescope at La Silla, Chile, when the news came in. Smartt’s team, and those on other telescopes, observed the faint new blob and measured its spectrum to assess the chemical composition. The blob was a fireball of radioactive heavy chemical elements, known as a kilonova, that had been blown out from the collision at one fifth of the speed of light shortly after the gamma ray burst.

As I pointed out earlier, previously astrophysicists had speculated that the sheer rapidity of neutron capture (via r-process) would be enough to force extra neutrons into the nuclei of atoms, forging heavy elements like uranium. .  Later the conjecture altered to considering the sheer mega-force of neutron collisions in violent events to forge heavy elements like gold and platinum  But until now this idea was purely theoretical.  After all, what kind of violent cosmic event would be needed to make it work?  In the words of Prof. Freise:

People have been looking for that forever,”


This is the first real confirmation that heavy elements such as gold, platinum and uranium are either solely or predominantly produced in binary neutron star collisions. The wedding band on your finger or the gold watch you’re wearing was most likely produced a billion years ago by two neutron stars colliding. That’s pretty cool.”

Let's also reference that earlier this month, three U.S. astrophysicists (Rainer, Weiss,  Barry C. Barish and Kip S. Thorne)  who played a crucial role in the development of LIGO were awarded the Nobel prize in physics for the first detection of gravitational waves. Shoemaker pointed out that two of the new laureates – and others – had been working on the project long before it captured the world’s attention.  As he observed:

This kind of thing doesn’t happen because there are suddenly neat instruments. It’s decades of work and people working together in a collaborative way. It’s quite phenomenal.”

Indeed it is. For those interested the findings were published on Monday in a series of papers in journals including Science, Nature and Physics Review Letters.  For an abstract of the work appearing in the latter, see: