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Zorro

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Gender: Male
Hometown: City of Angels
Member since: 2001
Number of posts: 7,096

Journal Archives

Electric cars are set to arrive far more speedily than anticipated

THE high-pitched whirr of an electric car may not stir the soul like the bellow and growl of an internal combustion engine (ICE). But to compensate, electric motors give even the humblest cars explosive acceleration. Electric cars are similarly set for rapid forward thrust. Improving technology and tightening regulations on emissions from ICEs is about to propel electric vehicles (EVs) from a niche to the mainstream. After more than a century of reliance on fossil fuels, however, the route from petrol power to volts will be a tough one for carmakers to navigate.

The change of gear is recent. One car in a hundred sold today is powered by electricity. The proportion of EVs on the world’s roads is still well below 1%. Most forecasters had reckoned that by 2025 that would rise to around 4%. Those estimates are undergoing a big overhaul as carmakers announce huge expansions in their production of EVs. Morgan Stanley, a bank, now says that by 2025 EV sales will hit 7m a year and make up 7% of vehicles on the road. Exane BNP Paribas, another bank, reckons that it could be more like 11%. But as carmakers plan for ever more battery power, even these figures could quickly seem too low.

Ford’s boss is bolder still. In January Mark Fields announced that the “era of the electric vehicle is dawning”, and he reckons that the number of models of EVs will exceed pure ICE-powered cars within 15 years. Ford has promised 13 new electrified cars in the next five years. Others are making bigger commitments. Volkswagen, the world’s biggest carmaker, said last year that it would begin a product blitz in 2020 and launch 30 new battery-powered models by 2025, when EVs will account for up to a quarter of its sales. Daimler, a German rival, also recently set an ambitious target of up to a fifth of sales by the same date.

The surge has two explanations: the rising cost of complying with emissions regulations and the falling cost of batteries. Pure EVs, which send no carbon dioxide directly into the atmosphere, and hybrids, which produce far less than conventional engines, are a way to meet Europe’s emissions targets—albeit an expensive one. But the gains from cheaper methods such as turbocharging smaller engines, stop-start technology and weight reductions will no longer be enough, since a tougher testing regime, to be introduced in the wake of VW’s diesel-cheating scandal, will make those targets still harder to reach.

http://www.economist.com/news/business/21717070-carmakers-face-short-term-pain-and-long-term-gain-electric-cars-are-set-arrive-far-more

Bin Laden raid architect McRaven says Trump media attack threatens democracy

Source: Yahoo News

The retired admiral who designed and oversaw the raid that killed Osama bin Laden says President Trump’s superheated charge that the mainstream news media is the “enemy of the American people” is not just wrong, but also could pose a dire threat to American democracy. Reporters, however, must get their facts right, cite reliable sources and be aware of their own biases and pride.

“The president said the news media is the enemy of the American people,” William McRaven said Tuesday. “This sentiment may be the greatest threat to democracy in my lifetime.”

The former Joint Special Operations Command leader, now chancellor of the University of Texas system, made the remarks at the inaugural event of the Communication and Leadership Speaker Series at UT’s Belo Center for New Media. McRaven graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in 1977 with a degree in journalism.

“I will tell you as journalism majors, as Americans, you should challenge that sentiment and that statement every opportunity you can,” he continued. “We must challenge this statement, and this sentiment, that the news media is the enemy of the American people.”

Read more: https://www.yahoo.com/news/bin-laden-raid-architect-mcraven-says-trump-media-attack-threatens-democracy-143623267.html



McRaven is a Special Forces icon.

Gov. Brownback's tax policies barely survive after Kansas Senate vote

Gov. Sam Brownback’s signature tax policy was saved by three votes on Wednesday when a divided Kansas Senate preserved his veto of a bill that would have increased income taxes and generated $1 billion over two years.

Lawmakers are left to contemplate a path forward to close a budget gap projected to be more than $1 billion through June 2019.

Senate leaders have called for patience as other options are weighed, but many lawmakers in the House remain committed to rolling back Brownback’s 2012 tax cuts, which they blame for the state’s fiscal hole. A compromise could take months.

The Senate vote capped off a dramatic day at the Kansas Capitol that began with Brownback’s veto. The Kansas House voted 85-40 to override the veto two hours later.

Read more here: http://www.kansas.com/news/politics-government/article134395734.html

What's the matter with Kansas?

When the Nazis wrote the Nuremberg laws, they looked to racist American statutes

The European far right sees much to admire in the United States, with political leaders such as Marine le Pen of France and Geert Wilders of the Netherlands celebrating events — such as the recent presidential election — that seem to bode well for their brand of ethno-nationalism. Is this cross-Atlantic bond unprecedented? A sharp break with the past? If it seems so, that’s only because we rarely acknowledge America’s place in the extremist vanguard — its history as a model, even, for the very worst European excesses.

In the late 1920s, Adolf Hitler declared in “Mein Kampf” that America was the "one state" making progress toward the creation of a healthy race-based order. He had in mind U.S. immigration law, which featured a quota system designed, as Nazi lawyers observed, to preserve the dominance of "Nordic" blood in the United States.

The American commitment to putting race at the center of immigration policy reached back to the Naturalization Act of 1790, which opened citizenship to "any alien, being a free white person." But immigration was only part of what made the U.S. a world leader in racist law in the age of Hitler.

Then as now, the U.S. was the home of a uniquely bold and creative legal culture, and it was harnessed in the service of white supremacy. Legislators crafted anti-miscegenation statutes in 30 states, some of which threatened severe criminal punishment for interracial marriage. And they developed American racial classifications, some of which deemed any person with even "one drop" of black blood to belong to the disfavored race. Widely denied the right to vote through clever devices like literacy tests, blacks were de facto second-class citizens. American lawyers also invented new forms of de jure second-class citizenship for Filipinos, Puerto Ricans and more.

http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-whitman-hitler-american-race-laws-20170222-story.html

Interesting and disturbing article.

Americans buy existing homes at fastest pace in a decade

Source: LA Times

Americans shrugged off rising mortgage rates and bought existing homes in January at the fastest pace since 2007. That has set off bidding wars that have pushed up prices as the supply of available homes has dwindled to record lows.

Home sales rose 3.3% in January from December to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.69 million, the National Assn. of Realtors said Wednesday.

Steady job gains, modest pay raises and rising consumer confidence are spurring healthy home buying even though borrowing costs have risen since last fall. Some potential buyers may be accelerating their home purchases to get ahead of any further increases in mortgage rates. With few homes available for sale, buyers feel pressure to rapidly close a deal when they find a suitable property.

The typical house for sale was on the market for just 50 days last month, down from 64 days a year earlier. Strong demand is pushing up the median home price, which jumped 7.1% from a year earlier to $228,900.

Read more: http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-home-sales-20170222-story.html

AMERICANS OVERWHELMINGLY SAY LIVES HAVE IMPROVED SINCE KELLYANNE CONWAY WENT AWAY

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—An overwhelming majority of Americans say that their lives have improved since Kellyanne Conway went away, a new poll finds.

According to the poll, Americans have been sleeping more, eating better, and enjoying a markedly greater sense of well-being following Conway’s sudden departure.

“I had lost my zest for life,” Carol Foyler, a poll respondent, said. “Now that Kellyanne Conway is gone, I greet every day with a smile, I feel my energy coming back, and I want to have sex again.”

Across the nation, medical professionals have reported striking improvements in patients’ mental health since the White House counsellor vanished, a phenomenon some doctors are calling the Conway Effect.

http://www.newyorker.com/humor/borowitz-report/americans-overwhelmingly-say-lives-have-improved-since-kellyanne-conway-went-away

In Trump's future looms a familiar shutdown threat

Add a potential government shutdown to President Donald Trump's growing roster of headaches.

Beneath the capital's radar looms a vexing problem — a catchall spending package that's likely to top $1 trillion and could get embroiled in the politics of building Trump's wall at the U.S.-Mexico border and a budget-busting Pentagon request.

While a shutdown deadline has a few weeks to go, the huge measure looms as an unpleasant reality check for Trump and Republicans controlling Congress.

Despite the big power shift in Washington, the path to success — and averting a shuttering of the government — goes directly through Senate Democrats, whose votes are required to pass the measure. And any measure that satisfies Democrats and their new leader, Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, is sure to alienate tea party Republicans. Trump's determination to build his wall on the U.S.-Mexico border faces a fight with Democrats, too.

https://www.yahoo.com/news/trumps-future-looms-familiar-shutdown-threat-083328233--finance.html

Damage to Oroville's main spillway 'was an accident waiting to happen'

The badly damaged main concrete spillway at Oroville Dam was pounded by massive volumes of stormwater this month, but its failures occurred well short of the maximum flow that engineers designed the system to handle.

The spillway began breaking apart when its gates were opened Feb. 7, allowing 55,000 cubic feet of water per second to roar down the slope. That was only 18% of the 300,000 cubic feet of water the channel was designed to carry per second, one of the factors that raise significant questions about its design integrity, engineering experts said. Eventually, the gash that opened up had grown to 500 feet in length and dug a hole 45 feet deep in the earth.

Weakness in the aged concrete, inadequate repairs of cracks and instability in the ground under the spillway caused large pieces of concrete to break apart and tumble downhill, said Robert Bea, a retired civil engineering professor at UC Berkeley who led one of the investigations into the failures of the New Orleans levee system in Hurricane Katrina’s wake.

The failures in the concrete spillway will be investigated for a long time. But some of the nation’s top civil engineers are already pointing to some likely suspects: design flaws, misunderstood geology and poor maintenance over the years.

http://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-ln-oroville-spillway-damage-20170220-story.html

'One of the fathers of American film criticism': Time critic Richard Schickel dies at 84

Source: LA Times

Richard Schickel, whose erudite prose and piercing critiques made him one of America’s most important film critics in an era when cinema became increasingly ingrained in the cultural consciousness, died Saturday in Los Angeles from complications after a series of strokes, his family said. He was 84.

In a career spanning five decades, thousands of reviews and dozens of books, Schickel chronicled Hollywood’s changing landscape, from the days when studios reigned with stars such as Katharine Hepburn to the rise of independent directors who summoned a new wave of realism that distilled the yearnings of a turbulent nation. A reviewer for Time magazine, Schickel had a legion of followers; he could be incisive and at times bruising in praising or panning a film.

“He was one of the fathers of American film criticism,” said his daughter Erika Schickel, a writer. “He had a singular voice. When he wrote or spoke, he had an old-fashioned way of turning a phrase. He was blunt and succinct both on the page and in life.”

In his 2015 memoir “Keepers: The Greatest Films — and Personal Favorites — of a Moviegoing Lifetime,” Richard Schickel wrote: “I just like to be there in the dark watching something — almost anything, if truth be known. In this habit — I don’t know if it is amiable or a mild, chronic illness — I have been indulged by wives, girlfriends, just plain friends and children. Of course, a lot of the time I’m alone, unashamedly killing an evening, no questions asked.”

Read more: http://www.latimes.com/local/obituaries/la-me-richard-schickel-dies-20170219-story.html

With Coverage in Peril and Obama Gone, Health Laws Critics Go Quiet

For seven years, few issues have animated conservative voters as much as the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. But with President Barack Obama out of office, the debate over “Obamacare” is becoming less about “Obama” and more about “care” — greatly complicating the issue for Republican lawmakers.

Polling indicates that more Republicans want to make fixes to the law rather than do away with it. President Trump, who remains popular on the right, has mused about a replacement plan that is even more expansive than the original. The conservative news media are focused more on Mr. Trump’s near-daily skirmishes with Democrats and reporters, among others, than on policy issues like health care. And the congressional debate, as well as the paid advertisements on both sides, is centered on the substance of the law rather than its namesake, draining some of its toxicity on the right.

As liberals overwhelm congressional town hall-style meetings and deluge the Capitol phone system with pleas to protect the health law, there is no similar clamor for dismantling it, Mr. Obama’s signature legislative accomplishment. From deeply conservative districts in the South and the West to the more moderate parts of the Northeast, Republicans in Congress say there is significantly less intensity among opponents of the law than when Mr. Obama was in office.

“I hear more concerns than before about ‘You’re going to repeal it, and we’re all going to lose insurance’ because they don’t think we’re going to replace it,” said Representative Mike Simpson, a Republican who represents a conservative district in Idaho.

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/19/us/politics/affordable-care-act-critics.html
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