Enemies Of The Poor

Paul Krugman, at The New York Times writes:

It’s not much of an exaggeration to say that right now Republicans are doing all they can to hurt the poor, and they would have inflicted vast additional harm if they had won the 2012 election. Moreover, G.O.P. harshness toward the less fortunate isn’t just a matter of spite (although that’s part of it); it’s deeply rooted in the party’s ideology, which is why recent speeches by leading Republicans declaring that they do too care about the poor have been almost completely devoid of policy specifics. Let’s start with the recent Republican track record. Krugman does a good job of calling the GOP on their recent bullshit campaign to claim they care about the less fortunate.

"Worker Deaths Raise Questions at an Apple Contractor in China"

Another inflammatory headline from the New York Times:

"Apple supplier"? Really? Pegatron makes notebooks, netbooks, desktop PCs, tablets, other mobile devices, motherboards, graphic cards, cable modems, set-top boxes, phones, game consoles, mp3 players, e-readers, and a host of other devices for many companies - but all the New York Times can focus on is that Apple buys stuff from them so somehow this is an Apple problem? Apple is probably the only customer they have who holds them responsible in any way. Mentioning Apple in the headline is an easy way to get clicks. Android apologists will share it and then go on to explain that this is why they don't use Apple products, even though they use devices made in the same facility, for a company that does less to ensure safe working conditions than Apple does.

The story of out-of-control debts and deficits is just plain wrong. US deficits have fallen in the past four years

Dean Baker, at The Guardian writes:

Republicans are delusional about US spending and deficits

Contrary to the widely repeated stories of out-of-control deficits and spending, deficits have plunged in the last four years falling from 10.1% of GDP in 2009 to just 4% of GDP in 2013. The Congressional Budget Office projects the deficit to be just 3.4% of GDP in 2014. The latest projections show the debt-to-GDP ratio falling for the rest of the decade.

Nest 'Nestifies' A Smoke Detecter

I had read news that Nest was probably going to release something in this segment of the market. Given that we are mere weeks away from moving into our new home, and I'm planning two install two Nest Thermostats as it is, the announcement from Nest this morning has me very excited.

Nest Protect

A few points that I found interesting:

  • They have both battery and wired versions
  • If you also have Nest Thermostats, the Nest Protects will share information with them.
  • Information shared can do things like turn off the furnace if it detects CO2, or motion data to assist with Nests learning.
  • Sends data to its iOS application
  • You can wave your hand near the Protect to signal for it to turn off in the event the smoke is from a source you're aware of.
  • At night, it can emit low light based on its motion sensor to help light the room in the event the lights are out (presumably so you don't trip over things on your way to the bathroom in the middle of the night without having to wake up your spouse.).

The Parbuckling Project - Salvaging the Costa Concordia

From the website that has been setup to explain and document the project, as it progresses:

On April, 21st, 2012, Costa Crociere and the Costa Concordia Emergency Commissioner’s Office announced that the tender for the removal of the ship from Giglio Island has been awarded to Titan Salvage in partnership with the Italian firm Micoperi. The work begun in early May after final approval from the Italian authorities. The Concordia currently rests on its side on a downward sloping seabed, almost precariously balanced on the edge of a steep underwater hill. The 6 phase project involves building a scaffolding just below the Concordia, on the slope, that is anchored deep into the seabed. The Concordia will then be tiled upright again, so that it is resting on this new scaffolding. Once this is completed, cassions on the starboard side which will be used to re-float the ship. The site contains a plethora of 3D renderings of the phases of the project.

Apple Event Predictions

Update: Post event - I've striked out the things I predicted incorrectly.

First of all, I want to state that I do not write this post with insider tips of what is going to be released on Tuesday. I am also not arrogant enough to think that more than 5 people who read this post really care what i have to say on the subject. Instead, I write this mainly for my own amusement and enjoyment to publicly state what I think will be announced so as to see how right or wrong I was afterward. If any of this is interesting to you, then so much the better. A lot of what I'm to say you've probably read elsewhere already. By typing these words to pixel, I'm forcing myself to be honest and serious about what I want to commit to and not.

Getting that preamble out of the way, I am going to categorize my predictions into:

  1. What will be announced (Confident Yes)
  2. What won't be announced (Confident No)
  3. What might be announced (Unsure)

Confidently Yes

  • Two new phone models: iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C.
  • iPhone 5S in: White/Champagne, White/Silver, Black/Silver, Black/Black
  • iPhone 5C with plastic backs in assorted colors
  • iPhone 5C contains mostly or all iPhone 5 internals, with possible "weaker" components here and there.
  • iOS 7 GM demoed (and released to developers for download)
  • Sell and ship dates; pre-order Sept. 13 starting early in the morning, and delivered(FedEx/UPS) or on sale in store on Sept. 20.
  • iTunes 11.1 + iTunes Radio demoed; available for download late Sept 19/early Sept 20
  • AppleTV will receive some type of software update. Not sure on exact features as I haven't payed much attention to it in this beta period. AllThingsD said enchanced Home Sharing functionality to easily access your own content on foreign AppleTVs (as in ones at work or a friend's house). This plus whatever updates are being done to it to work with functionality being added in iOS 7.
  • iPhone 5S will be faster, have a better camera, support new AC Wifi spec....you get the picture. Almost all existing hardware components will improve in some way.

Confidently No

  • OS X 10.9 Mavericks will not be released
  • No 'iWatch' or whatever it is to be called (and I'm still not convinced this will ever be a product)
  • No new Apple TV hardware
  • No Mac Pro or any updates to any Macs

Not So Sure About

  • 128GB option for iPhone 5S Leaning yes. Somewhat confident
  • I'm not sure if we'll see new iPads and iPad minis, but I'm leaning towards a no given that would be a lot to announce during a single event and we've seen very little to no rumors about these. I believe the iPad event will be in October along with the new Macs and Mavericks. Leaning no. Somewhat confident.
  • iPhone 5S (maybe 5C too???) finger print scanner on the Home Button. There has been a lot of smoke about this one. Code for it was event found in the iOS 7 SDK. Leaning yes but not confident.
  • Pricing shift with regards to storage due to the 5C being introduced:
  • iPhone 5C will come in 2 sizes - 16GB and 32GB
  • iPhone 5S will come in 3 sizes too - 32GB, 64GB, and 128GB at the existing pricepoints we're used to. Leaning yes but not confident. I can't help but feel that 16GB is much too small of a storage size on their premium model 6 years in. Adding the "cheaper" iPhone 5C for casual customers allows them to keep a 16GB option and to entice those same people to spring for the 5S due to 32GB size option on the low end. While everything I’ve listed above are a lot of things, something seems missing. Perhaps there is some sort of surprise related to any of these things - or something else entirely? Only Apple knows for sure. And they tell us one way or the other, tomorrow.

The Killing Machines

Mark Bowden, at The Atlantic writes:

Unlike nuclear weapons, the drone did not emerge from some multibillion-dollar program on the cutting edge of science. It isn’t even completely new. The first Predator drone consisted of a snowmobile engine mounted on a radio-controlled glider. When linked via satellite to a distant control center, drones exploit telecommunications methods perfected years ago by TV networks—in fact, the Air Force has gone to ESPN for advice. But when you pull together this disparate technology, what you have is a weapon capable of finding and killing someone just about anywhere in the world. An excellent long form piece on the drone program by the U.S. Government. You owe it to yourself to read this to be better informed as to how these are being used. One gem from the article that caused me to have newfound respect for Petreaus:

Cameron Munter, a veteran diplomat who was the U.S. ambassador to Pakistan from 2010 to 2012, felt that weight firsthand when he tried to push back. Munter saw American influence declining with nearly every strike. While some factions in the Pakistani military and Inter-Services Intelligence believed in the value of strikes, the Pakistani public grew increasingly outraged, and elected officials increasingly hostile. Munter’s job was to contain the crisis, a task complicated by the drone program’s secrecy, which prevented him from explaining and defending America’s actions.

Matters came to a head in the summer of 2011 during a meeting to which Munter was linked digitally. The dynamics of such meetings—where officials turned to policy discussions after the legal determination had been made—placed a premium on unified support for policy goals. Most participants wanted to focus on the success of the battle against America’s enemies, not on the corrosive foreign-policy side effects of the drone program.

At the decision meetings, it was hard for someone like Munter to say no. He would appear digitally on the screen in the Situation Room, gazing out at the vice president, the secretary of defense, and other principals, and they would present him with the targeting decision they were prepared to make. It was hard to object when so many people who titularly outranked him already seemed set.

By June of 2011, however, two events in Pakistan—first the arrest and subsequent release of the CIA contractor Raymond Davis, who had been charged with murdering two Pakistanis who accosted him on the street in Lahore, and then the Abbottabad raid that killed bin Laden—had brought the U.S.-Pakistan partnership to a new low. Concerned about balancing the short-term benefits of strikes (removing potential enemies from the battlefield) and their long-term costs (creating a lasting mistrust and resentment that undercut the policy goal of stability and peace in the region), Munter decided to test what he believed was his authority to halt a strike. As he recalled it later, the move played out as follows:

Asked whether he was on board with a particular strike, he said no.

Leon Panetta, the CIA director, said the ambassador had no veto power; these were intelligence decisions.

Munter proceeded to explain that under Title 22 of the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations, the president gives the authority to carry out U.S. policy in a foreign country to his ambassador, delegated through the secretary of state. That means no American policy should be carried out in any country without the ambassador’s approval.

Taken aback, Panetta replied, “Well, I do not work for you, buddy.”

“I don’t work for you,” Munter told him.

Then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stepped in: “Leon, you are wrong.”

Panetta said, flatly, “Hillary, you’re wrong.”

At that point, the discussion moved on. When the secretary of state and the CIA director clash, the decision gets made upstairs.

Panetta won. A week later, James Steinberg called Munter to inform him that he did not have the authority to veto a drone strike. Steinberg explained that the ambassador would be allowed to express an objection to a strike, and that a mechanism would be put in place to make sure his objection was registered—but the decision to clear or reject a strike would be made higher up the chain. It was a clear victory for the CIA.

Later that summer, General David Petraeus was named to take over the intelligence agency from Panetta. Before assuming the job, Petraeus flew from Kabul, where he was still the military commander, to Islamabad, to meet with the ambassador. At dinner that night, Petraeus poked his finger into Munter’s chest.

“You know what happened in that meeting?” the general asked. (Petraeus had observed the clash via a secure link from his command post in Afghanistan.) “That’s never going to happen again.”

Munter’s heart sank. He thought the new CIA director, whom he liked and admired, was about to threaten him. Instead, Petraeus said: “I’m never going to put you in the position where you feel compelled to veto a strike. If you have a long-term concern, if you have a contextual problem, a timing problem, an ethical problem, I want to know about it earlier. We can work together to avoid these kinds of conflicts far in advance.”

Petraeus kept his word. Munter never had to challenge a drone strike in a principals’ meeting again during his tenure as ambassador. He left Islamabad in the summer of 2012.

170 Years of the World's Hurricane Tracks Mapped

Betsy Mason, at Wired's MapLab blog writes:

This map shows the paths of every hurricane and cyclone detected since 1842. Nearly 12,000 tropical cyclones have been tracked and recorded, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration keeps them all in a single database. Long-term datasets can be really interesting and scientifically valuable, and this one is undoubtedly both. The map is fascinating. Check it out.