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Zorro's Journal
Zorro's Journal
January 17, 2019

Colombia's lesser known rebel group still delivers violence and wreaks havoc

The Colombian rebel group known as the National Liberation Army delivered an unwelcome new year message, exploding two bombs on the Caño Limon-to-Coveñas oil pipeline in the eastern province of Arauca.

The Jan. 9 attacks disrupted delivery of crude to the Andean country’s major export harbor and caused nasty spills. Though no deaths were reported, the bombings illustrated how the nation remains plagued by insurgent violence that stunts economic development and wreaks havoc in rural areas despite the government’s peace agreement in late 2016 with the 14,000-member Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.

The National Liberation Army, better known as ELN, the initials for its name in Spanish, Ejercito de Liberacion Nacional, has grown in strength since the FARC demobilized, adding about 1,000 members to the 1,500 fighters it had before the peace deal, said Orlando Hernandez, a former officer with the Colombian National Police and now a security expert with the Agora Consulting risk analysis firm in Medellin. Many of the newer ELN members are former FARC fighters who declined to disarm, he said.

The violent means the ELN uses to pursue its social justice goals for poor or oppressed people have left it with slight public support. The government blames it for 5,700 kidnappings since 1996, and the group is believed to be holding about 250 people hostage. Officials also say the ELN has perpetrated 328 pipeline bombings since 2012, causing numerous oil spills and the loss of more than a million barrels of crude since the start of 2017.


January 17, 2019

It's time for the California Republican Party to stop living in denial: Trump cost them big

A new dissection of votes from the November election has produced solid evidence that President Trump cost California Republicans seven congressional seats.

That was half the state’s already measly GOP House contingent. Democrats now outnumber Republicans 46 to 7 in the California delegation.

More precisely, it was the Republican candidates’ kowtowing to the very unpopular president and his congressional agenda that cost them the support of local voters.

The smart thing for the California Republican Party to do would be to stop living in denial and accept the costly lesson: To survive in competitive California congressional districts, a GOP candidate must stay as far away from Trump as possible.

If the president asks for a vote, leap to the other side. If he flies out to California, run for cover.


January 17, 2019

Fox News Debuts Premium Channel For 24-Hour Coverage Of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

NEW YORK—As part of its effort to provide the most comprehensive reporting possible on the freshman congresswoman, Fox News announced Wednesday the debut of a new premium television channel that will offer continuous, around-the-clock updates on Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY).

“For an extra $8.99 per month, you’ll have an all-access pass to the AOC Zone, which features wall-to-wall coverage of every word Ocasio-Cortez utters, as well as in-depth analysis of her wardrobe and any videos we’re able to dig up from her college days,” said Fox spokesperson Avery Mattison, adding that the new channel will include uninterrupted live footage of the 29-year-old representative every time she appears in public, along with nonstop commentary from a 12-person panel of experts.

“We know our viewers will come to depend on this outlet for 24-hour coverage of AOC, which is why her tweets, Instagram posts, and her latest wacky policy proposals will appear in a ticker at the bottom of the screen. We’re particularly excited for the premiere of the channel’s flagship program, AOC Tonight With Tucker Carlson.”

Minutes after AOC Zone began broadcasting, sources confirmed its ratings had already surpassed those of Fox News.

January 15, 2019

Earth's Magnetic Pole Is Wandering, Lurching Toward Siberia

Earth's north magnetic pole is on the move, unpredictably lurching away from the Canadian Arctic and toward Siberia. It's wandered so much, that the current representation of the entire globe's magnetic field, just updated in 2015, is now out of date. And so, geologists have come up with a new model.

This updated model, called the World Magnetic Model, was supposed to be published Jan. 15, but it's now been delayed to Jan. 30, on account of the government shutdown.

Once it's made public, the new model will inform a wide array of navigation, including those directing airplanes and ships to people checking Google Maps on their smart devices.

The World Magnetic Model is one of a handful of models — another is called the International Geomagnetic Reference Field — that track so-called declination, or the difference between true, or geographic, north (that is, the North Pole) and magnetic north (the point where your compass needle points). Knowing that declination for points across the globe allows one to convert between a magnetic bearing and a true bearing, according to a report on the 2015 model. In that way, ships, aircraft, antennas, drilling equipment and other devices can be oriented.


January 12, 2019

Farenthold resigns as Calhoun Port Authority lobbyist

Disgraced former Congressman Blake Farenthold submitted his resignation as lobbyist for the Calhoun Port Authority, officials announced Thursday.

Farenthold submitted his resignation to the port board in a letter dated Jan. 4, but it was announced by executive director Charles Hausmann during Thursday morning’s board meeting.

Board members did not comment about the resignation. Hausmann said only that Farenthold left “to pursue other opportunities.” Hausmann declined to comment about whether the board would hire another person for the position.

The Victoria Advocate asked for a copy of Farenthold’s resignation letter, but Hausmann said he would release that only after receiving an open records request. The Advocate viewed the letter after submitting the request.


January 12, 2019

SpaceX to lay off 10% of its workforce

Source: LA Times

SpaceX, citing a need to get “leaner,” said Friday it will lay off more than 10% of its roughly 6,000 employees.

The cuts were cited in an email sent to employees by President Gwynne Shotwell, which was provided to The Times. “This was a very difficult but necessary decision,” Shotwell wrote.

“To continue delivering for our customers and to succeed in developing interplanetary spacecraft and a global space-based internet, SpaceX must become a leaner company,” the Hawthorne-based company said in a statement. “Either of these developments, even when attempted separately, have bankrupted other organizations. This means we must part ways with some talented and hardworking members of our team.”

Even with SpaceX’s ramp-up of satellite launches — 21 in 2018, up from 18 the year before, and on Friday the first one of this year — it has occasionally cut its workforce. Last summer, the company fired some senior managers at the company’s Redmond, Wash., office because of disagreements over the pacing of the development and testing of its Starlink satellite program.

Read more: https://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-spacex-layoffs-20190111-story.html

January 12, 2019

Conservative Men Are Obsessed With Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Science Tells Us Why.

Conservatives’ bizarre, escalating obsession with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) reached a new level this week when The Daily Caller published fake revenge porn of the new congresswoman.

“Here’s The Photo Some People Described As A Nude Selfie Of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez,” the Caller’s original headline read, before it was changed and the site posted a “we regret the error” message on Twitter. For the record, the photo is not of Ocasio-Cortez, despite what “some people” have said.

Since Ocasio-Cortez, a 29-year-old working-class democratic socialist, unexpectedly toppled powerful white male incumbent Joe Crowley in a June primary, she’s become an object of fixation among Republicans, especially Republican men. Conservative writer Ed Scarry posted a photo of her backside on Twitter, questioning whether her black suit was befitting of a “girl who struggles.” Right-wing media discovered that she ― like a lot of people named “Alexander,” “Alexandra” or some variant thereof ― went by the nickname “Sandy” in high school. A self-proclaimed “proud Christian Dad” on Twitter circulated a video of her dancing in a T-shirt in college as if it would be a career-damaging revelation. A Republican strategist referred to her as “the little girl” on Fox News, which runs segments about her constantly.

The obvious explanation is that men have literally never seen a woman in her 20s in the halls of Congress before. She’s attractive, telegenic and good at social media. She dances outside her Cannon House office. Conservative men are confused at being drawn to this bright rising star in the Democratic Party while loathing everything she stands for.


January 11, 2019

Why is Congress so dumb?

In a year of congressional lowlights, the hearings we held with Silicon Valley leaders last fall may have been the lowest. One of my colleagues in the House asked Google CEO Sundar Pichai about the workings of an iPhone — a rival Apple product. Another colleague asked Facebook head Mark Zuckerberg, “If you’re not listening to us on the phone, who is?” One senator was flabbergasted to learn that Facebook makes money from advertising. Over hours of testimony, my fellow members of Congress struggled to grapple with technologies used daily by most Americans and with the functions of the Internet itself. Given an opportunity to expose the most powerful businesses on Earth to sunlight and scrutiny, the hearings did little to answer tough questions about the tech titans’ monopolies or the impact of their platforms.

It’s not because lawmakers are too stupid to understand Facebook. It’s because our available resources and our policy staffs, the brains of Congress, have been so depleted that we can’t do our jobs properly.

Americans who bemoan a broken Congress rightly focus on ethical questions and electoral partisanship. But the tech hearings demonstrated that our greatest deficiency may be knowledge, not cooperation. Our founts of independent information have been cut off, our investigatory muscles atrophied, our committees stripped of their ability to develop policy, our small staffs overwhelmed by the army of lobbyists who roam Washington. Congress is increasingly unable to comprehend a world growing more socially, economically and technologically multifaceted — and we did this to ourselves.

When the 110th Congress opened in 2007, Democrats rode into office on a tide of outrage at the George W. Bush administration and the Republican Congress, which had looked the other way on the Tom DeLay, Jack Abramoff and Duke Cunningham scandals. My colleagues and I focused our energies on exposing corruption. But we missed crucial opportunities to reform the institution of Congress. As my party assumes a new majority in the House, we confront similar circumstances and a second chance to begin the hard work of nursing our chamber back to strength.

Our decay as an institution began in 1995, when conservatives, led by Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), carried out a full-scale war on government. Gingrich began by slashing the congressional workforce by one-third. He aimed particular ire at Congress’s brain, firing 1 of every 3 staffers at the Government Accountability Office, the Congressional Research Service and the Congressional Budget Office. He defunded the Office of Technology Assessment, a tech-focused think tank. Social scientists have called those moves Congress’s self-lobotomy, and the cuts remain largely unreversed.


January 11, 2019

Poland detains employee of Chinese tech giant Huawei on spying charges

Source: Washington Post

Polish authorities detained an employee of Chinese tech giant Huawei and charged him with spying on behalf of China, amid growing global concerns that the company is tied to Chinese intelligence agencies, Polish authorities said Friday.

The arrest of Huawei’s local sales director in Poland comes a month after the company’s chief financial officer was detained in Canada at the U.S. government’s request. Those charges were related to breaking sanctions against Iran, but the Polish move reflects long-standing suspicions by Washington and its allies that Huawei could be used as an arm of Chinese intelligence services.

U.S. officials have long warned that the technology sold by Huawei — which ranges from the infrastructure that powers cellular networks to computers and phones — might be mobilized by the Chinese government as a powerful way to spy on people across the world. The company has defended itself in part by pointing to the absence of formal, public evidence of such activities.

Huawei has sought to help develop a new generation of high-speed European cellular networks, but Western intelligence agencies have slowed its expansion efforts.

Read more: https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/poland-detains-employee-of-chinese-tech-giant-huawei-on-spying-charges/2019/01/11/ac148e42-15a0-11e9-90a8-136fa44b80ba_story.html

January 11, 2019

Astronomers may have finally seen a star become a black hole

As dinosaurs stomped across ancient Earth more than 200 million years ago, a massive star was entering its death throes. The resulting cosmic explosion was so unusual, it left astronomers scratching their heads when its glow at last reached our planet last June.

Now, the mysterious flash may have an origin story. Based on the latest observations of the strange supernova, nicknamed the Cow, a team of 45 astronomers argues that it may represent the first time humans have captured the exact moment a dying star gave birth to a black hole.

“This is the target we've been waiting for for years,” says team leader Raffaella Margutti, an astrophysicist at Northwestern University. Margutti and her colleagues presented their work this week at the American Astronomical Society's annual meeting in Seattle, Washington, and will soon be publishing their findings in the Astrophysical Journal.

The team's data, captured in multiple wavelengths of light, could also mean that a massive star collapsed into a neutron star, a kind of dense stellar corpse. And other teams studying the Cow have proposed alternative explanations for its unusual behavior. So what do we know about the Cow, and why has it been so hard for astronomers to describe? We've got you covered.


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