#60: What's Your Favorite Scary Movie?

A little late today thanks to some travel and family time and also I'm not NOT reading all of the North Korea news all the time because a man can only take so much. But that's the job title, to curate the The News Most Vital to Our Survival As A Species, and deliver it right to your electronic doorstep. 

On to the news!


I'm gonna be honest. I almost sent this one out last week on its own, because it's that #important, but it's so goddamn terrifying I couldn't bear to ruin my own vacation by knowing I was dumping it on you. But anyways. It's time.

Why the Scariest Nuclear Threat May Be Coming from Inside the White House- Vanity Fair

"On the morning after the election, November 9, 2016, the people who ran the U.S. Department of Energy turned up in their offices and waited. They had cleared 30 desks and freed up 30 parking spaces. They didn’t know exactly how many people they’d host that day, but whoever won the election would surely be sending a small army into the Department of Energy, and every other federal agency. The morning after he was elected president, eight years earlier, Obama had sent between 30 and 40 people into the Department of Energy. The Department of Energy staff planned to deliver the same talks from the same five-inch-thick three-ring binders, with the Department of Energy seal on them, to the Trump people as they would have given to the Clinton people. “Nothing had to be changed,” said one former Department of Energy staffer. “They’d be done always with the intention that, either party wins, nothing changes.”

By afternoon the silence was deafening. “Day 1, we’re ready to go,” says a former senior White House official. “Day 2 it was ‘Maybe they’ll call us?’ ”

+ This is extremely necessary reading and also gets soooooo much worse. The people you elect get to appoint whoever they want and that matters.

We can joke about Rick Perry and his adorable glasses and not knowing what the DoE actually does, but then you look at this, below, and remember: everything has consequences. Everything.

**Disturbing Data Visualization Shows Just How Many People Would Die in a Nuclear War - Gizmodo**

Some good news:

The closest man to Trump is a stealth climate believer - Denver Post

"When it comes to climate change, the biggest influence on President Donald Trump may turn out to be his new chief of staff, John Kelly.

The retired four-star Marine general shares the military’s pragmatic view of global warming. Under Kelly’s command from 2012 to 2016, U.S. Southern Command played a central role in Pentagon planning for the higher temperatures, more extreme weather and rising sea levels that it sees as threatening national security. Now advocates hope he will bring that view into the White House."

+ Of course because we took last week off this guy has gone from cleaning up the place to pissing off the big guy, so we'll see how long it lasts.

Somewhat related: how San Francisco is planning for a North Korean nuclear strike - San Francisco Chronicle

And the Scientific American editors believe no one person should have the authority to launch a nuclear attack and potentially end civilization.

But before we launch that attack let's make sure to prop up the coal industry in the most ridiculous way possible. 

Scott Pruitt - EPA extraordinaire - has done his best to accelerate the end of the human race, but good news is the LONG ARM OF THE LAW says no today, sir. Not today.

16 attorney generals sue Pruitt for blocking implementation of EPA smog rule - ThinkProgress

...and, one day later, spineless invertebrate that he is...

EPA chief Scott Pruitt reverses decision to delay rules on emissions - Business Insider

"In a statement Wednesday evening, Pruitt presents the change as his agency being more responsive than past administrations to the needs of state environmental regulators. He makes no mention of the legal challenge filed against his prior position in a federal appeals court.

At issue is an Oct. 1 deadline for states to begin meeting 2015 standards for ground-level ozone. Pruitt announced in June he would delay compliance by one year to provide more time to study the plan.
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman says he and the others who sued will continue to hold Pruitt accountable."

Scientists Fear Trump Will Dismiss Blunt Climate Report - NYTimes

"The average temperature in the United States has risen rapidly and drastically since 1980, and recent decades have been the warmest of the past 1,500 years, according to a sweeping federal climate change report awaiting approval by the Trump administration.

The draft report by scientists from 13 federal agencies concludes that Americans are feeling the effects of climate change right now. It directly contradicts claims by President Trump and members of his cabinet who say that the human contribution to climate change is uncertain, and that the ability to predict the effects is limited.

“Evidence for a changing climate abounds, from the top of the atmosphere to the depths of the oceans,” a draft of the report states."

+ The big guy's stuck between a rock and a uninhabitable planet. What's it gonna be? Clock's ticking.



These are the scientists running for office, because enough of this shit - WIRED

"All told, more than a dozen Democratic candidates with science backgrounds have announced their candidacies for Congress or are expected to in the coming months. The boomlet of STEM-based candidates amounts to a minor seismic event in a community where politics and research have traditionally gone together like sodium and water. Trump has been in office just six months, but he’s already done something remarkable—he’s gotten scientists to run for office.

The surge of science-based candidates has been aided by a new political outfit called 314 Action, launched last summer by Shaughnessy Naughton, a breast cancer researcher from Pennsylvania who ran for Congress in 2014 and 2016 . The group, named for the first three digits of Pi, aims to do for candidates with scientific backgrounds what EMILY’s List has done for pro-choice women—funding, recruiting, and training candidates at every level of government. So far 6,000 scientists have reached out to the group about running for federal, state, and local offices; and 314 plans to also back candidates in three dozen school board races this fall. Washington has plenty of lawyers; maybe it’s time for a fresh experiment.

“Traditionally the attitude has been that science is above politics, and therefore scientists shouldn’t get involved in politics, and what that ignores is the fact that politicians are unashamed to meddle in science,” says Naughton. “The way we push back against that is to hold a seat at the table.”

The ranks of scientists in Congress have been thin in recent years. Rep. Bill Foster (D-Ill.) was a high-energy particle physicist at Fermi National Laboratory in the district he now represents. Until recently the dean of the bunch was Democratic Rep. Rush Holt of New Jersey, an astrophysicist who retired in 2014 and now serves as CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. The only STEM field that’s well represented in Congress is medicine; there are 14 physicians between the House and the Senate, but most are Republicans who have shown more of a commitment to conservative dogma than scientific best practices. (Former Georgia Republican Rep. Paul Broun, a doctor, infamously referred to evolutionary biology as a lie “from the pit of hell.”)

How Far Can California Possibly Go on Climate? - NYTimes

"Last August, the State Legislature set a goal of slashing emissions more than 40 percent below today’s levels by 2030, a far deeper cut than President Barack Obama proposed for the entire United States and deeper than most other countries have contemplated.

Until now, most states have followed a standard playbook for curbing emissions. Market forces have replaced older coal plants with cheaper and cleaner natural gas, while state mandates have added modest shares of wind and solar power to the grid. As a result, domestic carbon dioxide emissions have fallen 14 percent since 2005 at relatively little cost.

But California has now plucked most of that low-hanging fruit. The state’s emissions are nearly back to 1990 levels, it barely uses any coal and it has installed as many solar panels as the rest of the country combined. Per capita, California has the third-lowest emissions in the nation, after New York and the District of Columbia, which means further cuts will come less easily than they would for a state like Texas."


Most of you are already aware that fossil fuels have, to a great extent, flourished thanks to generous subsidies. Do you know that those subsidies total about $5 trillion - PER YEAR? That's 6.5% of global GDP. - The Guardian

"Much of their costs are hidden. If people knew how large their subsidies were, there would be a backlash against them from so-called financial conservatives.

A study was just published in the journal World Development that quantifies the amount of subsidies directed toward fossil fuels globally, and the results are shocking. The authors work at the IMF and are well-skilled to quantify the subsidies discussed in the paper. 

Let’s give the final numbers and then back up to dig into the details. The subsidies were $4.9 tn in 2013 and they rose to $5.3 tn just two years later. According to the authors, these subsidies are important because first, they promote fossil fuel use which damages the environment. Second, these are fiscally costly. Third, the subsidies discourage investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy that compete with the subsidized fossil fuels. Finally, subsidies are very inefficient means to support low-income households."

And turns out, when you save that much dough, you can spend it to, say, buy an entire religion. - Splinter

"The National Association of Evangelicals did eventually endorse climate action in 2015. But it was too late. By that time, a corps of right-wing Christians, funded by fossil-fuel interests, had hijacked the public and political machinery of the evangelical movement. They are now in the White House, where the anti-environmental agenda is dominated by Christian fundamentalists like EPA Commissioner Scott Pruitt while the more moderate views of former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson are ignored. This is the story of how they did it."


Edible robot surgeons will cure you from the inside out - Engadget

Nanoparticles trick body into accepting organ transplants - Yale

Hidden cancers detected by combining genetic tests with MRI - New Scientist

Breakthrough Starshot successfully launch world's smallest spacecraft. The ‘sprites’ – 3.5cm x 3.5cm miniature satellites weighing four grams each – are successfully in orbit and communicating with systems back on Earth - The Guardian

Living computers: RNA circuits transform cells into nanodevices - Nature

These kids are learning CRISPR - at summer camp - Motherboard

"While they named different things that you might want to cut from a genome—like genes that lead to higher risks of cancer or those that cause muscular dystrophy—Powel asked the students if there were any potential issues with CRISPR that scientists might want to consider alongside all of the good that might come of it. A nine-year-old named Evan immediately raised his hand to point out that it's possible other parts of DNA could be damaged aside from the region you're trying to fix. 

"Sometimes it sounds like a great idea to cut and paste and edit DNA, and other times it sounds like it might have a bad consequence that we weren't even thinking of," Powel agreed."

“What is there so fearful as the expectation of evil tidings delayed? ... Misery is a more welcome visitant when she comes in her darkest guise and wraps us in perpetual black, for then the heart no longer sickens with disappointed hope." 👾

What I'm trying to express with the help of that delightful Mary Shelley quote is that there's some other bad news and I didn't want to just dump it on you but we're not in the business of pulling punches here, sooo:

Massive El Niño sent greenhouse-gas emissions soaring - Nature

Prepare for natural disasters, experts urge biomedical research centers - Statnews

Unchecked climate change could bring extremely dangerous heat to South Asia, scientists warn - Washington Post

Why We Are Naively Optimistic About Climate Change - NPR

The Gulf Of Mexico's Dead Zone Is The Biggest Ever Seen - NPR

Suicides of nearly 60,000 Indian farmers linked to climate change, study claims- The Guardian


Frank Drake - legend of the Drake Equation, which has become even more vital with the exoplanet hunting success of Hubble - did a Reddit AMA. Here's my favorite question & answer.

YoureGratefulDead2Me asked, “If you could communicate with an alien civilization and language barrier were not an issue, what would you tell them/ask them?”

Drake responded, in part, “If they are like us we would ask them what steps they take to support an ever growing population; for example is the colonization of other planets in their solar system advantageous or too costly and dangerous.”