A national US power grid would make electricity cheaper and cleaner

“The US does not actually have a national grid. Our grid is instead split into three regions — the western interconnection, the eastern interconnection, and, uh, Texas — that largely operate independently and exchange very little power.”

“this is a barrier preventing all sorts of efficiencies.”

“87 percent of the nation’s total wind energy potential and 56 percent of its utility-scale solar potential, but are only projected to account for 30 percent of the nation’s energy demand in 2050.”

“The way to balance this out — to make sure that every region is producing as much renewable energy as possible and that the energy is put to good use — is to connect these regions with high-voltage transmission lines. The more each region can import and export electricity, the more it can balance its own fluctuations in supply and demand with its neighbors’ and maximize the use of renewable energy.”

“Clack and his co-authors also found that weaving the regionally divided power system into a single national system would save consumers around $47.2 billion a year through increased efficiency and cheaper renewable energy.”

“The best way to build resiliency against these events, which are increasing in frequency due to climate change, is to connect the regions of the country into a single national grid, so that regions facing difficulty can draw power from neighbors who aren’t.”

“investment into a national grid would create thousands of construction and maintenance jobs.”

A Siberian town near the Arctic Circle just recorded a 100-degree temperature

“A small town in Siberia reached a temperature of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit on Saturday, which, if verified, would mark the hottest temperature ever recorded north of the Arctic Circle.

Temperatures have jumped in recent months to levels rarely seen in the Russian region, and it’s a sign of a broader trend of human-caused climate change that’s transforming weather patterns in the Arctic Circle.

The town of Verkhoyansk is one of the coldest towns on Earth — temperatures dropped to nearly 60 degrees below zero there this past November — and the average June high temperature is 68 degrees.

The 100.4 reading in Verkhoyansk, which sits farther north than Fairbanks, Alaska, would be the northernmost 100-degree reading ever observed.”

“Reality” is constructed by your brain. Here’s what that means, and why it matters.

“Most of the time, the story our brains generate matches the real, physical world — but not always. Our brains also unconsciously bend our perception of reality to meet our desires or expectations. And they fill in gaps using our past experiences.

All of this can bias us. Visual illusions present clear and interesting challenges for how we live: How do we know what’s real? And once we know the extent of our brain’s limits, how do we live with more humility — and think with greater care about our perceptions?”

“The stories our brains tell us about reality are extremely compelling, even when they are wrong.”

““The dirty little secret about sensory systems is that they’re slow, they’re lagged, they’re not about what’s happening right now but what’s happening 50 milliseconds ago, or, in the case for vision, hundreds of milliseconds ago,” says Adam Hantman, a neuroscientist at Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Janelia Research Campus.

If we relied solely on this outdated information, though, we wouldn’t be able to hit baseballs with bats, or swat annoying flies away from our faces. We’d be less coordinated, and possibly get hurt more often.

So the brain predicts the path of motion before it happens. It tells us a story about where the object is heading, and this story becomes our reality. That’s what’s likely happening with Cavanagh’s illusion. It happens all the time.”

“The brain tells us a story about the motion of objects. But that’s not the only story it tells. It also tells us stories about more complicated aspects of our visual world, like color.”

“When we think an object is being bathed in blue light, we can filter out that blue light intuitively. That’s how many of these color illusions work. We use surrounding color cues and assumptions about lighting to guess an object’s true color. Sometimes those guesses are wrong, and sometimes we make different assumptions from others.”

“Night owls, or people who like to go to bed really late and wake up later in the morning, are more likely to see the dress as black and blue. Larks, a.k.a. early risers, are more likely to see it as white and gold. What’s going on?

Wallisch believes the correlation is rooted in the life experience of being either a lark or a night owl. Larks, he hypothesizes, spend more time in daylight than night owls. They’re more familiar with it. So when confronted with an ill-lit image like the dress, they are more likely to assume it is being bathed in bright sunlight, which has a lot of blue in it, Wallisch points out. As a result, their brains filter it out. “If you assume it’s daylight, you will see it as white and gold. Because if you subtract blue, yellow is left,” he says.”

“The owls versus lark data seems quite compelling for explaining a large part of the individual differences,” Schwarzkopf says. But not all of it. “There are still lots of other factors that must have a strong influence here.”

“we have no way of knowing how our experiences guide our perception. “Your brain makes a lot of unconscious inferences, and it doesn’t tell you that it’s an inference,” he explains. “You see whatever you see. Your brain doesn’t tell you, ‘I took into account how much daylight I’ve seen in my life.’””

“Sometimes, especially when the information we’re receiving is unclear, we see what we want to see. In the past, researchers have found that even slight rewards can change the way people perceive objects.”

“In a more complex example, Balcetis has found that when she tells study participants to pay attention to either an officer or a civilian in a video of a police altercation, it can change their perception of what happened (depending on their prior experience with law enforcement and the person in the video with whom they more closely identified). “That instruction changes what their eyes do,” Balcetis told me last summer. “And it leads them to a different understanding of the nature of the altercation.”

You can’t completely remove bias from the brain. “You can’t change the fact that we’ve all grown up in different worlds,” Balcetis said. But you can encourage people to listen to other perspectives and be curious about the veracity of their own.”

“Just as we can look at an image and see things that aren’t really there, we can look out into the world with skewed perceptions of reality. Political scientists and psychologists have long documented how political partisans perceive the facts of current events differently depending on their political beliefs. The illusions and political thinking don’t involve the same brain processes, but they follow the similar overarching way the brain works.”

Dems sink GOP police bill, leaving Senate deadlocked as country reckons with racism

“The GOP bill requires additional disclosures about the use of force, codifies reporting requirements on the use of “no knock warrants,” provides incentives for chokehold bans and makes lynching a federal crime.

The Democratic proposal, led in the Senate by Booker and Harris, would ban chokeholds and no knock warrants in federal drug cases. It would also limit qualified immunity for police officers to make it easier to sue police — something Democrats argue is key to holding police officers accountable for misconduct, but which most Republicans won’t consider.”

The End of Policing left me convinced we still need policing

“while there is a strong research base for believing that having police on the beat reduces crime, these same studies find that the aggressive “suspicious behavior” stops and stop-and-frisk tactics that have poisoned police-community relations have no real crime-fighting value.”

“there’s a substantial literature in economics and sociology arguing that more police on the beat equals less violent crime. One effort to quantify this precisely is a 2018 Review of Economics and Statistics article by Aaron Chalfin and Justin McCrary. It estimates, based on a big set of police and crime data from large and midsize cities between 1960 and 2010, that every $1 spent on extra police generates about $1.63 in social benefits, primarily by reducing murders. One needn’t take this literature as gospel truth, but one of the go-to scholars on the abolitionist position should be able to — and want to — counter the prevailing academic claim that investments in policing pay off in reduced violent crime.”

“American policing needs to change. And there’s at least some reason to think that reducing the scope of policing can and should be a big part of that change. Fairly mild policy changes undertaken over the past few years have delivered results in terms of fewer police killings of unarmed people, and there’s reason to believe that plenty of opportunity exists for further reform.

But policing is important. There’s evidence that the number of police has an effect on crime, especially violent crime. And when crime soars, not only do the direct victims suffer but we run the risk that economically diverse cities will unravel as people with means flee to the suburbs.”

“Patrick Sharkey, a Princeton sociologist who is clearly sympathetic to the goals of the defunding movement, writes in a Washington Post piece arguing for a greater role for local leaders and communities in containing violence that “those who argue that the police have no role in maintaining safe streets are arguing against lots of strong evidence. One of the most robust, most uncomfortable findings in criminology is that putting more officers on the street leads to less violent crime.””

“the importance and efficacy of what police officers do doesn’t hinge on believing they’re angels. The number of officers patrolling the street has an effect on the murder rate.”

“European countries have higher rates of problematic teen drinking, as well as a higher rate of cirrhosis deaths. What’s true is that drunkenness is less problematic in Europe because there is more mass transit and fewer guns, so the range of possible alcohol-related harms is narrower.”

“laxer pot rules mean more pot consumption. Laxer alcohol rules mean more alcohol consumption. And laxer heroin rules would likely mean more heroin consumption. One can certainly make a case for this (criminalization has not been a rousing success story), but it requires some real argument.”

“Many faddish implicit bias trainings don’t really seem to work. But there are promising results from several different procedural justice trainings. More to the point, Vitale himself says that “in some ways training is actually part of the problem” because “in recent decades, the emphasis has shifted heavily toward officer safety training.” Instead of receiving training that creates an exaggerated sense of threat (police work is dangerous, but officers’ death rates are lower than for fishers or roofers), police should be provided with deescalation training (which has been found to be at least somewhat effective) and, more importantly, required to use it with real consequences for officers who don’t.”

“collective bargaining agreements make it extremely difficult to fire police with records of misconduct. Those who are dismissed are often ordered to be rehired. And police officers who are permanently fired — which, to be clear, means they have passed a high bar for badness — often get hired at other jurisdictions. Meanwhile, the “qualified immunity” doctrine immunizes police for civil penalties for misconduct.
Per what records are available, a relatively small number of officers are committing most of the misconduct, but studies show that bad behavior can spread like a virus to peer officers. Getting rid of the worst 5 percent of officers could eliminate an enormous share of the misconduct, halt the spread of bad norms throughout departments, and open up new hiring opportunities to create more diverse forces.”

“As the defund debate has played out in the public sphere, an idea has taken hold that not only should America spend more on social services but that the police are the reason we can’t or won’t do that.”

“police spending is a relative drop in the bucket of state and local government budgets; at the federal level, it’s even smaller.”

“It’s true that the government should be spending more on housing and mental health programs and that doing so would probably reduce crime. But it would probably reduce crime by freeing up officers to do more police work. And there’s no particular reason the money for it has to come out of police departments. If you compare the United States to Europe, the reason Europe has a more generous welfare state is a much higher overall level of spending — not that the US has overfunded the police.”

“The problem with America’s police officers is that they’re too unaccountable and lawless, operating with too much job security and a sense of impunity, not that there are too many of them.”

Remember the N95 mask shortage? It’s still a problem.

“An ongoing problem with PPE is that supplies still aren’t being distributed equally around the country and even within hot spots. Better-resourced hospitals have more supplies while other facilities struggle to find enough.

The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid say that one in five Florida nursing homes do not have a one-week supply of gowns or the N95 masks needed to care for Covid-19 patients and prevent transmission. According to WCNC Charlotte, North Carolina ran perilously low on gowns and masks in May even before its recent surge in cases, receiving only 99,000 of the 27 million N95 masks it had ordered. An internal report from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) suggests “[t]he demand for gowns outpaces current U.S. manufacturing capabilities” and that the government plans to continue to ask medical staff to reuse N95 masks and surgical gowns intended to be disposed of after one use into July.”

“It’s not only hospitals that need more staff and PPE; many other areas of health care do too, including primary care facilities, homes for the disabled, and nursing homes — a fifth of which reported at the end of May that they had less than a week’s supply of critical PPE.”

Daily COVID-19 Deaths in the U.S. Have Fallen Dramatically Since April

“The seven-day rolling average of daily deaths, which peaked at 2,210 on April 18, had fallen to 605 as of yesterday—a 73 percent drop. The downward trend has continued for more than a month since mid-May, when the impact of post-lockdown infections should have started to show up in fatality figures. In Texas, for example, the seven-day average fell from 58 on April 30, when the statewide lockdown was lifted, to 20 on June 13 before climbing to 30 as of yesterday.

Some states, including Texas, have seen notable increases in confirmed cases and hospitalizations since late May. Those increases, which cannot be fully explained by expanded virus testing, may be related to Memorial Day gatherings and the mass protests against police brutality triggered by George Floyd’s death. The spike in cases that states such as Texas have seen can be expected to result in more deaths during the next couple of weeks than otherwise would have occurred. But if epidemiologists are correct in thinking that superspreading events on and after Memorial Day explain recent surges in infections—which makes senses given the timing—the resulting rise in daily deaths should be temporary.”

Trump baselessly claims Covid-19 testing is “overrated” and people wear masks to spite him

“The US has conducted about 72 tests per 1,000 people, according to Our World In Data. That’s a lower rate than Portugal or Russia or Iceland and about the same as Australia and Italy. Good but hardly warranting “greatest of all time” designations. The number of tests in the US that are coming back positive also suggests we are still not adequately surveilling Covid-19 compared to European countries.”

“When you conduct more tests, you would expect the positive test rate to go down, because along with some more positive tests, you would get many more negative ones. So experts are concerned because in states like Arizona and Florida and Texas, the positive test rate is actually increasing. That is what suggests increased spread of Covid-19 is behind some of rising case numbers — not simply more tests being conducted.”

Trump fires the US attorney investigating his allies

“President Donald Trump has fired Geoffrey Berman, the US attorney for the Southern District of New York in Manhattan who has led investigations of the president’s inner circle. Berman had refused to step down from his post Friday after US Attorney General Bill Barr attempted to oust him.

Barr, who has long been accused of protecting Trump’s close allies, announced Berman’s resignation in a press release late Friday in an apparent effort to draw little attention to the matter. He named Jay Clayton, the current chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, who has no experience as a prosecutor, as Trump’s pick for Berman’s successor.

But within hours, Berman countered that he did not, and would not, tender his resignation and that the first he had heard of it was from Barr’s press release.

“I have not resigned, and have no intention of resigning, my position,” Berman said in a statement. “I will step down when a presidentially appointed nominee is confirmed by the Senate. Until then, our investigations will move forward without delay or interruption.”

On Saturday, however, Barr told Berman in a letter that the president had fired him: “Because you have declared you have no intention of resigning, I have asked the President to remove you as of today, and he has done so,” wrote Barr. Berman’s deputy, Audrey Strauss, will serve as the acting US attorney in Manhattan until his replacement is confirmed by the Senate, according to the Washington Post.”

“Berman has been investigating Giuliani’s efforts to find damaging information in Ukraine about Trump’s political opponents to determine whether he violated laws on lobbying for foreign entities. He has also indicted two of Giuliani’s business associates and successfully pursued a case against Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen, who pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about Trump’s plans to build a skyscraper in Moscow.

Berman is not the first official who the Trump administration has ousted in recent months. Trump also fired Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson, who played a central role in bringing the whistleblower complaint at the heart of the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry to light, and State Department Inspector General Steve Linick, who was reportedly investigating Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.”

“The Justice Department has historically operated independently from the executive branch, but under Trump, that paradigm has appeared to change.”