Drought Map for Feb. 28th 2019


Walmart Firing All the Greeters

Sprawlmart is finding out, first hand, that when you have become a community’s replacement for a number of hyper-local establishments, the whole only-the-bottom-line-matters approach is unacceptable. Having moved into the community, and taken the role of de facto meeting place and community heart after driving the local businesses out of business, they failed to understand their responsibility, in the eyes of the locals.

A huge, for profit, business focused solely on the bottom line is ill-suited to providing those jobs that the community appreciates and responds well too. Everyone knows “Jimmy”, and that he’s a bit slow, but Jimmy used to sweep up at Thompson’s 5&10. Everyone visiting would talk with Jimmy, and the whole community respected Thompson’s for helping Jimmy work and feel pride in his job. Sprawlmart has no corporate understanding of this concept and it can’t be reflected on their accounting statements or manager reviews.

A smart regional director would have noticed Delores, the greeter, and observed how everyone entering the store interacted with her, and talked about how she had taught them, or their parents, when she was the school marm. He would know that some would even make it a point to stop by weekly to talk to her, and realize the net positive result that had for the store. Instead, a bean counter in Benton, AR sees an underutilized employee, a waste of a few dollars an hour. Thus greeters become hosts, the rest is history.

BY CP @ EBMisfit’s

Drought Map for Feb. 21st 2019

Turn it off …. Matt Taibbi

Turn it off

Feb 21 Subscriber’s post

On Monday in the fall of 1972, oddly enough on September 11th, CBS anchorman Walter Cronkite decided to end his nightly broadcast with bad news.

“Professor Hubert Lamb says a new Ice Age is creeping over the northern hemisphere,” Cronkite began.

This could have been a joke, or deadly serious. Nothing in his delivery gave the slightest hint. Cronkite’s face was an advanced messaging machine messaging, a broadcasting Ferrari.

He went on: “It won’t be as bad as the last Ice Age 60,000 years ago. Then, New York, Cincinnati and St. Louis were under five thousand feet of ice. Presumably, no traffic moved, and school was let out for the day.”

He paused. Again, not a single revealing twitch in that face.

“And that’s the way it is, Monday, September 11th, 1972.”

I was just old enough to groan over the hoopla when Walter Cronkite said And that’s the way it is for the last time on March 6th, 1981. I understood this was a national ritual, and Walter had been with us for so many crucial moments in history, from the death of John F. Kennedy to the moon landing.

But who cared about And that’s the way it is? Was that supposed to be deep? Even as an eleven-year-old, the fawning over the iconic signoff seemed phony to me, an example of the constant self-congratulation in which TV personalities – anchors, particularly – so often indulged.

In hindsight, I now realize that in the context of the medium, it was powerful stuff.

Cronkite’s famous signoff was designed to convey a message to viewers that they could now safely go back to their lives. It was a promise: the world would hold together, at least until the next day at the same time.

The Ice Age broadcast was a perfect illustration. Cronkite was holding copy designed to make you wet yourself, but he smiled and delivered it with a chuckle, conveying the opposite message.

“And that’s the way it is”was an expression of confidence, a contract between broadcaster and audience: “I trust you to come back tomorrow. Enjoy the next 23 hours without worry.”

Thiswas a message not about the content of the newscast, but about the viewer’s relationship to television and the news itself. It was rhetorical punctuation, a period at sentence’s end.

Cronkite was announcing you’d come to the end of your news media experience that day. You could go back to your private life, a thing whose existence was recognized and, at least to a degree, respected.

Of course, Cronkite’s routine was clever marketing. People grew accustomed to the tradition of sitting around the television hearing Walter tell it like it is. The signoff was part of the Pavlovian reward. It drew viewers back.

But it had another meaning. In that era, there were people who read newspapers from beginning to end. As one former newspaper chain owner put it to me, this was a time when people could say, “I read the news,” and mean “all of it.”

The concept of news having an ending still existed.

There was a lot that was wrong and deceptive about the era of news Cronkite dominated. News watchers were presented with a highly limited and simplistic vision of the world, one that downplayed or omitted countless injustices, both at home and abroad. Many of those deceptions were chronicled in Manufacturing Consent.

But since the seventies and eighties, we’ve moved into a new realm of media messaging. The subtext is dramatically different from Cronkite’s day. Most news consumers haven’t noticed the change, or are too young to know. But it’s an awesome difference, and a terrifying one, if you know what to look for.

Exciting Study Shows Some Immune Cells Can Fight Every Known Flu Virus

20 FEB 2019

The dreamlike goal of having universal, one-off flu jabs just got a little bit closer, thanks to the discovery that certain immune cells can fight off all three strains of influenza – perhaps permanently, or at least for several years.

At the moment, the various types of influenza – strains A, B, and C – are put into the annual vaccine at different rates every year to stay ahead of the mutated versions of the virus. If our immune system could fight all of them, we wouldn’t need to keep vaccinating so often.

The potential for particular immune cells to take care of all three flu strains was spotted in an earlier analysis of people exposed to the H7N9 (bird flu) virus in 2013. Those who had a strong response from CD8+ T cells were much more likely to recover.

These CD8+ T cells are often known as ‘killer cells’ because of the way they fight incoming threats – like a security force guarding the gates of our bodies.

“Our team has been fascinated by the killer cells for a long time,” says lead researcher Katherine Kedzierska, from the University of Melbourne in Australia. “So our next step was to discover how their protective mechanism worked, and if it had potential for a flu vaccine.”

This is where the new research comes in. Mass spectrometry analysis was used to sift through 67,000 viral sequences, looking for specific peptides or chemical bonds common among all three flu strains in humans.

Particular combinations known as epitopes can act as flags to CT8+ T cells, telling them a virus has arrived and initiating the orders to kill it.

“We identified the parts of the virus that are shared across all flu strains, and sub-strains capable of infecting humans,” says one of the team, Marios Koutsakos from the University of Melbourne.

In tests on mice, the team then used these parts of the virus to immunise the animals against the flu, and it worked – infection and inflammation levels were “remarkably reduced” the researchers say.

There’s still a long way to go before we have an all-in-one flu jab that’s ready to be used, though. According to the team’s estimates, roughly 54 percent of the world’s population have the right type of CT8+ T cells in their bodies that can initiate this protective immune response.

That said, this is a key step forward in working out how we might develop better tools for fighting influenza – by getting our killer cells to see off all incoming strains, instead of the annual dance around the strains we think are most likely to hit.

Strain A is usually associated with flu pandemics (large scale spread over multiple countries), while strains A and B are associated with annual epidemics (notable rises in a more limited geographical area). Strain C is less common but can cause serious illness in children.

Importantly, these strains mutate frequently, quickly changing from sub-strain to sub-strain, meaning that even getting a jab every year isn’t always effective.

A jab to protect us from all of the strains at once could prevent thousands of deaths a year. And if this option doesn’t work out, we’ve got others to explore: last year scientists harnessed antibodies found in camelids – camels, alpacas, and llamas – to protect against strain A and strain B in mice.

“This work highlights the underlying power and versatility of the mass spectrometry approach, and we’re excited about the future potential of these epitopes in the development of universal vaccines,” says one of the researchers, Anthony Purcell from the Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute in Australia.

The research has been published in Nature Immunology.

Drought Map for Feb. 14th 2019

Drought Map for Feb. 7th 2019

automatic and undetectable price-fixing

Antitrust agencies are concerned that the autonomous pricing algorithms increasingly used by online vendors may learn to collude. This column uses experiments with pricing algorithms powered by AI in a controlled environment to demonstrate that even relatively simple algorithms systematically learn to play sophisticated collusive strategies. Most worrying is that they learn to collude by trial and error, with no prior knowledge of the environment in which they operate, without communicating with one another, and without being specifically designed or instructed to collude.


Death-Cap Mushrooms – Another Invader

The poison from these mushrooms can be absorbed through the skin. Some have made the fatal mistake of trying to wash it off with alcohol; unfortunately, the poison dissolves in alcohol and the solution only enters the blood stream faster.

Death-Cap Mushrooms Are Spreading Across North America

“There’s nothing in the taste that tells you what you are eating is about to kill you.”
Glenn Harvey

Craig Childs Feb 1, 2019 Science THE ATLANIC

Between a sidewalk and a cinder-block wall grew seven mushrooms, each half the size of a doorknob. Their silver-green caps were barely coming up, only a few proud of the ground. Most lay slightly underground, bulging up like land mines. Magnolia bushes provided cover. An abandoned syringe lay on the ground nearby, along with a light assortment of suburban litter.

Paul Kroeger, a wizard of a man with a long, copious, well-combed beard, knelt and dug under one of the sickly colored caps. With a short, curved knife, he pried up the mushroom and pulled it out whole. It was a mushroom known as the death cap, Amanita phalloides. If ingested, severe illness can start as soon as six hours later, but tends to take longer, 36 hours or more. Severe liver damage is usually apparent after 72 hours. Fatality can occur after a week or longer. “Long and slow is a frightening aspect of this type of poisoning,” Kroeger said.