Where women call the shots

Where women call the shots
The nation’s first majority-female legislature is currently meeting in Nevada. Carson City may never be the same.
By Emily Wax-Thibodeaux
May 17 2019

CARSON CITY, Nev. — She didn’t plan to say it. Yvanna Cancela, a newly elected Democrat in the Nevada Senate, didn’t want to “sound crass.” But when a Republican colleague defended a century-old law requiring doctors to ask women seeking abortions whether they’re married, Cancela couldn’t help firing back.

“A man is not asked his marital status before he gets a vasectomy,” she countered — and the packed hearing room fell silent.

Since Nevada seated the nation’s first majority-female state legislature in January, the male old guard has been shaken up by the perspectives of female lawmakers. Bills prioritizing women’s health and safety have soared to the top of the agenda. Mounting reports of sexual harassment have led one male lawmaker to resign. And policy debates long dominated by men, including prison reform and gun safety, are yielding to female voices.

Cancela, 32, is part of the wave of women elected by both parties in November, many of them younger than 40. Today, women hold the majority with 23 seats in the Assembly and 10 in the Senate, or a combined 52 percent.

No other legislature has achieved that milestone in U.S. history. Only Colorado comes close, with women constituting 47 percent of its legislators. In Congress, just one in four lawmakers is a woman. And in Alabama, which just enacted an almost complete ban on abortion, women make up just 15 percent of lawmakers.

The female majority is having a huge effect: More than 17 pending bills deal with sexual assault, sex trafficking and sexual misconduct, with some measures aimed at making it easier to prosecute offenders. Bills to ban child marriage and examine the causes of maternal mortality are also on the docket.

“I can say with 100 percent certainty that we wouldn’t have had these conversations” a few years ago, said Assembly Majority Leader Teresa Benitez-Thompson (D). “None of these bills would have seen the light of day.”

Nevada didn’t reach this landmark by accident. A loosely coordinated campaign of political action groups and women’s rights organizations recruited and trained women such as Cancela, who became political director of the 57,000-member Culinary Workers Union before she turned 30. One of those organizations, Emerge Nevada, said it trained twice as many female candidates ahead of the 2018 midterm election as it had in the preceding 12 years.

Meanwhile, the election of President Trump in 2016 mobilized Democratic women nationwide, including in Nevada, where women already held 40 percent of statehouse seats.

Along with the gender shift has come a steady increase in racial diversity: Of 63 lawmakers in Nevada, 11 are African American, nine are Hispanic, one is Native American and one, Rochelle Thuy Nguyen (D), 41, is the legislature’s first Democratic female Asian American Pacific Islander.

The result may seem surprising in a state more often defined by the hypersexuality and neon-lit debauchery of the Las Vegas Strip. Until 2017, the legislature included an assemblyman who had briefly appeared as an extra in a film about women being kidnapped and forced to live naked in kennels, according to PolitiFact.

But that lawmaker, Stephen Silberkraus (R), 38, was defeated by a woman, Lesley Cohen (D), 48, who highlighted the film during her campaign. (Silberkraus told reporters that he had been unaware of the film’s sexual nature.) As a member of the Assembly, Cohen is leading a study on conditions for female sex workers in Nevada’s rural brothels, the nation’s only legal bordellos.

“Outsiders ask why and how Nevada — of all places — became first,” Cohen said. “But I say, why not Nevada? Why not everywhere?”

A culture change

Carson City is a tiny frontier town, cradled among the snow-capped Sierra Nevada. For decades in the statehouse, charges of sexual harassment often were shrugged off or belittled, and bills sponsored by women were sometimes mocked.

In 2015, Sen. Patricia Ann Spearman (D), now 64, said legislative leaders refused to schedule a hearing on her bill to promote pay equity for women. “The boys club was like, ‘Why do we need that?’ ” she said. “It was a very misogynistic session.”

As recently as 2017, when the legislature approved a public referendum to repeal the “pink tax” on necessities such as tampons and diapers, one assemblyman argued against it, saying it would create a slippery slope.

“Can I add my jockstrap purchases to your list? You might argue it’s not a necessity, but I might beg to differ,” Jim Marchant (R) said at the time. Last November, voters agreed to repeal the tax — and replaced Marchant with a woman, Shea Backus (D).

Even now, female lawmakers in both parties say they receive anonymous phone calls from men commenting on their looks or threatening sexual violence. GOP women “share a lot of common ground and lived experiences with Democratic women,” said Assemblywoman Jill Tolles (R), 45.


Apple CEO Tim Cook to the Class of 2019: ‘My Generation Has Failed You’

[Note:  This item comes from friend Judi Clark.  DLH]

Apple CEO Tim Cook to the Class of 2019: ‘My Generation Has Failed You’
Cook bore down hard on climate change
By Catherine Clifford
May 18 2019

Apple CEO  Tim Cook challenged Gen Z to clean up the messes Baby Boomers have left behind.

“In some important ways, my generation has failed you,” Cook said Saturday in his commencement speech at Tulane University in New Orleans, La., at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

“We have spent too much time debating, we have been too focused on the fight, and not focused enough on progress,” Cook, 58 and a member of the Boomer generation, said. Generally, college graduates are  part of Generation Z.

“You don’t need to look far to find an example of that failure,” Cook said, referring to New Orleans, where he was speaking, which was devastated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Cook bore down hard on climate change.

“Here today, in this very place, where thousands once found desperate shelter from a hundred-year disaster — the kind that seem to be happening more and more frequently — I don’t think we can talk about who we are as people and what we owe to one another without talking about climate change,” Cook said.

Fixing climate change should not be a matter for political debate, Cook said.

“This problem doesn’t get any easier based on whose side wins or loses an election. It’s about who has won life’s lottery and has the luxury of ignoring this issue and who stands to lose everything,” Cook said.

“The coastal communities, including some right here in Louisiana, that are also making plans to leave behind the places they have called home for generations and head for higher ground. The fisherman who nets come up empty. The wildlife preserves with less wildlife to preserve, the marginalized, for whom a natural disaster can mean enduring poverty.”

A call for coming together, ending corrosive discourse More broadly, Cook called on the class of 2019 to focus on helping others, starting with those who need the most.

“When we talk about climate change or any issue with human cost — and there are many — I challenge you to look for those who have the most to lose, and find the real, true empathy that comes from something shared. That is really what we owe one another,” Cook said.

From the Big Easy, the tech executive seemed to be taking a shot at the divisiveness taking root in Washington D.C. and corrupting the fabric of the country.

“When you do [find empathy], the political noise dies down and you can feel your feet firmly planted on solid ground. After all, we don’t build monuments to trolls and we are not going to start now,” Cook said.

To reduce that divisiveness, Cook pleaded with the young graduates to resist entrenched thinking and adopting points of view blindly.

“There are some who would like you to believe that the only way you can be strong is by bulldozing those who disagree or never giving them a chance to say their piece in the first place, that the only way you can build your own accomplishments is by tearing down the other side,” he said.

“We forget sometimes that our preexisting beliefs have their own force of gravity. Today, certain algorithms pull towards you the things you already know, believe or like and they push away everything else. Push back. It shouldn’t be this way,” Cook said. “But in 2019, opening your eyes and seeing things in a new way can be a revolutionary act.”

Work to understand the perspectives of those who see an issue differently than you do, Cook said.

“Summon the courage not just to hear but to listen. Not just to act but to act together. It can sometimes feel like the odds are stacked against you, that it isn’t worth it. That the critics are too persistent and the problems are too great. But the solution to our problems begin on a human scale by building a shared understanding of the work ahead, and with undertaking it together. at the very least we owe it to teach other to try.”


Cars will change more in the next decade than they have in the past century

[Note:  This item comes from friend Judi Clark.  DLH]

Cars will change more in the next decade than they have in the past century
By Dan Lewis
May 14 2019

While the look and feel of our cars has changed in the past 100 years, the way we drive them hasn’t. But fundamental change is coming. In the next decade, not only will the way they’re powered and wired have shifted dramatically, but we won’t be the ones driving them anymore.

Some cars already have basic automation features, but the automotive experiments currently being undertaken by the likes of Uber and Google make up a minuscule proportion of the vehicles on our roads. By 2030, the standard car will evolve from merely assisting the driver to taking full control of all aspects of driving in most driving conditions. 

This widespread automation, together with the electrification and increased connectivity of both the car and society, are set to shake up the car industry in a big way, affecting everything from the way cars look and feel, to how we spend our time inside them, and how they get us from A to B.

A very different driving experience

The first major difference we might notice between today’s cars and those of 2030 are their names. Just as Apple and Samsung have taken over a mobile phone market that Nokia and Blackberry once dominated, Tesla, Apple, Dyson, and Google could become the most recognised automotive brands of the future.

They’ll likely look a lot different too. From the outside, the large air intakes and front grills that cool our combustion engines will no longer be needed, while wing mirrors will be replaced with cameras and sensors. Windows could be larger to allow liberated passengers to enjoy the view, or near non-existent to provide privacy. The Mercedes-Benz Vision URBANETIC demonstrates these radical new looks with a modular vehicle that can switch bodies to either move cargo or people.

Cars’ interiors will be much more flexible, some allowing customisation of colour, light, privacy, and layout at the touch of a button. Volvo’s recent 360c concept car envisages a multi-functional space that can transform into a lounge, an office and even a bedroom. 

Sun visors will become a thing of the past, with smart glass allowing us to control the amount of entering daylight at the touch of a button. The Mercedes F015 concept car’s doors even have extra screens that can function as windows or entertainment systems. 

Many cars will be fitted with augmented-reality systems, which will superimpose computer-generated visualisations onto the windscreen or other suitable display areas, to ease the passenger’s nerves from relinquishing the wheel by showing what the car is about to do.

Drivers will be able to communicate with their cars through speech or gesture commands. In high-end models, we may even see some early versions of brain-computer interfaces, which would associate patterns of brain activity with commands to control the car or entertain occupants. Similar technology has already been used to control prosthetic limbs and wheelchairs.

Connective technology

The ever-growing internet of things will become central to how our integrated cars move us around and communicate with the outside world. Sensors designed to recognise and communicate with upgraded road signs, markings, networks of cameras, pedestrians, and other vehicles will allow cars to synchronise their movement, minimising fuel consumption and improving traffic flow. Cars will also be able to help authorities maintain road infrastructure, for example with tyre sensors that notify them of deteriorating road conditions.

When humans choose to take the wheel, technology will warn drivers about impending collisions with other road users, and attempt to avoid them. Improvements in thermal sensor technology are likely to enable cars to see far beyond the illumination range of car headlights. If sufficiently standardised and legislated for, these technologies should substantially reduce the number of road accidents – albeit probably after an initial spike.

While rural drivers will probably still own their cars, cities may move away from car ownership to the use of on-demand vehicles that take the Uber model to the next level. In Moscow, 9m of these journeys are already made daily, more than 30 times higher than at the start of 2018.

Fuels of the future

Multiple countries and cities have announced upcoming bans on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars, many by 2030. Older vehicles will still be on the road, so petrol stations are unlikely to disappear by this date. However, car makers are already focusing more and more on vehicles that will support the fuels of the future.


Exxon predicted in 1982 exactly how high global carbon emissions would be today

Exxon predicted in 1982 exactly how high global carbon emissions would be today
CO2 in the atmosphere has reached unprecedented levels.
May 14 2019

The concentration of carbon dioxide emissions in the atmosphere reached an unprecedented level this month. Researchers at the fossil fuel giant Exxon saw it coming decades ago.

Measurements taken on May 3 at the world’s oldest measuring station, the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii, recorded “humanity’s first day ever with more than 415 parts per million [ppm] CO2 in the air,” according to the United Nation’s climate change Twitter account. As of May 12, levels have remained steady at 415 ppm.

Never before in human history has there been so much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The last time scientists believe it may have been this high was 2.5 to 5 million years ago during the Pliocene epoch, when sea levels were 25 meters higher than today and global temperatures were warmer by 2-3 degrees Celsius.

Unlike back then, however, the record carbon dioxide emissions being recorded now are the result of humans burning fossil fuels, which releases harmful heat-trapping pollution into the atmosphere. And scientists at Exxon predicted this decades ago.

According to an internal 1982 document from Exxon Research and Engineering Company — obtained by InsideClimate News as part of its 2015 investigation into what Exxon knew about the impact of fossil fuels on climate change — the company was modeling out the concentration of carbon emissions several years into the future.

According to a graph displaying the “growth of atmospheric CO2 and average global temperature increase” over time, the company expected that, by 2020, carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would reach roughly 400 to 420 ppm. This month’s measurement of 415 ppm is right within the expected curve Exxon projected under its “21st Century Study-High Growth scenario.”

Not only did Exxon predict the rise in emissions, it also understood how severe the consequences would be.

“Considerable uncertainty also surrounds the possible impact on society of such a warming trend, should it occur,” the internal document stated. “At the low end of the predicted temperature range there could be some impact on agricultural growth and rainfall patterns which could be beneficial in some regions and detrimental in others.”

“At the high end, some scientists suggest there could be considerable adverse impact including the flooding of some coastal land masses as a result of a rise in sea level due to melting of the Antarctic ice sheet,” it continued, stating this would only take place centuries after temperatures warmed by 3 degrees Celsius.

Despite this knowledge, the company chose not to change or adapt its business model. Instead, it chose to invest heavily in disinformation campaigns that promoted climate science denial, failing to disclose its knowledge that the majority of the world’s fossil fuel reserves must remain untapped in order to avert catastrophic climate change.

The world is already experiencing the devastating impacts of climate change. As the very first line of the U.S. government’s National Climate Assessment asserts, “The impacts of climate change are already being felt in communities across the country.”

From more intense flooding, drought, heat waves, wildfires, and hurricanes, the world is becoming increasingly aware of what life in a warming world will look like. In 2018, the United States alone experienced 14 different climate and weather-related disasters, each costing over a billion dollars.

The record carbon emissions recorded this month indicate things will most likely continue to get worse; carbon remains in the atmosphere for a long time, meaning it continues to warm the world long after it is emitted. “This is a grim reminder of the perilous path we are on,” climate scientist Michael Mann said.


Why is the Pentagon interested in UFOs?

Why is the Pentagon interested in UFOs?
By Iain Boyd
May 17 2019

U.S. Navy pilots and sailors won’t be considered crazy for reporting unidentified flying objects, under new rules meant to encourage them to keep track of what they see. Yet just a few years ago, the Pentagon reportedly shut down another official program that investigated UFO sightings. What has changed? Is the U.S. military finally coming around to the idea that alien spacecraft are visiting our planet?

The answer to that question is almost certainly no. Humans’ misinterpretation of observations of natural phenomena are as old as time and include examples such as manatees being seen as mermaids and driftwood in a Scottish lochbeing interpreted as a monster. A more recent and relevant example is the strange luminescent structure in the sky caused by a SpaceX rocket launch. In these types of cases, incorrect interpretations occur because people have incomplete information or misunderstand what they’re seeing.

Based on my prior experience as a science advisor to the Air Force, I believe that the Pentagon wants to avoid this type of confusion, so it needs to better understand flying objects that it can’t now identify. During a military mission, whether in peace or in war, if a pilot or soldier can’t identify an object, they have a serious problem: How should they react, without knowing if it is neutral, friendly or threatening? Fortunately, the military can use advanced technologies to try to identify strange things in the sky.

Taking the ‘U’ out of ‘UFO’

“Situational awareness” is the military term for having complete understanding of the environment in which you are operating. A UFO represents a gap in situational awareness. At the moment, when a Navy pilot sees something strange during flight, just about the only thing he or she can do is ask other pilots and air traffic control what they saw in that place at that time. Globally, the number of UFO reportings in a year has peaked at more than 8,000. It’s not known how many the military experiences.

Even the most heavily documented incidents end up unresolved, despite interviewing dozens of witnesses and reviewing many written documents, as well as lots of audio and video recordings. 

UFOs represent an opportunity for the military to improve its identification processes. At least some of that work could be done in the future by automated systems, and potentially in real time as an incident unfolds. Military vehicles – Humvees, battleships, airplanes and satellites alike – are covered in sensors. It’s not just passive devices like radio receivers, video cameras and infrared imagers, but active systems like radar, sonar and lidar. In addition, a military vehicle is rarely alone – vehicles travel in convoys, sail in fleets and fly in formations. Above them all are satellites watching from overhead.

Drawing a complete picture

Sensors can provide a wealth of information on UFOs including range, speed, heading, shape, size and temperature. With so many sensors and so much data, though, it is a challenge to merge the information into something useful. However, the military is stepping up its work on autonomy and artificial intelligence. One possible use of these new technologies could be to combine them to analyze all the many signals as they come in from sensors, separating any observations that it can’t identify. In those cases, the system could even assign sensors on nearby vehicles or orbiting satellites to collect additional information in real time. Then it could assemble an even more complete picture.


This Close-Knit Island Near Seattle Has An Overlooked History Of Defying Hate

[Note:  This item comes from friend David Rosenthal.  DLH]

This Close-Knit Island Near Seattle Has An Overlooked History Of Defying Hate
Filipino American farmers on Bainbridge Island, Washington, cared for the properties of their Japanese American neighbors during World War II. Their bonds still exist today.
By Mari Hayman
May 18 2019

Time and again, the true story of Bob Fletcher goes viral. Fletcher, a white farmer, took care of multiple Japanese American farms in Florin, California, during World War II, paying down mortgages and taxes until he could return the properties to his neighbors.

In a Twitter thread last fall describing Japanese Americans’ massive losses of property and exploitation during their World War II imprisonment, the Japanese American history organization Densho briefly mentioned Fletcher’s story. Shortly afterward, his Densho Encyclopedia entry got nearly 50,000 visits in a day.

Fletcher’s actions were unique in an era of rampant anti-Japanese racism, said Densho’s communications and public engagement director, Natasha Varner. But, she added, “It’s curious to me that his is the story that gets so much attention.”

“The link to Bob Fletcher’s story was literally the only part that cast white people in any kind of positive light,” Varner said of the Twitter thread. “So it’s a very literal example of how people tend to cherry-pick the parts of history that allow them to uphold this white savior narrative.” 

It’s no wonder historians are preoccupied about what we choose to remember and celebrate these days. In a time of bleak historical comparisons, those feel-good anecdotes — usually starring white people — go down easier than takeaways about greed and white supremacy enabling the mass deprivation of Japanese Americans’ rights during World War II. 

It’s not just that, though. Even when you look at the few bright spots in the story of Japanese American incarceration, the contributions of people of color get erased.

There are stories of people of all races who stepped up to help their Japanese American neighbors during the war. Ken Mochizuki, a Japanese American author currently at work on a graphic novel about “friends and helpers” who aided Japanese Americans during World War II, has identified 20 examples to include in his book, including black peace activist Daisy Tibbs Dawson and members of the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe in Washington state.

“One common denominator of all these so-called helpers was they had personal contact with the Japanese Americans,” Mochizuki explained. “Although they placed their own careers and reputations on the line, it was the personal contact that led them to do what they did. They knew them as people, real living people.”

On Bainbridge Island in Washington state — where the first Japanese American community was removed in its entirety from the West Coast and put in prison camps in 1942 — that seems to be precisely the case. The bonds between many Filipino and Japanese immigrants led a number of Filipinos to take care of Japanese American properties during World War II, as did some islanders of other ethnicities.

Filipino immigrant Felix Narte formed an especially close relationship with his Japanese American neighbors, the Kitamotos, working on their strawberry farm before the war. When the Kitamotos were suddenly forced to leave, Narte and other Filipino men took care of their abandoned properties. 

Narte did even more than that, though. Lilly Kitamoto Kodama, 84, told HuffPost that he once drove all the way from Bainbridge Island to Idaho to visit her family in Minidoka, where they were imprisoned. “My youngest sister was only 9 months old and all the mothers in camp were washing diapers by hand, and Felix drove a washing machine to camp — my mother’s washing machine that was one of those electric ones,” she recalled.

Narte’s oldest son, Felix “Jojo” Narte Jr., remembered that story, too: “He drove out to Minidoka on a dirt road to give them a washing machine. He’d say, ‘They had barbed wire and guard towers, and I brought them a washing machine.’”

“What a situation that was,” the 69-year-old added, reflecting on what his neighbors had endured.


The Liberal Embrace of War

The Liberal Embrace of War
American interventionists learned a lesson from Iraq: pre-empt the debate. Now everyone is for regime change
May 16 2019

The United States has just suspended flights to Venezuela. Per the New York Times:

CARACAS — The United States banned all air transport with Venezuela on Wednesday over security concerns, further isolating the troubled South American nation…

A disinterested historian — Herodotus raised from the dead — would see this as just the latest volley in a siege tale. America has been trying for ages to topple the regime of President Nicholas Maduro, after trying for years to do the same to his predecessor, Hugo Chavez.

The new play in the Trump era involves recognizing Juan Guaidó as president and starving and sanctioning the country. Maduro, encircled, has been resisting.

The American commercial news landscape, in schism on domestic issues, is in lockstep here. Every article is seen from one angle: Venezuelans under the heel of a dictator who caused the crisis, with the only hope a “humanitarian” intervention by the United States.

There is no other perspective. Media watchdog FAIR just released results of a study of three months of American opinion pieces. Out of 76 editorials in the New York Times, Washington Post, the “big three Sunday morning talk shows” or PBS News Hour, zero came out against the removal of Maduro. They wrote:

“Corporate news coverage of Venezuela can only be described as a full-scale marketing campaign for regime change.”

Allowable opinion on Venezuela ranges from support for military invasion to the extreme pacifist end of the spectrum, as expressed in a February op-ed by Dr. Francisco Rodriguez and Jeffrey Sachs called “An Urgent Call for Compromise in Venezuela”:

“We strongly urge… a peaceful and negotiated transition of power rather than a winner-take-all game of chicken…”

So we should either remove Maduro by force, or he should leave peaceably, via negotiation. These are the options.

After the disaster of Vietnam eons ago, American thought leaders became convinced we “lost” in Indochina because of — get this — bad PR.

The real lesson in Vietnam should have been that people would pay any price to overthrow a hated occupying force. American think-tankers and analysts however somehow became convinced (and amazingly still are) that the problem was Walter Cronkite and the networks giving up on the war effort.

Quietly then, over the course of decades, lobbyists pushed for changes. In the next big war, there would be no gruesome pictures of soldiers dying, no photos of coffins coming home, no pictures of civilian massacres (enforced more easily with new embedding rules), and no Cronkite-ian defeatism.

They got all of that by the time we went into Iraq. The TV landscape by then was almost completely sterilized. Jesse Ventura and Phil Donahue were pulled from MSNBC because they opposed invasion. Networks agreed not to film coffins or death scenes.

Yet the invasion of Iraq was a failure for the same reason Vietnam was a failure, and Libya was a failure, and Afghanistan is a failure, and Venezuela or Syria or Iran will be failures, if we get around to toppling regimes in those countries: America is incapable of understanding or respecting foreigners’ instinct for self-rule.

The pattern in American interventions has been the same for ages. We are for self-determination everywhere, until such self-determination clashes with a commercial or security objective.

A common triggering event for American-backed overthrows is a leader trying to nationalize the country’s resources. This is why we ended up replacing democratically-elected Mohammed Mossadeq with the Shah in Iran, for instance.

Disrupting trade is also a frequent theme in these ploys, with a late-Fifties coup attempt in Indonesia or our various Cuban embargoes key examples. The plan often involves stimulating economic and political unrest in target nations as a precursor for American intervention.

We inevitably end up propping up dictators of our own, and the too-frequent pattern now — vividly demonstrated in Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan — is puppet states collapsing and giving way to power vacuums and cycles of sectarian violence. Thanks, America!