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Let me just start by reminding that last year, Erdogan and Merkel made a deal on the refugee issue. Back then, the migrant pressure on Europe was huge. Hundreds of thousands of refugees were flocking through the Aegean into Greece, and then using the so called Balkan route to go to West Europe, mostly Germany. Hundreds drowned in the Mediterranean. Merkel was forced to do something, or else she would lose her chancellor position. So in February last year she went to Turkey to meet with Erdogan. That mission was perceived by many as the most influential woman in Europe going to kneel before the Sultan, and beg for his help.

Then in March 2016 came the agreement with Turkey. It must have served its purpose well, because the number of refugees immediately dropped significantly. Turkey's part of the deal was to host the refugees, and in return it was promised two things: a political trump card, plus 3 billion euro for supporting the large refugee population.

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A Star Has Fallen

Jul. 22nd, 2017 11:52 pm
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"Fiery the angels fell; deep thunder rolled around their shores; burning with the fires of Orc"

Yesterday I was informed that an old friend and former housemate in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Erica W., had died of a stroke. For those that knew her, this has been a terrible shock. She was relatively young, and seemed so alive, and seemed to have so much to contribute to this world. It is a harsh reminder that friends can be lost at any time with the randomness of life.

When I first met her she and her partner at the time, James, were in their mid-teens. Intelligent, attractive, highly alternative, and very fashionable, they were already living together and regularly visiting local nightclubs, where they were very well-regarded for the characteristics mentioned. There was an especially amusing moment when a local newspaper printed her in a vox-pop what her preferred nightclub was - and mentioned her age in the credit.

"Morphology, longevity, incept dates"

Whilst in Perth we shared two households at different times - the first was the famous "accelerated house", a dilapidated duplex pair with questionable plumbing. Part of the duplex was the home of the Accelerated Men, a goth band of some repute. The place was wired up a local area network with a AlphaMicro AM-100, and came with its own stray cat (Velocity) which I adopted. Several years later, at the final place where I lived in Perth, we were in more normal accommodation. I could help but chuckle a little at my highly fashion-conscious housemates who could spend hours in preparation on going out. I also remember showing them the Internet at the time; a text-based interface to usenet groups. "This", I implored sagaciously, "is going to change everything". I don't think they quite believed me at the time, so it was with great fondness catching up with James just a couple of years ago, and recalling that moment, he said: "And you were right!".

At the time Erica was suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome, and despite being a witty conversationalist, was physically in the doldrums. A few years later however, and I suspect heavily because of the direction provided by our mutual friend Bruce T., there had been a complete change, as she had become quite a figure in the fashion industry and was running her own label and store, Alysian Empire. I still have some of their clothes to this day. Later she would go on to have another fashion label of even greater renown, ericaamerica.

In the post-Alysian Empire period we only caught up in person a couple of times, and more recently exchanged a few messages, courtesy of the 'borg of social media. Despite this we had the sort of friendship where years could literally go by and when we did get in contact our banter could continue as if no time had passed at all. It was a friendship built on mutual understanding and respect, of affirmation of each other, of strong and happy shared memories. The mention of her name in conversation would always brighten my day and bring me joy; but not this time.

"Tyrell had told me Rachael was special: no termination date. I didn't know how long we had together. Who does?"

While we fear the robots...

Jul. 22nd, 2017 12:14 am
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[personal profile] mahnmut
...They go around and kill themselves.

Caution, the footage can be disturbing for the more robo-love inclined... )
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[personal profile] mahnmut posting in [community profile] talkpolitics
...They go around and kill themselves.

Elon Musk may've become the umpteenth high-profile hi-tech celebrity futurist who has cried doom and gloom about the potential threat from AIs taking over the world and eradicating humankind on a whim...

...But apparently we're still a long way from there, as shown by the fate of this poor little R2D2 who somehow decided he had had enough, and plunged himself to a swift electrocution death in a water fountain in DC the other day.

Caution, the footage can be disturbing for the more robo-love inclined... )
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[personal profile] airiefairie posting in [community profile] talkpolitics
Today's portion of Friday nonsense features one Sequim, Washington resident who mowed the word AHOLE into their lawn so it could be viewed from space...



Oh, sweet neighbour relations...

Chaos in London

Jul. 20th, 2017 01:28 pm
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[personal profile] kiaa posting in [community profile] talkpolitics
Here they are, the two negotiating sides on the Brexit. The folks on the left are the EU representatives, each prepared with a file of documents. On the right side, the British, gazing into the nothingness, empty-handed. Maybe they've memorized all details so they don't need any paper in front of them? Or maybe they're eco-minded and they're trying to save paper? Heh? All I know is, this picture pretty much sums up the whole situation: the EU has a clear vision of what it wants the Brexit to look like - in the meantime, the British side has no specifics on their side. You think those are normal negotiations? Well, think again.


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Russia Minor!?

Jul. 19th, 2017 10:54 am
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[personal profile] fridi
The term has gone out of use for quite a while. In recent decades it was being seen as a disparaging term used by Russian nationalists and pro-Russian Ukrainian "traitors" who believe Ukraine should be part of neo-imperial Russia.

And now it's being resurrected, and in quite a quasi-official way:

Separatists proclaim a new state to replace all of Ukraine

In comes one Alexander Zakharchenko...

Russia Minor!?

Jul. 19th, 2017 10:51 am
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[personal profile] fridi posting in [community profile] talkpolitics
The term has gone out of use for quite a while. In recent decades it was being seen as a disparaging term used by Russian nationalists and pro-Russian Ukrainian "traitors" who believe Ukraine should be part of neo-imperial Russia.

And now it's being resurrected, and in quite a quasi-official way:

Separatists proclaim a new state to replace all of Ukraine

In comes one Alexander Zakharchenko, leader of the separatist People's Republic of Donetsk, the runaway region in East Ukraine that no one, not even Russia has recognized as a state. His actions in proclaiming the creation of the Republic of Malorussia (Russia Minor) have come as a surprise even to the Kremlin. Naturally, the EU deems it unacceptable, and Kiev is vowing to restore the territorial integrity of Ukraine.

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Medical Matters

Jul. 18th, 2017 09:38 pm
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It's been a curious past few days; I spent most of Saturday working on the course for the researchers at Orygen Youth Mental Health which I presented on Monday. It went extremely well; I provided an overview of high performance compute clusters, environment modules and job submission using their preferred applications (MRtrix, Matlab, Octave, R, and especially FSL and Freesurfer. They were a large and very switched on group, and it brought me great pleasure when I received some rather positive responses in person and in email.

On Sunday visited the Unitarians to hear a presentation by the president of Dying With Dignity to speak on the upcoming legistlation such matters. Last year to the state government committee I contributed two submissions from different organisations on the matter, and legislation is expected soon. In a less positive manner, an old friend of mine has just found his way into hospital and I suspect he's in the position that he might not be getting better. Three years ago he appointed me enduring power of medical attorney. To top it all off, [livejournal.com profile] caseopaya's mother has found herself in hospital as a complication arising from her continuing illness.

It surprises me that there are those who begrudge public revenue raising and expenditure on health, as if the wealthy have more of a right to live than the poor. Even using the criteria of the 'dismal science', economics, it is obvious that having people alive and well is not just a private benefit to the person in question, it is also a public benefit. The is equivalent matter here with education as well, and likewise the private-public benefit is a continuum which includes current and future productivity of the person in question. All of this, of course, on top of matter of being in a society that cares for its less fortunate.

Let's talk about vaccine marketing

Jul. 18th, 2017 02:14 pm
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[personal profile] dreamville_bg posting in [community profile] talkpolitics
I recently read an article elaborating on the fact that vaccines are so successful that we don't even realize how bad things would be without them any more.

It's a big question really, one I've often thought about: vaccines may've become a victim of their own success, you see. They're so successful in uprooting a number of deadly diseases that used to kill people by the thousands and millions, that we even don't realize how crucial they are. We've never seen the horror of an epidemic, and we don't realize how devastating it could be. On the other hand, in all fairness, there's the problem that the pharmaceutical industry tends to overhype the qualities of certain products to get more profit. And this naturally drives a lot of people away.

The article touches on these and a number of related issues, and concludes with the opinion that governments ought to be regulating pharmaceutical marketing as well, not just the vaccine market itself.

So my question is: should the state be regulating the pharmaceutical marketing, i.e. the way these sorts of medicines are being advertised? Should their side effects be clearly shown on the label, the way that's valid for cigarettes?

What about the marketing of various finance services, like loans for example? Should their riskier particularities be deliberately pointed out, for example the fact that if you take a loan of 1 units you'd eventually have to pay back, say, 2, 3 or more units depending on the loan period? This could make some potential customers reconsider using said service, which means a possible loss for the seller - but is it really acceptable to freely advertise all these trust-consuming sinkholes whose pushers somehow only present their good sides while keeping hush-hush about the potential pitfalls? Profit comes with a certain amount of responsibilities, after all.

How's that growth going?

Jul. 18th, 2017 12:03 am
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[personal profile] fridi
It seems the Trump plan for US economic growth relies almost exclusively on corporate tax cuts and tax cuts for the wealthy. A "let's put all our growth eggs in one basket and hope for the best" sort of approach. During his presidential campaign, Trump promised to create 25 million new jobs and generate an economy that trots along at a 4-6% annual growth rate. Apparently, neither Trump promise is going to happen any time soon:

Forecast of weak economic growth raises big questions about Trump’s populist agenda

Or it could be something else...

How's that growth going?

Jul. 17th, 2017 11:02 pm
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[personal profile] fridi posting in [community profile] talkpolitics
It seems the Trump plan for US economic growth relies almost exclusively on corporate tax cuts and tax cuts for the wealthy. A "let's put all our growth eggs in one basket and hope for the best" sort of approach. During his presidential campaign, Trump promised to create 25 million new jobs and generate an economy that trots along at a 4-6% annual growth rate. Apparently, neither Trump promise is going to happen any time soon*:

Forecast of weak economic growth raises big questions about Trump’s populist agenda

Read more... )

Or it could be more about the fact that the third wave of recovery following the Carter bubble is taking a little long to come, hmm? Picking up international growth numbers might save us, but the rates were not corrected and there is a lot of money sloshing around. To prevent a recession might be rather difficult given the parameters and optimism that seems to be rather misplaced.

* That, and the fact that Trump's plan assumed that the RINO congress led by McConnell and Paul Ryan would be able to pass legislation, which it so far has been unable or unwilling to do.

Alvaro Soler: Animal

Jul. 15th, 2017 10:00 pm
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Khu! Khu! Khu!

Jul. 16th, 2017 11:06 pm
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[personal profile] abomvubuso posting in [community profile] talkpolitics
Those who are hyped up about tonight's Game of Thrones Season VII debut would know what the above reference is about. It's from a story that Tyrion the imp told his brother while being in a cell, about a dim-witted cousin whose only occupation was to crush little beetles with a stone just because he could: "Khu! Khu! Khuuu!" the stone went down, and the poor little beetles would die by the scores.

There was no reason to it, no intention behind it, no purpose. Just like in real life, the strong would crush the weak just because he could.


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The sex toasters are coming!

Jul. 15th, 2017 12:14 am
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[personal profile] luzribeiro
This is pretty disturbing (and not just the picture)...



Scientists Have A Dark Warning For You About Sex Robots

Scientists from the Foundation For Responsible Robotics have released a report asking society to consider a possible future where humans have sex with robots, and have outlined some things that society needs to do to prepare for that future. ...

Westworld/Humans, anyone?
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[personal profile] luzribeiro posting in [community profile] talkpolitics
This is pretty disturbing (and not just the picture)...



Scientists Have A Dark Warning For You About Sex Robots

Scientists from the Foundation For Responsible Robotics have released a report asking society to consider a possible future where humans have sex with robots, and have outlined some things that society needs to do to prepare for that future. ...

Westworld/Humans, anyone?

Life without Dead Time

Jul. 14th, 2017 11:09 pm
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The Situationists famously sought life without dead time and whilst I cannot say my own life fits the wild and tangential excesses of such bohemians, at least not in these elder decades, the past several days have certainly had their share of activity. Nevertheless I do worry sometimes that so much of my work these days - indeed these years - now falls under the category of 'boring but important'. Yet, much of this fits my intellectual disposition. I despair when I see people try to force the complex problems of reality into simply solutions, because these are invariably simply wrong, missing the issues of scope-appropriate solutions, partiality etc. It is not helped when the country's Prime Minister, of all people, remarked "The laws of mathematics are very commendable but the only laws that apply in Australia is the law of Australia", in the context of a debate on encryption.

Workwise the week started with the regular two days of Introduction to Linux and High Performance Computing and Shell Scripting for High Performance Computing. Not a bad group at all, and there were some plenty of awake individuals, especially on the second day. Later in the week spent a better part of a day carefully working through a particularly troubling install of Gaussian to ensure there had been no precision errors in compilation (their hadn't been, of course). Confirmation was received for a presentation at the HPC Advisory Conference, so there will be another visit to Perth at the end of the month. In addition an abstract has been put in for the Open Stack Summit in Sydney for November. Next week will be a training course for the neurologists at Orygen; I hold this one in very high regard - their work is extremely important.

In more social events, Wednesday night was our regular gaming session, and the second session of Andrew D's Megatraveller campaign, with an unexpected test of the combat system and the acquisition of a starship from religious fanatics. Thursday was the Bastille night evening and we had nephew Luke visiting. True to the day (or at least an educated peasant's version thereof), I cooked a pretty tasty coq au vin with a jug of French red, a selection of cheeses and fruit, and all to the sounds of Quatre mains pour une révolution. We provided a potted story of our journey, along with an exposition of the salacious tales of Serge Gainsbourg. Appropriately I have composed tonight my thoughts about Bastille day, and its contemporary relevance.

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