Gerrymandering lawsuit on NC legislative districts for 2020 | News & Observer

So this happened yesterday: I joined a lawsuit against the state to end gerrymandering. This makes me the second member of my family to sue the state of North Carolina.

RALEIGH – Common Cause and the North Carolina Democratic Party are suing for state House and Senate districts to be redrawn for the 2020 election, claiming the districts are partisan gerrymanders that violate the state constitution.

The lawsuit was filed Tuesday morning in Wake County Superior Court against state legislative leaders and the state elections board.

It will likely eventually be heard in the state Supreme Court. With the election of Anita Earls last week, Democrats will hold a 5-2 advantage on the state’s highest court.

“North Carolina’s state legislative maps are among the worst partisan gerrymanders in North Carolina’s history, and indeed, in American history,” said Stanton Jones, a lawyer with the Washington, D.C., law firm Arnold & Porter.

Source: Gerrymandering lawsuit on NC legislative districts for 2020 | News & Observer

The Curse of the Honeycrisp Apple – Bloomberg

I’m not sure what the “curse” here is, other than the Honeycrisp apple is in high demand and West Coast orchards are beating out East Coast ones in supplying it. As for the Turners, we love Honeycrisps and always look for them when we go to Costco.

Bite into a Honeycrisp apple and you understand why consumers are willing to pay so much for a piece of fruit: the crunch.

That’s no accident. In the pre-Honeycrisp era, apples had just two textures: “soft and mealy (that nobody liked), and then we had the good apples, the hard, crisp and dense,” said David Bedford, one of the original breeders of the Honeycrisp.

Unlike the vast majority of modern commercial produce, the Honeycrisp apple wasn’t bred to grow, store or ship well. It was bred for taste: crisp, with balanced sweetness and acidity. Though it succeeded beyond anyone’s wildest dreams, along the way it became a nightmare for some producers, forcing small Northeastern growers to compete with their massive, climatically advantaged counterparts on the West Coast.

Source: The Curse of the Honeycrisp Apple – Bloomberg

Just a volunteer

It was the end of a long day volunteering at the polls when I arrived at the polling place with a young voter whom I’d volunteered to drive there. As she went inside to vote, I headed over to say hello to the campaign volunteers milling about outside.

“Hi, I’m Mark Turner,” I said as I shook the hand of Denise, a Democratic Party volunteer handing out slate cards. She kindly returned the greeting and turned back to greet more arriving voters.

Across the sidewalk stood a Republican Party volunteer, stumping for a Republican candidate.

“Hi, I’m Mark Turner,” I said with a smile, extending my hand. “Thanks for being out here.” Looking somewhat startled, he smiled and shook my hand.

I had continued towards the next set of volunteers when I heard a voice call out.
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How the EPA and the Pentagon downplayed a growing toxic threat 

Great investigation by ProPublica into the dangers of Teflon and Scotchgard.

The chemicals once seemed near magical, able to repel water, oil and stains.

By the 1970s, DuPont and 3M had used them to develop Teflon and Scotchgard, and they slipped into an array of everyday products, from gum wrappers to sofas to frying pans to carpets. Known as perfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, they were a boon to the military, too, which used them in foam that snuffed out explosive oil and fuel fires.

It’s long been known that, in certain concentrations, the compounds could be dangerous if they got into water or if people breathed dust or ate food that contained them. Tests showed they accumulated in the blood of chemical factory workers and residents living nearby, and studies linked some of the chemicals to cancers and birth defects.

Now two new analyses of drinking water data and the science used to analyze it make clear the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Defense have downplayed the public threat posed by these chemicals. Far more people have likely been exposed to dangerous levels of them than has previously been reported because contamination from them is more widespread than has ever been officially acknowledged.

Source: How the EPA and the Pentagon downplayed a growing toxic threat 

Evacuated after ‘health attacks’ in Cuba and China, diplomats face new ordeals in U.S.

Here’s a frightening, detailed account of what it’s like to become a victim of the mystery sonic/microwave attacks that have plagued our diplomatic corps.

WASHINGTON — Alone in her bed in a sprawling Chinese metropolis, Catherine Werner was jolted awake one night by a pulsing, humming sound. It seemed to be coming from a specific direction.

Perhaps the A.C. unit in her upscale Guangzhou apartment was malfunctioning, the American diplomat thought. But at the same moment, she also noticed intense pressure in her head.

The sounds and sensations returned, night after night, for months. When Werner’s health began declining in late 2017 — vomiting, headaches, loss of balance — she brushed it off at first, thinking China’s polluted air and water were getting to her.

It wasn’t until months later — after her mother, Laura Hughes, grew alarmed, flew in from the U.S. and then got sick, too — that Werner was medevaced from China back to the States. Doctors at the University of Pennsylvania found a vision disorder, a balance disorder and an “organic brain injury” — diagnoses similar to those of 26 U.S. diplomats and spies in Cuba who started hearing strange sounds and falling ill in late 2016.

Source: Evacuated after ‘health attacks’ in Cuba and China, diplomats face new ordeals in U.S.

Private Equity Controls the Gatekeepers of American Democracy – Bloomberg

Here’s yet another reason why we need open-source, fully auditable voting machines.

Millions of Americans will cast votes in Tuesday’s midterm elections, some on machines that experts say use outdated software or are vulnerable to hacking. If there are glitches or some races are too close to call — or evidence emerges of more meddling attempts by Russia — voters may wake up on Wednesday and wonder: Can we trust the outcome?

Meet, then, the gatekeepers of American democracy: Three obscure, private equity-backed companies control an estimated $300 million U.S. voting-machine industry. Though most of their revenue comes from taxpayers, and they play an indispensable role in determining the balance of power in America, the companies largely function in secret.

Source: Private Equity Controls the Gatekeepers of American Democracy – Bloomberg

26 Years of Growth: Shanghai Then and Now – The Atlantic

Reuters photographer Carlos Barria recently spent time in Shanghai, China, the fastest-growing city in the world. A week ago, he took this amazing shot, recreating the same framing and perspective as a photograph taken in 1987, showing what a difference 26 years can make. The setting is Shanghai’s financial district of Pudong, dominated by the Oriental Pearl Tower at left, and the new 125-story Shanghai Tower, China’s tallest building and the world’s second tallest skyscraper, at 632 meters (2,073 ft) high, scheduled to finish by the end of 2014. Shanghai, the largest city by population in the world, has been growing at a rate of about 10 percent a year the past 20 years, and now is home to 23.5 million people — nearly double what it was back in 1987. This entry is focused on this single photo pairing, with several ways to compare the two.

Source: 26 Years of Growth: Shanghai Then and Now – The Atlantic

Red Hat stock pays off again

Back in 1999, I was working at a local, famous IBM/Linux VAR called Indelible Blue as a Linux Specialist. One day I was investigating a customer issue with a CDROM drive and filed a bug in Red Hat’s Bugzilla bug tracking system. Months went by and I didn’t think much of it until later that summer when I received an email from Red Hat telling me I had been awarded a few hundred shares of pre-IPO stock!

I was amazed at Red Hat’s generosity of giving out pre-IPO stock to anyone in their bug tracking system. I sold the majority of the stock before the Dot Bomb era of 2000 but kept some shares around largely for sentimental purposes. With last month’s announcement of IBM buying Red Hat, I decided it was time to cash in the rest of my shares. Thanks to IBM’s purchase of Red Hat, my shares have brought me a welcome chunk of change.

It’s funny to think that my decision to file one bug over 19 years ago is still paying off today, and in a big way!

Breach at ICollectMedia

ICollectMedia has had its passwords stolen


About, oh … six years ago I tried out a CD cataloging service called ICollectMedia (ICM). Didn’t use it beyond the first time I signed up and forgot all about it until I recently began receiving ransom emails from online crooks who populated their emails with the unique password I used for ICM. Since this was a unique password for a service I no longer use, I wasn’t concerned about the breach affecting me, but it did show me that the folks who run ICM didn’t properly hash the passwords of their users. If they had used hashes then there is no way my complex, unique password would have been easily recovered and subsequently shared on the DarkWeb.

The breach-tracking site Hacked-Emails.com indicates that the ICM data hit the Darkweb on March 1st, 2018.

Amazon HQ2: Advanced talks about second headquarters in Northern Virginia – The Washington Post

Looks like Amazon won’t be coming to Raleigh. I know DC has been on the short list for the HQ2 site but as a techie who grew up outside of DC I would steer clear of any jobs that absolutely required me to commute there every day (outside of a ride in Marine One, that is).

Amazon.com has held advanced discussions about the possibility of opening its highly sought-after second headquarters in Crystal City, including how quickly it would move employees there, which buildings it would occupy and how an announcement about the move would be made to the public, according to people close to the process.

The discussions were more detailed than those the company has had regarding other locations in Northern Virginia and some other cities nationally, adding to speculation that the site in Arlington County is a front-runner to land the online retail giant’s second North American headquarters and its 50,000 jobs.

The company is so close to making its choice that Crystal City’s top real estate developer, JBG Smith, has pulled some of its buildings off the leasing market and officials in the area have discussed how to make an announcement to the public this month, following the midterm elections, according to public and private-sector officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity because Amazon has asked that the selection process remain confidential. The company may be having similar discussions with other finalists.

Source: Amazon HQ2: Advanced talks about second headquarters in Northern Virginia – The Washington Post