Tuesday, January 26th, 2021

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Biden orders end of federally run private prisons

Can't come soon enough.

1/26/2021 5:53 pm | | Tags: us politics

Sequim Washington has had a bit of a QAnon Coup

1/26/2021 5:54 pm | | Tags: washington state, qanon, conspiracy

The Guardian Newspaper has a new automated tool for copyediting

Newspapers follow style guides. Rules which define how they grammatically write. When do you write eleven vs. 121? How do you refer to individuals who cause an uprising in a country? Etc. etc. Essentially, it is the programming language rules for that newspaper's use of language.

Heck, I've even thought about my own style guide rules for this blog.

Here is a link to the virtual reference of the Guardian's own style guide. Chicago Manual of Style. And here is the Associated Press's Stylebook. You get the idea.

The linked article is a coder focused deep dive in the system the Guardian set up for improving automated fixes of the style guide for the paper.

1/26/2021 6:55 pm | | Tags: writing, newspaper, programming

Biden's new Secretary of State Antony Blinken is confirmed

1/26/2021 8:26 pm | | Tags: us news, us politics

The entire chaos around stocks for Gamestop is absurd and so emblematic of this era and the changing of an era where mass communication, and technology are allowing semi-organized movements for stock investments as they rebel against massive players in the market. I have no idea if we'll ever see something like this again, but for now (and because none of my stocks are in it) I find it entertaining to watch from afar.

A Kenyan Ecologist's Crusade to Save Her Country's Wildlife

Kenya has twenty-three national parks, but the habitat they offer is not enough to sustain the animals. In recent years, some of the indigenous communities that control much of the country's undeveloped land have made leasehold agreements with conservation groups and private safari companies. These arrangements have helped protect an estimated sixty-five per cent of Kenya's wildlife, while also aiding pastoralist groups like the Maasai. But they are precarious—a patchwork of thousands of contracts, each one subject to renegotiation whenever a local leader raises his rate or a nonprofit loses funding. Where they fail, the wilderness habitat will disappear, and the animals will, too.

This excerpt is reason enough to read it. The article follows Kahumbu and discusses her life, along with the context of Kenya's fight for animal and land conservation.

Kahumbu, inspired, resolved to be a veterinarian when she grew up. But her father left the family when she was in her teens, and her mother, struggling to make ends meet, made her promise to go to secretarial school instead.

When she was sixteen, Kahumbu won a place in an expedition organized by a British academic organization. "They invited sixty kids to apply and put all of us on a hill for two days to see how we fared, and ten of us were selected," she said. The winners spent a month trekking through the remote north of Kenya, led by a Samburu man who had guided the legendary British explorer Wilfred Thesiger. "We were a bunch of kids on their own, climbing rain-forested mountains and walking across desert, and we covered over six hundred miles on foot," Kahumbu said. She was assigned to collect earwigs, wood lice, and scorpions. "I totally loved it," she said, laughing. "But at times it was very dangerous. Lions followed us. We almost got washed out by a flash flood, and, once, we ran out of water. It was high adventure, and I realized that I could never be a secretary."

This isn't a story about the need for other countries to rescue Africa, and in many ways I think it is about the opposite of that. Kenya is growing as a country, as of 2019 it is 9th in Africa ranked by GDP, and 7th by population. There is a need for a growing country to use its natural resources and that is something at odds with the need for protecting of wildlife, it's the classic struggle we see like when a Republican President signs off on an oil pipeline which destroys lands, or fracking, etc. Doing these things brings jobs, and it brings resources for companies.

Should Kenya do it? No, I'm not saying that. I am far from smart enough to say that. But I am saying that as countries grow economically, the stress and pressure on it is high.

Now, the article highlights that the youth of Kenya seem to be aligned in the need to protect these lands, but it only takes indirect mistakes to enable politicians to make these choices. And in fact, it highlights critics of hunting tourism (predominately white) and how it reveals the fake and wrong belief that Kenyans (and Africans at large) do care about their natural resources, be it land, creature or plant.

While Kahumbu is trying to mend the racial divide, others are more confrontational. The carnivore ecologist Mordecai Ogada has drawn attention by campaigning against what he calls "white colonialist" control of wildlife tourism and conservation. Ogada is a compelling speaker and a forceful presence on social media; in 2016, he co-authored a book, "The Big Conservation Lie: The Untold Story of Wildlife Conservation in Kenya," with John Mbaria, a Kenyan journalist. On the cover, a beefy white man enjoys a cigar and a glass of brandy, while a native woman stoops over in labor; antelopes graze in the distance. "Coarsely speaking, the current white paradigm is that African wildlife is in danger, and the problem is that African people don't love the animals like white people do," Ogada explained in an interview promoting the book. "I would like to see a model where Black people are treated as the true custodians of the wildlife with which they share their lands and are intellectual participants in the discourse around this wildlife. That would be the Black paradigm, one in which white people are most welcome to participate." In December, I asked Ogada what changes could be made to involve more Black Africans in conservation. "Your question betrays the problem," he replied. "Why do you think we weren't involved in conservation before, and how do you think wildlife survived before the white saviors came?"

1/26/2021 9:56 pm | | Tags: conversationalist, kenya, ecology, africa

Mark Cuban is taking on the Pharmaceutical Industry

He is going to take on big drug makers and make overpriced drugs for low cost. We will see how it goes. His company's first making is a drug for treating hookworm which currently sells for $250, and he'll sell for $20.

1/26/2021 10:04 pm | | Tags: big pharma, drugs, disrupt
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