Asteroids, gamma rays, supervolcanoes: how nature could wipe out humanity | Vox


An asteroid killed the dinosaurs. Could that happen to us?

What about a supervolcanic eruption blocking out the sun?

Or a solar flare or nearby supernova event?

Anders Sandberg is a researcher at Oxford’s Future of Humanity Institute, where he writes about existential risks — dangers that threaten the continued survival of our species. Existential risks can be either man-made (like nuclear war, artificial intelligence, or bioengineering) or naturally occurring, like the asteroid that took down the dinosaurs.

In a 2018 paper, “Human Extinction From Natural Hazard Events,” Sandberg takes a look at the latter category.

So how likely are we to die of natural hazards, if we manage not to destroy ourselves with man-made ones?

Source: Asteroids, gamma rays, supervolcanoes: how nature could wipe out humanity – Vox

Year in Review: Huawei and the Technology Cold War | Council on Foreign Relations


Technology cold war. Decoupling. Weaponized interdependence.

Whatever you call it, the U.S.-China science and technology relationship is being violently remade.

While a tightly linked technology system benefited the United States and China over the last two decades, there is now widespread concern on both sides of the Pacific that the economic and security risks outweigh the gains.

President Xi Jinping has embraced and accelerated policies designed to increase the innovativeness of the Chinese economy and reduce dependence on foreign suppliers.

The Trump administration has put Chinese technologies policies front and center as a danger to U.S. economic and national security.

The eventual outcome of this contest may be two distinct technology systems, with other countries forced to choose if they are going to plug into American or Chinese technology platforms and standards.

Source: Year in Review: Huawei and the Technology Cold War | Council on Foreign Relations

German politicians’ data published online, Merkel unaffected | Reuters


German media earlier reported that hackers had posted data including credit card details and mobile phone numbers, with politicians from all major parties affected apart from the right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD).

“Personal data and documents belonging to hundreds of politicians and public figures have been published online,” government spokeswoman Martina Fietz told a news conference.

Source: German politicians’ data published online, Merkel unaffected | Reuters

Canada says 13 citizens detained in China since Huawei CFO arrest | Reuters

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Canada said on Thursday that 13 of its citizens have been detained in China since Huawei Technologies Co Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou was arrested last month in Vancouver at the request of the United States.

“At least” eight of those 13 had since been released, the Canadian government said in a statement, without disclosing what charges if any have been laid.

Source: Canada says 13 citizens detained in China since Huawei CFO arrest | Reuters

How to shut down future shutdowns


To avoid the costs and uncertainties of future government shutdowns, Congress and the president should enact a rule that says that if appropriations bills are not passed on time, a CR that funds the government at the previous year’s inflation-adjusted levels would automatically occur.

This would not eliminate gridlock on other issues, but it would take one potential obstacle out of the way, and it would help legislators – even in times of extreme partisanship – meet their most fundamental responsibility – to keep the government open and functioning.

Source: How to shut down future shutdowns

Let’s play the market meltdown blame game | TheHill

A striking aspect of the present stock market meltdown is that it is occurring so soon after President Trump kept boasting that his actions were leading to the stock market shattering records and after former Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen assured us that we would not see another global economic crisis in her lifetime.

It is also occurring against the backdrop of the academic economic community again distinguishing itself by its virtual silence about the dangers of bubbles and of bankers continuing to make very risky loans as the music played on.

It should have come as no surprise that sooner or later, the global financial markets would unwind as violently as they now seem to be doing, considering how far they were allowed to get out of line with their underlying values.

Source: Let’s play the market meltdown blame game | TheHill

House passes legislation to re-open government despite opposition from Trump | TheHill

The House passed legislation to end the partial government shutdown on Thursday, hours after Democrats took control of the chamber and elected Nancy Pelosi as Speaker.

The House measures appear to be dead on arrival in the Senate and have been rejected by President Trump, who is demanding that $5 billion in funding for his wall on the Mexican border. Democrats have rejected providing money for Trump’s wall.

Source: House passes legislation to re-open government despite opposition from Trump | TheHill

Threats Against Independent Media Grow in Former Communist European Countries | US News


The legal threat leveled against Cieśla in Poland is part of what observers say are much broader efforts by governments in Central and Eastern Europe to restrict independent journalists and news organizations. Those efforts, analysts say, include bringing a growing number of news outlets under the control of pro-government factions.

As 2019 dawns, European media experts say the threats to the free press in parts of Central and Eastern Europe are reaching levels unparalleled since the revolutions 30 years ago that ended authoritarian communist rule in the region.

“It’s clearly unprecedented in the era of the European Union,” says Pauline Adès-Mével, head of EU-Balkans desk of the Paris-based nonprofit group Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

“Some have mentioned the fact that after the end of the communist regime they could never had imagined that one day they would have to go through such things again.”

Source: Threats Against Independent Media Grow in Former Communist European Countries | Best Countries | US News

House Democrats Make Clear Who’s In Charge | US News


Democrats are making it brazenly clear they are back in power in the House of Representatives, providing a critical roadblock to the GOP agenda in an already-gridlocked government.

Not only do Democrats now have a chance to stop things they hate – like President Donald Trump’s sought-after wall on the southern border – but they can move along items, like infrastructure repair, that weren’t a priority of the previous regime but could pass with a not-so-gentle nudge.

Meanwhile, the Democrats acquire the power of the subpoena, arguably as impactful as the speaker’s gavel. Since only the majority party can compel testimony or initiate official investigations, Democrats were unable to do their own inquiries of the president, his Cabinet or his businesses and foundation.

Now, several new committee chairmen have already signaled their intentions to launch investigations.

And the small change in the name of the House’s chief investigatory committee says it all, notes Casey Burgat, governance fellow at R Street, a public policy group promoting open markets.

Source: House Democrats Make Clear Who’s In Charge | The Civic Report | US News

How Taiwan Has Achieved One of the Highest Recycling Rates in the World | Smithsonian


A 40-year-old structural engineer and architect, Arthur Huang, the company’s CEO and co-founder, set up operations in Taiwan in 2005 after a failed attempt in New York, where he found few Americans who shared his will to reduce the staggering amount of waste humans churn out every day.

In Taiwan, to his relief, he found a different story. This densely populated island of more than 23 million off mainland China has one of the world’s most efficient recycling programs, claiming 55 percent of trash collected from households and commerce, as well as 77 percent of industrial waste.

Source: How Taiwan Has Achieved One of the Highest Recycling Rates in the World | Innovation | Smithsonian