Bankruptcy

For many ordinary people, declaring bankruptcy is a way to escape from crushing debt often caused by circumstances beyond their control, like health care bills, and start a new life, though it is never an easy out. In addition, they are made to feel ashamed for doing so. In 2005, the credit card companies lobbied for a new law that made made it much harder for individuals to declare bankruptcy. As a then senator, Joe Biden fought in favor of the new law, no doubt because his home state of Delaware is home to many credit card companies.

In yesterday’s episode of Last Week Tonight, John Oliver describes how the current bankruptcy laws are confusing and hard to maneuver and of a new proposal to simplify it. Of course Republicans will filibuster it.

The proposed new European soccer league

UPDATE: Facing a massive backlash, all six UK clubs that had been part of the new ESL have withdrawn, pretty much torpedoing the whole project.. I am amazed that they did not anticipate the fierce reaction.

The world of soccer was thrown into turmoil by the announcement of the creation of a new European Super League of the richest twelve teams in Europe. Three other teams are expected to join them. The new league insists that they will continue to be part of the existing national leagues as well.

According to the ESL, the new format will involve midweek fixtures, with all participating clubs continuing to compete in their respective national leagues, “preserving the traditional domestic match calendar which remains at the heart of the club game”.

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Trump’s political future

I have been wondering about Trump’s political future. These are the possibilities:

  1. He decides not to run again for the presidency.
  2. He runs for the presidency again in 2024 but loses the nomination to another Republican.
  3. He runs and wins the nomination but loses the election.
  4. He runs and wins the nomination and the presidential election.

What are the pros and cons and likelihoods of each?
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Creating a more accurate flat map of the Earth

Projecting the surface of a globe on to a flat surface always introduces distortions. Richard Gott, Dave Goldberg, and Bob Vanderbei claim to have created created a projection that minimizes the errors more than any projection before.

Previously, Goldberg and I identified six critical error types a flat map can have: local shapes, areas, distances, flexion (bending), skewness (lopsidedness) and boundary cuts. These are illustrated by the famous Mercator projection, the base template for Google maps. It has perfect local shapes but is bad at depicting areas. Greenland appears as large as South America even though it covers only one seventh the area on the globe.
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Time to close Guantanamo Bay prison and end all occupation of Cuba

The prison camp at Guantanamo bay in Cuba that houses so-called ‘enemy combatants’ has been an atrocity, with those taken into custody in the so-called ‘War on Terror’ being housed there and subject to torture and the denial of basic human rights such as being held indefinitely under appalling conditions and without prospect of a trial, or force-feeding hunger strikers. Calling them ‘enemy combatants’ instead of ‘prisoners of war’ is the fig-leaf used by the US government to violate the Geneva Conventions .The US likes the fact that the ambiguous status of the prison territory enables it to skirt US law in the way it treats detainees. enabling substantial abuses.
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The Sackler family epitomizes greed and sleaziness

I have written many times before about the Sackler family that made billions of dollars by pushing their company Purdue Pharmaceuticals to get doctors to overprescribe the opioid painkiller OxyContin and making the dosage stronger, resulting in the massive drug addiction problem we have now that have caused so many deaths.

Investigative reporter Patrick Radden Keefe has written a new book Empire of Pain about the Sackler family and he was interviewed on the radio program Fresh Air about how the family went to great efforts to push the drug while at the same time keeping their name separate from the company so that they could build up their reputations as philanthropists and have their name attached to many public and university buildings. He explained how they are trying to shield their personal fortunes from the many lawsuits against them by shifting company money into their private accounts and then putting the company into bankruptcy.
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How many T. Rex dinosaurs have ever lived?

The headline that 2.5 billon T. Rex dinosaurs walked the Earth was definitely something that caught my attention. It turns out that that number was just the average with a massive variation in possible values. What I was more interested in was how one sets about even making an estimate of the number of animals in a species that has been extinct for 65 million years. The paper lays out the problem and basic method they used.

Although much can be deduced from fossils alone, estimating abundance and preservation rates of extinct species requires data from living species. Here, we use the relationship between population density and body mass among living species combined with our substantial knowledge of Tyrannosaurus rex to calculate population variables and preservation rates for postjuvenile T. rex. We estimate that its abundance at any one time was ~20,000 individuals, that it persisted for ~127,000 generations, and that the total number of T. rex that ever lived was ~2.5 billion individuals, with a fossil recovery rate of 1 per ~80 million individuals or 1 per 16,000 individuals where its fossils are most abundant. The uncertainties in these values span more than two orders of magnitude, largely because of the variance in the density–body mass relationship rather than variance in the paleobiological input variables.

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The ‘Trump made me do it’ defense is not working

As the trials start to unfold for those who took part in the January 6th insurrection, we see the various defenses being brought forward. One that is being tried is “I was following Trump’s leadership”. One of those trying it in order to get out on bail is a 51-year old geophysicist from Colorado named Jeffrey Sabot who, after returning home, tried to destroy evidence by zapping his phone in the microwave (would that even work?) and making other moves. His problem is that he is seen on videos attacking a police officer at the Capitol. He then decided to flee to Switzerland (which with the US does not have an extradition treaty) and say that he was going to ski.

But after arriving in Boston and going to the airport to leave the country, he panicked when he saw police officers whom he thought were coming for him so he left the airport and drove south in a rented car, throwing his phone over a bridge along the way. But he was caught and arrested anyway.
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