Good morning on Thursday, June 22, 2023, and National Chocolate Eclair Day. Them’s good pastries.
In honor of Rainforest Day, here are two photos I took in La Selva, Costa Rica, in January of 2012.
I don’t know what these birds are, but I’m sure some reader will. Nice sexual dimorphism!
And a tiny Oophaga pumilio, also known as the Strawberry poison-dart frog or, in this morph (they’re variable) as the “blue jeans frog”). It is toxic, as you can see from its aposematic coloration.
Tiny and adorable.
Readers are welcome to mark notable events, births, or deaths on this by consulting the June 22 Wikipedia page.
*Amidst questions about the safety of the submersible that went missing with five passengers trying to look at the Titanic, the search continues, but time is scarce.
The search for five people aboard the missing submersible that was exploring the Titanic wreck grew Wednesday to double the size of Connecticut and 2.5 miles deep, as noises picked up by sonar have yielded no leads and the vessel’s 96-hour oxygen supply is estimated to run out Thursday.
. . .Several Canadian P-3 aircraft detected underwater noises in the area where crews are looking for the Titan submersible, and operations were redirected there, the U.S. Coast Guard’s First District reported early Wednesday. Those efforts “have yielded negative results but continue,” the Coast Guard tweeted.
Carl Hartsfield, a senior manager at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, said at a news conference that officials were conducting an acoustic analysis of “the noises [that] have been described as banging noises.” The sounds could have originated from other man-made sources or animals.
I was hopeful about those noises, which were initially described as repetitive bangings every 30 minutes or so. Now I’m glass-half-empty. And the problems with the vehicle:
Meanwhile, questions are being raised about the regulatory and safety standards of the company that operates the vessel. Concerns were raised about quality control and safety issues relating to the Titan as early as 2018, according to court documents reviewed by The Washington Post.
The allegations came from David Lochridge, former director of marine operations at the company, after he was sued by the company in 2018 for allegedly sharing confidential information. Lochridge claimed that OceanGate refused to pay a manufacturer to build a viewport that would meet the required depth of 4,000 meters, or more than 13,000 feet, according to a countercomplaint.Lochridge said in court filings that paying passengers would not be aware or informed that “hazardous flammable materials were being used within the submersible.” He also expressed concerns about the quality control and safety of the Titan, and he encouraged OceanGate to use the American Bureau of Shipping to inspect and certify the submersible. Lochridge and OceanGate settled the lawsuit in 2018.
Maximilian Cremer, director of the ocean technology group at the University of Hawaii Marine Center, told The Post that the Titan’s hatch, which is bolted from the outside, does not meet standards.
. . . Experts in maritime regulation say OceanGate was operating in a legal gray area.
Well, they are either crushed and dead. Still underwater with oxygen running out, or floating on the ocean surface, also with oxygen running out and no way to exit the vehicle. Not great alternatives.
*From reader Ken: “Seems Clarence Thomas’s wingman on SCOTUS, Samuel Alito, has a sugar daddy of his own.”
Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. took the unusual step late Tuesday of responding to questions about his travel with a billionaire who frequently has cases before the Supreme Court hours before an article detailing their ties had even been published.
In an extraordinary salvo in a favored forum, Justice Alito defended himself in a pre-emptive article in the opinion pages of The Wall Street Journal before the news organization ProPublica posted its account of a luxury fishing trip in 2008.
. . .The ProPublica article centered on a trip Justice Alito took to a remote part of Alaska, arriving on the private jet of Paul Singer, an immensely wealthy hedge fund manager and Republican donor. The flight would have cost more than $100,000 one way if the justice had chartered it himself, the outlet estimated, and his annual disclosures make no mention of the trip, in what many experts in legal ethics said was a violation of federal law. In the years afterward, Mr. Singer’s businesses were parties to a number of Supreme Court cases in which Justice Alito participated.
ProPublica had sought comment from the justice, who instead turned to The Journal to make two main points: that he was not required to recuse himself from those cases or to disclose the travel.
Those are pretty lame excuses. Shouldn’t Supreme Court Justices err on the side of acting ethically? And isn’t it ironic that the two most conservative justices
*Well, once again Joe Biden opened his mouth and the wrong thing came out, this time about China.
By describing Xi Jinping as a dictator, President Biden leveled a personal swipe at China’s leader, injecting fresh discord into the relationship between the two men at a time when the broader U.S-China ties appeared on the threshold of a thaw.
Biden’s seemingly off-hand remark at a fundraiser near San Francisco on Tuesday evening appeared to push the boundaries of how a U.S. leader refers to his Chinese counterpart. While Xi, who is unelected but wields vast power, may fit the textbook description of a dictator, political analysts said the term is loaded and rarely used by U.S. presidents to describe leaders they hope to engage in diplomacy.
Biden’s reference to Xi as a dictator, even if glancing, appears to be unprecedented for a sitting U.S. president in recent decades, said Jude Blanchette, a China specialist at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “To have the world’s leading power refer to him in ways that de-elevate him, I think Xi Jinping will take that personally. He wants to be seen as a peer with the United States,” Blanchette said.
China’s Foreign Ministry termed Biden’s characterization “extremely absurd and extremely irresponsible.”
I thought Biden had stopped emitting these kinds of gaffes. He needs a lesson from Blinken!
*Jessica Grose in the NYT tells us what she means by saying “The largest and fastest religious shift in America is well underway.”
In previous newsletters about Americans falling away from religion, I’ve talked about why so many Americans’ religious identities now fall in the category known as “nones” when, just a half-century ago, nearly all Americans had some kind of affiliation. (It’s complicated and multifaceted, but to summarize, it’s largely a combination of Christianity’s association with far-right politics and the fact that being unreligious has become more socially acceptable over time.)
But it’s not just how Americans identify that has greatly shifted. In their new book “The Great Dechurching: Who’s Leaving, Why Are They Going and What Will It Take to Bring Them Back?” Jim Davis and Michael Graham with Ryan Burge argue that the most dramatic change may be in regular attendance at houses of worship. “We are currently in the middle of the largest and fastest religious shift in the history of our country,” they postulate, because “about 15 percent of American adults living today (around 40 million people) have effectively stopped going to church, and most of this dechurching has happened in the past 25 years.”
Umm. . . . “nones” don’t go to church much because they’re not affiliated with one. Aren’t these things pretty correlated?
While the authors find that there is some variation in the rates at which different demographic groups are dechurching (Hispanic Americans are dechurching at the lowest rate, for example), every group is trending away from traditional worship. As Davis, Graham and Burge put it: “No theological tradition, age group, ethnicity, political affiliation, education level, geographic location or income bracket escaped the dechurching in America.”
But remember that they’re talking mainly about Christian denominations. And the authors bemoan this trend: they want people to go back to church, at least according to Grose.
But the piece ends on a high note:
I asked whether he thought the trend of falling away from regular attendance at traditional houses of worship would continue at its rapid clip. He said he thinks it eventually has to slow down, because so many people will become dechurched that there won’t be enough traditionally observant Americans left to keep up the pace. And he agreed with Silverstein that dechurched Americans will have “unchurched” or fully irreligious children. He summed it up this way: “I think the religious disaffiliation as a cultural phenomenon will continue.”
I predicted this several years ago, and it’s not rocket science. Just look at the trends, and ask if there’s anything that could make America more religious. Every force acting on us—science, increasing rationality, the failure of Jesus to return—makes us less and less religious. Short of a nuclear war or Jesus coming back, America will continue to become more secular. Our goal: the religiosity of Iceland (0% believers under 25 years old).
*And the oddity of the day: retribution for an employer who paid his workers in oily pennies.
The owner of an auto repair shop who paid a former employee with 91,500 oily pennies has been ordered by a judge to pay nearly 4 million more cents.
A federal judge ruled that Miles Walker, who owns A OK Walker Autoworks in Peachtree City, Georgia, owes $39,934 to nine workers for unpaid overtime and damages.
Attorneys for Walker agreed to the payments to settle a civil lawsuit brought by the U.S. Labor Department that accused Walker of retaliating against former employee Andreas Flaten in 2021.
After Flaten filed a complaint with the agency saying Walker owed him a final $915 paycheck, the employer dumped that amount in oil-covered pennies in Flaten’s driveway. The mountain of loose change came with a pay stub signed with an expletive.
The Labor Department said further investigation found that Walker’s business had also violated overtime provisions of the federal Fair Standards and Labor Act.
The judge on June 16 signed a consent order in which Walker agreed to pay nearly $8,700 more to Flaten in owed overtime and damages. Eight other workers are to receive amounts between $14,640 and $513 within the next year.
“The court has sent a clear message to employers such as Miles Walker who subject employees to unfair wage practices and outright intimidation and retaliation,” Tremelle Howard, the Labor Department’s regional solicitor in Atlanta, said in a statement.
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili again utters profundities:
A: Where are you going?Hili: I enter the future step by step.
Ja: Gdzie idziesz?Hili: Wkraczam krok po kroku w przyszłość.
From Divy: (does anyone recognize the leg in the second row of the jury?):
From Merilee, on the domestication of felids (actually, it was the European wildcat that was domesticated):
From Nicole. Can I have this tub to go with the couch I posted the other day?
From Masih: a retweet from actor, activist, and Iranian refugee Nazanin Boniadi, who dilates on the oppressiveness of the Iranian regime:
1. ‘The Islamic Republic vs. Iran.’
Thanks to @OsloFF and @HRF for the opportunity to highlight Iran’s #WomanLifeFreedom revolution, and discuss a decades-long theocracy that has hijacked a multi-millennial civilization. A few key takeaways 🧵 #MahsaAmini #KatayounRiahi pic.twitter.com/ljETHPhf9e
— Nazanin Boniadi (@NazaninBoniadi) June 20, 2023
From Malcolm, a beautiful spontaneious cat mosaic:
Artist Justin Bateman uses pebbles, rocks, and stones to creates temporary but amazing mosaics of people's portraits, animals, famous paintings, and statues.
— Massimo (@Rainmaker1973) June 20, 2023
From Michael Shermer, commenting on the unfairness of transwomen competing in bicycle races against biological women (Shermer’s a cyclist):
— Michael Shermer (@michaelshermer) June 20, 2023
Reader Barry responds to a woman who thinks that this is cruelty to the cat. It doesn’t look like it!
— Allen Marshall (@AllenCMarshall) June 17, 2023
I think you may be… joking? It seems to me the cat is enjoying the water hitting its face. Instead of trying to get away from the water, it looks as if its trying to position itself to get the shower to hit the face directly. Strangely, the cat seems to be enjoying this.
— Barry Lyons (@lyonsnyc) June 18, 2023
From the Auschwitz Memorial, a woman gassed upon arrival, age 43:
22 June 1900 | Italian Jewish woman, Elena Spizzichino, was born in Velletri.
She arrived at #Auschwitz on 23 October 1943 in a transport of 1,035 Jews deported from Rome. Together with her daughter Franca she was among 839 of them murdered in a gas chamber after the selection. pic.twitter.com/bpARG5hhE8
— Auschwitz Memorial (@AuschwitzMuseum) June 22, 2023
Tweets from Dr. Cobb. First, a tribute to Edith Piaf. It’s very hard to get, and I didn’t get it until Matthew explained it. If you get it, put it in the comments. Otherwise I’ll add the answer here later:
Piaf tribute pic.twitter.com/I3TnWkl0U8
— Moose Allain Ꙭ (@MooseAllain) October 22, 2022
A rare mating (look at that sexual dimorphism!). Sound up:
You’ll never see this again in your life! Witness a mating of cuckoo wasps is actually exceptional. This could be the first video ever showing this behaviour. Euchroeus purpuratus is also very rare in Europe. iPhone footage. France 2023. ©Frank Deschandol. pic.twitter.com/QPRlejZuaU
— Frank Deschandol (@Frank_Canon_) June 21, 2023
A tweet from Matthew. It makes me remember, though, that Hitchens said, after he was diagnosed with esophageal cancer, that he would still have smoked if he had his life to do over again.
Staggering and depressing. In 2019, **14%** of the 55 million deaths that occurred globally were caused by smoking. All those millions of people who could have lived. https://t.co/AoAP0ZNhrq
— Matthew Cobb (@matthewcobb) June 21, 2023