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A third of America's honeybee colonies died in the last year

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Beekeepers in the United States saw a third of their honeybee colonies die between April 2016 and April 2017, an annual survey finds. That sounds grim, but it's actually a slight improvement over similar assessments in the last decade, in which an average of 40 percent of the colonies died off annually.

"I would stop short of calling this 'good' news," said Dennis vanEngelsdorp, a University of Maryland professor who is also a project director at the Bee Informed Partnership. "Colony loss of more than 30 percent over the entire year is high. It's hard to imagine any other agricultural sector being able to stay in business with such consistently high losses."

Some of the dead colonies may be salvaged, but the process isn't easy. One bumblebee species was added to the federal Endangered Species List earlier this year, and steady decline of bee populations is a serious and widespread problem that is believed to be linked to pesticide use.

"Bees are good indicators of the landscape as a whole," said Nathalie Steinhauer, who worked on the new survey. "To keep healthy bees, you need a good environment and you need your neighbors to keep healthy bees. Honeybee health is a community matter."

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mrobold
1 hour ago
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Orange County, California
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May’s Election Gamble Seems to Be Backfiring

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Theresa May’s election gamble does not seem to be paying off:

Theresa May risks being ousted from Downing Street after a shock new poll suggests Labour could be on course to cut her majority down to just two seats.

The YouGov poll for the Times found that the Conservatives are on 43%, just five points ahead of Labour on 38%.

At the start of the election campaign, some polls had the Tories with leads of more than 20 points.

When May called a snap election last month, it seemed almost impossible that her party would lose seats. The prime minister assumed, and most observers agreed, that she was positioned to increase the Tory majority in the House of Commons by dozens of seats. There was talk of a landslide on par with the largest Thatcher and Blair victories. It was taken for granted that Labour was on track for the worst drubbing in modern history. While I thought there was a real danger that calling an election would backfire on May, especially when she had repeatedly said there would be no early election, I still didn’t guess that it would blow up in her face as spectacularly as it seems to have done.

If there are no large Tory gains next month, the decision to call the election will go down as another unforced error by a Conservative leader. Because the opposition has generally been perceived to be so hopeless, a failure to beat them by a wide margin is likely to be seen as a serious rebuke to May’s leadership. If there is a reduced majority, May’s authority will be shot. In the still unlikely event that her party is voted out, she will become the biggest joke of a Conservative leader since, well, David Cameron.

Thus far, the election campaign has helped improve the favorability ratings of both Labour and Jeremy Corbyn and has had the opposite effect on May and the Conservatives. An election that almost everyone thought to be in the bag now seems to be slipping out of May’s grasp. Fraser Nelson wonders if May and the Tories will blow it. May has been dogged lately by a series of sudden reversals, including the original decision to call the election after swearing she wouldn’t:

The public like her style, but her shambolic U-turn over the so-called ‘dementia tax’ has given everyone cause to doubt whether she is as ‘strong and stable’ as she says she is. In fact, she can look indecisive and a bit dozy. She repeatedly promised us that she would not hold a general election, but then did. She made National Insurance increases the cornerstone of her first Budget, only to abandon the idea days later when she worked out that it violated her manifesto pledge. And she made the abolition of the cap on care home fees the single most significant announcement of her manifesto launch, then abandoned that as well when working out that critics would lampoon it as a ‘dementia tax’.

For his part, Rod Liddle dubs the Conservative campaign to be the worst general election effort on their part that he can recall. As he puts it:

I don’t think anything quite matches up to this combination of prize gaffes and the robotic incantation of platitudinous idiocies.

Liddle goes on to say that it is the decision to have an early election that could be a significant factor in turning people against the governing party:

First, the election was not wanted and is deeply resented beyond the Westminster bubble. The only people who actually enjoy elections are journos and the politically active: that leaves 97 per cent of the population who are somewhat averse, especially after a bruising referendum last year. May is resented for having foisted the election upon us, and people may be inclined to punish her for it, either by staying at home or voting against.

I thought that might be the reaction, and it wouldn’t surprise me if that is what is happening now. As I said last month:

May’s decision to call for a new election is the act of a supremely confident (possibly overconfident) leader, but if there’s one thing she ought to have learned from her predecessor it is that voters have an odd habit of not cooperating with a politician’s plans.

That there is now even slightly serious talk of a possible Corbyn victory shows how mistaken May was to gamble on an early election. Her party may still be in power after the vote, but her authority will likely be weakened and her judgment will be called into question.

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mrobold
21 hours ago
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Orange County, California
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Scientist observes packs of snakes engaged in 'coordinated hunting'

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In case anyone needed another reason to be afraid of the slippery, slithery creatures that are snakes: They might hunt in packs. Well, at least one snake species might.

Vladimir Dinets, a scientist from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, recently observed the Cuban boa hunting fruit bats in caves — only to realize that if more than one snake was present, the snakes would engage in what seemed to be "coordinated hunting." "Snakes arriving to the hunting area were significantly more likely to position themselves in the part of the passage where other snakes were already present, forming a 'fence' across the passage and thus more effectively blocking the flight path of the prey, significantly increasing hunting efficiency," the study's abstract says.

Group hunts boasted much higher success rates than solo hunts, and a press release about the study noted that "the more snakes were present, the less time it took to capture a bat."

In case the mental image of snakes hunting in a pack weren't reason enough to stay inside, the snakes did this group hunting while dangling from the top of the cave. "After sunset and before dawn, some of the boas entered the passage that connected the roosting chamber with the entrance chamber, and hunted by suspending themselves from the ceiling and grabbing passing bats," the study said.

This isn't the first time a group hunting effort among snakes has been observed, though it remains unclear if this is actually a widespread serpentine phenomenon or if there's really any purposeful coordination between the snakes. "It is possible that coordinated hunting is not uncommon among snakes, but it will take a lot of very patient field research to find out," Dinets said.

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mrobold
22 hours ago
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We're all gonna die.
Orange County, California
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Ariana Grande will return to Manchester for a benefit concert

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Singer Ariana Grande said Friday that she will be returning to Manchester for a benefit concert to help the victims of the Monday attack at her show that left 22 dead and dozens more injured.

"Our response to this violence must be to come closer together, to help each other, to love more, to sing louder, and to live more kindly and generously than we did before," said Grande, 23, in a statement. "I'll be returning to the incredibly brave city of Manchester to spend time with my fans and to have a benefit concert in honor of and to raise money for the victims and their families."

Grande added that while "there is nothing I or anyone can do to take away the pain you are feeling or to make this better … I extend my hand and heart and everything I possibly can give to you and yours, should you want or need my help in any way." Read her full statement below.

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mrobold
22 hours ago
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Orange County, California
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How Should Microservice’s Communicate?

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We do quite a bit of distributed development and inter-service messaging at work. Some of this is done through exposing HTTP services. For asynchronous messaging between systems, my shop uses FubuMVC and its .Net Core replacement “Jasper” as a service bus (translate “Jasper” to “MassTransit” or “NServiceBus” when you read this). This blog post is a draft of our architectural team’s advice to our teams on choosing which option to use for their projects as part of our nascent microservice architecture approach. If any of my colleagues see this and disagree with me, don’t worry because one way or another this is going to be a living document and you’ll get to have input to this.

Microservices will generally need to send or process messages from other microservices or clients. To that end, it’s worth considering your options for inter-service communication.

We commonly use either HTTP services or the Jasper/FubuMVC service bus to communicate between services. Before you choose what tooling to use for service to service communication, first think about what your messaging requirements are. Service to service communication is roughly going to fall into these categories:

  1. Publish/Subscribe – asynchronously broadcast a message to all interested subscribers without expecting an immediate response. For the purpose of differentiation with “fire and forget,” let’s say that this also implies guaranteed delivery, meaning that messages are persisted durably until they are able to be published. The Jasper/FubuMVC service bus tools accomplish guaranteed delivery through the durable “store and forward” mechanism in LightningQueues and eventually RabbitMQ as we transition to Docker’ized hosting.
  2. Request/Reply – invoke another service while expecting a matching response. Querying data from a web service is an example. Sending a message through the service bus with the expectation of a response is also an example. The query handlers are an example of request/reply
  3. Fire and Forget – sending a request and not caring about any kind of response or whether or not the response is really received. This pattern is mostly appropriate for messages where you’re more concerned about performance and it’s not vital for the messages to be processed. The intra-node communication that Jasper/FubuMVC uses to coordinate subscriptions and health checks is done through LightningQueues in its “fire and forget” mode.

 

Use HTTP services if:

  • Your service is going to be exposed to external users of your API
  • Your service will need to be consumed by a web browser client
  • You are exposing data query endpoints to other services, as in the other services need to request information and use that data immediately
  • You do not need guaranteed delivery
  • You do not exactly know upfront what other mechanisms that future clients of your microservice will support. The idea here is that HTTP is essentially ubiquitous across platforms
  • You want to expose your service to non-.Net clients. It might be perfectly possible to use our existing service bus from other platforms, but in this case, HTTP endpoints are probably much less friction

 

Use a Service Bus if:

  • You need durable, publish/subscribe semantics. If your service does not need to wait for a reply or acknowledgement from the downstream system, you probably want publish/subscribe.
  • If you need to send the same messages to multiple subscribers
  • If you need to support “dynamic subscriptions” that allow other services to register with your service to receive event messages from your service
  • If you want fire and forget messaging, use the service bus with the non-persistent mode in LightningQueues. (think “ZeroMQ”)
  • You may need to take advantage of the “delayed messages” feature in Jasper/FubuMVC
  • You need to implement some kind of long-lived, saga workflow
  • While it is possible to throttle HTTP requests, it is probably easier and more effective to accommodate surge loads through the message queues behind the service bus
  • If the ordering of message processing is important, you probably need to be queueing within a service bus

 

Gray Areas

It’s not a perfectly black and white choice between using HTTP versus messaging with a service bus. The service bus also supports the request/reply pattern and you could happily use HTTP for fire and forget messaging. Both approaches can be scaled horizontally with our current technology stack. To muddle the picture even more, Jasper will eventually include an HTTP transport as well for more efficient request/reply support. If you feel like it’s unclear which direction to go, it is more than acceptable to choose the technology that the project team is most comfortable with. In all likelihood, that is going to mean using the more common ASP.Net Core stack for HTTP services rather than the somewhat custom service bus technology we use today.

 

Avoid These Integration Approaches

There will inevitably be reasons why we have to use options in this list because of external clients, but all the same, it is highly recommended that you do not use these integration approaches:

  • Publishing file drops to the file system and monitoring folders
  • Publishing files to FTP servers
  • Integration through shared databases. Relational databases aren’t efficient queueing mechanisms anyway, and we really don’t want the hard coupling between services that comes from sharing an underlying database

 

 

Disagree? Have something to add? Feel very free to help me make this list better by dropping a comment;-)

 

 




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mrobold
1 day ago
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Orange County, California
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British police are reportedly 'furious' at all the Manchester attack leaks from American officials

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Police overseeing the investigation into Monday night's suicide bombing at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester have stopped sharing information with American counterparts, BBC News reports, after U.S. officials allegedly leaked information about the attacker and his explosive to the press before British police wanted the information released. The Greater Manchester Police are "furious" at the leaks, BBC News says, and there is "disbelief and astonishment" across the British government at photos of the exploded bomb published in The New York Times.

Home Secretary Amber Rudd said she is "irritated" by the U.S. leaks, Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham said late Wednesday the information leaking "troubles him" and he's "made known my concerns about it to the U.S. ambassador," and in a statement on Wednesday, Britain's National Police Chiefs' Council said such "unauthorized" disclosures undermined this "major counter-terrorism investigation" and breached bonds of trust. Prime Minister Theresa May said, when she arrives in Brussels Thursday, "I will make clear to President Trump that intelligence shared between our security agencies must remain secure."

Britain has arrested nine people in connection with the attack, with eight still in custody, and Libyan authorities detained attacker Salman Abedi's father and younger brother. Manchester Chief Constable Ian Hopkins said Wednesday that "it's very clear that this is a network that we are investigating."

"The police decision to stop sharing information specifically about the Manchester attack with their security counterparts in the U.S. is a hugely significant move and shows how angry British authorities are," says BBC home affairs correspondent Dominic Casciani. "The information from the crime scene wasn't shared on a whim: The British and Americans have a lot of shared world-leading expertise in improvised explosive devices and scientists would be discussing whether the Manchester device tells them something new that could, ultimately, track down a bombmaker." Other British officials said Americans also leaked key information too early after the last major terrorist attack in Britain, back in July 2005.

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mrobold
2 days ago
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Orange County, California
freeAgent
2 days ago
I think US intelligence has just gotten too used to leaking things since the election.
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