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Hurricane Maria has already left 90 percent of Puerto Rico without power

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Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico on Wednesday, leaving at least 10,000 people in shelters and 90 percent of the island without power.

The Category 4 storm made landfall with winds of 155 miles per hour, breaking two National Weather Service radars. It is the first Category 4 storm to hit the island since 1932. The Weather Service has described storm surges reaching up to nine feet above land at the coast.

This is the third hurricane to hit the Caribbean islands in the past couple of weeks, after Hurricanes Irma and Jose. Speaking on CNN, Puerto Rico governor Ricardo Rosselló said that the US territory had been prepared for Irma, but the damage from this storm is expected to be much worse. As of 2:30AM, there were already at least 10,000...

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mrobold
7 hours ago
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Orange County, California
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This is why you shouldn’t use texts for two-factor authentication

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For a long time, security experts have warned that text messages are vulnerable to hijacking — and this morning, they showed what it looks like in practice. A demonstration video posted by Positive Technologies (and first reported by Forbes) shows how easy it is to hack into a bitcoin wallet by intercepting text messages in transit.

The group targeted a Coinbase account protected by two-factor authentication, which was registered to a Gmail account also protected by two-factor. By exploiting known flaws in the cell network, the group was able to intercept all text messages sent to the number for a set period of time. That was enough to reset the password to the Gmail account and then take control of the Coinbase wallet. All the group...

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mrobold
20 hours ago
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Orange County, California
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1 public comment
lgkoerner
2 days ago
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Interesting security tip.
Fair Oaks Ranch, Texas

The iPhone X’s notch is basically a Kinect

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Sometimes it's hard to tell exactly how fast technology is moving. "We put a man on the moon using the computing power of a handheld calculator," as Richard Hendricks reminds us in Silicon Valley. In 2017, I use my pocket supercomputer of a phone to tweet with brands.

But Apple's iPhone X provides a nice little illustration of how sensor and processing technology has evolved in the past decade. In June 2009, Microsoft unveiled this:

In September 2017, Apple put all that tech in this:

Well, minus the tilt motor.

Microsoft's original Kinect hardware was powered by a little-known Israeli company called PrimeSense. PrimeSense pioneered the technology of projecting a grid of infrared dots onto a scene, then...

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mrobold
20 hours ago
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Orange County, California
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Janet Yellen is a terrible detective

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What in the name of Alan Greenspan has happened to inflation? The Federal Reserve has been operating for years now on the assumption that the economy is nearing full capacity and inflation will start rising at any moment. Except inflation has refused to cooperate: The Fed's preferred measure remains at 1.4 percent — well below its 2 percent target — and shows no signs of moving much. In response to its persistent shortfall, the Federal Reserve has long cited various temporary factors, like a stronger dollar or cheap oil. But this year it has basically thrown up its hands. It's "a mystery," Fed Chair Janet Yellen told reporters on Wednesday.

With all due respect to the esteemed chair of the Federal Reserve, it really isn't.

First, let's review what causes inflation. When a large percentage of Americans who can or should work don't have jobs, employers can attract new hires even with low pay; people are glad just to be working at all. But as more and more Americans find employment, businesses start fighting with each other over scarce labor, and they get into bidding wars. Sometimes, workers can get paid more without the costs getting passed on to consumers, usually through businesses increasing worker productivity. But not always. So when enough people have jobs and the bidding war among businesses gets intense enough across the economy, prices start rising across the economy too — thus, inflation.

So on the surface, you can see why the Fed is flummoxed by low inflation. The unemployment rate is now 4.4 percent. The last time it was that low was in 2007. And it hasn't gotten lower than that since the late 1990s.

The Fed even relies on an economic concept called the Phillips Curve, which describes the expected relationship between inflation and the unemployment rate. And at 4.4 percent, the Phillips Curve says inflation should be considerably higher than it is.

So what gives?

The first thing to remember is that, like I said, there are only so many Americans who can and should work. If you're retired, or disabled, or a student, you often shouldn't be working, and it would be silly to count you among the unemployed. So the government only counts you as "unemployed" if you've looked for a job in the last four weeks. If you look more rarely than that, it assumes you're one of those Americans who actually can't or shouldn't work.

That assumption can be way wrong.

A bad enough disaster — say, the biggest economic crisis in nearly a century — can leave the job market so damaged for so long that lots of people just give up. In fact, if you put together people who have work with people who have looked in the last four weeks, you get what's called the labor force. And labor force participation is still much lower than it was before the 2008 collapse — and much lower than demographic forces alone would predict.

Once you account for that, it looks like 10 million Americans or more could still be brought into the workforce.

There's also another metric, called the prime age employment rate. This just looks at the percentage of people age 25 to 54 who have jobs — so it shouldn't be thrown off by more people in school or more old people retiring. And that metric is still well below where it was before the 2008 recession. It's even further below where it was just before the 2001 recession.

In fact, economist Adam Ozmiek recently did something clever: He reran the Phillips Curve, but instead of tying it to the unemployment rate, he tied it to the percentage of 25- to 54-year-olds who don't have jobs. When he did that, the gap disappeared between the reality of inflation and wage growth and where the Phillips Curve says they should be.

So there's really nothing mysterious going on here.

Despite what the unemployment rate says, there are still many millions of employable Americans who haven't been brought back into the workforce yet. As work by economists like Josh Bivens and J.W. Mason makes clear, the hole left by the Great Recession is still very far from filled in. And the low rates of wage and inflation growth that we're seeing are perfectly consistent with this fact.

So the Fed shouldn't be raising interest rates or winding down its portfolio, like it's doing now. In fact, it should've gone much further in the depths of the recession and experimented with negative interest rates or expanded their portfolio further. That it didn't was a failure of both imagination and moral responsibility.

But the Fed held onto that portfolio and kept interest rates at zero for years, and the economy just kept limping along. That's because the obvious tools for fighting this sort of economic slump do not lie with the Fed; they lie with Congress.

That's the branch of government that can drive up consumption and incomes — which in turn fuels job creation — through welfare state spending. And it's the branch of government that can tighten labor markets directly by hiring people for public works and the like.

So in Yellen's defense, even if she realized the mystery is no mystery, there's not a lot she could obviously do. But by just shrugging and calling it a mystery, Yellen is making the national conversation around economic policy a whole lot dumber.

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mrobold
20 hours ago
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Orange County, California
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Just let North Korea have nukes

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President Trump is in New York for his first speech to the General Assembly of the United Nations, an event at which representatives from all the world's nations will get the opportunity to see him in person, turn to each other, shake their heads, and say, "Can you believe this guy is the most powerful person on Earth?"

According to reports in advance of Trump's address on Tuesday, much of his attention will be focused on North Korea, a subject about which he has been unusually belligerent of late. While we don't yet know exactly what he'll say, everything we've heard from him and other administration representatives leads us to expect lots of tough talk, and only the remotest connection to reality.

So here's the truth: If we define the North Korea "problem" as the fact that they have nuclear weapons, there may be no solution.

Up until now, however, administrations both Republican and Democrat have basically been pretending that some solution is out there, and difficult though it may be to arrive at, with enough negotiation and inducements and will, we could convince the North Koreans to give up their weapons. As long as you pretend that is the case, you can further pretend that the fact that North Korea has nukes is a temporary state of affairs, one we're dealing with as aggressively as we can without starting some kind of foolhardy confrontation. Then you pass it off to the next administration, which does basically the same thing.

The end result is that while we worry about their weapons, we also learn to live with them, just as we learn to live with many unfortunate situations around the world. But Donald Trump doesn't seem to have figured that out.

So every time North Korea sets off a missile or conducts a test, Trump ratchets up the rhetoric, often with the same kind of comical saber-rattling we've come to associate with North Korea itself; he said that if North Korea keeps threatening us, "they will be met with fire, fury, and frankly power, the likes of which this world has never seen before." U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley echoed his remarks on Sunday, saying that the administration would try diplomacy, but "if that doesn't work, General Mattis will take care of it."

Let's be generous and assume that Trump does not actually want war with North Korea. If that's true, then he must be under the impression that a more aggressive stance than previous administrations took will produce our desired outcome. Given that sending Mike Pence to literally glower across the DMZ at North Korea didn't do the trick ("I thought it was important that people on the other side of the DMZ see our resolve in my face," Pence said), what exactly is that outcome? It would mean North Korea voluntarily giving up its weapons, in exchange for something that we and the rest of the world can offer them.

There's only one problem: All evidence suggests that they have zero interest in giving up their weapons. They're already a pariah state, and they seem to view that status, whatever its drawbacks, as a price they're willing to pay. As Evan Osnos of The New Yorker recently explained, not only has the possession of nuclear weapons become central to North Korean national pride, the country's leadership also sees giving them up as akin to regime suicide:

In recent talks, when Americans have asked whether any combination of economic and diplomatic benefits, or security guarantees, could induce Pyongyang to give up nuclear weapons, the answer has been no. North Koreans invariably mention the former Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. In 2003, when Gadhafi agreed to surrender his nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons, Bush promised others who might do the same that they would have an "open path to better relations with the United States." Eight years later, the U.S. and NATO helped to overthrow Gadhafi, who was captured, humiliated, and killed by rebels. At the time, North Korea said that Gadhafi's fall was "a grave lesson" that persuading other nations to give up weapons was "an invasion tactic." [The New Yorker]

It's pretty hard to argue with their logic. Gadhafi gave up his weapons program, and was overthrown and executed. Saddam Hussein never acquired nuclear weapons, and was overthrown and executed. Meanwhile the Kim family has ruled North Korea since 1948, and everyone seems to agree that no matter how it happened, the fall of the regime would set off a cataclysm, one made far worse by the fact that they now have nuclear weapons. Why wouldn't Kim Jong Un think that his nukes are keeping him safe? We think of Kim as an inexperienced buffoon, which he may well be, but this is one area where he seems to be acting rationally.

Which is why the quasi-charade of the last few years has been, if not desirable, about the best we can hope for: We press them to give up their weapons, they say no; we continue to press without turning it into a crisis, saying that we're hoping for things to change but knowing that they probably won't.

But perhaps the president actually believes that if he issues enough threats, Kim will give him what he wants. It's hard to believe he could be that naïve, but it is Donald Trump we're talking about. We just have to hope that he won't spin things out of control, because the results of that would be too awful to contemplate.

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mrobold
3 days ago
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Orange County, California
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Who’s complacent? Your teenager?

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…teenagers are increasingly delaying activities that had long been seen as rites of passage into adulthood. The study, published Tuesday in the journal Child Development, found that the percentage of adolescents in the U.S. who have a driver’s license, who have tried alcohol, who date, and who work for pay has plummeted since 1976, with the most precipitous decreases in the past decade.

The declines appeared across race, geographic, and socioeconomic lines, and in rural, urban, and suburban areas.

…Between 1976 and 1979, 86 percent of high school seniors had gone on a date; between 2010 and 2015 only 63 percent had, the study found. During the same period, the portion who had ever earned money from working plunged from 76 to 55 percent. And the portion who had tried alcohol plummeted from 93 percent between 1976 and 1979 to 67 percent between 2010 and 2016.

Teens have also reported a steady decline in sexual activity in recent decades, as the portion of high school students who have had sex fell from 54 percent in 1991 to 41 percent in 2015, according to Centers for Disease Control statistics.

Teens have also reported a steady decline in sexual activity in recent decades, as the portion of high school students who have had sex fell from 54 percent in 1991 to 41 percent in 2015, according to Centers for Disease Control statistics.

Here is the Tarah Barampour WaPo story.  Is it evolutionary psychology pushing us more into a more stable mode of behavior for safe circumstances, or perhaps teens being more aware of the need to build their resumes?  Or something else altogether different?

These developments are mostly positive, both as symptoms and as active causal agents, and yet…

Somewhere along the line there is a positive social payoff from risk-taking, including sometimes from teenagers.  How would rock and roll evolved in such a world?   Who is to help undo unjust social structures?  The graybeards?

The post Who’s complacent? Your teenager? appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.

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freeAgent
3 days ago
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I wouldn't think that resume-building is causing the drop in teen employment. Rather, I would guess that it's the decline of retail, recent hikes to the minimum wage, and probably some other factors that aren't immediately apparent to me.
Los Angeles, CA
garims
12 hours ago
Perhaps culture too, if indeed the US has become more culturally diverse due to immigration...
mrobold
3 days ago
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Orange County, California
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