Econuts & gubbermint don’t mix.


Failed dam owner fought with state over Wixom Lake levels before flood

EDENVILLE, MI — Owners of a collapsed dam that caused major flooding in Michigan say they were pressured by the state to maintain elevated water levels on Wixom Lake behind it, despite concerns about the structure’s ability to handle flooding. It is an accusation a state agency spokesperson calls “misinformation.”

Boyce Hydro Power LLC owners accused Michigan regulators of being more concerned with preserving aquatic life and appeasing property owners than ensuring public safety in a statement following the catastrophic Edenville Dam collapse on Tuesday, May 19. ………

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer vowed the state will “pursue every line of legal recourse” against those responsible for the calamity. On Thursday, she suggested that such critical infrastructure should not be in private hands.

Boyce Hydro, which has been criticized for failing to keep the Edenville Dam in compliance with federal regulations, said it sympathizes with those affected by the flood but defended its actions in the weeks and months before record rainfall caused the dam to fail.

Boyce says it asked EGLE for permission to lower Wixom Lake last fall “due to concern for the safety of its operators and the downstream community.” EGLE and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources denied the request. Boyce lowered the lake without approval in mid-November “believing its safety concerns were paramount.”

Boyce claims it raised the lake this spring “under pressure” from the shoreline residents and state regulators.

“The state agencies clearly care more about mussels living in the impoundment than they do about the people living downstream of the dams,” said Lee Mueller, part owner of Boyce Hydro LLC, which owns the Edenville Dam….

If a foreign nation forced us to have this kind of education system, it would be seen as an act of war.


Study: Historic Drop in U.S. Reading and Math Scores Since Common Core ‘Debacle’

A study released Monday by the Boston-based Pioneer Institute reveals a historic drop in national reading and math scores among U.S. students since the adoption of the Common Core Curriculum Standards a decade ago.

“Nearly a decade after states adopted Common Core, the empirical evidence makes it clear that these national standards have yielded underwhelming results for students,” said Pioneer executive director Jim Stergios in a statement. “The proponents of this expensive, legally questionable policy initiative have much to answer for.”

The study, titled “The Common Core Debacle” and authored by education policy researcher Theodor Rebarber, asserts the “shocking trends” in American student performance in critical math and reading skills since the creation of the U.S. Education Department 40 years ago recommends reevaluation of federal involvement in education.

Performance in reading and math since the adoption of Common Core has especially declined in the nation’s lowest-achieving students – many of whom come from low-income families and failing public schools – widening the achievement gap and creating further inequality.

Supporters of Common Core, however, touted the Obama-era federally incentivized standards would be “rigorous” and also “level the playing field.” The Common Core State Standards Initiative boasted that the standards are “important” because:

[h]igh standards that are consistent across states provide teachers, parents, and students with a set of clear expectations to ensure that all students have the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in college, career, and life upon graduation from high school, regardless of where they live. … The standards promote equity by ensuring all students are well prepared to collaborate and compete with their peers in the United States and abroad.

Rebarber observed, however, that while national fourth- and eighth-grade reading scores were rising at about half a point each year from 2003 to 2013, since that time, reading scores have dropped.

“Over the past decade, there has been no progress in either mathematics or reading performance,” Dr. Peggy Carr, associate commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics, said in October 2019 following the release of the Nation’s Report Card [National Assessment of Educational Progress] assessments in math and reading for fourth- and eighth-graders.

“The lowest performing students – those readers who struggle the most – have made no progress in reading from the first NAEP administration almost 30 years ago,”


 


Today, April 11:

1783, General George Washington for the Americans, and General Guy Carleton for the British issue orders for ‘all acts of hostility’ to cease between their forces, effectively ending the American Revolutionary War

1970, Apollo 13 blasts off from Cape Kennedy.

Tennessee Tornadoes: 21 killed after twisters strike state

That storm was moving so fast it moved through here in less than a half hour.

NASHVILLE, TENN. — Multiple people are dead after two tornadoes struck Tennessee early Tuesday, authorities said.

Here are the latest updates:

Update 3:40 p.m. EST March 3: Nashville police identified two people killed Tuesday morning when they were struck by debris as tornadoes blew through parts of Tennessee as Michael Dolfini, 36, and his 33-year-old girlfriend, Albree Sexton.

Update 3:10 p.m. EST March 3: Nashville Mayor John Cooper signed an executive order Tuesday declaring a State of Emergency in the Nashville metropolitan and Davidson County areas after a deadly tornado tore through the area in the early morning hours.

Update 12:40 p.m. EST March 3: Officials with the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency confirmed the death toll associated with Tuesday’s early morning tornadoes in Tennessee has risen to 22.

According to the Tennessee Department of Heath, 16 people were killed in Putnam County, three in Wilson County, two in Davidson County and one in Benton County.

Severe storms crossing the state left heavy damage throughout West and Middle Tennessee, officials said.

 

China’s factory activity plunges to all-time low, worse than global financial crisis, February data show.

So, it appears there’s better intelligence on China’s economy, than on their epidemic?

  • China’s official manufacturing purchasing managers’ index (PMI) dropped to 35.7 in February from 50.0 in January, below the 38.8 figure reported in November 2008
  • The non-manufacturing PMI – a gauge of sentiment in the services and construction sectors – also dropped to 29.6 from 54.1 in January, the lowest since November 2011

The official manufacturing purchasing managers’ index (PMI) dropped to 35.7, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said on Saturday, having slipped to 50.0 in January when the impact of the coronavirus was not yet visible.

Chinese manufacturing activity plunged to an all-time low in February, with the first official data published amid the coronavirus outbreak confirming fears over the impact on the Chinese economy.

Analysts polled by Bloomberg had expected the February reading to come in at 45.0. A reading below 50 indicates a contraction in sector activity. The farther the figure is below 50, the greater the contraction in activity.

China’s official manufacturing PMI dropped to 38.8 in November 2008 at the start of the global financial crisis.

The economy experienced huge negative growth in February, the trough has been reached, the duration of the impact should be monitored in the next step
Ren Zeping chief economist at Evergrande Research Institute, said on Weibo.

China’s non-manufacturing PMI – a gauge of sentiment in the services and construction sectors – also dropped, to 29.6 from 54.1 in January. This was also the lowest on record, below the previous low of 49.7 in November 2011, according to the NBS. Analysts polled by Bloomberg had expected the February reading to come in at 50.5.
Within the official manufacturing PMI, China’s export order sub-index dropped to 28.7 from 48.7 in January, while imports fell to 31.9 from 49.0. The sub-index for manufacturing production nosedived to 27.8 in February from January’s 51.3, while the reading for new orders plunged to 29.3, down from 51.4 a month earlier.
The employment index, meanwhile, dropped to 31.8, a decrease of 15.7 points from the previous month, indicating that the employment level within manufacturing enterprises had decreased.

That last article about swarms of  Locusts coming to China like a biblical plague?
How about Frogs!
Yeah, and earthquakes fit right in with those plagues too.

Tens of thousands of frogs have appeared on suburban roads in Wuhan and Nanjing, prompting fears among residents that they could be signalling an imminent earthquake.

Tens of thousands of frogs have appeared on suburban roads in Wuhan and Nanjing, prompting fears among residents that they could be signalling an imminent earthquake.

However, earthquake authorities in both cities say that massed ranks of the amphibians do not herald quakes. A resident in the town of Dunkou in Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province, found the road in front of her home covered with thousands of tiny brown frogs, each about the length of a thumbnail, on Monday morning.

‘They are packed so densely that it’s easy for people to stamp on them, leaving a horrific situation,’ she told the Wuhan Evening News.

She said she had to use a broom to drive away some frogs trying to enter her house. Other villagers said the frogs began to gather on the road on Sunday night and many had been squashed by cars.

The woman, who lives in Dunkou, said she was worried because she had heard that animals often acted strangely before a quake and she wondered if the frogs were an omen.

Residents of the town of Jiangxinzhou in Nanjing, Jiangsu , about 600 kilometres away, have encountered a similar phenomenon, the Modern Express reports.

One resident said she was astonished to see a large number of small frogs near her home on Saturday morning.

A Jiangsu Earthquake Bureau official was quoted as saying that the gathering of frogs was a normal phenomenon and there was no need to panic.

‘Animals like chickens, dogs and cats will actually exhibit abnormal behaviour before earthquakes. But it doesn’t mean that once animals behave unusually there will necessarily be an earthquake because there are many factors that can cause animals to act strangely,’ the official said.

A Hubei Earthquake Bureau official said the frogs were gathering on roads because their natural habitat had been reduced.

However, the public panic is not completely baseless. Two days before the deadly Wenchuan earthquake in Sichuan in 2008, the West China City Daily reported that hundreds of thousands of frogs had been seen on the roads of Mianzhu, which was wrecked by the quake.

Locusts Could be the Next Plague to Hit China

HONG KONG—Swarms of desert locusts have devastated crops in East Africa, hit the Middle East and moved into South Asia. They’re breeding fast thanks to changes in global climate patterns that have brought about major cyclones and heavy rains, and they are feeding off human food supplies across continents.

So far, India has managed to prevent a swarm of biblical proportions from spilling over into Bangladesh, Burma, and then China—where the coronavirus has already paralyzed much of the country’s activity. But it’s not clear how long that line will hold.

Eastern Africa has been hit the hardest by the xanthic bugs, with fields in Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Somalia ravaged by 360 billion locusts. Swarms can be city-sized, and one of the largest—located in Kenya—covers about 37 miles by 25 miles. It is so dense that it turns daylight to darkness for anyone caught within.

Alarmist headlines are proliferating, too, many of them drawing parallels with the plagues in scripture. “Bible coming to life?” asked the Jerusalem Post. The swarms appear in the Old Testament, most notably in Exodus as one of the plagues Moses calls down on Egypt, which also is referenced in the Quran. In the New Testament locusts are associated with Revelation 9:3, where they emerge in ferocious swarms that also have the sting of scorpions.

Allusions to the Apocalypse aside, the real life potential for disaster is huge…..

For now, the Himalayan range is acting as a natural barrier for China, insulating its southwestern border from the scourge that is in Pakistan. But the locusts could bank into Southeast Asia, flowing through Bangladesh and up into Burma, landing in China’s Yunnan province, hitting a country that is already locked down because of the coronavirus’ rapid spread.

As fears rise, the state-run media outlet Global Times has been offering ludicrous consolation to the public, claiming that the desert locusts are “eaten by ducks, fried for food,” and “not a threat to China.” And the international arm of state-run CCTV even released a bizarre video of “duck troops” amassing at the border. But the species of locust that is on the country’s doorstep emits phenylacetonitrile, a foul-smelling secretion that is meant to deter predators. Birds typically do not seek them out as a food source.

Spokespersons for China’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs claim that there is a “very low risk” of locust plagues hitting China, but a researcher at the Beijing-headquartered Institute of Plant Protection of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences suggests more caution.

The agriculture expert, Zhang Zehua, said that Yunnan province (which borders Burma), Guangxi (an autonomous region east of Yunnan), and Sichuan province (north of Yunnan) could be affected in June or July if the plagues are not brought under control in neighboring countries.

Zhang may be right, at least according to India’s Ministry of Agriculture, which issued a notice saying that it expects 200,000 square kilometers (77,200 square miles) of farmland to be blanketed by locusts in June during the onset of monsoon season—when conditions are perfect for ravenous insects to breed.

For now, whether the summer may bring another catastrophe to China depends chiefly on Delhi and Karachi’s efforts to exterminate a storm of insects in a race against the seasons.

Greek and Latin are hard: Oxford classics faculty proposes dropping Homer and Virgil from required curriculum so female students will do better on the tests.

From The Oxford Student:

The Oxford Student has been notified about a proposal by the Classics faculty to remove the study of Homer’s Iliad and Virgil’s Aeneid from the Mods syllabus, a decision which has surprised many across the faculty.

This proposal forms part of a series of reforms aimed to modernise the first stage of the Classics degree, known as Moderations (Mods), which take place during Hilary term of second year for all students taking Classics courses across the university.

The Mods course, which is assessed by a set of ten exams at the end of Hilary, has been increasingly criticised in recent years, due to the attainment gaps found between male and female candidates, as well as between candidates who have studied Latin and/or Greek to A-Level (Course I) and those who have not (Course II).

The removal of Virgil and Homer papers, which take up two out of the ten Mods papers, have been marketed as a move that will reduce the attainment gaps and thus improve access to the subject.

Evidently girls just can’t get into the Trojan War.

The Oxford Classics course, known more formally as litterae humaniores is thought to be one of the oldest at the university, with Classical texts, including those of Homer and Virgil having been taught here since the University’s foundation.

Since it’s [sic! This is Oxford???] founding, the course has gone through a number of changes, the most recent one being the introduction of ab initio language teaching almost five decades ago….

The new decade presents the degree with new challenges, with Classicists saying it must adapt to a constantly evolving demographic of students and their needs.

I don’t know how Oxford plans to pull off teaching classics without, um, teaching any classical literature–but maybe, so as to close those “attainment gaps” for female students, the dons can devote a few units to Helen of Troy’s body-positivity issues

 

 

We are at the end of the worst week of NASA history.
Every accident that took the lives of the crew and destroyed the vehicle took place in the space of one calendar week, of course separated by decades.

Monday, January 27th, was the 53rd anniversary of the 1967 fire in Apollo 1 that took the lives of Gus Grissom, Roger Chaffee and Ed White, during a full test on the pad.

The next day, January 28th, is the anniversary of the 1986 Challenger disaster when the main fuel tank exploded 73 seconds after launch.

And today, February 1, is the anniversary of the 2003 Columbia disaster during reentry when undetected damage to a wing during launch allowed hot plasma enter into the wing, burning through the internal structure until the wing tore off the shuttle and tore the vehicle apart.

Spaceflight is inherently a very risky undertaking, but from the records and investigations of these events a pattern emerged that NASA’s higher levels of management failed in the task of proper risk mitigation and letting Quality Assurance and Quality Control standards slide. One would think that after the first time that failure would have been permanently rectified, but bureaucraps being what they are, it wasn’t.

I was pleased to have ended my career working at a place where the standard in every section was:
“If there is a question, then there is no question. Whatever it takes do it.

Billions of locusts swarm through Kenya

…and there shall be famines and troubles…

Huge locust swarms in east Africa are the result of extreme weather swings and could prove catastrophic for a region still reeling from drought and deadly floods. Dense clouds of the ravenous insects have spread from Ethiopia and Somalia into Kenya, in the region’s worse infestation in decades