Business has good reason to fear Boris Johnson’s Brexit plans | William Keegan

The favourite for Downing Street has aggravated the uncertainty that is undermining confidence and hitting sterling

Wimbledon fortnight brings back happy memories of growing up in that pleasant suburb. But the recent news that the leading pretender to the Conservative throne was told by his girlfriend to “get out of my flat” stirs a particular memory: of the number of offenders brought before the courts who would be described in the Wimbledon Borough News as being “of no fixed abode”.

It was therefore a stroke of genius for Private Eye to put a picture of Alexander “Boris” Johnson outside No 10 Downing Street with the caption “I really need somewhere to live.”

His budgetary plans are so wild that he undermines any Conservative arguments about the budgetary dangers of a Labour government

Continue reading…

US Naval Coalition In Gulf – A Provocation Too Far

Via The Strategic Culture Foundation,

America’s top General Joseph Dunford this week announced plans for a US-led naval coalition to patrol the Persian Gulf in order to “protect shipping” from alleged Iranian sabotage.

The move is but the latest in a series of efforts by the Trump administration to mobilize Arab allies into a more aggressive military stance towards Iran. It follows recent visits to the region by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton, both of whom have been urging a more organized military front led by the US to confront Iran.

The latest naval coalition proposed by General Dunford will be charged with escorting oil tankers as they pass through the Strait of Hormuz exiting the Persian Gulf to the Indian Ocean, and also through the Bab al Mandab entrance to the Red Sea on the Western side of the Arabian Peninsula. The former conduit serves oil supply to Asia, while the latter position between Yemen and Eritrea leads shipping to the Suez Canal on the way to the Mediterranean and Europe.

Both narrow sea passages are strategic chokepoints in global oil trade, with some 20-30 per cent of all daily shipped crude passing through them.

The apparently chivalrous motives of the US to “guarantee freedom of navigation” sounds suspiciously like a pretext for Washington to assert crucial military control over international oil trade. That is one paramount reason for objecting to this American proposal.

Secondly, the very idea of sending more military vessels to the Persian Gulf under Pentagon command at this time of incendiary tensions between the US and Iran is a reckless provocation too far.

In the same week that the Pentagon called for a naval coalition, the US and Britain were blaming Iranian forces for trying to block a British oil tanker near the Strait of Hormuz. Iran has dismissed the allegations that its naval vessels interfered in any way with the British tanker. Both London and Washington claimed that a British Royal Navy frigate had to intervene to ward off the Iranian vessels. Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif dismissed the accusations as “worthless”.

The latest incident follows a string of sabotage attacks against oil tankers in the Persian Gulf by unidentified assailants. The US has blamed Iran. Iran has vehemently denied any involvement. Tehran has countered by saying that tensions are being inflamed by “malicious conspiracies”.

One can easily foresee in this already supercharged geopolitical context in the Persian Gulf and the wider region how any additional military forces would be potentially disastrous, either from miscalculation, misunderstanding or more malign motive.

Furthermore, media reports indicate a heightened wariness among some Gulf Arab states about being pushed into confrontation with their neighbor Iran. US policy is recklessly fomenting regional tensions against the better judgement of proximate countries.

The Washington Post reported this week:

The escalating tensions in the Persian Gulf have exposed differences between the United States and its regional allies, in part over how aggressively the Trump administration should confront Iran…

With these countries likely to find themselves on the front lines of any military conflict with Iran, some of the smaller states are hesitant to support the more combative stance of the United States and regional heavyweights Saudi Arabia and the UAE.”

The report goes on:

“The more-assertive approach championed by Saudi Arabia – and in particular by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman – puts the kingdom at odds with some of the smaller US allies in the region, which want to see the crisis settled through negotiations. Kuwait and Oman, which have pursued bilateral relations with Iran, have long resented Saudi attempts to pressure them to adopt a more confrontational foreign policy, analysts say.”

Qatar is another important regional player which is bound to have misgivings about the growing tensions. The gas-rich emirate has been roughed up by Saudi Arabia and the UAE with a two-year blockade on trade and political links. While Qatar is a US ally and a Sunni Arab neighbor traditionally aligned with Saudi Arabia, the country also shares the region’s close historical trading ties with Shia Iran to the North. Centuries of overlapping cultural ties belie the attempt by the US and its Saudi and UAE allies of trying to polarize the region into an anti-Iran axis.

Aware of the danger of a catastrophic war erupting, several regional states are right to be even more alarmed by the latest proposition of a naval coalition led by the US. Washington is arrogantly over-stepping its presumption to control global oil trade, and it is pushing tensions in the region with a provocation too far. Hopefully, reckless US-led antagonism will be rebuffed by wiser regional states who stand to lose much more than Generals and warmongers sitting comfortably in Washington.

Moreover, the correct way to calm and resolve tensions in the region is for the Trump administration to halt its aggression towards Iran and to respect the 2015 international nuclear accord which it unilaterally trashed last year. Remove sanctions and warships from the region and – for a fundamental change – respect international law, diplomacy and peaceful negotiations.

Poker-Bot Designed By Facebook “Decisively” Beats Human Poker Pros

A poker-bot that was designed by researchers from Facebook and Carnegie Mellon University has consistently beat some of the world’s top human players in a series of six person no limit Texas Hold’Em poker games, according to The Verge.

The AI system, named Pluribus, played over 10,000 hands over the course of 12 days. In one situation, it played alongside five human players and in another, it played along five additional AI players. The bot won, on average, five dollars per hand with hourly winnings of about $1000, which researchers called a “decisive margin of victory”.

Noam Brown, a research scientist at Facebook AI Research said:

 “It’s safe to say we’re at a superhuman level and that’s not going to change.”

Chris Ferguson, a six-time World Series of Poker champion said: “Pluribus is a very hard opponent to play against. It’s really hard to pin him down on any kind of hand.”

In a paper recently published, the scientist behind the bot said that the victories are a significant milestone in AI research. Other computers have mastered games like Chess and Go, but six person Texas Hold Em was always a higher benchmark to accomplish.

This is because information needed to win the game is often hidden from players – it involves multiple players and complex victory outcomes. A game like Go is easier for AI despite having more possible board combinations than atoms in the observable universe, because all the information is at least available to see. This makes it easier for AI to train on.

Back in 2015, a machine learning system beat human pros at two player Hold Em, but raising the number to five opponents increased the complexity of the game significantly. A few different crucial strategies were deployed to address this:

  • First, they taught Pluribus to play poker by getting it to play against copies of itself — a process known as self-play. This is a common technique for AI training, with the system able to learn the game through trial and error; playing hundreds of thousands of hands against itself. This training process was also remarkably efficient: Pluribus was created in just eight days using a 64-core server equipped with less than 512GB of RAM. Training this program on cloud servers would cost just $150, making it a bargain compared to the hundred-thousand-dollar price tag for other state-of-the-art systems.

  • Then, to deal with the extra complexity of six players, Brown and Sandholm came up with an efficient way for the AI to look ahead in the game and decide what move to make, a mechanism known as the search function. Rather than trying to predict how its opponents would play all the way to the end of the game (a calculation that would become incredibly complex in just a few steps), Pluribus was engineered to only look two or three moves ahead. This truncated approach was the “real breakthrough,” says Brown.

Pluribus was “remarkably good at bluffing its opponents” and those who played against it praised it for its relentless consistency and the way it could squeeze profits out of thin hands. It was also “predictably unpredictable”, and did so just by playing the cards it was dealt, without looking at facial recognition or spotting tells.

Brown says that bluffing can be an art that can be reduced to mathematically optimal strategies: “The AI doesn’t see bluffing as deceptive. It just sees the decision that will make it the most money in that particular situation. What we show is that an AI can bluff, and it can bluff better than any human.”

The fact that AI has now bested humans in six person Hold Em means that there is now much that humans can learn from computers when it comes to playing Hold Em.

Researchers also hope that techniques used to create the AI bot can be transferable to other situations, like cyber security, fraud prevention and financial negotiations.

Do You Truly Have Free Will?

Authored by Chris Martenson via PeakProsperity.com,

How we’re constantly at war with our biological programming…

Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.

            ~ Carl Jung

I love that Jung quote.  I’ve used it generously in conversation, seminars and writings throughout the years.

Initially, I assumed that the “unconscious” he referred to the place in our brains where our experiences, beliefs and memories are undetectably stored.  You know, psychology stuff:  ego, subconscious, id. Old memories from childhood lurking beneath the conscious frame of reference, directing thoughts and coloring our current experiences.

In other words, post-birth experiences that came from nurture; the environment in which we were raised. As if we’re born as blank slates written upon by our parents, friends and the larger culture we grow up in.

Perhaps given the state of science at the time, that’s all that Jung did mean.

But now we have a lot more science to expand that quote out into some truly mind-boggling territory. In my mind, it’s now a case of including both nature and nurture into the equation.

More and more scientific research is revealing that our slates are only partially blank at birth, ready to accept whatever chalk lines might get drawn by life. But the majority of the remaining territory is already marked at conception with engraved instructions.

What Makes You “You”

For me personally, it has been incredibly liberating to discover that only some of my unconscious scripts were installed after birth.

The person that I call “I” or “Me” is a bundle of reactions, some of which were pre-programmed and some of which have been learned, and most of which are a combination of both.  The same is true for you. Our lives are a complex combination of both nature and nurture mixing like fluids to influence our experience of life.

This knowledge offers extraordinary power to those who can master their wiring, understanding which cerebral hacks and hijacks exist to create a richer and more engaged experience of life.  When applied at the collective level, these insights offer a helpfully predictive ‘most likely’ view of the future.

Bluntly, the odds of a group of humans rising above their core programming is pretty low, especially when various self-interested entities have learned to hijack the programming for fun and profit (and other often nefarious motivations).  This encompasses the media (both mainstream and social), politics and advertising.

So back to the Jung quote.

I now more broadly interpret “unconscious” to mean anything that you aren’t aware of that’s causing you to respond with certain actions, or experience things in a certain way.  It could be something from your past long buried (nurture) or it could be hard-wired into your neurochemical response set (nature).

Similarly, as long as it’s operating undetected by your conscious mind, yet resulting in certain responses, I’m calling that the “unconscious”, too.

Simply knowing that such scripts are running in your brain is truly life changing once you become aware of them.

As a topical reference, the current Epstein sexual predator case just reminds us that many men often live out their lives thoroughly subject to the biology of sexual hormones and the drive to reproduce, with about as much free will as a rutting elk during mating season.

The book Sex At Dawn presents a number of such science-based examples of the role of our genes in directing our behaviors.

In one famous experiment, men wore t-shirts for three days, then took them off and placed them in zip-lock bags. Randomly selected women of childbearing age were then asked to open the bags, sniff the contents and rate the men’s attractiveness from one to ten.  Their rankings were based solely on smell, no other information was given.

The women all had very clear preferences.  Some smells attracted them, some repulsed them.  The t-shirts were ‘hot or not.’

When the researchers then genotyped both the women and men, they discovered that the women’s noses had unerringly selected potential mates whose specific genetic make-up would yield offspring with particularly robust immune system combinations (via MHC typing for the science-wonks reading this).  Using just their sense of smell, the women were able to accurately determine very important information about a potential mate’s DNA.

Wow.  Go science!

It turns out we can tell something about the elemental molecular constituency of the people around us, all the way to decoding an algorithm as ridiculously complex as the combination of two dissimilar immune systems. Well, at least women can.

But who knows what else we’re going to discover with the passage of time?

The invitation here is to keep a very open mind, and a strong sense of humility, for the genius of 3.8 billion years of evolution and for what we humans are going to further decode over the next 100 years — should we make it that far.

Free Will?

Okay, so women can somehow detect better genetic matches using their noses.  But where the study got really interesting — and made the Jung quote explode in many directions for me — is when it further revealed that women who are on birth control pills lose this nose-DNA-detecting superpower.  The pharmaceuticals act as a disrupting agent.

Now imagine the poor woman who gets married, decides it’s time to have children, goes off her birth control pill and then, once her hormones have shifted back to her natural baseline, wakes up one day thinking “Crikey, who is this loser?” Somewhere deep and ancient inside her, the former ‘man of her dreams’ now smells entirely wrong.  A bad match.

So, they break up, at great emotional, logistical and financial disturbance.  She moves on, goes back on the pill, marries another great guy and then repeats the whole process.  Again, the new man just smells wrong.

Lacking the proper frame for what is happening, she manufactures all sorts of stories to match the experience.  “He’s a bad provider.  Doesn’t share my interests.  Doesn’t speak my love language.  Has bad hygiene…”

The unconscious operation running, however, is none of those things.  It’s that he’s a bad genetic match and her biological hardware — which was blocked from operating correctly earlier — has now finally been able to detect that.

Perhaps after the second ‘failure’ this woman has concluded that her luck is bad.  Fate has ruled against her.  She’s cursed in some way, destined to fail at love.  But it wasn’t fate at all. Rather, it was a biological response generated from the root code of her mammalian programming; unseen and undetected.

The unconscious had not been made conscious. It had directed her life, and she’d called it fate.

Had she known about the effect of birth control pills on mate selection, and been properly instructed in it by her MD at the time of first going on them, she would have been in a position to know to go off the pill while dating a potentially serious mate to determine if that changed how she felt about them.

It was only because she and her partner(s) were unaware of the silent biological, genetic script running in the background that so much “fate” happened to them.

Again:

Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.

~ Carl Jung

There are literally hundreds of studies coming out all the time that reveal the subtle and powerful ways that both our genetics and epigenetics encode all sorts of pre-programmed and even acquired/learned behaviors into us, and we’re learning more all the time.

Would it surprise you to learn that evolution had found a way to encode PTSD-inducing experiences into a parent’s DNA to pass on to their own offspring (and subsequent generations)?  Well it has and this has been proven out in both humans (here also) and mice.

Quite to the surprise of scientists and students everywhere who thought the Darwin vs. Lamarck (nature vs nurture) debate was a decisive first round knock-out for Darwin, it turns out that mice and humans (and presumably many other creatures) can encode experiences into their DNA and pass them along to their offspring.

Rather than waiting for a random mutation to confer a new behavior that improves survival (Darwin) both mice and humans can encode a traumatic experience and pass that right along to their children.  Babies born to war-starved women store fat with miserly fanaticism and experience far higher rates of chronic health issues.  Children of holocaust survivors are prone to anxiety and have elevated stress hormones throughout their own lives.  The sons of Union war prisoners were far more likely to die early than the sons of soldiers who were not prisoners.

In other words, our DNA is busy talking with the world around us and storing what seems to be useful information to pass along and/or use.  The DNA is the hardware, that’s the part Darwin got right. And epigenetics is the software, which is the part that Lamarck understood.

Carl Jung perhaps understood more of this duality than I’ve appreciated:

 

Without knowing any of this, the children of women deprived of nutrition during gestation shame themselves as fat and unhealthy.  Fate has dictated that they be this way.  Fate has also frowned on children born to holocaust survivors and other similarly traumatized people.  The children of the tens of thousands of war-wounded US soldiers will be similarly afflicted.

(Self-) Knowledge Is Power

Knowledge is truly power if one is interested in moving towards free will and away from unconscious choice.

I’ve given up the fantasy of making it all the way to pure free will, but I can certainly move myself closer to it along the spectrum.

“Making the unconscious conscious” has been an area of great interest for me for many years, and I consider it to be incredibly liberating each time a new awareness can be brought into the light of consciousness.  “Fate” can be transformed into identifiable behavior patterns, that once recognized, can be embraced or abandoned at will.

If you share the life goal to operate with as much conscious intent as you can, then we are fellow travelers.  After many years of inner exploration and outer scientific curiosity I can report significant progress in my awareness and command of my own inner programming, though I remain constantly surprised by the many ways I’m still hard-wired for stimulus-response.

An important part of my progress resulted with the discovery that it’s possible to partially immunize myself to the dopamine-hijacking methods employed by advertisers and social media.  In some cases,  I’ve determined that I’m simply unable to resist, that my wiring is fixed and ‘they’ are simply too adept at juicing the pathways, and so my best defense is to limit my exposure.  Similarly, I’m currently wrestling with admitting my biological limitations and giving up my smartphone in favor of reverting to a much more basic flip phone.

Huge benefits have also resulted from understanding the ways in which emotionally manipulative language (a.k.a. “propaganda” or most of what passes for mainstream news) operates.  Once you’re able to spot it, you’ll see it everywhere and it will no longer sway you. In fact, it might even elicit the opposite reaction.  I wrote a long piece on this which is well worth re-reading.

More broadly, I’m keenly interested in how our pre-programmed behaviors are nudging us as a society closer towards certain futures.  These play out in economics, finance, energy and environmental issues.  Evolution has saddled us with both a severe time bias favoring the immediate over the distant, and a default setting for linear vs. complex (or systems) thinking. These preferences combine to strongly compromise our ability to respond intelligently to the really big predicaments the world faces today.

For instance, there are countries (Pakistan35 others) and massive cities (Chennai India, and 19 others) that are close to or have already run out of water.  That predicament was in plain view several decades ago. Yet the societal response in every single instance was to continue population growth and hope for the best.

Farming is becoming more uncertain as weather-weirdness piles up.  Soils are degrading slowly and steadily, mined for macro and micro nutrients that can only be replaced by geological processes (over millennia) or continued use of affordable fossil fuel energy (which is depleting).

Global debts are piling up far faster than economic growth. And economic growth cannot continue as it has for resource-based reasons.  Stocks and bonds are priced as if that were not the case, and perpetual exponential economic growth were assured.  Nobody cares.  The Fed has rescued stocks for another few weeks or months.  Whew!

All in all, there’s huge change being thrust upon us. But our social skills are optimized for collaborating on a hunt or remembering where the berries ripen next.  The social cooperation skills necessary for elegantly navigating the massive, complex, and systemic issues facing us may not be coded in our default neural programming.  They remain latent if they exist at all, perhaps requiring a severe population bottleneck to arise to provide the right epigenetic stress to turn these genes on.

Knowing that we’re not well-suited to the tasks at hand is the first step on the path to recovery and repair.  Both psychological and biological scripts are operating at the unconscious level. Being aware of and alert to this truth is a critical early step towards claiming real agency in our own individual lives and hope for our collective future.

Until and unless we do that, it will be business-as-usual until a painful systemic crash of some sort.  And what a doozy the next one will be.

As the data stands, you need to be ready for business-as-usual to be the most likely path society chooses to pursue, right up until things fall apart.

But that doesn’t mean you have to be so blind. More and more people are waking up to reality; especially younger folks, who are increasingly losing any interest in following in their parent’s footsteps.

If we really apply ourselves, and with a little luck, our biology doesn’t have to be our destiny.  It all begins with each of us becoming “conscious of the unconscious”.

In Part 2: The Choice Facing Us: Greatness or Oblivion?, we delve into how to do just that. What are the keys to “hacking” our biological programming and re-wiring it to better work in our long-term interest?

The scientific learnings here are exploding right now. And they provide the keys to our salvation in this story, as individuals and as a species.

Click here to read Part 2 of this report (free executive summary, enrollment required for full access).

AI Pores Over Old Scientific Papers, Makes Discoveries Overlooked By Humans

When AI isn’t busy taking our jobs, it’s making brand new scientific discoveries that our clunky human brains somehow overlooked. 

Researchers from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory trained an AI called Word2Vec on scientific papers to see if there was any “latent knowledge” that humans weren’t able to grock on first pass. 

The study, published in Nature on July 3, reveals that the algorithm found predictions for potential thermoelectric materials which can convert heat into energy for various heating and cooling applications. 

The algorithm didn’t know the definition of thermoelectric, though. It received no training in materials science. Using only word associations, the algorithm was able to provide candidates for future thermoelectric materials, some of which may be better than those we currently use. –Motherboard

“It can read any paper on material science, so can make connections that no scientists could,” said researcher Anubhav Jain. “Sometimes it does what a researcher would do; other times it makes these cross-discipline associations.

The algorithm was designed to assess the language in 3.3 million abstracts from material sciences, and was able to build a vocabulary of around half-a-million words. Word2Vec used machine learning to analyze relationships between words. 

“The way that this Word2vec algorithm works is that you train a neural network model to remove each word and predict what the words next to it will be,” said Jain, adding that “by training a neural network on a word, you get representations of words that can actually confer knowledge.

Using just the words found in scientific abstracts, the algorithm was able to understand concepts such as the periodic table and the chemical structure of molecules. The algorithm linked words that were found close together, creating vectors of related words that helped define concepts. In some cases, words were linked to thermoelectric concepts but had never been written about as thermoelectric in any abstract they surveyed. This gap in knowledge is hard to catch with a human eye, but easy for an algorithm to spot.

After showing its capacity to predict future materials, researchers took their work back in time, virtually. They scrapped recent data and tested the algorithm on old papers, seeing if it could predict scientific discoveries before they happened. Once again, the algorithm worked. –Motherboard

As one example, researchers fed publications from before 2009 into the algorithm and were able to predict one of the most effective modern-day thermoelectric materials four years before it was actually discovered in 2012

The technology isn’t restricted to materials science either – as it can be trained on a wide variety of disciplines by retraining it on literature from whichever subject for which one wants to provide a deeper analysis. 

“This algorithm is unsupervised and it builds its own connections,” said the study’s lead author, Vahe Tshitoyan, adding “You could use this for things like medical research or drug discovery. The information is out there. We just haven’t made these connections yet because you can’t read every article.”

The Quake To Make Los Angeles A Radioactive Dead Zone

Authored by Harvey Wasserman via CommonDreams.org

Had the previous Friday’s 7.1 earthquake and other ongoing seismic shocks hit less than 200 miles northwest of Ridgecrest/China Lake, ten million people in Los Angeles would now be under an apocalyptic cloud, their lives and those of the state and nation in radioactive ruin.    

The likely human death toll would be in the millions. The likely property loss would be in the trillions. The forever damage to our species’ food supply, ecological support systems, and longterm economy would be very far beyond any meaningful calculation. The threat to the ability of the human race to survive on this planet would be extremely significant. The two cracked, embrittled, under-maintained, unregulated, uninsured, and un-inspected atomic reactors at Diablo Canyon, near San Luis Obispo, would be a seething radioactive ruin.

Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant. Image source: Wikimedia

Their cores would be melting into the ground. Hydrogen explosions would be blasting the site to deadly dust. One or both melted cores would have burned into the earth and hit ground or ocean water, causing massive steam explosions with physical impacts in the range of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The huge clouds would send murderous radioactive isotopes into the atmosphere that would permanently poison the land, the oceans, the air… and circle the globe again and again, and yet again, filling the lungs of billions of living things with the most potent poisons humans have ever created.

In 2010, badly maintained gas pipes run by Pacific Gas & Electric blew up a neighborhood in San Bruno, killing eight people. PG&E’s badly maintained power lines have helped torch much of northern California, killing 80 people and incinerating more than 10,000 structures.

Now in bankruptcy, with its third president in two years, PG&E is utterly unqualified to run two large, old, obsolete, crumbling atomic reactors which are surrounded by earthquake faults. At least a dozen faults have been identified within a small radius around the reactors. The reactor cores are less than fifty miles from the San Andreas fault, less than half the distance that Fukushima Daiichi was from the epicenter that destroyed four reactors there.

Diablo cannot withstand an earthquake of the magnitude now hitting less than 200 miles away. In 2014, the Associated Press reported that Dr. Michael Peck, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s site inspector at Diablo, had warned that the two reactors should be shut because they can’t withstand a seismic shock like the one that has just hit so close. The NRC tried to bury Peck’s report. They attacked his findings, then shipped him to Tennessee. He’s no longer with the Commission.

All major reactor disasters have come with early warnings. A 1978 accident at Ohio’s Davis-Besse reactor presaged the 1979 disaster at Three Mile Island. The realities were hidden, and TMI spewed radiation that killed local people and animals in droves.   

Soviet officials knew the emergency shut-down mechanism at Chernobyl could cause an explosion — but kept it secret. Unit Four exploded the instant the rods meant to shut it down were deployed.

Decades before disaster struck at Fukushima Daiichi, millions of Japanese citizens marched to demand atomic reactors NOT be built in a zone riddled by fault lines, washed by tsunamis.

In California, ten thousand citizens were arrested demanding the same.  Diablo’s owners hid the existence of the Hosgri Fault just three miles from the site. A dozen more nearby fault lines have since been found, capable in tandem of delivering shocks like the ones shaking Ridgecrest. No significant structural improvements have been made to deal with the newfound fault lines.

The truly horrifying HBO series on Chernobyl currently topping all historic viewership charts shows just a small sample of the ghastly death and destruction that can be caused by official corruption and neglect.

Like Soviet apparatchiks, the state of California has refused to conduct independent investigations on the physical status of the two Diablo reactors. It has refused to hold public hearings on Dr. Peck’s warnings that they can’t withstand seismic shocks like the ones now being experienced so dangerously nearby. If there are realistic plans to evacuate Los Angeles and other downwind areas during reactor melt-downs/explosions, hearings on them have yet to be held.

In the wake of the 2011 explosions at Fukushima, the NRC staff compiled critical reforms for American reactors, including Diablo. But the Commission killed the proposed regulations. So nothing significant has been done to improve safety at two coastal reactors upwind of ten million people that are surrounded by earthquake faults in a tsunami zone like the one where the four Fukushima reactors have already exploded.

Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant is due to stay operational till the mid-2020’s. Image via LA Times

There are no excuses. These seismic shocks will never stop. Diablo is scheduled to shut in 2024 and 2025. But massive advances in wind, solar, batteries and efficiency have already rendered the nukes’ power unnecessary. A petition demanding Governor Newsom and the state independently investigate Diablo’s ability to operate safely is at www.solartopia.org.

That petition began circulating before these latest quakes. The continued operation of these two reactors has now gone to a whole new level of apocalyptic insanity.

The Best And Worst States For Retirees

Census data show that 4 out of 10 Americans over the age of 65 have moved at least once, which is hardly surprising: retirees must adjust to living on a fixed income, and sometimes that requires moving somewhere more affordable.

Ideally for many, that place will be somewhere along the sun belt with warm weather year round. But what state is truly the best option for America’s retirees?

Well, Bankrate.com decided to rank every state according to an aggregation of 10 categories, and it came up with an answer – and it’s probably one that most retirees wouldn’t expect, or even appreciate: Nebraska.

Not exactly known as a mecca for aging Americans, the Cornhusker state lagged behind on weather compared with other states, but it fared well on the other measures in the ranking: affordability, crime, culture and wellness.

Omaha

The state’s Wellness score was notably high, ranking No. 8 out of 50 states. When it comes to health care specifically, Nebraska had 61% of the health measures met, according to the National Healthcare Quality and Disparities Report, a higher percentage than about two-thirds of the other states, the data show.

After Nebraska, the highest ranking states were Iowa, Missouri, South Dakota and, finally, Florida.

Here’s a full list of the top ten best states…

SS

…and ten worst states.

SS

On the other end of the spectrum, Maryland came in dead last in BR’s rankings, making Maryland the worst state for retirees. New York and Alaska took second- and third-to-worst, respectively.

For this study, Bankrate looked at affordability, weather and a number of other factors important to retirees.

When choosing where to live, retirees most value proximity to family and friends, low cost of living, access to excellent health care and hospitals, good weather and a low crime rate, Bank Rate found.

“Obviously, a primary area of concern for older Americans is health care costs,” said Mark Hamrick, Bankrate’s senior economic analyst. “The older we get, the more likely it is we’re going to have an increasing need for health care services. In some cases, there will be illness and, in some cases, there will catastrophic illness. That can be very expensive.”

Of course, not everybody has the same priorities. If you find that your priorities are markedly different than the above ranking, BankRate has created an interactive tool allowing prospective retirees to weigh how important each category is to them. The tool will then show them which states would be the best, and which would be the worst, according to their standards.