Links 9/28/2021

The Fat Bear Week contenders are here, and they’re all impressively fat Mashable (furzy)

A hamster has been trading cryptocurrencies in a cage rigged to automatically buy and sell tokens since June – and it’s currently outperforming the S&P 500 Business Insider (Dr. Kevin). Must be the same lab with the monkeys that are typing Shakespeare.

Explorers add 8 miles to world’s longest known cave system Live Science (Chuck L)

There are many ways to make a flat map of the world – each of them a unique distortion aeon

Students Don’t Know What Files And Folders Are, Professors Say PCGamer

On Ian Fleming as Craftsman Russell Kirk Center (Anthony L)



Failure to fight COVID-19 pandemic has caused record fall in life expectancy WSWS

Smoking and COVID-19 outcomes: an observational and Mendelian randomisation study using the UK Biobank cohort BMJ. Layperson writeup: Smokers up to 80% more likely to be admitted to hospital with Covid, study says Guardian

Even Mild Cases of COVID May Leave a Mark on the Brain Scientific American (Robert M)

Researchers develop new method for rapidly detecting SARS-CoV-2 RNA (Kevin W)

Singapore finding it hard to ‘live with Covid’ Asia Times


Dozens Of Massachusetts State Police Troopers Resigning Over COVID Vaccine Mandate, Union Says CBS Boston. As we said, perhaps not as clearly as we could have on our post on vaccine-only mandates, the issue (and the people nominally in charge appear to have lost sight of this) isn’t the absolute number of resignations/retirements, but how many are strategically significant, as in they are in positions that can’t be filled quickly due to the need for training and/or experience, AND they are in position where staffing is already short. Given how fond the MBA crowd was of cutting personnel to the bone, and then Covid leading many low level workers to decide they needed to be paid more either to risk their health for showing up or shoulder extra work because others had quit or were home sick, staffing shortages could crop up in more places than you’d anticipate. Having said that, I am still surprised that cops are quitting, since unless they have been in service long enough to get a full pension, they have good reason to hang on. Or has Mass gone to defined contribution for younger state troopers?

Harvard MBA Students Move Online as Breakthrough Cases Climb Bloomberg (David L). Case study method and Covid are not a happy mix.

Funeral truck vaccination ad goes viral, causes uptick in local vaccination rate ZMEScience (Dr. Kevin)

Texas airline pilots warn that vaccine mandates could roil holiday flights Politico


What is behind China’s power crunch? Reuters (resilc)

China is decoupling from the world, not the other way around South China Morning Post (furzy)


Pollution: Has North India had any success in controlling stubble burning? Scroll (J-LS)

In 6 Years Pre-Covid, Average Farm Incomes Rose 59%, Debt 58% IndiaSpend (J-LS)


Myanmar on a military-made road to disaster Asia Times (Kevin W)

Sun shines on Indonesia in massive solar cable deal Asia Times (resilc)

The train that shrunk France… and Europe ars technica (J-LS)

The Harsh Truth Behind Europe’s Energy Crisis OilPrice

Old Blighty

NHS waits: More people feeling forced into private healthcare BBC (Kevin W)

Petrol supply: Army put on standby to ease fuel crisis BBC. Lead story.

British petrol stations run out of fuel as motorists panic buy amid truck-driver shortage ABC Australia (Kevin W)

Thieves drill holes in parked cars to steal fuel after panic buying sparks petrol shortage Sun (resilc)

Shadow cabinet minister quits after Keir Starmer orders him to oppose higher minimum wage Independent (Kevin W). Kiss Labour goodbye…

Britain Will Never be Taken Seriously with a Genuine Charlatan as Prime Minister Patrick Cockburn, Counterpunch


German election: Discord grows in Merkel’s CDU after historic low result — live updates DW

Merkel’s natural heir: how Olaf Scholz won Germany’s election Financial Times

What is the legacy of the Angela Merkel era? Guardian (Kevin W)

Matriarchy hopes dashed: Women will NOT take up majority of seats in Icelandic parliament after vote recount RT (Kevin W). Aaaw…


Kidnapping, assassination and a London shoot-out: Inside the CIA’s secret war plans against WikiLeaks Yahoo (Chuck L). Lambert featured this yesterday. However….

Contrast with: Isikoff’s Cops and Robbers Camouflage the Big Lie Antiwar (Kevin W)

A Man Obsessed WL Central

Big Brother is Watching You Watch

I recall Lambert having some absolutely horrific issues with some of his devices invoving bizarre lockouts:

Imperial Collapse Watch

Marine officer who blasted leaders over Afghanistan withdrawal now in the brig Task and Purpose (David L) :-(


Harris, assigned to tackle volatile issues, quietly builds a network MSN. Resilc: “So far she’s tackled jack and squat.”

Dems’ sneaky sabotage Axios. Dems launch an astroturf far right group.

Citizen Enforcement of Texas Abortion Ban Could Spread to Other Laws Pew. Resilc: “USAUSA=narcistan”

California’s organic-waste law set a high bar, but most cities struggle to reach it Food and Environment Reporting Network (Michael L)

The Bad News Keeps Flowing For The Colorado River KNPR (David L)

Woke Watch

Ohio Professor Wins Major Free Speech Victory Over Compelled Use of Pronouns in Classrooms Jonathan Turley (Chuck L)

Marines Reluctantly Let a Sikh Officer Wear a Turban on Duty New York Times. Gah. Americans are so provincial. I hired Sikh (LSE trained, a bit of a British accent) at Sumitomo Bank. I have to admit to getting enormous pleasure from clients and deal professionals going visibly on tilt when they first met him and then deciding he was OK based on how articulate he was. As the Japanese board member who hired me said when I got resistance over bringing him on board, “His talent overcomes his turban.”

Old coal plant is now mining bitcoin for a utility company ars technica (resilc)

Ford Recalls Mustang Mach-Es Over Risk of Glass Roof Flying Off Electrek

A Tesla Big Battery Is Getting Sued Over Power Grid Failures In Australia Vice

Google, in Fight Against Record EU Fine, Slams Regulators for Ignoring Apple Reuters. Last I checked, “whaddaboutism” is not an accepted legal defense.

This is the World’s First-ever Country to launch its own NFT Coingape

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis launches investigation into Facebook for election interference over its ‘whitelisting policy that allowed certain elites to post whatever they want with no consequences’ Daily Mail. This would be fun if he’d actually sue and subpoena records, but I doubt he ever intended to go to the mat.

Boston and Dallas Fed chiefs at center of trading scandal to resign American Banker (J-LS). After setting such a fine example, too bad we can’t get Pelosi to follow suit.

Emails show Elizabeth Holmes directing response to failed Theranos tests ars technica (Kevin W)

Class Warfare

Almost half a million US households lack indoor plumbing: ‘The conditions are inhumane’ Guardian (Kevin W)

NYC Will Pass Landmark Laws to Protect Delivery Workers GrubStreet. We flagged this last week via an article from THE CITY.

Danish Artist Takes Museum’s Money and Runs, Calls It Artwork Bloomberg (furzy)

Antidote du jour. Dmitry Kokh ( via Allen K:

And a bonus. Looks like an Aby not up to show standards (see stripes on tail). But Abys are smart!

Another bonus (furzy):

See yesterday’s Links and Antidote du Jour here.

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  1. Andrew

    Love today’s antidote, great picture. On the UK fuel situation, I can’t help but feel that the media have helped to exacerbate this by amping up what wasn’t too much of a problem by going gung-ho and running doom laden stories how we were about to run out of petrol (we weren’t). People are just reacting to that and now we do have genuine, across the board shortages.

    1. PlutoniumKun

      The early shut down of petrol stations was taking place days before the media woke up to it. The shortages are real – there is no point having lots of fuel if you can’t get it to the customers. If anything, the media have been very slow and reluctant to report the implications of the enormous problems building up in the UK’s supply chains.

      1. c_heale

        I think the supply chain problems are caused by the breakdown in the just in time system around the world. The UK has a particularly severe problem because it has intentionally cut itself off from its main suppliers in the EU. I can’t see the situation improving there unless there is a change of government and a radically different approach to the EU.

    2. Wukchumni

      I can’t help but feel that the media have helped to exacerbate this by amping up what wasn’t too much of a problem by going gung-ho and running doom laden stories how we were about to run out of petrol (we weren’t). People are just reacting to that and now we do have genuine, across the board shortages.

      …a Shell fulfilling prophecy?

      If the tank in your car holds 60 liters and you fill it up, it isn’t as if you are ‘panic buying’. That is unless everybody in the UK intentionally leave their tanks empty, and in that case, it’s definitely a panic.

      Being panicked about petrol would be more like buying 25x 20 liter cans and filling them up along with your car.

      Nobody does this though, fuel goes bad quick and where are you going to store close to 100 kilos of a combustible’s combustible anyhow?

      We all have a short leash on life pretty much as far as gas goes, whatever is in our cars is about it.

      If I wanted to, in a 45 mile trip to the city I could fill up my vehicle with enough food for a year for one person and reliably get there and back in a driving time of a few hours.

      If there wasn’t any gas, i’d have to walk that 90 miles and could do it in 6 days, and would probably shoulder a backpack with about 25 pounds of tent-sleeping bag-pad, food & water on the sojourn to a supermarket (hold on there kimosabe, if there isn’t any gas how do they get food deliveries, but I digress…) to hoist a pack weighing 50 pounds on the 45 miles back home, really about the most i’ve ever carried, equaling about what you’d have on a 10 day backpack trip, to carry 25 pounds of foodstuffs back.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        During our oil crisis, a MD got an oil drum and filled it with gas so he could drive a long distance without worrying about refuels. He put it in the back of a pickup truck (I can’t imagine he owned one, I assumed he’d rented it, but he was recently divorced so he could have purchased it as a manifestation of now being his own man).

        Oil drum blew up and burned him to death.

        So I don’t advise stockpiling beyond keeping your vehicle topped up.

        1. topcat

          I was 10 years old in Zambia when the oil crisis hit, there everyone filled oil drums and put them on the back of their pick-ups, my dad included.

      2. Bill Smith

        Fuel doesn’t go bad that fast. Well, I guess it depends how you define fast. As a boat owner, 3 to 4 months has been fine. End of season to start of season.

        1. NotTimothyGeithner

          Half done storage is the problem. The guy in Yves’ example probably had a small explosion caused by vapor in the empty space as he filled up , a full tank probably would have been fine, and the sun beating down on the bed of the truck, spreading the burning gasoline everywhere.

  2. DJG, Reality Czar

    WSWS article: Failure to Fight COVID-19, record fall in life expectancy.

    As I have been reading some of the analysis and the interpretations (among the commenters), I have come to the conclusion that the U.S. is showing symptoms that aren’t the same as those of other countries. Let’s recall the axiom from Plutonium Kun: The coronavirus has had the distinct talent of highlighting problems of each particular country.

    Failure hasn’t always been unique, but failure has shown the weaknesses in a country’s structures of government or of past injustices not dealt with or of neglected regions.

    I am placing this long quote here. Others may be able to diagnose based on it:

    ‘In Europe, deaths among people aged over 60 were the main factor in reducing life expectancy. In the United States, however, “Notably increased midlife mortality (0–59 years) was the largest contributor to life-expectancy losses between 2019 and 2020 in the USA among males.”’

    ‘This is only one of several findings that indicate that the working class in the United States, and particularly male workers, have suffered a disproportionate impact from the pandemic.’

    ‘The report found: “Despite having a younger population, the USA also has higher co-morbidities in these age groups compared with European populations with greater vulnerability to COVID-19. Other factors, such as those linked to unevenness in healthcare access in the working-age population and structural racism, may also help to explain the increased mortality.”’

    So in the U S of A, you have the unacknowledged class war, the revenge of the Gini coefficient (income inequality), nutritional issues, exploitation of health care for gain, and baroque-era working conditions.

  3. Eric The Fruit Bat

    As of this morning. not a peep out of Apple regarding my alternate Apple ID issues – I put $1,000 in Twitter promotions on two of my other tweets and my phone has been returning scores of likes and retweets. They now have less than 18 hours to fix my alternate ID or I walks from Apple.

    1. jr

      Related point: I went to open a picture on my iPhone last week and was told that until I update my terms of service I would not be able to do so. Literally holding my personal data hostage; this is the first I’ve encountered it personally.

      1. Young

        Another rotten Apple story:

        I cannot update a supposedly free app on an iphone I got from my daughter because the app was originally loaded using her apple ID.

        The phone is screaming at me: Never buy another apple product ever!!!

        1. Acacia

          This bothered me for a long time. I changed my e-mail, not expecting that iOS would react in this way. Solution: delete the app and reinstall with the new e-mail address/ID.

  4. The Rev Kev

    “Ohio Professor Wins Major Free Speech Victory Over Compelled Use of Pronouns in Classrooms”

    I suspect that some people here are looking for a fight. Here, student Doe got on their high horse and demanded to be called a certain way and the good Prof dug in on religious grounds. So why not do the logical thing and address students by their names. If the teacher has a good relationship with their students then they can use their first name though that can be full of pitfalls because of variations. Take the name William. Do you call them William, Bill, Willie, Billy, Willy or what? And that can change over time. Better to just go with their last names so in the classroom you would call on Harris or Garcia or Lee or whatever. It would be formal but hey, it would be nothing to give cause for HR to get involved and I would call that a win.

    1. jr

      Spot on Rev, having been around the queer community for years I can attest to the fact that the pronoun jive is very often worn as a chip on the shoulder. I fully believe it was intended that way from conception.

    2. lyman alpha blob

      What I learned from that article was that it’s now OK for human beings born males to call other people a cu[family blog] as long as they are now women using female pronouns when they do it.

      How very woke!

      That professor has a much cooler head than most would have had being confronted like that.

    3. Acacia

      Turley explores this as an issue of free speech, which is fair enough, given the court rulings. What strikes me about this case, though — and I speak as a university lecturer/researcher —, is that the university admins, the department chair, and the dean all took the student’s side against the professor.

      The reasons for this policy on preferred pronouns are not really considered, but from what I gather they ultimately stem from the university’s eligibility to receive federal student loan money. If a university is found to be guilty of any form of discrimination, which now includes gender discrimination, this revenue stream is in jeopardy. In the interest of keeping the loan money flowing, and keeping all administrative rice bowls full — faculty be damned — many universities now have policies requiring preferred pronouns, a.k.a., the Humpty Dumpty theory of language.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        The Feds can’t withhold funding to restrict First Amendment rights. So they can’t punish the university that way. The university could sue and they’d win based on this ruling. And the Feds don’t want a broader challenge. So they may try to continue to use it at other schools and hope no one sues.

        The student was a jerk. But his position and sense of entitlement are very much in vogue. University admins are all on board for all thinks woke because it allows for more featherbedding (more policy paperwork, even the creation of jobs like “Chief Diversity Officer”). The Dean and dept chair either were true believers or afraid of the trans enforcers coming after then and the uni.

        1. Acacia

          Yes, it’s the university divided against itself. A university could sue, but that would require the administration and deans to really have the faculty’s back, and to take a stand against the trans enforcers. They don’t and they won’t.

    4. LifelongLib

      I was in college for about 2 years before the custom of calling people you don’t know by their first names came in. So for a while I was Mr. _______, then all I ever heard was my given name. Luckily I have a nickname my family and friends use so I could still maintain a little distance.

  5. PlutoniumKun

    What is behind China’s power crunch? Reuters

    This article oddly overlooks what seems to be the three main reasons for China’s power crunch (which, incidentally, is the reason they banned cryptocurrency, it had nothing to do with finance, it was all about power supplies).

    First of all the west of the country has had an unprecedented shortfall in hydro power due to a very dry summer in parts of Yunnan and to the north (ironically, while there was massive flooding in Henan and elsewhere). Western China is where most of the countries best hydro power is located. They are obviously hoping this is a freak and not a permanent feature of climate change.

    The second problem, which effects the the north seems not to be a power capacity issue, but the way power pricing works in China. Put simply, power operators have to buy fuel on the open market, but their ability to charge domestic customers is tightly controlled. The price of coal has gone above what is profitable to burn, so they seem to be winding back generation as much as they can get away with. This won’t be cured unless the government allows operators to raise prices.

    The third problem, which is related to how China has grown, is that electric power networks are quite regional in structure. While China has built HSR’s linking every city, they oddly overlooked the obvious need for a better network of DC lines connecting the major regions. So they’ve had a limited capacity to balance out loads across the landmass.

    This is a very big deal. China has been denying for months there is a problem but its clear that numerous factories have been shut down since May at least because of power shortages (politically, its easier to shut down a factory than risk the ire of consumers). This will cause major shortages of aluminium, steel and concrete going well into next year, which is obviously going to be very inflationary. It also creates a potential situation where commodity prices crash while the prices of processed goods rise.

    1. TroyIA

      If someone said that Syria had power outages I could understand it. Or Iran. Even Puerto Rico. But China? They have the 2nd highest GDP with ambitions of becoming a global power. It just doesn’t make sense that they can’t keep the lights on. I am starting to have the same feeling about China as I did in January 2020 when they locked down major cities due to COVID-19. By their actions they are sending a clear signal that something is wrong but it is difficult to tease out what exactly is going on.

      Among many possibilities this thread argues the main issue is the high price of coal that electricity generators have to pay yet they are unable to pass on higher prices to users. If this is indeed the main issue it leaves me with 2 questions. Why has Xi and the CCP allowed the situation to get this bad and why haven’t they fixed it already?

      They could open mines or increase production or even bailout power generators to prevent production cuts. Something is definitely afoot in China and the rest of the world has to try to read the tea leaves to figure out what is really going on.

      1. PlutoniumKun

        Well, much of Europe is facing outages this winter too, so its not just China.

        But you are right that this has been kept under the covers – there have been severe strains in the system since last Spring, but it got hardly any attention in the world media and of course none at all in China so far as I can tell. Originally, it was due to low water flows in the rivers flowing from the Western Himalaya, but now its wider.

        The relative price of coal/electricity seems a key problem. I am surprised that given how many months they’ve had to solve it that Beijing didn’t just step in and knock some heads together, so there may be more going on behind the scenes too. Its possible that the drought in some parts is effecting both coal production and thermal plants too (coal needs lots of water for processing, and thermal plants need water too). As so often with China, its hard to know for sure what is going on. Even well connected analysts seem to have been taken by surprise with this.

        As I mentioned above, a key gap in Chinese infrastructural spending has been a fully functioning national grid, its still to some extent a regional based system (although in the past decade they have significantly increased HVDC capacity). There is also a serious problem with a bottleneck in heavy rail capacity for coal – this is one reason why China is not self sufficient in coal, the coastal cities find it much easier to import by sea. It may be that the internal infrastructure system is creaking more than we imagine.

        Another possibility is that Covid has severely impacted the supply of parts for electric infrastructure. There have been a lot of unexplained outages in both gas and nuclear plants in Europe, all put down to vaguely described ‘maintainence’ issues.

        This is going to be a very big deal. If China has to severely restrict its output of basic materials such as steel, aluminium and concrete then it will not be able to do its usual infrastructure injection to make up for the drop in property values. And it will make supply chain issues far worse for the rest of the world.

          1. PlutoniumKun

            It has probably hit the coal price in China. But most Chinese coal is domestic in origin (I think around 80%) and Australian coal would mostly go to the coastal cities – but its the north and west inner China that has the main shortages.

            So its certainly a contributor to the rise in price of coal, but the shortage of electric power seems to have other reasons. But it does certainly look like the Chinese have shot themselves in the foot in trying to punish Australia.

  6. PlutoniumKun

    The train that shrunk France… and Europe ars technica

    HSR gets a bad rap sometimes, but the latest research out of China is that the biggest single impact it has is in spreading productivity and innovation more widely. Its long been recognised in urban agglomeration studies that the more interactions within a city (i.e. the more dense and public transport oriented it is), the higher the city tends to score in various measurements of productivity and growth. So linking secondary cities to major centres is good for overall productivity and growth rates. Roads often have the opposite impact, in that they act to draw investment away from decaying areas to existing cores. Crucial to this – and this is something the French and Japanese and Chinese realised, but not every other country has – is that it is vital that the railway goes to the heart of the city, not to some suburban outpost or to an airport.

    Whether this effect will last in a world where everyone is working from home on the internet, is anyones guess. But it does make sense to conclude that where people will be, perhaps, just in the office one day a week, or mixing or maxing, that high speed public transport (not forgetting fast buses too), can make a real contribution to increasing the ‘productive’ size of a major city, and can spread urban effects out wider to falling behind areas.

    The core problem of course is that nobody has worked out a method of properly costing these benefits and integrating them into long term projects. Even in France the TGV was as much a political project as an economic one. The Spanish system is also largely political, and will lose a lot of money, at least in direct terms, but will probably prove a triumph in the long term. The Japanese squandered a lot of their Shinkensen benefits by allowing Liberal politicians to turn it into a very large pork barrel, building crazily expensive lines to places probably best left untouched. The British have made a horrible mess of their HS2 project. The Germans are still arguing over it, luckly for them, they have a pretty good network anyway.

    1. R

      In fairness to us, the British had a pretty high speed rail network using nothing but diesel since the late 1970’s, when the HST was introduced across the mainline network (East Coast Mainline, West Coast mainline, Great Western Mainline, Cross Country), linking the major population centres literally from Penzance to Aberdeen. The mainlines had mostly 125mph services (Intercity 125); some of the cross-country routes dawdled on regional lines because east-west travel is largely neglected north of London (but very much cossetted to enable West London to get to its second homes in the Cotswolds and Devon and Cornwall and to connect Cardiff and Westminster). This is right on the definition of high speed rail.

      Our problem has been that to run these services on Victorian mainlines, we have had to cull regional and local services (outside of London, which still has a full network of branch lines stretching out into the Home Counties) because of a lack of capacity. High-speed paths on a mixed-use rail network are greedy and demand the path space of multiple stopping / goods services.

      The point of HS2 is to create dedicated high-speed capacity and to free up traditional mainline capacity for better local/regional services that will collect/distribute the high-speed passengers from/to their ultimate destinations. But the UK government has done a very poor job of explaining this compared to “get to Birmingham in 40 minutes versus 1h10″…. :-(

      Another point is that not all high speed rail is the same. The UK would have done much better to buy the Japanese technology (optimised for relatively short journeys between stations, as required by Japanese and UK geography) rather than French-style trains optimised for covering long distances efficiently but with slow and energy-costly braking and acceleration profiles. On the other hand, the French system has the benefit that the high-speed rolling stock can use traditional lines to reach to the very edges of the network without passengers changing train whereas the Japanese system assume passengers will change to local services. Unfortunately, the UK implementation of HS2 appears (you would not belief how hard it is to find any concrete operational detail on it!) to combine the worst of both worlds, with French-style trains for widely spaced population centres and Japanese-style dedicated use of high-speed lines, requiring passenger interchange (and in some cases not even bringing the high speed line to the existing interchange nodes: here’s looking at you, proposed Birmingham Curzon Street!).

      1. PlutoniumKun

        Yes, the original HST was pretty good. It was a tragedy though that they gave up on what became the Pendolino, which the Italians used very effectively.

        I think the concept of HS2 is correct, the UK needs more rail capacity, and a long thin country should be perfect for HSR – arguably more geographically suitable than France or Spain. Two lines could cover pretty much every major urban area. But the design was botched and incoherent. There is only one way to build HSR – built it properly. Value engineering it never works. As in so many things, the best thing you can do is keep economists and MBA’s well out of the way.

        Its also, of course arguably that using the same money to upgrade existing lines could have been a far better investment. I suspect this is true too, but given the opaqueness of financing, its hard to make any sort of reasonable comparison.

      1. PlutoniumKun

        Mostly because roads allow the over-concentration of retail and distribution. It creates a ‘hinterland providing raw material to the centre’ dynamic when two areas of uneven levels of development are connected. Its similar to how rail systems based on ports (as can be seen in countries like Argentina or Malaysia) seem to bed in a comparative advantage to raw material (extractive) production rather than manufacture. Studies in 19th Century development show that railways often led to the destruction of local craft industries and benefited centralised manufacturing. You can see this in a more modern setting where highways mean that giant malls and big box retailers wipe out smaller urban services.

        HSR seems to have a more positive impact because, when its city to city, encourages more human movement and contact (as opposed to just shifting goods), and this has long been known to benefit productivity and ‘good’ innovation. Studies in China indicate that smaller cities have benefited very significantly from this effect.

        1. NotTimothyGeithner

          The goals matter too. Half the PMC advocates of high speed rail just want to go to Broadway one night without seeing darker skinned people. Realistically, the American crisis is our suburban population going into their local city. Free, regular, every 15 to 20 minutes, trolleys are the solution. That can be done through busses, old fashioned trolleys, extra trains.

          It is 100 miles less from London to Berlin as it is from Chicago to NYC. The US needs to deal with getting people from Towson into Baltimore or Stafford into DC, obviously Northern Virginia is a monstrosity of dead ends and needs to be torn down.

          In the US, we have a huge housing density problem.

          1. PlutoniumKun

            Absolutely, density is the no.1 problem in the US when it comes to transport. This is why HSR and urban metro is rarely viable, even with quite heroic assumptions.

            Realistically, the only public transport that is really viable for large swathes of the US is the bus. Bus capacity and speeds can be surprisingly high if you have dedicated lanes. But it seems easier sometimes to build hugely expensive light rail or metro lines than stand up to the ire of motorists if they see buses allowed to go faster than them.

            1. Big River Bandido

              One could simply reverse the equation, build a great HSR system, and wait for the inevitable population shifts. After all, the original introductions of the train and then the auto led to re-development along the new transportation network, with new towns and cities springing up overnight. No reason to believe that wouldn’t happen again.

          2. Pelham

            But the density problem is a solution for a lot of people trying specifically to avoid the stacked-and-crammed cheek-by-cheek density of urban living. This works wonderfully for some, but others prefer a bit of space and privacy. Hence the suburbs and exurbs — problematic as they are.

            Instead of trying to solve the problem of people who prefer the suburbs, how about solving the problems posed by the suburbs without reducing or eliminating them? Maybe that solution is in the offing now in the form of remote work.

          3. R

            Mass transit needs density but HSR does not, any more than flying does. Passengers concentrate themselves at airport / train hubs by other modes (self loading freight, as they are called!).

            HSR can serve New York to Chicago in a single service AND every major airport in between. One train replaces multiple ‘planes. The end to end journey time NY-Chicago might be longer than flying (although potentially not a lot, centre to centre) but many of the station pairs will be faster than flying. And no weather delays!

            The US is dense enough for HSR. Spain has done it and it is pretty empty. It is just a question of strategic will.

            1. PlutoniumKun

              By density I mean dense nodes – or put another way, a high number of people within a relatively short distance from the main railway station. When people make a decision on travel, what matters is the door to door time, not the speed of the vehicle. Spain has very dense cities in comparison to the US, with generally pretty good mass transit, so if you were to take a figure like, for example, the number of people within 30 minutes journey of the main railway line, I suspect that the typical Spanish city will have far more people around each station.

              The other problem with large suburbs and exurbs is that it can be a very expensive business trying to identify routes that don’t involve mass demolition.

            2. Temporarily Sane

              The US is dense enough for HSR. Spain has done it and it is pretty empty. It is just a question of strategic will.

              Absolutely. In China, the Beijing–Shanghai high-speed line “reduced travel times between Beijing and Shanghai to about 4 hours 18 minutes on the fastest scheduled trains, attaining an average speed of 291.9 km/h (181.4 mph) over a journey of 1,302 km (809 mi) making those services the fastest in the world.” Wikipedia

              That’s 809 miles in less than 4.5hrs. It will be even quicker when the speed limit is raised to 380km/h.

              The US could put the energy and expertise that it wastes on maintaining military primacy into building a world class passenger rail network (and other worthwhile projects) but it won’t because the MIC has a death grip on this country and its institutions.

              Sinking trillions into boondoggles like the F-35 and planning a war against China is much more important than investing in projects that raise the American people’s quality of life.

      2. NotTimothyGeithner

        In the US, one problem is the road designers or at least early developers in the government back in the 50’s didn’t recognize how far people would move out of urban cores or how large individual home lots would be. The design of the DC metro was meant for a huge uptick in federal spending in the DC area but nothing like what happened. They simply didn’t see the defense surge starting in the 70’s, reinventing government along with the shuttering and relocation of federal jobs, and the post 9/11 surge. Then local governments are out of protect property values because they are property owners, and housing is way too expensive. Houses aren’t homes but investment vehicles.

        So the correct answer is lots of reasons. I think the weakness of state governments while leaving them in charge is a crisis. France has first rate construction firms capable of anything, but Virginia has to hire an Australian firm to build roads. Scaling matters too. Virginia can’t keep all the firms going, but it doesn’t have the resources to pick a winner, control the winner, and help the losers the way France can. So whenever there is a need, local governments have to turn to firms capable of putting up mcmansions and putting down asphalt, basically stuff we, you and I, could put together on short notice if we had funding. That is limiting.

        Where I grew up, the promise for hears was to turn the empty buildings downtown into condos. They talked about it for years. But once they started they transformed the area without pricing people out compared to other places. There is activity everywhere in what was once empty factories and warehouses. Again it took years to get beyond building beyond. I met one of the original investors. He basically renovated his first building himself. That’s what it took. So it’s huge undertaking.

    2. Alex Cox

      You are right that in the ideal world high-speed rail should connect city centres to city centres. But in California’s attempt at HSR this is proving one of several intractable problems: there is too much private property which would need to be compulsorily purchased both in San Francisco and in Los Angeles. In this case, I think it would make sense for HSR to connect airports: SFO in San Francisco is south of the city, and Burbank in LA is to the north. San Francisco already has a light rail to the airport; plane/rail connections would be easy – just as they are at Frankfurt/Main.

      If the HSR connected airports this would encourage rail use, and the planners (if there are any) could concentrate on the really difficult stuff – like running an HSR through the Tehachapi Mountains and an earthquake zone.

      Mexico has closed down its passenger rail services in favour of long-distance buses, whose terminals are usually on the edge of town (like the terminal in Benidorm, in Spain). This means the buses don’t have to crawl into the city centre – taxis and locals buses do this instead.

  7. PlutoniumKun

    The Harsh Truth Behind Europe’s Energy Crisis OilPrice

    A pretty good article, even if he can’t help taking a swipe at renewables, despite this being entirely a fossil fuel story.

    Good old neoliberalism. There were warnings going back to the 1990’s that introducing ‘market’ reforms into the gas and electricity grids risked making Europe far too dependent on a limited number of natural gas supplies. This has come to pass. The supposed liberalisation of the gas network in effect handed a monopoly to Gazprom.

    1. Chauncey Gardiner

      Thanks for your many insightful comments here and above, PK. Much appreciated. Re the article from Oil Price on European natural gas shortages, the need to reopen Dutch fields, and Putin’s leverage, there is thankfully another unmentioned solution regarding the success of carbon capture & storage which has been artfully and informatively laid out in a promotional video from the Australien government. Just a cautionary note: it does contain a few F-bombs that might offend some viewers:

  8. JohnA

    That polar bear has the look of an Israeli settler outstaring the Palestinian home owners he has forcibly ejected, knowing the IDF has his back.

      1. The Rev Kev

        Agreed. She got the trifecta here. But I was just thinking about that Roomba and the dog. It came out some time ago that as a Roomba goes around your home, it creates a sort of digital map to the place which undoubtedly gets sent back to the Roomba servers. So I like to think that on the Roomba servers somewhere, there is a digital map of this person’s place with marked on it doors, windows, lounges, tables – and an outline of a dog.

  9. Questa Nota

    Mass troopers are only one of several groups resigning.
    You bring up an interesting point about defined contribution plans. It would be an interesting comparison to learn about how companies are managed in that scheme or in the defined benefit scheme. Companies are one element, and pension or wealth extraction management firms are another.

    1. Rod

      In both NC and SC, LE/FireDept/EMT has a minimum time in service for 100% pension at 20 years —collectible as soon as one becomes 55 years.
      A Teacher with 20 years can retire @50% of DBP when they are 55.
      Unused Medical Leave can be applied to time in service to lower the actual time required to retire.
      In NC, paid medical insurance comes with the deal.
      Allows lots of latitude in structuring your working career.
      LE loves it. They don’t think it should be the same for others in public service.

    2. chuck roast

      Mass State Troopers recently had a substantial overtime scandal. A couple of dozen cops scammed tens of thousands each. I didn’t follow it closely, but I can imagine the looks at the back-yard barbiques this summer.

  10. The Rev Kev

    “The Marines Reluctantly Let a Sikh Officer Wear a Turban. He Says It’s Not Enough.”

    The US Marine Corps may have been reluctant to let this go through but other armed forces have allowed it as mentioned in this article. And it seems that the Sikhs have their own problems with the Dastar – or turban as it is commonly called. It seems that a lot of Sikh women have now decided to take up the turban as well which I bet is causing a lot of disquiet in the homeland-

    Pop question. What does a Marine call an officer who is wearing a turban? Sir, if he knows what is good for him.

  11. dftbs

    “China is decoupling from the world,” I’m guessing Neil Newman can’t conceive of the world as being something larger then that political-military bloc we call “the West”. And in light of the schizophrenic behavior on display in “the West”, it’s probably in the best interest of the Chinese nation to develop more cautious relations with said entity.

    Of course if you live in the real world, this seems nothing like decoupling. Chinese led integration of Eurasia (even if limited at Russia’s western border) would create a common market of 4.7 billion people, 61% of the world’s population. If you add the markets of Africa, which “the West” claims China is now colonizing (as if the ghosts of King Leopold had been exorcised and no one told the Africans), that’s another 1.2 billion bringing the Chinese isolation to 77% of the world’s population. And if you add Latin America, where earlier this month a re-invigorated path towards Latin American integration was proposed at the CELAC summit, and where President Xi extended an invitation to these nations to join the BRI, it appears China is trying to decouple from the 15% of the world’s population that inhabits “the West”.

    But the rub is this, China never intended to remain “the West’s” sweatshop, nor its foundry or factory; and with it’s non-productive economy “the West” could never afford to keep China in such a place. I don’t know if the Chinese ever had a “plan”, but if so they executed with the deftness of an Oceans 11 caper. I don’t mean opening their markets and letting the greed of Western elites be their own demise through generational capital transfers, that was a means not an end. Instead, the Chinese communist did something the Soviet Communist could never do (likely because of Marxist pedantry and orthodoxy), they neutralized capitalists elites in the rim lands between their nation and the west.

    The Chinese sell stuff to “the West”, currently these transactions are largely settled in Euros and Dollars. They use these Euros and Dollars to develop and build infrastructure around Eurasia, Africa and Latin America. In order to build this, they pay local elites with Euros and Dollars that reside in Europe and Dollarland (they reside in Chinese accounts in Europe and the US largely in the form of debt obligations). Because of the strengthening of the sanctions regime(and the money vacuum created by western central banks which keeps the value of the dollar afloat) and KYC/AML regulations in “the West”, these local elites must keep their Euro and Dollars in the US and Europe; and so their wealth and interests are removed from their once local environment. They and their paper wealth become the economic “assets” and socio-political liabilities of “the West”. Kind of like how the Russian’s did with their oligarchs 20 years ago. A pretty deft move for communists, imagine if Lenin had been able to pay Alexander Kolchak a billion paper dollars to go drink vodka martinis in New York.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      “Free traders” made all kinds of inane promises. My personal favorite was the US would export legal expertise. I think there was a mix of reaction to the pace, the decline of the old left in the Democratic party and European parties, and old fashioned orientalism.

      Paraphrasing from “Back to the Future”:

      1950’s Doc: there’s your problem. It says made in Japan.
      Marty: All the best stuff is made in Japan
      1950’s Doc: great Scott!

      This attitude is endemic to the PMC but tied to Western foreign policy elites.

      1. dftbs

        You’re spot on. And we live in Biff Tannen’s world.

        One key difference between Japan and China, which shouldn’t be discounted when interpreting Japan’s capitulation at the Plaza hotel, is that she was and remains a militarily occupied nation. It’s a bit harder for us to coerce the Chinese into giving up their population to the grist-mill of central bank led “growth” policies for 3 generations. If anything, at our pace, I anticipate the Chinese will one day coerce us into things like universal healthcare and other barbarities.

      2. lance ringquist

        its the reason why so many people are radicalized. to de-radicalize we need a truth commission. not one picked by the current government, but one chosen by groups from civil society.

        if they have been infiltrated by neo-liberals, we ban them from picking.

        this will not be a easy thing to do. but we must do it, expose them for what they are, and all their support in the public and private sector.

        otherwise people will just blame one another and let the perps off scott free, and we get a demagogue government.

    2. Blue Duck

      Instead, the Chinese communist did something the Soviet Communist could never do (likely because of Marxist pedantry and orthodoxy), they neutralized capitalists elites in the rim lands between their nation and the west.

      The basis of Marxism is that capitalism is/was a necessary step on the road to socialism and then communism. The Soviets mistake was to try going from feudalism to communism without the necessary social and technological developments embedded within capitalism.

      The CCP understood this and learned from the soviets mistake. They undertook the unpleasant albeit necessary step of introducing a controlled form of capitalism at the end of their feudal period. I think what we are seeing now is their transition away from capitalism into a Chinese iteration of communism.

      Hopefully they’ll do the world a favor and terminally weaken global capitalism as they make their internal transition.

  12. PlutoniumKun

    Britain Will Never be Taken Seriously with a Genuine Charlatan as Prime Minister Patrick Cockburn, Counterpunch

    I think this is very true, and I don’t think many people in the UK have truly taken in the extent to which Brexit and Johnson has done damage to the countries reputation and soft power that will take decades to repair. Even here in Ireland, there was always a strong anglophile element in the centre right (the group of politicians running the country now weren’t nicknamed the ‘Tory Boys’ for nothing) which has now almost entirely disappeared. The French and Germans are looking on with bafflement and in much of Asia there seems to be a sort of amused distain at what Britain has become. Its a little like the way people treat that wierd, but generally harmless uncle at a family gathering.

    The one part of the article I’d disagree with is this:

    Some see it as superficial to view Johnson and his government as an unlucky accident in British history, preferring to drill down and detect a new type of toxic English nationalism. They see Brexit as both a symptom and a cause of an embattled English identity under threat from globalisation.

    There is something in this, but I am sceptical about the argument, since it does not quite fit the facts. After all, one of the electoral breakthroughs for Ukip was not in England but in Wales.

    The Welsh vote has clearly been associated with the very large population of English retirees in large parts of South Wales. Its a little like saying the Costa del Sol is pro Brexit. Fintan O’Toole has written some very interesting analyses on the cultural roots of Brexit and the current Tory derangement symptom which is quite convincing – he see’s it rooted deeply in the peculiarity of English nationalism, and the way it has had to subsume itself for the past 2 centuries or more.

    1. Pelham

      And yet a recent analysis of the best places to be when everything in the world goes to the dogs rated the UK in the top 5, the others being New Zealand, Tasmania, Ireland and Iceland. The latter four were no surprise. But the UK? Oddly enough, under the right survivalist circumstances — apparently not including Brexit — Britain apparently has the means to sustain itself and won’t be too badly damaged climate-wise.

      1. Tom Bradford

        I find Iceland an unlikely member of that quintet. Even with its present tiny population it has to import much of its food and would be hard-pressed to feed itself let alone all the super-wealthy fleeing there in their yachts. As to whether Britain has the means to sustain itself, the next twelve months might be an acid test of that.

        I would have thought Australia a better bet than Iceland, having a far better climate and depth of resources, and would put my money on Japan being far more likely to hold together and survive the world going to the dogs than Britain.

    2. Left in Wisconsin

      The French and Germans are looking on with bafflement and in much of Asia there seems to be a sort of amused distain at what Britain has become. Its a little like the way people treat that wierd, but generally harmless uncle at a family gathering.

      My only quibble here is that – to continue with the analogy – the buffoonery of BoJo, Trump, et al has allowed the rest of the family to completely avoid looking hard in the mirror. The “serious” governing class in the west is a complete sh1tshow everywhere.

  13. Wukchumni

    We’re now @ 47k acres burned on the KNP Fire with about 10% containment, and it seems largely licked although flames are licking not far from the Atwell Grove… my hometown team, if you will.

    The 20th largest tree in the world hangs out on the western edge of the grove and would be one of the first to feel the heat. It’s 12 feet higher than the Sherman tree, but Sequoias are all about girth not height like the coastal redwoods are.

    The pictures of the Diamond tree on the link below are typical of the issues facing the ancient ones, in that while they got religion eons ago in never allowing the lowest branches to be close enough to the ground to allow fire to get into the upper canopy, look at all the lesser trees crowding around since the last wildfire in 1875 witnessed by John Muir, which if they caught fire, would perhaps set the biggest tree in the grove alight.

    1. The Rev Kev

      ‘look at all the lesser trees crowding around’

      Oh man, won’t they allow some guys to go in with chainsaws? Yeah, you gotta drag them out somehow but leaving them in place in no solution.

  14. The Rev Kev

    “Students don’t know what files and folders are, professors say”

    I thought a coupla days ago that this was a terrible move on the part of the students but now I am not so sure. These are university students that will be soon going into the professional workforce and perhaps they know what they are doing. I call it the ‘Milo Minderbinder effect.’ This was a wheeling-dealing character from the novel “Catch-22” and at one point, two senior officers wanted to muscle him out of his business so instead of arguing with them, he explained his highly complicate schedule in detail leading to those two officers to confirm him in his self-appointed post. The relevancy with those students? So they have been working in a company for a year or two and a manager has decided to fire them because he can. But after the manager sees the hundreds of icons on their desktop, the scores of tabs open in their browser, and becomes aware that ALL of their company info & data is just dropped into a single, solitary folder, realizes that trying to replace them would also require that unholy mess to be sorted out. Better to leave them alone then.

    1. Synoia

      When one has many files and folders, remembering where one put a files is very difficult.

      I use search to find flies.

      I believe the students are following a rational path.

    2. CloverBee

      This is rational until you have to organize things for a group. I have worked on projects that are run this way, and Searching for Files requires knowing the title, or at least part of it. Not very effective to do transitions (as you point out), or bring in additional team members. You can’t move up or over if you are irreplaceable in your current job.

  15. ex-PFC Chuck

    Putting aside the issues of whether it’s a good idea to promote cryptocurrency or continue to burn coal in power plants, from the grid operational perspective locating a mining operation adjacent to a power plant would be an effective way to provide area balancing service – the adjustment every few seconds of the power level flowing into the grid. This is necessary to maintain frequency at 60.00 Hz (in North America, other frequencies elsewhere) and interchange with other areas on schedule. To do this will require the servers of the mining operation be split up among sets that consume a few megawatts each and can be individually turned on and off by signals received from the grid area control center. This will enable area balancing to be performed while the generating unit maintains a steady MW output, thus minimizing coal plants’ emissions and maintenance issues inherent in the common practice of rapidly ramping unit output up and down to perform balancing. This could work other kinds of generating plants besides coal e.g. gas and nuclear.

  16. griffen

    Bought a Mach-E did ya and the roof went flying, eh? What goes around comes around I guess. Ford CEO Farley was on the CNBC this fine morning & they are breaking ground on a massive truck manufacturing site in Memphis. Apparently the biggest site in their history too.

    Back to the above article, isn’t it always the rule that new production models experience the most egregious shortfalls, as it pertains to fit & finish? My Accord 2008 is the first year of a redesign; pretty sure some engine problems would have been acknowledged to the original owner. Perhaps not to the second or third owner.

    1. The Rev Kev

      The Model T Ford was first manufactured in 1908. Pretty sure that they never had a problem with the windshield flying off back then. So they have had over a century to learn how to fix windshields to cars but lately seemed to have forgotten how. I’m now waiting for the first reports of brand new cars going down the highway when their wheels start popping off because they decided to economize with plastic tire bolts.

  17. Wukchumni

    Harris, assigned to tackle volatile issues, quietly builds a network MSN
    I stumbled upon what I thought was a cooking channel on the telly as Kamala was mixing a word salad sprinkled with occasional croutons of ambiguity, and tossed it as a dressing down.

    1. Katniss Everdeen

      The best evidence that american elections are completely rigged would be for this woman to be “elected” to any office ever again.

  18. jr

    Naked Prepperism:


    I went back to the “Jackpot” posts and saw your question about starting a fire. Here’s how to do it with a dead lighter:

    Also, dryer lint makes a great firestarter and it’s very compact.

    A general question: how long do people continue to post in past discussions? I usually stop when a day or two has gone by; I’m sure it makes a lot of extra work for our gracious mods to keep returning.

    1. jp

      I assume if you are asking this question that you actually go back and scan comments from a day or two ago. As I am responding late in the day you may be the only one to read this.

  19. The Rev Kev

    “Thieves drill holes in parked cars to steal fuel after panic buying sparks petrol shortage”

    That sounds familiar. That sort of thing use to happen in the big fuel shortage way back in the 70s. I guess that everything old is new again.

      1. JBird4049

        Usually most gascaps did not have locks of any kind. If you wanted a locking gas cap you had to spend extra at an auto supply store, but it was usually why bother? Just an extra hassle and expense unless you were in a really sketchy area.

  20. IMOR

    Re: Mass. state troopers vs. vaccine mandate.
    Dozens of cops are quitting? As Lambert would say, that’s a damn shame.

    1. IMOR

      First glance answer to Yves’ question: Their contribution is 12%, but their bennies are in two pieces: an annuity payout of t heir contribs plus earnings thereon, and they MAY qualify for a pension, e.g. if you started earlier than a specified 2012 date, there’s a 10 and 55 target to receive some sort of defined monthly pension.

  21. Raymond Sim

    Is China decoupling from the world, or is the world so coupled-up it can’t be uncoupled?

    Apparently a bunch of Fort Detrick-adjacent types proposed to DARPA that they should be given funding to

    1) Develop a novel human pathogen.

    2) Do proof of concept on an aerosolized vaccine for same.

    That’s horrifying, but it’s DARPA, so not exactly suprising. But they were proposing to collaborate with Chinese researchers. They proposed to the United States Department of Defense that it should fund collaboration with China on bioweapons development. Now that is some coupled-up stuff.

    1. Synoia

      Do proof of concept on an aerosolized vaccine for same…

      That’s not Covid?

      Methinks the Fort Detrick-adjacent types have much explaining to make about funds sent to Wuhan.

      Our elites are selfish – this includes acting on “the problem” an overpopulation of “the poors.” I believe a technical term for that thinking, and taking action is called “Genocide” or a “War Crime.”

  22. jr

    re: Texas fink law

    It occurs to me what a wonderful tool the “fink” law is to maintain social control over the great unwashed. Empowering people to “get ahead” by turning in neighbors tears at community cohesion, generates a powerful miasma of paranoia, and ramps up the legal “profit mill” times 10 by getting people to act as a police force without paying benefits etc. I’m sure the 10K$ bounties will be heavily taxed and probably often denied anyway for reasons X,Y, and Z. I’m not claiming any great insight here, it just occurred to me.

  23. Wukchumni

    Boston and Dallas Fed chiefs at center of trading scandal to resign American Banker
    I think in general we’ve run out of exasperation when a story such as this, if it had happened 20 years ago would be a major scandal, but nobody cares now.

  24. Carolinian

    Re drilling holes in cars–portable drills tend to throw out sparks around the brushes so using one to drill into a gas tank….what could go wrong?

    On the other hand could provide further validation for the Darwin Award.

  25. Tom Stone

    What a heck of a show!
    And I’m missing a lot of it due to no internet at home (?).
    One of those PITA episodes in life, I’ll be back to cheer on Attorney General Bonta in his pursuit of CalPers wrongdoing before you know it.

  26. Wukchumni

    The Bad News Keeps Flowing For The Colorado River KNPR (David L)
    If you like your disasters to take forever in coming, this is the one for you!

    They let out a bunch of water from reservoirs north of Lake Powell a few months ago, which gives you an idea of how close push>meets<shove is on the horizon should the long drought persevere parching harshing many mellows.

    Unrelated, far far away where Vegas casinos had muscled in on the action in Macao, with an uncertain future based on what happens in June 2022 when the Chinese Government decides their fate.

    If they get the boot, their real moneymaker in Macao is gone and then Vegas goes tilt around the same time in an odd distant synergy, a role of the dies.

    COVID-19 breaking out in the Fujian province may be a big short-term news item for Macao, but in the long term the real concern for investors should be the government’s potential regulations. Macau’s government is opening a public consultation period from Sept. 15 to Oct. 29 in order to get input on what rules gambling concession holders should have to live by.

    All six concessions expire in June 2022, which the market seems be assuming will be extended. But the rules for concessions may not be the same as they are today. The government is contemplating going from six gaming concessions to two, adding additional oversight, and even putting limits on dividends paid by Macao’s gambling companies.

    The next few months will be critical for gambling companies in Macao. They all need concessions to be extended at favorable terms, especially given a down market because of COVID-19, so any new restrictions could sink these stocks.

    Las Vegas Sands has a lot to lose because it sold all of its U.S. operations in order to bet on Asia, and Macao specifically. Melco Resorts started in Macao and still relies on the region for most of its revenue. Wynn Resorts operates two casinos in Macao and also has a lot to lose if Macao’s gambling business declines.

  27. ArvidMartensen

    We had a farm dog like that once, “laziest dog ever was born”. It could sleep through anything.
    It would sleep on top of a pile of emptied grain bags and my father, to keep himself amused as he worked, would keep piling the bags on as he used the grain to see how many the dog could handle.
    Not sure he ever found the upper limit.

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