Blogs

I Am Being Followed By an Army of Twitter Lady Bots

| Wed Oct. 22, 2014 2:50 PM EDT

I've been making a real effort to be better at Twitter lately. I've been tweeting more, striking a conversational tone, and trying to "just be myself," like people who know more about Twitter than me told me to. So I was thrilled this week when my follower count zoomed up from 3,030 to 3,066 over the course of just a few days. My efforts must have paid off, I thought.

But then, I looked at my new followers. They all seemed pretty annoying. IN EXACTLY THE SAME WAY. Check it out:

"Hipster-friendly music practitioner"? "Total travel advocate"? "Beer practitioner"? Ew!

The formula for the handles seems to be: first name, middle initial, last name. And the bio items look like they're generated from a list of bland hobbies and jobs or something. All over the backdrop of some irrelevant stock art.

Here are some of their tweets:

Creepy Twitter lady bots, what do you want from me?

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Housekeeping Update

| Wed Oct. 22, 2014 10:58 AM EDT

Just a quick update. Yesterday my doctor decided to do a "little bedside test" to get a better reading on the state of my bones. It was indeed bedside, and it was indeed done with just a local anesthetic, but I guess it wasn't a very powerful one. Hoo boy, did that hurt, and naturally I was a total baby about it. In any case, they want to keep me here for at least another day to make sure I didn't get infected etc. Also, today I get my first monthly dose of some bone-strengthening med whose name escapes me. So it looks like it'll be tomorrow at the earliest before I go home. It depends on how I'm doing and what the doctor gods decree. But I walked 300 feet this morning without too much trouble, so that has to be a positive sign, doesn't it?

When will blogging recommence? I'm not sure. In the meantime, though, enjoy a bonus cat.

In Just 15 Years, Wind Could Provide A Fifth Of The World's Electricity

| Wed Oct. 22, 2014 10:36 AM EDT
The Scroby Sands Offshore Wind Farm off the coast of Great Yarmouth in Norfolk, UK.

Up to one fifth of the world's electricity supply could come from wind turbines by 2030, according to a new report released this week by Greenpeace and the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC). That would be an increase of 530 percent compared to the end of last year.

The report says the coming global boom in wind power will be driven largely by China's rebounding wind energy market—and a continued trend of high levels of Chinese green energy investment—as well as by steady growth in the United States and new large-scale projects in Mexico, Brazil, and South Africa.

The report, called the "Global Wind Energy Outlook," explains how wind energy could provide 2,000 gigawatts of electricity by 2030, which would account for 17 to 19 percent of global electricity. And by 2050, wind's share of the electricity market could reach 30 percent. That's a huge jump from the end of 2013, when wind provided around 3 percent of electricity worldwide.

The report is an annually produced industry digest co-authored by the GWEC, which represents 1,500 wind power producers. It examines three "energy scenarios" based on projections used by the International Energy Agency. The "New Policies" scenario attempts to capture the direction and intentions of international climate policy, even if some of these policies have yet to be fully implemented. From there, GWEC has fashioned two other scenarios—"moderate" and "advanced"—which reflect two different ways nations might cut carbon and keep their commitments to global climate change policies. In the most ambitious scenario, "advanced," wind could help slash more than 3 billion tons of climate-warning carbon dioxide emissions each year. The following chart has been adapted and simplified from the report:

In the best case scenario, China leads the way in 2020 and in 2030:

But as the report's authors note, there is still substantial uncertainty in the market. "There is much that we don't know about the future," they write, "and there will no doubt be unforeseen shifts and shocks in the global economy as well as political ups and downs." The more optimistic results contained in the report are dependent on whether the global community is going to respond "proactively to the threat of climate change, or try to do damage control after the fact," the report says.

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for October 22, 2014

Wed Oct. 22, 2014 10:28 AM EDT

A US Marine Sgt. speaks with a local child while on patrol in Afghanistan. (US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Darien J. Bjorndal)

RIP Ben Bradlee, 1921-2014

| Wed Oct. 22, 2014 8:58 AM EDT

Ben Bradlee, the legendary Washington Post editor, who led the paper during its Watergate era and turned it into a national and global reporting powerhouse, died on Tuesday at the age of 93.

"I don't mean to sound arrogant, but we are in a holy profession," Bradlee once said.

He was the Post's executive editor from 1968 to 1991. RIP.

Voter's Boyfriend to Obama: "Mr. President, Don't Touch My Girlfriend"

| Tue Oct. 21, 2014 3:11 PM EDT

President Barack Obama was in Chicago on Monday to cast an early vote for the midterm elections. He did so while standing next to fellow voter Aia Cooper. Cooper's boyfriend, who was also standing nearby, issued a remarkable warning to the president:

"Mr. President, don't touch my girlfriend."

With Cooper laughing, but clearly mortified, the exchange that follows is just priceless. (Well played, Mr. President.) Watch below:

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Elizabeth Warren Demands An Investigation Of Mortgage Companies

| Tue Oct. 21, 2014 12:12 PM EDT

On Monday, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) called on the Government Accountability Office to investigate non-bank companies that service Americans' mortgages, noting in a letter co-signed by Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) that an increasing number of lawsuits has been filed in recent years against these firms—which are not regulated as strictly as banks.

Mortgage servicers, whether they are owned by banks or not, handle mortgages after they've been sold to a customer. That means they take care of administrative business including collecting mortgage payments and dealing with delinquent borrowers. What Warren and Cummings are worried about is that the share of non-banks servicing mortgages has grown astronomically—300 percent between 2011 and 2013—and it appears that the increased workload has led to shoddier service.

The rise of the industry, which typically services lower-income borrowers, "has been accompanied by consumer complaints, lawsuits, and other regulatory actions as the servicers' workload outstrips their processing capacity," according to a recent report by the Federal Housing Finance Agency. Last December, for instance, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau—the agency Warren helped create—entered a $2 billion settlement with the nation's largest non-bank servicer over mortgage mismanagement. Financial industry watchdogs and consumer advocates have charged that the non-bank home loan servicing companies are often unwilling to work with troubled borrowers to modify mortgages and prevent foreclosures.

In their letter, Warren and Cummings also urge the Government Accountability Office to investigate how consumers might be harmed in the event that a large non-bank servicer collapses during a economic downturn. Non-bank mortgage companies are not subject to the regulations governing banks that perform the same functions, such as the requirement that they hold onto a certain amount of emergency funds in case of a financial collapse.

Rwanda Hits Back at America's Ebola Paranoia

| Tue Oct. 21, 2014 11:40 AM EDT
Nigerian health officials wait to screen passengers at the arrival hall of Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos, Nigeria, Monday, Aug. 4, 2014.

Rwanda will be begin screening all Americans entering the country for Ebola, regardless if they're exhibiting symptoms or not, government officials in the East African nation announced Tuesday. Coincidence? The new measure comes just days after two Rwandan students were denied enrollment at a New Jersey school over Ebola fears, even though Rwanda has had zero cases of Ebola. The United States, on the other hand, has had three confirmed cases. Rwanda is also more than 2,500 miles from the closest Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

The US Embassy in Rwanda explains the situation:

On October 19, the Rwandan Ministry of Health introduced new Ebola Virus Disease screening requirements. Visitors who have been in the United States or Spain during the last 22 days are now required to report their medical condition—regardless of whether they are experiencing symptoms of Ebola—by telephone by dialing 114 between 7:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. for the duration of their visit to Rwanda (if less than 21 days), or for the first 21 days of their visit to Rwanda. Rwandan authorities continue to deny entry to visitors who traveled to Guinea, Liberia, Senegal, or Sierra Leone within the past 22 days.

Although there's no way to tell if the screenings are indeed motivated by retaliation for the ignorant panic displayed by the New Jersey school, this sure is an interesting turn of events.

Everything You Need to Know About Ebola in America, in One Fantastic Quote

| Mon Oct. 20, 2014 11:13 PM EDT

Meet a man made of very stern stuff indeed:

Peter Pattakos spent 20 minutes Saturday in an Akron bridal shop, getting fitted for a tux for his friend's wedding. Thursday, his friend sent a text message, telling him that Ebola patient Amber Joy Vinson had been in the store around the same time.

[...]

Pattakos, 36, a Cleveland attorney who lives in Bath Township, called the health department, which told him to call back if he exhibits any Ebola symptoms. He called a doctor, who told him not to worry.

"I didn't exchange any bodily fluids with anyone, so I'm not worried about it," he said. "I'm much more likely to be mistakenly killed by a police officer in this country than to be killed by Ebola, even if you were in the same bridal shop."

Yep.

Elizabeth Warren Was on Fire This Weekend. Here Were Her 5 Best Lines.

| Mon Oct. 20, 2014 5:21 PM EDT

It's good to be Elizabeth Warren. The senior senator from Massachusetts spent her weekend campaigning for Democrats in Minnesota, Colorado, and Iowa, and by all accounts, she tore it up, and got more than a few calls to run for president. (Breaking: she still insists she isn't going to.) These were some of her biggest red-meat lines from the campaign trail:

1. "The game is rigged, and the Republicans rigged it. We can whine, we can whimper or we can fight back, and we’re here to fight back. We know what we’re fighting for and what we’re up against. We’ve got our voices, or votes and our willingness to fight. This is about democracy, about your future, and about the kind of country we want to build.”

2. "[W]ho does this government work for?…Does it work just for the millionaires, just for the billionaires, just for those who have armies of lobbyists and lawyers or does it work for the people? That’s the question in this race.”

3. "Republicans believe this country should work for those who are rich, those who are powerful, those who can hire armies of lobbyists and lawyers."

4. When conservatives came to power in the 1980s, the first thing they did was "fire the cops on Wall Street. They called it deregulation. But what it really meant was have at 'em boys. They were saying in effect to the biggest financial institutions: Any way you can trick or trap or fool anybody into signing anything, man, you can just rake in the profits."

5. "They ought to be wearing a T-shirt [that says]...'I got mine. The rest of you are on your own.' We can hang back, we can whine about what the Republicans have done…or we can fight back. Me, I’m fighting back!"

Contrast Warren's rock star treatment with the President's reception this weekend: he spoke at a campaign event in Maryland, and attendees filed out as soon as he started speaking. Obama is being kept at arms' length in close races—Warren, on the other hand, will head to New Hampshire this weekend to campaign for Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, who's running against Warren's old nemesis, Scott Brown.