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Tue, 10 Dec 2019
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A bridge to Far East: Russia to link Sakhalin Island with mainland in next 10-15 years

Sakhalin Island
© Global Look press / Sergei Fomine
Russia's Sakhalin island
Russia plans to complete an ambitious multi-billion-dollar construction project linking the mainland to Sakhalin Island in the Far East between 2030 and 2035, the head of the region has revealed.

The new bridge is expected to significantly boost trade, as it will provide access to year-round sea ports on the remote island, Sakhalin Region Governor Valery Limarenko told a local TV channel. The route could bring to the region "an important logistic function," as shipments from Japan to Europe could go through it, and some gas or oil refineries could be built along it.

House

San Francisco has nearly five empty homes per homeless resident

San Francisco
© Shutterstock
Oakland housing activists Moms 4 Housing, who made national news by taking over a vacant West Oakland house in November, frequently cite a statistic alleging that there are four empty homes in Oakland for every homeless person — a figure alluded to in the group's name.

But is this true?

The answer to that question: It's complicated. Estimating both housing and homeless populations can be a tricky chore; depending on the method, San Francisco's 2019 homeless count ranges from just over 8,000 to nearly 17,600 persons.

Comment: See also:


Bug

Woman becomes unsuspecting victim of mid-air scorpion attack on United Airlines flight

Scorpion
© AFP / University of Porto
A routine flight across the United States came to resemble a scene from a bizarre Hollywood film after a passenger was bitten by a scorpion. The woman was transferred to hospital after landing at her destination.

The United Airlines flight, traveling from San Francisco to Atlanta, apparently had some unwanted cargo on board. A female passenger who felt a stinging sensation reportedly inspected herself in the aircraft's bathroom, only to discover a scorpion in the leg of her pants. The arachnid was eventually captured by the plane's crew.

A photo shows the airborne invertebrate animal in what appears to be a cardboard box used to serve meals on board.

Pistol

4 men accused of gang-rape of young Indian doctor in Hyderabad killed by police

Hang the Rapists Protests in India
© REUTERS/Francis Mascarenhas
Demonstrators hold placards and shouts slogans during a protest against the alleged rape and murder of a 27-year-old woman on the outskirts of Hyderabad, in Mumbai, India, December 3, 2019.
All four of the men accused of a grisly rape and murder of a young Indian veterinarian have been shot dead by police, around the same area the young vet's badly burned remains were discovered.

The men had reportedly been taken to an area near the initial crime scene by police in order to reconstruct the events that led up to 26-year-old Priyanka Reddy's horrific death when one of the accused grabbed an officer's service weapon and fired, attempting an escape. All four were killed when police shot back, according to the Shamshabad district police chief.

Comment: Indian girls celebrate death of 4 men accused of Hyderabad gang rape, cops feted in the streets
One of the accused reportedly grabbed an officer's firearm and all four men were shot dead by police as they attempted to flee the area. While the nation remains in shock and grief, some have taken a moment to celebrate the police officers' actions.

Some people cheered, let off firecrackers, and held police officers aloft on their shoulders in thanks for delivering swift, brutal justice to the men who confessed to the kidnapping, rape, murder and desecration of Priyanka Reddy.


Some even offered sweets, flowers, and other small gifts as tokens of gratitude.


The news has lifted the somber mood of the nation, judging by reaction online. "I hope your soul now rest in peace Priyanka Reddy. For all the good you did in this world, justice is served, god's always watching," actress Rashmika Mandanna said.



People 2

Is gender a social construct?

traditional 50s housewife
About once every generation, it becomes intellectually fashionable to believe that gender or gender identity is a malleable trait, largely devoid of biological imperatives and at the mercy of parental initiatives or other social forces. Within time, these narratives meet an inevitable backlash from the natural sciences and the furor dies down, only to repeat itself twenty or so years later. We appear to be in the grip of another such cycle, with some individuals declaring that "Gender is a social construct!" and others pronouncing such ideas to be hogwash.

This debate suffers from three problems. First, the terms involved — sex, gender, gender identity, and gender role — are often poorly defined, which causes a good deal of confusion. Second, and related, in many cases participants in this debate may be using the term gender to mean two different things, which causes them to talk past one another. And third, these debates are often dominated by the loudest and most inflexible voices on either side, reducing opportunities for dialogue about how nature and nurture interact to produce behavioral outcomes.

Comment: See also:


Beaker

Moscow anti-doping lab's database was tampered with from the US, independent Russian experts say after WADA finds no interference

doping tests
© Sputnik / Valeriy Melnikov
The database of the Moscow anti-doping laboratory was tampered with during at least a six-month period by its former head, Grigory Rodchenkov, and his collages, who fled to the US, the Russian experts said.

Inconsistencies discovered in the laboratory information management system (LIMS) may see all Russian athletes, including clean ones, competing as neutrals during the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo and other major sporting events for the next four years. Russia could also be banned from hosting international competitions during that time.

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) will decide on the fate of Russian sports on December 9. The agency claims it found no traces of interference with the LIMS after November 2015 when Rodchenkov escaped from Russia and became WADA's main informant in the case against the country.

But independent Russian experts reject WADA's conclusions, saying their probe established numerous instances of changes and modifications made to the Moscow laboratory's files. Their 12-page report prepared in late November was obtained by Tass news agency.

Comment: Although fabricating 'evidence' is nothing new for Western powers pushing the anti-Russia narrative, still pretty damning if true. See also:


Handcuffs

11 alleged members of Gambino crime family arrested in mob bust

Handcuffs
Eleven alleged members of the Gambino organized crime family were locked up Thursday on federal charges including threatening people who owed them money, telling one in a conversation captured by wiretap to pay $100,000 or else lose his teeth.

Court papers cite other recordings giving a behind-the-scenes glimpse at the internal fallout from the slaying of a Gambino leader, Franesco "Franky Boy" Cali, earlier this year outside his Staten Island home.

Federal authorities said the racketeering case against the legendary crime family once run by notorious mob boss John Gotti shows loansharking, obstruction of justice, bribery and other crimes are still business as usual.

Some defendants have already gone "to prison, were released and allegedly went right back to breaking the law," said William Sweeney, head of the FBI's New York office.

Arrow Down

Social rot: 20 yr-old woman with 4 exclusive lovers to have a baby 'raised' by all

Polyamorous

Tory (center) with all four of her partners, Marc (top left), Travis (bottom left), Christopher (top right) and Ethan (bottom right)
  • Tory Ojeda, 20, from Jacksonville, Florida, lives with three of her four partners
  • Met Marc, 18, at school and started relationship with Travis, 23, two months later
  • Also found love with their long-term friends Ethan, 22, and Christopher, 22
  • Tory and Chris found out that they were pregnant in May, while she got engaged to Travis in July
A polyamorous woman has fallen pregnant by one of her four partners after they went away together - but says they will raise the baby as a 'family'.

Tory Ojeda, 20, from Jacksonville, Florida, met one of her partners Marc, 18, in high school and then started a relationship with Travis, 23, two months later.

Their love story began three years ago and she has since announced her engagement to Travis in July.

She also found love with their long-term mutual friends Ethan, 22, and Christopher, 22. While seven months ago, Tory and Chris found out that they were pregnant with a baby girl.

Comment: This is why we can't have nice things.

If any reader has missed it, do check out the recent SOTT Focus: Why Sexual Morality May be Far More Important Than You Ever Thought

The article covers how cultures flourish when having strong sexual morals and collapses when such moral structures are dismantled. With the above story and many others like it, we have a pretty clear picture where we are at.


Dollars

Why capitalism works - and how it can improve

new york stock exchange
© Jeenah Moon for The New York Times
The New York Stock Exchange is reflected on a window in New York.

Comment: Jonathan Haidt calls the following the piece "the best short analysis of capitalism" he has seen.



I was a socialist in college. I read magazines like The Nation and old issues of The New Masses. I dreamed of being the next Clifford Odets, a lefty playwright who was always trying to raise proletarian class consciousness. If you go on YouTube and search "David Brooks Milton Friedman," you can see a 22-year-old socialist me debating the great economist. I'm the one with the bushy hair and the giant 1980s glasses that were apparently on loan from the Palomar lunar observatory.

The best version of socialism is defined by Michael Walzer's phrase, "what touches all should be decided by all." The great economic enterprises should be owned by all of us in common. Decisions should be based on what benefits all, not the maximization of profit.

That's not what "democratic socialists" like Bernie Sanders are talking about, but I get why some of their socialist concerns are popular. Why do we have to live with such poverty and inequality? Why can't we put people over profits? What is the best life in the most just society? Socialism is the most compelling secular religion of all time. It gives you an egalitarian ideal to sacrifice and live for.

My socialist sympathies didn't survive long once I became a journalist. I quickly noticed that the government officials I was covering were not capable of planning the society they hoped to create. It wasn't because they were bad or stupid. The world is just too complicated.

I came to realize that capitalism is really good at doing the one thing socialism is really bad at: creating a learning process to help people figure stuff out. If you want to run a rental car company, capitalism has a whole bevy of market and price signals and feedback loops that tell you what kind of cars people want to rent, where to put your locations, how many cars to order. It has a competitive profit-driven process to motivate you to learn and innovate, every single day.

Socialist planned economies — the common ownership of the means of production — interfere with price and other market signals in a million ways. They suppress or eliminate profit motives that drive people to learn and improve.

Arrow Down

Shale's debt-fueled drilling boom is ending

Frack rig
© Unknown
Fracking rig in Appalachia
The financial struggles of the U.S. shale industry are becoming increasingly hard to ignore, but drillers in Appalachia are in particularly bad shape.

The Permian has recently seen job losses, and for the first time since 2016, the hottest shale basin in the world has seen job growth lag the broader Texas economy. The industry is cutting back amid heightened financial scrutiny from investors, as debt-fueled drilling has become increasingly hard to justify.

But E&P companies focused almost exclusively on gas, such as those in the Marcellus and Utica shales, are in even worse shape. An IEEFA analysis found that seven of the largest producers in Appalachia burned through about a half billion dollars in the third quarter.