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August 25th, 2019:

Weekend link dump for August 25

“Kids, in our school, you’re always #1!”

“As many as 32,000 women get pregnant through rape every year, and at least one-third decide to raise the baby instead of getting an abortion or choosing adoption. But because more than a third of all states do not terminate an assailant’s custody rights unless he’s been convicted of felony sexual assault, the women who make that choice can be forced to co-parent with their rapist. Even in states that make it easier to deny rapists’ parental rights, loopholes abound, and prosecutors and judges have broad discretion in these cases.”

“Under the cover of night, he comes. TV Man, who swans into Virginia neighborhoods with the face of a TV and gifts to give that are also TVs. What? Why? These are the questions we mere mortals are left to ponder.”

Place-based visas could help America’s declining cities.”

Breaking news: Legal weed is linked to higher junk-food sales.

RIP, Cedric Benson, star running back in the NFL and for the University of Texas.

“There is no such thing as an “underage woman.” Underage women are girls.”

RIP, Jack Whitaker, Hall of Fame broadcaster who called Super Bowl I and Secretariat’s Triple Crown triumph.

“An Ebola Doctor Explains the Good News and Bad News of the New Treatment Breakthrough”.

“Recent polling shows that Donald Trump has managed to reshape American attitudes to a remarkable extent on a trio of his key issues—race, immigration, and trade. There’s just one catch: The public is turning against Trump’s views.”

“Life is not a ledger. Your sins can’t be paid off through good deeds. Your good deeds are not cancelled by your sins. Your sins and your good deeds live alongside one another. They coexist in superposition.”

“Paul Ryan, Already Tired of the Boring Heartland and Its Dumb Values, Is Moving Back to the Beltway”.

I can’t offer a pithy summary of this story about The Epoch Times, a media outlet closely tied to Falun Gong, a Chinese spiritual community with the stated goal of taking down China’s government. It’s also now very loudly pro-Trump and is spending a crapload of money on Facebook ads. Go read it.

“As current and former elected prosecutors, law enforcement leaders, former senior Department of Justice officials, and former judicial leaders, we took an oath to defend the Constitution, seek the truth and uphold justice. We also understand and embrace our vitally important role in promoting the safety and well-being of our communities. That is why we feel compelled to express our disagreement with the deeply concerning remarks made by U.S. Attorney General William Barr to the Fraternal Order of Police on August 12, 2019.”

Why Facebook or Netflix may be forcing you to reset your password.

“FIFA is already setting up the 2023 Women’s World Cup for failure”.

“Stop Posting This Facebook/Instagram Privacy Notice — Your Pseudo-Legalese Means NOTHING!”

“A brief history of the 19 girls who have played in the Little League World Series”.

We’re up to three candidates running against Steve Radack

Former State Rep. Kristi Thibaut announced her entry into the race to take on longtime Commissioner Steve Radack this week. You can find her campaign Facebook page here. I had previously noted some chatter about her possible candidacy. This is one of those times when there was something to that chatter.

Also in that race, having announced a few days before Thibaut, is Michael Moore, the former Chief of Staff to Mayor Bill White. The presence of Moore and of Thibaut suggests that there’s some serious fundraising ahead, in part because Radack already has a bunch of money. I will be very interested to see what their January finance reports look like.

The first candidate in the race was Diana Alexander, and I would expect her to take a different path towards the nomination. She has a greater grassroots presence and more recent visibility from the 2018 election through the activism of Pantsuit Republic Houston and Indivisible Houston. There’s a CEC meeting for the Harris County Democratic Party coming up in September, and I’ll also be interested to see who has volunteers and supporters out for their preferred candidate at that event.

As I’ve said about the Congressional races, it’s already starting to get late for anyone else who might be looking at this race. Filing opens in less than 12 weeks, and as noted above if you want to hit the fundraising trail, you’ve already got some strong competition. Nobody else getting in would surprise me slightly more than the field expanding further, but not by much.

It’s still supposed to be a busy hurricane season

Hurricane season technically lasts until December 1, but this is the peak of it, so keep paying attention.

Don’t be lulled by a quiet June and July. The real Atlantic hurricane season is about to kick off.

The hurricane season generally runs from June 1 to the end of November. But the next six weeks — “the season within a season” — is regularly the most dangerous and active time for storms to develop in the Atlantic, said Dennis Feltgen, spokesman for the National Hurricane Center in Miami.

Only two named storms have developed in the Atlantic so far this summer. Dry, dusty air from Africa’s Sahara robbed potential storms of moisture, and wind shear spurred by the El Nino climate systems ripped apart budding storms. Now, those brakes on hurricane development are gone.

The result: “A big change in the pattern over the Atlantic, going from a very lackluster quiet weather pattern to a much more active one,” said Dan Kottlowski, the lead hurricane forecaster at AccuWeather Inc. in State College, Pennsylvania. “We are thinking this season will be back-loaded.”

Last week, the U.S. National Weather Service forecast 10 to 17 named storms in the Atlantic. Last year, there were 15, including hurricanes Florence and Michael that killed a combined 96 people and caused more than $49 billion in damage. A storm is named when it reaches tropical storm strength, with maximum sustained winds of at least 74 miles per hour.

You know the drill by now. Tune in to Space City Weather and stay on top of what you need to know.

More driverless trucks

Look out on I-45.

When Don Burnette worked at Otto, a self-driving truck startup, his team hit some pretty big milestones. It recorded the first shipment of cargo delivered by a self-driving truck: 50,000 cans of Budweiser in 2016. It was acquired by Uber the same year.

But something didn’t feel right to Burnette, an engineer by trade who’s spent almost a decade in the self-driving vehicle industry.

“That was very much a demo-like system,” Burnette said in an interview with The Dallas Morning News. “It wasn’t built with production or scale in mind. And it wasn’t quite the technology that was going to push the industry forward.”

When Uber shifted away from self-driving trucks last year, Burnette saw an opportunity. He helped create Kodiak Robotics in 2018, with the hope that driverless trucks could serve commercial clients.

Kodiak Robotics is putting down roots in Texas, and has become one of the first self-driving trucking companies operating in the state. The Dallas-to-Houston (and back) route features a safety driver behind the wheel.

And humans take over for more challenging stretches between freeways and final destinations. Once Kodiak masters the “middle mile” — freeway driving that’s a large part of most routes — it’ll tackle the non-highway driving that’s proven difficult to other driverless startups.

See here and here for more about the driverless trucks currently on the highways in Texas. They’re not fully autonomous, of course – they all have safety drivers, and they all need to be human-operated off the interstates. For the time being at least, that’s a pretty good combination all around – the drivers stay rested, and the trucks can get where they’re going safely. As with all autonomous vehicles, the question is how far off are they from not needing the human drivers at all. For all the breathless prose in these stories, that part remains vague. TechCrunch and Wired have more.