Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Why Do Animated Characters Wear Gloves?

Why cartoon characters wear gloves

Vox Published on Feb 2, 2017  4 min. 56 sec.
Animators had a few tricks up their slee...err gloves.

Stephen Colbert on the State of the Union

Stephen Goes Live After Trump's State Of The Union

The Late Show with Stephen Colbert  Published on Jan 30, 2018  13 min. 53 sec.
An hour after Trump's State of the Union, Stephen delivered his State of the State of the Union.

Don't Go Outside

Fire strikes scrap metal facility in Richmond

A fire at a scrap metal facility Tuesday night in Richmond prompted a shelter-in-place order as firefighters worked to put out the blaze.

The fire was reported around 5:40 p.m. at the Sims Metal Management recycling center at 600 Fourth Street in Richmond. A large plume of smoke could be seen rising from the facility from miles away.

Contra Costa County Health Services said it had a hazardous materials team on the scene to conduct air quality monitoring. The Richmond Fire Department said that the air quality was “unhealthy” and instructed residents to stay indoors.

The shelter-in-place order was initially put in place for the area between Ohio Avenue and Wright Avenue between Harbour Way and First Street. The order was extended to include the Santa Fe, Atchison Woods, Iron Triangle, North Richmond and Point Richmond neighborhoods after a shift in the wind direction.

Further details were not immediately available.

The Man Reviving His Abandoned Village by Growing Rice

Noboro Nimaida wants to preserve an old way of life.

Hoàng Tiến Quyết's Wet-Folding Origami

 from: Archie McPhee's Endless Geyser of Awesome

Today the Department of Outstanding Origami is exploring the beautiful work of Hoàng Tiến Quyết , an origami artist based in Hanoi, Vietnam who creates wonderful paper creatures using an origami technique known as wet-folding. As the name implies, wet-folding employs the use of water to dampen the paper, which makes it more easy to manipulate and adds a sculpting element to the paper-folding process, that would otherwise be completely geometric. To ensure that the paper doesn’t tear, wet-folders often use a thicker paper than is usually used for traditional origami.

To check out more of Hoàng Tiến Quyết ’s wonderful paper creations visit his Facebook page, Flickr account, or follow him right here on Tumblr at htquyet.

[via Design Taxi]

The Japanese Take on the State of the Union

A woman walks by a huge TV screen showing a news program reporting on U.S. President Donald Trump's State of the Union address, in Tokyo on Wednesday. | AP

Trump’s first State of the Union speech rehashes stances, reveals few new details on North Korea, trade

The Japan Times  by Staff Writer 
In his first State of the Union address, U.S. President Donald Trump branded the North Korean regime “depraved” and touted his pushback against “unfair trade deals,” but had little new to say beyond rehashed statements about two key issues allied Japan continues to grapple with.

Trump, speaking before both houses of Congress, lambasted the “cruel dictatorship in North Korea,” which he said has “oppressed its own citizens more totally or brutally” than any other.

The U.S. leader also said the North’s “reckless pursuit of nuclear missiles could very soon threaten our homeland” and vowed to continue his campaign of “maximum pressure” to prevent Pyongyang from reaching that goal.

“Past experience has taught us that complacency and concessions only invite aggression and provocation,” he said. “I will not repeat the mistakes of past administrations that got us into this dangerous position.

“We need only look at the depraved character of the North Korean regime to understand the nature of the nuclear threat it could pose to America and our allies,” he added.

The North has ramped up its threats to the U.S. and its allies — including Japan — in both words and deeds, including successful tests of what the country claimed was a powerful hydrogen bomb and the separate test of an intercontinental ballistic missile believed capable of striking the American mainland. Last year, it also lobbed two missiles over Japan, stoking concern in Tokyo and cementing Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s position as one of the leading backers of Trump’s pressure campaign.

But Trump’s assurances aside, his verbal jousting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, as well as his stance that “all options remain on the table” — an allusion to the White House position that military action remains a viable means of halting Pyongyang’s march to being able to credibly threaten the U.S. — have left many fearing the mercurial leader could launch unilateral strikes on the country.

His address to Congress, however, appeared unlikely to assuage those fears.

“There was no policy here, neither what he has done to date nor what he is going to do ahead,” said Sheila Smith, a senior fellow for Japan studies at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington.

“The president didn’t address the fears here and on the peninsula about the prospect of a U.S. military strike, the ‘bloody nose’ idea, despite the statements of his Cabinet or his new National Security Strategy,” she said.

Trump, she added, “promised ‘U.S. resolve’ but didn’t talk about the real security challenge of North Korea’s missile and nuclear proliferation. He could have laid out his administration’s accomplishments in building an international coalition around sanctions, but avoided any discussion of diplomacy.”

Tensions on the Korean Peninsula have eased after the two Koreas agreed to cooperate closely on the upcoming Winter Olympics in the South, prompting speculation the move could open the door to talks with Pyongyang over its missile and nuclear programs.

But after the speech, Smith said, “Tokyo will be worried about the ‘bloody nose’ approach.”

“Conflict in the Korean Peninsula would not be welcome,” she said. “Strong international sanctions are welcome. As is strengthened defenses of allies in South Korea and Japan. The threat to civilians in both countries of an American preventive strike should be intolerable, and the uncertainty of initiating a second Korean War would be devastating, militarily and economically, for Japan.”

In a worst-case scenario report released in October by North Korea-watching website 38 North, the group estimated that a nuclear retaliatory strike on Tokyo would result in a death toll ranging from 200,000 to 940,000.

Despite these lingering fears, the Japanese government embraced the speech.

In Tokyo, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the government “thinks highly” of the fact that Trump had used the address to renew his vows to maximize pressure on North Korea as well as to call global attention to the severity of human rights violations in the country. The top government spokesman backed Trump’s message by reiterating Tokyo’s position that it will continue to work closely with Washington and Seoul to further tighten the screws on the regime.

“I think the tone of the speech — and the emphasis on human rights abuses — will be appreciated” by Tokyo, Smith said.

“The personal costs of North Korean repression is very highly felt in Japan, where the abductees and their families engender a similar response,” she added, referring to Japanese nationals kidnapped by North Korean agents in the 1970s and ’80s.

“If anything, the message conveyed is that the U.S. under Trump will continue increasing its pressure on North Korea, while keeping military options on the table,” Smith said.

Beyond North Korea, Trump also reiterated his stance of “peace through strength” when facing “rogue regimes, terrorist groups, and rivals like China and Russia that challenge our interests, our economy, and our values.”

In confronting these challenges, he added, “we know that weakness is the surest path to conflict, and unmatched power is the surest means of our defense,” and vowed as part of this policy to “modernize and rebuild” the U.S. nuclear arsenal, “hopefully never having to use it, but making it so strong and powerful that it will deter any acts of aggression.”

Trump added the caveat that “perhaps someday in the future there will be a magical moment” when the world gathers to eliminate their nuclear weapons, but noted dryly that, “unfortunately, we are not there yet.”

Tokyo was expected to read this as a “strong commitment” to the U.S.-Japan security alliance, and the “sustained support of deterrence through the U.S. nuclear umbrella,” said Sebastian Maslow, an assistant professor at the Graduate School of International Cooperation Studies at Kobe University.

Maslow said it could also be a boon for Japanese security policy circles in favor of the country building its own nuclear weapons.

They “will use this line to bolster their position in arguing for robust deterrence of the DPRK nuclear threat,” he said in an email, though “such a move remains unpopular among the Japanese given the country’s strong yet waning postwar anti-nuclear and pacifist norms.”

On trade, Trump, who had raised hopes in recent days of an American return to the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade deal, raised eyebrows in his speech by claiming that the U.S. had “finally turned the page on decades of unfair trade deals.”

Asked about Trump’s mention of trade, Suga was stoic.

“We will continue to use our economic dialogue framework to discuss what our respective areas of interest are in terms of trade and investment and how we can cooperate in individual fields,” he said.
The U.S. leader said last week that he “would do TPP if we were able to make a substantially better deal” — a remark that caught many by surprise since Trump had pulled the U.S. out of the agreement on his first day in office.

Experts said it was important to take his apparent willingness to rejoin the TPP deal with a grain of salt, with Maslow voicing skepticism that the Trump administration would return to the framework.

“I do not foresee significant willingness within member states to unpack and substantially renegotiate the deal,” Maslow said. “Not only because this would require new complex and time-consuming negotiations but also because the likelihood of any success of such a process remains highly uncertain given the unpredictability of Trump’s foreign trade policy.

“The consensus seems to be to operationalize the framework as is and wait for a post-Trump U.S. to reopen the agreement for renegotiation,” he added.

Smith agreed, saying that the White House remained far from “resetting the table on trade,” especially the deal now known as the TPP-11.

“I think his comment on TPP was just a way of saying TPP-11 wasn’t getting away from him,” she said.

Tomohiro Osaki contributed to this report

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

That's Why They Call 'Em Dogs

Humane Society CEO Wayne Pacelle accused of sexual harassment by three women

Washington Post  Jan. 29, 2018
An internal investigation by a law firm hired by the Humane Society of the United States has identified three complaints of sexual harassment by chief executive Wayne Pacelle and found that senior female leaders said their warnings about his conduct went unheeded, according to two people familiar with the matter and a Humane Society memo describing the investigation.

The investigation also found the nonprofit agency, one of the country's biggest animal charities, had offered settlements to three other workers who said they were demoted or dismissed after reporting Pacelle's alleged behavior, according to the Humane Society memo.

Investigators from the law firm Morgan Lewis, who interviewed 33 people, including Pacelle, also reported that there was a perception within the Humane Society that certain women owed their career success to romantic relationships with the chief executive.

The memo said that several women who were former leaders of the group had warned Pacelle, who has led the organization since 2004, that his sexual relationships with subordinates, donors and volunteers could hurt the charity. The memo notes that Pacelle, while not directly addressing the issue, said he had changed his behavior as he grew older.

Pacelle denied the complaints from all three women in an interview Monday with The Washington Post. "This is a coordinated attempt to attack me and the organization," he said. "And I absolutely deny any suggestion that I did anything untoward."

He denied allegations he had consensual sex with donors and volunteers as "just ad hominem attacks." And he said no senior women had warned him about his conduct. "Absolutely not. I enjoy the support of senior women throughout the organization. No one has ever warned me of such a thing, ever."

A spokesperson for the Humane Society declined to comment on the findings of the investigation, referring The Post to a statement made Thursday by Eric Bernthal, chairman of the organization's board of directors. His remarks came shortly after the charity announced it was launching an investigation.

"We do not have information that can be shared regarding the investigation, its findings, or board actions at this time," the statement said. "We believe it is important to deal in substance and not rumors, and our process is designed to ensure confidentiality and fair consideration of these issues."

The decision to launch an investigation was first reported by the Chronicle of Philanthropy.

Pacelle said that he was aware of the investigation but added: "There are allegations only. Beware of rumors and other unsubstantiated claims."

The earliest complaint against Pacelle dates to 2005, when an intern said the chief executive asked to meet outside of work at a public coffee shop, according to the memo reviewed by The Post.

According to her account, Pacelle pulled her close, started slow dancing with her and gave her an unwanted kiss, the investigation document said.

Another woman told investigators she regularly traveled with Pacelle on business and that donors mentioned his sexual interest in her, remarking that dating him would be good for her career.

On one such work trip in 2006, she told investigators Pacelle asked her to stop by his hotel room after an event. He asked if he could masturbate in front of her, requested that she take off her clothes and offered to perform oral sex on her, according to two people briefed on the matter and the memo.

 When the woman refused, Pacelle told her not to tell anyone or she would destroy the Humane Society and lose her job, according to the memo.

A third woman, who joined the Humane Society in 2012 but has since left the organization, told investigators that Pacelle stopped by her office late one night when she was working alone, started salsa dancing on his own and asked her to join him.

Pacelle denied all three complaints. "The one complaint about the salsa dancing, I simply had a conversation with a person and it turned into that," he told The Post. "The person with the hotel - I'm familiar with that. I worked with the person eight years after that allegation. The person never said a thing to me about any harassment, and I certainly never invited her to a hotel room."

Pacelle also denied the complaints to investigators, according to the memo.

The investigation began on Dec. 20 after the Humane Society received an anonymous complaint about Pacelle's behavior. The organization then hired Morgan Lewis, a Washington law firm, to look into the matter.

The investigation also found that Pacelle had maintained a sexual relationship with a female subordinate and exchanged more than 100 emails with her. The woman told the investigation that she became afraid of Pacelle after the relationship ended, describing him as abusive and controlling, according to the memo.

Pacelle denied having a relationship with the subordinate. He also disputed there was anything inappropriate in the relationship to investigators, according to the memo.

The investigation's findings are based on interviews, evidence provided by witnesses and emails on Pacelle's work computer, according to the memo.

Since taking the helm at the Humane Society, which has its headquarters in Washington, D.C., Pacelle's salary rose to nearly $380,000 in 2016, according to IRS filings.

Some employees defended Pacelle to investigators, describing him as someone who engaged in consensual relationships with adults. Others said the chief executive created a toxic environment at the Humane Society in which workers thought they had to sleep with Pacelle to get ahead, or suspected women who achieved career success of dating him in secret, according to the memo.

The people briefed on the investigation told The Post they wanted to come forward to repair the culture at the Humane Society, which they believe does important work to help animals.

The organization is focused on ending animal cruelty, abolishing "puppy mills" and banning seal slaughter, among other causes.

The people briefed on the investigation said they worried that money going to address Pacelle's actions was misdirected from protecting wildlife.

One woman said she received a settlement from the Humane Society after she complained about Pacelle's alleged girlfriend joining her team without proper qualifications and was shut out of work opportunities, according to the memo.

Two more received payouts after they leveled retaliation charges against the organization, asserting they lost their jobs after speaking up about Pacelle's office romance and sexual behavior in the office, according to the memo.

Pacelle said he would not comment on any settlements.

The amounts of the settlements were not disclosed.


High Times Beckon for Using Hemp to Build Houses

Russians sorting raw hemp fibers in the Kurks region in the 1960s. Hemp has been used as building material for millennia in Europe and elsewhere, but it’s only just starting to get wider recognition as a green construction option. Credit Oleg Sizov/TASS, via Getty Images
The Romans have been using it since the days of Julius Caesar, but not to get high. Both Washington and Jefferson grew it.

Now that several states have legalized the use of marijuana for some recreational and medical purposes, one of the biggest untapped markets for the cannabis plant itself — at least one variety — could be as a building tool.

The most sustainable building material isn’t concrete or steel — it’s fast-growing hemp. Hemp structures date to Roman times. A hemp mortar bridge was constructed back in the 6th century, when France was still Gaul.

Now a wave of builders and botanists are working to renew this market. Mixing hemp’s woody fibers with lime produces a natural, light concrete that retains thermal mass and is highly insulating. No pests, no mold, good acoustics, low humidity, no pesticide. It grows from seed to harvest in about four months.

A strain of the ubiquitous Cannabis sativa, the slender hemp plant is truly weedlike in its ability to flourish in a wide variety of climates, growing as high as 15 feet and nearly an inch in diameter. The plant’s inner layer, the pith, is surrounded by a woody core called the hurd. This is the source of the tough fiber, which can be used for rope, sails and paper.

Hemp is typically planted in March and May in northern climes, or between September and November below the Equator. Once cut, usually by hand, plants are left to dry for a few days before they’re bundled and dumped into vats of water, which swells the stalks. Those dried fibers are then blended for a variety of uses, such as adding lime. This creates block-like bricks known as hempcrete.

Industrial hemp contains a mere 0.3 percent of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the substance responsible for the buzz when smoking weed. The cannabis present at a reggae fest, for instance, contains as much as 20 percent.

The two strains look different, too. Hemp’s sativa is taller; the shorter indica has resiny trichomes accounting for its psychoactive power. The rule goes: the better the budding flower, the poorer the hemp.
Hempcrete blocks for a home project in British Columbia. Credit Harmless Home
Also unlike pot, you can’t grow hemp in an indoor hydroponics setup; the plant’s deep roots need to spread, so outdoor cultivation is required. The plant’s seeds and leaves can be eaten raw, dried into powder or pressed into oils.

Getting a mature plant in just a few months — with less fertilizer than needed for industrial crops like corn, and without chemical fertilizers or bug sprays — makes the potential for profit huge. As hemp taps water underground, its long roots circulate air, which improves soil quality — another boon for farmers looking to rotate crops.

Battling the plant’s powerful drug connotation might be the toughest hurdle for farmers and builders, and is possibly a more formidable obstacle during the Trump administration. The plant is still highly regulated.

This January, though, California legalized use of the plant in full. And the federal farm legislation of 2014 legalized hemp’s cultivation for research purposes in universities in states where it’s been approved by law. New York now funds a research initiative for as much as $10 million in grants toward hemp businesses, with participation in the pilot program from institutions that include Cornell University.

Still, in the United States special permits are needed to build with hemp, and the requirements can vary by county and state. The first modern hemp house was constructed in 2010, in North Carolina. There are now about 50 such homes in the country.

But not much hemp is grown here; a little less than 10,000 acres so far, enough for about 5,000 single-family homes. Cultivated acreage in Canada is double that, and in China’s Yunnan province, 10,000 farmers grow it. Roughly 30 nations now produce hemp, including Spain, Austria, Russia and Australia.

Hemp was rediscovered in the 1980s across Europe, where cultivation is legal, and France has became the European Union’s largest hemp producer. Hundreds of buildings across the continent use the substance as insulation to fill walls and roofs, and under floors in wood-framed buildings.

Manufacturers say it’s ideal for low-rise construction, a product that’s stucco-like in appearance and toxin-free. Its promoters also boast that it has a lower carbon footprint, requiring three times less heat to create than standard limestone concrete.

More like drywall than concrete, hempcrete can’t be used for a foundation or structure; it’s an insulation that needs to breathe, said Joy Beckerman, a hemp law specialist and vice president of the Hemp Industries Association, a trade group.

JD Farms in Eaton, N.Y., which grows hemp for industrial uses. Unlike the strain that produces marijuana, the cannabis plant for industrial hemp must be cultivated outdoors. Credit Nathaniel Brooks for The New York Times
Hemp shouldn’t be used at ground level, or it loses its resistance to mold and rot. Lime plaster coatings or magnesium oxide boards have to be applied to anything touching hempcrete, or the lime will calcify it and lose its ability to absorb and release water.

While that sounds like a lot of work, Ms. Beckerman pointed to the long-term payoff.

“In many climates, a 12-foot hempcrete wall will facilitate approximately 60-degrees indoor temperatures year-around without heating or cooling systems,” she said. “The overall environmental footprint is dramatically lower than traditional construction.”

There still aren’t international standards for building with hemp, or codes regulating how it should be used structurally or safely. ASTM International, a technical standards organization, formed a committee to address this in 2017.

Nonetheless, the use of hempcrete is spreading. A Washington State company is retrofitting homes with it. Left Hand Hemp in Denver completed the first permitted structure in Colorado last year. There’s Hempire in Ukraine, Inno-Ventures in Nepal. Israel’s first hemp house was constructed in March on the slopes of Mount Carmel.

Down south, New Zealanders turned 500 bales of Dutch hemp into a property that fetched around $650,000. In Britain, HAB Housing built five homes with hempcrete last year. Canada’s JustBioFiber recently completed a house on Vancouver Island with an interlocking internal framed hemp-block inspired by Legos.

It’s a niche but growing sector of the cannabis market. In 2015, the Hemp Industries Association estimated the retail market at $573 million in the United States.

“When I started Hempitecture in 2013 and presented the concept, venture capitalists laughed at the idea,” said Matthew Mead, the founder of Hempitecture, a construction firm in Washington. “Now there are over 25 states with pro-hemp amendments and legislation, and the federal farm bill has its own provision supporting the development of research toward industrial hemp.”

One major issue is cultivation. Although it has been legal to grow hemp in Canada since 1998, farmers need to apply for licenses. In Australia, industrial hemp agriculture has been legal for over 20 years.

In the United States, a provision in the farm bill removed hemp grown for “research purposes” from the Controlled Substances Act. Farmers and researchers in more than a dozen states can now import hemp seeds. The Industrial Hemp Farming Act, pending in the House for the seventh time, would exempt hemp plants in toto from the controlled substance designation, an Olympic leap toward a burgeoning agro-business.
Hempcrete blocks resembling oversized Legos are used to build a home in British Columbia. Credit Harmless Home
Much like the “pot-repreneurs” who set up marijuana dispensaries a decade ago, before laws were definitive, a generation is pushing ahead despite uncertainties.

Sergiy Kovalenkov, 33, a Ukrainian civil engineer who spent the last three years building hemp structures and consulting on projects in Ukraine, France, Sweden and Jamaica, is beginning a project in California. The hardest steps, Mr. Kovalenkov said, are paperwork, permits and seeds.

“Building codes vary from state to state, with regulations in terms of fire and seismic activities,” he said. “If we’re talking sustainable product, seeds cannot come from Poland or France. It has to come from California.”

Only one facility in the United States processes hemp stocks, in North Carolina. Mr. Kovalenkov’s firm, Hempire USA, has also devised its own fiber separation system. “The demand is going to be quite big in the next three to five years,” Mr. Kovalenkov said.

But what does a hemp house smell like?

“It smells like comfort,” Mr. Kovalenkov said, laughing. “It smells a little like lime. We’re using the stock. You cannot smell cannabis — it has nothing to do with smoking weed or cannabis plants. It’s an industrial agriculture crop.”

In October, representatives from 14 countries attended the seventh annual Hemp Building Symposium at the International Hemp Building Association in Quebec. Terry Radford, the president of JustBioFiber Structural Solutions, an I.T.-pro-turned-tinkerer, unveiled a prefab hemp composite that could be more attractive to city planners and government building code officials.

“The problem with hempcrete right now,” he said, “is each one has to be inspected and have an exemption from the building code. It’s difficult for builders to get approved. If you’re trying to get a mortgage on your house, it’s pretty restrictive. That’s our biggest challenge.”

“Our idea is to get the material certified by building coders, rather than have each one approved,” he added. “The difference between hempcrete and my block product is that we’re a structural product. Hempcrete by itself is just an insulation.” The start-up is preparing to produce a 112,000-square-foot facility in British Columbia.

Mr. Mead, the head of Hempitecture, echoes the concerns of others. For farmers to expand, he said, the infrastructure has to be there. Without a network to process materials, “it will be difficult for farmers to know if they can grow this crop and turn a profit.”