Thursday’s Forum

FILED UNDER: Open Forum
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. Scott says:

    More magic leaves this Earth

    Yeti Legends Are Based on These Real Animals, DNA Shows

    Among the snowy peaks of Nepal and Tibet, stories tell of a mysterious ape-like creature called the Yeti. Purported to be a towering human-like figure covered in shaggy fur, the Yeti continues to excite dedicated believers still hoping for evidence that the mythical beast is real. (Read about a man who searched for the Yeti for 60 years.)

    Now, DNA analysis of multiple supposed Yeti samples—including hair, teeth, fur, and feces—shows that the stories are based on real animals roaming the high mountains. The results, published this week in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, are the best evidence yet that the Yeti legend is rooted in Himalayan black and brown bears.

    However, there is hope.

    “You can’t debunk a myth with anything as mundane as facts,” he says. “As long as the stories are told and retold—and bears are glimpsed in other than ideal conditions or leave melting footprints in the snow—there will be stories of Yetis.”

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  2. sam says:
  3. Kylopod says:

    @Scott: Christopher Columbus wrote in his journal that he spotted mermaids and was surprised they were a lot uglier than their reputation. It’s generally believed what he saw were manatees.

    But I also remember reading about a scholarly analysis arguing that the legend of mermen came originally from spotting seals.

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  4. Scott says:

    @Kylopod: In Texas, we have chupacabras, which drink the blood of livestock. Probably mangy coyotes.

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  5. Mikey says:

    @Scott:

    In Texas, we have chupachabras, which drink the blood of livestock.

    Similar to the Texas legislators, who suck the lifeblood from the citizenry.

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  6. Jen says:

    @Kylopod: There’s also a rare birth defect called sirenomelia, where the legs are fused together giving the appearance of a tail–possibly leading to stories about humans mating with mermen.

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  7. Kathy says:

    As the big Theranos trial approaches, I think I’m missing something about the fraud Holmes perpetrated.

    The fundamental claim by the company was the ability to carry out blood analyses, of several kinds, with a very small sample, and to do so entirely with automated machines. Therefore, Holmes was selling a very specific technology and a service.

    How did so many people invest so much money without even a working prototype of this machine, or even a demonstration that it was possible to make such a thing?

    There are many ways to fool someone who doesn’t look closely, or who trusts the people making the claims. But this was incredibly easy to research and test. Blood analysis is well established and well known. I bet entire swimming pools worth of blood are analyzed the world over every year.

    I can’t see investing a penny without solid proof that this new, revolutionary technology so against all known facts and science exists, never mind millions.

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  8. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Kylopod:

    If you should come across the skin of a s Selkie, hide it and you will prevent her from returning to the sea.

    “She was a seal you know, but kindly and people liked her.” Gordon Bok

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  9. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Kathy:

    Early investors are by definition funding an idea and not something that is provable. Where the fraud would begin was when the concept couldn’t be put into application, but the company was fraudulently promoted, by claiming that the product worked. They got all the way to a trial program with Walgreens before it all began falling apart. Silicon Valley startups almost always over promise, but most are exposed in the first or second tier funding and those investors expect some of their bets will go bad.

    An interesting question is was Holmes a grifter all along, or did she go down that path to avoid the shame of failure and the loss of her fortune, reputedly $4B+ in the 2012-15 period.

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  10. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Sleeping Dog:

    From Peter Kagen and the Wind.

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  11. Jen says:

    @Kathy: Bad Blood went into some detail about how she misled people. I don’t remember the exact details right now (it’s been several years since I read the book) but I remember thinking that there were a lot of people who just seemed to assume that someone else had asked the tough questions and didn’t want to appear like they didn’t know or understand what was going on, so they just went along with it.

    Very much an Emperor’s new clothes vibe.

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  12. CSK says:

    @Jen:
    Like all successful con artists, Holmes no doubt appeared very plausible.

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  13. Kathy says:

    @Sleeping Dog:

    Early investors are by definition funding an idea and not something that is provable.

    I’ll buy that. But if someone comes to me and says they have a perpetual motion machine (free energy forever!!), I’d charge them for making me waste my time rather than invest millions on the idea.

    Now, suppose the proposal is a fusion reactor. Absent a working prototype, I’d want to have experts check their work and see what’s what. If I wasn’t allowed to see their plans, theoretical work (if any), blueprints, etc. I’d send them packing.

    This is different from something like AdWords or Fakebook (not a typo), where you know what’s being proposed is possible, and the questions are 1) can it make money and 2) if so, how much?

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  14. Jen says:

    @CSK: She had some very heavy hitters in her corner. With names like Henry Kissinger and George Schultz on board (Schultz’s grandson was a Theranos employee) everyone else just kind of lined up. In hindsight, obviously people should have asked questions, but there’s this weird thing with science and medical stuff–average people sort of assume that they aren’t going to understand it, so they just take a look at who is involved and if that passes a smell test–everyone LOOKS legit–they jump on board.

    The lesson I took from the book is that you should never worry about looking dumb. If you have a question, ask it.

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  15. CSK says:

    @Jen:
    I hate to say this, but it probably didn’t hurt with the male investors that Holmes is young, blonde, and beautiful.

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  16. Kathy says:

    @Jen:

    Bad Blood is next on my queue, and I’ve read the younger Schultz’s account of his time in the company (he was a source for at least one reporter).

    Oh, there’s also a podcast following the trial, Bad Blood The Final Chapter (and now podcasts join headlines and the news as the first draft of history).

    average people sort of assume that they aren’t going to understand it, so they just take a look at who is involved and if that passes a smell test–everyone LOOKS legit–they jump on board.

    true.

    A few years ago, a British archaeologist, I forget his name, claimed to have seen something in a high resolution scan of Tutankhamen’s tomb which suggested a hidden chamber past the wall. Various Egyptologysts and other archaeologists were very excited at the prospect, making suggestions to drill a hole and send in a camera and take air samples.

    Never mind the walls of Egyptian tombs are covered in paintings and hieroglyphs, my question was: what could this man see in a high resolution picture that was not visible to the many, many other archaeologists who’d studied that chamber in the tomb over many decades?

    This was a plain visible light scan, not some exotic infrared, or gamma ray, or even X-ray scan which could easily show something not visible in plain sight. So I was very skeptical.

    Eventually ground penetrating radar was used, and no additional chamber was found there. The painting in that chamber remain unchanged.

    It’s not that new discoveries aren’t left to be made in Egypt, even though it’s been excavated and studied extensively. But a new discovery on a thoroughly examined spot is very unlikely, absent new tools or methods to examine it.

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  17. SKI says:

    @Kathy:

    How did so many people invest so much money without even a working prototype of this machine, or even a demonstration that it was possible to make such a thing?

    Don’t forget she actually faked results. That is, they claimed they were running the test through their “magic” machines but actually used more conventional testing.
    @Jen:

    With names like Henry Kissinger and George Schultz on board (Schultz’s grandson was a Theranos employee)

    There was actually a major family divide when Schultz’s grandson went to his grandfather with his concerns and was ignored/disbelieved.

    The story of Theranos has been studied/discussed within the compliance community to look for lessons on how to structure controls to prevent a reoccurrence. She succeeded for as long as she did by eliminating controls and reporting and hiding data.

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  18. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Kathy:

    It is probably safe to assume that conceptually the idea that Theranos was pursuing was sound. But like fusion reactors, where research continues and much money is invested, the path to turning the the Theranos concept into a product wasn’t unlocked. That Holmes and her cohorts weren’t honest with investors about the difficulties they were having and actively propagated a lie continue to raise money to keep things going …

    As someone pointed out above, investors follow the herd and if other investors have placed money somewhere, they can as well. I’d add to that, this level of investor believes that they are the smartest person in the room and god forbid that they miss an opportunity, particularly one that would have been as lucrative as a successful Theranos.

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  19. SKI says:

    @Sleeping Dog:

    It is probably safe to assume that conceptually the idea that Theranos was pursuing was sound.

    Nope. It was literally insane to everyone actually in the lab industry. No one could figure out what they were doing/thinking.

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  20. Jen says:

    @Sleeping Dog:

    It is probably safe to assume that conceptually the idea that Theranos was pursuing was sound.

    This reminds me of a thought I had when I was reading the book…it just seemed so plausible, for two reasons.

    One, the advances we’ve made with DNA testing and our ability to extract even the smallest amounts of DNA and pull information from a minuscule sample.

    Two, diabetic meters. Almost everyone knows someone who has a blood sugar monitor–you only need a drop of blood to get a blood sugar reading.

    I think people were primed to believe that sophisticated and detailed bloodwork could be done from a tiny sample because these two things–that use very small samples–were already widely used.

    There’s no way to test this theory of course, but it just struck me that it all felt so plausible.

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  21. Jen says:

    @SKI: Agreed, and after reading the book and other analysis, I understand this. But my comment to Sleeping Dog above I think is why the average person might have THOUGHT this was feasible.

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  22. Kathy says:

    @Sleeping Dog:
    @SKI:
    @Jen:

    I don’t know much about blood analyses, but in the course of my job we often send samples of food for various types of assays and analyses. The actual sample used by the lab, including a backup margin in case of error, varies depending on the type of analysis requested.

    Most times for liquids, such as milk or vegetable oil, a couple of liters are required. Now, no one does composition analysis of blood, we know what’s in it. So that doesn’t apply. But clearly a few drops are too little for most things.

    You can determine blood type with three drops and three reagents. Blood sugar levels with one drop. and oxygen saturation without even drawing blood. Impressive, but limited to rather simple things.

    More complex analyses require more material. As many types of assays require reagents, you’d need at least as many samples as tests for them. Once there is a reaction, you cannot test the end result for something else. Even if the sample fails to react, it’s now contaminated with reagent.

    So, yeah, the Theranos claim was extraordinary. Not necessarily false, mind, but requiring very strong evidence.

    This is before we even consider matters like consistency, not to mention the maintenance and cleaning of the automated equipment. If you use a strip to measure your blood sugar, you can’t use the same strip to measure someone else’s. What about cross-contamination with blood from prior tests? IT’s really complicated.

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  23. Sleeping Dog says:

    …insane to everyone actually in the lab industry.

    In the lab industry, but an investor seeking insight who turns to a DNA researcher who says ‘maybe.’ That would all a Valley investor would need. After making money, Silicon Valley is all about smashing shibboleths and turning over industries, which Theranos promised to do.

    Also, by the middle of Obama’s first term, innovation in tech had become a nifty phone app or attractive social media idea. It had been a while since a truly revolutionary product had come to market and Theranos promised to be that. Then the lies and deceptions began.

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  24. Jay L Gischer says:

    @SKI:

    It was literally insane to everyone actually in the lab industry. No one could figure out what they were doing/thinking.

    And everyone in the auto industry thought an electric vehicle was a dumb idea. Entrenched industries thinking you are crazy is just part of the landscape here.

    What I’m saying is not that they were wrong, but that it can be very difficult to tell, especially for a layman.

    That this was well beyond the established technology, everyone knew that, and the sort of risks it implied. The lawsuit is going to turn on what sort of things she said to investors and whether they constitute knowing fabrications or falsehoods.

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  25. Kathy says:

    Yesterday I received an offer for a combo of two streaming services, Disney+ and Star+, from a third party. I took it because it was a bit cheaper than subscribing with the streaming services directly, and Star+ has all seasons of the Simpsons and all of Futurama (including the direct-to-video movies).

    Star+ is essentially FOX. There was a FOX channel on local cable which changed its name to Star for some reason. Past Futurama and The Simpsons, there isn’t much in it, but they also offer Monday Night Football, and NFL Red Zone on Sundays. I also found The Orville, which looks rather watchable.

    This also means I’m dropping Netflix again at the end of the month. I’ve a strict 2 streaming services max limit.

    It occurs to me that placing sports on streaming will further erode the base of users for both free over the air and cable/satellite TV.

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  26. Kathy says:

    @Jay L Gischer:

    What I’m saying is not that they were wrong, but that it can be very difficult to tell, especially for a layman.

    You know the progression of new ideas, right?

    It’s impossible.
    It may be possible, but it’s not worth doing.
    I said it was a great idea all along.

    Arthur C. Clarke wrote a book called Profiles of the Future. In one section he examines how new ideas and technologies were received in the past. It’s amazing what people thought of things like the telephone early on, for instance. Also how many outlandish things were thought impossible, such as a locomotive that might travel at the breakneck speed of 30 mph. Since I read it, I’ve been wary of dismissing new ideas, and of the effects innovations will have, both good and bad.

    Remember the Segway? before it was revealed, there was much hype by its inventor about how it would revolutionize the world. I dare say the world today is not the same world it was before the Segway, but it had little influence on the changes we’ve experienced since then. Anyway, I was so underwhelmed by it, that I spent weeks wondering what I might be missing.*

    Anything that does not violate natural laws as we understand them is very likely possible. Alas, biology is messy and with few hard rules. Things that break natural laws might be possible, but you either need to see them happening, or find the flaw in the laws, or the way in which the laws need to change.

    Take a late XIX Century physicist and tell them “Here are two piece of a heavy metal called Uranium. If you smash them together, they’ll release more energy than a billion tons of coal” (numbers are not exact). They’d be able to list a host of reasons why that is not possible, as it seems you’re pulling energy out of nowhere, and way too much of it.

    Nevertheless, you could easily provide a demonstration. Then the physicist would be hard pressed to explain what just the hell happened.

    The point is that just because something seems to break natural law, doesn’t mean it does. But evidence is required.

    There are various reasons why a perpetual motion machine is not possible (any machine can work forever, provided it has an energy input). But if I saw one in operation, and could examine it to make sure it’s not drawing energy from elsewhere or simply running down, well, it would be time to reevaluate thermodynamics.

    *I think the Segway would have revolutionized ancient Egypt. It would have made a superb chariot.

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  27. Jen says:

    @Kathy:

    Remember the Segway? before it was revealed, there was much hype by its inventor about how it would revolutionize the world.

    That inventor is Dean Kamen. He’s a NH resident, and he also invented the tech that makes insulin pumps work (drug infusion pumps). I don’t know which came first, the Segway or his advanced wheelchair designs, but IIRC both use that gyroscopic tech.

    He’s a brilliant inventor and he’s doing a ton of work to advance robotics in general through his FIRST program.

    Which is all to say, happy to give him a pass on Segway (plus, who knows what’s down the road, it could well still revolutionize transportation). 😀

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  28. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @CSK: Would that face lie?

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  29. charon says:

    @Kathy:

    Netflix has been available on DISH satellite for a quite while now and they added Amazon Prime a while back.

    DISH brought back HBO as HBOmax very recently, so now I am catching up on Succession. (HBO had pulled itself off of DISH between the Succession seasons). It’s pretty convenient on the dish, and I never set up any other way to access streaming at my place, guess I’m just an old fuddy-duddy

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  30. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Kathy: The Orville was pretty good. I was disappointed about not seeing a third season*. (And this comment is from someone who has not particularly liked previous Seth McFarlane ventures.) I suspect you’ll enjoy it.

    * As I was checking my accuracy (I do this sometimes) I see that it’s going to have a 3rd season after all. Yah hoo.

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  31. CSK says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:
    Apparently it could–and did so with breathtaking aplomb.

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  32. wr says:

    @Kathy:”How did so many people invest so much money without even a working prototype of this machine, or even a demonstration that it was possible to make such a thing?”

    The great skill behind any successful conman (or woman, as in this case) is to make the mark want to believe so badly they won’t let evidence get in their way.

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  33. CSK says:

    @Jen:
    The hype over the Segway, which Kamen started teasing in Jan. 2001, was ludicrous. His agent sold a book proposal about it (titled It, like the Stephen King novel) to the Harvard Business School Press for $250,000; the proposal didn’t reveal what “it” was.

    Diane Sawyer said it best: “That’s it? A two-wheeled scooter?”

    When someone touts something as revolutionary and world-changing for months on end, people tend to expect something that’s actually revolutionary and world-changing, not a toy.

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  34. SKI says:

    @Jay L Gischer:

    And everyone in the auto industry thought an electric vehicle was a dumb idea. Entrenched industries thinking you are crazy is just part of the landscape here.

    Dumb != impossible

    EV was known to be possible but would require a leap in battery technology make it useful.

    Using a drop of blood to test for *all* the various things they claimed just wasn’t plausible.

    What I’m saying is not that they were wrong, but that it can be very difficult to tell, especially for a layman.

    Which is why investors typically check with industry experts before investing. I get inquiries a few times a year from VC for my input. There are several companies that exist solely to identify experts to help vet projects for anonymous VC investors.

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  35. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @CSK: It’s amazing how easily pretty blond girls can sucker the male of the species. Pretty much the same for pretty brunettes and pretty redheads too.

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  36. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Nearly all the people arrested by a Beverly Hills police taskforce over the past year were Black, according to a new lawsuit which alleges egregious racial profiling in the wealthy California city.

    The complaint, filed Tuesday by the prominent civil rights lawyer Benjamin Crump, alleges that out of 106 people arrested by a Beverly Hills police “safe streets” taskforce, 105 were Black and one was a dark-skinned Latino person. Between March 2020 and July 2021, the unit unjustly stopped and arrested Black civilians who were roller skating, scootering, driving and jaywalking a few feet outside the crosswalk, the suit said.
    ………………………..
    The city defended the taskforce on Wednesday, claiming the unit was set up in response to merchants’ complaints about “burglaries, shoplifting, pedestrian and vehicle code violations, street gambling, public intoxication, marijuana smoking and more”. The unit recovered illegal firearms and uncovered unemployment fraud cases, the city said in a statement. Dowling could not be reached.

    Wow, the streets of Beverly Hills must be absolutely lawless. Either that or them darkies is gittin’ out of control and think they own the place.

    The city has not disputed the arrest data included in the lawsuit and did not respond to questions about the figures. A spokesman said the task force was no longer in operation.

    Mission Accomplished!

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  37. OzarkHillbilly says:

    US withdrawal from Afghanistan will lead to EU army, says top diplomat

    Yes. because Europeans are just so hot to trot to fight wars the US doesn’t want to. Don’t hold your breath on this one.

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  38. Mu Yixiao says:

    Today, the universe hates me.

    Woke up to see that my phone updated overnight without asking (I have auto-updates turned off), and somehow lost WiFi. Can’t connect to my home WiFi at all.

    Then I notice that I have zero bars on the mobile signal and the notice “Emergency calls only”. WTF? After trying the SIM card in my old phone (doesn’t work), I pull out the “replacement phone” that AT&T sent me a month or so ago (I ignored it because it’s a cheap POS and I’ve got a really nice XiaoMi Poco). I just figured they had me on an every-two plan based on the cheapie I got when I first got back to the US.

    Nope. There’s a note inside saying “Here’s your new phone! If you don’t activate it, we’ll do it for you–because we’re upgrading our system and dropping 3G. When we activate your phone, we’ll turn off your current one automatically!”

    WTF??

    So… I try to log into my AT&T account via my computer–because they’ve deactivated my phone, but I can’t. Because they’ve turned on TFA. Which requires me to type in the passcode they send to my phone–which they have deactivated. “Can’t see the passcode? Call our support line”–on the phone that they have deactivated?

    On the way to the AT&T store, I came a few feet from being T-boned by some co-eds in an SUV that blew through a red light doing close to 50mph (fortunately, I always look before entering the intersection on a fresh green).

    Then… I get to the mall to find out… the AT&T store isn’t there anymore. AND… the mall has removed all the “you are here” maps. There’s no listing of what’s actually in the mall, so I can’t tell if I just didn’t see the store.

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  39. CSK says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:
    It’s one of the laws of nature.

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  40. Kathy says:

    @Jen:
    @CSK:

    I recall reading a bit about Kamen’s inventions prior to Segway, and being favorably impressed.

    But take the wheel chairs. Some people, unfortunately, need them to simply go about their daily lives. Increasing the capabilities of wheel chairs is good.

    No one needs a scooter to go about their daily life. We have other options to move about and travel. Perhaps people who already use scooters found it a great improvement, if they could afford it.

    The machine itself is quite ingenious, but far from world-changing technology.

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  41. Kathy says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    I’ve seen a few second season episodes. Problem is they aired around 1 pm on weekdays on cable, so catching them was chancy.

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  42. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Of life and loss: Photos from ‘beyond the grave’: camera discovery reveals climber’s last images before fatal avalanche

    When mountaineer Chris Hill found a backpack with an old camera in it on the Hooker Glacier – an 11km chunk of ice on New Zealand’s South Island – he was intrigued and decided to get the film inside developed. Hooker is at the base of Aoraki (Mount Cook), in a national park of icy peaks where hundreds of climbers have died, dozens of them never to be found.

    Hill wanted to know whose pack he held, so he took the photos – grainy and vintage-looking – to the police and to New Zealand’s Land Search and Rescue. Eventually, he posted them on Facebook, hoping the mountaineering community could solve the mystery of the pack and the camera. The photos were shared and finally the mystery was solved. The mountain had given up one of its many secrets.

    One of the men in the photos, with a big grin and long wavy hair, turned out to be 29-year-old Steve Robinson, the pictures taken in 1997 just before he was killed and buried by an avalanche.

    Twenty-four years ago, Robinson and his friend Richard Stiles were having a breather on the side of the mountain when an enormous block of ice crashed into the snow and set off an avalanche. Stiles leaped out of the way and survived, but could see no sign of Robinson – or his backpack.

    Until he saw those pictures on Facebook on Saturday night.

    More at the link.

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  43. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @CSK: Men have the problem of 2 heads. One does all our thinking but the other one does all our talking.

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  44. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Kathy:

    No one needs a scooter to go about their daily life.

    Obviously, you’re not a mall cop. 🙂

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  45. CSK says:

    @Kathy:
    Well, I recall thinking that a motorbike or a sit-down motor scooter would do the exact same job as the Segway, plus allow you to carry a few small packages by fixing them to the rear seat, or a basket on the handlebars.

    If the hype hadn’t been so ridiculously inflated, and the price as well…You can buy a brand new Vespa today, 20 years later, for under $4000, the price of a Segway in 2001.

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  46. JohnSF says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:
    French have been fighting in the Sahel since 2013, with minimal US involvement as far as I’m aware.
    Force usually about 6,000 IIRC.
    (Though Macron has recently been publicly suggesting withdrawal; at least in part to force local govts. to get their act together)

    Operational support from UK and Danish helicopter units, Swedish special forces, and some Estonians and Italians.

    The problem is the EU has no military structure, or formal legal basis for one: it is NOT a country, nor a federal union, and includes both NATO members and formal neutrals (Ireland, Austria, Sweden, Finland).

    And in many ways Germany is even more balky about things military than the neutrals: there is very little constituency for military spending and activity in Germany.

    Despite this, even today Europe as a whole has more military personnel than Russia, and a higher defence expenditure than China.
    The problem is, that umpteen different separate military systems eat money and manpower, with an outcome that is less than the sum of it’s parts.
    Hence the European shortfall re. intercontinental airlift/sealift/logistics systems.
    Also zero long range bombers/heavy bombers.
    The militaries were, and are, shaped primarily for the European theatre vs Russia.

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  47. Kathy says:

    @CSK:

    I find it odd to travel on a vehicle standing up. Somehow standing in the bus or subway, which I’ve done many times, seems different.

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  48. Kathy says:

    @JohnSF:

    The other problem is Russia, which represents a potential threat. Europe’s combined armed forces are too much for Vlad to handle, and let’s not forget both France and the UK posses a nuclear deterrent. But this presupposes European unity in the face of attack.

    Today, that’s provided by NATO. We’ve seen NATO may not be as reliable as all that, or at least the US might not be. So, would the French, Germans, Britons, Spaniards, Portuguese, Greeks, etc. be willing to send troops to stop a Russian invasion of the Baltic countries?

    It would be in their long term interests to do so, as a stronger Russia is only more dangerous to them. But short term considerations often weigh heavier in political calculations.

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  49. MarkedMan says:

    @Sleeping Dog:

    Early investors are by definition funding an idea and not something that is provable.

    This hasn’t been my experience with medical devices. Table stakes is a device proven to work. Where the uncertainty comes in is: clinical benefit (not applicable in this case), manufacturability, repeatability, reliability, and approval for payers to cover ( also not applicable in this case). My understanding is that this was basically a well done scam, as she didn’t have table stakes.

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  50. Mu Yixiao says:

    @Kathy:

    and let’s not forget both France and the UK posses a nuclear deterrent. But this presupposes European unity in the face of attack.

    Remember that the UK is no longer part of the EU, so there would be political and logistical issues involved with including them in a “European army”.

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  51. Jen says:

    @CSK:

    The hype over the Segway, which Kamen started teasing in Jan. 2001, was ludicrous. His agent sold a book proposal about it (titled It, like the Stephen King novel) to the Harvard Business School Press for $250,000; the proposal didn’t reveal what “it” was.

    The hype was ridiculous and was 180 degrees from what I would have recommended as a PR person. Under promise and over-deliver, not the other way around.

    There are a lot of PR-type things I wish that I could view the backroom discussions and how they reached conclusions.

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  52. JohnSF says:

    @Kathy:
    There already are Euro-NATO deployments in the Baltics,

    Estonia:
    British mechanized infantry battalion, plus supporting Challenger MBT’s. French mechanized infantry battalion. Plus Danish supporting forces.
    As well as the Estonian Army (2 brigades including 2 artillery battalions).

    Latvia:
    Canadian mechanized regiment. Italian mechanized regiment. Polish and Spanish armoured units.Latvian mechanized brigade.

    Lithuania:
    German armoured battalion; plus Belgium, Norwegian, Dutch and French company size units.
    Lithuanian mechanized infantry brigade and artillery battalion.

    Plus the forward bases Baltic Air Patrol, and ground air radar and missiles.

    That might not sound all that much, but NATO integrated communications, computerized battle management, guided munitions artillery, counter-battery fire control, top grade battle tanks and AT missiles, and some of the best trained soldiers in the world, make it a whole different game than messing with Ukraine or Georgia.

    It’s the sort of force that can chew up and spit out whole brigades; even divisions, if you’re an unlucky Russian.
    Of course, against a full-bore Russian assault, they would lose. But The Russians would face casualties of at least multiple thousands, possibly tens of thousands.

    And could such a conflict be contained?
    Putin likes to ride the edge at times, but that would be one hell of a gamble.

    You may say: ah, that’s NATO.
    But do you also notice the country conspicuous by its absence from BaltFor?
    NATO would not necessarily collapse if the US departed.
    It would be a blow certainly; but it might make Berlin wake up.

    Or, it might be cue for EU states to seek a deal with Beijing.
    Who knows.

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  53. Neil J Hudelson says:

    @Mu Yixiao:

    You can probably find another ATT store quickly on…um…on your phone. Yeah, you’re boned.

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  54. JohnSF says:

    @Mu Yixiao:
    UK was a member of the WEU Alliance before either NATO or EC/EU came into being.
    So not necessarily a political issue; a formula could be found, if the will was there.

    The main issue is that the EU states themselves are sovereign entities, and the EU itself has never really been active in the defence sphere. And logistics integration = spending rows re. sacred cows.
    Best option would prob. be to continue NATO but separate the US from the integrated command structure.
    (Along with many others: it’s an economic shared-sovereignty system, primarily)

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  55. Sleeping Dog says:

    @JohnSF:

    Your thoughts? In the spring when Putin was threatening Ukraine, the thought crossed my mind that a reason that he didn’t proceed, is that while Russia has troops and equipment, the reality is that it is a bit of a hollow military, a Potemkin military, so to speak.

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  56. CSK says:

    @Kathy:
    It would indeed seem far less stable to travel standing rather than sitting. More tiring as well.
    @Jen:
    Yes, that was very strange. I don’t recall Kamen getting as publicly worked up about his other inventions–which really were life-enhancing for many–as the Segway, which was nothing more than a pricey novelty.

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  57. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @JohnSF: French have been fighting in the Sahel since 2013, with minimal US involvement as far as I’m aware.

    Yes, in their old colonies.

    The problem is the EU has no military structure, or formal legal basis for one:

    Dingdingding… We have a winner.

    And in many ways Germany is even more balky about things military

    Yep, something in their history.

    The problem is, that umpteen different separate military systems eat money and manpower, with an outcome that is less than the sum of it’s parts.

    Not to mention umpteen different political agendas.

    I just can’t see a unanimous EU appetite for involvement in Afghanistan or Yemen or Venezuela or Myanmar or… Ad nauseum.

    ETA: All that and maybe Europeans are just plain smarter than us.

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  58. Kathy says:

    @JohnSF:

    Tripwire troops have a long history. During the Cold War, the Soviet invasion would have come, probably, through East Germany into West Germany. These days, the Russians don’t have that option, nor Warsaw Pact allies. their only direct border to NATO countries is via the Baltic countries.

    But would European commitment to these states endure absent NATO? One would think so. One would also think in the face of a contagious virus, people would come together to fight it.

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  59. al Ameda says:

    @Kathy:
    @Jen:
    Remember the Segway? before it was revealed, there was much hype by its inventor about how it would revolutionize the world.

    Ahhh, the Segway …
    This reminds me of when I visited Prague in 2016, and I came across posters and sign boards that read, “Segway, No Way!” It seemed that many people were fed up with dodging Segway ‘motorists’ on the sidewalks in the old town (Mala Strana) and on the bridges that cross the Vltava River.

    For short time here in the Bay Area, in San Francisco on the Embarcadero, it was a drag having to share sidewalks with those dweeby Segways. Same problem as in Prague.

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  60. JohnSF says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    something in their history.

    Usually when I mention the diffidence of Germany re. things military, I add something about that being viewed as a pleasant change by the neighbours.
    The French would love it if Germany would just hand over about 3% of GDP per year and shut up.

    their old colonies.

    France would find it difficult to act anywhere in Africa north of the equator that was NOT related to their old colonies. Or SE Asia. Or Syria.

    I suppose they could deploy in South America, but there’d be bugger all point.

    Actually, LOL, thinking about it I think they do have a sizable force in Guiana, including the Foreign Legion jungle warfare training facility.

    Thing is, as said, EU countries don’t have the capacity to sustain a hostile zone air/sea logistics for corps plus forces. UK and France together might be able to support a brigade longer term.
    Current deployments depend on fairly “friendly” rear infrastructure.

    Also, Europeans don’t have the vast apparatus of vetted authorised “civilian” contractors the US has for logistics/maintenance support.
    That’s why no European state or coalition could have replaced the US in sustaining the Afghan Air Force. That sort of apparatus takes decades to set up.

    As to “where”:
    Myanmar, don’t think so.
    Yemen, probably not.
    Thought the UK put down an insurgency in Oman, next door: the Dhofar Rebellion mid 60s to mid 70s’.
    Venezuela, hell no. Monroe Doctrine, baby.

    The only areas Europe might intervene apart from some areas in sub-Saharan Africa are North Africa, and the Levant fringe of the Middle East, to prevent some sort of hypothetical jihadi takeover (ie same as Sahel) and consequent refugee crisis.

    The ones that makes everyone nervous are the reasons why the Forever War is not over, and will not be over anytime soon.
    The ones that may not be avoidable, but may not be containable either: the Gulf, and Pakistan/India.

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  61. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Not so fast , Europe is far more exposed and vulnerable to Jihadis than America. They’ve enjoyed being able to contribute a nominal amount of support to GWOT for relative security. Take away US proactiveness, and a few high profile attacks will make it politically impossible for them to do nothing.

    May not result in an Army but an EU CT Taskforce is entirely plausible if Jihadis want to continue attacking to raise money

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  62. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: There may be more market that you or I would imagine. A couple of years back, the guy who teaches “Wars on Film” (an elective history class) was showing a film about a squad of either German or Dutch soldiers fighting in Afghanistan, and I was there for him on the day the film ended. Following up after they got home, the film maker asked the subjects if they would be willing to go back. Every dam one of them answered, that not only would they go back, but also that they were looking forward to being able to go back. Including the guy whose leg was shot off at the knee, who was hoping that his prosthetic limb would not disqualify him from a combat role.

    As I wave my adieus to the students, I found myself wondering “fwk! am I the only sane one left, or am I the crazy one?”

    (For the record BTW, this celebration of war porn disguised as a class was almost equally divided among male and female students. The guys who are saying “send women to die on the battlefield” as a slogan against women’s rights may have misread the market some.)

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  63. JohnSF says:

    @Sleeping Dog:
    Russian military is a thing of parts: some parts are very good (special forces, highly trained mechanized and helicopter formations); others are second rate at best, but still useful for holding territory (poorly trained infantry, old fashioned artillery).

    The first category are highly capable against less powerful adversaries (Ukrainians, Georgians, Azerbaijanis, Chechens, Syrian rebels) but migh be in for a nasty surprise pitted against network-centric NATO forces with smart munitions, and state-of-the-art battle tanks and missile systems.

    The second category would be toast against a NATO force, unless they had overwhelming numerical advantage, and willingness to endure horrendous casualty levels.

    Russia are far more likely to do something silly in Ukraine, or Moldova, or the Caucasus, or even Libya, then to risk a confrontation with a military peer or superior.

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  64. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @MarkedMan: It’s also possible that with Kissinger and Schultz as stakeholders already, she may have been pitching to a significantly different pool of investors than what is typical for medical devices at large.

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  65. JohnSF says:

    @Jim Brown 32:
    Jihadis are the main reason for the Sahel operation: variously Al Qaeda in the Maghreb (AQIM), Jama’at Nasr al-Islam wal Muslimin (JNIM); plus Boko Haram aka (deep breath) Jamā’at Ahl as-Sunnah lid-Da’wah wa’l-Jihād, which overlaps from Nigeria, and IS-WA.

    No one likes the idea of them dominating the Senegal-Niger valleys, or being able to plan mischief at leisure in the outback.
    North Africa is so far relatively low on jihadis, for various reasons.

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  66. JohnSF says:

    @Jim Brown 32:
    Plus, the Sahel op is already multinational European. Mostly French, but also some UK, and whole mix of others now and again. From Swedes via Estonians to Italians.

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  67. JohnMcC says:

    @JohnSF: Thank you for that information. Don’t hang around the sites on the inter-tubes to keep up with that sort of stuff. Important to know.

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  68. grumpy realist says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: Because she knew she could con them.

    I forget who it was, but one VC decided to not invest when he discovered it hadn’t been passed under the nose of anyone expert in that exact same field.

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  69. wr says:

    @JohnSF: “Also, Europeans don’t have the vast apparatus of vetted authorised “civilian” contractors the US has for logistics/maintenance support.
    That’s why no European state or coalition could have replaced the US in sustaining the Afghan Air Force. That sort of apparatus takes decades to set up.”

    The poor saps. How do they survive without paying tens of millions of dollars to squads of mercenaries to commit atrocities while remaining above all laws? How can they live without Eric Prince bribing Republican lawmakers to shovel money at him?

    Oh, right, they use that money to provide their citizens with health care.

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  70. Kurtz says:

    @Sleeping Dog:

    It is probably safe to assume that conceptually the idea that Theranos was pursuing was sound.

    Not sure if this was pointed out above.

    I recalled reading that Phyllis Gardner, Professor of Medicine at Stanford, kept telling Holmes, at the time still a student, that her idea was impossible. This isn’t the article I read years ago, but I found one that describes the same thing.

    But that’s not why people are recognizing Phyllis Gardner on the street and in airports these days.

    Rather, it’s because of Gardner’s memorably frank and at times indelicate assessments of Elizabeth Holmes in two documentaries, several blog posts, a popular podcast and a best-selling book about the Theranos founder, and the massive fraud authorities say she and her blood testing company perpetrated.

    Gardner recounts meeting Holmes when she was a Stanford student pitching lofty medical technology ideas; she tried to tell Holmes that what she wanted to do was impossible, Gardner says, but the 19-year-old brushed her off.

    Gardner also has a funny answer later in the interview:

    Q: As the hype around Theranos grew, did you ever wonder if you were wrong about Holmes?

    A: No. I just thought everybody was crazy. I mean, look at the board, that’s insane. That’s not corporate feasance, that’s malfeasance to have a board that knows nothing about any of this. Old men, I’m telling you, the brains go to their groin.

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  71. Jax says:

    @wr: Touche. 😛

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  72. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Jim Brown 32: May not result in an Army but an EU CT Taskforce is entirely plausible if Jihadis want to continue attacking to raise money

    I don’t see it.

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  73. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: OK, fine. But I am talking about the avg EU citizens appetite for a long term commitment to an incursion in some dawg forsaken 3rd world hell hole.

    Beyond the odd Brit or Frenchmen envisioning past colonial glory, I’m not seeing it.

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  74. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: And for the record, you can add in the odd Dutchman, Italian, or whatever still dreaming of colonial glory.

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  75. gVOR08 says:

    @Jen:

    She (the Theranos person) had some very heavy hitters in her corner. With names like Henry Kissinger and George Schultz on board

    Kissinger? Henry Kissinger? Nixon’s Sec o’State Kissinger? That Kissinger vouched for it? And people bought in anyway?

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  76. JohnSF says:

    @wr:
    @Jax:
    I’m not talking about the “security contractors” = mercenaries like Blackwater or the even nastier Russian Wagner Group.
    I’m talking about aircraft mechanics, IT support, logistic systems specialists, weapon systems integration etc etc etc.
    All the stuff needed to field a military at post-First World War levels of technology.
    Both US and European states use them to support allies/clients, albeit Europeans on nowhere near the scale of the US.

    But check out who supports the Omani and other Gulf militaries some time. You think those Saudi Typhoons and Tornadoes, Hawks and Eurocopters, Saabs and Mirages maintain themselves? Same for UAE etc.

    Combat mercs are whole different thing, and a lot more nasty trouble than they’re worth IMO.

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  77. JohnSF says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:
    There already is one. See posts above re Sahel ops.
    @JohnSF:
    @JohnSF:

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  78. JohnSF says:

    @wr:

    they use that money to provide their citizens with health care.

    This is almost like the other side of the coin of a common Republican argument, along the lines of “Euros can only afford their socialist healthcare because us Americans pay for their defence”

    It’s often forgotten that from the 1940’s to the 1980’s European states quite often ran defence spending at north of 5% GDP, funded welfare and health systems, and still had high levels of economic growth.

    The big downshift in military spending only came after the end of the Cold War, and in Germany largely, initially, because they were desperate to find the vast sums needed to fix East Germany.

    And also because of the desire for lower taxes: in UK in the early 1970’s the demands of defence and welfare required running taxes at basic income tax 35%, higher rate income tax 75%, investment income tax up to 90%, goods purchase tax 25%, etc..
    And other European countries had similar burdens.
    Bore them, but few people enjoy paying taxes.

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  79. wr says:

    @gVOR08: “That Kissinger vouched for it? And people bought in anyway?”

    As Noah Cross says in Chinatown, politicians, ugly buildings and whores all become respectable if they can hold on long enough.

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