More from the latest episode of SNL

As I said yesterday, I thought Saturday's episode of SNL was above average. (I wasn't alone in that opinion; Zach Vasquez at The Guardian rated it the best of the season.) Here are some other bits I thought worth seeing in case you're interested and you didn't see them already.

Guest host John Mulaney had one of the funnier monologue's in recent memory:

Link: https://youtu.be/-mSGwndFMp8

A game show rewards contestants for remembering names:

Link: https://youtu.be/rImxuuD_kwM

From Smokery Farms, guilt-free meat from animals certified to be stupid, badly behaved, or devoid of personality (and apparently not entirely fresh by the time they got around to doing the sketch):

Link: https://youtu.be/R44dRIPLZGM

Finally, this bit about a typical bathroom in a New York bodega is just bizarre:

Link: https://youtu.be/vgBxxEL-3TI



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SNL's version of Michael Cohen's testimony versus the real thing

Last Saturday's episode of Saturday Night Live was one of the best of the recent past. The opening bit was a parody of Michael Cohen's congressional testimony. Below is the sketch as aired, and following that some clips from it juxtaposed with the corresponding segments of the actual hearing, courtesy of The Washington Post.

Link: https://youtu.be/Mp8kFqycfFM

Link: https://youtu.be/aDaleG7seTA



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The oceans are getting hotter, with serious consequences

An article by Damian Carrington in today's issue of The Guardian summarizes some of the the problems created by warming oceans. I recommend the whole article, but here are a few extracts:

The number of heatwaves affecting the planet’s oceans has increased sharply, scientists have revealed, killing swathes of sea-life like “wildfires that take out huge areas of forest”.

The damage caused in these hotspots is also harmful for humanity, which relies on the oceans for oxygen, food, storm protection and the removal of climate-warming carbon dioxide the atmosphere, they say.

...

“You have heatwave-induced wildfires that take out huge areas of forest, but this is happening underwater as well,” said Dan Smale at the Marine Biological Association in Plymouth, UK, who led the research published in Nature Climate Change. “You see the kelp and seagrasses dying in front of you. Within weeks or months they are just gone, along hundreds of kilometres of coastline.”

...

Dr Éva Plagányi at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) in Australia also likened ocean heatwaves to wildfires. “Frequent big hits can have long-lasting effects,” she said. “This study shows that record-breaking events are becoming the new normal.”

The damage global warming is causing to the oceans has also been shown in a series of other scientific papers published in the last week. Ocean warming has cut sustainable fish catches by 15% to 35% in five regions, including the North Sea and the East China Sea, and 4% globally, according to work published by Pinsky and colleagues.

“In the space of one week, scientific publications have underscored that unless we take evasive action, our future oceans will have fewer fish, fewer whales and frequent dramatic shifts in ecological structure will occur, with concerning implications for humans who depend on the ocean,” said Plagányi.



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Well, that is kinda what they look like, part 7

When Stephen Colbert shows a photo of someone in the news, he almost always gives their actual position as well as an alternative one based on how they look in the picture, as in "White House spokesperson, and angry woman behind you at Target, Sarah Huckabee Sanders." Here's another collection:

Link: https://youtu.be/VucZlyecKoA

You can find previous collections at this link.



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SNL's barfight sketch

Last Saturday night NBC's Saturday Night Live included a sketch featuring guest host Don Cheadle and Beck Bennett trying to have a bar fight:

Link: https://youtu.be/eg0hzmFIG-Y

Maybe it's another illustration of how I'm easily amused, but in my defense I'm apparently not alone. According to Billboard the featured song, originally released in 2007, experienced a significant bump in downloads and streaming after the sketch aired. Here's a music video:

Link: https://youtu.be/6md5RSnVUuo



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A subset of the Mueller report is implicit in the legal record so far

An Associated Press article by Chad Day and Eric Tucker published Saturday points out that while Robert Mueller's report has not yet been turned in to the Justice Department, let alone made public, a lot of its likely contents can already be inferred from publicly available court records, such as indictments, plea agreements, sentencing memos, etc.

For example, it's clear that the Russian government had started preparing to interfere in the 2016 election at least by 2014 and in the spring of 2016 had focused on opposing Hillary Clinton. Their efforts ranged from breaking into computers and email accounts associated with the Democratic Party and people affiliated with the Clinton campaign to placing a multitude of pro-Trump and anti-Clinton messages on social media using false identities.

Meanwhile many persons associated with the Trump campaign were in contact with affiliates of Russian intelligence and in many cases were interested in obtaining politically damaging information the Russians had or claimed to have about Clinton. Those involved ranged from a young foreign policy advisor named George Papadopoulos to such senior people as Paul Manafort (who had previously made millions as a political consultant to the pro-Russian side in Ukraine and later for a while headed the Trump campaign) and perhaps most famously Donald Trump Jr.

In fact, when it became clear that the news media were about to release a chain of emails setting up a meeting with Russians claiming to be ready to pass on dirt the Russian government had supposedly obtained about Clinton, Trump Jr himself released that email chain via his Twitter account. He also acknowledged that the meeting in question took place in Trump Tower on June 9 and included, besides the Russians and the younger Trump himself, campaign head Paul Manafort and Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner. According to those from the Trump campaign, the promised dirt on Clinton was not forthcoming and instead the Russians wanted to talk about the possibility of reducing sanctions imposed by the U.S. under the Magnitsky Act in return for an end to blocking American adoptions of Russian infants.

(More recently the Trump administration as been criticized for failing to enforce the Magnitsky Act; see this post from a few days ago.)

During the investigation that continued after President Trump took office, various members of the administration lied to the FBI about their direct or indirect contacts with Russia, including national security advisor Michael Flynn, campaign advisor George Papadopoulos, Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, et al, who ultimately entered guilty pleas.

So far nothing in the public record related to the investigation appears to directly implicate Trump except for falsely denying the obvious collusion between Russia and the campaign took place. In addition, a number of the people having known or alleged contacts with Russian intelligence have not been indicted for, much less been found guilty of, any crimes. It's likely that there's a good deal more information to be included in Robert Mueller's report, should it ever be made public.



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DNA ancestry testing is mediocre

This probably doesn't surprise you, but while mail-in DNA tests to determine ancestry have some validity, they aren't terribly reliable. In some cases identical twins (who by definition share the same DNA) show somewhat different results even when tested by the same outfit, and for that matter your own DNA might not come back the same especially when tested by more than one company. In the video below Dr Aaron Carroll explains why this type of analysis isn't perfect.

Link: https://youtu.be/P4Y1HM5vaxk



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Where will the Mueller report wind up?

As a reader at Talking Points Memo observed, if the Mueller report more is good news for Trump and his immediate family we can expect to see it quickly, but if it gets hushed up it's pretty likely the president will do his best to keep it from seeing the light of day. So you can pretty much gauge how bad it is by how long it takes to become public after the special counsel turns it in. (The same reasoning obviously applies to Trump's tax returns.)

If it does turn out to be bad news, the following probably illustrates what President Trump would like to happen:

Link: https://youtu.be/1E__k1QmT4A



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The problem of one-size-fits-some

A February 23 article by Caroline Criado-Perez in The Guardian points out that across a vast range of things, from medical research to the design of tools, vehicles, and buildings, the implicit assumption has long been that the average person is more or less identical with a typical young man of European ancestry.

That creates problems from other groups that range from mere inconvenience to greater risk of death. Sure, it might not be practical to accommodate everyone's needs under all circumstances, but as the article makes pretty clear, we can do way better with just a little effort.

If I have a complaint about the pieces, it's a minor one, namely that it focuses primarily on the consequences for average women even as it makes clear, if not always explicitly so, that the problem is a lot wider than that that. It may well be true that women are the largest group disadvantaged by the implicit assumption that one-size-fits-men is equivalent to one-size-fits-all (to borrow a line from the article), but children, the elderly, and even a good many men are short-changed as well.

I recommend at least skimming the article to get a notion how many different areas of life are affected. If you want to look into it even more deeply, not that the article is based on the book Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men also by Caroline Criado Perez.



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