Trump Sneaks a Pardon for Disgraced Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio Into a Hurricane 


Just days after not-so-cryptically intimating that former Maricopa County, AZ, Sheriff Joe Arpaio would be “just fine” following his conviction for criminal contempt, President Donald Trump on Friday made good on his assertion by announcing that he had pardoned Arpaio. The announcement came as much of the country was focused on the Category Four Hurricane Harvey, which is expected to make landfall in southern Texas on Friday night.

Describing Arpaio’s “life’s work” as “protecting the public from the scourge of crime and illegal immigration,” a White House statement concludes: “Sheriff Joe Arpaio is now eighty-five years old, and after more than fifty years of admirable service to our Nation, he is worthy candidate for a Presidential pardon.”

Arpaio, who boasted of being “America’s Toughest Sheriff,” was convicted earlier this summer of ignoring a court order to stop his practice of racially profiling suspects. He was due to be sentenced in October and faced up to six months in jail. In addition to a penchant for racial profiling, Arpaio had also been responsible for establishing a tent city prison complex in the Arizona desert, which at one point was home to approximately 1,700 inmates, some of whom were forced at times to sleep outdoors during brutal, 120-degree heatwaves. The prison camp was later described as “not a crime deterrent,” and “not cost efficient,” by Arpaio’s replacement, Paul Penzone.

In her ruling against Arpaio this summer, U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton wrote: “Not only did (Arpaio) abdicate responsibility, he announced to the world and to his subordinates that he was going to continue business as usual no matter who said otherwise.”

As news of Arpaio’s pardon broke, Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton criticized the move, calling it “not a proud day for Phoenix,” and a “slap in the face to the people of Maricopa County, especially the Latino community and those he victimized as he systematically and illegally violated the civil rights.”

“Donald Trump can ignore the rule of law,” Mayor Stanton said. “But it was our voters who removed Joe Arpaio from power.”

Polling earlier this week indicated that half of Arizona residents opposed a pardon for Arpaio, with only 15% of those 54 and younger saying it was a good idea.

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Hurricane Harvey Heads for Texas Fracking’s Favorite Port

This story originally appeared on Grist and is part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

Forecasters expect Hurricane Harvey to make landfall late today as a major hurricane—the first to hit the United States since 2005. That’s scary enough.

But even more troubling: It’s on target to strike a part of the Texas coast where the recent growth of the oil and gas industry has increased the risk of catastrophic storm damage.

The Lonestar state hasn’t seen a storm like Harvey in decades. Drawing energy from the abnormally warm Gulf of Mexico waters, its winds are expected to reach 125 miles per hour before landfall. Wide swaths of Texas and Louisiana could see as much as 35 inches of rainfalla year’s worth in just three or four days.

If that forecast pans out, Harvey could go down as one of the worst hurricanes in US history. “In all these years, it’s rare that I’ve seen a hurricane threat that concerns me as much as this one does,” said meteorologist Rick Knabb, former director of the National Hurricane Center, in a televised statement.

Part of that concern is driven by where the storm is expected to make landfall. Corpus Christi, a critical port for the Texas oil and gas industry, is also one of the most vulnerable places in America when it comes to coastal flooding. An analysis earlier this year by the South Texas Economic Development Center predicted that 92 square miles of the Corpus Christi metro area would flood with a six-foot rise in water, including all six of the city’s refineries.

Harvey could bring up to twice that, with as much as 12 feet of storm surge potentially swamping refinery infrastructure, including huge tanks of crude oil, with saltwater.

As The New York Times reported last month, Corpus Christi’s industrial growth has been driven by plentiful oil flowing in from West Texas, one of the centers of the last decade’s fracking-fueled oil and gas boom. Corpus Christi is now America’s fourth-largest port by tonnage. In just the last year, oil exports there are up five-fold.

That growth has also been driven by a significant policy change made under the Obama administration. In a compromise with congressional Republicans, President Obama agreed in 2015 to lift a ban on oil exports to most countries, allowing the United States to ship crude oil worldwide for the first time since the 1970s. In return, Congress approved renewable energy tax credits.

The Trump administration has loudly championed the ensuing oil export boom and America’s imminent shift to becoming a net exporter of oil and gas products.

The Corpus Christi port has just embarked on a $1 billion expansion project to grow further. Problem is, most of that infrastructure sits just a few feet above sea level.

About one-third of US refining capacity lies in the path of Harvey, and operators are starting to shutter operations in advance of the storm. Any sustained outages could cause a temporary nationwide surge in gasoline prices. Patrick DeHaan, an oil industry analyst, told Grist that catastrophic flooding could prevent refiners from getting back online quickly.

As Emily Atkin writes in the New Republic, the pollution consequences of the storm could be immense. Harvey’s floodwaters could seep into massive underground gasoline storage facilities, potentially dislodging and floating the tanks.

Above ground, the port also has the capacity to store up to 3.2 million barrels of crude oil, infrastructure which could buckle and leak during the storm. Bloomberg reported that several refineries are filling their tanks with as much oil as possible before the storm hits to try to help weigh them down.

“The storm as a whole is tracking towards some of the most critical refinery regions in the country,” says John Homenuk, a meteorologist whose work focuses on the energy industry. “With feet—not inches—of water moving towards these regions both from rainfall and surge, the potential for dangerous impacts is rising.”

But Harvey threatens far more than just the oil industry. After landfall near Corpus Christi, the storm is expected to loop back out to sea, re-strengthen, and make a second landfall early next week somewhere between Houston and New Orleans. That scenario could mean four full days of hurricane conditions, a near-worst case scenario for the Gulf Coast, possibly requiring the evacuation of large parts of the Texas coastline and maybe even New Orleans, which is currently without a fully functional drainage pump system.

The combination of Harvey’s strong winds and heavy rain could uproot trees and knock out power and air conditioning for days in steamy Texas communities as far inland as San Antonio and Austin. One projection showed as many as 3.4 million people might lose power, including approximately half of the Houston metro area—a city that’s particularly flood prone.

More than 1.5 million people have moved to the Texas coast in the last 20 years, making it one of the fastest-growing regions of the country.

People that live here, whether they want to admit it or not, are largely out of practice when it comes to storms like Harvey. As we learned during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, a city that evacuates, then floods, is never quite the same again.

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The internet is losing its mind over Half-Life 3 (again)

One of the main writers on the Half-Life series released a staid “Epistle” depicting his version of the next game in the series — and, in a reaction as Pavlovian as it is premature, the internet took it and ran all the way to the conclusion that the series is dead.

It’s unclear exactly which game this Epistle is referring to. It appears to be a summary of writer Marc Laidlaw’s version of Half-Life 2: Episode 3, genderflipped with tweaked character names (he calls it “fanfic“). It’s too long to summarize here, but ends on a distinctly final note that has fans in a twist:

Expect no further correspondence from me regarding these matters; this is my final epistle.
Yours in infinite finality,
Gertrude Fremont, Ph.D.

And because Half-Life 2: Episode 3 and Half-Life 3 are both tied together in collective conscience as the continuation of the franchise, many fans on Reddit and Twitter are convinced this means the end of Half-Life. Reactions online range from wistful goodbyes…

Goodbye. from gaming

…to determination that the modders shall set things right.

It’s a tempest in a teapot. Laidlaw releasing the ending he’d have written had he had the chance (he no longer works for Valve) isn’t the same as a death rattle to the whole franchise. Hope springs eternal, and Laidlaw is adamant the story is in no way a canon resolution to Gordon Freeman’s story.

It’s a pity that we haven’t (yet) got the game that Laidlaw describes, because it sounds like the one of the most interesting spectacle games I’ve ever heard of. But, if the reactions of the industrious fans is anything to go by, we may get to see some modded versions of this yet.

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Sound weapons that deliver invisible ammo in spotlight after American diplomats injured

The alleged attack on U.S. State Department officials in Cuba has made weapons that use sound a national conversation.

Acoustic weapons are not just in the arsenals of countries unfriendly to America. The U.S. military and American companies have developed some of the best of this kind of sonic weaponry.

Like rubber bullets, acoustic weapons tend to fall within the category of “non lethals” or “less lethals.” The general idea is that they exploit the sense of hearing to apply force in a way that will stop a target, but without causing permanent harm or taking a life.


The LRAD sound cannon is one of the better-known acoustic weapons designed to disperse crowds or disable a hostile target. It emits bursts of loud, irritating sounds that can discourage violent behavior.

Aside from being annoyed from an ear walloping, those targeted can also experience effects like headaches and nausea.

Sound as ammo

Since acoustic weapons use sound, these weapons deliver what could be described as “invisible” attacks.

One interesting twist in acoustic weaponry is Raytheon’s research into a “sonic shield.” Towards the end of 2011, Raytheon filed a very interesting patent for this weapon. 


Both shield and weapon

The Sonic Shield looks and functions like the riot shield that military and law enforcement use – but this shield is also a weapon.

Typically, acoustic weapons use sound against a target’s sense of hearing. But rather than target the ear, this acoustic weapon targets the lungs.

It would unleash this invisible “ammo” in a way that can cause the sensation of suffocation. So if you were a target, you would suddenly have a sense of suffocation but have no idea what was causing it – because the beam can not be seen.

The user can choose the intensity and unleash the invisible acoustic “ammo” at a level meant to warn and deter through to one intended to “temporarily incapacitate.”

Blasting wall of sound

According to the patent, Raytheon also aimed for a bunch of shields to be able to coordinate and work together to deliver a wall of sound.

The networked shields would provide a powerful combined beam. One shield could be designated as the lead or “master” shield, with the others being subserviant. The master shield would direct and coordinate the beam patterns.

A team of shields would deliver a more sophisticated beam with better power, range than the capabilities of a single shield.

For example, they could be used to create a more effective perimeter in a large riot scenario when trying to contain a dangerous situation.

How does it work?

The sonic shield looks and functions like a riot shield. It is a fortified “shell” with one side for the user and the other to face the target.

There is an acoustic horn as well as a sonic pulse generator built into the physical shell of the shield. This sonic pulse generator creates the acoustic pulses that blast out through the horn directed at the target.

When the user fires, the shield triggers the sonic pulse generator to generate a shot. The shot can include a burst of multiple pulses at a repetition rate fixed (or varied) for each of three settings: Warn, Stun or Incapacitate. 

The shield could also be equipped with a sensor that measures the distance to the target. If the target moves, then the weapon could automatically adjust to maintain the same pressure.


Heads up display for targeting

From behind the shield, the…

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