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Surgeon General Vivek Murthy was just fired

‘America’s “top doctor” and an Obama-appointee, Vivek Murthy, was dismissed and replaced by the Trump Administration on Friday.

In a statement, the administration said it asked Murthy to resign from his post as Surgeon General after he helped with “a smooth transition.” …

The New York Times reported a somewhat different story: Murthy was asked to step down, refused, and was fired…’

Source: Vox

Murthy was anti-vaping, pro-ObamaCare, and a proponent of gun control.

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Donald Trump has ‘dangerous mental illness’, say psychiatry experts at Yale conference

Trump-narcissus.jpeg‘Donald Trump has a “dangerous mental illness” and is not fit to lead the US, a group of psychiatrists has warned during a conference at Yale University.Mental health experts claimed the President was “paranoid and delusional”, and said it was their “ethical responsibility” to warn the American public about the “dangers” Mr Trump’s psychological state poses to the country.

Speaking at the conference at Yale’s School of Medicine on Thursday, one of the mental health professionals, Dr John Gartner, a practising psychotherapist who advised psychiatric residents at Johns Hopkins University Medical School, said: “We have an ethical responsibility to warn the public about Donald Trump’s dangerous mental illness.” …’

Source: The Independent

#notmypresident #unfit

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Scientists have created a fluid with negative mass – but what does it tell us?

‘Scientists have created a fluid that exhibits the bizarre property of “negative mass” in an experiment that appears to defy the everyday laws of motion.

Push an object and Newton’s laws (and common experience) dictate that it will accelerate in the direction in which it was shoved.

“That’s what most things that we’re used to do,” said Michael Forbes, a physicist at Washington State University and co-author of the paper, which shows that normal intuitions do not always apply to physics experiments. “With negative mass, if you push something, it accelerates toward you.”

Negative mass has previously cropped up in speculative theories, including those suggesting the existence of wormholes, a form of cosmological shortcut between two points in the universe. Just as electric charge can be either positive or negative, matter could, hypothetically, have either positive or negative mass.

For an object with negative mass, Newton’s second law of motion, in which a force is equal to the mass of an object multiplied by its acceleration (F=ma) would be experienced in reverse.

Theoretically, this sounds straightforward, but picturing how this behaviour would work in the real world is bewildering, even for experts…’

Source: The Guardian

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What the Hell is This Beautiful Thing?

‘Meet Steve, a newly discovered atmospheric phenomenon that’s so strange it still doesn’t have a formal scientific description, hence the placeholder name. Thanks to the work of aurora enthusiasts and atmospheric scientists, we’re now learning more about Steve, but many questions remain.

 This stunning feature was first documented by the Facebook group Alberta Aurora Chasers last year. Awareness of the object, in conjunction with the powers of social media, have now resulted in more than 50 observer reports. This ribbon of purple and green light is unlike any other known auroral feature and we’re still not sure what causes it. The Alberta Aurora Chasers decided to call it Steve in honor of the children’s movie Over the Hedge, in which a character arbitrarily conjures up the name Steve to describe an object he’s not sure about…’

Source: Gizmodo

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Courts Are Using AI to Sentence Criminals. That Must Stop Now

‘Algorithms pervade our lives today, from music recommendations to credit scores to now, bail and sentencing decisions. But there is little oversight and transparency regarding how they work. Nowhere is this lack of oversight more stark than in the criminal justice system. Without proper safeguards, these tools risk eroding the rule of law and diminishing individual rights.

Currently, courts and corrections departments around the US use algorithms to determine a defendant’s “risk”, which ranges from the probability that an individual will commit another crime to the likelihood a defendant will appear for his or her court date. These algorithmic outputs inform decisions about bail, sentencing, and parole. Each tool aspires to improve on the accuracy of human decision-making that allows for a better allocation of finite resources.

Typically, government agencies do not write their own algorithms; they buy them from private businesses. This often means the algorithm is proprietary or “black boxed”, meaning only the owners, and to a limited degree the purchaser, can see how the software makes decisions. Currently, there is no federal law that sets standards or requires the inspection of these tools, the way the FDA does with new drugs.

Source: WIRED

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Donald Trump Seems To Think That Kim Jong-Un Is The Same Person As Kim Jong-Il

“On “Fox and Friends” this morning, President Trump promised not “to telegraph what I’m doing or what I’m thinking,” but he ended up telegraphing a major misconception. In an interview with Ainsley Earhardt, Trump appeared to confuse current North Korean Kim Jong-un with his father and predecessor, Kim Jong-il. Trump said:

‘They’ve been talking with this gentleman for a long time. You read Clinton’s book, he said, ‘Oh, we made such a great peace deal,’ and it was a joke. You look at different things over the years, with President Obama, everybody’s been outplayed, they’ve all been outplayed by this gentleman.’. …”

Source: Digg

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A Trail of Strange Physics Results Offers Tantalizing Hints of New Particles

‘Conceptually, particle physics experiments are surprisingly simple. Smash a shitload of particles together, and look at what comes out. The results will either confirm whatever the business-as-usual theory is, or, if there’s a really crystal clear deviation from that theory, they might prove some new hypothesis about some new particles. But the middle ground, where the difference between what we know and what we see is still fuzzy, is where lots and lots of results live.

New results from LHCb, one of the experiments observing particle collisions at the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva, Switzerland, are showing one such fuzzy discrepancy. Physicists are cautiously excited, because if these results hold up, they would imply the existence of some brand-new particles. Unlike last year, when a small signal that seemed like it could have been something new turned out to be just a statistical fluke, these new results are popping up in the wake of another hint observed in a different way a few years ago that hasn’t gone away. So, this time, there may really be something there.

If these signals do turn out to indicate real discoveries, it might “imply the existence of some new kind of particles or other physics that’s still unknown,” LHCb physics coordinator Vincenzo Vagnoni told Gizmodo. “This is a way to unveil the existence of a new family of particles.” …’

Source: Gizmodo

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What Do Animals See in a Mirror?

‘A controversial test for self-awareness is dividing the animal kingdom.

…Showing chimpanzees their reflections seemed like a fascinating little experiment when he first tried it in the summer of 1969. He didn’t imagine that this would become one of the most influential—and most controversial—tests in comparative psychology, ushering the mind into the realm of experimental science and foreshadowing questions on the depth of animal suffering. “It’s not the ability to recognize yourself in a mirror that is important,” he would come to believe. “It’s what that says about your ability to conceive of yourself in the first place.”

…[P]assing the mirror test indicates a level of self-awareness that makes it unethical to keep a species in captivity. “These animals have at least some level of self-awareness, and if they do, they know where they are, they can be aware of the limitations of their physical environment,” Marino says. She is now the science director for the Nonhuman Rights Project, which is attempting to gain legal rights for animals with higher-order cognitive abilities by getting courts to recognize them as “legal persons,” and Reiss advocates for dolphin protection. Key to their arguments is the scientific evidence that chimps, elephants, cetaceans, and other animals are self-aware like humans. Not only can they suffer, but they can think to themselves, I am suffering…’

Source: Nautilus

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How to change someone’s mind effectively

‘…[W]e should focus on having more active conversations instead of passively sparing with our opposition online. If you have the chance to talk through your arguments with someone else instead of simply reading an argument and pondering your response, you are more likely to change your mind. When people take the time to exchange arguments in the course of a discussion, they tend to adopt better-supported opinions. This has been observed in a great variety of domains, from medical diagnoses to political predictions. In the case of logical or mathematical problems, this happens even if the individual defending the correct answer faces a group that confidently and unanimously agrees on the wrong answer.Believing that arguing will get us nowhere is not only unjustified, it might also be dangerous. The less we believe arguments work, the less we will try to engage people who disagree with us. In a self-fulfilling prophecy, we would then only talk with people who share our views—and that’s not going to change anyone’s mind at all.

Source: Hugo Mercier — Quartz

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Unprecedented String of Executions Blocked After Drug Co. Objections

‘A judge in Arkansas moved Friday to block the state from carrying out up to seven executions this month, deepening the turmoil that surrounds a planned pace of killing with no equal in the modern history of American capital punishment.

Judge Wendell Griffen of the Pulaski County Circuit Court issued a restraining order Friday that forbids the Arkansas authorities from using their supply of vecuronium bromide, one of three execution drugs the state planned to use. Hours earlier, the nation’s largest pharmaceutical company went to court to argue that the state had purchased the drug using a false pretense…

Four companies have publicly raised concerns about how the Arkansas Department of Correction came to stockpile the drugs for its lethal injection cocktail — midazolam, vecuronium bromide and potassium chloride — but only the McKesson Corporation, the drug distributor that ranks fifth on the Fortune 500 list of companies, made an explicit allegation of deception.

Arkansas, the company said, bought 10 boxes of vecuronium bromide, which the state can use to stop a prisoner’s breathing.

But the state prison system “never disclosed its intended purpose to us for these products,” a lawyer for McKesson, Ethan M. Posner, wrote in a letter obtained by The New York Times. “To the contrary, it purchased the products on an account that was opened under the valid medical license of an Arkansas physician, implicitly representing that the products would only be used for a legitimate medical purpose.” …’

Source: New York Times

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While the US Was Bombing Afghanistan, the Coward-in-Chief Was Secretly Signing Bill to Block Planned Parenthood Money

‘…On Thursday, as news broke that the U.S. had just dropped the “Mother of All Bombs” on an Afghanistan area believed to be Islamic State-group-related, either tunnels or actual Islamic State personnel or both, the dictator in chief was squirreled away in private, somewhere in the corner of the Oval Office, signing legislation that would allow states to withhold federal funding from Planned Parenthood.

The action, according to the Associated Press, erases former President Barack Obama’s rule that blocked states from withholding federal Title X funding from women’s organizations that perform abortions, including Planned Parenthood…’

Source: Kinja

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Your Guide to All the Devastating Weapons You Hear About in the News

‘Check the news and you’re guaranteed to hear to about conflict in some part of the world. But there are a lot of weapon terms getting thrown around without explanation, and even people in the public eye are totally clueless about what these weapons do. Here’s everything you need to know about the MOAB, Tomahawk missiles, barrel bombs, chemical weapons, and more…’

Source: Lifehacker

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Poignant ‘First Protest from Space’

“The Autonomous Space Agency Network (ASAN), an independent advocate of DIY space exploration, has a message for Donald Trump and they’ve launched a weather balloon into the stratosphere to send it: “@realDonaldTrump LOOK AT THAT, YOU SON OF A BITCH.” It’s honestly not as confrontational as it seems at first glance.

The Overview Effect is a phenomenon that many of the lucky few to visit space have reported feeling. It simply describes a cognitive shift in which the person suddenly felt the enormity of the universe and the silliness of human squabbles. Edgar Mitchell was one of the astronauts who reported this change in his understanding of life. Mitchell was the pilot of Apollo 14 and the sixth person to walk on the Moon. When he came back to Earth he had this to say:

 ‘You develop an instant global consciousness, a people orientation, an intense dissatisfaction with the state of the world, and a compulsion to do something about it. From out there on the moon, international politics look so petty. You want to grab a politician by the scruff of the neck and drag him a quarter of a million miles out and say, “Look at that, you son of a bitch.” ‘

The beauty of what ASAN is calling the “First Protest in Space” is that it could be referring to any complaint you’d like to lodge about Trump and his “America first” approach to leadership. There a lot of people on this big blue orb and they’re going to need the planet that the president is so tirelessly working to destroy…”

Source: Gizmodo

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5 ways the North Korea situation could spiral out of control

‘To understand how close we are to full-scale conflict in North Korea, I reached out to Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies. Lewis focuses on nuclear nonproliferation, international security, and disarmament, and he is the author of Minimum Means of Reprisal: China’s Search for Security in the Nuclear Age. I asked Lewis to lay out some of the worst-case scenarios in North Korea. Here’s what he told me…’

Source: Vox

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Glorious — and vulnerable

‘…We’ve just ascended the tallest mountain in the Hawaiian islands, Mauna Kea, to see the pair of 10-meter Keck Telescopes, the largest and most powerful optical telescopes in the world. Hawaii lies 4,000km away from the closest continent, North America, making this the most remote archipelago on Earth. With clear skies, therefore, Mauna Kea has arguably the best “seeing” of any telescope site in the world.

The combination of big mirrors and dark skies has proven nothing short of revelatory. Since the first of the two Keck telescopes began observing the heavens in 1993, astronomers have used the instruments to discover dark energy, find outer Solar System objects that led to Pluto’s demotion, and more. On a given night, an astronomer might point a telescope toward volcano eruptions on the Jovian moon Io or study faint galaxies at the edge of the visible universe.

But increasingly, the mountain’s fair skies are clouded with controversy. Native Hawaiians dispute the right of outsiders to build large telescopes on their sacred mountain, and a proposal to build a much larger instrument, the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT), on Mauna Kea has galvanized the activists as never before…’

Source: Ars Technica

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Research Explains Why Your Shoelaces Are Always Coming Undone

‘There are a number of forces at play that contribute to the spontaneous untying of shoelaces, according to the study published in Proceedings of the Royal Society A on Tuesday. Daily-Diamond and his co-researchers were able to figure this out by recording a high-speed video of someone running on a treadmill until their shoelaces untied. From there, they were able to build a working hypothesis, which they tested with further experiments…’

Source: Motherboard

Better yet, the research points to a modification in your shoe-tying methodology that will keep them tied significantly longer.

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R.I.P. Mark Hawthorne, a Man of Few Words Except, ‘I Hate You’

“For many journalists, there is life after The New York Times.

Few, however, have led a life as strange and rich as Mark Hawthorne did. Better known as the beloved and respected “Hate Man” of Berkeley, Calif., Mr. Hawthorne died this month at 80 after living for decades on the streets of Berkeley and in People’s Park. His death became international news when it was reported by The Guardian.

An admission of hate, for Mr. Hawthorne, was a necessary prelude to love.

“He had come to believe that dialogue, understanding or trust between people can only be established if they admit what separates them, or, as he put it, why they hate each other,” Michael T. Kaufman, Mr. Hawthorne’s best friend at The Times, wrote about their reunion, in 1990, after more than two decades apart. “Negative emotions, he insisted, are true and real, while positive feelings are intrinsically hypocritical.”

“As we sat together, once more enjoying conversation and argument,” Mr. Kaufman recalled, “students would occasionally approach and good-naturedly call out, ‘I hate you.’ My friend would reply, ‘I hate you, too.’ …”

Source: New York Times obituary

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Trump team on the defensive; Democrats stop fawning

Tommy Christopher writes:

‘Donald Trump’s decision to launch airstrikes on a Syrian airfield was hailed by many corporate media and foreign policy establishment types, but in addition to the myriad questions surrounding the motivation and constitutionality of Trump’s unilateral action, the ineffectiveness of the strike is becoming the story. According to multiple reports, flights from the airbase resumed on Friday, a day after the strikes. …’

Source: Shareblue

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The ‘untranslatable’ emotions you never knew you had

‘Have you ever felt a little mbuki-mvuki – the irresistible urge to “shuck off your clothes as you dance”? Perhaps a little kilig – the jittery fluttering feeling as you talk to someone you fancy? How about uitwaaien – which encapsulates the revitalising effects of taking a walk in the wind?

These words – taken from Bantu, Tagalog, and Dutch – have no direct English equivalent, but they represent very precise emotional experiences that are neglected in our language. And if Tim Lomas at the University of East London has his way, they might soon become much more familiar.

Lomas’s Positive Lexicography Project aims to capture the many flavours of good feelings (some of which are distinctly bittersweet) found across the world, in the hope that we might start to incorporate them all into our daily lives. We have already borrowed many emotion words from other languages, after all – think “frisson”, from French, or “schadenfreude”, from German – but there are many more that have not yet wormed their way into our vocabulary. Lomas has found hundreds of these “untranslatable” experiences so far – and he’s only just begun.

Learning these words, he hopes, will offer us all a richer and more nuanced understanding of ourselves. “They offer a very different way of seeing the world.”

 Lomas says he was first inspired after hearing a talk on the Finnish concept of sisu, which is a sort of “extraordinary determination in the face of adversity”. According to Finnish speakers, the English ideas of “grit”, “perseverance” or “resilience” do not come close to describing the inner strength encapsulated in their native term. It was “untranslatable” in the sense that there was no direct or easy equivalent encoded within the English vocabulary that could capture that deep resonance.

Intrigued, he began to hunt for further examples, scouring the academic literature and asking every foreign acquaintance for their own suggestions. The first results of this project were published in the Journal of Positive Psychology last year.

Many of the terms referred to highly specific positive feelings, which often depend on very particular circumstances:

  • Desbundar (Portuguese) – to shed one’s inhibitions in having fun
  • Tarab (Arabic) – a musically induced state of ecstasy or enchantment
  • Shinrin-yoku (Japanese) – the relaxation gained from bathing in the forest, figuratively or literally
  • Gigil (Tagalog) – the irresistible urge to pinch or squeeze someone because they are loved or cherished
  • Yuan bei (Chinese) – a sense of complete and perfect accomplishment
  • Iktsuarpok (Inuit) – the anticipation one feels when waiting for someone, whereby one keeps going outside to check if they have arrived

But others represented more complex and bittersweet experiences, which could be crucial to our growth and overall flourishing.

  • Natsukashii (Japanese) – a nostalgic longing for the past, with happiness for the fond memory, yet sadness that it is no longer
  • Wabi-sabi (Japanese) – a “dark, desolate sublimity” centred on transience and imperfection in beauty
  • Saudade (Portuguese) – a melancholic longing or nostalgia for a person, place or thing that is far away either spatially or in time – a vague, dreaming wistfulness for phenomena that may not even exist
  • Sehnsucht (German) – “life-longings”, an intense desire for alternative states and realisations of life, even if they are unattainable

In addition to these emotions, Lomas’s lexicography also charted the personal characteristics and behaviours that might determine our long-term well-being and the ways we interact with other people.

  • Dadirri (Australian aboriginal) term – a deep, spiritual act of reflective and respectful listening
  • Pihentagyú (Hungarian) – literally meaning “with a relaxed brain”, it describes quick-witted people who can come up with sophisticated jokes or solutions
  • Desenrascanço (Portuguese) – to artfully disentangle oneself from a troublesome situation
  • Sukha (Sanskrit) – genuine lasting happiness independent of circumstances
  • Orenda (Huron) – the power of the human will to change the world in the face of powerful forces such as fate

You can view many more examples on his website, where there is also the opportunity to submit your own…’

Source: BBC – Future (via David)

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Can the President read?

…’When Donald Trump hosted Saturday Night Live in 2015, none of the regulars were happy about it, according to an interview with Killam in Brooklyn Magazine… But here’s an observation from Killam about Trump that brings us to a serious question.

“What you see is what you get with him, really,” he said. “I mean, there was no big reveal. He struggled to read at the table read, which did not give many of us great confidence. Didn’t get the jokes, really. He’s just a man who seems to be powered by bluster.”

It’s an interesting question, which has been asked before. In news reports of how briefings unfolded before recent air strikes on Syria, multiple accounts say Trump asked for more pictures, no text…’

Source: Boing Boing

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Top Democrats Are Wrong: Trump Supporters Were More Motivated by Racism Than Economic Issues

 

‘Since Donald Trump’s shock election victory, leading Democrats have worked hard to convince themselves, and the rest of us, that his triumph had less to do with racism and much more to do with economic anxiety — despite almost all of the available evidence suggesting otherwise…

Look, I get it. It’s difficult to accept that millions of your fellow citizens harbor what political scientists have identified as “racial resentment.” The reluctance to acknowledge that bigotry, and tolerance of bigotry, is still so widespread in society is understandable. From an electoral perspective too, why would senior members of the Democratic leadership want to alienate millions of voters by dismissing them as racist bigots? …

Philip Klinkner, a political scientist at Hamilton College and an expert on race relations, has pored over the latest data from the American National Election Studies (ANES), and tells me that “whether it’s good politics to say so or not, the evidence from the 2016 election is very clear that attitudes about blacks, immigrants, and Muslims were a key component of Trump’s appeal.” For example, he says, “in 2016 Trump did worse than Mitt Romney among voters with low and moderate levels of racial resentment, but much better among those with high levels of resentment.”

The new ANES data only confirms what a plethora of studies have told us since the start of the presidential campaign: the race was about race. Klinkner himself grabbed headlines last summer when he revealed that the best way to identify a Trump supporter in the U.S. was to ask “just one simple question: is Barack Obama a Muslim?” Because, he said, “if they are white and the answer is yes, 89 percent of the time that person will have a higher opinion of Trump than Clinton.” This is economic anxiety? Really?

Other surveys and polls of Trump voters found “a strong relationship between anti-black attitudes and support for Trump”; Trump supporters being “more likely to describe African Americans as ‘criminal,’ ‘unintelligent,’ ‘lazy’ and ‘violent’”; more likely to believe “people of color are taking white jobs”; and a “majority” of them rating blacks “as less evolved than whites.” Sorry, but how can any of these prejudices be blamed on free trade or low wages? …’

Source: The Intercept

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The Outrage of Bipartisan Praise for Trump’s Bombing of Syria

Instantly falling behind Trump as he ejaculates with Cruise missiles ensures that he keeps doing so: There is no more reliable factor to reflexively unite people behind any leader than war, and Trump now sees how true that is. The same political leaders who have spent the months since his election denouncing him as a mentally unstable inept Fascist and an unprecedented threat to democracy are now lauding him uncritically for his missile attack on Syrian government targets. Even if you are someone who on principle wanted the US to attack Assad, shouldn’t your view that Trump is a fool and a monster prevent endorsement of this war with this Commander-in-Chief?

And, as always in war, the American media is immediately converted into state media. In the first 24 hours after, the five leading US newspapers had eighteen op-ed pieces in praise of, and zero in opposition to, the attack.

The unexamined questionable claim that this attack serves humanitarian goals exerts such a powerful appeal that it overrides all rational considerations. The Trump blockade on refugees fleeing the horrors of the civil war gives the lie to any sentiment for the victims of the gas attacks, though, doesn’t it? The US does not blow things up for altruistic reasons, it does so when it believes there will be some self-serving benefit, but we always want to believe that our bombs and missiles will be filled with love, help, and freedom. In the last two months, Trump has ordered a commando raid in Yemen that has massacred children and dozens of innocent people, bombed Mosul and killed scores of civilians, and bombed a mosque near Aleppo that killed dozens.

While Trump said it was in the “vital national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons”, there is no conceivable self-defense pretext for Trump’s action. The greatest threat it solves is that to Trump’s infantile ego, instantly giving him the media respect he craves with his most popular action since he took office, changing the indubitable perception of disarray in his administration as his popularity rating continues its steady downward crawl. Trump himself had accused Obama in 2012 of preparing to start a new war in response to falling poll numbers. Instantly falling behind Trump as he ejaculates with Cruise missiles ensures that he keeps doing so. As NPR Pentagon correspondent Tom Bowman observed, “This action is a feel-good kind of thing for Trump. Blow away aircraft; you don’t kill any Russians, and that’s it. It’s good optics.”

Those who voice opposition to the bombing campaign are met with two predictable and pervasive toxic conceits driving American decision-making: that we must “Do Something” and “Look Strong,” predicated on the false and dangerous premise that the US military can and should solve every world evil. Democratic policy-makers are in thrall to these same principles. Critics have spent months claiming Trump is a traitorous puppet of Putin’s unwilling to defend US interests and that anyone who refuses to confront the Russians or their proxies like Assad is a sympathizer of or a servant to foreign enemies. Thus, they have no ability or desire to oppose Trump’s wars. Even those Democrats who have criticized the bombing campaign have done so on process issues rather than on the merits – with very few exceptions such as Rep. Ted Lieu and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard.

And even the procedural objections to this action have been cowardly and inept. Is no one concerned that he was able to order this attack without any democratic debate, not to mention Congressional approval? The action was without even the pretext of anti-terrorist legal justification Obama drew upon through the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force when he started bombing ISIS in Syria.

Jack Goldsmith, a Harvard professor and former George W. Bush lawyer, said, “I can imagine the smile on Trump administration officials’ faces when they figured out that they would both enforce a red line that Obama wouldn’t and rely on Obama administration legal thinking to provide cover for doing so.”

The Congressional abdication of war-making authority to an all-powerful imperial presidency has been jointly built by both parties and handed to Trump gift-wrapped.

The autocratic presidency only works in the hands of a clever and moral man. One of Obama’s best decisions, and one of which he said he was very proud, was his resistance to bipartisan demands that he use military force against Assad. In contrast, we knew where Trump’s morality stood long before he was elected, with his explicit vows to commit war crimes — torturing detainees and purposely murdering the families of terrorists.

US war fever waits for nothing. Wanting conclusive evidence before we drop bombs is roundly condemned as support for evil. The chemical weapons claim rapidly became the gospel truth even though questioned in multiple world capitals. How do you know whether there really was a sarin gas attack and, if there was, that the Assad government was responsible? Susan Rice just two months ago boasted to NPR: “We were able to get the Syrian government to voluntarily and verifiably give up its chemical weapons stockpile.” Canadian PM Justin Trudeau, for one, had urged an investigation to determine what had actually happened before any action was undertaken in response. No US allies could be enlisted to cooperate and give broader legitimacy to the action. Britain, for example, “said it would not participate if asked,” the Washington Post reported.

Trump made it clear that this was a limited action designed to punish and warn Assad for the use of chemical weapons rather than the start of a new war to remove him. But crossing a line with our aggression often quickly becomes impossible to contain. And I am skeptical that Congress would demand a role in deciding on any wider effort, or that they would prevail if they did. As Glenn Greenwald summarized it:

‘Ultimately, what is perhaps most depressing about all of this is how, yet again, we see the paucity of choice offered by American democracy. The leadership of both parties can barely contain themselves joining together to cheer the latest war. One candidate – the losing one – ran on a platform of launching this new war, while the other – the victor – repeatedly vowed to avoid it, only to launch it after being in office fewer than 100 days. The one constant of American political life is that the U.S. loves war. Martin Luther King’s 1967 denunciation of the U.S. as “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today” is more accurate than ever.’

#notmypresident #notmeinfuhrer

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Cannibalism Study: People Are Not That Nutritious

‘Note to the prehistoric party planner: One dead mammoth can feed 25 hungry Neanderthals for a month, but cannibalizing a human would provide the crowd with only a third of a day’s calories.

Essentially, you’re a walking lunch.

A new look at the nutritional value of human flesh shows that, compared with other Paleolithic prey animals, humans weren’t especially packed with calories for their size…’

Source: National Geographic

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U.S. strikes Syrian military airfield

First direct assault on Assad government

‘The U.S. military launched approximately 50 cruise missiles at a Syrian military airfield late on Thursday, in the first direct American assault on the government of President Bashar al-Assad since that country’s civil war began six years ago.The operation, which the Trump administration authorized in retaliation for a chemical attack killing scores of civilians this week, dramatically expands U.S. military involvement in Syria and exposes the United States to heightened risk of direct confrontation with Russia and Iran, both backing Assad in his attempt to crush his opposition…’

Source: Washington Post

The infant tyrant strikes. As my friend Rich Kubelka comments, “Agent Orange tips off his master, Putin, per the “deconfliction” agreement, & Putin tells Assad to scramble the jets at that airfield. End result? We’ve just bought $44.5 million worth of potholes… And AO gets to look like a tough guy…”

Or, as per Vox:

‘What’s crucial here is that Trump’s justification for launching the strike isn’t to end the Syrian civil war, or even to slow down Assad’s killing of his country’s civilians. It is a “targeted” strike designed as punishment for one specific crime: the use of chemical weapons.

 The core problem with any proposed plan for intervention against Assad has always been the risk that it could get wildly out of hand, dragging the US deeper into the Syrian conflict than it was prepared to go and potentially making the already incredibly complex and bloody war even worse. Any serious intervention in Syria also carried the very real risk of killing Russian soldiers, who are in Syria helping Assad, thus potentially sparking conflict with a powerful, nuclear-armed enemy.

The Trump administration is trying to avoid this kind of open-ended commitment. By going out of his way to emphasize that this US strike targeted the exact airbase from where the chemical attack was launched, Trump is making it crystal clear that the strike is designed as a specific punishment for the recent chemical attack — and not a broader effort aimed at striking Assad until he stops bombing civilians or leaves power.

The goal isn’t to stop the bloodshed in Syria, but rather to send a message to Assad (and potentially other rogue states) that chemical weapons use is out of bounds…’

#notmypresident

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R.I.P. Joanne Kyger

Beat Generation Poet Dies at 82:

“The shape of the day, the words of the moment, what’s happening around me in the world of interior and exterior space — these are my writing concerns,” Ms. Kyger explained in a statement to the Foundation for Contemporary Arts in New York in 2005.

Joanne Kyger, a prolific poet whose works, inspired by natural wonders and Zen Buddhism, distinguished her as one of the few women embraced by the Beat Generation writers’ fraternity, died on March 22 at her home in Bolinas, Calif. She was 82.

The cause was lung cancer, her husband, Donald Guravich, said.

Along with Diane di Prima, Anne Waldman and several others, Ms. Kyger made her mark not only as a writer, but also as a member of the male-dominated post-World War II cultural movement personified by William S. Burroughs, Lucien Carr, Neal Cassady, Allen Ginsberg, Herbert Huncke, Gary Snyder and Jack Kerouac.

(It was Kerouac who, to characterize his generation, appropriated the musical term, which he interpreted as nonconformist and upbeat.)

In her “Night Palace,” from 2003, she wrote:

“The best thing about the past
is that it’s over”
When you die.
you wake up
from a dream
that’s your life.
Then you grow up
and get to be post -human
in a past that keeps happening
ahead of you

Source: New York Times obituary

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This Test Could Settle the Loch Ness Monster Mystery Once and For All

‘Neil Gemmell is a geneticist at the University of Otago whose lab focuses on ecology and conservation. His group uses what’s known as environmental DNA to monitor marine biodiversity, which with a few liters of water allows them to detect traces of thousands of species. The same technique, he proposes, might be used to determine whether Scotland’s Loch Ness has anything unusual swimming around in it—say, for example, a mysterious giant monster…’

Source: Gizmodo

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Senate Democrats have the votes to filibuster Gorsuch

‘Senate Democrats have the 41 votes they need to filibuster Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch.

On Monday afternoon, Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) told reporters that he would be joining the Democratic filibuster against Gorsuch’s nomination.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has said he would respond to a filibuster by rewriting the Senate’s rules so that Supreme Court justices need 51 rather than 60 votes to be confirmed. That rule change — called the “nuclear option” on Capitol Hill — would allow Gorsuch to be confirmed without Democratic votes.

Still, Senate Democrats and left-wing activists have sought to force McConnell to use the nuclear option rather than lay down their arms prematurely. Like other Democrats, Coons stressed that he would filibuster Gorsuch in large part because of McConnell’s refusal to give President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, a Senate hearing after Justice Antonin Scalia died in February of last year…’

Source: Vox

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WHO: Depression Is Now the Leading Cause of Ill Health Worldwide

‘Depression has become the leading cause of ill health and disability across the world, now affecting more than 300 million people globally, the World Health Organization said Thursday. However, half of people suffering from depression don’t get treatments they need to live healthy, productive lives.The worldwide depression rates increased 18 percent between 2005 and 2015, according to the WHO. Yet, there still exists a stigma associated with the condition, as well as a lack of support in many countries for those suffering from mental disorders…’

Source: NYMag

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Happy 1st of April

Everyone hates April Fools’ Day — so why does it endure? The 500-year history of a troll holiday. (The Verge)

And why and how did it come to be associated with April 1st? (Digg)

This Is the Only Good April Fools’ Joke So Everybody Else Can Shut Up (Motherboard)

Horrific April Fool’s Pranks of the 19th Century, and more (Gizmodo)

(Although there is a significant value to April Fool’s Day. As Jay Kuo tweeted, this is the only day of the year that people critically evaluate what they read on the web before accepting it as true!)

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The Emergence of the Hive Mind

‘The research was conducted by Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler, and was derived from data collected by the Framingham Heart Study, which has been tracking the vital statistics and psychological states of the residents of one Massachusetts town for over five decades. The researchers were initially interested in the impact of social contacts on health habits, and the richness of the Framingham data allowed them to track the long-term behavior of more than 12,000 individuals.

The results, as reported in Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives, were startling, and have further undermined modernity’s presumptions about the individual as a rational and self-reliant decision maker. As clearly tracked on the researchers’ graphs, health habits spread rapidly through the separate social networks of the Framingham population: Whom one knew strongly affected what one chose to do—overeat or not, smoke or not—and highlighted the power of emulation in human behavior. Further study showed that the influence of these social networks was not limited to health decisions..

Our misery or happiness, our good or bad health, and our indifference or commitment to political participation, are not only contagious; according to Christakis and Fowler, they are mysteriously influenced at a distance by the decisions of people we never meet. The persistence of this influence within the social networks could be traced through “three degrees of separation,” so that the habits of a man’s sister’s neighbor’s wife had a statistically significant effect on his own behavior. If she quit smoking, though out of sight and out of mind, his chances of doing the same were increased by nearly a third…’

Source: 3quarksdaily

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The Funnier You Are, the Sooner You Die?

‘Comedians use a lot of death-related terminology both on-stage and off. Terms like “I died up there” (bad performance) or “I murdered the crowd” (good performance) are pretty commonplace. But according to a recently published study by the International Journal of Cardiology and the the Australian Catholic University, the funnier you are, the more likely you are to die.

The study compared the median ages of death of three groups — dramatic actors, comedic actors, and stand up comedians — and found that, on average, stand up comedians are two times more likely to die younger than their thespian counterparts. Stand up comedians die on average 2.5 to 3 years before dramatic actors, and 2 years before comedic actors.

The real kicker is that the higher ranked comedian you were (according to the crowd-based ranking over at Ranker) the more likely you are to die: for each 10 points higher you were (towards the number 1 ranked comedian) there was a 7% increased risk of you dying. For example, compared to the 150th ranked stand-up comedian, the 50th was 70% more likely to die.*

It should be noted that many stand up comedians tend to be solitary performers who travel alone a lot, and that depression in comedic performers is hardly a new phenomenon…’

Source: Big Think

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Coming for you in Klaipeda, Lithuania

‘If you ever visit the quaint seaside town of Klaipeda in Lithuania, beware of the black ghost… [I]f you’re prone to nightmares, it’s surely something out of one your very worst. The immense bronze sculpture, known as the Juodasis Vaiduoklis in Lithuanian, is 7.8 feet tall… Sculpted by Svajunas Jurkus and Sergejus Plotnikovas, the mysterious figure holds a lantern in one hand, as his long, sinister fingers grip the dock. Located near the Memel castle remains, the black ghost is a reminder of not only Lithuanian legend but of Klaipeda’s own folklore and history. Legend has it that one evening in 1595, one of the Memel Castle guards, Hans von Heidi, while walking around the docks, saw a hooded ghostly figure…’

Source: Design You Trust

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A short guide to conversations with extraterrestrials

‘China completed the construction of one of the largest radio telescopes on the planet in July. The craft will scan space for extraterrestrial signals. For centuries, humanity has dreamt of making contact with other worlds. From the most zany to the most serious, these attempts have been based on a common representation: this radical Other would be a pure, cold and logical intelligence. So that in wishing to greet the Martians humans have learned … to speak to the machines.’

Source: Finn Brunton, Le Monde diplomatique, August 2016

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How philosophy came to disdain the wisdom of oral cultures

‘As it happens, there are few members of primary oral cultures left in the world. And yet from a historical perspective the great bulk of human experience resides with them. There are, moreover, members of literate cultures, and subcultures, whose primary experience of language is oral, based in storytelling, not argumentation, and that is living and charged, not fixed and frozen. Plato saw these people as representing a lower, and more dangerous, use of language than the one worthy of philosophers.

Philosophers still tend to disdain, or at least to conceive as categorically different from their own speciality, the use of language deployed by bards and poets, whether from Siberia or the South Bronx. Again, this disdain leaves out the bulk of human experience. Until it is eradicated, the present talk of the ideal of inclusion will remain mere lip-service…’

Justin E. H. Smith is a professor of history and philosophy of science at the Université Paris Diderot – Paris 7. He writes frequently for The New York Times and Harper’s Magazine. His latest book is The Philosopher: A History in Six Types (2016).

Source: Aeon Ideas

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The Fanged Fish That Drugs Its Enemies With Opioids

‘Not unlike the ant-decapitating fly and the satanic leaf-tailed gecko, the fang blenny’s name does not disappoint. This tiny fish wields two massive teeth that it uses to gouge chunks out of much larger fish and, in a bind, scrap its way out of the grasp of a predator. And one particular group of fang blenny even injects venom, just like a snake, to give its attackers that extra what-for.

That’s all very, very bizarre behavior for a fish—behavior that today gets even more bizarre. In the journal Current Biology, researchers have revealed what makes the fang blenny’s venom so unique: It’s packed with opioid peptides, which target opioid receptors, much like heroin and morphine do in the human brain. Unlike with snakes or stingrays or the infamous lionfish, the venom doesn’t incapacitate the victim with pain. Instead, it sends the fish’s blood pressure plummeting, messing with its coordination and giving the blenny a chance to escape…’

Source: WIRED

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Famous Monsters of Filmland’s 1965 guide to home monster makeup

Cory Doctorow writes:

‘The Do-It-Yourself Monster Make-Up Handbook is a 1965 classic: Famous Monsters of Filmland founder Forrest Ackerman tapped movie makeup legend Dick Smith to create guides for turning yourself into any of three Martians, two kinds of werewolf, a “weird-oh,” a “derelict,” a ghoul, a mummy, Frankenstein’s monster, Quasimodo, Mr Hyde, “split face,” and more…’
Source: Boing Boing

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What George W. Bush Really Thought of Trump’s Inauguration

Yashar Ali writes:

‘Bush’s endearing struggle with his poncho at the event quickly became a meme, prompting many Democrats on social media to admit that they already pined for the relative normalcy of his administration. Following Trump’s short and dire speech, Bush departed the scene and never offered public comment on the ceremony.

But, according to three people who were present, Bush gave a brief assessment of Trump’s inaugural after leaving the dais: “That was some weird shit.” All three heard him say it.

A spokesman for Bush declined to comment. …’

Source: New York Magazine

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William Powell, ‘Anarchist Cookbook’ Writer, Dies at 66

William Powell was a teenager, angry at the government and the Vietnam War, when he walked into the main branch of the New York Public Library in Manhattan in 1969 to begin research for a handbook on causing violent mayhem.

Over the next months, he studied military manuals and other publications that taught him the essentials of do-it-yourself warfare, including how to make dynamite, how to convert a shotgun into a grenade launcher and how to blow up a bridge.

What emerged was “The Anarchist Cookbook,” a diagram- and recipe-filled manifesto that is believed to have been used as a source in heinous acts of violence since its publication in 1971, most notably the killings of 12 students and one teacher in 1999 at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo.

Throughout his manual, Mr. Powell fashioned a knowing voice that suggested broad experience in warfare, sabotage or black ops, mixed with an extremist’s anti-establishment worldview.

“As almost everyone knows, silencers are illegal in virtually all the countries of the world,” he wrote before describing how to build a silencer for a handgun, “but then a true revolutionary believes that the government in power is illegal, so, following that logic, I see no reason that he should feel restricted by laws made by an illegal body.”

He declared that his book was an educational service for the silent majority — not the one identified by President Richard M. Nixon as his middle-American constituency, but the disciplined anarchists who were seeking dignity in a world gone wrong. To them, he offered how-to plans for weaponry and explosives as well as drugs, electronic surveillance, guerrilla training and hand-to-hand combat — a potent mix that attracted the attention of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The book found a big audience. More than two million copies have reportedly been sold, and still more have been downloaded on the internet.

Source: New York Times obituary

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‘Power Must Be Taken’: Excerpts From ‘The Anarchist Cookbook’

‘In 1971, William Powell published “The Anarchist Cookbook,” a collection of recipes for drugs, weapons, bombs and other forms of mayhem. He saw the book as a manifesto and guide for would-be revolutionaries, while the authorities saw it as a potential threat; the Federal Bureau of Investigation maintained files on the book for years.Mr. Powell died in July, but his death did not become widely known until this month, with the release of “American Anarchist,” a documentary film about him.Here are excerpts from “The Anarchist Cookbook,” courtesy of Delta Press, its most-recent publisher…’

Source: New York Times

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White House refuses to condemn murder of black man by white supremacist

Judd Legum:

‘James Harris Jackson, a 28-year-old white supremacist from Baltimore, traveled to New York City and brutally murdered Timothy Caughman, a 66-year-old black man, with a sword.
On Monday, April Ryan, Washington bureau chief for American Urban Radio Networks, asked Press Secretary Sean Spicer if the White House had anything to say about this hate crime.
Spicer repeatedly refused to saying anything specific about the murder, stating that he was “not going to reference any particular case before the DOJ right now.” He later added the he didn’t “know all the details.” …’

Source: ThinkProgress

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Diabetes drug could be the first to reverse the disease

Andy Coghlan:

‘A daily pill that restores the body’s sensitivity to insulin may make it easier to control the diabetes boom in rich nations where obesity is on the rise. Stephanie Stanford of the University of California, San Diego, and her team have found that giving mice with diabetes a drug that affects insulin signalling restores their ability to control their blood sugar levels.

The drug was given daily, by mouth, and did not seem to have any side effects in the mice. The animals had developed the condition after a high-fat diet had made them obese. …’

Source: New Scientist

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“I grew up in the Westboro Baptist Church. Here’s why I left”

Mark Frauenfelder:

‘Megan Phelps-Roper was born into the Westboro Baptist Church. In this TED Talk, she explains what’s it like to grow up within a group of people who exult in demonizing … everyone else. She shares her personal experience of extreme polarization, along with some sharp ways we can learn to successfully engage across ideological lines…’

Source: Boing Boing

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Menopausal women become pregnant with their own eggs

‘Two women thought to be infertile have become pregnant using a technique that seems to rejuvenate ovaries, New Scientist can reveal. It is the first time such a treatment has enabled menopausal women to get pregnant using their own eggs.

“I had given up hope on trying to get pregnant,” says one of the women, WS, who is now six months pregnant. “To me, it’s a miracle.”

The approach is based on the apparent healing properties of blood. Kostantinos Sfakianoudis and his colleagues at the Genesis Athens Clinic in Greece draw blood from their patients and spin it in a centrifuge to isolate platelet-rich plasma. This has a high concentration of the cell fragments usually involved in blood clotting, and is already used to speed the healing of sports injuries, although its effectiveness for this purpose is unclear. …’

Source: Jessica Hamzelou, New Scientist

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Long-Sought Research Deregulation Is Upon Us

‘It has been a 40-year labor: Regulatory systems are not easy to undo. Nevertheless, in January the federal government opened the door for universities to deregulate vast portions of research in the social sciences, law, and the humanities. This long-sought and welcome reform of the regulations requiring administrative oversight of federally funded human-subject research on college campuses limits the scope of institutional review board, or IRB, management by exempting low-risk research with human subjects from the board’s review…’

Source: 3quarksdaily

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Deep Disagreements and Argumentative Optimism

‘We all have had moments when we feel that those with whom we disagree not only reject the point we are focused on at the moment, but also reject our values, general beliefs, modes of reasoning, and even our hopes. In such circumstances, productive critical conversation seems impossible. For the most part, in order to be successful, argument must proceed against the background of common ground. Interlocutors must agree on some basic facts about the world, or they must share some source of reasons to with they can appeal, or they must value roughly the same sort of outcome. And so, if two parties disagree about who finished runners-up to Leister City in their historic BPL win last year, they may agree to consult the league website, and that will resolve the issue. Or if two travelers disagree about which route home is better, one may say, “Yes, your way is shorter, but it runs though the traffic bottleneck at the mall, and that adds at least ten minutes to the journey.” And that may resolve the dispute, depending perhaps on whether time is what matters most.

But some disagreements invoke deeper disputes, disputes about what sources are authoritative, what counts as evidence, and what matters. Such disputes quickly become argumentatively strange. And so if someone does not recognize the authority of the soccer league’s website about last year’s standings, it is unclear how a dispute over last year’s runners-up to Leister City could be resolved. What might one say to a disputant of this kind? Does he trust news sites, television reporting, or Wikipedia entries concerning the BPL? Does he regard the news sites and the league website as reliable sources of information concerning this year’s standings or when the games are played? What if our interlocutor in the route-home case doesn’t see why the quickest route is preferable to the shortest? Maybe our traveling companion regards our hurry-scurry as a part of a larger social problem, or maybe wants to enjoy the Zen of a traffic jam. Sometimes a disagreement about one thing lies at the tip of a very large iceberg of composed of many other, deeper, disagreements.

The puzzle about deep disagreement is whether or not reasoned argument works at all in them. There is a widely held view, perhaps at the core of deliberative views of democracy, and certainly central to educational programs that emphasizing critical thinking, that well-run argument is at least not pointless, and often even productive. And many hold that it’s important to practice good argumentation, especially in cases of deep disagreement. Call this view argumentative optimism. The trouble for this optimism is that as disagreements run progressively deeper, it grows increasingly difficult to see how argument could have any point at all; this, in turn, encourages us to regard interlocutors as targets of incredulity, bemusement, and  perhaps even contempt or hatred. There’s little, many think, one can argue or say that is going to rationally resolve certain disagreements. In the end, it all may come down to who’s got better propaganda, more money, or, perhaps, the better weapons. Call this view argumentative pessimism…’

Source: 3quarksdaily

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Comparing First and Final Scenes

‘This fantastic video on Vimeo (below) from Jacob T. Swinney could be the best five minutes you’ll spend today. It shows the opening and closing scenes of famous movies, displayed side by side. I’ve written a few posts here about beginnings and at least one post about endings. But once you have your story finished, whether it’s a piece of fiction or creative nonfiction, take some time to compare the first page or so to the last. What is the first image you’ve created for the reader and what is the final image you’re leaving behind?’

Source: Tracy Staedter

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Opioid Addiction Is Eroding the Life Expectancy of Trump’s Core Supporters

‘…As first highlighted by Princeton economists in 2015, the death rate for non-Hispanic, white Americans has been climbing since the late 90s. For decades, death rates (the number of deaths in a given population) have dropped for Americans overall, and middle-aged whites were no exception. Each year, on average, the death rate dropped by 2 percent.

But in 1998, something flipped, and while the death rates for everyone else—including black, Hispanic, and Asian Americans—continued to steadily drop, the death rates for middle-aged white Americans start to creep up: 0.5 percent a year, every year.

They’ve been dubbed “deaths of despair,” due to the high number of overdose and suicide deaths. Those same economists, Anne Case and Angus Deaton, have now published a follow-up report where they’ve attempted to untangle the cause of this epidemic. While many experts supposed it’s linked to a worsening economy and lower incomes, Case and Deaton say their analysis shows it’s not so simple.

“The story is rooted in the labor market, but involves many aspects of life, including health in childhood, marriage, child rearing, and religion,” the researchers wrote. “Although we do not see the supply of opioids as the fundamental factor, the prescription of opioids for chronic pain added fuel to the flames, making the epidemic much worse than it otherwise would have been.” …’

Source: Motherboard

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Rep. Devin Nunes’s latest stunt could make Trump’s Russia problem worse

‘The latest stumble came Friday, when Nunes abruptly canceled a planned public hearing with top former national security officials about Russian interference in the 2016 election. The House panel was originally scheduled to hear from President Obama’s former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, former CIA Director John Brennan, and former acting Attorney General Sally Yates on Tuesday. But Friday morning, Nunes abruptly pushed back the hearing…

Nunes’s behavior shows that the House Intelligence Committee’s investigation is already being impaired by partisan warfare. That could help fuel calls for a special prosecutor or a select committee where both parties would have subpoena powers. Nunes, in other words, could wind up paving the way for exactly the things he and Trump most want to stave off…’

 

Source: Vox

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6 ways President Trump tried to spin his total defeat on health care

1) How legislating works

2) If your bill fails because not enough people in your party will vote for it, it’s the other party’s fault

3) Obamacare is failing, and when it does, Democrats will be begging for a bipartisan deal

4) The Republican Party is complicated

5) He really wanted to do tax reform anyway

6) Anyway, this crushing defeat is actually for the best

Source: Vox

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Public entomologists struggle with an epidemic of delusional parasitosis

Cory Doctorow writes:

‘Dr Gale Ridge is a public entomologist at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station, where an average of 23 people a day call, write or visit; an increasing proportion of them aren’t inquiring about actual insects, they’re suffering from delusional parasitosis, and they’re desperate and even suicidal.

Nancy Hinkle, a colleague of Gale’s, professor of veterinary entomology at the University of Georgia in Athens, estimates that she spends “a couple of hours every day” dealing with “the invisible bugs.”

The entomologists’ jobs are confounded by the possibility that the weird “bugs” aren’t delusional. The world of arthropods is sufficiently weird that it’s hard to rule out a rare or unknown bug causing mischief; not to mention the complications of industrial de-humidifiers that make “the room buzz with static electricity” that feels like bugs crawling on your skin. Then there are the well-meaning MDs who mistake their patients’ scratch-marks for bug bites.

The entomologists have learned to stage interventions with their “clients'” families, bringing them together to explain the realities of insect behavior, to bring them to the gradual understanding that their problems are real, but the bugs are not.

Not addressed in the story, but very interesting: why the sharp increase in delusional parasitosis? Is it a reduction in the public health services that would have intercepted these people before they got to the entomologists? Is it scare-stories about bedbugs and lyme disease? Aggressive hand-sanitizer ads with their subtext of lurking, dangerous dirtiness? …’

Source: Boing Boing

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Police warn you not to fall for ‘Siri 108’ prank

‘The Sheriff’s office of Harris County, Texas has posted a message on its official Facebook page, pleading with people not to fall for a social media prank in which they’re encouraged to say “108” to Siri.

That’s because the number prompts Siri to dial 9-1-1, or the emergency phone number of whichever country they are in at the time.“

…“This viral prank is becoming increasingly popular on social media, with various speculation as to what the command does. The command, in fact, will instruct Siri to call emergency services, which could potentially tie up emergency lines.”

The reason the 108 code dials emergency services is because it is India’s equivalent of 9-1-1. To protect iPhone users, Apple embedded various international emergency numbers into Siri, with the numbers redirecting to whatever your local number may be. That means that saying “9-1-1” in the U.K. will dial the equivalent number 9-9-9, even if a visitor didn’t know that.

Unfortunately, 108 isn’t particularly well known by Texas youths, apparently, which is why it’s turned out to be fairly easy to trick people into dialing it. Saying the number does give you a few seconds to cancel the call, but evidently enough people aren’t doing this that it’s causing a problem…’

Source: Cult of Mac

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Trump Targets 17-Year-Old Girl’s Cat Site

‘A 17-year-old only identified as Lucy tells The Hollywood Reporter that her website, trumpscratch.com, attracted the attention of the White House after receiving only about 1,200 visitors. She built the site as a joke while she was applying for web developer jobs back in February. It allows users to hit Trump in the face with cat paws while the rickroll music plays. Yeah, it’s basically a meme singularity.

On March 1st she received her first cease and desist letter from Trump’s lawyers. They claim that she was infringing Trump’s “internationally known and famous” trademark. The idea being that he really only sells two things: his name and bullshit.

So, Lucy says she changed the domain name to kittenfeed.com and assumed this nonsense was over. But soon she received another letter demanding that she remove a link to an anti-Trump t-shirt on Amazon. She complied and added some scratches to Trump’s face as you hit him as well as text that reads, “Trump seems tough at first, but he gets weaker with every scratch.” She hasn’t heard anything from them since. The White House hasn’t responded to multiple requests for comment.

“I really just want people to be aware that this is a president who’s clearly more concerned about what people think of him than doing things of substance,” Lucy tells THR.

Trump’s inability to let the tiniest slight go is legendary. But this is ridiculous. And the Streisand Effect is in full swing. The site’s now up to 219,000 visitors and rising.

It’s certainly possible that the President’s lawyers are just doing this on their own while he focuses on feuding with Arnold Schwarzennegar. But even then, this is ridiculous. CNN reported tonight that “the FBI has information that indicates associates of President Donald Trump communicated with suspected Russian operatives to possibly coordinate the release of information damaging to Hillary Clinton’s campaign.” One would think his lawyers would have plenty of bigger issues to tackle at the moment.’

Source: Gizmodo

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Meet the Humans Debating Whether or Not We Should Contact Aliens

‘Going beyond SETI, the new organization METI plans to send a message intended for extraterrestrials. But leading scientists and experts including Stephen Hawking are not so sure this is a good idea.

Doug Vakoch started METI International with the goal of sending messages to aliens, hoping to make some kind of contact. But scientists and cosmologists are split on the issue. John Gertz, the head of an initiative dedicated to the search for intelligent life, warns that proactively making contact could spark a diplomatic crisis. Even Stephen Hawking has weighed in on the debate. Should we call out to ET, or watch and wait? …’

Source: Motherboard

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Falsum Style Guide: Resis⊥ ⊥rump

‘The falsum “⊥” (Upside down T, Uptack or Eet) is a symbol used in various mathematic disciplines, but throughout them it shares the meaning of “arbitrary contradiction” and “false.” Wiktionary further defines falsum as meaning  “an untruth, falsehood, fraud, deceit, lie; forgery.”

The upside-down T aspect also obviously refers to a rejection of Trump, his hatred, fear, and policies. It’s literally the inverse of the first letter of his name…

I believe this is a powerful symbol for us to rally around. And we need a symbol…’

Source: Falsum Resist Style Guide

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Report: FBI evidence suggests Trump associates and Russians may have coordinated to sink Clinton

‘CNN just dropped a bombshell report about President Donald Trump’s potential ties to Russia:

  • “The FBI has information that indicates associates of President Donald Trump communicated with suspected Russian operatives to possibly coordinate the release of information damaging to Hillary Clinton’s campaign, US officials told CNN.”

There are a lot of unanswered questions in this. Who were the Trump associates and Russian officials? How exactly did these different people communicate and possibly coordinate? Is CNN’s report even reliable, given that it cites anonymous US officials? …’

Source: Vox

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A veteran GOP strategist explains why conservative elites put up with Trump’s lies and corruption

‘A lot of weird stuff happened over the past seven days in American politics that might make President Trump’s party skeptical of him. The Trump administration provoked a minor international incident with the United Kingdom by accusing its surveillance agency of complicity in an illegal scheme to subject Trump’s campaign to surveillance. The directors of the FBI and the National Security Agency, plus the chairs of the congressional intelligence committees, rebuked the president for lying about these surveillance issues. Trump also provoked a minor international incident with Germany by accusing Angela Merkel’s government of being somehow in debt to NATO.

Somewhat separately, the FBI confirmed the existence of an open counterintelligence investigation dealing with members of Trump’s campaign. And they confirmed, of course, that Russia interfered in the 2016 election campaign in hopes of electing Donald Trump president, perhaps realizing that he’d be likely to provoke unnecessary fights with key American allies.

Yet for all that, Trump continues to enjoy the overwhelming support of the institutional Republican Party and the American conservative movement, and this quote obtained by Philip Rucker and Ashley Parker explains why:

“All that really matters this week is Gorsuch moving forward and the House passing step one of Obamacare repeal,” said Scott Reed, a veteran Republican strategist who works for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “All the rest is noise.” …’

Source: Vox

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Small RNA identified offering clues for quieting “voices” of schizophrenia

The effectiveness of most if not all existing antipsychotic medications in stopping auditory hallucinations and other psychotic symptoms depends on blocking the action of the neurotransmitter dopamine at a class of dopamine receptors in the brain called D2. (This is undoubtedly an oversimplification but it is the basis of most therapeutic approaches to schizophrenia and other psychotic illnesses.)

However, blockade of D2 receptors cannot be limited to the region of the brain where the dopamine activity causes psychotic symptoms, and furthermore the existing drugs affect other neurotransmitters as well, causing distressing and morbid side effects.

What if, instead of blocking D2 receptors, it were possible simply to decrease the numbers of D2 receptors in the pertinent brain areas? Researchers at St Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital reported in Nature Medicine that they have done just that (in a mouse model) with a piece of RNA that regulates the body’s manufacture of the protein constituting the D2 receptor. This promises a potentially cleaner, more effective and more tolerable therapy for voices and other psychotic distress.

 

Source: Neuroscience Stuff Tumblr

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Where to Hide If a Nuclear Bomb Goes Off In Your Area

‘This is advice I hope you never need but should know anyway. A nuclear attack is everybody’s worst nightmare, and the immediate aftermath is just as bad, if not worse, than the explosion itself.

 

You’ll know a nuclear bomb went off near you if there’s a sudden flash of bright, white light, which may or may not give you flash blindness if you’re within 50 miles or so of ground zero. If that bright, white blindness eventually clears up, and you don’t suddenly feel at peace, you’re alive. Other signs of a nuclear blast include near instant first-degree to third-degree burns if you’re within 10 miles or so, and of course, the trademark mushroom cloud looming over the skyline.

Here’s what you should do if you survive the initial blast…’

Source: Lifehacker

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Trump to House Republicans: “Many of you will lose your seats” if health care plan doesn’t pass

‘Did President Donald Trump just threaten members of his own party?

In a meeting with House Republicans Tuesday morning, Trump attempted to convince the remaining critics of the GOP health care bill to support the legislation when it goes to the House floor for a full vote on Thursday. Over the past two weeks, multiple health industry groups and Republicans had come out against the bill. Monday night, Republicans released a revised draft, which included specific provisions aimed at winning the support of moderates in the GOP’s New York delegation such as Reps. Chris Collins and Claudia Tenney.

According to two reporters covering the Tuesday meeting, Trump insinuated that those Republicans who voted against the bill could lose their seats in the next election…’

Source: Vox

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Remarkable slowdown in global CO2 emissions and 5 ways to think about it

This is such potentially hopeful news in the face of my environmental despair, but will it be undone by 4 years of braindead Trump policy?

‘…[O]ver the past three years, something genuinely shocking has happened. Global CO2 emissions from energy have stayed flat, even as the world economy has kept chugging along, according to a new report by the International Energy Agency. It’s the first time that’s happened without a sharp economic slowdown (as in the early 1980s).

This pause in CO2 emissions growth, the IEA says, was driven by “growing renewable power generation, switches from coal to natural gas, improvements in energy efficiency, as well as structural changes in the global economy.” Notably, US energy-related emissions fell 1.6 percent in 2016, thanks to the ongoing shift from coal to cleaner natural gas, wind, and solar. Chinese coal consumption appears to be declining (though stats can be unreliable there), led by a shift away from heavy industry. And Europe’s emissions stayed flat last year.

This is a big deal! But we’re still a long, long way from getting a handle on global warming. So here are five ways to think about this chart…’

Source: Vox

 

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How Buddhist Monks Offset 40 Million Tons of Greenhouse Gases

‘A newly released study shows that by eating a vegetarian diet, Buddhists in China annually prevent roughly 40 million tons of greenhouse gases from entering the atmosphere. That’s the equivalent of 9.2% of all the greenhouse gases produced each year by France.

…[T]he study, by Ampere A. Tzeng from Arizona State, was published in the Journal of Contemporary Buddhism. Called “Vegetarian Diets: A Quantitative Assessment,” it may provide further impetus for a trend that’s already underway: More and more Buddhists are going vegetarian. In Tibetan Buddhism, a number of voices have spoken out in favor of eliminating animals from one’s diet, including the head of the Kagyu school, and “the world’s happiest man,” Buddhist monk Matthieu Richard…’

Source: Big Think

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Disappointed by Paris, Some Tourists Need Psychiatric Hospitalization

‘Paris Syndrome sounds like a condition a college freshman that has read too many Jane Austen books might develop. While the name implies something young and idealized, it can be a very serious disorder that, in the tourist season of 2011, affected twenty tourists visiting the city of lights, according to The Atlantic.

The idea of Paris is a perfect one: used in the backdrop of romantic movies, or to show how heavenly a perfume might smell in commercials. Paris is an alleged heaven on earth. Bridges are pictured over shimmery rivers in front of romantic sunsets, and when a person goes they expect to have a lovely honeymoon experience. Paris Syndrome exists specifically because there is a distance between reality and those expectations.

Paris Syndrome, which on average affects about a dozen tourists per year, hurts Japanese travelers more than anyone else. It has become such a problem that the Japanese Embassy in the city itself created a hotline for the very purpose of helping out its citizens. The line is available 24 hours a day, and aims to help those flustered by their unmet expectations. The hotline helps tourist get past their culture shock, or even seek hospitalization for those that need it…’

Source: Big Think

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This ‘Ghost Plane’ Crash Is One Of The Weirdest Mysteries Of 2017

‘U.S. and Canadian authorities are rightfully spooked following a plane crash in Ontario, Canada on Wednesday night. What’s got them shook? There’s absolutely no trace than anybody actually went down with the plane, sparking one of the weirdest mysteries of the year so far.

The alleged “ghost plane” was a rented Cessna 172 based out of Michigan, which went down into the snow near the north shore of Lake Superior around 11:30 p.m. on Wednesday night near Marathon, Ontario, according to AVweb.com.

The spooky part is that local police reported no sign of a pilot at the crash site. There were no footprints or tracks of any kind in the snow and the crashed plane was empty. Evidently it had crashed after running out of fuel while on autopilot, which was still engaged in the wreckage…’

Source: Jalopnik

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A new definition would add 102 planets to our solar system — including Pluto

‘In a giant exhibit hall crowded with his colleagues, [Kirby Runyon, a planetary scientist at Johns Hopkins University,] is attempting to reignite the debate about Pluto’s status with an audacious new definition for planet — one that includes not just Pluto, but several of its neighbors, objects in the asteroid belt, and a number of moons. By his count, 102 new planets could be added to our solar system under the new criteria.’

Source: The Washington Post

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Thinking Critically About Animal Rights

Nathan Nobis, a philosophy professor at Morehouse College in Atlanta, recently published Animals and Ethics 101: Thinking Critically About Animal Rights. A well-reviewed introduction to animal ethics, the textbook (created to accompany an online course on the same subject) evaluates the arguments for and against various uses of animals, including:

  • Is it morally wrong to experiment on animals? Why or why not?
  • Is it morally permissible to eat meat? Why or why not?
  • Are we morally obligated to provide pets with veterinary care (and, if so, how much)? Why or why not?

You can buy the paperback on Amazon for $5.99 or Kindle for $2.99. But Nobis has also made the text available free online, under a Creative Commons license. You can download it in multiple formats here.

Source: Open Culture

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Happy Ostara

‘As Spring reaches its midpoint, night and day stand in perfect balance, with light on the increase. The young Sun God now celebrates a hierogamy (sacred marriage) with the young Maiden Goddess, who conceives. In nine months, she will again become the Great Mother. It is a time of great fertility, new growth, and newborn animals.

The next full moon (a time of increased births) is called the Ostara and is sacred to Eostre the Saxon Lunar Goddess of fertility (from whence we get the word estrogen, whose two symbols were the egg and the rabbit. The Christian religion adopted these emblems for Easter which is celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon following the vernal equinox. The theme of the conception of the Goddess was adapted as the Feast of the Annunciation, occurring on the alternative fixed calendar date of March 25 Old Lady Day, the earlier date of the equinox. Lady Day may also refer to other goddesses (such as Venus and Aphrodite), many of whom have festivals celebrated at this time.

The Christian religion adopted these emblems for Easter which is celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon following the vernal equinox. The theme of the conception of the Goddess was adapted as the Feast of the Annunciation, occurring on the alternative fixed calendar date of March 25 Old Lady Day, the earlier date of the equinox. Lady Day may also refer to other goddesses (such as Venus and Aphrodite), many of whom have festivals celebrated at this time.’

Source: Wicca.com

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The risk of a single 5-day opioid prescription, in one chart

‘Now that it’s clear opioid painkillers have helped cause the worst drug epidemic in history, health experts are scrambling to figure out when dependency on these powerful prescription drugs starts — and how to prevent it.

A new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention looked at the relationship between the number of days of someone’s first opioid prescription and their long-term use. It found that that number has a huge impact: Patients face an increased risk of opioid dependency in as few as four days of taking the drugs.

As you can see in the chart below, opioid prescriptions longer than five days in length significantly increased the likelihood of continued opioid use both one and three years later…’

Source: Vox