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“No Way to Run a Superpower”

ChumpThe Trump-Putin Summit and the Death of American Foreign Policy

‘We are witnessing nothing less than the breakdown of American foreign policy. This week’s extraordinary confusion over even the basic details of the Helsinki summit shows that all too clearly. We may not yet know what exactly Trump agreed to with Putin, or even if they agreed to anything at all; perhaps, it will turn out, Putin and his advisers have sprung another clever disinformation trap on Trump, misleading the world about their private meeting because a novice American President gave them an opening to do so. But, even if we don’t know the full extent of what was said and done behind closed doors in Helsinki, here’s what we already do know as a result of the summit: America’s government is divided from its President on Russia; its process for orderly decision-making, or even basic communication, has disintegrated; and its ability to lead an alliance in Europe whose main mission in recent years has been to counter and contain renewed Russian aggression has been seriously called into question….’

Susan Glasser in The New Yorker

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The Biggest Spender of Political Ads on Facebook? Donald Drumpf

‘Trump and his political action committee spent $274,000 on ads on the social network since early May, outpacing the second-biggest spender, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, a nonprofit organization that provides reproductive health care. Planned Parenthood spent just over $188,000 on Facebook ads over the same period.

The ads bought by Mr. Trump and his PAC were also seen the most by Facebook’s users, having been viewed by at least 37 million people since May. That compared with 24 million people who saw the second-most viewed group of political ads, which were also from Planned Parenthood.

…Facebook now requires buyers of political ads on its network to be verified as United States citizens or permanent residents, to cut down on foreign interference. That means Facebook’s political ad archive largely provides a portrait of domestic activity, spotlighting both the digital ad buying of Democratic and Republican elected officials and political candidates, as well as nonprofit organizations, for-profit groups and PACs. The archive also shows how much these ads were actually consumed by the social network’s users….’

Via New York Times

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Can Just a Whiff of Coffee Boost Performance?

NewImage‘A new study finds that the scent of coffee alone helped students perform better on the analytical portion of the Graduate Management Aptitude Test, or GMAT, a computer adaptive test required by many business schools. It also increased the participants’ expectations that they would do well on the test.

The findings are published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology.

“It’s not just that the coffee-like scent helped people perform better on analytical tasks, which was already interesting. But they also thought they would do better, and we demonstrated that this expectation was at least partly responsible for their improved performance,” said study leader Dr. Adriana Madzharov, a professor at Stevens School of Business.

In short, smelling the scent of coffee, which has no caffeine in it, has an effect similar to that of drinking coffee…’

Via Psych Central

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The Ultimate Hedgehog?

NewImageGarrett Graff on how Rob Rosenstein’s behavior is informed by knowing what Mueller knows and where his investigation will lead:

‘Why would anyone put up with the abuse, vitriol, and daily haranguing from the president’s Twitter account that Rosenstein has endured? Why would Rosenstein seemingly set precedents that undermine the core principles of the Justice Department, an institution that he’s devoted nearly his entire career to serving?

…In a world of hedgehogs and foxes, Rosenstein today is the ultimate hedgehog.

Rosenstein knows one very big, monumental, history-shaping thing—how Trump’s presidency will end—and he’s wagered that if he can hang on long enough, justice will be done and the good guys, in his eyes, will win. His early actions, around Comey’s firing, will be vindicated by history when seen by the light of his bravery and personal sacrifice and refusal to be bullied into quitting, a move that would almost surely lead to Mueller’s investigation being shut down or circumscribed by whichever Trump appointee takes over supervising it next….’

Via Wired

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Vox on Execrable Trump-Putin Meeting

NewImageTrump-Putin meeting in Helsinki: what we know is damning

‘Today, in Helsinki, the president of the United States held a friendly meeting with the Russian leader who sabotaged an American election on his behalf, and who has been rewarded by seeing American foreign policy pivot in a pro-Russian direction….’

Russian news editor explains how Putin turned Trump into his puppet

‘They consider him a stupid, unstrategic politician….’

Donald Trump isn’t confused about what collusion means

‘White House aides want you to believe the president stands with Putin because he doesn’t get what’s going on….’

Former CIA Director: Trump-Putin press conference “nothing short of treasonous”

 ‘John Brennan: “Not only were Trump’s comments imbecilic, he is wholly in the pocket of Putin.”…’

Putin doesn’t deny possessing compromising materials on his Chump

‘Yes, this is about the “pee tape.”…’

 

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Trump’s presidency is illegitimate

Lucian K. Truscott IV writes that Mueller’s indictment of twelve Russian intelligence agents offers Prof Paige that the Kremlin stole the election for the Orange Menace:

‘It’s all right there in the indictment — day by day, hack by hack, theft by theft — how agents of the Russian intelligence service, the GRU, set out in the spring of 2016 to steal the election for Donald Trump. When you track the actions taken by Russian intelligence in the indictment with statements made by Trump and actions taken on his behalf by members of his campaign, the picture is as clear as an iPhone photo. Agents of the Russian government coordinated with members of the Trump campaign and took cues from Trump himself in order to influence the election of 2016…’

Source: Salon

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New South African Telescope Releases Epic Image of the Galactic Center

NewImage‘You’re looking at the center of our galactic home, the Milky Way, as imaged by 64 radio telescopes in the South African wilderness.

Scientists released this image today to inaugurate the completed MeerKAT radio telescope. But these scopes form part of an even more ambitious project: the Square Kilometer Array, a joint effort to build the world’s largest telescope, spanning the continents of Africa and Australia.

This image shows filaments of particles, structures that seem to exist in alignment with the galaxy’s central black hole. It’s unclear what causes these filaments. Maybe they are particles ejected by the spinning black hole; maybe they are hypothesized “cosmic strings;” and maybe they’re not unique, and there are other, similar structures waiting to be found, according to a 2017 release from Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics….’

Via Gizmodo

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Made to suffer for her sins

NewImageAbortion, family separation, and how the Trump administration uses female pain as punishment.

‘The Trump administration’s policies on family separation and abortion are driven by one view: A woman’s pain is fitting punishment….’

Via Slate

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The Bizarre Story of the Seattle Mystery Vending Machine

NewImage‘In the city of Seattle, Washington there exists a vending machine that over the years has become something of a local landmark amongst residents who are familiar with its mysterious history. Situated on the corner the John Street and 10th Avenue East in the bustling Capitol Hill neighbourhood, the seemingly ancient machine is well known for dispensing random, sometimes rare, cans of soda- a fact that’s made all the more intriguing when you consider that nobody seems to know who stocks the machine or where it came from….’

Via TodayIFoundOut

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What is Novichok?

NewImageA neurotoxicologist explains:

‘Novichok has been implicated in the poisoning of two couples in Great Britain, causing the death of one woman. The chemical structures of Novichok agents are not known for sure, but they bind more tightly and rapidly to their enzyme target, called acetylcholinesterase, found in nerves and muscle cells than other nerve poisons such as sarin or tabun. This causes death within minutes by making normal nerve-muscle, nerve-gland, and nerve-heart function impossible.

The deaths have been attributed to Russia, either the country’s intelligence service or a rogue who obtained them illegally. Russia vehemently denies either involvement in the poisonings or development of the Novichok chemicals.

How long these chemical stay active is unknown, largely because they were developed illegally and in secret by Soviet and later Russian chemists as part of a program entitled “Foliant” designed to skirt the guidelines of the Chemical Weapons Convention signed with the United States, and to elude detection by weapons inspectors, according to a classified Pentagon report originally made public by The Washington Times. An article from the BBC speculates that the agent used in the Wiltshire poisonings in Britain could remain active for as long as 50 years.

Several factors make Novichok especially sinister.

First, the chemicals are reported by Soviet chemists to be the most potent agents ever made, with potency between 6-10 times higher than VX, the chemical used to kill the half brother of Kim Jong-Un, or sarin, the prototypical poisonous nerve gas the Iraqi government allegedly used in 1989, and which was used Syria last April. Thus extremely low doses, powder or liquid, the exact concentration of which remains unknown, are lethal.

More disturbing, especially for those living near the poisonings in Britain, is that the Novichok agents were designed to be undetectable by NATO chemical warfare detection methods, and to circumvent any NATO protective gear. This would allow them to be used with impunity by the Soviet Union (or Russia), against NATO troops. Professor Gary Stephens, quoted in the BBC News, concurred that the Novichok agents would be extremely difficult to detect. It would be equally difficult to clean up, because exactly which of the Novichok chemicals was used cannot be definitively determined.

Though Novichok agents have never yet been used on a battlefield, their sole purpose is for chemical warfare. Their mission: kill rapidly, silently and undetectably. Apparently, as seen in Britain, these chemists succeeded in their mission….’

Via The Conversation

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A denunciation of Donald Trump – The Scotsman op-ed

 

NewImageDonald Trump, due to arrive in the UK later today, is a racist, a serial liar, and either a sex abuser or someone who falsely brags about being one in the apparent belief that this will impress other men in a metaphorical “locker room”.

To take each of these charges in turn, when black American football players protested against police shootings of innocent people of colour by refusing to stand for the national anthem, Trump said the players “maybe … shouldn’t be in the country”.

And when white supremacists, neo-Nazis and armed militia groups demonstrated in Charlottesville, Virginia, over plans to remove a statue of a Confederate general – and a counter-protester was killed and others injured as a car was driven deliberately into them – Mr Trump claimed there were “very fine people” on both sides.

Trump persistently pushed the lie that Barack Obama, the first African American president, was not born in the US.

He has called for “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States”, claimed Mexican immigrants were rapists and criminals, said Nigerians would never go back to “their huts” after seeing the US and described African countries, along with El Salvador and Haiti, as “s***holes”.

Trump also argued that an Indiana-born judge handling a lawsuit against ‘Trump University’ was biased against him and unfit to take the case because he was a “Mexican”.

One of Trump’s favourite pastimes is decrying “fake news”.

But, according to one count by The Washington Post, the president lies an average of 6.5 times a day. The New York Times has also tried to make a definitive list of his numerous falsehoods.

In May, Rex Tillerson, sacked as US Secretary of State in a Trump tweet, warned: “If our leaders seek to conceal the truth, or we as people become accepting of alternative realities that are no longer grounded in facts, then we as American citizens are on a pathway to relinquishing our freedom.”

Before his presidency, Trump was recorded saying he was able to grope women whenever he liked because “when you’re a star they let you do it”.

When the tape emerged, Trump said his boast was untrue and just “locker room” talk. And when several women came forward to say he had done this to them, he insisted they were lying.

So, as British politicians hide their distaste in an attempt to get a much-needed post-Brexit trade deal, we should all remember what kind of man Trump really is.

 

Via The Scotsman

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On Semicolons and the Rules of Writing

Writer Adam O’Fallon Price riffs on Kurt Vonnegut’s famous admonition against the use of semicolons. Vonnegut felt they are useless for any purpose except demonstrating pretension. Although Price concedes that, strictly speaking, one can make do with commas and periods instead — or, as he favors, the em-dash — he feels that semi-colons serve the useful purpose of connecting two related (“Independent but interdependent”) thoughts, maintaining more “cognitive rhythm” than if they were expressed as discrete sentences. 

The peak usage of the semicolon came between the mid-18th to the late-19th centuries, perhaps unsurprisingly as writing during that era involved long and elaborate sentences that feel too ornate to modern readers. Writers like Melville and Proust seemed to see as a virtue of the semicolon the ability to keep a sentence going. The modern shift toward shorter sentences and economy of storytelling (the “tautness” and “spareness” of prose almost universally touted as virtues by critics), and increasing brevity of personal communication, makes an outlier of anyone with an affection for the semicolon today. 

Via The Millions

I think my writing, especially the clinical notes I write in my psychiatric work, has a higher incidence of semicolons than almost anyone else I know. So am I archaic? Unskilled at clarity and simplicity in my prose? Burdened by tortured complexity? Or merely pretentious? Or do my semicolons help? 

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A Buddhist Teacher’s 5 Ways to Resist

NewImageJan Willis is professor emerita of religion at Wesleyan University and  a visiting professor at Agnes Scott College in Decatur, Georgia. She has studied Buddhism with Tibetan teachers for more than forty years and is the author of the memoir Dreaming Me: Black, Baptist, and Buddhist:

‘Being pacifist is not the same as being passive, and being inspired by Buddhist wisdom does not mean that we close our minds and eyes to the rapid changes occurring around us in our society. Whenever anyone proposes to single out any specific category of people—whether by race, or gender, sexual orientation, or religious faith—and to propose a curb on those people’s freedom, that is the beginning of the end of an equitable democracy and the beginning of the slow slide into a loss of freedom for all. To ignore this fact is to deny many of the darkest moments of our history as human beings. On the other hand, a slow but growing acceptance of this state of affairs as being “normal” dooms everyone. It is necessary, therefore, that we keep our eyes opened.

What do we need to do in such dangerous and not-normal times? We need to be vigilant. We need to not normalize what is happening. And we need to not lose hope. If hope seems absent or lacking, we must act to bring it back. In fact, acting, I believe, is the only way to bring hope back. With hope, we can see ourselves as, once again, citizens; as ones with a rightful share in this country, its progress and its stewardship….’

Via Lion’s Roar

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Miles Davis is not Mozart

NewImageThe brains of jazz and classical pianists work differently:

A musician’s brain is different to that of a non-musician. Making music requires a complex interplay of various abilities which are also reflected in more strongly developed brain structures. Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences (MPI CBS) in Leipzig have recently discovered that these capabilities are embedded in a much more finely-tuned way than previously assumed—and even differ depending on the style of the music: They observed that the brain activity of jazz pianists differs from those of classical pianists, even when playing the same piece of music. This could give insight into the processes which generally take place while making music and which are specific for certain styles….’

Via Neuroscience Stuff

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Donald Trump’s New Campaign Slogan Is From A Horror Movie

Bill Bradley writes:

‘To understand this saga, you need to go back to January 2017, when The Washington Post reported that Trump had revealed his new campaign.

“‘Keep America Great,’ exclamation point,” he told the paper, seemingly off the cuff.

According to the Post, Trump called a lawyer in during the interview to trademark and register two different “Keep America Great” slogans ― one with an exclamation point and one without ― on the spot. “Got it,” the lawyer replied, and business seemed to be handled.

The only problem? Apparently unbeknownst to Trump, his lawyer and The Washington Post, the slogan had already appeared in a poignantly titled 2016 horror movie: “The Purge: Election Year.” By using “Keep America Great” in its promotional materials, “Purge: Election Year” ― which, like its franchise predecessors, centers on the one night a year when people can legally murder the hell out of each other as an act of radical catharsis ― seemingly mocked Trump’s “Make America Great Again” phrase, effectively likening Trump’s America to its cinematic nightmare.

Two years later, Trump’s re-election campaign is actually trying to use “Keep America Great” itself, even though the horror movie connection went comically viral soon after the Washington Post interview. …’

Source: HuffPost

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When It’s Too Late to Stop Fascism, According to Stefan Zweig

Austrian writer Stefan Zweig fled Nazism, eventually taking his life in despair and loneliness. His biographer, George Prochnik, writes:

‘I wonder how far along the scale of moral degeneration Zweig would judge America to be in its current state. We have a magnetic leader, one who lies continually and remorselessly—not pathologically but strategically, to placate his opponents, to inflame the furies of his core constituency, and to foment chaos. The American people are confused and benumbed by a flood of fake news and misinformation. Reading in Zweig’s memoir how, during the years of Hitler’s rise to power, many well-meaning people “could not or did not wish to perceive that a new technique of conscious cynical amorality was at work,” it’s difficult not to think of our own present predicament. Last week, as Trump signed a drastic immigration ban that led to an outcry across the country and the world, then sought to mitigate those protests by small palliative measures and denials, I thought of one other crucial technique that Zweig identified in Hitler and his ministers: they introduced their most extreme measures gradually—strategically—in order to gauge how each new outrage was received. “Only a single pill at a time and then a moment of waiting to observe the effect of its strength, to see whether the world conscience would still digest the dose,” Zweig wrote. “The doses became progressively stronger until all Europe finally perished from them.”

And still Zweig might have noted that, as of today, President Trump and his sinister “wire-pullers” have not yet locked the protocols for their exercise of power into place. One tragic lesson offered by “The World of Yesterday” is that, even in a culture where misinformation has become omnipresent, where an angry base, supported by disparate, well-heeled interests, feels empowered by the relentless lying of a charismatic leader, the center might still hold. In Zweig’s view, the final toxin needed to precipitate German catastrophe came in February of 1933, with the burning of the national parliament building in Berlin–an arson attack Hitler blamed on the Communists but which some historians still believe was carried out by the Nazis themselves. “At one blow all of justice in Germany was smashed,” Zweig recalled. The destruction of a symbolic edifice—a blaze that caused no loss of life—became the pretext for the government to begin terrorizing its own civilian population. That fateful conflagration took place less than thirty days after Hitler became Chancellor. The excruciating power of Zweig’s memoir lies in the pain of looking back and seeing that there was a small window in which it was possible to act, and then discovering how suddenly and irrevocably that window can be slammed shut. …’

Source: The New Yorker

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10 Stages of Genocide

Prof. Gregory Stanton, of the School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University, writes of the ten predictable and recognizable stages in the development of genocide in any society, listing preventive measures that can stop it at every stage.Source: Genocide Watch (via kottke).

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Reports of the demise of liberalism are greatly exaggerated

NewImageDaniel Cole (professor of law and public and environmental affairs at Indiana University in Bloomington) and Aurelian Craiutu (professor of political science and adjunct professor of American studies at Indiana University in Bloomington):

‘Scholars and statesmen have been declaring liberalism dead or in deep crisis for at least a century and a half. A review of the many deaths of liberalism might have something to teach us about what, in fact, is happening in the world today….’

Via Aeon

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Detention Camps on Military Bases ‘Smacks of Totalitarianism,’ Troops Say

NewImage
‘Active-duty and retired U.S. military officers and enlisted personnel are
expressing a sense of moral emergency over the Defense Department setting up detention camps for undocumented immigrants on military bases.

“It smacks of totalitarianism,” said Steve Kleinman, a retired Air Force colonel and military intelligence officer.

Raf Noboa, an Iraq War veteran and former Army sergeant, said he was astounded by the “enormous moral offense” the camps represent and which the military will be ordered to support.

“America’s military once liberated people from concentration camps,” Noboa told The Daily Beast. “It beggars the mind and our morality that it might be used to secure them.”…’

Via Daily Beast

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One-third of American children take alternative medicine. This is a problem.

NewImage‘Some supplements or vitamins may very well help you. The problem with multivitamins is the same with probiotics: loading your body up with a bit of everything is not only often ineffective, but dangerous. If you don’t know what your body is deficient of—the same holds true with your microbiome, hence probiotics—taking these pills, oils, and tinctures are only helping companies profit while potentially harming you in the process….’

Via  Big Think

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Music designed for extraterrestrials

NewImage‘One of the possible roadblocks to discovering extraterrestrial life is that it may be so different we might not recognize it. As recently retired astronaut and biochemist Peggy Whitson put it, “it’s not necessarily going to look the same as us, or be based on the same principles.” We’re so used to the lifeforms on Earth—mind-bogglingly varied as they may be—that it’s difficult for us to imagine beings completely out of our frame of reference, more specifically beyond our senses. Beings made of light or mist, or some kind of matter we can’t see; there’s no end to the possibilities. As we hunt for other life, our limited imaginations amount to an unavoidable form of prejudice that could doom the search. Mindful of this, and to help us practice being more open-minded, experimental philosopher Jonathon Keats is about to reveal, in San Francisco, music for aliens who don’t hear. At least as we do. He calls it Omniphonics. He’s even composed a “Universal Anthem” for us to play together with our new acquaintances….’

Via Big Think

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Maybe we’re the multiple personas of cosmic consciousness

NewImage‘Consciousness: Where is it? What is it? No one single perspective seems to be able to answer all the questions we have about consciousness. Now Bernardo Kastrup thinks he’s found one. He calls his ontology idealism, and according to idealism, all of us and all we perceive are manifestations of something very much like a cosmic-scale dissociative identity disorder (DID). He suggests there’s an all-encompassing universe-wide consciousness, it has multiple personalities, and we’re them….’

Via Big Think

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Leading psychiatrists: roll back Goldwater rule

 ‘Twenty-two psychiatrists and psychologists, including some of the field’s most prominent thinkers, are calling on the American Psychiatric Association on Thursday to substantially revise its controversial Goldwater rule, which bars APA members from offering their views of a public figure’s apparent psychological traits or mental status.

In a letter to be delivered to the APA, Dr. Robert Jay Lifton, one of the world’s leading experts on the psychological effects of war and political violence; Philip Zimbardo of the “Stanford prison experiment”; violence expert Dr. James Gilligan; and their colleagues argued that the Goldwater rule, which the APA adopted in 1973, deprives the public of expert opinion on crucial questions, such as the mental health and stability of elected officials.

While the policy holds that it would be unethical for mental heath professionals to offer their opinions on anyone they have not examined, the letter’s signers argue it would be unethical to withhold their views. Psychiatrists and psychologists, they contend, have “an affirmative responsibility” to publicly discuss “mental health issues discerned in public figures” when they pose “a clear and present danger to the public’s health and well-being.” …’

Source: Statnews

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Elie Wiesel on our shared duty in ending injustice

1986 Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech:

‘I remember: it happened yesterday or eternities ago. A young Jewish boy discovered the kingdom of night. I remember his bewilderment, I remember his anguish. It all happened so fast. The ghetto. The deportation. The sealed cattle car. The fiery altar upon which the history of our people and the future of mankind were meant to be sacrificed.

I remember: he asked his father: “Can this be true?” This is the twentieth century, not the Middle Ages. Who would allow such crimes to be committed? How could the world remain silent?

And now the boy is turning to me: “Tell me,” he asks. “What have you done with my future? What have you done with your life?”

And I tell him that I have tried. That I have tried to keep memory alive, that I have tried to fight those who would forget. Because if we forget, we are guilty, we are accomplices. And then I explained to him how naïve we were, that the world did know and remained silent. And that is why I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation.

We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men or women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must — at that moment — become the center of the universe…’

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The Nature of ‘Brain Tingles’

NewImageHeard about ASMR? Have you experienced it?

‘Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR) is the sensation experienced by some individuals in response to specific sights and soft sounds, such as whispering, tapping or slow hand movements.

These feelings are described as a warm, tingling and pleasant sensation starting at the crown of the head and spreading down the body. The “tingles” are sometimes described as “brain tingles” or “brain orgasms.” They are typically accompanied by feelings of calm and relaxation.

There are more than 13 million ASMR videos on YouTube — including medical examinations, haircuts and massages and folding towel tutorials — which people view to relax, relieve stress or sleep better. Still, research on ASMR has been limited….’

Via Psych Central

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Thoreau:

‘Who can be serene in a country where both the rulers and the ruled are without principle? The remembrance of my country spoils my walk. My thoughts are murder to the State, and involuntarily go plotting against her. …’

Via Austin Kleon

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Return of the Blood Libel

Paul Krugman writes:

‘The speed of America’s moral descent under Donald Trump is breathtaking. In a matter of months we’ve gone from a nation that stood for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness to a nation that tears children from their parents and puts them in cages.

What’s almost equally remarkable about this plunge into barbarism is that it’s not a response to any actual problem. The mass influx of murderers and rapists that Trump talks about, the wave of crime committed by immigrants here (and, in his mind, refugees in Germany), are things that simply aren’t happening. They’re just sick fantasies being used to justify real atrocities.

And you know what this reminds me of? The history of anti-Semitism, a tale of prejudice fueled by myths and hoaxes that ended in genocide. …’

Source: New York Times op-ed

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R.I.P. Koko, 1971-2018

The Gorilla, Who Used Sign Language and Befriended Mr. Rogers, Dies at 46:

NewImage

‘Koko, the gorilla whose apparent aptitude for sign language endeared her to fans around the world, died in her sleep on Tuesday morning in California, according to the Gorilla Foundation, which oversaw her care. She was 46.

Koko became an instant celebrity in her youth thanks to an early facility with American Sign Language. That fame was bolstered over the years as Koko, a western lowland gorilla, charmed entertainers like Fred Rogers and Robin Williams as well as their audiences.

“Koko touched the lives of millions as an ambassador for all gorillas and an icon for interspecies communication and empathy,” the Gorilla Foundation said in a statement. “She was beloved and will be deeply missed.”

By the age of 4, Koko had developed a vocabulary of more than 170 words and showed an ability to use language creatively, Penny Patterson, her longtime caretaker and trainer, told The New York Times in 1975.

“She occasionally makes up new words [signs] which are amazingly appropriate and she is able to string known words together in novel and meaningful constructions,” Dr. Patterson said at the time. “Koko also has a sense of humor and plays word games.”

But soon after Koko gained fame, some in the scientific community began to question the extent of her abilities, suggesting that she was responding to cues or that Dr. Patterson and others had overstated her skill, projecting what they wanted to see onto her actions. The debate has continued through the decades, but it did little to diminish interest in Koko.

NewImageIn public appearances, she seemed to experience emotions like happiness, frustration and heartbreak. A lifelong friend to other animals, she displayed an endearing gentleness toward cats. Her relationship with a kitten named All Ball inspired the popular children’s book “Koko’s Kitten.”…’

Via New York Times

 

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The Real Story of Donald Trump Jr.

NewImageIt’s never been trickier to be the president’s son:

‘All he ever wanted was to make his dad proud, but things have never turned out quite right for Donald Trump Jr. Even now, despite finding his purpose as a bombastic star of the far right, Junior’s personal life is in shambles and the specter of Robert Mueller looms large….’

Via GQ

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The Longest Longest Day

NewImageThis Solstice, Earth’s Days Are Longer Than Ever:

‘[Geoscientists] recently showed that 1.4 billion years ago, a single “day” lasted only about 18 hours. And changes in the gravitational dance between our planet and the moon are causing Earth’s day to get ever so slightly longer each year….’

Via National Geographic

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Here’s Stephen Miller’s Cell Phone Number, If You Need It

‘The Trump administration’s policy of separating immigrant children from their families has been credited primarily to the strenuous efforts of White House adviser Stephen Miller. Perhaps you would like to call him about it. The New York Times reported that Miller, the wolfish young Trump whisperer, has been the most effective driving force behind the implementation of the brutal policy that is now leading the national news—a policy that Miller himself called “a simple decision.” And while citizens plan protest marches and scream at Kirstjen Nielsen as she eats dinner, Miller himself has been rather unavailable for direct feedback from the public.

We all know that Donald Trump is a great fan of facilitating direct feedback from the public, because he personally published the cell phone numbers of both his Republican primary opponent Lindsey Graham and Univision anchor Jorge Ramos. So it is fair to assume he would support the public’s right to call (or text) Stephen Miller.

Miller’s cell phone number is 202-881-8641. He’s a busy guy, but maybe you can get ahold of him long enough to have a productive discussion…’

Source: Splinter News

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In Your Name: The Wretched Reality of American Fascism

NewImageHundreds of children wait in Border Patrol facility in Texas

(Via Associated Press)

 

‘Prison-like’ migrant youth shelter is understaffed, unequipped for Trump’s ‘zero tolerance’ policy, insider says

(Via LA Times)

 

What’s Really Happening When Asylum-Seeking Families Are Separated?

(Via Texas Monthly)

 

Laura Bush: Separating children from their parents at the border ‘breaks my heart’

(Via Washington Post op-ed)

 

Secret recording of weeping children begging for their parents while a Border Patrol official mocks them

(Via Boing Boing)

 

America’s ‘Detention Centers’ Added to Wikipedia List of Concentration Camps

(Via Gizmodo)

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How to Fight Trump’s Policy of Separating Children From Their Parents

NewImage‘Slate has a long list of organizations fighting the separation of immigrant families, which could all use donations or volunteer work (especially from lawyers or translators). If Slate’s growing list is overwhelming, you can just donate money at this ActBlue page to fund eight organizations fighting for immigration rights, including the ACLU and Kids In Need of Defense, which provides legal representation for children.

The newsletter “Activism for Non-Activists” includes an easy script for calling your congressional representative (which does make a difference), plus some first steps for protesting, volunteering, and checking that you’re still registered to vote…’

Via Lifehacker

I just watched Trump flunky DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen’s outrageous baldfaced lying performance excusing and justifying our inhumane, immoral and illegal actions at the border,  facing unanimous outrage (that Sarah Saunders was unwilling to do on her own). at this afternoon’s press conference. I seem to recall a generation of Americans vow that the internment of the Japanese-Americans during WWII could never happen again, but it is. In your name, concentration camps enacting child abuse are now active at the border. Do something.

Addendum: Glad to hear that the governors of Colorado and my state, Massachusetts (Charlie Baker, who is a Republican) have announced that they will not allow state resources to be used in support or enforcement of this policy.

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You Can Now Search for Addresses Across 750 Million Years of Earth’s History

NewImage

‘Ever looked at a picture of the supercontinent Pangea and wondered where your current address would have been 250 million years ago? A new interactive map provides this very service, allowing you to see modern locations across 750 million years of our planet’s history.

This awesome 3D map is the brainchild of Ian Webster, curator of the supremely impressive Dinosaur Database. It defaults to 240 million years ago, during the Early Triassic, a time when life was rebounding from the Permian mass extinction and early dinosaurs began to make an appearance. Back then, our planet was dominated by the giant Pangea supercontinent, and it makes little sense from our current perspective.

To help, Webster overlays the map with modern political boundaries, and you can even search for present-day addresses to pinpoint specific locations. Using the left or right cursor keys, you can scroll back or forward in time to see the shifting of the continents. In all, the map goes from 750 million years ago to the 21st century, so you can watch how a specific location on Earth changes across the Devonian, Jurassic, Neocene, or whichever period strikes your fancy….’

Via Gizmodo

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This Is What American Christians Think God Looks Like – Motherboard

 

NewImageGod is a young white dude who looks like he plays the acoustic guitar, according to a study of more than 500 American Christians.

‘Researchers were surprised to find that despite centuries of art depicting God as an elderly, wizened old white man, people leaned toward a younger, softer visage. And their biases about what he looks like reflected their own political views: Liberals saw a feminine God, while conservatives saw God as more of a hardass….’

Via Motherboard

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The Bullshit-Job Boom

Nathan Heller in The New Yorker:

‘In “Bullshit Jobs” (Simon & Schuster), David Graeber, an anthropologist now at the London School of Economics, seeks a diagnosis and epidemiology for what he calls the “useless jobs that no one wants to talk about.” He thinks these jobs are everywhere. By all the evidence, they are. His book, which has the virtue of being both clever and charismatic, follows a much circulated essay that he wrote, in 2013, to call out such occupations. Some, he thought, were structurally extraneous: if all lobbyists or corporate lawyers on the planet disappeared en masse, not even their clients would miss them. Others were pointless in opaque ways. Soon after the essay appeared, in a small journal, readers translated it into a dozen languages, and hundreds of people, Graeber reports, contributed their own stories of work within the bullshit sphere….’

Via The New Yorker

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Rocks Under I-95 Present Odd, and Scary, Threat to Power Grid

NewImage‘Here’s something you probably didn’t know you needed to worry about: 

There’s a layer of 300 million-year-old rock under Interstate 95 that’s capable of killing the lights from Washington to Boston and beyond the next time the sun erupts in all its fury.

Sound far-fetched? Perhaps. But not to scientists. A solar storm is now viewed as enough of a risk in fact that grid operators across North America are working on plans to respond to just such a disturbance. And a draft of a soon-to-be-published U.S. Geological Survey report pinpoints the Eastern Seaboard as one of the areas most in danger.

Illustration of events on the sun changing the conditions in Near-Earth space.Source: NASA That’s because this Paleozoic-era rock doesn’t let the energy from a major geomagnetic storm — a once-in-a-100-years kind of event — pass through it but instead acts as a backstop that sends the surge back up above the ground for a second shot at causing mayhem….’

Via Bloomberg

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One of the World’s Largest Steam Locomotives Is About to Make a Triumphant Return

NewImage‘SEVENTY YEARS AFTER THE FIRST Transcontinental Railroad was completed in 1869, the steep Rocky Mountains of Wyoming and Utah were still giving the Union Pacific Railroad trouble.

Despite having massive steam engines, the Union Pacific, one of the biggest railroads in America, still struggled to move heavy freight trains over the mountains and would often have to use multiple locomotives to get trains to their destination. This practice required more workers and more fuel. In 1940, the Union Pacific’s mechanical engineers teamed up with the American Locomotive Company to build one of the world’s largest steam locomotives, a class of engine simply known as “Big Boy.”

Now, six decades after the last Big Boy was taken off the rails, the Union Pacific is rebuilding one of the famous locomotives in honor of the upcoming sesquicentennial celebration of the first Transcontinental Railroad. It’s a project so ambitious that Ed Dickens Jr, a Union Pacific steam locomotive engineer and the man leading the rebuild, has likened it to resurrecting a Tyrannosaurus rex….’

Via Atlas Obscura

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Have we forgotten how to die?

NewImage‘Although we greedily consume death at a distance through fiction, drama and the media, we are hamstrung by it up close and personal. In 1955 the commentator Geoffrey Gorer declared that death had become more pornographic than sex. It was, he said, the new taboo and mourning had become “indecent”. Since then, matters have arguably got worse….’

Via Times Literary Supplement

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Passel of Interesting Stories on Gizmodo Today

The US State Department evacuated at least two diplomats in China following a mysterious illness experienced after hearing strange noises—the latest in a series of unexplained sicknesses that have hit American diplomats and their family members in recent years. According to the New York Times , the State Department has flown in a medical team to test employees at the American consulate …
It’s taken as a given that the more schooling we get, the better off our lives will be across the board. But a new study published Wednesday in The BMJ reaffirms a hidden health risk of higher education. The more years of school someone gets, it turns out, the greater the chances of them becoming near-sighted. For more than a century, observational research across the world has pointed to…
Not Gilderoy Lockhart Dr. Mehmet Oz is at it again. The infamous snake oil salesman tweeted today, asking his followers to learn more about the link between a person’s astrological sign and their health. After a brief paroxysm of screaming, I clicked through the slideshow to learn that, as a Capricorn, I am so ambitious and take on so many tasks that I am prone to literally becoming weak in the knees…
Beginning in August, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will begin piloting a new face recognition system at the Mexican border. Using a series of cameras, the CBP plans to use face recognition to remotely check the identifies of both drivers and passengers. Called the Vehicle Face System (VFS), the program will track drivers and passengers on either side of the crossing at the Anzalduas …
A Texas man thought he had bested a rattlesnake by decapitating it, but when he tried to pick up the slain serpent’s head, it bit him and released a potentially fatal dose of venom into his body. His wife Jennifer Sutcliffe told local news station KIIITV that doctors said he might not survive, but he is now in recovery, thanks to 26 vials of antivenom. Trauma surgeon Michael Halpert told the news …
Comcast’s Xfinity landline service has been experiencing issues across the U.S. since this morning, with thousands of problems still being reported this afternoon, according to DownDetector.com . The outage map indicates that customers throughout the U.S. have encountered issues, with the most recent reports coming from San Francisco, Chicago, Portland, Mountain View, Denver, Seattle, Atlanta, …
Hurricane Harvey, as seen from low-Earth orbit. The pace at which hurricanes move across the planet is slowing, according to new research. This suggests Hurricane Harvey, which stalled over Texas last summer, may not have been an…

via Gizmodo

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U.S. Army develops algorithm that shows how to get ‘optimal alertness’ from caffeine

The researchers behind the new study aimed to find the optimal balance between the amount of caffeine and the time it’s administered. To do so, they used data from four past caffeine-sleep studies and inputted them into an algorithm built on the unified model of performance, which is a mathematical model that accurately predicts the effects of sleep–wake schedules and caffeine consumption on simple neurobehavioral tasks.

The team, led by the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command’s Dr. Jaques Reifman, ran thousands of simulations across a wide range of doses and sleep-wake schedules.

“We found that by using our algorithm, which determines when and how much caffeine a subject should consume, we can improve alertness by up to 64 percent, while consuming the same total amount of caffeine,” Reifman told Science Daily. “Alternatively, a subject can reduce caffeine consumption by up to 65 percent and still achieve equivalent improvements in alertness.”

The algorithm could someday be used, for instance, by college students who want to know when they should consume caffeine “so you are as alert as possible during the exam,” Reifman told Live Science.

The optimal caffeine dose amounts and times depended on each individual scenario, so there’s no universal recommendation for when and much caffeine to consume. However, the U.S. Army is reportedly using the algorithm in experiments with soldiers in an effort to improve sleep health in the military, an organization in which sleep deprivation is a constant and often unavoidable problem.

The base algorithm looks like this:

If that’s not your cup of joe, a simplified version of the algorithm is available to the public through the 2B-Alert app, which lets users enter their sleep schedules and caffeine intake to find out when and how much caffeine they should consume.

Source: Big Think

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Physicists Are Excited About Fresh Evidence for a New Fundamental Particle

NewImageHints of a ghosty, “sterile” version of the neutrino:

There are three types of neutrinos in the Standard Model, the blueprint of particle physics. But in past experiments, scientists have thought there could be a fourth, more mysterious type. Results from an experiment called MiniBooNE, combined with data from another called the Liquid Scintillator Neutrino Detector, seem to add even further evidence for the existence of the sterile neutrino.

Neutrinos are perhaps the second most common particle in the universe, after light particles, called photons. Physicists have long known about the electron neutrino, the muon neutrino, and the tau neutrino. They’ve also known that the neutrinos can swap identities, or oscillate, between types. And experiments seemed to observe neutrinos disappearing and reappearing, as if they’d swapped into a fourth, more difficult-to-observe identity….’

Via Gizmodo

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Where Are Europe’s Last Fairytale Forests?

NewImageThe best way to explore  “last-of-their-kind patches” might be in the pages of storybooks, or in the chapters of our imagination:

‘in Kay Nielsen’s illustrations for the Brothers Grimm story of Hansel and Gretel, the deep woods are full of secrets. The trees are towering, gnarled, and knotted. Their canopies, crunchy and brown, blot out the sky. On the ground, clusters of ferns unfurl around tree roots; there are patches of grass, and verdant trees studded with blooms. In a glen, of course, sits that devilishly tasty house built from bread and cakes.

The woods are a character in the story. They are thick, tall, and deep—so much so that the young duo could wander them for days. Their allure, and a dash of horror, comes from the fact that they are unknown, and maybe unknowable.

In 2018, they aren’t many truly unknown corners of the globe—few places are pristine and untraveled the way they might be described in a fairytale. Still, dense clusters of primary forests—where trees have grown, for ages, largely undisturbed—exist in patches of the Amazon basin, Southeast Asia, and Canadian and Siberian Taiga. Slivers of Europe are still luxuriant with trees, too, and very old ones at that. But they’re dwindling.

A team of researchers, led by Francesco Maria Sabatini of Berlin’s Humboldt‐Universität, recently set out to map exactly where those oldest, least-disturbed forests are, and how many of them are left….’

Via Atlas Obscura

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Why does it seem like serial killers all wear the same glasses?

NewImage‘The list of serial killers who wore glasses is long and bloody, from Dahmer to BTK to Harold Shipman and his professorial frames; even the Zodiac Killer, never caught, wears a thick-rimmed pair in a police sketch. The aesthetic of “serial killer glasses” is so pervasive that it pops up everywhere from Urban Dictionary (“Eyeglasses with heavy or severe frames that live somewhere between fashionable and creepy”) to TV Tropes (where “a guy who is cold, emotionless … or even a soulless monster” is given glasses “to quickly tip off the audience to his personality”), and countless Tumblr posts in between.

Search for “serial killer glasses” on Amazon and you’ll be directed to the “So In Luxe Aviator Retro Fashion Glasses” – perfect for the manic pixie dream serial killer. Naturally, Spirit Halloween sells a pair, too. It’s a look that signifies “creep” and “outsider” so well that it’s become the punchline to a joke: Amy Schumer and Conan O’Brien have both done skits about how men who favor a certain style of glasses tend to be serial killers, molesters, cult leaders or all of the above.

Of course, the fact that many serial killers wear glasses is simple math: over 60% of Americans use some sort of vision correction, and serial killers are just like the rest of us, at least when it comes to their eyesight. But because these killers are often exhaustively scrutinized and even fetishized in the media, their glasses have become part of the serial killer iconography. A pair of shiny lenses, perched on the bridge of a serial killer’s nose, becomes a subtle metaphor for his walled-off nature, for her sociopath’s aloofness. Glasses become a mask that’s acceptable for the killer to wear in public. They become a threat, too: after all, the serial killer who wears glasses is apparently someone who can see us better than we can see them. Someone who’s always watching….’

Via The Guardian

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The Lost Lingo of New York City’s Soda Jerks

Natasha Frost writes:

‘…“[S]oda jerk[s],” …half a million [of whom were] employed at tens of thousands of soda fountains across the United States in the 1930s and 1940s, …had white coats, swift fingers, and even swifter tongues—indeed, their linguistic concoctions were as much of a draw as the sweet treats they served up. [One] got a special shout-out in a university English course on American colloquialism after a professor ordered a large cherry coke and heard him shout back: “Stretch one, paint it red!” …’

Source: Gastro Obscura

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Kim’s tunnel explosions a goodwill gesture?

NewImageNo so fast:

‘No weapons inspectors or nonproliferation experts were invited to witness the detonation, and now initial assessments indicate that the show was essentially a charade. “The explosions seem to have been too small” for scientists to have discerned any significant geologic activity such as collapsing tunnels, an international arms control official who follows North Korea closely told CNN. “The fact that journalists were reportedly only around 500 meters from the explosions is a good indication that these were small blasts. And the amount of dust leads us to believe that they were quite superficial,” the official said….’

Via CNNPolitics

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White House Reporters Say Things Are Getting More Challenging

NewImage‘…Trump’s inner circle has solidified, and the president is increasingly acting on his own. Meetings are getting smaller, reducing the number of people with proximity to information. Top officials, some who acted as relatively helpful press gatekeepers, like former communications director Hope Hicks, have left without replacements. And, after back-and-forth hostile leaks between the White House and State Department under Rex Tillerson, reporters are now dealing with National Security Adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, kindred spirits who are also more discreet. 

All the while, Trump’s behavior is becoming more and more erratic, and White House reporters say it’s becoming harder to know what’s going on — not like it was ever easy…

The White House, for its part, has continued its quest to find those speaking to the press, particularly after the leak of comments in a private meeting made by White House aide Kelly Sadler that Sen. John McCain’s opinion didn’t matter because he would die soon…’

Via BuzzFeed News

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Hobson’s Choice

NewImageSam Hobson is a wildlife photographer with a twist. His focus is on the ‘invasive’ species that are colonizing urban spaces, e.g. red foxes (I have a family living on my street outside of Boston) and parakeets (whose populations are burgeoning in the air over cities like London, some say thanks to Jimi Hendrix releasing a mating pair sometime around 50 years ago to make the city more colorful!). Such arresting images often require painstaking groundwork.

Via Sam Hobson Photography

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US fertility is dropping. Here’s why some experts saw it coming

 

NewImageThe recent drop in fertility brings the U.S. more in line with peer countries:

‘However, this recent decline fits with global trends and isn’t unprecedented in U.S. history. As a demographer who studies fertility trends, what strikes me as anomalous is not the recent drop, but the previous high fertility “bubble.”

The U.S. maintained surprisingly high fertility rates for a long time. After the baby boom of the 1950s and 1960s, fertility in the U.S. and other wealthy countries fell during the 1970s. However, the U.S. steadily rebounded, even as rates in most other wealthy countries stayed low or fell even lower….’

Via The Conversation

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Bob Mueller’s White Hot Summer

NewImageFormer federal prosecutor Nelson Cunningham in Politico:

‘Special Counsel Robert Mueller may well be in the final stages of wrapping up his principal investigation. Last week, I argued here in Politico that Mueller will want to avoid interfering with the November midterms, and so will try to conclude by July or August. On this one we can believe Trump’s new lawyer, former prosecutor and New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, who claims Mueller’s target is September 1….’

It seems to me that wrapping up before the midterm elections stands a good chance of doing precisely the opposite, especially if the scenario is as he predicts in the article:

Mueller will not indict the president, but will issue a comprehensive and detailed report… Rod Rosenstein will decide to release the report to Congress and the public… Rosenstein’s move to release the Mueller report will lead to his firing and perhaps another Saturday Night Massacre… And this is when the Senate and the Congress might finally engage.

As for the political impact? All of this – the conclusion of Mueller’s investigation, the issuing of his report, the fight over its release and the fallout from a firing of Rosenstein – will play out loudly in public before November.

Quickly, “release the report” will become the central political axis of this political year. In these crowded months before November 6, we may see political tumult unseen since 1974. And just as then, the fate of a presidency may hang in the balance.

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Massive Neutron Star Is the Definition of Extreme

NewImage‘New research published this week in the Astrophysical Journal describes one of the most massive neutron stars ever detected, an object containing 2.3 solar masses. Only one known neutron star tops it: a behemoth discovered seven years ago that weighed in at 2.4 solar masses. In total, out of the approximately 2,000 neutron stars known to astronomers, only four are more than two solar masses. Super-massive neutron stars are thus relatively rare, and they exist at the limits of what’s physically possible—making them exceptionally important objects of inquiry, both for astronomers and for particle physicists….’

Via Gizmodo

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Are Plants Conscious?

NewImage‘Animal rights activists have done stellar work in foregrounding the question of creature-consciousness: no meat-eater is now ignorant of the fact that their food once lived, breathed, maybe nuzzled its kin in a blood-soaked slaughterhouse. Environmentalists have a harder go of it. Fracking footage will always be less upsetting than your average fast food expose: Plants, after all, can’t wail frantically as they’re mowed down by the millions. But does that mean they’re not conscious? Is it sensible, or desirable, to start anthropomorphizing crabgrass and dandelions, or are plants really as insensitive as we all instinctively assume?…’

Via Gizmodo

 

 

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Impeachment is Not the Answer?

NewImageNew Laurence Tribe Book Offers Cautions:


‘A new book from Laurence Tribe and Joshua Matz argues that removing a president, even when justified, can be an unwise move….’

Tribe and his former student argue that impeachment talk, which has been faced by every president since 1992, is often stirred not by the president’s opponents but by his supporters, as a way to sustain political engagement between elections, since we are in an age of permanent campaigning and permanent partisanship. And for many Trump supporters, the authors observe, 

Trump’s appeal is less what he will accomplish programmatically than whom he will attack personally. Were Trump removed from office by political elites in Washington, DC—even based on clear evidence that he had grossly abused power—some of his supporters would surely view the decision as an illegitimate coup. Indeed, some right-wing leaders have already denounced the campaign to remove Trump as a prelude to civil war.

One central piece of advice from Tribe and Matz is that impeachment is not a legal, but a political question. It is a mistake to think that solving the problem of whether to impeach depends on whether the President’s actions meet some standard of “high crimes and misdemeanors.” Grand visions of putting the President on trial, they say, devalue other political ways of defending democracy.

The book is, according to the review by David Frum, 

a hopeful summons to defend an imperiled democracy with a renewed and enlarged commitment to democratic action.

Via The Atlantic

Fifteen Unanswered Criminal Law Questions Surrounding the Enfant Terrible

NewImageIn a companion piece, Frum catalogues the open questions about potential criminal acts by the Buffoon-in-Chief, his campaign, his company, and his family. However, he cautions that all he has to do to avoid repercussions is tell lies his contemptibly credulous base believes:

 

 

‘As Laurence Tribe and Joshua Matz show in their new book about impeachment, an agitated and committed minority can suffice to protect a president from facing justice for even the most strongly proven criminality….’

 

 

Via The Atlantic

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The Practically-Extinct Northern White Rhino Just Got Some Good News

NewImage‘Things look pretty bleak for the northern white rhinoceros. Since the death of Sudan, the last male, the entirety of the subspecies has dwindled to only two females. But a group of scientists is churning away on a high-tech save involving carefully cryopreserved cells and tissue cultures from long-dead northern white rhinos. And a new study on the genetics of these precious samples suggests that they are diverse enough to successfully seed a recovered population in the future….’

Via Earther

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“I was Jordan Peterson’s strongest supporter. Now I think he’s dangerous”

NewImageBernard Schiff, professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Toronto and former publisher of The Walrus:

‘I thought long and hard before writing about Jordan, and I do not do this lightly. He has one of the most agile and creative minds I’ve ever known. He is a powerful orator. He is smart, passionate, engaging and compelling and can be thoughtful and kind.

I was once his strongest supporter.

That all changed with his rise to celebrity. I am alarmed by his now-questionable relationship to truth, intellectual integrity and common decency, which I had not seen before. His output is voluminous and filled with oversimplifications which obscure or misrepresent complex matters in the service of a message which is difficult to pin down. He can be very persuasive, and toys with facts and with people’s emotions. I believe he is a man with a mission. It is less clear what that mission is….’

Via Toronto Star

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Why medicine leads the professions in suicide

NewImageAnd what we can do about it

‘Having entered medicine believing that their own knowledge, compassion and experience would help make the difference between health and illness and even life and death for their patients, they have found themselves inhabiting a very different reality, one that often leaves them feeling more like passengers than pilots.

Consider how physician performance is assessed. In the past, physicians sank or swam based on their professional reputations. Today, by contrast, the work of physicians tends to be evaluated by the quality of their documentation, their compliance with policies and procedures, the degree to which their clinical decision-making conforms to prescribed guidelines, and satisfaction scores. Over the past few decades, the physician has become less of a decision-maker and more of a decision implementer….’

Via The Conversation

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Scientists Are Hunting for DNA in Loch Ness—Get the Facts

NewImageIf the famous cryptid is real, this hunt ought to find it—but if not, scientists will still gain valuable ecological data.

‘A group of scientists plans to find out once and for all if Scotland’s most famous “resident,” the Loch Ness Monster, is or ever was hiding in the deep by sequencing as many DNA fragments as they can find in the lake’s murky waters.

Since April 2018, an international research team led by University of Otago geneticist Neil Gemmell has collected water samples from the iconic freshwater lake. In June, Gemmell’s team will begin extracting DNA from the samples, hunting in part for Nessie’s genetic fingerprint.

The team expects to announce their findings by January 2019. In the meantime, the project will shine a bright spotlight on environmental DNA, or eDNA for short—a relatively new field of study that’s giving scientists unprecedented insights….’

Via National Geographic

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“I Killed Them All.”

ThNewImagee Life Of One Of America’s Bloodiest Hitmen

‘That he killed so many for so long suggests a dark truth about law enforcement in the US: Kill the right people — in his case, farmworkers and drug dealers, few of whom had anyone to speak on their behalf — and you just might find there’s no one to stop you….’

Via BuzzFeed

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Can we treat psychosis by listening to the voices in our heads?

NewImageT. M. Luhrmann writes:

‘A group of highly respected, mostly European scientists—among them Jim van Os in Maastricht, the Netherlands, and Charles Fernyhough in Durham, England—have started to argue for the maverick idea that all auditory hallucinations exist on what they call the psychotic continuum. In other words, voices heard by healthy people are simply less severe manifestations of those heard by the mentally ill. These scientists suggest that hearing voices is like experiencing sadness. Some people are clearly sadder than others, and terrible sadness may require hospital care. But there is nothing inherently abnormal about sadness itself. Van Os, Fernyhough, and others have started to ask whether healthy people who hear voices frequently… somehow learned early on to manage their unusual perceptions and so never spiraled into mental illness. They believe that the voices of madness could be softened, if we could only teach people to harness them….’

Via Harpers

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Donald Trump Stalked Bill Gates’ Daughter

Monica Hunter-Hart writes:

‘As for the list of women with whom President Donald Trump reportedly has a slightly creepy relationship, we can now add the daughter of one of the richest men in the world. At a recent Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation meeting that was broadcasted by MSNBC on Thursday, Bill Gates said Trump’s knowledge of his daughter’s appearance was “scary[ily]” detailed when the billionaires met. He also described Trump’s bizarre first encounter with the 22-year-old Jennifer Gates. …’

Source: Google News

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A star turned into a black hole before Hubble’s very eyes

NewImage‘When a massive star expends its fuel, its core collapses into a dense object and sends the rest of its gas outward in an event called a supernova. What’s left is mostly neutron stars or black holes. And now, Hubble seems to have seen a supernova blink out — suggesting it captured the moment when a black hole took over.

While some supernova events are explosive and leave clouds of debris for thousands of years (aka nebula) like SN 1054, the star in question seems to have begun to explode and then had all its gas sucked right back into the black hole at the center. This can happen when the core collapse of the star is especially massive. Rather than exploding, the gas collapses directly into the core of the star.

Only a few of these so called “massive fails” (yes, that’s what they’re calling them) have been spotted, so astronomers are cautious about the results. But this particular star, located in the galaxy NGC 6946, was bright enough to see from 22 million light years away and faded in an instant, suggesting a massive stellar-mass black hole was the driving culprit….’

Via Astronomy.com

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Why Christopher Nolan “unrestored” 2001: A Space Odyssey

NewImageChristopher Nolan brought a restored print — although he prefers to call it ‘unrestored’ to emphasize its fidelity to Kubrick’s original vision and intent — to Cannes. In this interview he waxes enthusiastic about the mindbending film, which he first saw at age 7 when it was rereleased in 70 mm.

I too was transported by 2001. In the weeks after it first came out in 1968 I saw it eight times on the big screen, dragging every friend I could. I wrote an exhilarated review for my high school newspaper attempting to synthesize the metaphysical insights it brought me. (Wish I could read a copy of that now to cringe at how awful it probably was…) I am looking forward to seeing the restored version in the theatre in the coming weeks.

Via Vox

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Trump Calls Some Unauthorized Immigrants ‘Animals’ in Rant

NewImageHardly the first time the enfant terrible has spoken in racially fraught terms about immigrants:

‘President Trump lashed out at undocumented immigrants during a White House meeting on Wednesday, warning in front of news cameras that dangerous people were clamoring to breach the country’s borders and branding such people “animals.”

Mr. Trump’s comments came during a round-table discussion with state and local leaders on California’s so-called sanctuary laws, which strictly limit communication between local law enforcement and federal immigration officers, and which the Trump administration is suing to invalidate….’

Via New York Times

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Scientists declare octopi life from another world

NewImage‘Evidence of the octopus evolution show it would have happened too quickly to have begun here on Earth. Published in the Progress in Biophysics and Molecular Biology Journal, 33 scientists have declared the invertebrate sea-dweller an alien whose eggs landed from space….’

Via Boing Boing

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Tick bites that trigger severe meat allergy on rise around the world

NewImage‘People living in tick-endemic areas around the world are being warned of an increasingly prevalent, potentially life-threatening side effect to being bitten: developing a severe allergy to meat.

The link between tick bites and meat allergies was first described in 2007, and has since been confirmed around the world.

Sufferers of “tick-induced mammalian meat allergy” will experience a delayed reaction of between two and 10 hours after eating red meat. Almost invariably, they are found to have been bitten by a tick – sometimes as much as six months before.

Tick populations booming due to climate change Read more Although most cases of tick bites of humans are uneventful, some immune systems are sensitive to proteins in the parasite’s saliva and become intolerant of red meat and, in some cases, derivatives such as dairy and gelatine.

Poultry and seafood can be tolerated, but many sufferers choose to avoid meat entirely….’

Via The Guardian

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These Are The Jobs Most Likely To Attract A Serial Killer

A new book by criminologist Michael Arntfeld tabulates the correlation between serial killers and certain professions:

Skilled Occupations:

1. Aircraft machinist/assembler
2. Shoemaker/repair person
3. Automobile upholsterer.

Semi-Skilled Occupations:

1. Forestry worker/arborist
2. Truck driver
3. Warehouse manager

Unskilled Occupations

1. General laborer (such as a mover or landscaper)
2. Hotel porter
3. Gas station attendant

Professional and Government Occupations:

1. Police/security official
2. Military personnel
3. Religious official.

Asked to explain what it is about these jobs that attracts people who kill, Arntfeld points to the fact that jobs may confer easy access to vulnerable victims under the guise of employment;  and “the fact many jobs simultaneously satisfy the underlying paraphiliac, or sexual preoccupations, that also fuel killers’ crimes.” For instance, for reasons that are not well understood, Arntfeld says, “mechanophilia” (a fixation with or erotic arousal from machines) appears to correlate with necrophilia and homicidal necrophilia.

Via IFLScience

On the other hand, the list might be biased as pertaining to the serial killers who get caught. Other skillful killers might remain quietly in place, perhaps in other professions.

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The Virus That Causes Mono Linked To Seven Autoimmune Diseases

‘…a team from the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital shows that exposure to the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), best known for causing mononucleosis, appears to boost the risk of developing seven other diseases in individuals who inherited predisposing gene variants. Those autoimmune diseases are lupus, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, juvenile idiopathic arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, celiac disease, and type 1 diabetes.…’

Via IFLScience

 EBV infection is so prevalent that an estimated 90% of the population carries its genetic signature. Most infection is asymptomatic. Once introduced into the body, the virus inserts a copy of its genome into B-lymphocytes of the immune system. Whenever the B cell replicates, a copy of the viral genome is passed on. A protein coded for by the EBV genetic sequence appress to consistently attach itself to areas of the host DNA near risk sequences for the severn autoimmune diseases, increasing the likelihood that they will be activated. In other words, EBV-dreived proteins are a trigger for switching on disease-carrying mutations in B cells that might otherwise never have been expressed.  

Link

May 1968: the revolution retains its magnetic allure

John Harris writes:

‘We are now as far from the events of 1968 as the people involved were from the end of the first world war. Cliche has long since reduced much of what occurred to “student revolt”, but that hardly does these happenings justice, partly because it ignores the workers’ strikes that were just as central to what occurred during ’68 and the years that followed, but also because the phrase gets nowhere near the depth and breadth of what young people were rebelling against, not least in France.

This was the last time that a developed western society glimpsed the possibility of revolution focused not just on institutions, but the contestation of everyday reality, which is still enough to make the simple phrase “May 1968” crackle with excitement – even if you were not around when les évenéments took place. I was born in 1969, but what happened in France and beyond retains a magnetic allure.

[Commemorations to mark 1968’s 50th anniversary include] a series of events, focused on liberties and utopias, at Nanterre University, the suburban campus where the French unrest first flared up; and at King’s College in London, workshops, film screenings and symposiums on ’68’s protests and what they have come to signify.

The leftwing publishers Verso are reissuing a handful of texts, including Tariq Ali’s memoir-cum-history Street Fighting Years and the Raymond Williams-edited May Day Manifesto (1968), arguably the founding text of the British New Left. The same company is also publishing a new book titled Opening the Gates, the compelling story of an attempt at co-operative socialism that took root in the early 1970s at a watch factory in eastern France. Allen Lane, meanwhile, has published The Long ’68, by British historian Richard Vinen, an exhaustive work whose narrative runs across Europe and the US. …’

Source: The Guardian

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Iran nuclear deal: 94% of foreign policy experts think Trump is wrong

NewImageNearly unanimous:

‘In Washington, President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal is controversial — Republicans largely approve, and Democrats, for the most part, are critical.

But when you ask experts on international relations, the decision isn’t very controversial at all: An astonishing 94 percent of scholars think the president made the wrong choice…’

Via Vox

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Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, 9/11 mastermind, claims to have info on Gina Haspel

NewImage‘…Trump’s nominee for CIA director is facing a tough confirmation hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee Wednesday over her controversial role in the Bush-era torture program.

But her latest critic isn’t a human rights group or a Democratic senator — it’s Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the 9/11 terror attacks… He was also tortured by the CIA, including being waterboarded — that is, held down and repeatedly suffocated by having water poured over a cloth into his mouth and nose until he was near drowning — 183 times over 15 sessions while in US custody.

He’s currently sitting in the US prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba — and he’s apparently got something to say about Gina Haspel.

The New York Times’s Charlie Savage reports that KSM has requested permission from a military judge at Guantanamo to share “six paragraphs of information” about Haspel with the Senate Intelligence Committee.

What those six paragraphs of information might contain remains a mystery, and it’s entirely possible that whatever KSM has to say is either completely false or exaggerated and that he’s trying to use this as an opportunity to espouse anti-American propaganda.

But KSM’s defense lawyers seem to think the information he has is significant enough that the Intelligence Committee should see it….’

Via Vox

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Europe’s reaction to Trump Iran nuclear deal withdrawal: raw anger

NewImageIn one word:

‘François Delattre, France’s ambassador to the United Nations, …told Karen DeYoung of the Washington Post that the Trump administration’s foreign policy was a dangerous “mix of unilateralism and isolationism” that he combined into “unisolationism.”

The comments are worth taking a close look at, for two reasons….’

Via Vox

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The key to solving Parkinson’s disease may not be in the brain

NewImageLook to the gut:

‘In 1817, English surgeon James Parkinson reported that some patients with a condition he referred to as ‘shaking palsy’ suffered from constipation. The disease has been named after him ever since and in one of the six cases he described, helping to alleviate that patient’s gastrointestinal complaints also helped some with the movement-related problems of the very same patient.

In fact, today, new evidence is pointing to the stomach and gastrointestinal tract as a possible solution—or, at least, part of one—for those suffering from the disease.

Just over half of all Parkinson’s patients have constipation as one of the common symptoms of the disease….’

Via Big Think