Via Boing Boing
’In Puerto Rico’s rainforest, scientists have observed an astounding loss of life at the very base of the food web. It’s the insects.
As an alarming new study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences outlines, between 1976 and 2013, the number of invertebrates (like insects, spiders, and centipedes) in the Luquillo rainforest caught in survey nets plummeted by a factor of four or eight. When measured by the number caught in sticky traps, invertebrates declined by a factor of 60. These dramatic drops occurred despite the fact that the forest is a protected wildlife area.
The researchers note that this loss of invertebrates — which serve as food for many other forms of life in the ecosystem — has also coincided with losses of birds, lizards, and frogs. “The food web appears to have been obliterated from the bottom,” the Washington Post’s Ben Guarino reported on the study. Guarino’s story quotes one invertebrate expert who called the research “hyper alarming.”…’
A Sociologist Examines the “White Fragility” That Prevents White Americans from Confronting Racism
’In more than twenty years of running diversity-training and cultural-competency workshops for American companies, the academic and educator Robin DiAngelo has noticed that white people are sensationally, histrionically bad at discussing racism. Like waves on sand, their reactions form predictable patterns: they will insist that they “were taught to treat everyone the same,” that they are “color-blind,” that they “don’t care if you are pink, purple, or polka-dotted.” They will point to friends and family members of color, a history of civil-rights activism, or a more “salient” issue, such as class or gender. They will shout and bluster. They will cry. In 2011, DiAngelo coined the term “white fragility” to describe the disbelieving defensiveness that white people exhibit when their ideas about race and racism are challenged—and particularly when they feel implicated in white supremacy. Why, she wondered, did her feedback prompt such resistance, as if the mention of racism were more offensive than the fact or practice of it?
In a new book, “White Fragility,” DiAngelo attempts to explicate the phenomenon of white people’s paper-thin skin. She argues that our largely segregated society is set up to insulate whites from racial discomfort, so that they fall to pieces at the first application of stress—such as, for instance, when someone suggests that “flesh-toned” may not be an appropriate name for a beige crayon. Unused to unpleasantness (more than unused to it—racial hierarchies tell white people that they are entitled to peace and deference), they lack the “racial stamina” to engage in difficult conversations. This leads them to respond to “racial triggers”—the show “Dear White People,” the term “wypipo”—with “emotions such as anger, fear and guilt,” DiAngelo writes, “and behaviors such as argumentation, silence, and withdrawal from the stress-inducing situation.”…’
Via The New Yorker
‘In just 50 years, we will witness dozens of mammals going extinct unless we make major global changes, says a new study published Tuesday. And it will take up to 5 million years before evolution recovers a similar level of diversity on Earth, according to the study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.…’
’The upper chamber has become far more undemocratic than the Constitution’s framers could ever have imagined. What would American government look like without it?…’
’Eddie, one of the dogs that participated in the study, poses in the fMRI scanner with two of the toys used in the experiments, “Monkey” and “Piggy.”…’
’During the solar eclipse of August 21st, 2017, bees did not buzz at all.…’
Via Big Think
Master the regional idiom.
’And what the Grey Lady can still do to find an audience for its Trump tax story.…’
’The delightful, if theoretical, answer is: Yes—yes, they can.
As Gizmodo reports, this particular scientific inquiry began with a question from Juna Kollmeier’s son. Kollemeier, who works at the Observatories of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, recruited Sean Raymond, of the University of Bordeaux, to help her answer the question.
In a paper posted on arXiv, they lay out their case that moons can have moons. The conditions have to be right—the primary moon has to be big enough and far away enough from the planet it’s orbiting for the smaller, secondary moon to survive. But, even given these caveats, they found that moons in our very own solar system could theoretically have their own smaller moons. Two of Saturn’s moons and one of Jupiter’s are candidates. So is our favorite moon—the Earth’s moon.…’
Via Atlas Obscura
‘Brett Kavanaugh (already officially the least popular Supreme Court justice ever)’s Senate confirmation will likely turn many Americans against the Court itself.…’
Henry Cowles, assistant professor of history at the University of Michigan, currently finishing a book on the scientific method and starting another one on habit:
’As a wise man once put it: ‘Who said “the customer is always right?” The seller – never anyone but the seller.’…’
Via Aeon Ideas
“Dan Rather, a longtime American television news anchor was returning from dinner at a friend’s Manhattan apartment on this day in 1986 when a man demanded, “Kenneth, what is the frequency?”
Told he had the wrong person, the man punched and kicked Mr. Rather, still yelling the question. Mr. Rather dashed into a building and was rescued by a doorman and building superintendent.
The police chalked it up to mistaken identity. Some people wondered if Mr. Rather had imagined it. It was unclear if one or two men had attacked.
Meanwhile, “What’s the frequency, Kenneth?” became a U.S. pop catchphrase. The band R.E.M. wrote a song by that name.
In 1997, it emerged that William Tager, a North Carolina man in prison by then, was Mr. Rather’s assailant. In 1994, Mr. Tager had shot and killed a television stagehand, saying the media was beaming messages into his brain. Shown photographs, Mr. Rather recognized him.
Mr. Tager was released from prison in 2010. His whereabouts is unknown…”
Retired Federal judge Nancy Gertner writes:
‘Kavanaugh’s performance at that hearing alone should be disqualifying. His behavior and affect, the pointed and partisan nature of his accusations, resonated with this President’s incivility and name calling. He was consumed with rage at his Democrat interlocutors, fairly spitting out his answers. He treated them with disrespect, interrupting, repeating his talking points rather than answering question. When Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont asked him if he would call for an FBI investigation, to make the process more fair, he did not answer. He showed himself to be a zealot determined to get on the high court, at all costs.
With this performance, Kavanaugh became Trump’s version of what a judge should be, not unlike Trump’s version of what his attorney general should be. They were both supposed to be Trump partisans, not neutrals, and above all, ready for central casting. Trump reportedly was unhappy with Kavanaugh’s performance on “Fox News” several evenings before; Kavanaugh was “wooden,” he said, insufficiently assertive. So Kavanaugh changed his tune. Now, fully a Trump judge, he was playing to his base — President Trump. And it worked. Trump tweeted minutes after the hearing completed: ”Judge Kavanaugh showed America exactly why I nominated him.”
I had never heard a judge speak like that to a public audience, let alone during a confirmation hearing.
A judge is not only supposed to be unbiased, he is also to reflect the appearance of impartiality, avoiding situations in which reasonable people can believe he is partisan. How can Kavanaugh possibly meet that requirement given what we all saw on Thursday?
Consider this: Kavanaugh is confirmed is immediately sworn in by Justice John Roberts in the chambers of the Supreme Court. And on the docket is a challenge to gerrymandering brought by Democrats in one state; or another involving accusations of voter suppression against Republicans in a swing state. What about the cases that directly challenge presidential power, like the enforceability of a subpoena brought by special counsel Robert Mueller against Trump in the Russia investigation? How can he even appear remotely impartial in these cases when his presentation so fully and completely reflected the Republican party’s rage? He cannot. He is not.
Kavanaugh will not get his reputation back whether or not he is confirmed. These accusations, that performance, scotched all such hopes. But if he cared about the Supreme Court as an institution, he would withdraw now. Of course he will not; he wants this position, no matter what the cost, so stunning is his ambition. His body of work has been the functional equivalent of a 20-year application. He was a zealot in the Kenneth Starr investigation of President Bill Clinton, and then, when it suited him to be more neutral, wrote a law review article changing his tune; no president should be subject to the treatment, the very treatment he visited on Clinton. Serious issues were raised with respect to his truthfulness in his confirmation hearings concerning his role in the Bush administration.
He categorically denied Ford’s accusations again — even when he and others confirm at least part of it. He was the thinly-disguised Bart O’Kavanaugh in Mark Judge’s book, “Wasted,’’ passed out in a car. He joined a Yale fraternity famous for its wild drunken parties. At Yale Law School, my alma mater, he touted the all night parties, broken tables, etc. most recently in a 2014 speech. It was not such a leap to Ford’s account of drunken adolescents preying on a younger woman …’
Source: The Boston Globe
’New research shows that people can die simply because they’ve given up, believing life has beaten them and they feel defeat is inescapable…
It usually follows a trauma from which a person thinks there is no escape, making death seem like the only rational outcome, explains Dr. John Leach, a senior research fellow at the University of Portsmouth.
“Psychogenic death is real,” he said. “It isn’t suicide, it isn’t linked to depression, but the act of giving up on life and dying, usually within days, is a very real condition often linked to severe trauma.”
In the study, he describes the five stages leading to progressive psychological decline.…’
Via Psych Central
The study describes the psychological stages of such giving up but does not suggest the mechanism by which it brings about death. Others have talked about, literally, dying of a broken heart. At least some cases involve what is referred to medically as takotsubo cardiomyopathy, apical ballooning syndrome or stress cardiomyopathy.
’Kavanaugh didn’t just DARVO his way through yesterday’s hearing: his bluster, tears, rage, and blame-shifting also allowed him to dodge a remarkable number of questions raised by the senators.
Ford, by contrast, answered virtually every question put to her.…’
Via Boing Boing
’Grateful Dead bassist Phil Lesh contributed $10,000 to a GoFundMe campaign benefitting Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and her family. A representative for Lesh confirmed to Rolling Stone that the bassist did make the donation, though Lesh declined to provide further comment. Lesh ostensibly made his donation last Sunday, September 23rd, though it wasn’t until Thursday – the day Ford testified in front of the Senate Judiciary committee about the time Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh allegedly sexually assaulted her – that several websites spotted the contribution
The GoFundMe campaign for Ford and her family is no longer accepting donations after raising $528,315. A note on the page reads, “A statement of gratitude from the family will be forthcoming in the next 48 hours with a fuller explanation, but in the meantime, do keep your comments coming. I am sharing them with her.”…’
Via Rolling Stone
First Paul Kantner, then Marty Balin, gone on to a better place from one of the all-time greatest soaring psychedelic rock bands ever. (And, Marty, you are fully forgiven for Starship.) Playing some Airplane LOUD now.
’The tactic is DARVO, which stands for: Deny the behavior, Attack the individual doing the confronting, and Reverse the roles of Victim and Offender. It’s a term coined by Dr. Jennifer Freyd at the University of Oregon.…’
Via Daily Kos
’Impeachment isn’t just for presidents. The Constitution allows other officials to be impeached, including Supreme Court justices. No justice of that court has been successfully removed through impeachment—yet.
The process has the same two steps as for presidents. The House of Representatives can vote, with a simple majority, to impeach a justice or other federal official. Then the Senate holds proceedings similar to a trial, then votes on whether to convict. If two-thirds of the Senate vote to convict, the justice is removed from office.…’
’A new Danish-German study suggests that all malevolent aspects of the human personality, including narcissism, psychopathy, sadism, spitefulness and others, appear to share a common “dark core” and are essentially just flavored manifestations of a single common underlying disposition: extreme selfishness.
According to the theory, if you have a tendency to show one dark personality trait, you are more likely to display others.
The common denominator of these traits, known as the dark core factor or “D-factor,” can be defined as the general tendency to maximize one’s own benefit over the benefit of others. This often includes creating justifications for one’s own hurtful actions and thus avoiding any feelings of guilt, regret or shame; or disregarding, accepting, or even malevolently provoking disadvantage for others.
In the journal Psychological Review, researchers Dr. Ingo Zettler, Professor of Psychology at the University of Copenhagen, and two German colleagues, Drs. Morten Moshagen from Ulm University and Benjamin E. Hilbig from the University of Koblenz-Landau, demonstrate how the D-factor is present in nine of the most commonly studied dark personality traits:
- Egoism: an excessive preoccupation with one’s own advantage at the expense of others and the community;
- Machiavellianism: a manipulative, callous attitude and a belief that the ends justify the means;
- Moral disengagement: cognitive processing style that allows behaving unethically without feeling distress;
- Narcissism: excessive self-absorption, a sense of superiority, and an extreme need for attention from others;
- Psychological entitlement: a recurring belief that one is better than others and deserves better treatment;
- Psychopathy: lack of empathy and self-control, combined with impulsive behavior;
- Sadism: a desire to inflict mental or physical harm on others for one’s own pleasure or to benefit oneself;
- Self-interest: a desire to further and highlight one’s own social and financial status;
- Spitefulness: destructiveness and willingness to cause harm to others, even if one harms oneself in the process.…’
Via Psych Central
’Over the past few days, the mathematics world has been abuzz over the news that Sir Michael Atiyah, the famous Fields Medalist and Abel Prize winner, claims to have solved the Riemann hypothesis.
If his proof turns out to be correct, this would be one of the most important mathematical achievements in many years. In fact, this would be one of the biggest results in mathematics, comparable to the proof of Fermat’s Last Theorem from 1994 and the proof of the Poincare Conjecture from 2002.
Besides being one of the great unsolved problems in mathematics and therefore garnishing glory for the person who solves it, the Riemann hypothesis is one of the Clay Mathematics Institute’s “Million Dollar Problems.” A solution would certainly yield a pretty profitable haul: one million dollars.…’
Via The Conversation
’The fight against Ebola in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is facing a “perfect storm” that could help an outbreak spin out of control, the World Health Organization warned Tuesday.
The storm’s main ingredient: insecurity brought on by war. The outbreak response is based in North Kivu, a conflict zone that borders Rwanda and Uganda. More than a million people are displaced there, and armed opposition groups have been carrying out deadly attacks on civilians. The conflict even forced the WHO to halt its response in one epicenter for a week.…’
’What might alien music sound like? Would it be structured hierarchically as our music is with verses and a chorus? Would we even be able to appreciate it? Vincent Cheung, a doctoral student at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, thinks the answer would be yes, assuming it was predicated on local and non-local dependencies. His research published this week in Scientific Reports explains what exactly that means.…’
’The concept of truth is under assault, but our troubles with truth aren’t exactly new.
What’s different is that in the past, debates about the status of truth primarily took place in intellectual cafes and academic symposia among philosophers. These days, uncertainty about what to believe is endemic – a pervasive feature of everyday life for everyday people.
“Truth isn’t truth” – Rudy Giuliani, President Donald Trump’s lawyer, famously said in August. His statement wasn’t as paradoxical as it might have appeared. It means that our beliefs, what we hold as true, are ultimately unprovable, rather than objectively verifiable.…’
Mysterious Evacuation Of Solar Observatory Overlooking White Sands Smells Like Espionage:
’A bizarre, unexplained situation has unfolded in and around the tiny enclave of Sunspot, New Mexico. A week after U.S. federal government officials ordered the evacuation of the National Solar Observatory facility there, as well as a nearby post office, the first site remains closed due to a “security issue” and no one can or will say what it is.
Members of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and potentially other federal government agencies, arrived in Sunspot on or about Sept. 7, 2018, at which point they ordered everyone out of the National Solar Observatory site, which is technically at Sacramento Peak, situated above the tiny town. They also told the clerk in the Sunsport Post Office to evacuate.…’
’Mueller has been seeking this for nearly a year. Now he’s got it. What’s next?…’
’…new research shows that doctors failed to list a
good reason for why they prescribed opioids in nearly a third of cases over a 10-year period.…’
Via Big Think
Much of medical prescribing is irresponsible, unprincipled and knee-jerk. Opioid prescribing in the face of the opioid crisis is the prime example.
’Our recent studies of several replacements suggest effects on the production of eggs and sperm similar to those induced by BPA.…’
Via The Conversation
’It’s easy for casual observers to watch President Donald Trump stumble over words, stop mid-thought to wave at passing boats, ramble about “snakes everywhere” and to conclude to themselves that yes, this guy is definitely losing it. That said, it’s something altogether different when the people who work closest with the president actually ask a professional mental health expert to step in because he’s freaking them the fuck out.
That, however, is exactly what Yale psychiatrist Bandy Lee claims has happened.
In an interview with Salon published Thursday, Lee, editor of 2017’s The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President, claims that several White House staffers approached her to address the president’s declining faculties.…’
Via Splinter News
Common Antidepressant Might Help Bacteria Become Superbugs:
’Fluoxetine is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), a class of drug that prevents certain neurons in the brain from reabsorbing serotonin, a neurotransmitter. People with clinical depression often have less serotonin freely available, and SSRIs boost these levels, helping treat the condition to some extent.
In recent years, though, there’s some research showing that SSRIs such as fluoxetine can also kill off bacteria and other microbes, sparking interest in them being used as a new type of antimicrobial. But the flip side to this realization is the theoretical worry that fluoxetine can foster antibiotic resistance in the environment, since some of the drug ends up in our sewers after it flushes through our bodies.
The current study is touted as the first to test out that theory.…’
Erik Johansson via Instagram
’When you open a packet of a synthetic cannabinoid like K2 or Spice and pour the dried vegetation into your hand, it looks like marijuana. These dried leaves and stems can be inert or come from psychoactive plants like Wild Dagga. Some of these plants are contaminated with heavy metals, pesticides, mold or salmonella.
However, synthetic cannabinoids are anything but natural. They are mass-produced overseas and then shipped in bulk to the U.S., where they are dissolved and then mixed with dried vegetation, which absorbs the liquid. This process is very imprecise, so the dose in one packet can differ greatly within or between batches.
There are several hundred synthetic cannabinoids in existence, and they all stimulate cannabinoid type 1 receptors (CB1), just like the active component in natural marijuana, THC, that provides the high. But they do so with different intensities and for differing periods of time. Some incorporate the central ring structure of the THC molecule before laboratory modification, but many others do not. More problems arise because some of the synthetic cannabinoids stimulate non-cannabinoid receptors and can cause unanticipated effects as well. There is no way to know which synthetic cannabinoids are actually in the product you purchased.
The molecular structure of THC, the active component of marijuana. Many chemists producing synthetic cannabinoids in the lab use the three hexagonal rings as the scaffold to generate new molecules that produce a similar high. Lifestyle discover/Shutterstock.com Natural marijuana does not comprise only THC. The other constituents in natural marijuana such as cannabidiol actually help to temper the negative impact of THC but are absent in synthetic cannabinoids. In addition to these myriad risks, there is also a risk that synthetic cannabinoids can be adulterated with other chemicals, ranging from opioids to rat poison.…’
Via The Conversation
’A new form of misinformation is poised to spread through online communities as the 2018 midterm election campaigns heat up. Called “deepfakes” after the pseudonymous online account that popularized the technique – which may have chosen its name because the process uses a technical method called “deep learning” – these fake videos look very realistic.
So far, people have used deepfake videos in pornography and satire to make it appear that famous people are doing things they wouldn’t normally. But it’s almost certain deepfakes will appear during the campaign season, purporting to depict candidates saying things or going places the real candidate wouldn’t.
Because these techniques are so new, people are
having trouble telling the difference between real videos and the deepfake videos. My work, with my colleague Ming-Ching Chang and our Ph.D. student Yuezun Li, has found a way to reliably tell real videos from deepfake videos. It’s not a permanent solution, because technology will improve. But it’s a start, and offers hope that computers will be able to help people tell truth from fiction.…
When a deepfake algorithm is trained on face images of a person, it’s dependent on the photos that are available on the internet that can be used as training data. Even for people who are photographed often, few images are available online showing their eyes closed. Not only are photos like that rare – because people’s eyes are open most of the time – but photographers don’t usually publish images where the main subjects’ eyes are shut.
Without training images of people blinking, deepfake algorithms are less likely to create faces that blink normally. When we calculate the overall rate of blinking, and compares that with the natural range, we found that characters in deepfake videos blink a lot less frequent in comparison with real people. Our research uses machine learning to examine eye opening and closing in videos…’
Via The Conversation
’In some forests, trees grow in a manner that keeps their branches from touching one another. Despite decades of study, scientists aren’t exactly sure why.…’
Via JSTOR Daily
Alexandra Samuel writes:
’…I have found one personal rule that keeps my grudge-holding in check: Once I have forgotten the details of the original offence, I strictly forbid myself from maintaining my grudge. I may not be much good at forgive and forget, but once I forget, I require myself to forgive.
Thanks to the internet, however, I fear that forgetfulness is no longer a spiritual hall pass. How forgiving can any of us be, now that the internet logs all our online misdeeds forever?…’
Via JSTOR Daily
Katie Heaney writes:
’What does it really mean to be a psychopath? A psychological researcher and a woman diagnosed as a psychopath break down the reality behind the psycho-killer movie clichés.…’
Via The Cut
Nicholas Grossman writes:
’An attempted assassination-by-drone of Venezuela’s president reflects the growing use of the tools by non-state actors. From ISIS recruiting videos to new bombing methods, drones have the potential to become a weapon of choice for militants without a military budget.…’
The end of glorious martyrdom?
’How is this even possible? You can barely move in the United States of America but for all the flags. Flags on the walls, on posters and books. Flags on poles outside schools, like the one he had to walk past to get to this classroom.
The President has colored his flag wrong.…’
Via Boing Boing
’The awful news that all but two penguin chicks have starved to death out of a colony of almost 40,000 birds is a grim illustration of the enormous pressure Antarctic wildlife is under. …’
Via The Guardian
’On Thursday, T-Mobile confirmed that some of its customer data was breached in an attack the company discovered on Monday. It’s a snappy disclosure timeframe, and the carrier said that no financial data or Social Security numbers were compromised in the breach. A relief, right? The problem is the customer data that was potentially exposed: name, billing zip code, email address, some hashed passwords, account number, account type, and phone number. Pay close attention to that last one.…’
Meghan Flaherty at The Paris Review:
‘As the black-and-white photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson once said to the color photographer William Eggleston: “You know, William, color is bullshit.” In the realism of the black-and-white, gray is every color—without the tartness. The understudies take the stage, and not one seems to miss the headliners. We see the world without distraction. Andre Gide called gray the color of the truth.
Look at enough black-and-white photography and color comes to feel like an intrusion. Eggleston’s photos seem too vital to be real, as though depicting an alternate reality. Each image is delirious with hue, spectacular, delicious, but a little bit too much. The eye craves rest—and mystery, the kind of truth that can be searched only in subtlety. Dorothy may tumble, tornadic, into Technicolor, but still she always wishes to go home.…’
Via 3 Quarks Daily
Michael Cohen has already flipped on Donald Trump:
’Michael Cohen’s guilty plea does not require him to cooperate with federal prosecutors or special counsel Robert Mueller. But a veteran criminal defense attorney told Quartz that it’s clear Cohen is already snitching:
“Everyone made a big deal at first that he wasn’t cooperating, but I actually think he didn’t have to. He told the judge that he made payments ‘with the direction and coordination of the candidate.’ That means he was a co-conspirator with Donald Trump. That’s fucking cooperating!”
What’s more, by pleading guilty Cohen has waived his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination, so he could always be subpoenaed by prosecutors if Trump is ever charged.
“It’s sort of a cute maneuver, and I’m guessing the government came up with it. Or maybe he did to make it look like he’s not a snitch,” said the lawyer, who requested anonymity to offer a more candid assessment of the situation. “Call it what you want, but he snitched.”
Cohen is due to be sentenced in December, leaving plenty of time for him to work with prosecutors from Mueller’s team and the Southern District of New York, racking up credits that would reduce the time he serves in prison. Under his current deal, he faces a sentence of up to 57 months.…’
’10 legal experts who are largely in agreement that pardoning Manafort would actually help prosecutors nail him to the wall that much faster.…
“If the president issues a pardon in order to influence a witness and impede the investigation, that would also be a further act of obstruction.” — Lisa Kern Griffin, law professor, Duke University
“If the president pardons anyone involved in the Russian investigation, it may prove to be one of the stupidest things he has yet done.” —Julie O’Sullivan, Georgetown University
“The threat of state prosecution is enough to force Kushner, Flynn, Manafort, etc. to become cooperating witnesses, regardless of whether Trump secretly promises to pardon them.” —Jed Shugerman, Fordham University
If President Trump pardons subjects of Mueller’s investigation, they will be unable to claim their Fifth Amendment rights if they are asked to testify under oath. — Asha Rangappa, associate dean, Yale Law School
With each abnormal, unbecoming, or dishonorable act, President Trump makes it harder for his appointees to defend him, harder for traditional Republicans to maintain their uneasy power alliance with him, and easier for Democrats to take the moral high ground and secure political advantage. President Trump is in danger of snuffing out his candle in the first year of his presidency. — Andy Wright, law professor, Savannah Law School…’
Via Boing Boing
’Recent research suggests that experiencing not-so-happy feelings actually promotes psychological wellbeing.…’
Via Big Think
’According to this research, the more intelligent we are in our late teens and early 20s, the younger we will feel in our 70s – and this may also be reflected in various markers of biological ageing.…’
Via Big Think
’Santa Clara County Fire Chief Anthony Bowden wrote in a declaration. “This throttling has had a significant impact on our ability to provide emergency services. Verizon imposed these limitations despite being informed that throttling was actively impeding County Fire’s ability to provide crisis-response and essential emergency services.” Bowden’s declaration was submitted in an addendum to a brief filed by 22 state attorneys general, the District of Columbia, Santa Clara County, Santa Clara County Central Fire Protection District, and the California Public Utilities Commission. The government agencies are seeking to overturn the recent repeal of net neutrality rules in a lawsuit they filed against the Federal Communications Commission in the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.…’
Radiant Purple Sky Ribbon Defies Explanation:
’You may have met people named Steve in your life, but have you met the radiant ribbon of colorful light in the night sky named Steve? This unexplained phenomenon looks deceptively similar to an aurora and is observed at the same high latitudes in both hemispheres where you’d expect to see magnetic light shows.
Named by Calgary-based photographer Chris Ratzlaff—it’s a nod to the 2006 film Over the Hedge, which classifies “the unknown” as “Steve”—this ribbon appears to be made of hot gas, in the range of 3,000°C (5,430°F). It forms 450 kilometers (280 miles) above Earth’s surface.
Once scientists started studying Steve in 2016, they gave it an official backronym: Strong Thermal Emission Velocity Enhancement. Despite its visual similarity to auroras, research published Monday in Geophysical Research Letters confirms that Steve is generated by a different, unexplained process.…’
The most elevated display of wit?
’Humor me please, and consider the pun. Though some may quibble over the claim, the oft-maligned wordplay is clever and creative, writer James Geary tells Quartz. His upcoming book Wit’s End robustly defends puns and tells the distinguished history of these disrespected witticisms.
“Despite its bad reputation, punning is, in fact, among the highest displays of wit. Indeed, puns point to the essence of all true wit—the ability to hold in the mind two different ideas about the same thing at the same time,” Geary writes. “And the pun’s primacy is demonstrated by its strategic use in the oldest sacred stories, texts, and myths.”…’
Paul Krugman in The New York Times:
’The real news of the past few weeks isn’t that Trump is a wannabe Mussolini who can’t even make the trains run on time. It’s the absence of any meaningful pushback from Congressional Republicans. Indeed, not only are they acquiescing in Trump’s corruption, his incitements to violence, and his abuse of power, up to and including using the power of office to punish critics, they’re increasingly vocal in cheering him on.
Make no mistake: if Republicans hold both houses of Congress this November, Trump will go full authoritarian, abusing institutions like the I.R.S., trying to jail opponents and journalists on, er, trumped-up charges, and more — and he’ll do it with full support from his party.
But why? Is Trumpocracy what Republicans always wanted?
Well, it’s probably what some of them always wanted. And some of them are making a coldblooded calculation that the demise of democracy is worth it if it means lower taxes on the rich and freedom to pollute.
But my guess is that most Republican politicians are spineless rather than sinister — or, more accurately, sinister in their spinelessness. They’re not really ideologues so much as careerists, whose instinct is always to go along with the party line. And this instinct has drawn them ever deeper into complicity.
The point is that once you’ve made excuses for and come to the aid of a bad leader, it gets ever harder to say no to the next outrage…’
Ephrat Livni writes:
‘Rosie Henderson raised the clameur on Aug. 14 by kneeling, calling for help, and reciting the Lord’s Prayer in Norman French, the Guardian reports. She protests a project to narrow a road in St. Peter Port, arguing that it will endanger both pedestrians and motorists in the self-governing UK possession.
The law Henderson invoked is enforceable and creates an immediate injunction. She had 24 hours after issuing the plea to register her claim in court. Work on the road project stopped as soon as the miffed citizen invoked the ancient rule and construction will remain halted until a court decides the case.
The clameur was first recorded in Norman law in the 13th century. Its use is believed to have originated in the 10th century as an appeal to Rollo, Viking founder of the Norman dynasty, according a 2008 article in the Jersey and Guernsey Law Review (pdf) by lawyer and legal historian Andrew Bridgeford.
… The clameur is serious business. “[I]t enables the private individual to co-opt the power of the courts in proclaiming an injunction,” Bridgeford says. “Such a powerful tool is not to be invoked incautiously. A claimant who is found to have raised the Clameur de Haro incorrectly risks not merely a penalty in costs but also punishment for contempt of court.” …’
Dear Mr. President:
’Former CIA director John Brennan, whose security clearance you revoked on Wednesday, is one of the finest public servants I have ever known. Few Americans have done more to protect this country than John. He is a man of unparalleled integrity, whose honesty and character have never been in question, except by those who don’t know him.
Therefore, I would consider it an honor if you would revoke my security clearance as well, so I can add my name to the list of men and women who have spoken up against your presidency.
Like most Americans, I had hoped that when you became president, you would rise to the occasion and become the leader this great nation needs.
A good leader tries to embody the best qualities of his or her organization. A good leader sets the example for others to follow. A good leader always puts the welfare of others before himself or herself.
Your leadership, however, has shown little of these qualities. Through your actions, you have embarrassed us in the eyes of our children, humiliated us on the world stage and, worst of all, divided us as a nation.
If you think for a moment that your McCarthy-era tactics will suppress the voices of criticism, you are sadly mistaken. The criticism will continue until you become the leader we prayed you would be.…’
Via Washington Post
’The former CIA director fired back at the president in a fiery op-ed.…’
Ignorance or malice?
’President Donald Trump has to be reminded of differences in time zones on a “constant basis” as he impulsively attempts to call other world leaders, a diplomatic source told Politico in an article published Monday.
According to a former National Security Council official who spoke to Politico, Trump “wasn’t great with recognizing” that an older world leader might not be awake “or in the right place at 10:30 or 11 p.m. their time.”
A White House official said Trump is well aware of how time zones work, especially as someone who has for years worked in international business, but is often too busy to be concerned with such details.
“He’s the president of the United States. He’s not stopping to add up” time differences, the official told Politico.…’
Via Business Insider
Umair Haque writes:
‘America’s probably not going to recover in our lifetimes, if ever (even if the good guys win the next election.) Let me start with some alarming and necessary factoids. America’s a country whose three main indicators are all blinking nine-alarm red — they’re what “collapse” really means. Life expectancy’s falling. Real incomes are shrinking. And 80% of people live paycheck to paycheck. By all means — elect someone not quite so terrible as Trump. It might mitigate those, but it’s not going to magically alter the downwards trajectory. The American future is a grim choice between a return to yesterday’s slow collapse and the continuation of today’s light-speed implosion — probably not anything remotely like Europe or Canada’s gentle, hopeful upwards trend in quality of life. …’
Source: Eudaimonia and Co
Larval blacklegged or deer tick, Ixodes scapularis, the species that spreads Lyme disease in the U.S.
’…[A] recent report released by the lab testing company Quest Diagnostics …suggests that not only have cases of the tick-borne Lyme disease substantially risen in the past few years, they’re happening in all 50 states.…’
The Asian longhorned tick (Haemaphysalis longicornis) has now been spotted in seven states, mostly along the East Coast, the New York Times reported Monday.
’Like many species of tick, the Asian longhorned tick can carry disease-causing pathogens, including bacteria that resemble those that cause Lyme disease in the U.S., the Powassan virus, and the parasite responsible for babesiosis, an infection that goes after red blood cells. In Eastern Asia, the tick is thought to spread a virus that causes an emerging disease known as severe fever with thrombocytopenia syndrome (SFTS). People with SFTS have abnormally low platelet levels and can rapidly suffer organ failure. The mortality rate of SFTS can reach as high as 30 percent.
At this point, though, none of the longhorned ticks tested by the CDC have been found to carry any germs themselves. It’s also possible that SFTS might not be a danger that people in the U.S. have to worry about. The disease hasn’t been spotted in other areas of the world where longhorned ticks have invaded, such as Australia and New Zealand, indicating that it might take unique conditions for it to be transmittable to people.…’
New Washington Post study :
’Although standing with Trump may pay off in primary contests where strong Republicans are more likely to turn out, GOP congressional candidates may suffer for this alliance in the midterms, when more moderate Republicans and independents could be the difference between victory and defeat.…’
’It’s more than 12 times the size of the biggest planet in our solar system, Jupiter, has a magnetic field 200 times more powerful, and lives 20 light years outside of our solar system. Yet unlike Jupiter, it has no parent star around which it orbits.
So what is it?
It’s a rogue planet. The newly discovered planet was found drifting alone – no host star in sight – with a glowing aurora that has left scientists with questions.
A study published in the Astrophysical Journal last week evaluated this floating mass in more detail; and although it was discovered in 2016, up until now it was thought to be a brown dwarf, a failed star dimmer than a red dwarf star but larger than the largest gas giants. . Yet this particular , object turned out ot be younger and less massive than scientists originally thought, which opened the door to the revelation that this cold, wandering sphere may, in fact, be a planet instead.…’
’Given their current popularity, you might assume that probiotics—capsules containing a mix of “good” bacteria that are said to rebalance our gut’s bacterial content—would be perfectly harmless. But a team of gastroenterologists from Augusta University in Georgia is challenging that assumption. Their recent study is the latest to suggest some people who take probiotics can develop a strange collection of symptoms, including gas, diarrhea, and “brain fog.”…’
’If you travel frequently and have a stash of miles you haven’t used yet, consider donating them to an organization that can use them to reunite families separated at the U.S.-Mexican border.
Beth Wilensky, a professor at University of Michigan’s law school, tweeted the idea last night, and is encouraging people to get in touch with organizations like Michigan Support Circle and Miles4Migrants.
Michigan Support Circle says it uses the miles to either bring parents to their children, or to unite parent and child with other relatives. You can register your miles here. The organization is requesting money to help pay for school supplies for children whose parents have been detained by ICE.…’
’One of the best—if not THE best—meteor showers of the year is about to kick into high gear, and the timing is perfect; with the new moon occurring at exactly the same time as the Perseid meteor shower, this show could be spectacular at 60-70 meteors per hour and sometimes double or even triple that.…’
Via Big Think
The Hiroshima anniversary:
’Seventy-three years after the first use of the atomic bomb in wartime, commitment to arms control is fading.…’
Japanese Students Recreate Hiroshima Bombing in VR:
’Over two years, a group of Japanese high school students has been painstakingly producing a five-minute virtual reality experience that recreates the sights and sounds of Hiroshima before, during and after the U.S. dropped an atomic bomb on the city 73 years ago Monday.
By transporting users back in time to the moment when a city was turned into a wasteland, the students and their teacher hope to ensure that something similar never happens again.…’
How Donald Trump hacked the media:
’In his classic 1985 book Amusing Ourselves to Death, Neil Postman wrote of the difference between George Orwell’s and Aldous Huxley’s visions of fascism.
“Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information,” wrote Postman. “Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance.”
Postman’s warning rang out in a different era. He worried over the rise of television, not Twitter; he was reacting to Ronald Reagan, not Donald Trump. And yet the facts of our age are more absurd and insulting than anything Postman prophesied.
The point of Amusing Ourselves to Death is that societies are molded by the technologies atop which they communicate. Oral cultures teach us to be conversational, typographic cultures teach us to be logical, televised cultures teach us that everything is entertainment. So what is social media culture teaching us?…’
’F Scott Fitzgerald famously wrote: “There are no second acts in American lives.” It might have been a blessing for Rudy Giuliani if that were really true.…’
Via The Guardian
‘If 2006 and 2010 patterns hold, a Democratic midterm wave could appear late in the day as vulnerable GOP House seats become targets.
…A lot of seats that wound up falling weren’t even on the radar a few months earlier. Right now, Cook has 34 Republican-held House seats looking very vulnerable (3 are likely Democratic, 7 lean Democratic, and 24 are toss-ups). But the landscape could get much bluer in a hurry.
What would account for this kind of late trend? In 2006 and 2010 it was not, interestingly enough, any deterioration of the president’s own approval ratings. So Donald Trump’s exceptionally stable approval ratings won’t necessarily serve to limit his party’s losses in the House. Late trends could also reflect intensifying excitement over an approaching win for the “out” party…’
‘Sometimes thinking is a bad idea. Ian Leslie draws on Dylan, Djokovic and academic research to put the case for unthinking…’
Jack Nicas writes:
‘Google Maps has now become the primary arbiter of place names. With decisions made by a few Google cartographers, the identity of a city, town or neighborhood can be reshaped, illustrating the outsize influence that Silicon Valley increasingly has in the real world.
…[But how] Google arrives at its names in maps is often mysterious. The company declined to detail how some place names came about, though some appear to have resulted from mistakes by researchers, rebrandings by real estate agents — or just outright fiction…’
Source: New York Times
Church’s support for abolition of the death penalty will be par of the Catholic Catechism:
‘Pope Francis has declared the death penalty inadmissible in all cases “because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person,” the Vatican announced on Thursday, in a major shift in Roman Catholic teaching on the issue.
Francis, who has spoken out against capital punishment before — including in 2015 in an address to Congress — added the change to the Catechism of the Catholic Church — the compendium of Catholic beliefs.
He said the church would work “with determination” for the abolition of capital punishment worldwide.
Previously, the catechism allowed the death penalty in some cases, if it was “the only practicable way to defend the lives of human beings effectively against the aggressor,” even if in reality “cases of absolute necessity for suppression of the offender today are very rare, if not practically nonexistent.”…’
Via New York Times
‘From cybersecurity issues to administrative problems to a legal drama over a possible citizenship question, there are plenty of reasons to worry about the decennial head count….’
Via The Atlantic
Jason Weinberger on Boing Boing:
‘A quick registration at Donate Life can turn hunks of your soulless cadaver into the greatest gift you’ll ever give.
In 2006 a heart donor gave my Uncle, Lee Krinsky, 12 more years of life. I can not tell you how much those 12 years meant to Lee, his wife Karen, our entire family, and a large community of people who loved him.
My Uncle Lee was the kind of Uncle who was always full of shit. As a kid it was great fun to listen to him tell stories. As an adult it was great fun to smoke a joint with him, and listen to him tell wild stories. One of the best was the story of his transplanted heart. Nothing about being a transplant recipient is easy, but Lee was always grateful, and knew he was living on gifted time. He had worn his old heart out.
You can line up to give that gift to someone else. Be it restoring vision, kidneys, liver or a beating heart — any parts you aren’t using any more are spare. As my Uncle Lee would say “Be a mensch” and sign up….’
A literary agent on why your good story isn’t likely to be a bestseller.
‘Has anyone ever said you should write a book? Maybe extraordinary things have happened to you, and they say you should write a memoir. Or you have an extremely vivid imagination, and they say you should write a novel. Maybe your kids are endlessly entertained at bedtime, and they say you should write a children’s book. Perhaps you just know how everything should be and imagine your essay collection will set the world straight. Everyone has a book in them, right? I hate to break it to you but everyone does not, in fact, have a book in them….’
Via The Outline
‘Scientists have identified a new shape called the scutoid, a discovery that helps explain how cells arrange themselves in tightly packed three-dimensional structures that serve as protective barriers in the body.
The shape was discovered while a team of researchers was studying epithelial cells, which are the safety shields of the body that make up the cell walls lining our blood vessels and organs. As tissues and organs develop, epithelial cells squish together, twisting and turning into highly efficient and complex three-dimensional structures that help block microbes from entering our skin or organs.
But the shape of these cell structures has long been a mystery to scientists. Some have proposed they were shaped like prisms or cylinders, but a new paper published in Nature shows how scientists used computer modeling and imaging to settle the question once and for all….’
Via Big Think
Cohl Furey, a mathematical physicist at the University of Cambridge, is finding links between the Standard Model of particle physics and the octonions, numbers whose multiplication rules are encoded in a triangular diagram called the Fano plane.
‘Water hiding 1.6km below Mars’ south pole will be hard to reach. But when we do, we may finally find out if there’s life on the planet…’
Via Wired UK
Frozen earthworm revived after 42,000 years in the permafrost / Boing Boing
‘Siberian roundworms frozen for millennia were thawed and are happily going about their business again, reports The Siberian Times.
One worm came from an ancient squirrel burrow in a permafrost wall of the Duvanny Yar outcrop in the lower reaches of the Kolyma River – close to the site of Pleistocene Park which is seeking to recreate the Arctic habitat of the extinct woolly mammoth, according to the scientific article published in Doklady Biological Sciences this week.
This is around 32,000 years old.
Another was found in permafrost near Alazeya River in 2015, and is around 41,700 years old….’
Via Boing Boing
‘When you think about fearsome predators in the ocean, the first thing that pops into your mind is probably a shark. Sure, sharks are OK, with their sleek, menacing shape and their gaping jaws with rows of jagged teeth. But if you were a fish living on a coral reef or cruising along the shore over the sands of a tropical island, you would fear a far more terrifying predator….’
Via The Conversation
‘Earlier this month, the non-profit Forecast Foundation launched its Augur protocol on the Ethereum network in a bid to create the first blockchain-based betting platform. Now, Augur is hosting several wagers where users bet on when a public figure will die, with a pot of digital money going to whoever makes the correct guess. This type of betting is referred to as an “assassination market” because it arguably incentivizes someone to guarantee a win by offing the person themselves.
On the Augur marketplace, Motherboard found open bets on the deaths of a number of public figures, including Betty White, Donald Trump, Jeff Bezos and Warren Buffett. Other events were also bet on as well, such as whether SpaceX will complete a crewed flight beyond Earth orbit this year. Most of these betting pools had few or no bets on the books at the time of writing, but some betting pools, including one predicting Donald Trump’s death this year, had dozens of trades.
These prediction pools are called assassination markets because they arguably incentivize bettors to make their predictions come true by taking matters into their own hands. Cryptoanarchist Jim Bell introduced the concept in a paper called “Assassination Politics” in the mid-1990s. Bell imagined that the anonymity afforded by modern encryption techniques and the advent of digital money would allow for political assassinations to be incentivized and carried out anonymously.
Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum have arguably created a perfect environment for Bell’s assassination politics to take shape….’
‘It feels like it was only a matter of time before Robert Mueller started investigating Donald Trump’s tweets. And it seems that time has come. The New York Times reports that the special counsel “is scrutinizing tweets and negative statements” from the president about James Comey and Jeff Sessions. Specifically, Mueller reportedly wants to know if Trump’s behavior adds up to obstruction of justice. Boy, there sure are a lot of tweets, too.
The Times report cites three anonymous sources who claim that Mueller is turning to Trump’s relentless remarks about Comey and Sessions, specifically those that relate to the investigation into Russian meddling into the 2016 election. Some of these statements could represent a pattern of intimidating witnesses and pressuring high level officials to stop investigating….’
‘Climate change is a public health crisis from its impacts on air quality to wiping out the healthcare systems we need to stave off sickness. Even the air conditioning we’ll need to beat the heat is likely to make things worse.
A new study published Monday in Nature Climate Change adds to the growing list of climate-related health threats, concluding that rising temperatures are likely to cause more suicides. The study showed that the increased heat could lead to as many as 40,000 additional suicides in the U.S. and Mexico by 2050 if global carbon emissions continue on their current trajectory….’
The signs are easy to see. Just three bullet points revealed by a casual perusal of today’s news:
‘The evidence just keeps piling up: Democrats are in a good position to take the House in the 2018 midterm elections. …’
‘Supervolcanoes sound terrifying, but the risks they pose don’t usually match their fearsome reputations. Yellowstone in particular often makes its way into headlines, as every earthquake swarm or change in geyser activity spawns unfounded rumors of an apocalyptic eruption.
However, ask a volcanologist where the real risk in the U.S. lurks, and there’s a good chance that they will turn their gaze to the Pacific Northwest.
Nestled among the Cascade mountain range sits Mount Rainier, a postcard-perfect natural wonder—and a volcano that causes scientists genuine concern. It’s unclear when it will stir from its long slumber, and there’s no sign that anything is imminent. Nevertheless, a future eruption could cause one of the worst natural disasters in the U.S. …’
Source: National Geographic
Manisha Sinha, Draper Chair in American History at the University of Connecticut, writes:
‘ Donald Trump likes to compare himself to Andrew Jackson, but the Andrew he really resembles is Andrew Johnson. What they have in common are delusions of personal grandeur and a tainted ascent to the presidency. Trump was elected by a minority of the American electorate, with help from the vagaries of the Electoral College system and from considerable Russian interference.
Johnson became president thanks to an assassin’s bullet. While Johnson immodestly compared himself to Jesus and Moses, Trump claims he is the best at everything, even boasting recently on Twitter that his popularity among Republicans exceeds that of Abraham Lincoln.
Indeed, pundits have likened today’s partisan divisions to those of the Civil War era. But they more closely resemble the politics of Reconstruction, the period after the war when for the first time in history, an American president, Johnson, was impeached by the House of Representatives…’
‘Renowned environmentalist and chimpanzee buddy Jane Goodall has her fingers crossed: she’s entered the lottery to win the right to kill a grizzly bear in the area of Yellowstone Park. That Wyoming’s allowing the bears to be hunted is a big deal. There’s been a moratorium on taking down a grizzly bear in Wyoming for the past 44 years. This year, the state is allowing 22 of them to be killed by hunters.
But, instead of taking down a furry behemoth so that she might eat its steaming heart to celebrate her kill, Goodall, and a growing number of other people, have a better idea of what to do if they win the right to shoot a grizzly: they’re advocating that folks take that shot with a camera instead of a gun.
Shoot ‘em With A Camera is a guerrilla campaign to undermine Wyoming’s bear hunt lottery system. The premise is simple: Apply to the bear hunt lottery for your chance to kill a magnificent creature. Then, should you win, instead of heading to the hills with a rifle, you head out with a camera. It’s a cheeky campaign and according to National Geographic, its gaining momentum, quickly….’
Via Boing Boing
‘Is this art or is the matrix simulation of our society finally breaking down?…’
Century’s longest lunar eclipse:
‘The longest lunar eclipse of the century will be an incredible sight for a good part of the world, and the penumbra and umbra (partial and total eclipse) will be cast to mostly the Middle East, south and eastern Africa, western and southeast Asia, and finally India.
It happens when Earth casts its shadow onto the lunar surface as it passes between the sun and moon.
Alas, none of it will be visible in North America. You can, however, watch it as it happens, online at several locations: TimeAndDate.com has one, as does the Virtual Telescope Project….’
Via Big Think
The 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
‘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
‘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
Garrett 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….’
‘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….’
‘They consider him a stupid, unstrategic politician….’
‘White House aides want you to believe the president stands with Putin because he doesn’t get what’s going on….’
‘John Brennan: “Not only were Trump’s comments imbecilic, he is wholly in the pocket of Putin.”…’
‘Yes, this is about the “pee tape.”…’
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…’
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‘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….’
Abortion, 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….’
‘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….’
A 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