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R.I.P. Clancy Sigal

Novelist Whose Life Was a Tale in Itself, Dies at 90, SAM ROBERTS writes:

‘The first time Clancy Sigal went to jail he was 5. His mother, a Socialist union organizer, had been arrested in Chattanooga, Tenn., for violating social and legal norms when she convened a meeting of black and white female textile workers. Hauled away to the jailhouse, she took Clancy with her.
As an American Army sergeant in Germany, he plotted to assassinate Hermann Göring at the Nuremberg war crimes trials. A victim of the movie industry’s Communist-baiting blacklist, he represented Barbara Stanwyck and Humphrey Bogart as a Hollywood agent (but improvidently rejected James Dean and Elvis Presley as clients).
During a 30-year self-imposed exile in Britain as an antiwar radical, Mr. Sigal was the Nobel Prize-winning novelist Doris Lessing’s lover and flirted with suicide as a sometime patient of R. D. Laing, the iconoclastic psychiatrist.
In short, in a mixed-bag life of almost a century, Mr. Sigal had enough rambunctious experiences to fill a novel — or, in his case, several of them. He drew on his escapades in critically acclaimed memoirs and autobiographical novels, developing a cult following, especially in Britain. …’

Source: New York Times obituary

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Where Did Time Come From, and Why Does It Seem to Flow?

‘Nautilus: Is the flow of time real or an illusion?

Physicist Paul Davies: The flow of time is an illusion, and I don’t know very many scientists and philosophers who would disagree with that, to be perfectly honest. The reason that it is an illusion is when you stop to think, what does it even mean that time is flowing? When we say something flows like a river, what you mean is an element of the river at one moment is in a different place of an earlier moment. In other words, it moves with respect to time. But time can’t move with respect to time—time is time. A lot of people make the mistake of thinking that the claim that time does not flow means that there is no time, that time does not exist. That’s nonsense. Time of course exists. We measure it with clocks. Clocks don’t measure the flow of time, they measure intervals of time. Of course there are intervals of time between different events; that’s what clocks measure…’

Source: Nautilus

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The End of the American Experiment

Umair Haque:

‘It’s Over. So What Can the World Learn?

It’s safe to say, I think, that the American experiment is at an end. No, America might not be finished as in civil war and secession. But it is clearly at an end in three ways.

First, to the world, as a serious democracy. Second, to itself, as a nation with dignity and self-respect. Third, its potential lies in ruins. Even if authoritarianism is toppled tomorrow, the problems of falling life expectancy, an imploding middle class, skyrocketing inequality, and so on, won’t be.

Now, like many fallen nations, maybe America won’t learn much from the failure of its own experiment — but history and the world surely can. So what has the experiment disproven? What was the null hypothesis?

We don’t have to look very far. What does America not have that the rest of the rich world does? Public healthcare, transport, education, and so on. Every single rich nation in the world has sophisticated, broad, and expansive public goods, that improve by the year. Today, even many medium income and even poor nations are building public healthcare, transport, etc. America is the only one that never developed any.

Public goods protect societies in deep, profound, invisible ways …’

Source: Medium

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What not to do in a disaster

I have often questioned the characterization of survivors of disasters as heroes simply because they survived. This bolsters the impression that it was usually nothing extraordinary that they did but simply not being fools… or unlucky:

‘…Surprisingly, plenty of  people in deadly scenarios don’t act fast enough to save their own lives. From arguing over small change while a ship sinks into stormy water, to standing idly on the beach as a tsunami approaches, psychologists have known for years that people make self-destructive decisions under pressure. Though news reports tend to focus on miraculous survival, if people escape with their lives it’s often despite their actions – not because of them…’

Source: BBC

 

 

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The Tardigrade Will Be the Last Living Thing On Earth

‘I hate to break it to you, but humans probably don’t have that much longer before we go extinct—somewhere between 100 years and 5 billion years, depending on who you ask. Obviously, a human extinction event is unprecedented and incredibly hard to predict with any sort of accuracy. But according to new research from physicists at Harvard and Oxford, one thing is nearly certain: long after humans are gone, the tardigrade will live on.

Also known as the waterbear, the tardigrade is an 8-legged “extremophile” micro-animal that grows up to 1.2 millimeters and is renowned for its ability to survive where every other complex living organism cannot. It can live for up to 60 years, is able to survive for 30 years without food or water, endure temperatures up to 300 F, and can even survive exposure to the vacuum of space.

With credentials like these, it’s no wonder that physicists predict the tardigrade will inherit the Earth—pretty much the only way to destroy it is if all of Earth’s oceans were to boil.

Source: Motherboard

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Another real winner on the Drumpf team

Trump’s lawyer threatens a stranger with profanity-laden emails

‘The lawyer representing the president of the United States just threatened a stranger in a string of angry and profane emails that included a blunt warning to “watch your back, bitch.”

 ProPublica’s Justin Elliott shared the exchange between an unidentified man and President Trump’s personal lawyer Marc Kasowitz. It started when the stranger, a retired public relations professional in the western United States, sent Kasowitz an email late Wednesday night with the subject line “Resign Now” that asked him to “resign from your position advising the president.”

Just five minutes later, Kasowitz responded, “F*ck you.” But it didn’t end there. Without receiving a response from the stranger, Kasowitz launched into an angry and threatening tirade.

Fifteen minutes after his first response, Kasowitz replied again, saying, “Watch your back, bitch.” …The stranger responded politely, and somewhat sarcastically, soon after, saying, “Thank you for your kind reply.”

Minutes later, Kasowitz then dared the stranger to challenge him to his face — “Don’t be afraid, you piece of shit.”

The exchange ended with another response from Kasowitz, again threatening the stranger and challenging the man to call him. “I already know where you live, I’m on you,” he said.

Yes, this actually happened. ProPublica verified the exchange of emails, and the stranger told ProPublica the whole incident disturbed him so greatly he forwarded the emails to the FBI.

The emails aren’t the only problems facing Trump’s lawyer

Kasowitz is representing Trump as the president and his team are being investigated for obstruction of justice and possible collusion with Russia. And as Vox’s Alex Ward and Rebecca Tan reported, Kasowitz and his small team already seemed outmatched when compared to the experienced lawyers and investigators working for special counsel Robert Mueller:

“Trump’s team, by contrast, is led by Marc Kasowitz, a Wall Street lawyer with minimal experience in federal investigations who burst onto the national scene with a typo-ridden statement defending the president. His top two partners so far, Michael Bowe and Jay Sekulow, are known more for their time on TV than their time in the courtroom, and don’t have anywhere near the background Mueller’s team boasts to take on this challenge.”

It’s also not looking like Kasowitz’s team is going to get much stronger anytime soon. Prominent lawyers with investigative experience at four major law firms declined to represent the president, citing concerns about Kasowitz’s leadership and influence over Trump. These lawyers include Brendan Sullivan of Williams & Connolly, a white-collar specialist who is consistently named as one of the top 100 trial lawyers in the country, and Ted Olson of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, who was the solicitor general under George W. Bush from 2001 to 2004.

 Kasowitz has also rankled some in the White House by reportedly bypassing White House counsel Don McGahn and sparring with Trump adviser Jared Kushner, himself a target of several of the probes.

Recently there have been reports that Kasowitz could be denied a security clearance, something he needs in order to access classified government information and continue working closely with Trump.

There may be a reason for that, and it’s a serious one: ProPublica spoke with more than two dozen people close with Kasowitz for a recent article who said that he has a history of intermittent alcohol abuse and spent time in rehab in the winter of 2014-’15.

A spokesperson for Kasowitz angrily denied the report, telling Law.com that Kasowitz “has not struggled with alcoholism” and that “much of what [ProPublica] reported is false and defamatory.”

But regardless of what caused the outburst, this email exchange offers a new and disturbing glimpse into the mindset of the person charged with protecting Donald Trump. That would be a tough job for any lawyer. It seems it may be even harder for this one.

Source: Vox

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Rand Paul sounds ready to kill the Senate health care bill

“As far as I can tell, the new bill is the same as the old bill,” the Kentucky senator told reporters on a conference call Wednesday. “I can’t support it.”

Source: Vox

Wrong reason, right move. By the way, did you hear the one about the Trump administration officials and Republican Congressional leaders on a fact-finding mission to the Middle East whose plane was hijacked by ISIS? The terrorists demanded $1m in ransom from the U.S. government otherwise they would begin returning their captives to us one by one.

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Astounding close-up image of Jupiter’s Giant Red Spot

‘NASA’s Juno probe just completed the closest ever flyby of Jupiter’s Giant Red Spot. The above is a processed version of an image created by Gerald Eichstädt from the Juno imaging data. Juno was passing about 5,600 miles (9,000 kilometers) above the Red Spot. See many more images here.

The Great Red Spot is a 10,000-mile-wide (16,000-kilometer-wide) storm that has been monitored since 1830 and has possibly existed for more than 350 years. In modern times, the Great Red Spot has appeared to be shrinking…’

Source: Boing Boing

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Just How Big Is Antarctica’s Newly Broken-Off Iceberg?

‘…The iceberg that has been threatening to break from Antarctica’s Larsen C ice shelf has finally made its move. lt is now officially one of the largest icebergs ever recorded—more than 120 miles long, 1,100 feet thick, 2,240 square miles in area, and 230 cubic miles in volume.

Just how big is that? Reporters around the world are figuring out comparisons for an object this large for their readers. It is …

Source: Atlas Obscura

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G20 becomes G19 in the Face of an Imbecile

Political editor Chris Uhlmann of the Australian Broadcasting Company  writes:

‘The G20 became the G19 as it ended. On the Paris climate accords the United States was left isolated and friendless. It is, apparently, where this US President wants to be as he seeks to turn his nation inward.

Donald Trump has a particular, and limited, skill-set. He has correctly identified an illness at the heart of the Western democracy. But he has no cure for it and seems to just want to exploit it.

He is a character drawn from America’s wild west, a travelling medicine showman selling moonshine remedies that will kill the patient. And this week he underlined he has neither the desire nor the capacity to lead the world.

Given the US was always going to be one out on climate change, a deft American President would have found an issue around which he could rally most of the leaders.He had the perfect vehicle — North Korea’s missile tests. So, where was the G20 statement condemning North Korea? That would have put pressure on China and Russia? Other leaders expected it and they were prepared to back it but it never came.

There is a tendency among some hopeful souls to confuse the speeches written for Mr Trump with the thoughts of the man himself. He did make some interesting, scripted, observations in Poland about defending the values of the West. And Mr Trump is in a unique position — he is the one man who has the power to do something about it. But it is the unscripted Mr Trump that is real. A man who barks out bile in 140 characters, who wastes his precious days as President at war with the West’s institutions — like the judiciary, independent government agencies and the free press. He was an uneasy, awkward figure at this gathering and you got the strong sense some other leaders were trying to find the best way to work around him…’

Source: ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

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New Quantum Theory: Future Could Be Influencing the Past

‘Quantum physics has spawned its share of strange ideas and hard-to-grasp concepts – from Einstein’s “spooky action at a distance” to the adventures of Shroedinger’s cat. Now a new study lends support to another mind-bender – the idea of retrocausality, which basically proposes that the future can influence the past and the effect, in essence, happens before the cause.

At this point, retrocausality does not mean that you get to send signals from the future to the past – rather that an experimenter’s measurement of a particle can influence the properties of that particle in the past, even before making their choice.

The new paper argues that retrocausality could be a part of quantum theory. The scientists expound on the more traditionally accepted concept of time symmetry and show that if that is true, then so should be retrocausality. Time symmetry says that physical processes can run forward and backwards in time while being subject to the same physical laws…’

Source: Big Think

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Is Empathy Overrated?

women-800x430Sarah Sentilles writes:

What if instead of sameness it were otherness that was the foundation for ethical action? What if being confronted by someone utterly different from you—someone you are opposed to, confused by, scared of, someone you can’t understand—was the urgent signal that there was a life in need of your protection?

Source: Literary Hub

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Who Got Transcendence Right?

transcendence_wallpaper_by_theemerald-d2ifaymEmily Esfahani Smith writes:

‘…Freud believed that “oceanic feelings of oneness” were neurotic memories of the womb and the signs of a deranged mind.

But according David Yaden, a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania and the lead author of the self-transcendence paper, the current research paints a very different picture. Along with his co-authors, Yaden has found that self-transcendent experiences can in fact have a profoundly positive effect on the human psyche.

“A consensus has emerged from the contemporary research data,” Yaden told me, “that Freud was wrong.”

The person who got transcendence right, Yaden says, is William James, the great American psychologist of the 19th century who wrote Varieties of Religious Experience. James was fascinated by transcendent states — so fascinated he took nitrous oxide, or laughing gas, to “stimulate the mystical consciousness” in himself. …’

Source: New York Magazine

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California Wolf Pack Growing!

‘…Three fuzzy gray wolf pups are the newest additions to the Lassen Pack and were captured playing and following after their mother by a U.S. Forest Service trail camera last week.Their mother was captured by California Department of Fish and Wildlife biologists right before the photos were taken so she could be collared for tracking. The collar allows biologists to follow her movements and learn more about her food preferences, and they noted that she had recently given birth. After she was released, biologists went back out into the field to check up her. They saw that her prints were accompanied by pup paw prints too. The nearby trail camera provided the first glimpse of the young wolves…’

Source: Atlas Obscura

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Praying Mantises: More Badass Than We Knew

‘Praying mantises are among the most frightening insects on the planet, equipped with powerful front legs which they use to snatch unwary insects, spiders, and even the odd amphibian or reptile. But as new research reveals, praying mantises are also proficient at capturing birds—which they do more often than we thought.

New research published in The Wilson Journal of Ornithology shows that small birds often fall victim to praying mantises, and that this behavior exists among many different mantis species around the world. Most cases of this insect-on-bird violence were documented in North America, where small birds—particularly hummingbirds—are snatched by the predatory insects when visiting feeders or house gardens…’

Source: Gizmodo

So we ought to call them “preying mantises”??

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Rogue wave holes

now-b1594826-4da8-43c7-83fd-511cdae7f4da-1210-680I have long been fascinated by rogue waves, finding them to be the stuff of nightmares (literally; as a child I had recurring dreams about being in the path of one). Well, now it appears there are rogue troughs as well:

‘Rogue waves in the ocean can take two forms. One form is an elevated wall of water that appears and disappears locally. Another form is a deep hole between the two crests on the surface of water. The latter one can be considered as an inverted profile of the former. For holes, the depth from crest to trough can reach more than twice the significant wave height. That allows us to consider them as rogue events. The existence of rogue holes follow from theoretical analysis but has never been proven experimentally. Here, we present the results confirming the existence of rogue wave holes on the water surface observed in a water wave tank …’

Source: Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans

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Sorry

There will be no posts here for two weeks. I will be gone and off the grid. Please have an enjoyable rest of June and come back after the 4th of July.

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Happy Bloomsday

“I was a Flower of the mountain yes when I put the rose in my hair like the Andalusian girls used or shall I wear a red yes and how he kissed me under the Moorish Wall and I thought well as well him as another and then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes.”

— Molly Bloom

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Why Interviewing Alex Jones Is Such a Bad Idea

‘…[E]levating chicanery and those who propagate its—even to debunk the lie—only spreads their nonsense. “Megyn Kelly interviewing Alex Jones is like taking a leaf of poison ivy that you know is making you itch and rubbing it all over someone’s face,” says Stephanie Kelley-Romano, who teaches rhetoric at Bates College and studies how and why conspiracy beliefs take root. “You don’t spread it around.” …’

Source: WIRED

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Alternative therapies for “chronic Lyme” are dangerous, researchers warn

‘That group includes doctors from across the country, including the University of Colorado, the CDC, Yale University, Stanford, and the University of California, San Francisco. In the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, the doctors reveal chilling accounts of five patients who pursued such bogus treatments. What followed was years of heart-wrenching suffering, avoidable life-threatening infections, and death…’

Source: Ars Technica

The fact that the diagnosis is not well-founded is less the problem than that the putative sufferers fall victim to snake oil salesmen. It seems to me that, if you seek help for a controversial syndrome you have to hold the caregiver to a higher, rather than a lower, bar regarding the plausibility of the approach they suggest.

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Symptoms of consciousness

‘Where did consciousness come from? A recent piece in New Scientist (paywalled, I’m afraid) reviewed a number of ideas about the evolutionary origin and biological nature of consciousness. The article obligingly offered a set of ten criteria for judging whether an organism is conscious or not…

  • Recognises itself in a mirror
  • Has insight into the minds of others
  • Displays regret having made a bad decision
  • Heart races in stressful situations
  • Has many dopamine receptors in its brain to sense reward
  • Highly flexible in making decisions
  • Has ability to focus attention (subjective experience)
  • Needs to sleep
  • Sensitive to anaesthetics
  • Displays unlimited associative learning..’

Source: Conscious Entities

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Hypnosis Is Actually Not That Mysterious

‘Hypnosis refers to a set of procedures involving an induction — which could be fixating on an object, relaxing or actively imagining something — followed by one or more suggestions, such as “You will be completely unable to feel your left arm.” The purpose of the induction is to induce a mental state in which participants are focused on instructions from the experimenter or therapist, and are not distracted by everyday concerns. One reason why hypnosis is of interest to scientists is that participants often report that their responses feel automatic or outside their control.

Most inductions produce equivalent effects. But inductions aren’t actually that important. Surprisingly, the success of hypnosis doesn’t rely on special abilities of the hypnotist either — although building rapport with them will certainly be valuable in a therapeutic context.

Rather, the main driver for successful hypnosis is one’s level of “hypnotic suggestibility.” This is a term which describes how responsive we are to suggestions. We know that hypnotic suggestibility doesn’t change over time and is heritable. Scientists have even found that people with certain gene variants are more suggestible.

Most people are moderately responsive to hypnosis. This means they can have vivid changes in behavior and experience in response to hypnotic suggestions. By contrast, a small percentage (around 10-15 percent) of people are mostly non-responsive. But most research on hypnosis is focused on another small group (10-15 percent) who are highly responsive.

In this group, suggestions can be used to disrupt pain, or to produce hallucinations and amnesia. Considerable evidence from brain imaging reveals that these individuals are not just faking or imagining these responses. Indeed, the brain acts differently when people respond to hypnotic suggestions than when they imagine or voluntarily produce the same responses.

Preliminary research has shown that highly suggestible individuals may have unusual functioning and connectivity in the prefrontal cortex. This is a brain region that plays a critical role in a range of psychological functions including planning and the monitoring of one’s mental states.

There is also some evidence that highly suggestible individuals perform more poorly on cognitive tasks known to depend on the prefrontal cortex, such as working memory. However, these results are complicated by the possibility that there might be different subtypes of highly suggestible individuals. These neurocognitive differences may lend insights into how highly suggestible individuals respond to suggestions: they may be more responsive because they’re less aware of the intentions underlying their responses.

For example, when given a suggestion to not experience pain, they may suppress the pain but not be aware of their intention to do so. This may also explain why they often report that their experience occurred outside their control. Neuroimaging studies have not as yet verified this hypothesis but hypnosis does seem to involve changes in brain regions involved in monitoring of mental states, self-awareness and related functions.

Although the effects of hypnosis may seem unbelievable, it’s now well accepted that beliefs and expectations can dramatically impact human perception. It’s actually quite similar to the placebo response, in which an ineffective drug or therapeutic treatment is beneficial purely because we believe it will work. In this light, perhaps hypnosis isn’t so bizarre after all. Seemingly sensational responses to hypnosis may just be striking instances of the powers of suggestion and beliefs to shape our perception and behaviour. What we think will happen morphs seamlessly into what we ultimately experience.

Hypnosis requires the consent of the participant or patient. You cannot be hypnotized against your will and, despite popular misconceptions, there is no evidence that hypnosis could be used to make you commit immoral acts against your will…’

Source: Inverse

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Tulpamancers

‘Tulpamancers are people who imagine companions, called tulpas, into being through meditation-like practices. While the word tulpamancer is derived from a Tibetan word for “incarnation,” one ethnographic study found that tulpamancers are mostly young, white men in their late teens and early 20s who congregate on Internet forums like Reddit. They tend to be empathetic, yet socially anxious. Tulpas are not considered a symptom of illness or a disorder, but they may be a coping mechanism for loneliness (or, in some cases, mental illness) for their creators. Many of those creators describe overwhelmingly positive experiences with tulpamancy, and some say the practice has helped ease their depression, anxiety, or obsessive compulsive disorder…’

Source: Pacific Standard

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Drumpf’s Justice Department Memo May Be Bigger Than Citizens United

674954374-01‘Yesterday, as the news cycles were dying down, the Drumpf Justice Department (DOJ) dropped a bombshell brief which Bloomberg reported. Citing George Washington as precedent, the DOJ is saying that it is AOK for President Drumpf to take foreign governments’ and state-controlled banks’ money for goods and services without congressional approval, that it is not a violation of the Emoluments Clause of the United States Constitution…’

Source: HuffPost

This is an utter outrage that must be stopped in its tracks, unlike our failure to stop Citizens United. Not only does it open the door to unprecedented influence-peddling by foreign powers but it seems to be a maneuver by Drumpf to exonerate himself for his and his family’s ongoing criminal graft. Is this enough to convince right-minded people to take action, which will probably have to be extra-judicial, against a President rapidly succeeding in removing any checks and balances on his tyranny?

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Can you commit manslaughter by sending texts? We’re about to find out

‘An involuntary manslaughter trial began Tuesday for a Massachusetts woman who as a teen texted her boyfriend and urged him to commit suicide.

The woman, Michelle Carter, faces a maximum 20-year prison term if convicted at a bench trial in Bristol County. Attorneys for Carter, who was 18 at the time of the texts, had tried to fend off the charges, saying her texts to 17-year-old Conrad Roy were protected speech under the First Amendment. The state’s top court, the Supreme Judicial Court, set no line in the sand on when speech loses its constitutional protection. Instead, the court upheld the indictment for involuntary manslaughter on “the basis of words alone.”

Roy, who was found dead about 50 miles south of Boston in a Fairhaven parking lot, took his own life via carbon monoxide fumes inside his truck. The authorities also claim Carter was on the phone with Roy for nearly an hour while he was killing himself….’

Source: Ars Technica

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Drumpf’s Blocking of Twitter Users Violates U.S. Constitution: Rights Institute

trump-his-eyes-bleeding-1REUTERS writes:

‘A free-speech institute on Tuesday sent a letter to President Donald Drumpf demanding the prolific tweeter unblock certain Twitter users on grounds the practice violates the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Drumpf’s @realDonaldTrump account recently blocked a number of accounts that replied to his tweets with commentary that criticized, mocked or disagreed with his actions. Twitter users are unable to see or respond to tweets from accounts that block them.

The Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University in New York said in its letter that the blocking suppressed speech in a public forum protected by the Constitution. …

Eric Goldman, a Santa Clara University law professor who focuses on internet law, said that previous cases involving politicians blocking users on Facebook supported the Knight Institute’s position.

If the institute should sue, Trump could claim his @realDonaldTrump account is for personal use and separate from his official duties as president, Goldman said. But he called that defense “laughable.”
Trump also has a presidential @POTUS Twitter account. The Knight Institute said its arguments would apply with “equal force” to both accounts…’

Source: NYTimes.com

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Drumpf’s Growing Discontent With Jeff Sessions

PETER BAKER and MAGGIE HABERMAN writes:

‘ …in a series of stark early-morning postings on Twitter [Drumpf] faulted his own Justice Department for its defense of his travel ban on visitors from certain predominantly Muslim countries. [Drumpf] accused Mr. Sessions’s department of devising a “politically correct” version of the ban — as if the president had nothing to do with it. …’

Source: NYTimes.com

#schadenfreude

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Drumpf Stomps Planet Earth

Maureen Dowd:

‘We’ve been conditioned by Hollywood to see the president of the United States step up to the lectern to confidently tell us how he will combat the existential threat to the planet — be it aliens, asteroids, tidal waves, volcanoes, killer sharks, killer robots or a 500-billion-ton comet the size of New York City.So it was quite stunning to see the president of the United States step up to the lectern to declare himself the existential threat to the planet…’

Source: NYTimes op ed

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Harvard Rescinds Acceptances for At Least Ten Students for Obscene Memes

‘Harvard rescinded admissions offers to at least ten prospective members of the Class of 2021 after the students traded explicit messages and memes in a Facebook group chat.’

Source: The Harvard Crimson

Interesting that the Crimson coverage focuses only on the misogyny. Other coverage I have read describes the vile racist attitudes in the Facebook group as well.

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What Makes The Spelling Bee So Hard

Oliver Roeder writes:

‘Since 1996, young spellers have attempted to spell over 14,000 words — from abactor to zymurgy. Twenty-five percent of those words, over 3,500, have been misspelled. This year, yet more words will be plucked from 470,000-odd options in Merriam-Webster’s unabridged dictionary. I sifted through all 21 years’ worth of errors, looking for reasons that some of the best spellers in the world stumbled when the stakes were highest. I found a gantlet of potential pitfalls …’

Source:  FiveThirtyEight

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Consequences for U.S. Planetary Arson?

Naomi Klein, writing on the day Donald Drumpf announced the U.S. would withdraw from the Paris climate accord, drew attention to a remedy proposed by some activists: that the U.S., which is vandalizing the climate, should face sanctions from the rest of the world. She also argues that pretty much everything that is inadequate about the Paris accord is the result of U.S. lobbying to weaken it. 

Source: The Intercept

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Why corruption is the new normal in health care

‘Industry payouts to providers, unnecessary admissions to meet quotas, manipulating data for greater reimbursements: In The Huffington Post this week, Shannon Brownlee and Vikas Saini of the Lown Institute call out these ubiquitous practices for what they are – corruption.

“Our health care system is no longer about relieving the suffering of patients or the intrinsic value of maintaining the health of our population. It’s about making money,” Brownlee and Saini write. This systemic corruption contributes to ballooning health care costs and causes immeasurable harm to patients…’

Source: Lown Institute

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Is Consciousness in the Physical World? We May Be About to Find Out.

‘Physicist Lucien Hardy of the Perimeter Institute for Quantum Physics in Canada has an experiment he wants to try. His believes his experiment could provide evidence that the human mind operates outside the laws of classical physics. Specifically, he’s looking to see if the human mind can influence the behavior of entangled quantum particles using a test that first proved their existence.’

Source: Big Think

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R.I.P. Gregg Allman

Influential Force Behind the Allman Brothers Band Dies at 69

Gregg Allman, a founding member of the Allman Brothers Band, the incendiary group that inspired and gave shape to both the Southern rock and jam-band movements, died on Saturday at his home in Savannah, Ga. He was 69.

His death was announced in a statement on Mr. Allman’s official website. No cause was given, but the statement said he had “struggled with many health issues over the past several years.”

The band’s lead singer and keyboardist, Mr. Allman was one of the principal architects of a taut, improvisatory fusion of blues, jazz, country and rock that — streamlined by inheritors like Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Marshall Tucker Band — became the Southern rock of the 1970s.

The group, which originally featured Mr. Allman’s older brother, Duane, on lead and slide guitar, was also a precursor to a generation of popular jam bands, like Widespread Panic and Phish, whose music features labyrinthine instrumental exchanges.

Mr. Allman’s percussive Hammond B-3 organ playing helped anchor the Allman Brothers’ rhythm section and provided a chuffing counterpoint to the often heated musical interplay between his brother and the band’s other lead guitarist, Dickey Betts.

(From left, Duane Allman, Dickey Betts, Gregg Allman, Jai Johanny Johanson, Berry Oakley and Butch Trucks in 1969.)

Gregg Allman’s vocals, by turns squalling and brooding, took their cue from the anguished emoting of down-home blues singers like Elmore James, as well as from more sophisticated ones like Bobby Bland. Foremost among Mr. Allman’s influences as a vocalist, though, was the Mississippi-born blues and soul singer and guitarist known as Little Milton.

“‘Little Milton’ Campbell had the strongest set of pipes I ever heard on a human being,” Mr. Allman wrote in his autobiography, “My Cross to Bear,” written with Alan Light (2012). “That man inspired me all my life to get my voice crisper, get my diaphragm harder, use less air and just spit it out. He taught me to be absolutely sure of every note you hit, and to hit it solid.”

The band’s main songwriter early on, Mr. Allman contributed expansive, emotionally fraught compositions like “Dreams” and “Whipping Post” to the Allman Brothers repertoire. Both songs became staples of their epic live shows; a cathartic 22-minute version of “Whipping Post” was a highlight of their acclaimed 1971 live album, “At Fillmore East.”

More concise originals like “Midnight Rider” and “Melissa,” as well as Mr. Allman’s renditions of blues classics like “Statesboro Blues” and “Done Somebody Wrong,” revealed his singular affinity with the black Southern musical vernacular.

New York Times obituary

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“Coincidence Project”: Perfectly Timed Serendipitously Aligned Photos of the World

These are wonderful and at times hilarious.

‘The Coincidence Project is a special project started by a photographer named Denis Cherim. He had the idea of capturing pictures of certain harmonious moments where various scenic elements become aligned so that they portray a different perspective when you look at it. These could be pictures of people, landscapes, or monuments which have unusual shadowing, glaring or slopes that are interlocked into the scene to create a whole new visualization to them…’

Source: Design You Trust

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They were supposed to help people suffering from addiction. Then they overdosed.

‘The two counselors at a drug treatment halfway house in Chester County, Pennsylvania, were supposed to help others recover from their addictions. But they were overwhelmed by their own drug problems — and on Sunday, they both overdosed and died on a mix of the opioids heroin and fentanyl. “If anybody is wondering how bad the opioid epidemic has become, this case is a frightening example,” Chester County District Attorney Tom Hogan said in a statement. “The staff members in charge of supervising recovering addicts succumbed to their own addiction and died of opioid overdoses.” …’

Source:  Vox

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Why the GOP candidate who “body-slammed” a reporter might still win a House seat

‘…[M]any Montana voters, maybe most them, had already voted by the time he was charged. Montana is unusually reliant on mail-in ballots — any voter may request and cast an absentee ballot. The state legislature earlier this year debated transitioning to a fully mail-based system for the special election, though that effort fell short. Seasoned political analysts projected that two-thirds or more of the votes had already been cast by the time the news of Gianforte’s alleged assault broke.

Source: Vox

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Ten skills for the postnormal era 

How skilled are you?

  1. Boundless Curiosity — The most creative people are insatiably curious. They want to know what works and why.
  2. Freestyling We have to learn to dance with the robots, not to run away. However. we still need to make sure that Al is limited enough that it will still be dance-withable, and not not-runnab/e-away-from. 

  3. Emergent Leadership Emergent leadership: the ability to steer things in the right direction without the authority to do so. through social competence. 

  4. Constructive Uncertainty — The idea of constructive uncertainty is not predicated on eliminating our biases: they are as built into our minds as deeply as language and lust. 

  5. Complex Ethics All thinking touches on our sense of morality andjustice. Knowledge is justified belief, so our perspective of the world and our place in it is rooted in our ethical system, whether examined or not. 

  6. Deep Generalists — Deep generalists can ferret out the connections that build the complexity into complex systems, and grasp their interplay. 

  7. Design Logic It’s not only about imagining things we desire, but also undesirable things—cautionary tales that highlight what might happen if we carelessly introduce new technologies into society. 

  8. Postnormal Creativity — We should expect that in postnormal times creativity will have a few surprises in store for us. 

  9. Posterity, not History, nor the Future — While we need to learn from history, we must not be constrained by it, especially in a time where much of what is going on is unprecedented. 

  10. Sensemaking — Skills that help us create unique insights critical to decision making. 

Source: Stowe Boyd

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Ringling’s End Could Mean Freedom For All U.S. Circus Animals

Urge Your Lawmakers to Support Bipartisan TEAPSPA:

‘Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have joined forces on a bill that would ban the use of exotic and wild animals in traveling circuses and any other entertainment act on wheels. In late March, Representatives Raul Grijalva, an Arizona Democrat, Ryan Costello, a Pennsylvania Republican, and 22 other lawmakers introduced the Traveling Exotic Animal and Public Safety Protection Act (TEAPSPA) in the House. It would require the 19 traveling circuses in the U.S. with performing animals to to use only human entertainers—or shut down.

If the bill passes, it will end life on the road for more than 200 big cats, bears, camels, and elephants still working as circus performers. Thirty-four other countries have instituted similar bans, as have dozens of cities and counties in the U.S., including Los Angeles and San Francisco.’

Source: National Geographic

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It’s becoming increasingly clear that Jared Kushner is part of Trump’s Russia problem

‘…As the Trump administration’s been sent into a death spiral over the firing of FBI Director James Comey last week — a failed move to curtail the Justice Department investigation into contact between his campaign and the Russian government — Kushner hasn’t been the “adult in the room” urging caution and scrupulousness. To the contrary, he’s been urging aggression and retaliation.

And the White House’s reaction to the appointment of Robert Mueller as a special counsel in the Russia inquiry, including a possible attempt to use ethics rules to limit the scope of his investigation, shows that somebody in the White House is deeply worried about what might happen if Kushner were included in the probe…’

Source: Vox

#schadenfreude

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Why the special counsel should make Trump’s aides very nervous

‘With most experts saying that federal prosecutors can’t charge him, the House and Senate are the only entities that can hold the president himself to account. Unless 218 representatives and 67 senators agree that it’s time for him to leave, he’ll stay in office and avoid criminal prosecution. However, that does not mean special counsel Robert Mueller’s hands are tied. On the contrary, Mueller has broad authority to bring charges against basically anyone besides the president, up to and including Mike Pence if he’s found to have committed a crime.’

Source: Vox

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5 Reasons We Shouldn’t Be Afraid of Aliens

Astrobiologist Lewis Dartnell explains why we shouldn’t be afraid of alien visitors:

  • Why Aliens Wouldn’t Want to Enslave Us or Breed with Us
  • Why Aliens Wouldn’t Want to Eat Us
  • Why Aliens Wouldn’t Come Here to Steal Our Water
  • Why Aliens Wouldn’t Come Here for Some Other Raw Material
  • Why Aliens Wouldn’t Want to Colonize and Live Here

 

Source: Big Think

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Can Plants Hear?

‘Pseudoscientific claims that music helps plants grow have been made for decades, despite evidence that is shaky at best. Yet new research suggests some flora may be capable of sensing sounds, such as the gurgle of water through a pipe or the buzzing of insects.’

Source: Scientific American

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The new special counsel investigating Trump: who he is, what he can do, what comes next

‘The Justice Department’s decision to appoint former FBI director Robert Mueller as a special counsel charged with investigating possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia is a win for Democrats, a new blow to a reeling White House, and a clear sign that the scandal that has engulfed the administration will only accelerate in the weeks and months ahead…’

Source: Vox

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An Animated Introduction to the Absurdist Samuel Beckett

`The necessity of [the] pointless; the richness in the poverty of existence—stripped of its pretense and grand, self-important narratives…. These ideas arise from “the themes of failure that so dominate his work,” says de Botton. Though Beckett resisted interpretation in his own writing, he wrote an early study of Marcel Proust that interpreted the French author’s work as a philosophy of life which rests “on the making and appreciation of art.” Given that this is a School of Life video, this interpretation becomes the favored way to read Beckett. There are many others. But as the title of a 1994 Samuel Beckett reader—I Can’t Go On, I’ll Go On—suggests, every approach to Beckett must somehow try to account for the stubborn intensity of his contradictions…’

Source: Open Culture

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Chelsea Manning is a free woman!

‘Today, the whistleblower Chelsea Manning stepped out of the Military Corrections Complex at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas, having served the longest sentence in US history for whistleblowing; for the duration of her ongoing appeal, she is on “excess leave in an active-duty status” which entitles her to access to military health-care insurance and other benefits.

Manning’s selfless actions changed the global debate on surveillance and secrecy, sparked the Arab Spring, and inspired future whistleblowers like Edward Snowden.

Manning was subjected to years of torture — in the form of extended solitary confinement — before she was convicted of any crime. She attempted suicide twice in the past year.

Manning has not said what she will do next. I wish her the most sincere and heartfelt best for her future, and hope that she takes as much time as she needs to recover from the grotesque and shameful ordeal to which she was subjected.

Glenn Greenwald’s appreciation for Manning and her perseverance, bravery and deep ethical center is a must-read today…’

Source: Boing Boing

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Oh, Poor Baby

‘In a strange commencement speech given to the graduating Coast Guard Acadamy class, President Trump complained that no politician in history…has been treated more unfairly” than him, but that “everything will be just fine.” Trump seemed to be clearly referencing the scandal that has surrounded him after he fired FBI Director James Comey…’

Source: Digg

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What’s the Emoji For Treason?

‘Former acting Attorney General Sally Yates was fired by Donald Trump after she declined to enforce his unconstitutional Muslim travel ban. But before she got the boot, Yates warned Trump that his national security advisor, Michael Flynn, might be compromised by the Russians. And in a new interview with the New Yorker, she discovered a problem that we didn’t even know we had: There’s no emoji for treason.’

Source: Gizmodo

 

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It doesn’t matter what Republicans say about Trump. It’s what they do that matters.

‘Congressional Republicans have followed a nearly identical script whenever President Donald Trump enmeshes himself in a national security scandal.  First, they make overtures toward being disgruntled and troubled by the revelation, leading to news reports about a fissure in the Republican Party. Step two is for them to rejectDemocratic calls for more congressional oversight of the president. The final act is to point out Democratic hypocrisy, while moving on to something else altogether…’

Source: Vox

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Today’s Vox Coverage of Trump, Comey, Russia, etc.

I was scared of the FBI with Comey in charge. I’m more terrified now that he’s been fired: A human rights advocate on why Comey’s firing is disturbing. I am no fan of recently fired FBI Director James Comey. As part of a team documenting human rights abuses in the US, I’ve seen too many examples in recent years of overreach and lack of transparency by the agency, and aggressive pursuit of greater FBI powers by Comey himself, to feel otherwise. Yet in the aftermath of his firing by a pr…

Trump: James Clapper said I have no Russia connections. Clapper: No I didn’t: One of Trump’s favorite defenses just got shot down. President Donald Trump has tried to tamp down the growing controversy over his campaign’s ties to Russia by deliberately misrepresenting comments from James Clapper, formerly the nation’s top spy. On Friday, Clapper began pushing back — and added his voice to the chorus of officials and lawmakers from both parties who worry that there’s more st…

Does Trump secretly record the Oval Office? And 8 other questions Sean Spicer can’t answer: The purpose of a White House press briefing is for the media to learn new information from a spokesperson with first-hand knowledge about the president. But Sean Spicer’s press conference on Friday was much more useful for learning what Spicer does not know — or says he does not know — about President Donald Trump and the goings-on of the White House. Here are nine questions that Spicer said he c…

Republican voters don’t seem to care about Comey’s firing: President Donald Trump’s decision to fire FBI Director James Comey has been discussed in the press as the modern-day Watergate scandal, heightening pressure for an independent investigation into Russia’s alleged ties with the Trump campaign. The first polls to ask about Comey’s dismissal shows public opinion isn’t great for Trump. But if there’s good news for him, it’s that the firing is — at lea..

Trump’s blackmail threats and the latest in the Comey scandal: The president admitted the Russia probe led to Comey’s ouster. The fallout from President Donald Trump’s abrupt decision to fire FBI Director James Comey is getting weirder by the hour. In just the past 24 hours, Trump revealed that he’d asked Comey directly several times over the past several months about whether he was under investigation (which, uh, you really aren’t supposed to do); openly ad..

When Trump flounders, he plays the tribal politics card. Here’s why that’s terrifying: It is striking President Trump picked Thursday, May 11, to 1) sign an executive order establishing a commission to investigate voter fraud ; and 2) have Attorney General Jeff Sessions announce that federal prosecutors will seek maximalist penalties for criminal prosecutions. Future historians may note that these actions came just two days after Trump’s sudden and unexpected firing of FBI Director…

Trump officials are leaking to reporters that they aren’t supposed to leak to reporters:  White House officials keep leaking internal conversations to reporters detailing that they’re being ordered not to leak internal conversations to reporters. On Thursday, Trump spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders expressed her frustration about the leaks that keep appearing in the press about President Donald Trump’s decision to fire FBI Director James Comey. Her remarks wound up in the press almo..

Jeff Flake isn’t comfortable with the Comey firing, but he’s not doing anything about it: New details about President Trump’s decision to fire FBI Director James Comey are unraveling quickly. Republican Sen. Jeff Flake still doesn’t know what to make of the decision, and he wants the American public to know he’s wrestling with the news. “I’ve spent the last several hours trying to find an acceptable rationale for the timing of Comey’s firing,” he tweeted on Tuesday night after the new…

A forgotten lesson of Watergate: conservatives may rally around Trump: For Americans worried about the state of our republic, Watergate analogies can be a comforting salve. If FBI Director James Comey’s firing is President Donald Trump’s Saturday Night Massacre, then impeachment hearings should be coming down the road — perhaps soon. But even if Comey’s firing leads to a widening scandal, some of the lessons of Watergate should worry Trump opponents more than soothe…

Here’s the “certified” letter saying Trump has no Russian debts or investors: Why can’t we see the tax return? In lieu of disclosing his actual tax returns, Trump asked two tax attorneys, Sheri Dillon and William Nelson, of the law firm Morgan Lewis to write a letter detailing Trump’s income from Russian sources. The letter, dated to March, was given to reporters on Friday. According to the letter, Trump owes no debts to Russian persons or entities, there are no “equity …

We overanalyze Trump. He is what he appears to be: There is no correct Theory of Trump. Why did Donald Trump fire FBI Director James Comey so abruptly, in such humiliating fashion , with no plan to communicate the reasoning behind the move and no list of replacements ready? It is the question that launched a thousand think pieces. Even Trump surrogates were not prepared to answer it. Sean Spicer literally hid in the bushes (sorry, among the bushe…

Don’t miss Trump’s incredibly telling non-answer on financial ties to Russia: A simple question that deserves a real answer. Donald Trump’s admission that he had the Russia investigation on his mind when he fired FBI Director James Comey has, naturally, attracted the lion’s share of attention out of Thursday night’s interview with NBC News’s Lester Holt. But he made another telling admission in response to a fairly straightforward question from Holt about financial connect…

Impeachment of the president, explained: The history and logistics of trying and removing the president from office. President Donald Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey has raised questions about whether he was trying to obstruct an investigation into his campaign and associates. And this, not even four months into Trump’s term, has led to chatter about impeachment — the process by which a president can be charged with “high cri…

Trump called Stephen Colbert a “no-talent guy.” Colbert’s response: “I won.”: Colbert responded to the president’s insult with barely restrained joy. Donald Trump declared this week that Stephen Colbert is a “no-talent guy” — and Colbert couldn’t be more thrilled. “The president of the United States has personally come after me and my show and there’s only one thing to say,” Colbert said during his May 11 show, before breaking into thrilled giggles. “ Yay .” Colbert’s Late…

Trump changed his story on Comey literally midway though Sen. Inhofe defending the old one: Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) boarded the tram underneath the Capitol Thursday afternoon clutching a Snickers wrapper and a theory for why President Donald Trump fired FBI Director James Comey. By the time he returned to his Senate office, Inhofe would see that theory undercut — by the president himself. “I look at the White House and they say, ‘We’ve had a guy [Comey] who Democrats have been demandin…

Trump is threatening to release secret Comey “tapes” and cancel press briefings: Friday morning, President Trump took to Twitter to launch a series of bizarre complaints — beginning with the allegation that the entire Russia issue was fabricated, veering into threats to cancel the White House press briefing, and culminating with a claim that he had secret “tapes” of his conversations with fired FBI Director James Comey. All in all, it was a worrying series of statements from…

Picking a good FBI director won’t fix anything: Firing Comey under false pretenses has fatally compromised the bureau’s independence. The country is obviously better off if James Comey is replaced as FBI director by someone who is good at running the FBI — it’s a large and important government agency that carries out many crucial functions. But in terms of the immediate obstruction of justice crisis kicked off by President Donald Trump’s decis…

Senate Democrats are trying to force disclosure of documents about Trump’s team and Russia: Somewhere in the US Treasury Department’s Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence rests a series of records. No one will say publicly what’s in them, or even whom they mention. But the senators investigating the connection between Russia and Donald Trump’s presidential campaign are dying to get their hands on them. This week, Senate Democrats tried using one of their few points of leverage…

Only one of these Trump-Comey timelines can be true, but either way, it’s a problem: The White House communications team and Donald Trump have conflicting stories on the series of events leading up to the firing of FBI Director James Comey. And it comes down to one thing: When did Donald Trump decide to fire Comey? If what Trump said in an interview on Thursday is true, that means he actively sought cover for firing Comey, the man leading the agency investigating the Trump campai…

Trump has now admitted he fired Comey because of the Russia investigation: “When I decided to just do it I said to myself, I said, ‘You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story.’” Many Republicans — from White House staffers to members of Congress to conservative pundits — have been insisting for two days now, despite widespread reports, that President Donald Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey had nothing to do with Comey’s investigation…

Why the FBI might wage “war” on Trump — and how they would actually do it: It’s not often that you hear members of the FBI threatening to go to war with the president. But that’s where we are after Donald Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey. “[Trump] essentially declared war on a lot of people at the FBI,” an anonymous FBI official told the Washington Post . “I think there will be a concerted effort to respond over time in kind.” There’s every reason to believe t…

Attention, liberals: Comey deserved to be fired, and the Constitution is just fine: The hyperventilation in Washington is unjustified. The decision of President Donald Trump to fire FBI Director James Comey is generating a fevered, near-maniacal response that is out of proportion to the asserted wrong. There is certainly much grist for the mill , much of it related to the animosity that Trump is said to bear toward Comey, which proves once again that on all matters of state, thi…

 

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Hauntology

Does writing like this have any meaning to any of you reading this? At one time I considered myself an intellectual until I came up against this kind of stuff, to which I find it impossible to relate and with which I have no desire to be associated:

‘Hauntology (a portmanteau of haunting and ontology) is a concept coined by philosopher Jacques Derrida in his 1993 book Spectres of Marx. The term refers to the situation of temporal, historical, and ontological disjunction in which the apparent presence of being is replaced by an absent or deferred non-origin, represented by “the figure of the ghost as that which is neither present, nor absent, neither dead nor alive.” The concept of hauntology is closely related to Derrida’s deconstruction of Western philosophy’s logocentrism, which results in the claim that any attempt to isolate the origin of identity or history must always find itself dependent on an always-already existing set of linguistic differences, thus making “haunting the state proper to being as such.” In the 2000s, the term was taken up by critics in reference to paradoxes found in postmodernity, particularly contemporary culture’s persistent recycling of retro aesthetics and old social forms.’

Source: Wikipedia

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Why Firing Comey Only Amplified Trump’s Russia Problem

People have called it a misstep that Trump fired Comey if he hoped to bury the concerns about his campaign’s ties to Russia. He usually has a knack for redirecting the country’s attention away from ‘that man behind the curtain.’ But if it was a mistake, it probably was inevitable with his ballooning ego. The enfant terrible’s arrogant sense that he can get away with anything is growing beyond all bounds — and, hopefully, will be his undoing, as suggested by the rampant comparisons to Nixon’s firing of Archibald Cox during the Watergate investigation — the infamous “Saturday Night Massacre”. Leading Republicans are denouncing Trump’s action and calling for a special prosecutor. Hopefully, things have reached a point where the more Trump tries to obfuscate the more the press and the public pay attention.

Source: WIRED

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U.S. voters think Trump is an “idiot,” and now trust media more than him to tell truth: Quinnipiac poll

‘Not a good day in the polls for the beleaguered President. Everyone knows he’s lying, and when asked, “What is the first word that comes to mind when you think of Donald Trump,” the top answer? “Idiot.”

A new Quinnipiac poll shows that American voters, “who gave President Donald Trump a slight approval bump after the missile strike in Syria, today give him a near-record negative 36 – 58 percent job approval rating.”

Also in this survey, the widest margin ever measured for this question in a Quinnipiac poll: 54-38% want the Democrats to take control of the House.’

Source: Boing Boing

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How the Cookie Crumbles

I always liked Hydrox far better than Oreos and wondered why they lost out.

‘A few years after the launch of Sunshine Biscuits, the company came up with the biscuit sandwich it called Hydrox in 1908—four years before the Oreo. Like the sunlight that glimmered through its factories, the name was intended to speak to a basic purity of product.

The truth was a bit more complicated, however. Intended to imply hydrogen and oxygen—the two chemicals that make up water—the result has a more clinical, less roll-off-the-tongue convention to it, and instead evokes hydrogen peroxide, a chemical you probably don’t want to drink.

And it didn’t help that that there was an existing Hydrox Chemical Company on the market, one that sold hydrogen peroxide andwas caught up in a trademark lawsuit at the time over the use of the word “hydrox”—a lawsuit that noted the term was used for coolers, for soda, even for brands of ice cream.

Hydrox cookie

An early Hydrox cookie design. (via the Akron Evening Times)

Long story short, it was a weird name for a cookie. But the cookie’s design, which was initially sold with an exotic “English biscuit” twist, was pretty interesting for its era: With an industrial press from a mold, the cookie took on the look of a flower.

It felt like a game-changer, but it turned out to be a game-changer for Nabisco, under a completely different (and better) name. It was one of three cookies introduced by Nabisco on April 2, 1912, with the other two—the Mother Goose biscuit and the Veronese biscuit—being lost to history, but Oreo’s “two beautifully embossed chocolate-flavored wafers with a rich cream filling” living to the modern day…’

Source: Tedium

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What Trump’s Simplified Language Means

Evan Osnos writes in The New Yorker titled “How Trump Could Get Fired,” …that over 50,000 mental-health physicians have signed a petition declaring Trump, based on copious observational data, is “too seriously mentally ill to perform the duties of president and should be removed” under the 25th Amendment to the Constitution—Section 4 states that a President can be removed if a congressionally appointed body judges him or her to be “unable to discharge the powers and duties of office.”

John Gartner, the psychiatrist who started the petition, has said, “The psychiatric interview is hardly the gold standard, by the way. If you have massive amounts of information about a person’s behavior, that can be more accurate. And we have that. If the question is whether we can form a diagnosis from that information, I think it’s clear that we can. You don’t need to have an interview to know if someone has frequently lied or has violated the rights of others.”

Osnos writes that it’s not just psychiatrists who have serious grounds for worry:

Bruce Blair, a research scholar at the Program on Science and Global Security, at Princeton, told me that if Trump were an officer in the Air Force, with any connection to nuclear weapons, he would need to pass the Personnel Reliability Program, which includes thirty-seven questions about financial history, emotional volatility, and physical health. (Question No. 28: Do you often lose your temper?) “There’s no doubt in my mind that Trump would never pass muster,” Blair, who was a ballistic-missile launch-control officer in the Army, told me. “Any of us that had our hands anywhere near nuclear weapons had to pass the system. If you were having any arguments, or were in financial trouble, that was a problem. For all we know, Trump is on the brink of that, but the President is exempt from everything.”

Trump’s use, or misuse, of language has also been disturbing to experts of constitutional law. Take Laurence Tribe, a Harvard constitutional law professor. He said, according to Osnos, “Trump’s language borders on incapacity.” When the president was asked to explain his reversal on branding China a currency manipulator, Trump said, of President Xi Jinping, “No. 1, he’s not, since my time. You know, very specific formula. You would think it’s like generalities, it’s not. They have—they’ve actually—their currency’s gone up. So it’s a very, very specific formula.” This response could count as an example of “gross and pathological inattention or indifference to, or failure to understand” the mandatory duties of the president mentioned in the 25th Amendment, Tribe said.

To psycholinguist Julie Sedivy, it’s not Trump’s rambling language that’s worrisome, it’s his regular usage. “I think we have rarely had a president who uses such simple and simplifying language,” she recently told Nautilus in her Ingenious interview.

And why is that concerning? “There’s some interesting research that has looked at the correlation between simple language and the tendency of U.S. presidents to behave in authoritarian ways,” Sedivy said. “There is a predictive relationship that speeches that are expressed using very simple basic language tend to precede very authoritarian acts like the use of executive orders … That certainly plays out in the use of the heavy reliance on simple notions like amazing, sad, bad, unfair. These really strip away a lot of the complexities that are behind them. They reduce information into very gross impressions. The simplification of points of view, the simplification of the good and the bad, and even just the conveyance that, ‘We’re going to make good deals,’ for example. ‘It’s going to be great.’ That this is a simple problem just waiting for someone who has the right instincts to come along and solve this, is absolutely pervasive in Donald Trump’s language.”

via Nautilus

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Vox has all you need to read today about the Comey sacking