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No-Brainer Dept.

Telecom firms back standard phone charger in Europe: “The agreement by Nokia, Sony Ericsson and other industry majors will mean phones compatible with standard charging devices are available in Europe from next year, said the EU executive, which has pushed for such a deal.” (Reuters Technology)

And the reason we cannot do this in the US? Comes down to either greed or stupidity; I can’t see any other possibilities.

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The Broken Sandal

Dreamed the thong of my sandal broke.
Nothing to hold it to my foot.
How shall I walk?
Barefoot?
The sharp stones, the dirt. I would hobble.
And–
Where was I going?
Where was I going I can't
go to now, unless hurting?
Where am I standing, if I'm
to stand still now?

Denise Levertov (1923-1997)

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It’s Time to Learn From Frogs

Springing back...Hot dog, jumping frog....

“Some of the first eerie signs of a potential health catastrophe came as bizarre deformities in water animals, often in their sexual organs.

Now scientists are connecting the dots with evidence of increasing abnormalities among humans, particularly large increases in numbers of genital deformities among newborn boys. For example, up to 7 percent of boys are now born with undescended testicles, although this often self-corrects over time. And up to 1 percent of boys in the United States are now born with hypospadias, in which the urethra exits the penis improperly, such as at the base…” — Nicholas Kristoff (New York Times op-ed)

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Spheres of Influence: A Collection of Spherical Sites

Another view of Kugelmugel

‘…[A] collection of a few of the more interesting spheres found around the world.

Sweden Solar System: The world’s largest model of our planetary system centered around the largest spherical building in the world.

The Mapparium: An three story inside-out glass globe built in 1935.

The Sudbury Neutrino Observatory: A gigantic spherical neutrino detector built into the largest man made underground cavity in the world.

Costa Rican Stone Spheres: Mysterious spherical rock formations from an earlier era.

Paris Sewer Museum: Giant wooden balls helped keep the Parisian sewers clean.

The Republic of Kugelmugel: A spherical “micro-nation” in the heart of Vienna…’ [via boing boing]

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Build Your Own Nation

Island_nation countries as of 2005, based on :...

“Sick of pesky government oversight? Don’t like taxes? Pessimistic about democracy in general? Why not find your build your own island nation and declare yourself king? Modern land-moving technology makes it easier than ever, but hardly an simple undertaking. As part of our May-June cover story, engineer McKinley Conway, How to Start Your Own Country author Erwin S. Strauss, and micro-nation documentarian George Dunford explain the history of the DIY nation.” (The Futurist)

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Why I Choose Streets Over Shelter

Street Sleeper 2 by David Shankbone

Why do people choose streets over shelter? For those who have never been without a permanent home, it’s tough to imagine… “SlumJack Homeless” is a former property manager who has been homeless and living on the streets read more about his predicament here. He shared his reasons for choosing to live on the streets…” (Change.Org)

Related:
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‘Stoned wallabies make crop circles’

‘Australian wallabies are eating opium poppies and creating crop circles as they hop around “as high as a kite”, a government official has said.

…Rick Rockliff, a spokesman for poppy producer Tasmanian Alkaloids, said the wallaby incursions were not very common, but other animals had also been spotted in the poppy fields acting unusually.

“There have been many stories about sheep that have eaten some of the poppies after harvesting and they all walk around in circles,” he added.’ (BBC )

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Did Michael Jackson suicide?

There has been much web speculation at times past that he was suicidal (Google search). In a total vacuum about autopsy findings, I wonder if it is reasonable to speculate about whether he took his own life, as troubled as he evidently was mentally, and with incredible mounting financial woes.

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Sarychev Peak Eruption, Kuril Islands

[Image 'https://i1.wp.com/earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/imagerecords/38000/38985/ISS020-E-09048.jpg' cannot be displayed]

“A fortuitous orbit of the International Space Station allowed the astronauts this striking view of Sarychev Volcano Kuril Islands, northeast of Japan in an early stage of eruption on June 12, 2009. Sarychev Peak is one of the most active volcanoes in the Kuril Island chain, and it is located on the northwestern end of Matua Island. Prior to June 12, the last explosive eruption occurred in 1989, with eruptions in 1986, 1976, 1954, and 1946 also producing lava flows. Ash from the multi-day eruption has been detected 2,407 kilometers east-southeast and 926 kilometers west-northwest of the volcano, and commercial airline flights are being diverted away from the region to minimize the danger of engine failures from ash intake.This detailed astronaut photograph is exciting to volcanologists because it captures several phenomena that occur during the earliest stages of an explosive volcanic eruption.” (NASA)

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Bitterness: The Next Mental Disorder?

BITTERNESS

No one could accuse the American Psychiatric Association of missing a strain of sourness in the country, or of failing to capitalize on its diagnostic potential. Having floated “Apathy Disorder” as a trial balloon, to see if it might garner enough support for inclusion in the next edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the world’s diagnostic bible of mental illnesses, the organization has generated untold amounts of publicity and incredulity this week by debating at its convention whether bitterness should become a bona fide mental disorder.” (Psychology Today)

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Enough Already

What Mark Edmundson would like to tell the bores in his life: ‘“There is no more infuriating feeling,” says the classicist Robert Greene, describing this sort of an encounter, “than having your individuality ignored, your own psychology unacknowledged. It makes you feel lifeless and resentful.” That’s exactly how I feel when I have these encounters: lifeless and resentful. But why? Why is this kind of treatment so painful? People do all kinds of aggressive and antisocial things to each other—surely I do a few myself—and talking on and on can’t be the worst of them. Still, being on the receiving end of such verbiage reliably sends me close to the edge.’ (American Scholar)

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Not Every Child Is Secretly a Genius

CAMBRIDGE, MA - JUNE 4: Harvard University stu...

“…[Howard] Gardner, a professor of cognition and education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, who won a prestigious MacArthur Foundation “genius award” in 1981, has had enormous influence, particularly in our schools. Briefly, he has posited that our intellectual abilities are divided among at least eight abilities: verbal-linguistic, logical-mathematical, visual-spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, naturalistic, musical, interpersonal, and intrapersonal. The appealing elements of the theory are numerous.

Multiple intelligences put every child on an equal footing, granting the hope of identical value in an ostensible meritocracy. The theory fits well with a number of the assumptions that have dominated educational philosophy for years. The movements that took flower in the mid-20th century have argued for the essential sameness of all healthy human beings and for a policy of social justice that treats all people the same. Above all, many educators have adhered to the social construction of reality — the idea that redefining the way we treat children will redefine their abilities and future successes. (Perhaps that’s what leads some parents to put their faith in “Baby Einstein” videos: the hope that a little nurturing television will send their kids to Harvard.) It would be difficult to overestimate the influence of Gardner’s work, both in repudiating that elitist, unfair concept of “g” and in guiding thought in psychology as it applies to education.

The only problem, with all respect to Gardner: There probably is just a single intelligence or capacity to learn, not multiple ones devoted to independent tasks. To varying degrees, some individuals have this capacity, and others do not. To be sure, there is much debate about Gardner’s theory in the literature, with contenders for and against. Nonetheless, empirical evidence has not been robust. While the theory sounds nice (perhaps because it sounds nice), it is more intuitive than empirical. In other words, the eight intelligences are based more on philosophy than on data.” (The Chronicle of Higher Education)

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What If Israel Strikes Iran?

* (en) Israel Location * (fr) Localisation de ...

This brief survey demonstrates why Israel’s military option against Iran’s nuclear program is so unattractive, but also why failing to act is even worse. All these scenarios become infinitely more dangerous once Iran has deliverable nuclear weapons. So does daily life in Israel, elsewhere in the region and globally.” (WSJ.com)

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How To Communicate Securely in Repressive Environments

Several mobile phones

“It is no myth that repressive regimes are becoming increasingly more savvy in their ability to effectively employ sophisticated filtering, censoring, monitoring technologies (often courtesy of American companies like Cisco) to crack down on resistance movements. In other words, political activists need to realize that their regimes are becoming smarter and more effective, not dumber and hardly clueless.

That said, there are notable—at times surprising—loopholes. During the recent election violence in Iran, for example, facebook.com was blocked but not facebook.com/home.php. In any case, repressive regimes will continue to block more sites impose information blockades because they tend to view new media and digital technologies as a threat.

Perhaps technologies of liberation are a force more powerful?

In order to remain on the offensive against repressive regimes, nonviolent civil resistance movements need to ensure they are up to speed on digital security, if only for defense purposes. Indeed, I am particularly struck by the number of political activists in repressive regimes who aren’t aware of the serious risks they take when they use their mobile phones or the Internet to communicate with other activists.” — Patrick Meier (iRevolution via walker)

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Giant salamanders

The hellbender and Asian giant salamanders (family Cryptobranchidae) are aquatic amphibians found in brooks and ponds in the eastern United States, China, and Japan. They are the largest living amphibians known today. The Japanese giant salamander (Andrias japonicus), for example, reaches up to 1.44 metres (4.7 ft), feeds on fish and crustaceans, and has been known to live for more than 50 years in captivity.[1] The Chinese giant salamander (Andrias davidianus) can reach a length of 1.8 metres (5.9 ft). (Wikipedia)

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The Neanderthal Genome Project

An international consortium of researchers is sequencing the 3 billion bases that make up the genome of our closest relative – the Neandertal

The sequence is generated from DNA extracted from three Croatian Neandertal fossils, using novel methods developed for this project.

The Neandertal genome sequence will clarify the evolutionary relationship between humans and Neandertals as well as help identify those genetic changes that enabled modern humans to leave Africa and rapidly spread around the world, starting around 100,000 years ago. (Max Planck Institute)

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Coming soon: First pictures of a black hole

[Image 'https://i0.wp.com/www.newscientist.com/data/images/ns/cms/mg20227091.200/mg20227091.200-1_300.jpg' cannot be displayed]
The region of the Sagittarius A supermassive black hole, as seen by Chandra.

Black holes are perhaps the most outrageous prediction of science, and even though we can paint fine theoretical pictures of them and point to evidence for many objects that seem to be black hole-ish, nobody has ever actually seen one.

All that could change in the next few months. Astronomers are working to tie together a network of microwave telescopes across the planet to make a single instrument with the most acute vision yet. They will turn this giant eye towards what they believe is a supermassive black hole at the centre of our galaxy, code name Sagittarius A. (New Scientist)

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‘I’m Not a Man’: Harold Norse


I'm not a man, I can't earn a living, buy new things for my family.

I have acne and a small peter.

I'm not a man. I don't like football, boxing and cars.

I like to express my feeling. I even like to put an arm

around my friend's shoulder.

I'm not a man. I won't play the role assigned to me- the role created

by Madison Avenue, Playboy, Hollywood and Oliver Cromwell,

Television does not dictate my behavior.

I'm not a man. Once when I shot a squirrel I swore that I would

never kill again. I gave up meat. The sight of blood makes me sick.

I like flowers.

I'm not a man. I went to prison resisting the draft. I do not fight

when real men beat me up and call me queer. I dislike violence.

I'm not a man. I have never raped a woman. I don't hate blacks.

I do not get emotional when the flag is waved. I do not think I should

love America or leave it. I think I should laugh at it.

I'm not a man. I have never had the clap.

I'm not a man. Playboy is not my favorite magazine.

I'm not a man. I cry when I'm unhappy.

I'm not a man. I do not feel superior to women

I'm not a man. I don't wear a jockstrap.

I'm not a man. I write poetry.

I'm not a man. I meditate on peace and love.

I'm not a man. I don't want to destroy you

San Francisco, 1972 via Exquisite Corpse

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R.I.P. Poet Harold Norse, 92

[Image 'https://i2.wp.com/graphics8.nytimes.com/images/2009/06/13/arts/13norse190.jpg' cannot be displayed]

“Although Mr. Norse is often classified with the Beats, he had already developed his themes and his style when, in the early 1960s, he fell in with Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs and Gregory Corso, just a few of the many writers with whom he formed romantic or professional relationships. A disciple of William Carlos Williams, who once called him “the best poet of your generation,” Mr. Norse found common cause with the Beats in his rejection of academic poetry and traditional metric schemes and his outsider status as a gay man.” (New York Times obit)

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The Wages of Hate

‘ Like Scott Roeder, the man charged in the shooting of the Wichita, Kan., doctor George Tiller nearly two weeks ago, James von Brunn, the white supremacist charged with killing a guard in an attempted shooting rampage at the Holocaust museum in Washington on Wednesday, doesn’t have any current, overt links to extremist groups. Yet his violent hatred — of Jews, blacks, the government — echoes throughout the universe of right-wing extremists, who just a few years ago hailed and revered him as a “White Racialist Treasure.” ‘ — Judith Warner (New York Times)

From the get-go, media coverage of the Holocaust Museum shooting dwelled on the terms ‘lone gunman’ and ‘acted alone’, but in an information-immersed world one has to realize that that has little meaning. Earlier today, there was an extensive discussion thread lionizing von Brunn on the Storm Front website, but access is now denied to outsiders without a login. (One commenter lauded von Brunn’s action by saying that the real terrorism is the indoctrination of Americans into the myth of the Holocaust. Imagining that the Holocaust Museum will now be closed to school groups, the writer observed taht now the indoctrination will be less successful and pervasive because it will be restricted to adults.)

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Unhappy Meals

Cross-section and full view of a ripe tomato
A 2007 article with some very sensible advice from Michael Pollen (In Defense of Food) concludes: “…[T]ry these few (flagrantly unscientific) rules of thumb, collected in the course of my nutritional odyssey, and see if they don’t at least point us in the right direction.

1. Eat food. Though in our current state of confusion, this is much easier said than done. So try this: Don’t eat anything your great-great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food. (Sorry, but at this point Moms are as confused as the rest of us, which is why we have to go back a couple of generations, to a time before the advent of modern food products.) There are a great many foodlike items in the supermarket your ancestors wouldn’t recognize as food (Go-Gurt? Breakfast-cereal bars? Nondairy creamer?); stay away from these.

2. Avoid even those food products that come bearing health claims. They’re apt to be heavily processed, and the claims are often dubious at best. Don’t forget that margarine, one of the first industrial foods to claim that it was more healthful than the traditional food it replaced, turned out to give people heart attacks. When Kellogg’s can boast about its Healthy Heart Strawberry Vanilla cereal bars, health claims have become hopelessly compromised. (The American Heart Association charges food makers for their endorsement.) Don’t take the silence of the yams as a sign that they have nothing valuable to say about health.

3. Especially avoid food products containing ingredients that are a) unfamiliar, b) unpronounceable c) more than five in number — or that contain high-fructose corn syrup.None of these characteristics are necessarily harmful in and of themselves, but all of them are reliable markers for foods that have been highly processed.

4. Get out of the supermarket whenever possible. You won’t find any high-fructose corn syrup at the farmer’s market; you also won’t find food harvested long ago and far away. What you will find are fresh whole foods picked at the peak of nutritional quality. Precisely the kind of food your great-great-grandmother would have recognized as food.

5. Pay more, eat less. The American food system has for a century devoted its energies and policies to increasing quantity and reducing price, not to improving quality. There’s no escaping the fact that better food — measured by taste or nutritional quality (which often correspond) — costs more, because it has been grown or raised less intensively and with more care. Not everyone can afford to eat well in America, which is shameful, but most of us can: Americans spend, on average, less than 10 percent of their income on food, down from 24 percent in 1947, and less than the citizens of any other nation. And those of us who can afford to eat well should. Paying more for food well grown in good soils — whether certified organic or not — will contribute not only to your health (by reducing exposure to pesticides) but also to the health of others who might not themselves be able to afford that sort of food: the people who grow it and the people who live downstream, and downwind, of the farms where it is grown.

“Eat less” is the most unwelcome advice of all, but in fact the scientific case for eating a lot less than we currently do is compelling. “Calorie restriction” has repeatedly been shown to slow aging in animals, and many researchers (including Walter Willett, the Harvard epidemiologist) believe it offers the single strongest link between diet and cancer prevention. Food abundance is a problem, but culture has helped here, too, by promoting the idea of moderation. Once one of the longest-lived people on earth, the Okinawans practiced a principle they called “Hara Hachi Bu”: eat until you are 80 percent full. To make the “eat less” message a bit more palatable, consider that quality may have a bearing on quantity: I don’t know about you, but the better the quality of the food I eat, the less of it I need to feel satisfied. All tomatoes are not created equal.

6. Eat mostly plants, especially leaves. Scientists may disagree on what’s so good about plants — the antioxidants? Fiber? Omega-3s? — but they do agree that they’re probably really good for you and certainly can’t hurt. Also, by eating a plant-based diet, you’ll be consuming far fewer calories, since plant foods (except seeds) are typically less “energy dense” than the other things you might eat. Vegetarians are healthier than carnivores, but near vegetarians (“flexitarians”) are as healthy as vegetarians. Thomas Jefferson was on to something when he advised treating meat more as a flavoring than a food.

7. Eat more like the French. Or the Japanese. Or the Italians. Or the Greeks. Confounding factors aside, people who eat according to the rules of a traditional food culture are generally healthier than we are. Any traditional diet will do: if it weren’t a healthy diet, the people who follow it wouldn’t still be around. True, food cultures are embedded in societies and economies and ecologies, and some of them travel better than others: Inuit not so well as Italian. In borrowing from a food culture, pay attention to how a culture eats, as well as to what it eats. In the case of the French paradox, it may not be the dietary nutrients that keep the French healthy (lots of saturated fat and alcohol?!) so much as the dietary habits: small portions, no seconds or snacking, communal meals — and the serious pleasure taken in eating. (Worrying about diet can’t possibly be good for you.) Let culture be your guide, not science.

8. Cook. And if you can, plant a garden. To take part in the intricate and endlessly interesting processes of providing for our sustenance is the surest way to escape the culture of fast food and the values implicit in it: that food should be cheap and easy; that food is fuel and not communion. The culture of the kitchen, as embodied in those enduring traditions we call cuisines, contains more wisdom about diet and health than you are apt to find in any nutrition journal or journalism. Plus, the food you grow yourself contributes to your health long before you sit down to eat it. So you might want to think about putting down this article now and picking up a spatula or hoe.

9. Eat like an omnivore. Try to add new species, not just new foods, to your diet. The greater the diversity of species you eat, the more likely you are to cover all your nutritional bases. That of course is an argument from nutritionism, but there is a better one, one that takes a broader view of “health.” Biodiversity in the diet means less monoculture in the fields. What does that have to do with your health? Everything. The vast monocultures that now feed us require tremendous amounts of chemical fertilizers and pesticides to keep from collapsing. Diversifying those fields will mean fewer chemicals, healthier soils, healthier plants and animals and, in turn, healthier people. It’s all connected, which is another way of saying that your health isn’t bordered by your body and that what’s good for the soil is probably good for you, too.” (New York Times Magazine)

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Zombie Neurobiology

A participant in a zombie flash mob event in C...

“Dr. Steven C. Schlozman is an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and a lecturer at the Harvard School of Education. He is also an avid sci-fi and horror fan – and, apparently, the world’s leading authority on the neurobiology of the living dead. He has even drafted a fake medical journal article on the zombie plague, which he calls Ataxic Neurodegenerative Satiety Deficiency Syndrome, or ANSD (the article has five authors: one living, three “deceased” and one “humanoid infected”).

Schlozman’s foray into necro-diagnostics began when he volunteered to give a talk for the “Science on Screen” lecture series at the Coolidge Corner Theatre in Brookline, MA. He conducted extensive research by talking with George Romero and immersing himself in genre literature and memorabilia – which is why the alternate title for his lecture is “A Way Cool Tax Deduction for a Bunch of Cool Books, Action Figures and a Movie.”

Soccer Mom Zombie

So yes, Schlozman’s lecture is actually quite funny, and liberally sprinkled with other pop culture references including Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly. But the underlying science is serious. His lecture is a tour of the human brain, using the living dead as a narrative theme.

According to Dr. Steven C. Schlozman, this is your brain on zombies…” (io9 )

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Periodic table gets a new element

Ununbium

“The ubiquitous periodic table will soon have a new addition – the “super-heavy” element 112.

More than a decade after experiments first produced a single atom of the element, a team of German scientists has been credited with its discovery.”

Only four atoms of the element have been created to date.

“IUPAC temporarily named the element ununbium, as “ununbi” is derived from the figures “one one two” in Latin; but Professor Hofmann’s team now has the task of proposing its official name.” (BBC )

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Can right-wing hate talk lead to murder?

“I was on Hardball today talking about the climate of extreme right-wing rhetoric today, and whether it had anything to do with Wednesday's tragic shooting at Washington's Holocaust Museum, or the May 31 murder of Dr. George Tiller by an antiabortion crackpot.

I tried to choose my words carefully. Unless it's shown that either man had accomplices, we have to be clear that the men responsible for those murders are the ones who pulled the trigger. Still, it's hard not to think about the extreme right-wing rhetoric, especially about Barack Obama, and whether it could conceivably lead to more right-wing violence.” Can right-wing hate talk lead to murder? – Joan Walsh (Salon)

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Solidaridad con Peru

“The government of Alan Garcia in Peru is implementing free trade policies that are demeaning the rights of Indigenous peoples to their territories in the Amazon forest and the Andes mountains. Mining, oil, gas, logging and other extractive industries are damaging the environment, leaving hundreds of thousands of people sick with high levels of air, water and food pollution. Thousands of Andean Indigenous peoples are dying because of freezing temperatures, but the government doesn’t want to invest in social infrastructure even though it exported over $37 billion dollars of natural resources in 2008.

Since 2007 the social protest has been criminalized by the government of Peru, and over 1,000 community leaders have been prosecuted as criminals. Media in Peru is being manipulated, the rights of most Peruvians are not considered, campaigns criminalize Indigenous peoples protests. Violent repression has caused dozens of civilian casualties since 2006.

Racism in the media and government policies, in education and in every level of society have created a huge gap in living conditions and opportunities, discriminating people of Indigenous and African heritage, especially rural communities where over 70% of people live in poverty. Meanwhile corruption is wide spreading.

Join this group to coordinate simple but effective actions of protest and to advocate for social justice in Peru, and to create worldwide awareness of the negative impact of free trade and racist policies of the current government in Peru.”

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Obama’s Cairo mission: Don’t be Bush

Under George W. Bush, America's Arab/Muslim report card was an F-minus. U.S. standing in the Middle East and among the world's Muslims sank to an all-time low, terrorist attacks greatly increased, violent extremists gained power, moderate and pro-U.S. regimes were weakened, the crucial Israeli-Palestinian conflict grew ever more intractable, Iraq sank into a hell from which it has only now begun to emerge, and the Taliban surged back in Afghanistan and threatened Pakistan. Bush's policies were directly responsible for many of these calamitous outcomes, and exacerbated others. In his Cairo speech, Obama's most pressing need is thus to make it unequivocally clear to the world's 1.5 billion Muslims and 325 million Arabs that the U.S. has decisively rejected Bush's failed ideology and policies, and intends to chart a completely new path. We can expect Obama to invoke his own background, reject the idea of a “clash of civilizations” and make an inspiring appeal to shared values. Those oratorical flourishes will count for something, but unless he supports them with tough, realistic language and actual policy changes, they will just go down as pretty words. What follows is a list of Bush's five cardinal Middle East errors, and what Obama can do in his speech and in his subsequent actions to correct them.” — Gary Kamiya (Salon )

Did Obama apologize explicitly and forcefully for the idiocy and criminality of Bush and make it clear how US action and policy will depart from that of his predecessor? Did he make it clear that we are not a Christian nation? that our policy is no longer to be “guided by voices”? A preliminary reading of the Cairo speech sugests he fell short.

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Particles Larger Than Galaxies Fill the Universe?

Observation of a neutrino hitting a proton in ...

‘The oldest of the subatomic particles called neutrinos might each encompass a space larger than thousands of galaxies, new simulations suggest.

Neutrinos as we know them today are created by nuclear reactions or radioactive decay.

According to quantum mechanics, the “size” of a particle such as a neutrino is defined by a fuzzy range of possible locations. We can only detect these particles when they interact with something such as an atom, which collapses that range into a single point in space and time.

For neutrinos created recently, the ranges they can exist in are very, very small.

But over the roughly 13.7-billion-year lifetime of the cosmos, “relic” neutrinos have been stretched out by the expansion of the universe, enlarging the range in which each neutrino can exist.

“We’re talking maybe up to roughly ten billion light-years” for each neutrino, said study co-author George Fuller of the University of California, San Diego.

“That’s nearly on the order of the size of the observable universe.” ‘ (National Geographic)

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Is Slam in Danger of Going Soft?

“Slam poetry was invited into the White House last month and it is also the focus of the recent HBO documentary series “Brave New Voices.” So you might think that the originator of the poetry slam, a raucous live competition that is more likely to take place in a bar than in a bookstore, would be feeling rather pleased these days.

But from his base here at the Green Mill Cocktail Lounge, Marc Kelly Smith expresses mixed feelings about the growing popularity and respectability of the art form that he created almost 25 years ago. From the start, he envisioned slam poetry as a subversive, thumb-your-nose-at-authority movement, and he wants to ensure it stays true to those origins.” (New York Times )

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Hold Your Head Up. A Blush Just Shows You Care

Sai...BLUSHING!!

“We are this hypersocial species that settles conflicts and misunderstandings face to face, and we need a way to repair daily betrayals and transgressions quickly…”

In a series of recent studies, psychologists have found that reddening cheeks soften others’ judgments of bad or clumsy behavior, and help to strengthen social bonds rather that strain them. If nothing else, the new findings should take some of the personal sting out of the facial fire shower when it inevitably hits.’ (New York Times )

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The Howls of a Fading Species

Bob Herbert: “One can only hope that the hysterical howling of right-wingers against the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court is something approaching a death rattle for this profoundly destructive force in American life.” (New York Times op-ed)

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Ed Bonfilio

I just discovered, serendipitously, that my neighbor Ed Bonfilio is an accomplished, and exhibited, painter. Here is an oil he did of a house on our street in Brookline.

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To Do List:

If you text “swat” to 20222 you will send $5 to the United Nations High Commission for Swat refugees in Pakistan. Join me in doing it! And propagate the meme.

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Miss Guided

Photo of Jeffpw wedding ceremony in the Nether...

Jonathan Chait, in The New Republic, demolishes the anti-gay marriage demagoguery of Carrie Prejean and other “anti-gay marriage intellectuals.” The ‘argument’ that “Marriage should be between a man and a woman” is really a non-argument, equivalent to any other argument which says that you oppose something because, well, you don’t support it. And attempts to articulate reasons, e.g. the idea that it threatens the sanctity of heterosexual couples’ marriages or weakens the relationship between marriage and procreation, are either wildly illogical or prejudicial or both. To begin with, how in the world does it diminish my rights one bit if those rights are extended to another, previously disenfranchised, segment of society?

Chait suggests quite reasonably that the ‘nonarguments’ constitute “a body of opinion held largely by people who either don’t know why they oppose gay marriage or don’t feel comfortable explicating their case.” (While few opponents of gay marriage are so bold as to admit that they are not concerned with the rights of gay members of our society, that is what it amounts to.)

I have long proposed that the proper answer is not to legalize gay marriage but to ban all marriage, including heterosexual. I am only being half-facetious. What I mean is that marriage be restored to its position as a sacrament in whatever church it occurs, not a function of the state. Civil unions, for the purpose of conferring the civil rights of domestic partnership, are the only role of the state.

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Wikipedia bans Church of Scientology

church of scientology ~ edmonton

Wikipedia has banned the Church of Scientology from editing any articles. It’s a punishment for repeated and deceptive editing of articles related to the controversial religion. The landmark ruling comes from the inner circle of a site that prides itself on being open and inclusive.

In a 10-1 ruling Thursday, the site’s arbitration council voted to ban users coming from all IP addresses owned by the Church of Scientology and its associates, and further banned a number of editors by name.” (Five Things – Salon.com)

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What is Judge Sotomayor’s Stance on Abortion?

The New York Times cover page from January 23,...

‘In nearly 11 years as a federal appeals court judge, President Obama’s choice for the Supreme Court, Sonia Sotomayor, has never directly ruled on whether the Constitution protects a woman’s right to an abortion. But when she has written opinions that touched tangentially on abortion disputes, she has reached outcomes in some cases that were favorable to abortion opponents.

Now, some abortion rights advocates are quietly expressing unease that Judge Sotomayor may not be a reliable vote to uphold Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 abortion rights decision. In a letter, Nancy Keenan, president of Naral Pro-Choice America, urged supporters to press senators to demand that Judge Sotomayor reveal her views on privacy rights before any confirmation vote.

“Discussion about Roe v. Wade will — and must — be part of this nomination process,” Ms. Keenan wrote. “As you know, choice hangs in the balance on the Supreme Court as the last two major choice-related cases were decided by a 5-to-4 margin.” ‘ (Five Things – Salon.com)