Month: February 2016

Donald Trump declines to disavow David Duke and the KKK

‘Appearing this morning on Jake Tapper’s State of the Union, Donald Trump was asked to disavow support from former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke and other white supremacists and politely declined.Trump, being a cautious sort and not one to just talk without gathering all the facts and giving a matter serious consideration, said he would have to do more research because at the moment he lacked sufficient information to disavow them…’

Source: Vox

The black intellectual critique of Hillary Clinton

‘…[T]he difference between Sanders and Clinton can be seen in which black leaders support each candidate. Because [Sanders is] an upstart in terms of national-level politics, he’s much more willing to bring in innovative thinkers. You can see by some of the people who have backed him that some of these are people who are leading the way when it comes to black political thought in the modern era. In thinking about mass incarceration, black wealth accumulation, political voice, things of that nature. Whereas Hillary Clinton has found a niche with more of the traditional leadership infrastructure…’

Source: Vox

Why the GOP can’t stop Trump

‘…[M]ost establishment Republicans fear Trump more than they hate him. They’re not willing to risk coming out against him now; they assume the damage they would do to his campaign is less than the damage he can do to them if he wins…’

Source: Vox

ISIS losing its most powerful recruiting tool

‘Twitter has been crucial to the terrorist group ISIS convincing Westerners to join its “caliphate” in the Middle East and mount attacks at home.But it looks like ISIS — aka the Islamic State, ISIL, or Daesh — is now losing steam on the social-media platform. A new report from the George Washington University Program on Extremism shows that efforts to suspend terrorist-affiliated Twitter accounts have been successful in slowing the group’s reach on the platform…’

Source: Business Insider

Before Cat Memes, There Were Louis Wain’s Controversial Cat Illustrations

‘…just as today’s cat lovers flood the internet with anthromorphized felines, Victorian-era Englanders also found representations of the pets to obsess over—namely, the cats drawn by prolific illustrator Louis Wain, whose cartoonish animals populated the era’s magazines, children’s books, and postcards. During Wain’s life, though, his fortunes reversed several times. Believed to be suffering from schizophrenia, Wain lived his final years in institutions. Eight of his cat drawings—which range from cuddly to psychedelic—came to be known as the “Famous Series” and for years would be offered up as a the stages of a deteriorating mind, illustrated. But the truth is a bit more complicated….’

Source: Atlas Obscura

Dogs and Certain Primates May Be Able To See Magnetic Fields

‘Some animals are capable of magnetoreception—an added sense that helps them detect magnetic fields. European scientists have now learned that the molecule responsible for this trait is also found in the eyes of dogs and some primates, which suggests they too might be capable of seeing magnetic fields.

Cryptochromes are a common group of light-sensitive molecules that exist in bacteria, plants, and animals. In addition to regulating circadian rhythms, these specialized proteins enable certain animals, such as birds, insects, fish, and reptiles, to sense magnetic fields, allowing them to perceive direction, altitude, and location. Humans are incapable of magnetoreception. Some mammals, like bats, mole rats, and mice, appear to have this sense, but the extent of this capacity among other mammals is largely unknown.

Now, in the first study of its kind, researchers from the Max Planck Institute and several other institutions have investigated the presence of the mammalian version of this molecule, called cryptochrome 1, in the retinas of 90 animal species. Researchers found this molecule in the blue-sensitive cones of dog-like carnivores, such as dogs, wolves, bears, foxes, and badgers, but not in the eyes of cat-like carnivores, such as cats, lions, and tigers (felines have their own unique way of looking at the world). Among primates, researchers discovered the presence of cryptochrome 1 in orangutans, the rhesus macaque, the crab-eating macaque, and others. The details can now be found in Nature Scientific Reports.

Though it’s considered a “sixth sense,” magnetoreception is tied to an animal’s visual system. Magnetic fields activate cryptochrome 1 in the retina, which the animal “sees” as the inclination of magnetic field lines relative to the Earth’s surface. Because the active cryptochrome 1 is located in the light-sensitive outer segments of the cone cells of the mammals, the researchers suspect that it’s assisting with magnetoreception, and not circadian rhythm management or some other visual capacity.

It’s not immediately obvious how mammals like dogs and primates use their magnetoreception, but foxes may provide a clue: When hunting, foxes are more successful at catching mice when they pounce on them in a northeast direction. For primates, this built-in compass may help with bodily orientation, or it could be a vestigial evolutionary trait that’s largely unused…’

Source: Gizmodo

Yglesias: ‘Why I’m more worried about Marco Rubio than Donald Trump’

‘When not delighting in the epic meltdown of establishment Republican Party politics, many people I know — my wife, my boss, etc. — are expressing terror at the notion that Donald Trump might actually become president of the United States. I’m more sanguine. Not out of any particular love for Trump, but because he’s actually running on a much less extreme agenda than his “establishment” rival Marco Rubio, who’s offering a platform of economic ruin, multiple wars, and an attack on civil liberties that’s nearly as vicious as anything Trump has proposed — even while wrapping it in an edgy, anxious, overreaction-prone approach to politics that heavily features big risky bets and huge, unpredictable changes in direction…’

Source: Vox

Tipping screws poor people, women, brown people, restaurateurs, local economies and…you

‘The evidence against tipping is voluminous and damning: it plunges workers into sub-subsistence wages, subjects woman servers to sexual harassment, encourages servers to deliver poor service to people of color (and old, young, and foreign people), incentivizes workers to take actions that harm the business (free drinks for big tippers!), and covers up a system of widespread criminal wage-fraud that lands disproportionately on the backs of workers who are already poor and marginalized…’

Source: Boing Boing

Monlam Long Horns

From the National Geographic twitter feed:

‘Monlam, the great prayer festival is being celebrated this weekend throughout the Tibetan world. Here in Labrang Monastery, novice monks (trapa), practice blowing the dungchen, the Tibetan long horn, that will be used in ceremonies and the call to prayer. The sound can be compared to the singing of elephants.’

The confucian confusions of ezra pound

‘It was a sad day for poetry when Ezra Pound discovered Confucius. Like some latter-day Don Quixote addled by tales of chivalry, Pound became enthralled by Confucian precepts, and though they never had any appreciable influence on his own thoughts or actions—he was the least Confucian of men—those precepts, or his version of them, scrambled his brains for the next sixty years…’

Source: 3quarksdaily

Why You Should Care About Apple’s Fight With the FBI

‘The FBI wants Apple’s help to investigate a terrorist attack. Apple says providing this help is the real danger. We’ve reached a boiling point in the battle between tech companies and the government over encryption. And what happens will affect anyone who uses a smartphone, including you…’

Source: Gizmodo

Revolutionary Cancer Therapy Shows Promise in Terminally Ill Patients

‘A groundbreaking new therapy in which white blood cells were reprogrammed to attack cancer cells is showing great promise after more than 90 percent of terminally ill leukemia patients had their symptoms disappear completely.

For the new therapy, white blood cells were extracted from terminally ill cancer patients, and then genetically reprogrammed to better recognize and target cancer cells. Once reintroduced into a patient’s bloodstream, the juiced-up immune cells made it much more difficult for the cancer to spread and take hold. Oncologist Stanley Riddell from Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center shared his team’s findings on Monday at the annual meeting of American Association for the Advancement of Science held in Washington DC.

In one trial, 94 percent of terminally ill lymphoblastic leukemia patients went into remission. Patients with similar blood cancers experienced response rates greater than 80 percent, with more than half going into remission.

The details have yet to be published in a peer reviewed science journal, so we need to be cautious about these findings. Indeed, the researchers themselves said that the results are very preliminary and that more work needs to be done. It’s not known, for example, how long the patients will remain in remission; the scientists aren’t calling it a cure, even though symptoms disappeared in many cases. What’s more, two patients actually died from the therapy after it triggered an extreme immune response. All participants involved in the study were terminally ill cancer patients with about two to five months to live, and none were responding to conventional treatments. But Riddell described the early data as “unprecedented,” saying it’s a “potential paradigm shift” in cancer treatment…’

Source: Gizmodo

Scalia’s Death May Have Saved the Planet

‘The United States’ commitment to combatting climate change will affect the entire world. Last week, the Supreme Court froze Obama’s plan to uphold that commitment, sparking fears that the Paris climate agreement would fall apart. But the death of justice Antonin Scalia over the weekend changes everything.Scalia might have been surprisingly progressive on technology, but when it came to climate change, the justice was a staunch defender of the proud American tradition of doing nothing.’

Source: Gizmodo

Poignant zaniness from Boing Boing

A few great articles today:

Man missing for 30 years realizes that he’s someone else: ‘This is Edgar Latulip of southwestern Ontario. The developmentally disabled man has been missing since 1986 but was just found about 120 kilometers from his hometown. Or rather, he found himself. Latulip had lost his memory due to a head injury after he disappeared and had created a new identity. Last month, he realized he wasn’t who he thought he was. On Jan. 7, Latulip met with a social worker and told her he thought he was somebody else, Gavin said. The social worker found his missing persons case file and police were then called in. Latulip volunteered to have a DNA test done and on Monday, the results came back indicating he was Latulip.’

Sparrow joins Japanese family: ‘A sparrow followed an elderly Japanese woman home from her job as a crossing guard in November, and now lives with her and her husband. “He’s like a family member – he’s very comforting. It’s fun, coming home to a sparrow,” Yoshiko Fujino told Reuters.’

 

‘Henry Rosario Martinez died at the age of 31. He loved poker, so his friends played one last game with him by propping up his corpse and giving him a large pile of chips. Despite Martinez’s remarkable poker face, he didn’t win.’

A New York State Supreme Court judge has confirmed that Staten Island Borough President James Oddo can name three streets in a new property development with words that imply greediness and deceitfulness on the part of the developers.

 

Puppy shoots Florida man: ‘A man who decided to shoot a bunch of puppies was himself shot by one of his intended victims. NBC News reports that Jerry Allen Bradford, 37, of Pensacola, Florida, sustained a gunshot to the wrist when “one of the dogs put its paw on the revolver’s trigger.” ‘

And this one is serious. Black travel guide for a racist America: ‘In 1936, postal worker Victor H. Green worked with his colleagues in the Postal Workers Union to create a guide for black travelers navigating a country where many restaurants, hotels, and shops were still “whites only,” and the real threat of physical assault and arrest hung in their faces. “You needed The Green Book to tell you where you can go without having doors slammed in your face,” civil rights leader Julian Bond once said. The Green Book was updated and in print until 1966. “There will be a day sometime in the near future when this guide will not have to be published,” reads the introduction.’

Scalia’s death and the upcoming struggle

One is supposedly not to speak ill of the dead, but I (and, I imagine, many classes of disadvantaged and disenfranchised in this country) would be dishonest if I didn’t mark the death of Antonin Scalia with some satisfaction. And I take a particular pleasure in the fact that this longest serving judge on the court and its most influential and outspoken conservative (if not reactionary) took his final bow on Pres. Obama’s watch. With any luck, we can gain some relief from a quarter-century of the execrable and intellectually damaged originalist school of thought he championed, which led to outcomes so pleasing to conservatives. Here’s a trip through prior FmH pieces on Scalia’s uniformly unflattering legacy.

(And what in the world is the shiftless Clarence Thomas going to do without his guidance?)

Vox has by far the consistently best roundup and explanation of the issues engendered by his death. Here is a sampling:

The fight over Obama’s next Supreme Court nominee will be the most politicized and high-stakes nomination fight in decades. Replacing Antonin Scalia will be a profound test of the American political system. With Scalia’s death, the Presidential race is a referendum on the Supreme Court.

Antonin Scalia’s death could lead to more 4-4 ties. Here’s what happens if it does.

The death of Justice Antonin Scalia has forced partisans to become experts on Supreme Court history. But, despite the so-called Thurmond Rule, at least 14 Supreme Court justices have been confirmed during election years.. In fact, Scalia himself was appointed by Pres. Reagan in his last year in office. Mitch McConnell: “this vacancy should not be filled” until 2017. The Senate’s top Democrat: that’s “shameful.” Hillary Clinton: Republican calls to leave Justice Scalia’s seat vacant “dishonor our constitution”

Scalia’s sudden death — and the chaos it’s about to cause — makes a strong case against lifetime appointments to the Court. Time for term limits for Supreme Court justices.

Who will Obama choose to replace Antonin Scalia? Here are 7 of the strongest candidates. Place your bets now. I went to college with Merrick Garland but I think the likelihood of the sole white male on the list getting the President’s nod is pretty low, although he is one of the candidates more palatable to the likely rabid Senate opposition.

Mapping Xenophobia

‘As the tide of refugees rises in Europe, so does the frequency and amplitude of some very nasty rumours about these “others.”

These rumours echo historical slander against Jews, Gypsies, and other groups of outsiders previously seen as threatening. You’ve probably heard variations of some of these:

Their customs are barbaric and they hold ours in contempt; they don’t feel bound by our rules and laws; they get preferential treatment from the government; they harass, rape, and kill; they have too many children, and they’re here to “take over.”

Many of these stories are very specific and detailed, and thus sound convincing. Yet they usually have no clear source, and often they grow taller in the telling. It’s the classic urban legend syndrome, seasoned with a dose of racism — and enhanced by Twitter, Facebook, and other modern means of communication.

One concerned German netizen has decided to fight back against this rising tide of viral xenophobia.

“Since the middle of last year, we’re witnessing an increasing trend of rumours about asylum seekers going viral — ranging from them poaching swans to desecrating graves. Those stories are collected here,” writes Karolin Schwarz on Hoaxmap, which has gone live on 8 February.

Hoaxmap uses a map of Germany and Austria as the geographic backdrop for a growing collection of rumours reported and invalidated. Each rumour is described, dated, localized, categorized — and refuted, with a link to the evidence.  Some examples…’

Source: Big Think

Now You’re Talking, Donald!

‘Donald Trump finally made some bold and provocative claims that were largely true, and the Republican Party finally closed ranks to attack him.

Saying Mexican immigrants are rapists didn’t do it. Calling for a return of torture didn’t do it. Calling for a ban on Muslim immigration didn’t do it. Raising questions about Barack Obama’s status as an American citizen didn’t do it. Pretending that thousands of Muslims in New Jersey cheered 9/11 didn’t do it.

So what did? Trump said that invading Iraq was a disaster, that the country was misled into invading Iraq by the Bush administration, and that the claim that Bush kept the country safe from terrorism is ridiculous because 9/11 happened on his watch…’

Source: Vox

Study Uncovers How Electromagnetic Fields Amplify Pain in Amputees

‘Until a recent study led by researchers at The University of Texas at Dallas was published online last month in PLOS ONE, there was no scientific evidence to back up the anecdotal stories of people… who reported aberrant sensations and neuropathic pain around cellphone towers and other technology that produce radio-frequency electromagnetic fields.

“Our study provides evidence, for the first time, that subjects exposed to cellphone towers at low, regular levels can actually perceive pain,” said Dr. Mario Romero-Ortega, senior author of the study and an associate professor of bioengineering in the University’s Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science. “Our study also points to a specific nerve pathway that may contribute to our main finding.” ‘

Source: The University of Texas at Dallas (thanks, abby)

Whatever You Do, Don’t Set Your iPhone To 1970

‘A prank originating from 4chan claims that if you set your iPhone’s (5s models and up) date back to 1970, it’ll display a retro Apple logo…

What actually happens if you decide to set your iPhone back to January 1st, 1970? It’ll brick your device, and there’s no fix for it: even Apple’s own Geniuses can’t figure out how to fix it, and you’ll have to get the phone completely replaced.

Update: according to Ars Technica, … allowing the phone’s battery to go completely dead (or disconnecting the battery) will reset the date…’

Source: Gizmodo

Ripples in the fabric of space discovered

Einstein was right — in predicting gravitational waves — and wrong — in feeling they would remain too feeble to be detected:

‘A “revolutionary” new era in science has just begun with a violent event deep in space.

Today researchers announced that they have detected ripples in the fabric of space called gravitational waves. It’s a groundbreaking discovery that has eluded Earth’s brightest minds and most sensitive machines for decades…’

Source: Tech Insider

LIGO’s Discovery will open new era in cosmological research

‘In deep space, two black holes spiraled toward each other, their tremendous mass warping spacetime and propagating gravitational waves across the fabric of the universe at light-speed. The two black holes eventually crashed into one another and merged into one even bigger black hole, emitting a crescendo of waves.That quiet tremolo on the catgut of reality made it to Earth, where the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory was listening. For 13 years LIGO heard, it seemed, every vibration but the one it was supposed to. But on September 14, 2015 it detected those black-hole-crashing swells as they washed over the planet.

“Ladies and gentlemen, we have detected gravitational waves,” David Reitze, LIGO’s Executive Director, declared today at a press conference. “We did it.” This is big-deal physics, a long-awaited bit of evidence that vindicates the work of Albert Einstein, opens a new scientific field, and gives astronomers a peek at a side of the universe they’ve never seen.

Decoding the data gave it more specificity. The waves came from black holes with 26 and 39 times the mass of the sun, respectively. Merged, the newly created black hole had 62 times the mass of the sun. Right, that arithmetic doesn’t exactly work, but don’t worry about it. The newly-formed body emitted energy to stabilize, a process called “ringdown.” That energy, emitted as gravitational waves, came from three suns’ worth of stuff…’

Source: WIRED

Einstein May Be About to Be Proved Right—Again

‘If recent rumors are true, scientists have finally detected gravitational waves—shockwaves rippling through space and time itself.

Albert Einstein first proposed the existence of gravitational waves 100 years ago, and directly observing them would provide the final vindication for his masterwork: the theory of general relativity.

On Thursday, we’ll find out if Einstein is right one last time. Researchers from Caltech and MIT will convene for a press conference where they may announce that they’ve picked up the tiny wobble of gravitational waves produced by two colliding black holes…’

Source: NatGeo

 

Scientists to announce detection of gravitational waves. Here’s how to watch.

Source: Tech Insider

See how hard it is to detect gravitational waves by playing this maddening online game

Source: Tech Insider

Horses Can Read Our Facial Expressions

‘Horses understand human facial expressions, and they can tell the difference between happy and angry faces, according to a new Biology Letters study published this week.

Previous work has revealed that horses are able to produce complex facial expressions and also perceive these in other members of their species. They’re also sensitive to signals from us, too. After all, the ability to read emotions across the species barrier would be especially helpful for social, domesticated species – no matter how different our faces might look from theirs.

To see if they can discern our expressions, a University of Sussex team led by Amy Smith showed photographs to 28 domestic horses (Equus caballus) aged four to 23, recruited from five stables in Sussex and Surrey in the U.K. These color photos were of two unfamiliar men smiling or frowning (pictured to the right). In order for the researchers to get spontaneous reactions, the horses received no training for this experiment. The team measured the horses’ heart rate, which is correlated to stress, and recorded their responses with camcorders.

When the horses saw photos of the men making an angry face, their heart rate increased faster than when they looked at photos of the men smiling. Additionally, many of them also moved their heads to look at the angry photo with their left eye – a behavioral response previously linked to negative stimuli perception.

The right brain hemisphere, which handles information from the left eye, is specialized for processing threatening stimuli. “It is particularly important for animals to recognize threats in their environment,” Smith explains in a statement. “In this context, recognizing angry faces may act as a warning system, allowing horses to anticipate negative human behavior such as rough handling.” This is called the left-gaze bias, and dogs do it too. Neither species showed a gaze bias towards the happy facial expressions, since these aren’t threatening cues…’

Source: IFLScience

Why Republicans are debating bringing back torture

‘John McCain is very angry about the way the Republican race is going — on the specific issue of torturing detainees suspected of terrorism.”It’s been so disappointing to see some presidential candidates engaged in loose talk on the campaign trail about reviving waterboarding and other inhumane interrogation techniques,” McCain, who was himself tortured while he was held prisoner during the Vietnam War, said during a Tuesday Senate speech. “Our enemies act without conscience. We must not.”

McCain has good reason to be angry. Several Republicans have suggested that they’d be open to torturing suspected terrorists if elected — especially New Hampshire primary winner Donald Trump. “Waterboarding is fine, and much tougher than that is fine,” Trump said at a Monday campaign event in New Hampshire. “When we’re with these animals, we can’t be soft and weak, like our politicians.” Previously, Trump promised to “bring back” types of torture “a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding” during Saturday’s Republican debate. The rest of the GOP field took a somewhat more nuanced position. Marco Rubio categorically refused to rule out any torture techniques, for fear of helping terrorists “practice how to evade us.” …’

Source: Vox

Ta-Nehisi Coates: “I will be voting for Sen. Sanders”

‘Famed Atlantic writer Ta-Nehisi Coates finally confessed to whom he’s supporting in the Democratic primary. It seems the MacArthur Genius Grant recipient is feeling the Bern. “I will be voting for Sen. Sanders,” Coates told host Amy Goodman on Democracy Now. Coates said he was initially avoiding the question, hoping to separate his role as a writer from his views as a private citizen, but no longer saw value in staying neutral. He said his son, who was present for the interview, convinced him to reach that point…’

Source: Vox

Hell-in-a-Handbasket Dept (cont’d)

Upscale couple in Irvine CA who mistook the volunteer tennis coach’s comment as insulting their son’s intelligence end up planting drugs in her car when they can’t get her fired. And it goes on from there. Source: The Washington Post

Neurothrillers

‘It’s not just your imagination. Horror films are much more scary than they were in the past. Here’s how they do it…

This new brand of film, the neurothriller, creates a spiral of fear or lust, a warm bath of sorrow, not through classic narrative, but with sound, image, and sophisticated computer technology, all of it tapping the circuitry of the ancient emotional brain…’

Source: Aeon

Attacking ISIS Won’t Make Americans Safer

Via The Atlantic:

”For close to a decade, the trauma of the Iraq War left Americans wary of launching new wars in the Middle East. That caution is largely gone. Most of the leading presidential candidates demand that the United States escalate its air war in Iraq and Syria, send additional Special Forces, or enforce a buffer zone, which the head of Central Command, General Lloyd Austin, has said would require deploying U.S. ground troops. Most Americans now favor doing just that.

The primary justification for this new hawkishness is stopping the Islamic State, or isis, from striking the United States. Which is ironic, because at least in the short term, America’s intervention will likely spark more terrorism against the United States, thus fueling demands for yet greater military action. After a period of relative restraint, the United States is heading back into the terror trap…’

Donald Trump supporters think about morality differently than other voters. Here’s how.

This article is not primarily about Trump. It describes social science research based on so-called Moral Foundations Theory, codified by one of the co-authors, which describes six moral factors the patterns of which form a powerful explanatory framework differentiating the supporters of the major candidates, left and right. Oh yes, and Trump is an outlier, as if that would be a surprise…

Source: Vox

20,000 Libertarians Pledge To Move to the ‘Free State’ of New Hampshire

‘…[O]ver 2,000 people have already moved to New Hampshire (referred to simply as “the shire” by the group), purchasing upwards of $30 million in real estate. The group has chosen New Hampshire for a number of reasons, although chief among them is that the group is able to “maximize [its] odds of success” because of “the easy access to politics.” (New Hampshire has the largest state legislature in the US at 400 persons.)

In the 13 years since its founding, the group has made large strides toward establishing its libertarian utopia. This is most noticeable in the group’s widespread adoption of Bitcoin, which has earned the state the unofficial moniker of “Bitcoin Capital of America.” Self-identified Free Staters in New Hampshire launched Lamassu, one of the most popular Bitcoin ATMs, in 2013. SatoshiDice, the Bitcoin gambling website, was also launched out of New Hampshire in 2012 by Bitcoin mogul and Free Stater Erik Vorhees.

Although both of these Bitcoin businesses have been forced out of the US by various regulatory agencies, the Free State Project hopes to garner enough influence in New Hampshire politics to make the state more friendly to liberty-minded businesses. They seem to be well on their way to this goal, with 16 Free State Project members now serving in the state’s House of Representatives…’

Source: Motherboard

R.I.P. Dan Hicks, 74

‘Dan Hicks, a singer, songwriter and bandleader who attracted a devoted following with music that was defiantly unfashionable, proudly eccentric and foot-tappingly catchy, died on Saturday at his home in Mill Valley, Calif. He was 74… Mr. Hicks began performing with his band, Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks, in the late 1960s in San Francisco, where psychedelic rock bands like Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead dominated the music sound. The Hot Licks’ sound could not have been more different.At a time when rock was getting louder and more aggressive, Mr. Hicks’s instrumentation — two guitars (Mr. Hicks played rhythm), violin and stand-up bass, with two women providing harmony and backup vocals — offered a laid-back, all-acoustic alternative that was a throwback to a simpler time, while his lyrics gave the music a modern, slightly askew edge…’

Source: New York Times

Oh, this is very sad, in the same week as two giants from Jefferson Airplane. One of the liabilities of my continuing romance with the music of my young adulthood is that its important practitioners are dropping like flies. My classic jazz and blues musician faves are long gone and more contemporary indie and alternative performers by and large still have a lot of life in them.

Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks have always had, and will always have, a constant place in my favorites playlist. So pleased I got to see him live, in intimate venues, a couple of times in the last decade. Go out and find “Where’s the Money,” “I Scare Myself” “Walkin’ One and Only” or “I Feel Like Singing” for a never-ending kick.

Donald Trump’s Twitter Insults: The Complete List (So Far)

Via The New York Times:
‘In the seven months since declaring his candidacy for president, Donald Trump has used Twitter to lob insults at presidential candidates, journalists, news organizations, nations, a Neil Young song and even a lectern in the Oval Office. We know this because we’ve read, tagged and quoted them all. Below, a directory of sorts, with links to the original tweets.’

Here’s hoping they keep it current.

R.I.P. Signe Anderson, 1941-2016

Jefferson Airplane Singer Dies at 74, same day as Paul Kantner

‘Signe Toly Anderson, the original female vocalist with Jefferson Airplane, who left the band after its first album and was replaced by Grace Slick, died on Thursday at her home in Beaverton, Ore. She was 74.

…Ms. Anderson died the same day as another original member of the Airplane, the singer and guitarist Paul Kantner, who was also 74.

In the 1960s, Ms. Anderson was living in San Francisco and appearing at a popular folk club, the Drinking Gourd, when the vocalist Marty Balin heard her sing and asked her to join a folk-rock group he was forming. The band, soon christened Jefferson Airplane, signed with RCA Victor Records and released its first album, “Jefferson Airplane Takes Off,” in 1966.

By the time that album came out, Ms. Anderson had given birth to her first child and decided to leave the group. She left after a farewell concert at the Fillmore in October 1966 and was replaced the next night by Ms. Slick, formerly of the San Francisco group the Great Society.

…Ms. Anderson stayed in touch with Mr. Kantner, Mr. Balin and other former bandmates and performed with them on occasion. Jorma Kaukonen, the Airplane’s lead guitarist, wrote on his blog that she was “our den mother in the early days” and a voice of reason for “our dysfunctional little family.” Mr. Balin, writing on Facebook, imagined that she and Mr. Kantner “woke up in heaven and said: ‘Hey what are you doing here? Let’s start a band.’” …’

Source: New York Times

Why Ted Cruz Is Unfit to Be President

‘One of the most disturbing developments of the 2016 Republican race for president has been Donald Trump’s popularity among the most racist elements in US society. The New Yorker, for example, had lengthy piece over the summer detailing the excitement he has generated in the neo-Nazi movement. But here’s the thing: Trump isn’t the only guy with dangerous supporters. The media don’t talk about it as much, but Ted Cruz – Trump’s closest competitor for GOP front-runner status – has also won the backing of some downright terrifying people…’

Source: Truth-Out

The Unreal, Eerie Emptiness of China’s ‘Ghost Cities’

‘The Kangbashi District of Ordos, China is a marvel of urban planning, 137-square miles of shining towers, futuristic architecture and pristine parks carved out of the grassland of Inner Mongolia. It is a thoroughly modern city, but for one thing: No one lives there.

…Kangbashi is one of hundreds of sparkling new cities sitting relatively empty throughout China, built by a government eager to urbanize the country but shunned by people unable to afford it or hesitant to leave the rural communities they know. Chicago photographer Kai Caemmerer visited Kangbashi and two other cities for his ongoing series Unborn Cities. The photos capture the eerie sensation of standing on a silent street surrounded by empty skyscrapers and public spaces devoid of life…’

Source: WIRED

Six Degrees of Separation? Facebook Finds a Smaller Number

‘Facebook ran the numbers and concluded that we are all much closer than the traditional “six degrees of separation.”The social media giant released a report on its blog Thursday announcing “each person in the world” is separated from every other by “an average of three and a half other people.” …’

Source: The New York Times

Great Balls of Fire

Via NYTimes:

‘Two fireballs streaked across the sky in the past week, creating dazzling, ephemeral displays for hundreds of people below. Dashboard cameras, rooftop cameras and even one mounted on a small airplane captured footage of the bright objects in the night skies.’

Includes wonderful albeit brief videos.

Multitasking is Killing Your Brain

Via Medium: ‘MIT neuroscientist Earl Miller notes that our brains are “not wired to multitask well… when people think they’re multitasking, they’re actually just switching from one task to another very rapidly. And every time they do, there’s a cognitive cost.” This constant task-switching encourages bad brain habits. When we complete a tiny task (sending an email, answering a text message, posting a tweet), we are hit with a dollop of dopamine, our reward hormone. Our brains love that dopamine, and so we’re encouraged to keep switching between small mini-tasks that give us instant gratification.’