Day: August 3, 2016

Democrats are losing to Republicans at the state level, and badly. 

Here’s why, and why you should be worried.

‘Faced with a loose-cannon 2016 GOP presidential nominee who disagrees with them on key issues, Charles and David Koch — the two billionaire “Koch brothers” — are directing the vast resources of their political network toward down-ballot races. This should alarm liberals greatly.’

Source: Vox

Siberian heat wave unleashes deadly ‘zombie anthrax’ outbreak

‘At least 90 people have been hospitalized from an anthrax outbreak in Russia, including 50 children. Eight are confirmed as infected with anthrax. Doctors believe at least 6 patients have the more virulent intestinal form of the disease, which killed one boy, age 12. Authorities say it’s the first fatal anthrax outbreak in Russia in more than 75 years.

The outbreak originated in a Siberian community after a heat wave melted the permafrost where spores of anthrax remained alive inside the frozen carcass of an infected reindeer. Animals fed on that thawed carcass, which may have been up to a hundred years old, then transmitted it to reindeer that nomadic herders killed and ate…’

Source: Boing Boing

Meg Whitman, Calling Donald Trump a ‘Demagogue,’ Will Support Hillary Clinton for President

Via The New York Times:

‘Meg Whitman, a Hewlett Packard executive and Republican fund-raiser, said Tuesday that she would support Hillary Clinton for president and give a “substantial” contribution to her campaign in order to stop Donald J. Trump, whom she berated as a threat to American democracy.

“I will vote for Hillary, I will talk to my Republican friends about helping her, and I will donate to her campaign and try to raise money for her,” Ms. Whitman said in a telephone interview.

She revealed that Mrs. Clinton, the Democratic nominee, had reached out to her in a phone call about a month ago, one of the first indications that Mrs. Clinton is aggressively courting Republican leaders. While acknowledging she diverged from Mrs. Clinton on many policy issues, Ms. Whitman said it was time for Republicans “to put country first before party.” …’

David Chang’s Unified Theory of Deliciousness

Source: WIRED

The acclaimed chef has struggled to distill the principles accounting for the ecstatic gustatory experiences he inspires at Momofuku, early on apparently as surprising to him as to his patrons. What may result, he suggests, is a more comprehensible and systematic process for culinary innovation. Or maybe it is so much smoke, mirrors and hand waving, justifying serendipity after the fact. Read it, napkin at hand for the mouthwatering, and see what you think.

August 3: Call for Global Solidarity With and for Yazidi Women

Source: One Billion Rising

August 3rd marks the two-year anniversary of the brutal attack on the Yazidi people in Sinjar Province in the Northern region of Iraq in which ISIS forces stormed towns and villages in the historic homeland of the ethno-religious group, killing over 5,000 men and elders, enslaving over 7,000 women and children and displacing over 400,000 more, desecrating homes and holy sites. Thousands of internally displaced Yazidis surrounded by ISIS forces were trapped on Sinjar Mountain, dying of exposure and dehydration.

The displaced Yazidi community continues to face a humanitarian crisis; tens of thousands are homeless and unsupported and many, especially children, suffer from malnutrition and health issues. Since the beginning of this crisis, ISIS has sold thousands of Yazidi women into sexual slavery and committed crimes of rape and sexual violence against thousands of Yazidi women and children in captivity. The group abducted at least 5000 Yazidis during their assault on Sinjar, mostly women and children and has relocated abductees to different regions where they are offered for sale as sexual slaves. To date, dozens of women have been killed in captivity while many others have committed suicide. New York Times reporter Rukmina Calimachi has written extensively about the crisis, for instance breaking the story about Isis forcing birth control pills on their captive sexual slaves.

A UN report notes:

“ISIS has committed the crime of genocide as well as multiple crimes against humanity and war crimes against the Yazidis, thousands of whom are held captive in the Syrian Arab Republic where they are subjected to almost unimaginable horrors.ISIS has sought to destroy the Yazidis through killings; sexual slavery, enslavement, torture and inhuman and degrading treatment and forcible transfer. The public statements and conduct of ISIS and its fighters clearly demonstrate that ISIS intended to destroy the Yazidis of Sinjar, composing the majority of the world’s Yazidi population, in whole or in part.”

My wife, a specialist in psychological trauma and refugee crises, and other colleagues at the Victims of Violence Program in Cambridge MA, have been consuting and assisting in the development of the Psychosocial Treatment and Trauma Support Center in Kurdish-controlled Dohuk, northern Iraq, to address the abuse and sexual violence suffered by Yazidi women and girls in ISIS captivity by:

– ensuring urgent medical care and hospital treatment for the aftermath of sexual and physical violence endured;
– ensuring counseling and trauma support for every victim through the center directly or through referral to a specialist organization;

– facilitating pilgrimages for survivors to the holy temple of Lalish to meet with Yazidi religious leaders;

– providing education and training in marketable skills to help victims reclaim their lives and assist them in moving towards self-sufficiency and independence;

– partnering with other local and international organizations and surrounding communities to work to facilitate survivors’ reintegration into society.

The center is being developed under the aegis of YAZDA, a global Yazidi organization established after the genocide against them in northern Iraq. The mission of YAZDA is to support the surviving victims of genocide and to ensure the future safety of the Yazidi ethnoreligious minority group. Know more about their work and ways to help and show solidarity by visiting their website or making a donation.

Citizen Science Takes on Japan’s Nuclear Establishment

Source: LA Times via Sean Bonner’s newsletter Just Another Crowd

Safecast is a movement started within days of the Fukushima nuclear disaster and arising out of conversations among the chief technology officer of a large securities firm Pieter Franken, LA tech entrepreneur Sean Bonner and Joichi Ito, director of the MIT Media Lab. Local volunteers with self-built radiation monitoring equipment are making a continuous crowd-sourced dump of radiation levels around the region — now 50 million readings and counting, all logged and mapped on a website anyone can see. As The Japanese government continues with its extensive effort to decontaminate areas around Fukushima Daiichi and reopen evacuated towns and villages, potential returnees say they want a way to verify official numbers that indicate radiation really has dropped to safe levels.

Funded by grants, foundation support and individual donation, the group holds regular sessions to teach people to assemble their own devices and also posts instructions online, on the principle that people who build their own equipment are more likely to use it. Even Japan’s postal service has cooperated with Safecast, putting its monitors on carriers’ motorbikes in some towns and gathering data.

“Safecast is an interesting social experiment, in a fairly anarchistic kind of way,” says Franken. “It taps into trends including maker-spaces, the Internet of things and even artists. We attract people who want to break out of the traditional way of solving problems.”

The group’s approach has expanded to include radiation monitoring activities elsewhere around the globe and other citizen-based environmental monitoring such as examining air quality around LA and methane readings around Porter Ranch, CA during the recent disastrous gas leak there. Advocates point to incidents such as the recent scandal over the lead-tainted water supply in Flint, Mich., as an example of where deeper community-based scientific knowledge could have improved debate and policymaking.

Franken describes Safecast’s goal now as, essentially,

“base-lining the world,” crowdsourcing environmental data from every corner of the Earth. “We should start with measuring our environments. Then we can talk about things like global warming and air pollution; from there, activism can start. Once you know, for example, that your street is polluted, you can start to make a change. That’s where we can make a difference.”