What the hell is going on at the FBI?

‘The FBI got permission on Sunday to look through 650,000 emails discovered on a laptop used by (current target of an underage-sexting investigation) Anthony Weiner and his estranged wife/Hillary Clinton confidante Huma Abedin, to see if any of those emails might be relevant to its investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server. The investigation will probably not be done before the election. But it remains extremely unlikely that Clinton actually violated US law.

Instead, the question in the days since FBI Director James Comey sent Congress a letter alluding to the existence of the new emails is: Why the hell did Comey do that? Comey has come under fire from former Department of Justice officials (including ex-Attorney General Eric Holder) for violating standard DOJ practice of not releasing information that could affect a campaign within 60 days of the election. Some of that criticism has even come from Republican officials like Alberto Gonzales, who was attorney general under George W. Bush (though Gonzales might have been acting on a grudge against Comey dating back to the Bush years).

Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid all but accused Comey and the FBI of deliberately airing the Clinton news while sitting on information about Donald Trump’s ties to Russia — behavior on the bureau’s part that Reid says could violate the Hatch Act, which prevents federal employees from electioneering. Nothing’s leaked out to back up Reid’s claim per se. But on Monday, officials confirmed to the press that Comey had resisted saying anything in public about Russia’s efforts to influence the elections by hacking into Democratic email accounts, because he was concerned about the 60-day window — which makes his decision to write the letter about the Weiner computer all the less defensible.

Comey was in an impossible situation. There were very good arguments both for and against writing the letter. And he couldn’t guarantee that if he didn’t say anything about the new computer, information wouldn’t leak out about it anyway. But that’s exactly the problem. This entire news story has been driven by leaks from different factions of the DOJ and FBI. It’s clear that no one has enough control of the nation’s leading law enforcement agency — one that is currently engaged in an investigation into the security of important government information — to control leaks of important government information….’

Source: What the hell is going on at the FBI? – Vox

2011 Video Shows Donald Trump Sexually Humiliating Woman Before Large Audience

Giving a talk on how to take revenge in Sydney Australia in 2011, Strumpf decides to illustrate by summoning up to the stage a former Miss Universe who he feels had rebuffed him in the past. Degrades her and attempts an unwanted kiss. Source: <a href=”http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/donald-trump-jennifer-hawkins-video_us_58137b85e4b0390e69cfbbba“>Huffington Post</a>

I no longer make these posts in incredulity about how Strumpf acts, but in incredulity and outrage that 40% of the electorate could still vote for the misogynistic bullying pig. I feel confident in saying that, after his he is drummed off the public stage in a satisfying and I hope overwhelming defeat next Tuesday, any embarrassing individual foolish enough to admit that s/he was a Strumpf supporter will find it impossible to be treated with respect by any thinking person.

R.I.P. Zacherley

Host With a Ghoulish Perspective Dies at 98

John Zacherle, one of the first of the late-night television horror-movie hosts, who played a crypt-dwelling undertaker with a booming graveyard laugh on stations in Philadelphia and New York in the late 1950s and early ’60s, died on Thursday at his home in Manhattan. He was 98. His death was announced by friends and a fan website.

Mr. Zacherle, billed as Zacherley in New York, was not the first horror host — that honor goes to Maila Nurmi, the Finnish-born actress who began camping it up as Vampira on KABC-TV in Los Angeles in 1954 — but he was the most famous, inspiring a host of imitators at local stations around the country.

Source: New York Times obituary

The Psychology of a Horror Movie Fan

‘Earlier this year, the horror movie genre was pronounced dead. None of the six horror films released before September managed to break $20 million on opening weekend at the box office, and none ended up earning over $32 million total domestically… It’s doubtful anyone truly believed the genre wouldn’t eventually bounce back, but peak scary movie season comes just once a year.

And then there was Annabelle, the spinoff from last year’s The Conjuring. Critics thought it might break 2014’s horror slump, but the film far exceeded those expectations: It earned $37 million on opening weekend, a higher draw than any horror movie in years, and one of the largest openings for a horror movie ever.Its financial success does not mean, however, that Annabelle is well-liked. The movie has a dismal three-percent critic rating on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes. At Grantland, Wesley Morris wrote that Annabelle is emblematic of the genre’s recent tendency toward the “passive-aggressive and hilariously, lazily vague.” Audience reviews have been somewhat more generous (on Rotten Tomatoes, 45-percent of viewers said they liked it), but it seems unlikely the movie has a future as even a cult classic. I have a small group of trusty horror fans whom I can consult when I want to know if any of the genre’s new releases are worth a $20 trip to the theater, and the answer for Annabelle has been a resounding “Nah.”

So why did so many people pay to go see it? It had a strong social media presence, for one thing, and for another, people love a freaky doll. But there’s a deeper motive that likely propelled Annabelle beyond its merits: People who wanted to be terrified at some point this year just got tired of waiting. As movie analyst Phil Contrino told the Washington Post, “As a genre, it’s never completely dead, because people always want to be scared.”…’

Source: Pacific Standard

Reverence for Hallowe’en: good for the soul

Three jack-o'-lanterns illuminated from within...

A reprise of my traditional Hallowe’en post of past years:

It is that time of year again. What has become a time of disinhibited hijinx and mayhem, and a growing marketing bonanza for the kitsch-manufacturers and -importers, has primeval origins as the Celtic New Year’s Eve, Samhain (pronounced “sow-en”). The harvest is over, summer ends and winter begins, the Old God dies and returns to the Land of the Dead to await his rebirth at Yule, and the land is cast into darkness. The veil separating the worlds of the living and the dead becomes frayed and thin, and dispossessed dead mingle with the living, perhaps seeking a body to possess for the next year as their only chance to remain connected with the living, who hope to scare them away with ghoulish costumes and behavior, escape their menace by masquerading as one of them, or placate them with offerings of food, in hopes that they will go away before the new year comes. For those prepared, a journey to the other side could be made at this time.

With Christianity, perhaps because with calendar reform it was no longer the last day of the year, All Hallows’ Eve became decathected, a day for innocent masquerading and fun, taking its name Hallowe’en as a contraction and corruption of All Hallows’ Eve.trick-or-treat-nyc

All Saints’ Day may have originated in its modern form with the 8th century Pope Gregory III. Hallowe’en customs reputedly came to the New World with the Irish immigrants of the 1840’s. The prominence of trick-or-treating has a slightly different origin, however.

The custom of trick-or-treating is thought to have originated not with the Irish Celts, but with a ninth-century European custom called souling. On November 2, All Souls Day, early Christians would walk from village to village begging for “soul cakes,” made out of square pieces of bread with currants. The more soul cakes the beggars would receive, the more prayers they would promise to say on behalf of the dead relatives of the donors. At the time, it was believed that the dead remained in limbo for a time after death, and that prayer, even by strangers, could expedite a soul’s passage to heaven.

English: A traditional Irish turnip Jack-o'-la...
English: A traditional Irish turnip Jack-o’-lantern from the early 20th century.

Jack-o’-lanterns were reportedly originally turnips; the Irish began using pumpkins after they immigrated to North America, given how plentiful they were here. The Jack-o-lantern custom probably comes from Irish folklore. As the tale is told, a man named Jack, who was notorious as a drunkard and trickster, tricked Satan into climbing a tree. Jack then carved an image of a cross in the tree’s trunk, trapping the devil up the tree. Jack made a deal with the devil that, if he would never tempt him again, he would promise to let him down the tree.

According to the folk tale, after Jack died, he was denied entrance to Heaven because of his evil ways, but he was also denied access to Hell because he had tricked the devil. Instead, the devil gave him a single ember to light his way through the frigid darkness. The ember was placed inside a hollowed-out turnip to keep it glowing longer.

Nowadays, a reported 99% of cultivated pumpkin sales in the US go for jack-o-lanterns.

Folk traditions that were in the past associated with All Hallows’ Eve took much of their power, as with the New Year’s customs about which I write here every Dec. 31st, from the magic of boundary states, transition, and liminality.

The idea behind ducking, dooking or bobbing for apples seems to have been that snatching a bite from the apple enables the person to grasp good fortune. Samhain is a time for getting rid of weakness, as pagans once slaughtered weak animals which were unlikely to survive the winter. A common ritual calls for writing down weaknesses on a piece of paper or parchment, and tossing it into the fire. There used to be a custom of placing a stone in the hot ashes of the bonfire. If in the morning a person found that the stone had been removed or had cracked, it was a sign of bad fortune. Nuts have been used for divination: whether they burned quietly or exploded indicated good or bad luck. Peeling an apple and throwing the peel over one’s shoulder was supposed to reveal the initial of one’s future spouse. One way of looking for omens of death was for peope to visit churchyards

La Catrina – In Mexican folk culture, the Catr...

The Witches’ Sabbath aspect of Hallowe’en seems to result from Germanic influence and fusion with the notion of Walpurgisnacht. (You may be familiar with the magnificent musical evocation of this, Mussorgsky’s Night on Bald Mountain.)

Although probably not yet in a position to shape mainstream American Hallowe’en traditions, Mexican Dia de los Muertos observances have started to contribute some delightful and whimsical iconography to our encounter with the eerie and unearthly as well. As this article in The Smithsonian reviews, ‘In the United States, Halloween is mostly about candy, but elsewhere in the world celebrations honoring the departed have a spiritual meaning…’

Reportedly, more than 80% of American families decorate their homes, at least minimally, for Hallowe’en. What was the holiday like forty or fifty years ago in the U.S. when, bastardized as it has now become with respect to its pagan origins, it retained a much more traditional flair? Before the era of the pay-per-view ’spooky-world’ type haunted attractions and its Martha Stewart yuppification with, as this irreverent Salon article from several years ago [via walker] put it, monogrammed jack-o’-lanterns and the like? One issue may be that, as NPR observed,

“Adults have hijacked Halloween… Two in three adults feel Halloween is a holiday for them and not just kids,” Forbes opined in 2012, citing a public relations survey. True that when the holiday was imported from Celtic nations in the mid-19th century — along with a wave of immigrants fleeing Irelands potato famine — it was essentially a younger persons’ game. But a little research reveals that adults have long enjoyed Halloween — right alongside young spooks and spirits.’

Is that necessarily a bad thing? A 1984 essay by Richard Seltzer, frequently referenced in other sources, entitled “Why Bother to Save Hallowe’en?”, argues as I do that reverence for Hallowe’en is good for the soul, young or old.

“Maybe at one time Hallowe’en helped exorcise fears of death and ghosts and goblins by making fun of them. Maybe, too, in a time of rigidly prescribed social behavior, Hallowe’en was the occasion for socially condoned mischief — a time for misrule and letting loose. Although such elements still remain, the emphasis has shifted and the importance of the day and its rituals has actually grown.…(D)on’t just abandon a tradition that you yourself loved as a child, that your own children look forward to months in advance, and that helps preserve our sense of fellowship and community with our neighbors in the midst of all this madness.”

Three Halloween jack-o'-lanterns.

That would be anathema to certain segments of society, however. Hallowe’en certainly inspires a backlash by fundamentalists who consider it a blasphemous abomination. ‘Amateur scholar’ Isaac Bonewits details academically the Hallowe’en errors and lies he feels contribute to its being reviled. Some of the panic over Hallowe’en is akin to the hysteria, fortunately now debunked, over the supposed epidemic of ‘ritual Satanic abuse’ that swept the Western world in the ’90’s.


The horror film has become inextricably linked to Hallowe’en tradition, although the holiday itself did not figure in the movies until John Carpenter took the slasher genre singlehandedly by storm. Googling “scariest films”, you will, grimly, reap a mother lode of opinions about how to pierce the veil to journey to the netherworld and reconnect with that magical, eerie creepiness in the dark (if not the over-the-top blood and gore that has largely replaced the subtlety of earlier horror films).

The Carfax Abbey Horror Films and Movies Database includes best-ever-horror-films lists from Entertainment Weekly, Mr. Showbiz and Hollywood.com. I’ve seen most of these; some of their choices are not that scary, some are just plain silly, and they give extremely short shrift to my real favorites, the evocative classics of the ’30’s and ’40’s when most eeriness was allusive and not explicit. And here’s what claims to be a compilation of links to the darkest and most gruesome sites on the web. “Hours and hours of fun for morbidity lovers.”

Boing Boing does homage to a morbid masterpiece of wretched existential horror, two of the tensest, scariest hours of my life repeated every time I watch it:

‘…The Thing starts. It had been 9 years since The Exorcist scared the living shit out of audiences in New York and sent people fleeing into the street. Really … up the aisle and out the door at full gallop. You would think that people had calmed down a bit since then. No…’

Meanwhile, what could be creepier in the movies than the phenomenon of evil children? Gawker knows what shadows lurk in the hearts of the cinematic young:

‘In celebration of Halloween, we took a shallow dive into the horror subgenre of evil-child horror movies. Weird-kid cinema stretches back at least to 1956’s The Bad Seed, and has experienced a resurgence recently via movies like The Babadook, Goodnight Mommy, and Cooties. You could look at this trend as a natural extension of the focus on domesticity seen in horror via the wave of haunted-house movies that 2009’s Paranormal Activity helped usher in. Or maybe we’re just wizening up as a culture and realizing that children are evil and that film is a great way to warn people of this truth. Happy Halloween. Hope you don’t get killed by trick-or-treaters.’

In any case: trick or treat! …And may your Hallowe’en soothe your soul.


President Obama’s Broadside Against Republican Obstructionism

‘…On countless priorities – issues that matter to people across the country, regardless of their politics – Republicans in Washington have traded progress for partisanship.Their obstruction underscores a fundamental misunderstanding of the way our government should work. Sure, they’re blocking Merrick Garland – and maybe scoring a political point or two – but in doing so they are failing the American people. By hobbling the Supreme Court for what could be a year or longer, Republicans are eroding one of the core institutions of American democracy.

This cannot be the new normal. Let’s disagree on the issues, but let’s work together to protect a system of government that has stood strong for 240 years and made us the greatest country on Earth. We must expect better. You must demand better.

That’s why it’s so important that you make your voice heard. Call your representative. Tweet your Senator. Tell them what matters to you. And in November go vote. Then do it again in the next election, even when the presidency isn’t at stake. Send a clear message that Congress, at the very least, needs to perform its basic, Constitutional responsibilities – and should do much more.’

Source: Proudemocrat

World on track to lose two-thirds of wild animals by 2020

…The number of wild animals living on Earth is set to fall by two-thirds by 2020, according to a new report, part of a mass extinction that is destroying the natural world upon which humanity depends. The analysis, the most comprehensive to date, indicates that animal populations plummeted by 58% between 1970 and 2012, with losses on track to reach 67% by 2020. Researchers from WWF and the Zoological Society of London compiled the report from scientific data and found that the destruction of wild habitats, hunting and pollution were to blame….’

Source: The Guardian

This is what your ignorant insensitive way of life will do for your children, and mine.

Satan Has No Interest in Molesting Your Kids

‘As we head into the end of October, parents should be prepared. Everyone knows that Halloween is peak season for occult behavior. Local Satanists will be combing America for unattended children to abuse in their rituals. Without the suffering of innocent babies, their whole devil-worshipping infrastructure falls apart. Good moms and dads must maintain vigilance lest their kids be snatched.

In 2016, this kind of Satanic panic rhetoric sounds totally absurd. Few Americans would jump to believe that devilish cults are operating in a typical suburb, kidnapping and abusing children. Despite what Alex Jones may be hearing, devilish conspiracies no longer hold the powerful cultural allure they once did. But it wasn’t so long ago that many Americans were eager to believe the most outlandish tales of ritual abuse. Some of our contemporary ideas about kids (and Satanists) are still based in morbid fantasy…’

Source: Pacific Standard

Next Job for Obama? Silicon Valley Is Hiring

‘For nearly eight years, the presidency has been Mr. Obama’s science and technology playground, a place where he sought to become the advocate in chief for industries pushing advanced batteries, powerful medical devices and cutting-edge research.

“I’m a nerd, and I don’t make any apologies for it… It’s cool stuff. And it is that thing that sets us apart, that ability to imagine and hypothesize, and then test and figure stuff out, and tinker and make things and make them better, and then break them down and rework them.”

With less than three months left in his presidency, Mr. Obama is preparing for a life after the White House that will most likely include a close relationship with Silicon Valley. Officials running Mr. Obama’s presidential foundation have made about 10 trips to tech strongholds in California in the past year as they help him plot his next steps.

Source: The New York Times

Oxford: Shakespeare had a ghostwriter??

‘Oxford University Press’ new edition of William Shakespeare’s works will credit Christopher Marlowe as co-author of the three Henry VI plays, underscoring that the playwright collaborated with others on some of his most famous works. Marlowe, a playwright, poet and spy, will share billing in the latest version of the New Oxford Shakespeare being published this week. While scholars have long suspected that Shakespeare’s plays included the work of others, new analytical methods helped researchers conclude that sections bore the hallmarks of Marlowe’s hand…’

Source: Associated Press

Trump’s Campaign Is Launching a Nightly News Show on Facebook

‘Members of the media quickly seized on the event, calling it a test drive for Trump TV, the post-election television network that Trump is rumored to be considering in the event he loses in November. Despite reports that his son-in-law has been talking to media dealmakers about Trump TV, Trump himself has denied he has any interest in such a thing…’

Source: WIRED

California to Vote On Wiping Old Weed Arrests

‘California’s ballot measure to legalize recreational marijuana could be a beacon of hope for anyone with a criminal record for using or possessing weed.Proposition 64 would legalize marijuana for adults 21 and older. But it would also allow judges to resentence individuals convicted of weed-related crimes, and for the destruction of records for prior marijuana convictions. That’s important because about 15,000 to 20,000 people in California are arrested every year for misdemeanor and felony marijuana crimes, according to an August report by the Drug Policy Alliance, a national advocacy non-profit…’

Source: Motherboard

America’s founders screwed up when they designed the presidency. Donald Trump is exhibit A.

It is quite easy to portray Trump as an “anti-constitutional” candidate. It can well be doubted that he has ever seriously read or thought about the document, and he exhibits dangerously dictatorial tendencies that we hope are precluded by the Constitution. But we should realize that his candidacy also tells us things we might not wish to hear about the Constitution and its political order in the 21st century. In his own way, he may be the canary in the coal mine, and the question is whether we will draw the right lessons from his improbable candidacy and his apparent ability to garner the votes of at least 40 percent of the American public…’

Source: Sanford V. Levinson, professor of law and government at the University of Texas Austin, Vox

The battle for the Senate is coming down to the wire

‘Donald Trump’s campaign seems to be going down in flames — but it’s still far from clear how much that will help Democratic candidates in their effort to retake the Senate. Democrats would need a net gain of four seats to retake the chamber if Hillary Clinton wins the presidency. And right now, they’re already likely to win two Republican-held seats, with five more looking like toss-ups. Then there is just one Democratic seat that appears to be up for grabs. So depending on how those six toss-up races go, Democrats seem likely to end up with a net gain of anywhere between one and seven seats. And the difference between 47 Democratic Senate seats and 53 could be enormously consequential for a Clinton administration’s agenda and the balance of power on the Supreme Court…’

Source:  Vox

John Cleese & Jonathan Miller Turn Profs Talking About Wittgenstein Into a Classic Comedy Routine (1977)

‘Everyone interested in philosophy must occasionally face the question of how, exactly, to define philosophy itself. You can always label as philosophy whatever philosophers do — but what, exactly, do philosophers do? Here the English comedians John Cleese of Monty Python and Jonathan Miller of Beyond the Fringe offer an interpretation of the life of modern philosophers in the form of a five-minute sketch set in “a senior common room somewhere in Oxford (or Cambridge).”

There, Cleese and Miller’s philosophers have a wide-ranging talk about Ludwig Wittgenstein, senses of the word “yes,” whether an “unfetched slab” can be said to exist, and the very role of the philosopher in this “heterogeneous, confusing, and confused jumble of political, social, and economic relations we call society.” …’

Source: Open Culture

Jimi Hendrix Plays “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” for The Beatles, Just Three Days After the Album’s Release (1967)

‘There are many ways to celebrate a new album from a band you admire. You can have a listening party alone. You can have a listening party with friends. You can learn the title track in a couple days and play it onstage while the band you admire sits in the audience. That last one might be overkill. Unless you’re Jimi Hendrix.

Hendrix was so excited after the UK release of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band in 1967 that he opened a set at London’s Saville Theater with his own, Hendrix-ified rendition of the album’s McCartney-penned title song. In the audience: McCartney and George Harrison.

It’s a loose, good-natured tribute that, as you might imagine, made quite an impression on the Beatles in attendance. “It’s still obviously a shining memory for me,” McCartney recalled many years later, “because I admired him so much anyway, he was so accomplished. To think that that album had meant so much to him as to actually do it by the Sunday night, three days after the release. He must have been so into it, because normally it might take a day for rehearsal and then you might wonder whether you’d put it in, but he just opened with it. It’s a pretty major compliment in anyone’s book. I put that down as one of the great honours of my career.” …’


Source: Open Culture

When Charles Dickens & Edgar Allan Poe Met, and Dickens’ Pet Raven Inspired Poe’s Poem “The Raven”

‘Poe reviewed the first four chapters of Dickens’ Barnaby Rudge for Graham’s Magazine, predicting the end of the novel and finding out later he was correct when he reviewed it again upon completion. He was particularly taken with one character: a chatty raven named Grip who accompanies the simple-minded Barnaby. Poe described the bird as “intensely amusing,” points out Atlas Obscura, and also wrote that Grip’s “croaking might have been prophetically heard in the course of the drama.”

It chanced the following year the two literary greats would meet, when Poe learned of Dickens’ trip to the U.S.; he wrote to the novelist, and the two briefly exchanged letters (which you can read here). Along with Dickens on his six-month journey were his wife Catherine, his children, and Grip, his pet raven. When the two writers met in person, writes Lucinda Hawksley at the BBC, Poe “was enchanted to discover [Grip, the character] was based on Dickens’s own bird.” …’

Source: Open Culture

Seeing and Saying

‘New York radio station WQXR used to inflict this pronunciation test on prospective announcers — try reading it aloud:

The old man with the flaccid face and dour expression grimaced when asked if he were conversant with zoology, mineralogy, or the culinary arts. ‘Not to be secretive,’ he said, ‘I may tell you that I’d given precedence to the study of genealogy. But since my father’s demise, it has been my vagary to remain incognito because of an inexplicable, lamentable, and irreparable family schism. It resulted from a heinous crime, committed at our domicile by an impious scoundrel. To err is human … but this affair was so grievous that only my inherent acumen and consummate tact saved me.’

It’s a minefield. In Another Almanac of Words at Play, Willard R. Espy lists the pronunciations that were considered correct:

  • flaccid FLACK-sid
  • inexplicable in-EX-plic-able
  • dour DOO-er
  • lamentable LAM-entable
  • grimaced gri-MACED
  • irreparable ear-REP-arable
  • conversant KON-ver-sant
  • schism SIZ-m
  • zoology zoh-OL-o-ji
  • heinous HAY-nus
  • mineralogy miner-AL-o-ji
  • domicile DOMM-i-sil
  • culinary KEW-li-ner-y
  • impious IM-pee-yus
  • secretive see-KEE-tiv
  • precedence pre-SEED-ens
  • grievous GREEV-us
  • genealogy jan-e-AL-o-ji
  • inherent in-HERE-ent
  • demise de-MIZE
  • acumen a-KEW-men
  • vagary va-GAIR-y
  • consummate (adj.) kon-SUMM-it
  • incognito in-KOG-ni-toe

Getting 20 of the 25 “stumpers” right was considered excellent. But that was 40 years ago, and even at the time Espy found 21 dictionary listings that accepted different pronunciations. “So not to worry when you don’t sound like WQXR,” he wrote. “One man’s AB-do-men is another man’s ab-DOUGH-men.”

Source: Futility Closet

I certainly would not have cut the mus-TARD at WQXR! I would have pronounced at least 12 of them differently:

  • flaccid FLA-sid
  • inexplicable in-ex-PLIC-able
  • lamentable lam-ENT-able
  • grimaced GRI-maced
  • conversant con-VER-sant
  • secretive SEE-kre-tiv
  • precedence PRE-sed-ens
  • vagary VEY-gar-y
  • consummate KON-summ-it
  • incognito in-kog-NI-toe


The Mystery of the Bermuda Triangle May Finally Be Solved

‘This strange region, that lies in the North Atlantic Ocean between Bermuda, Miami and San Juan, Puerto Rico, has been the presumed cause of dozens and dozens of mind-boggling disappearances of ships and planes. The Bermuda Triangle lore includes such stories as that of Flight 19, a group of 5 U.S. torpedo bombers that vanished in the Triangle in 1945. A rescue plane sent to look for them also disappeared. Other stories include the mystery of USS Cyclops, resulting in the largest non-combat loss of life in U.S. Navy’s history. The ship with a crew of 309 went missing in 1918. Even as recently as 2015, El Faro, a cargo ship with 33 on board vanished in the area.

Altogether, as far as we know, 75 planes and hundreds of ships met their demise in the Bermuda Triangle. Possible causes for the catastrophes have been proposed over time, ranging from the paranormal, electromagnetic interference that causes compass problems, bad weather, the gulf stream, and large undersea fields of methane.

Now, a new theory has been proposed by meteorologists…’

Source: Big Think

R.I.P. Tom Hayden

Civil Rights and Antiwar Activist Turned Lawmaker, Dies at 76

‘As a civil rights worker, he was beaten in Mississippi and jailed in Georgia. In his cell he began writing what became the Port Huron Statement, the political manifesto of S.D.S. and the New Left that envisioned an alliance of college students in a peaceful crusade to overcome what it called repressive government, corporate greed and racism. Its aim was to create a multiracial, egalitarian society.

Like his allies the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Senator Robert F. Kennedy, who were assassinated in 1968, Mr. Hayden opposed violent protests but backed militant demonstrations, like the occupation of Columbia University campus buildings by students and the burning of draft cards. He also helped plan protests that, as it happened, turned into clashes with the Chicago police outside the Democratic convention…’

Source: The New York Times obituary

What Do the Scary Clowns Want?

‘…When did clowns become scary? It turns out that even asking that question is evidence of a short cultural memory. Dark clowns go back centuries before Stephen King. As Benjamin Radford, author of the recent book “Bad Clowns,” points out, “It’s misleading to ask when clowns turned bad, for they were never really good.” …’

Source: NYTimes

Someone Is Learning How to Take Down the Internet

‘Over the past year or two, someone has been probing the defenses of the companies that run critical pieces of the Internet. These probes take the form of precisely calibrated attacks designed to determine exactly how well these companies can defend themselves, and what would be required to take them down. We don’t know who is doing this, but it feels like a large nation state. China or Russia would be my first guesses…’

Source: Schneier on Security

What Would Happen If a Presidental Candidate Refuses to Concede?

‘A concession is not required from the loser for the winning candidate to be sworn into office. Instead, they’re merely a political norm that provide a sense of closure for both campaigns. A concession is nothing more than a means to foster a peaceful end to a months-long (and often, as in this case, bitter) campaign. However, that doesn’t mean concessions aren’t important. Not making a concession speech could still have serious repercussions…’

Source: Lifehacker

There’s already a “Nasty Woman” t-shirt you can buy

‘At the third presidential debate…, Donald Trump indicated he will refuse to accept the election results, ranted about ninth-month abortions, and generally went full conspiracy-theorist. But the punchline to his freakshow performance was muttering “she’s such a nasty woman” as Clinton talked of raising taxes on the richest Americans. The t-shirt is already yours to buy, with half the proceeds going to charity…’

Source: Boing Boing

Remember When We Thought Climate Change Would Matter This Election?

‘This was supposed to be the election where climate change really mattered. Only, anyone watching the presidential debates wouldn’t have a clue that 1) 2016 has been history’s hottest year on record, and 2) our future leaders give any sort of crap about it. Climate change was mostly ignored during the last three debates, mentioned only in passing, and never discussed directly or at length. In fact, I’m fairly sure that Americans know more about Donald Trump’s sexual proclivities than his environmental policies (hint, hint: he doesn’t have any)…’

Source: Motherboard

We are seeing strange X-ray flares that defy explanation

I love me a good astronomical mystery:

‘In 2005, a very strange event was observed. An unknown object, not detectable through visible light, released an intense flare of X-rays. It took about a minute for the flare to reach its full brightness, about 90 times brighter than its resting output and about a million times as bright as the Sun. The flare lasted for about an hour before petering out. Four years later, it flared up again.

X-ray flares are not unheard of, but this event defied classification. Astronomers normally look at the length of the flares as well as how often they occur to determine what kinds of processes produce them. These flares don’t match any known mechanism, making them mysterious indeed.

To find out more, a team of researchers decided to look over archival data from the Chandra and XMM-Newton space observatories. They wondered if similar phenomena are taking place anywhere else in the Universe. If so, it might provide clues about the nature of these strange flares. And the researchers weren’t disappointed. Their search, which included 70 nearby galaxies, turned up two more such flares…’

Source: Ars Technica

Imagine if Donald Trump Controlled the NSA

‘When Edward Snowden first came forward in 2013 as the leaker of the biggest trove of National Security Agency secrets ever spilled, he ended his first interview by noting that his greatest concern was about the agency’s future. He feared that a less scrupulous commander-in-chief would take charge of the executive branch and with it, the most highly resourced surveillance agency in the world, ready to be exploited in new and troubling ways. “There will be nothing the people can do at that point to oppose it,” Snowden warned. “And it will be turnkey tyranny.”

Three years later, America has watched Donald Trump praise foreign dictators from Kim Jong Un to Vladimir Putin, vow to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate his opponent, Hillary Clinton, if he’s elected, and call for Russian hackers to dig up Clinton’s emails. “I wish I had that power,” he later said in a campaign speech. “Man, that would be power.” If that statement didn’t sufficiently reveal Trump’s lust for surveillance capabilities, he reportedly listened in on phone calls between staff and guests at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach in the mid-2000s.

…NSA alumni as well as critics are concerned that Trump may be exactly the turnkey tyrant Snowden had in mind.“This is someone who displays a kind of personal vindictiveness that makes Nixon look Christlike,” says Julian Sanchez, a privacy-focused research fellow for the Cato Institute. “There’s every reason to be worried about those instincts and how they’d lead him to attempt to abuse this surveillance power.”

The only way to tyrant-proof the White House is to not elect a tyrant. To be sure, Trump appears to have a very slim chance of winning November’s election. But setting aside lopsided poll numbers and imagining what a President Trump might do with the NSA raises the broader question of how tyrant-proof the agency really is: whether its vast surveillance powers are held in check by law or simply by the discretion of the people who control it…’

Source: WIRED

With One Tweet, Trump Could Sabotage the Presidential Election

‘Now, a single tweet from Trump (see, for example, his tweets about Alicia Machado’s supposed sex tape) can dominate the news cycle for weeks. If a conspiracy like birtherism could take root and metastasize back then, what sort of power will Trump have now that millions of people voted to make him the most powerful man in the world? And now that a web of niche media outlets like Breitbart, whose former executive chairman Steve Bannon now runs the Trump campaign, will be there to validate and disseminate his every utterance?..’

Source: WIRED

You Are Opening Your Car Door Wrong

‘Bicycle lanes can be a boon for cyclists but they can also land riders in the “door zone,” a dangerous area sandwiched between primary vehicle lanes and parked cars. In the long term, cities may need to continue designing better solutions to accommodate bicyclists, but in the meantime: drivers could learn a thing or two from a practice found in Europe. Retired doctor Michael Charney calls it the “Dutch Reach” and it addresses a serious problem on the streets of America.

The phenomenon of bikers getting hit by an opening car door is so common it has its own term: dooring. According to a study in Chicago, as many as 1 in 5 bicycle accidents involve car doors – in total, there is an average of nearly one dooring per day in the Windy City. Even when bikers swerve to avoid doors, they can end up getting hit by cars. Separating bike lanes can work but it also takes time and money. In the meantime, there may be another path toward curbing this danger.

For decades now in the Netherlands, many drivers have been trained (and tested for their licenses) on a behavior that dramatically reduces the risk of doorings…

“The Dutch Reach is a practice where instead of using your near hand — usually the driver’s left hand — to open your car door, you use your far hand. Your right hand,” Charney told The World. “In doing that, you automatically swivel your body. And you position your head and shoulders so you are looking directly out. First, past the rearview mirror. And then, you are very easily able to look back and see if there are oncoming bicycles or cars or whatever.”The simplicity of the approach is part of its genius. It trades one basic habit for an easy alternative, a cheaper and faster fix than pricey and prolonged infrastructural overhauls.’

Source: 99% Invisible

The perpetual lineup: Half of US adults in a face-recognition database

‘Half of American adults are in a face-recognition database, according to a Georgetown University study released Tuesday. That means there’s about 117 million adults in a law enforcement facial-recognition database, the study by Georgetown’s Center on Privacy & Technology says.”We are not aware of any agency that requires warrants for searches or limits them to serious crimes,” the study says.The report (PDF), titled “The Perpetual Line-up: Unregulated Police Face Recognition in America,” shows that one-fourth of the nation’s law enforcement agencies have access to face-recognition databases, and their use by those agencies is virtually unregulated…’

Source: Ars Technica

MIT’s Fusion Reactor Broke a World Record Right Before the Feds Shut It Off

‘…Unfortunately, the record was hit right before the Alcator C-Mod reactor, the world’s only compact, high-magnetic field fusion reactor of the tokamak design, was pulled offline for good. After 23 years of operation, the Department of Energy has canceled its support for MIT’s record-smashing device due to the fact that a gigantic, $30 billion superconducting reactor in France, called ITER, is now devouring the lion’s share of our fusion research dollars. Depending on who you talk to, ITER is either the future of fusion energy, or a bloated, bureaucratic mess that’ll stall progress in the field for the next twenty years. Either way, MIT’s fusion program, which has over the years attracted some of the most brilliant minds in plasma physics, has effectively been castrated…’

Source: Gizmodo

A Republican office was attacked. Here’s how Democrats helped in response.

Via Upworthy:

‘People across the political spectrum condemned the attack.’

You’ll either believe that Dems came to the aid of the firebombed Republican office out of a fierce devotion to democratic principles or because they saw a tremendous P.R. opportunity.

In fact, wouldn’t Trump, suffused with conspiracy theory rhetoric about the rigging of the election, insist that the point of the firebombing was to provide Clinton’s forces with just such an opportunity to save the day?

Pas de Deux

‘In Pale Fire, Nabokov notes an “absolutely extraordinary, unbelievably elegant” verbal curiosity: “A newspaper account of a Russian tsar’s coronation had, instead of korona (crown), the misprint vorona (crow), and when next day this was apologetically ‘corrected,’ it got misprinted a second time as korova (cow). “

The artistic correlation between the crown-crow-cow series and the Russian korona–vorona–korova series is something that would have, I am sure, enraptured my poet,” he wrote. “I have seen nothing like it on lexical playfields and the odds against the double coincidence defy computation.” ‘

Source: Futility Closet

WikiLeaks Claims ‘State Actor’ Has Cut Off Assange’s Internet

‘One of Julian Assange’s only ways of communicating with the outside world from within the Ecuadorian Embassy in London has been disconnected, according to WikiLeaks.

WikiLeaks claims that a “state actor” has cut off Assange’s internet access, with the group’s Twitter account confirming on the morning of October 17 that Assange’s connection has been “intentionally severed” and contingency plans are being activated. It’s unclear what those contingency plans may be and Motherboard was unable to verify Wikileaks’ claim. The Ecuadorian Embassy also did not immediately provide Motherboard with any more information.

WikiLeaks’ tweet came after the organisation posted on Sunday night what were rumored to be the “dead man keys” to documents; encryption keys that would allow for the publication of leaked documents. Users on Twitter and Reddit suggested that these tweets indicated Assange had been killed, and that these documents should be revealed in the wake of his death.

But these rumors were shut down by WikiLeaks’ Kelly Kolisnik. “Julian Assange is alive and well,” Kolisnik tweeted. “Rumors circulating that he tweeted out a ‘Dead Mans’ switch are completely false and baseless.”

And as Gizmodo points out, these 64-character codes are likely for “pre-commitment,” a way to prove that when documents are released in the future, their content has not been tampered with.

The flurry of rumors surrounding the state of Assange come as WikiLeaks continues to release documents related to hacked emails from Hillary Clinton’s campaign advisor, John Podesta. Assange, speaking earlier in October, said that he would aim to publish documents on a weekly basis in the run up to Election Day on November 8…’

Source: Motherboard



Hospital Ward Gripped by Mysterious Hallucinations Quarantined After Five Fall Ill

‘This week, an emergency room in the Pacific Northwest was briefly quarantined after five people—including two police officers and a hospital worker—experienced mysterious hallucinations from an unidentified illness believed to be spread by touch. According to Oregon Live, the enigmatic incident began early Wednesday morning when a 54-year-old caregiver in North Bend, Oregon, called police to report seven or eight people “trying to take the roof off her vehicle.” Police say they found nothing, but after the caregiver reported the unseen vandals a second time, sheriff’s deputies escorted her to a nearby hospital for suspected hallucinations.

Shortly afterward, however, one of the deputies began experiencing similar symptoms and returned to the hospital. Soon after that, the other deputy, a hospital worker and the caregiver’s 78-year-old patient also began hallucinating and were hospitalized. A hazmat team was subsequently deployed to both the hospital and the initial residence, but was unable to locate a common source of contamination. Blood tests also failed to find anything unusual. “The vehicles, equipment and uniforms have been checked with no contaminates identified or located on or about them.” Authorities say the investigation is ongoing…’

Source: Gizmodo

Mysterious environmental contaminant or mass hysteria?

What we lose when we lose the world’s frogs

‘Last month, a frog died in an Atlanta botanical garden. With it went an entire species never to hop along the Earth again. Biologists at Zoo Atlanta who’d looked after the frog for the past 12 years called him “Toughie.” He was a charismatic, glossy-eyed specimen and the very last Rabbs’ fringe-limbed tree frog in the world.

…Frog like the Rabbs’ and other amphibians are dying off at an alarming rate. It’s estimated that 200 species of frogs have gone extinct since the 1970s, and many fear it’s a harbinger of greater biodiversity loss that will come for birds, fish, and mammals too. Ecologists fear that the planet is in the midst of a mass extinction — the sixth in the long history of life on Earth. And it’s looking like amphibians are the most at-risk class of vertebrates.This is particularly disturbing because amphibians — which include frogs, salamanders, and caecilians (they look like worms crossed with snakes) — have been around for hundreds of millions of years…’

Source: Vox

Why the hell is the US helping Saudi Arabia bomb Yemen?

‘The United States has, for more than a year now, been quietly participating in a Saudi-led war against the Houthis, providing valuable logistical support for Saudi Arabia’s airstrikes. So this missile exchange isn’t something out of the blue. It’s an escalation of current US policy, moving from indirect to direct participation in the Saudi offensive. The problem, though, is that the Saudi campaign is utterly vicious…’

Source:  Vox

October Has Been a Great Month for Climate Action

‘After a summer marked by record temperatures around the globe, the world wrapped up beach season with a particularly distressing bit of climate news last month: atmospheric carbon levels have reached 400 ppm, a dreaded climate milestone from which there’s no going back.

Fortunately, this bummer of a development was almost immediately followed by announcements detailing the launch or finalization of a host of landmark climate deals around the globe over the last two weeks. Many of these agreements have been in negotiation for years and are notable for their fundamentally international scope, a necessary facet of effective climate legislation.The question, of course, is whether these historic deals are too little too late, but in the absence of a crystal ball, here’s a rundown of the importance (and limitations) of these agreements and what to expect in the future.

Fortunately, this bummer of a development was almost immediately followed by announcements detailing the launch or finalization of a host of landmark climate deals around the globe over the last two weeks. Many of these agreements have been in negotiation for years and are notable for their fundamentally international scope, a necessary facet of effective climate legislation.The question, of course, is whether these historic deals are too little too late, but in the absence of a crystal ball, here’s a rundown of the importance (and limitations) of these agreements and what to expect in the future.

The question, of course, is whether these historic deals are too little too late, but in the absence of a crystal ball, here’s a rundown of the importance (and limitations) of these agreements and what to expect in the future…’

Source: Motherboard

The Addiction Treatment and Rehab Industries Need to Clean Up Their Act

‘No one argues that the American addiction treatment system is anywhere near optimal — even its cheerleaders recognize that there’s miles to go before all people with addiction have access to respectful, ethical, effective, and evidence-based care. Worse, the past year has seen myriad media exposes and financial, sexual, and maltreatment scandals.

Of course, done right, addiction treatment can transform lives, with a hugely positive impact on society. It is often the difference between life and death, or between a productive recovery and a life of despair. Yet all too often that opportunity is being blown.So what is the best way forward? And what are the biggest steps the industry itself can take to improve?

So what is the best way forward? And what are the biggest steps the industry itself can take to improve? …’

Source: Pacific Standard

Trump supporters are already promising to intimidate nonwhite voters on Election Day

‘In the weeks leading up to the presidential election, Donald Trump has urged his followers to spend time on Election Day intimidating nonwhite voters. He tells them that after they vote on November 8, it’s their duty to go en masse to “some other place” and make sure that no one’s engaging in voter fraud. “Go sit there with your friends and make sure it’s on the up-and-up,” he’s said.

Trump doesn’t explicitly say the “other place” needs to be somewhere nonwhite people are voting. Sometimes he says “specific areas”; on one occasion, during an appearance in Pennsylvania, he called out Philadelphia.But at least some of his supporters are picking up on the subtext. And some are openly admitting to reporters — like Matt Viser and Tracy Jan of the Boston Globe — that they’re going to engage in some “racial profiling” at the polls, and make supposedly foreign-looking voters “a little bit nervous.”

But at least some of his supporters are picking up on the subtext. And some are openly admitting to reporters — like Matt Viser and Tracy Jan of the Boston Globe — that they’re going to engage in some “racial profiling” at the polls, and make supposedly foreign-looking voters “a little bit nervous.” …’

Source: Vox

Why this political scientist thinks Congress will be even more broken in 2017

‘Liberals are feeling better than they have in months about the congressional elections. Donald Trump’s recent implosion risks bringing down the rest of his party with him, opening up the possibility that Democrats can win back not only the Senate but also the House of Representatives this November.

But while the news may look good for congressional Democrats right now, there’s also reason to believe they’ll be dealing with an even more ferocious opposition party in 2017.

And that’s because the House Republicans set to lose this fall are among the most moderate members of their caucus. In turn, that will only increase the relative influence of the 15 or so “Freedom Caucus” hard-liners making up the Republicans’ most conservative faction, according to Georgetown political scientist Michele Swers…’

Source: Vox

Cut Ties to Donald Trump, Big Donors Urge R.N.C.

It sounds as if support for Trump is in freefall not necessarily with voters but where it matters — with big money backers. “He is a dangerous demagogue completely unsuited to the responsibilities of a United States president,” said one $3M contributor. “Even for loyalists, there is a line beyond which the obvious moral failings of a candidate are impossible to disregard,” he wrote. “That line has been clearly breached.”


And poor RNC chairman Reince Priebus is having sleepless nights as he watches years of careful GOP organizing unravel. But, incredibly enough, the article cites many others who still cling to a concept of loyalty to this sexual abuser and feel that bailing on him would be cowardice.

Source: New York Times

‘Saturn on Steroids’

‘About 400 light years from our solar system, there is a celestial body that looks like Saturn on steroids. Its rings are about 200 times larger than its counterpart here, measuring about 75 million miles in diameter. The ring system is so large, in fact, that scientists aren’t sure why it doesn’t get ripped apart by the gravity of the star it orbits.

One reason the rings might stay intact has to do with the direction in which they spin around the object at their center, called J1407b. Scientists are not sure whether J1407b is a gigantic planet that measures many times larger than Saturn, or a failed star called a brown dwarf.’

Source: New York Times

Oh, Man

As a psychiatrist, I’m finding it really difficult to bite my tongue and avoid doing pronouncements about Trump’s evident (and considerable) psychopathology. But there is an ethical mandate in my profession to avoid armchair diagnosis when one has no treatment relationship with someone and has not examined them face-to-face. So I think I’ll just continue to call him names instead.

“Donald Trump’s wild new rhetoric isn’t about winning — it’s about what comes next”

Fascinating thinking by Matt Yglesias (Vox). He notes that, while complaining about media coverage is nothing new from a political campaign, Trump goes further with “a wholesale, broad-brush effort to entirely discredit the entire existing media ecosystem… Trump’s thesis is not that reporters are out of touch with the struggles of ordinary Americans or implicitly biased in favor of liberals. He argues instead that the whole enterprise is root and branch untrustworthy…” and that scapegoating the media will be the explanation for the faithful about why he lost the election (as he surely will). This will be his route to rehabilitating his unflattering image with the wider universe of conservatives who feel he has blown what should have been a very winnable race for the GOP.

“And the media is in many ways a perfect scapegoat, because it sets up Trump for a next act… Trump is likely setting himself up as a media entrepreneur.”

The CEO of his campaign, Steve Bannon, used to run Breitbart.com, where he has shown savvy in building a digital conservative brand. Combine that with the “on-camera talent” of Trump himself, as a reality TV host, and his friend Sean Hannity (thought to be considering a departure from Fox News). Add into the mix Roger Ailes, who built the Fox juggernaut before his recent ouster for sexual harassment; and Trump’s so-in-law Jared Kushner, who owns the New York Observer. Looks like the right mix to “operate a successful media company, folding the existing Breitbart and Hannity franchises together with the Trump brand to form Trump TV or Trump Media.” But this would only work if this blowhard with a pathological inability to take responsibility for any of his failings can successfully overcome the stink of a loser, A “campaign to scapegoat the establishment press for Trump’s electoral defeat makes the perfect exit strategy.”


Read Donald Trump’s bizarre, frightening speech responding to sexual assault allegations

‘At a rally in West Palm Beach, Florida, Donald Trump fired back against the accusations from women that he had sexually assaulted them. He said the New York Times story claiming he had assaulted a woman on an airplane was a “totally fabricated and false story.”

He seemed to imply that a People magazine reporter who accused him of kissing her against her will wasn’t attractive enough: “Take a look. You look at her. Look at her words. You tell me what you think. I don’t think so.”

He said he was preparing a lawsuit against the New York Times, saying reporters “collaborate and conspire directly with the Clinton campaign.”

And Trump’s rants didn’t stop there. He attacked Hillary Clinton, saying she should be “locked up”; accused the “Clinton machine” of engaging in a historically unprecedented cover-up; and said Clinton “meets in secret with international banks to plot the destruction of US sovereignty.”

A partial transcript follows…’

Source: Vox

Reminder: the vast majority of Republican politicians are still on the Trump train

‘Two-thirds of Republican senators are still supporting Trump, as are an even higher proportion of House of Representatives members and a majority of GOP governors.The RNC under Reince Priebus is still enthusiastically supporting Trump, despite some rumors to the contrary. The GOP’s top House and Senate leaders — including Paul Ryan — are still endorsing Trump, despite Ryan saying he won’t campaign with Trump or defend him (which he already wasn’t doing).

Several top conservative evangelical leaders are still backing Trump. And many top 2020 Republican contenders, including Sens. Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and Tom Cotton, haven’t renounced Trump, some more reluctantly than others. All this remains true even after Trump’s leaked tape scandal. There has all along been a larger than usual group of prominent party members who were refusing to back Trump (including the Bush family, Mitt Romney, John Kasich, and a few senators and governors).That group did get a little bigger this weekend, most notably through the addition of Sen. John McCain. But then it got a little smaller, when Fischer and Thune got cold feet. And all along, it was very clearly a minority in Republican politics. Overall, the dam is still holding.

All this remains true even after Trump’s leaked tape scandal. There has all along been a larger than usual group of prominent party members who were refusing to back Trump (including the Bush family, Mitt Romney, John Kasich, and a few senators and governors).That group did get a little bigger this weekend, most notably through the addition of Sen. John McCain. But then it got a little smaller, when Fischer and Thune got cold feet. And all along, it was very clearly a minority in Republican politics. Overall, the dam is still holding…’

Source: Vox

The Night When Charlie Parker Played for Igor Stravinsky (1951)

‘The history of 20th-century music offers plenty of stories of luminaries meeting, playing together, and sometimes even entering into long-term collaboration. But it typically only happened within traditions: encounters between rock and rock, jazz and jazz, modernism and modernism. And so it still thrills to hear of the time in 1951 when Charlie Parker added one more story to the most storied jazz club of all by performing for Igor Stravinsky at Birdland…’

Source: Open Culture

How U.S. Torture Left a Legacy of Damaged Minds

‘Over many months, The New York Times did what the United States government has not — examine the long-term mental harm of torture and coercive methods used in C.I.A. prisons and Guantánamo Bay.
Many of the men subjected to such treatment have emerged with the same psychological symptoms as tortured American P.O.W.s…’

Source: The New York Times, via abby

Selections from Vox’s Quality Trump Coverage Today

5 compelling reasons to stop calling Trump’s comments “locker room talk”: Donald Trump and his surrogates have been trying to dismiss the leaked tape that turned his campaign upside-down as being just “locker room talk.” He did so in a written statement immediately following the tape’s release, and during Sunday night’s presidential debate when he repeatedly dodged Anderson Cooper’s direct questions about what he said on the tape.But let’s be clear: The footage features Donald Trump bragging about sexually assaulting women.

The Daily Show dismantles Trump’s nonsense excuse about “locker room talk”: “If you conduct ‘locker room talk’ everywhere, it’s not the locker room,” Trevor Noah said. “It’s you.”

Dear Donald Trump: I played in the NFL. Here’s what we really talk about in the locker room. You’re wrong, and only the type of wrong an over-tanned ham hock like yourself can accomplish, plummeting past the morass of gross incivility into the abyss of depraved sociopathy. — Chris Kluwe.

Why Donald Trump’s furious tweetstorm at Paul Ryan is so revealing: He’s trailing Hillary Clinton by double digits in some polls, but Donald Trump has now adopted a promising strategy that could rejuvenate his flailing campaign.Haha, just kidding! Trump has decided to declare war on his own party via Twitter, attacking Paul Ryan and turning the GOP into a circular firing squad just four weeks from Election Day.

Watch Samantha Bee take down Donald Trump with the “vagina monologue” he deserves: “In fact, ‘Take a Tic Tac and grab them by the pussy’ is the closest thing to a plan Trump has described this election,” Bee said.

Trump: Warren Buffett avoids taxes like me. Buffett: Nope, and here’s my taxes to prove it.  As a final knife twist, Buffett notes that he is currently being audited — but is releasing information from his return anyway, since that is totally allowed, despite Trump’s protests to the contrary.

Donald Trump’s threat to imprison Hillary Clinton is a threat to democracy: There is no way to sugarcoat this: At Sunday night’s presidential debate, Donald Trump threatened to throw Hillary Clinton in jail if he wins the presidency. This — threatening to jail one’s political opponents — is how democratic norms die.

Psychedelic microdosing makes inroads in Silicon Valley

‘LSD and mushrooms in one-tenth doses are becoming more popular among you professionals, especially in the tech industry. Since 2010, on the advice of LSD’s [discoverer] Albert Hofmann, Dr. James Fadiman has been encouraging dozen of contacts to keep journals of their experiences microdosing, usually a couple of times a week…’

Source: Boing Boing

Trump’s Vile Game of Distraction

‘Plenty of columnists have already highlighted how nauseating the GOP’s moral calculus has been. Donald Trump was tolerable when he depicted Mexican immigrants as rapists and murderers. He was fine when he proposed shredding the First Amendment to restrict Muslims from entering the country. He was fine insulting POWs and the parents of a soldier killed in action. He was fine when he mocked the disabled and when he framed womanhood as its own disability. He was fine with his history of racist housing discrimination, and he was even fine early Friday afternoon, when he reasserted the guilt of the Central Park 5 – all minorities, all exonerated by DNA evidence.

But later that afternoon, it turned out that he went after white women – apparently literally, with his hands. He went after people who vote for Republicans in numbers. Suddenly, after 17 months, there were real victims involved. The imminent GOP crack-up seemed like all it needed was someone to give it a big push…’

Source: Rolling Stone

Predators in Arms

As Paul Krugman puts it, ‘Is there a partisan pattern here?’ Although Republicans are trying to distance themselves from Trump after his boasts about sexual assault, no one should be fooled that the GOP has any enduring concern about the matter. Trump is not an anomaly here; he is rather a pure distillation of his party’s predatory values.

Source: The New York Times

Vox Covers the Trump Outrage

Republicans shouldn’t be demanding Trump apologize — they should apologize for backing him


Mike Pence enabled Donald Trump. Stop saying he’d make a good president.


You shouldn’t need a daughter to know Trump’s behavior is disgusting and wrong

Trump to Howard Stern: You can call my daughter a “piece of ass”


GOP elites are renouncing Trump. And some of their voters aren’t happy about it.


Billy Bush demonstrated to Trump how easy it is to get away with misogyny


61 insults, 39 women: Trump’s long history of misogyny


Donald Trump’s history of misogyny, sexism, and harassment: a comprehensive review


A Trump collapse could give Democrats back the House. Here’s the math.


Here’s what happens if Trump drops out


Trump’s leaked comments aren’t surprising. They fit a long pattern of abusive behavior.


There is no “real” Donald Trump. This is who he is.


More and more Republicans in Congress are withdrawing support from Trump


Donald Trump On Getting Women: “Grab Them By The Pussy”

‘The Washington Post has just published a video of Donald Trump on the set of Days of Our Lives in 2005. In it, Donald J. Trump, the Republican candidate for the presidency of the United States, is heard describing how he likes to sexually assault women. The entire clip is gross and horrifying, even for Donald Trump. Here are some of the choicer quotes from a man who has said that he “would be the best for women” …’

Source: Deadspin

Mike Pence: the Real Extremist on the GOP Ticket

Mike Pence identifies himself first as a Christian. However, despite looking squeaky-clean, down home and humble,  some of his more unique distinctions are quite un-Christian — doing nasty things to vulnerable people.

‘The irony is that Trump appears to be the extremist when he is a hollow grifter with a personality disorder. Mike Pence is the real deal.”

Pence has:

— signed a law banning abortions of fetuses with Downs syndrome and other genetic conditions and forcing a woman to bury or cremate fetal remains even after a miscarriage

— signed a law (later overturned on constitutional grounds) legalizing anti-LGBT discrimination by people, churches and businesses

— faced with a devastating HIV outbreak in a small poor Indiana town, he ignored the criris for months, opposed a needed needle exchange and only under mounting pressure from health officials, legislators and the press conceded he should go home and “pray on it.”. Still opposing needle exchange, he is rumored to have instructed the state legislature to provide so little support for similar programs in five more Indiana counties faced with HIV outbreaks as to ensure the failure of these programs.

— His other idea for the prevention of the HIV epidemic? Mandatory conversion therapy to “de-gay” people, often youth pressured by homophobic parents.

— opposed FDA regulation of cigarettes on the grounds that “despite the hysteria from the political class and the media, smoking doesn’t kill.”

— led GOP efforts to destroy Planned Parenthood, at one point threatening to shut down the government if funding for the organization was in the appropriations bill

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Source: AlterNet

Can great apes read your mind?

‘For a long time, many researchers have believed that a major reason human beings alone exhibit unique forms of communication, cooperation and culture is that we’re the only animals to have a complete theory of mind. But is this ability really unique to humans? …Our new findings suggest, however, that great apes may actually be a bit more similar to us than we previously thought…’

Source: The onversation

Mike Pence is gaslighting America

Video of Mike Pence denying Trump said any of the horrible, racist, stupid, uninformed and generally embarrassing things he spouts all day long, matched with Trump saying the stuff.

Source: Boing Boing

[A commenter said, “Someone please tell Mike Pence who his running mate is.”]

Astronomers Spot a Massive Black Hole That’s Gone Rogue

‘A massive black hole that’s more than 100,000 times the mass of our sun has been detected in the outer regions of a galaxy located about 4.5 billion light years from Earth. Astronomers suspect that this “wandering” black hole was originally located at the core of a smaller galaxy, but it became dislodged during a merger with a larger one. Now homeless, it’s settled into the outer reaches of the usurping galaxy.

Black holes—objects so heavy that not even light can escape them—come in a range of sizes. Stellar black holes measure about 10 miles across, and are up to 20 times heavier than our sun. Massive black holes, or so-called intermediate black holes, are 100 to 100,000 times heavier than our sun. At the top of the scale are supermassive black holes, which have upper masses ranging between 100,000 to 10 billion times that of the sun.

Both intermediate black holes and supermassive black holes are parked at the center of their galaxies, but astronomers have theorized about the existence of “rogue” black holes—objects that have been jostled away from their galactic cores following a collision with a galaxy containing its own massive black hole. The stars, dust, and gas from the second galaxy would disperse through the first one—along with its now displaced black hole…’

Source: Gizmodo

Under Hawaii’s Starriest Skies, a Fight Over Sacred Ground

‘Telescopes on a sacred mountain constitute a form of “colonial violence,” in the words of J. Kehaulani Kauanui, an anthropologist at Wesleyan University.

Or as Robert Kirshner, a Harvard professor who is now also chief science officer at the Moore Foundation, put it, “The question in that case become not so much whether you did the environmental impact statement right, but whose island is it?” …’

Source: The New York Times

A woman had a baby. Then her hospital charged her $39.35 to hold it.

‘The image of the bill, now shared widely on Reddit, shows a charge for “skin to skin after c sec.” The Reddit user who posted it explained more in a few comments. He wasn’t exactly mad about the charge — he said the hospital did a great job delivering his son. Instead, it more of spoke to the absurdity of American health care…’

Source: Vox

The Monks Who Spent Years Turning Themselves into Mummies—While Alive

‘The Japanese climate is not exactly conducive to mummification. There are no peat bogs, no arid deserts, and no alpine peaks perennially encased in ice. The summers are hot and humid. Yet somehow a group of Buddhist monks from the Shingon sect discovered a way to mummify themselves through rigorous ascetic training in the shadow of a particularly sacred peak in the mountainous northern prefecture of Yamagata.

Between 1081 and 1903, at least 17 monks managed to mummify themselves. The number may well be higher, however, as it is likely some mummies were never recovered from the alpine tombs.

These monks undertook such a practice in emulation of a ninth-century monk named Kūkai, known posthumously as Kōbō Daishi, who founded the esoteric Shingon school of Buddhism in 806. In the 11th century a hagiography of Kūkai appeared claiming that, upon his death in 835, the monk did not die at all, but crawled into his tomb and entered nyūjō, a state of meditation so profound that it induces suspended animation. According to this hagiography, Kūkai plans to emerge in approximately 5.67 million years to usher a predetermined number of souls into nirvana.’

Continue to read for a detailed and harrowing description of the three-year process leading to mummification before death, via Atlas Obscura

11 incredibly negative stories surrounding the Trump campaign right now

donald-trump-cartoon‘Trump has too long a history of being Trump to ever make a concrete shift toward being presidential… Remember that moment in the first presidential debate when Trump gave an angered speech about how good his temperament is. Yeah. That’s what we’re talking about.’

Source: Vox

Although these pieces may seem tiresome, I feel it is incredibly important we keep them in the public eye to prevent being inured to Trump’s incompetence and menace.

11 Hidden Spots to Enter the Underworld

‘…Though names may differ from one set of teachings to another, almost every religion on the planet features the concept of an underworld—a place to which the souls of the dead are banished, for penance or punishment. So in honor of 31 Days of Halloween, we mined the Atlas for the various purported entrances to the netherworld, scattered across the globe, ranging from Mayan caves to Japanese swamps. But remember: If you should decide to visit any of these sites, it should be noted by way of a disclaimer that we take no responsibility whatsoever for the consequences of your attempts to open an infernal portal…’

Source: Atlas Obscura

The UFO Expert Who Doesn’t Believe in Aliens

‘One of the world’s foremost experts on the subject of flying saucers doesn’t believe in alien abduction, little green men, or government cover-ups one bit. Instead, author and saucer aficionado Jack Womack is interested in the people who believe that they’ve seen UFOs. He’s so fascinated by these true believers, in fact, that he’s collected nearly every single book — some of which there were only handful of copies printed — by authors who claim to have seen flying saucers.

“I can study TB without catching it, preferably, and I can be a student of the Bible without being a Christian,” Womack says, explaining his intense interest in these claims without actually believing any of them. “I collected these books because they gave me the same kind of escapism kicks other people get from reading science fiction, or my friends get from writing it.” …’

Source:  Inverse

Earth’s Most Beautiful and Trafficked Creatures Finally Get Protection

‘The pangolin is the only known mammal with scales. Pangolins are beautiful, precious little creatures, often likened to an artichoke with legs. According to NPR, they’re also the world’s most trafficked mammals. Luckily for these little cuties, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, or CITES, has officially banned commercial trading of pangolins…’

Source: Gizmodo

The Terrorist Inside Robin Williams’ Brain

‘The journal Neurology published a unique and touching paper today: it’s by artist Susan Schneider Williams, the widow of actor Robin Williams, who died by suicide in August 2014. It’s titled The terrorist inside my husband’s brain, the ‘terrorist’ being Lewy Body disease (LBD), the neurodegenerative disorder that, as Schneider Williams recounts, destroyed his life…’

Source: Neuroskeptic

Whatever is actually in Trump’s tax returns is worse than what the New York Times says

‘All the Times has is three pages of Trump’s records from 1995. Everything else is informed speculation, extrapolation, and the word “could,” which appears again and again through the article.

Think about how dangerous that was for the paper. Trump could have released his tax returns and proven them wrong. Trump could have shown their speculation to be mere speculation, and used it as a cudgel to discredit their reporting on his campaign. The Times was far, far out on a limb.

But the Times bet correctly. Trump still isn’t releasing his returns. And here’s what that means: whatever is in his returns is worse than what the New York Times is telling the world is in his returns. The Trump campaign has decided it prefers the picture the Times is painting — a picture where Trump didn’t pay taxes for 18 years — to the picture Trump’s real records would paint.

What is in those returns? ‘

Source: Vox

The psychology behind why clowns creep us out

‘For the past several months, creepy clowns have been terrorizing America, with sightings of actual clowns in at least 10 different states.

These fiendish clowns have reportedly tried to lure women and children into the woods, chased people with knives and machetes, and yelled at people from cars. They’ve been spotted hanging out in cemeteries and they have been caught in the headlights of cars as they appear alongside desolate country roads in the dead of night.

This isn’t the first time there has been a wave of clown sightings in the United States. After eerily similar events occurred in the Boston area in the 1980s, Loren Coleman, a cryptozoologist who studies the folklore behind mythical beasts such as Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster, came up with something called “The Phantom Clown Theory,” which attributes the proliferation of clown sightings to mass hysteria (usually sparked by incidents witnessed only by children).

It’s impossible to determine which of these incidents are hoaxes and which are bona fide tales of clowning around taken to the extreme. Nonetheless, the perpetrators seem to be capitalizing on our longstanding love-hate relationship with clowns, tapping into the primal dread that so many children (and more than a few adults) experience in their presence.

In fact, a 2008 study conducted in England revealed that very few children actually like clowns. It also concluded that the common practice of decorating children’s wards in hospitals with pictures of clowns may create the exact opposite of a nurturing environment. It’s no wonder so many people hate Ronald McDonald.

But as a psychologist, I’m not just interested in pointing out that clowns give us the creeps; I’m also interested in why we find them so disturbing. Earlier this year I published a study entitled “On the Nature of Creepiness” with one of my students, Sara Koehnke, in the journal New Ideas in Psychology. While the study was not specifically looking at the creepiness of clowns, much of what we discovered can help explain this intriguing phenomenon…’

Source: The Conversation

Why Bruce Springsteen’s depression revelation matters

‘Springsteen has long been committed to social justice; in writing about depression, he has perhaps undertaken a new cause, one that seeks to combat the stereotypes and stigmas about mental illness that still exist today.

Struggles with mental illness are common and familiar among rock and pop stars. They include Beyoncé, Eric Clapton, Kurt Cobain, Sheryl Crow, Janet Jackson, Billy Joel, Jon Bon Jovi, Alicia Keys, Lady Gaga, John Lennon, Alanis Morissette and Brian Wilson. Were one also to include artists known to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol but otherwise undiagnosed, the list would be far longer. The medical literature, though limited, strongly indicates that being a rock star is a high-stress lifestyle.

But Springsteen’s disclosure is arguably unique because his image runs counter to stereotypes of depression. According to one study, for years the media has reinforced negative stereotypes of people with mental illness, often depicting them as “inadequate, unlikable, dangerous” and absent a “social identity: single or of unknown marital status, frequently without identifiable employment … confused, aggressive and unpredictable.”

These media depictions, according to public health scholar Heather Stuart, “also model negative reactions to the mentally ill, including fear, rejection, derision and ridicule” and “impair self-esteem, help-seeking behaviors, medication adherence and overall recovery.” Stuart blames the media for fueling much of the stereotypes of the mentally ill that persist today.

Springsteen, however, is a living, breathing repudiation of these media-fueled stereotypes…’

Source: The Conversation