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R.I.P. Erica Garner

1990-2017:

‘Erica Garner, the daughter of police brutality victim Eric Garner, died early Saturday aged 27. Inspired to activism by her father’s killing, she suffered a massive heart attack on Christmas Eve and fell into a coma…

Eric Garner was choked to death by New York police officer Daniel Pantaleo, who had attempted an illegal chokehold while arresting Garner for selling untaxed cigarettes. Pantaleo was not charged with a crime despite the death being ruled a homicide, and video of the attack being recorded by a bystander. The NYPD settled the family’s lawsuit for $5.9m to avoid a civil trial….’

Via Boing Boing

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New Year’s Customs and Rituals

New Year Sunrise
New Year Sunrise

This is the annual update of my New Year post, a longstanding FmH tradition. Please let me know if you find any dead links:

I once ran across a January 1st Boston Globe article compiling folkloric beliefs about what to do, what to eat, etc. on New Year’s Day to bring good fortune for the year to come. I’ve regretted since — I usually think of it around once a year (grin) — not clipping out and saving the article. Especially since we’ve had children, I’m interested in enduring traditions that go beyond getting drunk [although some comment that this is a profound enactment of the interdigitation of chaos and order appropriate to the New Year’s celebration — FmH], watching the bowl games and making resolutions.

Marteniza-ball

A web search brought me this, less elaborate than what I recall from the Globe but to the same point. It is weighted toward eating traditions, which is odd because, unlike most other major holidays, the celebration of New Year’s in 21st century America does not seem to be centered at all around thinking about what we eat (except in the sense of the traditional weight-loss resolutions!) and certainly not around a festive meal. But…

Traditionally, it was thought that one could affect the luck they would have throughout the coming year by what they did or ate on the first day of the year. For that reason, it has become common for folks to celebrate the first few minutes of a brand new year in the company of family and friends. Parties often last into the middle of the night after the ringing in of a new year. It was once believed that the first visitor on New Year’s Day would bring either good luck or bad luck the rest of the year. It was particularly lucky if that visitor happened to be a tall dark-haired man.

“Traditional New Year foods are also thought to bring luck. Many cultures believe that anything in the shape of a ring is good luck, because it symbolizes “coming full circle,” completing a year’s cycle. For that reason, the Dutch believe that eating donuts on New Year’s Day will bring good fortune.

blackeye_peas_bowl_text
Many parts of the U.S. celebrate the new year by consuming black-eyed peas. These legumes are typically accompanied by either hog jowls or ham. Black-eyed peas and other legumes have been considered good luck in many cultures. The hog, and thus its meat, is considered lucky because it symbolizes prosperity. Cabbage is another ‘good luck’ vegetable that is consumed on New Year’s Day by many. Cabbage leaves are also considered a sign of prosperity, being representative of paper currency. In some regions, rice is a lucky food that is eaten on New Year’s Day.”

English: Fireworks over Edinburgh on New Year'...
Fireworks over Edinburgh on New Year’s Eve

The further north one travels in the British Isles, the more the year-end festivities focus on New Year’s. The Scottish observance of Hogmanay has many elements of warming heart and hearth, welcoming strangers and making a good beginning:

“Three cornered biscuits called hogmanays are eaten. Other special foods are: wine, ginger cordial, cheese, bread, shortbread, oatcake, carol or carl cake, currant loaf, and a pastry called scones. After sunset people collect juniper and water to purify the home. Divining rituals are done according to the directions of the winds, which are assigned their own colors. First Footing: The first person who comes to the door on midnight New Year’s Eve should be a dark-haired or dark-complected man with gifts for luck. Seeing a cat, dog, woman, red-head or beggar is unlucky. The person brings a gift (handsel) of coal or whiskey to ensure prosperity in the New Year. Mummer’s Plays are also performed. The actors called the White Boys of Yule are all dressed in white, except for one dressed as the devil in black. It is bad luck to engage in marriage proposals, break glass, spin flax, sweep or carry out rubbish on New Year’s Eve.”

Here’s why we clink our glasses when we drink our New Year’s toasts, no matter where we are. Of course, sometimes the midnight cacophony is louder than just clinking glassware, to create a ‘devil-chasing din’.

In Georgia, eat black eyed peas and turnip greens on New Year’s Day for luck and prosperity in the year to come, supposedly because they symbolize coppers and currency. Hoppin’ John, a concoction of peas, onion, bacon and rice, is also a southern New Year’s tradition, as is wearing yellow to find true love (in Peru and elsewhere in South America, yellow underwear, apparently!) or carrying silver for prosperity. In some instances, a dollar bill is thrown in with the other ingredients of the New Year’s meal to bring prosperity. In Greece, there is a traditional New Year’s Day sweetbread with a silver coin baked into it. All guests get a slice of the bread and whoever receives the slice with the coin is destined for good fortune for the year. At Italian tables, lentils, oranges and olives are served. The lentils, looking like coins, will bring prosperity; the oranges are for love; and the olives, symbolic of the wealth of the land, represent good fortune for the year to come.

A New Year’s meal in Norway also includes dried cod, “lutefisk.” The Pennsylvania Dutch make sure to include sauerkraut in their holiday meal, also for prosperity.

In Spain, you would cram twelve grapes in your mouth at midnight, one each time the clock chimed, for good luck for the twelve months to come. (If any of the grapes happens to be sour, the corresponding month will not be one of your most fortunate in the coming year.) The U. S. version of this custom, for some reason, involves standing on a chair as you pop the grapes. In Denmark, jumping off a chair at the stroke of midnight signifies leaping into the New Year.
In Rio,

The crescent-shaped Copacabana beach… is the scene of an unusual New Year’s Eve ritual: mass public blessings by the mother-saints of the Macumba and Candomble sects. More than 1 million people gather to watch colorful fireworks displays before plunging into the ocean at midnight after receiving the blessing from the mother-saints, who set up mini-temples on the beach.

When taking the plunge, revelers are supposed to jump over seven waves, one for each day of the week.

This is all meant to honor Lamanjá, known as the “Mother of Waters” or “Goddess of the Sea.” Lamanjá protects fishermen and survivors of shipwrecks. Believers also like to throw rice, jewelry and other gifts into the water, or float them out into the sea in intimately crafted miniature boats, to please Lamanjá in the new year.

In many northern hemisphere cities near bodies of water, people also take a New Year’s Day plunge into the water, although of course it is an icy one! The Coney Island Polar Bears Club in New York is the oldest cold-water swimming club in the United States. They have had groups of people enter the chilly surf since 1903.

Ecuadorian families make scarecrows stuffed with newspaper and firecrackers and place them outside their homes. The dummies represent misfortunes of the prior year, which are then burned in effigy at the stroke of midnight to forget the old year. Bolivian families make beautiful little wood or straw dolls to hang outside their homes on New Year’s Eve to bring good luck.

1cdd196c97bc4886c7d0b3a9c1b3dd97In China, homes are cleaned spotless to appease the Kitchen God, and papercuttings of red paper are hung in the windows to scare away evil spirits who might enter the house and bring misfortune. Large papier mache dragon heads with long fabric bodies are maneuvered through the streets during the Dragon Dance festival, and families open their front doors to let the dragon bring good luck into their homes.

The Indian Diwali, or Dipawali, festival, welcoming in the autumnal season, also involves attracting good fortune with lights. Children make small clay lamps, dipas, thousands of which might adorn a given home. In Thailand, one pours fragrant water over the hands of elders on New Year’s Day to show them respect.

10768-revelry
Elsewhere:

  • a stack of pancakes for the New Year’s breakfast in France.
  • banging on friends’ doors in Denmark to “smash in” the New Year, where it is also a good sign to find your doorstep heaped with broken dishes on New Year’s morning. Old dishes are saved all years to throw at your friends’ homes on New Year’s Eve. The more broken pieces you have, the greater the number of new friends you will have in the forthcoming twelve months.
  • going in the front door and out the back door at midnight in Ireland.
  • making sure the First Footer, the first person through your door in the New Year in Scotland, is a tall dark haired visitor.
  • water out the window at midnight in Puerto Rico rids the home of evil spirits.
  • cleanse your soul in Japan at the New Year by listening to a gong tolling 108 times, one for every sin
  • it is Swiss good luck to let a drop of cream fall on the floor on New Year’s Day.
  • Belgian farmers wish their animals a Happy New Year for blessings.
  • In Germany and Austria, lead pouring” (das Bleigießen) is an old divining practice using molten lead like tea leaves. A small amount of lead is melted in a tablespoon (by holding a flame under the spoon) and then poured into a bowl or bucket of water. The resulting pattern is interpreted to predict the coming year. For instance, if the lead forms a ball (der Ball), that means luck will roll your way. The shape of an anchor (der Anker) means help in need. But a cross (das Kreuz) signifies death. This is also a practice in parts of Finland, apparently.
  • El Salvadoreans crack an egg in a glass at midnight and leave it on the windowsill overnight; whatever figure it has made in the morning is indicative of one’s fortune for the year.
  • Some Italians like to take part in throwing pots, pans, and old furniture from their windows when the clock strikes midnight. This is done as a way for residents to rid of the old and welcome in the new. It also allows them to let go of negativity. This custom is also practiced in parts of South Africa, the Houston Press adds.
  • In Colombia, walk around with an empty suitcase on New Year’s Day for a year full of travel.
  • In the Philippines, all the lights in the house are turned on at midnight, and previously opened windows, doors and cabinets throughout the house are suddenly slammed shut, to ward off evil spirits for the new year.
  • In Russia a wish is written down on a piece of paper. It is burned and the ash dissolved in a glass of champagne, which should be downed before 12:01 am if the wish is to come true.
  • aptopix-romania-bear-ritual-89ecd02b044cc9131Romanians celebrate the new year by wearing bear costumes and dancing around to ward off evil
  • In Turkey, pomegranates are thrown down from the balconies at midnight for good luck.

It’s a bit bizarre when you think about it. A short British cabaret sketch from the 1920s has become a German New Year’s tradition. Yet, although The 90th Birthday or Dinner for One is a famous cult classic in Germany and several other European countries, it is virtually unknown in the English-speaking world, including Britain, its birthplace.” (Watch on Youtube, 11 min.)

So if the Germans watch British video, what do you watch in Britain? A number of sources have suggested that it is Jools Holland’s Hootenanny, “even though it’s awful and everyone hates it.

On a related theme, from earlier in the same week, here are some of the more bizarre Christmas rituals from around the world. 

Some history; documentation of observance of the new year dates back at least 4000 years to the Babylonians, who also made the first new year’s resolutions (reportedly voews to return borrowed farm equipment were very popular), although their holiday was observed at the vernal equinox. The Babylonian festivities lasted eleven days, each day with its own particular mode of celebration. The traditional Persian Norouz festival of spring continues to be considered the advent of the new year among Persians, Kurds and other peoples throughout Central Asia, and dates back at least 3000 years, deeply rooted in Zooastrian traditions.Modern Bahá’í’s celebrate Norouz (”Naw Ruz”) as the end of a Nineteen Day Fast. Rosh Hashanah (”head of the year”), the Jewish New Year, the first day of the lunar month of Tishri, falls between September and early October. Muslim New Year is the first day of Muharram, and Chinese New Year falls between Jan. 10th and Feb. 19th of the Gregorian calendar.

The classical Roman New Year’s celebration was also in the spring although the calendar went out of synchrony with the sun. January 1st became the first day of the year by proclamation of the Roman Senate in 153 BC, reinforced even more strongly when Julius Caesar established what came to be known as the Julian calendar in 46 BC. The early Christian Church condemned new year’s festivities as pagan but created parallel festivities concurrently. New Year’s Day is still observed as the Feast of Christ’s Circumcision in some denominations. Church opposition to a new year’s observance reasserted itself during the Middle Ages, and Western nations have only celebrated January 1 as a holidy for about the last 400 years. The custom of New Year’s gift exchange among Druidic pagans in 7th century Flanders was deplored by Saint Eligius, who warned them, “[Do not] make vetulas, [little figures of the Old Woman], little deer or iotticos or set tables [for the house-elf] at night or exchange New Year gifts or supply superfluous drinks [another Yule custom].” (Wikipedia)

The tradition of the New Year’s Baby signifying the new year began with the Greek tradition of parading a baby in a basket during the Dionysian rites celebrating the annual rebirth of that god as a symbol of fertility. The baby was also a symbol of rebirth among early Egyptians. Again, the Church was forced to modify its denunciation of the practice as pagan because of the popularity of the rebirth symbolism, finally allowing its members to cellebrate the new year with a baby although assimilating it to a celebration of the birth of the baby Jesus. The addition of Father Time (the “Old Year”) wearing a sash across his chest with the previous year on it, and the banner carried or worn by the New Year’s Baby, immigrated from Germany. Interestingly, January 1st is not a legal holiday in Israel, officially because of its historic origins as a Christian feast day.


Auld Lang Syne (literally ‘old long ago’ in the Scottish dialect) is sung or played at the stroke of midnight throughout the English-speaking world (and then there is George Harrison’s “Ring Out the Old”). Versions of the song have been part of the New Year’s festivities since the 17th century but Robert Burns was inspired to compose a modern rendition, which was published after his death in 1796. (It took Guy Lombardo, however, to make it popular…)

Should auld acquaintance be forgot
and never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot
and days of auld lang syne?
For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

Should auld acquaintance be forgot
and never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot
and days of auld lang syne?
And here’s a hand, my trusty friend
And gie’s a hand o’ thine
We’ll tak’ a cup o’ kindness yet
For auld lang syne

Here’s how to wish someone a Happy New Year around the world:

  • Arabic: Kul ‘aam u antum salimoun
  • Brazilian: Boas Festas e Feliz Ano Novo means “Good Parties and Happy New Year”
  • Chinese: Chu Shen Tan Xin Nian Kuai Le (thanks, Jeff)
  • Czechoslavakia: Scastny Novy Rok
  • Dutch: Gullukkig Niuw Jaar
  • Finnish: Onnellista Uutta Vuotta
  • French: Bonne Annee
  • German: Prosit Neujahr
  • Greek: Eftecheezmaenos o Kaenooryos hronos
  • Hebrew: L’Shannah Tovah Tikatevu
  • Hindi: Niya Saa Moobaarak
  • Irish (Gaelic): Bliain nua fe mhaise dhuit
  • Italian: Buon Capodanno
  • Khmer: Sua Sdei tfnam tmei
  • Laotian: Sabai dee pee mai
  • Polish: Szczesliwego Nowego Roku
  • Portuguese: Feliz Ano Novo
  • Russian: S Novim Godom
  • Serbo-Croatian: Scecna nova godina
  • Spanish: Feliz Ano Nuevo
  • Swedish: Ha ett gott nytt år
  • Turkish: Yeni Yiliniz Kutlu Olsun
  • Vietnamese: Cung-Chuc Tan-Xuan

[If you are a native speaker, please feel free to offer any corrections or additions!]

Which of these customs appeal to you? Are they done in your family, or will you try to adopt any of them? However you’re going to celebrate, my warmest wishes for the year to come… and eat hearty!

[thanks to Bruce Umbaugh (here or here) for research assistance]

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Donald Trump’s New York Times interview is scary to read

Ezra Klein writes:

The president of the United States is not well.

‘…This is the president of the United States speaking to the New York Times. His comments are, by turns, incoherent, incorrect, conspiratorial, delusional, self-aggrandizing, and underinformed. This is not a partisan judgment — indeed, the interview is rarely coherent or specific enough to classify the points Trump makes on a recognizable left-right spectrum. As has been true since he entered American politics, Trump is interested in Trump — over the course of the interview, he mentions his Electoral College strategy seven times, in each case using it to underscore his political savvy and to suggest that he could easily have won the popular vote if he had tried.

I am not a medical professional, and I will not pretend to know what is truly happening here. It’s become a common conversation topic in Washington to muse on whether the president is suffering from some form of cognitive decline or psychological malady. I don’t think those hypotheses are necessary or meaningful. Whatever the cause, it is plainly obvious from Trump’s words that this is not a man fit to be president, that he is not well or capable in some fundamental way. That is an uncomfortable thing to say, and so many prefer not to say it, but Trump does not occupy a job where such deficiencies can be safely ignored.’

via Vox

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Trump finally gets the honor he deserves

Dean Obeidallah writes:

‘After reviewing scores of statements made by politicians this year, it has declared that the big winner of “Lie of the Year” for 2017 goes to one told by (cue the drum roll and prepare the confetti) Donald J. Trump! That has to bring some joy for Trump as he spends time this week at his exclusive, for-profit country club Mar-a-Largo — or as he has nicknamed it the “Winter White House.”

You might be asking which Trump lie did PolitiFact choose, considering Trump has served up more “whoppers” than Burger King. …’

Source: CNN

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Why Has Science Only Cured One Person of HIV?


‘Despite incredible advances in biomedicine, a true cure for HIV has remained elusive. Antiretroviral drugs have transformed HIV into a manageable condition instead of a death sentence. But HIV permanently integrates into the genome of an infected cell and then hides, dormant, in the body, making it nearly impossible to eradicate. Since the 1980s, researchers have been hopeful that gene therapy, in which the body’s genetic material is altered, could provide a new route to treating HIV, and maybe even a cure. Brown’s case made many in the field optimistic, but scientists are still stumped as to exactly how his cure worked.

A new study published Thursday in PLOS Pathogens shows a new potential route to curing HIV—though it also highlights the extreme difficulties facing researchers….’

Via Gizmodo

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Goldfish Can Get Depressed, Too

…And you can tell:

‘Speaking with The New York Times, Julian Pittman, a professor at the Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences at Troy University, says that fish not only suffer from depression, they can be easily diagnosed. Zebrafish dropped into a new tank who linger at the bottom are probably sad; those who enthusiastically explore the upper half are not.

In Pittman’s studies, fish depression can be induced by getting them “drunk” on ethanol, then cutting off the supply, resulting in withdrawal. These fish mope around the tank floor until they’re given antidepressants, at which point they begin happily swimming near the surface again.

It’s impossible to correlate fish depression with that of a human, but Pittman believes the symptoms in fish—losing interest in exploring and eating—makes them viable candidates for exploring neuroscience and perhaps drawing conclusions that will be beneficial in the land-dwelling population….’

Via Mental Floss

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What Do We Lose When We Lose a Species?

Is biodiversity inherently good?

‘Intuitively, it seems like we wouldn’t really want to eradicate any living species, even the annoying and the dangerous ones. We worry over the endangered status of the northern white rhino, for instance, not because of their contributions to the world, but because as life-forms, they have inherent worth. But does that value derive from the particular kind of animal they are? Or is it simply based on the fact that they are living creatures? In other words, are we speciesist? Or do we think that biodiversity is an intrinsic good?…’

Via  JSTOR Daily

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Thousands of major sites are taking silent anti-ad-blocking measures

The arms race between the advertisers and the blockers:

‘30.5 percent of the top 10,000 sites on the web as measured by Alexa are using some sort of ad-blocker detection, and 38.2 percent of the top 1,000… A much larger fraction of websites than previously reported are “worried” about adblockers but many are not employing retaliatory actions against adblocking users yet.

It turns out that many ad providers are offering anti-blocking tech in the form of scripts that produce a variety of “bait” content that’s ad-like — for instance, images or elements named and tagged in such a way that they will trigger ad blockers, tipping the site off. The pattern of blocking, for instance not loading any divs marked “banner_ad” but loading images with “banner” in the description, further illuminates the type and depth of ad blocking being enforced by the browser.

Sites can simply record this for their own purposes (perhaps to gauge the necessity of responding) or redeploy ads in such a way that the detected ad blocker won’t catch….’

Via TechCrunch

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Lots of Reasons to Read ‘Big Think’ today

Wallp 671Scientists Discovered What Causes Dementia. Researchers claim to have found direct correlation between age-related dementia changes and toxic brain urea levels. The question: elevated how?..(Read their study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.)

 

Why You Can Miss Things Happening Right in Front of You. It is called change blindness, and you probably have it…

‘Let the Soul Dangle’: How Mind-Wandering Spurs Creativity. The benefits of keeping an idle mind.

Human CRISPR Trials Will Happen in 2018. They’ll Look Like This.. In vivo editing of the human genome.

Life Should Be Widespread Throughout the Universe, Study Finds. Recent discoveries establish that microbial life on earth arose much earlier than previously suspected, confirming that it is not difficult for primitive life to evolve in conditions we might have considered inhospitable. So life elsewhere in the universe could be much more prevalent. 

How a Wild Theory About Nelson Mandela Proves the Existence of Parallel Universes. ‘In 2017, the Mandela Effect was invoked by people who thought the CERN supercollider created a rip in reality and we are now living in one where Donald Trump is President…’ [I wish I could enter an alternative reality in which it was not so…]

Energy Drinks and Junk Food Are Destroying Teenage Brain Development

Scientists Accidentally Invent Glass You Can Fix in a Literal Pinch. First real-world-usable, truly self-healing material for phones — a little time, a little pressure and, voila, no more cracked screens….

Profound Effects on Brain Function from Ketogenic Diets

Calculator Indicates How Many More Years of Good Health You Have Left

Can This North Korean Weapon Take Out 90% of American Populace?

 

 

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Premature?

New York Removes Old Nuclear Fallout Shelter Signs:

‘Experts on nuclear confrontation say that a nuclear war is a very real possibility here in the 21st century. The US and North Korea are just one misstep away from nuclear destruction. But that hasn’t stopped New York City officials from beginning to take down outdated nuclear fallout shelter signs posted at public schools. And even though it might be a practical decision, removing the signs somehow feels premature….’

Via Gizmodo

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Boing Boing Jackpot

Many fascinating items on Boing Boing today:

The catastrophic consequences of the non-Neutral Net will be very hard to spot, until it’s too late

“Gaming disorder” to be recognized

The guy in charge of protecting American spies who blow the whistle on corruption just got frog-marched out of his office and suspended

Florida man attacks ATM after it dispenses too much money

Uranium glass marbles

“Whatever” tops list of annoying words

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If the Pentagon Is Hiding Aliens from Us, the Zoo Hypothesis May Explain Why

“Where is Everybody?” asked Enrico Fermi.

‘The Zoo Hypothesis, proposed by the MIT radio astronomer John A. Ball in 1973, says that aliens may be avoiding contact with us on purpose, so as not to interfere with our evolution and the development of our societies. The human civilization could be essentially living in a “zoo” or a space wildlife sanctuary, where others populating the cosmos dare not go. By staying clear of us, they avoid interplanetary contamination.

Perhaps the aliens are waiting for us to reach a certain technological or moral point before they will talk to us. Or they may be simply trying to protect us and themselves. You’ve seen “Independence Day” – there may be a similar movie made thousands of light years away about us….’

Via Big Think

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Is Mental Health a Poor Measure of a President?

PhotoQuestions About Mental Fitness Dogged Presidents Long Before Trump :

‘The president is a “narcissist.” He is “paranoid.” He is “bipolar.”

No, not President Trump.

These labels were applied to Bill Clinton, Richard Nixon and Theodore Roosevelt, respectively. And the list goes on. John F. Kennedy had psychopathic traits, according to one academic study. And Abraham Lincoln apparently experienced suicidal depression.

“Many of our greatest politicians have had psychiatric vulnerabilities,” says Ken Duckworth, a psychiatrist and medical director for the National Alliance on Mental Illness. But that didn’t necessarily make them incompetent or unfit for office, he says.

So it’s troubling that there have been so many armchair diagnoses of Trump in 2017, Duckworth says….’

Via NPR

Duckworth is plain wrong. The point is not whether a president, or anyone else, carries a mental health diagnosis. It is the nature of the diagnosis. Some mental health difficulties, particularly if compensated, arguably have no impact on fitness for office — e.g. bipolar disorder or depression. This makes them the private health issue of the bearer and none of our business.

Other mental health labels, such as psychopathic traits (one should more properly say ‘sociopathic’), may even be enhancements. Many writers say that sociopathy is closely related to effective executive skills in the corporate or political worlds. Even moderate narcissism can be adaptive (although one might argue that it played into Clinton’s shortfalls). On the other hand, Trump’s malignant narcissism is unprecedented, and causes direct profound impairment to his capacity as President and to our health and wellbeing. One need not go into details that have been highlighted here and in countless more articulate sources for at least a year now.

As to Duckworth’s disparagement of ‘armchair diagnosis,’ the nature of Trump’s narcissism, unlike the other diagnoses referred to above, is that it is played out on the public stage, right in our faces, because it all about his insatiable thirst for public adulation. Thus, only the three monkeys who ‘see no evil, hear no evil, and speak no evil,’ will avoid raising the issue of his mental fitness in the face of the clear and present danger he represents to all of us. The time is long past for standing on the empty ceremony of the Goldwater Rule in the face of this emergency.

Finally, Duckworth’s remit as the medical director of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill has much to do with advocating for his constituency by combating stigmatizing attitudes toward those with mental health difficulties. Sure, let’s not stigmatize them in general… but, hey, that doesn’t mean that no one with mental health difficulties is malignant! Political correctness only goes so far.

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Japanese Tip

An Exhibition of 8,000 Chopstick Sleeve Sculptures Left Behind at Restaurants

‘Yuki Tatsumi was working as a waiter in a restaurant when one day, as he was cleaning up a table, he noticed that a customer had intricately folded up the paper chopstick sleeve and left it behind. Japan doesn’t have a culture of tipping but Tatsumi imagined that this was a discreet, subconscious method of showing appreciation. He began paying attention and sure enough noticed that other customers were doing the same thing. Tatsumi began collecting these “tips” which eventually led to his art project: Japanese Tip.

Since 2012, Tatsumi has not only been collecting his own tips but he’s reached out to restaurants and eateries all across Japan communicating his concept and asking them to send him their tips. The response has been enormous. He’s collected over 13,000 paper sculptures that range from obscure and ugly to intricate and elaborate….’

Via: Colossal

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Santa and the Amanita

Matthew Salton writes:

‘…[W]ould it be too far-fetched to propose that the story of our modern Santa Claus, the omnipotent man who travels the globe in one night, bearing gifts, and who’s camped out in shopping malls across the United States this month, is linked to a hallucinogenic mushroom-eating shaman from the Arctic?

I don’t think so. And neither do a number of scholars. As it turns out, the shamanic rituals of the Sami people of Lapland, a region in northern Finland known for its wintry climate and conifer forests, bear an uncanny semblance to the familiar narratives of Santa and Christmas that we have come to know….’

Source: New York Times

Merry Christmas to those who celebrate it… however.

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“Into The Wildlands Of Finland”

Dreamlike Animal Portraits By Joachim Munter:

‘Joachim Munter is a multi-talented photographer, retoucher, adventurer and forest explorer currently based in Helsinki, Finland. Joachim captures spectacular scenic landscapes of his native Finland with the wild animals that call it home….’

Via Design You Trust

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Rescuing the Bears

Nepal’s Last Known Dancing Bears Freed:

‘The longtime tradition of bear dancing, derided for its cruel training methods, is coming to an end in Nepal.

Nepalese law enforcement, with the help of the Jane Goodall Institute Nepal and the London-based nonprofit World Animal Protection, recently removed two sloth bears named Rangeela and Sridevi from their handlers…

“We know that Rangeela and Sridevi were suffering in captivity since they [were] poached from the wild and their muzzles were pierced with hot iron rods.”…’

Via National Geographic

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US nuclear tests far more lethal than previously recognized

Tests killed American civilians on a scale comparable to Hiroshima and Nagasaki:

‘When the US entered the nuclear age, it did so recklessly. New research suggests that the hidden cost of developing nuclear weapons were far larger than previous estimates, with radioactive fallout responsible for 340,000 to 690,000 American deaths from 1951 to 1973….’

Via Quartz

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5 Subtypes of Anxiety and Depression: Which is Yours?

Stanford Scientists Classify 5 Subtypes of Anxiety and Depression:


Tension: This type is defined by irritability. People are overly sensitive, touchy, and overwhelmed. The anxiety makes the nervous system hypersensitive.

Anxious arousal: Cognitive functioning, such as the ability to concentrate and control thoughts, is impaired. Physical symptoms include a racing heart, sweating, and feeling stressed. “People say things like ‘I feel like I’m losing my mind,” Williams says. “They can’t remember from one moment to the next.”

Melancholia: People experience problems with social functioning. Restricted social interactions further cause distress.

Anhedonia: The primary symptom is an inability to feel pleasure. This type of depression often goes unrecognized. People are often able to function reasonably well while in a high state of distress. “We see it in how the brain functions in overdrive,” Williams says. “People are able to power through but at some time become quite numb. These are some of the most distressed people.”

General anxiety: A generalized type of anxiety with the primary features involving worry and anxious arousal — a more physical type of stress….’

Via Big Think

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What the DOD really knows about UFOs

Emerging confirmation the Gov’t has been secretly studying them for years:

‘The suspicion that the U.S. government knows more about UFOs than it’s willing to acknowledge goes way back to the middle of the 20th century at least, an unsettled corner of the American psyche. To see UFOs suddenly emerge from the X Files and into real life is disorienting, to say the least. Really, it’s jaw-dropping….’

Via Big Think

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The Universe Shouldn’t Exist, CERN Scientists Announce

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‘The environment that produced the particles that make up the universe, as we know them now, should have created equal parts matter and antimatter. Yet, the latter is surprisingly rare. Not only that, a 50-50 split would’ve seen each particle uniting with its polar opposite, creating a burst of unimaginable energy and leaving nothing behind, save a vast howling void of a cosmos. And yet, here we are….’

Via  Big Think

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How And Why To Keep A “Commonplace Book”

 

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‘A commonplace book is a central resource or depository for ideas, quotes, anecdotes, observations and information you come across during your life and didactic pursuits. The purpose of the book is to record and organize these gems for later use in your life, in your business, in your writing, speaking or whatever it is that you do.

Some of the greatest men and women in history have kept these books. Marcus Aurelius kept one–which more or less became the Meditations. Petrarch kept one. Montaigne, who invented the essay, kept a handwritten compilation of sayings, maxims and quotations from literature and history that he felt were important. His earliest essays were little more than compilations of these thoughts. Thomas Jefferson kept one. Napoleon kept one. HL Mencken, who did so much for the English language, as his biographer put it, “methodically filled notebooks with incidents, recording straps of dialog and slang” and favorite bits from newspaper columns he liked. Bill Gates keeps one….’

Via RyanHoliday.net

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Why Jewish Families Eat Chinese Food — Particularly on Christmas — is Fascinating

521724-istock-545286388It’s not only that the Chinese restaurants are conveniently open on Christmas. Lacking in religious imagery (unlike, say, Italian restrurants), they were more welcoming to Jews. The Chinese and Jewish immigrant communities on the Lower East Side of New York and in other urban landing zones were in close proximity, and by and large the Chinese did not discriminate against the generally persecuted Jews. In return, Jews embraced the Chinese establishments, which were local, inexpensive, and seen as exotic and urbane.

Furthermore, there was not much dairy in Chinese cuisine, so little risk of violating the kosher prohibition against mixing meat and milk. And nonkosher ingredients such as pork and shellfish were generally finely chopped, embedded in sauces, and/or mixed with rice. Thus their non-kosher nature could more easily be ignored. For some East European Jews, Chinese food, although exotic, included attractively familiar elements such as sweet and sour flavors, egg dishes, and pancakes reminiscent of blintzes.

via  Mental Floss

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The Japanese Art of Taking Power Naps in Public Places

inemuri-the-japanese-nap‘If you’ve visited any big city in Japan, you’ve no doubt seen a fair few commuters sleeping on the subway. The more time you spend there, the more places in which you’ll see normal, everyday-looking folks fast asleep: parks, coffee shops, bookstores, even the workplace during office hours. People in Korea, where I live, have also been known to fall asleep in places not normally associated with sleeping, but the Japanese take it to such a level that they’ve actually got a word for it: inemuri (居眠り, a mash-up of the verb for being present and the one for sleeping…’

via Open Culture

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How the Japanese Practice of “Forest Bathing” Can Lower Stress Levels and Fight Disease

img_1478Explanation of why isn’t this just a fancy crunchy granola repackaging of “being outside”.

“Just be with the trees,” as Ephrat Livni describes the practice, “no hiking, no counting steps on a Fitbit. You can sit or meander, but the point is to relax rather than accomplish anything.” You don’t have to hug the trees if you don’t want to, but at least sit under one for a spell. Even if you don’t attain enlightenment, you very well may reduce stress and boost immune function, according to several Japanese studies conducted between 2004 and 2012.

via  Open Culture

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Thelonious Monk’s 25 Tips for Musicians (1960)

monkh20copyJust because you’re not a drummer, doesn’t mean that you don’t have to keep time.

Pat your foot and sing the melody in your head when you play.

Stop playing all that bullshit, those weird notes, play the melody!

Make the drummer sound good.

Discrimination is important.

You’ve got to dig it to dig it, you dig?

All reet!

Always know

It must be always night, otherwise they wouldn’t need the lights.

Let’s lift the band stand!!

I want to avoid the hecklers.

Don’t play the piano part, I am playing that. Don’t listen to me, I am supposed to be accompanying you!

The inside of the tune (the bridge) is the part that makes the outside sound good.

Don’t play everything (or everytime); let some things go by. Some music just imagined.

What you don’t play can be more important than what you do play.

A note can be small as a pin or as big as the world, it depends on your imagination.

Stay in shape! Sometimes a musician waits for a gig & when it comes, he’s out of shape & can’t make it.

When you are swinging, swing some more!

(What should we wear tonight?) Sharp as possible!

Always leave them wanting more.

Don’t sound anybody for a gig, just be on the scene.

Those pieces were written so as to have something to play & to get cats interested enough to come to rehearsal!

You’ve got it! If you don’t want to play, tell a joke or dance, but in any case, you got it! (to a drummer who didn’t want to solo).

Whatever you think can’t be done, somebody will come along & do it. A genius is the one most like himself.

They tried to get me to hate white people, but someone would always come along & spoil it.

via  Open Culture

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Voters did not clear Donald Trump of sexual assault.

171219_pol_trump-voters-sexual-misconduct-crop-promo-xlarge2As one politician after another resigns in the face of sexual harassment allegations, one man remains standing: Donald Trump. Despite detailed accusations by multiple women, backed up by Trump’s recorded boasts of groping women without their consent, he insists his accusers’ stories are “fabricated.” In fact, says the White House, voters have acquitted Trump…
[Sarah Huckabee] Sanders routinely implies that the people who voted for Trump were affirming his innocence. But they weren’t. What Americans thought of the allegations against Trump in 2016, and what they think about them now, are knowable questions. Voters suspected Trump was guilty. They still do. They want an investigation. And if it confirms the accusations, they want him expelled from office…’

via Slate

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Fox News’s FBI coup conspiracy theory, explained

Absurd claims that the Mueller investigation constitutes a ‘coup’ against Trump seem based, simply, on the fact that FBI agents involved in the investigation were known to be Clinton supporters and Trump deriders during the run-up to the election. Fox’s language is absurd, provocative and irresponsible agitprop.

via Vox

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Merry Solstice!

wintersolstice-1024x845So the shortest day came, and the year died,

And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world

Came people singing, dancing,

To drive the dark away.

They lighted candles in the winter trees;

They hung their homes with evergreen;

They burned beseeching fires all night long

To keep the year alive,

And when the new year’s sunshine blazed awake

They shouted, revelling.

Through all the frosty ages you can hear them

Echoing behind us – Listen!!

All the long echoes sing the same delight,

This shortest day,

As promise wakens in the sleeping land:

They carol, fest, give thanks,

And dearly love their friends,

And hope for peace.

And so do we, here, now,

This year and every year.

Welcome Yule!!

via Greenside Up

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5 Psychological Traits That Help You Live a Longer, Happier Life

gettyimages-489784137‘…Though the seniors had worse physical health than their younger brethren, they had better mental health. Also, the long-lived adults were not only stubborn, they were often domineering and needed to feel in control. This could mean that they believed in their ideas and stood by their principles. These super seniors also had a lot of self-confidence and good decision-making capabilities. As Prof. Jeste said, “This paradox of aging supports the notion that well-being and wisdom increase with aging, even though physical health is failing.” …’

via Big Think

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One Step Closer to Clean Fusion Power

fusionNew Technique with Lasers, No Radioactive Waste:

‘Australian physicists have devised a technique for creating fusion with lasers that doesn’t need radioactive fuel elements and leaves no radioactive waste. A new paper from scientists at UNSW Sydney and their international colleagues shows that advances in high-intensity lasers makes what was once impossible a reality – generating fusion energy from hydrogen-boron reactions.

Lead author Heinrich Hora from UNSW Sydney has been doing this work this since the 1970s. He contends that their approach is closer to realizing fusion than other attempts like the deuterium-tritium fusion pursued by science facilities in the U.S. and France…

Hydrogen-boron fusion is produced by two powerful lasers in rapid bursts, which generate precise non-linear forces that compress the nuclei together. The process does not create any neutrons and as such – no radioactivity. What also sets this energy source apart – unlike coal, gas or nuclear that utilize heated liquids like water to drive turbines – hydrogen-boron fusion can be converted directly into electricity.

The problem with hydrogen-boron fusion has been that it required temperatures 200 times hotter than the core of the Sun. That is until dramatic advancements in laser technology that allow for an “avalanche” fusion reaction to be triggered by super-fast blasts taking no more than a trillionth-of-a-second from a petawatt-scale laser pulse…’

via Big Think

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How to Boycott Your Internet Service Provider If Net Neutrality Dies

jei2umifoxow3u7hehzh‘Net Neutrality isn’t dead yet, but FCC Chairman Ajit Pai (and internet providers like Verizon, Comcast, and AT&T) took a big step towards victory after Thursday’s vote. However, if all the planned dissents, appeals, and protests fail and net neutrality really is done for, it may be time to seriously think about boycotting your internet provider when if they begin to abuse their power under these new rules…’

via Lifehacker

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Why Do We Fear Wolves?

header_essay_717311‘… “All stories are about wolves,” writes Margaret Atwood in The Blind Assassin. But what is the wolf? If you look at what philosopher Noël Carroll calls its “symbolic biology,” you see an animal taxidermied from myth and history, sculpted into an opponent that man—now primed as hero—can fight. When it comes to wolves, we have so long animalized humans and humanized animals. And though I do not know how to reconcile the pain that either species can bring, I have staked myself to a solemn belief that unsnarling our old metaphors might help. As Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson writes in Beasts: What Animals Can Teach Us About Human Nature: “I do not consider the suffering that prey experiences from a predator a form of cruelty.” The difference between humans and other predators, Masson believes, is choice. The animal predator does not decide to draw blood: he kills so he can stay alive. Humans, of course, are different. This is why most wolf metaphors go slack…’

Erica Berry via Literary Hub

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USA Today: Trump “not fit to clean the toilets” in Obama’s presidential library

‘USA Today isn’t known for its blistering opinion pieces. Which makes the one the paper’s editorial board just published on President Donald Trump all the more savage.

“With his latest tweet, clearly implying that a United States senator would trade sexual favors for campaign cash, President Trump has shown he is not fit for office,” reads the editorial. “Rock bottom is no impediment for a president who can always find room for a new low.”

The reference here is Trump’s tweet Tuesday morning in which he said that Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York was “begging” him for campaign contributions not long ago “and would do anything for them.” …’

Source: CNN

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Doug Jones Pulls It Off!

hfo-alabama-joneswins-master768Thank you to the good people of Alabama for your sense in repudiating racism, misogyny and fascism.

One more nail in Drumpf’s coffin?

via The New York Times

But:

Why Doug Jones’s win in Alabama doesn’t leave me confident in American democracy

“We’re the country that almost elected Roy Moore. We’re the country that did elect Donald Trump.”

Ezra Klein via  Vox

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Former Facebook Exec: ‘You Don’t Realize It But You Are Being Programmed’

robw7j7bqhhmubuzkjha‘Last month, Facebook’s first president Sean Parker opened up about his regrets over helping create social media as we know it today. “I don’t know if I really understood the consequences of what I was saying, because of the unintended consequences of a network when it grows to a billion or 2 billion people and it literally changes your relationship with society, with each other,” Parker said. “God only knows what it’s doing to our children’s brains.”

Chamath Palihapitiya, former vice president of user growth, also recently expressed his concerns. During a recent public discussion at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, Palihapitiya—who worked at Facebook from 2005 to 2011—told the audience, “I think we have created tools that are ripping apart the social fabric of how society works.”

Some of his comments seem to echo Parker’s concern [emphasis ours]. Parker has said that social media creates “a social-validation feedback loop” by giving people “a little dopamine hit every once in a while, because someone liked or commented on a photo or a post or whatever.”

Just days after Parker made those comments, Palihapitiya told the Stanford audience, “The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops we’ve created are destroying how society works,” Palihapitiya said. “No civil discourse, no cooperation; misinformation, mistruth. And it’s not an American problem—this is not about Russians ads. This is a global problem.” …’

via Gizmodo

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Paranoid President may be setting up private unregulated spy agency to bolster power against Administration enemies

‘The Trump Administration is considering a set of proposals developed by Blackwater founder Erik Prince and a retired CIA officer — with assistance from Oliver North, a key figure in the Iran-Contra scandal — to provide CIA Director Mike Pompeo and the White House with a global, private spy network that would circumvent official U.S. intelligence agencies, according to several current and former U.S. intelligence officials and others familiar with the proposals. The sources say the plans have been pitched to the White House as a means of countering “deep state” enemies in the intelligence community seeking to undermine Donald Trump’s presidency.

The creation of such a program raises the possibility that the effort would be used to create an intelligence apparatus to justify the Trump administration’s political agenda.

“Pompeo can’t trust the CIA bureaucracy, so we need to create this thing that reports just directly to him,” said a former senior U.S. intelligence official with firsthand knowledge of the proposals, in describing White House discussions. “It is a direct-action arm, totally off the books,” this person said, meaning the intelligence collected would not be shared with the rest of the CIA or the larger intelligence community. “The whole point is this is supposed to report to the president and Pompeo directly.” …’

via The Intercept

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Experts challenge ban on psychiatrists discussing politicians’ mental health

‘…A prohibition against psychiatrists discussing the mental health of public figures — a rule that has become especially controversial, and sometimes flouted, since the inauguration of President Trump — is “premised on dubious scientific assumptions,” researchers concluded in an analysis scheduled for publication in a psychology journal.

The American Psychiatric Association (APA) defends its “Goldwater rule” by arguing that an in-person psychiatric examination is the gold standard for diagnosing mental illness and psychological traits — given that there are no blood tests or brain scans for psychiatric disorders. In fact, however, numerous studies suggest that the interview-based exam can be misleading, psychologist Scott Lilienfeld of Emory University and colleagues argue in the paper, which will appear in an upcoming issue of Perspectives on Psychological Science.

Patients lie or hide facts, they often have poor self-insight, and psychiatrists err, the authors write. In contrast, the accounts of people who know the individual, plus his or her public behavior, writing, speech — and, yes, tweets — can provide more accurate insights into a public figure’s mind, they contend…’

via Statnews

There is an overriding public interest in bringing to bear all the available clinical evidence to diagnose Trump, given his importance and dangerousness to the entire world. For this reason, it ought to be mandatory that the President have periodic impartial mental health evaluations and that any concerns arising from such evaluations be made public. And, to paraphrase a famous saying about the sword, those who live in the public eye must be judged in the public eye.

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Nail-in-Coffin Dept.: Flynn’s Secret Text Messages Show Trump Colluded With Russia

‘..The revelation is one of the strongest pieces of evidence to date that the Trump administration wanted to cancel U.S. sanctions against Russia, and it sheds light on why Flynn originally lied about his conversation with the Russian ambassador, a former Watergate prosecutor says.

“This just confirms the materiality of Flynn’s lies about what happened during the elections. This confirms that there is a quid pro quo for Russian help with winning the elections,” Nick Akerman told Newsweek. He was an assistant special prosecutor during the Watergate investigation…’

via Newsweek

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How to Cope With the Current News Cycle as a Sexual Abuse Survivor

‘The current wave of sexual abuse news is causing thoughtful people everywhere to feel disgust, sadness and rage on behalf of those victimized. But for some of us who have endured such violence, the relentless coverage and subsequent backlash are taking us to an even more disturbing place. Here, we take a look at how survivors are affected and offer insights from mental health professionals and survivors on the best ways to cope…’

via How to Cope With the Current News Cycle as a Sexual Abuse Survivor

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The Periodic Table of All of the Exoplanets Found So Far

 

tileted-table‘Exoplanets are hot right now. In the popularity sense. Thermally, they’re also cold and medium. But every since the first one was discovered nearly 26 years ago — or 9,457 days as of this writing — we’ve been fascinated by them. Some people are intrigued by the potential any of them may hold for migration from earth should it become inhabitable. Some wonder if other life on our level could be there. And then there’s their most undeniable value: science. If you’ve been having trouble keeping track of what we’ve found so far, the Planetary Habitability Laboratory (PHL) of the University of Puerto Rico at Arecibo has just published their Periodic Table of Exoplanets, which they’ll presumably keep up to date as more of them are found…’

via Big Think

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Trump and the Risks of Digital Hate

trumptirade-878271104‘Trump’s retweets of a British anti-Muslim hate group sound alarms for those who study the propaganda behind some of history’s greatest tragedies…

To be clear and compliant with Godwin’s law no one is comparing Trump to Adolf Hitler. “That would be absurd,” says Smith. His concern is that the president and the general public have not learned history’s lessons about the impact this type of fear-mongering can have. That’s especially true today in the age of Facebook and Twitter-driven echo chambers, in which any headline, photo, or video can be slyly captioned or edited to distort its original meaning to comply with a group’s existing bias. The long past of propaganda blended with the communication channels of the present and future form a toxic mix…’

via WIRED