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Why We’re Underestimating American Collapse

NewImageUmair Haque writes:

‘When we take a hard look at US collapse, we see a number of social pathologies on the rise. Not just any kind. Not even troubling, worrying, and dangerous ones. But strange and bizarre ones. Unique ones. Singular and gruesomely weird ones I’ve never really seen before, and outside of a dystopia written by Dickens and Orwell, nor have you, and neither has history. They suggest that whatever “numbers” we use to represent decline — shrinking real incomes, inequality, and so on —we are in fact grossly underestimating what pundits call the “human toll”, but which sensible human beings like you and I should simply think of as the overwhelming despair, rage, and anxiety of living in a collapsing society.

Let me give you just five examples of what I’ll call the social pathologies of collapse — strange, weird, and gruesome new diseases, not just ones we don’t usually see in healthy societies, but ones that we have never really seen before in any modern society….’

Via Eudaimonia

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Pharma’s Conspiracy to Kill West Virginians

NewImageDrug firms shipped 20.8M pain pills to WV town with 2,900 people:

‘Over the past decade, out-of-state drug companies shipped 20.8 million prescription painkillers to two pharmacies four blocks apart in a Southern West Virginia town with 2,900 people, according to a congressional committee investigating the opioid crisis.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee cited the massive shipments of hydrocodone and oxycodone — two powerful painkillers — to the town of Williamson, in Mingo County, amid the panel’s inquiry into the role of drug distributors in the opioid epidemic.

“These numbers are outrageous, and we will get to the bottom of how this destruction was able to be unleashed across West Virginia,” said committee Chairman Greg Walden, R-Ore., and ranking member Frank Pallone Jr., D-N.J., in a joint statement.

The panel recently sent letters to regional drug wholesalers Miami-Luken and H.D. Smith, asking why the companies increased painkiller shipments and didn’t flag suspicious drug orders from pharmacies while overdose deaths were surging across West Virginia….’

Via West Virginia Gazette Mail

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Why Is Snowplowing Still a Thing?


NewImage‘I really shouldn’t need [crampons] to get around in a city’s downtown area. I mean, shouldn’t we have heated sidewalks and roads by now? We don’t need an expensive solar-tile road to do it, although that would be cool. Iceland’s got a nifty geothermal snowmelt system that uses hot water to melt snow and ice on Reykjavik streets. The city of Holland, Michigan has a snowmelt system too. Sure, it would require digging up streets and putting in tubing to circulate hot water—but places with snowmelt systems still generally save a ton of money every year….’

Via Motherboard

The costs include not only the snow removal budget but the environmental impact of the plowing (fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emission from diesel plows, etc.), the cost of pavement damage from plowing, the environmental impact of road salt, and the costs of social harm from associated traffic accidents and pedestrian injuries. 

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Donald Trump is winning

Ezra Klein writes:

‘Trump is making us a little more like him, and politics a little more like the tribal clash he says it is….’

Via Vox

The other way he is winning is by inuring you to his outrages. The lie told often enough becomes the truth. This is not normal. Resist

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Trump Will Try to Fire Mueller. Again.

Timothy L. O’Brien writes:

‘Trump has the power to fire Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, the official overseeing Mueller’s probe, if Rosenstein doesn’t obey a request to fire Mueller. Trump could then tear through the Justice Department’s senior ranks, firing people until he finds one who would comply with his demands.

Although there’s some debate among legal scholars about how much latitude the president would have for such a purge, Trump’s previous maneuvering in this investigation suggests he believes he can do almost whatever he wants. …’

Source: Bloomberg

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With Attempt to Fire Mueller, the Answer to Whether Trump Obstructed Justice Now Seems Clear

John Cassidy writes:

‘Mueller and his team surely have evidence on obstruction of justice that has not yet been made public. But even on the available evidence, Trump’s position looks perilous indeed. The portrait is of a President using every resource at his disposal to shut down an investigation—of Trump himself. And now it has become clear that Trump’s own White House counsel rebelled at the President’s rationale for his actions. …’

Source: The New Yorker

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Ticking Time Bomb Under the Arctic?

NewImageScientists In Alaska Find Mammoth Amounts Of Carbon In The Warming Permafrost:

No one knows how great the effect is but it could be felt around the world, and there is evidence that the clock is ticking. For the first time in centuries, the Arctic permafrost is rapidly warming.

In northern Alaska, the temperature at some permafrost sites has risen by more than 4 degrees Fahrenheit since the 1980s, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported in November. And in recent years, many spots have reached record temperatures.

It shows no signs of returning to a reliably frozen state. And the consequences of the thaw could be disastrous. First of all, there is the release of the massive amounts of carbonaceous material frozen in the permafrost, twice as much as all the carbon humans have spewed into the atmosphere since the Industrial Revolution, could vastly accelerate climate change.

“We have evidence that Alaska has changed from being a net absorber of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere to a net exporter of the gas back to the atmosphere,” says Charles Miller, a chemist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory who measures gas emissions from Arctic permafrost.

It’ll be a feedback loop — warming stimulating CO2 release which in turn stimulates further warming, stimulating further CO2 release etc. — over which we would have no control.

Via NPR

Secondly, long-frozen ‘zombie’ pathogens may be waiting to rise and infect us as the permafrost thaws:

‘In the past few years, there has been a growing fear about a possible consequence of climate change: zombie pathogens. Specifically, bacteria and viruses — preserved for centuries in frozen ground — coming back to life as the Arctic’s permafrost starts to thaw.

The idea resurfaced in the summer of 2016, when a large anthrax outbreak struck Siberia.

A heat wave in the Arctic thawed a thick layer of the permafrost, and a bunch of reindeer carcasses started to warm up. The animals had died of anthrax, and as their bodies thawed, so did the bacteria. Anthrax spores spread across the tundra. Dozens of people were hospitalized, and a 12-year-old boy died.

On the surface, it looked as if zombie anthrax had somehow come back to life after being frozen for 70 years. What pathogen would be next? Smallpox? The 1918 flu?…’

(as seen in the recent British TV series Fortitude, set in Svalbard.).

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Our Impoverished Olfactory Vocabulary

NewImageWesterners Aren’t Good At Naming Smells. But Hunter Gatherers Are : 

‘English and other Western languages have a real gap when it comes to describing smells. Hunter-gathers, on the other hand, have a rich vocabulary of abstract words for scents….’

Via NPR

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Why you shouldn’t feed your pets a raw meat diet

The biggest threat of such a diet may not be to your pet but to you.

‘According to the Washington Post, [raw-meat-based diets, RMBDs] [are] the fastest growing trend among pet owners them in the US and other developed nations. The market has responded and is offering such choices at boutique and chain pet stores across the nation. But is such a diet good for your dog or cat? The results of a new study state you should not feed your pet a raw meat diet because the products associated with it are likely to carry bacteria or parasites. These findings were published in the journal Vet Record

Escherichia coli (E. coli) was found on 80% of samples, and 23% had the type of E. coli that can cause kidney failure in humans. The researchers also found that 43% tested positive for listeria and 20% positive for salmonella. That’s not all. Two types of parasites were detected: 23% of samples tested positive for sarcocystis and 6% toxoplasma gondii. While the former mostly sickens farm animals, the latter can negatively affect human infants.

Toxoplasma gondii is also known to hurt cats and has been implicated in cases of mental illness among cat owners. Study authors told Time that the brands found in the Netherlands were “without a doubt similar” to those sold in the U.S. As a result, researchers say, such products should be labeled high risk.

Not only could these products get pets sick, they could affect their human owners through cross-contamination. Besides preparing food and food bowls on the counter or in the sink near dishes or utensils, a pet often licks its owner’s hands or face. What’s more, the owner has to handle the pet’s feces or things associated with it, so at many points throughout animal care, a person runs a risk of contracting a dangerous pathogen….’

Via Big Think

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North Korean ‘ghost ships’

Why they are washing up on Japan’s shores:

‘Japanese police discovered another “ghost ship” washed up on its shores in mid-January. On the heels of 104 such ships in 2017, this wooden ship carried the corpses of seven men as it came ashore in the Ishikawa prefecture.

The men were carried badges with the likenesses of the North Korean leaders Kim Jong-il and Kim Il-sung. The fleet of vessels as a whole is from North Korea, with people driven to undertake a very dangerous journey on turbulent seas….

Jeffrey Kingston from Temple University in Japan called the ghost ships “ “a barometer for the state of living conditions in North Korea — grim and desperate.”  …’

Via Big Think

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The Nuclear War Movie That Traumatized a Generation

As an antinuclear activist I was tortured by Peter Watkins’ terrifying 1965 War Games (banned from view for twenty years) and The Day After, (1983) but I had never heard of this:

NewImage‘In 1984 a bomb went off on British television.

That bomb was Threads, a well-researched TV movie about nuclear war. Unlike so many other movies, books, and television shows that deal with the subject of nuclear weapons, Threads showed what life was like for normal people on the ground during a nuclear war. It is one of the most horrifying things I’ve ever seen on screen.

Threads traumatized an entire British generation. The BBC only aired it twice—once in 1984 then again in 1985, on the 40th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Japan—then put it in a vault for 20 years. When TBS aired it in the US in 1985, media mogul Ted Turner introduced it personally. “The more we know about what could happen, the less chance it is that it will happen,” the millionaire told Americans before airing the unsettling feature.

Despite its power and enduring relevance, Threads has always been tough to find outside of Britain. That’s about to change. On January 30, a restored Blu-ray and DVD will hit store shelves, complete with new interviews with the cast and crew….’

Via Motherboard

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If You Find Aliens…

Who Ya Gonna Call?

‘Faced with some six-eyed slime-being rooting through your trash, or a spacecraft idling above your backyard (provided it’s not Elon Musk’s “nuclear alien UFO” again), who exactly would you think to call? And what would whoever you called do, when you called them?

…We reached out to dozens of agencies, everyone from NASA to the Center for Disease Control to the NYPD to find out who to call in such a situation, and what (if any) protocols are in place when these things are reported, and we came up mostly empty-handed—though the astronomers and independent institutes we spoke with did provide us with some hope. The US government might, at present, be grievously ill-prepared for first contact, but there are countless hobbyists and professionals keeping an eye on what’s happening up there….’

Via Gizmodo

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Our Memory Comes from an Ancient Virus, Neuroscientists Say


‘The particulars surrounding how our memory works has baffled neuroscientists for decades. Turns out, it’s a very sophisticated process involving several brain systems. What about on the molecular level? Inside the brain, proteins don’t stick around longer than a few minutes. And yet, our memories can hang on for our entire lifetime.

Recently, an international collaboration of researchers from the University of Utah, the University of Copenhagen, and the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in the UK, discovered something strange about a protein called Arc. This is essential to long-term memory formation. What they found was that it has very similar properties to how a virus infects its host. Their findings were published in the journal Cell.

In it researchers write, “The neuronal gene Arc is essential for long-lasting information storage in the mammalian brain, mediates various forms of synaptic plasticity, and has been implicated in neurodevelopmental disorders.” They go on to say, “little is known about Arc’s molecular function and evolutionary origins.”

As a result of the study, researchers now believe that a chance encounter occurring hundreds of millions of years ago, led to Arc’s centrality in our memory function today. Assistant professor of neurobiology Jason Shepherd, Ph.D. of the University of Utah, led this research project. He’s dedicated himself to the study of the protein for the last 15 years…

Researchers were intrigued by the idea that a protein could behave like a virus and serve as the platform through which neurons communicate. What Arc does is open a window through which memories can become solidified. Without Arc, the window cannot be opened…..’

Via Big Think

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Trump Tweeted Support For The Women’s Marches. It Backfired.

Sara Boboltz writes:

‘Beautiful weather all over our great country, a perfect day for Women to March,” Trump wrote Saturday.

He then urged people to “[g]et out there now to celebrate the historic milestones” he said his administration had achieved, appearing to ignore that the marches largely exist to protest him, his presidency, his rhetoric toward women and his stances on a number of other issues. …’

Source: Trump Tweeted Support For The Women’s Marches. It Backfired.

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Why People Dislike Really Smart Leaders

‘Although previous research has shown that groups with smarter leaders perform better by objective measures, some studies have hinted that followers might subjectively view leaders with stratospheric intellect as less effective. Decades ago Dean Simonton, a psychologist the University of California, Davis, proposed that brilliant leaders’ words may simply go over people’s heads, their solutions could be more complicated to implement and followers might find it harder to relate to them. Now Simonton and two colleagues have finally tested that idea, publishing their results in the July 2017 issue of the Journal of Applied Psychology….’

Via Scientific American

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A Roundup Of The Strangest Moments Of Trump’s First Year In Office

 

For you nostalgia buffs:

  • January 20th: Trump Signs First Documents As President, Has Absolutely No Idea What He’s Doing
  • Sean Spicer’s debut, 21 January 2017
  • Travel ban chaos, 28 January 2017
  • A prayer for Arnold, the Bowling Green massacre, 2 February 2017
  • February 10th: Trump Gives Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe One Hell Of A Squeeze
  • The baseless wiretapping claim, 4 March 2017
  • March 31: Trump Gets Chased Out Of His Own Executive Order Signing By Questions About Michael Flynn
  • April 12th: Trump Incorrectly Brags About Firing Missiles At Iraq Over Cake
  • Spicer emerges from the bushes, 9 May 2017
  • May 22nd: Melania Swats Donald’s Hand Away Because… Do We Need To Explain?
  • Covfefe, 31 May 2017
  • June 19th: Trump Brags To Panamanian President About Building Panama Canal… Over 100 Years Ago
  • The 29-second handshake, 14 July 2017
  • The Mooch: blink and you’ll miss him, 21 July 2017
  • Trump talks politics with the Boy Scouts, 24 July 2017
  • July 28th: Trump Endorses Police Brutality
  • Blaming both sides, 15 August 2017
  • September 20th: Trump Can’t Say Namibia
  • October: President Trump’s Entire Reaction To Hurricane Maria Was Crazy
  • Later in the day, President Trump helped to distribute aid by… launching paper towels like a t-shirt cannon? 
  • November 27th: Trump Make ‘Pocahontas’ Jab At Event Honoring Native Americans
  • The anti-Muslim retweets, 29 November 2017
  • December 6th: Trump Slurs His Speech While Making Globally Condemned Announcement On Israel
  • Stable genius, 6 January 2018
  • January 12th 2018: Trump Asked ‘Are You Racist’ Immediately After Signing MLK Day Speech

 

Via Digg   and The Guardian

Here’s hoping this is the only year’s retrospective of Trump’s presidency we ever have to observe. 

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The Japanese words for “space” could change your view of the world

‘Thinking about spaces in a more ‘Japanese’ way can open up new ways of organizing our lives and focusing on the relationships that matter to us. Building spaces that deepen relationships (wa), generate new knowledge (ba), connect to the world around us (tokoro), and allow moments of quiet and integration (ma) can enrich our experience of the world and that of those around us….’

Via Quartz

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Narcissist’s worst nightmare edges closer to statistical reality

Search data shows that interest in Trump is waning:

‘The gravest threat to a ratings-thirsty creature such as President Donald Trump is the nightmare scenario of not being on everyone’s mind all the time. While the president remains the hottest topic in so many newsfeeds and the specter looming over so many, recent data shows that the hype around him has begun to die down over the past year….’

Via Salon

(Poor baby.)

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UK now has a minister for loneliness

NewImageEpidemic leads to early deaths:

‘Previous research has linked an epidemic of loneliness to early deaths across wealthy nations. The groundbreaking 2017 meta studies came to two important conclusions; greater social connection was associated with a 50% reduced risk of dying early and the effect of loneliness had an effect on the risk of dying younger equal to that of obesity….’

Via Quartz

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Be Warned: Your Own Trump Is Coming

Will You See Him Coming?

‘One day, very soon, your personal Donald Trump will come along. It’ll be all of the same tricks, only perfectly tailored to your beliefs and pent-up rage. He or she will be just as dishonest and as abrasive as the proverbial cat’s tongue on your genitals … but everything they say will go down smooth as butter….

They may not even be running for office. They may only want you to buy their book, or listen to their podcast. What matters is that you spot them before it’s too late. So, here’s how:…’

Via Cracked

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Meet Your Art Twin: A 400-Year-Old With an Oily Complexion

‘…Long before the Google Arts and Culture app, which became the most downloaded mobile app over the weekend, art aficionados, dabblers, narcissists and soul searchers pondering a cosmic connection to distant humans have been searching for their art twins, a long-gone, sometimes fictional or unknown doppelgänger encased in oil, sculpture or ceramics.

Some set out specifically to find their twin, in an engaging pastime that gives museum visits a new focus. Others, like the Duffins, have stumbled on theirs as they wander.

As anyone who regularly looks at a social media feed knows by now, millions more need never leave home or cross a border to find that uniquely familiar face on some obscure etching. They just upload a selfie and let technology do the sleuthing….’

Via New York Times (thanks, abby)

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Change your phone screen to grayscale

Combating addiction:

‘Tristan Harris a former “design ethicist” at Google, says today’s candy colored interfaces are addictive. One way to make your phone less appealing, it to make the display grayscale….’

Via Boing Boing

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The war over apostrophes in Kazakhstan’s new alphabet

‘There’s a fascinating linguistic fight brewing in Kazakhstan, due to the president’s decision to adopt a new alphabet for writing their language, Kazakh.

The problem? It’s got too many apostrophes!

For decades, Kazakhs have used the Cyrillic alphabet, which was imposed on them by the USSR back in the 30s. Now that Kazakhstan has started moving away from Russia — including making Kazakh more central in education and public life — the president decided he wanted to adopt a new alphabet, too. He wanted it based on the Latin one.

But! Kazakh has many unique sounds that can’t be easily denoted using a Latin-style alphabet.

Kazakhstan’s neighbors solved that problem by following the example of Turkey, where they use umlauts and phonetic symbols. But Kazkhstan’s president didn’t want that — and instead has pushed for the use of tons of apostrophes instead.

Kazakhstan’s linguists intellectuals think this is nuts…’

Via Boing Boing

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How Anaesthesia Works

Hint: not the same as putting you to sleep:

‘inhibits “communication between neurons across the entire brain in a systematic way that differs from just being asleep. In this way it is very different than a sleeping pill.”…’

Via Big Think

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Philip Roth, crabby literary lion, has wonderfully vicious thoughts on Trump

 

Philip Roth“…A massive fraud, the evil sum of his deficiencies, devoid of everything but the hollow ideology of a megalomaniac.”

‘Roth, when asked if he could have predicted today’s political and cultural landscape responds that, “No one I know of has foreseen an America like the one we live in today. No one (except perhaps the acidic H. L. Mencken, who famously described American democracy as “the worship of jackals by jackasses”) could have imagined that the 21st-century catastrophe to befall the U.S.A., the most debasing of disasters, would appear not, say, in the terrifying guise of an Orwellian Big Brother but in the ominously ridiculous commedia dell’arte figure of the boastful buffoon.” He adds, “How naïve I was in 1960 to think that I was an American living in preposterous times! How quaint!”…’

Via Salon

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Narcissistic Buffoon Falsely Claims His Approval Among Black Americans Has Doubled

In the same week that his racism is reaffirmed by his
‘shithole’ comment:

‘The tweet — half misleading and half downright false — demonstrates how inaccurate information can trickle to the president’s social media, which is then is viewed by millions of people on Twitter and Facebook.

Survey Monkey’s results, provided to The New York Times, show that Mr. Trump’s approval ratings among black Americans actually declined from 20 percent in February 2017, his first full month in office, to 15 percent in December. (This is consistent with polling from the Pew Research Center and Reuters.)….’

Via New York Times

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Trump’s US On the Slippery Slope Away from ‘No Nuclear First Strike’ Principle

Pentagon Suggests Countering Devastating Cyberattacks With Nuclear Arms:

‘A newly drafted United States nuclear strategy that has been sent to President Trump for approval would permit the use of nuclear weapons to respond to a wide range of devastating but non-nuclear attacks on American infrastructure, including what current and former government officials described as the most crippling kind of cyberattacks.

For decades, American presidents have threatened “first use” of nuclear weapons against enemies in only very narrow and limited circumstances, such as in response to the use of biological weapons against the United States. But the new document is the first to expand that to include attempts to destroy wide-reaching infrastructure, like a country’s power grid or communications, that would be most vulnerable to cyberweapons….’

Via New York Times

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Warren-Sanders Democrats vs Oprah

“One billionaire president in a decade is going to be plenty for us”

‘While plenty of people have evinced a belief that delivering a single speech qualifies Oprah to be president (presumably with Dr Oz as Surgeon General and history’s smoothest selljob for invading other countries on flimsy pretenses), the young, motivated Warren-Sanders wing of the Democratic party are a lot less enthusiastic.

As Justice Democrats director Corbin Trent says, “From our perspective as an organization, part of what we’re trying to do is create paths to high office that don’t run through the billionaire class. One billionaire president in a decade is going to be plenty for us.”…’

Via Boing Boing

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Facebook, You Needy Sonofabitch

This is what happens when the metric of how much time users spend using your thing supersedes the goal of providing legitimate value to your users. The tricks, hooks, and tactics Facebook uses to keep people coming back have gotten more aggressive and explicit. And I feel that takes away from the actual value the platform provides.

There are of course plenty of weighty, important topics worth criticizing Facebook for, from their perpetuating fake news to their role in influencing the election to enabling the surveillance state and so on. But even this seemingly benign topic has huge ramifications on how people spend their time and live their lives. As users, it’s important to be aware of how the platform is manipulating you. As designers, it’s important to be mindful of how much attention we’re demanding from users and why we’re demanding that attention in the first place.

So that’s where I’m at. I’m likely not going to delete Facebook entirely since I do genuinely enjoy staying in touch with the people in my life, and for better or worse Facebook is where those people hang out. But I want to do use Facebook on my own terms, not theirs.

Source: Brad Frost

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Google, You Creepy Sonofabitch

Google … feels a lot more insidious than Facebook. Unlike Facebook, Google isn’t just a place you go. It’s built into the infrastructure of your life. It’s your house. It’s the roads and sidewalks you travel on. Google is a lot more infrastructural than Facebook, which is why breeches of trust feel a lot weirder and scarier.

…A few friends made earnest efforts to switch over to Android, only to quickly return their devices after being totally creeped out.I’m not a crazy, paranoid, security nerd kind of person. Although I probably should be. I guess I’m just saying that people shouldn’t feel like their every movement is being tracked by the company that makes the phone’s software. Actually, let me rephrase that: I guess I’m just saying that people shouldn’t have their every movement tracked by the company that makes the phone’s software. That seems like a reasonable request.

Source: Brad Frost

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Shithole, USA

Ten quick thoughts on Trump’s shitholing of America:

  1. I first met Michele when she became one of my high school students in Brooklyn. She had just moved from Haiti, she slept on the floor of her family’s small apartment in a violent neighborhood, and she was picking up English as a second language. Today she’s a Harvard graduate and a law professor. That’s what America is all about. It’s shocking that we still need to remind people of that. Michele represents the best of America. Donald Trump, the worst.
  2. Nothing is surprising about Donald Trump calling Haiti and other countries (where people have dark skin) “shitholes.” Racism is not a Trump bug. It’s a Trump feature. He got warmed up with birther racism. He campaigned by calling Mexicans rapists. He couldn’t choose sides between Nazis and the good guys. This is who he has always been. He hasn’t hid it. On the contrary, he’s shouted it from the rooftops. And millions of Americans loved it. Forget all the faux outrage about the president’s language. This is the story.“
  3. Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” Given his personality, the most amazing part about all this is that Trump phrased something he doesn’t know about as a question. It may be Trump’s first sign of curiosity (other than asking the White House staff if he can have a second scoop of ice cream).
  4. The Wall is, and always has been, the physical manifestation of Trump’s overt racism and hate. Senators can’t back the former without backing the latter.
  5. This week, Donald Trump got his first physical as president. I really hope a doctor from one of the shithole countries got to do the prostate exam.
  6. Reminder: Trump’s policies are a lot worse than his language. For immigrants, that was especially true this week.
  7. Dear Cable news outlets: You can say the word shithole. Every sane parent in America has been yelling expletives over and over since last January. My alarm goes off, I roll over, I remember what’s happening in America, and I groan, “Oh fuck.” Then I wake up my kids and they do the same.
  8. Anyone who thought the White House would deny Trump’s comments hasn’t been paying attention. It’s not a slip or a gaffe. It’s their point.
  9. Trump wondered aloud why we can’t have more immigrants from places such as Norway. And Norway was like, “Oh, hey, um, yeah, actually we’ve got this thing that just came up…”
  10. My parents came to America after surviving the Holocaust. For Jews, one could fairly describe post-war Europe as a shithole. And that was the point. They came to America. And like millions of immigrants, before and after, they made it better.

Source: Dave Pell – Medium

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The Neurological Disorders in Alice in Wonderland

“Now I’m opening out like the largest telescope that ever was! Good-bye, feet!” (for when she looked down at her feet, they seemed to be almost out of sight, they were getting so far off).”

‘…The moment Alice arrives in Wonderland, she goes through a series of strange metamorphic changes, becoming larger or smaller after ingesting certain foods and liquids. These sensations are also experienced by individuals with a certain medical condition termed Alice in Wonderland syndrome (AIWS).

AIWS was first described in 1955 by a British psychiatrist Dr. John Todd, who noticed that many of his younger patients experienced distortions in the size of objects or body parts (metamorphopsia) as a result of their migraines. He noted a strong association between these symptoms and migraines, and determined that AIWS may constitute a rare ‘migraine variant’. In fact, Lewis Carroll himself is reported to have suffered from migraines and manifested his experiences in his writing….’

Via Neuroscience News

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Does an Exploding Brain Network Cause Chronic Pain?

Explosive Stimulation (ES):

‘In ES, a small stimulus can lead to a dramatic synchronized reaction in the network, as can happen with a power grid failure (that rapidly turns things off) or a seizure (that rapidly turns things on). This phenomenon was, until recently, studied in physics rather than medicine. Researchers say it’s a promising avenue to explore in the continued quest to determine how a person develops fibromyalgia.

“As opposed to the normal process of gradually linking up different centers in the brain after a stimulus, chronic pain patients have conditions that predispose them to linking up in an abrupt, explosive manner,” says first author UnCheol Lee, Ph.D., a physicist and assistant professor of anesthesiology at Michigan Medicine. These conditions are similar to other networks that undergo ES, including power grids, Lee says….’

Via Neuroscience News

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“Let’s find out if he’s okay”: a Democratic lawmaker urges Pence to have Trump’s mental fitness evaluated

“There’s been concern that’s been expressed on both sides of the aisle.”

‘Questions about Donald Trump’s mental fitness have dogged him since he entered office last year. And lately his Twitter threats about having a bigger and more powerful “nuclear button” than the North Korean regime, and Michael Wolff’s dishy new book depicting him as erratic and impulsive, have renewed the push to do something about a seemingly out-of-control president.

The only legal mechanism that exists to remove a sitting president from office is the 25th Amendment. Ratified after President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, the amendment was created to allow the vice president to take over if a president became severely physically or mentally incapacitated. In the era of Trump, it’s being talked about as a way to remove him if there are enough concerns about his mental fitness.

To do that, the vice president and a majority of the Cabinet would have to invoke Section 4 of the 25th Amendment to remove the president from office….’

Via Vox

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We are multitudes

PhotoWomen are chimeras, with genetic material from both their parents and children. Where does that leave individual identity?

‘Within weeks of conception, cells from both mother and foetus traffic back and forth across the placenta, resulting in one becoming a part of the other. During pregnancy, as much as 10 per cent of the free-floating DNA in the mother’s bloodstream comes from the foetus, and while these numbers drop precipitously after birth, some cells remain. Children, in turn, carry a population of cells acquired from their mothers that can persist well into adulthood, and in the case of females might inform the health of their own offspring. And the foetus need not come to full term to leave its lasting imprint on the mother: a woman who had a miscarriage or terminated a pregnancy will still harbour foetal cells. With each successive conception, the mother’s reservoir of foreign material grows deeper and more complex, with further opportunities to transfer cells from older siblings to younger children, or even across multiple generations….’

Via Aeon

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The ‘greatest pandemic in history’ was 100 years ago – but many of us still get the basic facts wrong

Correcting misconceptions about the 1918 flu pandemic:

‘This year marks the 100th anniversary of the great influenza pandemic of 1918. Between 50 and 100 million people are thought to have died, representing as much as 5 percent of the world’s population. Half a billion people were infected.

Especially remarkable was the 1918 flu’s predilection for taking the lives of otherwise healthy young adults, as opposed to children and the elderly, who usually suffer most. Some have called it the greatest pandemic in history.

The 1918 flu pandemic has been a regular subject of speculation over the last century. Historians and scientists have advanced numerous hypotheses regarding its origin, spread and consequences. As a result, many of us harbor misconceptions about it….’

Via The Conversation

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Why You Can’t Stop a Mistaken Action After You’ve Started

Even though you know it’s wrong:

‘According to a recent study conducted by Johns Hopkins University neuroscientists, and published in the journal Neuron, we only have a few milliseconds to change our minds and stop our actions after the initial go-ahead signal sent by our brains. That’s why we often know we’re making a mistake while it happens. Previously, scientists thought that only one region of the brain was active when people attempted to alter course, but they’ve now realized that halting yourself in such a way requires speedy choreography between several different areas of your brain, and as we age that becomes more difficult. As senior author Susan Courtney points out, three areas of the brain have to communicate successfully in order for us to stop—including the “oops” area of the brain where Courtney says we continue to conclude what we should have done—and the whole process has to happen very quickly…’

Via Lifehacker

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Trump–Russia Mueller investigation interview: lawyers worry

“If Trump lies during this interview, he will be guilty of a felony.”

‘President Donald Trump has repeatedly said he would testify under oath about possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 presidential election. But now it looks like Trump’s lawyers are worried about a potential interview with special counsel Robert Mueller — and are seeking ways to avoid it….’

Via Vox

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Why These Birds Carry Flames In Their Beaks

The black kite (pictured, an animal at Madagascar’s Tsimbazaza Zoo) is one of the birds thought to spread fire in Australia.

‘Australia’s indigenous peoples have long observed “firehawks” spreading wildfires throughout the country’s tropical savannas….’

Via National Geographic

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Our Best Evidence Yet That Humans Are Fixing the Ozone Hole


‘The ozone hole feels like the quintessential ‘80s problem, but unlike car phones and mullets, it remains relevant in a number of ways. For starters, it’s still there, chilling over Antartica. More importantly, it’s slowly healing, and a new study offers some of the best evidence yet that sound environmental policy is responsible.

It’s been nearly 30 years since the world adopted the Montreal Protocol, a landmark treaty banning the use of ozone-destroying chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). But despite a firm scientific understanding of the link between CFCs and ozone depletion, it’s been tough to tell how much of a success the protocol was, because the ozone hole didn’t start showing signs of recovery until a few years back….’

Via Earther.com

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You Love Chocolate? Here’s the Bad News

(It’s Very Bad News):

‘As the scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration just explained, cacao plants are on the road to becoming extinct by 2050.

In essence, climate change is going to suck far more moisture out of soil and plants in Africa.

There probably won’t be enough rainfall to offset this sucking.

That will drive cacao farms — which are mostly in West Africa — up the mountains. There, though, the conditions aren’t ideal. And much of the mountain areas are already designated as wildlife preserves.

We, the chocolate lovers of the world, are likely doomed….’

Via Inc.com

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Bizarre Vintage Ads That Will Leave You Scratching Your Head…

…Or shaking it in disbelief:

‘The intriguing advertisements were compiled by All That Is Interesting and range from confusing to controversial, from hilarious to offensive. Yet, they are curious to scroll through, as they reveal past-time trends and attitudes which were socially acceptable just a handful of decades ago….’

Via The Mind Unleashed

I have a different take on this. Instead of showcasing how far we’ve come in only a few decades, I see these as testimony to how primitive and backward we still are. 

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Choosing A Dog

 

William Stafford from The Way It Is, Graywolf  Press (1998):

 

“It’s love,” they say. You touch

the right one and a whole half of the universe

wakes up, a new half.

 

Some people never find

that half, or they neglect it or trade it

for money or success and it dies.

 

The faces of big dogs tell, over the years,

that size is a burden: you enjoy it for a while

but then maintenance gets to you.

 

When I get old I think I’ll keep, not a little

dog, but a serious dog,

for the casual, drop-in criminal—

 

My kind of dog, unimpressed by

dress or manner, just knowing

what’s really there by the smell.

 

Your good dogs, some things that

they hear they don’t really want you to know—

it’s too grim or ethereal.

 

And sometimes when they look in the fire

they see time going on and someone alone

but they don’t say anything. 

 

Via 3quarksdaily

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Woman who accused Roy Moore is homeless after her house burned down

Fire investigated as arson:

‘Tina Johnson accused Roy Moore of sexually assualting her in 1991, when she was 28, making her a rare adult to be preyed upon by the delusional pedophile mall-crawler.

Last week, her home in Gadsden, Alabama burned down. Now, the fire is being investigated as a possible arson by the Etowah County Arson Task Force….’

Via Boing Boing

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The CDC Wants to Prepare Americans for a Nuclear Strike

CDC: “planning and preparation efforts for a nuclear detonation are similar and different from other emergency response planning efforts.”

‘In what serves as a very sad commentary on the current state of geopolitical affairs, the US Centers for Disease Control will hold a special session later this month to discuss ways in which American citizens should plan and prepare for nuclear war….’

Via Gizmodo

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Freezing Your Ass Off Is Also a Symptom of Climate Change

The connection between a melting Arctic and frigid temperatures on the East Coast:

‘…the Arctic has less sea ice than at any time in the 37 years that satellites have been measuring ice coverage. And while most of eastern North America is expected to be even colder by Friday, with temperatures set to plunge, Juneau, Alaska, will be a relatively balmy 6℃ (42℉).

What about climate change? The fact that it is cold today in Palm Springs and warm in Juneau is weather. Climate is long-term trends—years—of weather. And one of those trends is increased extreme weather, including winters too warm to ski and winters too cold to go outside….’

Via Motherboard

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Is There Something Neurologically Wrong With Donald Trump?

functional-neurologyJames Hamblin MD, a senior editor at The Atlantic, writes, “It is best not to diagnose the president from afar, which is why the federal government needs a system to evaluate him up close.” As readers know, I have weighed in on the urgency of ignoring the supposed ethical standard called the ‘Goldwater Rule’ in the face of Trump’s malignant narcissism and the imminent danger it represents to our health and survival. Can we diagnose this personality disorder from afar?  I have argued that such potent narcissism, being an unquenchable thirst for adulation, plays itself out largely on the public stage and can accurately be recognized from afar.

Should it be taken into account in assessing Trump’s fitness? Such psychiatric luminaries as Allen Frances, a leading author of the first edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) to include personality disorders, argue along the lines that ‘the goal of mental-health care is to help people who are suffering themselves from disabling and debilitating illnesses. A personality disorder is “only a disorder when it causes extreme distress, suffering, and impairment.” I beg to differ, and would venture to say that most mental health professionals practice with a different understanding. Some psychiatric symptoms function to defend the sufferer from the experience of their own distress and in so doing cause those around them to suffer. Narcissistic personality disorder is among those. One role frequently played by the mental health profession has been to evaluate and treat people who have not voluntarily sought relief from their own suffering when it is necessary for the protection of those around them. And Trump’s conduct causes a clear and present threat to the health and wellbeing of people across this country and the world.

A further specious argument against attributing Trump’s difficulties to mental illness is that it stigmatizes the mentally ill. I fight strongly against the stigmatization of my patients, but frankly this is a false syllogism. You see how it works: “Trump is execrable or evil. Trump is mentally ill. Therefore all mentally ill people are execrable or evil.” But let us not be politically correct. Because patients with mental health dificulties are suffering and usually courageous people struggling against great odds, and on aggregate do no more harm to others than those without illness, it does not mean that none of them ever, anywhere, do any harm. While the long raging debate about whether evil and malevolence are per se evidence of mental illness has never been (and will probably never be) resolved, that does not mean that evil is never done by those with a mental health diagnosis.

Yet psychiatric concern, especially in today’s hyperpolarized world, is too easily dismissed as partisanship. But how about something more objective and incontrovertible than a psychiatric diagnosis? While diagnosing a mental disorder and particularly a personality disorder will always be a judgment call, Dr Hamblin’s article describes another cause for alarm — observable evidence of Trump’s neurological dysfunction. Viewers of his speeches have noticed minor but suggestive abnormalities in his movements and at least one incident of garbled speech, which could have represented either dysarthria — interference with the articulation of sounds from anywhere in the speech-producing machinery — or aphasia — problems at the level of the brain’s control of language, e.g. from a transient ischemic attack or an acute stroke. But, more important, there is clear evidence in the public record, the significance of which cannot be disputed, of a drastic deterioration in Trump’s verbal fluency and impoverishment of his vocabulary over the years. It is chilling to compare the examples, as this article does, from interviews he gave in the 1980s or 1990s with almost any section of any statement he has made in the last few years (except when he is kept to task delivering speeches written by others presumably neurologically intact). Of course, verbal fluency predictably declines with age. (I am sure you would notice the phenomenon across the 18 years of posts here on FmH, for example.) But experts agree that the decline in Trump’s linguistic sophistication is far in excess of the normal regression of cognitive function expected with age.

Why should we be alarmed? So what if his stories, or even his sentences, don’t have beginnings, middles, and ends? if his associational leaps are rarely clear? This is not the folksy simplicity and vernacular that, say, GW Bush adopted to appear to be a Texas man of the people instead of from an Eastern patrician clan. This is evidence of a progressive process of cognitive impairment, more than not likely to be a dementia, i.e. one that affects far more  than language alone, iindiciative of cognitive impairment in skills such as deployment of attention and concentration, resistance to distraction, control of impulsivity, concept formation, judgment, problem-solving and decision-making. Many of these can be objectively assessed and measured by neuropsychological examinations accepted as standards.

I was one of a number of health professionals taking note of the evidence of Ronald Reagan’s dementia by the time he was running for reelection. Perhaps you saw me, dressed in my white coat, interviewed on the Boston evening news when he gave a speech here at City Hall Plaza at which a number of us demonstrated. It is now common knowledge that he was mentally disabled during his term in office but at the time it was a public outrage to talk about the Emperor’s nakedness. And, even though the evidence now regarding Trump  is far more definitive and unavoidable, and the consequences of ignoring it far more dire, the taboo appears to remain as strong.