Month: May 2018

Hobson’s Choice

NewImageSam Hobson is a wildlife photographer with a twist. His focus is on the ‘invasive’ species that are colonizing urban spaces, e.g. red foxes (I have a family living on my street outside of Boston) and parakeets (whose populations are burgeoning in the air over cities like London, some say thanks to Jimi Hendrix releasing a mating pair sometime around 50 years ago to make the city more colorful!). Such arresting images often require painstaking groundwork.

Via Sam Hobson Photography

US fertility is dropping. Here’s why some experts saw it coming

 

NewImageThe recent drop in fertility brings the U.S. more in line with peer countries:

‘However, this recent decline fits with global trends and isn’t unprecedented in U.S. history. As a demographer who studies fertility trends, what strikes me as anomalous is not the recent drop, but the previous high fertility “bubble.”

The U.S. maintained surprisingly high fertility rates for a long time. After the baby boom of the 1950s and 1960s, fertility in the U.S. and other wealthy countries fell during the 1970s. However, the U.S. steadily rebounded, even as rates in most other wealthy countries stayed low or fell even lower….’

Via The Conversation

Bob Mueller’s White Hot Summer

NewImageFormer federal prosecutor Nelson Cunningham in Politico:

‘Special Counsel Robert Mueller may well be in the final stages of wrapping up his principal investigation. Last week, I argued here in Politico that Mueller will want to avoid interfering with the November midterms, and so will try to conclude by July or August. On this one we can believe Trump’s new lawyer, former prosecutor and New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, who claims Mueller’s target is September 1….’

It seems to me that wrapping up before the midterm elections stands a good chance of doing precisely the opposite, especially if the scenario is as he predicts in the article:

Mueller will not indict the president, but will issue a comprehensive and detailed report… Rod Rosenstein will decide to release the report to Congress and the public… Rosenstein’s move to release the Mueller report will lead to his firing and perhaps another Saturday Night Massacre… And this is when the Senate and the Congress might finally engage.

As for the political impact? All of this – the conclusion of Mueller’s investigation, the issuing of his report, the fight over its release and the fallout from a firing of Rosenstein – will play out loudly in public before November.

Quickly, “release the report” will become the central political axis of this political year. In these crowded months before November 6, we may see political tumult unseen since 1974. And just as then, the fate of a presidency may hang in the balance.

Massive Neutron Star Is the Definition of Extreme

NewImage‘New research published this week in the Astrophysical Journal describes one of the most massive neutron stars ever detected, an object containing 2.3 solar masses. Only one known neutron star tops it: a behemoth discovered seven years ago that weighed in at 2.4 solar masses. In total, out of the approximately 2,000 neutron stars known to astronomers, only four are more than two solar masses. Super-massive neutron stars are thus relatively rare, and they exist at the limits of what’s physically possible—making them exceptionally important objects of inquiry, both for astronomers and for particle physicists….’

Via Gizmodo

Are Plants Conscious?

NewImage‘Animal rights activists have done stellar work in foregrounding the question of creature-consciousness: no meat-eater is now ignorant of the fact that their food once lived, breathed, maybe nuzzled its kin in a blood-soaked slaughterhouse. Environmentalists have a harder go of it. Fracking footage will always be less upsetting than your average fast food expose: Plants, after all, can’t wail frantically as they’re mowed down by the millions. But does that mean they’re not conscious? Is it sensible, or desirable, to start anthropomorphizing crabgrass and dandelions, or are plants really as insensitive as we all instinctively assume?…’

Via Gizmodo

 

 

Impeachment is Not the Answer?

NewImageNew Laurence Tribe Book Offers Cautions:


‘A new book from Laurence Tribe and Joshua Matz argues that removing a president, even when justified, can be an unwise move….’

Tribe and his former student argue that impeachment talk, which has been faced by every president since 1992, is often stirred not by the president’s opponents but by his supporters, as a way to sustain political engagement between elections, since we are in an age of permanent campaigning and permanent partisanship. And for many Trump supporters, the authors observe, 

Trump’s appeal is less what he will accomplish programmatically than whom he will attack personally. Were Trump removed from office by political elites in Washington, DC—even based on clear evidence that he had grossly abused power—some of his supporters would surely view the decision as an illegitimate coup. Indeed, some right-wing leaders have already denounced the campaign to remove Trump as a prelude to civil war.

One central piece of advice from Tribe and Matz is that impeachment is not a legal, but a political question. It is a mistake to think that solving the problem of whether to impeach depends on whether the President’s actions meet some standard of “high crimes and misdemeanors.” Grand visions of putting the President on trial, they say, devalue other political ways of defending democracy.

The book is, according to the review by David Frum, 

a hopeful summons to defend an imperiled democracy with a renewed and enlarged commitment to democratic action.

Via The Atlantic

Fifteen Unanswered Criminal Law Questions Surrounding the Enfant Terrible

NewImageIn a companion piece, Frum catalogues the open questions about potential criminal acts by the Buffoon-in-Chief, his campaign, his company, and his family. However, he cautions that all he has to do to avoid repercussions is tell lies his contemptibly credulous base believes:

 

 

‘As Laurence Tribe and Joshua Matz show in their new book about impeachment, an agitated and committed minority can suffice to protect a president from facing justice for even the most strongly proven criminality….’

 

 

Via The Atlantic

The Practically-Extinct Northern White Rhino Just Got Some Good News

NewImage‘Things look pretty bleak for the northern white rhinoceros. Since the death of Sudan, the last male, the entirety of the subspecies has dwindled to only two females. But a group of scientists is churning away on a high-tech save involving carefully cryopreserved cells and tissue cultures from long-dead northern white rhinos. And a new study on the genetics of these precious samples suggests that they are diverse enough to successfully seed a recovered population in the future….’

Via Earther

“I was Jordan Peterson’s strongest supporter. Now I think he’s dangerous”

NewImageBernard Schiff, professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Toronto and former publisher of The Walrus:

‘I thought long and hard before writing about Jordan, and I do not do this lightly. He has one of the most agile and creative minds I’ve ever known. He is a powerful orator. He is smart, passionate, engaging and compelling and can be thoughtful and kind.

I was once his strongest supporter.

That all changed with his rise to celebrity. I am alarmed by his now-questionable relationship to truth, intellectual integrity and common decency, which I had not seen before. His output is voluminous and filled with oversimplifications which obscure or misrepresent complex matters in the service of a message which is difficult to pin down. He can be very persuasive, and toys with facts and with people’s emotions. I believe he is a man with a mission. It is less clear what that mission is….’

Via Toronto Star

Why medicine leads the professions in suicide

NewImageAnd what we can do about it

‘Having entered medicine believing that their own knowledge, compassion and experience would help make the difference between health and illness and even life and death for their patients, they have found themselves inhabiting a very different reality, one that often leaves them feeling more like passengers than pilots.

Consider how physician performance is assessed. In the past, physicians sank or swam based on their professional reputations. Today, by contrast, the work of physicians tends to be evaluated by the quality of their documentation, their compliance with policies and procedures, the degree to which their clinical decision-making conforms to prescribed guidelines, and satisfaction scores. Over the past few decades, the physician has become less of a decision-maker and more of a decision implementer….’

Via The Conversation

Scientists Are Hunting for DNA in Loch Ness—Get the Facts

NewImageIf the famous cryptid is real, this hunt ought to find it—but if not, scientists will still gain valuable ecological data.

‘A group of scientists plans to find out once and for all if Scotland’s most famous “resident,” the Loch Ness Monster, is or ever was hiding in the deep by sequencing as many DNA fragments as they can find in the lake’s murky waters.

Since April 2018, an international research team led by University of Otago geneticist Neil Gemmell has collected water samples from the iconic freshwater lake. In June, Gemmell’s team will begin extracting DNA from the samples, hunting in part for Nessie’s genetic fingerprint.

The team expects to announce their findings by January 2019. In the meantime, the project will shine a bright spotlight on environmental DNA, or eDNA for short—a relatively new field of study that’s giving scientists unprecedented insights….’

Via National Geographic

Enter: micro.blog

I just integrated micro.blog with WordPress. This be the first post from the former to the latter. Would you like to follow me on micro.blog?

“I Killed Them All.”

ThNewImagee Life Of One Of America’s Bloodiest Hitmen

‘That he killed so many for so long suggests a dark truth about law enforcement in the US: Kill the right people — in his case, farmworkers and drug dealers, few of whom had anyone to speak on their behalf — and you just might find there’s no one to stop you….’

Via BuzzFeed

Can we treat psychosis by listening to the voices in our heads?

NewImageT. M. Luhrmann writes:

‘A group of highly respected, mostly European scientists—among them Jim van Os in Maastricht, the Netherlands, and Charles Fernyhough in Durham, England—have started to argue for the maverick idea that all auditory hallucinations exist on what they call the psychotic continuum. In other words, voices heard by healthy people are simply less severe manifestations of those heard by the mentally ill. These scientists suggest that hearing voices is like experiencing sadness. Some people are clearly sadder than others, and terrible sadness may require hospital care. But there is nothing inherently abnormal about sadness itself. Van Os, Fernyhough, and others have started to ask whether healthy people who hear voices frequently… somehow learned early on to manage their unusual perceptions and so never spiraled into mental illness. They believe that the voices of madness could be softened, if we could only teach people to harness them….’

Via Harpers

Donald Trump Stalked Bill Gates’ Daughter

Monica Hunter-Hart writes:

‘As for the list of women with whom President Donald Trump reportedly has a slightly creepy relationship, we can now add the daughter of one of the richest men in the world. At a recent Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation meeting that was broadcasted by MSNBC on Thursday, Bill Gates said Trump’s knowledge of his daughter’s appearance was “scary[ily]” detailed when the billionaires met. He also described Trump’s bizarre first encounter with the 22-year-old Jennifer Gates. …’

Source: Google News

A star turned into a black hole before Hubble’s very eyes

NewImage‘When a massive star expends its fuel, its core collapses into a dense object and sends the rest of its gas outward in an event called a supernova. What’s left is mostly neutron stars or black holes. And now, Hubble seems to have seen a supernova blink out — suggesting it captured the moment when a black hole took over.

While some supernova events are explosive and leave clouds of debris for thousands of years (aka nebula) like SN 1054, the star in question seems to have begun to explode and then had all its gas sucked right back into the black hole at the center. This can happen when the core collapse of the star is especially massive. Rather than exploding, the gas collapses directly into the core of the star.

Only a few of these so called “massive fails” (yes, that’s what they’re calling them) have been spotted, so astronomers are cautious about the results. But this particular star, located in the galaxy NGC 6946, was bright enough to see from 22 million light years away and faded in an instant, suggesting a massive stellar-mass black hole was the driving culprit….’

Via Astronomy.com

Why Christopher Nolan “unrestored” 2001: A Space Odyssey

NewImageChristopher Nolan brought a restored print — although he prefers to call it ‘unrestored’ to emphasize its fidelity to Kubrick’s original vision and intent — to Cannes. In this interview he waxes enthusiastic about the mindbending film, which he first saw at age 7 when it was rereleased in 70 mm.

I too was transported by 2001. In the weeks after it first came out in 1968 I saw it eight times on the big screen, dragging every friend I could. I wrote an exhilarated review for my high school newspaper attempting to synthesize the metaphysical insights it brought me. (Wish I could read a copy of that now to cringe at how awful it probably was…) I am looking forward to seeing the restored version in the theatre in the coming weeks.

Via Vox

Trump Calls Some Unauthorized Immigrants ‘Animals’ in Rant

NewImageHardly the first time the enfant terrible has spoken in racially fraught terms about immigrants:

‘President Trump lashed out at undocumented immigrants during a White House meeting on Wednesday, warning in front of news cameras that dangerous people were clamoring to breach the country’s borders and branding such people “animals.”

Mr. Trump’s comments came during a round-table discussion with state and local leaders on California’s so-called sanctuary laws, which strictly limit communication between local law enforcement and federal immigration officers, and which the Trump administration is suing to invalidate….’

Via New York Times

Scientists declare octopi life from another world

NewImage‘Evidence of the octopus evolution show it would have happened too quickly to have begun here on Earth. Published in the Progress in Biophysics and Molecular Biology Journal, 33 scientists have declared the invertebrate sea-dweller an alien whose eggs landed from space….’

Via Boing Boing

Tick bites that trigger severe meat allergy on rise around the world

NewImage‘People living in tick-endemic areas around the world are being warned of an increasingly prevalent, potentially life-threatening side effect to being bitten: developing a severe allergy to meat.

The link between tick bites and meat allergies was first described in 2007, and has since been confirmed around the world.

Sufferers of “tick-induced mammalian meat allergy” will experience a delayed reaction of between two and 10 hours after eating red meat. Almost invariably, they are found to have been bitten by a tick – sometimes as much as six months before.

Tick populations booming due to climate change Read more Although most cases of tick bites of humans are uneventful, some immune systems are sensitive to proteins in the parasite’s saliva and become intolerant of red meat and, in some cases, derivatives such as dairy and gelatine.

Poultry and seafood can be tolerated, but many sufferers choose to avoid meat entirely….’

Via The Guardian

These Are The Jobs Most Likely To Attract A Serial Killer

A new book by criminologist Michael Arntfeld tabulates the correlation between serial killers and certain professions:

Skilled Occupations:

1. Aircraft machinist/assembler
2. Shoemaker/repair person
3. Automobile upholsterer.

Semi-Skilled Occupations:

1. Forestry worker/arborist
2. Truck driver
3. Warehouse manager

Unskilled Occupations

1. General laborer (such as a mover or landscaper)
2. Hotel porter
3. Gas station attendant

Professional and Government Occupations:

1. Police/security official
2. Military personnel
3. Religious official.

Asked to explain what it is about these jobs that attracts people who kill, Arntfeld points to the fact that jobs may confer easy access to vulnerable victims under the guise of employment;  and “the fact many jobs simultaneously satisfy the underlying paraphiliac, or sexual preoccupations, that also fuel killers’ crimes.” For instance, for reasons that are not well understood, Arntfeld says, “mechanophilia” (a fixation with or erotic arousal from machines) appears to correlate with necrophilia and homicidal necrophilia.

Via IFLScience

On the other hand, the list might be biased as pertaining to the serial killers who get caught. Other skillful killers might remain quietly in place, perhaps in other professions.

The Virus That Causes Mono Linked To Seven Autoimmune Diseases

‘…a team from the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital shows that exposure to the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), best known for causing mononucleosis, appears to boost the risk of developing seven other diseases in individuals who inherited predisposing gene variants. Those autoimmune diseases are lupus, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, juvenile idiopathic arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, celiac disease, and type 1 diabetes.…’

Via IFLScience

 EBV infection is so prevalent that an estimated 90% of the population carries its genetic signature. Most infection is asymptomatic. Once introduced into the body, the virus inserts a copy of its genome into B-lymphocytes of the immune system. Whenever the B cell replicates, a copy of the viral genome is passed on. A protein coded for by the EBV genetic sequence appress to consistently attach itself to areas of the host DNA near risk sequences for the severn autoimmune diseases, increasing the likelihood that they will be activated. In other words, EBV-dreived proteins are a trigger for switching on disease-carrying mutations in B cells that might otherwise never have been expressed.  

Donald Trump is not American democracy’s worst threat

Ezra Klein writes:

‘…[I]s this really a uniquely alarming moment in American life? Is the future of liberal democracy so much less sure today than it has been in our recent past? The more I looked for answers to that question, the less certain I became. …’

Source: Vox

May 1968: the revolution retains its magnetic allure

John Harris writes:

‘We are now as far from the events of 1968 as the people involved were from the end of the first world war. Cliche has long since reduced much of what occurred to “student revolt”, but that hardly does these happenings justice, partly because it ignores the workers’ strikes that were just as central to what occurred during ’68 and the years that followed, but also because the phrase gets nowhere near the depth and breadth of what young people were rebelling against, not least in France.

This was the last time that a developed western society glimpsed the possibility of revolution focused not just on institutions, but the contestation of everyday reality, which is still enough to make the simple phrase “May 1968” crackle with excitement – even if you were not around when les évenéments took place. I was born in 1969, but what happened in France and beyond retains a magnetic allure.

[Commemorations to mark 1968’s 50th anniversary include] a series of events, focused on liberties and utopias, at Nanterre University, the suburban campus where the French unrest first flared up; and at King’s College in London, workshops, film screenings and symposiums on ’68’s protests and what they have come to signify.

The leftwing publishers Verso are reissuing a handful of texts, including Tariq Ali’s memoir-cum-history Street Fighting Years and the Raymond Williams-edited May Day Manifesto (1968), arguably the founding text of the British New Left. The same company is also publishing a new book titled Opening the Gates, the compelling story of an attempt at co-operative socialism that took root in the early 1970s at a watch factory in eastern France. Allen Lane, meanwhile, has published The Long ’68, by British historian Richard Vinen, an exhaustive work whose narrative runs across Europe and the US. …’

Source: The Guardian

Iran nuclear deal: 94% of foreign policy experts think Trump is wrong

NewImageNearly unanimous:

‘In Washington, President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal is controversial — Republicans largely approve, and Democrats, for the most part, are critical.

But when you ask experts on international relations, the decision isn’t very controversial at all: An astonishing 94 percent of scholars think the president made the wrong choice…’

Via Vox

Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, 9/11 mastermind, claims to have info on Gina Haspel

NewImage‘…Trump’s nominee for CIA director is facing a tough confirmation hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee Wednesday over her controversial role in the Bush-era torture program.

But her latest critic isn’t a human rights group or a Democratic senator — it’s Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the 9/11 terror attacks… He was also tortured by the CIA, including being waterboarded — that is, held down and repeatedly suffocated by having water poured over a cloth into his mouth and nose until he was near drowning — 183 times over 15 sessions while in US custody.

He’s currently sitting in the US prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba — and he’s apparently got something to say about Gina Haspel.

The New York Times’s Charlie Savage reports that KSM has requested permission from a military judge at Guantanamo to share “six paragraphs of information” about Haspel with the Senate Intelligence Committee.

What those six paragraphs of information might contain remains a mystery, and it’s entirely possible that whatever KSM has to say is either completely false or exaggerated and that he’s trying to use this as an opportunity to espouse anti-American propaganda.

But KSM’s defense lawyers seem to think the information he has is significant enough that the Intelligence Committee should see it….’

Via Vox

Europe’s reaction to Trump Iran nuclear deal withdrawal: raw anger

NewImageIn one word:

‘François Delattre, France’s ambassador to the United Nations, …told Karen DeYoung of the Washington Post that the Trump administration’s foreign policy was a dangerous “mix of unilateralism and isolationism” that he combined into “unisolationism.”

The comments are worth taking a close look at, for two reasons….’

Via Vox

The key to solving Parkinson’s disease may not be in the brain

NewImageLook to the gut:

‘In 1817, English surgeon James Parkinson reported that some patients with a condition he referred to as ‘shaking palsy’ suffered from constipation. The disease has been named after him ever since and in one of the six cases he described, helping to alleviate that patient’s gastrointestinal complaints also helped some with the movement-related problems of the very same patient.

In fact, today, new evidence is pointing to the stomach and gastrointestinal tract as a possible solution—or, at least, part of one—for those suffering from the disease.

Just over half of all Parkinson’s patients have constipation as one of the common symptoms of the disease….’

Via Big Think

The thinking error at the root of science denial

NewImageJeremy Shapiro writes:

‘Currently, there are three important issues on which there is scientific consensus but controversy among laypeople: climate change, biological evolution and childhood vaccination. On all three issues, prominent members of the Trump administration, including the president, have lined up against the conclusions of research.

This widespread rejection of scientific findings presents a perplexing puzzle to those of us who value an evidence-based approach to knowledge and policy.

Yet many science deniers do cite empirical evidence. The problem is that they do so in invalid, misleading ways. Psychological research illuminates these ways.

As a psychotherapist, I see a striking parallel between a type of thinking involved in many mental health disturbances and the reasoning behind science denial. As I explain in my book “Psychotherapeutic Diagrams,” dichotomous thinking, also called black-and-white and all-or-none thinking, is a factor in depression, anxiety, aggression and, especially, borderline personality disorder….’

Via The Conversation

One space between each sentence, they said. Science just proved them wrong.

NewImageI have always learned that, since the word processor supplanted the typewriter, that it was wrong to persist with the time-honored practice of two-space sentence separations.  But I never quite understood the argument for one-spacing.  Now a group of Skidmore College psychological researchers, in a study published in Attention, Perception and Psychophysics, prove reading is more efficient, albeit only slightly so, if sentences are more separated.  I might very well go back to two spaces after periods. (If you were wondering, two-spacing after commas was not beneficial, and indeed slowed down reading speed.) Ironically, the study was submitted to the journal two-spaced, but the journal’s proofreaders deleted all the extra spaces. 

Via Washington Post

Murder in virtual reality should be illegal

NewImage‘Science-fiction writers have fantasised about virtual reality (VR) for decades. Now it is here – and with it, perhaps, the possibility of the complete physical experience of killing someone, without harming a soul. As well as Facebook’s ongoing efforts with Oculus Rift, Google recently bought the eye-tracking start-up Eyefluence, to boost its progress towards creating more immersive virtual worlds. The director Alejandro G Iñárritu and the cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, both famous for Birdman (2014) and The Revenant (2015), have announced that their next project will be a short VR film.

But this new form of entertainment is dangerous. The impact of immersive virtual violence must be questioned, studied and controlled. Before it becomes possible to realistically simulate the experience of killing someone, murder in VR should be made illegal.

This is not the argument of a killjoy. As someone who has worked in film and television for almost 20 years, I am acutely aware that the craft of filmmaking is all about maximising the impact on the audience. Directors ask actors to change the intonation of a single word, while editors sweat over a film cut down to fractions of a second, all in pursuit of the right mood and atmosphere….’

Via Big Think

Does our universe reside in the center of a black hole?

NewImageWe may live in a multiverse checkered with black holes, each containing its own universe… It all centers around a different theory of what exactly a black hole is. The general understanding is nothing can escape a black hole’s intense gravity, not even light. Called the black hole information paradox, it’s thought that even the information about an object that gets sucked in vanishes into oblivion. But therein lies a problem….’

Via Big Think

Scientists Reanimate Disembodied Pigs’ Brains

NewImageHow Could This Impact the Human Mind?

‘[I]t appears that we may have taken a step closer to making immortality reality. In a recent meeting at the National Institutes of Health, Yale neuroscientist Nenad Sestan revealed that his team has successfully reanimated the brains of dead pigs recovered from a slaughterhouse. By pumping them with artificial blood using a system called BrainEx, they were able to bring them back to “life” for up to 36 hours.

Admittedly, the pigs’ brains did not regain consciousness, but Sestan acknowledged that restoring awareness is a possibility. Crucially, he also disclosed that the technique could work on primate brains (which includes humans), and that the brains could be kept alive indefinitely….’

Via Neuroscience News

R.I.P. Mark Wood 04/27/49-02/09/17

NewImage

In the early years of FmH, one of the sites to which I was devoted and, frankly, of which I was quite envious, was Mark Wood’s enigmatically named ‘wood s lot‘. Yes, there is no apostrophe there, although I used to gently chide him about that, as part of a delightful friendly rivalry we had.

Here are my comments on his indispensability when he had to put the blog on suspension for awhile in 2002. And here is my paean to his site on the occasion of its third anniversary in 2003, which includes my peevish complaint about the solipsism of some of his content, his self-effacing style of remaining a cipher with no personal presence, and, in the last paragraph, said lack of apostrophe. (He listened… For one day, he renamed the site to ‘wood’s lot’!)

And here you will find  a compendium of  many of the mentions he got on FmH. I eventually fell away from following him as my blogging style morphed and his erudition soared. I was saddened to learn, in random surfing tonight, that Mark died around a year ago. You could do far worse than to go back and dip into his legacy, anywhere. My sympathies to his family.

Big Surprise Dept.

NewImageTrump’s Doctor Says Trump Dictated 2015 Letter Saying He’d Be the Healthiest President Ever

‘Dr. Harold Bornstein, Donald Trump’s personal doctor—not that one—has told CNN that Trump personally dictated the superfluous December 2015 letter which said Trump’s “physical strength and stamina are extraordinary” and that he would be the “healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency.”

“He dictated that whole letter. I didn’t write that letter,” Bornstein, who treated Trump dating back to 1980, told CNN. “I just made it up as I went along.” Bornstein also said that he was in a car with his wife in New York when Trump told him what he wanted to say, and compared the letter to Fargo:

“That’s black humor, that letter. That’s my sense of humor,” he said. “It’s like the movie ‘Fargo’: It takes the truth and moves it in a different direction.”…’

Via Splinter

Robert Mueller Likely Knows How the Trump Russia Investigation Ends

NewImage
‘Mueller might actually be relatively close to wrapping up the
investigation. Given that the FBI raid on Michael Cohen’s office, stemming from an investigation by federal prosecutors from the Southern District of New York, was sure to provoke a reaction from President Trump—the investigative equivalent of kicking a hornet’s nest—it seems likely that Mueller and deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein, who approved the raid, understood that one or both of them might be fired by the president in its wake. It seems likely that before they took such a provocative step on the case that they could see their way through to the investigation’s end….’

Via Wired

Happy Beltane

Halfway between the spring equinox and the summer solstice, this is when the cattle are driven out to the summer pastures and rituals invoked to protect them and encourage growth and fertility in livestock and crops. The smoke of the bonfires has protective power for those who circle them or leap over the flames and the embers. Celebrants circle their houses with burning torches from the Beltane bonfires. Hearth fires and candles are quenched and then rekindled from the torches. Holy wells are visited. Doors and windows are decorated with May flowers and the community makes a May Bush, a thorn bush adorned with the flowers, ribbons and bright shells. Feasting abounds. Spirits are thought to be especially active at Beltane (as at Samhain 6 months hence) and the goal of many Beltane rituals is to appease them.

NewImageLast night, Walpurgis night, the eve of the Saint’s Day for Walpurga, an 8th century abbess in Francia canonized for battling witches, was the time of the Witches’ Sabbaths at the tops of wild remote mountains (most famously, the Brocken, the highest peak in the Harz Mountains in central Germany, as memorialized in Goethe’s Faust) to cavort with the Devil. The attendants ride flying goats, trample the cross and are rebaptized in the name of the Devil. Magic ointments made from Deadly Nightshade (Belladonna), Henbane, Mandrake, Datura or the fly agaric mushroom evoke weird hallucinations and place participants in an altered state of consciousness, conferring the powers of flight and of shapeshifting. Walpurgisnacht also entails a procession of the dead, especially those who have died prematurely or violently during the past year and have been wandering to expiate their sins.