Month: August 2019

Possible Detection of a Black Hole So Big It ‘Should Not Exist’

Black Hole 2880x1700 Lede’Black hole physicists have been excitedly discussing reports that the LIGO and Virgo gravitational-wave detectors recently picked up the signal of an unexpectedly enormous black hole, one with a mass that was thought to be physically impossible.

“The prediction is no black holes, not even a few” in this mass range, wrote Stan Woosley, an astrophysicist at the University of California, Santa Cruz, in an email. “But of course we know nature often finds a way.”

Seven experts contacted by Quanta said they’d heard that among the 22 flurries of gravitational waves detected by LIGO and Virgo since April, one of the signals came from a collision involving a black hole of unanticipated heft — purportedly as heavy as 100 suns.…’

Via Quanta Magazine

UnknownI have long been interested in the relationship between mirror neurons and some behavioral disorders related to person-perception and the capacity for social relationships . I think the evidence is good that mirror neuron dysfunction plays a role in autistic spectrum disorders including Asperger syndrome. But, because of the mirror neuron system, smiles are literally neurologically contagious, and so are the good feelings associated with them. Via Big Think

Good luck trying to Google the devastating Amazon rainforest fires

Screen Shot 2019 08 21 at 6 37 01 PM e1566427819961’Right now, if you search for news about the massive fires burning in the Amazon rainforest, you might mostly find stories about the Amazon Fire line of tablets and streaming devices.

The search results come at a critical time for the rainforest. Smoke from the fires, which as of this afternoon cover huge swaths of the Amazon basin, completely blotted out the midday sun in Sao Paulo this week, darkening the city at 2:00pm on Monday (Aug. 19). According to Brazil’s state satellite agency, the number of fires in the Amazon so far this year is up 85% compared to the same period last year. About half of this year’s blazes have occurred in the last 20 days.

Meanwhile, many of the headlines in Google News highlight “midweek deals” on older models of Amazon’s Fire tablet and reviews of the latest version of the device. Searches for both “amazon fire” and “fire in the amazon” on Aug. 21 turned up news stories about the products rather than the fires; in one search, news stories about the ongoing Amazonian fires didn’t appear until the second page of Google News results.

Amazon Watch, one prominent NGO dedicated to advancing the rights of indigenous people living in the Amazon basin, has called on Jeff Bezos and his company to direct some efforts towards protectingits namesake ecosystem in the past. (Bezos installed a model “rainforest” in Amazon’s Seattle headquarters last year.)…’

Via Quartz

Monster crabs may hold clue to Amelia Earhart fate

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The secret of the 1937 disappearance of the famed aviator may lie in the underground haunts of the world’s largest land invertebrate. One theory is that Earhart made an emergency landing on one of the islands of Kiribati, which teems with coconut crabs. These monsters can measure three feet across and weigh more than nine pounds. Their claws exert more force than most animal bites. At night, observed one veteran of multiple expeditions to Kiribati, shining a flashlight can reveal hundreds of crabs clustering outside the shadow ring. One does not sleep on the ground. 

One theory says that Earhart was stranded on the island of Nikumaroro after flying off course and making an emergency landing with her navigator Fred Noonan, who soon died. Thirteen bones suspected to have been from Earhart’s body were found by British colonists in 1940 (they were sent to Fiji for analysis but later lost). Observations of the coconut crabs endemic to the area where the remains were found establishes that the eat, among other things, carrion, stripping a body to the bones in less than two weeks and dragging the bones back to their burrows. This may have happened to the rest of Earhart’s remains.Forensic dogs brought to the area two years ago signaled that someone had died there and excavations are proceeding. 

Via National Geographic

Don’t Believe a Word

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David Shariatmadari’s book explodes language myths:

’Each chapter explodes a common myth about language. Shariatmadari begins with the most common myth: that standards of English are declining. This is a centuries-old lament for which, he points out, there has never been any evidence. Older people buy into the myth because young people, who are more mobile and have wider social networks, are innovators in language as in other walks of life. Their habit of saying “aks” instead of “ask”, for instance, is a perfectly respectable example of metathesis, a natural linguistic process where the sounds in words swap round. (The word “wasp” used to be “waps” and “horse” used to be “hros”.) Youth is the driver of linguistic change. This means that older people feel linguistic alienation even as they control the institutions – universities, publishers, newspapers, broadcasters – that define standard English.

Another myth Shariatmadari dismantles is that foreign languages are full of untranslatable words. This misconception serves to exoticise other nationalities and cultures, making them sound quaint or bizarre. It amuses us to think that there are 27 words for eyebrow in Albanian. But we only really think this because of our grammar-blindness about Albanian, which can easily form adjectival compounds by joining two words together…

…He also rescues nonstandard forms, such as African American Vernacular English (AAVE), from the routine condescension meted out to them. AAVE misses out the linking “to be” verb (“you late”) but then so do many other languages. The AAVE construction “he be singing” does not mean “he is singing” but “he sings [as a hobby, professionally]”. It is an efficient means of marking the habitual aspect. “Imma” for “I’m going to” is another standard linguistic move: cutting a word or phrase that is just a grammatical marker. “Imma” doesn’t work with the more literal sense of “going to”, which is why you can say “Imma let you finish” (I’m going to let you finish) but not “Imma the shops” (I’m going to the shops).…’

Via The Guardian

America Wasn’t a Democracy, Until Black Americans Made It One


Unknown‘The United States is a nation founded on both an ideal and a lie. Our Declaration of Independence, approved on July 4, 1776, proclaims that “all men are created equal” and “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.” But the white men who drafted those words did not believe them to be true for the hundreds of thousands of black people in their midst. “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” did not apply to fully one-fifth of the country. Yet despite being violently denied the freedom and justice promised to all, black Americans believed fervently in the American creed. Through centuries of black resistance and protest, we have helped the country live up to its founding ideals.…’

Via 3 Quarks Daily

The Complicated Issue of Transableism

The complicated issue of transableism 1050x700I’ve written here a few times about a condition to which I referred as apotemnophilia, a craving to have a body part amputated. I had never considered the parallels, as this article does, to gender dysphoria and gender transition. Being transabled, or having body integrity identity dysphoria, refers to the feeling that one is a disabled person trapped in an able body, that one is meant to be an amputee. The anthropologist Jenny Davis has written about the variety of ways transabled people express what she has called their “impairment needs”:

The term wannabe refers to those who want/need to have a physical impairment. Pretenders act out their impairment-needs by, for example, folding an appendage, inserting ear plugs, wearing opaque contacts, walking on crutches, wheeling themselves in a chair, or wearing neck/leg/back braces. Devotees experience fetishistic attractions toward the physically impaired bodies of others…

The natural reaction to transablism (which I admit I felt when I wrote about apotemnophilia) is one of incredulity or abhorrence. Exploring that reaction, it seems to be based on the assumption that amputation is a choice, or a learned preference, for the affected person. And the choice of such a “socially devalued bodily state” as disability is stigmatized. But Davis’ investigation suggests that it might rather be thought of as essential. Again, this is in many ways parallel to the experiences of transgendered people as I understand them. Until gender dysphoria was understood and accepted, it seemed to many that the choice to transition was the problem, or the disorder, rather than the solution for the affected person. In both the transgender and the transable situations, wanting to transition is a route toward being one’s true self rather than departing from it. Transable people, observes Davis, often initially resisted a notion of wanting to stable themselves which they found abhorrent, but lost the battle. In the subset of “wannabes” who had sought psychotherapy for their amputation urges, therapy was never successful in changing the desires or relieving the distress. In contrast, it appears that those who have obtained a desired amputation find relief in ways they have been unable to get by other means.

So accepting the concept of body integrity identity dysphoria challenges us to consider the assertion that transabled people seeking amputation ought to be able to get them from reputable surgeons. If denied, many may either patronize disreputable back alley surgeons, injure a limb to compel medical amputation, or attempt to do it to themselves. Other elective surgical procedures are used to make the body conform better to social ideals; why shouldn’t people be allowed to change in ways with which society is less comfortable?

Of course, the parallel to gender transition may break down in at least one way. Satisfying the desire to maim or disable the body may entail enormous financial costs to care for the resultant lifelong disability. Thus, it may not merely be a matter of respecting the right to autonomy.

 

Via JSTOR Daily

Trump wants to buy Greenland. The country.

Bergs’In meetings, at dinners and in passing conversations, Mr. Trump has asked advisers whether the U.S. can acquire Greenland, listened with interest when they discuss its abundant resources and geopolitical importance, and, according to two of the people, has asked his White House counsel to look into the idea.

Some of his advisers have supported the concept, saying it was a good economic play, two of the people said, while others dismissed it as a fleeting fascination that will never come to fruition. It is also unclear how the U.S. would go about acquiring Greenland even if the effort were serious.

With a population of about 56,000, Greenland is a self-ruling part of the Kingdom of Denmark, and while its government decides on most domestic matters, foreign and security policy is handled by Copenhagen. Mr. Trump is scheduled to make his first visit to Denmark early next month, although the visit is unrelated, these people said.…’

Via Boing Boing

Ebola is now a treatable disease

14907212221 94d3ee310b z’Two of four experimental drugs designed to tackle Ebola have proven highly effective during field testing. Up until now, 70% infected of those infected with the Ebola virus have died. With the new drugs in play, 90% of those treated have been completely cured of the disease.…’

Via Boing Boing

‘This book can save your life,’ says translator of French Dictionary of Gestures

Chris clarke dictionary of gestures’Translation isn’t an easy art at the best of times, but Chris Clarke truly had his work cut out for him when he set out to create an English version of François Caradec’s Dictionary of Gestures. 

First published in 2005, it’s a compendium of more than 850 movements involving everything from the lips to the eyelashes to the knees.

Not only are many of those gestures specific to a particular country or culture, they’re also tricky to define — particularly given the fact that they transcend written language to begin with. 

As It Happens guest host Piya Chattopadhyay spoke with Chris Clarke about the project and about why knowing your gestures just might save your life. Here is part of their conversation.…’

Via CBC 

Should I be as irked as I am by the frequent use of ‘compliment’ when one really means ‘complement’? This misuse makes me fume whenever I come across it, but it seems that one of the reasons for the mistake is that, in addition to sounding the same, they used to share some meanings (via Dictionary.com). ‘Complement’ is the older word, in use since the 1300s, and meaning ‘to enhance something’ or ‘make it perfect’. ‘Compliment’ hails from the mid-1600s via the Spanish ‘complimiento’ but originates from the same Latin root. Despite the commonalities, the two words have diverged and using one for the other is, frankly, confusion. To ‘compliment’ someone (yes, a person, not something) means ‘to praise’ them or ‘to express admiration for’ them. And please don’t tell me that a misuse so common changes the language and becomes acceptable — things like this are just plain ignorant mistakes:

While I’m here, I’ll just mention the other frequent case of mistaken word identity that really gets to me — the use of ‘tact’ when one really means ‘tack.’

I can’t count the number of times I’ve had someone tell me they caught a typo I missed: I wrote, “take a different tack” when I must have meant “take a different tact.” I’ll admit I sometimes miss typos, but that’s not one of them. It’s possibly the most widely misused phrase I can think of.

“Tack” — the correct word in this context — is actually derived from sailing terminology. The tack is the lower leading corner of the sail; it points the direction the ship is heading. So when a sailboat changes course, it’s changing from one tack to another, or “taking a different tack.”

Tact, on the other hand, really only has one meaning. It’s a keen perception of what is appropriate or considerate. (Think of tactile–>touch–>the right touch.)

via Get edited.

[You are welcome to use the comments section to blow off steam about confusion between other similar words. ]

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Jaron Lanier:

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You are losing your free will
Quitting social media is the most finely targeted way to resist the insanity of our times
Social media is making you into an asshole
social media is undermining truth
social media is making what you say meaningless
social media is destroying your capacity for empathy
social media is making you unhappy
social media doesn’t want you to have economic dignity
social media is making politics impossible
and social media hates your soul.

Via Amazon.co.uk

The impeachment inquiry Trump has feared is here

UnknownRep. Nadler confirms:

’House Democrats have begun impeachment proceedings against President Trump. A key Democrat admitted as much Thursday.

“This is formal impeachment proceedings,” the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), told CNN on Thursday, after weeks of dancing around whether his committee would formally consider impeaching Trump.

“We are investigating all the evidence, gathering the evidence,” Nadler added. “And we will [at the] conclusion of this — hopefully by the end of the year — vote to vote articles of impeachment to the House floor. Or we won’t. That’s a decision that we’ll have to make. But that’s exactly the process we’re in right now.”

His statement makes clear what a lawsuit filed Wednesday by his committee states: that the “Judiciary Committee is now determining whether to recommend articles of impeachment against the President based on the obstructive conduct described by the Special Counsel.”…’

Via The Washington Post

So, You Want To Boycott A Trump Donor?

5d4dd164260000aa0f046c60’Many cosmopolitan conveniences are connected to Trump donors. What are you going to do?… The nation’s wealthy donor class will continue to fund the president’s racist rallies in exchange for more tax cuts…’

Via HuffPost

Here are some of the Trump megadonors you can try to deprive of profits:

  • “Luxury gym” Equinox and spin studio SoulCycle are owned by Stephen Ross, who planned an elite fundraiser for Trump in the Hampton. Ross also owns major stakes in celebrity chef David Chang’s Momofuku, dessert entrepreneur Christina Tosi’s Milk Bar, fast-casual chain &pizza and the online restaurant reservation app Resy.

  • Then there’s infamous billionaire Peter Thiel. His holdings include WhatsApp, Lyft, Postmates Airbnb, and Spotify. “Lyft doesn’t just run an app-based taxi service, but it also owns almost every bike-share company in the country and a dockless scooter company. Spotify also owns a big part of the podcast industry after purchasing Gimlet Media and Anchor in February.”

  • “There are a number of sports teams you’ll have to boycott, too. The owners of the Chicago Cubs, New York Knicks, New York Rangers, New York Jets, San Francisco Giants and the football team in Washington, D.C., have all contributed at least six figures to Trump’s reelection.”

  • Ike Perlmutter, chairman of Marvel Entertainment, is a major Trump donor. Should you avoid the Marvel Cinematic Universe?

  • In New York, Radio City and Madison Square Garden are properties of billionaire Trump donor James Dolan

  • The fourteen brands in the Hilton hotel chain, which include DoubleTree, Tru, Embassy Suites as well as Hilton, are holdings of private equity firm Blackstone, headed by major Trump donor Stephen Schwarzman. Cheaper options like Motel 6 are also owned by Blackstone, which also has major stakes in clothing brand Versace, Leica camera, and Vivint.

  • “If you wear makeup, you’ll have to stay away from Revlon, which is owned by Trump donor Ronald Perelman’s private equity firm MacAndrew & Forbes. Perelman’s company also owns the alternative sweetener brands Equal, Whole Earth and Pure Via.”

Jupiter just got slammed by something so big we saw it from Earth

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’An amateur astronomer caught something spectacular with a backyard telescope Wednesday when he recorded a bright flash on the surface of Jupiter. The biggest planet in the solar system routinely delivers stunning pictures, like those snapped by NASA’s Juno spacecraft, but the unexpected flash has astronomers excited at the possibility of a meteor impact. Ethan Chappel pointed his telescope at the gas giant planet at just the right time, capturing the white spot seen on the lower left side of the planet in the above images on Aug. 7. While it has yet to be confirmed by a second observer, it looks like a large asteroid crashing into the gas giant planet. The flash is brief and quickly fades away, boosting the idea that it was likely caused by an impact.…’

Via CNET

U.S.-based experts suspect Russia blast involved nuclear-powered missile

Unknown’U.S.-based nuclear experts said on Friday they suspected an accidental blast and radiation release in northern Russia this week occurred during the testing of a nuclear-powered cruise missile vaunted by President Vladimir Putin last year.

The Russian Ministry of Defense, quoted by state-run news outlets, said that two people died and six were injured on Thursday in an explosion of what it called a liquid propellant rocket engine. No dangerous substances were released, it said. Russia’s state nuclear agency Rosatom said early on Saturday that five of its staff members died.

A spokeswoman for Severodvinsk, a city of 185,000 near the test site in the Arkhangelsk region, was quoted in a statement on the municipal website as saying that a “short-term” spike in background radiation was recorded at noon Thursday. The statement was not on the site on Friday.

Two experts said in separate interviews with Reuters that a liquid rocket propellant explosion would not release radiation.

They said that they suspected the explosion and the radiation release resulted from a mishap during the testing of a nuclear-powered cruise missile at a facility outside the village of Nyonoksa.

“Liquid fuel missile engines exploding do not give off radiation, and we know that the Russians are working on some kind of nuclear propulsion for a cruise missile,” said Ankit Panda, an adjunct senior fellow with the Federation of American Scientists.

…“This reminds us of a string of incidents dating back to Chernobyl that call into question whether the Kremlin prioritizes the welfare of the Russian people above maintaining its own grip on power and its control over weak corruption streams.”

…Putin boasted about the nuclear-powered cruise missile in a March 2018 speech to the Russian parliament in which he hailed the development of a raft of fearsome new strategic weapons.

The missile, he said, was successfully tested in late 2017, had “unlimited range” and was “invincible against all existing and prospective missile defense and counter-air defense systems.”

Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Non-Proliferation Program at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, said he believed that a mishap occurred during the testing of the nuclear-powered cruise missile based on commercial satellite pictures and other data.

Using satellite photos, he and his team determined that the Russians last year appeared to have disassembled a facility for test-launching the missile at a site in Novaya Zemlya and moved it to the base near Nyonoksa.

The photos showed that a blue “environmental shelter” – under which the missiles are stored before launching – at Nyonoksa and rails on which the structure is rolled back appear to be the same as those removed from Novaya Zemlya.

…[T]he United States sought to develop a nuclear-powered missile engine in the 1950s that spewed radiation.

“It represented a health hazard to anyone underneath it,” he said…’

Via Reuters

Finally, Blood tests for Alzheimer’s Near

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’Blood tests to measure amyloid protein, and possibly tau protein, are becoming much more sensitive and reliable enough to become routine aids in helping to diagnose AD.

These various tests are at different stages of validation – assuring they’re accurate across many different populations. And, for each protein, there are several different methods for making the blood measurements. So there is still work to do before any of these tests will be widely used in medical practice. Predictions are difficult, but without any more difficulties, we hope they can be applied in a few years.

To be useful, these tests have to be nearly perfect predictors. They aren’t there yet; so far, they seem to get it right about 85–90+% of the time. This accuracy will be even more important if they’re to be used to identify people for new therapies.

It’s still too early to tell if one AD blood test will prove better than the others. However, given the long road to this point, the research community is excited about the possibilities.

The tests measuring amyloid actually measure the ratio of two different sizes of the amyloid peptide – similar to using the ratio of HDL to LDL blood cholesterol to evaluate lipids. If the ratio of the amyloid is decreasing in blood, it is accumulating in the brain, even before AD symptoms emerge. Their first use, however, will be in diagnosis of people with symptoms.

What the blood assays for the tau protein, the main component of tangles in the brain, tell us is little less certain. Most in the field believe, however, that they will may provide information on the stage or progression of the disease.

Collectively, these tests mark real progress. More certain, earlier and cost-effective diagnostic aids will help all of us reach our goal of finding novel treatments that can better treat the clinical symptoms of AD and/or delay its development.…’

Via The Conversation

Can experts determine who might be a mass killer?

Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, Wayne State University:

Unknown’In psychiatry, we do not have diagnostic criteria for a mass murderer, terrorist or violent person. There are psychiatric conditions that may include anger, aggression, impulsivity, violence, or lack of remorse or empathy among their symptoms. But there is no one illness that would be found in all mass murderers, or murderers in general.

…[O]nly a small percentage of violent acts are committed by the mentally ill, and violent behavior does not have to necessarily be coming from mental illness.

Putting a label on something can only be helpful when we are able to treat it, or when it proves the person is not responsible for the act due to the illness. Furthermore, there could always be coincidence: A person who commits violent acts could have depression, and he or she also could have eczema. But the correlation would not necessarily be causational.…’

Via The Conversation

Where to See Stars Without Light Pollution

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’There has been a steady parade of meteor showers and shining planets looking to wow us in the nighttime sky this summer, but there’s one thing standing between us and a perfect show: light pollution. It can be hard (even practically impossible) to get out from under the bright lights of the city, but there are still spots in the United States that offer a completely clear, unblemished view of the cosmos.…’

Via Lifehacker

The Most Effective Schizophrenia Drug That Almost No One is Using

Clozapine could save the lives of suicidal schizophrenic people who aren’t responding to other treatments. So why are so few doctors using it?

Unknown’Clozapine has been around since 1959 and is the most effective medication for patients with treatment-resistant schizophrenia. Multiple guidelines say that if a person hasn’t responded to any two antipsychotic drugs, or can’t tolerate their side effects, clozapine should be prescribed. These criteria apply to more than 30 percent of people with schizophrenia in the U.S. and yet, clozapine is actually prescribed to only about 4 percent of them.

Clozapine’s dramatic under-use can be explained, in part, by a rare side effect that led to a cluster of deaths in 1975. Now, the FDA requires stringent monitoring of anyone who takes the drug, which is sold as a generic and under the brand name Clozaril. Patients must join an online registry, and submit to weekly mandatory blood testing. As a result, doctors don’t feel comfortable using it, except as a drug of “last resort.”

But clozapine advocates say that clinicians are too cautious of its rare potential harms, and that we’ve developed a “clozaphobia,” missing out on the drug’s benefits. Clozapine is twice as effective as other antipsychotics available for treatment-resistant schizophrenia and the only drug approved by the FDA to treat suicidal behaviors in people with the disorder. While these experts acknowledge that clozapine’s side effects exist, they think the risks are more than manageable, and that limiting access is a disservice to patients.…’

Via Vice

Ethical Implications of Growing Organs in Human-Animal Hybrids

Unknown’…[N]egative reactions to human-animal hybrids might be based on our need to have a clear boundary between things that are “human” and things that are not. This distinction grounds many of our social practices involving animals, and so threatening this boundary could create moral confusion.…’

Via Big Think

Should Rivers Have Same Legal Rights As Humans?

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A Growing Number Of Voices Say Yes:

’In early July, Bangladesh became the first country to grant all of its rivers the same legal status as humans. From now on, its rivers will be treated as living entities in a court of law. The landmark ruling by the Bangladeshi Supreme Court is meant to protect the world’s largest delta from further degradation from pollution, illegal dredging and human intrusion.

Bangladesh follows a handful of countries that have subscribed to an idea known as environmental personhood. It was first highlighted in essays by University of Southern California law professor Christopher D. Stone, collected into a 1974 book titled Should Trees Have Standing? Toward Legal Rights for Natural Objects. Stone argued that if an environmental entity is given “legal personality,” it cannot be owned and has the right to appear in court.

Traditionally, nature has been subject to a Western-conceived legal regime of property-based ownership, says Monti Aguirre with the environmental group International Rivers.

“That means … an owner has the right to modify their features, their natural features, or to destroy them all at will,” Aguirre says.

The idea of environmental personhood turns that paradigm on its head by recognizing that nature has rights and that those rights should be enforced by a court of law. It’s a philosophical idea, says Aguirre, with indigenous communities leading the charge.

“Many indigenous communities recognize nature as a subject with personhood deserving of protection and respect, rather than looking at it as a merchandise or commodity over which are property rights should be exercised,” she says.

And the movement is growing, she says, though with variations.

…’

Via NPR

The Impossible Dream

UnknownDavid Wootton, Anniversary Professor of History at the University of York and the author of Power, Pleasure, and Profit: Insatiable Appetites from Machiavelli to Madison and The Invention of Science: A New History of the Scientific Revolution:

’How have we come to build a whole culture around a futile, self-defeating enterprise: the pursuit of happiness?…’

Via Lapham’s Quarterly

Solid Trumpism

ImagesRonald Aronson: Donald Trump has the most stable approval rating of any president since Harry Truman.

’To understand the stability of this support, we must free ourselves from the prevailing fixation on Trump himself as the explanation for Trumpism. True, he has a cunning charisma; using very ordinary bearing and diction, he makes repeated chest-thumping references to being very rich, conveys a sense of his own genius, and relishes a near-total freedom to say and do anything. But the reason these tactics succeed is that they resonate with his base. “He tells it like it is” is still a common refrain among his supporters, meaning “how we really feel” behind the veil of political correctness. And so, unwaveringly, they devour each outrageous statement and eagerly anticipate the next.

Trump’s secret to success is that he expresses their values, angers, and evasions, their deep sense of alienation and grievance—cultural and social far more than economic. If he wins in 2020 it will be no fluke, as many concluded about 2016, but because a critical number of Americans have embraced that message. As campaign season takes off, we must not delude ourselves about exactly what Trumpism means.…’

Via Boston Review

Attention as an act of resistance

Images’Jenny Odell looks at many different ways of resisting the attention economy, sinking into the reality of our lives, and finding solidarity and agency with others.

 “Someone is defining the terms already by asking the question. And if you’re not attentive, you will accept those terms.”…’

Via Big Think

Sci-Hub: removing barriers in the way of science

NewImage’The first pirate website in the world to provide mass and public access to tens of millions of research papers:

…A research paper is a special publication written by scientists to be read by other researchers. Papers are primary sources neccessary for research – for example, they contain detailed description of new results and experiments.
papers in Sci-Hub library:
more than 74,000,000 and growing
At this time the widest possible distribution of research papers, as well as of other scientific or educational sources, is artificially restricted by copyright laws. Such laws effectively slow down the development of science in human society. The Sci-Hub project, running from 5th September 2011, is challenging the status quo. At the moment, Sci-Hub provides access to hundreds of thousands research papers every day, effectively bypassing any paywalls and restrictions.…’

Via Sci-Hub

Pentagon testing mass surveillance balloons across the US

6104’The US military is conducting wide-area surveillance tests across six midwest states using experimental high-altitude balloons, documents filed with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) reveal.

Up to 25 unmanned solar-powered balloons are being launched from rural South Dakota and drifting 250 miles through an area spanning portions of Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin and Missouri, before concluding in central Illinois.

Travelling in the stratosphere at altitudes of up to 65,000ft, the balloons are intended to “provide a persistent surveillance system to locate and deter narcotic trafficking and homeland security threats”, according to a filing made on behalf of the Sierra Nevada Corporation, an aerospace and defence company.

The balloons are carrying hi-tech radars designed to simultaneously track many individual vehicles day or night, through any kind of weather. The tests, which have not previously been reported, received an FCC license to operate from mid-July until September, following similar flights licensed last year.

…“We do not think that American cities should be subject to wide-area surveillance in which every vehicle could be tracked wherever they go,” said Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst at the American Civil Liberties Union.

“Even in tests, they’re still collecting a lot of data on Americans: who’s driving to the union house, the church, the mosque, the Alzheimer’s clinic,” he said. “We should not go down the road of allowing this to be used in the United States and it’s disturbing to hear that these tests are being carried out, by the military no less.” …’

Via The Guardian

Social Engineering for Fun and Profit. And Other Stuff

Gettyimages 527099781Thanks to Google’s AdWords and YouTube videos, it’s easier than ever to sway people’s opinions with social engineering. 

’That may or may not be a bad thing, but it’s certainly worth pondering.

In 2016, the Google-incubated Redirect Method used ads to deradicalize would-be Islamic State extremists, redirecting 320,000 people to videos debunking ISIS’s recruitment narratives. But the Redirect Method wasn’t a one-off since the groups behind it distilled it into a 44-step blueprint.

In an opinion piece at the New York Times, Patrick Berlinquette, the founder of the search engine marketing consulting firm Berlin SEM, explains how he used the Redirect Method’s blueprint to change the minds of suicidal people. His ads for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline generated a 28% conversion rate, seven times the average rate of 4%, in just a week. A second experiment to redirect prospective school shooters to a crisis hotline failed, but the point remains—it’s easy for anyone to use Google’s precise targeting tools and redirect ads to promote their own agenda. In some regards, this conclusion is obvious—it’s what marketers do every day. But it raises questions about the ethics involved, how to protect yourself and others from such manipulation, and what Google’s role in all this should be.…’

Via TidBITS