Month: October 2019

Meet the Bloodsuckers

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’It has been a big year for leeches. A new species was discovered near Washington and announced in August by Anna
Phillips, who may have the world’s best job title: curator of parasitic worms at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.

…Although insects are very big in the blood-feeding world, leeches occupy a special place in the human imagination — somewhere between vampire bats and that tiny fish that was once reputed to swim up the human urethra.
Image…’

Via New York Times

The Milky Way Reflected in the World’s Largest Mirror

Jheison huerta’I love this photograph by Peruvian photographer Jheison Huerta. It’s a shot of the Milky Way above the Salar de Uyuni salt flat in Bolivia. After it rains, the thin layer of water transforms the flat into the world’s largest mirror, some 80 miles across. Beautiful.…’

Via kottke

Screaming in Black + White

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Via this isn’t happiness

Related: A psychologist explains why we love blood-curdling screams

’Screams might seem simple, but they can actually convey a complex set of emotions. The arsenal of human screams has been honed over millions of years of evolution, with subtle nuances in volume, timing and inflection that can signal different things.…’

Via Big Think

Reverence For Hallowe’en: Good for the Soul

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

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

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

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

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

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

English: A traditional Irish turnip Jack-o'-la...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Three Halloween jack-o'-lanterns.

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

Frankenstein

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related:

Why America isn’t equipped for the new rules of war

Voss mcfate08finalSean McFate, a former paratrooper in the US Army’s 82nd Airborne Division and now professor at the National Defense University and Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service.:

’Why are we doing things like buying more Ford-class aircraft carriers, or F35s? That stuff should be slashed. I would cut away the expensive conventional weapons, and beef up the things that are very effective in modern war: political warfare, strategic influence, lawfare, economic might, and deception. Want to blunt Russian encroachment in the Baltics? Forget shows of force—military deterrence is obsolete. Instead, start a “color revolution” on their border. Moscow is paranoid and would shift resources to squashing it. Want China out of the South China Sea? Stop throwing carrier groups into the region. Instead, covertly support the Uighur insurgency. Internal regime security will steal Beijing’s attention away.

Militaries can no longer kill their way out of problems in a global information age, and this is driving war into the shadows. Today, plausible deniability is more potent than firepower: winners and losers are no longer decided on the battlefield, but by those who can discern truth from lies. The best weapons today don’t fire bullets.…’

Via MIT Technology Review

Centauri Dreams

UnknownImagining and Planning Interstellar Exploration:

’In Centauri Dreams, Paul Gilster looks at peer-reviewed research on deep space exploration, with an eye toward interstellar possibilities. For the last twelve years, this site coordinated its efforts with the Tau Zero Foundation. It now serves as an independent forum for deep space news and ideas. In the logo above, the leftmost star is Alpha Centauri, a triple system closer than any other star, and a primary target for early interstellar probes.…’

Via Centauri Dreams

This Is What Terror Sounds Like

10 pieces to guarantee the Halloween shivers:

Spoooky 750x394’Whether depicting supernatural phenomena, acts of earthly terror, or otherworldly states of mind, classical music can provide a perfect soundtrack for the days leading up to Halloween. Here are some sublime pieces that ought to provide plenty of chills.…’

Via The American Scholar

Why aren’t we trying to be better ancestors?

UnknownThe consequences of our climate-cooking habits will burden all future humans:

’Creating a legacy of a climate-worsened world is like shooting your kids in the foot.
Who are you free to harm? If not any one else, then surely not everyone else? Third-hand carbon counts as an ambient harm that will burden all future humans.…’

Via Big Think

How to Watch Tonight’s Orionid Meteor Shower

EHWPtIvUcAATlZO’Early morning will be the best time to watch, if the weather holds out—the National Weather Service in the bay area recommends 4 a.m. to 7 a.m.

California and the southwest will likely get the best views, since clouds are forecast for much of the rest of the country. But if you can see Orion at all, it’s worth watching to see if meteors show up. This shower tends to produce 20 to 25 meteors per hour at its peak.

If you don’t see much tonight, try again later this week or next week. The moon will be less full, which makes it easier to see stars and meteors, and the clouds are bound to clear up one of these nights. For the best views, find a spot with little light pollution, and look up.…’

Via Lifehacker

Crowdsourced Map Documents UFO Sightings, Cryptids, and the Supernatural

1566227154012 Screen Shot 2019 08 19 at 110532 AM pngIt’s sociologically important to document where people believe the supernatural occurs, even if it’s all made up.:

If you’ve had a weird unexplainable experience, two guys in Seattle want to help you log it and track it on a global map. I have a new favorite place on the internet, and it is Liminal Earth.

Liminal Earth is a web based mapping tool designed to track the bizarre. Created by Garrett Kelly, co-founder of Hollow Earth Radio, and Jeremy Puma, a Seattle based author, their project “acts sort of like ‘Google Trends’ (which tracks sudden spikes on google search queries) for the collective unconscious,” states their website’s About page. “This map is an extension of that, because we’re trying to see if there are strange places or experiences that are actually quite common but go unnoticed because everyone is afraid to talk about this weird stuff happening to them.”

The idea is simple. It is like Atlas Obscura, but exclusively for UFOs, the supernatural, cryptids, etc.…’

Via VICE

Reason Won’t Save Us

ImagesIt’s time to accept the limits of how we think.

’In wondering what can be done to steer civilization away from the abyss, I confess to being increasingly puzzled by the central enigma of contemporary cognitive psychology: To what degree are we consciously capable of changing our minds …about major personal and social issues that should unite but invariably divide us? As a senior neurologist whose career began before CAT and MRI scans, I have come to feel that conscious reasoning, the commonly believed remedy for our social ills, is an illusion, an epiphenomenon supported by age-old mythology rather than convincing scientific evidence.…’

Via Nautilus

The Tweety Bird Test

The tweety bird test 1 1050x700How a classic Tweety Bird cartoon became a mainstay in linguistics research

’Already a cartoon classic, Canary Row became an unlikely fixture of linguistics research. Over the years, linguists have used clips of Canary Row to examine hand gestures in at least a dozen languages—and many aspects of signed languages. There are studies that compare gesticulation across languages; studies on gestures by language-learners and by multilinguals; and studies about gestures that accompany signed language. Experts in these topics say the cartoon is the most frequently used study stimulus in their fields.…’

Via JSTOR Daily

Where is my Xanax Rx? Why your doctor may be concerned about prescribing benzodiazepines

File 20191017 98632 df4e6hWhy I and other doctors are not eager to prescribe benzodiazepines for long-term use: 

’…We have a Hippocratic oath to “first do not harm.” I sometimes tell patients who insist on getting benzos: “I am not paid differently based on the medication I prescribe, and my life would be much easier not arguing with you about this medication. I do this because I care about you.”…’

Via The Conversation

I share the concerns raised in this piece and such reasoning has always guided my prescribing practice. Unfortunately, not enough psychiatrists and general practitioners are similarly concerned.

TurboTax’s 20-Year Fight to Stop Americans From Filing Their Taxes for Free

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’Virtually every rich country on Earth provides pre-completed tax-returns that you can either ignore (and pay an a
ccountant or do your own taxes), or just sign and return: after all, the government already knows what you’re earning and how much tax you paid, so they can do all the heavy lifting for your annual return.

 

But when Congress tried to create a similar program in the USA, it faced a blizzard of lobbying from the tax-prep industry, led by Intuit, a tax-prep monopolist that grew to scale by buying or merging with its competitors — growth tactics that are illegal under US antitrust law…’

Via ProPublica

You’re in a police lineup right now

Unknown.jpegPolice databases now contain the faces of nearly half of Americans:

’“Right now, most Americans are in a perpetual police lineup because they got a driver’s license,” says Clare Garvie, a Washington DC privacy expert. In this New York Times video, Garvie says that driver license photos are scanned and translated into a “face print” that face recognition software can use to compare photos and find matches. “Now any police officer can run searches against your face for any reason.”…’

Via Boing Boing

Mysterious rash of cattle mutilations in Oregon

screenshot-39.jpg’This summer on remote U.S. Forest Service land in eastern Oregon, cowboys discovered five, young purebred bulls dead, drained of blood, and their tongues and genitals removed with almost surgical precision. Who or what did this and why remains a mystery. (Insert “I’m not saying it’s aliens…” joke here.) Silvies Valley Ranch has offered a $25,000 reward for information that could lead to answers.…’

Via Boing Boing

Every Single Person Who Has Resigned or Been Fired From the Trump Administration

’On Thursday, amid reports of his involvement in Trump’s conversation with Ukraine’s president, Energy Secretary Rick Perry announced he would step down by the end of this year; this news comes just one week after acting Homeland Security Secretary, Kevin McAleenan, also resigned—which got us thinking: Just how many other aides and cabinet members have departed while serving under President Trump?

Well, a lot. Trump’s cabinet likely has a higher turnover rate than any other U.S. president in history. In case you need a recap, below you’ll find a timeline of several major departures during the Trump Administration, beginning with the most recent politicians’ exits.…’

Via Lifehacker

High Crimes and Misdemeanors? Don’t forget about petty crimes and felonies!

With all the agonizing about whether the Enfant Terrible’s actions rise to an impeachable level, let us not forget that he is a common criminal as well. A new ProPublica story documents the extent to which Trump inflated the value of his assets when he was trying to borrow money, and deflated the values when he was paying taxes. Both would constitute criminal fraud.

And  this Vanity Fair piece strongly suggests that, since the start of his presidency, Trump has been running a massively profitable larcenous insider trading scheme. The story examines massive pattern of suspicious late-day trades in financial markets that seemed to anticipate public policy pronouncements or events and earned the mysterious traders millions in profits. For example

“In the last 10 minutes of trading on Friday, August 23, as the markets were roiling in the face of more bad trade news, someone bought 386,000 September e-minis. Three days later, Trump lied about getting a call from China to restart the trade talks, and the S&P 500 index shot up nearly 80 points. The potential profit on the trade was more than $1.5 billion…”

“Traders in the Chicago pits have been watching these kinds of wagers with an increasing mixture of shock and awe since the start of the Trump presidency …. Are the people behind these trades incredibly lucky, or do they have access to information that other people don’t have about, say, Trump’s or Beijing’s latest thinking on the trade war or any other of a number of ways that Trump is able to move the markets through his tweeting or slips of the tongue? Essentially, do they have inside information?”

Federal market watchdogs, who are supposed to keep an eye on corrupt market manipulation, are doing nothing despite ongoing concerns about this pattern of activity.

Link

‘…Everything that McConnell decides to do will come down to the political ramifications for the Republican Party, and with each passing day Donald Trump becomes more and more of a liability. A bus is ready in the waiting, and he will be more than ready to throw the President under it if necessary.

The moment that Senator McConnell makes the determination that President Trump could cost Republicans their hold of power in the Senate, or cost them even more seats in the House, he along with other members of Republican leadership will urge him to resign, or vote to impeach if he refuses to do so. The fact that support of impeachment continues to grow, while McConnell’s silence gets louder and louder, leads me to believe that he is carefully considering this option. In the end, it will be McConnell, not Pelosi or Democratic Leadership, who could potentially bring Trump’s presidency to an end….’

— Via Medium

Link

I killed a spider
Not a murderous brown recluse
Nor even a black widow
And if the truth were told this
Was only a small spider
Sort of papery spider
Who should have run
When I picked up the book
But she didn't
And she scared me
And I smashed her

I don't think
I'm allowed

To kill something

Because I am

Frightened.

― Nikki Giovanni, Chasing Utopia: A Hybrid

Via Goodreads

New Republic profiles Nobel literature laureate Olga Tokarczuk

‘…Tokarczuk said that humanity needs three inventions: contraception, the internet, and lab-grown meat. While most technofuturism suggests that advancements in machinery and efficiency will automatically solve problems of power, Tokarczuk recognizes that new technologies have to be designed specially to disrupt areas where the powerful have kept a tight grip—whether over the control of women’s reproduction, the free spread of information, or the lives and deaths of animals. (Vegetarianism in Poland is associated with leftist politics; in 2016, the far-right politician Witold Waszczykowski, then the foreign secretary, decried the idea that the world was “destined to evolve only in one direction—towards a new mix of cultures and races, a world of bicyclists and vegetarians.”)

“We live in the midst of a slaughterhouse and manage to ignore that,” Tokarczuk said…’
— Read on New Republic

Link

Twenty-five years ago this month, a software developer sketched a talk bubble for a cute dog and had an epiphany: “Dogs don’t talk in Times New Roman!” So he designed Comic Sans, a zanier, more childlike script for which he took inspiration from comic books and graphic novels.

The font attracted eye rolls and cringes from its inception, and has “long been the default punch line in the design community,” one designer said. And yet, it persists.

The font’s creator, Vincent Connare, has this to say: “If you love Comic Sans you don’t know much about typography. And if you hate Comic Sans you need a new hobby.”

Via New York Times

Paul Krugman: The Education of Fanatical Centrists

’Trump isn’t an aberration. He’s unusually blatant and gaudily corrupt, but at a basic level he’s the culmination of where his party has been going for decades. And U.S. political life won’t begin to recover until centrists face up to that uncomfortable reality.…’

Via The New York Times

Trump They Live billboard is up in Times Square!

Votetheylive’Mitch “the World’s Best Artist” O’Connell (Not “Moscow” Mitch McConnell, the sell-out senator) got enough money in his crowdfunding campaign to erect this terrific They Live homage featuring reality TV show host Donald Trump. The VOTE billboard is ready for selfies at 7th Ave and 48th St!

Mitch received enough funds to keep the billboard up for a month, but if he gets more money it’ll stay up longer. Contribute here…’

Via Boing Boing

‘It appears that sculptor Joe Reginella has once again erected a memorial statue marking a fictional occurrence in New York City. This time, it’s a story that purports that former Mayor Ed Koch sent wolves into the subways of the city to ward off graffiti artists during his tenure, and according to the Ed Koch Wolf Foundation (who supposedly put up the memorial), the creatures are still the reason behind missing tourists in the Big Apple…’

via Hi-Fructose Magazine

Joe Reginella’s Memorial Statues Mark Fictional Disasters in NYC

New York sculptor Joe Reginella has fooled countless tourists with his statues scattered across the city, marking events that never actually happened. From a Staten Island Ferry encounter with an octopus to a New York Harbor UFO encounter, the artist’s scenarios use the convincing device of the memorial statue to relay his narratives.

Each statue has its own website, with a backstory, souvenir shop, and tour offers in tow. From the ferry disaster site: “It was close to 4am on the quiet morning of November 22, 1963 when the Steam Ferry Cornelius G. Kolff vanished without a trace. On its way with nearly 400 hundred people, mostly on their way to work, the disappearance of the Cornelius G. Kolff remains both one of New York’s most horrific maritime tragedies and perhaps its most intriguing mystery. Eye witness accounts describe “large tentacles” which “pulled” the ferry beneath the surface only a short distance from its destination at Whitehall Terminal in Lower Manhattan.”

via Hi-Fructose Magazine

 

Image result for will trump ever give up the presidency?

It’s a “loaded question — with no obvious answer”, whether we are talking about a response to a conviction in an impeachment proceeding or a 2020 election defeat, says op-ed writer Thomas Edsall in The New York Times

Image result for napoleon Chagnon

UC Santa Barbara anthropologist Napoleon Chagnon has died. Chagnon did notable work with remote tribes in the Amazonian rainforest, particularly the Yanomamo “fierce people”, but is perhaps best known for the so-called “Darkness” furor that ripped through the American Anthropological Association (AAA), almost destroying its credibility as an intellectual and professional organization. I previously commented on the controversy here, in 2000.

In 2000, anthropological journalist Patrick Tierney made claims that Chagnon and colleague geneticist James Neel had introduced a potentially fatal contraindicated measles vaccine to the tribe, probably inducing a 1968 epidemic, and then had withheld medical treatments might have saved lives, in the interest of testing “fascistic” eugenic theories. The AAA found the claims credible enough to investigate.

The truth appears to be quite the opposite. In prior fieldwork, Neel had determined that the Yanomamo were alarmingly vulnerable to measles and had personally arranged to bring vaccines with him on May 1968 expedition after consulting experts for advice on which vaccines to use, obtaining instructions about administration, and personally arranging fundraising.

Reportedly, measles had already broken out when the team arrived and, under Chagnon’s logistical leadership, they raced to contain the epidemic although supplies began to run out before everyone could be appropriately vaccinated. What is at stake is whether Neel and Chagnon are remembered as genocidal monsters or humanitarians.

interestingly, Chagnon’s work with the Yanomamo had been criticized by anthropologist within the AAA for perhaps a decade before the furor about the measles epidemic broke. He was subject to anonymous defamation probably spread by the Roman Catholic church because Chagnon had been publicly critical of their missionary work with the tribe. Doctrinal dispute about his theoretical approach also fueled the opposition.  After Tierney’s claims about the measles epidemic, an AAA task force formally faulting Chagnon on several counts was accepted by the AAA board in 2002 despite the fact that many other professional and academic institutions were alarmed at the scandalous methodology and conclusions of Tierney’s book. These included the National Academy of Sciences, the American Society of Human Genetics, the International Genetics Epidemiology Society, the Society for Visual Anthropology, and the University of Michigan. In contrast to the AAA board, the voting membership of the organization passed two referenda in 2003 and 2005 by overwhelming margins, condemning the misrepresentation of the 1968 epidemic, criticizing Tierney and his academic supporters, and calling for a complete rescission of the acceptance of the task force report.

Defenders of AAA’s action talk in terms of the legitimacy of exploring ethical issues in anthropological fieldwork such as informed consent, the effects of gift giving, and the representation of vulnerable subjects. They speak of the inquiry into Chagnon and Neel’s work as in the defense of the credibility of American anthropology. Detractors blast the group for taking seriously the work of an uncredentialed journalist whose major claims had already been shown at the outset to be false instead of protecting serious investigators’ right to be fairly represented in the public spotlight and failing to give them a formal invitation to defend themselves in the process of wrecking their reputations.

Despite the membership vote in 2005 to withdraw acceptance of the task force report, the AAA left the report on its website until 2009 when legal action on behalf of Chagnon finally forced them to remove it. Chagnon’s work as “the last of the great ethnographers” was celebrated in an Edge special event convened by Steven Pinker, Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins, John Brockman, and other intellectual luminaries.

via Edge.org

Scientists routinely cure brain disorders in mice but not us. A new study helps explain why

Drowsy mouse’Last year, scientists described neuropsychiatric drug development as “in the midst of a crisis” because of all the mouse findings that fail to translate to people. Of every 100 neuropsychiatric drugs tested in clinical trials — usually after they “work” in mice — only nine become approved medications, one of the lowest rates of all disease categories.

…In the most detailed taxonomy of the human brain to date, a team of researchers as large as a symphony orchestra sorted brain cells not by their shape and location, as scientists have done for decades, but by what genes they used. Among the key findings: Mouse and human neurons that have been considered to be the same based on such standard classification schemes can have large (tenfold or greater) differences in the expression of genes for such key brain components as neurotransmitter receptors.

That makes neurons and circuits connecting brain regions, which were long thought to be essentially identical in mice and people, different in a fundamental way. And it could explain the abysmal record of drug development for neuropsychiatric diseases including schizophrenia, depression, bipolar disorder, and autism.…’

Via STAT

Finding the root of consciousness:

Heartbeat 1, Susan Aldworth, 2010. Image courtesy of the artist and GV Art gallery, LondonIs this brain cell your ‘mind’s eye’?

’Researchers believe they have identified specific neurons that are responsible for conscious awareness. Previous studies have implicated both thalamocortical circuits and cortico-cortico circuits in consciousness. The new study reports these networks intersect via L5p neurons. Directly activating L5p neurons made mice react to weaker sensory stimuli. The researchers say if consciousness requires L5p neurons, all brain activity without them must be unconscious…’

Via Neuroscience News

Why do older people hate new music?

 

Image result for Why do older people hate new music?

’There’s evidence that the brain’s ability to make subtle distinctions between different chords, rhythms and melodies gets worse with age. So to older people, newer, less familiar songs might all “sound the same.”

But I believe there are some simpler reasons for older people’s aversion to newer music. One of the most researched laws of social psychology is something called the “mere exposure effect.” In a nutshell, it means that the more we’re exposed to something, the more we tend to like it.…’

Via Neuroscience News

Who’s Afraid of Impeachment?

33674746390 a032771ae2 c 1Do we need to worry about a 2020 Backlash? Anthont Dimaggio in Counterpunch:

’There has been quite a bit of prophesizing among pundits in the news media, on the right and elsewhere, and even among some on the left with which I’ve spoken, in which critics confidently maintain that impeachment is a “gift” to Trump, dividing the nation, but mobilizing and energizing Trump’s base, thereby handing the election to Trump. These claims are almost entirely based on fear and conjecture, not on actual evidence. If we look back to the limited history of this country’s use of impeachment against presidents in modern times, there is little evidence to draw from one way or another, and certainly no cases that are equivalent to this one, in terms of telling us how impeachment will impact an election that is so far into the future – an entire year from now.

Conceding the uncertainty associated with the inquiry against Trump, available evidence suggests there is little reason to be engaging in fearmongering on impeachment. Going back to the looming impeachment of Richard Nixon following the emergence of the Watergate scandal, we see no evidence that the removal strategy harmed Democrats. Republicans lost 49 seats in the House in 1974, while losing another 5 in the Senate. Gerald Ford’s reputation – as measured by his job approval rating – quickly nosedived following his pardon of Nixon, and Jimmy Carter won the 1976 election, defeating Ford, while Democrats gained a seat in the House of Representatives, while losing one seat in the Senate. In other words, there were no observable repercussions for the Democrats for forcing Nixon from office.…’

Via 3 Quarks Daily

‘Out here, it’s just me’:

UnknownIn the medical desert of rural America, one doctor for 11,000 square miles:

’In the medical desert that has become rural America, nothing is more basic or more essential than access to doctors, but they are increasingly difficult to find. The federal government now designates nearly 80 percent of rural America as “medically underserved.” It is home to 20 percent of the U.S. population but fewer than 10 percent of its doctors, and that ratio is worsening each year because of what health experts refer to as “the gray wave.” Rural doctors are three years older than urban doctors on average, with half over 50 and more than a quarter beyond 60. Health officials predict the number of rural doctors will decline by 23 percent over the next decade as the number of urban doctors remains flat.…’

Via The Washington Post