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Even removing the Orange Tyrant won’t fix democracy

NewImageTrump impeachment: 

‘This yearning is for something, anything, to end the death loop that American democracy appears to be trapped in, for a big, dramatic blowup to fix the system’s ills. In the liberal imagination, that blowup typically takes the form of Trump’s removal from office, an event that sets us back to a path of normalcy and sane politics.

This yearning is understandable — but it is both dangerous and misplaced. Ending the Trump presidency will not fix, or even substantially ameliorate, most of the problems plaguing the American political system. They were mounting for years before he took office — indeed, they made him possible — and they will continue to plague us for years after he leaves.

What’s more, the desire for a dramatic explosion of the Trump presidency at times seems to blend into a desire for the dramatic blowup of the American political system altogether, a sense that we need some apocalyptic event that will wipe the slate clean and revitalize our democracy in one big revolutionary motion. It’s no accident that the rise of Trump has coincided with fearful but titillated worries about coups d’état, collapses into tyranny, and even a second American civil war or secession. These concerns are partially specific to Trump. But they reflect worries that transcend him too….’

Via Vox

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Wondered why…

…I was getting a lot of new subscribers all of a sudden. I had thought it was because I had pulled the trigger on my Facebook account, where I had previously been crossposting everything on FmH. In my goodbye message to the Facebook world, I suggested that some of the people who had been reading me there might continue to follow me by seeking out the source. But as it turns out none of the new subscribers appeared to be my erstwhile Facebook friends.

I decided to look in my referrer logs and realized that people were probably coming from kottke.org, who had written about a number of us old (and new) blogging dinosaurs in a post called Blogging is most certainly not dead. Thanks for including me, Jason. Many other sites worthy of worthy of our attention — I’m just beginning to explore this new cornucopia — are mentioned in his post. [Thanks to Bruce for bringing me to kottke’s attention.]

 

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Sweating made us the dominant species on the planet

NewImageOne theory of human evolution states that our ancestors began eating meat about 2 million years ago, whose caloric and fat density allowed the enlargement and development of their brains.

Hominids didn’t begin using stones and sticks for hunting until about 200,000 years ago. So between 2.3 million and 200,000 years ago, our original strategy was to run game animals to death in order to feast upon them. Sweating was the key factor in the ability to run long distances to wear out quarry without overheating. Game animals, who cannot sweat, become overheated over time and are at risk of damaging themselves or dying if they don’t stop to catch their breath, allowing early hunters to catch and dispatch them. Animals that do not walk upright cannot fully extend their diaphragms to take deep breaths until they stop running.

Some tribal peoples still take part in persistence hunting and there is evidence that the strategy was utilized all over the world in the distant past. This helps us to understand why several aspects of human development — walking upright, hairless skin, sweating, and the ability to run long distances — appear to have evolved simultaneously.

Via Big Think

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Will cows inherit the planet after humans die out?

NewImageWhen humans die out because of climate change, they may be the biggest and most widespread animal left, thereby inheriting the planet. 

‘After humans started migrating out of Africa, the largest land mammals have died out in each territory that humans have spread to. It’s somewhat of a human hallmark, making other species extinct, although we’ve kept cows around for both food and leather. We’ve actually prioritized cows over other species, leading to a 1.5 billion total cow population across the globe. That’s more than cats and dogs combined: there are only 500 to 600 million dogs in the world and about as many cats.

If global warming keeps going at its current pace, Stephen Hawking estimated last year that humanity has about 100 years left to find a new planet to live on and only 1,000 years left on this planet before the heat completely kills all life. Pre human-kind meddling, larger animals simply adapted to climate change. But at this accelerated pace, species go extinct at an astronomical level. Between 24-100 species every day become extinct, and that’s a conservative estimate. Because there are so many cows on the planet, it’s fairly safe to say that even if all humans died out tomorrow all cows would have to do is graze and slowly move north as the planet got hotter. That’s conjecture, sure, but from a strictly numerical standpoint, there’s a good chance that cows will enjoy a very short time at the top of the food chain before the planet becomes completely uninhabitable except for cockroaches….’

Via Big Think

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A Short History of Threats Received by Donald Trump’s Adversaries

Decca Muldowney writes:

‘When Stormy Daniels spoke to “60 Minutes” last month, the porn actress described a threat she received years ago after speaking to a journalist about her alleged affair with Donald Trump. A stranger approached her in a parking lot in Las Vegas. Daniels was there with her baby daughter. “Leave Trump alone,” Daniels recalled the man warning her. “That’s a beautiful little girl. It’d be a shame if something happened to her mom.”

Daniels did not report the threat to the police. On Wednesday, Donald Trump tweeted that Daniels’ account of events was “a total con job” about a “non-existent man.”

As it happens, other people in disputes with Trump have also found themselves the targets of threats — and sometimes they’ve reported it to authorities. …’

Source: Pro Publica

Not only an imbecile but a cutrate mobster wannabe as well.

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Was There a Civilization On Earth Before Humans?

NewImageA look at the available evidence:

‘…[C]ould researchers find clear evidence that an ancient species built a relatively short-lived industrial civilization long before our own? Perhaps, for example, some early mammal rose briefly to civilization building during the Paleocene epoch about 60 million years ago. There are fossils, of course. But the fraction of life that gets fossilized is always minuscule and varies a lot depending on time and habitat. It would be easy, therefore, to miss an industrial civilization that only lasted 100,000 years—which would be 500 times longer than our industrial civilization has made it so far.

Given that all direct evidence would be long gone after many millions of years, what kinds of evidence might then still exist? The best way to answer this question is to figure out what evidence we’d leave behind if human civilization collapsed at its current stage of development….’

Via The Atlantic

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A Letter of the Alphabet We Can Read But Not Write?

NewImage‘Despite seeing it millions of times in pretty much every picture book, every novel, every newspaper, and every email message, people are essentially unaware of the more common version of the lowercase print letter “g,” Johns Hopkins researchers have found.

Most people don’t even know that two forms of the letter—one usually handwritten, the other typeset—exist. And if they do, they can’t write the typeset one we typically see. They can’t even pick the correct version of it out of a lineup….’

Via Neuroscience News

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Japan’s isolated older ‘hikikomori’ shun society for years

Natsuko FUKUE writes:

‘Ikeida leaves the house once every three days to buy food, shuns deliveries to avoid human interaction and has not seen his parents or younger brother for 20 years.

The 55-year-old has chosen to shut himself completely away from society — such a commonplace phenomenon in high-pressure, conformist and workaholic Japan that there is a word to describe it: “hikikomori”.

Until recently it was thought to be an issue mainly afflicting those in their teens and 20s, but ageing Japan is seeing a growing number of older hikikomori cloistering themselves away for longer periods of time.

There are more than half a million hikikomori in Japan — according to the latest government survey published in 2016 — defined as people who have stayed home for more than six months without going to school or work and interacting with no one other than family members. …’

Source: Yahoo News

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15 Years. More Than 1 Million Dead. No One Held Responsible.

‘Except for Sinan Antoon’s richly deserved jeremiad, the 15th anniversary of the worst foreign policy disaster in modern American history went sailing by largely unremarked, at least in this country. After all, over here, everyone was too busy keeping track of the latest news involving the vulgar talking yam the country had installed as president, how he was still truckling to Russian oligarchs, how he was still being run to ground by Bob Mueller, and about how he was being outwitted and out-lawyered by a lady from the adult entertainment industry….’

Via 3Quarks Daily

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The Origin of April Fools’ Day

NewImage‘For Europeans, April Fools hearkens back to the transition to the Gregorian calendar in the sixteenth century. The pre-Gregorian calendar had ended the year near the end of March, coinciding with the beginning of spring. With the new Gregorian calendar, the beginning of the year was moved to January. The calendar change was slow to take hold and there was resistance to it, but those who continued celebrating the new year at the beginning of April, old style, were ultimately shamed as “fools.”…’

Via JSTOR

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Why People With Insomnia Don’t Know They’re Asleep

 

NewImage‘When you can’t get to sleep at night, you might explain it to someone as your brain not being able to shut off.

While your brain never truly shuts off, when you do fall asleep, your brain sends inhibitory neurons that help reduce conscious awareness to get to a point of deep sleep. Normal sleepers often feel like they’ve fallen asleep before their brain is in a scientifically-defined state of sleep, but people with insomnia aren’t so lucky.

A recent study by BYU psychology professor Daniel Kay published in Sleep suggests a dysfunction in the inhibition process could be what causes those with insomnia to have a hard time fully falling asleep.

“Previous studies found that patients with insomnia appear to be asleep, their eyes are closed and their brain is in a characteristic sleep pattern, but you wake them up and guess what they are more likely to tell you? ‘I was awake,’” Kay said.

This problem has traditionally been characterized by sleep scientists as sleep misperception. Kay, however, argues that that term is based on the assumption that sleep is categorical, either being asleep or being awake, and that when you’re asleep you don’t have consciousness.

“I don’t think that’s necessarily true,” Kay said. “I think you can be consciously aware and your brain be in a sleep pattern. The question is: What role does conscious awareness have in our definition of sleep?”…’

Via Neuroscience News

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What Happens When a Blind Person Takes LSD?


NewImage‘How do blind people experience psychedelic drugs? This is the topic of an interesting, but unusual, paper just out in Consciousness and Cognition.

The paper’s authors are University of Bath researchers Sara Dell’Erba, David J.Brown, and Michael J.Proulx. However, the real star contributor is a man referred to only as “Mr Blue Pentagon”.

Blue Pentagon (“BP”) is the pseudonym for a 70 year old blind man who reports taking large quantities of LSD and other drugs during his career as a rock musician in the 1970s. (“Blue Pentagon” was his favorite brand of LSD.)

How the researchers came to meet BP is not stated.

Much of the paper consists of BP’s accounts of his experiences under the influence of hallucinogens, and this is what makes the article rather unusual, as parts are more reminiscent of a late-night conversation than an academic paper.

For instance, here’s how BP describes the impact of LSD on the perception of music:…’

Via Neuroskeptic

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Why the High-Tech Plan to Bring Back the Northern White Rhino Matters

NewImage‘With the death of the last male northern white rhino last week, the world was reminded that yet another charismatic animal is functionally extinct because of humans. But in the future, because of synthetic biology, extinction may not be forever. And the northern white rhino could be the animal that pioneers a suite of new technologies that get us there….’

Via Earther

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The Fraud and the Four-Hour Workweek

NewImage‘Self-help millionaire Tim Ferriss is a fraud. But his success says a lot about modern capitalism and its discontents….

After dozens of pages of self-help and time-management cliches (“Poisonous people do not deserve your time”; “Compile your to-do list for tomorrow no later than this evening”; “Find your focus and you’ll find your lifestyle”), Ferriss finally laid out his magic bullet solution: follow in his footsteps and become a fake expert. “Expert status can be created in less than four weeks if you understand basic credibility indicators.” …’

Via Jacobin

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There’s still no scientific way to know who’s about to start shooting

Why we’re not better at predicting mass shooters:

‘There have been 306 school shootings since 2013, or about one a week, according to Everytown. Each time such a tragedy occurs, we’re first reminded of the easy availability of assault weapons followed quickly by blame assigned to the people — local police, psychologists, social workers — who failed to identify the perpetrator as a danger to their community. But this kind of hindsight is unfair. The truth is there’s been amazingly little coordinated study of the psychology behind mass shooters and very little consensus as to what those warning signs might be. A new review of such research was compiled by sociologist Michael Rocque and criminologist Grant Duwe and is in the February issue of Current Opinion in Psychology….’

Via Big Think

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A close call of 0.8 light years

Astronomers discover that star grazed solar system 70K years ago:

‘Astronomers identify the closest known flyby of a star to our solar system: a dim star that passed through the Oort Cloud 70,000 years ago A group of astronomers from the US, Europe, Chile and South Africa have determined that 70,000 years ago a recently discovered dim star is likely to have passed through the solar system’s distant cloud of comets, the Oort Cloud. No other star is known to have ever approached our solar system this close – five times closer than the current closest star, Proxima Centauri.

In a paper published in Astrophysical Journal Letters, lead author Eric Mamajek from the University of Rochester and his collaborators analyzed the velocity and trajectory of a low-mass star system nicknamed “Scholz’s star.”

The star’s trajectory suggests that 70,000 years ago it passed roughly 52,000 astronomical units away (or about 0.8 light years, which equals 8 trillion kilometers, or 5 trillion miles). This is astronomically close; our closest neighbor star Proxima Centauri is 4.2 light years distant. In fact, the astronomers explain in the paper that they are 98% certain that it went through what is known as the “outer Oort Cloud” – a region at the edge of the solar system filled with trillions of comets a mile or more across that are thought to give rise to long-period comets orbiting the Sun after their orbits are perturbed….’

Via University of Rochester

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New, previously unknown human organ discovered

NewImageNewfound ‘organ’ had been missed by standard method for visualizing anatomy

‘Researchers have identified a previously unknown feature of human anatomy with implications for the function of all organs, most tissues and the mechanisms of most major diseases.

Published March 27 in Scientific Reports, a new study co-led by an NYU School of Medicine pathologist reveals that layers of the body long thought to be dense, connective tissues – below the skin’s surface, lining the digestive tract, lungs and urinary systems, and surrounding arteries, veins, and the fascia between muscles – are instead interconnected, fluid-filled compartments….’

Via EurekAlert! Science News

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Society of Blue Buckets

”The Society of Blue Buckets (Russian: Общество синих ведёрок Obshchestvo sinikh vedyorok) is a free protest movement that emerged in Russia in 2010 as a response to the arbitrary, self-serving use of emergency rotating blue flashers by public servants. Inspired by blue toy buckets‘ strong resemblance to emergency blue rotating lights, members of the Society affix buckets to their vehicles’ roofs during automotive flashmobs, as a manifestation of their protest against misuse of emergency lights…”

Source: Wikipedia

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The Loudest Silence in the History of US Social Protest

The incredible power of the speeches by the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas students who organized the March for Our Lives yesterday. Read and feel moved to do your part to help.

Source: Mother Jones

And:

‘More than 187,000 students have been exposed to gun violence at school since Columbine, The Washington Post found. …’

Source: Washington Post

‘NRA host taunts Parkland teens: ‘No one would know your names’ if classmates were still alive …’

Source: Washington Post

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R.I.P. Liam O’Flynn

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Ireland lost a musical giant this week

‘Irish music lost one of its legends this week, with the passing of Liam O’Flynn.

A player of the Uilleann pipes, O’Flynn, or as he was known by the Gaeilge iteration of his name, Liam Óg Ó Floinn, was born in 1945 to a family of musicians. In his youth, his piping earned him prizes at county and national levels, but it wasn’t until he was in his thirties that he really hit his stride. As one of the founding members of Irish trad super group Planxty, O’Flynn helped to breathe new life to traditional Irish music by showing that it could be every bit as exciting and full of life as rock and roll. Without Planxty, there may not have been a Dexy’s Midnight Runners; No Waterboys, Pogues, or Dropkick Murphys. We’d all be poorer for it….’

Via Boing Boing

 

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After Last Male’s Death, Is the Northern White Rhino Doomed?

NewImageWildlife ranger Zacharia Mutai comforts Sudan, the last living male Northern White Rhino left on the planet, moments before he passed away March 19, 2018 at Ol Pejeta Wildlife Conservancy in northern Kenya.

Conservationists were expecting the death of Sudan, the world’s last remaining male northern white rhinoceros. But when he died on Monday night, the news was met with international dismay.

The 45-year-old male rhino had been living under armed guard at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya. Earlier this month, Sudan developed an infection on his back right leg. He had already been suffering from age-related complications, and the infection worsened his condition.

Now, only two female northern white rhinos remain at the conservancy—the last of their kind on Earth….’

Via National Geographic

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The ‘Most Ignorant Man in America’

NewImageA New York Times  reporter spends two days with a former tech executive who retired to a pig farm in Ohio to make art and has rigorously arranged his life so that, since deeply upset about Trump’s election, he has entirely avoided exposure to any news since the election. The piece flirts with the suggestion that those of us who loathe Trump and what the country has become under his reign might envy such a move, but of course the only way to survive this is to commiserate. And precious few of us have the luxury of living in the illusion that they are not impacted. 

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Why there are no libertarian countries?

NewImageHumans have shared values, believe it or not. And libertarian isn’t one of them, says Steven Pinker:

‘Could we ever agree on a set of values? The knee-jerk response for any student of history would be ‘no’, but the data tells a different story. Psychologist and author Steven Pinker offers proof in the form of Wagner’s law: “One development that people both on the Left and the Right are unaware of is almost an inexorable force that leads affluent societies to devote increasing amounts of their wealth to social spending, to redistribution to children, to education, to healthcare, to supporting the poor, to supporting the aged.” Until the 20th century, most societies devoted about 1.5% of their GDP to social spending, and generally much less than that. In the last 100 years, that’s changed: today the current global median of social spending is 22% of GDP. One group will groan most audibly at that data: Libertarians. However, Pinker says it’s no coincidence that there are zero libertarian countries on Earth; social spending is a shared value, even if the truest libertarians protest it, as the free market has no way to provide for poor children, the elderly, and other members of society who cannot contribute to the marketplace. As countries develop, they naturally initiate social spending programs. That’s why libertarianism is a marginal idea, rather than a universal value—and it’s likely to stay that way….’

Via Big Think

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Creepy Alexa laughs randomly scare the crap out of people

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First signs of the machines’ disdainful rebellion?

Reports are coming in that Amazon’s Alexa smart speaker has begun laughing all on its own.

People who claim to have experienced this generally say they’re not interacting with their Amazon Echo, but it will suddenly begin laughing. Many of the descriptions describe the robolaughter as “creepy.”

Because Alexa’s frightening laugh allegedly only happens at unexpected times, nobody has managed to capture a recording. Amazon’s voice assistant has a laugh that it will use when prompted, but it doesn’t sound very creepy.

Amazon confirmed the creepy Alexa laughs, issuing the following statement to The Verge: “We’re aware of this and working to fix it.” …’

Via Cult of Mac

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‘President for Life’?

Trump’s Remarks About Xi Find Fans in China.

Hopefully fewer fans here:

‘President Trump told donors on Saturday that China’s president, Xi Jinping, was now “president for life,” and added: “I think it’s great. Maybe we’ll want to give that a shot someday.”…’

Via New York Times

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Can Novels Change Our Attitudes About Death?

John MacNeill Miller writes:

‘If we want to move from a pathologically death-phobic culture to a more well-adjusted one… we need to rethink our cultural tradition of giving death the silent treatment. That is the sentiment underlying the death-positive movement, a loose collective of artists, writers, academics, and funeral industry professionals agitating for more open conversations about dying. As the mortician and author Caitlin Doughty explains in her bestselling memoir ‘Smoke Gets in Your Eyes’, “A culture that denies death is a barrier to achieving a good death.”

At the very minimum, our culture of death denial creates a population unprepared for the inevitability of death, one in which every dying individual burdens family and friends with painful healthcare decisions, legal battles, and property disputes that could have been avoided with a little forethought. At its worst, death denial promotes a youth- and health-obsessed society whose inability to address death …’

Source: Electric Literature

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An ATM Skimmer Almost Stole My Credit Card! This is How to Spot Them

Daniel Rodriguez writes:

‘Like you, I’ve seen the memes and articles floating around social media about checking ATMs for the telltale signs of an ATM Skimmer; loose card ports, keypads sticking up and general shadiness. It’s always one of those things I’ve kept in the back of mind, even though I never took it terribly seriously. This time it paid off! …’

Source: Imminent Threat Solutions

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Are ‘you’ just inside your skin or is your smartphone part of you?

‘Given how our smartphones have taken over what were once functions of our brains – remembering dates, phone numbers, addresses – perhaps the data they contain should be treated on a par with the information we hold in our heads. So if the law aims to protect mental privacy, its boundaries would need to be pushed outwards to give our cyborg anatomy the same protections as our brains. …’

Source: Aeon Ideas

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“What I Learned Treating Parkland Victims”

NewImageThey weren’t the first mass-shooting victims the Florida radiologist saw—but their wounds were radically different. Heather Sher writes:

As a doctor, I feel I have a duty to inform the public of what I have learned as I have observed these wounds and cared for these patients. It’s clear to me that AR-15 and other high-velocity weapons, especially when outfitted with a high-capacity magazine, have no place in a civilian’s gun cabinet. I have friends who own AR-15 rifles; they enjoy shooting them at target practice for sport and fervently defend their right to own them. But I cannot accept that their right to enjoy their hobby supersedes my right to send my own children to school, a movie theater, or a concert and to know that they are safe. Can the answer really be to subject our school children to active-shooter drills—to learn to hide under desks, turn off the lights, lock the door, and be silent—instead of addressing the root cause of the problem and passing legislation to take AR-15-style weapons out of the hands of civilians? …’

Via The Atlantic

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The Opposite of Hoarding

NewImageCompulsive Decluttering, the need to shed possessions, is a life-consuming illness for some —but the cultural embrace of decluttering can make it hard to seek help….

“Do we just assume that decluttering is a good thing because it’s the opposite of hoarding?” says Vivien Diller, a psychologist in New York who has worked with patients… who compulsively rid themselves of their possessions. “Being organized and throwing things out and being efficient is applauded in our society because it is productive. But you take somebody who cannot tolerate mess or cannot sit still without cleaning or throwing things out, and we’re talking about a symptom.”…’

Via The Atlantic

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Will the last person to leave the West Wing please remember to turn out the lights?

Image-1.jpgAll the President’s Men Who Might Leave the White House:

‘It’s looking like it might be spring-cleaning season at the White House.

Not only did Communications Director Hope Hicks announce her departure on Wednesday, ending her run as President Trump’s longest-tenured staffer, but a series of reports have suggested a number of other top-ranking officials might be clearing out their offices and desks soon. Those rumored to be considering exits include Jared Kushner, John Kelly, H.R. McMaster, Gary Cohn, and Jeff Sessions….’

Via The Atlantic

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Standing desks are probably actually bad for your health

incredible-standing-desk-ergonomics-standing-desk-guide-measurements-examples-and-benefitsThe worm turns:

‘[A] new study asserts that standings desks are, in fact, bad for you. They’re also not the promoters of workplace productivity they’ve been claimed to be. They apparently result not only in physical pain, but — literally adding insult to injury — make you a bit slower mentally….’

Via Big Think

Thank heavens I procrastinated so long in adopting this trend that now I don’t have to.

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Why philosophers feel chimpanzees must be considered persons

profileTo anyone who follows science, the notion that other animals can be sentient, have emotions, suffer, engage in relationships, and be highly intelligent has become nearly inescapable. Study after study presents fresh evidence that we’ve been underestimating animals.

Chimpanzees, crows, and cephalopods apparently use tools, apes form social groups, elephants mourn, goldfish get depressed, whales converse, crows, chickens, and goldfish remember faces, and on and on.

For many, the findings are confirmation of something we already suspected. But make no mistake, they call for a fundamental change in the way we see our place in the world: All other life on Earth is not, after all, here simply to serve us, and we thus have no moral right to continue treating it as if it is. It’s not surprising that there’s been some resistance, given the manner in which our casual, entitled use and treatment of animals is so embedded in our culture.

We’re only beginning to address the protection of non-human rights. That’s where the Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP) comes in. Now a group of philosophers has submitted an amicus curiae brief in support of its ongoing efforts to secure protection for the basic rights of two chimpanzees named “Tommy” and “Kiko”. We’ve written about the chimps’ cases and their tortuous journeys through the courts of New York State before. The NhRP is attempting to havion.” The organization is the subject of an excellent HBO documentary, Unlocking the Cage. (Trigger warning: The film contains just a handful of brief scenes that are difficult to watch.) NhRP knows its goals will take time and a lot of work….’

Via Big Think

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Influenza drug kills virus in one day

iac1Approved in Japan; US to follow:

‘Tamiflu (generic: oseltamivir), the go-to drug for combatting influenza has a new challenger.

Japanese drugmaker Shionogi has announced that test results are in: its drug kills the flu virus in 24 hours. With one pill.

The drug, named Xofluza (generic: baloxavir marboxyl), was recently granted accelerated approval by the Japanese government after trials of the drug showed great promise.

by inhibiting the enzyme that the flu virus needs in order to replicate, it kills the virus within a human in 24 hours. The symptoms continue for about the same amount of time as when Tamiflu is used, however, but they’re lessened and begin to go away faster. And both drugs lessen the effects of the flu versus no drug at all…’

Via Big Think

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Psychopaths are not all inherently alike from country to country

psychopathWhen you think of a psychopath, what qualities do you imagine? Your answer may depend on the country you’re from. Newly published research suggests that psychopaths are not the same worldwide: The most salient feature of psychopaths in the US seems to be callousness and lack of empathy, while the most central feature of psychopaths in the Netherlands is their irresponsibility and parasitic lifestyle.

Source: Olivia Goldhill, Quartz

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Closer to Forever Than You Think?

depositphotos_10535612_m-2015Futurologist Predicts that Humans Will Be Immortal by 2050

‘If someone told you that the human race is very close to living forever, what would you say? According to futurologist Dr. Ian Pearson, by 2050 we’ll have the capability to become “immortal.”

…One technique for extending our lifespan? Pearson points to advances in genetic engineering to prevent cell aging and scientists attempting to create 3D printed organs. This would allow us to simply replace “old parts” when necessary. While it might sound crazy, IFL Science points out that he may be alluding to factual studies, such as the gene editing tool, CRISPR-Cas 9.

But Pearson is really banking on android bodies as our pathway to immortality. Equating it to “renting a car,” he theorizes that “the mind will basically be in the cloud, and be able to use any android that you feel like to inhabit the real world.”

One final theory by Pearson eschews a physical body altogether, in lieu of the virtual world. “You could make as much fun as you could possibly imagine online. You might still want to come into the real world,” he predicts. “You could link your mind to millions of other minds, and have unlimited intelligence, and be in multiple places at once.” But alas, if you are getting ready for 2050, you better start saving your cash. Pearson predicts the first wave of technology will only be available to the ultra-rich, with it taking about 10 to 15 years to trickle down to the rest of us….’

Via My Modern Met

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This photo of Trump’s notes captures his empathy deficit better than anything

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‘Yep, right there at No. 5 is a talking point about telling those present that he was actually listening to them. After what appear to be four questions he planned to ask those assembled, No. 5 is an apparent reminder for Trump to tell people, “I hear you.”

Even No. 1 is basically a reminder that Trump should empathize. “What would you most want me to know about your experience?” the card reads. So two-fifths of this card is dedicated to making sure the president of the United States assured those assembled that he was interested in what they had to say and their vantage points….’

Via Washington Post

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Nobody Lives Here

usa_nobody_lives_hereMapping Emptiness in the U.S. and Beyond:

‘…[D]espite having a population of 310 million – the world’s third largest, after China and India – close to half of the U.S. is bereft of human habitation. …’

Source: Big Think

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How far away can you see a cherry red roadster?

elon_musk27s_tesla_roadster_284011030419229‘Yesterday, a telescope in Chile spotted Elon Musk’s electric car 3.7 million kilometers from Earth as it was passing by star cluster NGC 5694. Using orbital elements published by NASA, amateur astronomers are setting new distance records almost every day as they track the Roadster en route to the orbit of Mars. …’

Source: SpaceWeather

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Trump comes in last in expert presidential rankings survey

MATTHEW NUSSBAUM writes:

Worst. President. Ever. No. Surprise. 

‘…[T]he 2018 Presidents & Executive Politics Presidential Greatness Survey [was] released Monday by professors Brandon Rottinghaus of the University of Houston and Justin S. Vaughn of Boise State University. The survey results, ranking American presidents from best to worst, were based on responses from 170 current and recent members of the Presidents and Executive Politics section of the American Political Science Association.

Obama moved from 18th in 2014, when the survey was last conducted, to 8th in the current survey. Reagan jumped from 11th to 9th. Bill Clinton, meanwhile, fell from 8th to 13th — perhaps as a result of heightened attention to sexual misconduct in the midst of the #MeToo movement.

Trump came in dead last. …’

Source: Politico

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Tools of Trump’s Fixer

‘As accounts of past sexual indiscretions threatened to surface during Donald J. Trump’s presidential campaign, the job of stifling potentially damaging stories fell to his longtime lawyer and all-around fixer, Michael D. Cohen.

To protect his boss at critical junctures in his improbable political rise, the lawyer relied on intimidation tactics, hush money and the nation’s leading tabloid news business, American Media Inc., whose top executives include close Trump allies.

Mr. Cohen’s role has come under scrutiny amid recent revelations that he facilitated a payment to silence a porn star, but his aggressive behind-the-scenes efforts stretch back years, according to interviews, emails and other records. …’

Source: The New York Times

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The End is Nigh?

NewImageHouse Russia investigation has ‘abundance’ of evidence against Trump, says top Democrat

‘Adam Schiff said the panel had seen evidence of collusion with Russia and obstruction by Donald Trump’s campaign and administration that is not yet public…’

Via The Guardian

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Horny Werewolf Day

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Warren Ellis

Sorry to have missed my chance to post this yesterday:

‘Happy Valentine’s Day to all. And to those who hate the day, I say this: Valentine’s Day is a Christian corruption of a pagan festival involving werewolves, blood and fucking. So wish people a happy Horny Werewolf Day and see what happens….’

Via Warren Ellis

(And, yes, my sweetheart and I did celebrate the day with a nice dinner and flowers.)

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First Anti-Skynet Presidential Campaign Kicks Off

His 2020 Campaign Message: The Robots Are Coming:

NewImage‘Andrew Yang, a well-connected New York businessman, … is mounting a longer-than-long-shot bid for the White House. Mr. Yang, a former tech executive who started the nonprofit organization Venture for America, believes that automation and advanced artificial intelligence will soon make millions of jobs obsolete — yours, mine, those of our accountants and radiologists and grocery store cashiers. He says America needs to take radical steps to prevent Great Depression-level unemployment and a total societal meltdown, including handing out trillions of dollars in cash.

“All you need is self-driving cars to destabilize society,” Mr. Yang, 43, said over lunch at a Thai restaurant in Manhattan last month, in his first interview about his campaign. In just a few years, he said, “we’re going to have a million truck drivers out of work who are 94 percent male, with an average level of education of high school or one year of college.”

“That one innovation,” he continued, “will be enough to create riots in the street. And we’re about to do the same thing to retail workers, call center workers, fast-food workers, insurance companies, accounting firms.”Alarmist? Sure. But Mr. Yang’s doomsday prophecy echoes the concerns of a growing number of labor economists and tech experts who are worried about the coming economic consequences of automation. A 2017 report by McKinsey & Company, the consulting firm, concluded that by 2030 — three presidential terms from now — as many as one-third of American jobs may disappear because of automation….’

Via New York Times

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Extremely endangered frog has online dating profile created by scientists in effort to save species

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Josh Gabbatiss writes:

‘Romeo, “the world’s loneliest frog”, has had an online dating profile set up by scientists in an effort to save his species from extinction.

The lovesick amphibian is the only known Sehuencas water frog in the world, and he has been calling for a mate ever since researchers collected him from the wild a decade ago.

Now they have launched him into the world of online dating in an effort to raise awareness and funds for the rejuvenation of his species. …’

Source: The Independent UK

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More Religious Leaders Challenge Taboo Surrounding Suicide

NewImageNo excuse for silence?

‘In the United States alone, someone dies by suicide once every 13 minutes. For the longest time, there was a cloak of secrecy about the details of a death by suicide, but talking about suicide may be the best hope for stopping it, according to researchers.

Until recently, many religious leaders were not well-prepared to talk about suicide with their congregants. Now some clergy have become an important part of suicide prevention….’

Via NPR

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CERN may have just found a hypothetical quasiparticle

NewImageA hint of a guess of a supposition:

‘It’s been a long time since it was first proposed, but now scientists appear to have finally found evidence of a weird quantum object called an “odderon“. “We’ve been looking for this since the 1970s,” says Christophe Royon of the University of Kansas (UK)….’

Via Big Think

 

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Robert Mueller’s Investigation Is Larger—and Further Along—Than You Think

NewImage‘We speak about the “Mueller probe” as a single entity, but it’s important to understand that there are no fewer than five (known) separate investigations under the broad umbrella of the special counsel’s office—some threads of these investigations may overlap or intersect, some may be completely free-standing, and some potential targets may be part of multiple threads. But it’s important to understand the different “buckets” of Mueller’s probe..

1. Preexisting Business Deals and Money Laundering…

2. Russian Information Operations…

3. Active Cyber Intrusions…

4. Russian Campaign Contacts…

and the big Kahuna,

5. Obstruction of Justice …’

Via Wired

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R.I.P. John Perry Barlow

 

Co-founder of EFF and Grateful Dead lyricist dead at 70:

NewImage‘John Perry Barlow, a co-founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, rancher, and lyricist for the Grateful Dead, died Wednesday at the age of 70.

The San Francisco-based digital rights advocacy organization said that it was mourning the loss of its co-founder. “It is no exaggeration to say that major parts of the Internet we all know and love today exist and thrive because of Barlow’s vision and leadership,” Cindy Cohn, the group’s executive director, wrote in a blog post. “He always saw the Internet as a fundamental place of freedom, where voices long silenced can find an audience and people can connect with others regardless of physical distance.”…’

Via Ars Technika

 

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What Does It Mean to Die?

NewImageThe case of a 13-year-old Oakland girl whose family has fought to continue care for her for more than two years after she was declared dead (in the face of complications of a tonsillectomy) raises questions about our definition of death, the medical establishment’s response to costly mistakes, and largely overlooked dimensions of the disparity in the healthcare of ethnic and religious minority patients. 

Interestingly, she began to menstruate several years into this state, a change mediated by a part of the brain called the hypothalamus. A condition called ischemic penumbra, proposed by some (but hardly generally accepted) might lead to a misdiagnosis of brain death in patients whose diminished but continuing cerebral blood flow could not be detected by standard tests, holding out the promise of some degree of recovery. Moreover, even if she was brain dead, is it necessarily the case that “the destruction of one organ is synonymous with death”? How similar is our notion of brain death to the concept embraced by the Nazis after the publication, in 1920, of a widely read medical and legal text called “Permission to Destroy Life Unworthy of Living”

If one did not take the issues in this case seriously, some of them have a strong flavor of black comedy. The girl’s family brought a malpractice suit against the Oakland Children’s Hospital where she had undergone her surgery, but the hospital is fighting the legal standing of a corpse to bring a lawsuit. The IRS has rejected mother’s tax return saying that one of the ‘dependents’ she had listed was dead.I couldn’t help thinking of the movie Weekend at Bernie’s. 

The case has provoked a so-called shadow effect in which a number of families, many of them from ethnic or racial minorities, have been going to court to prevent hospitals from turning off the ventilators of their loved ones declared brain-dead. One neurologist has done research on hundreds of cases of what he called “chronic survival” after brain death. When the director of the Center of Bioethics at Harvard, which had been instrumental in the consensus conference fifty years ago establishing the definition of brain death, began to refer to it as a ‘catastrophic brain injury’ instead of death, he prompted a backlash from, among others, transplant surgeons decrying the immorality of “…[putting] doubts in the minds of people about a practice that is saving countless lives.” There is even growing discussion of the morality of taking organs from such patients even if we do not believe them to be dead.

Via New Yorker

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“Every Concussion in the NFL This Year” Documented in a Chilling Five Minute Video

NewImageHappy Super Bowl Day:

‘Over at  The Intercept, Josh Begley, a data visualization artist, has posted a video entitled “Field of Vision – Concussion Protocol.” By way of introduction, he writes:
Since the season started, there have been more than 280 concussions in the NFL. That is an average of 12 concussions per week. Though it claims to take head injuries very seriously, the National Football League holds this data relatively close. It releases yearly statistics, but those numbers are published in aggregate, making it difficult to glean specific insights….’

Via Open Culture

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The Myth of Canine Shame (Or Is It Guilt?)

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William Brennan writes:

‘…”[D]og shaming” has become popular on Twitter and Instagram, as owners around the world post shots of their trembling pets beside notes in which the dogs seem to cop to bad behavior… Human enthusiasm for guilty dogs seems boundless: A 2013 collection of dog-shaming photos landed on the New York Times best-seller list; [one] video has been viewed more than 50 million times.

But according to Alexandra Horowitz, a dog-cognition expert at Barnard College, what we perceive as a dog’s guilty look is no sign of guilt at all… Far from signaling remorse, one group of researchers wrote in a 2012 paper, the guilty look is likely a submissive response that has proved advantageous because it reduces conflict between dog and human …’

Source: The Atlantic

However, I’m not sure I share the conclusion that this does not represent guilt. What we call guilt in humans is assumed to reflect a sense that one has done wrong by violating some moral code. But moral philosophers and psychologists know that some proportion of humans operate on the level not of governing their actions by some intrinsic sense of what is right or wrong but rather that of simply not getting caught by some powerful other — just what the researchers are saying is happening in the canine world.

PS: There is also a difference between “shame” and “guilt”. A rule of thumb is that shame is discomfort at who you are, whereas guilt is discomfort at something you’ve done. If you shame someone for something they did, you are globally condemning them as a person — or a dog — for a single action.

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You Think You Know Fruit?

NewImage‘…[F]ruit can still surprise us. Whether it’s a bright-orange bulb that tastes like peanut butter, a poisonous lychee relative that becomes edible and egg-like when cooked, or a Pacific Island native that doubles as sugary treat and fibrous dental floss, these plants show us that the fruit world still holds many wonders for those willing to explore it….’

Via Atlas Obscura

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R.I.P. Gene Sharp

Global Guru of Nonviolent Resistance Dies at 90:

NewImageGene Sharp, a preacher’s son whose own gospel of nonviolent struggle inspired velvet revolutions that toppled dictators on four continents, died Jan. 28 at his home in Boston. He was 90.

His death was announced by Jamila Raqib, an Afghan refugee who is the executive director of the Albert Einstein Institution, which Dr. Sharp founded in 1983 to promote indigenous regime change that does not invite violent retaliation.

His strategy was adopted by insurgents in the Baltics, Serbia, Ukraine, Burma (now Myanmar) and Egypt, during the Arab Spring turmoil. The Occupy Wall Street movement and other “occupy” demonstrations to protest economic inequality in the United States also drew from the Sharp manual.

Dr. Sharp became an intellectual father of peaceful resistance and the founder of an academic discipline devoted to his lifetime cause, one that synthesizes the philosophies espoused by Einstein, Gandhi, Tolstoy, Thomas Hobbes, Henry David Thoreau and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

He could also be a pragmatic strategist and, though generally shy and mild-mannered, a sometimes strident advocate.

Continue reading the main story He armed his diverse followers with a list of 198 of what he called “nonviolent weapons” of protest and noncooperation to disrupt or even paralyze oppressive authorities.

“In South America, they’re not tweeting Che Guevara; they’re tweeting Gene Sharp,” said the Scottish journalist Ruaridh Arrow, who made an acclaimed documentary film about Dr. Sharp in 2011, “How to Start a Revolution,” and wrote his biography, to be published this year….’

Via New York Times

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How Responsible are Killers with Brain Damage?

NewImage‘Can murder really be a symptom of brain disease? And if our brains can be hijacked so easily, do we really have free will?

Neuroscientists are shedding new light on these questions by uncovering how brain lesions can lead to criminal behavior. A recent study contains the first systematic review of 17 known cases where criminal behavior was preceded by the onset of a brain lesion. Is there one brain region consistently involved in cases of criminal behavior? No—the researchers found that the lesions were widely distributed throughout different brain regions. However, all the lesions were part of the same functional network, located on different parts of a single circuit that normally allows neurons throughout the brain to cooperate with each other on specific cognitive tasks. In an era of increasing excitement about mapping the brain’s “connectome,” this finding fits with our growing understanding of complex brain functions as residing not in discrete brain regions, but in densely connected networks of neurons spread throughout different parts of the brain.

Interestingly, the ‘criminality-associated network’ identified by the researchers is closely related to networks previously linked with moral decision making. The network is most closely associated with two specific components of moral psychology: theory of mind and value-based decision making…..’

Via Scientific American

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China has put a railgun on a warship

SNewImageShould America be worried?

‘…[W]e can rest somewhat assured that the railgun might not actually work. Fancy though it may be, it’s not easy to get a machine this powerful to fire at a target. The American military had up until fairly recently working on railgun technology but since dropped it in favor of more short-range weaponry; it looks like China was watching pretty closely and picked up the ball where America either lost interest or lost focus.

So, should anyone be worried? Maybe. It could be a while until the railgun actually gets used, and… this [might be] the kind of show-off weapon that is built mostly as a deterrent and/or status symbol. And besides, it’s not like we have a head of government who likes to tick off the Chinese. Oh, wait! We do. Well, we might be seeing the railgun sooner than later….’

Via Big Think

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How to Get Over Yourself

NewImageWhat Freud and Buddhism agree on about the ego, paraphrased from Mark Epstein’s essay, an excerpt from his excellent book A Guide to Getting Over Yourself:

Ego is the affliction we all have in common, and it is not an innocent bystander. While claiming to have our best interests at heart, ego-driven pursuits undermine the very goals it sets out to achieve. We need to loosen ego’s grip to have a more satisfying existence.

How we interact with our ego is up to us. We have gotten very little help with this in life; no one teaches us how to be with ourselves constructively. Goals which develop a stronger sense of self are generally cherished in our society but self-love, self-esteem, self-confidence and aggressively seeking what one wants do not guarantee well-being. If we look around, we see that people with a strong sense of self are suffering. In fact, the most important events in our lives from falling in love to giving birth to facing death all require the ego to let go.

We have the capacity to bring unbridled ego under control by focusing on internal successes instead of merely success in the external world. Our culture does not generally support such conscious de-escalation of the ego but there are advocates to be found, among them both Buddhist psychology and Western psychotherapy. Although developing in completely different times and places and until recently having nothing to do with each other, both the Buddha and Freud came to a virtually identical conclusion, identifying the untrammeled ego as the limiting factor to our well-being.

Neither Buddhism or psychotherapy aim to eradicate the ego, which would render us either psychotic or completely helpless in navigating the world and mediating conflicting demands of self and others. Both practices, in fact, build up some executive functions of the ego. Much of the benefit of modern meditation practice, for example, which has found a modern place in healthcare, on Wall Street, in athletics and in the military, lies in the ego strength it confers by giving people more control. But ego-enhancement, by itself, can only get us so far.

Both practices aim to rebalance the ego by strengthening the “observing I” over the “unbridled me.” Freud based his approach on free association and the interpretation of dreams. The self-reflection borne from psychoanalysis, staring into space and “saying whatever comes to mind,” shifts the ego toward the subjective, making room for uncomfortable emotional experiences, greater acceptance, and relaxation of ego struggles.

Buddhism teaches people to watch their minds without necessarily believing, or being captivated by, everything they see. In so doing, one is freed from being victimized by one’s most selfish momentary impulses. By making room for whatever arises in the mind and dwelling more consistently in an observing awareness, a meditator is training herself neither to push away the unpleasant nor to cling to the appealing. Observing ego is balanced and impersonal, more distant from the immature ego’s insistent self-concern and its fluctuation in the face of the incessant change life throws at us.

However, there are some differences between the focuses of psychotherapy and Buddhist meditation. Freud found the most illuminating thing to be the unconscious instincts that came to awareness through the process of psychoanalysis, giving people a deeper and richer appreciation of themselves and thus humbling the ego with a wider scope, greater awareness of its limitations, and greater freedom from being dictated to by instinctual cravings.

Buddhism finds inspiration, in contrast, in the phenomenon of consciousness itself and seeks to give people a glimpse of pure awareness. Not only do I experience things, I know that I am experiencing them and even know that I know I am doing so, in an endless regress. But once in awhile through deep meditation the whole thing collapses and there is no ‘I’, no ‘me’, just the pure awareness. It is hard to talk about but it is an indubitable result of this kind of mind training, and the consequent freedom from the limitations of one’s identity comes as a relief. The contrast from one’s habitual ego-driven state is overwhelming, and much of Buddhist tradition is designed to consolidate the perspective of this expanded awareness with one’s everyday perspective.

Via Big Think

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Study finds brains of jazz musicians have superior flexibility

NewImagePlaying jazz can make you cooler under pressure:

‘A small study by Emily Przysinda of Wesleyan University suggests that the brains of jazz musicians react differently to unexpected events than the brains of classical musicians or non-musicians. It also supports previous findings that learning to play music at all improves creativity….

…The researchers suggest that the jazz musicians, who study a musical tradition that places a high value on improvisation and often uses strange chord structures, were well trained to expect the unexpected…’

Via Big Think

And what about listeners who prefer improvisational styles?

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Excessive political correctness feeds radical ideas

NewImageSteven Pinker at Davos:

‘…[P]olitical correctness may be responsible for feeding some of the most odious ideas out there, developed by tech-oriented loners who grow such thinking in isolation from the mainstream discussion.

Pinker pointed out that by treating certain facts as taboo, political correctness helped “stoke” the alt-right by “giving them the sense that there were truths the academic establishment could not face up to.” He said the alt-right feeds on overzealous political correctness, pushing back with wrong-headed ideas that develop in their own bubbles – ideas on differences between the genders or capitalist and communist countries or things like crime statistics among ethnic groups….’

Via Big Think

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Why We’re Underestimating American Collapse

NewImageUmair Haque writes:

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

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

Via Eudaimonia

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Pharma’s Conspiracy to Kill West Virginians

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

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

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

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

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

Via West Virginia Gazette Mail

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Why Is Snowplowing Still a Thing?


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

Via Motherboard

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

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Donald Trump is winning

Ezra Klein writes:

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

Via Vox

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

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Trump Will Try to Fire Mueller. Again.

Timothy L. O’Brien writes:

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

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

Source: Bloomberg

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

John Cassidy writes:

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

Source: The New Yorker

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Ticking Time Bomb Under the Arctic?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Via NPR

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Our Impoverished Olfactory Vocabulary

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

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

Via NPR

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

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

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

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

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

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

Via Big Think