Link

In Your Name: The Wretched Reality of American Fascism

NewImageHundreds of children wait in Border Patrol facility in Texas

(Via Associated Press)

 

‘Prison-like’ migrant youth shelter is understaffed, unequipped for Trump’s ‘zero tolerance’ policy, insider says

(Via LA Times)

 

What’s Really Happening When Asylum-Seeking Families Are Separated?

(Via Texas Monthly)

 

Laura Bush: Separating children from their parents at the border ‘breaks my heart’

(Via Washington Post op-ed)

 

Secret recording of weeping children begging for their parents while a Border Patrol official mocks them

(Via Boing Boing)

 

America’s ‘Detention Centers’ Added to Wikipedia List of Concentration Camps

(Via Gizmodo)

Link

How to Fight Trump’s Policy of Separating Children From Their Parents

NewImage‘Slate has a long list of organizations fighting the separation of immigrant families, which could all use donations or volunteer work (especially from lawyers or translators). If Slate’s growing list is overwhelming, you can just donate money at this ActBlue page to fund eight organizations fighting for immigration rights, including the ACLU and Kids In Need of Defense, which provides legal representation for children.

The newsletter “Activism for Non-Activists” includes an easy script for calling your congressional representative (which does make a difference), plus some first steps for protesting, volunteering, and checking that you’re still registered to vote…’

Via Lifehacker

I just watched Trump flunky DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen’s outrageous baldfaced lying performance excusing and justifying our inhumane, immoral and illegal actions at the border,  facing unanimous outrage (that Sarah Saunders was unwilling to do on her own). at this afternoon’s press conference. I seem to recall a generation of Americans vow that the internment of the Japanese-Americans during WWII could never happen again, but it is. In your name, concentration camps enacting child abuse are now active at the border. Do something.

Addendum: Glad to hear that the governors of Colorado and my state, Massachusetts (Charlie Baker, who is a Republican) have announced that they will not allow state resources to be used in support or enforcement of this policy.

Link

Passel of Interesting Stories on Gizmodo Today

The US State Department evacuated at least two diplomats in China following a mysterious illness experienced after hearing strange noises—the latest in a series of unexplained sicknesses that have hit American diplomats and their family members in recent years. According to the New York Times , the State Department has flown in a medical team to test employees at the American consulate …
It’s taken as a given that the more schooling we get, the better off our lives will be across the board. But a new study published Wednesday in The BMJ reaffirms a hidden health risk of higher education. The more years of school someone gets, it turns out, the greater the chances of them becoming near-sighted. For more than a century, observational research across the world has pointed to…
Not Gilderoy Lockhart Dr. Mehmet Oz is at it again. The infamous snake oil salesman tweeted today, asking his followers to learn more about the link between a person’s astrological sign and their health. After a brief paroxysm of screaming, I clicked through the slideshow to learn that, as a Capricorn, I am so ambitious and take on so many tasks that I am prone to literally becoming weak in the knees…
Beginning in August, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will begin piloting a new face recognition system at the Mexican border. Using a series of cameras, the CBP plans to use face recognition to remotely check the identifies of both drivers and passengers. Called the Vehicle Face System (VFS), the program will track drivers and passengers on either side of the crossing at the Anzalduas …
A Texas man thought he had bested a rattlesnake by decapitating it, but when he tried to pick up the slain serpent’s head, it bit him and released a potentially fatal dose of venom into his body. His wife Jennifer Sutcliffe told local news station KIIITV that doctors said he might not survive, but he is now in recovery, thanks to 26 vials of antivenom. Trauma surgeon Michael Halpert told the news …
Comcast’s Xfinity landline service has been experiencing issues across the U.S. since this morning, with thousands of problems still being reported this afternoon, according to DownDetector.com . The outage map indicates that customers throughout the U.S. have encountered issues, with the most recent reports coming from San Francisco, Chicago, Portland, Mountain View, Denver, Seattle, Atlanta, …
Hurricane Harvey, as seen from low-Earth orbit. The pace at which hurricanes move across the planet is slowing, according to new research. This suggests Hurricane Harvey, which stalled over Texas last summer, may not have been an…

via Gizmodo

Link

U.S. Army develops algorithm that shows how to get ‘optimal alertness’ from caffeine

The researchers behind the new study aimed to find the optimal balance between the amount of caffeine and the time it’s administered. To do so, they used data from four past caffeine-sleep studies and inputted them into an algorithm built on the unified model of performance, which is a mathematical model that accurately predicts the effects of sleep–wake schedules and caffeine consumption on simple neurobehavioral tasks.

The team, led by the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command’s Dr. Jaques Reifman, ran thousands of simulations across a wide range of doses and sleep-wake schedules.

“We found that by using our algorithm, which determines when and how much caffeine a subject should consume, we can improve alertness by up to 64 percent, while consuming the same total amount of caffeine,” Reifman told Science Daily. “Alternatively, a subject can reduce caffeine consumption by up to 65 percent and still achieve equivalent improvements in alertness.”

The algorithm could someday be used, for instance, by college students who want to know when they should consume caffeine “so you are as alert as possible during the exam,” Reifman told Live Science.

The optimal caffeine dose amounts and times depended on each individual scenario, so there’s no universal recommendation for when and much caffeine to consume. However, the U.S. Army is reportedly using the algorithm in experiments with soldiers in an effort to improve sleep health in the military, an organization in which sleep deprivation is a constant and often unavoidable problem.

The base algorithm looks like this:

If that’s not your cup of joe, a simplified version of the algorithm is available to the public through the 2B-Alert app, which lets users enter their sleep schedules and caffeine intake to find out when and how much caffeine they should consume.

Source: Big Think

Link

The Lost Lingo of New York City’s Soda Jerks

Natasha Frost writes:

‘…“[S]oda jerk[s],” …half a million [of whom were] employed at tens of thousands of soda fountains across the United States in the 1930s and 1940s, …had white coats, swift fingers, and even swifter tongues—indeed, their linguistic concoctions were as much of a draw as the sweet treats they served up. [One] got a special shout-out in a university English course on American colloquialism after a professor ordered a large cherry coke and heard him shout back: “Stretch one, paint it red!” …’

Source: Gastro Obscura

Link

Hobson’s Choice

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

Via Sam Hobson Photography

Link

Donald Trump Stalked Bill Gates’ Daughter

Monica Hunter-Hart writes:

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

Source: Google News

Link

These Are The Jobs Most Likely To Attract A Serial Killer

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

Skilled Occupations:

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

Semi-Skilled Occupations:

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

Unskilled Occupations

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

Professional and Government Occupations:

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

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

Via IFLScience

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

Link

May 1968: the revolution retains its magnetic allure

John Harris writes:

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

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

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

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

Source: The Guardian

Link

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

NewImage

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

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

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

Link

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.]

 

Link

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

Link

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.

Link

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

Link

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

Link

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

Link

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

Link

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

Link

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

Link

“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

Link

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

Link

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

Link

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.

Link

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

Link

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

Link

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

Link

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

Link

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

Link

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

Link

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

Link

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

Link

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

Link

Horny Werewolf Day

warrenellis
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.)

Link

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

romeo-frog-full

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

Link

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

dog-shaming-39__605

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.

Link

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

Link

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

Link

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

Link

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

Link

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

Link

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

Link

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

Link

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.).

Link

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

Sara Boboltz writes:

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

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

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

Link

Narcissistic Buffoon Falsely Claims His Approval Among Black Americans Has Doubled

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

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

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

Via New York Times

Link

Facebook, You Needy Sonofabitch

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

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

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

Source: Brad Frost

Link

Google, You Creepy Sonofabitch

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

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

Source: Brad Frost

Link

Shithole, USA

Ten quick thoughts on Trump’s shitholing of America:

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

Source: Dave Pell – Medium

Link

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

Even though you know it’s wrong:

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

Via Lifehacker

Link

Is There Something Neurologically Wrong With Donald Trump?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Link

New Year’s Customs and Rituals

New Year Sunrise
New Year Sunrise

This is the annual update of my New Year post, a longstanding FmH tradition. Please let me know if you find any dead links:

I once ran across a January 1st Boston Globe article compiling folkloric beliefs about what to do, what to eat, etc. on New Year’s Day to bring good fortune for the year to come. I’ve regretted since — I usually think of it around once a year (grin) — not clipping out and saving the article. Especially since we’ve had children, I’m interested in enduring traditions that go beyond getting drunk [although some comment that this is a profound enactment of the interdigitation of chaos and order appropriate to the New Year’s celebration — FmH], watching the bowl games and making resolutions.

Marteniza-ball

A web search brought me this, less elaborate than what I recall from the Globe but to the same point. It is weighted toward eating traditions, which is odd because, unlike most other major holidays, the celebration of New Year’s in 21st century America does not seem to be centered at all around thinking about what we eat (except in the sense of the traditional weight-loss resolutions!) and certainly not around a festive meal. But…

Traditionally, it was thought that one could affect the luck they would have throughout the coming year by what they did or ate on the first day of the year. For that reason, it has become common for folks to celebrate the first few minutes of a brand new year in the company of family and friends. Parties often last into the middle of the night after the ringing in of a new year. It was once believed that the first visitor on New Year’s Day would bring either good luck or bad luck the rest of the year. It was particularly lucky if that visitor happened to be a tall dark-haired man.

“Traditional New Year foods are also thought to bring luck. Many cultures believe that anything in the shape of a ring is good luck, because it symbolizes “coming full circle,” completing a year’s cycle. For that reason, the Dutch believe that eating donuts on New Year’s Day will bring good fortune.

blackeye_peas_bowl_text
Many parts of the U.S. celebrate the new year by consuming black-eyed peas. These legumes are typically accompanied by either hog jowls or ham. Black-eyed peas and other legumes have been considered good luck in many cultures. The hog, and thus its meat, is considered lucky because it symbolizes prosperity. Cabbage is another ‘good luck’ vegetable that is consumed on New Year’s Day by many. Cabbage leaves are also considered a sign of prosperity, being representative of paper currency. In some regions, rice is a lucky food that is eaten on New Year’s Day.”

English: Fireworks over Edinburgh on New Year'...
Fireworks over Edinburgh on New Year’s Eve

The further north one travels in the British Isles, the more the year-end festivities focus on New Year’s. The Scottish observance of Hogmanay has many elements of warming heart and hearth, welcoming strangers and making a good beginning:

“Three cornered biscuits called hogmanays are eaten. Other special foods are: wine, ginger cordial, cheese, bread, shortbread, oatcake, carol or carl cake, currant loaf, and a pastry called scones. After sunset people collect juniper and water to purify the home. Divining rituals are done according to the directions of the winds, which are assigned their own colors. First Footing: The first person who comes to the door on midnight New Year’s Eve should be a dark-haired or dark-complected man with gifts for luck. Seeing a cat, dog, woman, red-head or beggar is unlucky. The person brings a gift (handsel) of coal or whiskey to ensure prosperity in the New Year. Mummer’s Plays are also performed. The actors called the White Boys of Yule are all dressed in white, except for one dressed as the devil in black. It is bad luck to engage in marriage proposals, break glass, spin flax, sweep or carry out rubbish on New Year’s Eve.”

Here’s why we clink our glasses when we drink our New Year’s toasts, no matter where we are. Of course, sometimes the midnight cacophony is louder than just clinking glassware, to create a ‘devil-chasing din’.

In Georgia, eat black eyed peas and turnip greens on New Year’s Day for luck and prosperity in the year to come, supposedly because they symbolize coppers and currency. Hoppin’ John, a concoction of peas, onion, bacon and rice, is also a southern New Year’s tradition, as is wearing yellow to find true love (in Peru and elsewhere in South America, yellow underwear, apparently!) or carrying silver for prosperity. In some instances, a dollar bill is thrown in with the other ingredients of the New Year’s meal to bring prosperity. In Greece, there is a traditional New Year’s Day sweetbread with a silver coin baked into it. All guests get a slice of the bread and whoever receives the slice with the coin is destined for good fortune for the year. At Italian tables, lentils, oranges and olives are served. The lentils, looking like coins, will bring prosperity; the oranges are for love; and the olives, symbolic of the wealth of the land, represent good fortune for the year to come.

A New Year’s meal in Norway also includes dried cod, “lutefisk.” The Pennsylvania Dutch make sure to include sauerkraut in their holiday meal, also for prosperity.

In Spain, you would cram twelve grapes in your mouth at midnight, one each time the clock chimed, for good luck for the twelve months to come. (If any of the grapes happens to be sour, the corresponding month will not be one of your most fortunate in the coming year.) The U. S. version of this custom, for some reason, involves standing on a chair as you pop the grapes. In Denmark, jumping off a chair at the stroke of midnight signifies leaping into the New Year.
In Rio,

The crescent-shaped Copacabana beach… is the scene of an unusual New Year’s Eve ritual: mass public blessings by the mother-saints of the Macumba and Candomble sects. More than 1 million people gather to watch colorful fireworks displays before plunging into the ocean at midnight after receiving the blessing from the mother-saints, who set up mini-temples on the beach.

When taking the plunge, revelers are supposed to jump over seven waves, one for each day of the week.

This is all meant to honor Lamanjá, known as the “Mother of Waters” or “Goddess of the Sea.” Lamanjá protects fishermen and survivors of shipwrecks. Believers also like to throw rice, jewelry and other gifts into the water, or float them out into the sea in intimately crafted miniature boats, to please Lamanjá in the new year.

In many northern hemisphere cities near bodies of water, people also take a New Year’s Day plunge into the water, although of course it is an icy one! The Coney Island Polar Bears Club in New York is the oldest cold-water swimming club in the United States. They have had groups of people enter the chilly surf since 1903.

Ecuadorian families make scarecrows stuffed with newspaper and firecrackers and place them outside their homes. The dummies represent misfortunes of the prior year, which are then burned in effigy at the stroke of midnight to forget the old year. Bolivian families make beautiful little wood or straw dolls to hang outside their homes on New Year’s Eve to bring good luck.

1cdd196c97bc4886c7d0b3a9c1b3dd97In China, homes are cleaned spotless to appease the Kitchen God, and papercuttings of red paper are hung in the windows to scare away evil spirits who might enter the house and bring misfortune. Large papier mache dragon heads with long fabric bodies are maneuvered through the streets during the Dragon Dance festival, and families open their front doors to let the dragon bring good luck into their homes.

The Indian Diwali, or Dipawali, festival, welcoming in the autumnal season, also involves attracting good fortune with lights. Children make small clay lamps, dipas, thousands of which might adorn a given home. In Thailand, one pours fragrant water over the hands of elders on New Year’s Day to show them respect.

10768-revelry
Elsewhere:

  • a stack of pancakes for the New Year’s breakfast in France.
  • banging on friends’ doors in Denmark to “smash in” the New Year, where it is also a good sign to find your doorstep heaped with broken dishes on New Year’s morning. Old dishes are saved all years to throw at your friends’ homes on New Year’s Eve. The more broken pieces you have, the greater the number of new friends you will have in the forthcoming twelve months.
  • going in the front door and out the back door at midnight in Ireland.
  • making sure the First Footer, the first person through your door in the New Year in Scotland, is a tall dark haired visitor.
  • water out the window at midnight in Puerto Rico rids the home of evil spirits.
  • cleanse your soul in Japan at the New Year by listening to a gong tolling 108 times, one for every sin
  • it is Swiss good luck to let a drop of cream fall on the floor on New Year’s Day.
  • Belgian farmers wish their animals a Happy New Year for blessings.
  • In Germany and Austria, lead pouring” (das Bleigießen) is an old divining practice using molten lead like tea leaves. A small amount of lead is melted in a tablespoon (by holding a flame under the spoon) and then poured into a bowl or bucket of water. The resulting pattern is interpreted to predict the coming year. For instance, if the lead forms a ball (der Ball), that means luck will roll your way. The shape of an anchor (der Anker) means help in need. But a cross (das Kreuz) signifies death. This is also a practice in parts of Finland, apparently.
  • El Salvadoreans crack an egg in a glass at midnight and leave it on the windowsill overnight; whatever figure it has made in the morning is indicative of one’s fortune for the year.
  • Some Italians like to take part in throwing pots, pans, and old furniture from their windows when the clock strikes midnight. This is done as a way for residents to rid of the old and welcome in the new. It also allows them to let go of negativity. This custom is also practiced in parts of South Africa, the Houston Press adds.
  • In Colombia, walk around with an empty suitcase on New Year’s Day for a year full of travel.
  • In the Philippines, all the lights in the house are turned on at midnight, and previously opened windows, doors and cabinets throughout the house are suddenly slammed shut, to ward off evil spirits for the new year.
  • In Russia a wish is written down on a piece of paper. It is burned and the ash dissolved in a glass of champagne, which should be downed before 12:01 am if the wish is to come true.
  • aptopix-romania-bear-ritual-89ecd02b044cc9131Romanians celebrate the new year by wearing bear costumes and dancing around to ward off evil
  • In Turkey, pomegranates are thrown down from the balconies at midnight for good luck.

It’s a bit bizarre when you think about it. A short British cabaret sketch from the 1920s has become a German New Year’s tradition. Yet, although The 90th Birthday or Dinner for One is a famous cult classic in Germany and several other European countries, it is virtually unknown in the English-speaking world, including Britain, its birthplace.” (Watch on Youtube, 11 min.)

So if the Germans watch British video, what do you watch in Britain? A number of sources have suggested that it is Jools Holland’s Hootenanny, “even though it’s awful and everyone hates it.

On a related theme, from earlier in the same week, here are some of the more bizarre Christmas rituals from around the world. 

Some history; documentation of observance of the new year dates back at least 4000 years to the Babylonians, who also made the first new year’s resolutions (reportedly voews to return borrowed farm equipment were very popular), although their holiday was observed at the vernal equinox. The Babylonian festivities lasted eleven days, each day with its own particular mode of celebration. The traditional Persian Norouz festival of spring continues to be considered the advent of the new year among Persians, Kurds and other peoples throughout Central Asia, and dates back at least 3000 years, deeply rooted in Zooastrian traditions.Modern Bahá’í’s celebrate Norouz (”Naw Ruz”) as the end of a Nineteen Day Fast. Rosh Hashanah (”head of the year”), the Jewish New Year, the first day of the lunar month of Tishri, falls between September and early October. Muslim New Year is the first day of Muharram, and Chinese New Year falls between Jan. 10th and Feb. 19th of the Gregorian calendar.

The classical Roman New Year’s celebration was also in the spring although the calendar went out of synchrony with the sun. January 1st became the first day of the year by proclamation of the Roman Senate in 153 BC, reinforced even more strongly when Julius Caesar established what came to be known as the Julian calendar in 46 BC. The early Christian Church condemned new year’s festivities as pagan but created parallel festivities concurrently. New Year’s Day is still observed as the Feast of Christ’s Circumcision in some denominations. Church opposition to a new year’s observance reasserted itself during the Middle Ages, and Western nations have only celebrated January 1 as a holidy for about the last 400 years. The custom of New Year’s gift exchange among Druidic pagans in 7th century Flanders was deplored by Saint Eligius, who warned them, “[Do not] make vetulas, [little figures of the Old Woman], little deer or iotticos or set tables [for the house-elf] at night or exchange New Year gifts or supply superfluous drinks [another Yule custom].” (Wikipedia)

The tradition of the New Year’s Baby signifying the new year began with the Greek tradition of parading a baby in a basket during the Dionysian rites celebrating the annual rebirth of that god as a symbol of fertility. The baby was also a symbol of rebirth among early Egyptians. Again, the Church was forced to modify its denunciation of the practice as pagan because of the popularity of the rebirth symbolism, finally allowing its members to cellebrate the new year with a baby although assimilating it to a celebration of the birth of the baby Jesus. The addition of Father Time (the “Old Year”) wearing a sash across his chest with the previous year on it, and the banner carried or worn by the New Year’s Baby, immigrated from Germany. Interestingly, January 1st is not a legal holiday in Israel, officially because of its historic origins as a Christian feast day.


Auld Lang Syne (literally ‘old long ago’ in the Scottish dialect) is sung or played at the stroke of midnight throughout the English-speaking world (and then there is George Harrison’s “Ring Out the Old”). Versions of the song have been part of the New Year’s festivities since the 17th century but Robert Burns was inspired to compose a modern rendition, which was published after his death in 1796. (It took Guy Lombardo, however, to make it popular…)

Should auld acquaintance be forgot
and never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot
and days of auld lang syne?
For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

Should auld acquaintance be forgot
and never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot
and days of auld lang syne?
And here’s a hand, my trusty friend
And gie’s a hand o’ thine
We’ll tak’ a cup o’ kindness yet
For auld lang syne

Here’s how to wish someone a Happy New Year around the world:

  • Arabic: Kul ‘aam u antum salimoun
  • Brazilian: Boas Festas e Feliz Ano Novo means “Good Parties and Happy New Year”
  • Chinese: Chu Shen Tan Xin Nian Kuai Le (thanks, Jeff)
  • Czechoslavakia: Scastny Novy Rok
  • Dutch: Gullukkig Niuw Jaar
  • Finnish: Onnellista Uutta Vuotta
  • French: Bonne Annee
  • German: Prosit Neujahr
  • Greek: Eftecheezmaenos o Kaenooryos hronos
  • Hebrew: L’Shannah Tovah Tikatevu
  • Hindi: Niya Saa Moobaarak
  • Irish (Gaelic): Bliain nua fe mhaise dhuit
  • Italian: Buon Capodanno
  • Khmer: Sua Sdei tfnam tmei
  • Laotian: Sabai dee pee mai
  • Polish: Szczesliwego Nowego Roku
  • Portuguese: Feliz Ano Novo
  • Russian: S Novim Godom
  • Serbo-Croatian: Scecna nova godina
  • Spanish: Feliz Ano Nuevo
  • Swedish: Ha ett gott nytt år
  • Turkish: Yeni Yiliniz Kutlu Olsun
  • Vietnamese: Cung-Chuc Tan-Xuan

[If you are a native speaker, please feel free to offer any corrections or additions!]

Which of these customs appeal to you? Are they done in your family, or will you try to adopt any of them? However you’re going to celebrate, my warmest wishes for the year to come… and eat hearty!

[thanks to Bruce Umbaugh (here or here) for research assistance]

Link

Donald Trump’s New York Times interview is scary to read

Ezra Klein writes:

The president of the United States is not well.

‘…This is the president of the United States speaking to the New York Times. His comments are, by turns, incoherent, incorrect, conspiratorial, delusional, self-aggrandizing, and underinformed. This is not a partisan judgment — indeed, the interview is rarely coherent or specific enough to classify the points Trump makes on a recognizable left-right spectrum. As has been true since he entered American politics, Trump is interested in Trump — over the course of the interview, he mentions his Electoral College strategy seven times, in each case using it to underscore his political savvy and to suggest that he could easily have won the popular vote if he had tried.

I am not a medical professional, and I will not pretend to know what is truly happening here. It’s become a common conversation topic in Washington to muse on whether the president is suffering from some form of cognitive decline or psychological malady. I don’t think those hypotheses are necessary or meaningful. Whatever the cause, it is plainly obvious from Trump’s words that this is not a man fit to be president, that he is not well or capable in some fundamental way. That is an uncomfortable thing to say, and so many prefer not to say it, but Trump does not occupy a job where such deficiencies can be safely ignored.’

via Vox

Link

Trump finally gets the honor he deserves

Dean Obeidallah writes:

‘After reviewing scores of statements made by politicians this year, it has declared that the big winner of “Lie of the Year” for 2017 goes to one told by (cue the drum roll and prepare the confetti) Donald J. Trump! That has to bring some joy for Trump as he spends time this week at his exclusive, for-profit country club Mar-a-Largo — or as he has nicknamed it the “Winter White House.”

You might be asking which Trump lie did PolitiFact choose, considering Trump has served up more “whoppers” than Burger King. …’

Source: CNN

Link

Is Mental Health a Poor Measure of a President?

PhotoQuestions About Mental Fitness Dogged Presidents Long Before Trump :

‘The president is a “narcissist.” He is “paranoid.” He is “bipolar.”

No, not President Trump.

These labels were applied to Bill Clinton, Richard Nixon and Theodore Roosevelt, respectively. And the list goes on. John F. Kennedy had psychopathic traits, according to one academic study. And Abraham Lincoln apparently experienced suicidal depression.

“Many of our greatest politicians have had psychiatric vulnerabilities,” says Ken Duckworth, a psychiatrist and medical director for the National Alliance on Mental Illness. But that didn’t necessarily make them incompetent or unfit for office, he says.

So it’s troubling that there have been so many armchair diagnoses of Trump in 2017, Duckworth says….’

Via NPR

Duckworth is plain wrong. The point is not whether a president, or anyone else, carries a mental health diagnosis. It is the nature of the diagnosis. Some mental health difficulties, particularly if compensated, arguably have no impact on fitness for office — e.g. bipolar disorder or depression. This makes them the private health issue of the bearer and none of our business.

Other mental health labels, such as psychopathic traits (one should more properly say ‘sociopathic’), may even be enhancements. Many writers say that sociopathy is closely related to effective executive skills in the corporate or political worlds. Even moderate narcissism can be adaptive (although one might argue that it played into Clinton’s shortfalls). On the other hand, Trump’s malignant narcissism is unprecedented, and causes direct profound impairment to his capacity as President and to our health and wellbeing. One need not go into details that have been highlighted here and in countless more articulate sources for at least a year now.

As to Duckworth’s disparagement of ‘armchair diagnosis,’ the nature of Trump’s narcissism, unlike the other diagnoses referred to above, is that it is played out on the public stage, right in our faces, because it all about his insatiable thirst for public adulation. Thus, only the three monkeys who ‘see no evil, hear no evil, and speak no evil,’ will avoid raising the issue of his mental fitness in the face of the clear and present danger he represents to all of us. The time is long past for standing on the empty ceremony of the Goldwater Rule in the face of this emergency.

Finally, Duckworth’s remit as the medical director of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill has much to do with advocating for his constituency by combating stigmatizing attitudes toward those with mental health difficulties. Sure, let’s not stigmatize them in general… but, hey, that doesn’t mean that no one with mental health difficulties is malignant! Political correctness only goes so far.

Link

Santa and the Amanita

Matthew Salton writes:

‘…[W]ould it be too far-fetched to propose that the story of our modern Santa Claus, the omnipotent man who travels the globe in one night, bearing gifts, and who’s camped out in shopping malls across the United States this month, is linked to a hallucinogenic mushroom-eating shaman from the Arctic?

I don’t think so. And neither do a number of scholars. As it turns out, the shamanic rituals of the Sami people of Lapland, a region in northern Finland known for its wintry climate and conifer forests, bear an uncanny semblance to the familiar narratives of Santa and Christmas that we have come to know….’

Source: New York Times

Merry Christmas to those who celebrate it… however.

Link

How And Why To Keep A “Commonplace Book”

 

IMG 0123

‘A commonplace book is a central resource or depository for ideas, quotes, anecdotes, observations and information you come across during your life and didactic pursuits. The purpose of the book is to record and organize these gems for later use in your life, in your business, in your writing, speaking or whatever it is that you do.

Some of the greatest men and women in history have kept these books. Marcus Aurelius kept one–which more or less became the Meditations. Petrarch kept one. Montaigne, who invented the essay, kept a handwritten compilation of sayings, maxims and quotations from literature and history that he felt were important. His earliest essays were little more than compilations of these thoughts. Thomas Jefferson kept one. Napoleon kept one. HL Mencken, who did so much for the English language, as his biographer put it, “methodically filled notebooks with incidents, recording straps of dialog and slang” and favorite bits from newspaper columns he liked. Bill Gates keeps one….’

Via RyanHoliday.net

Link

Why Jewish Families Eat Chinese Food — Particularly on Christmas — is Fascinating

521724-istock-545286388It’s not only that the Chinese restaurants are conveniently open on Christmas. Lacking in religious imagery (unlike, say, Italian restrurants), they were more welcoming to Jews. The Chinese and Jewish immigrant communities on the Lower East Side of New York and in other urban landing zones were in close proximity, and by and large the Chinese did not discriminate against the generally persecuted Jews. In return, Jews embraced the Chinese establishments, which were local, inexpensive, and seen as exotic and urbane.

Furthermore, there was not much dairy in Chinese cuisine, so little risk of violating the kosher prohibition against mixing meat and milk. And nonkosher ingredients such as pork and shellfish were generally finely chopped, embedded in sauces, and/or mixed with rice. Thus their non-kosher nature could more easily be ignored. For some East European Jews, Chinese food, although exotic, included attractively familiar elements such as sweet and sour flavors, egg dishes, and pancakes reminiscent of blintzes.

via  Mental Floss

Link

The Japanese Art of Taking Power Naps in Public Places

inemuri-the-japanese-nap‘If you’ve visited any big city in Japan, you’ve no doubt seen a fair few commuters sleeping on the subway. The more time you spend there, the more places in which you’ll see normal, everyday-looking folks fast asleep: parks, coffee shops, bookstores, even the workplace during office hours. People in Korea, where I live, have also been known to fall asleep in places not normally associated with sleeping, but the Japanese take it to such a level that they’ve actually got a word for it: inemuri (居眠り, a mash-up of the verb for being present and the one for sleeping…’

via Open Culture

Link

How the Japanese Practice of “Forest Bathing” Can Lower Stress Levels and Fight Disease

img_1478Explanation of why isn’t this just a fancy crunchy granola repackaging of “being outside”.

“Just be with the trees,” as Ephrat Livni describes the practice, “no hiking, no counting steps on a Fitbit. You can sit or meander, but the point is to relax rather than accomplish anything.” You don’t have to hug the trees if you don’t want to, but at least sit under one for a spell. Even if you don’t attain enlightenment, you very well may reduce stress and boost immune function, according to several Japanese studies conducted between 2004 and 2012.

via  Open Culture

Link

Thelonious Monk’s 25 Tips for Musicians (1960)

monkh20copyJust because you’re not a drummer, doesn’t mean that you don’t have to keep time.

Pat your foot and sing the melody in your head when you play.

Stop playing all that bullshit, those weird notes, play the melody!

Make the drummer sound good.

Discrimination is important.

You’ve got to dig it to dig it, you dig?

All reet!

Always know

It must be always night, otherwise they wouldn’t need the lights.

Let’s lift the band stand!!

I want to avoid the hecklers.

Don’t play the piano part, I am playing that. Don’t listen to me, I am supposed to be accompanying you!

The inside of the tune (the bridge) is the part that makes the outside sound good.

Don’t play everything (or everytime); let some things go by. Some music just imagined.

What you don’t play can be more important than what you do play.

A note can be small as a pin or as big as the world, it depends on your imagination.

Stay in shape! Sometimes a musician waits for a gig & when it comes, he’s out of shape & can’t make it.

When you are swinging, swing some more!

(What should we wear tonight?) Sharp as possible!

Always leave them wanting more.

Don’t sound anybody for a gig, just be on the scene.

Those pieces were written so as to have something to play & to get cats interested enough to come to rehearsal!

You’ve got it! If you don’t want to play, tell a joke or dance, but in any case, you got it! (to a drummer who didn’t want to solo).

Whatever you think can’t be done, somebody will come along & do it. A genius is the one most like himself.

They tried to get me to hate white people, but someone would always come along & spoil it.

via  Open Culture

Link

Voters did not clear Donald Trump of sexual assault.

171219_pol_trump-voters-sexual-misconduct-crop-promo-xlarge2As one politician after another resigns in the face of sexual harassment allegations, one man remains standing: Donald Trump. Despite detailed accusations by multiple women, backed up by Trump’s recorded boasts of groping women without their consent, he insists his accusers’ stories are “fabricated.” In fact, says the White House, voters have acquitted Trump…
[Sarah Huckabee] Sanders routinely implies that the people who voted for Trump were affirming his innocence. But they weren’t. What Americans thought of the allegations against Trump in 2016, and what they think about them now, are knowable questions. Voters suspected Trump was guilty. They still do. They want an investigation. And if it confirms the accusations, they want him expelled from office…’

via Slate

Link

Fox News’s FBI coup conspiracy theory, explained

Absurd claims that the Mueller investigation constitutes a ‘coup’ against Trump seem based, simply, on the fact that FBI agents involved in the investigation were known to be Clinton supporters and Trump deriders during the run-up to the election. Fox’s language is absurd, provocative and irresponsible agitprop.

via Vox

Link

Merry Solstice!

wintersolstice-1024x845So the shortest day came, and the year died,

And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world

Came people singing, dancing,

To drive the dark away.

They lighted candles in the winter trees;

They hung their homes with evergreen;

They burned beseeching fires all night long

To keep the year alive,

And when the new year’s sunshine blazed awake

They shouted, revelling.

Through all the frosty ages you can hear them

Echoing behind us – Listen!!

All the long echoes sing the same delight,

This shortest day,

As promise wakens in the sleeping land:

They carol, fest, give thanks,

And dearly love their friends,

And hope for peace.

And so do we, here, now,

This year and every year.

Welcome Yule!!

via Greenside Up

Link

5 Psychological Traits That Help You Live a Longer, Happier Life

gettyimages-489784137‘…Though the seniors had worse physical health than their younger brethren, they had better mental health. Also, the long-lived adults were not only stubborn, they were often domineering and needed to feel in control. This could mean that they believed in their ideas and stood by their principles. These super seniors also had a lot of self-confidence and good decision-making capabilities. As Prof. Jeste said, “This paradox of aging supports the notion that well-being and wisdom increase with aging, even though physical health is failing.” …’

via Big Think

Link

One Step Closer to Clean Fusion Power

fusionNew Technique with Lasers, No Radioactive Waste:

‘Australian physicists have devised a technique for creating fusion with lasers that doesn’t need radioactive fuel elements and leaves no radioactive waste. A new paper from scientists at UNSW Sydney and their international colleagues shows that advances in high-intensity lasers makes what was once impossible a reality – generating fusion energy from hydrogen-boron reactions.

Lead author Heinrich Hora from UNSW Sydney has been doing this work this since the 1970s. He contends that their approach is closer to realizing fusion than other attempts like the deuterium-tritium fusion pursued by science facilities in the U.S. and France…

Hydrogen-boron fusion is produced by two powerful lasers in rapid bursts, which generate precise non-linear forces that compress the nuclei together. The process does not create any neutrons and as such – no radioactivity. What also sets this energy source apart – unlike coal, gas or nuclear that utilize heated liquids like water to drive turbines – hydrogen-boron fusion can be converted directly into electricity.

The problem with hydrogen-boron fusion has been that it required temperatures 200 times hotter than the core of the Sun. That is until dramatic advancements in laser technology that allow for an “avalanche” fusion reaction to be triggered by super-fast blasts taking no more than a trillionth-of-a-second from a petawatt-scale laser pulse…’

via Big Think

Link

How to Boycott Your Internet Service Provider If Net Neutrality Dies

jei2umifoxow3u7hehzh‘Net Neutrality isn’t dead yet, but FCC Chairman Ajit Pai (and internet providers like Verizon, Comcast, and AT&T) took a big step towards victory after Thursday’s vote. However, if all the planned dissents, appeals, and protests fail and net neutrality really is done for, it may be time to seriously think about boycotting your internet provider when if they begin to abuse their power under these new rules…’

via Lifehacker

Link

Why Do We Fear Wolves?

header_essay_717311‘… “All stories are about wolves,” writes Margaret Atwood in The Blind Assassin. But what is the wolf? If you look at what philosopher Noël Carroll calls its “symbolic biology,” you see an animal taxidermied from myth and history, sculpted into an opponent that man—now primed as hero—can fight. When it comes to wolves, we have so long animalized humans and humanized animals. And though I do not know how to reconcile the pain that either species can bring, I have staked myself to a solemn belief that unsnarling our old metaphors might help. As Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson writes in Beasts: What Animals Can Teach Us About Human Nature: “I do not consider the suffering that prey experiences from a predator a form of cruelty.” The difference between humans and other predators, Masson believes, is choice. The animal predator does not decide to draw blood: he kills so he can stay alive. Humans, of course, are different. This is why most wolf metaphors go slack…’

Erica Berry via Literary Hub

Link

USA Today: Trump “not fit to clean the toilets” in Obama’s presidential library

‘USA Today isn’t known for its blistering opinion pieces. Which makes the one the paper’s editorial board just published on President Donald Trump all the more savage.

“With his latest tweet, clearly implying that a United States senator would trade sexual favors for campaign cash, President Trump has shown he is not fit for office,” reads the editorial. “Rock bottom is no impediment for a president who can always find room for a new low.”

The reference here is Trump’s tweet Tuesday morning in which he said that Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York was “begging” him for campaign contributions not long ago “and would do anything for them.” …’

Source: CNN