Category: Uncategorized

Chelsea Manning is a free woman!

‘Today, the whistleblower Chelsea Manning stepped out of the Military Corrections Complex at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas, having served the longest sentence in US history for whistleblowing; for the duration of her ongoing appeal, she is on “excess leave in an active-duty status” which entitles her to access to military health-care insurance and other benefits.

Manning’s selfless actions changed the global debate on surveillance and secrecy, sparked the Arab Spring, and inspired future whistleblowers like Edward Snowden.

Manning was subjected to years of torture — in the form of extended solitary confinement — before she was convicted of any crime. She attempted suicide twice in the past year.

Manning has not said what she will do next. I wish her the most sincere and heartfelt best for her future, and hope that she takes as much time as she needs to recover from the grotesque and shameful ordeal to which she was subjected.

Glenn Greenwald’s appreciation for Manning and her perseverance, bravery and deep ethical center is a must-read today…’

Source: Boing Boing

Oh, Poor Baby

‘In a strange commencement speech given to the graduating Coast Guard Acadamy class, President Trump complained that no politician in history…has been treated more unfairly” than him, but that “everything will be just fine.” Trump seemed to be clearly referencing the scandal that has surrounded him after he fired FBI Director James Comey…’

Source: Digg

What’s the Emoji For Treason?

‘Former acting Attorney General Sally Yates was fired by Donald Trump after she declined to enforce his unconstitutional Muslim travel ban. But before she got the boot, Yates warned Trump that his national security advisor, Michael Flynn, might be compromised by the Russians. And in a new interview with the New Yorker, she discovered a problem that we didn’t even know we had: There’s no emoji for treason.’

Source: Gizmodo

 

It doesn’t matter what Republicans say about Trump. It’s what they do that matters.

‘Congressional Republicans have followed a nearly identical script whenever President Donald Trump enmeshes himself in a national security scandal.  First, they make overtures toward being disgruntled and troubled by the revelation, leading to news reports about a fissure in the Republican Party. Step two is for them to rejectDemocratic calls for more congressional oversight of the president. The final act is to point out Democratic hypocrisy, while moving on to something else altogether…’

Source: Vox

Today’s Vox Coverage of Trump, Comey, Russia, etc.

I was scared of the FBI with Comey in charge. I’m more terrified now that he’s been fired: A human rights advocate on why Comey’s firing is disturbing. I am no fan of recently fired FBI Director James Comey. As part of a team documenting human rights abuses in the US, I’ve seen too many examples in recent years of overreach and lack of transparency by the agency, and aggressive pursuit of greater FBI powers by Comey himself, to feel otherwise. Yet in the aftermath of his firing by a pr…

Trump: James Clapper said I have no Russia connections. Clapper: No I didn’t: One of Trump’s favorite defenses just got shot down. President Donald Trump has tried to tamp down the growing controversy over his campaign’s ties to Russia by deliberately misrepresenting comments from James Clapper, formerly the nation’s top spy. On Friday, Clapper began pushing back — and added his voice to the chorus of officials and lawmakers from both parties who worry that there’s more st…

Does Trump secretly record the Oval Office? And 8 other questions Sean Spicer can’t answer: The purpose of a White House press briefing is for the media to learn new information from a spokesperson with first-hand knowledge about the president. But Sean Spicer’s press conference on Friday was much more useful for learning what Spicer does not know — or says he does not know — about President Donald Trump and the goings-on of the White House. Here are nine questions that Spicer said he c…

Republican voters don’t seem to care about Comey’s firing: President Donald Trump’s decision to fire FBI Director James Comey has been discussed in the press as the modern-day Watergate scandal, heightening pressure for an independent investigation into Russia’s alleged ties with the Trump campaign. The first polls to ask about Comey’s dismissal shows public opinion isn’t great for Trump. But if there’s good news for him, it’s that the firing is — at lea..

Trump’s blackmail threats and the latest in the Comey scandal: The president admitted the Russia probe led to Comey’s ouster. The fallout from President Donald Trump’s abrupt decision to fire FBI Director James Comey is getting weirder by the hour. In just the past 24 hours, Trump revealed that he’d asked Comey directly several times over the past several months about whether he was under investigation (which, uh, you really aren’t supposed to do); openly ad..

When Trump flounders, he plays the tribal politics card. Here’s why that’s terrifying: It is striking President Trump picked Thursday, May 11, to 1) sign an executive order establishing a commission to investigate voter fraud ; and 2) have Attorney General Jeff Sessions announce that federal prosecutors will seek maximalist penalties for criminal prosecutions. Future historians may note that these actions came just two days after Trump’s sudden and unexpected firing of FBI Director…

Trump officials are leaking to reporters that they aren’t supposed to leak to reporters:  White House officials keep leaking internal conversations to reporters detailing that they’re being ordered not to leak internal conversations to reporters. On Thursday, Trump spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders expressed her frustration about the leaks that keep appearing in the press about President Donald Trump’s decision to fire FBI Director James Comey. Her remarks wound up in the press almo..

Jeff Flake isn’t comfortable with the Comey firing, but he’s not doing anything about it: New details about President Trump’s decision to fire FBI Director James Comey are unraveling quickly. Republican Sen. Jeff Flake still doesn’t know what to make of the decision, and he wants the American public to know he’s wrestling with the news. “I’ve spent the last several hours trying to find an acceptable rationale for the timing of Comey’s firing,” he tweeted on Tuesday night after the new…

A forgotten lesson of Watergate: conservatives may rally around Trump: For Americans worried about the state of our republic, Watergate analogies can be a comforting salve. If FBI Director James Comey’s firing is President Donald Trump’s Saturday Night Massacre, then impeachment hearings should be coming down the road — perhaps soon. But even if Comey’s firing leads to a widening scandal, some of the lessons of Watergate should worry Trump opponents more than soothe…

Here’s the “certified” letter saying Trump has no Russian debts or investors: Why can’t we see the tax return? In lieu of disclosing his actual tax returns, Trump asked two tax attorneys, Sheri Dillon and William Nelson, of the law firm Morgan Lewis to write a letter detailing Trump’s income from Russian sources. The letter, dated to March, was given to reporters on Friday. According to the letter, Trump owes no debts to Russian persons or entities, there are no “equity …

We overanalyze Trump. He is what he appears to be: There is no correct Theory of Trump. Why did Donald Trump fire FBI Director James Comey so abruptly, in such humiliating fashion , with no plan to communicate the reasoning behind the move and no list of replacements ready? It is the question that launched a thousand think pieces. Even Trump surrogates were not prepared to answer it. Sean Spicer literally hid in the bushes (sorry, among the bushe…

Don’t miss Trump’s incredibly telling non-answer on financial ties to Russia: A simple question that deserves a real answer. Donald Trump’s admission that he had the Russia investigation on his mind when he fired FBI Director James Comey has, naturally, attracted the lion’s share of attention out of Thursday night’s interview with NBC News’s Lester Holt. But he made another telling admission in response to a fairly straightforward question from Holt about financial connect…

Impeachment of the president, explained: The history and logistics of trying and removing the president from office. President Donald Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey has raised questions about whether he was trying to obstruct an investigation into his campaign and associates. And this, not even four months into Trump’s term, has led to chatter about impeachment — the process by which a president can be charged with “high cri…

Trump called Stephen Colbert a “no-talent guy.” Colbert’s response: “I won.”: Colbert responded to the president’s insult with barely restrained joy. Donald Trump declared this week that Stephen Colbert is a “no-talent guy” — and Colbert couldn’t be more thrilled. “The president of the United States has personally come after me and my show and there’s only one thing to say,” Colbert said during his May 11 show, before breaking into thrilled giggles. “ Yay .” Colbert’s Late…

Trump changed his story on Comey literally midway though Sen. Inhofe defending the old one: Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) boarded the tram underneath the Capitol Thursday afternoon clutching a Snickers wrapper and a theory for why President Donald Trump fired FBI Director James Comey. By the time he returned to his Senate office, Inhofe would see that theory undercut — by the president himself. “I look at the White House and they say, ‘We’ve had a guy [Comey] who Democrats have been demandin…

Trump is threatening to release secret Comey “tapes” and cancel press briefings: Friday morning, President Trump took to Twitter to launch a series of bizarre complaints — beginning with the allegation that the entire Russia issue was fabricated, veering into threats to cancel the White House press briefing, and culminating with a claim that he had secret “tapes” of his conversations with fired FBI Director James Comey. All in all, it was a worrying series of statements from…

Picking a good FBI director won’t fix anything: Firing Comey under false pretenses has fatally compromised the bureau’s independence. The country is obviously better off if James Comey is replaced as FBI director by someone who is good at running the FBI — it’s a large and important government agency that carries out many crucial functions. But in terms of the immediate obstruction of justice crisis kicked off by President Donald Trump’s decis…

Senate Democrats are trying to force disclosure of documents about Trump’s team and Russia: Somewhere in the US Treasury Department’s Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence rests a series of records. No one will say publicly what’s in them, or even whom they mention. But the senators investigating the connection between Russia and Donald Trump’s presidential campaign are dying to get their hands on them. This week, Senate Democrats tried using one of their few points of leverage…

Only one of these Trump-Comey timelines can be true, but either way, it’s a problem: The White House communications team and Donald Trump have conflicting stories on the series of events leading up to the firing of FBI Director James Comey. And it comes down to one thing: When did Donald Trump decide to fire Comey? If what Trump said in an interview on Thursday is true, that means he actively sought cover for firing Comey, the man leading the agency investigating the Trump campai…

Trump has now admitted he fired Comey because of the Russia investigation: “When I decided to just do it I said to myself, I said, ‘You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story.’” Many Republicans — from White House staffers to members of Congress to conservative pundits — have been insisting for two days now, despite widespread reports, that President Donald Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey had nothing to do with Comey’s investigation…

Why the FBI might wage “war” on Trump — and how they would actually do it: It’s not often that you hear members of the FBI threatening to go to war with the president. But that’s where we are after Donald Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey. “[Trump] essentially declared war on a lot of people at the FBI,” an anonymous FBI official told the Washington Post . “I think there will be a concerted effort to respond over time in kind.” There’s every reason to believe t…

Attention, liberals: Comey deserved to be fired, and the Constitution is just fine: The hyperventilation in Washington is unjustified. The decision of President Donald Trump to fire FBI Director James Comey is generating a fevered, near-maniacal response that is out of proportion to the asserted wrong. There is certainly much grist for the mill , much of it related to the animosity that Trump is said to bear toward Comey, which proves once again that on all matters of state, thi…

 

Hauntology

Does writing like this have any meaning to any of you reading this? At one time I considered myself an intellectual until I came up against this kind of stuff, to which I find it impossible to relate and with which I have no desire to be associated:

‘Hauntology (a portmanteau of haunting and ontology) is a concept coined by philosopher Jacques Derrida in his 1993 book Spectres of Marx. The term refers to the situation of temporal, historical, and ontological disjunction in which the apparent presence of being is replaced by an absent or deferred non-origin, represented by “the figure of the ghost as that which is neither present, nor absent, neither dead nor alive.” The concept of hauntology is closely related to Derrida’s deconstruction of Western philosophy’s logocentrism, which results in the claim that any attempt to isolate the origin of identity or history must always find itself dependent on an always-already existing set of linguistic differences, thus making “haunting the state proper to being as such.” In the 2000s, the term was taken up by critics in reference to paradoxes found in postmodernity, particularly contemporary culture’s persistent recycling of retro aesthetics and old social forms.’

Source: Wikipedia

Why Firing Comey Only Amplified Trump’s Russia Problem

People have called it a misstep that Trump fired Comey if he hoped to bury the concerns about his campaign’s ties to Russia. He usually has a knack for redirecting the country’s attention away from ‘that man behind the curtain.’ But if it was a mistake, it probably was inevitable with his ballooning ego. The enfant terrible’s arrogant sense that he can get away with anything is growing beyond all bounds — and, hopefully, will be his undoing, as suggested by the rampant comparisons to Nixon’s firing of Archibald Cox during the Watergate investigation — the infamous “Saturday Night Massacre”. Leading Republicans are denouncing Trump’s action and calling for a special prosecutor. Hopefully, things have reached a point where the more Trump tries to obfuscate the more the press and the public pay attention.

Source: WIRED

U.S. voters think Trump is an “idiot,” and now trust media more than him to tell truth: Quinnipiac poll

‘Not a good day in the polls for the beleaguered President. Everyone knows he’s lying, and when asked, “What is the first word that comes to mind when you think of Donald Trump,” the top answer? “Idiot.”

A new Quinnipiac poll shows that American voters, “who gave President Donald Trump a slight approval bump after the missile strike in Syria, today give him a near-record negative 36 – 58 percent job approval rating.”

Also in this survey, the widest margin ever measured for this question in a Quinnipiac poll: 54-38% want the Democrats to take control of the House.’

Source: Boing Boing

How the Cookie Crumbles

I always liked Hydrox far better than Oreos and wondered why they lost out.

‘A few years after the launch of Sunshine Biscuits, the company came up with the biscuit sandwich it called Hydrox in 1908—four years before the Oreo. Like the sunlight that glimmered through its factories, the name was intended to speak to a basic purity of product.

The truth was a bit more complicated, however. Intended to imply hydrogen and oxygen—the two chemicals that make up water—the result has a more clinical, less roll-off-the-tongue convention to it, and instead evokes hydrogen peroxide, a chemical you probably don’t want to drink.

And it didn’t help that that there was an existing Hydrox Chemical Company on the market, one that sold hydrogen peroxide andwas caught up in a trademark lawsuit at the time over the use of the word “hydrox”—a lawsuit that noted the term was used for coolers, for soda, even for brands of ice cream.

Hydrox cookie

An early Hydrox cookie design. (via the Akron Evening Times)

Long story short, it was a weird name for a cookie. But the cookie’s design, which was initially sold with an exotic “English biscuit” twist, was pretty interesting for its era: With an industrial press from a mold, the cookie took on the look of a flower.

It felt like a game-changer, but it turned out to be a game-changer for Nabisco, under a completely different (and better) name. It was one of three cookies introduced by Nabisco on April 2, 1912, with the other two—the Mother Goose biscuit and the Veronese biscuit—being lost to history, but Oreo’s “two beautifully embossed chocolate-flavored wafers with a rich cream filling” living to the modern day…’

Source: Tedium

What Trump’s Simplified Language Means

Evan Osnos writes in The New Yorker titled “How Trump Could Get Fired,” …that over 50,000 mental-health physicians have signed a petition declaring Trump, based on copious observational data, is “too seriously mentally ill to perform the duties of president and should be removed” under the 25th Amendment to the Constitution—Section 4 states that a President can be removed if a congressionally appointed body judges him or her to be “unable to discharge the powers and duties of office.”

John Gartner, the psychiatrist who started the petition, has said, “The psychiatric interview is hardly the gold standard, by the way. If you have massive amounts of information about a person’s behavior, that can be more accurate. And we have that. If the question is whether we can form a diagnosis from that information, I think it’s clear that we can. You don’t need to have an interview to know if someone has frequently lied or has violated the rights of others.”

Osnos writes that it’s not just psychiatrists who have serious grounds for worry:

Bruce Blair, a research scholar at the Program on Science and Global Security, at Princeton, told me that if Trump were an officer in the Air Force, with any connection to nuclear weapons, he would need to pass the Personnel Reliability Program, which includes thirty-seven questions about financial history, emotional volatility, and physical health. (Question No. 28: Do you often lose your temper?) “There’s no doubt in my mind that Trump would never pass muster,” Blair, who was a ballistic-missile launch-control officer in the Army, told me. “Any of us that had our hands anywhere near nuclear weapons had to pass the system. If you were having any arguments, or were in financial trouble, that was a problem. For all we know, Trump is on the brink of that, but the President is exempt from everything.”

Trump’s use, or misuse, of language has also been disturbing to experts of constitutional law. Take Laurence Tribe, a Harvard constitutional law professor. He said, according to Osnos, “Trump’s language borders on incapacity.” When the president was asked to explain his reversal on branding China a currency manipulator, Trump said, of President Xi Jinping, “No. 1, he’s not, since my time. You know, very specific formula. You would think it’s like generalities, it’s not. They have—they’ve actually—their currency’s gone up. So it’s a very, very specific formula.” This response could count as an example of “gross and pathological inattention or indifference to, or failure to understand” the mandatory duties of the president mentioned in the 25th Amendment, Tribe said.

To psycholinguist Julie Sedivy, it’s not Trump’s rambling language that’s worrisome, it’s his regular usage. “I think we have rarely had a president who uses such simple and simplifying language,” she recently told Nautilus in her Ingenious interview.

And why is that concerning? “There’s some interesting research that has looked at the correlation between simple language and the tendency of U.S. presidents to behave in authoritarian ways,” Sedivy said. “There is a predictive relationship that speeches that are expressed using very simple basic language tend to precede very authoritarian acts like the use of executive orders … That certainly plays out in the use of the heavy reliance on simple notions like amazing, sad, bad, unfair. These really strip away a lot of the complexities that are behind them. They reduce information into very gross impressions. The simplification of points of view, the simplification of the good and the bad, and even just the conveyance that, ‘We’re going to make good deals,’ for example. ‘It’s going to be great.’ That this is a simple problem just waiting for someone who has the right instincts to come along and solve this, is absolutely pervasive in Donald Trump’s language.”

via Nautilus

Vox has all you need to read today about the Comey sacking 

A total eclipse thermochromic stamp that changes when you touch it

‘The August 21 eclipse is being commemorated by the US Postal Service with a new stamp printed with thermochromic ink; when you rub the stamp the image transforms from an image of the 2006 total eclipse as shot from Jalu, Libya, to a photo of the full moon, both taken by Fred Espenak, aka Mr. Eclipse, of Portal, AZ.’

Source: Boing Boing

After a 33-Year Absence, a Lost Beach Returns to Ireland

‘Why go to the beach when you can wait for the beach to come to you? For the people of Dooagh, Ireland—an island village off the country’s western coast—this patience has finally paid off. After 33 years, a beach stolen from them by a freak storm has returned, transforming a rough, rocky coastline back into a summer destination.’

Source: Atlas Obscura

Top Secret Unmanned Air Force Spaceplane Lands After Two Years in Orbit 

‘The US Air Force’s secretive X-37B spaceplane landed yesterday after 718 days in orbit—just twelve days shy of a full two years. What was it doing up there in the sky? The government won’t say. Even the spaceplane’s budget is a secret. But the X-37B’s landing wasn’t so stealth. The spaceplane caused a sonic boomthat woke up people living near NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

 

The secret, reusable spaceplane is made by Boeing and is unmanned, allowing it to conduct extended missions, even if the public has no idea what those missions might be. This was the X-37B’s fourth mission (all secret, of course) and the spaceplane typically lands in California, not Florida. Again, we don’t know enough about the spaceplane’s purpose to speculate about why it landed in Florida and woke up the neighbors this time around…’

Source: Gizmodo

61 Glimpses of the Future

Jan Chipchase:

‘In the last five weeks I’ve travelled 7,000km overland through Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan’s GBAO region and China’s western provinces. After a year of working flat out the journey was part vacation, a desire to fill in few gaps of my knowledge of the region and a Studio D assignment.

For those that don’t know, the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region (GBAO) is a remote, sparsely populated, mostly Pamiri, Kyrgyz-speaking region of Tajikistan. Home to the Pamir mountains, it has decent argument for calling itself the “the roof of the world”.

I thought about separating this list into tech & behaviour, but they’re way more interesting mixed together.

Without further ado: …’

Source: Medium

Illuminating observations sure to be of interest to any adventurous traveler.

4 Things You Can Do to Cheer Up, According to A Neuroscientist

When we are stuck in feeling badly, the brain may be perpetuating the bad feelings through a misguided effort at a remedy, says UCLA neuroscientist Alex Korb, author of The Upward Spiral: Using Neuroscience to Reverse the Course of Depression, One Small Change at a Time. He makes the surprising assertion that, from a neurobiological viewpoint, shame and guilt activate neural circuitry similar to that which is activated when we are proud of ourselves (the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex, amygdala, insula, and the nucleus accumbens). He suggests that self-reproach, thus, is an attempt to activate the brain’s reward center and boost self-esteem. Similarly, he suggests, compulsive worry may be an attempt to reduce amygdaloid activity and stabilize the limbic system, the seat of emotions in the brain, by stimulating medial prefrontal cortical regions.

So how to counteract the brain’s tendency to make you feel worse in an effort to feel better? First, by cultivating gratitude, whcih activates the anterior cingulate cortex and boosts serotonin. Apparently, Korb says, you don’t even have to come up with something to be thankful for, which is sometimes not easy to do when everything seems dismal. Korb says that the act of remembering to be thankful may be enough.

Next, try and get very specific about the nature of your bad feelings. Labelling experiences activates your prefrontal cortex and reduces limbic arousal and the intensity of emotion. Labelling is apparently actively taught to FBI negotiators as a means of calming hostage-takers. It is also a central feature of mindfulness techniques.

Related to labelling is deciding about what it is that has you worked up and what you can do in response, and it should be a “good-enough” decision rather than striving for exactitude or perfection. There is an old saying that ‘the perect is the enemy of the good,’ and it appears to be true on a neurobiological level. Trying for the best draws emotional activation into the decision-making process, through ramping up ventromedial prefrontal cortex activity. In contrast, the good-enough decision activates more dorsolateral prefrontal (DLPF) areas, enhancing a sense of quiet control and increasing dopamine-based reward activity. Establishing intentions, creating goals and making decisions all recruit positive calming neural circuitry and calm the limbic system. This may be one basis for the saying that ‘We don’t just choose the things we like, we like the things we choose.’

Then there’s the value of human touch. As fMRI studies have shown, social exclusion and physical pain activate the same circuitry. On a neurobiological basis, alleviating isolation with touch stimulates the release of oxytocin and reduces activity in the amygdala, the anterior cingulate and the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex.

Source: Big Think

Chance Discovery May Lead to a Vaccine for Depression and PTSD

In 2013, Columbia University neuroscientists Rebecca Brachman and Christine Ann Denny were investigating the effects on mice of the anaesthetic ketamine, which has recently attracted attention for inducing rapid but short-lived remissions of depression in humans and is also used as an illegal recreational psychedelic, “Special K.”

They were using mice who had been stressed to see if ketamine could counter their resultant depression-like behaviors. Because their lab was cash-strapped, they planned to wait a week and reuse the same mice on another round of ketamine trials, but it didn’t work. Mice who had been administered ketamine the week before could no longer be made to exhibit any stress. It appeared that the ketamine had inoculated them against the effects of stressful experience. The investigators, rightfully skeptical of this conclusion, were able to replicate the findings in subsequent trials with mice models for PTSD as well as depression, as well as running the ketamine trial against a physiological model in which all they did was to give stress hormones. “[W]e only gave a tiny amount of the drug, and it lasted for weeks, and that’s not like anything you see with antidepressants.”

The hope, of course, is that the efficacy of the ketamine can be extended to help reduce the incidence of depression and PTSD in humans.

‘In particular, they may be of use to first-responders, emergency workers, and military personnel heading into exceptionally stressful situations.’

Source: Big Think

Neurolinguist George Lakoff: ‘Don’t underestimate Trump’

“I spoke to people at the center of Hillary Clinton’s campaign in 2016, and told them they were doing everything they could to lose,” Lakoff said. “It didn’t make any difference. People are who they are, and they were going to do things their way. I could see the disaster happening the entire year.”

Source: Berkeleyside

Colbert brutalizes Trump in 2-minute blitz

Stephen Colbert on Monday defended fellow CBS host John Dickerson against Donald Trump after the president told the renowned journalist he refers to the (award-winning) news program “Face the Nation” as “Deface the Nation.”

“Donald Trump, John Dickerson is a fair-minded journalist and one of the most competent people who will ever walk into your office,” Colbert began during his opening monologue on “The Late Show.”

Colbert noted Dickerson has too much “dignity to trade insults with the president of the United States to his face,” adding “But I, sir, am no John Dickerson.”

“Here we go,” Colbert began, before ripping into Trump.

“Mr. Trump, your presidency? I love your presidency, I call it ‘Disgrace the Nation.’” Colbert said. “You’re not the POTUS, you’re the BLOTUS. You’re the glutton with a button. You’re a regular ‘Gorge’ Washington. You’re the presi-dunce. But you’re turning into a real prictator.”

Colbert said Trump “attracts more skinheads than free Rogaine,” has “more people marching against [him] than cancer,” and talks “like a sign-language gorilla who got hit in the head.”

Going all-in against the president, Colbert added: “Sir, the only the only thing your mouth is good for is being Vladimir Putin’s cock holster.” …’

Source: Raw Story

Stunning Blue-Eyed Albino Orangutan Rescued From Captors

‘A conservation group has rescued an incredibly rare albino orangutan from villagers on the Indonesian part of Borneo island, who were keeping the blue-eyed, white-haired primate in a cage. Sick, dehydrated, and exhibiting signs of a bloody nose, it could take a month before the ape can be released back to the wild.

 The group responsible for the rescue, the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation, learned about the five-year-old female orangutan from the Kapuas Hulu Police, who also participated in the rescue…’

Source: Stunning Blue-Eyed Albino Orangutan Rescued From Gizmodo

Why the NYT hired a science denier

‘The New York Times’ new columnist, Bret Stephens, is an everyday conservative: he thinks institutional racism is imaginary, that campus rape is a big lie, and that the “Arab Mind” is “diseased”. But these are just opinions, and common ones on the right. It is his anti-science positions, on display in his first fact-mangled column about climate change, that has galvanized disgust.

Much has been said about him, but it is the Times itself that has committed a “jaw-dropping error” and whose warped motives promise that it will be repeated…’

Source: Boing Boing

The Boiling River of the Amazon

‘Hidden in the dense jungle of the Peruvian Amazon is a percolating, roiling river. The steaming turquoise waters that can reach up to 200 degrees Fahrenheit are guided by ivory-colored stones and guarded by 60-foot walls of lush forest and vegetation. Locals believed that the river was sacred and that the hot waters held healing powers, and shamans incorporated it into medicines.’

Source: Atlas Obscura

Need to go there!

Hundreds of Apps Listen for Marketing ‘Beacons’ You Can’t Hear

 

‘There are plenty of privacy-invading marketing ploys to worry about in life. Some examples are in your face, some are more subtle. And a relatively new kind manages to be outright invisible.

In the most inconspicuous hustle of all, apps have increasingly incorporated ultrasonic tones to track consumers. They ask permission to access your smartphone microphone, then listen for inaudible “beacons” that emanate from retail stores, advertisements, and even websites. If you’re not paying attention to the permissions you grant, you could be feeding marketers information about your online browsing, what stores you go to, and what products you like and dislike without ever realizing it.

There are certainly legitimate uses of “ultrasonic cross-device tracking” technology. Some apps are part of rewards programs that automatically offer customers promotions when they visit particular stores. Others facilitate ticketing at events like sports games.

But plenty of apps deploy it without so clear a use case, at least as far as direct benefits for the person who downloads them. In fact, research presented last week at the IEEE European Symposium on Security and Privacy found 234 current Android applications that incorporate a particular type of ultrasonic listening technology. That doesn’t quite constitute widespread distribution, but the infrastructure to support it has landed in more and more apps every year…

…Fortunately it’s easy to monitor what’s accessing your phone, and stay in control if you’re wary of all this dog whistlin’.

Since you can’t stop beacons from emitting these frequencies around you, the best option is to reduce the chance that your smartphone can listen for them and feed data to a third party. The researchers suggest simply assessing the privileges you’ve granted your apps to make sure they make sense. Skype wants microphone access? Sure! An app for some clothing store? Probably not. Common sense works best here.

On Android 7, navigate to Settings, then to Apps. Tap the gear icon in the upper right, then tap App Permissions to see and edit the privileges you’ve granted each app. And on iOS 10 go to Settings, then Privacy, then Microphone to see which apps have requested access, and which ones you’ve granted it to…

Source: WIRED

What would it take for the US to get involved in an Asian war?

‘Whether he intends to or not, US president Donald Trump is making a lot of people nervous about the prospects of an American attack on North Korea. This week, he said that “a major, major conflict” is a possibility, and he summoned the entire Senate to the White House for a briefing on the rogue nation’s weapons programs, which aim to develop nuclear-tipped missiles capable of hitting US cities.

Even though Trump has a nuclear submarine and an aircraft carrier, the USS Vinson, positioned near the Korean peninsula, experts still put long odds on the US flat-out attacking just based on North Korea’s behavior to date. “I don’t know a single serious Korea analyst, hawk or dove, who thinks it’s a good idea,” says Robert Kelly, an associate professor of international relations at Pusan National University in South Korea. “I would say the likelihood is less than 10%.”

But there are other ways the US could get drawn into a military conflict in the region…’

Source: Quartz

Nasty, Brutish and Short — What a War With North Korea Would Look Like

‘As long as China didn’t get involved to help the North, says Robert E. Kelly, a professor at Pusan National University in South Korea, the Kim-controlled Korean People’s Army (KPA) would lose in a conventional ground war to the US and its allies within “six weeks, a month, two months max.”

Of course a two-way nuclear exchange would play out differently, but the US and its allies would be hesitant to use that option. “If we’re exchanging nukes across the peninsula then things have deteriorated to the point when all other options have been exhausted, and we’re in a very different world. But it’s not a path that I think they would use,” says Graham…’

Source: Quartz

Why You’re Biased About Being Biased

‘Scientists have uncovered more than 50 biases that, like this one, can mess with our thinking. For instance, there’s the “availability heuristic,” which makes us think something that’s easy to recall (because it’s emotional or because we’ve experienced it many times) is more common or probable than it really is. (Despite what you might think from watching CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, the world isn’t full of serial killers.) There’s also the “distinction bias,” which makes two options seem more different when considered simultaneously; the “denomination effect,” which makes us more likely to spend money when it’s in small bills or coins; and the “Dunning-Kruger effect,” which makes experts underestimate their abilities and laypeople overestimate theirs.

Such biases can still affect you even if you know all about them because they operate unconsciously. We judge whether we have a bias by examining our thoughts, and because we believe our thoughts are rational, we often think we’re not biased when we are. Psychologists call this contradiction the “bias blind spot.” Although we’re quick to see biases in others, we have more trouble noticing them in ourselves.

And the more we convince ourselves that we don’t have certain biases, the more likely we are to exhibit them. If we believe we’re good people, for example, we may stop trying to be better and may be more likely to act indecently. Similarly, if we think we’re smart, we might skip studying for a test and give ignorant answers. In general, if we believe we’re unbiased, we’re giving ourselves permission to be biased…’

Source: Nautilus

DNA Analysis Shows the Evolution of Dog Breeds

‘…[A] team of researchers has assembled the most comprehensive genomic map on dogs to date. The results were published in the journal Cell Reports. Researchers gathered blood samples or mouth scrapings from 1,346 dogs, of 161 breeds, over the course of 20 years. The dogs came from Europe, North America, Africa, and Asia.Turns out, dogs were bred into certain types or “clades.” There are 23 in all. As humans migrated to different places, dogs went with them, even into the Americas across the Bering Strait. Today, all the dogs that we know of in North America originated in Europe. The European breeds superseded the original ones or interbred with them….’

Source: Big Think

Not-So-Good News: The Grass Is Getting Greener in the Arctic

‘Temperatures are rising faster in the Arctic than anywhere else in the world, giving green vegetation a stronger foothold in the typically icy region. While a greener Arctic could help suck some excess carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, dark vegetation also absorbs more sunlight, which could help to speed up global warming. You might think all that extra vegetation would at least be a good thing for plant-munching animals like caribou, which need to eat up to 12 pounds of grass and other plants every day, but a new study suggests a greener Arctic is bad for caribou as well…’

Source: Pacific Standard

Can It Possibly Keep Going On Like This for Four Years? or Eight? Vox’s Rich Drumpf Coverage Today

Trump keeps giving interviews about a health bill that doesn’t exist

A new interview reminds us that words have no meaning for President Trump

Trump’s love for brutal leaders like the Philippines’ Rodrigo Duterte, explained

Washington Post: Trump made 488 false or misleading claims in his first 100 days in office

The “first 100 days” concept ties presidents to history. That’s difficult with Trump.

Donald Trump’s absurd 100th day week was his presidency in miniature

“If You Keep Fucking With Mr. Trump We Know Where You Live”

‘When Donald Trump’s casino business went bankrupt in 2009, a lawyer whose clients stood to lose more than a billion dollars told police and the FBI that he got a menacing phone call from a man with a thick New York accent who threatened his family.“My name is Carmine. I don’t know why you’re fucking with Mr. Trump but if you keep fucking with Mr. Trump, we know where you live and we’re going to your house for your wife and kids,” the caller said, according to the account that the attorney, Kristopher Hansen, gave to the Holmdel police department in New Jersey. Hansen speculated that the caller was Trump’s bodyguard.

According to FBI case notes, the phone call to Hansen was made at 2:05 p.m. on Feb. 18, 2009, from a New York City telephone booth located across the street from the Ed Sullivan Theater, where Trump was a guest that day on The Late Show With David Letterman.’

Source: Buzzfeed

On “Kirk drift” 

The strange mass cultural misremembering of Captain Kirk:

‘In this really fantastic long-form essay published in the online magazine Strange Horizons, Erin Horáková digs into the weird way William Shatner’s James T. Kirk has been collectively misremembered by popular culture. As she writes:

“There is no other way to put this: essentially everything about Popular Consciousness Kirk is bullshit. Kirk, as received through mass culture memor and reflected in its productive imaginary (and subsequent franchise output, including the reboot movies), has little or no basis in Shatner’s performance and the television show as aired. Macho, brash Kirk is a mass hallucination.

…I believe people often rewatch the text or even watch it afresh and cannot see what they are watching through the haze of bullshit that is the received idea of what they’re seeing. You ‘know’ Star Trek before you ever see Star Trek: a ‘naive’ encounter with such a culturally cathected text is almost impossible, and even if you manage it you probably also have strong ideas about that period of history, era of SF, style of television, etc to contend with.”

Horáková goes on to explore the ways in which “Kirk drift” is connected to toxic masculinity, history, culture, and so much more…’

Source: Boing Boing

Hey Please Don’t Call Trump’s New Hotline to Report UFOs

Wednesday was Alien Day—see, it’s 4/26 because of LV-426 in the original Ridley Scott Alien movie—which, of course, made it the ideal day for the government to unveil its new immigration initiative. The Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement (VOICE, get it?) website is a hotline to report “crimes committed by removable criminal aliens.”

Thankfully, Twitter knew how to help everything run smoothly. Alexnder McCoy (@alexandermccoy4) tweeted: “Wouldn’t it be a shame if millions of people called this hotline to report their encounters with aliens of the UFO-variety?” And, from @dubsteppenwolf: “The # for Trump’s hotline to report “criminal aliens” is 855-48-VOICE. Please do not call this number to describe plots of X-Files episodes.”

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So that’s exactly what happened. People spammed the line with stories about space aliens. Which led to an amazing statement from ICE, describing the calls as a cheap publicity stunt “beyond the pale of legitimate public discourse” that is both “absurd” and “shameful.”

Everyone should be impressed that the trolls had the patience that they did. Some reported being on muzak-filled hold for nearly a half-hour to file their reports.

Source: WIRED

The Kate Bush Conjecture

‘In her 2005 song “π,” Kate Bush sings the number π to its 78th decimal place, then jumps abruptly to the 101st and finishes at the 137th.The BBC’s More or Less advanced the “Kate Bush conjecture”: that the digits that Bush sings are contained somewhere in the decimal expansion of π — just not at the start.The conjecture is true if π turns out to be a “normal” number, meaning essentially that all possible sequences of digits (of a given length) appear equally often in its expansion.π hasn’t been proven to have this property, though it’s expected to be the case. So, for now, “The Kate Bush conjecture is plausible but unproven.” …’

Source: Futility Closet

El Lobo Returns Home

‘The battle over America’s wolves goes back centuries. In an excerpt from the forthcoming Wolf Nation, a journalist follows the release of a single family into the wild.’ (The Morning News)

Why Uploading Consciousness to the Cloud Will Be Impossible

‘Brain-enhancing technologies like Elon Musk’s neural lace and neural activity transference have raised both excitement and concern about the possibility of uploading human consciousness to the cloud. Doing so would, in theory, free us from Shakespeare’s mortal coil, allowing us to exist indefinitely in digitized form. This idea presupposes that our bodies and consciousness can be separated, which, if you ask neuroscientist Anil Seth, Ph.D., is bunk. In a TED Talk in Vancouver on Wednesday, Seth, a co-director of the Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science and professor at the University of Sussex, explained why doing so was impossible….’ (Inverse)

The World’s Rudest Hand Gestures

‘…Herewith a sampling, courtesy of the ever-brilliant Chronicle Books, of how to throw down with the locals, wherever you are…’  (The Atlantic)

Of course, this can be used either as a guide to what you should avoid or what communication skills you should cultivate

10 Chinese Thinkers and Why You Should Know Them

‘The world’s most populous country is home to some of the world’s most interesting philosophical traditions. Going hand in hand with the world’s longest continuous history is an unbroken chain of thought that blends and complements opposing schools to create fascinating, beautiful, and practical approaches to life.Here is a list of ten of the greatest, most influential thinkers in Chinese history. Some you will have heard of, others… not so much. All of them are worth your time, and your study…’ (Big Think)

Accidental Discovery Could Solve Earth’s Plastic Waste Problem

‘Scientists might have stumbled upon an unexpected way to solve pollution from plastics. A caterpillar bred to be fishing bait is apparently able to biodegrade polyethylene – a commonly used plastic found in shopping bags. With people using around a trillion plastic bags every year, and with up to 40% of them ending up in landfills, this could be a very significant discovery.The wax worm caterpillar that eats plastic is the larvae of the common insect Galleria mellonella, aka greater wax moth…’ (Big Think)

What ‘personal space’ looks like around the world

‘…[P]ersonal space — how close we stand to our colleagues, our friends, strangers — varies widely between countries. Sociologists have studied the whys and hows, and they’ve come up with some theories about why these social norms exist. Temperature tends to affect how people define personal space. So do gender and age.

But, they think, our personal boundaries have a lot to do with where we grow up. These researchers sort the world into “contact cultures” (South America, the Middle East, Southern Europe) and “non-contact cultures” (Northern Europe, North America, Asia). In non-contact cultures, people stand farther apart and touch less…’ (Washington Post)

Americans are now utterly intolerant of ever being told they’re wrong about almost anything

‘This isn’t just human nature, but the result of a narcissism that took root in American society after the 1960s and has been growing ever since. Surrounded by affluence, enabled by the internet, and empowered by an educational system that prizes self-esteem over achievement, Americans have become more opinionated even as they have become less informed, and are now utterly intolerant of ever being told they’re wrong about almost anything…’ (MarketWatch)

Suicide and the Rural ER

‘Rural America languishes not only without enough jobs, doctors, or hospitals, but also without adequate mental health care. Psychiatrists are rare as Sasquatch while the few functioning clinics are overwhelmed by cases of depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and addiction. Rural hospitals have been closing and the remaining rural ERs have been struggling with financial and staffing issues, so most have little to offer patients like Jake except hours to days, to sometimes weeks, of deadly boring non-treatment. Even tele-psychiatry is often an expensive luxury we can’t afford.’ (Daily Yonder)

US has regressed to developing nation status, MIT economist warns

‘America is regressing to have the economic and political structure of a developing nation, an MIT economist has warned.

 Peter Temin says the world’s’ largest economy has roads and bridges that look more like those in Thailand and Venezuela than those in parts of Europe.

In his new book, “The Vanishing Middle Class”, reviewed by the Institute for New Economic Thinking, Mr Temin says the fracture of US society is leading the middle class to disappear.

The economist describes a two-track economy with on the one hand 20 per cent of the population that is educated and enjoys good jobs and supportive social networks.

On the other hand, the remaining 80 per cent, he said, are part of the US’ low-wage sector, where the world of possibility has shrunk and people are burdened with debts and anxious about job security.

Mr Temin used a model, which was created by Nobel Prize winner Arthur Lewis and designed to understand developing nations, to describe how far inequalities have progressed in the US.

When applied to the US, Mr Temin said that “the Lewis model actually works”. ‘ (The Independent)

Pen Pals Provide Linguistic Curios

‘After Robert Macfarlane published “Landmarks,” a book about the language of place, he received a deluge of mail from readers with “gift words.”  …’ (The New Yorker via abby)

This is one in my ongoing series of posts, as a language-lover, about the splendor of uncommon words.

Mrs. Whitcher and the Renegade Numbers

‘In 1938 a wallet manufacturer called the E.H. Ferree company had a genius idea: to show people just how well cards would fit in the wallet, by using a placeholder. This was before credit cards and before many drivers licenses were small enough to fit into wallets. So the thing they used to showcase the wallet was a social security card. The card they placed in each and every wallet was only about half the size of a real social security card, and that had “specimen” printed in red all over it. The placeholder card was fake in almost all ways but one: The social security number on it was real. It belonged to the secretary of the company’s Vice President and Treasurer, a woman named Mrs. Hilda Schrader Whitcher.

The wallet was sold all over the US in Woolworth stores. And soon after it hit the shelves, people started using that social security number as their own.According to The Social Security Administration, at the peak of the Whitcher confusion, 5,755 people were using her social security number. In total, they say that over 40,000 people have reported her number as their own…’ (The Last Word On Nothing )

The Outer Limits of Reason

A look at paradoxes in language by Noson Yanofsky, professor in the Department of Computer and Information Science at Brooklyn College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, and a coauthor of Quantum Computing for Computer Scientists. (Nautilus)

Robert M. Pirsig 1928-2017, R.I.P.

Author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance Dies at 88

‘The near-cult popularity of “Zen” … puzzled him for years before he came up with a theory. Writing in an afterword to the 10th-anniversary edition in 1984, he used a Swedish word (it was his mother’s native language) to describe the phenomenon. “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance,” he wrote, was a “kulturbarer,” or culture-bearer.

A culture-bearing book is not necessarily a great book, he said. It does not change the culture. It simply heralds a change already underway. “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” an indictment of slavery published before the Civil War, was a culture-bearing book, he said.“I was just telling my own story,” he said in a short interview posted on his website. He had never intended to make a splash.“I expressed what I thought were my prime thoughts,” he added, “and they turned out to be the prime thoughts of everybody else.” ..’ (New York Times obituary)

Donald Trump Is Unintelligible

‘The AP has released the transcript of its Friday interview with our Yam-in-Chief, and much of it is utterly unintelligible.That’s not just my personal assessment, either. In 16 instances, the AP’s transcribers found that they were unable to discern what the fuck it was that Trump was saying. Webster’s defines “unintelligible” as “impossible to understand.” My theory isn’t so much that the recording was inaudible so much as that it didn’t make a lick of sense.I’m warning you now that there’s a whole lot of text down here, but I’m sparing you the 55 instances of ellipses, in which he trailed off because he doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

Webster’s defines “unintelligible” as “impossible to understand.” My theory isn’t so much that the recording was inaudible so much as that it didn’t make a lick of sense.I’m warning you now that there’s a whole lot of text down here, but I’m sparing you the 55 instances of ellipses, in which he trailed off because he doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

I’m warning you now that there’s a whole lot of text down here, but I’m sparing you the 55 instances of ellipses, in which he trailed off because he doesn’t know what he’s talking about.’ (Jezebel)

New tell-all about Clinton campaign: searing indictment of the candidate

‘It does not take more than a few pages for journalists Jon Allen and Amie Parnes (right) to arrive at what amounts to their thesis in Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed 2016 Campaign, a new tell-all book built off years of reporting on the trail.

“[Clinton’s] campaign was an unholy mess, fraught with tangled lines of authority, petty jealousies, distorted priorities, and no sense of greater purpose. No one was in charge, and no one had figured out how to make the campaign about something bigger than Hillary,” Allen and Parnes write in the book’s introduction. “[But] no explanation of defeat can begin with anything other than the core problem of Hillary’s campaign — Hillary herself.”

Writing in a lively and fast-paced narrative, Allen and Parnes use their unparalleled access (more than 100 on-background interviews with top Clinton surrogates) to richly document what it felt like to be aboard the Clinton Hindenburg, as well as to argue that Trump’s victory was not inevitable, or the result of interventions from the FBI or Russia, but the result of campaign incoherence that went all the way to the top…’ (Vox)

Air strikes are not an effective tactic of war, but we keep using them anyway

‘America dropped twice the tonnage of bombs on Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam as it dropped during the entire Second World War. There was so much ordnance dropped that it altered the landscape. In his book Kill Anything That Moves, the author Nick Turse quotes the ecologist Arthur Westing as writing during a wartime visit to Vietnam, “Never were we out of sight of the endless panorama of craters.” So many defoliants were dropped from American planes that between 1945 and 1980 forest cover in Vietnam declined by half. There are 78 million unexploded bombs currently still littering the landscape of Laos. And despite the overkill, America lost the war. Bombing, even with “creative” weapons like Agent Orange and Napalm, simply didn’t work. As Nick Turse writes, “Overkill was suppose to solve all American problems, and the answer to any setback was just more overkill.”

Impact craters left after a U.S. B52 bombing strike north of Dai Teng, Vietnam, in 1968. (Tim Page/Corbis via Getty Images)

The precision bombing technologies developed during the 70’s and more recent drone technologies were supposed to be the end of overkill. From now on, America would only kill bad guys, quickly and efficiently. But technology isn’t perfect, as our recent bombing of Syria has shown. Innocent people are always killed in wars, no matter the steps taken to mitigate it. So bombing remains as counterproductive as ever. As Institute for Policy Studies Middle East expert Phyllis Bennis said in an interview, “You can’t bomb terrorism out of existence.” You can destroy buildings and kill people, and perhaps you’ll kill a terrorist in the process, but that’s not a strategy to win wars or end terrorism. Rather, it only causes “more terrorism, antagonism, and violence.” …’

Source: Timeline

Laurie Anderson’s Glorious, Chaotic New York

‘After 40 years, still, no one tells stories like Laurie Anderson.’

My friend Abby pointed me from Europe to this piece in the New York Times. Here is Laurie looking beautiful at 69. Her name comes up for me when I am asked one of those questions about listing the people one would most like to meet or have dinner with. The piece is not really about her New York, it is about her.

Surgeon General Vivek Murthy was just fired

‘America’s “top doctor” and an Obama-appointee, Vivek Murthy, was dismissed and replaced by the Trump Administration on Friday.

In a statement, the administration said it asked Murthy to resign from his post as Surgeon General after he helped with “a smooth transition.” …

The New York Times reported a somewhat different story: Murthy was asked to step down, refused, and was fired…’

Source: Vox

Murthy was anti-vaping, pro-ObamaCare, and a proponent of gun control.

Seven Linguist-Backed Tips for Making Powerful Protest Signs

‘Today is the March for Science, and people all over the country are hitting the streets to protest all anti-science agendas and policies. If you plan on showing your support, there’s still time to make some memorable signs with these simple wordplay tips…’

Source: Lifehacker

Donald Trump has ‘dangerous mental illness’, say psychiatry experts at Yale conference

Trump-narcissus.jpeg‘Donald Trump has a “dangerous mental illness” and is not fit to lead the US, a group of psychiatrists has warned during a conference at Yale University.Mental health experts claimed the President was “paranoid and delusional”, and said it was their “ethical responsibility” to warn the American public about the “dangers” Mr Trump’s psychological state poses to the country.

Speaking at the conference at Yale’s School of Medicine on Thursday, one of the mental health professionals, Dr John Gartner, a practising psychotherapist who advised psychiatric residents at Johns Hopkins University Medical School, said: “We have an ethical responsibility to warn the public about Donald Trump’s dangerous mental illness.” …’

Source: The Independent

#notmypresident #unfit

Scientists have created a fluid with negative mass – but what does it tell us?

‘Scientists have created a fluid that exhibits the bizarre property of “negative mass” in an experiment that appears to defy the everyday laws of motion.

Push an object and Newton’s laws (and common experience) dictate that it will accelerate in the direction in which it was shoved.

“That’s what most things that we’re used to do,” said Michael Forbes, a physicist at Washington State University and co-author of the paper, which shows that normal intuitions do not always apply to physics experiments. “With negative mass, if you push something, it accelerates toward you.”

Negative mass has previously cropped up in speculative theories, including those suggesting the existence of wormholes, a form of cosmological shortcut between two points in the universe. Just as electric charge can be either positive or negative, matter could, hypothetically, have either positive or negative mass.

For an object with negative mass, Newton’s second law of motion, in which a force is equal to the mass of an object multiplied by its acceleration (F=ma) would be experienced in reverse.

Theoretically, this sounds straightforward, but picturing how this behaviour would work in the real world is bewildering, even for experts…’

Source: The Guardian

What the Hell is This Beautiful Thing?

‘Meet Steve, a newly discovered atmospheric phenomenon that’s so strange it still doesn’t have a formal scientific description, hence the placeholder name. Thanks to the work of aurora enthusiasts and atmospheric scientists, we’re now learning more about Steve, but many questions remain.

 This stunning feature was first documented by the Facebook group Alberta Aurora Chasers last year. Awareness of the object, in conjunction with the powers of social media, have now resulted in more than 50 observer reports. This ribbon of purple and green light is unlike any other known auroral feature and we’re still not sure what causes it. The Alberta Aurora Chasers decided to call it Steve in honor of the children’s movie Over the Hedge, in which a character arbitrarily conjures up the name Steve to describe an object he’s not sure about…’

Source: Gizmodo

Courts Are Using AI to Sentence Criminals. That Must Stop Now

‘Algorithms pervade our lives today, from music recommendations to credit scores to now, bail and sentencing decisions. But there is little oversight and transparency regarding how they work. Nowhere is this lack of oversight more stark than in the criminal justice system. Without proper safeguards, these tools risk eroding the rule of law and diminishing individual rights.

Currently, courts and corrections departments around the US use algorithms to determine a defendant’s “risk”, which ranges from the probability that an individual will commit another crime to the likelihood a defendant will appear for his or her court date. These algorithmic outputs inform decisions about bail, sentencing, and parole. Each tool aspires to improve on the accuracy of human decision-making that allows for a better allocation of finite resources.

Typically, government agencies do not write their own algorithms; they buy them from private businesses. This often means the algorithm is proprietary or “black boxed”, meaning only the owners, and to a limited degree the purchaser, can see how the software makes decisions. Currently, there is no federal law that sets standards or requires the inspection of these tools, the way the FDA does with new drugs.

Source: WIRED

Donald Trump Seems To Think That Kim Jong-Un Is The Same Person As Kim Jong-Il

“On “Fox and Friends” this morning, President Trump promised not “to telegraph what I’m doing or what I’m thinking,” but he ended up telegraphing a major misconception. In an interview with Ainsley Earhardt, Trump appeared to confuse current North Korean Kim Jong-un with his father and predecessor, Kim Jong-il. Trump said:

‘They’ve been talking with this gentleman for a long time. You read Clinton’s book, he said, ‘Oh, we made such a great peace deal,’ and it was a joke. You look at different things over the years, with President Obama, everybody’s been outplayed, they’ve all been outplayed by this gentleman.’. …”

Source: Digg

A Trail of Strange Physics Results Offers Tantalizing Hints of New Particles

‘Conceptually, particle physics experiments are surprisingly simple. Smash a shitload of particles together, and look at what comes out. The results will either confirm whatever the business-as-usual theory is, or, if there’s a really crystal clear deviation from that theory, they might prove some new hypothesis about some new particles. But the middle ground, where the difference between what we know and what we see is still fuzzy, is where lots and lots of results live.

New results from LHCb, one of the experiments observing particle collisions at the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva, Switzerland, are showing one such fuzzy discrepancy. Physicists are cautiously excited, because if these results hold up, they would imply the existence of some brand-new particles. Unlike last year, when a small signal that seemed like it could have been something new turned out to be just a statistical fluke, these new results are popping up in the wake of another hint observed in a different way a few years ago that hasn’t gone away. So, this time, there may really be something there.

If these signals do turn out to indicate real discoveries, it might “imply the existence of some new kind of particles or other physics that’s still unknown,” LHCb physics coordinator Vincenzo Vagnoni told Gizmodo. “This is a way to unveil the existence of a new family of particles.” …’

Source: Gizmodo

‘Boltzmann Brains’?

It may be most likely that the universe could simply be our mind thinking it is part of a vast cosmos.

Source: Nautilus

What Do Animals See in a Mirror?

‘A controversial test for self-awareness is dividing the animal kingdom.

…Showing chimpanzees their reflections seemed like a fascinating little experiment when he first tried it in the summer of 1969. He didn’t imagine that this would become one of the most influential—and most controversial—tests in comparative psychology, ushering the mind into the realm of experimental science and foreshadowing questions on the depth of animal suffering. “It’s not the ability to recognize yourself in a mirror that is important,” he would come to believe. “It’s what that says about your ability to conceive of yourself in the first place.”

…[P]assing the mirror test indicates a level of self-awareness that makes it unethical to keep a species in captivity. “These animals have at least some level of self-awareness, and if they do, they know where they are, they can be aware of the limitations of their physical environment,” Marino says. She is now the science director for the Nonhuman Rights Project, which is attempting to gain legal rights for animals with higher-order cognitive abilities by getting courts to recognize them as “legal persons,” and Reiss advocates for dolphin protection. Key to their arguments is the scientific evidence that chimps, elephants, cetaceans, and other animals are self-aware like humans. Not only can they suffer, but they can think to themselves, I am suffering…’

Source: Nautilus

How to change someone’s mind effectively

‘…[W]e should focus on having more active conversations instead of passively sparing with our opposition online. If you have the chance to talk through your arguments with someone else instead of simply reading an argument and pondering your response, you are more likely to change your mind. When people take the time to exchange arguments in the course of a discussion, they tend to adopt better-supported opinions. This has been observed in a great variety of domains, from medical diagnoses to political predictions. In the case of logical or mathematical problems, this happens even if the individual defending the correct answer faces a group that confidently and unanimously agrees on the wrong answer.Believing that arguing will get us nowhere is not only unjustified, it might also be dangerous. The less we believe arguments work, the less we will try to engage people who disagree with us. In a self-fulfilling prophecy, we would then only talk with people who share our views—and that’s not going to change anyone’s mind at all.

Source: Hugo Mercier — Quartz

Unprecedented String of Executions Blocked After Drug Co. Objections

‘A judge in Arkansas moved Friday to block the state from carrying out up to seven executions this month, deepening the turmoil that surrounds a planned pace of killing with no equal in the modern history of American capital punishment.

Judge Wendell Griffen of the Pulaski County Circuit Court issued a restraining order Friday that forbids the Arkansas authorities from using their supply of vecuronium bromide, one of three execution drugs the state planned to use. Hours earlier, the nation’s largest pharmaceutical company went to court to argue that the state had purchased the drug using a false pretense…

Four companies have publicly raised concerns about how the Arkansas Department of Correction came to stockpile the drugs for its lethal injection cocktail — midazolam, vecuronium bromide and potassium chloride — but only the McKesson Corporation, the drug distributor that ranks fifth on the Fortune 500 list of companies, made an explicit allegation of deception.

Arkansas, the company said, bought 10 boxes of vecuronium bromide, which the state can use to stop a prisoner’s breathing.

But the state prison system “never disclosed its intended purpose to us for these products,” a lawyer for McKesson, Ethan M. Posner, wrote in a letter obtained by The New York Times. “To the contrary, it purchased the products on an account that was opened under the valid medical license of an Arkansas physician, implicitly representing that the products would only be used for a legitimate medical purpose.” …’

Source: New York Times

While the US Was Bombing Afghanistan, the Coward-in-Chief Was Secretly Signing Bill to Block Planned Parenthood Money

‘…On Thursday, as news broke that the U.S. had just dropped the “Mother of All Bombs” on an Afghanistan area believed to be Islamic State-group-related, either tunnels or actual Islamic State personnel or both, the dictator in chief was squirreled away in private, somewhere in the corner of the Oval Office, signing legislation that would allow states to withhold federal funding from Planned Parenthood.

The action, according to the Associated Press, erases former President Barack Obama’s rule that blocked states from withholding federal Title X funding from women’s organizations that perform abortions, including Planned Parenthood…’

Source: Kinja

Your Guide to All the Devastating Weapons You Hear About in the News

‘Check the news and you’re guaranteed to hear to about conflict in some part of the world. But there are a lot of weapon terms getting thrown around without explanation, and even people in the public eye are totally clueless about what these weapons do. Here’s everything you need to know about the MOAB, Tomahawk missiles, barrel bombs, chemical weapons, and more…’

Source: Lifehacker

Poignant ‘First Protest from Space’

“The Autonomous Space Agency Network (ASAN), an independent advocate of DIY space exploration, has a message for Donald Trump and they’ve launched a weather balloon into the stratosphere to send it: “@realDonaldTrump LOOK AT THAT, YOU SON OF A BITCH.” It’s honestly not as confrontational as it seems at first glance.

The Overview Effect is a phenomenon that many of the lucky few to visit space have reported feeling. It simply describes a cognitive shift in which the person suddenly felt the enormity of the universe and the silliness of human squabbles. Edgar Mitchell was one of the astronauts who reported this change in his understanding of life. Mitchell was the pilot of Apollo 14 and the sixth person to walk on the Moon. When he came back to Earth he had this to say:

 ‘You develop an instant global consciousness, a people orientation, an intense dissatisfaction with the state of the world, and a compulsion to do something about it. From out there on the moon, international politics look so petty. You want to grab a politician by the scruff of the neck and drag him a quarter of a million miles out and say, “Look at that, you son of a bitch.” ‘

The beauty of what ASAN is calling the “First Protest in Space” is that it could be referring to any complaint you’d like to lodge about Trump and his “America first” approach to leadership. There a lot of people on this big blue orb and they’re going to need the planet that the president is so tirelessly working to destroy…”

Source: Gizmodo

5 ways the North Korea situation could spiral out of control

‘To understand how close we are to full-scale conflict in North Korea, I reached out to Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies. Lewis focuses on nuclear nonproliferation, international security, and disarmament, and he is the author of Minimum Means of Reprisal: China’s Search for Security in the Nuclear Age. I asked Lewis to lay out some of the worst-case scenarios in North Korea. Here’s what he told me…’

Source: Vox

Glorious — and vulnerable

‘…We’ve just ascended the tallest mountain in the Hawaiian islands, Mauna Kea, to see the pair of 10-meter Keck Telescopes, the largest and most powerful optical telescopes in the world. Hawaii lies 4,000km away from the closest continent, North America, making this the most remote archipelago on Earth. With clear skies, therefore, Mauna Kea has arguably the best “seeing” of any telescope site in the world.

The combination of big mirrors and dark skies has proven nothing short of revelatory. Since the first of the two Keck telescopes began observing the heavens in 1993, astronomers have used the instruments to discover dark energy, find outer Solar System objects that led to Pluto’s demotion, and more. On a given night, an astronomer might point a telescope toward volcano eruptions on the Jovian moon Io or study faint galaxies at the edge of the visible universe.

But increasingly, the mountain’s fair skies are clouded with controversy. Native Hawaiians dispute the right of outsiders to build large telescopes on their sacred mountain, and a proposal to build a much larger instrument, the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT), on Mauna Kea has galvanized the activists as never before…’

Source: Ars Technica

Research Explains Why Your Shoelaces Are Always Coming Undone

‘There are a number of forces at play that contribute to the spontaneous untying of shoelaces, according to the study published in Proceedings of the Royal Society A on Tuesday. Daily-Diamond and his co-researchers were able to figure this out by recording a high-speed video of someone running on a treadmill until their shoelaces untied. From there, they were able to build a working hypothesis, which they tested with further experiments…’

Source: Motherboard

Better yet, the research points to a modification in your shoe-tying methodology that will keep them tied significantly longer.