’Mindfulness promotes itself as value-neutral but it is loaded with (troubling) assumptions about the self and the cosmos…’
Via Aeon Essays
’Mindfulness promotes itself as value-neutral but it is loaded with (troubling) assumptions about the self and the cosmos…’
Via Aeon Essays
’With one in every four species facing extinction, which animals are the best equipped to survive the climate crisis? (Spoiler alert: it’s probably not humans).…’
’‘How do you stop these people?’ US president said about undocumented Mexicans…
Donald Trump laughed and joked after a supporter suggested shooting Mexican migrants at a rally in May 2019.
The clip of the interaction is once again spreading across social media, as the US reels from the El Paso massacre.…’
Via The Independent
’…[N]egative reactions to human-animal hybrids might be based on our need to have a clear boundary between things that are “human” and things that are not. This distinction grounds many of our social practices involving animals, and so threatening this boundary could create moral confusion.…’
Via Big Think
’In early July, Bangladesh became the first country to grant all of its rivers the same legal status as humans. From now on, its rivers will be treated as living entities in a court of law. The landmark ruling by the Bangladeshi Supreme Court is meant to protect the world’s largest delta from further degradation from pollution, illegal dredging and human intrusion.
Bangladesh follows a handful of countries that have subscribed to an idea known as environmental personhood. It was first highlighted in essays by University of Southern California law professor Christopher D. Stone, collected into a 1974 book titled Should Trees Have Standing? Toward Legal Rights for Natural Objects. Stone argued that if an environmental entity is given “legal personality,” it cannot be owned and has the right to appear in court.
Traditionally, nature has been subject to a Western-conceived legal regime of property-based ownership, says Monti Aguirre with the environmental group International Rivers.
“That means … an owner has the right to modify their features, their natural features, or to destroy them all at will,” Aguirre says.
The idea of environmental personhood turns that paradigm on its head by recognizing that nature has rights and that those rights should be enforced by a court of law. It’s a philosophical idea, says Aguirre, with indigenous communities leading the charge.
“Many indigenous communities recognize nature as a subject with personhood deserving of protection and respect, rather than looking at it as a merchandise or commodity over which are property rights should be exercised,” she says.
And the movement is growing, she says, though with variations.
David Wootton, Anniversary Professor of History at the University of York and the author of Power, Pleasure, and Profit: Insatiable Appetites from Machiavelli to Madison and The Invention of Science: A New History of the Scientific Revolution:
’How have we come to build a whole culture around a futile, self-defeating enterprise: the pursuit of happiness?…’
’To understand the stability of this support, we must free ourselves from the prevailing fixation on Trump himself as the explanation for Trumpism. True, he has a cunning charisma; using very ordinary bearing and diction, he makes repeated chest-thumping references to being very rich, conveys a sense of his own genius, and relishes a near-total freedom to say and do anything. But the reason these tactics succeed is that they resonate with his base. “He tells it like it is” is still a common refrain among his supporters, meaning “how we really feel” behind the veil of political correctness. And so, unwaveringly, they devour each outrageous statement and eagerly anticipate the next.
Trump’s secret to success is that he expresses their values, angers, and evasions, their deep sense of alienation and grievance—cultural and social far more than economic. If he wins in 2020 it will be no fluke, as many concluded about 2016, but because a critical number of Americans have embraced that message. As campaign season takes off, we must not delude ourselves about exactly what Trumpism means.…’
Via Boston Review
’Jenny Odell looks at many different ways of resisting the attention economy, sinking into the reality of our lives, and finding solidarity and agency with others.
“Someone is defining the terms already by asking the question. And if you’re not attentive, you will accept those terms.”…’
Via Big Think
…A research paper is a special publication written by scientists to be read by other researchers. Papers are primary sources neccessary for research – for example, they contain detailed description of new results and experiments.
papers in Sci-Hub library:
more than 74,000,000 and growing
At this time the widest possible distribution of research papers, as well as of other scientific or educational sources, is artificially restricted by copyright laws. Such laws effectively slow down the development of science in human society. The Sci-Hub project, running from 5th September 2011, is challenging the status quo. At the moment, Sci-Hub provides access to hundreds of thousands research papers every day, effectively bypassing any paywalls and restrictions.…’
’The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact could make the presidential candidate who earns the most votes the winner—without, proponents say, the need for a constitutional amendment.…’
’The US military is conducting wide-area surveillance tests across six midwest states using experimental high-altitude balloons, documents filed with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) reveal.
Up to 25 unmanned solar-powered balloons are being launched from rural South Dakota and drifting 250 miles through an area spanning portions of Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin and Missouri, before concluding in central Illinois.
Travelling in the stratosphere at altitudes of up to 65,000ft, the balloons are intended to “provide a persistent surveillance system to locate and deter narcotic trafficking and homeland security threats”, according to a filing made on behalf of the Sierra Nevada Corporation, an aerospace and defence company.
The balloons are carrying hi-tech radars designed to simultaneously track many individual vehicles day or night, through any kind of weather. The tests, which have not previously been reported, received an FCC license to operate from mid-July until September, following similar flights licensed last year.
…“We do not think that American cities should be subject to wide-area surveillance in which every vehicle could be tracked wherever they go,” said Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst at the American Civil Liberties Union.
“Even in tests, they’re still collecting a lot of data on Americans: who’s driving to the union house, the church, the mosque, the Alzheimer’s clinic,” he said. “We should not go down the road of allowing this to be used in the United States and it’s disturbing to hear that these tests are being carried out, by the military no less.” …’
Via The Guardian
’That may or may not be a bad thing, but it’s certainly worth pondering.
In 2016, the Google-incubated Redirect Method used ads to deradicalize would-be Islamic State extremists, redirecting 320,000 people to videos debunking ISIS’s recruitment narratives. But the Redirect Method wasn’t a one-off since the groups behind it distilled it into a 44-step blueprint.
In an opinion piece at the New York Times, Patrick Berlinquette, the founder of the search engine marketing consulting firm Berlin SEM, explains how he used the Redirect Method’s blueprint to change the minds of suicidal people. His ads for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline generated a 28% conversion rate, seven times the average rate of 4%, in just a week. A second experiment to redirect prospective school shooters to a crisis hotline failed, but the point remains—it’s easy for anyone to use Google’s precise targeting tools and redirect ads to promote their own agenda. In some regards, this conclusion is obvious—it’s what marketers do every day. But it raises questions about the ethics involved, how to protect yourself and others from such manipulation, and what Google’s role in all this should be.…’
’In an extremely rare occurrence, a photographer captured a sea lion getting snagged in the open mouth of a humpback whale.…’
’What the opioid crisis illustrates is not that there are a few bad apples in the pharmaceutical industry, but that the country’s entire health care system is driven by profit at the expense of public health and safety. Drug manufacturers, pharmacy chains, drug distributors, and insurance companies got rich while people, especially people lower down the income ladder, suffered—and the DEA, through neglect or incompetence or a mix of both, watched it all happen.…’
Via The New Republic
’This interactive map highlights lesser-known endangered species across America.…’
’A product of the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), Sentient is (or at least aims to be) an omnivorous analysis tool, capable of devouring data of all sorts, making sense of the past and present, anticipating the future, and pointing satellites toward what it determines will be the most interesting parts of that future. That, ideally, makes things simpler downstream for human analysts at other organizations, like the NGA, with which the satellite-centric NRO partners.
Until now, Sentient has been treated as a government secret, except for vague allusions in a few speeches and presentations. But recently released documents — many formerly classified secret or top secret — reveal new details about the program’s goals, progress, and reach.…’
Via The Verge
’Russia’s state-owned nuclear corporation Rosatom denies the allegations.…’
Via Big Think
’Dear Democratic presidential candidates: I know all 23 of you want to run against President Trump, but only one will get that opportunity. If you truly believe your own righteous rhetoric, some of you ought to be spending your time and energy in another vital pursuit — winning control of the Senate.
I’m talking to you, John Hickenlooper of Colorado, who would have a good chance of beating incumbent Republican Cory Gardner. I’m talking to you, Gov. Steve Bullock of Montana, who could knock off GOP incumbent Steve Daines. I’m even talking to you, Beto O’Rourke, who would have a better chance than any other Texas Democrat against veteran Republican John Cornyn.
And I’m talking to you, too, Stacey Abrams of Georgia, even though you haven’t jumped in. You came within a whisker of being elected governor, and you have a national profile that would bring in a tsunami of campaign funds. You could beat Republican David Perdue — and acquire real power to translate your stirring eloquence into concrete action.
As the Republican Party has long understood, it’s all about power. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) could not care less about lofty words and high ideals. Coldly and methodically, he has used his power to block widely supported progressive measures such as gun control, to enact a trickle-down economic agenda that favors the wealthy and to pack the federal bench with right-wing judges whom we’ll be stuck with for decades.
We all remember how McConnell refused even to schedule hearings for President Barack Obama’s final Supreme Court nominee, Judge Merrick Garland, ostensibly because the vacancy occurred during an election year. Were you surprised when he said recently that if a seat were to come open in 2020, he would hasten to confirm a replacement? I wasn’t. That’s how McConnell rolls. He exercises his power to its full extent and is not bothered by what you or I or anyone else might think. Charges of hypocrisy do not trouble his sweet slumber.
McConnell is not going to be reasoned, harangued or shamed into behaving differently. The only way to stop him is to take his power away, and the only way to do that is for Democrats to win the Senate.…’
’In a scorching letter condemning President Donald Trump’s recent racist attacks, the Washington National Cathedral questioned all those who continued to remain silent.
On Tuesday, the capital’s Episcopal cathedral released a letter titled “Have We No Decency? A response to President Trump,” which was signed by the church’s top leadership.…’
’The past month has brought presidential racism back into the headlines. This October 1971 exchange between current and future presidents is a reminder that other presidents have subscribed to the racist belief that Africans or African Americans are somehow inferior. The most novel aspect of President Donald Trump’s racist gibes isn’t that he said them, but that he said them in public.
The day after the United Nations voted to recognize the People’s Republic of China, then–California Governor Ronald Reagan phoned President Richard Nixon at the White House and vented his frustration at the delegates who had sided against the United States. “Last night, I tell you, to watch that thing on television as I did,” Reagan said. “Yeah,” Nixon interjected. Reagan forged ahead with his complaint: “To see those, those monkeys from those African countries—damn them, they’re still uncomfortable wearing shoes!” Nixon gave a huge laugh.…’
Via The Atlantic
’The bottom line is that watching a candidate share a debate stage with nine others might be one of the most important ways of deciding whom you like the most, but less useful in determining who is best to debate Trump.
If that were our sole criterion, we should skip the thoughtful policy discussions and instead require each candidate to debate a 10-year-old boy who responds to everything with, “I know you are, but what am I?”
We’ve all had to. That kid is obnoxious. Juvenile. Insufferable. Detestable. Smackworthy. Most of all, the very definition of predictable.
But that kid is hard to beat.…’
’It seems maddeningly repetitive to have to return time and again to the fact that Donald Trump is a racist, but it must be done. It must be done because it is a foundational character issue, one that supersedes and informs many others, in much the same way that his sexism and xenophobia do.
On Saturday, Trump tweeted that Representative Elijah Cummings’s district “is a disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess,” a “very dangerous & filthy place” and “No human being would want to live there.” Cummings is black, as are most people in his district.
This talk of infestation is telling, because he only seems to apply it to issues concerning black and brown people. He has sniped about the “Ebola infested areas of Africa.” He has called Congressman John Lewis’s Atlanta district “crime infested” as well as telling him to focus on “the burning and crime infested inner-cities of the U.S.” He has called sanctuary cities a “crime infested & breeding concept.” He has talked about how “illegal immigrants” will “pour into and infest our Country.” He has called the presence of the MS–13 gang members “in certain parts of our country” an “infestation.”
None of this is about crime as a discrete phenomenon, but rather about inextricably linking criminality to blackness. White supremacy isn’t necessarily about rendering white people as superhuman; it is just as often about rendering nonwhite people as subhuman. Either way the hierarchy is established, with whiteness assuming the superior position.
A survey of Trump’s tweets reveals that his attachment of criminality to populations is almost exclusively to black and brown people and to “inner cities,” an urban euphemism for black and brown neighborhoods.…’
’Politicians Discussing Climate Change’ by Isaac Cordal Via Instagram
’Here we see President Trump making the “white power” hand signal while uttering AOC’s name during his speech at Young Conservatives DC summit. It’s the same hand signal that Australian white supremacist Brenton Tarrant flashed in the courtroom after he’d been arrested for murdering 50 people in New Zealand mosques.
From the ADL:
In 2017, the “okay” hand gesture acquired a new and different significance thanks to a hoax by members of the website 4chan to falsely promote the gesture as a hate symbol, claiming that the gesture represented the letters “wp,” for “white power.” The “okay” gesture hoax was merely the latest in a series of similar 4chan hoaxes using various innocuous symbols; in each case, the hoaxers hoped that the media and liberals would overreact by condemning a common image as white supremacist.
In the case of the “okay” gesture, the hoax was so successful the symbol became a popular trolling tactic on the part of right-leaning individuals, who would often post photos to social media of themselves posing while making the “okay” gesture.
Ironically, some white supremacists themselves soon also participated in such trolling tactics, lending an actual credence to those who labeled the trolling gesture as racist in nature. By 2019, at least some white supremacists seem to have abandoned the ironic or satiric intent behind the original trolling campaign and used the symbol as a sincere expression of white supremacy, such as when Australian white supremacist Brenton Tarrant flashed the symbol during a March 2019 courtroom appearance soon after his arrest for allegedly murdering 50 people in a shooting spree at mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand.…’
Via Boing Boing
’Rutger Hauer, the Dutch actor who portrayed Roy Batty in the film Blade Runner, passed away recently. To celebrate his iconic role, we are revisiting this piece on the Voight-Kampff test, a device to detect if a person is really human.
Is Rick Deckard a replicant, an advanced bioengineered being? The jury concerning the character in 1982’s Blade Runner is still out. Harrison Ford, who plays Deckard in the film, thinks he’s human. Ridley Scott, the film’s director, is adamant that he’s not.* Hampton Fancher, the screenwriter for the original film and the sequel, Blade Runner 2049, out today, prefers the ambiguity: “I like asking the question,” he’s said, “but I think it’s nonsense to answer it.”
At the center of the question is a fictional test designed to distinguish between replicants and humans, called the Voight-Kampff test. It elicits emotions in the test subject that replicants supposedly can’t have, then monitors physiological responses, like pupillary motion and reaction time. But could such a test really distinguish between humans and replicants? Nautilus caught up with Chris Frith, Emeritus Professor of the Wellcome Centre for Neuroimaging at University College London to find out. He’s spent his career studying the neuroscience of consciousness and emotion, specifically its conscious and unconscious processes, and says he’s been influenced by Philip K. Dick’s stories, particularly Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, which Blade Runner is based on.…’
(Jesse Helms & others…)
I’m coming up out of the tomb, Men of War
Just when you thought you had me down, in place, hidden
I’m coming up now
Can you feel the ground rumble under your feet?
It’s breaking apart, it’s turning over, it’s pushing up
It’s thrusting into your point of view, your private property
O Men of War, Censorious Ones!
get ready big boys get ready
I’m coming up now
I’m coming up with all that was hidden
Get ready, Big Boys, get ready
I’m coming up with all you wanted buried,
All the hermetic texts with stories in them of hot & dangerous women
Women with lascivious tongues, sharp eyes & claws
I’ve been working out, my muscles are strong
I’m pushing up the earth with all you try to censor
All the iconoclasm & bravado you scorn
All the taunts against your banner & salute
I’m coming up from Hell with all you ever suppressed
All the dark fantasies, all the dregs are coming back
I’m leading them back up now
They’re going to bark & scoff & rage & bite
I’m opening the box
’The Y chromosome may be a symbol of masculinity, but it is becoming increasingly clear that it is anything but strong and enduring.
Although it carries the “master switch” gene, SRY, that determines whether an embryo will develop as male (XY) or female (XX), it contains very few other genes and is the only chromosome not necessary for life. Women, after all, manage just fine without one.
What’s more, the Y chromosome has degenerated rapidly, leaving females with two perfectly normal X chromosomes, but males with an X and a shrivelled Y. If the same rate of degeneration continues, the Y chromosome has just 4.6m years left before it disappears completely. This may sound like a long time, but it isn’t when you consider that life has existed on Earth for 3.5 billion years.
The Y chromosome hasn’t always been like this. If we rewind the clock to 166m years ago, to the very first mammals, the story was completely different. The early “proto-Y” chromosome was originally the same size as the X chromosome and contained all the same genes. However, Y chromosomes have a fundamental flaw. Unlike all other chromosomes, which we have two copies of in each of our cells, Y chromosomes are only ever present as a single copy, passed from fathers to their sons.
This means that genes on the Y chromosome cannot undergo genetic recombination, the “shuffling” of genes that occurs in each generation which helps to eliminate damaging gene mutations. Deprived of the benefits of recombination, Y chromosomal genes degenerate over time and are eventually lost from the genome.
Despite this, recent research has shown that the Y chromosome has developed some pretty convincing mechanisms to “put the brakes on”, slowing the rate of gene loss to a possible standstill.
For example, a recent Danish study, published in PLoS Genetics, sequenced portions of the Y chromosome from 62 different men and found that it is prone to large scale structural rearrangements allowing “gene amplification” – the acquisition of multiple copies of genes that promote healthy sperm function and mitigate gene loss.
The study also showed that the Y chromosome has developed unusual structures called “palindromes“ (DNA sequences that read the same forwards as backwards – like the word “kayak”), which protect it from further degradation. They recorded a high rate of “gene conversion events“ within the palindromic sequences on the Y chromosome – this is basically a “copy and paste” process that allows damaged genes to be repaired using an undamaged back-up copy as a template.
Looking to other species (Y chromosomes exist in mammals and some other species), a growing body of evidence indicates that Y-chromosome gene amplification is a general principle across the board. These amplified genes play critical roles in sperm production and (at least in rodents) in regulating offspring sex ratio. Writing in Molecular Biology and Evolution recently, researchers give evidence that this increase in gene copy number in mice is a result of natural selection.
On the question of whether the Y chromosome will actually disappear, the scientific community, like the UK at the moment, is currently divided into the “leavers” and the “remainers”. The latter group argues that its defence mechanisms do a great job and have rescued the Y chromosome. But the leavers say that all they are doing is allowing the Y chromosome to cling on by its fingernails, before eventually dropping off the cliff. The debate therefore continues.
A leading proponent of the leave argument, Jenny Graves from La Trobe University in Australia, claims that, if you take a long-term perspective, the Y chromosomes are inevitably doomed – even if they sometimes hold on a bit longer than expected. In a 2016 paper, she points out that Japanese spiny rats and mole voles have lost their Y chromosomes entirely – and argues that the processes of genes being lost or created on the Y chromosome inevitably lead to fertility problems. This in turn can ultimately drive the formation of entirely new species.
As we argue in a chapter in a new e-book, even if the Y chromosome in humans does disappear, it does not necessarily mean that males themselves are on their way out. Even in the species that have actually lost their Y chromosomes completely, males and females are both still necessary for reproduction.
In these cases, the SRY “master switch” gene that determines genetic maleness has moved to a different chromosome, meaning that these species produce males without needing a Y chromosome. However, the new sex-determining chromosome – the one that SRY moves on to – should then start the process of degeneration all over again due to the same lack of recombination that doomed their previous Y chromosome.…’
Via Big Think
’Trying to see the world through someone else’s eyes is a great way to build empathy and understanding between people. Turns out, this approach – when taken literally – also works with robots. Researchers from the University of Bourgogne, University of Trento, and their colleagues used a head-mounted display to put people “inside” a robot and then studied their “likeability and closeness towards the robot.”…’
Via Boing Boing
— Via i.redd.it
’The demise of Okjökull, the first Icelandic glacier lost to climate change, will be memorialized with a plaque by researchers from Rice University in Houston… The monument to Okjökull glacier in Borgarfjörður, Iceland, will be installed on August 18 in a public ceremony.
Tourists scramble to avoid a wave caused by a glacier collapse
“This will be the first monument to a glacier lost to climate change anywhere in the world,” Rice University anthropologist Cymene Howe said. “By marking Ok’s [short for Okjökull] passing, we hope to draw attention to what is being lost as Earth’s glaciers expire.…’
’This is a popular saying in the United States, often offered in the form of condolence or consolation. The adage is so vague and widespread that it never rings in my ears as a clear assertion, but rather as a desperate, threadbare defense against the obvious conclusions to be drawn from a child getting cancer or someone being struck by lightening: that absolutely nothing happens for a reason, because there are no reasons. Yes, there are certainly causes, always, but in this aphorism, “reason” is a direct substitute for “meaning.” “Everything happens for a reason” asserts a grand plan full of meaning, even if you cannot always discern it.
But of course whenever someone utters this cliché, it immediately shakes me out of whatever stupor of possible meanings I was indulging, and reminds me that there are no cosmic plans, no meanings big or small, discernable or otherwise. That there is no morality or ethics, just our fabrications of them, and that there is certainly no Master Plan through which our lives unfold like pieces on a chessboard.
And in those moments I often feel very alone, not because of the stark reality of meaninglessness, but because I am talking to someone who thoroughly embraces meaning, and am not inclined to puncture their fantasies. Why? Because if there is one of these artificial meanings that I tend to live my life by, it is the effort to avoid causing unnecessary pain. To not be cruel. To not cause someone else’s lived experience to be needlessly awful. And so when someone tells me that everything happens for a reason, I do not respond with a brief treatise on life’s ultimate meaninglessness.…’
— Akim Reinhardt, 3 Quarks Daily
’Would you improve humanity if you could? Many of us have opinions about how we can boost up society and government. But what about just re-engineering the people themselves, to make them more advanced physically and intellectually? Would better bodies lead to better people? One person who can turn such musings into reality is George Church, the Harvard genetics professor famous for trying to resurrect holly mammoths, among many other accomplishments. Church also made a list of genes that could be targeted through genetic manipulation for the purpose of designing a new version of humans.
In an interview with Futurism, the professor explained that one purpose of assembling such a list is in giving correct information to the people. It has been his long-term mission to drive down the costs of genetics resources. To that end, the list includes both protective and negative consequences of hacking a particular gene.
“I felt that both ends of the phenotype spectrum should be useful,” Church elaborated. “And the protective end might yield more powerful medicines useful for more people and hence less expensive.”
Here are some selections from the so-called Transhumanist Wishlist, drawing upon the philosophical movement of transhumanism that calls for using technology to enhance human physiology and intellect, leading to a transformation of what it means to be human:
- LRP5 – hacking this gene could give people extra-strong bones, as research has shown a mutation of LRP5 can lead to bones that don’t break. The tweak might make it hard to swim, however, as denser bones also mean lower buoyancy.
- MSTN – messing with the myostatin protein could result in larger, leaner muscles, and cure such diseases as muscular dystrophy.
- FAAH-OUT – the amusingly-named FAAH-OUT gene mutation was linked to insensitivity to pain. Wouldn’t you like to have such a super ability?
- ABCC11 – modifying this gene could really pay off socially, as it’s been linked to low odor production. Currently, only 2% of the people in the world carry the mutated version, which helps their armpits not produce any unpleasant smells.
- PCSK9 – people who lack this gene have very low levels of cholesterol. Tweaking it could lead to fighting off coronary disease. On the other hand, the negatives could include a rise in diabetes and even reduced cognition.
- GRIN2B – playing with this gene can lead to enhancing memory and learning abilities.
- BDKRB2 – figuring out how to affect this gene can lead to people who can hold their breath under water for much longer. It figures prominently in the abilities of the indigenous Bajau people (“Sea Nomads”) of Southeast Asia, who are known for amazing feats of deep diving.…’
Via Big Think
An adequate discussion of gene-hacking would have to be as erudite and thoughtful about potential unintended consequences of such changes. Except for Church’s comment about increased bone density making it harder to swim, this list is notable for its absence.
’Researchers from the University of Michigan recently published a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that describes an incredible device capable of mitigating — and potentially preventing — spinal cord and brain injuries. “In this work,” said researcher Lonnie Shea in a statement, “we demonstrate that instead of overcoming an immune response, we can co-opt the immune response to work for us to promote the therapeutic response.” By injecting nanoparticles that reduce the body’s immune response, these researchers claim that the severity of such an injury can be significantly reduced, potentially preventing paralysis.…’
Via Big Think
’We’re no strangers to the delights of the rude drawings that monks doodled in the margins of medieval manuscripts around here, but University of Bonn medievialist Erik Wade’s epic Twitter thread on the astonishing variety of snail-doodles is genuinely next-level.
Whether it’s the snail-gods that snail-monks pray to, or the snail jousting tourneys, the lives of these molluscs was rich and complex: from the snail/human friendships to the lost art of nude snail-riding.…’
Via Boing Boing
’Trump’s attack on Omar appears to be a preview of his broader 2020 strategy. There is every reason to expect things will get worse.…’
“Where I came from” is ionized hydrogen and interstellar dust
The sloughed-off remains of a giant star
Radioactive sparks in sunbeam suspension
“Where I came from” is a long-lost generation of suns
Those that lived and died and scattered their own remains
Nuclear detonations of compact matter, the death spiral plunges of neutron stars
“Where I came from” is the empty depths, the far-flung glints on the cosmic ocean
“Where I came from” is an eddy in an infrared-hot protoplanetary disk
“Where I came from” is a collision of worlds so violent it tore magma from the Earth to coalesce into the Moon
“Where I came from” is the sky, the ground, the sea, the very air we breathe
“Where I came from” is the infinite
“Where I came from” is the Universe
And one day, when I am good and ready, I will go back
— Katie Mack (via Abby)
’President Donald Trump told a dramatic story on Twitter last month.
Explaining how he decided to cancel a possible attack on Iran, he wrote, “We were cocked & loaded to retaliate last night on 3 different sights when I asked, how many will die. 150 people, sir, was the answer from a General. 10 minutes before the strike I stopped it…”
This was all so Hollywood that I would have been skeptical regardless of Trump’s choice of words. Because he included one particular word, though, I was almost certain the story was inaccurate in some way.
I’ve fact-checked every word Trump has uttered since his inauguration. I can tell you that if this President relays an anecdote in which he has someone referring to him as “sir,” then some major component of the anecdote is very likely to be wrong.
Lots of people do call Trump “sir,” of course. But the word seems to pop into his head more frequently when he is inventing or exaggerating a conversation than when he is faithfully relaying one. A “sir” is a flashing red light that he is speaking from his imagination rather than his memory.
In poker parlance, it’s a tell.…’
’“I’ve prosecuted predators,” she said. “And we have a predator living in the White House. He has predatory instincts and a predatory nature.”
Harris accused President Trump of wanting to return to an era before the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Roe v. Wade decision, in which the US Supreme Court case found a constitutional right to abortion.
“Well, we’re not going back. We’re not going back,” she said to applause.…’
Via Boston Globe
’…Trump launched a racist Twitter attack against four Democratic congresswomen of color over the weekend, telling Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar and Ayanna Pressley to “go back” to their home countries. The tweet implies that the congresswomen weren’t born in America, but they all are American citizens. Ocasio-Cortez, Tlaib and Pressley are natural-born US citizens, while Omar was born in Somalia and immigrated to the US when she was young. Telling people of color to “go back to where you came from” is a tactic often used by racists to try to silence blacks and other minorities.
The congresswomen hit back at Trump, with Ocasio-Cortez tweeting that Trump is “angry because you can’t conceive of an America that includes us.” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats also condemned the President. Will members of the Republican Party join the Dems in denouncing Trump’s tweet? No, says CNN’s Stephen Collinson, because most GOP voters and lawmakers are satisfied with the ideological direction of the Trump presidency and are willing to turn a blind eye to his conduct. “The President knows he can trade in such base tactics because he will pay no price in a Republican Party cowed by his fervent political base,” Collinson writes.…’
An Interview with Åsa Wikforss:
‘Knowledge resistance is “the tendency not to accept available knowledge”, according to the mission statement of the interdisciplinary project “Knowledge Resistance: Causes, Consequences and Cures,” which was awarded a $5.6 million grant from the Swedish Foundation for Humanities and Social Sciences in October 2018. Åsa Wikforss is the project leader. A professor of theoretical philosophy at Stockholm University, she is also a newly-elected member – and the only philosopher – of the Swedish Academy, a prestigious cultural institution of 18 members appointed for life.
In an age of misinformation both online and off, researching knowledge resistance could not be more timely. When senior politicians announce that the people have had enough of experts, it’s not long before a race to the bottom begins, where dangerous myths and misinformation can entrench themselves.
In this interview, we discuss how knowledge resistance manifests itself in popular movements such as anti-vaxxers and climate change deniers, and how we can fight these beliefs gone viral…’
Via IAI TV
’British politicians and officials have reacted with outrage to the resignation of their ambassador to the U.S. amid a rift with President Trump over leaked diplomatic cables, with many accusing the President of bullying their government.
The leak on July 7 of classified memos written by Kim Darroch to the U.K. government, in which he called the Trump Administration “inept” and “incompetent”, triggered a slew of personal insults from the President. Trump tweeted that Darroch was “a very stupid guy” and “a pompous fool.” He also disinvited him from an official dinner July 8, saying “We will no longer deal with him.”…’
’The continuous accumulation of carbon dioxide in the planet’s oceans—which shows no sign of stopping due to humanity’s relentless consumption of fossil fuels—is likely to trigger a chemical reaction in Earth’s carbon cycle similar to those which happened just before mass extinction events, according to a new study.
MIT geophysics professor Daniel Rothman released new data on Monday showing that carbon levels today could be fast approaching a tipping point threshold that could trigger extreme ocean acidification similar to the kind that contributed to the Permian–Triassic mass extinction that occurred about 250 million years ago.
Rothman’s new research comes two years after he predicted that a mass extinction event could take place at the end of this century. Since 2017, he has been working to understand how life on Earth might be wiped out due to increased carbon in the oceans.
“If we push the Earth system too far, then it takes over and determines its own response—past that point there will be little we can do about it.”
—Timothy Lenton, University of Exeter
Rothman created a model in which he simulated adding carbon dioxide to oceans, finding that when the gas was added to an already-stable marine environment, only temporary acidification occurred.
When he continuously pumped carbon into the oceans, however, as humans have been doing at greater and greater levels since the late 18th century, the ocean model eventually reached a threshold which triggered what MIT called “a cascade of chemical feedbacks,” or “excitation,” causing extreme acidification and worsening the warming effects of the originally-added carbon.…’
’The U.S. president has reportedly asked aides to find a way to weaken the dollar in an effort to boost the economy ahead of the 2020 election. The strength of the greenback has proven a headache for Trump, who’s made reducing the U.S. trade deficit a priority.…’
’If you could restore activity to individual post-mortem brain cells, he reasoned to himself, what was to stop you from restoring activity to entire slices of post-mortem brain?…’
’The Stromboli volcano erupted on Wednesday and one lucky videographer was able to capture the moment.…’
‘Researchers have found that organised far-right networks are pushing a conspiracy known as the “great replacement” theory to the extent that references to it online have doubled in four years, with more than 1.5 million on Twitter alone, a total that is rising exponentially.
The theory emerged in France in 2014 and has become a dominant concept of the extreme right, focusing on a paranoia that white people are being wiped out through migration and violence. It received increased scrutiny after featuring in the manifesto of the gunman who killed 51 people in the Christchurch attacks in New Zealand in March.
Guardian Today: the headlines, the analysis, the debate – sent direct to you
Now the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD), a UK-based counter-extremist organisation, has found that the once-obscure ideology has moved into mainstream politics and is now referenced by figures including US president Donald Trump, Italian interior minister Matteo Salvini and Björn Höcke of the German Alternative für Deutschland (AfD).
Tweets from Trump earlier this year, for example, were interpreted by many as making a white nationalist case for his controversial border wall.
Despite its French origins, the ISD’s analysis has revealed that the theory is becoming more prevalent internationally, with English-speaking countries now accounting for 33% of online discussion.
Julia Ebner, co-author of the report at ISD, said: “It’s shocking to see the extent to which extreme-right concepts such as the ‘great replacement’ theory and calls for ‘remigration’ have entered mainstream political discourse and are now referenced by politicians who head states and sit in parliaments.”
She said that of the 10 most influential Twitter accounts propagating the ideology, eight were French. The other two were Trump’s account and the extreme-right site Defend Europa…’
— Read on The Guardian
’News continues to worsen for marine mammals on the west coast. In addition to terrible domoic acid poisoning for seals and sea lions, whales are passing away at a record rate.…’
Via Boing Boing
’It’s remarkable how many “unfilmable” books have been, well, filmed. With this week’s news that Neil Gaiman’s sprawling comic-book series The Sandman has been acquired by Netflix, fans have been excited, if tentative, no doubt remembering the long history of attempts to adapt the 75-issue story that was often dismissed as too difficult to get on screen.
As Gaiman once said: “I’d rather see no Sandman movie made than a bad Sandman movie.” Multiple scripts were written throughout the 1990s, there was a TV show in 2010, a film in 2013, an attempted rewrite of that film in 2016 – but none of this means that Netflix’s latest literary project is doomed to fail.
For “unfilmable” is often just code for “we tried and it didn’t happen”, an excuse for all the films trapped in development hell, such as John Milton’s Paradise Lost (Bradley Cooper was once lined up to play a hunky Lucifer), and the long-awaited adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian. “Unfilmable” can also mean “we tried and did a terrible job”. Stephen King’s Dark Tower series is not unfilmable, but the 2017 take starring Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey might make you wish it was. Or the maddening works of William Faulkner, most recently put on screen by actor James Franco, who took time off from insisting he can write novels to ruin someone else’s by directing, adapting and starring in As I Lay Dying in 2013 and The Sound and the Fury in 2015. Or Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged: three films and three terrible decisions came in 2016 when reviews for part one (“sits there flapping on screen like a bludgeoned seal” declared Rolling Stone) did nothing to dissuade the great minds behind it, who turned their backs on the free-market to supply two sequels in the face of no demand. (Part two: “The film’s excruciating unwatchability transcends politics”; part three: “Cut-rate to the point of incoherence.”) And unfilmable can even apply to books that prove to be brilliant on camera: the new TV show of Joseph Heller’s Catch–22, the Wachowski sisters’ take on David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas, Paul Thomas Anderson’s 2015 film of Thomas Pynchon’s Inherent Vice.…’
Via The Guardian
’Scientists in Florida have detected the largest seaweed bloom in the world. Extending from the Gulf of Mexico to the African coast, the unusually large bloom is threatening marine life and coastal regions, with the researchers warning it’s likely a sign of things to come.
New research published today in Science describes the Great Atlantic Sargassum Belt (GASB)—the largest single expanse of macroalgae in the world. The enormous belt of seaweed is composed of floating, photosynthetic brown algae, called Sargassum. The authors of the new study, led by Chuanmin Hu from the College of Marine Science at the University of South Florida, attributed the unusually large bloom to both human-causes and natural processes, saying such “recurrent blooms may become the new normal.”…’
’Where is the sustained outrage? Why aren’t there constant protests all over the country with each new abomination that comes to light? In short, why aren’t we doing more about all of this?
To be clear, when I say “we,” I’m not talking about those who are unfazed by these developments or inexplicably think it’s all okay. I’m talking about the millions of Americans who find all of it abhorrent and despicable and yet just go on living their lives…’
’Our nation’s massive ignorance and lack of curiosity have led us into crisis. Are we smart enough to survive it?…’
‘In recent weeks, the NRA has seen everything from a failed coup attempt to the departure of its longtime political architect to embarrassing tales of self-dealing by top leaders. The turmoil is fueling fears that the organization will be profoundly diminished heading into the election, leaving the Republican Party with a gaping hole in its political machinery….’
The collapse of the NRA would be good enough news to counteract the collapse of MAD Magazine…
‘It’s almost exactly a year ago, to the day, that I got a little angry, and wrote an essay called “Do Americans Understand They’re Beginning to Commit the Legal Definition of Genocide?” The point of my essay, though, wasn’t just to point out that the unthinkable was happening here: it was to warn that even worse was to come, unless that much was taken lethally seriously. So where are we now — exactly a year later? Are we doing any better — or are we doing worse?…’
‘No more climbing mountains for me. There are more interesting views in the foothills….’
Via Austin Kleon
’Researchers at the Center for Quantum Nanoscience (QNS) within the Institute for Basic Science (IBS) at Ewha Womans University have made a major scientific breakthrough by performing the world’s smallest magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). In an international collaboration with colleagues from the U.S., QNS scientists used their new technique to visualize the magnetic field of single atoms.…’
In their heyday prior to getting more poppy in the ’70’s, Quicksilver was the hidden gem in the San Francisco psychedelic holy trinity along with the better-known and longer-lived Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane. I have always been wistful that I never got to see them perform their intricate ‘snake music’ live (they were not at Woodstock, unlike the Dead and the Airplane). I could listen to the ecstatic sinuous interweave between Cipollina and Duncan forever. My commute to work lasts almost exactly long enough to play the “Who Do You Love?” suite from “Happy Trails” start to finish.
’We’ve seen it happen too many times. A person calls 911 to report a disturbance next door or out in the street. The police show up. Things go awry and the police shoot the person at the center of the disturbance — and it turns out that the person had a mental health issue.
According to the Treatment Advocacy Center, a Virginia-based nonprofit working to improve access to mental health treatment, at least one in four people killed by the police in the US has a serious mental health problem. Stories of these police killings have been in the headlines over the past few months, with anguished family members decrying officers’ violence toward their loved ones.
There’s got to be a better way to handle 911 calls.
Some people say there is: Instead of sending police to deal with non-criminal emergencies, why not send mental health experts?…’
Via 3 Quarks Daily
’How can you know that any animal, other human beings, or anything that seems conscious, isn’t just faking it? Does it enjoy an internal subjective experience, complete with sensations and emotions like hunger, joy, or sadness? After all, the only consciousness you can know with certainty is your own. Everything else is inference. The nature of consciousness makes it by necessity a wholly private affair.
These questions are more than philosophical. As intelligent digital assistants, self-driving cars and other robots start to proliferate, are these AIs actually conscious or just seem like it? Or what about patients in comas – how can doctors know with any certainty what kind of consciousness is or is not present, and prescribe treatment accordingly?
In my work, often with with psychologist Jonathan Schooler at the University of California, Santa Barbara, we’re developing a framework for thinking about the many different ways to possibly test for the presence of consciousness.…’
Via The Conversation
’Whether or not fish feel pain has been debated for years. But the balance of evidence says yes. Now the question is, what do we do about it?…’
’Physicist Eugene Paul Wigner predicted more than 80 years ago that hydrogen, the most abundant element in the universe, could turn into an electricity-conducting solid metal at the right temperature and pressure. Scientists have spent decades since attempting to synthesize this material—and may have finally done so.
A team of researchers in France has posted a paper on the arXiv physics preprint server describing their observation of metallic hydrogen under pressures greater than those inside Earth’s core. Several times, other researchers have claimed to discover this phase of matter, claims that are generally met with varying levels of skepticism. But some experts think that this newest claim could be the real deal.
Metallic hydrogen is exactly what it sounds like—a state of the element hydrogen where it has the properties of a metal. The substance should “indisputably” exist, according to the new paper, thanks to something called quantum confinement: restrict electrons’ motion enough, and the electronic and optical properties of the material change thanks to the rules of quantum mechanics. At high enough pressures, any insulator should become a conductive metal, according to the paper; oxygen becomes a metal at 100 GPa, around a million times the pressure of Earth’s air at sea level, for example.
The discovery of metallic hydrogen would be exciting for a few reasons. Of course, it would prove experimentally that the material existed. It might transmit electricity without heating up, meaning it would be a superconductor, perhaps even a room-temperature superconductor. That’s another long-sought goal of physicists and could revolutionize electronics. Further, such a metal might fill the centers of massive planets like Jupiter, so being able to create it here on Earth could help us learn more about those planets.…’
’It happens unexpectedly: a person long thought lost to the ravages of dementia, unable to recall the events of their lives or even recognize those closest to them, will suddenly wake up and exhibit surprisingly normal behavior, only to pass away shortly thereafter. This phenomenon, which experts refer to as terminal or paradoxical lucidity, has been reported since antiquity, yet there have been very few scientific studies of it. That may be about to change.
In an article published in the August issue of Alzheimer’s & Dementia, an interdisciplinary workgroup convened by the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) National Institute on Aging and led by Michigan Medicine’s George A. Mashour, M.D., Ph.D., outlines what is known and unknown about paradoxical lucidity, considers its potential mechanisms, and details how a thorough scientific analysis could help shed light on the pathophysiology of dementia.…’
’An international team of experts argues that better care for people experiencing their first manic episode is urgently needed and that more research needs to go into treatment solutions for bipolar disorder.
In a new paper, published in The Lancet Psychiatry journal, the authors describe patchy and inconsistent care, widespread failure to detect bipolar disorder early enough, and a lack of guidance on how to treat people experiencing mania for the first time.…’
As a practicing psychiatrist, I’d like to suggest that the approach of this ‘international team of experts’ may be faulty. This may have something to do with the divide between clinicians and the academic psychiatric pundits, who I would venture to say see far fewer real-world patients.
Bipolar disorder is a condition that can only be properly diagnosed by observing and understanding the longitudinal course of the patient’s presentation over time. Thinking you know what is going on when you take the snapshot view at a moment in time is immensely problematic. It may be clear at the time of a ‘first manic episode’ that a person’s condition declares itself as bipolar disorder but not necessarily. It is often not clear even when faced with the patient in front of you in the moment that what they are experiencing is a manic episode. The symptoms they might display, possibly suggestive of mania — increased energy, decreased sleep, loquaciousness, ambition and confidence, brightening of mood, irritability, agitation and raciness, perhaps some telltale psychotic symptoms — could also be indicative of a number of other illnesses or temperaments when taken in isolation.
‘Better care for people experiencing their first manic episode’ is often not possible precisely because it is not prudent or sometimes not even possible to diagnose it as mania. The mindset of the rapid rush to judgment embodied in the article has arguably played a large part in the epidemic over\diagnosis of bipolar disorder and concomitant rush to overtreatment, to the detriment of our patients.
What to imagine when imagining aliens:
‘The remarkable distributed nervous system of the octopus is discussed at an astrobiology conference….’
Via Big Think
‘Besides being bilionaires and spending much of their fortunes to promote pet causes, the leftist financier George Soros and the right-wing Koch brothers have little in common. They could be seen as polar opposites. Soros is an old-fashioned New Deal liberal. The Koch brothers are fire-breathing right-wingers who dream of cutting taxes and dismantling government. Now they have found something to agree on: the United States must end its “forever war” and adopt an entirely new foreign policy.
In one of the most remarkable partnerships in modern American political history, Soros and the Koch brothers are joining to finance a new foreign-policy think tank in Washington. It will promote an approach to the world based on diplomacy and restraint rather than threats, sanctions, and bombing. This is a radical notion in Washington, where every major think tank promotes some variant of neocon militarism or liberal interventionism. Soros and the Koch brothers are uniting to revive the fading vision of a peaceable United States. …’
Via The Boston Globe
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’The ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica are remnants of the ice age. They’re also the wild cards of climate science.…’
Via Big Think
‘A tentative Supreme Court term ends. Liberals should brace themselves for the next one.…’
’Several things can be true at once. Without the handicap of sexism, Clinton probably would have won a race that was essentially decided by a rounding error. Misogyny will work against the next female presidential candidate. And yet the people best positioned to lead the Democratic Party are women.
After all, every candidate will have something to overcome. Sanders would have to deal with widespread fear of socialism. Biden demonstrated again on Thursday that he’s ill-equipped to justify much of his long record in public life. Sexism is a disadvantage but it’s not the only one.…’
Via New York Times
’…even by Mr. Trump’s dismal standards, his performance this week before the G-20 summit in Osaka, Japan, should take everyone’s breath away. More than yet another demonstration of his erratic behavior, this was also an object lesson in the dangers of his context-free hostility to the world beyond the United States.
Before arriving in Japan, Mr. Trump had reportedly been musing about withdrawing the United States from the security treaty with Japan signed in 1951 and revised in 1960 — the cornerstone of the alliance between the United States and Japan and a pillar of American foreign policy. On Wednesday, asked about the treaty on Fox News, Mr. Trump sneered, “If Japan is attacked, we will fight World War III.” Then he added: “But if we’re attacked, Japan doesn’t have to help us at all. They can watch it on a Sony television.”
Mr. Trump’s comment demonstrates a strategic cluelessness and historical ignorance that would disqualify a person from even a modest desk job at the State Department.
Though Mr. Trump implied that the security treaty favors Japan, it was largely dictated by the United States.…’
Via New York Times
’Predictive Processing and the Nature of Conscious Experience A Conversation with Andy Clark…’
’Over the course of his career, former FBI agent and behavioral analyst John E. Douglas has interviewed criminals ranging from repeated hijacker Garrett Trapnell and cult leader Charles Manson to serial killers Edmund Kemper (a.k.a. the Co-Ed Killer) and Dennis Rader (a.k.a. B.T.K.). In his new book, The Killer Across the Table, Douglas takes readers into the room as he interviews four very different offenders.…’
Via Mental Floss
’In the bizarre world of vanishings and people who have seemingly ceased to exist there is the phenomenon of whole groups of people or towns that have just sort of evaporated out of existence with no real known reason. To think that a whole population of people could just disappear without a trace is a sobering thought, leading to much speculation on what could possible be at the root of such mass vanishings, and it is a topic I have covered here before. One very curious such account that has popped up in recent times has to do with a rural village in a remote area of China, which supposedly just blinked out of existence one day to leave stories of strangeness and conspiracies in its wake.
Located in a region of Central China is the province of Shaanxi, which stretches over 79,151 sq mi and encompasses the majestic Wei Valley, the Loess Plateau, the Ordos Desert, and the Qinling Mountains. Here there once supposedly stood a rural village much like many others like it that dot the region, with nothing particularly out of the ordinary or exceptional about it other than its proximity to a rocket launch center, but it would suddenly begin making the Chinese news and generating buzz on social media in 2010 when the story came out about how this little village one day just completely vanished off the face of the earth.
According to numerous reports taken from Chinese media, in 1987 it was found that the village had been completely abandoned overnight. There was apparently not a soul remaining of the estimated population of 1,000, and every single man, woman, child, and even all of the town’s livestock and pets were simply gone without a trace. Apparently there were no signs of how they had even gotten out of there, and the homes all seemed as if they had been very rapidly vacated, with meals set out and belongings left behind. All very mysterious and spooky indeed, but it would apparently get even weirder still.…’
’“He lost the election, and he was put into office because the Russians interfered on his behalf.”…’
’The American Civil Liberties Union released internal NSA memos received under a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit revealing that, once again, the NSA improperly collected phone call and text message metadata of US citizens.
A spokesperson for the agency was quick to pin the blame on the telecommunications companies that provided the information:
“While NSA lawfully sought data pertaining to a foreign power engaged in international terrorism, the provider produced inaccurate data and data beyond which NSA sought,” NSA’s media relations chief Greg Julian told The Wall Street Journal.
In other words, “We didn’t want the data we took, and anyway, we were busy catching TERRISTS.…’
Via Boing Boing
’The field that once held hundreds of thousands of scantily clad, mud-soaked spectators is now a verdant meadow intersected by old wooden fences and a parking lot. Some spots have been overtaken by thick vegetation and trees, obscuring important landmarks. The Woodstock site became a protected area in 2017 when it was added to the National Register of Historic Places, but with nature taking its course, the site is beginning to show the passage of time—and by consequence, is attracting the interest of conservationists and archaeologists.…’
’Astronauts aboard the International Space Station caught the spectacular eruption of the Raikoke volcano off of Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula over the weekend.
It’s a pretty amazing view. Here’s the entire image:
The image shows the classic shape of a volcanic plume rising, and then ash spreading at the top. It’s surrounded by a ring of white clouds, likely either water vapor condensing out of the air or steam from magma entering the water, Simon Carn, a volcanologist at Michigan Tech, said in a NASA Earth Observatory post. Aircraft and satellite data show that the ash could have reached altitudes of 8 to 10 miles.…’
‘It’s a nightmare scenario: His defeat was “fake news,” and Trump tries to stay in power. Would democracy survive?…’
— Read on Salon
’Scientists spotted an elusive giant squid in its deep-ocean habitat in American waters for the first time. These titanic, whale-battling beasts are rarely seen, so this sighting is a thrill for biologists and regular folk alike.
Giant squids are 30- to 43-foot cephalopods that inhabit the ocean at depths of 980 to 3,280 feet, where pressures are high and very little sunlight penetrates. Plenty of other strange beasts inhabit this realm, but the giant squid has long been the subject of myth, given its enormous size and the fact that dead ones occasionally wash up on shore.
The squid is not often seen alive in its natural habitat. Scientist Edie Widder, founder of the Ocean Research and Conservation Association (ORCA), developed the camera that first filmed a giant squid near Japan’s Ogasawara archipelago in 2013. Last week, on an expedition in the Gulf of Mexico 100 miles south of New Orleans, scientist Nathan Robinson was watching footage taken by Widder’s Medusa system when a giant squid came along and attacked the camera’s fake jellyfish (actually a ring of lights), according to a NOAA field log. It was their fifth attempt to use the Medusa system to attempt to spot the beast in those waters.…’
’Many of us are feeling some combination of despair, outrage, and shock at reports of the conditions at the U.S. southern border. It’s devastating to learn that our government is separating children from their families, cramming people into overcrowded detention cells, and preventing refugees from accessing basic necessities like food, soap, and clean clothing. If you’re asking yourself what you can do to protest the inhumane treatment of individuals and families seeking asylum in the United States, here are some actions you can take right now.…’
Umair Haque wrote:
‘It’s almost exactly a year ago, to the day, that I got a little angry, and wrote an essay called “Do Americans Understand They’re Beginning to Commit the Legal Definition of Genocide?” The point of my essay, though, wasn’t just to point out that the unthinkable was happening here: it was to warn that even worse was to come, unless that much was taken lethally seriously. So where are we now — exactly a year later? Are we doing any better — or are we doing worse? …’
With a whimsical, irregular trunk and flat-topped evergreen leaves, the Monterey cypress in La Jolla, California, that may have inspired the trees in 7he Lorax fatally fell over last week.
— Read on Atlas Obscura
What even more smarmy condescending pitiful bald faced liar waits in the wings?
‘Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, is leaving the Trump administration after a turbulent tenure marked by attacks on the media, dissemination of false information, and the near-disappearance of the daily press briefing…’
— Read at Boston Globe
‘President Trump’s latest comments, during an ABC News interview, indicating that he would consider accepting negative material on political opponents from foreign governments, and that he wouldn’t necessarily report the contact to the FBI, are just the latest in a long line of counterintelligence red flags. Trump said, “There isn’t anything wrong with listening.”…’
— Read on CNN
Those of you with more common family names, or with appreciable extended families, may have a hard time seeing the point of this post. But, as I’ve noted before, there are very very few Gelwans. I have always wondered, or you might even say obsessed about, how/if those people with the Gelwan surname I do find are related to me. I have very little in the way of extended family; I envy those who do and thirst for deeper family connection, especially so that my children might come to feel embedded in a broader web. It becomes poignant each year around the holidays, which I imagine you all celebrate with enormous extended family gatherings while we have the four of us around the dinner table.
I subscribe to a Google alert for new ‘Gelwan’ references on the web, and once received a link to this page (gendrevo.ru). Alas, the page is now gone from the web. It appeared to me to be from a Russian genealogy site in which survivors post remembrance pages for their relatives who died in the Holocaust. On my paternal side, the generation of immigrants were my grandparents, in the early 20th century; my father’s older siblings and he were born in the U.S. between 1910-1915. I have always assumed that Gelwan was an Ellis Island anglicization of something else and thus that researching my family’s roots would become squirrelly because the family name of anyone related to me might not have precisely the same pronunciation or spelling. As the part of the world from which my ancestors emigrated shifted back and forth between Slavic and Germanic dominance, between Cyrillic and Roman alphabets, so too did the rendering of family names. I would have to pursue the Gelvans, the Gelmans, and even the Hellmans and who knows what else for relatives. [I may have made this up, but I think I learned somewhere along the way that we are actually distantly related to the Hellman’s mayonnaise family…]
The flip side of that coin is of course that literal ‘Gelwans’ might not be related to me. For example, I found through Googling traces of a Deborah Gelwan who was in the public relations industry in Sao Paulo, Brazil who is referred to on the web. Deborah now lives in Orlando FL and runs a couple of businesses. Maybe I’ll get to see her someday.
When I was a child, a Brazilian tourist with the last name Gelwan, possibly from the same family as Deborah, arrived on our doorstep, having looked up Gelwan in the phonebooks on arriving in New York City. It appears that my parents and the visitor determined that it was unlikely we were related (although I cannot imagine how they did this, as my parents spoke no Portugese and rumor has it this visitor spoke no English). Deborah and I are now Facebook friends but we have not established a family relationship. And there are traces of other Gelwans in Brazil as well. I would at least love to figure out if these South American Gelwans descended from Eastern European immigrants. I am aware that eastern European Jews did go to South America in the diasporas, but I am not sure about Brazil per se.
Similarly, I have reached out to Gelwans in Lebanon — a Claude Gelwan was there but apparently now lives in France — and Iraq but I doubt we are related. It appears to me that Gelwan is a transliteration of a first name, not a family name, in Iraq.
I have discovered several other Gelwans in the New York area where I grew up. Interestingly enough I have long been aware of two brothers, physicians as I am: Jeffrey, a gastroenterologist and Mark, an ophthalmologist. In years past we spoke by phone but cannot establish a common background. I assumed that it might merely be an accident that we share our name, that Gelwan might be a final common pathway of anglicization from diverse unrelated family names in eastern Europe.
Similarly, there is a pharmacist in Brooklyn named Steven Gelwan, who never answered an email from me. Maya Gambarin-Gelwan, I think Steven’s spouse, is yet another New York area physician, at Memorial Sloan-Kettering, with a number of scholarly publications. Never heard from her either. There is a Rebecca Gelwan (my late mother’s name by marriage) who studies, or studied, law in Pennsylvania and posts alot of photos and videos of her new baby (congratulations on the newest Gelwan!) but, again, I can’t figure that we are direct relatives. Along with my brother, that’s two Gelwan attorneys. Elise Gelwan, I learn, graduated from medical school at the University of Connecticut. Yet another physician Gelwan! There is a Sam or Sami Gelwan (I think they are the same person) in the New York area as well. If I mention all these names in this post, they may get hits when people vanity-search themselves, and they may get in touch, I hope.
LinkedIn, from which I resigned long ago, has thirteen ‘Gelwan’ profiles, including some of the aforementioned but also a Brazilian photographer Jacob Gelwan, and a Miriam Gelwan in Argentina. A Samantha Gelwan is/was a student at Indiana University in Bloomington. A Mohammed Gelwan is an engineer in Egypt.
From time to time I see passenger manifests listing Gelwans who disembarked at Ellis Island in the late 19th or early 20th centuries. I have found the arrival records of my grandfather’s two sisters and alot of other mysterious Gelwans. But where do I go from there? Some 19th century records show Gelwans emigrating from Ireland to Manitoba, but I cannot find Canadian Gelwans today.
I was told that my family originated in Riga, Latvia. Given that, I’ve written to Vladimir, or Wladimir, Gelwan, who I learned was the principal dancer in the Latvian National Ballet and who now runs a ballet school in Berlin, suggesting that we may be related, but have never gotten a reply back. I have seen a picture of Vladimir Gelwan on the web and can even imagine a certain family resemblance, although he’s certainly got the dancer’s grace that I do not. I’m determined to try and drop in on him when next in Berlin. [Do I have any readers in or near Berlin?]
What is it, by the way, with these nonresponses? I don’t know, maybe it’s just me, but a message from afar suggesting the writer might be my relative, with such a rare name, would immediately pique my interest and would surely get a response. Do you think recipients might have worried that my messages represented some kind of con? I don’t want anything from them except connectedness. Is that the problem right there?
Given the waves of upheaval that repeatedly washed over eastern Europe in the 20th century, with ever-changing political hegemony over various regions, large scale displacement of populations, the Holocaust, the destruction of records, the changing of names, etc., conventional genealogical research is not possible. It is not as if there is an established family tree, with records waiting around for the taking, as is the case for many families with western European origins. My father’s older brother, now deceased, once returned to eastern Europe to try to find some of our roots. Despite a reputation for being extremely resourceful, he apparently had no success at all. Lamentably, I cannot find any notes from his research; otherwise I (acknowledged as someone with no lack of resourcefulness myself!) might pick up the trail where he left off, despite the passage of time having added fifty further years of obfuscation.
It has been a little (not much) easier to find information about my mother’s ancestors. She herself, as a young child, emigrated with her family in the 1920’s from Eastern Europe. Several years ago, my son and I visited the small out-of-the-way town of her origin looking for indications of her family, armed with notes from a maternal uncle of mine who had made a similar trip decades before and retracing his steps. Unfortunately (probably because they were a Jewish family), the town hall and the burial grounds held no traces; the Nazis had razed the Jewish cemetery. I discovered when I visited the site that my uncle had been the one to fund the reassembly of the smashed fragments of gravestones into a monument there. There were no Jews left but a non-Jew who lived adjacent to the site of the burial ground kept the key, tended the grounds and let Jewish visitors into the site to see the monument.
My son and I did see the house where my mother had been born; eerily, we had by coincidence parked our rental car right in front of it when we had entered the town center.
We learned that, because of their persecution, the entire family hid from the authorities behind a falsified family name for several generations. Interestingly, that was the same name as a boss of mine, whose family I knew originated from the same region. Instead of being intrigued when I mentioned my discovery to him when I returned from my Eastern European trip, he scoffed. (I think he was appalled at the possibility that we were related.)
I am on Ancestry.com (here is a link to what I know so far of my family tree) and Ancestry keeps notifying me that they’ve discovered someone who is probably a third or fourth cousin. None of the family trees I’ve been directed to seem to intermesh so far. (I wonder how many third or fourth cousins a person has, on average…)
If you have a complicated heritage that will not be easy to trace on a geneology research site, my advice is to embark on a project of tracking down and documenting what you can, as soon as you can. It only disappears over time. Your children and their children may appreciate it if information about their mysterious family origins might one day help them find their place in the world in the face of the increasing rootlessness of modern life.
Perhaps one day someone googling their family name will be linked to this post and wonder how they might be related to Eliot Gelwan. Hurry up, Google, crawl this post and index it!
’In fact, the end of civilisations rarely involved a sudden cataclysm or apocalypse. Often the process is protracted, mild, and leaves people and culture continuing for many years.…’
Via Aeon Ideas
I wore out several copies of the first Koerner Ray and Glover album, Blues, Rags and Hollers (1963), and I’m going to spin it up right now…
Approval ratings in key states look bad for 2020 reelection odds:
’…deep underwater in New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Michigan, and other key 2020 states.…’
’President Donald Trump’s state visit to the United Kingdom began with him firing off tweets from Air Force One calling London Mayor Sadiq Khan “a stone cold loser” and culminated with him posting tweets at 1:30 am London time on Wednesday denigrating actress Bette Midler as a “Washed up psycho.”
In between, the president called Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer “a creep” and urged his supporters to boycott AT&T because of his displeasure with how CNN covers him. He also did a television interview with Piers Morgan in which he demonstrated appalling ignorance about climate science and attempted to walk back a comment he’d recently made about Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle being “nasty” — by calling her “nasty” again.
Trump was accompanied to the UK by his adult children and their spouses, despite the fact that only two of them (Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner) actually have official government roles. The New York Times responded by describing the Trump family as “the American answer to British royalty.”
Then, at the end of his three-day state visit, Trump left England to travel to Doonbeg, a tiny coastal town in Ireland that is home to a golf course he still owns and profits from.
Ahead of his arrival in Doonbeg, Trump had a brief meeting in Shannon, Ireland, with Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar. During a photo op, a reporter asked him, “Is this trip for you just about promoting your golf club?”…’
‘In a world whose absurdity appears to be so impenetrable, we simply must reach a greater degree of understanding among men, a greater sincerity. We must achieve this or perish. To do so, certain conditions must be fulfilled: men must be frank (falsehood confuses things), free (communication is impossible with slaves). Finally, they must feel a certain justice around them…’
‘…Spotting a superposition state’s formation predicts oncoming random event…’
via Ars Technica
‘…Microsoft says mandatory password changing is “ancient and obsolete”. Bucking a major trend, company speaks out against the age-old practice….’
via Ars Technica
‘Scientists have shined a light on one of the creepier denizens of the deep sea, a pitch-black creature that can turn itself into a living lamp called the dragonfish. New research helps explain one of the dragonfish’s more disturbing qualities: its relatively gigantic and translucent teeth.
Deep-sea dragonfish, while rarely more than a half-foot long, are at the top of their food chain in their particular niche, much like sharks, bears, and other apex predators. Its superiority is in no small part thanks to a disproportionately huge jaw, which features sharp, fang-like teeth and allows it to swallow prey up to half its size…’
‘…The Oakland City Council on Tuesday voted unanimously to decriminalize magic mushrooms and other psychoactive fungi and plants, ordering law enforcement to stop the prosecution of possession of natural psychedelics. The decision came less than a month after Denver voters approved decriminalization of psilocybin mushrooms, with an initiative that bars the city from using resources to pursue criminal penalties for people over the age of 21 who use or possess psilocybin…
The resolution doesn’t allow for farming or commercial sales of natural psilocybin and clarifies that people who have post-traumatic stress or depression should speak to a doctor before using psilocybin. An amendment also advises that users “don’t go solo” when using psilocybin. The resolution only covers natural psilocybin—not MDMA, LSD, or other synthetic drugs.
As Associated Press points out, psychedelic mushrooms are still illegal under state and federal laws…’
’Apple’s marketing claims about Dark Mode’s benefits fly in the face of the science of human visual perception. Except in extraordinary situations, Dark Mode is not easy on the eyes, in any way. The human eyes and brain prefer dark-on-light, and reversing that forces them to work harder to read text, parse controls, and comprehend what you’re seeing.
It may be hip and trendy, but put bluntly, Dark Mode likely makes those who turn it on slower and less productive. Here’s why, if you adopted Dark Mode purely because Apple promoted it as the new hotness, you should think hard about switching back to the Light Mode that your eyes and brain prefer in System Preferences > General.…’
’Trump hasn’t made a blatant lunge for dictatorial power. But his intermittent impulses toward autocracy have made it necessary for advisers, Congress and courts to contain him.
He argued during his campaign for the efficacy of torture and prosecuting his opponent, Hillary Clinton. He has threatened media whose coverage he found insufficiently admiring, and tried to suppress the Trump-damning book “Fire and Fury.”
He proposed an un-American religious test for immigrants and refugees to ban Muslims; infected the body politic with nepotistic and business-crony appointees; shrugs off Russian meddling in our elections; and discussed a mass roundup-cum-deportation of illegal immigrants…
To top it off, the president plays fawning footsie with real dictators.…’
Via WBUR Cognoscenti
Related: How America could become a dictatorship (Google search)