Uncategorized

How ‘Dutch Trump’ Geert Wilders Won by Losing the Netherlands Vote

‘Dutch far-right politician Geert Wilders lost by a significant margin in Wednesday’s elections, but his brother said the Netherlands shouldn’t be too quick to celebrate: Losing was exactly what Wilders wanted. And, although his Dutch Freedom Party (PVV) was overtaken by the ruling center-right People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD), Wilders still poses a grave threat.

In fact, according to Paul Wilders, losing the bid to become prime minister may be the optimal electoral outcome for Geert, who has campaigned on a platform of leaving the European Union, tolerating “fewer Moroccans,” imposing a “head rag tax” on hijab-wearing women, and paying settled Muslims to leave the Netherlands—promises on which it would be difficult to deliver…’

Source: The Atlantic

Uncategorized

Senator Feinstein Just Hinted Trump Is Headed Towards Impeachment

“Well, we have a lot of people working at this. Technical people. And I think he’s gonna get himself out. I think sending sons to another country to make a financial deal for his company and then have that covered with government expenses — I think those government expenses should not be allowed… We are working on a bill that will do that now. We’re working on a couple of bills that would deal with conflict of interest. It’s difficult because this is a field that relates to some extent to the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution. And there’s no preceding legislation to do this. But we’ve got good people looking at it. And we’re going to some of the ethicists along the line.I’ve been doing what I do for a long time and I’ve never seen anything like this.”

Source: Occupy!

Uncategorized

A Tweet, a Strobe and a Seizure. Now, an Arrest.

‘When the journalist Kurt Eichenwald opened an animated image sent to him on Twitter last December, the message “You deserve a seizure for your posts” appeared in capital letters along with a blinding strobe light. Mr. Eichenwald, who has epilepsy, has said he immediately suffered a seizure.

On Friday, the F.B.I. said it had arrested and charged a man for sending the electronic file, though the agency did not immediately release the suspect’s name or specify the criminal charges.

The unusual case has shown how online tools can be deployed as weapons capable of physical harm. Mr. Eichenwald said the attacker used the strobe light knowing that the visual elements were likely to lead Mr. Eichenwald, who has publicly discussed his epilepsy, into a seizure.

Steven Lieberman, Mr. Eichenwald’s lawyer, has argued that the use of the strobe light in a GIF, or moving graphic, was akin to sending an explosive or poison in the mail.’

Source: New York Times

Uncategorized

Stop Social Media Strip Searches

‘Homeland Security officials have started asking people to unlock their phones and computers and log into their social media accounts at routine border crossings, and Congress could make that practice permanent.

We need to stop this threat to our basic privacy rights before handing over all of your most personal information becomes as commonplace as removing your shoes to fly.

Let’s draw a line — sign the urgent petition: “Demanding warrantless access to our phones and computers at the border is an invasion of privacy and weakens our security. Ban this practice immediately.” …’

Source: New rules at the airport could force you to hand over your phone and passwords

Uncategorized

Physicists Are Closing in on Intriguing Evidence For a Fifth Force Of Nature

The idea that inertial and gravitational mass are the same is known as the weak equivalence principle. It became a crucial issue when Einstein formulated his theory of general relativity around 1912-16, which rested on the central idea that the acceleration caused by gravity is the same as the acceleration of an object subject to the same force in free space. If that’s not true, general relativity won’t work.“

The equivalence principle is one of the basic assumptions of general relativity,” says Stephan Schlamminger, who works at the Mecca of high-precision measurement, the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Gaithersburg, Maryland. “As such, it should be thoroughly tested. Tests of the equivalence principle are relatively cheap and simple, but could have a huge impact if a violation was found. It would be careless not to perform these experiments.

”If the weak equivalence principle fails, then there are two possibilities. Either Newton’s expression for the force of gravity between two masses (which is also what general relativity predicts if gravity and speeds are not extreme) is slightly inaccurate and needs tweaking. Or gravity might be fine as it stands—but there might be a new, fifth force that makes it look different. That fifth force would add to the four we already know to exist: gravity, electromagnetism, and the strong and weak nuclear forces that govern the interactions of subatomic particles inside atomic nuclei.

Whether we think about “modified gravity” or a fifth force is, says Fischbach, in the end just a semantic distinction. Either way, says Feng, there is “no reason at all that there can’t be a fifth force that we have not noticed until now.”

Source: Nautilus

Uncategorized

The secret plan for the days after the Queen’s death

‘The Queen is Britain’s last living link with our former greatness – the nation’s id, its problematic self-regard – which is still defined by our victory in the second world war. One leading historian, who like most people I interviewed for this article declined to be named, stressed that the farewell for this country’s longest-serving monarch will be magnificent. “Oh, she will get everything,” he said. “We were all told that the funeral of Churchill was the requiem for Britain as a great power. But actually it will really be over when she goes.” …’

Source: The Guardian

In any case, if you hear Sabres of Paradise’s Haunted Dancehall playing on the radio, go to a news source immediately.

Uncategorized

The Oxford comma: A Maine court settled the grammar debate over serial commas with a ruling on overtime pay for dairy-truck drivers 

As an Oxford commadian, I consider this an important victory.

‘A Maine court ruling in a case about overtime pay and dairy delivery didn’t come down to trucks, milk, or money. Instead, it hinged on one missing comma.Delivery drivers for local milk and cream company Oakhurst Dairy have been tussling with their employers over whether they qualify for overtime. On March 13, a US court of appeals determined that certain clauses of Maine’s overtime laws are grammatically ambiguous. Because of that lack of clarity, the five drivers won their appeal and were found eligible for unpaid overtime. The case now can be heard in a lower court.

The profoundly nerdy ruling is also a win for anyone who dogmatically defends the serial comma…’

Source: Quartz

 

Uncategorized

Trump goes feral on Muslim ban ruling, vows to destroy 9th Circuit court, crowds: “Lock Her Up!”

‘Donald Trump reacted to a Hawaii court’s smackdown on his “watered-down” (his words) travel ban with a full-on fascist rant in Tennessee, where he rallied the crowds into screaming “lock her up” about Hillary Clinton, then attacked the U.S. judicial system.

…In a rambling speech, President Trump called revised travel ban `unprecedented judicial overreach,’ and more or less vowed to destroy the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit…’

Source: Boing Boing

Uncategorized

Rare Nuclear Test Films Saved, Declassified, and Uploaded to YouTube

‘From 1945 until 1962, the United States conducted 210 atmospheric nuclear tests—the kind with the big mushroom cloud and all that jazz. Above-ground nuke testing was banned in 1963, but there are thousands of films from those tests that have just been rotting in secret vaults around the country. But starting today you can see many of them on YouTube.

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) weapon physicist Greg Spriggs has made it his mission to preserve these 7,000 known films, many of them literally decomposing while they’re still classified and hidden from the public.

According to LLNL, this 5-year project has been tremendously successful, with roughly 4,200 films already scanned and around 750 of those now declassified. Sixty-four of the declassified films have been uploaded today in what Spriggs is calling an “initial set.” …’

Source: Gizmodo

Uncategorized

Creepiness

big-eye-girl-and-boys-1There has been very little writing or research about this experience. A recent study is the only one you will find if you Google the topic. It seems to find creepiness to be a variant of anxiety and bases the distinction between the creepy and the anxiety-provoking largely on the ambiguity, as opposed to the certainty, of the threat in the former. A recent episode of the podcast Stuff to Blow Your Mind dissected the concept of the creep and took a similar tack.

I was surprised that it never mentions another deeply innate aversive emotion distinct from fear or anxiety — namely disgust or repulsion, which I think plays a part in the experience of creepiness which cannot be ignored.

Let’s start with the ‘origin myth’. The concept of creepiness may have arisen from a visceral experience. Someone or something is creepy if it “gives us the creeps.” This sensation is distinct from the visceral experience of fear, which involves autonomic arousal. When we are creeped out, we are not merely afraid. As I experience it, creepiness combines the spine-tingling and the sickening or queasy. It is not simply a variant of fear, but somewhere between fear and disgust and, I would argue, often much closer to the latter.

There are various reasons we find something aversive. If it presents a threat to our safety or bodily integrity, it stimulates anxiety and the ‘fight or flight’ syndrome. Regardless of whether it is a definite danger or merely one of sufficient likelihood, it stimulates the same reaction. There is no different emotional experience associated with an ambiguous threat, if it crosses some probability threshold of threat assessment. Thus, on its own, I find the idea that the distinction between the fearful and the creepy is based merely on the ambiguity of the threat an insufficient explanation.

In contrast, disgust operates to make us avoid those things that might make us physically ill rather than those that might simply harm or injure us. Ulike fear, disgust is protecting us against our own appetites. A food or a sexual encounter is pleasant, but if we are not protected by disgust we will not avoid creepy foods or sexual encounters which might sicken us. Sexual violence is violence done to us in the course of an act we are otherwise prone to enjoy, whereas the same is not true of nonsexual violence like a mugging. That is the sense in which the threat when we are repulsed by something is ambiguous, because our aversion is struggling with our own appetite or attraction in a way it does not when we are simply afraid of something.

Disgust is a distinct experience from fear, serves a distinct purpose, and developed evolutionarily as a distinct mechanism with a distinct neurobiology. In several psychological typologies of basic emotion, e.g. those of Robert Plutchik or Paul Rozin, disgust is distinct from other emotions such as fear, anger and sadness; it is a different archetypical emotion. Paul Ekman says that it invokes a distinct and characteristic facial expression, one of the universal facial expressions of emotion. Physiologically, while fear causes tachycardia and hypertension, disgust drops the heart rate and blood pressure. Changes in skin conductance and respiratory control differentiate the two states as well.

Functional MRI studies have correlated the experience of disgust with the activation of the anterior insula, quite distinct from fear, whose neural correlates include various cortical regions and the amygdala. Lesions of the anterior insula lead to deficiencies in experiencing disgust and also in recognizing it in others. It would be interesting to do fMRI studies of subjects exposed to something they find creepy and see if the consequent neural activation is closer to the fear experience or the disgust experience.

Behavioral studies have found that disgust is elicited, across cultures, by: bodily products and secretions; spoiled foods; disease-bearing animals; visible dirt; violations of the body envelope (blood, gore, mutilation); visible signs of infection or bodily distortion; death and decay. The aversion to pathogens inspired by disgust has been referred to as the behavioral element of the body’s immune system, causing us to avoid contracting disease or contamination rather than having to fight it once infected or contaminated.

In the zombie oeuvre, doesn’t the zombie become creepier and creepier the more decayed and disgusting s/he is? The reanimated newly dead, at first, are merely threatening, not creepy.

Social norms function to protect us from harm, and there are distinct but equally important social norms against both* violent antisocial behavior* and against uncleanliness and disease. The threateningly creepy person, as opposed to the merely threatening one, threatens to violate different social norms which have more to do with contamination and impurity than merely dangerous antisocial behaviors. These are an important, if covert, source of many of our social mores, as argued forcefully in Mary Douglas’ masterful Purity and Danger. Disgust thus has a role in enforcing certain forms of morality. Disgust functions to apply to social contaminants as well as physical ones, inspiring social avoidance as well as other aversions. We shun or expel the moral reprobate much as we avoid a physically disgusting stimulus like a pool of vomit. We refer to criminals with such terms as “slime” or “scum.” The creep, I would argue, is someone who inspires moral disgust.

Some of the cultural differences in what is disgusting — and what is found creepy — can thus obviously be seen in terms of the distinct social norms across cultures. It is perhaps no accident, from this point of view, that the ostracized lowest class in Indian society are “untouchable.” Creepiness may entail a flavor of ethnic otherness. This should be seen in light of the danger of impurity — often, the ethnic other has been seen as unclean and diseased. (If greasy hair is seen as the creep’s attribute, it is because his appearance inspires disgust of his dirtiness and potential disease, I would argue. ) Indeed, research has shown that people more sensitive to disgust tend to make stricter moral judgments. They find their social in-group more attractive and have more negative attitudes toward others. Interestingly, in some studies people of different political persuasions have different fMRI activity patterns in response to disgusting images even if reporting similar conscious reactions to the images. In one study, the reaction to a single image could predict a person’s political persuasion with 95% accuracy.

FMRI studies also show that, when viewing images of people from stigmatized groups that inspire disgust (homeless, drug addicts), subjects have reciprocally reduced activation of brain regions associated with the experience of empathy. Stereotyping, xenophobia, and dehumanizing of the outsider may be based on the neurology of disgust or creepiness. Ethicist Martha Nussbaum, for example (From Disgust to Humanity), argues that the “politics of disgust” supports sexism, racism and antisemitism and that disgust is employed to enforce oppression. She and others argue that it is urgent that reactions of disgust to social others be rebutted.

Women more often react to others as creepy. Studies have shown that women generally report greater disgust than men as well, especially regarding sexual disgust. Interestingly, disgust rises during pregnancy, perhaps mediated by increasing levels of progesterone. (Do innate differences in sensitivity to disgust correlate with progesterone levels even in nonpregnant individuals?) Some have conjectured that this behavioral avoidance (“behavioral immunity”) is a compensation for the pregnant mother’s need to dial down her immune system so as not to attack or reject the embryo. As the immune system is weakened, disgust becomes a more important line of defense.

Uncategorized

Matt Damon Reads Howard Zinn’s “The Problem is Civil Obedience,” a Call for Americans to Take Action

‘Say, for example, that a gang of obscenely rich mercenaries with questionable ties and histories had taken power with the intent to destroy institutions so they could loot the country, further impoverish and disempower the citizenry, and prosecute, imprison, and demonize dissidents and ethnic and religious minorities. Such a scenario would cry out, one might think, for civil action on a never-before-seen scale. Millions, one might imagine, would either storm the castle or refuse to obey the commands of their new rulers. We might describe this situation as a topsy-turvy turn of events, should, say, such an awful thing come to pass. Topsy-turvy is exactly the phrase Howard Zinn used in his characterization of the U.S. during the Vietnam War, when he saw a situation like the one above, one that had also obtained, he said, in Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Russia.’

Source: Open Culture

Uncategorized

Spicer: Trump didn’t mean wiretapping when he tweeted about wiretapping

‘The White House on Monday walked back a key point of President Donald Trump’s unsubstantiated allegation that President Barack Obama wiretapped his phones in Trump Tower during the 2016 election.

Namely, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Trump wasn’t referring to wiretapping when he tweeted about wiretapping.

“I think there’s no question that the Obama administration, that there were actions about surveillance and other activities that occurred in the 2016 election,” Spicer said. “The President used the word wiretaps in quotes to mean, broadly, surveillance and other activities.”

6 days later, no more clarity from Trump on wiretapping claimsWiretapping is a narrowly defined surveillance activity that involves tapping into “a telephone or telegram wire in order to get information,” according to Merriam-Webster dictionary.

Spicer also said that Trump was referring to the Obama administration broadly — and not accusing Obama of personal involvement — when he tweeted that “Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower” and accused Obama of being a “bad” or “sick guy.” …’

Source: CNNPolitics.com

Uncategorized

Diet Reduces Risk of Postpartum Depression

‘A dietary supplement kit, created to counter mood-altering brain changes linked to depression, virtually eliminated the “baby blues” among women in a new study at Toronto’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH).

Postpartum blues are common among women after giving birth. However, when severe, they substantially increase the risk of clinically diagnosed postpartum depression, which affects 13 per cent of new mothers and is the most common complication of child-bearing.The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), was led by Dr. Jeffrey Meyer, who heads the Neuroimaging Program in Mood & Anxiety in CAMH’s Campbell Family Mental Health Research Institute.

The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), was led by Dr. Jeffrey Meyer, who heads the Neuroimaging Program in Mood & Anxiety in CAMH’s Campbell Family Mental Health Research Institute…’

Source: Neuroscience News

Uncategorized

An Artist Turned NYC’s ‘See Something, Say Something’ Ads Into a Powerful Commentary on Fear

More power to you, from one hater of the “See something…” messages to another:

‘It’s easy to be paranoid in 2017. We’ve got Wikileaks telling us just how much power the CIA has over our devices. We have a government pretending Russia did not, and is not, hacking our political system. And on the ground, racism and implicit bias have fueled a spike in hate crimes—resulting in the deaths of brown and black people across the country.

But there’s a difference between fear and vigilance, and only one works in our favor as a democratic country. Fear drives people to react—pull the trigger, scapegoat entire communities, describe the wrong suspect. Vigilance, on the other hand, assumes that power belongs to the people, and places a magnifying glass on any loopholes in that process.

A New York City’s artist drove that message home in a two-car installation. The artist, The Gothamist reported, altered the usual “If You See Something, Say Something” message with some fine print: “Stay awake, not afraid. Scared people are easy to manipulate. #Resist.” Another one says, “Call your representatives. Tell them you’re watching.” …’

Source: Motherboard

Uncategorized

‘Protect Us From This Dangerous President,’ 2 Psychiatrists Say

These are friends and mentors of mine and two of the most preeminent psychiatrists in America.

To the Editor:

‘Soon after the election, one of us raised concerns about Donald Trump’s fitness for office, based on the alarming symptoms of mental instability he had shown during his campaign. Since then, this concern has grown. Even within the space of a few weeks, the demands of the presidency have magnified his erratic patterns of behavior.In particular, we are struck by his repeated failure to distinguish between reality and fantasy, and his outbursts of rage when his fantasies are contradicted. Without any demonstrable evidence, he repeatedly resorts to paranoid claims of conspiracy.

Most recently, in response to suggestions of contact between his campaign and agents of the Russian government, he has issued tirades against the press as an “enemy of the people” and accusations without proof that his predecessor, former President Barack Obama, engaged in partisan surveillance against him.

We are in no way offering a psychiatric diagnosis, which would be unwise to attempt from a distance. Nevertheless, as psychiatrists we feel obliged to express our alarm. We fear that when faced with a crisis, President Trump will lack the judgment to respond rationally.

The military powers entrusted to him endanger us all. We urge our elected representatives to take the necessary steps to protect us from this dangerous president.

JUDITH L. HERMAN MD

ROBERT JAY LIFTON MD

Dr. Herman is a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Lifton is a lecturer in psychiatry at Columbia University and professor emeritus at CUNY.’

Source: NYTimes.com

Uncategorized

Critic: “21 Movies I’m Embarrassed to Admit I Love”

Germain Lussier wrote (Source: 21 Movies I’m Embarrassed to Admit I Love):

‘We all have them. Our guilty pleasure movies. Movies we like that we don’t like to tell other people. Films that bring us unbridled joy while making others cringe in pain. Films so many people hate but you just, somehow, for whatever reason, love. This is my list. Here are 21 movies that I’m embarrassed I like at all, let alone as much as I do, in alphabetical order…’

I have seen five of the movies on this list and am not embarrassed to say that I liked all five. Moreover, I agree with Lussier that one — Cloud Atlas — was overwhelmingly good, not at all a guilty pleasure but a pure pleasure. But perhaps that was because David Mitchell’s book, from which it is adapted, is even more of a pure pleasure, on my list of the very best modern novels. It is one of those books about which I say that the most likely reason you did not like it is that you did not really understand it.

(PS: Beyond the five I have seen, I cannot conceive of having any desire to waste my time seeing any of the other films on the list.)

Uncategorized

Republicans Actually Named an Obamacare Replacement Bill the ‘World’s Greatest Healthcare Plan of 2017’ and I Think I Might Be Losing My Mind Oh Fuck This Can’t Be Real Life 

‘You know how Obamacare’s real name is The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act? Well, guess what Republicans recently submitted as an official name of what might eventually become known as Trumpcare? The World’s Greatest Healthcare Plan of 2017. That’s what it’s really called…’

Source: Matt Novak, Gizmodo

Uncategorized

‘Blue whale’ game: Russian teens killed by social media fad

‘A sick suicide game called ‘Blue Whale’ is being probed by Russian cops after being linked to 130 teen deaths. Fears have been raised that the sinister game is just the tip of the iceberg in the country — which has one of the highest suicide rates in the world, reports The Sun.

Blue Whale involves teens completing daily tasks for 50 days including self-harming, watching horror movies and waking up at unusual hours.But on the 50th day, the controlling manipulators behind the game reportedly instruct the youngsters to commit suicide.

Mental health professionals and activists are calling on Russian politicians to probe the reasons youngsters are being attracted to these games. There are concerns the suicide rate could worsen in the country which saw 24,982 suicides in 2014. Last week, two schoolgirls Yulia Konstantinova, 15, and Veronika Volkova, 16, fell to their deaths on Sunday from the roof of a 14-storey apartment block…’

Source: News.com.au

Uncategorized

How to fight Trump fatigue syndrome

Lee Drutman writes:

‘We are now less than two months into the Trump administration, and it feels like it’s been at least two years. Or maybe 20. Or 200. It’s hard to tell at this point.

For two months now, we’ve been told to say outraged, to stay hypervigilant. And so, like a good citizen, I try constantly to absorb and parse the latest round of craziness, and sometimes offer some commentary on it. And by the time I’m caught up on the latest news, we’re on to some new round of craziness.

I’m not sure how much longer I can take. I’m exhausted. And I suspect many others are as well. Let’s call it “Trump fatigue syndrome”: the exhaustion you feel from trying to stay on top of the nonstop scandals and absurdities emanating from the Trump administration. TFS, for short.In what follows, I’ll go through the potential symptoms, all of which are dangerous, and then offer some ways to combat them…’

 

Source: Vox

Uncategorized

Brain Chip Implants Could Be the Next Big Mental Health Breakthrough—Or a Total Disaster

This is an article I hope some of my patients don’t read. It is a common trope in paranoid psychosis to believe that you have had chips implanted in your brain by sinister government forces experimenting on or monitoring you:

‘Deep brain stimulation is the bleeding edge of mental health treatment. Originally developed to treat the terrible tremors that patients with Parkinson’s disease suffer from, many researchers now view it as a potentially revolutionary method of treating mental illness. For many patients with mental health disorders like depression, therapies like drugs are often insufficient or come with terrible side effects. The numbers are all over the place, but doctors and researchers generally agree that significant numbers of people don’t respond adequately to current treatment methods—one often-cited study pegs that number somewhere around 10%-30%. But what if doctors could simply open up the brain and go directly to the source of a problem, just as a mechanic might pop open the hood of a car and tighten a loose gasket?

Now, [researchers are] halfway through a five-year, $65 million research effort funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to use the same technology to tackle some of the trickiest psychiatric disorders on the books. The goal is ambitious. DARPA is betting that the research teams it is funding at Mass. General and UCSF will uncover working therapies for not just one disorder, but many at once. And in developing treatments for schizophrenia, PTSD, traumatic brain injury, borderline personality disorder, anxiety, addiction and depression, along the way their work also aims to completely reframe how we approach mental illness to shed new light on how it flows through the brain…’

Source: Gizmodo

Uncategorized

Why quantum mechanics might need an overhaul

‘Steven Weinberg used to be happy with quantum mechanics as it is and didn’t worry about the debates. But as he has thought about it over the years, the 83-year-old Nobel laureate has reassessed.

“Now I’m not so sure,” he declared October 30 in San Antonio at a session for science writers organized by the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. “I’m not as happy about quantum mechanics as I used to be, and not as dismissive of its critics.”

One reason Weinberg thinks there’s a need for a new chapter in the quantum story is that those who think everything is fine with quantum mechanics take different sides in the debates about it.“It’s a bad sign in particular that those physicists who are happy about quantum mechanics, and see nothing wrong with it, don’t agree with each other about what it means,” Weinberg says…’

Source: Science News

Uncategorized

American “Political Regicide”

‘Donald Trump is going down. His house of cards will collapse at some point. The leaks will keep flowing and eventually his position will become untenable. Conflicts of interest. Connections to Russia. All of it will become too great a weight to carry, especially since The Donald has very few genuine allies in Washington.

The Democrats want him gone. So too do most of the Republicans. Hell, they never wanted him to begin with. The GOP did everything it could to derail his candidacy, and only climbed aboard after Trump’s runaway train was the last red line careening towards the White House. So for now they’re playing nice with the former Democrat who eschews Conservative dogma in a variety of ways and is loyal to absolutely no one save himself. But when the moment comes, they’ll gladly trade Trump in for Mike Pence, a Conservative’s wet dream. For all these reasons, Trump may not make it to the finish line.

…Should the Democrats regain the House in 2018 the midterm elections, it seems all but certain that Trump will face impeachment. But even if Republicans maintain their control of the House, they may yet work behind the scenes to manifest a more informal regicide.

If things continue to deteriorate, Republicans may pressure Trump to resign. Perhaps he would cite health concerns to save face, claiming an endless string of supposed victories on his way out the door.

And if things degenerate to the point that even a sizeable share of Republican voters disavow Trump, then the GOP itself could begin impeachment proceedings should The Donald fail to heed. That scenario, which seems rather far fetched at the present, highly partisan moment, could become more viable should the revelations of Trump’s connections to Russia and Vladimir Putin become so clear that all rational voters can no longer deny them.

Under those circumstances, it would be vital for Republicans to get Trump out of office with enough time for Pence to assert himself as a legitimate incumbent for the 2020 election. Over a year should do it. By the time the 1976 election rolled around, Gerald Ford had spent two years as president after taking over for Nixon. It almost worked. He was able to fend off a challenge within the party from Ronald Regan, and probably would’ve beaten Jimmy Carter had he not hung himself with the albatross of pardoning Nixon in one of his first acts as president.

The Republicans will remember this. If they need to remove Trump from office because they risk going down in flames with him, then they will move quickly so that Pence can establish himself.

All in all, it seems some level of attempted political regicide against Donald Trump will emerge over the next four years. The details of course are impossible to predict. Whether it is the actual regicide that Nixon suffered, the near regicide that Clinton endured, or the far less successful attempts that everyone after Carter has witnessed, remains to be seen. At this point, we can’t even know if it will be out in the open or take place behind closed doors, or if it will be initiated and pushed by the Democrats or the Republicans. But something is probably in the offing.

The king will soon be dead. Long live the king…’

Source: Akim Reinhardt, 3quarksdaily

Uncategorized

Early study suggests new opioid is non-addictive, works only where it hurts

‘With a straightforward chemical tweak, the addictive—and often deadly—opioid painkiller, fentanyl, may transform into a safe, non-addictive, targeted therapy. Researchers reported this on Thursday in Science.

In rats, a chemically modified form of the opioid could only work on inflamed, hurting tissue—not the rest of the body. Plus, it wasn’t deadly at high doses, like the original, and it didn’t spur addiction-forming behavior in the rodents, researchers at Freie Universität Berlin reported.

“This yielded a novel opioid analgesic [pain reliever] of similar efficacy to conventional fentanyl, however, devoid of detrimental side effects,” the authors concluded.

For their chemical makeover, the researchers noted that when tissue is damaged and hurting, it becomes inflamed and more acidic. The pH drops from approximately 7.4—what’s seen in normal, healthy tissue—to between 5 and 7. Fentanyl can work regardless of the pH, so it’s active throughout the nervous system no matter what. But, if it was altered to only work at the lower pH, then it could target just the pain source at the peripheral nerves, the researchers hypothesized. And with no activity in the central nervous system, it would dodge opioid’s serious side-effects, including addiction and systemic responses that can be lethal during overdoses.

Using computer simulations, the researcher figured out how modify fentanyl so that it only worked in more acidic conditions. The resulting molecule is (±)-N-(3-fluoro-1-phenethylpiperidin-4-yl)-N-phenyl propionamide, or NFEPP for short. NFEPP has an added fluorine, which attracts protons and allows the drug to become active only in low pH.
In experiments with human cells, the researchers found that NFEPP could still activate the classic μ-opioid receptor in the nervous system—but only at low pH.

In experiments in rats with foot injuries, the drug dampened pain responses in just the foot that was injured. In rats given fentanyl, pain responses were dampened in all feet. Next, rats on either fentanyl or NFEPP, were given a drug that blocks opioids but can’t cross the blood-brain barrier. In rats on fentanyl, the opioid blocker partially reversed the pain-relieving effects of fentanyl—which makes sense because fentanyl can target opioid receptors in the brain. But, in rats given NFEPP, the opioid blocker totally reversed pain relief. This suggests that NFEPP’s effects weren’t due to any activity in the brain, rather they were due only to activity at the site of the injury…’

Source: Ars Technica

Uncategorized

Sleepwalking: survival mechanism gone awry

‘Recent research from Stanford University shows that up to 4 per cent of adults [sleepwalk]. In fact, sleepwalking is on the rise, in part due to increased use of pharmacologically based sleep aids – notably Ambien.

Often, the episodes are harmless. Sometimes, of course, sleepwalking is dangerous. Somnambulists are in an irrational state during which they could harm themselves or others…

Why do some enter into such a potentially harmful state during sleep? One answer comes from studies suggesting that ‘sleepwalking’ might not be an appropriate term for what is going on; rather, primitive brain regions involved in emotional response (in the limbic system) and complex motor activity (within the cortex) remain in ‘active’ states that are difficult to distinguish from wakefulness. Such activity is characterised by ‘alpha wave’ patterns detected during electroencephalogram (EEG) recordings. At the same time, regions in the frontal cortex and hippocampus that control rationality and memory remain essentially dormant and unable to carry out their typical functions, manifesting a ‘delta wave’ pattern seen during classic sleep. It’s as though sleepwalking results when the brain doesn’t completely transition from sleep to wakefulness – it’s essentially stuck in a sleep-wake limbo.

‘The rational part of the brain is in a sleep-like state and does not exert its normal control over the limbic system and the motor system,’ explains the Italian neuroscientist Lino Nobili, a sleep researcher at Niguarda Hospital in Milan. ‘So behaviour is regulated by a kind of archaic survival system like the one that is activated during fight-or-flight.’..

Scientists now agree that bouts of localised wakeful-like activity in motor-related areas and the limbic system can occur without concurrent sleepwalking. In fact, these areas have been shown to have low arousal thresholds for activation. Surprisingly, despite their association with sleepwalking, these low thresholds have been considered an adaptive trait – a boon to survival. Throughout most of our extensive ancestry, this trait may have been selected for its survival value.

‘During sleep, we can have an activation of the motor system, so although you are sleeping and not moving, the motor cortex can be in a wake-like state – ready to go,’ explains Nobili, who led the team that conducted the work. ‘If something really goes wrong and endangers you, you don’t need your frontal lobe’s rationality to escape. You need a motor system that is ready.’ In sleepwalking, however, this adaptive system has gone awry. ‘An external trigger that would normally produce a small arousal triggers a full-blown episode.’ …’

Source: Aeon Ideas

Uncategorized

Trump’s “Moderate” Defense Secretary Has Already Brought Us to the Brink of War

‘Did you know that the Trump administration almost went to war with Iran at the start of February? Perhaps you were distracted by Gen. Michael Flynn’s resignation as national security adviser or by President Trump’s online jihad against Nordstrom. Or maybe you missed the story because the New York Times bizarrely buried it in the midst of a long piece on the turmoil and chaos inside the National Security Council.

Defense Secretary James Mattis, according to the paper, had wanted the U.S. Navy to “intercept and board an Iranian ship to look for contraband weapons possibly headed to Houthi fighters in Yemen. … But the ship was in international waters in the Arabian Sea, according to two officials. Mr. Mattis ultimately decided to set the operation aside, at least for now. White House officials said that was because news of the impending operation leaked.”

Get that? It was only thanks to what Mattis’s commander in chief has called “illegal leaks” that the operation was (at least temporarily) set aside and military action between the United States and Iran was averted.

Am I exaggerating? Ask the Iranians. “Boarding an Iranian ship is a shortcut” to confrontation, says Seyyed Hossein Mousavian, former member of Iran’s National Security Council and a close ally of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. Even if a firefight in international waters were avoided, the Islamic Republic, Mousavian tells me, “would retaliate” and has “many other options for retaliation.” …’

Source: Intercept

And Mattis is the Trump appointee to whom some pundits point as the moderate voice of reason…

Uncategorized

Panpsychism is crazy, but it’s also most probably true

‘Common sense tells us that only living things have an inner life. Rabbits and tigers and mice have feelings, sensations and experiences; tables and rocks and molecules do not. Panpsychists deny this datum of common sense. According to panpsychism, the smallest bits of matter – things such as electrons and quarks – have very basic kinds of experience; an electron has an inner life.

The main objection made to panpsychism is that it is ‘crazy’ and ‘just obviously wrong’. It is thought to be highly counterintuitive to suppose that an electron has some kind of inner life, no matter how basic, and this is taken to be a very strong reason to doubt the truth of panpsychism. But many widely accepted scientific theories are also crazily counter to common sense.

…I maintain that there is a powerful simplicity argument in favour of panpsychism. The argument relies on a claim that has been defended by Bertrand Russell, Arthur Eddington and many others, namely that physical science doesn’t tell us what matter is, only what it does. The job of physics is to provide us with mathematical models that allow us to predict with great accuracy how matter will behave. This is incredibly useful information; it allows us to manipulate the world in extraordinary ways, leading to the technological advancements that have transformed our society beyond recognition. But it is one thing to know the behaviour of an electron and quite another to know its intrinsic nature: how the electron is, in and of itself. Physical science gives us rich information about the behaviour of matter but leaves us completely in the dark about its intrinsic nature…’

Source: Phillip Goff, associate professor in philosophy at Central European University in Budapest. His research interest is in consciousness and he blogs at www.conscienceandconsciousness.com. Writing in Aeon.

Uncategorized

Arkansas Rushes to Execute 8 Men in the Space of 10 Days

MATTHEW HAAG and RICHARD FAUSSET write:

‘The state of Arkansas plans to put to death eight inmates over a span of 10 days next month, a pace of executions unequaled in recent American history brought about by a looming expiration date for one of the drugs used in the state’s lethal injection process.

The eight men facing execution — four black and four white — are among 34 inmates on death row in Arkansas, a state where the death penalty has been suspended since 2005 over legal challenges to the state’s laws and difficulty in acquiring the necessary drugs for lethal injections. All eight men were convicted of murders that occurred between 1989 and 1999, and proponents of the death penalty and victims’ rights in the state have been frustrated that the men’s cases have dragged on for so long without resolution…’

Source: New York Times

Uncategorized

Understanding American authoritarianism

‘As part of his PhD research for UMass Amherst, Matthew MacWilliams surveyed the psychological characteristics of authoritarians — not the people who lead authoritarian movements, but the followers, those who defer to them.

His work echoed the independent research of Vanderbilt’s Marc Hetherington and UNC’s Jonathan Weiler, whose 2009 book Authoritarianism and Polarization in American Politics concluded that a sizable fraction of the US voting public were authoritarian: people who wanted to be controlled, and wanted their neighbors to be controlled, because they were afraid the status quo was slipping away and they didn’t believe that anything better would replace it.

They all posit that there are really three American parties, not two: the Democrats, the Republicans, and the authoritarian Republicans, who aren’t conservatives in the sense of wanting tax cuts for the rich or caring about specific religious or moral questions. Rather, they want strong leaders who’ll fight change, preserve hierarchies, and talk tough.

Vox’s Amanda Taub recounts the long struggle to understand authoritarianism, something social scientists have struggled with since the rise of fascism in the mid-twentieth. She describes many authoritarians as latent, waiting to be “activated” by threats — demographic and economic shifts, messages of fear and terror. …’

Source:  Boing Boing

Uncategorized

Trump’s Already Small Circle Of Trusted Advisers Suffers Another Big Blow

S.V. Date writes:

‘When you get to the White House with such a tiny band of brothers, each and every one seems that much more indispensable.

Or so it must seem to President Donald Trump who, just five weeks into his term and two weeks after having to fire his national security adviser, has now watched his closest Cabinet ally neutered in a key role.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced Thursday that he was recusing himself from any investigations pertaining to the Trump campaign, following the revelation that he spoke with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak twice last year, despite having testified under oath during his confirmation hearings that he had no contact with any Russians.

“I have now decided to recuse myself from any existing or future investigations of any matter relating in any way to the campaigns for president of the United States,” Sessions said at a hastily called news conference.

The attorney general is the one Cabinet member of any presidential administration with the independent authority to launch investigations that could undo the presidency. In Trump’s case, that danger became plausible even before he took office, with U.S. intelligence agencies reporting that Russia had meddled in the presidential election with the goal of electing Trump.

Sessions’ decision to stay out of any of the probes underway now, or to come at some point in the future, means he can no longer shield Trump from the results. …’

Source: The Huffington Post

Uncategorized

Jeff Sessions said that people who commit perjury must be removed from office

Ian Millhiser writes:

‘The Washington Post reported Wednesday night that Attorney General Jeff Sessions spoke to Russia’s ambassador twice last year, despite testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee that “I did not have communications with the Russians.”

Eighteen years ago, however, then-Sen. Sessions (R-AL) was called upon to judge a president who, he believed, had lied under oath. As political scientist Scott Lemieux notes, Sessions did not look kindly on President Bill Clinton during that president’s impeachment.

It now appears very likely that Sessions committed the very same crime he once voted to convict President Clinton of. The federal perjury statute forbids anyone who has “taken an oath before a competent tribunal, officer, or person” from “willfully and contrary to such oath” making a statement on “any material matter which he does not believe to be true.” …’

Source: Think Progress

Uncategorized

Giant Previously Unnoticed Neuron Circles Brain Like a ‘Crown of Thorns’ and May Give Rise to Consciousness

‘At the February 5, 2015 meeting of the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies initiative in Bethesda, Maryland, Christof Koch, president of the Allen Institute for Brain Science in Seattle, announced something truly startling: His team as identified three previously unnoticed neurons reaching from the an area called the claustrum into both the left and right brain hemispheres, and a massive one that wrapped around the circumference of the entire brain like, in Koch’s words, a “crown of thorns.” The team suspects these neurons may constitute nothing less than the pathways that produce consciousness. Certainly the announcement of a single, entire-brain-encompassing neuron is shocking all by itself…’

Source: Big Think

Uncategorized

Here Are the Top Ten Republican Accomplishments of 2017 So Far

Kevin Drum writes:

‘Trump signs executive order on immigration, but it’s so badly drafted it causes chaos around the country and is immediately put on hold by court.

Trump chooses crackpot as National Security Advisor, fires him three weeks after inauguration.
Trump tries to bully China by playing games with One China policy, is forced into humiliating retreat after realizing he’s playing out of his league.
Paul Ryan proposes border adjustment tax to raise $1 trillion, but can’t convince anyone to sign on.
Trump casually green-lights raid on Yemen over dinner, it turns into an epic disaster that kills a SEAL and accomplishes nothing.
Trump blathers about the wall and a 20 percent border tax on Mexico, causing the Mexican president to cancel a planned visit.
Congress goes into recess, but Republicans are embarrassingly forced to cancel town hall events because they’re afraid of facing big crowds opposed to their policies.
Trump continues to claim that crime is skyrocketing; that he won a huge election victory; that his inauguration crowd was immense; that polls showing his unpopularity are fake; and that refugees have wreaked terror on America, despite the fact that these are all easily-checkable lies.
After weeks of confusion on their signature priority, Republicans finally realize that repealing Obamacare isn’t all that easy and basically give up.
Trump proposes spending an extra $54 billion on defense without realizing he can’t do that.
Have either Trump or the Republican Congress done anything yet that’s been both successful and non-routine? Unless I’m forgetting something big, it’s just been one failure after another for the past two months. And that’s not even counting all the day-to-day idiocy coming out of the White House (“enemy of the people,” Sweden, “so-called judge,” Bowling Green massacre, national security confabs at Mar-a-Lago restaurant, etc.).

Help me out here. Am I missing some big success? …’

Source:  Mother Jones

Uncategorized

“Surgeons Should Not Look Like Surgeons”

Nassim Taleb writes:

‘…Avoid people who look and talk the part, whether surgeons or scientists or stockbrokers. They are trying to win your confidence by means of rituals rather than results. Practitioners who are exceptionally good at producing results have less need to conform to professional stereotypes. And those who succeed in a profession despite not looking the part must, all other things being equal, have greater talent…’

Source:  Medium

There is another, related point to make — nonconformity may be its own virtue. Is this what Thoreau meant:

“I say, beware of all enterprises that require new clothes, and not rather a new wearer of clothes.”

Uncategorized

When Things Go Missing

‘Broadly speaking, there are two explanations for why we lose all this stuff—one scientific, the other psychoanalytic, both unsatisfying. According to the scientific account, losing things represents a failure of recollection or a failure of attention: either we can’t retrieve a memory (of where we set down our wallet, say) or we didn’t encode one in the first place.

According to the psychoanalytic account, conversely, losing things represents a success—a deliberate sabotage of our rational mind by our subliminal desires. In “The Psychopathology of Everyday Life,” Freud describes “the unconscious dexterity with which an object is mislaid on account of hidden but powerful motives,” including “the low estimation in which the lost object is held, or a secret antipathy towards it or towards the person that it came from.” Freud’s colleague and contemporary Abraham Arden Brill put the matter more succinctly: “We never lose what we highly value.” …’

Source: Kathryn Schulz, The New Yorker

Uncategorized

A Growing Archive of Global Street Music

‘Maybe you don’t have a lot of street performers where you live, but all over the world they represent a web of underrepresented artists dedicated to performing live, day after day. It’s exactly that fleeting, often unremarked quality of street music that led Daniel Bacchieri, currently a Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism Fellow at CUNY, to launch the Street Music Map project in 2014…’

Source: Atlas Obscura

Uncategorized

Did the Large Hadron Collider Just Disprove the Existence of Ghosts?

‘University of Manchester particle physicist and media personality, Brian Cox, may have sparked off a controversy. He said, during BBC Radio Four’s, The Infinite Monkey Cage program, “I want to make a statement: We are not here to debate the existence of ghosts because they don’t exist.”

He went on to explain:”If we want some sort of pattern that carries information about our living cells to persist then we must specify precisely what medium carries that pattern and how it interacts with the matter particles out of which our bodies are made. We must, in other words, invent an extension to the Standard Model of Particle Physics that has escaped detection at the Large Hadron Collider. That’s almost inconceivable at the energy scales typical of the particle interactions in our bodies.”

Astrophysicist and media personality Neil deGrasse Tyson, who was also a guest on the show, clarified by saying, “If I understand what you just declared, you just asserted that CERN, the European Center for Nuclear Research, disproved the existence of ghosts.”

Cox said yes. If ghosts were real, he posits, they would have a certain frequency or particle associated with them, corresponding with the human or body, with which it was once attached. If that was the case, we would be able to detect them. After all this time and with all our advanced instruments, we haven’t picked up anything close…’

Source: Big Think

Uncategorized

A Spell to Bind Donald Trump and All Those Who Abet Him

‘This document has been making the rounds in a number of magical groups both secretive and public. It was allegedly created by a member of a private magical order who wishes to remain anonymous. I make no claims about its efficacy, and several people have noted it can be viewed as more of a mass art/consciousness-raising project (similar to the 1967 exorcism and levitation of the Pentagon), than an actual magical working. But many are clearly taking it very seriously. …’

Source: Medium

Uncategorized

I Ignored Trump News for a Week. Here’s What I Learned.

Farhad Manjoo writes:

…’Mr. Trump is likely to be president for at least the next four years. And it’s probably not a good idea for just about all of our news to be focused on a single subject for that long.

In previous media eras, the news was able to find a sensible balance even when huge events were preoccupying the world. Newspapers from World War I and II were filled with stories far afield from the war. Today’s newspapers are also full of non-Trump articles, but many of us aren’t reading newspapers anymore. We’re reading Facebook and watching cable, and there, Mr. Trump is all anyone talks about, to the exclusion of almost all else.

There’s no easy way out of this fix. But as big as Mr. Trump is, he’s not everything — and it’d be nice to find a way for the media ecosystem to recognize that.

Source: NYTimes.com

Uncategorized

These Newly Discovered Frogs Are Adorable and Already in Peril

‘While frogs haven’t traditionally been revered for their cuteness, a stunning new discovery could be a game-changer for all of ribbit-kind: According to a study published this week in PeerJ, scientists have discovered seven new frog species belonging to the genus Nyctibatrachus, commonly known as Night Frogs. Four of them are alarmingly tiny—in fact, they’re thought to be some of the smallest frogs in all of India, where they were found…’

Source: Gizmodo

Uncategorized

NASA Telescope Reveals Record-Breaking Exoplanet Discovery

  • ‘NASA astronomers have discovered a single star system, 40 light-years away, that has seven Earth-like planets (small, rocky, and within the range of orbit in which liquid water could form). [Vox / Brian Resnick]
  • Three of the planets are directly in what’s called the “habitable zone,” meaning temperature water could easily remain in liquid form on their surfaces; the other four could have water as well, depending on the compositions of their atmospheres. [NASA]
  • The star at the center of the system — called Trappist-1 — isn’t like the sun at all. It’s a super-cool dwarf star (which means sunsets on these planets are likely salmon-colored). [The Atlantic / Marina Koren]
  • That’s actually extremely promising — not only are super-cool stars easier to discover planets around (because they are dim enough to flicker when a planet passes in front of them), but they are also far more common than sun-like stars. [TRAPPIST.one]
  • To discover more potential Earth-like planets around super-cool stars, NASA is working with an initiative called (in an epic act of backronymy) SPECULOOS — like the cookie butter. [SPECULOOS]
  • Few, if any, of these worlds will actually be habitable by human standards. The astronomical term “habitable” applies to plenty of arrangements that sensible humans would call, as Katie Mack puts it, “lethal nightmare planets.” [Cosmos / Katie Mack]
  • But for the moment, the planets of Trappist-1 exist in the world of tantalizing possibility. Fittingly, Nature magazine published a sci-fi story side by side with the paper announcing the discovery. [Nature / Laurence Suhner]’
Uncategorized

R.I.P. Larry Coryell

Guitarist of Fusion Before It Had a Name Dies at 73

‘Most established jazz musicians regarded rock with suspicion if not hostility when Mr. Coryell arrived in New York from Washington State in 1965. But a younger cohort, steeped in the Beatles as well as bebop, was beginning to explore an approach that bridged the stylistic gap. Mr. Coryell, who had grown up listening to a wide range of music, became one of the leaders of that cohort…’

Source: New York Times obituary

Uncategorized

The Skeleton Key to the Rise of Trump

‘We know, by this point, that Trump is funny. Even to us leftists, horrified by his every move, he is hilarious. Someone who is all brash confidence and then outrageously incompetent at everything he does is — from an objective standpoint — comedy gold. Someone who accuses his enemies of the faults he at that very moment is portraying is comedy gold. But, strangely, as the left realized after the election, pointing out Trump was a joke was not helpful. In fact, Trump’s farcical nature didn’t seem to be a liability, rather, to his supporters, it was an asset.

…Trump supporters voted for the con-man, the labyrinth with no center, because the labyrinth with no center is how they feel, how they feel the world works around them. A labyrinth with no center is a perfect description of their mother’s basement with a terminal to an endless array of escapist fantasy worlds…’

Source: Medium

Uncategorized

Donald Trump’s Media Attacks Should Be Viewed as Brilliant

‘I think it’s important not to dismiss the president’s [attacks on
the press] simply as dumb. We ought to assume that it’s darkly brilliant — if not in intention than certainly in effect. The president is responding to a claim of fact not by denying the fact, but by denying the claim that facts are supposed to have on an argument.

He isn’t [saying] that he’s got his facts wrong. He’s saying that, as far as he is concerned, facts, as most people understand the term, don’t matter: That they are indistinguishable from, and interchangeable with, opinion; and that statements of fact needn’t have any purchase against a man who is either sufficiently powerful to ignore them or sufficiently shameless to deny them — or, in his case, both…’

Source: Time.com

Uncategorized

This Neuroscientist Wants to Know Why People Who See UFOs Feel So Good

‘Although the US government has launched formal inquiries into the UFO phenomenon, little has changed in the last six decades to indicate that ufology will ever be anything more than pseudoscientific. But Bob Davis, a retired neuroscientist and self-described “UFO agnostic,” wants to change that. I caught up with him at the International UFO Congress to find out why he thinks ufology can become a serious scientific discipline…’

Source: Motherboard

Uncategorized

Twitter Has Made Our Alien Contact Protocols Obsolete

‘In 1990, the International Academy of Astronautics published a special issue of their journal , Acta Astronautica, dedicated to the problem of what to do in the event that the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) detected an alien signal. These “post-detection protocols” as outlined in the IAA’s Declaration of Principles in 1989 were inspired by increasingly rapid technological advances in the SETI field that made the likelihood of detecting a signal more likely than at any other point in the search’s 30 year history.

But the one technological development that its collaborators couldn’t have anticipated was the rise of social media, which could seriously complicate the ability of government and private research institutions to control the social consequences resulting from the detection of an extraterrestrial message…’

Source: Motherboard

Uncategorized

John McCain just systematically dismantled Donald Trump’s entire worldview

‘John McCain is increasingly mad as hell about President Trump. And on Friday, he went after Trump — hard.

During a speech at the Munich Security Conference in Germany, the Republican senator from Arizona delivered a pointed and striking point-by-point takedown of Trump’s worldview and brand of nationalism. McCain didn’t mention Trump’s name once, but he didn’t have to.

And even considering the two men’s up-and-down history and the terrible things Trump has said about McCain, it was a striking display from a senior leader of a party when it comes to a president of the same party.

In his speech, McCain suggested the Western world is uniquely imperiled this year — even more so than when Barack Obama was president — and proceeded to question whether it will even survive.

“In recent years, this question would invite accusations of hyperbole and alarmism; not this year,” McCain said. “If ever there were a time to treat this question with a deadly seriousness, it is now.” …’

Source: Washington Post

Uncategorized

David Brooks: What a Failed Trump Administration Looks Like

‘I still have trouble seeing how the Trump administration survives a full term. Judging by his Thursday press conference, President Trump’s mental state is like a train that long ago left freewheeling and iconoclastic, has raced through indulgent, chaotic and unnerving, and is now careening past unhinged, unmoored and unglued.

Trump’s White House staff is at war with itself. His poll ratings are falling at unprecedented speed. His policy agenda is stalled. F.B.I. investigations are just beginning. This does not feel like a sustainable operation.

On the other hand, I have trouble seeing exactly how this administration ends. Many of the institutions that would normally ease out or remove a failing president no longer exist.

There are no longer moral arbiters in Congress like Howard Baker and Sam Ervin to lead a resignation or impeachment process. There is no longer a single media establishment that shapes how the country sees the president. This is no longer a country in which everybody experiences the same reality.

Everything about Trump that appalls 65 percent of America strengthens him with the other 35 percent, and he can ride that group for a while. Even after these horrible four weeks, Republicans on Capitol Hill are not close to abandoning their man.

The likelihood is this: We’re going to have an administration that has morally and politically collapsed, without actually going away.

What does that look like?’

Source: New York Times op-ed

Uncategorized

Block Scott Pruitt

Senator Susan Collins from Maine is the first Republican to announce that she will vote NO on Scott Pruitt’s nomination to lead the EPA. We only need to get a couple more Senators to join her — but we need your help!

Your pressure is working. Just yesterday the nominee for labor secretary, fast food titan Andy Puzder, withdrew his nomination due to growing opposition.

The Senate is scheduled to vote on Pruitt’s confirmation as EPA head tomorrow. Please take  just a minute to call and email your Senators and urge them to vote NO on Scott Pruitt for EPA! Call the Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121 to be connected with the Senate office of your choice. Don’t know who your Senators are? Look them up here.

Source: Center for Food Safety

Uncategorized

Whither the adverbs of place?

‘In contemporary English, here refers to the speaker’s location regardless of whether the sentence involves things or people remaining in that place, moving to that place, or leaving that place. We say I have been waiting here for hours or Come here! or Get out of here!

But historically English has used three separate adverbs to convey these three different relations to place. A speaker of the sixteenth century might have said I have been waiting here for hours, but she would have said Come hither! instead of Come here! and Get thee hence! instead of Get out of here!

Likewise, when referring to a location other than where we are, we now use there indiscriminately: Who is there? I will take you there. We sailed from Ireland to Iceland and from there to Greenland. Our sixteenth-century speaker, for her part, might have said Who is there? but I will take you thither or We sailed from Ireland to Iceland and thence to Greenland.

Finally, for asking about places, though English relies now on just where, there were once three separate adverbs. If our twenty-first-century speaker says Where am I? or Where are you going? or Where is that smell coming from? our hypothetical Elizabethan speaker might say Where am I? or Whither goest thou? or Whence cometh that reek?’

Source: 3quarksdaily

Uncategorized

Help Fix the Biggest Problem with American Democracy

We elect our President via the Electoral College. States get a vote for each Representative and each Senator. Representatives are somewhat proportional to population but every state has two Senators. This creates a huge imbalance in the power of your vote.

If you live in Texas that’s 733,226 people per elector. In Wyoming it’s just 195,167. Occasionally this has consequences.

Bush and Trump

Presidents we could have avoided.

As well as sacrificing one person one vote there are other issues with the Electoral College.

Presidential candidates largely ignore states where the outcome is nearly certain. If you live in a solid Republican or Democrat state then you will be taken for granted.

Originally the Electoral College was supposed to be a safeguard against the electorate making a horrible mistake. You might have good reason to believe that it no longer serves this purpose.

National Popular Vote

We could fix the imbalance with an amendment to the Constitution. This would require a two-thirds majority in both houses of Congress and ratification by three-quarters (38) of the States.

Luckily there is another option. The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPVIC). The plan is quite simple. Each State passes legislation that promises to throw its Electoral College votes behind the popular vote winner. This only comes into force when enough States have enacted the NPVIC to have a majority in the Electoral College (270 votes)

You might be surprised to learn that the National Popular Vote already has 165 Electoral College votes. Adding Florida, Michigan, Ohio and Texas would be enough to switch to a popular vote. They are also all states that are among the least well represented by the current system.

Most Americans support the National Popular Vote (78% of Democrats, 60% of Republicans and 73% of Independents). (Source: Washington Post, 2007)

What can I do?

You can make a difference. Please do at least one of the following:

  1. Share this page with your friends on Facebook and Twitter with a personal message asking them to take action.
  2. Call your Senators and Representative and ask them to support the National Popular Vote.
  3. Call your State representatives and ask them to support the National Popular Vote.
  4. Donate to the National Popular Vote (this site has no affiliation with National Popular Vote Inc.)
 Source: Robert Ellison,  Democracy Vision: One Person, One Vote
Uncategorized

Naomi Klein: ‘Get Ready for the First Shocks of Trump’s Disaster Capitalism’

‘We already know that the Trump administration plans to deregulate markets, wage all-out war on “radical Islamic terrorism,” trash climate science and unleash a fossil-fuel frenzy. It’s a vision that can be counted on to generate a tsunami of crises and shocks: economic shocks, as market bubbles burst; security shocks, as blowback from foreign belligerence comes home; weather shocks, as our climate is further destabilized; and industrial shocks, as oil pipelines spill and rigs collapse, which they tend to do, especially when enjoying light-touch regulation.

All this is dangerous enough. What’s even worse is the way the Trump administration can be counted on to exploit these shocks politically and economically…’

Source: The Intercept

Uncategorized

Mental Health Experts Are Publicly Arguing About Whether Donald Trump Is Mentally Ill

‘Ethically speaking, mental health experts are supposed to refrain from publicly offering diagnoses for politicians. And so, for the most part, doctors and psychiatrists have refrained from joining in on the internet speculation that President Donald Trump has narcissistic personality disorder, dementia, or another condition.

But that changed in Tuesday’s New York Times, in a very public way. A pair of letters — written originally in response to Charles Blow’s scathing op-ed about the president — authored by prominent psychiatric experts faced off on the question of Trump’s mental health.

The first, written by Dr. Lance Dodes and Dr. Joseph Schachter and signed by 33 other experts, asserts that Trump is unfit to lead the country given his mental state. The latter, which was penned by Dr. Allen Frances (who literally wrote the criteria that define narcissistic personality disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV), sharply rebukes Dodes and Schacter’s letter…’

Source: Digg

Dr. Frances makes several arguments. The first is that although Trump has impressive narcissism, he should not be considered to have narcissistic personality disorder because the disorder requires that his personality attributes cause him distress or dysfunction. His second objection to the letter is to reiterate the ethical standards against a clinician making a diagnosis of someone she is not engaged in treating face-to-face.

Here is my response, as a psychiatrist myself. First, the requirement that the patient be distressed is only partly true in modern practice, particularly for the subset of mental conditions known as personality disorders. Rigid personality styles often act to defend the patient against insight into their disorder and any distress caused by their way of doing business in the world. Instead, they cause distress among those around him or her. They cause dysfunction for the afflicted person without distressing her or him.

Secondly, for an ethical relativist, a sufficient emergency such as that we face now allows suspension of some ethical guidelines for the greater good.

Of course, I am far from confident that the opinion of any number of experts that this man is unfit to serve as President will actually influence anything. Frances’ coda that “the antidote to a dystopic Trumpean dark age is political, not psychological” may well be true, but we should all continue to speak our version of truth to power. I am firmly with Dodes and Schachter.

Uncategorized

“We should not — and cannot — trust this man.” A CIA vet on Trump’s feud with US spies.

Sean Illing: The president of the United States just tweeted that “Information is being illegally given” to the New York Times and the Washington Post “by the intelligence community.” Are we witnessing a shadow war between President Trump and the intelligence community?

Glenn Carle: What’s happened is that the organs of government sworn to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States have been trying to do their jobs. Intelligence professionals take their responsibilities seriously. Whatever they do, they do it because they believe it is necessary, because they believe duty demands it. They’re not playing political games… The real issue is what I’ve been saying… in public for many months: We are facing the gravest threat to our institutions and our government since 1861, since the country broke in half. This is a graver crisis than Watergate, which was about corruption, not the usurpation of our laws and our checks and balances. It’s graver than World War II, when Hitler never actually threatened our institutions or occupation of Washington.

Source: Vox

Uncategorized

Almost everything Trump has done since taking office has been a meaningless publicity stunt

‘Though Steve Miller claims that Trump is “a president who has done more in three weeks than most presidents have done in an entire administration,” the reality is that almost everything in his executive orders is either an inflammatory restatement of an existing policy; an unenforceable and meaningless intervention into domains where the administrative branch holds no sway; or (as in the case of the Muslim Ban), is an unconstitutional omnishambles destined to be swiftly undone by the courts…

What Trump has done is created a bunch of presidential news-hits, but not much presidenting…’

Source: Boing Boing

Uncategorized

Tell on Trump

‘Through targeted ads on Facebook, we’re reaching out to users who list federal agencies as their employers, and we are exploring ways to advertise in public spaces near federal buildings in Washington, D.C. If you work in the federal bureaucracy and want to bear witness, anonymously or otherwise, to the way the Trump Administration is asserting its authority, we are here to listen. And if you know someone who works for the government and may have information to share, please direct them to TellOnTrump.com.’

Source: Tell on Trump

Uncategorized

Immigrant workers plan strike Thursday as part of ‘Day Without Immigrants’ protest

‘Immigrants… across the country plan to participate in the “Day Without Immigrants” boycott, a response to President Trump’s pledges to crack down on those in the country illegally, use “extreme vetting” and build a wall along the Mexican border. The social-media-organized protest aims to show the president the effect immigrants have in the country on a daily basis. The boycott calls for immigrants not to attend work, open their businesses, spend money or even send their children to school…’

Source: Washington Post

Uncategorized

Don’t Get Snookered by the Next Pseudoscience Health Craze

‘In the past decade, DNA sequencing has gotten really, really cheap, positioning genetics to become the next big consumer health craze. The sales pitch—a roadmap for life encoded in your very own DNA—can be hard to resist. But scientists are skeptical that we’ve decrypted enough about the human genome to turn strings of As, Ts, Cs and Gs into useful personalized lifestyle advice…’

Source: Gizmodo

Uncategorized

Why All Americans Should Be Worried About the Oroville Dam Crisis

‘At least 188,000 residents in the areas surrounding the Oroville Dam in Northern California have had to evacuate their homes as workers scramble to prevent a potentially catastrophic breach. Now, reports are surfacing indicating local officials were warned about safety issues with the Oroville Dam 12 years ago, and did little to mitigate them. Besides serving as a scary dose of hindsight, these reports are a grim reminder that experts have been sounding the alarm about our nation’s aging infrastructure for a long time. In most cases, they haven’t gained much traction…’

Source: Gizmodo

Uncategorized

Andrew Sullivan: The Madness of King Donald

‘I think this is a fundamental reason why so many of us have been so unsettled, anxious, and near panic these past few months. It is not so much this president’s agenda. That always changes from administration to administration. It is that when the linchpin of an entire country is literally delusional, clinically deceptive, and responds to any attempt to correct the record with rage and vengeance, everyone is always on edge. …’

Source: Andrew Sullivan, New York Magazine

Uncategorized

The Spy Revolt Against King Donald Begins

‘…Our Intelligence Community is so worried by the unprecedented problems of the Trump administration—not only do senior officials possess troubling ties to the Kremlin, there are nagging questions about basic competence regarding Team Trump—that it is beginning to withhold intelligence from a White House which our spies do not trust.

That the IC has ample grounds for concern is demonstrated by almost daily revelations of major problems inside the White House, a mere three weeks after the inauguration. The president has repeatedly gone out of his way to antagonize our spies, mocking them and demeaning their work, and Trump’s personal national security guru can’t seem to keep his story straight on vital issues.

That’s Mike Flynn, the retired Army three-star general who now heads the National Security Council. Widely disliked in Washington for his brash personality and preference for conspiracy-theorizing over intelligence facts, Flynn was fired as head of the Defense Intelligence Agency for managerial incompetence and poor judgment—flaws he has brought to the far more powerful and political NSC.

Flynn’s problems with the truth have been laid bare by the growing scandal about his dealings with Moscow. Strange ties to the Kremlin, including Vladimir Putin himself, have dogged Flynn since he left DIA, and concerns about his judgment have risen considerably since it was revealed that after the November 8 election, Flynn repeatedly called the Russian embassy in Washington to discuss the transition. The White House has denied that anything substantive came up in conversations between Flynn and Sergei Kislyak, the Russian ambassador.

That was a lie, as confirmed by an extensively sourced bombshell report in The Washington Post, which makes clear that Flynn grossly misrepresented his numerous conversations with Kislyak—which turn out to have happened before the election too, part of a regular dialogue with the Russian embassy. To call such an arrangement highly unusual in American politics would be very charitable.

In particular, Flynn and Kislyak discussed the possible lifting of the sanctions President Obama placed on Russia and its intelligence services late last year in retaliation for the Kremlin’s meddling in our 2016 election. In public, Flynn repeatedly denied that any talk of sanctions occurred during his conversations with Russia’s ambassador. Worse, he apparently lied in private too, including to Vice President Mike Pence, who when this scandal broke last month publicly denied that Flynn conducted any sanctions talk with Kislyak. Pence and his staff are reported to be very upset with the national security adviser, who played the vice president for a fool. …’

Source: John R. Schindler, Observer

Uncategorized

Automation Nightmare: Philosopher Warns We Are Creating a World Without Consciousness

‘A worry for Australian philosopher and cognitive scientist David Chalmers is creating a world devoid of consciousness. He sees the discussion of future superintelligences often presume that eventually AIs will become conscious. But what if that kind of sci-fi possibility that we will create completely artificial humans is not going to come to fruition? Instead, we could be creating a world endowed with artificial intelligence but not actual consciousness…’

Source: Big Think

Uncategorized

In Defense of the Most Worthless, Helpless Creature on the Planet

‘…It’s understandable that someone would find the ocean sunfish repellently dumb. Even the mola mola’s many nicknames—schwimmender kopf (“swimming head”) in German, putol (“cut short”) in the Philippines, and “toppled car fish” in Taiwan—belie its absurd reputation. That last one is an especially accurate burn, because the mola mola grows to roughly the size and shape of a trash-compacted car.

Seriously, these things are huge. The ocean sunfish holds the Guinness world record for heaviest, most fecund bony fish. One of the biggest of these gold star boys weighed 5,071 pounds. The average weight is more like one ton, but it carries that heft along six to 10 feet of flattened flesh, flapping through the water like a smashed Prius. A mola mola raised in Monterey Bay Aquarium had to be airlifted out by helicopter and released into the bay when it gained 800 pounds in 14 months and outgrew its tank.

[I]s the mola mola actually as worthless as many of its haters seem to think? To try and settle the world’s nerdiest flame war, let’s go through the finer points of the ocean sunfish’s singular existence….’

Source: Motherboard

Uncategorized

Squid Communicate With a Secret, Skin-Powered Alphabet

‘Squid and their cephalopod brethren have been the inspiration for many a science fiction creature. Their slippery appendages, huge proportions, and inking abilities can be downright shudder-inducing. (See: Arrival.) But you should probably be more concerned by the cephalopod’s huge brain—which not only helps it solve tricky puzzles, but also lets it converse in its own sign language.

…Certain kinds of squid send messages by manipulating the color of their skin. “Their body patterning is fantastic, fabulous,” says Chuan-Chin Chiao, a neuroscientist at National Tsing Hua University in Taiwan. They can display bands, or stripes, or turn completely dark or light. And Chiao is trying to crack their code…’

Source: WIRED

Uncategorized

Clown Prince Screws Up Big Opportunity To Avoid Nuclear Holocaust

‘Russian President Vladimir Putin signaled that he wanted to help avoid the nuclear apocalypse during his first phone call with President Donald Trump, and Trump reportedly fumbled it—all because he had no idea what the most important treaty between America and Russia was.

According to news reports, Putin asked if Trump was willing to extend the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), the Obama-era nuclear weapons pact that requires each nation to cap their deployed warheads at 1,500 apiece… But there was one problem, according to Reuters: Trump didn’t know what New START was…’

Source: Jalopnik

Uncategorized

“This is not who we are,” critics say about the refugee ban. But what if it is?

‘For all the recitations of Emma Lazarus — give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses — the story of American openness to immigrants and refugees is more cramped, more Trumpian, than our national myths suggest. In order to understand and undo the Muslim ban (and given the prioritization of religious minorities in those seven countries, a Muslim ban it is) we need to understand why it is in fact in line with our history, even as it feels so un-American.’

Source: Vox

Uncategorized

How a president can be declared unfit to serve

new-hat-for-the-times‘The president of the United States has essentially unconstrained authority to use nuclear weapons however he sees fit.

So what would happen if the president, in the judgment of those closest to him, were to … not be in his right mind?

In such a scenario, there is, in fact, something that could quickly and legally be done to avert global catastrophe. The answer lies in Section 4 of the 25th Amendment to the Constitution.

The amendment states that if, for whatever reason, the vice president and a majority of sitting Cabinet secretaries decide that the president is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office,” they can simply put that down in writing and send it to two people — the speaker of the House and the Senate’s president pro tem.

 Then the vice president would immediately become “Acting President,” and take over all the president’s powers.

Let that sink in — one vice president and any eight Cabinet officers can, theoretically, decide to knock the president out of power at any time.

If the president wants to dispute this move, he can, but then it would be up to Congress to settle the matter with a vote. A two-thirds majority in both houses would be necessary to keep the vice president in charge. If that threshold isn’t reached, the president would regain his powers.

 Section 4 of the 25th Amendment has never been invoked in reality, though it’s a staple of thriller fiction. But there’s been a sudden surge of interest in it in recent months, as reports of Donald Trump’s bizarre behavior behind closed doors have been piling up, and there is increasingly unsubtle speculation in Washington about the health of the president’s mind.’

Source: Vox

 

Yeah, but…Pence??

Uncategorized

What’s The Next Big Dystopian Novel? Margaret Atwood Has Some Ideas

‘I was lucky enough to have a conversation with Margaret Atwood today, about the sudden popularity of her dystopian classic The Handmaid’s Tale. You can hear that story here. But there was one thing that didn’t make it into the finished piece — a moment when I asked Atwood what she thought the next big trend would be in dystopian reading. People have been devouring The Handmaid’s Tale1984Brave New World, It Can’t Happen Here and The Plot Against America — so what’s the next book we’ll be reporting on?

Well, it won’t be a book, according to Atwood. “The question to be asked is, if somebody does write such a novel where will it be published?” she says. “I think we might go back to newspaper serials … Because events are evolving so fast it would almost take a serial form to keep up with them.”

One installment a week, Atwood says, and “I would make my narrator somebody from within one of the alt-Twitter handles that are popping up all over — as alternative Department of Justice, alternative Parks Department, alternative Education.” Someone inside the government, who’s risking their job to leak information to the public.

Dear readers, you know I asked Margaret Atwood if she’d be willing to write this for me here at NPR. But she says she’s not the right one for the job. “Number one, I’m too old,” she says. “But number two, it would have to be somebody there, who’s pretty close to events as they unfold. Almost like Samuel Pepys’ diary,” she says, referencing the famous English chronicler. “‘Dear diary, you would never believe what happened today! Dear diary, are they on to me? My milkshake tasted funny.'”

Atwood says a story like that would boost newspaper sales, “employ fiction writers and follow the situation while it’s unfolding — while you’re still allowed to read!”

So, speculative fiction writers, get on it! (Though personally, now I’m always going to wonder if it’s really Margaret Atwood tweeting as @AltUSNatParkService.)’

Source: Petra Mayer, NPR

 

Uncategorized

Why the sound of noisy eating fills some people with rage

‘Imagine feeling angry or upset whenever you hear a certain everyday sound. It’s a condition called misophonia, and we know little about its causes. Now there’s evidence that misophonics show distinctive brain activity whenever they hear their trigger sounds, a finding that could help devise coping strategies and treatments.

Olana Tansley-Hancock knows misophonia’s symptoms only too well. From the age of about 7 or 8, she experienced feelings of rage and discomfort whenever she heard the sound of other people eating. By adolescence, she was eating many of her meals alone. As time wore on, many more sounds would trigger her misophonia. Rustling papers and tapping toes on train journeys constantly forced her to change seats and carriages. Clacking keyboards in the office meant she was always making excuses to leave the room.

Finally, she went to a doctor for help. “I got laughed at,” she says.

“People who suffer from misophonia often have to make adjustments to their lives, just to function,” says Miren Edelstein at the University of California, San Diego. “Misophonia seems so odd that it’s difficult to appreciate how disabling it can be,” says her colleague, V. S. Ramachandran.

The condition was first given the name misophonia in 2000, but until 2013, there had only been two case studies published. More recently, clear evidence has emerged that misophonia isn’t a symptom of other conditions, such as obsessive compulsive disorder, nor is it a matter of being oversensitive to other people’s bad manners.

Some studies, including work by Ramachandran and Edelstein, have found that trigger sounds spur a full fight-or-flight response in people with misophonia.’

Source: New Scientist

Uncategorized

A Wild New Compound Made with ‘Inert’ Helium Could Rewrite Chemistry Textbooks

‘An international team of scientists think they’ve created a stable helium compound, meaning one composed of both helium and sodium atoms together. The discovery would be wild not only because of the way it goes against some of our basic assumptions of chemistry, but would also help scientists better understand the way atoms act in the high-pressure centers of gas giant planets…’

Source: Gizmodo

Uncategorized

Why the Higgs Boson Found at the Large Hadron Collider Could Be an ‘Impostor’

‘In 2012, researchers at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in Switzerland famously found a particle that acted like the Higgs boson, an elusive and long-theorized particle that imbues mass to matter. Usha Mallik, a University of Iowa physicist, thinks that they might have caught an “impostor” masquerading as the Higgs, and that it’s possible we still haven’t found the real Higgs boson at all…’

Source: Motherboard

Uncategorized

Left Wing or Right, Don’t Most People Know When They’re Sitting With a Fool?

trump‘President Donald Trump threatened to “destroy” the career of a Texas state senator after a Texas sheriff accused the lawmaker of getting in his way by promoting asset forfeiture reform.
“Want to give his name? We’ll destroy his career,” Trump told Sheriff Harold Eavenson of Rockwall County, Texas. Trump’s comment was met with laughter and Eavenson declined to give the official’s name. …’

Source: Sam Levine, Huffington Post .

Trump staff later explained he was ‘joking.’ Of course, what they meant is that he is the joke. Unfortunately the joke’s on us.  #notmeinfuhrer

Uncategorized

Antifascists Have Become the Most Reasonable People in America

liveraf-bolton‘The most aggressive edge of the resistance marches under the banner of anti-fascism, or “antifa.” While most Americans would likely agree that “fascism is bad,” anti-fascism is a more specific set of politics. The antifa banner features black and red flags, signifying an alliance between anarchists and communists. What unites these two groups (who have been known to kill one another from time to time) is a commitment to confront and defeat fascists and white supremacists by whatever means necessary. It’s a coalition that has existed for as long as fascism has; the Italian Arditi del Popolo (People’s Squads) rose to fight Mussolini in 1921, even when the Socialist and Communist Parties refused to support them. In 1924, anarchist lumberjacks allied with the International Workers of the World waged a “drawn battle” with a Ku Klux Klan recruitment drive in Greenville, Maine. American anti-fascists have been fighting a mostly quiet conflict with domestic Nazis at punk rock venues and small white-nationalist gatherings for decades, but, as fascists have snuck their collective jackboot into the curved door of the Oval Office, the struggle has reached the mainstream…’

Source: Pacific Standard

Uncategorized

U.S. Animal Abuse Records Deleted—What We Stand to Lose

‘Two weeks into the Trump Administration, thousands of documents detailing animal welfare violations nationwide have been removed from the website of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), which has been posting them publicly for decades. These are the inspection records and annual reports for every commercial animal facility in the U.S.—including zoos, breeders, factory farms, and laboratories.

These records have revealed many cases of abuse and mistreatment of animals, incidents that, if the reports had not been publicly posted, would likely have remained hidden. This action plunges journalists, animal welfare organizations, and the public at large into the dark about animal welfare at facilities across the country. The records document violations of the Animal Welfare Act, the federal law that regulates treatment of animals used for research and exhibition.

 

The USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), which has maintained the online database, cites privacy concerns as justification for the removal. Critics question that reasoning. The agency has long redacted sensitive information from these records, and commercial facilities do not necessarily have the same right to privacy as private individuals…

Adam Roberts, CEO of Born Free USA, an animal advocacy nonprofit based in Washington, D.C., is “shocked” by the purge. He says the documents shed light on cruelty in “substandard roadside zoos, shameful animal circuses, puppy breeding factories and more.” Often, the animals in these facilities may have visible wounds or cramped conditions or no access to water, according to Roberts. He says “the government’s decision to make it harder to access this information further protects animal exploiters in the shroud of secrecy on which their nefarious activities thrive.”

From now on the documents will be accessible only via official requests made under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). FOIA requests can take months to process. That’s far too long, Roberts says. When Born Free receives welfare complaints from concerned citizens, he says the organization has always checked USDA records to see if any complaints had already been made involving the facility or animal in question. Waiting months for a FOIA report for information that previously could be obtained with the click of a button “may mean prolonged suffering for an animal in need,” Roberts says.

The impact on journalism—and therefore the public’s awareness of animal suffering—may also be significant. “Long delays in processing federal FOIA requests already hinder the public and journalists in obtaining information that’s essential to ensuring that government is truly working for the people,” says Doug Haddix, executive director of Investigative Reporters and Editors, based in Columbia, Missouri. The added burden of animal requests could slow FOIAs down even more…’

Source: National Geographic

Uncategorized

Alibaba CEO Warns That ‘If Trade Stops, War Starts’

‘Jack Ma, CEO of Alibaba and the second-richest man in China, visited Australia on Saturday. He had a dire warning for Trump and his hardline, anti-globalization ideas about trade: this could be war.Ma was in Melbourne to celebrate the opening of the Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba’s Australia/New Zealand headquarters. Speaking to attendees at the event, Ma said: “Everybody is concerned about trade wars. If trade stops, war starts.” …’

Source: Gizmodo

Uncategorized

Kill the DeVos Appointment

It appears that the Senate needs one more vote to deny Betsy DeVos the nomination for Secretary of Education. Republican Senator Richard Burr of NC may be on the fence about whether or not to vote for  DeVos — who is unqualified, opposed to public education, and a plagiarist as well. 
Sen. Burr’s number is 202-224-3154. That phone line takes calls at any time and  is set up so that it only takes a moment to leave a message. Supposedly they are tracking the number of calls they get. It may not matter that you are not his constituent. 

Uncategorized

Germany, Switzerland, Denmark, Belgium, and Portugal join the Netherlands in mocking Donald Trump

‘President Trump’s antagonizing of people around the world has sparked quite the backlash. He’s instituting barely coded religious tests, “yelling” at and hanging up on leaders of democratic countries, and still vowing to build that big, beautiful border wall. (Now partly transparent!) Last week, the Netherlands tried to assuage fears of friction with an “official” welcome video, using President Trump’s own words to promise he’ll be embraced with open arms. As its new saying goes, “America First, the Netherlands Second.”

Turns out that Switzerland, Denmark, Belgium, Portugal, and Germany—where citizens’ trust in the U.S. has eroded to a record low—all want to get in on the Trump trolling, too. Comedy shows in these countries have recently produced their own “second” videos, featuring Trump impersonations that sharply mimic his unique oratory eloquence. Some, like Swiss TV show Deville Late Night’s parody, compare their country directly to the Netherlands in Trumpian fashion: “Look at those mountains, those big flat mountains,” the voice-over goes. “We’re not flat like, for example, the Netherlands. They are so flat. Total disaster.”…’

Source: David Canfield, Slate.

Uncategorized

British railway guard kicks racist off train

At least go sit, preferably in numbers, by your Muslim brethren being harassed by ignorant racist xenophobes like this:

‘Alexander MacKinnon thought it would be “my word against hers” after he directed racial abuse at Sanaa Shahid on a train out of London—the sneering solicitor said she shouldn’t be in the country, let alone first class. Unfortunately for him, he was overheard…’

Source: Boing Boing

Uncategorized

Scientists, and their moral duty to resist trumpism

‘A trio of “scientists against a fascist government” set out a program for resisting trumpism with science, delving into the moral duty of scientists to resist the perversion of their work to attain cruel and evil ends.Trumpism includes savage attacks on ideologically inconvenient science — climate science especially — as well as xenophobic attacks on scientists themselves…’

Source: Boing Boing