Hand to Mouth: Why?

‘If language began with gestures around a campfire and secret signals on hunts, why did speech come to dominate communication?…’

— via Aeon

Cognitive scientist Kensy Cooperrider notes the difficulty of explaining the origin of language. One particularly resilient notion has been that it began as gesture, which seems intuitive and is also borne out by examination of the communication proclivities of our primate relatives. Now to the core problem: people gesture but, outside deaf communities, speech predominates. Some factors include that speech is abstract; that it is better in the dark; that it frees up the hands to do something else; and, perhaps most important, that it takes less caloric expenditure than signing. 

So if there are good reasons to transition from gestural to verbal communication, how did it happen? There is longstanding and growing evidence of the close neurobiological coupling of hand and mouth. The mouth for example, is very active in signing, often echoing in miniaturized form. This provides a notion of a gradual route to adopt a more ‘compact’ form of communicative behavior, with gesture remaining vestigial. 

As challenging as this question is, Cooperrider ends up observing, it is only one piece of an enormously mysterious puzzle:

Even if we were able to establish some version of a gesture-first proposal as not merely plausible but likely, there would be many more layers to contend with. We would also want to understand how we came by our abilities to read other minds, to sequence and combine ideas, to conceptualise abstractions such as ‘tomorrow’ and ‘truth’. We would need to explain, not merely whether we first conveyed meaning by hand or by mouth, but why we felt an itch to mean anything at all. 

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s speech against misogyny in Congress was overdue

 

‘During a policy disagreement at the US Capitol on Tuesday, Yoho called the Congress member “crazy,” “disgusting,” and “out of [her] freaking mind.” After she left, he reportedly said she was a “fucking bitch,” according to The Hill’s Mike Lillis.

In remarks on Wednesday, Yoho glossed over most of this without taking accountability for his words. “Having been married for 45 years with two daughters, I’m very cognizant of my language,” Yoho said. “The offensive name-calling words attributed to me by the press were never spoken to my colleagues and if they were construed that way, I apologize for their misunderstanding.”

Ocasio-Cortez, however, called his deflection out for what it was: the latest example of men engaging in a culture of abuse toward women while using the women in their lives to avoid scrutiny for their actions.

“I will not stay up late at night waiting for an apology from a man who has no remorse over calling women and using abusive language towards women,” she said in a floor speech on Thursday. “But what I do have issue with is using women — wives and daughters — as shields and excuses for poor behavior.”

Her speech, which emphasized that the problem is much bigger than Yoho, was long overdue.

“Mr. Yoho was not alone. He was walking shoulder to shoulder with Representative Roger Williams,” she said. “And that’s when we start to see that this issue is not about one incident. It is cultural. It is a culture of a lack of impunity, of acceptance of violence and violent language against women, an entire structure of power that supports that.”…’

— via Vox

Do humans have a north sense?

‘Possibly we have a sense called magnetoreception which lets us tune into the earth’s magnetic field and know where north is. Birds can do it…

There’s some scientific evidence from 2019 that humans can detect magnetic fields: when placing subjects in an isolation chamber, among many participants, changes in their brain waves correlated with changes in the magnetic field around them.

OR MAYBE:

Humans are sensitive to polarised light… Polarised light is interesting because light across the sky is polarised in a particular pattern depending on the position of the sun. See: the Raleigh sky model…

It has been suggested that Vikings were able to navigate on the open sea in a similar fashion, using the birefringent crystal Iceland spar, which they called “sunstone”, to determine the orientation of the sky’s polarization. This would allow the navigator to locate the sun, even when it was obscured by cloud cover. An actual example of such a “sunstone” was found on a sunken (Tudor) ship dated 1592, in proximity to the ship’s navigational equipment.

So maybe we unconsciously tap into a natural ability to sense polarised light, which is to say a sense of where the sun is, and so end up with a sense of north?

BONUS:

Dogs tend to poop aligned north-south. It’s probably because they’re sensitive to the earth’s magnetic field rather than polarised light. How do the scientists know? Because during magnetic storms, dogs poop any which way….’

— Matt Webb via Interconnected

R.I.P Peter Green

‘Blues guitarist Peter Green, a co-founder of the band Fleetwood Mac, has died at the age of 73.

… A statement from Green’s family on Saturday said, “It is with great sadness that the family of Peter Green announce his death this weekend, peacefully in his sleep. A further statement will be provided in the coming days.”

Green was known for his blues guitar sound even prior to the forming of Fleetwood Mac. He replaced Eric Clapton in John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers in 1965. Just a couple years later in 1967, Green and fellow Bluesbreakers members, drummer Mick Fleetwood and bassist John McVie, formed Fleetwood Mac, along with guitarist Jeremy Spencer….’

— via NPR

Some, myself included, would say the only real Fleetwood Mac was Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac. Never mind that Buckingham and Nicks jangly pop. Going to put ‘The Green Manalishi’ on repeat now…

More reason to despair of the American intellect

25% in US see definite or probable truth in CoViD conspiracy theory

‘Most Americans (71%) have heard of a conspiracy theory circulating widely online that alleges that powerful people intentionally planned the coronavirus outbreak. And a quarter of U.S. adults see at least some truth in it – including 5% who say it is definitely true and 20% who say it is probably true, according to a June Pew Research Center survey. The share of Americans who see at least some truth to the theory differs by demographics and partisanship.

Educational attainment is an especially important factor when it comes to perceptions of the conspiracy theory. Around half of Americans with a high school diploma or less education (48%) say the theory is probably or definitely true, according to the survey, which was conducted as part of the Center’s American News Pathways project. That compares with 38% of those who have completed some college but have no degree, 24% of those with a bachelor’s degree and 15% of those with a postgraduate degree.

Partisan affiliation also plays a role in perceptions of the theory. About a third (34%) of Republicans and independents who lean to the GOP say the theory that powerful people intentionally planned the COVID-19 outbreak is probably or definitely true, compared with 18% of Democrats and Democratic leaners. It’s worth noting there is no significant difference in how likely partisans are to have heard at least a little about the theory: 72% of Republicans have heard of the claim, compared with 70% of Democrats.

Conservative Republicans are especially likely to see at least some truth in the theory: Roughly four-in-ten (37%) say it is probably or definitely true. This contrasts with 29% of moderate and liberal Republicans, 24% of moderate and conservative Democrats and 10% of liberal Democrats….’

— via Pew Research Center

Trump Commits Two More Impeachable Offenses This Week Alone

‘Five and a half months have passed since Senate Republicans voted to block additional testimony in Donald Trump’s impeachment trial and to acquit him, and just over two months remain until the first early voting begins. The election is now the only plausible mechanism to challenge the disdain for the rule of law that provoked Trump’s impeachment.

But the underlying crisis has not been resolved. The president still habitually abuses his power (article one) and rejects any restraint mechanisms built into the system (article two). Two new developments this week have driven home the ongoing threat to the rule of law….’

— via New York Magazine

Trump and Portland: How His Use of Federal Forces in Cities Differs From Past Presidents

 

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This is farcical. Urban policy analyst Emily Badger (whose bio says she is “particularly interested in …inequality”), writing in The New York Times, agonizes over legal scholars’ alarm about whether the Enfant Terrible’s use of federal forces as personal shock troopers is constitutional or not, and how the “optics” of the federal response suggest political motivations. Law professor Stephen Vladeck from UTAustin, for example, is quoted repeatedly with one variant after another of how ‘troubled’ he is by some of the unanswered questions. But, really, none of this is debatable. Clearly, it is motivated by the basest political motives. Clearly, it is designed to suppress Black Lives Matter. Clearly, it is the illegal and execrable act of a tyrant. How about agonizing over what is to be done in response to this monstrous despotism before there is no longer a constitutional framework within which to operate? It appears the Times‘ pitiful ineffectual intellectual masturbation will continue until the day it is censored out of existence.

Fireflies Are Going Extinct. Here’s How to Help Save Them

  • ‘Turn off your outside lights. It’ll help fireflies find a mate, which is good for next summer’s populations.
  • Plant some native trees in your yard. The larva of some species grows in rotten logs and forest canopy litter, so let the natural litter around them accumulate.
  • Add water features to your landscaping. Most fireflies thrive around standing water. That doesn’t, however, include swimming pools: Fireflies eat the grubs, snails and smaller insects around natural ponds and streams, and those food sources don’t live in chemically treated environments.
  • Skip the chemicals. Even if fireflies don’t ingest a chemical pesticide directly, they will likely ingest other insects that have been poisoned. Instead, opt for natural options, especially for lawn fertilizers.
  • Don’t over-mow the lawn. It’s where a lot of fireflies hang out during the day, and frequent mowing can disturb them. In fact, planting long grasses can attract even more fireflies to your yard….’

— via Lifehacker

Should the UN Declare a Responsibility to Protect Americans from the Trump Administration?

 

‘Should the United Nations Security Council consider a resolution calling for a responsibility to protect the people of the United States from the Trump administration’s handling of COVID-19?

Responsibility to Protect, otherwise known as R2P, is a 2005 UN resolution that declares that when a state either participates in, permits, or is unable to stop large-scale civilian deaths, it has forfeited its sovereignty and the international community has the responsibility to halt the slaughter. Has the Trump administration failed in its fundamental responsibility to protect its population, and should the international community intervene? Nothing of the kind will happen, of course—but that is because of politics, not because a case cannot be made….’

— Michael Barnett, writing on Political Violence at a Glance

Trump Consults Bush Torture Lawyer on How to Skirt Law and Rule by Decree

‘The Trump administration has been consulting the former government lawyer who wrote the legal justification for waterboarding on how the president might try to rule by decree.

Constitutional scholars and human rights activists have also pointed to the deployment of paramilitary federal forces against protesters in Portland as a sign that Trump is ready to use this broad interpretation of presidential powers as a means to suppress basic constitutional rights.

“This is how it begins,” Laurence Tribe, a Harvard constitutional law professor, wrote on Twitter. “The dictatorial hunger for power is insatiable. If ever there was a time for peaceful civil disobedience, that time is upon us.”…’

— Via The Guardian

Trump Prepping To Dispatch Federal Squads To More Democratic Cities

Trump Prepping To Dispatch Federal Squads To More Democratic Cities

The Impeached president’s stormtroopers

‘The Trump administration is preparing to roll out a plan this week to send military-style federal assault squads already in Portland, Oregon, into other cities, warned White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, who only named locations with Democratic mayors.

Attorney General William Barr is “weighing in on that” with acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf, Meadows said Sunday on Fox News.

“You’ll see something rolled out this week, as we start to go in and make sure that the communities — whether it’s Chicago or Portland or Milwaukee or someplace across the heartland — we need to make sure their communities are safe,” he added.

All three cities named are run by Democrats.

President Donald Trump also indicated that federal squads would likely target cities run by the party that opposes him. He said on “Fox News Sunday” that “violence” was on the increase in “Democrat-run cities.”

“They are liberally run, they are stupidly run,” the president added….’

— via HuffPost

The Border Patrol Was Responsible for an Arrest in Portland

Federal officers in unmarked uniforms fire on demonstrators with tear gas and “less lethal” munitions at Portland’s Federal Courthouse.

 

‘An internal memo, obtained exclusively by The Nation, details a coordinated program of domestic counterinsurgency….’

— via The Nation

 

My burning question is: for which offenses will the Biden Justice Dept arrest and prosecute Trump after Jan 2021? Too little too late, but we need the guilty verdict we never got in the impeachment trial after all. 

Leaked Documents: Police Knew Far-Right Extremists Were the Real Threat at Protests, Not “Antifa”

People with the boogaloo movement, pray as they demonstrate against business closures due to concern about Covid-19, at the State House in Concord, N.H. on May 2, 2020.

‘AS PROTESTS AGAINST police violence spread to every state in the U.S. and dramatic images flooded in from cities across the country, President Donald Trump and his attorney general spun an ominous story of opportunistic leftists exploiting a national trauma to sow chaos and disorder. They were the anti-fascists known as “antifa,” and according to the administration they were domestic terrorists who would be policed accordingly.

But while the White House beat the drum for a crackdown on a leaderless movement on the left, law enforcement offices across the country were sharing detailed reports of far-right extremists seeking to attack the protesters and police during the country’s historic demonstrations, a trove of newly leaked documents reveals….’

— via The Intercept

The US has devolved in ways we could never have imagined

Shilling beans, fighting back against calls for a Goya boycott after company president’s praise for the Boy King

‘When I’m at a loss for words to describe our political reality, I look to the work of Bálint Magyar. He is the Hungarian sociologist who has pioneered and systematized a language that political science can use to describe contemporary demagogues and the regimes they create. More than a decade ago, he described the Mafia state, a distinct political system built around a patron who distributes money and power. A year and a half ago, he told me that Trump acts “like a Mafia boss without a Mafia”: he couldn’t turn the United States into a Mafia state, but he was acting as though he could.

Since then, the U.S. has devolved in ways we couldn’t have imagined, and Magyar has continued his research on post-Communist autocracies, which, in turn, continue to offer ways to examine the American Presidency. Magyar’s new book, co-authored with Bálint Madlovics, is “The Anatomy of Post-Communist Regimes: A Conceptual Framework.” It contains, among other insights, a critique of how we usually talk about and measure corruption. Magyar and Madlovics write that the problem with measurements used by, say, Transparency International, which produces an annual index of perceived corruption, is that the index assumes that corruption represents a departure from a norm: “They understand the state by its formal identity: as dominantly an institution of the public good, with some subordinates who deviate from that purpose and abuse their position by requesting or accepting bribes and appointing cronies without a legitimate basis.” This view of corruption fails when confronted with a government to which corruption is central, or in which corruption is not voluntary but coercive—where the corrupt relationship is forced by one partner upon the other. In other words, conventional measures of corruption are not applicable to the U.S. under Trump. Corruption is no longer deviant in this country: it is instead the defining characteristic of this Presidency….’

— Masha Gessen writing in The New Yorker

R.I.P. John Lewis

UntitledImage Photo by Michael Avedon

”You are a light. You are the light. Never let anyone—any person or any force—dampen, dim or diminish your light. Study the path of others to make your way easier and more abundant. Lean toward the whispers of your own heart, discover the universal truth, and follow its dictates. […] Release the need to hate, to harbor division, and the enticement of revenge. Release all bitterness. Hold only love, only peace in your heart, knowing that the battle of good to overcome evil is already won. Choose confrontation wisely, but when it is your time don’t be afraid to stand up, speak up, and speak out against injustice. And if you follow your truth down the road to peace and the affirmation of love, if you shine like a beacon for all to see, then the poetry of all the great dreamers and philosophers is yours to manifest in a nation, a world community, and a Beloved Community that is finally at peace with itself.“

—  John Lewis (thanks, Barbara)

UntitledImage Lewis and Barack Obama walked across the Edmund Pettis Bridge in Selma AL fifty years after landmark march.

US presidents join tributes to a civil rights icon

— via BBC News

Researchers develop steerable wireless camera small enough to fit on back of a live bug

A Bug-Sized Camera for Bug-Sized Robots and Bug-Sized Bugs – IEEE Spectrum

‘the wireless camera system can stream video frames (160×120 pixels monochrome) to a cell phone up to 120 meters away for up to 6 hours when powered by a 0.5-g, 10-mAh battery. A live, first-bug view can be streamed at up to 5 frames per second. The system was successfully tested on a pair of darkling beetles that were allowed to roam freely outdoors, and the researchers noted that they could also mount it on spiders or moths, or anything else that could handle the payload. (The researchers removed the electronics from the insects after the experiments and observed no noticeable adverse effects on their behavior.)

The researchers are already thinking about what it might take to put a wireless camera system on something that flies, and it’s not going to be easy—a bumblebee can only carry between 100 and 200 mg. The power system is the primary limitation here, but it might be possible to use a solar cell to cut down on battery requirements….’

— via IEEE Spectrum

Pompeo Says Human Rights Policy Must Prioritize Property Rights and Religion

‘Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivered a divisive speech on Thursday calling for the United States to ground its human rights policy more prominently in religious liberty and property rights.

Mr. Pompeo’s speech, at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, came as he announced the release of a report created by a panel he commissioned last year to suggest how American human rights policy could better reflect the “nation’s founding principles.”

“It’s important for every American, and for every American diplomat, to recognize how our founders understood unalienable rights,” Mr. Pompeo said. “Foremost among these rights are property rights and religious liberty.”

Human rights scholars have criticized Mr. Pompeo’s panel since its inception, noting it was filled with conservatives who were intent on promoting views against abortion and marriage equality. Critics also warned that it sidestepped the State Department’s internal bureau responsible for promoting human rights abroad.
Experts have said that Mr. Pompeo’s efforts to prioritize religion in particular above other ideals in American diplomacy could reverse the country’s longstanding belief that “all rights are created equal” and embolden countries that persecute same-sex couples or deny women access to reproductive health services for religious reasons….’

— via The New York Times

Trump Unleashes His Secret Police in Portland

‘Donald Trump’s war on protesters is escalating, with reports emerging out of Portland, Ore., that federal law enforcement officers, wearing camouflage but without any other visible insignia, have been rounding up American citizens. On Thursday, Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB) reported that “federal law enforcement officers have been using unmarked vehicles to drive around downtown Portland and detain protesters since at least July 14. Personal accounts and multiple videos posted online show the officers driving up to people, detaining individuals with no explanation of why they are being arrested, and driving off.”

OPB quotes one person who was arrested by these officers, although never charged. “I am basically tossed into the van,” Mark Pettibone told the broadcaster. “And I had my beanie pulled over my face so I couldn’t see and they held my hands over my head.” He was taken to a building that he later discovered was a federal courthouse. Only there was he read his Miranda rights, but he was never charged. After he asked for a lawyer, he was released. Videos are circulating on social media of similar detentions.

“It’s like stop and frisk meets Guantanamo Bay,” attorney Juan Chavez told OPB. He added that these detentions were not following any rules of probable cause. “It sounds more like abduction. It sounds like they’re kidnapping people off the streets.”

On the face of it, what these federal officers are doing is illegal and unconstitutional. It’s possible that they are acting under the 2011 National Defense Authorization Act, signed by Barack Obama, which legalized the detention of Americans suspected of being terrorists. If so, then the War on Terrorism has truly come home….’

— via The Nation

Police keep using ‘excited delirium’ to justify brutality. It’s junk science

 

Placard of 23-year-old Elijah McClain, dead in 2019 after he was stopped while walking to his apartment by three Aurora Police Department officers. 

‘Across the United States, police officers are routinely taught that excited delirium is a condition characterized by the abrupt onset of aggression and distress, typically accompanying drug abuse, often resulting in sudden death. One 2014 article from the FBI’s Law Enforcement Bulletin describes “excited delirium syndrome” as “a serious and potentially deadly medical condition involving psychotic behavior, elevated temperature, and an extreme fight-or-flight response by the nervous system.”

How often is excited delirium invoked? It’s unclear, but in Florida at least 53 deaths in police custody were attributed to it over the past 10 years. One study showed that 11 percent of sudden unexplained deaths in police custody in Maryland from 1990 to 2004 were attributed to excited delirium. The American College of Emergency Physicians published a controversial position paper in 2009 stating its consensus that excited delirium is a valid disease, associated with a significant risk of sudden death.

But excited delirium is pseudoscience. It’s not a concept recognized by the American Medical Association or the American Psychiatric Association. It isn’t a valid diagnosis; it’s a misappropriation of medical terminology, and it doesn’t justify police violence…

Excited delirium implies that there is a medical condition that predisposes certain individuals, often black men, to die in police custody. It draws upon aspects of real medical conditions such as delirium, psychosis, drug intoxication and sudden cardiac death. But it manipulates them to form a broadly applicable blanket diagnosis that serves the interests of law enforcement and absolves officers of accountability….’

— @MeabhOHare, @JoshuaBudhu, @AltafSaadiMD via The Washington Post

As an emergency and consultation psychiatrist who is routinely asked to see cases of delirium, I concur and am adding my name to those authoritatively attempting to refute this racist trope. 

File this away in case you want to get away with murder

‘THE 50-SQUARE-MILE STRETCH OF YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK that spills over Idaho’s border is a legal no-man’s land. It’s an isolated spot, one devoid of roads or any permanent human inhabitants. It’s also missing legislation to prevent people from being charged with serious crimes.

The loophole has to do with the Sixth Amendment, which dictates that a jury must be comprised of people from the state and federal district where the crime was committed. Because this portion of Yellowstone is in Idaho and the park itself lies within the jurisdiction of Wyoming, it means a jury for a crime committed there would have to come from people who both live in Idaho and fall under Wyoming’s federal jurisdiction.

It would be an impossible jury to form, as this uninhabited part of the park is the only place to fit such criteria. And since Yellowstone is federal land, the individual states involved have no legal jurisdiction to amend the issue.

Brian Kalt, a law professor at Michigan State University, brought the loophole into the spotlight in 2005. In a paper published in Georgetown Law Journal called “The Perfect Crime,” Kalt outlined the legal technicalities that put this potentially murderous geographic anomaly on the map. He sent copies of his work to various government authorities before it hit print, hoping someone would close the loophole….’

— via Atlas Obscura

Study: How effective does a COVID-19 coronavirus vaccine need to be to stop the pandemic?

‘In a study published July 15 in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, my colleagues and I used a computer simulation of every person in the country to show how effective a vaccine would have to be and how many people would have to get vaccinated to end the pandemic. We found that a coronavirus vaccine’s effectiveness may have to be higher than 70% or even 80% before Americans can safely stop relying social distancing. By comparison, the measles vaccine has an efficacy of 95%-98%, and the flu vaccine is 20%-60%….’

— via The Conversation

Your best view in 6800 years

Above Kreva, Belarus on July 13, 2020. 

‘For the next month, comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE), otherwise known as “Neowise,” will be visible in the night sky above much of the Northern Hemisphere. The comet will be at its brightest this week, dimming as it moves away from the sun. If you have clear skies, head outside about an hour after sunset and look near the horizon to the northwest. For the next week or so, if it’s dark enough, Neowise might be visible to the naked eye, but you may need binoculars to see it well. The images in the photos below are made with long exposures, so they may appear stronger than what you’d see with your own eyes, but it’s still worth a look—this is the brightest comet we’ve seen in 23 years, and after this, Neowise won’t be back for another 6,800 years….’

— via The Atlantic

Trump discounts rate of black killings by police

‘President Trump on Tuesday rejected the notion that Black Americans suffer disproportionately from police brutality, saying in an interview that will be televised later today that white people are killed in greater numbers.

Mr. Trump reacted angrily when asked about the issue, which has led to nationwide protests calling for major law enforcement changes.

“Why are African-Americans still dying at the hands of law enforcement in this country?” the interviewer, Catherine Herridge of CBS News, asked the president.

“What a terrible question to ask,” Mr. Trump responded. “So are white people. More white people, by the way.”…’

— via New York Times

It would be tempting to attribute the statement to the Boy King’s inability to understand statistics, or to implicit racism, but of course it has more to do with explicit racism in this case.

So long to herd immunity

Can you catch Covid-19 twice? A doctor suggests herd immunity is wishful thinking:

‘My patient caught Covid-19 twice.. Emerging cases of Covid-19 reinfection suggest herd immunity is wishful thinking….’

— via Vox

US Supreme Court rules half of Oklahoma is Native American land

 

‘The US Supreme Court has ruled about half of Oklahoma belongs to Native Americans, in a landmark case that also quashed a child rape conviction.
The justices decided 5-4 that an eastern chunk of the state, including its second-biggest city, Tulsa, should be recognised as part of a reservation.
Jimcy McGirt, who was convicted in 1997 of raping a girl, brought the case.
He cited the historical claim of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation to the land where the assault occurred. What does the ruling mean? Thursday’s decision in McGirt v Oklahoma is seen as one of the most far-reaching cases for Native Americans before the highest US court in decades. The ruling means some tribe members found guilty in state courts for offences committed on the land at issue can now challenge their convictions….’

— via BBC News

Peter and Ben

After 30 years of solitude, Peter forms an unlikely friendship with a fellow loner

‘After taking a walk through a remote Welsh valley, Peter committed himself to a life there, and disconnected from the outside world. In doing so, he found a solitary inner peace – a peace he maintained for nearly three decades, until, one day, he stumbled upon a lamb that had been left for dead. Finding kinship with the fellow ‘dropout’, Peter took the abandoned creature home and named him Ben. The short Peter and Ben (2007) by the UK filmmaker Pinny Grylls captures the duo’s relationship three years after their chance meeting, as Peter attempts to return Ben to the wild. With a melancholic piano score and sweeping views of the Welsh countryside, her touching film lends a lyrical beauty to this tale of unlikely connection and camaraderie between outsiders….’

— via Aeon Videos

Drivers Are Hitting Protesters as Memes of Car Attacks Spread

Merlin 174279765 6118f52b 6bbb 4674 a4f3 e34164e23b64 superJumbo

‘Vehicular attacks have proliferated in recent weeks. Experts believe it is because of the combination of widespread protests across the country and the circulation of dangerous memes among extremist groups about running over pedestrians.

“There has been an increasing amount of propaganda online calling for vehicular attacks on protesters, targeting the Black Lives Matter movement in particular,” said Josh Lipowsky, a senior researcher at the Counter Extremism Project. “It is being used as a form of intimidation against them to get them to halt their protests.”

Attacks with vehicles are easy to conduct, he said, because they do not require a lot of planning or financial resources….’

— via The New York Times

239 experts: one core fact you thought you knew about coronavirus is wrong

Airborne spread, not droplet:

‘The coronavirus is finding new victims worldwide, in bars and restaurants, offices, markets and casinos, giving rise to frightening clusters of infection that increasingly confirm what many scientists have been saying for months: The virus lingers in the air indoors, infecting those nearby.

If airborne transmission is a significant factor in the pandemic, especially in crowded spaces with poor ventilation, the consequences for containment will be significant. Masks may be needed indoors, even in socially-distant settings. Health care workers may need N95 masks that filter out even the smallest respiratory droplets as they care for coronavirus patients.

Ventilation systems in schools, nursing homes, residences and businesses may need to minimize recirculating air and add powerful new filters. Ultraviolet lights may be needed to kill viral particles floating in tiny droplets indoors.

The World Health Organization has long held that the coronavirus is spread primarily by large respiratory droplets that, once expelled by infected people in coughs and sneezes, fall quickly to the floor.

But in an open letter to the W.H.O., 239 scientists in 32 countries have outlined the evidence showing that smaller particles can infect people, and are calling for the agency to revise its recommendations. The researchers plan to publish their letter in a scientific journal next week….’

— via New York Times

Related: Airborne Coronavirus: What You Should Do Now


How to protect yourself from a virus that may be floating indoors? Better ventilation, for starters. And keep wearing those masks. (New York Times)

 

The Boogaloo Tipping Point

What happens when a meme becomes a terrorist movement?

‘The boogaloo movement originally grew from the weapons discussion section (“/k/”) of the anarchic anonymous message board 4chan over the past several years. By 2019, its culture had disseminated across social media into a mix of online groups and chat servers where users shared libertarian political memes. In the past six months, this all began to manifest in real life, as users from the groups emerged at protests in what became their signature uniform: aloha shirts and combat gear. As nationwide unrest intensified at the start of the summer, many boogaloo adherents interpreted this as a cue to realize the group’s central fantasy—armed revolt against the U.S. government.

In Colorado earlier in May, then in Nevada in June, police arrested several other heavily armed self-identified boogaloo members, who the authorities claimed were on their way to demonstrations to incite violence. Disturbingly, the boogaloo movement is at least the third example of a mass of memes escaping from 4chan to become a real-life radical political movement, the first being the leftist-libertarian hacktivist collective Anonymous, which emerged in 2008; the second was the far-right fascist group of angry young men called the alt-right, which formed in 2015. (The conspiracy theory QAnon might be considered a fourth, but it is more than a political movement.)

At first glance, armed right-wing militants dressed in floral shirts may seem like another baffling grotesquerie in the parade of calamities that is 2020. However, their arrival can be explained by tracing their online origins. Similar to other right-leaning extremist movements, they are the product of an unhappy generation of men who compare their lot in life with that of men in previous decades and see their prospects diminishing. And with a mix of ignorance and simplicity, they view their discontent through the most distorted lens imaginable: internet memes….’

— via The Atlantic

Looking Beyond 2020, Have Some Republicans Found Their Next Leader in Another TV Personality?

‘When Republicans look at the wreckage that came from their decision to make Trump their leader, the conclusion some are coming to is that what they need is just a better TV personality: someone plays on the same grievances and resentments, but might be a little more competent if given the most powerful job in the world….’

— Paul Waldman writing in The Washington Post

Waldman thinks this is a sign of how broken the Republican Party is, but that doesn’t mean the next demagogue wouldn’t be elected any more than it did Trump. What’s that saying about a populace getting the President it deserves? That will be as true in 2024 as it was in 2016.

If Trump is defeated in the fall, it will not be because of the failure of the appeal of his ideology but rather his colossal imbecility and massive ineptitude in applying it. Don’t expect the Republicans to repeat that mistake, but it would be foolish to expect them to turn away from divisiveness, racism, sexism, and xenophobia. Pundits’ reports of the demise of the GOP, of its inability to continue to compete any longer in a two-party system, are absurdly fanciful.

The massive Black Lives Matter uprising, for example, has provoked a massive backlash, as manifested in both the banal — BLM lawn signs being stolen in the middle of the night — and the terrifying — launching cars into crowds of protesters, mocking the deaths of black men in police custody.

And morbidity and mortality statistics are confirming how many Americans are willing to endanger everyone around them by eschewing mask-wearing and social distancing because it tramples on their god-given right to freedom and stupidity.

Therein lies a mentality — and an incredibly widespread one at that — ripe for the picking.

These Were Created By A Neural Network

 

‘There has been a growing interest in neural networks recently. Just a few weeks ago, I posted about a neural network which created realistic faces based on the blurry photos it was fed with.

Now, a programmer named Aldo Cortesi has created an even stranger algorithm — one that draws silhouettes for nonexistent animals, some of which look plausible and others which look like nothing you’ve ever seen before.
In a post about the project, Cortesi wrote that he was indeed inspired by algorithms that generate human likenesses.
Check out the photos over at Futurism….’

— via Neatorama

What I Saw When I Came Eye to Eye with a Sperm Whale

‘…(I)t’s not a warm and fuzzy moment. In fact, it’s deeply unsettling. Does she know that we are the ones that put the plastic in the oceans? That drive the boats that ran her kind down? That we’re the descendants of the creatures that turned her ancestors into candles and engine grease?

Honestly, I have no idea. I sense nothing beyond profound intelligence and profound otherness. From three feet away, I feel the chasm between us, and I think she does, too. Why are you here? I want to ask. And from across the chasm, the question echoes back….’

Via Outside Online

Canada’s Sparrows Are Singing a New Song. You’ll Hear It Soon

Apparently, birds share their songs like we used to pass around mixtapes. White-throated sparrows in western Canada began singing a variant on the familiar classical sparrow call (“Old-Sam-Peabody-Peabody-Peabody”) about fifty years ago. The variant was syncopated differently, ending in doublets rather than triplets (“Old-Sam-Peabuh-Peabuh-Peabuh–Peabuh”). According to a newly-published study that took twenty years to complete, the novel version of the song has spread all across Canada. New birds appear to adopt the variant version when they winter with birds who sing it the new way. Initially thought to be characteristic only of “an isolated, peripheral population doing their own thing”, it was showing up as Far East as Ontario and by 2019 it was a certified hit, having taken over completely from the Yukon to Ontario and encroaching in the Northeastern US. 

— via The New York Times

The Cheap, Simple Way to Control the Pandemic

Opinion by Laurence J. Kotlikoff (professor of economics at Boston University) and Michael Mina (assistant professor of epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health):

‘Simple at-home tests for the coronavirus, some that involve spitting into a small tube of solution, could be the key to expanding testing and impeding the spread of the pandemic. The Food and Drug Administration should encourage their development and then fast track approval.

One variety, paper-strip tests, are inexpensive and easy enough to make that Americans could test themselves every day. You’ would simply spit into a tube of saline solution and insert a small piece of paper embedded with a strip of protein. If you are infected with enough of the virus, the strip will change color within 15 minutes.

Your next step would be to self-quarantine, notify your doctor and confirm the result with a standard swab test — the polymerase chain reaction nasal swab. Confirmation would give public health officials key information on the virus’s spread and confirm that you should remain in quarantine until your daily test turned negative.

E25Bio, Sherlock Biosciences, Mammoth Biosciences, and an increasing number of academic research laboratories are in the late stages of developing paper-strip and other simple, daily Covid-19 tests. Some of the daily tests are in trials and proving highly effective.

The strips could be mass produced in a matter of weeks and freely supplied by the government to everyone in the country. The price per person would be from $1 to $5 a day, a considerable sum for the entire population, but remarkably cost effective….’

— via The New York Times

Welcome to the United States of ‘Idiocracy’

‘When Mike Judge’s movie “Idiocracy” came out in 2006, almost no one saw it. (The film grossed less than $500,000 at the box office.) Now everyone should see it.
Luke Wilson plays an average Joe who is put into suspended animation and reawakens 500 years later to find himself the smartest person in America because everyone else has gotten so dumb. The No. 1 TV show features contestants being hit in their private parts; crops are watered with a sports energy drink, causing a famine; and the president is a former wrestler and porn star who curses freely and fires automatic weapons on TV.
Is there a better prophecy of our end times? The only thing “Idiocracy” really got wrong was its timeline. It has taken just 15 years, not 500, for America to become an idiocracy. …’

— Max Boot writing in The Washington Post

Duke University researchers: every brain activity study you’ve ever read is wrong

‘You know all those studies about brain activity? The ones that reveal thought patterns and feelings as a person performs a task? There’s a problem: The measurement they’re based on is inaccurate, according to a study out of Duke University that is rocking the field.

Functional MRI machines (fMRIs) are excellent at determining the brain structures involved in a task. For example, a study asking 50 people to count or remember names while undergoing an fMRI scan would accurately identify which parts of the brain are active during the task.

The trouble is that when the same person is asked to do the same tasks weeks or months apart, the results vary wildly. This is likely because fMRIs don’t actually measure brain activity directly: They measure blood flow to regions of the brain, which is used as a proxy for brain activity because neurons in those regions are presumably more active. Blood flow levels, apparently, change….’

— via Fast Company

R.I.P. Robert Laughlin

 

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Preserver of a Mayan Language Dies at 85:

‘Robert M. Laughlin, an anthropologist and linguist whose extensive work in the state of Chiapas in southern Mexico documented and helped revitalize Mayan languages and culture, died on May 28 in Alexandria, Va. He was 85. His son, Reese, said the cause was the new coronavirus.

Dr. Laughlin spent much of his professional life doing field work in Chiapas, beginning in the late 1950s. He learned the Tzotzil (also spelled Tsotsil) language as a graduate student with the Harvard Chiapas Project, a long-term ethnographic field study that had just been started by Professor Evon Vogt and was focusing on the town of Zinacantán. After years of painstaking work, in 1975 Dr. Laughlin published The Great Tzotzil Dictionary of San Lorenzo Zinacantán, with 30,000 entries.

Indigenous languages in the region — there are many — had been under siege since the Spanish conquest, and Dr. Laughlin’s dictionary helped spur a revival of interest in them. The dictionary, published by the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, where Dr. Laughlin was curator of Mesoamerican ethnology, was not simply a compilation of which Tzotzil word equals which English word. It was a deep dive into word origins, how the language had mutated and more….’

— via New York Times

 

Studying anthropology as an undergraduate in the early 1970s, I was privileged to be a participant in Vogt’s Chiapas Project, doing fieldwork living with a family of Tzotzil speakers in Zinacantan. In preparation for my time in Chiapas, I studied the language with the benefit of Laughlin’s dictionary and expertise and knew him a little. The Chiapas Project had a ranch outside San Cristobal de las Casas where the fieldworkers would convene on the weekends with Vogt and other ethnographic luminaries like Laughlin. My field research in Chiapas turned into my undergraduate thesis and I can still speak a little Tzotzil, although my interests soon turned away from social anthropology.

Latest Loch Ness Monster Photo

 

The photographer estimated it was around 30 feet away and about 8 feet long. He thought it was a ‘large fish’ but keen commenters feel it is evidence that Nessie is alive and well. 

— via Boing Boing

Biden “dominating” Trump in latest national poll

Biden “dominating” Trump in latest national poll:

’A NYT/Siena poll puts Joe Biden 14 points ahead of Donald Trump, leading him 50% to 36%. The margin has widened to cut into Trump’s firewall of white voters, suggesting a growing rejection of his approach to Covid and race.…’ (via Boing Boing)

(Of course, this is only heartening to the extent that you believe the Presidential election is determined by public opinion rather than voter suppression, foreign interference, and other manner of fraud and deceit, as my friend Abby points out. Think it can’t happen here?)

16 ‘Batshit Crazy’ Moments From John Bolton’s Book About Trump

‘Trump asked China to help him win the 2020 election…

Trump told China’s leader that concentration camps are a good idea…

Bolton says Mike Pompeo called Trump “so full of shit.” …

Trump’s White House aides were miserable…

Trump is impossible to brief…

Trump complains in private that he’s been too tough on Russia…

Trump asked Kelly if Finland is part of Russia…

Yes, Trump tried to swap military aid to Ukraine for an investigation of Joe Biden…

Trump said invading Venezuela would be “cool.” …

Trump said his big summit with Kim Jong Un was all for show…

Trump then obsessed for months over sending Kim an Elton John CD…

Trump really wanted to meet Kim Jong Un again…

Trump told Turkey’s president he’d squash a criminal investigation…

Trump asked Bolton to praise him on TV more…

White House trade policy meetings were “college food fights.” …

Trump asked Attorney General Bill Barr to put journalists “in jail.” …’

 

— Via VICE

Donald Trump rally: President talks about ramp walk for 14 minutes

The foreign perspective on ‘the most powerful man on the planet’:

‘As you might recall, the President publicly addressed the incident last week, saying the ramp was “very long and steep”, had “no handrail” and was “very slippery”.
He also claimed to have “run down” the final three metres, which was a weird thing to say, as the footage quite obviously showed it was false.

In any case, after that response from the President, the whole, ridiculous “Trump walked slowly down a ramp” thing appeared to be behind us.
Yet it seems to have been weighing heavily on Mr Trump’s mind. I say that because, as mentioned, he spent a quarter of an hour venting about it at today’s rally.

Usually, we would chop up Mr Trump’s monologue into a few short, easily digestible quotes, because that is how the news generally works. Politician delivers borderline incoherent stream of consciousness; reporter picks out the important bits; you get to move on with your life.
In this case, however, I thought it was worth transcribing Mr Trump’s entire monologue, because breaking it up would rob it of its full effect.
I present to you, without further comment, the most powerful man on the planet talking about that time people filmed him walking slowly down a ramp. Enjoy….’

— via news,com.au

Related:

‘Trump had little more to say about the coronavirus beyond his praise for our increasing testing capacity and his decision to restrict the entry of the Chinese. But the pandemic is worsening—thanks in large part to state reopenings that Trump has encouraged. An even deeper economic recession would likely follow another large, uncontrolled wave of infections. None of this was discussed. But Trump did offer extended reenactments of his journey down a ramp and the sip of water he took at his West Point address earlier this month…’

— via The New Republic

“I’m Sorry” – Warren Ellis

Does it affect your assessment of the sincerity of his recent apologies for decades of alleged abusiveness that he still has this up on his website?

‘I’m sorry I came in your shoes.

I’m sorry I hung your teddy bear from the light fitting and then pointed the anglepoise lamp at it so the first thing you saw when you came home was little Bear Paws swinging from his noose in silhouette on the wall.

I’m sorry about that thing with your chinchilla and the bellows. But I have to point out that it was me who wiped everything off the wallpaper, and your sister did get the fur out of her teeth.

I’m sorry I pissed in the steam iron.

I’m sorry about putting that half a horse from the road accident in the back of your car. But in my defense I thought you might, I dunno, find it useful for something.

I’m sorry I left that half a horse in the back of your car for two weeks.

I’m sorry about your mother almost choking to death on the condom, though I still don’t think it was my fault.

I’m sorry about your mother almost choking to death on the used condom a month later. That might have been my fault, yeah.

I’m sorry I pissed in the washing machine.

I’m sorry about that whole thing with the harpoon gun, the fishing line and the, you know, the string of dogs.

I’m sorry I made you help me stand the dogs in line.

I’m sorry I threw up in the carrot bread mix and didn’t tell anyone.

I’m sorry about exploding those frogs with your drinking straws and then putting them back in the drawer without telling you. Or rinsing them.

I’m sorry I pissed in your sister. On your sister. On. Really. On your sister.

I’m sorry about all these things, and anything else you can think of, and I really really love you and I want you to take me back.

And, um. I’m sorry the back of your house is on fire.

(written 2004)…’

— Via Warren Ellis

Cancelled?

Deaths prompt Alaska officials to remove ‘Into the Wild’ bus

‘An abandoned bus in the Alaska wilderness where a young man documented his demise over 114 days in 1992 has been removed by officials, frustrated that the bus has become a lure for dangerous, sometimes deadly pilgrimages into treacherous backcountry.

An Alaska National Guard Chinook helicopter flew the bus out of the woods just north of Denali National Park and Preserve on Thursday.


Christopher McCandless hiked to the bus located about 250 miles (402 kilometers) north of Anchorage nearly three decades ago, and the 24-year-old Virginian died from starvation when he couldn’t hike back out because of the swollen Teklanika River. He kept a journal of his plight, discovered when his body was found. McCandless’ story was first documented in Jon Krakauer’s 1996 book “Into the Wild,” followed by Sean Penn’s movie of the same name in 2007.

Over the years, the bus became a magnet for those wishing to retrace McCandless’ steps to the bus to pay homage. But the Teklanika River that prevented McCandless from hiking out also has caused problems for people who came later on pilgrimages. Two women, one from Switzerland in 2010 and one from Belarus in 2019, drowned on such pilgrimages.

State officials said there have been 15 other search-and-rescue operations since 2009, including one involving five Italian tourists last winter, one with severe frostbite….’

— Via Tampa Bay Times

Related:

How Chris McCandless Died (FmH)

 

Why Trump Keeps Losing at the Supreme Court

Neal Katyal (former acting U.S. Solicitor General) and Joshua Geltzer (executive director of the Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection):

‘The legal reasoning may look like it turns on obscure technicalities, but the administration’s cases are falling apart because of something much more deeply wrong…

Trump doesn’t see law as a constraint, but something to be manipulated—and that’s clearly a message his Cabinet seems to have received. Consequently, they play fast and loose with the law. The Court, in this decision and last year’s, is essentially saying that the law still matters.

Ultimately, that’s precisely what’s at stake as long as Trump is president. If all that matters is a president’s policy preferences, then law—including judicial review—is basically a facade: Dress it up enough, and it’ll pass muster. But if law matters—if building a record and considering facts and providing honest reasons matter—then Trump is sure to keep losing….’

— Via The Atlantic

A crossroads in Tulsa: How Trump plans to turn around his losing campaign

Trump strategy boils down to: infect the majority of expected 100,000 who show up to attend tonight’s Tulsa rally. Then return to red communities and spread coronavirus far and wide among MAGA supporters.

— Via CNNPolitics

Related:Tulsa Health Official Has A Stark Wake-Up Call For People Attending Trump Rally

‘“It’s a perfect storm,” warned Bruce Dart, who urged attendees to self-isolate and get tested for the coronavirus following the event….’

— Via HuffPost

Related: Six campaign staffers working on Tulsa rally test positive for coronavirus – CNNPolitics

Related: Trump dismisses the need to wear masks at his campaign rally in Tulsa

‘President Donald Trump told Axios on Friday that he anticipated a “wild evening” at his Saturday campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, while recommending “people do what they want” when it comes to wearing a mask at the event — and even suggested it could be harmful to wear one.

Trump’s comments come as the city has seen a surge in Covid-19 cases in the past few weeks. They also stand at odds with recommendations from public health officials in his own administration who recommend mask-wearing whenever social distancing isn’t possible, and with warnings from experts that indoor concerts and shows are natural superspreading events….’

— Via Vox

Related: When You Get to Hell, This Song Plays on Repeat for All Eternity:

‘2020’s worst piece of “music” is this Donald Trump reelection anthem, sung by seven disturbingly cheerful, mask-less white people….’

— Via VICE

Happy Litha

‘Midsummer or the Summer Solstice is the most powerful day of the year for the Sun God. Because this Sabbat glorifies the Sun God and the Sun, fire plays a very prominent role in this festival…

Most cultures of the Northern Hemisphere mark Midsummer in some ritualised manner and from time immemorial people have acknowledged the rising of the sun on this day. At Stonehenge, the heelstone marks the midsummer sunrise as seen from the centre of the stone circle.In ancient times, the Summer Solstice was a fire-festival of great importance when the burning of balefires ritually strengthened the sun. It was often marked with torchlight processions, by flaming tar barrels or by wheels bound with straw, which were set alight and rolled down steep hillsides. The Norse especially loved lengthy processions and would gather together their animals, families and lighted torches and parade through the countryside to the celebration site.

The use of fires, as well as providing magical aid to the sun, were also used to drive out evil and to bring fertility and prosperity to men, crops and herds. Blazing gorse or furze was carried around cattle to prevent disease and misfortune; while people would dance around the balefires or leap through the flames as a purifying or strengthening rite. The Celts would light balefires all over their lands from sunset the night before Midsummer until sunset the next day. Around these flames the festivities would take place. In Cornwall up to the mid 18th century the number and appearance of fires seen from any given point was used as a form of divination and used to read the future.

Astronomically, it is the longest day of the year, representing the God at full power. Although the hottest days of the summer still lie ahead, from this point onward we enter the waning year, and each day the Sun will recede from the skies a little earlier, until Yule, when the days begin to become longer again…’

— Via The Wheel Of The Year

Related:

Midsommar: What the hell just happened? (The Guardian; spoilers)

Related:

‘Summer officially arrives at 5:43 p.m. eastern time Saturday… We’ve reached peak daylight. Here’s a guide to the 2020 summer solstice….’ (Washington Post)

A Remarkable Turn of Events

Josh Marshall writes on Talking Points Memo  about how badly corrupt attorney general William Barr’s attempted Friday night purge of Geoff Berman, the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, went. He issued an announcement that Berman had resigned “effective immediately”, but Berman countered that

“I have not resigned, and have no intention of resigning, my position, to which I was appointed by the Judges of the United States District Court of the Southern District of New York”

 

Berman is no DOJ careerist but a former law partner of Rudy Giuliani and campaign donor to Trump, handpicked by Trump and personally interviewed by the child king before he signed off on Berman’s nomination. This makes sense, of course, because Berman would have to be trusted to oversee Trump’s home turf.

Marshall notes that, while presidents undoubtedly have the power to oust US Attorneys, it is the urgency of the dismissal and its proximity to the election that raise suspicions.

‘Something was and apparently is afoot that required Berman’s immediate removal. We just don’t yet know what it is. There are numerous possibilities. Berman’s office has overseen investigations of numerous Trump associates. Most of the President’s own business dealings would come under the office’s jurisdiction. Perhaps critically, many investigations which have offended foreign potentates friendly to President Trump are also housed in this office…’

 

Clearly, with its plummeting poll numbers and ongoing catastrophes, the Trump reelection campaign is driven to make the most of its tyrannical executive power while it still holds it. Actions like Berman’s refusal to step down are encouraging signs of the erosion of that power. The coming months will surely be exciting!

Related:

Marshall also relays a comment from an anonymous DOJ veteran pointing out that, although Trump indeed has the legal authority to dismiss a U.S. Attorney, he does not have the power to appoint a replacement, which is vested in the judges of the District. If he tried, (a) there would surely be a staff revolt; and (b) findings in cases prosecuted under the illegal appointee would be in jeopardy of being invalidated.

A Black Lives Matter Co-Founder Explains Why This Time Is Different

Interestingly, Black Lives Matter co-founder Opal Tometti feels the current anti-racism protests are different, and will have a more lasting impact, because they come on the heels of the Covid lockdown. People have more time on their hands to think about racism, they are already dealing with despair and fear about the future, and they have the time to come out to the streets to express their concerns.

— Via The New Yorker

Covid Restriction Relaxation and infection rates

Tech writer Timothy B. Lee on Twitter notes the divergence between coronavirus infections in blue states and red states since mid-April. They were largely on the same trajectory until contagion restrictions began to relax. In data from covidtracking.com, upon which he relied, deaths have not yet followed that divergence, but death rates lag infections by several weeks. Of course, infection rates also depend on overall testing rates, but there is no reason to believe these are rising in red states out of proportion to the increase in testing in blue states. It is hard to avoid the conclusion that the difference relates to the relaxation of anti-contagion measures. Of course, blue states are starting to open too. Interesting to see what the statistics show in several more weeks.

No, You Don’t Need to See President Trump’s Medical Records

SNAP1

As Adam Rogers writes in WIRED, Presidents have always distorted the news about their health. And Trump is the biggest fattest liar of them all. But all the data that voters need to decide about the health of the man they are choosing to have his finger on the trigger is already out there… And it is not a pretty picture.

Covid-19 Is Bad. But It May Not Be the ‘Big One’

‘…The US will need a second 9/11 Commission to examine its failed pandemic response is getting a second look as well—because health experts are coming to the realization that, as devastating as Covid-19 has been, it could have been far worse. This pandemic has not approached the apocalyptic impact of the 1918 influenza, which killed an estimated 100 million people between 1918 and 1919, or of HIV, which has killed 32 million people since it arrived in 1981.

Spillovers of animal pathogens into the human world—the source of flu and HIV and the virus behind Covid-19—happen on no predictable timeline. That means another pandemic could be on its way at any moment. Robert Redfield, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, seemed to acknowledge as much when he told the House of Representatives at a hearing on June 4: “You think we weren’t prepared for this, wait until we have a real global threat for our health security.”…’

— Via WIRED

Happy Independence Day!

Juneteenth and other Emancipation Day celebrations, explained:

A historian explains (Vox) why Juneteenth should be considered the country’s true Independence Day. Schoolchildren are taught that slavery ended with the Emancipation Proclamation. But an argument can be made that June 19, 1865, the date when federal troops entered Texas to punish slave holders and former Confederates who had refused to obey the emancipation law, is more significant.

The federal government, however, abandoned protection of blacks within a little more than a dozen years, bringing on widespread lynching. So Juneteenth celebrations commemorate not so much the end but the persistence of the slavers’ racist mentality and behaviors.

Arguably, the exception to the emancipation proclamation allowing continued involuntary servitude for those convicted of crimes allowed the continuation of the war on blacks in the guise of the “war on crime.” So… celebrate Juneteenth as a dream of the end of systemic racism in policing?

Spike Lee’s “Da 5 Bloods,” Reviewed:

Richard Brody writing in The New Yorker:

‘The transformative, prophetic power of “Da 5 Bloods” is rooted in its overarching sense of a never-ending war—not the Vietnam War, specifically, but the daily war at home that’s waged against black Americans, who are forced to fight for survival, equality, and justice….’

I saw this last night and note the tidal wave of laudatory reviews, typified by the one quoted above. At the risk of political incorrectness (can a white man presume to criticize the likes of Spike Lee, especially at a time like this?) I found it underwhelming, although Delroy Lindo’s performance makes it worth watching. But Lee’s effort to make a capital-S statement about how Black Lives Matter leaves many of the characters with scenes of forced exposition and a plot where incoherent intrusions often mar the narrative flow. Yes, two and a half hours seemed too long, contrary to Brody’s assertions. Spike Lee, in trying to hard to be prophetic, becomes a caricature. And so, to an extent, are his characters.

Crybaby-in-chief demands CNN apologize for poll that shows Biden leading

‘President Donald Trump’s campaign is demanding CNN retract and apologize for a recent poll that showed him well behind presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.

The demand, coming in the form of a cease and desist letter to CNN President Jeff Zucker that contained numerous incorrect and misleading claims, was immediately rejected by the network.
“We stand by our poll,” said Matt Dornic, a CNN spokesman….’

— Via CNNPolitics

Why Are These Borders So Weird?

Atlas of the world’s unusual borders:

‘The job description for political borders is simple and straightforward enough: draw a line between areas with different rules (and rulers). But, as shown in a new book, those lines are not always straight and simple.

For reasons geographical, dynastic, military or otherwise, things on the ground can get quite complex quite fast. In “The Atlas of Unusual Borders,” map enthusiast Zoran Nikolic zooms in on some of the world’s most egregious examples of border weirdness. Here are a few samples from the recently published book….’

— Via Big Think

I’m a map lover myself but I’ve always been fascinated by the clash between reality and fiction that occurs when you cross a border. As a young boy growing up in New York, I used to love it when my family drove through one of the tunnels between NY and NJ. I’d strain to see what felt different as we passed the painted line on the tunnel walls and ceiling at the state border. This book is rife with tortured and curious examples of that same phenomenon. For a quick fix, read the article, which highlights some of the best (yes, with maps). 

Second Woman in a Week to Dive to Ocean’s Deepest Point

‘The second of two women is poised to make history by diving to the ocean’s deepest spot: the Challenger Deep, the lowest point of the Mariana Trench, the greatest of the sea’s many recesses.

The long fissure of the western Pacific lies 200 miles southwest of Guam. The deep’s muddy bottom lies nearly seven miles down in inky darkness under crushing pressure.

If waves, technology and weather permit, Vanessa O’Brien, 55, a star of adventure tourism, is to dive into the icy abyss on Thursday or Friday. Her moment comes after the plunge on Sunday of Kathy Sullivan, 68, an oceanographer, astronaut and the first American woman to walk in space….’

— Via The New York Times

George Floyd and Derek Chauvin Had History of Tension According to Their Former Co-Worker

 

‘George Floyd and his murderer, Derek Chauvin had prior history while working together at a nightclub in Minneapolis, MN. According to a former co-worker of the two, they often “bumped heads,” years before Chauvin’s brutal assault against Floyd. …According to Penny, the tension had “a lot to do with Derek being extremely aggressive within the club with some of the patrons, which was an issue.”…’

— Via The Source

Confessions of a Former Bastard Cop

A devastating expose from someone who knows:

‘I was a police officer for nearly ten years and I was a bastard. We all were.
This essay has been kicking around in my head for years now and I’ve never felt confident enough to write it. It’s a time in my life I’m ashamed of. It’s a time that I hurt people and, through inaction, allowed others to be hurt. It’s a time that I acted as a violent agent of capitalism and white supremacy. Under the guise of public safety, I personally ruined people’s lives but in so doing, made the public no safer… so did the family members and close friends of mine who also bore the badge alongside me.
But enough is enough….’

— Via Medium

Far-Right Boogaloo Movement Is Trying to Hijack Anti-Racist Protests for a Race War

‘DONALD TRUMP IS right. The anti-racism protests that have convulsed cities across the United States are also being used as cover, to quote the president, for “acts of domestic terror.”

In late May, for example, three Nevada men were “arrested on terrorism-related charges in what authorities say was a conspiracy to spark violence during recent protests in Las Vegas,” reported the Associated Press. Federal prosecutors say the men had molotov cocktails in glass bottles and were headed downtown, according to a copy of the criminal complaint obtained by AP.

“People have a right to peacefully protest,” said Nicholas Trutanich, the U.S. attorney in Nevada. “These men are agitators and instigators. Their point was to hijack the protests into violence.”

But here’s the thing: None of these three men were members of antifa, the left-wing, anti-fascist protest movement that has been blamed both by the president and his attorney-general Bill Barr for recent violence. They were all self-identified members of the so-called boogaloo movement, aka “boogaloo bois” aka “boojahideen” — perhaps the most dangerous group that, until the past week or so, most Americans had never heard of….’

— Via The Intercept

8 states that experts worry are the new Covid-19 hot spots

Arizona

Relaxed/ended stay-at-home order: May 16

Hospitalizations on May 16: 791

Hospitalizations on June 8: 1,252

Test positivity rate: 12.7 percent (increased from 7.7 percent two weeks ago)

 

North Carolina

Relaxed/ended stay-at-home order: May 22

Hospitalizations on May 22: 568

Hospitalizations on June 9: 774

Test positivity rate: 7.2 percent (increased from 5.2 percent two weeks ago)

 

South Carolina

Relaxed/ended stay-at-home order: May 4

Hospitalizations on June 9: 541 (up from 482 on June 7)

Test positivity rate: 9.6 percent (increased from 3.9 percent two weeks ago)

 

Utah

Relaxed social distancing policies: May 1

Hospitalizations on May 4: 102

Hospitalizations on June 9: 126

Test positivity rate: 9.4 percent (increased from 4.8 percent two weeks ago)

 

Arkansas

Relaxed social distancing policies: May 4

Hospitalizations on May 4: 91

Hospitalizations on June 8: 171

Test positivity rate: 8.1 percent (increased from 6.6 percent two weeks ago)

 

Texas

Relaxed social distancing policies: May 1

Hospitalizations on May 1: 1,778

Hospitalizations on June 8: 1,935

Test positivity rate: 6.6 percent (increased from 4.9 percent two weeks ago)

 

Florida

Relaxed/ended stay-at-home order: May 18

Test positivity rate: 4.1 percent (increased from 3.2 percent two weeks ago)…’

 

— Via Vox

That Trump Tweet? Republicans Prefer Not to See It

Senator Kevin Cramer, Republican of North Dakota, said on Tuesday that he did not know what President Trump was talking about when handed a printout of a tweet.Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

‘After thousands of tweets carrying falsehoods, racist language and demeaning barbs against their own colleagues — not to mention the news reports, book excerpts or speeches that have roiled this administration — lawmakers in his party have largely settled on blissful ignorance as a way of avoiding defending the indefensible….’

— Via The New York Times

Here’s What We Know About ‘Asymptomatic Spread’ After Confusing WHO Statements

The recent WHO statement that it is ‘rare’ for asymptomatic coronavirus-infected individuals to transmit the disease to other individuals has raised concern among researchers and public health experts. Here’s a deeper dive into the question of asymptomatic transmission.

  1. The proportion of infected individuals who remain asymptomatic is not known. One reason is that people don’t generally seek testing unless they feel unwell. The only indications come from outbreaks in closed settings — such as prisons, meatpacking plants, nursing homes and cruise ships — where mass testing has been possible. People may also not always be the best judge of their condition — having “no symptoms is in the eye of the beholder. And, without adequate followup (which does not exist), “asymptomatic” people might merely be “presymptomatic”.
  2. Cases of onward transmission from asymptomatic individuals may be rare but it does happen, and researchers are divided on whether such cases indicate a broader trend or is an anomalies. Studies have shown that asymptomatic infected people have similar numbers of virus particles in their throats as people who feel unwell, although they are not spewing them as readily because they are not coughing or sneezing. Speaking and breathing forcefully in proximity to others — e.g. singing in a choir, panting from exertion at a gym, or shouting to be heard in a setting like a nightclub — have all been implicated in transmission.
  3. So we are really talking about an “undetected positive” category comprising the asymptomatic infected, the presymptomatic, and the people who do not realize they feel unwell. It is likely that the virus is being transmitted in undetected cases before the individual can be identified and contained. Despite the misleading WHO statements, we must continue to employ the effective tools we have at our disposal — hand washing, facial coverings, and social distancing.

— Via NPR

“A giant wheezing orange kazoo”

 

After a retrofit to the roadway guardrails to make it more aerodynamic, the Golden Gate Bridge has started to sing (The Guardian). The whistling drone can be heard as far as three miles away and has been described as deafening in the immediate environs. I’ve been reading as much as I could find about this development because I’ve always been fascinated by — no pun intended — wind instruments, such as the Aeolian harp. I can’t find anything suggesting that the guardians of the Gate are planning further repairs to mute the bridge. The singing seems to be restricted to times of high winds through the Golden Gate from the west.

Bryce Dallas Howard, star of The Help, shares things to watch that are not The Help

If you’ve taken a gander at Netflix over the past few days (lol of course you have), you may have noticed that The Help has made its way into the platform’s top 10 most popular titles. Yes, the movie in which Octavia Spencer feeds Bryce Dallas Howard a pie filled with actual shit (coincidentally the only scene in the movie that’s worth a shit), has become one of the most-viewed titles on Netflix in the wake of ongoing nationwide protests in support of Black Lives Matter—which unfortunately makes sense, given that The Help is one of those movies about racial injustice created by and for white people, not unlike Green Book or Driving Miss Daisy. It’s incredibly important for white people to educate ourselves about systemic racism, but a fictional narrative film made by white people and told from the perspective of a white character is neither enlightening nor particularly instructive.

Via AVClub

Will the Banks Collapse?

Imagine if, in addition to all the uncertainty surrounding the pandemic, you woke up one morning to find that the financial sector had collapsed. To hear more feature stories, get the Audm iPhone app. You may think that such a crisis is unlikely, with memories of the 2008 crash still so fresh. But banks learned few lessons from that calamity, and new laws intended to keep them from taking on too much risk have failed to do so. As a result, we could be on the precipice of another crash, one different from 2008 less in kind than in degree. This one could be worse.

— UCBerkeley law professor Frank Partnoy writing in The Atlantic

“The Perfect Avatar of Elite Incompetence for Our Times”

Jared Kushner is not yet 40, and was a newspaper publisher and commercial real estate magnate in New York City before he became a major player in Trump’s administration. (He remains a slumlord, in Maryland.) He has a degree from Harvard and a J.D./MBA from New York University; his father, a New Jersey real estate titan and convicted felon, donated generously to both institutions prior to Jared’s admission. Kushner himself is by all accounts ambitious and hardworking, but also a cipher—a climber and a sycophant, a snob, someone who isn’t quite filled in. Ivanka Trump has said that her dream man was Christian Bale’s portrayal of Patrick Bateman in Mary Harron’s American Psycho; the man she married, in 2009, is a milder, ganglier, edited-for-television version. As it happened, her father’s chaotic and relentlessly paranoid administration proved the perfect environment for a sufficiently labile and servile nullity to rise quickly.

Via The New Republic

Bated Breath Dept.

Wave of new polling suggests plummeting Trump support

‘The coronavirus pandemic, a severe economic downturn and the widespread demonstrations in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd in police custody would pose a serious political challenge to any president seeking re-election. They are certainly posing one to President Trump.

His approval rating has fallen to negative 12.7 percentage points among registered or likely voters, down from negative 6.7 points on April 15, according to FiveThirtyEight estimates. And now a wave of new polls shows Joe Biden with a significant national lead, placing him in a stronger position to oust an incumbent president than any challenger since Bill Clinton in the summer of 1992…’

Via New York Times

The psychological impact of future facial masking

As Rachel Sugar writes in Vox, masks have become a way of life and, by almost all expert accounts, it is almost certain that the future will be masked. Especially with the economy ‘reopening’ and people spending more time in public settings, masking should increase.

Apart from the physical discomforts (especially during stifling weather), the most jarring changes will be the psychological. People now have decreased access to important nonverbal aspects of communication and everyone feels more removed. Judging feelings from seeing only the top half of the face makes even strong emotion seem more muted. (We already know this from psychological studies of women in veiled societies and infants whose mouths are obscured by pacifiers.) Unfortunately, this is more true of some more emotions, such as happiness or sadness, than for fear or anger, which are “upper face emotions.” What will  the impact be of a cultural shift in the ability to perceive some emotional expressions more easily than others? In my psychiatric work during the pandemic, I have found it more difficult to reassure patients without their seeing my smile. Furthermore, there may be new impediments to one of the ways people resonate emotionally — by matching or mimicking the facial expressions of one’s opposite number in a conversation. I have written extensively about the mirror neuron system in FmH over the years, which probably form the neurological basis of person perception and empathy. For instance, “because of the mirror neuron system, smiles are literally neurologically contagious, and so are the good feelings associated with them…” We may be interfering with the hardwired human capacity for empathy. “Now there are new ways to misunderstand each other…”

This may have more of an impact in “melting pot” societies like that of the U.S. with ancestral diversity, looser social norms, and thus the need for as many cues as we can get to know how someone feels and how they will react. In more culturally homogeneous societies, it is arguably easier to know what people are feeling.

I have also, by the way, been concerned with the impact of facial coverings on communication with hearing impaired people who have depended on lipreading. I wonder if it will be possible to develop transparent masks that would be as comfortable to wear and as effective in droplet filtering as current opaque varieties.

It may be necessary (and I have found myself doing so) to switch increasingly to verbal in place of nonverbal reactions, e.g. chuckling rather than smiling. People may become more gestural with their hands or physical movements such as nodding. It is also possible that we may become more skilled at reading the minute expressions in the visible parts of others’ faces which we used to overlook. We may shift toward more eye contact.

It would be interesting to do psychological studies of Asian societies where masking became more common in advance of the West since the SARS and bird flu epidemics earlier in the 21st century or even, to some extent, other pandemic respiratory illnesses early in the 20th century. Of course, the research designs would have to be very clever, as arguably cultural differences in emotional expression between Western and Asian cultures may be more substantial than those between masked and unmasked in the same culture. Only peripherally related, Dutch author (and former editor of The New York Review of Books) Ian Buruma, in his 1984 book Behind the Maskargued that cultural taboos have always functioned like a figurative mask against the expression of hedonistic emotion in Japanese culture.

So, after CoViD, masks may become as commonplace as watches or sunglasses, originally only functional necessities but evolving into fashion accessories. Besides, with the current upsurge in mass demonstrations, widespread facial masking may put a dent in the surveillance society by impairing facial recognition technology.

CoViD may be a vascular disease, which could explain a lot

‘Months into the pandemic, there is now a growing body of evidence to support the theory that the novel coronavirus can infect blood vessels, which could explain not only the high prevalence of blood clots, strokes, and heart attacks, but also provide an answer for the diverse set of head-to-toe symptoms that have emerged.

The most perplexing things about a disease that has proved vexing, deadly, and ‘unprecedented in many ways’

“All these Covid-associated complications were a mystery. We see blood clotting, we see kidney damage, we see inflammation of the heart, we see stroke, we see encephalitis [swelling of the brain],” says William Li, MD, president of the Angiogenesis Foundation. “A whole myriad of seemingly unconnected phenomena that you do not normally see with SARS or H1N1 or, frankly, most infectious diseases.”

“If you start to put all of the data together that’s emerging, it turns out that this virus is probably a vasculotropic virus, meaning that it affects the [blood vessels],” says Mandeep Mehra, MD, medical director of the Brigham and Women’s Hospital Heart and Vascular Center.

In a paper published in April in the scientific journal The Lancet, Mehra and a team of scientists discovered that the SARS-CoV-2 virus can infect the endothelial cells that line the inside of blood vessels. Endothelial cells protect the cardiovascular system, and they release proteins that influence everything from blood clotting to the immune response. In the paper, the scientists showed damage to endothelial cells in the lungs, heart, kidneys, liver, and intestines in people with Covid-19….’

Via Elemental

My friend chose an assisted death in Switzerland. Her dying wish was to tell you why

‘Shortly after 11 a.m. on December 16, 2019, Cindy Siegel Shepler drew her last breath in a spartan room in Basel, Switzerland.

The 62-year-old American twisted a knob on her IV pole and soon fell asleep for the last time.
I had stayed with her and her husband David in Knoxville, Tennessee, for their last three nights at home before they left for Basel. And I spoke to her for the last time about 12 hours before she died.

Cindy had been forced to give up a high-powered corporate career at age 35 and struggled for decades with a handful of painful diseases. She spent much of her time seeking new treatments and advocating for medical research, knowing she might never benefit from her labors.

When it finally became clear that no drug could relieve her intense suffering, she chose voluntary assisted death, a procedure that’s not legal in her home state.

Her dying wish was for me to tell her story, with the hope that it would help the cause of all Americans one day having access to this kind of death with dignity….’

— Via CNN

Former Harvard psychiatrist Lance Dodes on Trump’s ‘paranoid rage’: The president wants to ‘turn America into a police state’

SNAP1

 

‘In an effort to understand Donald Trump’s downward spiral of violence, paranoia, and other obvious mentally pathological behavior, I recently spoke with Dr. Lance Dodes, whom I have interviewed on several previous occasions. He is a retired assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and now a training and supervising analyst emeritus at the Boston Psychoanalytic Society and Institute.

In this conversation, Dodes warned that Donald Trump is a sociopath (defined as psychopathic personality type) who will do anything to stay in power. Dodes also spoke about Trump’s use of the term “dominate,” and what it tells us about his desire to control the American people, the country’s elected officials, the military and other institutions of power by any means necessary. Dodes also issued an ominous warning about Trump’s character and behavior, warning that our president is a moral weakling, coward and bully who will continue to lash out at any and all people who he feels have wronged or disrespected him. Trump’s ultimate desire, Dodes says, is to put his boot on the neck of everyone on the planet….’

— Via Alternet.org

Say This Isn’t the End

Original
... say we live on, say we’ll forget the masks
that kept us from dying from the invisible,
but say we won’t ever forget the invisible
masks we realized we had been wearing
most our lives, disguising ourselves from
each other. Say we won’t veil ourselves again,
that our souls will keep breathing timelessly,
that we won’t return to clocking our lives
with lists and appointments. Say we’ll keep
our days errant as sun showers, impulsive
as a star’s falling. Say this isn’t our end

... say I’ll get to be as thrilled as a boy spinning
again in my barber’s chair, tell him how
I’d missed his winged scissors chirping
away my shaggy hair eclipsing my eyes,
his warm clouds of foam, the sharp love
of his razor’s tender strokes on my beard.
Say I’ll get more chances to say more than
thanks, Shirley at the checkout line, praise
her turquoise jewelry, her son in photos
taped to her register, dare to ask about
her throat cancer. Say this isn’t her end

... say my mother’s cloudy eyes won’t die
from the goodbye kiss I last gave her, say
that wasn’t our final goodbye, nor will we
be stranded behind a quarantine window
trying to see our refracted faces beyond
the glare, read our lips, press the warmth
of our palms to the cold glass. Say I won’t
be kept from her bedside to listen to her
last words, that we’ll have years to speak
of the decades of our unspoken love that
separated us. Say this isn’t how we’ll end

... say all the restaurant chairs will get back
on their feet, that we’ll all sit for another
lifetime of savoring all we had never fully
savored: the server as poet reciting flavors
not on the menu, the candlelight flicker
as appetizer, friends’ spicy gossip and rich,
saucy laughter, sharing entrées of memories
no longer six feet apart, our beloved’s lips
as velvety as the wine, the dessert served
sweet in their eyes. Say this is no one’s end

... say my husband and I will keep on honing
our home cooking together, find new recipes
for love in the kitchen: our kisses and tears
while dicing onions, eggs cracking in tune
to Aretha’s croon, dancing as we heat up
the oven. Say we’ll never stop feasting on
the taste of our stories, sweet or sour, but
say our table will never be set for just one,
say neither of us dies, many more Cheers!
to our good health. Say we will never end

... say we’ll all still take the time we once
needed to walk alone and gently through
our neighborhoods, keep noticing the Zen
of anthills and sidewalk cracks blossoming
weeds, of yappy dogs and silent swing sets
rusting in backyards, of neat hedges hiding
mansions and scruffy lawns of boarded-up
homes. Say we won’t forget our seeing
that every kind of life is a life worth living,
worth saving. Say this is nobody’s end

... or say this will be my end, say the loving
hands of gloved, gowned angels risking
their lives to save mine won’t be able to
keep me here. Say this is the last breath
of my last poem, will of my last thoughts:
I’ve witnessed massive swarms of fireflies
grace my garden like never before, drawn
to the air cleansed of our arrogant greed,
their glow a flashback to the time before
us, omen of Earth without us, a reminder
we’re never immune to nature. I say this
might be the end we’ve always needed
to begin again. I say this may be the end
to let us hope to heal, to evolve, reach
the stars. Again I’ll say: heal, evolve, reach
and become the stars that became us—
whether or not this is or is not our end.

Richard Blanco via The Atlantic

After 6 Months, Important Mysteries About Coronavirus Endure

‘Some of the most critical things that scientists and public health officials have yet to understand:

  • How many people have been infected.
  • The amount of virus it takes to make you sick.
  • Why some people get so much sicker than others.
  • The role of children in spreading the virus.
  • When or where the new coronavirus started spreading.
  • How long you’ll be immune after infection…’

— Via The New York Times

The rise of American authoritarianism

‘…Authoritarians, as a growing presence in the GOP, are a real constituency that exists independently of Trump — and will persist as a force in American politics regardless of the fate of his candidacy.

If Trump loses the election, that will not remove the threats and social changes that trigger the “action side” of authoritarianism. The authoritarians will still be there. They will still look for candidates who will give them the strong, punitive leadership they desire.

And that means Donald Trump could be just the first of many Trumps in American politics, with potentially profound implications for the country.

It would also mean more problems for the GOP. This election is already showing that the party establishment abhors Trump and all he stands for — his showy demagoguery, his disregard for core conservative economic values, his divisiveness.

WE MAY NOW HAVE A DE FACTO THREE-PARTY SYSTEM: THE DEMOCRATS, THE GOP ESTABLISHMENT, AND THE GOP AUTHORITARIANS
But while the party may try to match Trump’s authoritarian rhetoric, and its candidates may grudgingly embrace some of his harsher policies toward immigrants or Muslims, in the end a mainstream political party cannot fully commit to extreme authoritarian action the way Trump can.

That will be a problem for the party. Just look at where the Tea Party has left the Republican establishment. The Tea Party delivered the House to the GOP in 2010, but ultimately left the party in an unresolved civil war. Tea Party candidates have challenged moderates and centrists, leaving the GOP caucus divided and chaotic.

Now a similar divide is playing out at the presidential level, with results that are even more destructive for the Republican Party. Authoritarians may be a slight majority within the GOP, and thus able to force their will within the party, but they are too few and their views too unpopular to win a national election on their own.

And so the rise of authoritarianism as a force within American politics means we may now have a de facto three-party system: the Democrats, the GOP establishment, and the GOP authoritarians.

And although the latter two groups are presently forced into an awkward coalition, the GOP establishment has demonstrated a complete inability to regain control over the renegade authoritarians, and the authoritarians are actively opposed to the establishment’s centrist goals and uninterested in its economic platform.

Over time, this will have significant political consequences for the Republican Party. It will become more difficult for Republican candidates to win the presidency because the candidates who can win the nomination by appealing to authoritarian primary voters will struggle to court mainstream voters in the general election. They will have less trouble with local and congressional elections, but that might just mean more legislative gridlock as the GOP caucus struggles to balance the demands of authoritarian and mainstream legislators. The authoritarian base will drag the party further to the right on social issues, and will simultaneously erode support for traditionally conservative economic policies….’

— Amanda Taub writing in Vox

What America can learn from Nordic police

‘The Nordic countries… have both enormously smaller police departments and prison systems than the United States, and much less violent crime, especially murders. Emulating their basic approach could allow American cities to cleanse themselves of police abuse and still enjoy lower crime….’

— Via The Week

Death due to sleep deprivation is linked to the gut

The morbidity and mortality of sleep deprivation has long been recognized. A new study in the journal Cell by researchers from the Harvard Medical School finds that some of the damage may be mediated by an unexpected culprit — oxidative stress caused by a buildup of the molecules called reactive oxygen species (ROS) in the gut. In sleep-deprived fruit flies and mice, at least, the effects can be reversed, even with continuing sleep deprivation, by aggressive use of any of 11 various antioxidants including melatonin, lipoid acid, and NAD. These antioxidants did not extend the lifespan or improve the health of non-sleep deprived control subjects. 

 

— Via Big Think

The neurobiology of social distance: Why loneliness may be the biggest threat to survival and longevity

‘Never before have we experienced social isolation on a massive scale as we have during the evolving COVID-19 pandemic. A new paper published in the journal Trends in Cognitive Sciences explores the wide-ranging, negative consequences that social isolation has on our psychological well-being and physical health, including decreased life span. The paper was co-authored by Associate Professor Danilo Bzdok (McGill University and Mila Quebec Artificial Intelligence Institute) and Emeritus Professor Robin Dunbar (University of Oxford)….’

— Via Neuroscience News

Psilocybin Seems to Turn Down ‘Ego Center’ in Brain

The claustrum, a thin sheet of neurons deep within the cortex with extremely rich and global input and output connections to myriad other brain regions, has been suspected by neuroscientists of being the seat of consciousness. Because of its location in the brain, the claustrum has been difficult to access or assess. Now a new study from Johns Hopkins, utilizing a new functional MRI (fMRI) technique developed for the purpose, demonstrates a downturn in activity in the claustrum after psilocybin use as compared with taking a placebo. This may be the neural basis of the reduced sense of self or ego, and feeling of connection to the cosmos, in psychedelic experiences. Now the researchers plan to examine claustral activity in various psychiatric disorders such as depression and psychosis as well as assess the effect of other psychedelic substances on its function. 

— Via Psych Central

Police brutality: A historian explains how racist policing took over US cities

Khalil Muhammad, a professor of history, race, and public policy at Harvard Kennedy School and author of the book The Condemnation of Blackness: Race, Crime, and the Making of Modern Urban America, documents a century of systemic police racism in America. Essentially, he explains that, after the abolition of slavery in 1865, white supremicists in the South quickly turned to an ideology that criminalized expressions of black freedom, economic and social rights. In a vicious circle, the resultant higher rates of black incarceration reinforce the idea of black criminality, resulting in more incarcerations, etc. We saw the relentless consolidation of a set of facts ‘proving’ that black people have a crime problem. Those who were not imprisoned could be kept working in a subordinate way perpetuating their exploitation. 

The idea of black criminality justified segregation, especially after the great migration northward, where justice tended to rely more on policing rather than its vigilante basis in the South. Black people in white spaces became presumptively suspect and ipso facto policing black communities was necessary to prevent crime and protect white privilege in America.

— Via Vox