October 2014 Archives

La féline existentielle

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Henri 4, L'Haunting

Something I posted on Newsvine arguing with the hysterics about Ebola:

It took years of public education in the US to slow down a similar hysteria over the HIV virus. back in those days people were clamoring for all people testing HIV+ to be quarantined on an island or in isolated internment camps. The same ignorance about infectiousness regarding HIV abounded then as it does now over Ebola.

About 15-20% of the US population is inherently conservative and are seemingly born with a penchant for sensitivity to fear.

Research suggests that conservatives are, on average, more susceptible to fear than those who identify themselves as liberals. Looking at MRIs of a large sample of young adults last year, researchers at University College London discovered that "greater conservatism was associated with increased volume of the right amygdala".

The amygdala is an ancient brain structure that's activated during states of fear and anxiety. (The researchers also found that "greater liberalism was associated with increased gray matter volume in the anterior cingulate cortex" - a region in the brain that is believed to help people manage complexity.)

That has implications for our political world. In a recent interview, Chris Mooney, author of "The Republican Brain,"explained, "The amygdala plays the same role in every species that has an amygdala. It basically takes over to save your life. It does other things too, but in a situation of threat, you cease to process information rationally and you're moving automatically to protect yourself."

The finding also fits with other data. Mooney explains that "there were images that caused fear and disgust -- a spider crawling on a person's face, maggots in an open wound -- but also images that made you feel happy: a smiling child, a bunny rabbit."

The researchers studied their subjects' reactions by tracking their eye movements and monitoring their "skin conductivity" - a measure of one's autonomic nervous system's reaction to stimuli.

Conservatives showed much stronger skin responses to negative images, compared with the positive ones. Liberals showed the opposite. And when the scientists turned to studying eye gaze or "attentional" patterns, they found that conservatives looked much more quickly at negative or threatening images, and spent more time fixating on them.

I will wager that the majority of people who clamor for these mandatory quarantines back in the HIV days and now are members of that inherently conservative genotype which are prone to being fearful of the world in general and find such measures to only be "common sense".

Testosterone Poisoning

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Male dominance in media & women candidates

With more and more women running for office, the Women's Media Center is finding their portrayal by a largely male mainstream media can harm their campaigns. Feminist icon Gloria Steinem and Robin Morgan of the Women's Media Center join to discuss.



Oops...

An unmanned, 14-story tall commercial rocket, carrying 5,000 pounds of supplies to the International Space Station, explodes six seconds after taking off in Virginia. Chris Hayes has the latest details.

Video from a nearby plane

I Am a Liberian Not a Virus

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West Africans hit back against Ebola stigma

With Ebola panic spreading across the US, a social media campaign aims to counter discrimination.

"You're from Liberia, so you have a disease". When Shoana Solomon's nine-year-old daughter came home from her American school and told her mother what her classmates were saying, Solomon knew there was trouble ahead.

Solomon, a photographer and TV presenter, moved her daughter to the US from a school in Liberia's capital Monrovia in September. Despite coming from an Ebola zone, she says she was not subjected to any particular scrutiny upon arrival on American soil.

But as fear about Ebola mounts, Liberians in the US are increasingly finding themselves in a difficult position. With stigma and paranoia on the rise, Solomon has launched a campaign aimed at encouraging others to treat Liberians normally.

"The day after that happened to my daughter, I made a Facebook post," Solomon told the Guardian. "I said, oh my goodness, my daughter's being stigmatised. I said: Get ready."

The next day, Solomon received a phonecall from her sister, who lives in the US.

"Her daughter was in school and sneezed a couple of times. They took her temperature and placed her alone in a room, called my sister and said, given the situation..."

Solomon's sister was asked to temporarily remove her daughter from school: a girl who has never been to Liberia, and has not had contact with anyone returning from Liberia for two years.

Solomon's family are not alone. All over the US, Liberians are painfully experiencing what it means to come from a country so closely associated with the current Ebola outbreak. Late last week, a town hall meeting held in Staten Island, New York, brought together Liberians to denounce the stigmatising of their community. The Staten Island neighbourhood of Little Liberia is home to the largest population of Liberians outside Africa.

Outside the meeting, Liberian-American Charles Roberts told ABC News: "When they ask you where you come from and you say Liberia, then they turn their back on you."

One Fell Swoop

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You know how sometimes you look at the literal words of a common idiomatic phrase and you realize they make little sense? That happened to me today with the expression "one fell swoop". Where did that come from and what did it originally really mean?
Here's the skinny:

At one fell swoop


Meaning : Suddenly; in a single action.

Origin

This is one of those phrases that we may have picked up early in our learning of the language and probably worked out its meaning from the context in which we heard it, without any clear understanding of what each word meant. Most native English speakers could say what it means but, if we look at it out of context, it doesn't appear to make a great deal of sense. That lack of understanding of the words in the phrase is undoubtedly the reason that this is often misspelled, for example, 'at one fail swoop', or even, with more justification as it might be thought to relate to birds, 'one fowl swoop'. It isn't difficult to also find examples of 'one foul swoop'. 'Stoop' is sometimes substituted for 'swoop' in all of the above variants, again drawing on avian imagery.

So, what's that 'fell'? We use the word in a variety of ways: to chop, as in fell a tree; a moorland or mountain, like those in the northern UK; the past tense of fall, as in 'he fell over'. None of those seems to make sense in this phrase and indeed the 'fell' here is none of those.

It's an old word, in use by the 13th century, that's now fallen out of use other than in this phrase, and is the common root of the term 'felon'.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines 'fell' as meaning 'fierce, savage; cruel, ruthless; dreadful, terrible', which is pretty unambiguous.

Shakespeare either coined the phrase, or gave it circulation, in Macbeth, 1605:

MACDUFF: [on hearing that his family and servants have all been killed]

kite.jpgAll my pretty ones?
Did you say all? O hell-kite! All?
What, all my pretty chickens and their dam
At one fell swoop?

The kite referred to is a hunting bird, like the Red Kite, which was common in England in Tudor times and is now making a welcome return after near extinction in the 20th century. The swoop (or stoop as is sometimes now said) is the rapid descent made by the bird when capturing prey.

Shakespeare used the imagery of a hunting bird's 'fell swoop' to indicate the ruthless and deadly attack by Macbeth's agents.

In the intervening years we have rather lost the original meaning and use it now to convey suddenness rather than savagery.

Now you know.




One-Eyed Shod Shell Short

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I don't know why this is so appealing...but it is.

Conservatives Are Hysterical Cowards

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Exactly what I've been saying all along.

43 in Dallas cleared from Ebola watch list

Finally, some good news about Ebola: Forty-three people who were in contact with index patient Thomas Eric Duncan, including his fiancée, have not contracted the virus, officials said. Dr. Corey Hebert and Esquire's Charles Pierce join to discuss.


Name This

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Nepetalactone.png

Hint: 6 letters...starts with C and ends with p

Russell Brand's Revolution

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One the clearest voices around.

What does a revolution look like? Russell Brand has an idea and he's ready to talk about it with Lawrence O'Donnell.

Capitalism's Sacrifice Zones

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More despair from the broken system:

Chris Hedges on Capitalism's 'Sacrifice Zones'

There are forgotten corners of this country where Americans are trapped in endless cycles of poverty, powerlessness, and despair as a direct result of capitalistic greed. Journalist Chris Hedges calls these places "sacrifice zones," and joins Bill this week on Moyers & Company to explore how areas like Camden, New Jersey; Immokalee, Florida; and parts of West Virginia suffer while the corporations that plundered them thrive.

"These are areas that have been destroyed for quarterly profit. We're talking about environmentally destroyed, communities destroyed, human beings destroyed, families destroyed," Hedges tells Bill.

"It's the willingness on the part of people who seek personal enrichment to destroy other human beings... And because the mechanisms of governance can no longer control them, there is nothing now within the formal mechanisms of power to stop them from creating essentially a corporate oligarchic state."

The broadcast includes a visit with comics artist and journalist Joe Sacco, who collaborated with Hedges on Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt, an illustrated account of their travels through America's sacrifice zones. Kirkus Reviews calls it an "unabashedly polemic, angry manifesto that is certain to open eyes, intensify outrage and incite argument about corporate greed."

A columnist for Truthdig, Hedges also describes the difference between truth and news. "The really great reporters -- and I've seen them in all sorts of news organizations -- are management headaches because they care about truth at the expense of their own career," Hedges says.

Criticism Islam Racist? part 2

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A further illumination of the inherent racism of broad stroke criticizing. I agree with this person being interviewed.

A continuation of the post: Is Criticizing Islam' Tenets Bigoted?

Reza Aslan responds to critics

Religious scholar and writer Reza Aslan joins Chris Hayes to talk about Islam, Bill Maher, and being called "angry" by another cable news host.

Glenn Greenwald was one of the first reporters to see -- and write about -- the Edward Snowden files, with their revelations about the United States' extensive surveillance of private citizens. In this searing talk, Greenwald makes the case for why you need to care about privacy, even if you're "not doing anything you need to hide."

Silencing the Riff Raff

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It's no surprise really..the right has always had to cheat to win because their policies are unacceptable to the majority,

The Big Lie Behind Voter ID Laws

NY Times Editorial Board

Election Day is three weeks off, and Republican officials and legislators around the country are battling down to the wire to preserve strict and discriminatory new voting laws that could disenfranchise hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Americans.

On Thursday, the Supreme Court -- no friend to expansive voting rights -- stepped in and blocked one of the worst laws, a Wisconsin statute requiring voters to show a photo ID to cast a ballot. A federal judge had struck it down in April, saying it would disproportionately prevent voting by poorer and minority citizens. Last month, however, the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit allowed it to go into effect, even though thousands of absentee ballots had been sent out under the old rules.

There was sure to be chaos if the justices had not stayed that appeals court ruling, and their decision appears to be based on the risk of changing voting rules so close to an election. But they could still vote to uphold the law should they decide to review its constitutionality.

Similar laws have been aggressively pushed in many states by Republican lawmakers who say they are preventing voter fraud, promoting electoral "integrity" and increasing voter turnout. None of that is true. There is virtually no in-person voter fraud; the purpose of these laws is to suppress voting.

In Texas, where last week a federal judge struck down what she called the most restrictive voter ID law in the country, there were two convictions for in-person voter impersonation in one 10-year period. During that time, 20 million votes were cast. Nor is there any evidence that these laws encourage more voters to come to the polls. Instead, in at least two states -- Kentucky and Tennessee -- they appear to have reduced turnout by 2 percent to 3 percent, according to a report released last week by the Government Accountability Office.

Voter ID laws, as their supporters know, do only one thing very well: They keep otherwise eligible voters away from the polls. In most cases, this means voters who are poor, often minorities, and who don't have the necessary documents or the money or time to get photo IDs.

In her remarkable 143-page opinion in the Texas case, Federal District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos found that the law violated both the Equal Protection Clause and the Voting Rights Act, and that by forcing registered voters to track down and pay for qualifying documents, it functioned as an "unconstitutional poll tax."

Most striking of all, Judge Ramos found that the rapid growth of Texas's Latino and black population, and the state's "uncontroverted and shameful history" of discriminatory voting practices -- including whites-only primaries, literacy restrictions and actual poll taxes -- led to a clear conclusion: Republican lawmakers knew the law would drive down turnout among minority voters, who lean Democratic, and they passed it at least in part for that reason. Judge Ramos's finding of intentional discrimination is important because it could force Texas back under federal voting supervision, meaning changes to state voting practices would have to be preapproved by the federal government. (Texas appealed the ruling; a federal appeals court is now considering whether to put it on hold until after the election.)

Eventually the issue will be back before the Supreme Court, which last reviewed a voter ID law in 2008, when it upheld an Indiana law because there was no clear evidence showing how it would harm voters. Thanks to the work of voting-rights advocates and the extraordinarily thorough rulings of Judge Ramos and Judge Lynn Adelman, who struck down Wisconsin's law, the evidence is in.

The next time voter ID laws reach the justices, they should see them for the antidemocratic sham they are.

Ellen Brown: It's Our Money

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It's Our Money with Ellen Brown - Who's Afraid of Richard Wolff?

In the worlds of economic theory and "acceptable" economic discussion, the terms "Socialism" and "Marxism" acquired an anti-patriotic stain during the 20th Century, despite the significant social economic progress realized by early American populist movements.
Noted economics professor Dr. Richard Wolff, who has taught at many esteemed universities, has been overlooked for decades because of his Marxist/Socialist specialties; but suddenly he is out and about making the rounds on major media outlets talking about the failures of Capitalism, how they helped bring about the collapse of the American middle class and set a stage for continuing economic decline.

Ellen Brown talks with Dr. Wolff about a way forward that marries American values and sensibilities with the goals of these maligned economic theories.

progressive-radio-logo.png

Human Towers

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Members of the Castellers Joves Xiquets de Valls try to complete their human tower during the 25th Human Tower Competition in Tarragona, Spain, on Oct. 5.

The tradition of building human towers, or "castells," dates back to the 18th century and takes place during festivals in Catalonia, where "colles," or teams, compete to build the tallest and most complicated towers. The structure of the castells varies depending on their complexity. A castell is considered completely successful when it is loaded and unloaded without falling apart. The highest castell in history was a 10 floor structure with 3 people in each floor.

click to enlarge

humantower.jpg

End of the Road for ALEC?

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Corporations Abandon ALEC's Agenda

Terrence Heath

Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt made news on Monday when he told NPR's Diane Rehm that Google was dropping its membership in the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) because of the organization's environmental policies -- especially its climate denialism:

"Everyone understands climate change is occurring. And the people who oppose it are really hurting our children and our grandchildren and making the world a much worse place. And so we should not be aligned with such people. They're just literally lying."

It started a stampede of Silicon Valley companies either distancing themselves from ALEC or leaving altogether.

  • Microsoft announced last month that it was leaving ALEC. Both Microsoft and Google had been on ALEC's task force for communication and technology.

  • Facebook announced on Tuesday that it is "not likely to renew" its membership in ALEC.

  • On Wednesday, Yelp issued a statement that it had allowed its membership in ALEC to expire several months ago.

  • Hours later, Yahoo announced that it had dropped its membership and "will no longer participate in the ALEC Task Force on Communications and Technology."


This week's exodus from ALEC didn't just happen. Schmidt's statement came after progressive organizations signed a letter to Google to end its affiliation with ALEC. The letter was sent to Google's senior executives, including Schmidt.
Persuading Google to abandon ALEC is the latest victory in the progressive campaign to expose how ALEC works, who its members are, and the harm it does.
In 2011, the campaign linked ALEC to Wisconsin governor Scott Walker's anti-worker agenda. Following the death of Trayvon Martin, the campaign exposed ALEC's involvement in drafting "Stand Your Ground" laws. Such exposure gave activists leverage to pressure corporations and lawmakers to leave ALEC.
It all began in July 2011, when the Center for Media and Democracy published 800 documents related to ALEC on its ALEC Exposed website. Its key findings were:

  • ALEC brought corporations and state legislators to work together as equals to draft model legislation.
  • ALEC drafted model legislation that made polluting easier, voting harder, and wages lower.
  • The anti-collective bargaining laws in Wisconsin and Ohio began as ALEC model bills.
Since then, over 80 corporations -- including some Fortune 500 companies -- have dumped ALEC.

Exposing ALEC includes revealing how its agenda devastates state economies.

Ayn Rand: Irrelevance Incarnate

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Fusion: Cheaper Than Coal

fusion_machine.jpg

Alan Boyle

Researchers say they've developed a concept for a fusion reactor that could be built for less money than an equivalent coal-fired plant -- but they acknowledge that they still have some questions to answer. For example, will the concept really work?

The design concept, known as the "dynomak," is the subject of a detailed economic analysis as well as a presentation to be made next week in Russia at the International Atomic Energy Agency's 25th Fusion Energy Conference. The analysis suggests that a dynomak capable of producing 1 gigawatt of electrical power could be built for $2.7 billion, compared with $2.8 billion for a comparable coal plant.

That's far less than the estimated $50 billion-plus price tag for the 35-nation ITER demonstration fusion reactor that's being built in France, with a target date of 2027 for the first experiments. It's less than the $3.5 billion cost of the National Ignition Facility, which has yet to achieve true break-even with its laser-blaster fusion experiment. But it's quite a bit more than the unorthodox Polywell fusion reactors proposed by EMC2 Fusion, which are projected to cost in the range of $30 million to $200 million.

Military cargo planes bought by the US military from Italy, retooled by a contractor and sent to Afghanistan where they sat idle until the $486 million dollars-worth of planes were shredded for $32,000 worth of scrap.

An interesting argument

To me the argument is a matter of conflating tribal/cultural attitudes with the religious edicts.
Christianity was just as bloody minded in it's past as anything Islam today evokes, but eventually the bloody edge was blunted by the appearance of human and civil rights. Islam will eventually succumb to those same principles and be tempered by them. The argument being put forth however is that we somehow don't have time for that maturation in the case of Islam. See what you take away.

Rachel Maddow reports the breaking news that the Supreme Court has blocked Wisconsin's voter ID law and shares the findings of a new report on the impact of the Republican effort to discourage voting with new voting laws.

In the Wake of a Wolf

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Video Time Lapse of 1,200 Miles in the Tracks of a Wolf

Before watching this video, take a moment to think about Wolf OR-7′s 2011 route across Oregon and Northern California. In your mind, what do you see? Do you think of a map, maybe with lines or data on it?

OR-7_wolf_journey.pngFor most people following the story of Wolf OR-7 around the world, maps like the one pictured left are the only visualizations of what the land Wolf OR-7 encountered is like. The maps likely include depictions of state and county borders, major city names, highways, or rivers. In their attempt to display the land crossed by this wandering wolf, I've found that they've completely lost the landscape and true nature of OR-7′s journey.


Wolf OR-7 crossed mountains, forests, rivers, highways, cattle guards, lava fields, grasslands, farms, small towns, dusty forestry roads, hiking trails, and open shrub deserts. And during the months he spent looking for a mate and new habitat, he was able to remain largely undetected (other than the GPS transmitter around his neck) and fed. His survival was possible because of remaining areas of wilderness and suitable wolf habitat, and it was even more dependent on existing, healthy connections between these habitats.


By documenting the approximate route of Wolf OR-7′s dispersal, we hope to reach a better understanding of the challenges faced by wildlife moving across Oregon and Northern California and to visualize the connections between various suitable habitats and wilderness areas.


Time Lapse of 1,200 miles in the Tracks of a Wolf was created by National Geographic Young Explorer Grantee Jay Simpson, who photographed the Expedition Team's forward direction throughout each day. Of over 4,000 images he collected, just over 700 images were used to create this time lapse.

The Devil's Kettle Mystery

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from Science Buzz: Where does all that water go?

devilskettle_falls.jpg
There's been speculation that the underground river ends up somewhere along the shore of Lake Superior (about 1.5 miles away), but it has never been determined where exactly.

by mdr

Devil's Kettle is a puzzling geological phenomenon located on the North Shore of Lake Superior. As the Brule River makes it way toward the lake, it gets split in two by a rocky knob located just above the falls. While the east half tumbles down 50 feet in normal waterfall fashion and continues toward the lake, the west half disappears in a very large pothole and is never seen again. Where does the water go? No one seems to know.


One theory has the river following a large fault located somewhere in the lower bedrock. But this is unlikely since it would have to be extremely large to allow for so much water to flow through it. It would also have to be precisely oriented toward the lake. And there's never been any evidence of such a fault found in the area.

Another theory is that a lava tube formed a billion years ago when the rocks first solidified. Lava tubes can be found in Hawaii where fresh basalt is created by the islands' volcanoes. The problem with this theory, according to geologist John C. Green, is that the rock at Devil's Kettle waterfalls isn't basalt - it's rhyolite, and lava tubes never form in rhyolite.

But maybe it's a hidden lava tube located in a layer of basalt directly beneath the rhyolite. After all, geologists have determined that the rocks in that particular region alternate between layers of rhyolites and layers of basalts. Maybe the swirling rock-filled glacial water that formed the pothole at the end of an ice age cut down beyond the rhyolite and into an ancient lava tube. That could have happened right? Well, not likely. For one thing the basalts found in the area aren't the kind in which lava tubes would form. North Shore basalts were flood basalts that spread out on the surface like pancake batter poured onto a griddle. But even if it were the correct kind, the nearest basalt layer to Devil's Kettle is located much too far underground to be any kind of factor in the mystery.

So where does it all that water go? Over the years, people have tried to figure it out by throwing logs, colored dyes, and even ping-pong balls into Devil's Kettle in hopes of seeing signs of them show up along the lakeshore. But none ever has, and where it all ends up remains a mystery. (One story claims someone pushed a car into the cauldron, but to get a car to the site and be able to dump it into the kettle from above looked nearly impossible to me. When we were there, my wife remarked it'd be a great place to get rid of a body. That didn't set well with me - and not because of the difficulty involved in doing it. I made sure she walked ahead of me on the way back.)

Anyway, if you want to go see this remarkable geological conundrum for yourself, Devil's Kettle is located in Judge C. R. Magney State Park about fifteen miles beyond Grand Marais on Highway 61. To get to the falls you have to walk in about 1-1.5 mile from the park entrance, including climbing down (and up, on the way back) about 200 wooden steps. But the trek is well worth the effort. The park closes for the season at the end of October so if you have a chance this month you should check it out. Who knows - maybe once you see Devil's Kettle for yourself, you'll be the one to figure out where all that water goes.

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This page is an archive of entries from October 2014 listed from newest to oldest.

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