Biologist Mark Pagel shares an intriguing theory about why humans evolved our complex system of language. He suggests that language is a piece of "social technology" that allowed early human tribes to access a powerful new tool: cooperation.
November 2014 Archives
Sick of being tracked without your consent or knowledge by the National Security Agency and its ilk? Amnesty International has an app for that. The human rights group has spent two years working with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Privacy International and Digitale Gesellschaft to develop Detekt, a program that will find government spying software without triggering security alerts.
And the best part is it's totally free of charge.
Human rights experts and technology groups have launched a new tool allowing members of the public to scan their computers and phones for surveillance spyware used by governments.
Amnesty says Detekt is the first tool freely available that will allow activists and journalists to find out if their electronic devices are being monitored without their knowledge.
Marek Marczynski, head of military, security and police at Amnesty, said: "Governments are increasingly using dangerous and sophisticated technology that allows them to read activists' and journalists' private emails and remotely turn on their computer's camera or microphone to secretly record their activities. They use the technology in a cowardly attempt to prevent abuses from being exposed. Detekt is a simple tool that will alert activists to such intrusions so they can take action."
Ursula K. Le Guin accepts the National Book Foundation's Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters at the 65th National Book Awards on November 19, 2014.
"I think hard times are coming when we will be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now and can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies to other ways of being, and even imagine some real grounds for hope," said Ursula K. Le Guin as she accepted the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters at the 65th annual National Book Awards ceremony.
The fantasy and science fiction author "stole the show" Wednesday as she warned the literary crowd against the dangers of capitalism, which has turned writers into producers of market commodities rather than creators of art.
"We will need writers," Le Guin continued, "who can remember freedom. Poets, visionaries--the realists of a larger reality."
When her short speech was loudly applauded, the bespectacled writer thanked her audience, calling them "brave," ostensibly for cheering her on in her scathing criticism of the publishing world despite the fact that the literary business constitutes the livelihood of many of those present at the ceremony.
And while the entire speech is well worth watching, the most poignant lines Le Guin spoke are the following: "We live in capitalism. Its power seems inescapable. So did the divine right of kings. Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings. Resistance and change often begin in art, and very often in our art--the art of words."
During the hard times we are facing and throughout those that the author herself foresees, let us never forget Le Guin for her passion, her art, her words and, perhaps most importantly, her truths.
"There's a deficit of happiness, a deficit of community," the "Trews" host told Amy Goodman in a recent "Democracy Now!" interview. "All of us or a lot of us feel a little adrift, like we don't how we're supposed to live." The two discussed a wide range of topics as they sat together in a room overlooking Big Ben, including drug addiction, poverty, Noam Chomsky and whether or not Brand ever sees himself running for mayor of London. However, the comedian was at his most poignant when talking about how the further impoverishment of the place he grew up in forced him to wonder "where those resources had gone and why people don't seem to think that they have any political purchase."
If you can't beat 'em, make 'em raise money against their own cause.
That was the clever, and classy, approach that locals from the small German town of Wunsiedel took when confronted yet again with an annual spectacle that they didn't ask for and can't yet do away with altogether: the yearly march of neo-Nazis through their home turf, which happens to be the initial resting place of Adolf Hitler's right-hand man Rudolf Hess.
As The Independent reported Tuesday, Hess doesn't rest there anymore, but that still hasn't fully resolved the issue for residents, so they resorted to creative measures this year:
In 2011, the roughly 1,000 inhabitants of the town managed - with the agreement of family members - to get Hess' remains exhumed and his gravestone destroyed. However, marchers still flock to the town, albeit in smaller numbers.
So this year, come the march on November 15, a campaign called "Rechts gegen Rechts" (Right against Right) decided to turn the neo-Nazi rally into a charity walk.
Instead of protesting against the demonstration, shop owners and residents in Wunsiedel pledged to donate 10 euro for each metre the neo-Nazis marched.
They managed to raise 10,000 euros. The money went towards EXIT-Deutschland, a charity that helps people leave neo-Nazi groups.
The neo-Nazi visitors were made aware of the reason why their Wunsiedel hosts were acting so accommodating only at the end of the march, when they were informed about where the funds they raised would be sent.
Additional bonus points are in order for the villager who thought of offering the marchers sustenance under a banner reading "Mein Mampf" ("My Food").
Watch The Independent's video coverage of the story here.
Photo: Gali Tibbon
By Alexis Agathocleous
George Ruiz is 72 years old. For the past 30 years, he has spent every day alone -- locked in a cramped, windowless cell inside the Security Housing Unit (SHU) first at California's Pelican Bay State Prison, then at Tehachapi prison. He is allowed out for only one hour per day to exercise - also alone - in another concrete cell.
Ruiz is in the SHU not for any rule violation, but because other prisoners claimed he was affiliated with a prison gang.
Ruiz barely sees or communicates with his family, as he is not allowed telephone calls and his children live hundreds of miles from the remote prison. Scribbled drawings from Ruiz's two-year-old great-grandson have been confiscated for supposedly containing "coded messages."
Though he suffers from debilitating health issues, for years, Ruiz was told that the only way he could receive better medical care would be to inform on other prisoners, thereby putting himself and his family at great risk of violence -- and no doubt landing someone else in the torture chamber called the SHU.
PHOTO ESSAY: Locked up and growing old
The United States would like the global community to believe that Ruiz's experience is an aberration. Last week, as the U.S.'s compliance with the Convention Against Torture (CAT) was under review by the United Nations Committee Against Torture in Geneva, the U.S. delegation touted the country's progress on reducing and limiting its use of solitary confinement.
In fact, Ruiz's story is not uncommon -- not at the Pelican Bay State Prison in California, where over a thousand prisoners are confined in the SHU (hundreds of them for more than a decade), and not in the U.S., where solitary confinement is used in every state, under all circumstances of incarceration, and against all prisoner populations.
Approximately 80,000 prisoners are held in solitary confinement in the U.S.
The U.S. told the Committee Against Torture that federal law restricts the use of solitary confinement for juveniles, prisoners who are victims of sexual violence, and mentally ill prisoners, and that it prohibits the use of solitary if it is employed to discriminate against disabled persons. But in fact, across the U.S., any prisoner - regardless of age, gender, or physical or mental health - may be held in solitary - and they are.
Every day, juveniles are held in isolation, which can be even more damaging to children than it is to adults. Juvenile facilities often disguise their use of solitary simply by using euphemisms: "time out," "restricted engagement," even "reflection cottages." Vulnerable LGBTI prisoners, immigration detainees, and prisoners with mental disabilities are all held in solitary confinement in both civil and criminal detention facilities across the country.
Despite U.S. claims to the committee that courts have interpreted the Constitution to prohibit solitary under certain circumstances, those limits that do exist apply only to specific facilities or specific states because they arose from specific lawsuit brought by prisoners. For example, in California, where George Ruiz is imprisoned, a federal court ruled in 1995 that the state may not place mentally ill individuals in solitary confinement. Still, California holds thousands of prisoners in solitary confinement, which is known to cause severe psychological harm, including mental illness, to all prisoners - not just particularly vulnerable prisoners.
Another Pelican Bay SHU prisoner, Jeffrey Franklin, says that one of the worst challenges he has faced is "witnessing so many other SHU prisoners lose their minds," listening to "incessant screaming, and noises, and incoherent speech." In any event, the ruling has no impact whatsoever on any state other than California.
The reality is that use of solitary confinement in the U.S. is widespread and systematic, and it is routinely used in excess of 15 days--the point at which U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan Mendez states it can become torture.
It is not just that the U.S. has fallen short of its human rights obligations and misrepresented the facts to the Committee Against Torture; the federal government also maintains entire facilities that stand as stark proof of how uninterested it is in ending this torture. At the federal Administrative Maximum (ADX) prison in Colorado, more than 400 prisoners spend 22 to 24 hours a day locked in concrete "boxcar" isolation cells. A former ADX warden called the facility "a cleaner version of hell." Meanwhile, the federal government subjects some prisoners to "Special Administrative Measures," sometimes pre-trial, which represent a particularly harsh form of solitary confinement.
Despite these longstanding and ongoing human rights abuses in our nation's prisons, the United States delegation stood before the Committee Against Torture last week and insisted that the U.S. is doing a good job on solitary confinement.
The CAT review process also included an opportunity for human rights organizations to respond to the U.S.'s presentation. The Center for Constitutional Rights and California prisoners' rights organizations submitted a detailed review of its failures under the Convention Against Torture and a full rebuttal of U.S. claims.
Meanwhile, we are in the midst of a landmark federal class action case challenging the constitutionality of long-term solitary confinement at Pelican Bay. Rather than wait for the courts to intervene, it is time for the United States to take its human rights obligations seriously, and take meaningful steps to end the use of solitary confinement.
Couldn't find the cat tonight...it made me think of Joni Mitchell...happy belated birthday wonder woman
"Man From Mars"
Since I lost you
I can't get through the day
Without at least one big boo-hoo
The pain won't go away
What am I gonna do?
Man from Mars
This time you went too far
I fall apart
Everytime I think of you
Swallowed by the dark
There is no center to my life now
No grace in my heart
Man from Mars
This time you went too far
I call and call
The silence is so full of sounds
You're in them all
I hear you in the water
And the wiring in the walls
Man from Mars
This time you went too far
In the deeply troubled southwestern Mexican state of Guerro, students from rural areas began to protest discriminatory university practices. Image credit
The other motives for the protest are currently unclear, but the end result of this was: 58 missing students, 2 students shot and killed by police, 282 cops under arrest in the first wave of arrest, and 22 officers remaining under arrest for suspicion of attempted murder for shooting at the students.
Yes, you read that correctly. Can you even comprehend how large of a massacre this could have been if all of the students were never found? Imagine if American police killed two protestors - and suddenly 58 other protesting young students were missing. That would cause massive unrest! Far worse than Ferguson. This is a hugely tragic event.
Students from the University of Ayotzinapa are searching for the missing students, saying that the military may have them in custody. No government or military officials have confirmed this.
The violence started when protesting students seized passenger buses, and Iguala Municipal Police chased them, shot at them, and killed two of them. The protestors were unarmed and non-violent.
Teachers in this extremely violent and poor southwestern state of Mexico often protest. Opposition to reforms that don't benefit them has reached a violent tipping point, instigated by the viral load of their corrupt police state.
Unknown gunmen also killed 4 people around the same time, shooting up a bus full of soccer players and a taxi.
The entire police force of this city was disarmed, 282 were momentarily arrested, and 22 remain in custody possibly to be charged with attempted murder and/or other crimes.
Could this be the 'Ferguson' of Mexico?
In memory of in memory of these 2 deceased young activists, please share this with as many people as possible and also to show just how bad a police state can get. This is simply incomprehensible to most people, and it will surely be a tragedy that will stick out in history if the missing students turn up dead or are never found.
The mathematical and engineering precision of this sort of thing blows me away.
An electronics-filled box about the size of a washing machine is gearing up to make the first-ever controlled landing on a comet -- and you can watch the drama unfold on the Web.
The Philae lander has been riding piggyback on the European Space Agency's Rosetta spacecraft for more than 4 billion miles (6 billion kilometers), during a decade-long, $1.3 billion mission to catch up and hang around a rubber-ducky-shaped agglomeration of ice and dust known as Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Rosetta made its rendezvous in August, and now it's time for the box-shaped Philae lander to go its own way.
After a momentary hiccup in the procedure for "waking up" Philae's instruments on Tuesday, ESA has given the probe the first of several "go for landing" commands.
Philae -- which is named after an island in the River Nile that figures in the story of the Rosetta Stone -- is due to separate from Rosetta at 3:35 a.m. ET Wednesday. Confirmation is expected to be received at 4:03 a.m., due to the light-travel time between the comet and Earth. Touchdown on the comet's surface, 14 miles (22.5 kilometers) below Rosetta, is scheduled seven hours later at 11:03 a.m. ET.
Follow the mission
Whether it's a hit or a miss, Philae's journey is easy to follow on the Web. Here's where to look:
- Monitor the tweets on Twitter using the hashtag #CometLanding. You can also follow @ESA_Rosetta and @Philae2014 for updates.
- ESA's Rosetta Blog provides word on the latest milestones as well as lots of background on the mission. For an outside perspective, check in with the Planetary Society's Emily Lakdawalla, who's at the space operations center in Darmstadt.
- ESA is airing Philae mission coverage via Livestream during key points in the landing sequence, from now until 2 p.m. ET Wednesday.
- NASA TV will air landing coverage from 9 to 11:30 a.m. ET Wednesday.
- The Slooh virtual observatory plans to pass along post-landing imagery of Comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko, plus commentary, starting at 2 p.m. Wednesday. The dim comet is barely within the observing capability of Slooh's member-controlled telescope on the Canary Islands, but check the website to see what can be seen. Questions and comments can be tweeted using the hashtag #SloohRosetta.
For 10 years, there's always been only one truly independent choice: Firefox.
Today, the news is filled with stories about privacy, big data and security attacks. Let's face it, most tech companies know more about us than we know about ourselves. But it doesn't have to be this way. Firefox is different. We're not like them. We're independent. We play by our own rules. We believe the Web should be free, open and yours. We don't answer to industry, shareholders or any other corporate interests. We answer to you.
Firefox is non-profit, non-corporate, non-compromised. We are backed by thousands of volunteers and millions of users around the globe who all believe, support and fight for the rights of individuals to keep the power in their hands.
So, on November 10, help us light a fire. Join us as we celebrate 10 years of Firefox -- 10 years of independent choice. Together, we can make sure the passion for a free and open Internet burns forever bright. Here's how to sign up:
Even before the big loss for the Democrats, we had all lost. The money pouring into politics from Super PACs and shady political "nonprofit" organizations was stealing Democracy from you and me. Financial contributions from individual voters is being eclipsed by the big bucks pouring in from far fewer big-money sources.
As the most expensive midterm election in history, dark money from shadowy sources is also climbing. When nearly a billion dollars poured in from pop-up 501(c)4s and Super PACs, the advertising and attacks got meaner and more repellant. No wonder people feel like checking out from the whole process. (Don't take my word for it, ask any random person on the street what they think of politics.)
With fewer voters and more money pumped into the election, it's not too surprising that that some dinosaur politicians are resurgent. Why not take it to the extreme and just get rid of the voters thanks to the Last Campaign Ad Ever? Seems like something the Brothers Koch could get behind! Take a deeper dive into the links behind this cartoon here and be sure to like, comment and share!
A must watch 8 part interview which explores one of the most vital questions of our time:
Chris Hedges, whose column is published Mondays on Truthdig , spent nearly two decades as a foreign correspondent in Central America, the Middle East, Africa and the Balkans. He has reported from more than 50 countries and has worked for The Christian Science Monitor, National Public Radio, The Dallas Morning News and The New York Times, for which he was a foreign correspondent for 15 years. He has written nine books, including "Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle" (2009), "I Don't Believe in Atheists" (2008) and the best-selling "American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America" (2008). His book "War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning" (2003) was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction.
Sheldon S. Wolin is an American political philosopher and writer on contemporary politics. Wolin is currently Professor of Politics, Emeritus, at Princeton University, where he taught from 1973 to 1987.
During a teaching career which spanned over forty years Wolin also taught at Oxford University, Oberlin College, Cornell University, UCLA, University of California, Berkeley, and University of California, Santa Cruz. During this time he mentored many graduate students who would become leading political theorists, such as Cornel West, Wendy Brown (who dedicated her famous book States of Injury: Power and Freedom in Late Modernity to him), and Hanna Fenichel Pitkin. He was also a regular contributor to the New York Review of Books.] A critic of contemporary American politics. Wolin is known for coining the term inverted totalitarianism*. His most famous work is Politics and Vision: Continuity and Innovation in Western Political Thought.
Parts 2 thru 8 can be selected from the right sidebar here.
* Inverted totalitarianism is a term coined by political philosopher Sheldon Wolin in 2003 to describe the emerging form of government of the United States. Wolin believes that the United States is increasingly turning into an illiberal democracy, and uses the term "inverted totalitarianism" to illustrate similarities and differences between the United States governmental system and totalitarian regimes such as Nazi Germany and the Stalinist Soviet Union In Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt by Chris Hedges and Joe Sacco, inverted totalitarianism is described as a system where corporations have corrupted and subverted democracy and where economics trumps politics. In inverted totalitarianism, every natural resource and every living being is commodified and exploited to collapse as the citizenry are lulled and manipulated into surrendering their liberties and their participation in government through excess consumerism and sensationalism.
New twists and excitment and so cool to see the women get their share of the proof.
Cosmologist Sean Carroll attacks -- in an entertaining and thought-provoking tour through the nature of time and the universe -- a deceptively simple question: Why does time exist at all?
The potential answers point to a surprising view of the nature of the universe, and our place in it.
There is just no limit to conservative stupidity
School board to rip out textbook's abortion mention
Rachel Maddow reports on an Arizona town's school board's decision to remove references to abortion in a high school honors biology textbook by literally tearing out the page containing the offending references. Maddow offers students an alternative.
Brilliantly, she has copied and posted for perpetuity an online version of the excised page at ArizonaHonorsBiology.com for the students who will want to see what information has been ripped out of their textbooks by the Christian dinosaurs in their midst.
The video is at http://on.msnbc.com/1zT2mVR