June 2015 Archives

History Made on Same Sex Marriage

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The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday made marriage for same-sex couples legal nationwide, declaring that refusing to grant marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples violates the Constitution.

The landmark ruling will produce the most significant change in laws governing matrimony since the court struck down state bans on inter-racial marriage almost 50 years ago.

The majority opinion in the 5-4 decision was written by Justice Anthony Kennedy.

"No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were," Kennedy wrote. "As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death."

Kennedy went on to speak directly to the type of criticism that often comes from conservatives in pushing back against marriage equality.

"It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves," Kennedy said. "Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization's oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right."

A total of 36 states now permit gay couples to get married, covering roughly 70 percent of the US population. Today's ruling means the bans must end in the other 14 states -- Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, Tennessee and Texas.

The decision capped a remarkably quick turnaround in public and judicial acceptance of same-sex marraige. In the past 18 months, court rulings struck down marriage bans in rapid succession -- nearly 60 separate decisions in more than half the states.

Today's ruling overturned a decision from the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, which said states had legitimate reasons for maintaining the traditional definition of marriage. The appeals court also said it would be better "to allow change through the customary political processes" instead of the courts.

Public opinion has shifted dramatically in recent years. The first Gallup poll on the subject showed only 27 percent approval for same-sex marriage in 1996. Gallup's most recent poll, taken last month, showed 60 percent approval.

US White Terrorism

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White Americans are the biggest terror threat in the United States,

... according to a study by the New America Foundation.

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The Washington-based research organization did a review of "terror" attacks on US soil since Sept. 11, 2001 and found that most of them were carried out by radical anti-government groups or white supremacists.

Almost twice as many people have died in attacks by right-wing groups in America than have died in attacks by Muslim extremists. Of the 26 attacks since 9/11 that the group defined as terror, 19 were carried out by non-Muslims. Yet there are no white Americans languishing inside the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay. And there are no drones dropping bombs on gatherings of military-age males in the country's lawless border regions.

Attacks by right-wing groups get comparatively little coverage in the news media. Most people will struggle to remember the shooting at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin that killed six people in 2012. A man who associated with neo-Nazi groups carried out that shooting. There was also the married couple in Las Vegas who walked into a pizza shop and murdered two police officers. They left a swastika on one of the bodies before killing a third person in a Wal-Mart parking lot. Such attacks are not limited to one part of the country. In 2011, two white supremacists went on a shooting spree in the Pacific Northwest, killing four people.

Terrorism is hard to define. But here is its basic meaning: ideological violence. In its study, the New America Foundation took a narrow view of what could be considered a terror attack. Most mass shootings, for instance, like Sandy Hook or the Aurora, Colorado movie theater shooting -- both in 2012 -- weren't included. Also not included was the killing of three Muslim students in North Carolina earlier this year. The shooter was a neighbor and had strong opinions about religion. But he also had strong opinions about parking spaces and a history of anger issues. So that shooting was left off the list.

The killing of nine people at a church in Charleston, South Carolina last week was included. The shooter made it clear that his motivation was an ideological belief that white people are superior to black people. The shooting has cast new light on the issue of right-wing terrorism in the United States. But since it can't really use Special Forces or Predator drones on US soil, it remains unclear how the government will respond.

Turning Tide

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Galaxies and Body Cell counting

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How many galaxies are there in the observable universe? How many cells are there in the human body?

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We know both of these numbers must be really big. But which is bigger?

No one has counted all the cells and all the galaxies one by one, so any number will be an estimate. But estimates are not just guesses.

Scientists actually have counted the number of cells in some multicellular organisms. A tiny transparent worm called Caenorhabditis elegans, a common laboratory animal, was the first multicellular organism to have its complete genome sequenced.

Researchers have learned a lot about this worm -- enough for several Nobel Prizes -- and they know that there are exactly 1,031 cells in the adult male and 959 in the adult hermaphrodite (there is no female C. elegans).

But counting cells in humans is more difficult.

In a paper published in 2013, Eva Bianconi of the University of Bologna in Italy and her colleagues outlined a method for estimating the number of cells in a "standard human being," which they defined as a 30-year-old weighing 154 pounds, standing 5 feet 7 inches tall, and possessing a body surface area of 20 square feet.

The method for measuring the number of galaxies in the universe is, by comparison, pretty straightforward, but it is not easy. Astronomers pointed the Hubble telescope at a portion of the sky of known size, counted the number of galaxies they could see, and then multiplied to estimate the number of galaxies in the observable universe.

There are, of course, complications. Galaxies merge over time; the universe expands; the distance we can see with improved technologies increases. And of course, we are talking only about the observable universe -- the part we can actually see.

But the best estimate now is that there are between 100 billion and 200 billion galaxies in the universe.

So, more galaxies or more cells? This is not a close call. Even using the highest estimate for galaxies (200 billion) and the lowest estimate for human cells (1 trillion), there are at least 800 billion more cells in your body than there are galaxies in the known universe.

Natalie Rosen
#1.2

In reply to: George Earle #1

Nobody is diverting discussion of mental illness. We realize the pathology of a nation and it includes a lot of things from gun worshiping psychos and sociopaths to drugs and a lot more BUT that does not take away from the cultural emblem of what the Confederate flag means and what kind of "cultural" message is it sending.

Just what were the Confederate glorified soldiers fighting? They were fighting to keep in place an economic system of the growth of cotton and other things with free labor. It was a boon to those whites ones of money and position that owned plantations and could afford slaves. Slaves were expensive to buy and expensive to feed and keep alive to work. If one could do it then one had a lot to lose by emancipating slave labor. Follow the money!

The other leg of slavery was to get the white lower classes who did not have plantations nor could afford slaves to buy into its justification and think that the system of keeping persons of color down behooved the lower classes and enlist them to fight for it and keep it in place because as low class as they might be they were a higher class than the black man. Justifications were used for the obvious brutality, cruelty and psychopathology of keeping slavery in place and the black man down.

Naturally as is true for keeping one class of people down and another up they justified it by god. If god says it's okay Biblically than it is okay for them to employ it. In 5000 years of Biblical history there are an abundance of things the Bible says are okay that are ridiculous of in our time . Slavery and animal sacrifice are but two examples out of many. Religion -- white religion -- can justify anything if one looks Biblically to justify it hard enough. All manner of cruelty can be explained in religious texts. It is how those who control the money and power control the masses to feel complacent in the heinous things they do. It's as old as man himself.

The Confederate flag justifies that and so much more cruelty. It keeps an entire social order in place even the subjugation of women. There is NOTHING I repeat NOTHING that is humane and good about the symbol of the Confederate flag. States rights is a euphemism to allow a state to do anything heinous it wants with the justification that states rights says it's right to do so!

AGAIN, TAKE DOWN THAT LOATHSOME SYMBOL AND STAND FOR SOMETHING MORALLY RIGHT AND GOOD FOR A CHANGE INSTEAD OF OPPRESSIVE AND CRUSHING FOR ONE POWERLESS GROUP OR ANOTHER.

Ramadan 2015

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Ramadan 2015: Facts, History, Dates, Greeting And Rules About The Muslim Fast


What are the dates of Ramadan?

Because the cycle of the lunar calendar does not match the solar calendar, the dates of Ramadan shift by approximately 11 days each year. In 2015, Ramadan is expected to begin on Thursday, June 18, in the United States, although the date is only confirmed once the moon is sighted.

The ending of Ramadan is marked by the holiday of Eid ul-Fitr, which takes place either 29 or 30 days after the beginning of the month. On Eid ul-Fitr, morning prayers are followed by feasting and celebration among family and friends.

What is the history of Ramadan?

Ramadan is the 9th month of the Islamic calendar. The term Ramadan literally means scorching in Arabic. It was established as a Holy Month for Muslims after the Quran was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad in 610 CE on the occasion known as Laylat al-Qadr, frequently translated as "the Night of Power."

Observance of Ramadan is mandated in the Quran, Surah 2, Ayah 185:

"The month of Ramadhan [is that] in which was revealed the Qur'an, guidance for the people and clear proofs of guidance and criterion. So whoever sights [the new moon of] the month, let him fast it; and whoever is ill or on a journey - then an equal number of other days. Allah intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship and [wants] for you to complete the period and to glorify Allah for that [to] which He has guided you; and perhaps you will be grateful."

What are the daily fasting requirements?

During the month of Ramadan, most Muslims fast from dawn to sunset with no food or water. Before sunrise many Muslims have the Suhur or predawn meal. At sunset families and friends gather for Iftar which is the meal eaten by Muslims to break the fast. Many Muslims begin the meal by eating dates as the Prophet used to do.

This ritual fast known as, Sawm, is one of the five pillars of Islam, and requires that individuals abstain from eating, drinking, smoking and sexual intercourse.

To find the specific times for Ramadan fasting, click over to this helpful tool provided by IslamiCity that allows you to calculate prayer schedules -- including sunrise and sunset -- by entering your city or zip code.

What are the expectations towards charity?

Charity is an important part of Ramadan. The fast emphasizes self-sacrifice and using the experience of hunger to grow in empathy with the hungry. During Ramadan, Muslim communities work together to raise money for the poor, donate clothes and food, and hold iftar dinners for the less fortunate.

What scriptural study do Muslims take part in?

Many Muslims use Ramadan to read the entire Quran or read the Quran daily. Many communities divide the Quran into daily reading segments that conclude on Eid ul-Fitr at the end of Ramadan.

Can non-Muslims participate?

Non-Muslims are free to participate in Ramadam. Many non-Muslims fast and even pray with their Muslim friends or family members. Non-Muslims are often invited to attend prayer and iftar dinners.

Those wishing to be polite to someone who is fasting for Ramadan may greet them with Ramadan Mubarak or Ramadan Kareem, which mean Have a Blessed or Generous Ramadan.

Should Muslims with diabetes fast?

Fasting during Ramadan is discouraged for patients with diabetes by the American Diabetes Association.

"In keeping with this, a large epidemiological study conducted in 13 Islamic countries on 12,243 individuals with diabetes who fasted during Ramadan showed a high rate of acute complications."

However, the study says this was not conclusive. Many diabetic patients fasted with no complications. Patients with diabetes should work with their doctors to figure out a strategy if they choose to fast.

What is the 'goal' of Ramadan?

In general, the practices of Ramadan are meant to purify oneself from thoughts and deeds which are counter to Islam. By removing material desires, one is able to focus fully on devotion and service to God. Many Muslims go beyond the physical ritual of fasting and attempt to purge themselves of impure thoughts and motivations such as anger, cursing, and greed.

Do all Muslims take part in Ramadan fasting?

Most Muslims believe Ramadan fasting is mandatory, but there are some groups that do not. Pregnant or breastfeeding mothers, people who are seriously sick, travelers, or those at health risk should not fast. Children that have not gone through puberty are also not required to fast during the month Ramadan.

Beat the Rich

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....preferably to a pulp.
In the final analysis, there is no option but to eliminate the top 1/10 of 1% with extreme prejudice.

Jacob Hacker & Paul Pierson on Engineered Inequality

Bill Moyers explores how America's vast inequality didn't just happen, it's been politically engineered.

Oliver's Torture Twist

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Let John Oliver and Helen Mirren Convince You to Read America's Torture Report


This post first appeared at Mother Jones.

Last December, the Senate Intelligence Committee released its long-awaited torture report, which provided overwhelming evidence interrogation methods used after the attacks on September 11th to be largely ineffective and inhumane. Despite this, most Americans have yet to even skim the report's findings and continue to believe torture tactics can successfully lead to reliable information.

"Torture is one of those things that is advertised as something that works, but doesn't, like a Ford truck or those weird bottles of Horny Goat Weed available at your local bodega," John Oliver explained on the latest Last Week Tonight. "But maybe the reason that so many of us innately believe that torture works is that it does on TV all the time. Look at 24."

On Sunday, Oliver implored viewers to start paying attention -- he even recruited the help of actress Helen Mirren to eloquently read some of the report's most horrifying details -- as Senators John McCain and Dianne Feinstein currently have the chance to pass a bill seeking to permanently ban specific torture methods for good.

"America should not be a country that tortures people because it is brutal. It is medieval and it is beneath us," he said

Fairphone 2

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Fabulous concept to roll out first in Europe for around $650. US


Fairphone 2: Modular design for you to open and repair

Fairphone is a movement for fairer electronics. Get the first look at our modular design for repair as we present the prototype of the Fairphone 2.


Return from the ISS

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What's weird to me about this is the contrast between the ancient open and rugged fields and the ultra modern technology of the International; Space Station.

Blow ourselves off the planet with chemicals and drop like a rock with a sheet attached to get back.

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Russian Soyuz TMA-15M space capsule carrying the International Space Station (ISS) crew of Anton Shkaplerov, Terry Virts and Samantha Cristoforetti lands outside the town of Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, June 11, 2015.

return.from.iss.jpgIvan Sekretarev/AP

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Cool Robotic Wolves

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The Global Family

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Global family reunion aims to break record

AJ Jacobs, creator of the Global Family Reunion, joins to discuss his project that is making connections using data from several online geneology sites to piece together a sprawling family tree.

Obama's Eulogy to Beau Biden

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Large Hadron Collider Back Online

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LHC Kicks Physics into High Gear

Scientists at Europe's Large Hadron Collider began collecting data for the first time in more than two years on Wednesday, after a $150 million overhaul.

The LHC's first run, which ended in early 2013, resulted in the discovery of the long-sought Higgs boson -- the last fundamental subatomic particle predicted by the Standard Model, one of physics' most successful theories. The second run will follow up on the Higgs discovery, but also look for signs of phenomena that go beyond the Standard Model -- such as dark matter particles, supersymmetry and extra spatial dimensions.

During the past two years, the $10 billion LHC's 17-mile-round (27-kilometer-round) underground ring of magnets was beefed up to handle almost twice as much collision energy as it did for the first run (13 trillion electron volts vs. 8 trillion electron volts).

Thousands of scientists and engineers at Europe's CERN particle physics center, which straddles the Swiss-French border, have been ramping up the collider's proton beams over the past couple of months to prepare for the resumption of data delivery at 13 trillion electron volts, or 13 TeV. After working a last-minute kink or two out of the control system's software, CERN's team ran stable beams of protons through the collider and started collecting data in earnest at 10:40 a.m. CEST (4:40 a.m. ET) Wednesday.

"It is time for new physics!" CERN's director general, Rolf Heuer, said in a celebratory news release. "We have seen the first data beginning to flow. Let's see what they will reveal to us about how our universe works."

Here Comes the Sun

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This post first appeared at Mother Jones.

Sunrise at Shirahama Ohama Beach, in Shirahama, Japan. (Photo: Izu navi/flickr CC 2.0)

Sunrise at Shirahama Ohama Beach, in Shirahama, Japan. (Photo: Izu navi/flickr CC 2.0)

Last week, an energy analyst at Deutsche Bank came to a startling conclusion: By 2016, solar power will be as cheap or cheaper than electricity from the conventional grid in every state except three. That's without any changes to existing policy. In other words, we're only a few years away from the point where, in most of the United States, there will be no economic reason not to go solar. If you care about slowing climate change or just moving toward cleaner energy, that is a huge deal.

And solar energy is already going gangbusters. In the past decade, the amount of solar power produced in the United States has leaped 139,000 percent. A number of factors are behind the boom: Cheaper panels and a raft of local and state incentives, plus a federal tax credit that shaves 30 percent off the cost of upgrading.

Still, solar is a bit player, providing less than half of 1 percent of the energy produced in the United States. But its potential is massive -- it could power the entire country 100 times over.

So what's the holdup? A few obstacles: pushback from old-energy diehards, competition with other efficient energy sources, and the challenges of power storage and transmission. But with solar in the Southwest already at "grid parity" -- meaning it costs the same or less as electricity from conventional sources -- Wall Street is starting to see solar as a sound bet. As a recent Citigroup investment report put it, "Our viewpoint is that solar is here to stay."

Some numbers that tell the story:

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Sources

Solar growth: Solar Energy Industries Association
New solar installations: SEIA
Sunlight: Sandia National LabEnergy Information Administration/National Renewable Energy Laboratory
Electricity generating capacity: SEIA
Carbon savings, electricity demand: SEIAEIA/NREL
Installed PV capacity: International Energy Agency
Solar jobs: The Solar Foundation, Bureau of Labor Statistics
Solar panels on a typical house: NREL
Panel cost, VC funding: Greenpeace; Mercom Capital Group (2013 & 2014)

(Image credits: Shutterstock (Earth, USA); Maurizio Fusillo/Noun Project (solar panel); Okan Benn/Noun Project (car); Q. Li/Noun Project (chart); Sergey Krivoy/Noun Project (coal trolley); Marcio Duarte/Noun Project (worker); Alex Berkowitz/Noun Project (cash))

No one knows.
Seriously, no one knows.


The Caitland in Jenner

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Major courage and a watershed revelatory moment for us all.

Former Bruce Jenner Debuts New Name, Dramatic Photos

The former Bruce Jenner has gone public with her new name -- Caitlyn -- and a cover shoot for Vanity Fair.

"If I was lying on my deathbed and I had kept this secret and never ever did anything about it, I would be lying there saying, 'You just blew your entire life,'" she said in an interview excerpt released by the magazine on Monday.

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The photos, for the magazine's July issue, were taken by Annie Leibovitz.

"Bruce always had to tell a lie," Jenner said in a video released by the magazine. "He was always living a lie. Every day, he always had a secret. From morning till night. Caitlyn doesn't have any secrets."

"As soon as the Vanity Fair cover comes out, I'm free."

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