Source: New Scientist
There will be no posts here for two weeks. I will be gone and off the grid. Please have an enjoyable rest of June and come back after the 4th of July.
“I was a Flower of the mountain yes when I put the rose in my hair like the Andalusian girls used or shall I wear a red yes and how he kissed me under the Moorish Wall and I thought well as well him as another and then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes.”
— Molly Bloom
‘…[E]levating chicanery and those who propagate its—even to debunk the lie—only spreads their nonsense. “Megyn Kelly interviewing Alex Jones is like taking a leaf of poison ivy that you know is making you itch and rubbing it all over someone’s face,” says Stephanie Kelley-Romano, who teaches rhetoric at Bates College and studies how and why conspiracy beliefs take root. “You don’t spread it around.” …’
‘That group includes doctors from across the country, including the University of Colorado, the CDC, Yale University, Stanford, and the University of California, San Francisco. In the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, the doctors reveal chilling accounts of five patients who pursued such bogus treatments. What followed was years of heart-wrenching suffering, avoidable life-threatening infections, and death…’
Source: Ars Technica
The fact that the diagnosis is not well-founded is less the problem than that the putative sufferers fall victim to snake oil salesmen. It seems to me that, if you seek help for a controversial syndrome you have to hold the caregiver to a higher, rather than a lower, bar regarding the plausibility of the approach they suggest.
‘Where did consciousness come from? A recent piece in New Scientist (paywalled, I’m afraid) reviewed a number of ideas about the evolutionary origin and biological nature of consciousness. The article obligingly offered a set of ten criteria for judging whether an organism is conscious or not…
- Recognises itself in a mirror
- Has insight into the minds of others
- Displays regret having made a bad decision
- Heart races in stressful situations
- Has many dopamine receptors in its brain to sense reward
- Highly flexible in making decisions
- Has ability to focus attention (subjective experience)
- Needs to sleep
- Sensitive to anaesthetics
- Displays unlimited associative learning..’
Source: Conscious Entities
“We propose that the phenomenon known to neurologically intact people as ‘Subjective Experience’ is best understood as the activation of various sites in both extrinsic and intrinsic networks by a brand new episodic memory engram (i.e., a complex theta wave coding pattern originating from field CA1 of the hippocampus)…”
Source: Wiley Online Library
‘Hypnosis refers to a set of procedures involving an induction — which could be fixating on an object, relaxing or actively imagining something — followed by one or more suggestions, such as “You will be completely unable to feel your left arm.” The purpose of the induction is to induce a mental state in which participants are focused on instructions from the experimenter or therapist, and are not distracted by everyday concerns. One reason why hypnosis is of interest to scientists is that participants often report that their responses feel automatic or outside their control.
Most inductions produce equivalent effects. But inductions aren’t actually that important. Surprisingly, the success of hypnosis doesn’t rely on special abilities of the hypnotist either — although building rapport with them will certainly be valuable in a therapeutic context.
Rather, the main driver for successful hypnosis is one’s level of “hypnotic suggestibility.” This is a term which describes how responsive we are to suggestions. We know that hypnotic suggestibility doesn’t change over time and is heritable. Scientists have even found that people with certain gene variants are more suggestible.
Most people are moderately responsive to hypnosis. This means they can have vivid changes in behavior and experience in response to hypnotic suggestions. By contrast, a small percentage (around 10-15 percent) of people are mostly non-responsive. But most research on hypnosis is focused on another small group (10-15 percent) who are highly responsive.
In this group, suggestions can be used to disrupt pain, or to produce hallucinations and amnesia. Considerable evidence from brain imaging reveals that these individuals are not just faking or imagining these responses. Indeed, the brain acts differently when people respond to hypnotic suggestions than when they imagine or voluntarily produce the same responses.
Preliminary research has shown that highly suggestible individuals may have unusual functioning and connectivity in the prefrontal cortex. This is a brain region that plays a critical role in a range of psychological functions including planning and the monitoring of one’s mental states.
There is also some evidence that highly suggestible individuals perform more poorly on cognitive tasks known to depend on the prefrontal cortex, such as working memory. However, these results are complicated by the possibility that there might be different subtypes of highly suggestible individuals. These neurocognitive differences may lend insights into how highly suggestible individuals respond to suggestions: they may be more responsive because they’re less aware of the intentions underlying their responses.
For example, when given a suggestion to not experience pain, they may suppress the pain but not be aware of their intention to do so. This may also explain why they often report that their experience occurred outside their control. Neuroimaging studies have not as yet verified this hypothesis but hypnosis does seem to involve changes in brain regions involved in monitoring of mental states, self-awareness and related functions.
Although the effects of hypnosis may seem unbelievable, it’s now well accepted that beliefs and expectations can dramatically impact human perception. It’s actually quite similar to the placebo response, in which an ineffective drug or therapeutic treatment is beneficial purely because we believe it will work. In this light, perhaps hypnosis isn’t so bizarre after all. Seemingly sensational responses to hypnosis may just be striking instances of the powers of suggestion and beliefs to shape our perception and behaviour. What we think will happen morphs seamlessly into what we ultimately experience.
Hypnosis requires the consent of the participant or patient. You cannot be hypnotized against your will and, despite popular misconceptions, there is no evidence that hypnosis could be used to make you commit immoral acts against your will…’
‘Tulpamancers are people who imagine companions, called tulpas, into being through meditation-like practices. While the word tulpamancer is derived from a Tibetan word for “incarnation,” one ethnographic study found that tulpamancers are mostly young, white men in their late teens and early 20s who congregate on Internet forums like Reddit. They tend to be empathetic, yet socially anxious. Tulpas are not considered a symptom of illness or a disorder, but they may be a coping mechanism for loneliness (or, in some cases, mental illness) for their creators. Many of those creators describe overwhelmingly positive experiences with tulpamancy, and some say the practice has helped ease their depression, anxiety, or obsessive compulsive disorder…’
Source: Pacific Standard
‘For the first time in a century, humpback whales have returned to the waters of New York harbor. And not just occasionally, either. They’re coming in enough numbers that a company can reliably trot tourists out to the ocean—within sight distance of Manhattan’s skyscrapers—to see them…’
Source: Popular Science
‘Any such move would, of course, be politically explosive and draw direct parallels to Richard Nixon’s conduct. But if Republicans on Capitol Hill are willing to go along with it, there’s nobody else out there who can actually stop Drumpf…’
‘Yesterday, as the news cycles were dying down, the Drumpf Justice Department (DOJ) dropped a bombshell brief which Bloomberg reported. Citing George Washington as precedent, the DOJ is saying that it is AOK for President Drumpf to take foreign governments’ and state-controlled banks’ money for goods and services without congressional approval, that it is not a violation of the Emoluments Clause of the United States Constitution…’
This is an utter outrage that must be stopped in its tracks, unlike our failure to stop Citizens United. Not only does it open the door to unprecedented influence-peddling by foreign powers but it seems to be a maneuver by Drumpf to exonerate himself for his and his family’s ongoing criminal graft. Is this enough to convince right-minded people to take action, which will probably have to be extra-judicial, against a President rapidly succeeding in removing any checks and balances on his tyranny?
Source: National Geographic
Clear where I stand. The wolf has always been my totem animal.
The woman, Michelle Carter, faces a maximum 20-year prison term if convicted at a bench trial in Bristol County. Attorneys for Carter, who was 18 at the time of the texts, had tried to fend off the charges, saying her texts to 17-year-old Conrad Roy were protected speech under the First Amendment. The state’s top court, the Supreme Judicial Court, set no line in the sand on when speech loses its constitutional protection. Instead, the court upheld the indictment for involuntary manslaughter on “the basis of words alone.”
Roy, who was found dead about 50 miles south of Boston in a Fairhaven parking lot, took his own life via carbon monoxide fumes inside his truck. The authorities also claim Carter was on the phone with Roy for nearly an hour while he was killing himself….’
Source: Ars Technica
‘A free-speech institute on Tuesday sent a letter to President Donald Drumpf demanding the prolific tweeter unblock certain Twitter users on grounds the practice violates the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
Drumpf’s @realDonaldTrump account recently blocked a number of accounts that replied to his tweets with commentary that criticized, mocked or disagreed with his actions. Twitter users are unable to see or respond to tweets from accounts that block them.
The Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University in New York said in its letter that the blocking suppressed speech in a public forum protected by the Constitution. …
Eric Goldman, a Santa Clara University law professor who focuses on internet law, said that previous cases involving politicians blocking users on Facebook supported the Knight Institute’s position.
If the institute should sue, Trump could claim his @realDonaldTrump account is for personal use and separate from his official duties as president, Goldman said. But he called that defense “laughable.”
Trump also has a presidential @POTUS Twitter account. The Knight Institute said its arguments would apply with “equal force” to both accounts…’
PETER BAKER and MAGGIE HABERMAN writes:
‘ …in a series of stark early-morning postings on Twitter [Drumpf] faulted his own Justice Department for its defense of his travel ban on visitors from certain predominantly Muslim countries. [Drumpf] accused Mr. Sessions’s department of devising a “politically correct” version of the ban — as if the president had nothing to do with it. …’
‘We’ve been conditioned by Hollywood to see the president of the United States step up to the lectern to confidently tell us how he will combat the existential threat to the planet — be it aliens, asteroids, tidal waves, volcanoes, killer sharks, killer robots or a 500-billion-ton comet the size of New York City.So it was quite stunning to see the president of the United States step up to the lectern to declare himself the existential threat to the planet…’
Source: NYTimes op ed
‘Poe’s Law: On the internet, it’s impossible to tell who is joking. …It’s… a diagnosis of exactly how the troll mentality has weakened internet culture. If nobody knows what anyone means, then every denial is plausible….’
Source: The Harvard Crimson
Interesting that the Crimson coverage focuses only on the misogyny. Other coverage I have read describes the vile racist attitudes in the Facebook group as well.
Oliver Roeder writes:
‘Since 1996, young spellers have attempted to spell over 14,000 words — from abactor to zymurgy. Twenty-five percent of those words, over 3,500, have been misspelled. This year, yet more words will be plucked from 470,000-odd options in Merriam-Webster’s unabridged dictionary. I sifted through all 21 years’ worth of errors, looking for reasons that some of the best spellers in the world stumbled when the stakes were highest. I found a gantlet of potential pitfalls …’
Source: Big Think
Have you heard it yet?
Source: Sahil Warsi
Source: Aeon Essays
Naomi Klein, writing on the day Donald Drumpf announced the U.S. would withdraw from the Paris climate accord, drew attention to a remedy proposed by some activists: that the U.S., which is vandalizing the climate, should face sanctions from the rest of the world. She also argues that pretty much everything that is inadequate about the Paris accord is the result of U.S. lobbying to weaken it.
Source: The Intercept
Source: The Boston Globe
‘Industry payouts to providers, unnecessary admissions to meet quotas, manipulating data for greater reimbursements: In The Huffington Post this week, Shannon Brownlee and Vikas Saini of the Lown Institute call out these ubiquitous practices for what they are – corruption.
“Our health care system is no longer about relieving the suffering of patients or the intrinsic value of maintaining the health of our population. It’s about making money,” Brownlee and Saini write. This systemic corruption contributes to ballooning health care costs and causes immeasurable harm to patients…’
Source: Lown Institute
Source: Rebecca Solnit: Literary Hub
Source: Atlas Obscura
Source: New York Times
‘Following President Donald Trump’s visit to Europe last week, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that Germany and other Europeans powers can no longer rely on the United States… If it is politically harmful for America’s allies to be seen supporting America’s president, those alliances are not long for this world…’
Source: Pacific Standard
‘Physicist Lucien Hardy of the Perimeter Institute for Quantum Physics in Canada has an experiment he wants to try. His believes his experiment could provide evidence that the human mind operates outside the laws of classical physics. Specifically, he’s looking to see if the human mind can influence the behavior of entangled quantum particles using a test that first proved their existence.’
Source: Big Think
Brilliant data visualization too.
‘The Coincidence Project is a special project started by a photographer named Denis Cherim. He had the idea of capturing pictures of certain harmonious moments where various scenic elements become aligned so that they portray a different perspective when you look at it. These could be pictures of people, landscapes, or monuments which have unusual shadowing, glaring or slopes that are interlocked into the scene to create a whole new visualization to them…’
Source: Design You Trust
Source: Pacific Standard
‘The two counselors at a drug treatment halfway house in Chester County, Pennsylvania, were supposed to help others recover from their addictions. But they were overwhelmed by their own drug problems — and on Sunday, they both overdosed and died on a mix of the opioids heroin and fentanyl. “If anybody is wondering how bad the opioid epidemic has become, this case is a frightening example,” Chester County District Attorney Tom Hogan said in a statement. “The staff members in charge of supervising recovering addicts succumbed to their own addiction and died of opioid overdoses.” …’
‘…[M]any Montana voters, maybe most them, had already voted by the time he was charged. Montana is unusually reliant on mail-in ballots — any voter may request and cast an absentee ballot. The state legislature earlier this year debated transitioning to a fully mail-based system for the special election, though that effort fell short. Seasoned political analysts projected that two-thirds or more of the votes had already been cast by the time the news of Gianforte’s alleged assault broke.
Source: Boing Boing
Source: Matthew Yglesias, Vox
Trump’s history of using insulting words mocks mental health
Source: The Washington Post
How skilled are you?
- Boundless Curiosity — The most creative people are insatiably curious. They want to know what works and why.
Freestyling We have to learn to dance with the robots, not to run away. However. we still need to make sure that Al is limited enough that it will still be dance-withable, and not not-runnab/e-away-from.
Emergent Leadership Emergent leadership: the ability to steer things in the right direction without the authority to do so. through social competence.
Constructive Uncertainty — The idea of constructive uncertainty is not predicated on eliminating our biases: they are as built into our minds as deeply as language and lust.
Complex Ethics All thinking touches on our sense of morality andjustice. Knowledge is justified belief, so our perspective of the world and our place in it is rooted in our ethical system, whether examined or not.
Deep Generalists — Deep generalists can ferret out the connections that build the complexity into complex systems, and grasp their interplay.
Design Logic It’s not only about imagining things we desire, but also undesirable things—cautionary tales that highlight what might happen if we carelessly introduce new technologies into society.
Postnormal Creativity — We should expect that in postnormal times creativity will have a few surprises in store for us.
Posterity, not History, nor the Future — While we need to learn from history, we must not be constrained by it, especially in a time where much of what is going on is unprecedented.
Sensemaking — Skills that help us create unique insights critical to decision making.
Source: Stowe Boyd
‘Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have joined forces on a bill that would ban the use of exotic and wild animals in traveling circuses and any other entertainment act on wheels. In late March, Representatives Raul Grijalva, an Arizona Democrat, Ryan Costello, a Pennsylvania Republican, and 22 other lawmakers introduced the Traveling Exotic Animal and Public Safety Protection Act (TEAPSPA) in the House. It would require the 19 traveling circuses in the U.S. with performing animals to to use only human entertainers—or shut down.
If the bill passes, it will end life on the road for more than 200 big cats, bears, camels, and elephants still working as circus performers. Thirty-four other countries have instituted similar bans, as have dozens of cities and counties in the U.S., including Los Angeles and San Francisco.’
Source: National Geographic
‘…As the Trump administration’s been sent into a death spiral over the firing of FBI Director James Comey last week — a failed move to curtail the Justice Department investigation into contact between his campaign and the Russian government — Kushner hasn’t been the “adult in the room” urging caution and scrupulousness. To the contrary, he’s been urging aggression and retaliation.
And the White House’s reaction to the appointment of Robert Mueller as a special counsel in the Russia inquiry, including a possible attempt to use ethics rules to limit the scope of his investigation, shows that somebody in the White House is deeply worried about what might happen if Kushner were included in the probe…’
‘With most experts saying that federal prosecutors can’t charge him, the House and Senate are the only entities that can hold the president himself to account. Unless 218 representatives and 67 senators agree that it’s time for him to leave, he’ll stay in office and avoid criminal prosecution. However, that does not mean special counsel Robert Mueller’s hands are tied. On the contrary, Mueller has broad authority to bring charges against basically anyone besides the president, up to and including Mike Pence if he’s found to have committed a crime.’
Source: Boing Boing
‘Why? Oh, no reason.’
- Why Aliens Wouldn’t Want to Enslave Us or Breed with Us
- Why Aliens Wouldn’t Want to Eat Us
- Why Aliens Wouldn’t Come Here to Steal Our Water
- Why Aliens Wouldn’t Come Here for Some Other Raw Material
- Why Aliens Wouldn’t Want to Colonize and Live Here
Source: Big Think
‘If one had to choose a single moment that set off the “replication crisis” in psychology—an event that nudged the discipline into its present and anarchic state, where even textbook findings have been cast in doubt—this might be it: the publication, in early 2011, of Daryl Bem’s experiments on second sight.’
‘Pseudoscientific claims that music helps plants grow have been made for decades, despite evidence that is shaky at best. Yet new research suggests some flora may be capable of sensing sounds, such as the gurgle of water through a pipe or the buzzing of insects.’
Source: Scientific American
‘The Justice Department’s decision to appoint former FBI director Robert Mueller as a special counsel charged with investigating possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia is a win for Democrats, a new blow to a reeling White House, and a clear sign that the scandal that has engulfed the administration will only accelerate in the weeks and months ahead…’
‘In this video, you’ll learn why you shouldn’t rub chopsticks together to remove splinters, stick your chopsticks upright in a bowl of rice, pass morsels from one set of chopsticks to another, and two other dining taboos.’
Source: Boing Boing
‘[A] data-driven look at prose… plumbs the new, massive corpuses of digitized books to make quantitative — rather than the traditional qualitative — statements about our literary habits…’
Source: Boing Boing
`The necessity of [the] pointless; the richness in the poverty of existence—stripped of its pretense and grand, self-important narratives…. These ideas arise from “the themes of failure that so dominate his work,” says de Botton. Though Beckett resisted interpretation in his own writing, he wrote an early study of Marcel Proust that interpreted the French author’s work as a philosophy of life which rests “on the making and appreciation of art.” Given that this is a School of Life video, this interpretation becomes the favored way to read Beckett. There are many others. But as the title of a 1994 Samuel Beckett reader—I Can’t Go On, I’ll Go On—suggests, every approach to Beckett must somehow try to account for the stubborn intensity of his contradictions…’
Source: Open Culture
‘Today, the whistleblower Chelsea Manning stepped out of the Military Corrections Complex at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas, having served the longest sentence in US history for whistleblowing; for the duration of her ongoing appeal, she is on “excess leave in an active-duty status” which entitles her to access to military health-care insurance and other benefits.
Manning’s selfless actions changed the global debate on surveillance and secrecy, sparked the Arab Spring, and inspired future whistleblowers like Edward Snowden.
Manning was subjected to years of torture — in the form of extended solitary confinement — before she was convicted of any crime. She attempted suicide twice in the past year.
Manning has not said what she will do next. I wish her the most sincere and heartfelt best for her future, and hope that she takes as much time as she needs to recover from the grotesque and shameful ordeal to which she was subjected.
Glenn Greenwald’s appreciation for Manning and her perseverance, bravery and deep ethical center is a must-read today…’
Source: Boing Boing
‘In a strange commencement speech given to the graduating Coast Guard Acadamy class, President Trump complained that no politician in history…has been treated more unfairly” than him, but that “everything will be just fine.” Trump seemed to be clearly referencing the scandal that has surrounded him after he fired FBI Director James Comey…’
‘Former acting Attorney General Sally Yates was fired by Donald Trump after she declined to enforce his unconstitutional Muslim travel ban. But before she got the boot, Yates warned Trump that his national security advisor, Michael Flynn, might be compromised by the Russians. And in a new interview with the New Yorker, she discovered a problem that we didn’t even know we had: There’s no emoji for treason.’
‘Congressional Republicans have followed a nearly identical script whenever President Donald Trump enmeshes himself in a national security scandal. First, they make overtures toward being disgruntled and troubled by the revelation, leading to news reports about a fissure in the Republican Party. Step two is for them to rejectDemocratic calls for more congressional oversight of the president. The final act is to point out Democratic hypocrisy, while moving on to something else altogether…’
I was scared of the FBI with Comey in charge. I’m more terrified now that he’s been fired: A human rights advocate on why Comey’s firing is disturbing. I am no fan of recently fired FBI Director James Comey. As part of a team documenting human rights abuses in the US, I’ve seen too many examples in recent years of overreach and lack of transparency by the agency, and aggressive pursuit of greater FBI powers by Comey himself, to feel otherwise. Yet in the aftermath of his firing by a pr…
Trump: James Clapper said I have no Russia connections. Clapper: No I didn’t: One of Trump’s favorite defenses just got shot down. President Donald Trump has tried to tamp down the growing controversy over his campaign’s ties to Russia by deliberately misrepresenting comments from James Clapper, formerly the nation’s top spy. On Friday, Clapper began pushing back — and added his voice to the chorus of officials and lawmakers from both parties who worry that there’s more st…
Does Trump secretly record the Oval Office? And 8 other questions Sean Spicer can’t answer: The purpose of a White House press briefing is for the media to learn new information from a spokesperson with first-hand knowledge about the president. But Sean Spicer’s press conference on Friday was much more useful for learning what Spicer does not know — or says he does not know — about President Donald Trump and the goings-on of the White House. Here are nine questions that Spicer said he c…
Republican voters don’t seem to care about Comey’s firing: President Donald Trump’s decision to fire FBI Director James Comey has been discussed in the press as the modern-day Watergate scandal, heightening pressure for an independent investigation into Russia’s alleged ties with the Trump campaign. The first polls to ask about Comey’s dismissal shows public opinion isn’t great for Trump. But if there’s good news for him, it’s that the firing is — at lea..
When Trump flounders, he plays the tribal politics card. Here’s why that’s terrifying: It is striking President Trump picked Thursday, May 11, to 1) sign an executive order establishing a commission to investigate voter fraud ; and 2) have Attorney General Jeff Sessions announce that federal prosecutors will seek maximalist penalties for criminal prosecutions. Future historians may note that these actions came just two days after Trump’s sudden and unexpected firing of FBI Director…
Trump officials are leaking to reporters that they aren’t supposed to leak to reporters: White House officials keep leaking internal conversations to reporters detailing that they’re being ordered not to leak internal conversations to reporters. On Thursday, Trump spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders expressed her frustration about the leaks that keep appearing in the press about President Donald Trump’s decision to fire FBI Director James Comey. Her remarks wound up in the press almo..
Jeff Flake isn’t comfortable with the Comey firing, but he’s not doing anything about it: New details about President Trump’s decision to fire FBI Director James Comey are unraveling quickly. Republican Sen. Jeff Flake still doesn’t know what to make of the decision, and he wants the American public to know he’s wrestling with the news. “I’ve spent the last several hours trying to find an acceptable rationale for the timing of Comey’s firing,” he tweeted on Tuesday night after the new…
A forgotten lesson of Watergate: conservatives may rally around Trump: For Americans worried about the state of our republic, Watergate analogies can be a comforting salve. If FBI Director James Comey’s firing is President Donald Trump’s Saturday Night Massacre, then impeachment hearings should be coming down the road — perhaps soon. But even if Comey’s firing leads to a widening scandal, some of the lessons of Watergate should worry Trump opponents more than soothe…
We overanalyze Trump. He is what he appears to be: There is no correct Theory of Trump. Why did Donald Trump fire FBI Director James Comey so abruptly, in such humiliating fashion , with no plan to communicate the reasoning behind the move and no list of replacements ready? It is the question that launched a thousand think pieces. Even Trump surrogates were not prepared to answer it. Sean Spicer literally hid in the bushes (sorry, among the bushe…
Impeachment of the president, explained: The history and logistics of trying and removing the president from office. President Donald Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey has raised questions about whether he was trying to obstruct an investigation into his campaign and associates. And this, not even four months into Trump’s term, has led to chatter about impeachment — the process by which a president can be charged with “high cri…
Trump called Stephen Colbert a “no-talent guy.” Colbert’s response: “I won.”: Colbert responded to the president’s insult with barely restrained joy. Donald Trump declared this week that Stephen Colbert is a “no-talent guy” — and Colbert couldn’t be more thrilled. “The president of the United States has personally come after me and my show and there’s only one thing to say,” Colbert said during his May 11 show, before breaking into thrilled giggles. “ Yay .” Colbert’s Late…
Trump changed his story on Comey literally midway though Sen. Inhofe defending the old one: Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) boarded the tram underneath the Capitol Thursday afternoon clutching a Snickers wrapper and a theory for why President Donald Trump fired FBI Director James Comey. By the time he returned to his Senate office, Inhofe would see that theory undercut — by the president himself. “I look at the White House and they say, ‘We’ve had a guy [Comey] who Democrats have been demandin…
Trump is threatening to release secret Comey “tapes” and cancel press briefings: Friday morning, President Trump took to Twitter to launch a series of bizarre complaints — beginning with the allegation that the entire Russia issue was fabricated, veering into threats to cancel the White House press briefing, and culminating with a claim that he had secret “tapes” of his conversations with fired FBI Director James Comey. All in all, it was a worrying series of statements from…
Picking a good FBI director won’t fix anything: Firing Comey under false pretenses has fatally compromised the bureau’s independence. The country is obviously better off if James Comey is replaced as FBI director by someone who is good at running the FBI — it’s a large and important government agency that carries out many crucial functions. But in terms of the immediate obstruction of justice crisis kicked off by President Donald Trump’s decis…
Senate Democrats are trying to force disclosure of documents about Trump’s team and Russia: Somewhere in the US Treasury Department’s Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence rests a series of records. No one will say publicly what’s in them, or even whom they mention. But the senators investigating the connection between Russia and Donald Trump’s presidential campaign are dying to get their hands on them. This week, Senate Democrats tried using one of their few points of leverage…
Only one of these Trump-Comey timelines can be true, but either way, it’s a problem: The White House communications team and Donald Trump have conflicting stories on the series of events leading up to the firing of FBI Director James Comey. And it comes down to one thing: When did Donald Trump decide to fire Comey? If what Trump said in an interview on Thursday is true, that means he actively sought cover for firing Comey, the man leading the agency investigating the Trump campai…
Trump has now admitted he fired Comey because of the Russia investigation: “When I decided to just do it I said to myself, I said, ‘You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story.’” Many Republicans — from White House staffers to members of Congress to conservative pundits — have been insisting for two days now, despite widespread reports, that President Donald Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey had nothing to do with Comey’s investigation…
Why the FBI might wage “war” on Trump — and how they would actually do it: It’s not often that you hear members of the FBI threatening to go to war with the president. But that’s where we are after Donald Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey. “[Trump] essentially declared war on a lot of people at the FBI,” an anonymous FBI official told the Washington Post . “I think there will be a concerted effort to respond over time in kind.” There’s every reason to believe t…
Attention, liberals: Comey deserved to be fired, and the Constitution is just fine: The hyperventilation in Washington is unjustified. The decision of President Donald Trump to fire FBI Director James Comey is generating a fevered, near-maniacal response that is out of proportion to the asserted wrong. There is certainly much grist for the mill , much of it related to the animosity that Trump is said to bear toward Comey, which proves once again that on all matters of state, thi…
Source: Design You Trust
Does writing like this have any meaning to any of you reading this? At one time I considered myself an intellectual until I came up against this kind of stuff, to which I find it impossible to relate and with which I have no desire to be associated:
‘Hauntology (a portmanteau of haunting and ontology) is a concept coined by philosopher Jacques Derrida in his 1993 book Spectres of Marx. The term refers to the situation of temporal, historical, and ontological disjunction in which the apparent presence of being is replaced by an absent or deferred non-origin, represented by “the figure of the ghost as that which is neither present, nor absent, neither dead nor alive.” The concept of hauntology is closely related to Derrida’s deconstruction of Western philosophy’s logocentrism, which results in the claim that any attempt to isolate the origin of identity or history must always find itself dependent on an always-already existing set of linguistic differences, thus making “haunting the state proper to being as such.” In the 2000s, the term was taken up by critics in reference to paradoxes found in postmodernity, particularly contemporary culture’s persistent recycling of retro aesthetics and old social forms.’
People have called it a misstep that Trump fired Comey if he hoped to bury the concerns about his campaign’s ties to Russia. He usually has a knack for redirecting the country’s attention away from ‘that man behind the curtain.’ But if it was a mistake, it probably was inevitable with his ballooning ego. The enfant terrible’s arrogant sense that he can get away with anything is growing beyond all bounds — and, hopefully, will be his undoing, as suggested by the rampant comparisons to Nixon’s firing of Archibald Cox during the Watergate investigation — the infamous “Saturday Night Massacre”. Leading Republicans are denouncing Trump’s action and calling for a special prosecutor. Hopefully, things have reached a point where the more Trump tries to obfuscate the more the press and the public pay attention.
‘Not a good day in the polls for the beleaguered President. Everyone knows he’s lying, and when asked, “What is the first word that comes to mind when you think of Donald Trump,” the top answer? “Idiot.”
A new Quinnipiac poll shows that American voters, “who gave President Donald Trump a slight approval bump after the missile strike in Syria, today give him a near-record negative 36 – 58 percent job approval rating.”
Also in this survey, the widest margin ever measured for this question in a Quinnipiac poll: 54-38% want the Democrats to take control of the House.’
Source: Boing Boing
I always liked Hydrox far better than Oreos and wondered why they lost out.
‘A few years after the launch of Sunshine Biscuits, the company came up with the biscuit sandwich it called Hydrox in 1908—four years before the Oreo. Like the sunlight that glimmered through its factories, the name was intended to speak to a basic purity of product.
The truth was a bit more complicated, however. Intended to imply hydrogen and oxygen—the two chemicals that make up water—the result has a more clinical, less roll-off-the-tongue convention to it, and instead evokes hydrogen peroxide, a chemical you probably don’t want to drink.
And it didn’t help that that there was an existing Hydrox Chemical Company on the market, one that sold hydrogen peroxide andwas caught up in a trademark lawsuit at the time over the use of the word “hydrox”—a lawsuit that noted the term was used for coolers, for soda, even for brands of ice cream.
An early Hydrox cookie design. (via the Akron Evening Times)
Long story short, it was a weird name for a cookie. But the cookie’s design, which was initially sold with an exotic “English biscuit” twist, was pretty interesting for its era: With an industrial press from a mold, the cookie took on the look of a flower.
It felt like a game-changer, but it turned out to be a game-changer for Nabisco, under a completely different (and better) name. It was one of three cookies introduced by Nabisco on April 2, 1912, with the other two—the Mother Goose biscuit and the Veronese biscuit—being lost to history, but Oreo’s “two beautifully embossed chocolate-flavored wafers with a rich cream filling” living to the modern day…’
Evan Osnos writes in The New Yorker titled “How Trump Could Get Fired,” …that over 50,000 mental-health physicians have signed a petition declaring Trump, based on copious observational data, is “too seriously mentally ill to perform the duties of president and should be removed” under the 25th Amendment to the Constitution—Section 4 states that a President can be removed if a congressionally appointed body judges him or her to be “unable to discharge the powers and duties of office.”
John Gartner, the psychiatrist who started the petition, has said, “The psychiatric interview is hardly the gold standard, by the way. If you have massive amounts of information about a person’s behavior, that can be more accurate. And we have that. If the question is whether we can form a diagnosis from that information, I think it’s clear that we can. You don’t need to have an interview to know if someone has frequently lied or has violated the rights of others.”
Osnos writes that it’s not just psychiatrists who have serious grounds for worry:
Bruce Blair, a research scholar at the Program on Science and Global Security, at Princeton, told me that if Trump were an officer in the Air Force, with any connection to nuclear weapons, he would need to pass the Personnel Reliability Program, which includes thirty-seven questions about financial history, emotional volatility, and physical health. (Question No. 28: Do you often lose your temper?) “There’s no doubt in my mind that Trump would never pass muster,” Blair, who was a ballistic-missile launch-control officer in the Army, told me. “Any of us that had our hands anywhere near nuclear weapons had to pass the system. If you were having any arguments, or were in financial trouble, that was a problem. For all we know, Trump is on the brink of that, but the President is exempt from everything.”
Trump’s use, or misuse, of language has also been disturbing to experts of constitutional law. Take Laurence Tribe, a Harvard constitutional law professor. He said, according to Osnos, “Trump’s language borders on incapacity.” When the president was asked to explain his reversal on branding China a currency manipulator, Trump said, of President Xi Jinping, “No. 1, he’s not, since my time. You know, very specific formula. You would think it’s like generalities, it’s not. They have—they’ve actually—their currency’s gone up. So it’s a very, very specific formula.” This response could count as an example of “gross and pathological inattention or indifference to, or failure to understand” the mandatory duties of the president mentioned in the 25th Amendment, Tribe said.
To psycholinguist Julie Sedivy, it’s not Trump’s rambling language that’s worrisome, it’s his regular usage. “I think we have rarely had a president who uses such simple and simplifying language,” she recently told Nautilus in her Ingenious interview.
And why is that concerning? “There’s some interesting research that has looked at the correlation between simple language and the tendency of U.S. presidents to behave in authoritarian ways,” Sedivy said. “There is a predictive relationship that speeches that are expressed using very simple basic language tend to precede very authoritarian acts like the use of executive orders … That certainly plays out in the use of the heavy reliance on simple notions like amazing, sad, bad, unfair. These really strip away a lot of the complexities that are behind them. They reduce information into very gross impressions. The simplification of points of view, the simplification of the good and the bad, and even just the conveyance that, ‘We’re going to make good deals,’ for example. ‘It’s going to be great.’ That this is a simple problem just waiting for someone who has the right instincts to come along and solve this, is absolutely pervasive in Donald Trump’s language.”
- Trump’s dubious, disturbing firing of FBI Director James Comey, explained
- 3 reasons Trump’s excuse for firing Comey doesn’t add up
- James Comey literally thought his firing was a joke
- Congressional Republicans are divided over Trump’s decision to fire Comey from the FBI
- Why the Comey firing could be Trump’s Watergate moment
- Rod Rosenstein: the little-known deputy AG making the official case against Comey
- There’s no reason to believe Donald Trump’s rationale for firing James Comey
Source: Big Think
‘The August 21 eclipse is being commemorated by the US Postal Service with a new stamp printed with thermochromic ink; when you rub the stamp the image transforms from an image of the 2006 total eclipse as shot from Jalu, Libya, to a photo of the full moon, both taken by Fred Espenak, aka Mr. Eclipse, of Portal, AZ.’
Source: Boing Boing
‘Why go to the beach when you can wait for the beach to come to you? For the people of Dooagh, Ireland—an island village off the country’s western coast—this patience has finally paid off. After 33 years, a beach stolen from them by a freak storm has returned, transforming a rough, rocky coastline back into a summer destination.’
Source: Atlas Obscura
‘The US Air Force’s secretive X-37B spaceplane landed yesterday after 718 days in orbit—just twelve days shy of a full two years. What was it doing up there in the sky? The government won’t say. Even the spaceplane’s budget is a secret. But the X-37B’s landing wasn’t so stealth. The spaceplane caused a sonic boomthat woke up people living near NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
The secret, reusable spaceplane is made by Boeing and is unmanned, allowing it to conduct extended missions, even if the public has no idea what those missions might be. This was the X-37B’s fourth mission (all secret, of course) and the spaceplane typically lands in California, not Florida. Again, we don’t know enough about the spaceplane’s purpose to speculate about why it landed in Florida and woke up the neighbors this time around…’
‘It would be funny, if it weren’t so damn sad. As a protest against the House Republican decision to pass a healthcare bill that will cause millions of people to lose their insurance, one programmer has set up a website that helps you mail your ashes to the ghouls responsible for your death.’
‘In the last five weeks I’ve travelled 7,000km overland through Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan’s GBAO region and China’s western provinces. After a year of working flat out the journey was part vacation, a desire to fill in few gaps of my knowledge of the region and a Studio D assignment.
For those that don’t know, the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region (GBAO) is a remote, sparsely populated, mostly Pamiri, Kyrgyz-speaking region of Tajikistan. Home to the Pamir mountains, it has decent argument for calling itself the “the roof of the world”.
I thought about separating this list into tech & behaviour, but they’re way more interesting mixed together.
Without further ado: …’
Illuminating observations sure to be of interest to any adventurous traveler.
When we are stuck in feeling badly, the brain may be perpetuating the bad feelings through a misguided effort at a remedy, says UCLA neuroscientist Alex Korb, author of The Upward Spiral: Using Neuroscience to Reverse the Course of Depression, One Small Change at a Time. He makes the surprising assertion that, from a neurobiological viewpoint, shame and guilt activate neural circuitry similar to that which is activated when we are proud of ourselves (the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex, amygdala, insula, and the nucleus accumbens). He suggests that self-reproach, thus, is an attempt to activate the brain’s reward center and boost self-esteem. Similarly, he suggests, compulsive worry may be an attempt to reduce amygdaloid activity and stabilize the limbic system, the seat of emotions in the brain, by stimulating medial prefrontal cortical regions.
So how to counteract the brain’s tendency to make you feel worse in an effort to feel better? First, by cultivating gratitude, whcih activates the anterior cingulate cortex and boosts serotonin. Apparently, Korb says, you don’t even have to come up with something to be thankful for, which is sometimes not easy to do when everything seems dismal. Korb says that the act of remembering to be thankful may be enough.
Next, try and get very specific about the nature of your bad feelings. Labelling experiences activates your prefrontal cortex and reduces limbic arousal and the intensity of emotion. Labelling is apparently actively taught to FBI negotiators as a means of calming hostage-takers. It is also a central feature of mindfulness techniques.
Related to labelling is deciding about what it is that has you worked up and what you can do in response, and it should be a “good-enough” decision rather than striving for exactitude or perfection. There is an old saying that ‘the perect is the enemy of the good,’ and it appears to be true on a neurobiological level. Trying for the best draws emotional activation into the decision-making process, through ramping up ventromedial prefrontal cortex activity. In contrast, the good-enough decision activates more dorsolateral prefrontal (DLPF) areas, enhancing a sense of quiet control and increasing dopamine-based reward activity. Establishing intentions, creating goals and making decisions all recruit positive calming neural circuitry and calm the limbic system. This may be one basis for the saying that ‘We don’t just choose the things we like, we like the things we choose.’
Then there’s the value of human touch. As fMRI studies have shown, social exclusion and physical pain activate the same circuitry. On a neurobiological basis, alleviating isolation with touch stimulates the release of oxytocin and reduces activity in the amygdala, the anterior cingulate and the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex.
Source: Big Think
In 2013, Columbia University neuroscientists Rebecca Brachman and Christine Ann Denny were investigating the effects on mice of the anaesthetic ketamine, which has recently attracted attention for inducing rapid but short-lived remissions of depression in humans and is also used as an illegal recreational psychedelic, “Special K.”
They were using mice who had been stressed to see if ketamine could counter their resultant depression-like behaviors. Because their lab was cash-strapped, they planned to wait a week and reuse the same mice on another round of ketamine trials, but it didn’t work. Mice who had been administered ketamine the week before could no longer be made to exhibit any stress. It appeared that the ketamine had inoculated them against the effects of stressful experience. The investigators, rightfully skeptical of this conclusion, were able to replicate the findings in subsequent trials with mice models for PTSD as well as depression, as well as running the ketamine trial against a physiological model in which all they did was to give stress hormones. “[W]e only gave a tiny amount of the drug, and it lasted for weeks, and that’s not like anything you see with antidepressants.”
The hope, of course, is that the efficacy of the ketamine can be extended to help reduce the incidence of depression and PTSD in humans.
‘In particular, they may be of use to first-responders, emergency workers, and military personnel heading into exceptionally stressful situations.’
Source: Big Think
“I spoke to people at the center of Hillary Clinton’s campaign in 2016, and told them they were doing everything they could to lose,” Lakoff said. “It didn’t make any difference. People are who they are, and they were going to do things their way. I could see the disaster happening the entire year.”
‘Long-dormant bacteria and viruses, trapped in ice and permafrost for centuries, are reviving as Earth’s climate warms …’
Source: BBC – Earth
Stephen Colbert on Monday defended fellow CBS host John Dickerson against Donald Trump after the president told the renowned journalist he refers to the (award-winning) news program “Face the Nation” as “Deface the Nation.”
“Donald Trump, John Dickerson is a fair-minded journalist and one of the most competent people who will ever walk into your office,” Colbert began during his opening monologue on “The Late Show.”
Colbert noted Dickerson has too much “dignity to trade insults with the president of the United States to his face,” adding “But I, sir, am no John Dickerson.”
“Here we go,” Colbert began, before ripping into Trump.
“Mr. Trump, your presidency? I love your presidency, I call it ‘Disgrace the Nation.’” Colbert said. “You’re not the POTUS, you’re the BLOTUS. You’re the glutton with a button. You’re a regular ‘Gorge’ Washington. You’re the presi-dunce. But you’re turning into a real prictator.”
Colbert said Trump “attracts more skinheads than free Rogaine,” has “more people marching against [him] than cancer,” and talks “like a sign-language gorilla who got hit in the head.”
Going all-in against the president, Colbert added: “Sir, the only the only thing your mouth is good for is being Vladimir Putin’s cock holster.” …’
Source: Raw Story
‘Late-night host Jimmy Kimmel delivered a tearful monologue last night about his newborn son who was born with a heart defect and had life-saving surgery at just three days old. And today, Republicans are trying to get the votes to pass a health care law that will make it next to impossible for people like Kimmel’s baby to ever get care they can afford…’
‘A conservation group has rescued an incredibly rare albino orangutan from villagers on the Indonesian part of Borneo island, who were keeping the blue-eyed, white-haired primate in a cage. Sick, dehydrated, and exhibiting signs of a bloody nose, it could take a month before the ape can be released back to the wild.The group responsible for the rescue, the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation, learned about the five-year-old female orangutan from the Kapuas Hulu Police, who also participated in the rescue…’
‘The New York Times’ new columnist, Bret Stephens, is an everyday conservative: he thinks institutional racism is imaginary, that campus rape is a big lie, and that the “Arab Mind” is “diseased”. But these are just opinions, and common ones on the right. It is his anti-science positions, on display in his first fact-mangled column about climate change, that has galvanized disgust.
Much has been said about him, but it is the Times itself that has committed a “jaw-dropping error” and whose warped motives promise that it will be repeated…’
Source: Boing Boing
Source: Pacific Standard
‘Hidden in the dense jungle of the Peruvian Amazon is a percolating, roiling river. The steaming turquoise waters that can reach up to 200 degrees Fahrenheit are guided by ivory-colored stones and guarded by 60-foot walls of lush forest and vegetation. Locals believed that the river was sacred and that the hot waters held healing powers, and shamans incorporated it into medicines.’
Source: Atlas Obscura
Need to go there!
In the most inconspicuous hustle of all, apps have increasingly incorporated ultrasonic tones to track consumers. They ask permission to access your smartphone microphone, then listen for inaudible “beacons” that emanate from retail stores, advertisements, and even websites. If you’re not paying attention to the permissions you grant, you could be feeding marketers information about your online browsing, what stores you go to, and what products you like and dislike without ever realizing it.
There are certainly legitimate uses of “ultrasonic cross-device tracking” technology. Some apps are part of rewards programs that automatically offer customers promotions when they visit particular stores. Others facilitate ticketing at events like sports games.
But plenty of apps deploy it without so clear a use case, at least as far as direct benefits for the person who downloads them. In fact, research presented last week at the IEEE European Symposium on Security and Privacy found 234 current Android applications that incorporate a particular type of ultrasonic listening technology. That doesn’t quite constitute widespread distribution, but the infrastructure to support it has landed in more and more apps every year…
…Fortunately it’s easy to monitor what’s accessing your phone, and stay in control if you’re wary of all this dog whistlin’.
Since you can’t stop beacons from emitting these frequencies around you, the best option is to reduce the chance that your smartphone can listen for them and feed data to a third party. The researchers suggest simply assessing the privileges you’ve granted your apps to make sure they make sense. Skype wants microphone access? Sure! An app for some clothing store? Probably not. Common sense works best here.
On Android 7, navigate to Settings, then to Apps. Tap the gear icon in the upper right, then tap App Permissions to see and edit the privileges you’ve granted each app. And on iOS 10 go to Settings, then Privacy, then Microphone to see which apps have requested access, and which ones you’ve granted it to…
‘Whether he intends to or not, US president Donald Trump is making a lot of people nervous about the prospects of an American attack on North Korea. This week, he said that “a major, major conflict” is a possibility, and he summoned the entire Senate to the White House for a briefing on the rogue nation’s weapons programs, which aim to develop nuclear-tipped missiles capable of hitting US cities.
Even though Trump has a nuclear submarine and an aircraft carrier, the USS Vinson, positioned near the Korean peninsula, experts still put long odds on the US flat-out attacking just based on North Korea’s behavior to date. “I don’t know a single serious Korea analyst, hawk or dove, who thinks it’s a good idea,” says Robert Kelly, an associate professor of international relations at Pusan National University in South Korea. “I would say the likelihood is less than 10%.”
But there are other ways the US could get drawn into a military conflict in the region…’
Nasty, Brutish and Short — What a War With North Korea Would Look Like
‘As long as China didn’t get involved to help the North, says Robert E. Kelly, a professor at Pusan National University in South Korea, the Kim-controlled Korean People’s Army (KPA) would lose in a conventional ground war to the US and its allies within “six weeks, a month, two months max.”
Of course a two-way nuclear exchange would play out differently, but the US and its allies would be hesitant to use that option. “If we’re exchanging nukes across the peninsula then things have deteriorated to the point when all other options have been exhausted, and we’re in a very different world. But it’s not a path that I think they would use,” says Graham…’
Source: The Washington Post
‘Scientists have uncovered more than 50 biases that, like this one, can mess with our thinking. For instance, there’s the “availability heuristic,” which makes us think something that’s easy to recall (because it’s emotional or because we’ve experienced it many times) is more common or probable than it really is. (Despite what you might think from watching CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, the world isn’t full of serial killers.) There’s also the “distinction bias,” which makes two options seem more different when considered simultaneously; the “denomination effect,” which makes us more likely to spend money when it’s in small bills or coins; and the “Dunning-Kruger effect,” which makes experts underestimate their abilities and laypeople overestimate theirs.
Such biases can still affect you even if you know all about them because they operate unconsciously. We judge whether we have a bias by examining our thoughts, and because we believe our thoughts are rational, we often think we’re not biased when we are. Psychologists call this contradiction the “bias blind spot.” Although we’re quick to see biases in others, we have more trouble noticing them in ourselves.
And the more we convince ourselves that we don’t have certain biases, the more likely we are to exhibit them. If we believe we’re good people, for example, we may stop trying to be better and may be more likely to act indecently. Similarly, if we think we’re smart, we might skip studying for a test and give ignorant answers. In general, if we believe we’re unbiased, we’re giving ourselves permission to be biased…’