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Monday, 7 September 2015

digital strip search

Source image from: joeydevilla.com
“In his backpack, Wouter Slotboom, 34, carries around a small black device, slightly larger than a pack of cigarettes, with an antenna on it. I meet Wouter by chance at a random cafe in the center of Amsterdam. It is a sunny day and almost all the tables are occupied. Some people talk, others are working on their laptops or playing with their smartphones.
     Wouter removes his laptop from his backpack, puts the black device on the table, and hides it under a menu. A waitress passes by and we ask for two coffees and the password for the WiFi network. Meanwhile, Wouter switches on his laptop and device, launches some programs, and soon the screen starts to fill with green text lines. It gradually becomes clear that Wouter’s device is connecting to the laptops, smartphones, and tablets of cafe visitors. […]
     Slotboom can also broadcast a fictitious network name, making users believe they are actually connecting to the network of the place they’re visiting. For example, if a place has a WiFi network consisting of random letters and numbers (Fritzbox xyz123), Slotboom is able to provide the network name (Starbucks). People, he says, are much more willing to connect to these.
     We see more and more visitors log on to our fictitious network. The siren song of the little black device appears to be irresistible. Already 20 smartphones and laptops are ours. If he wanted to, Slotboom could now completely ruin the lives of the people connected: He can retrieve their passwords, steal their identity, and plunder their bank accounts. Later today, he will show me how. I have given him permission to hack me in order to demonstrate what he is capable of, though it could be done to anyone with a smartphone in search of a network, or a laptop connecting to a WiFi network.
     Everything, with very few exceptions, can be cracked.”
— Maurits Martijn (Translated from Dutch by Jona Meijers), Medium/matter
Read more…

wishful thinking

“More than half of the findings from 100 different studies published in leading, peer-reviewed psychology journals cannot be reproduced by other researchers who followed the same methodological protocol. A study by more than 270 researchers from around the world has found that just 39 per cent of the claims made in psychology papers published in three prominent journals could be reproduced unambiguously – and even then they were found to be less significant statistically than the original findings. […] [Brian] Nosek [professor of psychology at the University of Virginia] said that there is often a contradiction between the incentives and motives of researchers – whether in psychology or other fields of science – and the need to ensure that their research findings can be reproduced by other scientists. ‘Scientists aim to contribute reliable knowledge, but also need to produce results that help them keep their job as a researcher. To thrive in science, researchers need to earn publications, and some kind of results are easier to publish than others, particularly ones that are novel and show unexpected or exciting new directions,’ he said.”
The Independent
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“Here’s some brain images I just created from some MRI data I had laying around.
     Took about three minutes. Big difference, right [compared to the image at the top of this post (Folded Sky)]? Somewhat counter-intuitively, the left and right images above are actually the exact same functional brain data, all I did to create the right one was to lower the statistical threshold on the colour-overlay, to essentially say “Show me more results, I don’t care if they’re statistically reliable or not.”
     People who do this kind of work are very clued-in to these kinds of issues, and would always look for a colour-scale on these kinds of images in research papers. Clearly though the general public aren’t that conversant with statistical issues in brain imaging, because why would they be?”
— NeuroBollocks
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Sunday, 6 September 2015

excess of evil

From: www.zum.de
“In 1953, the CIA overthrew Iran’s democratically elected government and installed the Shah, a brutal dictator who proceeded to establish one of the worst human rights records of the era. Following the Iranian Revolution in 1979, which deposed the Shah, Washington turned its favor to another brutal dictator in the region: Saddam Hussein, who received U.S. aid throughout the Iran-Iraq War. Ever since the revolution, the U.S. has imposed various sanctions on Iran. And most recently, we launched major military operations in two of Iran’s neighboring states, further destabilizing the region and threatening Iran’s own safety.
     But in the eyes of U.S. commentary, Iran remains the supreme evil. It’s instructive, for instance, that without any irony or self-awareness we charge Iran with interfering in the Iraq War – a war we instigated from the other side of the world, against massive international protest, on Iran’s doorstep. Actually, Iran’s involvement in the Iraq conflict has necessarily increased with the growing threat of ISIS, a group that only exists because of the immense power vacuum and destabilization caused by the U.S. invasion.”
— Kyle Schmidlin, Salon
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Friday, 4 September 2015


“Three weeks gone now since the release of a detailed investigation of arguably the most significant UFO footage of the modern era. Yet, not a peep about it in the mainstream press. Can you believe that? Could this be part of a pattern? Hmm.
     OK, let’s just dispense with the obvious (again): When it comes to The Great Taboo, The New York Times, The Washington Post and pretty much every corporate watchdog in the Fourth Estate are reliable no-shows unless being spoonfed press release-sized pre-chewed culturally acceptable talking points. But maybe it’s unfair to single out the institutions; no mortal is immune to the evolutionary shift that is reprogramming -- right now, even as you read -- the universal attention span for minimal capacity. Who among you can hang, seriously, be honest, with a technical, 162-page multi-disciplinary analysis of a high-strangeness event– even if it was captured by an airborne government surveillance camera? But of course you'd watch the video, who wouldn't? That's why one would think somebody, somewhere, might’ve broken from the mainstream flock and at least posted the footage, just for the easy bounce in traffic. It’s not every day we get a chance to see a taxpayer-financed video of a UFO outperforming our coolest toys.”
— Billy Cox, DE VOID
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“A scheduled commercial takeoff from Puerto Rico’s Rafael Hernandez Airport was delayed for 16 minutes until the submersible bogey flying without a transponder (now there's a combination) cleared the area. Maybe that’s why scientists like [SETI’s] Seth Shostak  are so quick to disparage UAP research. Tens of millions of dollars, financed by billionaire sugar daddies and taxpayers alike, for more than half a century -- and radio astronomy has produced no data whatsoever to justify its exclusive methodology. Zilch. Trying to persuade public opinion that SETI is the only game in town is part of the con.”
— Billy Cox, DE VOID
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Wednesday, 15 July 2015

free flowing

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

“[...] The modern era’s first free public water fountain was unveiled in London in 1859. Thousands gathered to watch officials turn on the tap. At its peak, about 7,000 people used the fountain each day. At that time, the rich were buying water brought in from the country. The poor were drinking water bottled from the sewage-infested Thames. Water-borne diseases such as cholera and typhoid were rampant.
     The fountain changed all that by making clean water accessible for free. By 1879, London had 800 fountains. American cities followed suit. In 1859, New York debuted a fountain at City Hall Park. Detroit, Philadelphia and San Francisco soon built their own. By 1920, most municipalities were providing free, chlorinated water. The public health benefits were obvious. Half of the decline in urban deaths between 1900 and 1940 can be attributed to improvements in water quality, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research.’
     Municipal chlorinated water was considered yet another modern evolution,’ says Francis H. Chapelle, a hydrologist and the author of Wellsprings: A Natural History of Bottled Spring Waters. ‘It basically put bottled water out of business.’ By 1930, Chapelle says, bottled water had become ‘low class,’ used only in offices and factories that couldn’t afford plumbing.
     Attitudes began to shift in the 1970s, when Europe’s Perrier set its sights on the American market. In 1977, the company spent $5 million on an advertising campaign in New York, selling itself as a chic, upscale product. Yuppies lapped it up. ‘It was a lifestyle-defining product,’ Chapelle says. By 1982, U.S. bottled-water consumption had doubled to 3.4 gallons per person per year.
     Seeing an opportunity, U.S. beverage producers followed Perrier’s lead. In 1994, Pepsi launched Aquafina. Coca-Cola joined the club with Dasani in 1999. Homegrown brands, though, couldn’t boast glamorous European roots. So instead, they made Americans afraid of the tap. One ad from Royal Spring Water claimed that 'tap water is poison.' Another, from Calistoga Mountain Spring Water, asked: 'How can you be sure your water is safe? . . . Unfortunately, you can’t.' Fiji Water infuriated Ohio with the tagline 'The label says Fiji because it’s not bottled in Cleveland.'
The insinuation, of course, was that there was something wrong with local water. […]”
— Kendra Pierre-Louis, The Washington Post

Saturday, 11 July 2015

water, water everywhere?

Peter Breback-Letmathe in 2007:

Some hard facts to swallow…

     A large water tanker truck typically carries about 33,300 liters.
Nestlé will be permitted to extract 1.6 million litres per day from the well in Elora (Ontario, Canada). That works out to be approximately 51 trucks lumbering through our village per day. ( By the way, that’s enough water for 16,000 people—according to Nestlé (former) CEO Peter Brabeck-Letmathe’s numbers; see below.)

    Now... Here. Wash it down with this:

“The price of a litre of bottled water in B.C. is often higher than a litre of gasoline.
     However, the price paid by the world’s largest bottled water company for taking 265 million litres of fresh water every year from a well in the Fraser Valley — not a cent. Because of B.C.’s lack of groundwater regulation, Nestlé Waters Canada — a division of the multi-billion-dollar Switzerland-based Nestlé Group, the world’s largest food company — is not required to measure, report, or pay a penny for the millions of litres of water it draws from Hope and then sells across Western Canada.
     According to the provincial Ministry of Environment, 'B.C. is the only jurisdiction in Canada that doesn’t regulate groundwater use. The province does not license groundwater, charge a rental for groundwater withdrawals or track how much bottled water companies are taking from wells,” said a Ministry of Environment spokesperson in an email to The Province.”
O Canada (August 14, 2013)
Read more…

And then, later in the year, new British Columbian (provincial) legislation resulted in this:

“The new Water Sustainability Act will replace the 1909 Water Act, and it will mean B.C. will no longer be the only province in the country not regulating groundwater use. […]
     Under the new rules, large-scale users now able to use water without limit and without cost will pay an annual fee and 85 cents for every 1,000 cubic metres of groundwater used.
     For example, a Nestle Canada plant in Hope, B.C., that bottles an estimated 71 million imperial gallons — 319.5 million litres — of water for sale annually, would pay about $265 […]”.
 — Huffington Post (The emphasis [bold] is mine.)
Read more…

In an interview, Peter Brabeck-Letmathe CEO of Nestlé (from 2005), and featured in the documentary “We feed the world" by Erwin Wagenhofer, (February 25/13) said:

“[…] we have something approaching a shibboleth that everything that comes from nature is good. A good example is the organic movement. ‘Organic is now best.’ But organic is not best.”

Here he sidesteps the vacuity of such a blanket statement by giving us “good news” about something else:

“After 15 years of eating GM food products in the USA, not one single case of illness has occurred from eating them to date. And inspite of this we’re all so uneasy about it, that something might happen to us. It’s hypocrisy more than anything else.”

But recent research has shown otherwise:

“An agency of the World Health Organization has declared that glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, ‘probably’ causes cancer in people. […] Glyphosate, introduced in the 1970s, is the most widely used herbicide in the world, sprayed on farms, in forests, on road sides and in gardens, and has a reputation for being benign, as pesticides go. It is now generic and used in many products, not only Roundup.
     Use of glyphosate has soared in the last two decades because of Monsanto’s [genetically modified] Roundup Ready crops, which account for most corn and soybeans grown in the United States. These crops are genetically engineered to withstand glyphosate, allowing farmers to spray their fields without harming the crops.”
— The New York Times

In the 2005 interview Mr. Brabeck-Letmathe goes on to say:

“There’s that lovely old Austrian folk song: ‘The dear cattle need water, hollera, holleri.’ if you remember.
     Water is, of course, the most important raw material we have today in the world. it’s a question of whether we should privatize the normal water supply for the population. And there are two different opinions on the matter. The one opinion, which I think is extreme, is represented by the NGOs, who bang on about declaring water… um… a public right. This means that as a human being, you should have a right to water.
     That’s an extreme solution.
     And the other view says, that water is a foodstuff and like any other foodstuff, it should have a market value.
     Personally I believe it’s better to give a foodstuff a value so that we’re all aware that it has its price, and that one should take specific measures for the part of the population that has no access to this water. And there are many possibilities there." (Once more, the emphasis [bold] is mine.)

Then on the Nestlé website, in a stage-managed, scripted video message (August 27/13) he refutes his previous (and I would say more candid) statements with this:

“I have always supported the human right to water. Everyone should have enough clean, safe water to meet their fundamental daily needs. About 5 to 100 litres per day. But not to fill a pool or wash a car. There is the difference.
     We must rethink the way we think about water. By 2025, 1.8 billion people will be living in regions without water. Water scarcity is the greatest challenge we face today, and we need to start recognizing water as a precious resource. Therefore water should be better managed, should be better valued, and has to be better preserved.
     If we give water value, there will be an incentive to invest in looking after our supplies. […] As a food producer we [at Nestlé] believe in the longterm sustainability of this resource.”

Mr. Brabeck-Letmathe seems to be a bit selective about the value of water. On the one hand, it’s worth a few dollars per million litres; but when he’s trying to make Nestlé look good, and feel all warm and fuzzy about itself, he says water is “[…] by far the most valuable resource on this planet” and that “water is a local issue." (See below; again, the emphasis is mine.)

“[...] Water is a local issue, there are no global solutions; at the same time, it is a horizontal and complex issue for which isolated piece-meal actions will have little or no effect. Indeed, once the problem of overdraft in a watershed has been identified, the active co-operation of all stakeholders is needed - in a context of strong government leadership. This is the approach taken by the 2030 Water Resources Group which I chair.”
Singapore International Water Week
Read more…

Water—by far the most valuable resource on this planet—is treated as if did not have any value at all. We often do not even know the cost of providing it; the true number is buried under open and hidden subsidies, taxes, and the sunk costs of municipal and regional water and irrigation departments. This is particularly true for water used in agriculture.
     The problem is not that farmers use water; the problem is that they very frequently use it inefficiently. We see sprinklers turning at noon, unlined irrigation canals where water is seeping away faster than it actually flows, and a lack of both interest and incentives to invest in drip irrigation. Water, too often, has no price. It is seen and treated as a free good, or the price for farmers is far below what others have to pay.
     Full cost recovery must be implemented for all those who today get massively subsidized municipal tap water (also to fill their swimming pools) and who can actually afford to pay. This is necessary to finance the huge amount of infrastructure required to reduce leakage losses in municipal water supplies—up to 70 percent—and to provide the financial means to extend them to those who do not have access.”
McKinsey Quarterly
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Here's the video on the Nestlé web site from August 2013:

untamed beast

From: Programmed From Childhood

“Post-Reagan, deregulated capitalism has long looked like something out of Mary Shelley or science-fiction films, a creature we created, but no longer control. Billionaires and their acolytes see only its benefits, but as Jeff Goldblum's Dr. Ian Malcolm says in The Lost World: Jurassic Park, 'Oh, yeah. Oooh, ahhh, that's how it always starts. Then later there's running, and then screaming.' Where once We the People held capitalism's leash, now we wear the collar.
     Whether it's turning your child's education from a shared public cost into a corporate profit center; or turning the principle of one-man, one-vote into one-dollar, one-vote; or carbon tax credits and accounting tricks for addressing rising sea levels; questioning the universal application of a business approach to any human need or problem prompts the challenge, 'Do you have something against making a profit?' A more subtle form of red-baiting, this ploy is supposed to be a conversation stopper. 'Yes? You're a commie.' Game over.”
— Tom Sullivan, Hullabaloo
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Wednesday, 24 June 2015

“[…] an older, more natural tuning fork”

From: elephant
“[…] for much of history people slept into two separate chunks separated by a waking period, as opposed to a single span of sleep. In answer to my questions, he shared his insights on 'normal' insomnia, how technological advances have changed the way we sleep, and why in many ways we're living in a golden age of sleep.

1) How was the waking time between the two sleeps spent?

In myriad ways, from the spiritual to the profane, in addition to more mundane tasks such as rising to urinate, either in a chamber pot or, on mild evenings, outdoors. Fires needed to be tended or perhaps a tub of ale brewed. Virgil in the Aeneid wrote of women servants, after the 'first slumber,' who 'ply the distaff by the winking light, and to their daily labor add the night.' The sick were given potions and elixirs; whereas for the poor, the dead of night (midnight to three a.m.) was a prime time for poaching and petty theft so long as the moon, or 'tattler,' was not full. Orchards were pilfered and firewood filched. Still, most persons never left their beds, preferring instead to ponder dreams from which they awakened. No other period afforded such a secluded interval of darkness in which to absorb fresh visions of solace, spirituality, and self-revelation.”
— Roger Ekirch, in conversation with Arianna Huffington, Huffington Post
Read more…

Monday, 8 June 2015

"iPhones are really just shitphones from the future."

Photo: Maxwell Smart (Don Adams) 

"[…] I felt trapped, as every smartphone owner occasionally does, between two much more powerful entities that take me, an effectively captive chain-buying contract iPhone user, for granted. I began to take offense at the malfunctioning iPhone’s familiarity. Our relationship was strained and decreasingly rational. I was on a trip and away from home for a few weeks, out of sorts and out of climate, slightly unmoored and very impatient.
     And so the same stubborn retail-limbic response that prevented me from avoiding this mess in the first place — by buying an AppleCare insurance plan — activated once more, and I placed an order I had been thinking about for months: One BLU Advance 4.0 Unlocked Dual Sim Phone (White), $89.99 suggested retail (but usually listed lower), $76.14 open-box with overnight shipping. 1,829 customer reviews, 4.3 stars. 'This isn’t the best phone out there, but it is by far the best phone for only around $80–90,' wrote Amazon reviewer Anne.”
— John Herrman, Matter
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Friday, 27 March 2015

mouth where your money is

“Monsanto Co, maker of the world’s most widely-used herbicide, Roundup, wants an international health organization to retract a report linking the chief ingredient in Roundup to cancer.
     The company said on Tuesday that the report, issued on Friday by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), was biased and contradicts regulatory findings that the ingredient, glyphosate, is safe when used as labeled.”
— Carey Gillam, The Globe and Mail
Read more…

“[…] In the fallout, Monsanto has gone on the offensive, issuing press releases and rallying their army of well-paid lobbyists in the hopes of killing the story.
     In a clip released in anticipation of an upcoming french documentary about Monsanto, a flack hired by Monsanto to argue that the active ingredient in its Roundup weed killer products is harmless towards people is put on the spot. After towing the official line that Roundup is not raising the cancer rates in areas where it is used heavily, one such lobbyist Dr. Patrick Moore swore that Roundup was so safe that he would drink it and nothing would happen, leading to an amazing exchange between the interviewer and an increasingly frantic Moore.”
— Jameson Parker, Addicting Info
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Wednesday, 25 March 2015

pharmed fish

From: U.S. National Library of Medicine

“Fish know all about your grimy excretions. They have to live with what you flush down the toilet every day, after all. And the unluckiest ones have an even closer relationship with you, depending on what medicines you take, where you are, and what part of the year it is.
     Our understanding of pharmaceutical pollution begins nearly 20 years ago, when ecologist JP Sumpter ​discovered something surprising: unusually high numbers of feminized fish—egg-producing males with ovaries—were swimming in English rivers. When Sumpter and colleagues tested the water, they found something even stranger: estrogen from human birth control pills. […]
     With no formal regulation in the works in the US, local governments are encouraging citizens to change what they do with unwanted drugs. Some states and cities are teaching people to ​bring their unused pills to special collection programs so they be disposed of as solid waste, instead of being flushed down toilets and ending up in waterways. That won’t eliminate the problem, however, because ​most drugs are excreted into wastewater, not flushed away in pill form.”
— Nicole Lou, motherboard
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From: wino to wine know
“Australian researchers have come up with a non-invasive ultrasound technology that clears the brain of neurotoxic amyloid plaques —structures that are responsible for memory loss and a decline in cognitive function in Alzheimer’s patients.
     If a person has Alzheimer’s disease, it’s usually the result of a build-up of two types of lesions - amyloid plaques, and neurofibrillary tangles. Amyloid plaques sit between the neurons and end up as dense clusters of beta-amyloid molecules, a sticky type of protein that clumps together and forms plaques. […]
     Publishing in Science Translational Medicine, the team describes the technique as using a particular type of ultrasound called a focused therapeutic ultrasound, which non-invasively beams sound waves into the brain tissue. By oscillating super-fast, these sound waves are able to gently open up the blood-brain barrier, which is a layer that protects the brain against bacteria, and stimulate the brain’s microglial cells to activate. Microglila cells are basically waste-removal cells, so they’re able to clear out the toxic beta-amyloid clumps that are responsible for the worst symptoms of Alzheimer’s.”
— science alert
Read more…

“The wine world is buzzing about a new machine that claims to be able to age cheap, young wines using the power of ultrasonic energy in as little as 20 minutes.
     It’s called the ‘Sonic Decanter,’ a countertop machine that uses ultrasonic energy to simulate the aging process by transforming the wine’s molecular and chemical structure with the touch of a button.
     In gadget parlance, you could call it a set-it-and-forget-it type appliance.
     After 20 minutes, the cheap bottle of young red wine will be 'reinvigorated,' claims creator Michael Coyne of Seattle, Washington, transforming the liquid into a more ‘homogenous’ wine that will improve the taste, aroma and mouthfeel.
     At the end of the process, aromas not normally present in young, unaged wines will be developed, tannins softened and flavors enhanced, makers promise.
     It can also be used to bring previously opened bottles of wine back to life.”
Read more…

anchor baby, eh?

Source images: thecarconnection; CofA Pundit
“The United States’ neighbors to the north sent the Texas senator [Ted Cruz] a certificate a few days ago [June, 2014] showing he has renounced his citizenship in Canada — nearly 10 months after he said he would do so.
     Cruz, a potential 2016 presidential candidate, had learned from The Dallas Morning News that he also became a citizen of Canada 'the moment he was born' in Calgary to an American mother. He gave the news first to the DMN, as promised.
     'The senator is pleased to have this process finalized,' Cruz spokeswoman Catherine Frazier told USA TODAY.
     The question of Cruz’s citizenship was potentially a problem as he visited early presidential states such as Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina — prompting headlines about a possible 2016 bid.
     The U.S. Constitution states only a 'natural born' citizen can be president, and that has been interpreted over the years to include Americans born overseas to an American parent — such as George Romney, born in Mexico to Mormon missionaries.”
— Catalina Camia, ONPOLITICS
Read more…

“The process of rejecting the maple leaf forever requires four pages of paperwork and a $100 fee.
     Being born somewhere other than in the physical United States did not bar the presidential candidacy of George Romney, Mitt Romney’s Mexican-born father, whose grandparents moved from Utah to Mexico in the 19th century because of a crackdown on polygamists. Barry Goldwater was born in the Arizona Territory, before there was a state of Arizona. John McCain was born to a military couple serving in the Panama Canal.
     [US] Liberal pundits are already gleeful about Cruz’s Canadian birth. Barack Obama, who was incontrovertibly born in Hawaii, the 50th state, has been bedeviled by obsessive 'birthers' who claim he can’t be a natural-born citizen, as the Constitution requires of presidents, because his father was not an American citizen. These are the same people who paradoxically complain that citizenship is automatically conferred on 'anchor babies' — their term for children born on U.S. soil to Mexican women who enter this country illegally.”
— Patt Morrison, Los Angeles Times
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inflated ego deflation

from: Shindigs
“[…] These people [millionaires] are feeling slighted because they aren't rich enough to gain the attention of politicians. Welcome to the world the rest of us inhabit, friends. But perhaps they need to ask themselves why they are treating these people as if they're royalty or demi-Gods in the first place. This is supposed to be a democracy and politicians are supposed to be seeking the approval of the citizens. Instead we have citizens seeking approval from the politicians and the politicians seeking approval from the ultra-wealthy. Something isn't quite right.
     Still, you have to feel sorry for them for this terrible loss of status. It's gotta hurt to be a millionaire member of the upper five percent, used to being treated with deference by the servant class (the rest of us) and suddenly find yourself tossed aside as just another useless poor person. The answer to this dilemma --- the answer they would certainly give to any of the sad middle class and working class people who would ask this question is --- must be to 'work harder' and become a billionaire themselves. Isn't it the case that rising to the top is just a matter of having a good work ethic? And if you fail, it's because you just don't put the kind of effort into it that billionaires do? That's what I always heard anyway.
     Come on, millionaires, buck up. Anyone can become a billionaire if they really try. This is America. You only have yourself to blame if you just don't have enough money to make a politician care what you have to say.”
— digby, Hullabaloo
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Thursday, 29 January 2015

"a man of remarkable character and courage”

King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz (from: Wikipedia)
“Mind-bogglingly, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey is sponsoring an essay contest at the National Defense University to honor Saudi Arabia’s late King Abdullah, whom he praises as 'a man of remarkable character and courage' presumably on the basis of Abdullah's remarkable achievements - his arresting, jailing, torturing, mutilating and killing of hundreds of his own citizens found to be 'criminals' for offenses like questioning Saudi policies; his denying of basic human rights to migrant workers, domestic workers, peaceful protesters and women forbidden under law from getting passports, driving, studying, traveling or leaving the house without permission from a male guardian, including his own daughters whom he reportedly held under house arrest for years; his sanctioning of domestic violence and child abuse; his financing of terrorism around the world including most of the 9/11 attackers; his dismal record of human rights abuses and brutal punishments said to rival those of ISIS; and his beheading of 87 people, mostly poor guest workers, in 2014, and ten more people so far this year, including a woman whose daylight beheading was recently captured on video. The person who filmed it has now been arrested.”
— Abby Zimet, CommonDreams
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“[…] Yet although IS [ISIS/ISIL] is certainly an Islamic movement, it is neither typical nor mired in the distant past, because its roots are in Wahhabism, a form of Islam practised in Saudi Arabia that developed only in the 18th century. In July 2013, the European Parliament identified Wahhabism as the main source of global terrorism, and yet the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, condemning IS in the strongest terms, has insisted that ‘the ideas of extremism, radicalism and terrorism do not belong to Islam in any way.’ Other members of the Saudi ruling class, however, look more kindly on the movement, applauding its staunch opposition to Shiaism and for its Salafi piety, its adherence to the original practices of Islam. […]”
— Karen Armstrong, New Statesman
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Tuesday, 27 January 2015

killing me softly (PART II)

Photo: Michael Hale

“I watched The Duke of Burgundy with someone who experiences ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response), whereby certain stimuli that brush against the threshold of nonexistence create a tingling sensation in one’s upper body; it’s said to be pleasant. Some typical ASMR triggers — which have become something of a YouTube phenomenon — include running water, the rustling or crunching of leaves, personal attention (like being measured, getting one’s hair cut), and whispering, all of which are used in hypnotically controlling repetition by writer/director Peter Strickland throughout the film. Strickland also adds some new triggers to the mix, such as popping soap bubbles, and, more strangely, the high-frequency sounds certain moths’ genitals make to confuse approaching, echolocating bats.”
— Moze Halperin, flavor wire
Read more…

“For me, one key ingredient always produces the ASMR sensation: specific behavior or mannerisms of other people while they are engaged in rather ordinary tasks, such as giving directions on how to do something, handling objects, or just speaking. These tasks are known as triggers to people in the ASMR community. Here are some examples of triggers that stimulate the ASMR response for me:

Watching someone draw or paint (especially if they are narrating the drawing/painting process)

Listening to the narration or reading of a story

Watching someone gently scratch something or other movements of the hands and feet

Having my face painted

Being asked questions by a doctor

Having my ears checked

Having my breathing monitored with a stethoscope (like when the doctor says “take a deep breath”)

Being instructed on how to do a task such as homework problems or how to do something on a computer.”

— Devon King, Charged Magazine
Read more…

eye candid

From: Ptak Science Books
“Even if you get the surface appearance of a digital face right, the movements can do you in. As efforts to build android robots have demonstrated, manufactured blinks often seem owlish, and artificial mouths can appear to snap open too wide or too precisely. (Human lips stick together for a fraction of a second at the corners after we open them to speak.)
     [Masahiro] Mori’s original paper on the Uncanny Valley was more of a thought experiment than a formal study: he didn’t test his hypothesis about virtual humans on any actual humans. But the argument has been borne out in several formal studies since then. It’s not yet clear why not-quite-humans provoke so much anxiety. Maybe characters that fall into the Uncanny Valley remind us of corpses. Perhaps they flood us with uneasy intimations of soullessness. Maybe they confound the brain’s ability to distinguish what is alive and human from what is neither.
     Thalia Wheatley, a neuroscientist at Dartmouth who has studied how we recognize animacy in others, told me, 'Think of horror movies—zombies, vampires, or even clowns, because they have faces painted on that don’t move. It looks like a person’s face but it doesn’t move like one. A conflict arises in the brain, which is unsettling.'”
— Margaret Talbot, The New Yorker
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Monday, 26 January 2015

"Take my horse. Please..."

Variable Pitch Pipe (from: Wikipedia)
“[…] Their study has revealed that languages with a wide range of tone pitches are more prevalent in regions with high humidity levels. In contrast, languages with simpler tone pitches are mainly found in drier regions. This is explained by the fact that the vocal folds require a humid environment to produce the right tone.”
— via New Shelton we/dry

“[…] A person with poor pitch perception may be able to improve his or her ability to differentiate pitches or mimic them, but a person who is truly tone deaf may not have the capacity to improve whatsoever no matter how much he or she practices.
     The level of exposure to music as a child may play a part, in that the brain may have reduced capacity for pitch mimicry. But this -- nor any other environmental factor -- doesn't account for tone deafness.
     Tone deafness seems to be entirely hereditary, and identical twins score similarly when taking pitch tests. As we mentioned earlier, it's not the reception of the tone that is compromised, but the brain's processing of it.”
— Tom Scheve, How Stuff Works
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“So, you'd think that a tone-deaf [Mandarin] Chinese [-speaking person] would be stuck. How can [she/] he tell the difference in speech between, say, ‘woman’ and ‘horse’ with only their distinct tones to distinguish the meanings?
     Easily enough, it turns out. Mostly, he [/she] uses context and other language clues. Homonyms in Chinese (or English: 'I'm a little hoarse'), rarely confuse a listener — when heard in context. But also, it's easier to distinguish varying tones. Moreover, the tones we use in languages are coarse discriminators that even a disabled person can manage. To convey meaning differences, speech requires tone distinctions three to six times greater than melodies do for musical nuances.”
— April Holladay, USA Today
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Sunday, 25 January 2015

You never really know who your friends are..." — Al Kooper

From: Addicting Info

“The ISIS punishments are taken from documents which the group recently circulated. The list of crimes and their punishments was published by ISIS on December 16th of last year. The punishments are gleaned from both the Koran and the Hadith, Middle East Eye notes, but are rarely given out in other Muslim countries.
     What ISIS and Saudi Arabia have in common is Wahabism, a fundamentalist sect of Islam. Experts on Islamic history call Wahabism 'ahistorical' as are the punishments handed down in its name. The fact is that Saudi judges hand these sort of punishments down despite doctrine that sets a high bar for doing so. […]
     What ISIS and Saudi Arabia do not have in common is publicity. ISIS loves it, thrives on it. They want the West to see their barbarism. They want to be called 'Islamic terrorists' because it feeds their egos and validates their twisted form of that religion.
     Saudi Arabia is not so open about their system of punishment. Western media seldom talks about it.”
— T. Steeman, Addicting Info
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road less traveled

From: National Geographic
“Humans made an unwitting but fateful choice 10,000 years ago as we started cultivating wild plants: We chose annuals. All the grains that feed billions of people today—wheat, rice, corn, and so on—come from annual plants, which sprout from seeds, produce new seeds, and die every year. 'The whole world is mostly perennials,' says USDA geneticist Edward Buckler, who studies corn at Cornell University. 'So why did we domesticate annuals?' Not because annuals were better, he says, but because Neolithic farmers rapidly made them better—enlarging their seeds, for instance, by replanting the ones from thriving plants, year after year. Perennials didn't benefit from that kind of selective breeding, because they don't need to be replanted. Their natural advantage became a handicap. They became the road not taken.
     Today an enthusiastic band of scientists has gone back to that fork in the road: They're trying to breed perennial wheat, rice, and other grains. Wes Jackson, co-founder and president of the Land Institute in Salina, Kansas, has promoted the idea for decades. It has never had much money behind it. But plant breeders in Salina and elsewhere are now crossing modern grains with wild perennial relatives; they're also trying to domesticate the wild plants directly. Either way the goal is crops that would tap the main advantage of perennials—the deep, dense root systems that fuel the plants' rebirth each spring and that make them so resilient and resource efficient—without sacrificing too much of the grain yield that millennia of selection have bred into annuals.”
— Robert Kunzig, National Geographic
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dogs are children too

From: FUREVER network
“UNITED NATIONS, Jan 23 2015 (IPS) - When the East African nation of Somalia, once described as a ‘lawless state,’ ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) early this week, it left two countries in splendid isolation from the rest of the world: South Sudan and the United States.
     South Sudan?
     Understandable, say human rights experts, because it was created and joined the United Nations only in July 2011 – and has since taken steps to start the domestic process in ratifying the treaty, probably later this year.
     But the United States?
     Kul Gautam of Nepal, a former U.N. assistant secretary-general and deputy executive director of the U.N. children’s agency UNICEF, told IPS the United States did sign the CRC back in February 1995 when Ambassador Madeline Albright was the U.S. envoy to the United Nations.
     But the U.S. government has never submitted the treaty for ratification by the U.S. Senate, he added (where it needs a two-thirds vote for approval).
     Asked if there is ever a chance the United States will ratify the treaty, bearing in mind that a conservative, right-wing Republican Party now wields power on Capitol Hill, Gautam said: “With the current composition of the U.S. Congress, there is no chance for its ratification.”
— Thalif Dee, CommonDreams
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“WASHINGTON (March 15, 2000, APBnews.com) -- The House of Representatives today voted to upgrade federal regulations on air travel safety for animals for the first time in more than 22 years. […]
     ’This bill will hold airlines to a higher standard of conduct in the way they treat cats and dogs and other pets that belong to caring families. 'This should put an end to the horror stories of animals being treated like luggage,’ [Frank] Lautenberg said in a recent statement.
     The measure was also hailed by Carol Brandwein of Woodbridge, Va., whose cat, Toddy, a 9-month-old smoke tortie Persian, suffocated in the cargo hold of an American Airlines jet, covered with luggage piles on top of her kennel, in 1998. […]
     ‘This is a major win for the animals. Now the public will know which airlines have the best [safety] record when it comes to shipping animals," Brandwein said.’”
— Julie Catalano, ABC News
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Saturday, 24 January 2015

find yourself

From: worldatlas
If your sense of place is a little shaky, or your knowledge of world geography is less than reliable, this interactive map is a great place to start your journey.

"fat cats in SPACE!!"

From: Traveltalk
“Decreasing seat pitch — the distance between the same point on two consecutive seats — was once just the territory of budget airlines like Ryanair and Spirit Airlines.
     However, the legacy airlines are following the trend, and an economy seat that used to have a seat pitch of 32 to 34 inches now typically has 31 inches. an economy seat that used to have a seat pitch of 32 to 34 inches now typically has 31 inches. United isn't the only airline making more room on existing planes with smaller seats.
     According to data from SeatGuru, the roomiest economy seats on the four biggest airlines are all smaller than the smallest seats were in the 1990s."
— Jessica Plautz, Mashable

“The case of the shrinking airline seat is getting so ludicrous that aircraft giant Airbus has stepped in and called for action.
     It wants the aviation industry to set a minimum standard of 18 inches (45.72 centimetres) in order to improve the comfort of long-haul flying.
     That's because an 18 inch limit improves passenger sleep quality by 53 per cent when compared to the 17 inch standard set in the 1950s, according to new research by The London Sleep Centre that was commissioned by Airbus.
     Conditions, including lighting and background noise, were carefully controlled to mimic the experience of a long-haul flight.
     ‘All passengers experienced a deeper, less disturbed and longer nights' sleep in the 18 inch seat,’ Dr Irshaad Ebrahim from The London Sleep Centre said.
     ‘They went from one sleep stage to the next as you would expect them to do under normal circumstances. Whilst in the narrower 17 inch seat the passengers were affected by numerous disturbances during sleep - which meant they rarely experienced deep restorative sleep.’
     Despite the population's growing waist lines, most planes still have 17 inch seats, and in some cases passengers have to squeeze into 16 inch seats.'”
Read more…

"the Republican senator from Israel"

Traitor's Gate, Tower of London (from: tripadvisor)
“Throughout Obama's tenure, he has clashed with Netanyahu. That is no secret, and it's nothing new for American and Israeli leaders to disagree, sometimes very publicly. But Netanyahu, beginning in May 2011, adopted a new strategy to try to deal with this: using domestic American politics as a way to try to push around Obama.
     During a trip that month to Washington, Netanyahu publicly lectured Obama at a press conference and then gave a speech to Congress slamming the president. That speech, also hosted by Republicans, received many standing ovations for Netanyahu's finger-wagging criticism of Obama.
     At first it appeared that Netanyahu was merely trying to steer Obama's foreign policy in a direction that he, Netanyahu, preferred. Obama wanted Netanyahu to freeze Israeli settlement growth in the West Bank, for example; Obama has also sought, in his second term, to reach a nuclear deal with Iran that Netanyahu earnestly believes is a bad idea.
     Netanyahu's first responsibility is to Israel's national interests, not to Obama, so it makes sense that he would push for policies that he thinks are good for Israel.
     But in 2011 Netanyahu started going a step further, and appeared to be working to actively remove Obama from power. During the 2012 election cycle, Netanyahu and his government were increasingly critical of Obama and supportive of Republicans, including presidential candidate Mitt Romney, for whom he at times appeared to be actively campaigning. Netanyahu's criticisms of Obama were so pointed that some of Obama's opponents cut a campaign ad out of them. It became a joke within Israel that Netanyahu saw himself not as the leader of a sovereign country, but as the Republican senator from Israel.”
— Max Fisher, Vox
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Tuesday, 20 January 2015


From: Amazing Planet
"An average automobile tire can travel around 30,000 kilometers before they need to be replaced. Tires that have reached the end of their lifetime are usually recycled, but in Kuwait, they are dumped into one of the biggest landfills on earth in Sulaibiya area near Kuwait City. Every year gigantic holes are dug out in the desert and filled with old tires. There are already seven million tires out there. The expanse of rubber is so vast that they are now visible from space."
Amazing Planet

Saturday, 10 January 2015

offensive ≠ funny

by Joe Sacco (from: The Guardian)

mucilage in a bottle

I grew up on this stuff — till we emigrated to Canada when I was seven years old I didn't know coffee could taste better than this; or that chips (French fries) could be eaten with anything other than "brown sauce."
     On our first return visit to Liverpool in the sixties I remember my uncle sadly announcing to my mother that her favorite fish and chip shop had "gone curry."
    Needless to say, the U.K. had "gone curry" (and beyond) long before that.

From: cybertramp

“Created in the late 1800s, brown sauce reads, tastes and smells like the idle creation of some Phileas Fogg-type, just back and hugely, over-excited about his adventures in the British empire. Dates! Molasses! Tamarind! Cloves! Cayenne pepper! It is not so much a recipe as chauvinistic flag-waving, a smug, muscle-flexing case of: 'Look at the size of our spice cupboard.' Said exotic ingredients were combined, moreover, with all the sensitivity of the period. Just as in the age of empire we ignored or abused indigenous peoples, so too their ingredients. In brown sauce, they were used to produce an unholy trinity of brutal sweetness, acrid spiciness and vile vinegary twang — one peculiarly British in its lack of culinary sophistication.
     That brown sauce was actually invented, more prosaically, by a Nottingham grocer hardly matters. Everything about it, and particularly that picture of the houses of parliament on a bottle of HP, surely confirmed it as the sauce of the establishment. This was the perfect table sauce for jowly, Victorian and Edwardian gentlemen whose palates were so befogged by years of brandy and cigars, grouse and spotted dick, that only this shrill alarm of a sauce could pierce that bleary, weary gastronomic gloom.”
— Tony Naylor, (The Guardian) via NDTV Food
Read more…

Photo: Robert Pool (via flikr)

"The Paterson Company of Glasgow was catapulted to fame with the world's first instant coffee in 1876: Camp Coffee (an essence of coffee-beans, chicory and sugar poured from a distinctive bottle). The origin of Camp Coffee is believed to have come from a request from the Gordon Highlanders to Campbell Paterson for a coffee drink that could be used easily by the army on field campaigns in India.”
Read more…

Friday, 9 January 2015

"the sons raise meat... the sun’s rays meet... the sons raise meat..."

Source images: Robert Patterson's Weblog; CatholicMom.com
“[…] early pre-humans moved from a fruit-based diet – like most of today’s great apes – to meat. The new diet required novel social arrangements and a new type of co‑operative strategy (it’s hard to hunt big game alone). This in turn seems to have entailed new forms of co‑operative thought more generally: social arrangements arose to guarantee hunters an equal share of the bounty, and to ensure that women and children who were less able to participate also got a share.
     According to the US comparative psychologist Michael Tomasello, by the time the common ancestor of Homo sapiens and Homo neanderthalensis had emerged sometime around 300,000 years ago, ancestral humans had already developed a sophisticated type of co‑operative intelligence. This much is evident from the archaeological record, which demonstrates the complex social living and interactional arrangements among ancestral humans. They probably had symbol use – which prefigures language – and the ability to engage in recursive thought (a consequence, on some accounts, of the slow emergence of an increasingly sophisticated symbolic grammar). Their new ecological situation would have led, inexorably, to changes in human behaviour. Tool-use would have been required, and co‑operative hunting, as well as new social arrangements – such as agreements to safeguard monogamous breeding privileges while males were away on hunts.
     These new social pressures would have precipitated changes in brain organisation. In time, we would see a capacity for language. Language is, after all, the paradigmatic example of co‑operative behaviour: it requires conventions – norms that are agreed within a community – and it can be deployed to co‑ordinate all the additional complex behaviours that the new niche demanded.”
— Vyvyan Evans, aeon

Read more…
“As we began to shy away from eating primarily fruit, leaves and nuts and began eating meat, our brains grew. We developed the capacity to use tools, so our need for large, sharp teeth and big grinders waned.
     At the same time our gut shrank by 60%. A Chimp spends 6 hours a day chewing and digesting. We eat quickly leaving lots of time to invent new things and ways. […]
     Only meat has this quality and concentration of protein. It is indeed ‘Brain Food.’
     Meat made us human. It is not some rare thing at the top of the food pyramid but it is the base of the pyramid.”
Robert Patterson’s Weblog
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Thursday, 8 January 2015

dactyls n' amphimacers

From: The Telegraph
“[…] researchers have encoded the contents of a whole book in DNA, demonstrating the potential of DNA as a way of storing and transmitting information. In a different vein, some artists have begun to create living organisms with altered DNA as works of art. Hence, DNA is a medium for the communication of ideas. Because of the ability of DNA to store and convey information, its regulation must necessarily raise concerns associated with the First Amendment’s prohibition against the abridgment of freedom of speech. […]”
— via the New Shelton wet/dry
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“A genetic disease has been cured in living, adult animals for the first time using a revolutionary genome-editing technique that can make the smallest changes to the vast database of the DNA molecule with pinpoint accuracy.
     Scientists have used the genome-editing technology to cure adult laboratory mice of an inherited liver disease by correcting a single 'letter' of the genetic alphabet which had been mutated in a vital gene involved in liver metabolism.”
The Independent
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What is the verse that you've encoded?
It's a very short poem; a very masculine assertion about the aesthetic creation of life. The organism reads the poem, and writes in response a very melancholy, feminine - almost surreal in tone - poem about the aesthetic loss of life. The two poems are in dialogue with each other.

How do you encode your verse into DNA?
There's a standard convention of assigning certain letters to certain amino acids, but this convention is arbitrary. I'm likewise assigning a certain DNA codon to a letter of the alphabet. But there's a series of added constraints. Because I want the genetic sequence enciphering my poem to produce a protein that is, itself, yet another poem, there has to be a mutual correlation between those two sequences. In effect, I'm producing a kind of cryptogram, like something you might see in The Sunday Times, except that my cryptogram is itself a meaningful message that can be deciphered into yet another meaningful message. That's what's made this project very challenging.”
— Jamie Condliffe in conversation with Christian Bök, New Scientist
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je suis charlie

From: banksy

“'Our hearts are with staff of Charlie Hebdo and their families,' [Jon] Stewart stated. 'I know very few people go into comedy as an act of courage, mainly because it shouldn’t have to be that. It shouldn’t be an act of courage, it should be taken as established law. But those guys at Hebdo had it, and they were killed for their cartoons.'”
— Sarah Gray, Salon
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