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Saturday, 29 November 2014

“Once you know you’re looking at a bunch of pixels – then why not just go and play a videogame?”—Paddy Eason, FX Supervisor

Original photo from: seBASTIAO

“Stephen Prince, professor of cinema studies at Virginia Tech, noted in his essay ‘True Lies’ (1996) that CGI severs the ‘indexical’ or causal connection between an image and the object it represents, which might have no original in the real world; instead, we are presented with imaginary objects that can nonetheless be considered ‘perceptually realistic.’ Another theorist, Lev Manovich, at the City University of New York, has argued that CGI reveals that the conception of photographic recording as essential to cinema was a historic accident, and that the new digital regime returns cinema to its place in an earlier conception of visual representation as involving the manual construction of images. ‘Cinema becomes a particular branch of painting – painting in time,’ he writes in What Is Digital Cinema? (1996). [...]
     Another drawback of images composed of ‘a bunch of pixels’ is a sense of deadness, of the inorganic. This is partly to do with the smoothness of digital imagery, as opposed to images shot and projected on celluloid, which retain the trace of film stock’s chemical grain. But there is also a problem in the making of the images.
     In CGI, everything has been deliberately programmed for specific effect – a suppression of accident, resulting in imagery that seems to lack expressive autonomy, organic-seeming ‘heft,’ as opposed to the weightlessness of pure light or data. Eager to remedy this lack, software creators have now made it possible to program lifelike randomness, or ‘noise’ into digital motion.”
— Jonathan Romney, aeon
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Friday, 28 November 2014

the circle of pleasure

Leder MartA Cat called Freya

"I am from Bavaria, Germany and I have worn Dirndl every day since I was a little girl. I have just married an Afganai man and we live in Bavaria. I really want to buy him lederhosen. Can we be practicing muslims while we are wearing dirndl and lederhosen?"
Yahoo! Answers
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“As I studied the brain, I found that the right arrangement of neural circuitry and chemistry could generate astonishingly creative and holy persons on the one hand, or profoundly delusional, even violent, fanatics on the other. To intensify the ‘god effect’ in people already attracted to religious ideas, my studies revealed, all we had to do was boost the activity of the neurotransmitter, dopamine, crucial for balanced emotion and thought, on the right side of the brain.”
— Patrick McNamara, aeon
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“Recent behavioral addiction research suggests that the loss of libido and performance occur because heavy users are numbing their brain's normal response to pleasure. 
     Years of overriding the natural limits of libido with intense stimulation [masterbation/porn] desensitize the user's response to a neurochemical called dopamine.
     Dopamine is behind motivation, 'wanting' and all addictions. 
It drives the search for rewards. You get little spurts of it every time you bump into anything potentially rewarding, novel, surprising, or even anxiety-producing. Animal models have established that both sexual desire and erections arise from dopamine signals. 
     Normally, dopamine-producing nerve cells in the reward circuitry activate the sexual (libido) centers of the hypothalamus, which in turn activate the erection centers in the spinal cord, which send nerve impulses to the genitalia. 
     A steady stream of nerve impulses, which release nitric oxide into the penis and its blood vessels, maintain an erection.
     Nitric oxide in turn stimulates the blood vessel dilator cGMP, the on/off switch for blood engorgement of the penis and erection.”
— Ange Fonce, Intimate Communion Magazine

“The production of nitric oxide is elevated in populations living at high altitudes, which helps these people avoid hypoxia by aiding in pulmonary vasculature vasodilation. Effects include vasodilatation, neurotransmission (see gasotransmitters), modulation of the hair cycle, production of reactive nitrogen intermediates and penile erections (through its ability to vasodilate).
     Nitroglycerin and amyl nitrite serve as vasodilators because they are converted to nitric oxide in the body. The vasodilating antihypertensive drug minoxidil contains an NO moiety and may act as an NO agonist. Likewise, Sildenafil citrate, popularly known by the trade name Viagra, stimulates erections primarily by enhancing signaling through the nitric oxide pathway in the penis.”

And now — back to lederhosen… 

“Recent research shows that looking at live webcam feeds of cute animals affects the brain’s pleasure centers by releasing dopamine. So that’s why people (me included) can spend inordinate amounts of time looking at videos of cats, puppies, gibbons, etc., on Youtube. It’s like a drug.”
— Graham Land, Greenfudge

“Cat appears on traditional Christmas menus in some areas of Switzerland.
It is often cooked for the festive season in a similar way to rabbit — with white wine and garlic.
"We especially see it in the regions of Lucerne, Appenzell, Jura and in the canton of Bern," said Tomek.
Dog meat goes mostly into making sausages and a fatty remedy for rheumatism.
According to the Food Safety and Veterinary Office, you are not allowed to sell dog or cat meat but it is legal for people to eat their own animals.”

white collar crime

From: etsy
Starched shirts, corrosively starched… white: collars like leg irons. Whiter than anything my eyes had ever been subjected to — except raw sunlight, I suppose — or new snow in the glare of it.
     Every Sunday morning (or on that 1962 summer day we visited the David Dunlop Observatory in Richmond Hill — an outing that called for our Sunday best, even though our necks were raw with sunburn, I recall) my brother and I would be obliged to don a fresh Wimbridge Cleaners-enbalmed shirt...
     First, pull away the polyethylene caul; then the blue-on-white, paper sash (“WIMBRIDGE CLEANERS Ltd.”) unfold the flattened arms — you had to push your hand hard through the opening near the shoulders to break through to the rigid cuffs: the cufflink holes were healed over, the cuff edges as dangerous as the collar.

Photo: Michael Hale

     This coat hanger once carried a dress, no doubt — one of my mother's dresses. The man who delivered it wore a peaked cap, a bow tie and (of course) a crisp, fresh, white shirt.

See also: Swot Like Mad

Thursday, 27 November 2014

the pitch

“‘It was quite well known that [British Prime Minister Margaret] Thatcher had gone through extensive voice coaching to exude a more authoritative, powerful persona,’ explains [lead researcher Sei Jin] Ko [of San Diego State University]. ‘We wanted to explore how something so fundamental as power might elicit changes in the way a voice sounds, and how these situational vocal changes impact the way listeners perceive and behave toward the speakers.’ Ko, along with Melody Sadler of San Diego State and Adam Galinsky of Columbia Business School, designed two studies to find out.
     In the first experiment, they recorded 161 college students reading a passage aloud; this first recording captured baseline acoustics. The participants were then randomly assigned to play a specific role in an ensuing negotiation exercise.
     Students assigned to a ‘high’ rank were told to go into the negotiation imagining that they either had a strong alternative offer, valuable inside information, or high status in the workplace, or they were asked to recall an experience in which they had power before the negotiation started. Low-rank students, on the other hand, were told to imagine they had either a weak offer, no inside information, or low workplace status, or they were asked to recall an experience in which they lacked power.
     The students then read a second passage aloud, as if they were leading off negotiations with their imaginary adversary, and their voices were recorded. Everyone read the same opening, allowing the researchers to examine acoustics while holding the speech content constant across all participants.
     Comparing the first and second recordings, the researchers found that the voices of students assigned to high-power roles tended to go up in pitch, become more monotone (less variable in pitch), and become more variable in loudness than the voices of students assigned low-power roles.”
Association for Psychological Science
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Photo: moole.ru

“Just as symmetry and scent are important yet subtle indicators of genetic fitness, a person’s voice can also give clues to his reproductive ability. For instance, it’s no myth that good looking men often have deep voices. A study done at Northumbria University in the UK recorded men speaking and had both men and women rate their voices based on attractiveness, dominance, confidence, and sexiness. The listeners then looked at photos of the men and rated them. Researchers found that men with deep voices were rated higher than those with high voices and the deep voices also corresponded to more attractive faces. […]
     Research has also shown that listeners can detect people’s socioeconomic status, personality, and emotional/mental state from their voice, and that they can estimate age, height, and weight about as accurately from voice clips as they can from photographs.”
the Frisky
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Wednesday, 26 November 2014

killing us softly

"This is a ray gun that shoots either a beam of burning sensation at your victim, or else an invisible wave that induces horrible nausea.” — Paul's Ponderings
“[…] the controversy in Ferguson remains what it’s always been: A jarring and dispiriting reminder that the Declaration of Independence’s assertion of universal human equality (the 'promissory note,' as Martin Luther King Jr. once called it) remains, for millions of Americans, a debt unpaid. […]
     If we can combat the dual influences of a Ferguson elite that wants national attention to drift elsewhere; and a national media that dislikes policy and favors more watchable, clickable, shareable and fundamentally empty manifestations of the culture war — if we can do that, there’s hope that even though the killing of Michael Brown by Darren Wilson will always be an obscenity, it won’t have been entirely in vain. So let’s ignore those in American society who would rather debate the merits of trashing a bodega than the killing of a child, and let’s not listen to those who would use this opportunity to relitigate the civil rights movement, the Rodney King riots or the Trayvon Martin case. Let’s honor the wishes of Michael Brown’s parents and decline to ‘just make noise’ in favor of making ‘a difference.’”
— Elias Isquith, Salon
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“[…] But growth prospects for cop-cams are modest compared to non-lethal or 'soft-kill' weapons — a global market projected to reach $1.63 billion in 2014. While Taser’s stun gun is currently the most effective person-to-person immobilizer, various 'crowd-control' weapons have also found a home in police departments nationwide, thanks to the Pentagon’s combat surplus.
     The results of military R&D can be bizarre. There’s the LRAD acoustic cannon (used in Ferguson), which blasts intense sound waves that cause immediate headaches. A 'Ray Gun' shoots excruciatingly hot beams of electromagnetic radiation. And the infamous 'Puke Ray' emits flashing, multi-color light pulses that induce nausea. […]
     Stingray is a device that mimics a cell tower to indiscriminately trick nearby phones into transmitting metadata (location, call duration, etc.) and even call content. It’s one of the police’s latest ventures into NSA territory, to 'Collect It All, Know It All.' Police departments that use Stingrays must sign non-disclosure agreements with the Harris Corporation, Stingray’s manufacturer; so far 42 law enforcement agencies in 17 states use them, according to the ACLU. It complains that the police have tried to deliberately conceal the practice from judges during criminal investigations.
     The problem with Stingray — and similar devices that mass-compile data, such as license plate recognition, biometrics, predictive policing algorithms and drones — is its propensity to violate privacy rights, says Dave Maass, of the Electronic Freedom Foundation. Essential questions, like who can use them and on whom and when, are not discussed in courts or with the public, Maass says. Which just makes it easier for law enforcement to adopt early and often: “It’s easier for police to adopt new devices without asking permission, and then force legislators to take them away and risk looking ‘soft on crime,’
— Nathan Siegel, OZY
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Tuesday, 25 November 2014

castleberry pit-cooked and hopalong cassidy

From the Prelinger Archices

happy birthday JFK

John Kennedy at 11 (from: vintage everyday)

tractable man

Photo: gajitz

“In what he later called an ‘incandescent moment’, [Dr. Stanley] Milgram became more interested in the control than the test. He wondered how far people would go to follow his orders, and so he shifted the experiment’s focus from conformity to obedience. He planned to try it on Americans in New Haven, after which he would perform the experiment in Germany to see how the two compared. But once he saw the first results, Milgram knew the German comparison wouldn’t matter.
     “You probably already know the story: the subjects were far more obedient than they were expected to be, in both frequency and intensity. Milgram surveyed other psychologists before he ran the experiments, and his consulting group guessed about a tenth of one per cent (.125) of subjects (only sadists and psychopaths) would max out the voltage before refusing. Instead, 65 per cent of subjects hit the 450 volt button – labelled ‘XXX’ instead of ‘lethal’ in the final model – three times before Milgram cut them off. All subjects reached 300 volts, which meant they believed they had administered 20 distinct shocks.
     It was a successful experiment. Too successful. Cross-cultural comparisons were beside the point if most Americans were already Nazis just waiting for the right orders.”
— Malcolm Harris, aeon

“[…] Hitler ran a totalitarian dictatorship, and it was done through coercion and orders from above. What Ian shows so beautifully is that, in fact, Hitler is not a hands-on micromanager. Things don’t run simply by coercion and orders from above, but lots of people below are taking initiative and seeking to figure out what’s expected of them. That helps us normalize the regime in an important way, to understand the process of policy-making. It was not fundamentally or radically different from the political policies of other regimes.
     I was reminded of this in the middle of the Iran Contra hearings in the U.S. in the late 1980s. One of the men responsible was asked whether he had an order to do this. He said, 'Well, no.' Then he was asked, 'Did you disobey orders and do this on your own?' and he said, 'No.' So his questioners asked, 'Well then, how do you explain this?' and he said, 'I knew what the president wanted.' It was as simple as that. Governments work because people don’t wait for orders; they are given the general outline, and they’re supposed to be go-getters who make things happen. This is not unique to Nazi Germany.
     […] In the hearings that were going on recently in Washington for the new chief justice, several of the answers given by Judge Roberts were in fact just that. He said, 'Well, I knew what the president wanted,' rather than saying it was an order, or it was law. He said he followed the law; but in fact, he knew that was the way the president wished these things to happen."
— David Hulme in discussion with Christopher Browning, Sir Ian Kershaw, Steven Ozment and Arnold Schwartzman, Vision
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Sunday, 23 November 2014

fake guns don't kill people...

This used to be what toy guns looked like. (from: Pinterest)
“A 12-year-old boy died early Sunday from complications after being shot in the stomach by Cleveland police. The officers believed that the fake pistol the boy had been brandishing on a playground was actually real. […] They only learned afterward that the gun was fake — a BB gun with the orange safety marker scratched off. Both officers, one of whom is a rookie in his first year on the force, have been placed on administrative leave, according to protocol.

This is what they look like now. (from: Halloween Costumes 4U)

This is hardly the first shooting related to a toy or fake gun. In August, 22-year-old John Crawford of Beavercreek, Ohio, was shot dead by police inside a Wal-Mart for carrying a BB gun that is made to look like a more deadly weapon and is actually sold by Wal-Mart. Back in July of 2013, 13-year-old Andy Lopez was fatally shot when police similarly mistook his BB gun for an assault rifle. Officer Erick Gelhaus waited no more than 10 seconds for Lopez to put the gun down before firing seven shots at point-blank range. The gun, like in the Cleveland case, was missing an orange plastic plug that is supposed to help identify it as a toy. After the shooting was investigated, Gelhaus did not face any criminal charges.”
— Zack Ford, ThinkProgress
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Lee is 75; Jack is 97

From: Constantine Report

“In 1956, at the age of 17, [Lee Harvey] Oswald quit high school to join the U.S. Marine Corps. He was no ordinary Marine: From 1957 through 1958, he was assigned to work as a radar operator at Atsugi Naval Air Base in Japan. Atsugi was not only a major CIA station, but also the home base of the top-secret U-2 spy plane, used to conduct reconnaissance missions inside the Soviet Union. While working at Atsugi, Oswald—as his commanding officer told the Warren Commission—'had access to the location of all bases in the West Coast area, all radio frequencies for all squadrons, all tactical call signs, and the relative strength of all squadrons.'
     In 1959, Oswald abruptly quit the marines and traveled to Russia, where he declared his intention to defect to the Soviet Union. He subsequently turned up at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, where he dramatically announced that he intended to spill all of the secrets he had learned as a marine to his new country’s government. He even bragged that he 'might know something of special interest' to the Soviets.
     This should have set off alarm bells in every corner of the U.S. intelligence community. Defections to the Soviet Union were rare enough; a former marine who had access to top-secret, highly sensitive information was something else again. When the U-2 plane was shot down by Soviet guns in May 1960, Oswald might well have been considered the most likely culprit. The young defector should have been poised to be condemned as the Edward Snowden of his day.
     But he was not. The vast U.S. national-security establishment showed virtually no interest in Oswald. When Oswald decided to return home in 1962—two years after openly declaring his intent to betray his country to its deadliest enemy—he received a warm welcome. […]”
— Justyn Dillingham, Salon

“It was 1993, the 30th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination, when FRONTLINE first aired its documentary, Who Was Lee Harvey Oswald? In that program FRONTLINE concluded, 'What now seems certain is that the CIA is still covering up its contact with Lee Harvey Oswald.'
     Now, 10 years later, much material has been made available to the American public which sheds light on what the CIA had been hiding for 40 years. This new information is the result of the U.S. Congress passing the 1993 'JFK Records Act,' which mandated the full release of all government files relating to the assassination of President Kennedy and created a civilian Assassination Records Review Board to oversee this process. By the time the Board’s work was completed in the late 1990s, 6 million pages of documents had been made available to the public in the National Archives.
     Arguably, the most startling information so far brought to light by the release of these intelligence records is the CIA cover-up relating to Oswald’s visit to Mexico City.”
— John Newman, PBS
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Saturday, 22 November 2014

gate crasher

Source images from: Latinos Ready To Vote and Free Minds

“[…] Critics ranging from the Fordham Institute to this writer have noted that one of the problems is the hodgepodge way that SBOE [Texas State Board of Education] assembled the TEKS [Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills] standards, without regard to either intellectual coherence or historical accuracy.
     In some instances, the problem is sins of omission. Thus in seventh-grade Texas history, in eighth- and 11-grade United States history, and 10-grade world history, what TEKS requires simply does not show Native and African-Americans as among history’s makers. They remain mere victims and/or outsiders.
     The problem began when the SBOE evicted Enlightenment thinkers from the World History standards and substituted a list that included Moses, Aquinas, Calvin, and Blackstone. Figures from that grab-bag list also made their way into the requirements for United States history and government. Never mind that Aquinas and Calvin were theologians, or that Blackstone believed all societies should require some form of absolute, unchallengeable sovereign power. The real issue turned out to be Moses.
     Careful analyst by Justine Esta Ellis (a scholar who was not part of the TFN group) finds the strategy of starting with Moses is aimed at presenting the United States as a unique 'redeemer nation,' predestined among all others to act out God’s will. Arch-conservative David Barton, who has no historian’s credentials but who nonetheless has had a huge impact on TEKS, maintains that verse after verse from the Bible is quoted 'verbatim' in the Constitution. Checking Scripture demonstrates quickly that this is just not so. The language and the ideas do not match. Any professor of history teaches history majors not to make that kind of mistake.
     But the State Board of Education wanted nothing to do with professors. More than a dozen from Texas colleges and universities volunteered to take part in reviewing texts this past summer. Almost all were turned down.”
— Edwards Countryman, The Daily Beast
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Friday, 21 November 2014

the jitters

Photo by Dr. Gary Greenberg: “Sand Grains Magnified 110-250 Times” (PENGUIN)
“Craig Hogan believes that the world is fuzzy. this is not a metaphor. hogan, a physicist at the University of Chicago and director of the Fermilab Particle Astrophysics Center near Batavia, Ill., thinks that if we were to peer down at the tiniest subdivisions of space and time, we would find a universe filled with an intrinsic jitter, the busy hum of static. This hum comes not from particles bouncing in and out of being or other kinds of quantum froth that physicists have argued about in the past. Rather Hogan's noise would come about if space was not, as we have long assumed, smooth and continuous, a glassy backdrop to the dance of fields and particles. Hogan's noise arises if space is made of chunks. Blocks. Bits. Hogan's noise would imply that the universe is digital.”
— Michael Moyer, Scientific American
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"The fundamental level of the universe is so infinitesimally small that it's impossible to even imagine. But if we go down inside our brains to our nerve cells and into the microtubules and inside the microtubule subunits to the level of atoms and then keep going down even smaller than atoms (which are mostly empty space), the space between the nucleus and the electrons, down and down and down, everything is smooth.
     But eventually we reach a level where there's some kind of coarseness or irregularity. This may be something like being in an airplane looking at the surface of the ocean from 33,000 feet. The surface of the ocean looks very smooth. However, if you were on a boat on that surface, it'd be choppy and there's a pattern in the waves in the surface of the ocean. Similarly when we get down to the fundamental level of the universe, there's information."
— Stuart Hammeroff, Imagining the Tenth Dimension
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“Quarks and leptons, the building blocks of matter, are staggeringly small—less than an attometer (a billionth of a billionth of a meter) in diameter. But zoom in closer—a billion times more—past zeptometers and yoctometers, to where the units run out of names. Then keep going, a hundred million times smaller still, and you finally hit bottom: This is the Planck length, the smallest possible unit in the universe. Beyond this point, physicists say, the very notion of distance becomes meaningless.”
— Seth Kadish, Wired
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Thursday, 20 November 2014

small fish in a big tailing pond

Source Photos: Nina's Soul Food, Remsol

“The Keystone XL controversy may currently be consuming most of the U.S. government’s attention, but it’s not the only environmental crisis-in-the-making coming our way via Canada. A pro-development push north of the border is paving the way for large-scale mining projects located at key watersheds. Downstream in Alaska, commercial fishermen, conservation groups and others who fear for the mines’ potential to damage their homes and livelihoods can do nothing but watch. […]
     [The] KSM [Kerr-Sulphurets-Mitchell mine] is terrifying based on its size alone, but add it to the number of other large, open-pit mines being fast-tracked toward approval, and the risks multiply. In 2011, Premiere [British Columbia] Christy Clark, who trumpets mining as the province’s ‘comeback industry,’ pledged  to build eight new mines and expand nine others: right now, five projects in total are pending along the Taku, Stikine and Unuk watersheds, all of which are incredibly important, and delicate, salmon habitats.
     The same company behind the Mt. Polley disaster, Imperial Metals, has another major project pending at a main tributary to the Stikine River watershed, ‘one of the largest salmon producers in the Tongass National Forest.’ After Imperial Metals said it had no plans to slow down production in light of what happened at Mt. Polley, indigenous Canadians blockaded the mine in protest.
     'It feels like this big freight train that just continues to come' [Heather] Hardcastle [of Trout Unlimited] told Salon, 'and we’re doing our darndest to defend our rivers and way of life…we’re trying to scramble to keep up.'"
— Lindsay Abrams, Salon
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“Next spring, the sockeye eggs that are now being laid in spawning beds throughout the Fraser River system will hatch and the young fish – by the hundreds of millions – will migrate into lakes to rear.
     And that, at least in one lake, could be a disaster.
     Quesnel Lake, into which 24 million cubic metres of water and mine tailings flushed when the Mount Polley tailings dam burst, is one of the biggest and most important sockeye nurseries in the province [of British Columbia].
     No matter how hard Imperial Metals works to clean up the tailings that escaped, the heavy metals that swept down into Quesnel Lake are still there, settling out on the bottom, where they will slowly be taken up into the food chain.
     In the spring, vast schools of young sockeye – estimated to be up to 60 million in some years – emerge from tributaries, and flood down into Quesnel Lake. There, they spend a year before migrating down the Fraser to the Pacific, returning to spawn as four-year-olds.
     The year in the lake is a crucial period of growth in which the fish must become large enough to survive the rigours of the out-migration. No wonder then, that biologists and First Nations are worried not just about the immediate impact of the spill, but also about the long term.”
— Mark Hume, The Globe and Mail
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CAT got your tongue?

Photo from: pixgood

“If the two sides do not reach a consensus soon, the [Senate Intelligence] committee and its members will be left with only extreme options. One would be to release the heavily redacted version [of the torture report] that the CIA has already agreed to, which would be a capitulation on the part of the committee. The alternative would be for Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) or another member of the committee to read the report — or sections that the committee believes should be released — into the Senate record, as then-Sen. Mike Gravel (D-Alaska) did with the Pentagon Papers in 1971.
     [Sen. Dianne] Feinstein's optimism about the [CIA torture] report's release has been stifled in the past by the tense negotiations. In September Feinsetin said she expected the 500-page document to be public within two to four weeks. Two months later, negotiations are still ongoing — and based on reports of Tuesday night's meeting, not going well.
     Despite a committee vote in April to release the 500-page executive summary of the five-year, 6,000-plus page study, a public version of the document has been hamstrung for months by disputes over aspects of the report that the White House and CIA wish to suppress.”
— Ali Watkins, Huffington Post
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“The international community watched closely this week as representatives from the U.S. government defended its compliance with the Convention Against Torture (CAT) in front of the United Nations Committee against Torture. […]
     Since the U.S. last reported to the committee in 2006, more evidence of violations have been reported by the media or alleged by human rights groups. But the U.S. has done little to demonstrate that it is holding the top officials who gave the orders to torture accountable. Groups like the Advocates for U.S. Torture Prosecutions say that the United States is shielding those responsible, which is in direct violation of its CAT obligations.
     'It’s is at the heart of everything,' Deborah Popowski, a clinical instructor at the International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School and a member of Advocates for U.S. Torture Prosecutions said in an interview with Newsweek. Referring to what she called the ‘legal framework the U.S. government built to shield itself from liability’ (a mixture of legal opinions that distort laws governing torture and the use of the Military Commissions Act to retroactively redefine war crimes to impede prosecution), she added that by choosing to immunize those responsible, [the U.S. government] 'legitimizes their actions and the legacy lives on, the precedent is set.’”
— Lauren Walker, Newsweek
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Wednesday, 19 November 2014

be reasonable

From: Kenston High School
∞ Why men don’t like asking for directions when they’re lost: it’s a macho thing… for good reason.
∞ Taller people are more patient – for a very good reason.
∞ Poor people are fat for a few very good reasons.
∞ Pop music all sounds the same, even samer than it used to… for some very insidious and depressing reasons.
∞ The oldest people alive today are skinny for a very good reason.

“[…] the least we can do for the hungry is less than any of us thought.” — Stephen Colbert

Photo: sofeminine
“Another article reported that between the 1960’s and 2000’s Americans became 24 pounds heavier and one inch taller. An average man currently weighs 194 lbs and an average woman weighs 165 lbs. One third of our children and teenagers are overweight. Five reasons were listed for the general population’s over-weightedness.
     Antibiotics are routinely given to livestock to produce rapid weight gain. Antibiotic residues in meat and milk do the same to people. Other weight-increasing drugs that might figure into population obesity are Ractopamine (marketed as Paylean for pigs, Optaflexx for cattle and Topmax for turkeys) and hormones used by cattle growers such as oestradiol-17 and zeranol, among numerous others. The hormones are banned in European countries.
     Pesticides and endocrine disrupters such as BPA and Triclosan (found in Colgate toothpaste and some dishwashing detergents, of all things), artificial sweeteners or sugar substitutes, and government and industry advertising roundout the “five reasons” we are bigger than ever.”
— Elena Day, The CROZET Gazette
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“More than 50% of people [receiving food aid in the USA] ate food that was past its expiration date or bought food in damaged or dented packages. Those foods are more likely to be marked down, and they can be dangerous, especially if they’re not handled and stored properly.
     The most common practice might also be the greatest problem for Americans—almost 80% said that they bought unhealthy food. Processed junk foods are often cheaper than fresh food, and many low-income areas are considered 'food deserts' because there is little access to affordable, healthy groceries. The alternative is to buy inexpensive, filling food that’s widely available—fast food, chips, and soda, for example. This practice contributes to the high rates of obesity among lower income populations in the country.”
— Sonali Kohli, quartz

See a related post here...

Saturday, 15 November 2014

speaking is easy, listening is hard

From: Internet Monk

“In 2010, French entrepreneur Micha Benoliel had a vision: that the world’s billion or so smartphones could be turned into their own network, with each phone acting as a “node” extending the Internet as we know it. He started to raise money for a startup, Open Garden, which would allow phones to communicate directly through Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and other ubiquitous technologies independent of the Internet and cellular networks. In 2014, as a proof of concept, he built a demo messaging app to take advantage of that network, FireChat.
     What happened next is a classic Internet story: The now 18-year-old leader of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement Joshua Wong called on the protesters to download FireChat to communicate, bypassing overloaded cellular networks and independent of the Internet, should the Chinese government decide to shut it down. In the first 24 hours, 100,000 people in Hong Kong had downloaded and installed the app; by the end of the week, 500,000 accounts had been created (in a city of 7 million).”
— Michael Learmonth, International Business Times
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“Downloading a high-definition movie takes about seven seconds in Seoul, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Zurich, Bucharest and Paris, and people pay as little as $30 a month for that connection. In Los Angeles, New York and Washington, downloading the same movie takes 1.4 minutes for people with the fastest Internet available, and they pay $300 a month for the privilege, according to The Cost of Connectivity, a report published Thursday by the New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute. […]
     The reason the United States lags many countries in both speed and affordability, according to people who study the issue, has nothing to do with technology. Instead, it is an economic policy problem — the lack of competition in the broadband industry.“It’s just very simple economics,” said Tim Wu, a professor at Columbia Law School who studies antitrust and communications and was an adviser to the Federal Trade Commission. “The average market has one or two serious Internet providers, and they set their prices at monopoly or duopoly pricing.”
— Heather, Crooks and Liars
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Friday, 14 November 2014

"[...] but fear itself"

From: Msnowe's Blog

"[…] raised and coddled as future terrorists. And then one day, twenty... thirty years down the road, they can be sent in to help destroy our way of life." — Louie Gohmert (R-TX), 2010

“The TSA successfully prevented an alleged terrorist from boarding a JetBlue flight out of Florida on Tuesday [May 8, 2012]. Initial reports describe the suspect as having curly brown hair, around 33 inches in height and really into drinking milk from a bottle.
     The 18-month old daughter of two New Jersey-born Americans of Middle Eastern descent was reportedly the reason for sending Transportation Security Administration agents onto an about-to-depart plane in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida this week. The parents of the girl, who wish to remain anonymous, say the entire incident is absurd.
     Riyanna’s mother tells Fort Lauderdale’s WPBF 25 News that she was approached by an airline employee late Tuesday while onboard a JetBlue plane readying for departure. According to her, she was informed that TSA agents were waiting to speak with the family back inside the terminal.
     'And I said, "For what?”' Riyanna’s mother tells the network. 'And he said, "Well, it’s not you or your husband. Your daughter was flagged as no fly.”'"
Before It’s News
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“Israeli forces stormed a Jerusalem home this week and ordered the arrest of their terror suspect: Hamza Zeidani, a child who is only two-years-old.
     The Occupation forces entered the family home with a warrant for Hamza’s arrest and when they saw that he was a toddler, decided they would sieze his uncle, Mohammad Zeidani instead. […]
     An October 2013 Unicef report, found that during interrogation by Israeli Security Forces, Palestinian children had been 'threatened with death, physical violence, solitary confinement and sexual assault, against themselves or a family member' in efforts to gain confessions for alleged offenses, most commonly for throwing stones.
     This is the reality of life for Palestinian families across the West Bank and Gaza, as footage and witness testimony reveals in the documentary Stone Cold Justice. When Israeli forces are not conducting the mass kidnap, arrest, and torture of Palestinian children – they are simply killing them on the spot.”
— Kerry-Anne, Addicting Info
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“Owners of a spiritual shop are being subjected to tirades of abuse because they share their name with the extreme jihadi group ISIS .
     Derek Morgan and Lisa Warburton, who opened the Isis Centre, in central Stockport, Greater Manchester, three years ago, have been abused and accused of supporting the group, which has been dubbed the new al-Qaeda. […]
     In 2011 the pair thought calling the business Isis, after the Egyptian goddess of magic and healing, would be harmless but this year the name has taken on a more sinister connotation.”
— Chris Gee, Mirror
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Thursday, 13 November 2014

first sleep, second sleep… third sleep

A modification of Salvador Dali's "Sleep" (original via orangee)

“In 2001, historian Roger Ekirch of Virginia Tech published a seminal paper, drawn from 16 years of research, revealing a wealth of historical evidence that humans used to sleep in two distinct chunks.
    [...] in diaries, court records, medical books and literature, from Homer's Odyssey to an anthropological account of modern tribes in Nigeria.
     Much like the experience of [psychiatrist Thomas] Wehr's subjects, these references describe a first sleep which began about two hours after dusk, followed by waking period of one or two hours and then a second sleep.
     'It's not just the number of references - it is the way they refer to it, as if it was common knowledge,' Ekirch says.
     During this waking period people were quite active. They often got up, went to the toilet or smoked tobacco and some even visited neighbours. Most people stayed in bed, read, wrote and often prayed. Countless prayer manuals from the late 15th Century offered special prayers for the hours in between sleeps. And these hours weren't entirely solitary - people often chatted to bed-fellows or had sex. A doctor's manual from 16th Century France even advised couples that the best time to conceive was not at the end of a long day's labour but 'after the first sleep,' when 'they have more enjoyment' and 'do it better.'"
— Stephanie Hagarty, BBC News Magazine
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From: AdClassix

“[…] It seemed that, given a chance to be free of modern life, the body would naturally settle into a split sleep schedule. Subjects grew to like experiencing nighttime in a new way. Once they broke their conception of what form sleep should come in, they looked forward to the time in the middle of the night as a chance for deep thinking of all kinds, whether in the form of self-reflection, getting a jump on the next day or amorous activity. Most of us, however, do not treat middle-of-the-night awakenings as a sign of a normal, functioning brain.
     Doctors who peddle sleep aid products and call for more sleep may unintentionally reinforce the idea that there is something wrong or off-kilter about interrupted sleep cycles. Sleep anxiety is a common result: we know we should be getting a good night’s rest but imagine we are doing something wrong if we awaken in the middle of the night. [...]
     This, despite the fact that a number of recent studies suggest that any deep sleep — whether in an eight-hour block or a 30-minute nap — primes our brains to function at a higher level, letting us come up with better ideas, find solutions to puzzles more quickly, identify patterns faster and recall information more accurately. In a NASA-financed study, for example, a team of researchers led by David F. Dinges, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, found that letting subjects nap for as little as 24 minutes improved their cognitive performance.”
– David K. Randall, The New York Times
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relax, it's covered by Obamacare

From: pinterest
“Jihad Ahmed Mujstafa Diyab is a Syrian man who has been a detainee at the prison in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, since 2002. In 2009, the Guantánamo Review Task Force ruled that he was not a threat to national security and could be released. Yet here we are five years later, and Diyab is still imprisoned at Guantánamo, having never been tried, or even accused of a crime, and with no idea when — or if — he’ll ever get out. Last year, to protest their continued confinement, he and many other detainees began a hunger strike.
     One reason many detainees abandoned their hunger strikes is because, twice a day, the government used what is called 'enteral feeding' to ensure that they were getting nutrients. A more common term is force-feeding. The ordeal begins with something called 'forced cell extraction,' which one of Diyab’s lawyers, Jon Eisenberg, described to me as 'a highly orchestrated procedure.
     'A five-man riot squad in complete armor pins the guy to the floor, shackles him, and carries him out,' Eisenberg says. Then the detainee is strapped into a restraint chair — which the prisoners have dubbed the 'torture chair.' One soldier holds the detainee’s head, while another feeds a tube into his nose and down to his stomach. It is very painful to endure. […]
     One of those who testified on Diyab’s behalf, Steven Miles, a professor of medicine at the University of Minnesota, said it’s not even a close call. He was first horrified to discover that the government had been lubricating the tube with olive oil instead of a water-soluble lubricant. 'When you pass the tube, some of the lubricant can drop into the lungs,' he said. Olive oil in the lungs can cause an inflammatory reaction called lipoid pneumonia. (The government says it stopped using olive oil as a lubricant over the summer.)
     After listing a half-dozen other ways the government’s force-feeding violated medical protocols, he concluded: 'They turned it from a medical procedure to a penal strategy dressed up to look like a medical procedure. The procedures look nothing like medicine.'”
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See a related post here...

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

through the eyes of babes

Image Credits: Really Big Coloring Books, Inc.

“As a special thank-you for all the veterans who sacrificed so much for our country, they [Really Big Coloring Books] have re-issued their best-selling Ted Cruz coloring book alongside an 8-page coloring book 'short' that shows the makings of a true American hero - Ted Cruz, of course. […]
     Cruz is a hero for fighting against the evil hydra of Obamacare. Health insurance is the number one threat to citizens of America, alongside illegal immigration, high taxes, lawlessness and injustice.
     Of course, the story of Ted Cruz the superhero also ends in the White House in 2016. He hath slayethed the dreaded hydra.”
Crooks and Liars
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“The Council for Biotechnology Information (CBI) has published a kids' book on genetically modified organisms (GMOs) that purports to give kids 'a closer look at biotechnology. You will see that biotechnology is being used to figure out how to: 1) grow more food; 2) help the environment; and 3) grow more nutritious food that improves our health.'
     If that book doesn't appeal to you, you could try a nanotechnology coloring book made by a company that produces such things as 'colloidal silver nanoparticles' used in antibacterial products that find their way into the water supply and can be poisonous to the human system. It compares nanotechnologies like these silvers to ‘the smell of baking cookies.’ […]
     As [The Center for Media and Democracy] CMD's PRWatch has reported, industries and their front groups ‘target ... America's teachers and, ultimately, our children ... trying to justify everything from deforestation to extinction of species. ... Surreptitious public relations campaigns and deceptive advertising are battling today for the hearts and minds of our children.’
     John Borowski, an environmental science teacher, reported that teachers at the 2000 National Science Teachers Convention were ‘quickly filling their bags with curricula as corrosive as the pesticides that the Farm Bureau promotes.’
     Twelve years haven't changed the way spinmeisters operate. Corporate propaganda like this is distributed online, handed out at conferences and fairs where these corporations, agencies, and their front groups exhibit, as well as at teachers' conventions like Borowski describes.”
— Rebekah Wilce, sott.net
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From: US Holocaust Memorial Museum; europe-isreal.org

“One page of an antisemitic coloring book widely distributed to children with a portrait of a Jew drawn by the German caricaturist known as Fips. […]”
PROPAGANDA, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
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Tuesday, 11 November 2014

anthropocentric sovereignty

Photo: The Times

“[…] One might expect unexplained incidents in NATO airspace to concern the authorities, particularly given that since 1947 over 100,000 UFOs have been reported worldwide, many by militaries. However, neither the scien- tific community nor states have made serious efforts to identify them, the vast majority remaining completely uninvestigated. The science of UFOs is minuscule and deeply marginalized.
     Although many scientists think privately that UFOs deserve study, there are no opportunities or incentives to do it. With almost no meaningful variation, states—all 190+ of them—have been notably uninterested as well. A few have gone through the motions of studying individual cases, but with even fewer exceptions these inquiries have been neither objective nor systematic, and no state has actually looked for UFOs to discover larger patterns. For both science and the state, it seems, the UFO is not an 'object' at all, but a non-object, something not just unidentified but unseen and thus ignored.
     The authoritative disregard of UFOs goes further, however, to active denial of their object status. Ufology is decried as a pseudo-science that threatens the foundations of scientific authority, and the few scientists who have taken a public interest in UFOs have done so at considerable cost. For their part, states have actively dismissed ‘belief’ in UFOs as irrational (as in, ‘do you believe in UFOs?’), while maintaining considerable secrecy about their own reports.”
— Alexander Wendt and Raymond Duvall, Political Theory (Volume 36, Number 4)
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“[...] the Chicken of Tomorrow”

First Kentucky Fried Chicken Restaurant (Tampa FL, 1961) from: tampapix
“The [chicken] was rarely more than an incidental food in colonial America. On Winslow’s farm, wild bird remains excavated by archaeologists outnumber those of chickens three to one, and cattle, pig, sheep and goat bones dominate. Virginians, meanwhile, feasted on turkey, goose, pigeon, partridge and duck, along with venison, mutton, pork and beef, as well as shad, sturgeon and shellfish. […]
     For enslaved African Americans, this humble status proved a welcome boon. In 1692, after several individuals had bought their freedom with profits from animal sales, the Virginia General Assembly made it illegal for slaves to own horses, cattle and pigs. Masters often banned their human chattels from hunting, fishing or growing tobacco, and at Mount Vernon raising ducks and geese was an undertaking reserved solely for George Washington’s white staff. The chicken ‘is the only pleasure allowed to Negroes; they are not permitted to keep either ducks or geese or pigs’, one visitor there remarked.
     On the expanding farms of the colonial South, African Americans began to breed, sell, buy and eat fowl as they saw fit. Many first-generation slaves came from West Africa, where the birds were widely raised and often used in ritual sacrifice. Chicken fried in palm oil is still a favourite meal there.
     Owners granted slaves authority over chickens because the birds were of negligible economic importance and reduced plantation spending on feeding field hands. Just as European Jews gained expertise in moneylending, a profession disdained by Christians, poultry became an African-American speciality because whites preferred beef and pork.
     Planters often paid their slaves cash for fowl and eggs, giving black cooks an economic incentive to encourage their masters to eat more chicken. By the middle of the 19th century, fried chicken was a quintessentially Southern dish.”
— Andrew Lawler, aeon
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Monday, 10 November 2014


From: Mr. 70s

HuffPost Canada TV:
     So we’re landing something on a comet. How in the hell is that even possible?
 Dan Riskin [co-host of ‘Daily Planet’]:
     Simple. I don’t know what the big deal is. You launch a rocket on a trajectory that has it loop around Earth four times, then go around Mars, then go to sleep for two-and-a-half years, and then travel out further from Earth than any other solar-powered spacecraft has ever gone before, then have it wake itself up, and then have it chase down the comet -- which until now has just looked like a far-away space blob, but turns out it's like a giant spinning four-kilometre-long rubber duckie going 137,000 kph with gasses coming out of it.
     Then the spacecraft finds a safe orbit around the duck, takes photos of the surface so that the people back on Earth can choose a landing spot, and then from 22.5 km up, it throws a lander out, with no thrusters on it or anything that would control its descent. Simple. Then we all just watch it fall for seven hours until it lands. We don’t know if it’s landing in powder or on a sandy hill, or on sheer ice, but once it lands it'll screw itself into the ground and secure itself with harpoons. And then so long as it didn't accidentally fall on its side, it does some drilling/photographing/sampling and we get to see a side of the early solar system that we've never seen before. Ten years from launch to landing. So really it’s no big deal.”
— Chris Jancelewicz, Huffington Post

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

artificial smartness

Sculpture by Anatoly Vyatkin, 2005 (from: BIT REBELS)

“A few months ago I made the trek to the sylvan campus of the IBM research labs in Yorktown Heights, New York, to catch an early glimpse of the fast-arriving, long-overdue future of artificial intelligence. This was the home of Watson, the electronic genius that conquered Jeopardy! in 2011. The original Watson is still here—it's about the size of a bedroom, with 10 upright, refrigerator-shaped machines forming the four walls. The tiny interior cavity gives technicians access to the jumble of wires and cables on the machines' backs. It is surprisingly warm inside, as if the cluster were alive.
     Today's Watson is very different. It no longer exists solely within a wall of cabinets but is spread across a cloud of open-standard servers that run several hundred 'instances' of the AI at once. […]
     Every intelligence has to be taught. A human brain, which is genetically primed to categorize things, still needs to see a dozen examples before it can distinguish between cats and dogs.
     That's even more true for artificial minds. Even the best-programmed computer has to play at least a thousand games of chess before it gets good. Part of the AI breakthrough lies in the incredible avalanche of collected data about our world, which provides the schooling that AIs need. Massive databases, self-tracking, web cookies, online footprints, terabytes of storage, decades of search results, Wikipedia, and the entire digital universe became the teachers making AI smart.”
— Kevin Kelly, Wired
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“Tesla CEO and famous technology innovator Elon Musk has repeatedly warned about AI threats. In June, he said on CNBC that he had invested in AI research because 'I like to just keep an eye on what's going on with artificial intelligence. I think there is a potential dangerous outcome there.'
     He went on to invoke The Terminator. In August, he tweeted that 'We need to be super careful with AI. Potentially more dangerous than nukes.' And at a recent MIT symposium, Musk dubbed AI an 'existential threat' to the human race and a 'demon' that foolish scientists and technologists are 'summoning.'
     Musk likened the idea of control over such a force to the delusions of 'guy[s] with a pentagram and holy water' who are sure they can control a supernatural force—until it devours them. As Musk himself suggests elsewhere in his remarks, the solution to the problem lies in sober and considered collaboration between scientists and policymakers.
     However, it is hard to see how talk of 'demons' advances this noble goal. In fact, it may actively hinder it.”
— Adam ELkus, Slate
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"Why don't you and I combine?" — Bob Marley

via: aeon

“Scientists hope to unlock the secrets of millions of marine microbes from waters as far apart as Sydney’s Botany Bay and the Amazon River in Brazil, with the help of an international team of volunteers sharing their spare computer capacity to create a research 'supercomputer.'
      The project, co-led by University of New South Wales’ (UNSW) Associate Professor Torsten Thomas, has the aim of making 20 quadrillion—or twenty thousand million million—comparisons of genes from a wide variety of tiny life-forms that are invisible to the naked eye.
     'Microorganisms rule the planet. Without bacteria and other microbes, life on Earth would very rapidly cease,' says Prof. Thomas, of the UNSW School of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences and Center for Marine Bio-Innovation. 'But we know very little about them. Scientists have studied less than one percent of microbial diversity around the globe. Valuable discoveries await us if we can learn about the remaining 99 percent.' The Uncovering Genome Mysteries project is hosted on IBM’s World Community Grid. In the past decade more than 670,000 people have volunteered their spare computer capacity to the grid, creating a virtual supercomputer that carries out scientific research around the clock. 'Anyone with a computer, smartphone or tablet can join and help to give us the computational power to carry out our microbe research,' says Prof. Thomas, who heads the project with Dr. Wim Degrave of the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation in Brazil.
     With enough volunteers the project could be completed within months. By comparison, it would take 40,000 years for a single PC to make 20 quadrillion computations.'”
Asian Scientist
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