Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Freedom Of Prosperity

How capitalism reduced poverty:
In 1820, according to data compiled by Roser*, the share of the global population living in poverty was 94 percent while 84 percent lived in “extreme” poverty. By 1992, the poverty rate had dropped to 51 percent, while the “extreme” poverty rate had dropped to 24 percent. Using a different measure of international poverty, the rate has dropped from 53 percent in 1981 to 17 percent in 2011 – representing the most rapid reduction in poverty in world history.

“In the past only a small elite lived a life without poverty,” Roser explains. “Since the onset of industriali[z]ation – and as a consequence of this, economic growth — the share of people living in poverty started decreasing and kept on falling ever since.”
Are you better off now than you would have been two hundred years ago?

Stay Inside The Lines

Adults rediscover coloring books:
Fan mail poured in from busy professionals and parents who confided to Ms. Basford that they found coloring in her books relaxing. More accolades flowed on social media, as people posted images from their coloring books.

Hard-core fans often buy several copies of her books at a time, to experiment with different color combinations. Others have turned it into a social activity. Rebekah Jean Duthie, who lives in Queensland, Australia, and works for the Australian Red Cross, says she regularly gathers with friends for “coloring circles” at cafes and in one another’s homes.

“Each page can transport you back to a gentler time of life,” she said of Ms. Basford’s books in an email.
Break out those crayolas...

Monday, March 30, 2015

Liquid Metal

John Connor: So this other guy: he's a Terminator like you, right?
The Terminator: Not like me. A T-1000, advanced prototype.
John Connor: You mean more advanced than you are?
The Terminator: Yes. A mimetic poly-alloy.
John Connor: What the hell does that mean?
The Terminator: Liquid metal.
Scientists from both the Technical Institute of Physics and Chemistry at the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Tsinghua University’s medical school discovered that their liquid metal is able to “eat” materials and use energy from that to propel itself forward.

Their findings were published in a recent issue of Advanced Materials journal.

“The soft machine looks rather intelligent and (can) deform itself according to the space it voyages in, just like (the) Terminator does from the science-fiction film,” Tsinghua University researcher Jing Liu told Technology.org. “These unusual behaviors perfectly resemble the living organisms in nature.”
We don't have much time...

A Brazilian Awakening

Conservatism comes to Brazil:
Kataguiri and the Free Brazil Movement team work from an office that has a tech-startup feel, with two brown leather couches and a clothes rack holding costumes used in their videos. Tequila and mescal bottles sit along a bookshelf holding Rand Paul's "The Tea Party Goes to Washington" and Russell Kirk's "The Politics of Prudence."

Kataguiri and others in the group believe the best remedy for Brazil's corruption is the expansion of free-market views and making the government smaller and more fiscally responsible — following classic tenets of American conservatism.

Some media in Brazil have railed against the young libertarians, accusing them of receiving money from right-wing groups in the U.S. — specifically the billionaire energy mogul Koch brothers, strong supporters of American conservative causes.

Kataguiri and Renan Santos, the other co-founder of the Free Brazil Movement, deny this, saying the U.S. influence is strictly ideological. Their campaigns are low-cost and easily sustained by private donations and fundraising.
Go right, young man...

Back To The Built Future

How Atlanta became a dystopian capitol:
Decades ago, Portman never envisioned his buildings as dystopian fortresses or imagined Hollywood actors rappelling down his skyscrapers. In 2008, tax incentives sped Atlanta’s ascension as a film-production hub and alternative to Los Angeles. Thanks to hits such as Anchorman 2, The Internship, Selma, and TV’s The Walking Dead, the industry generated $5.1 billion for Georgia’s economy in 2014. Yet, movie producers stalked Portman buildings years before Insurgent’s stuntmen zip-lined over AmericasMart, and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay relocated elements of Panem’s Capitol to the massive atrium of the Atlanta Marriott Marquis.

“[Directors are] projecting a future by imagining how it would look in ruins,” said Michael Hays, a professor of architectural theory at Harvard. “All the flesh has been removed and you just see the architectural bones. I’ve always thought Portman’s buildings would make very beautiful ruins, because the essence of them is so powerful and so direct.”
The future is in the past...

Breaking The Law

Are we all lawbreakers now?
"Regulatory crimes" of this sort are incredibly numerous and a category that is growing quickly. They are the ones likely to trap unwary individuals into being felons without knowing it. That is why Michael Cottone, in a just-published Tennessee Law Review article, suggests that maybe the old presumption that individuals know the law is outdated, unfair and maybe even unconstitutional. "Tellingly," he writes, "no exact count of the number of federal statutes that impose criminal sanctions has ever been given, but estimates from the last 15 years range from 3,600 to approximately 4,500." Meanwhile, according to recent congressional testimony, the number of federal regulations (enacted by administrative agencies under loose authority from Congress) carrying criminal penalties may be as many as 300,000.

And it gets worse. While the old-fashioned common law crimes typically required a culpable mental state — you had to realize you were doing something wrong — the regulatory crimes generally don't require any knowledge that you're breaking the law. This seems quite unfair. As Cottone asks, "How can people be expected to know all the laws governing their conduct when no one even knows exactly how many criminal laws exist?"
The unenforceable, enacted by the unaccountable...


A challenge to the royals:
“The presidency of the United States is not some crown to be passed between two families,” Mr. O’Malley said on ABC’s “This Week.”

Until now, Mr. O’Malley’s refusal to attack Mrs. Clinton outright has prompted detractors to suggest that he was running more for vice president than to be the party’s eventual nominee.

On Sunday, Mr. O’Malley said repeatedly that “new perspectives and new leadership are needed.”

And he said that Democrats needed to nominate someone who was willing to take on “wealthy special interest groups.” Asked if Mrs. Clinton fit that description, Mr. O’Malley demurred.

“I don’t know where she stands,” he said. “Will she represent a break with the failed policies of the past? I don’t know.”
Apparently neither does she...

Fake In The Court

On the plus side, she might have been better at her job than some actual attorneys:
State prosecutors contend Kitchen fooled BMZ Law by forging a law license, bar exam results, an email showing she attended Duquesne University law school and a check for a state attorney registration fee. The firm is based in Huntingdon, about 110 miles east of Pittsburgh.

Kitchen, of nearby James Creek, handled estate planning for more than 30 clients "despite never having attended law school," the attorney general's office said. She even served as president of her county bar, her lawyer said.

"She's an incredibly competent person, and she worked very diligently and was devoted to the people she served," lawyer Caroline Roberto said. "There are things about the charges we don't agree with."
She might have been more honest, at that...

Knock-Out Harry

Who beat up Harry Reid?
Anyone who saw Reid would say that he looked like he had been beaten up by a guy with a hard left, maybe using brass knuckles. When a guy shows up at a Las Vegas emergency room on New Year’s Day with severe facial injuries and broken ribs, and gives as an explanation the functional equivalent of “I walked into a doorknob,” it isn’t hard to guess that he ran afoul of mobsters. Yet the national press has studiously averted its eyes from Reid’s condition, and has refused to investigate the cause of his injuries. To my knowledge, every Washington reporter has at least pretended to believe Reid’s story, and none, as far as I can tell, has inquired further.
Nobody else wants brass knuckles...

The Carolina Plan

A grassroots group creates an alternative:
Their research involved reviewing some 3,000 pages of standards to find the “best of the best.” The final product consists of a remodeling of the Minnesota math standards and the 2001 Massachusetts ELA standards.

While Minnesota adopted the Common Core ELA standards, the state retained its math standards which, according to Stanford University’s Dr. James Milgram, are the only math standards that entirely address the “college ready” criteria.

Dr. Sandra Stotsky was one of the main developers of the pre-Common Core Massachusetts ELA standards that helped that state lead the nation on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) tests.

“Both of these choices were remodeled using the Critical Thinking Competency Standards published by the Foundation for Critical Thinking,” explains Egolf. “The result promises to be a top-notch framework which could push North Carolina to the top among the states in academic excellence.”
There's always an alternative-a choice, you might say...

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Hot Desert Sands

What could go wrong?
Saudi Arabia will not rule out building or acquiring nuclear weapons, the country’s ambassador to the United States has indicated.

Asked whether Saudi Arabia would ever build nuclear weapons in an interview with US news channel CNN, Adel Al-Jubeir said the subject was “not something we would discuss publicly”.

Pressed later on the issue he said: “This is not something that I can comment on, nor would I comment on.”

The ambassador’s reticence to rule out a military nuclear programme may reignite concerns that the autocratic monarchy has its eye on a nuclear arsenal.
Let the new Middle East arms race begin...

Don't Think

Are our devices making us dumber?
Carr notes that automation is everywhere. It’s in the autocorrect on your phone and computer. Now you no longer need to look up words; you just need to get close enough for the program to fix them for you.

It’s in the directions delivered by your GPS. Now you no longer need to be able to get anywhere; even in your hometown, you can simply follow the turn-by-turn directions, even when they’re providing bad advice. During a snowstorm a few years ago, people kept turning off a plowed road and getting stuck in a snow bank on my street, which goes uphill and hadn’t been cleared. Would a driver, pre-GPS, have turned off a clear road on to a snowed-in one?

We think it’s making life easier, Carr writes, but it may actually be robbing humans of the ability to think things through.
And what happens if the machines decide we're not worth the trouble of thinking for?

Turn On The Lights

Happy Anti-Earth Hour:
Organizers claim 7,000 cities across 172 countries are expected to join in. There is a live feed you can watch as “Earth Hour” strikes in each time zone. The environmental group WWF started the event nine years ago in Sydney, Australia.

Global warming alarmists are particularly hyped up — the next round of climate talks will take place at the end of this year in Paris.

“I am usually a ‘turn the lights out when you leave the room’ kind of a guy,” said Steven K. Bannon, Executive Chairman of the Breitbart News Network. “But tonight, good global warming skeptics everywhere ought leave on every light in the house. The kind of world these folks want is that picture at night from space that shows South Korea lit up like a Christmas tree and North Korea shrouded in darkness, except these folks want everywhere to be North Korea all the time, dark and dreary.”
If you want North Korea, go to North Korea...

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Eyes In The Dark

Eyedrops for night vision:
Science for the Masses, an independent “citizen science” organisation that operates from the city of Tehacapi, theorised that Chlorin e6 (Ce6), a natural molecule that can be created from algae and other green plants, could enhance eyesight in dark environments.

The molecule is found in some deep sea fish, forms the basis of some cancer therapies and has been previously prescribed intravenously for night blindness.

Jeff Tibbets, the lab’s medical officer, said: “There are a fair amount of papers talking about having injected it in models like rats and it’s been used intravenously since the 60s as treatments for different cancers. After doing the research, you have to take the next step.”

The next step was to moisten the eyes of biochemical researcher and willing guinea pig Gabriel Licina’s eyes with 50 microlitres of Ce6.

The effect was apparently almost instantaneous and, after an hour, he was able to distinguish shapes from 10 metres away in the dark and soon at even greater distances.

“We had people go stand in the woods,” Licina said, “At 50 metres, I could figure who they were, even if they were standing up against a tree.”
Don't be afraid of the dark...

Common Core Cheat Sheet

Along with its other faults, Common Core now makes cheating easier:
Of course, we've probably been guilty of cheating on tests since test taking-first began. But this year is special, marking the first time that a large number of states began taking identical Common Core tests. Many schools are forced spread the computer-based testing out over multiple days to accommodate all of their students. These two circumstances, coupled with a smartphone-armed teenager, may create the perfect storm of conditions for cheating to get out of hand.
Welcome to the new age, where you no longer have to copy someone else's answers in class, just on your phone...

Dance All Day

It's the dance at dawn:
"It flips the switch on what everyone knows and used to love in my opinion, which is: you go, you get drunk, you maybe meet somebody, you hook up, you have fun with your friends, you go home, you're hungover the next day," he told AFP.

"Here you get to go dance, you can meet somebody, there is an amazing energy in the room. Because everyone comes here buys a ticket and comes with the intention of dancing, everyone dances."

The parties are held about once a month, with tickets costing $25 and invitations sent out by email about a week in advance.

But unlike a regular rave, there is no alcohol or drugs: the strongest stimulant available in Los Angeles is coffee, with fruit juices the drink of choice at the bar.

There is, of course, a DJ to keep the rhythms coming.
The morning after party?

Indiana Wants One

Amid all the celebrity brouhaha targeting Indiana Governor Mike Pence, a few important points:
Another 11 states have judicial precedents that constitute a RFRA policy in their courts. Over the last twenty-plus years, RFRA statutes have a clear track record of careful jurisprudence, because they don’t protect ad-hoc discrimination on any basis. That’s true on both federal and state levels, and we know this in part because the hysterics shrieking over the law in Indiana offer nothing but ignorant hypotheticals. They cannot point to a case where RFRA has been used to justify broad discrimination, because it never has.

Cases decided under RFRA get strict scrutiny on three tests. First, the religious belief has to be sincerely held, and not just a pose to make a point. Second, the state interest in overriding the religious belief has to be compelling. Last, the action taken by the state has to be the least intrusive that still satisfies the compelling state interest. Courts have been using these tests for more than two decades to separate real cases of state infringement on religious practice from simple discrimination.
Indiana's not alone, just the latest...

Crazy Talk

Well, yes they do:
We liberals always talk about how the right needs to rein in its crazies but the left has some crazy reining in to do too. Unless you think I am creating a false equivalency, I'm not. Because on the right, unlike the left, they have actually been able to carve out a place for their crazies; unfortunately, that place is elected government.

All the more reason not to drive people into their arms with crazy political correctness. For example, The Economist last week drew the wrath of the liberal website Media Matters who said that their jalapeƱo flag cover was "the sort of stereotype that ignores Latinos as a multi-faceted community and relegates them to chili-pepper-consuming constituency." Hey, Media Matters, can I say one thing to you? Shut the fuck up. No Hispanic looked at this cover and said, "I've been wronged." They looked at it and said, "Mmm, yum, jalapeƱos."
If you're going to be a liberal, then be a liberal...

The Quick And The Gone

Sharon Stone wants it to be known that she has nothing against Chevron:
At no time did Ms. Stone agree to support this campaign, advance any other political agenda of the Ecuadorian government, or advocate against Chevron. In addition, Ms. Stone subsequently learned that MCS failed to disclose that it was conducting public relations activities in the United States on behalf of the Republic of Ecuador in violation of the Foreign Agents Registration Act, which requires a foreign agent to register with the U.S. Department of Justice.

“Stone was discharged from performing her obligations under the agreement as a result of MCS’ material breach of contract,” namely by putting out a press release without approval mentioning the “Dirty Hand of Chevron” campaign. Brettler adds, “It falsely portrays Ms. Stone as agreeing to travel to Ecuador for the purpose of advocating against Chevron, which is one of the world’s largest companies employing over 60,000 people, and which is headquartered in her home state of California.”
No one likes to be part of a shakedown operation against their will...

Smart Set

Education does matter:
How could it be that the more educated Democrats are, the more likely they are to believe the science on manmade climate change, yet when Republicans have more education, they are more likely to be skeptics? That is the conundrum put forward by a new Gallup poll released Thursday that showed a whopping 74% of college-educatied Republicans saying they believe global warming is “generally exaggerated.”

By contrast, only 15% of college-educated Democrats said the same. For Republicans with a high school education or less, 57% believe climate change is exaggerated, while only 27% of high school-educated or less Democrats said the same.
Because the Republicans actually studied science textbooks?

Giant Steps

It's the world's most dangerous bridge:
Originally constructed in by King Alfonso XIII in 1921, the walkway was built high above the Gualdalhorce River in southern Spain. Though the total path is about five miles, the most famous boardwalk segment comprises almost two miles of rickety looking bridges.

Caminito del Rey translates to “King’s Little Path”—a relatively benign name for this tourist attraction where at least five people died, with the most recent happening in 2000s. The walkway has officially been closed since 2001 but many have attempted the trek with carabiners and professional climbing gear.

After a $6 million renovation, the renovated pathway is reportedly much safer. Only 600 tourists will be able to traverse the walkway per day, with no more than 400 people allowed on the boardwalks at the same time.
You take your chances any way you look at it...

Where's Walter?

Where's Walter Fauntroy?
No one knows where former Congressman Walter Fauntroy is. And his friends, his family — and the police — would all like to know.

During a Wednesday press conference, however, friends of the former civil rights leader and D.C. delegate to Congress dropped a few hints.

During the press conference, held at the United Black Fund offices in Southeast Washington, D.C., Fauntroy’s associates said he is on an undisclosed “mission” in Africa that may have something to do with green technologies or helping disadvantaged people or something like that, though they are not positive where he is and why he is not in Maryland handling the warrant for his arrest.

Johnny Barnes, Fauntroy’s attorney, told The Washington City Paper he believes Fauntroy is in Dubai, but he is not certain.
Inquiring minds want to know...

Beard Men

Why do guys grow beards?
The answer, according to The University of Western Australia researchers, is because men are feeling under pressure from other men and are attempting to look aggressive by being more flamboyant with their whiskers.
Published in the journal Evolution and Human Behaviour, Dr Cyril Grueter and colleagues were investigating the idea that in big societies, male primates have developed increasingly ostentatious "badges" which may enhance male sexual attractiveness to females and give them the edge over other males.
These include cheek flanges in orang-utans, the elongated noses of proboscis monkeys, upper-lip warts in golden snub-nosed monkeys as well as beards in humans.
The team investigated 154 species of primates, and found more conspicuous badges in males of species where social and physical conflict were common and individual recognition was limited.
Fight for the beard?

Death Becomes Obamacare

The cold, hard economics of Obamacare come home to roost:
When healthy policyholders drop coverage, it leaves the insurer with little choice but to raise premiums again because they now have a risk pool that is less healthy than before. But another premium increase means many of the healthy people who remained now drop their policies, too, and this continues until the only people willing to pay the now-very-high premiums are those with serious medical conditions.

The death spiral isn’t just a theory. Eight states learned this the hard way in the 1990s when they enacted two policies known as “community rating” and “guaranteed issue,” requiring health insurers to sell coverage to anyone who wanted it at the same price.

This quickly set off a death spiral because people knew they could wait until they were sick or injured to buy insurance, and premiums rose sky-high as healthy people exited the individual insurance market while the sick remained.
Stay, or go-when given the choice, which wins?

Wipe Away

So what happened to Hillary's emails?
Mrs. Clinton’s disclosure on Friday only heightened suspicions by the committee’s chairman, Representative Trey Gowdy, Republican of South Carolina, about how she handled her emails, and it is likely to lead to more tension between her and the committee.

Mr. Gowdy said in a written statement that it appeared that Mrs. Clinton deleted the emails after Oct. 28, when the State Department first asked her to turn over emails that were government records.

Mr. Gowdy said in a written statement that it appeared that Mrs. Clinton deleted the emails after Oct. 28, when the State Department first asked her to turn over emails that were government records.

“Not only was the secretary the sole arbiter of what was a public record, she also summarily decided to delete all emails from her server, ensuring no one could check behind her analysis in the public interest,” Mr. Gowdy said.
See no email, save no email...

Trivial Pursuit

The good news: Harry Reid is out. The bad news: Chuck Schumer is in:
No issue is too stupid or inconsequential for Schumer to weigh in on, inevitably calling for a ban or regulation that serves no other possible purpose than to shine a light on the glory and grandeur of Chuck Schumer.

If we are living in anything like a "Libertarian Moment"—that technologically empowered drive toward greater and greater control over more aspects of our lives and a period of increasingly individualized and hyper-personalized ways of living—Schumer has standing athwart history and yelling "Stop!" every second of the day, herniating himself in a mad dash to be in charge of everything everywhere. His efforts no doubt get in the way and slow down innovation, progress, and a truly plural society, but that he has so far been incapable of killing off the future completely is cause for celebration.
A role he was born into?

Campus Confidential

Via the Weekly Standard, confessions of a student radical:
I used to endorse a particular brand of politics that is prevalent at McGill and in Montreal more widely. It is a fusion of a certain kind of anti-oppressive politics and a certain kind of radical leftist politics. This particular brand of politics begins with good intentions and noble causes, but metastasizes into a nightmare. . . .

There is something dark and vaguely cultish about this particular brand of politics. I've thought a lot about what exactly that is. I've pinned down four core features that make it so disturbing: dogmatism, groupthink, a crusader mentality, and anti-intellectualism.
At least this individual was able to get out early...

Friday, March 27, 2015

Blank Space

Taylor Swift, world leader?
In the past year, Swift racked up an impressive list of savvy business moves. Back in November, she pulled her entire catalog from Spotify, saying that the streaming service doesn’t adequately compensate artists. Since then, she’s proved to be one of the savviest brand creators going.

The singer took steps to trademark some of her key phrases ( think “This sick beat”), devalued paparazzi snaps by posting her own photos to Instagram, and, just this week, made the news for buying up any adult-sounding web domains that include her name.
Well, she's definitely Nobel Prize material...

Sound Solutions

Putting out a fire with sound:
"The extinguisher separates oxygen from fuel", Tran explains. “The pressure wave is going back and forth, and that agitates where the air is. That specific space is enough to keep the fire from reigniting.”

So far they have put out only fires started with surgical spirit, but the students have applied for a provisional patent, which gives them a year to do further testing on other flammable chemicals.

Although conceived with small kitchen fires in mind, Tran and Robertson believe that with some modifications, their invention could be used in other environments, such as forest fires, or even in space.
In space, nobody can hear you put out a fire...

A.H. (After Harry)

Who wants to replace Harry Reid?
“We have to make sure that the Democrats take control of the Senate again,” Reid said. “And I feel it is inappropriate for me to soak up all those resources on me when I could be devoting those resources to the caucus, and that’s what I intend to do.”

Reid already knows who he wants to replace him at the head of the Democratic caucus: not current No. 2 Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), but Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).

“I think Schumer should be able to succeed me,” Reid told the Washington Post, noting the potential leapfrogging No. 3 Dem is “extremely smart.”

Schumer, whose current title is Vice Chair of the Conference and Chair of the Senate Democratic Policy and Communications Center, issued a statement calling Reid “one of the best human beings I’ve ever met.”

“His character and fundamental decency are at the core of why he’s been such a successful and beloved leader,” Schumer continued. “He’s so respected by our caucus for his strength, his legislative acumen, his honesty and his determination. He has left a major mark on this body, this country, and on so many who have met him, gotten to know him, and love him.”

The final choice will be up to the Democratic caucus at the beginning of the 115th Congress, leaving Schumer and Durbin lots of time to jockey for position in the leadership brawl.
Welcome to Thunderdome...

Sweet Sixteen

What could go wrong?
Whittle says that he considers voting a “civic duty,” but I disagree with that. It’s a civic privilege. We’ve made a major mistake in the West — in both Europe and America — by allowing people who live on the dole to vote. General voting rights — without any requirements except for being a citizen — have enabled the lazy and incompetent to live entirely off of people who actually try to be successful and take care of their families. Considering man’s natural inclination to do as little as possible to get by, it isn’t exactly illogical that most Western countries have become social democracies, if not downright socialist.

Sixteen year olds aren’t capable of taking care of themselves (which is why their parents do it for them). Letting them vote would undoubtedly result in more unaffordable government programs that will, in the years to come, bankrupt the country.
At least their kids might then turn into conservatives...

Baby Bigot

And now...racist infants?
“I told Jud McMillin I love his son, but he’s scared of me because of my color,” Summers told McMillin, who is white, during debate over the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in the House.

“It’s hard,” said Summers, D-Indianapolis. Then, as other lawmakers groaned at the comments, she followed up with, “It’s true.”

“He looked at me like I was a monster and turned around and cried. And I told him you need to introduce your child to some people that are dark-skinned so he will not be scared,” she said.

McMillin, R-Brookville, called Summers’ comments “unfortunate.”

“It’s just incredibly unfortunate. You’d like to think that we would have professional discussion on the House floor and certainly be able to avoid having 18-month-olds in the discussion,” he said.

“I can tell you that if he reacted the same way he reacts with anybody brand new, he buries his head in his dad’s shoulder,” McMillin said. “Whoever it is, it’s what he does. He’s an 18-month-old kid; he’s in a new environment up here in the place like the Statehouse but doesn’t know anybody. I honestly don’t remember anything out of the ordinary.”
Except for behaving normally for a kid, I suppose...

Waking Nightmare

The town that can't stay awake:
The unexplained ”sickness” can strike at any moment – at work, in bed, or even just walking down the street – and sufferers can sleep for anything from a full day to nearly a week. Victims often wake up disorientated, and some have reported hallucinations.
And it can affect almost anyone, regardless of age, sex, health, or even species.
One day last September, eight schoolchildren drifted off in class in the space of an hour.
In January, a local woman told Russian journalists that her cat had even come down with the disease, falling into a deep sleep following a bizarre outburst of hyperactivity in the early hours of the morning that saw it attack the dog and bite his owner.
While the disease has baffled doctors, locals say there are several common factors to the attacks. They tend to come in waves, they seem to be more common during a thaw than when the ground is frozen, and, say some, there is a correlation with wind direction.
Adrift in the wind?

Dusty Trails

Harry Reid is calling it quits:
Mr. Reid, 75, who suffered serious eye and facial injuries in a Jan. 1 exercise accident at his Las Vegas home, said he had been contemplating retiring from the Senate for months. He said his decision was not attributable either to the accident or to his demotion to minority leader after Democrats lost the majority in November’s midterm elections. …

“I want to be able to go out at the top of my game,” said Mr. Reid, who used a sports metaphor about athletes who try to hang on too long. “I don’t want to be a 42-year-old trying to become a designated hitter.”
So what of his legacy?
By any objective measure, Reid has been a blight on the Senate and on Congress. He declared the Iraq war “lost” while Americans were still fighting there, and he derailed a budget process that had worked well before his ascent into leadership. He stripped the Senate of one of its debate functions after sabotaging the amendment process, and nearly destroyed regular order. On top of that, Reid used his post to commit McCarthyite character assassination of Mitt Romney, claiming to have inside knowledge that Romney hadn’t paid taxes in ten years, a smear that turned out to be utterly false. He has been a malevolent force for years in American politics, and nothing he did in Washington will improve the place as much as his leaving it.
The worst to the last...

Nothing But Star Wars

Star Wars, the career killer?
“When you sign up for this, you’re signing your life away, and you’re keeping yourself from any other franchises out there,” says an agent whose client is one of the stars of Episode VII. “They will not let you be in another franchise. They’re going to be cranking out a new movie every year. These actors never get to read the script before signing on. They don’t even know which [subsequent] one they are in. And then they become known for that role, and it’s hard to see them in a Fault in Our Stars kind of movie.” Also, the pay is meager. Sources say the newcomers can only command $65,000 to $125,000 for Episode VII, with sequel options exponentially greater. Still, agents will keep pursuing. Paradigm’s Sarah Fargo, whose client, Domhnall Gleeson, was cast in Episode VII, sees only upside: “It secures all involved a place in film history and guarantees a huge global audience, enhancing an actor’s marketability.”
Well, Harrison Ford might disagree...

Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Return Of The King

King Richard II finally gets a proper burial:
When Richard's skeleton was discovered in the ruins of Grey Friars, it provided scientists a rare opportunity to intimately examine the body of a historical figure. Studies on Richard's remains over the past two and half years determined that he suffered from scoliosis and a roundworm infection, and that his death was quick and violent. The king's bones and teeth proved he ate well during his reign. His genome has been sequenced, which helped geneticists uncover evidence of infidelity in Richard's family tree.

But Richard had to be reburied according to guidelines for excavating human remains adopted by English Heritage, an organization that advises the British government on historical issues. The friars who initially buried Richard 530 years ago likely gave him a minimal Catholic funeral service, so the reinterment was technically not a funeral, but rather a celebration of Richard's life, according to the University of Leicester.

The entire spectacle wasn't without controversy, as Richard's reputation still inspires debate. Some of Richard's fervent modern-day supporters were upset that the king, who was Catholic, was getting buried in an Anglican cathedral, or that he was being buried in Leicester rather than in York, where he spent much of his life. Some also didn't like the design of the tomb.

Richard's detractors, meanwhile, questioned the propriety of giving the king an extravagant reburial (estimated to cost 2.5 million British pounds, or $3.7 million) when history has cast him as a power-obsessed villain who allegedly murdered those who threatened his ambitions (including his two young nephews). The headline for one editorial online in The Daily Mail read, "It's mad to make this child killer a national hero: Richard III was one of the most evil, detestable tyrants ever to walk this earth."
Redemption in rediscovery?

White Lines

Remember, your taxes are paying for her parking lessons:

The Bunker

Iran gets its underground centrifuges:
Instead of uranium, which can be enriched to be the fissile core of a nuclear weapon, any centrifuges permitted at Fordo would be fed elements such as zinc, xenon or germanium for separating out isotopes used in medicine, industry or science, the officials said. The number of centrifuges would not be enough to produce the amount of uranium needed to produce a weapon within a year - the minimum time-frame that Washington and its negotiating partners demand.

The officials spoke only on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss details of the sensitive negotiations as the latest round of talks began between U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif. The negotiators are racing to meet an end-of-March deadline to reach an outline of an agreement that would grant Iran relief from international sanctions in exchange for curbing its nuclear program. The deadline for a final agreement is June 30.
Well, that was productive...

Friends In Need

Homeland Security helps its friends:
Committee Chairman Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, said the roster of involved individuals "reads like an A-list of political powerhouses" -- this included Hillary Clinton's brother Anthony Rodham, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid.

Roth testified that Mayorkas' actions created "significant resentment" among staffers at the agency who got the impression Mayorkas was showing "favoritism and special access."

He also made clear that Mayorkas' involvement was critical in how the cases turned out.

"But for Mr. Mayorkas' intervention, the matter would have been decided differently" in three key cases, he testified.
One hand shakes the other...

Good Human

Will we get treats?
Elon Musk has already likened artificial intelligence to 'summoning the demon'.

But in his latest interview, Musk said his fears revolve around something known as superintelligence.

This, according to author Nick Bostrom, is 'any intellect that greatly exceed the cognitive performance of humans in virtually all domains of interest.'

'I mean, we won't be like a pet Labrador if we're lucky,' Musk told Tyson, adding that we may become lab pets to them.

Tyson theorised that robots will 'Get rid of the violent ones...And then breed the docile humans'.
There are probably some who would welcome this...

The Racist Death Tax

African American business owners support a repeal:
Republicans seeking to repeal the estate tax have rolled out the endorsements of black business advocates who argue the levy is especially painful for minority entrepreneurs.

Harry Alford of the National Black Chamber of Commerce and Robert Johnson, the founder of Black Entertainment Television (BET), separately argued in recent days that the estate tax is an especially bitter pill for minority business owners, many of whom only started getting successful in the last half-century or so.

“Full repeal of the estate tax would allow African Americans to pass the full fruits of their business success to the next generation and thereby laying the foundation for a permanent minority ownership class that can contribute to the economic growth and development of the United States economy,” Johnson, whose worth has been estimated at more than half a billion dollars, wrote to the House Ways and Means Committee last week.
Why do white liberals want to keep punishing successful black people?


Wear those Big Macs with pride:
McDonald's has launched a clothing and lifestyle line that includes thermals, raincoats, wallpaper and sheets — all with the same Big Macs-on-white pattern.

It debuted in Sweden on Tuesday.

"Finally the hamburger of hamburgers can keep you warm at night," the listing for the $47 linens reads.

The beefy collection is part of the fast food giant's "imlovinit 24" marketing campaign, which involved 24 McDonald's-themed stunts in 24 cities over 24 hours. This included a giant coffee-cup-shaped ball pit in Sydney and a free Ne-Yo concert in Los Angeles.
Hopefully buyers won't be forced to dance for them-or in them...

Super Censors

the things you can't say about Hillary:
“We will be watching, reading, listening and protesting coded sexism,” the pro-Hillary group HRC Super Volunteers warned The New York Times’ Amy Chozick Wednesday.

HRC Super Volunteers have been laying in wait for Clinton to announce her candidacy, with one organizer of the independent group boasting to colleagues that “our supervols tended to be more loyal to HRC than hired staff who worried about getting a job after the campaign. I think back to the staff party in Denver when me, Ahmed, and another top vol were the only ones with Hillary buttons.”
Do not speak ill of the queen...

Money Kings

They like your money:
In constant 2015 dollars, the $1,185,613,000,000 that the federal government collected from October through February in fiscal 2015 was $94,803,620,000 more than the $1,090,809,380,000 it collected in October through February in fiscal 2014.

That $1,090,809,380 that the federal government brought in in October through February of fiscal 2015 is now the second-highest-ever federal tax intake through February.

Although the federal government brought in a record of approximately $1,185,613,000,000 in revenue in the first five months of fiscal 2015, according to the Treasury, it also spent approximately $1,572,149,000,000—leaving a deficit of approximately $386,537,000,000.
No wonder they can't keep track of it...

Final Flight

What happened?
A mother of a schoolmate of co-pilot Andreas Lubitz told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung he had told her daughter that he had taken a break from his pilot training because he was suffering from depression, reports Rory Mulholland.
"Apparently he had a burnout, he was in depression," the woman, whom the paper did not name.
She said her daughter had seen him again just before Christmas and that he had appeared normal. The mother of his schoolmate said he was a "lovely boy". "He had a good family background," she told the paper.
Carsten Spohr, CEO of Germanwings parent company Lufthansa, said in a press conference today that Lubitz "took a break in his training six years ago. Then he did the tests (technical and psychological) again. And he was deemed 100 percent fit to fly."
"I am not able to state the reasons why he took the break for several months."
The mystery remains...

Bad Boys

More tales of government agents gone wrong:
“Many of these agents were alleged to have engaged in this high-risk sexual behavior while at their government-leased quarters, raising the possibility that DEA equipment and information also may have been compromised as a result of the agents’ conduct,” the report says.

It adds: “The fact that most of the ‘sex parties’ occurred in government-leased quarters where agents’ laptops, BlackBerry devices, and other government-issued equipment were present created potential security risks for the DEA and for the agents who participated in the parties, potentially exposing them to extortion, blackmail, or coercion.”

Two agents under investigation also told investigators that a supervising officer “frequented a prostitution establishment while in their overseas assignment and often took agents serving on temporary duty to this establishment and facilitated sexual encounters there.”

The damning report was part of an investigation by the Justice Department’s inspector general’s office into allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct in four agencies — the DEA, FBI, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), and the U.S. Marshals Service.
Well, they couldn't let the Secret Service have all the fun...

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Lumber City

Wood is making a comeback:
With faster construction times and a softer environmental impact, could the building material of the past be the future of construction?

Vancouver-based architect Michael Green says the momentum is gaining as new engineered woods allow for greater strength and heights in buildings.

His firm MGA recently completed a 29.5m (97 feet) wooden building, the Wood Innovation and Design Center in Prince George, Northern British Columbia.

But he said news of taller wooden structures is sprouting up all the time.

"There seems to be a new announcement every two or three weeks," Green said. "We've got one in Vancouver for 18 stories and in Vienna there's one for more than 20 stories.

"We've done research in high earthquake zones that show 30 stories is feasible; we certainly think we can go to 40 and higher."
Knock on wood...

You Wear It Well

The wearable chair:
The design is straightforward: A titanium frame hugs the back of the worker’s leg like a flexible brace, while a support belt is strapped around their torso. Workers can stand and walk like normal, but when they want to sit, pushing a button locks the frame into place at the desired angle. The weight the body is transfered through the frame to the floor or the heels. “You get the sensation of sitting on a barstool,” says Keith Gunura, a Noonee co-founder.
Sit right down...

Name Off

What's in a name?
F---, who wears No. 14, was unable to use the last name for years. As the CBC put it, he "has been asked by his coaches to, literally, drop the f-bomb." He would go by his middle name. But in the March Canadian tournament, where his team finished in seventh place, he was allowed to use his last name.

"It's my last name," he told the CBC. "I'm proud of it."

His coach told The Post that he has to explain the name ad nauseam to reporters mispronouncing the name or questioning whether or not the name is a typo.

But F--- said he hopes to continue using the name and he wants to have kids and "spread the F--- last name."
Should be interesting when their names are called out in class...

Remembering Yemen

Yemen, still a "success":
“Now that we have, essentially, complete chaos in Yemen, does the White House still believe that Yemen is the model for counter-terrorism strategy?” Karl asked Earnest on Wednesday.

“The White House does continue to believe that a successful counter-terrorism strategy is one that will build up the capacity of the central government to have local fighters on the ground to take the fight to extremists in their own country,” Earnest said, emphasizing the importance of supporting local security forces. “That is a template that has succeeded in mitigating the threat that we face from extremists in place like Yemen and Somalia,” he added.

“That’s astounding to hear,” Karl said. “You still see Yemen as a model? Building up a central government — a central government that has now collapsed? A president who has apparently fled the country? Saudi troops amassing on one border? The Iranians supporting the rebels? You consider this a model?”

Earnest conceded that the strategy may no longer work that well in Yemen, specifically, but claimed that “we do continue to enjoy the benefits of a sustained counter-terrorism/security infrastructure that remains in Yemen.”
Which I'm sure the rebels are thanking them for...

The Most Interesting Passenger In The World

He doesn't always carpool:
When the trooper stopped the car, he discovered the “passenger” was a cardboard cutout of the actor who portrays “The Most Interesting Man in the World” in Dos Equis beer ads.

The driver’s response?

“He’s my best friend.”

The Most Interesting Man was not confiscated, but the driver was told not to use him again.
Stay in the right lane, my friends...


The world's first gay sweater?
“When we first started it, it was weird and creepy and we thought nobody’s going to donate to this,” admits Dias. “And then when we started asking queer and trans people to donate their hair, they were like, ‘hell yeah, take it.’ That sense of oppression is woven into yourselves, into everything you are."
Well, unless you already have a cardigan...

The Stand-In

Enter the digital double:
For years, filmmakers have developed increasingly sophisticated techniques for replacing missing actors. Robin Shenfield, CEO of London-headquartered The Mill, which led the Oscar-winning visual effects on 2000's Gladiator, explains how that film coped when Oliver Reed suffered a fatal heart attack during filming. Footage from outtakes was used to create a digital mask that was added to shots of a body double. "He also had dialogue, so we changed his mouth movement," says Shenfield. Producers of HBO's The Sopranos faced a similar issue in 2000 with the passing of Nancy Marchand, who played Tony Soprano's mother. "Basically it was 2D compositing," recalls Rick Wagonheim, who executive produced those effects. "The problem was some of the angles didn't really match as well as they could have."
Aren't there already plenty of lifeless actors in Hollywood?

The Great Raid

Having failed in trying to get a payoff from Germany, Greece turns to even more desperate measures:
Greek banks hold about €11bn in Greek T-bills, and Athens must roll over two T-bills totalling €2.4bn in mid-April.

“The Greeks are one minute away from midnight,” said Mujtaba Rahman, head of European analysis at the Eurasia Group consultancy. “The government is at the edge of the precipice and may well go over.”

In a sign that the cash crunch has become more desperate, officials at Greece’s state healthcare service, were asked on Tuesday to hand over a €50m reserve for paying arrears owed to medical workers.
Neither a borrower nor a beggar thief be...

"Sorry I'm Late"

We're waiting:
Today at 10:30 AM ET, President Obama was scheduled to speak at the White House’s “Health Care Payment Learning and Action Network Kickoff Meeting.” His introducer, seemingly sensing the president was tardy, gamely tried stretching out his remarks. Then, at around 10:35, apparently receiving word the president was ready to go, the audience
was encouraged to applaud for the next speaker, “the president of the United States!”

Then an awkward silence fell over the crowd as the president failed to show. Spectators could be seen putting down their cameras, losing hope.

Finally, nine minutes later, the president arrived. No explanation or apology was offered.
Maybe he was embarrassed...

The Island

Jeffrey Epstein threatens to provide another mess for Team Clinton:
What hardball PR and legal tactics will Hillary Clinton’s campaign use to try to make this potential problem—which could potentially derail her planned presidential bid—disappear? Will those tactics work, or is Ms. Clinton’s campaign already dead, even if the exact time of the funeral is not yet known?

Why is the Left-Wing Media Machine pretending that anyone who asks questions about the Epstein-Clinton connection is a paid stooge of the Right-Wing Media Machine? And why is the Right-Wing Media Machine, which would normally be gleefully talking about this or any sordid affair involving the Clintons, being unusually reserved in hyping the case? (Hint: Because some notable conservatives and prominent supporters of Israel — a constituency that used to reside solidly in the Democratic camp but which the GOP in recent years has been wooing, with some notable success— have been implicated in the Epstein scandal too.)

How did our political and media elites ever become so hopelessly corrupt?
They forgot what their job was supposed to be...

Bowe Busted

Bergdahl gets charged:
Eugene Fidell, Bergdahl’s attorney, told The Washington Post that his client was handed a charge sheet on Tuesday. Army officials announced they will provide an update in his case at 3:30 p.m. at Fort Bragg, N.C., but declined to discuss new developments ahead of the news conference.

Bergdahl, 28, went missing from his base in Paktika province on June 30, 2009, and is believed to have grown disillusioned with the U.S. military’s mission in Afghanistan. He was held captive in Pakistan by the Haqqani network, an insurgent group allied with the Taliban, until a deal brokered through the government of Qatar was reached last year.
So much for freeing him in the first place...