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Tuesday, September 3, 2013

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Today in History

1189 After the death of Henry II, Richard Lionheart is crowned king of England.
1260 Mamelukes under Sultan Qutuz defeat Mongols and Crusaders at Ain Jalut.
1346 Edward III of England begins the siege of Calais, along the coast of France.
1650 The English under Cromwell defeat a superior Scottish army under David Leslie at the Battle of Dunbar.
1777 The American flag (stars & stripes), approved by Congress on June 14th, is carried into battle for the first time by a force under General William Maxwell.
1783 The Treaty of Paris is signed by Great Britain and the new United States, formally bringing the American Revolution to an end.
1838 Frederick Douglass escapes slavery disguised as a sailor. He would later write The Narrative Life of Frederick Douglass, his memoirs about slave life.
1855 General William Harney defeats Little Thunder's Brule Sioux at the Battle of Blue Water in Nebraska.
1895 The first professional American football game is played in Latrobe, Pennsylvania between the Latrobe Young Men's Christian Association and the Jeannette Athletic Club. Latrobe wins 12-0.
1914 The French capital is moved from Paris to Bordeaux as the Battle of the Marne begins.
1916 The German Somme front is broken by an Allied offensive.
1918 The United States recognizes the nation of Czechoslovakia.
1939 After Germany ignores Great Britain's ultimatum to stop the invasion of Poland, Great Britain declares war on Germany, marking the beginning of World War II in Europe.
1939 The British passenger ship Athenia is sunk by a German submarine in the Atlantic, with 30 Americans among those killed. American Secretary of State Cordell Hull warns Americans to avoid travel to Europe unless absolutely necessary.
1943 British troops invade Italy, landing at Calabria.
1944 The U.S. Seventh Army captures Lyons, France.
1945 General Tomoyuki Yamashita, the Japanese commander of the Philippines, surrenders to Lieutenant General Jonathan Wainwright at Baguio.
1967 Lieutenant General Ngyuen Van Thieu is elected president of South Vietnam.
1969 Ho Chi Minh, the leader of North Vietnam, dies.
1976 The unmanned US spacecraft Viking 2 lands on Mars, takes first close-up, color photos of the planet's surface.
1981 Egypt arrests some 1,500 opponents of the government.
1989 US begins shipping military aircraft and weapons to Columbia for use against that country's drug lords.
1994 Russia and China sign a demarcation agreement to end dispute over a stretch of their border and agree they will no longer target each other with nuclear weapons.
2001 Protestant loyalists in Belfast, Ireland, begin an 11-week picket of the Holy Cross Catholic school for girls, sparking rioting.

Non Sequitur

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A Record-High Number of Young People Are Still Living With Their Parents

The question is ... Why?
A story about jobs, bachelors, bachelor's degrees -- and a very weird government definition of "home"
 byDerek Thompson
Another month, another record number of young people living at home long after their teenage years are over. This time, it's the Wall Street Journal reporting that, despite the improved economy pulling unemployment down for the last three years, the share of young adults living with their parents is still rising. Still! More than a third of Americans between 18 and 31 are currently living with their parents, according to the Current Population Survey.
Seriously. What's going on here, if it's not just the economy?
We can begin to find the answers in the new mammoth Pew Research Report, released just this month, which found a record 21.6 million "Millennials" living at home. The answer boils down to three variables, which I'll sum up as: economicsbachelor's degrees, and bachelors.
We have to start with economics. The share of young people living in the basement was basically unchanged for four decades before the recession. Then the recession hit, and millions of young people who would have otherwise had jobs didn't.
Last year, Millennials without a job were 55 percent more likely to be living with their folks than employed young people.
But when you look at the shift since 2007 in the graph below, something might seem funny to you. Sure, the recession figures are high, but pre-recession figures are high, too. One in two 18-24-year olds were living at home before the crash? And one in seven late-twentysomethings?
Why were so many young adults apparently living at home when unemployment was about 4 percent?
It comes down to a very sneaky definition of "home." In the Current Population Survey that provides these figures, "college students in dormitories are counted as living in the parental home." Dormitories! This might strike you as absurd -- and it certainly strikes me as questionable -- but it's Labor Day Weekend, and I'm not going to waste it fighting with the folks at CPS, so there it is. Dorms = your parents' place, according to the government.
This is a huge deal for the Millennials-living-at-home figures, because college enrollment increased significantly during the recession -- 39% of 18- to 24-year-olds were enrolled in college in 2012, compared with from 35% in 2007 -- and college enrollees are much more likely to be living at home (er, in dorms) than students who skip college, drop out, or finish early.
So a huge part of the explanation for the ostensible boom of stay-at-home kids is actually good news: more bachelor's degrees.
Finally: More bachelors. Unmarried young people are six-times more likely to be living at their parents' place than married couples (understandably). In the last 50 years, the share of twentysomethings who are married utterly collapsed before 2007. The recession made marriage even less attractive to many young people.
Higher unemployment, more people going to college, and more single people explain most of the change. But research found that there was even an increase within all three groups, as well. Maybe they were all affecting each other. Or perhaps a fourth factor -- general unease about the future? a gradual normalization of twentysomethings living with their parents? -- is at play.
But the most important takeaway is that, although the Great Recession was nothing but a tragedy, the rise in young people living at home isn't quite as tragic. It's partially a reflection of more young people going to school and saving money before starting a family of their own.

The wingnut crackup

Or how the repugican cabal lost its mind 
by Kim Messick
The conservative crackup: How the Republican Party lost its mind 
In a recent article, I argued that the repugican cabal has been captured by a faction whose political psychology makes it highly intransigent and uninterested in compromise. That article focused on the roots of this psychology and how it shapes the tea party’s view of its place in American politics. It did not pursue the question of exactly how this capture took place — of how a major political cabal came to be so dependent on a narrow range of strident voices. This is the question I propose to explore below.
In doing so, we should keep in mind three terms from political science (and much political journalism) — “realignment,” “polarization” and “gridlock.” These concepts are often bandied about as if their connections are obvious, even intuitive. Sometimes, indeed, a writer leaves the impression that they are virtually synonymous. I think this is mistaken, and that it keeps us from appreciating just how strange our present political moment really is.
“Realignment,” for instance, refers to a systematic shift in the patterns of electoral support for a political party. The most spectacular recent example of this is the movement of white Southerners from the Democratic Party to the repugican cabal after the passage of major civil rights laws in the mid-1960s. Not coincidentally, this event was critically important for the evolution of today’s repugican cabal.
After the War Between the States and the collapse of Reconstruction in the 1870s, the identification of white Southerners as Democrats was so stubborn and pervasive as to make the region into the “solid South” – solidly Democratic, that is. Despite this well-known fact, there is reason to suspect that the South’s Democratic alliance was always a bit uneasy. As the Gilded Age gave way to the first decades of the 20th century, the electoral identities of the Democratic Party and the repugican cabal began to firm up. Outside the South, the Democrats were the party of the cities, with their polyglot populations and unionized workforces. The repugicans drew most of their support from the rural Midwest and the small towns of the North. The Democrats’ appeal was populist, while repugicans extolled the virtues of an ascendant business class: self-sufficiency, propriety, personal responsibility.
It will be immediately evident that the repugican cabal was in many ways a more natural fit for the South, which at the time was largely rural and whose white citizens were overwhelmingly Anglo-Saxon Protestants. The South’s class structure, less fluid than that of the industrial and urban North, would have chimed with the more hierarchical strains of repugican politics, and Southern elites had ample reason to prefer the “small government” preached by repugican doctrine. But the legacy of Lincoln’s repugicanism was hard to overcome, and the first serious stirrings of disillusion with the Democratic Party had to wait until 1948. That year, South Carolina Gov. Strom Thurmond, enraged by President Truman’s support for some early civil rights measures, led a walkout of 35 Southern delegates from the Democratic Convention. Thurmond went on to become the presidential nominee of a Southern splinter group, the States’ Rights Democratic Party (better known as “Dixiecrats”), and won four states in the deep South.
The first repugican successes in the South came in the elections of 1952 and 1956, when Dwight Eisenhower won five and eight states, respectively*. These victories, however, were only marginally related to racial politics; Eisenhower’s stature as Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in World War II had a much larger role, as did his cabal’s virulent anti-communism. Nixon held only five of these states in 1960.
The real turning point came in 1964. After passage of the Civil Rights Act, Barry Goldwater’s campaign, with its emphasis on limited government and states’ rights, carried five Southern states, four of which had not been won by a repugican in the 20th century. No Democratic presidential candidate has won a majority of Southern states since, with the single exception of former Georgia Gov. Jimmy Carter’s 1976 campaign. The South is now the most reliably repugican region of the country, and supplies the party with most of its Electoral College support.
The South’s realignment explains a lot about our politics. But it doesn’t, in itself, explain one very important fact: why the post-civil rights repugican cabal went on to become the monolithically wingnut cabal we have today. We can put this point as a question: Why didn’t the repugican cabal end up looking more like the pre-realignment Democrats, with a coalition of Northern moderates and liberals yoked to wingnuts? (And the Midwest along for the ride.) In effect, we’re asking how realignment is related to “polarization” — the ideological sorting out that has led to our present party system, in which nearly all moderates and liberals identify as Democrats and all wingnuts as repugicans.
It’s important to ask this question for at least two reasons. First, because it highlights the fact that realignment and polarization are analytically distinct concepts — a point often passed over in discussions of this subject. The sudden migration of Southern whites into repugican ranks is obviously connected with polarization; what we need to know is exactly how and why. Which brings us to the second reason. Because the answer we’re led to is so refreshingly old-fashioned and therefore, in today’s intellectual culture, completely counterintuitive: They are connected through the agency of political actors.
In “Rule and Ruin,” his wonderful history of the collapse of repugican moderation, the historian Geoffrey Kabaservice documents the process by which conservative activists remade the repugican cabal in their image. (If I could recommend only one book this year to students of American history, it would be this one.) Filling a broad canvas with an enormous wealth of detail, Kabaservice shows us that wingnuts always thought of themselves as engaged on two fronts: Moderate repugicans were as much the enemy as liberal Democrats. William Rusher, Bill Buckley’s colleague at National Review, remarked revealingly that the modern wingnut movement formed itself “in opposition to the Eisenhower administration.”
One can’t help but admire the tenacity, focus and creativity that conservative activists brought to their task. They transformed the repugican cabal at every level: from the grass roots, where they assumed control of local bodies such as city councils, caucuses and county commissions, to the state and national party machinery. They also built a network of institutions designed to cultivate and publicize wingnut ideas. These ranged from relatively sophisticated periodicals and think tanks (National Review, the early Heritage Foundation) to rawer, more demotic facsimiles (the American Spectator, the Cato Institute). Groups such as the Moral Majority arose, especially among the religio-wingnuts, and new media technologies allowed for the consolidation of wingnut voices on talk radio and cable television.
These actions were all part of the same relentless design: to purge the repugican cabal of moderate voices and to install wingnuts in every position of meaningful power and influence. But they had another side as well. Because as a cabal shapes itself it also shapes its electorate. And a party engaged in a process of purification, if it wants to continue to win elections, needs a similarly purified electorate.
The realignment of Southern whites must be understood in this context. When they deserted the Democratic Party in the mid-’60s, they presented repugicans with a huge electoral windfall. The repugicans then had to decide how to invest this unexpected capital. In doing so they had to balance at least two things: numbers and intensity. Numbers are important, of course — you can’t win elections without them — but it’s an old adage in politics that an intense 51 percent is better than a relaxed 55 percent. The repugican decision to embrace an increasingly radical version of wingnuttery should be seen, in effect, as an attempt to leverage the intensity and loyalty of their new Southern voters. These qualities were expected to offset the loss of any moderate or liberal supporters who might abandon the party as it lurched off the cliff.
It was a perfectly rational strategy, and it worked brilliantly. Between 1968 and 1992 — 24 years, an entire generation — Democrats won exactly one presidential election, the post-Watergate campaign of 1976. But after ’92 the strategy began to break down on the national level, due mainly to demographic factors: There simply weren’t enough rural white voters anymore to win presidential elections in a consistent way. But by then the right was fully in control of repugican politics and uninterested in sharing power (or policy) with their moderate brethren. They developed a narrative to counter any suggestion that ideological rigidity was the cause of the party’s losses in national (and, increasingly, statewide) races: the quixotic claim that it had nominated “moderates” unable to bring out the wingnut majorities who lurk, abandoned and bereft, in the heartland.
In the meantime the ritual purges have continued — the immediate denunciations, thundered from various media pulpits, whenever a repugican politician utters an unorthodox opinion; the threat (or reality) of primary challenges to silence dissent; the invocation of paranoid fantasies that inflame “the base” and make them ever more agitated and vindictive.
Now, in 2013, we have the politics that 50 years of this process have created. The Democratic Party has fewer conservatives than it once did, but is still a broadly coalition party with liberal and moderate elements. It controls the coasts, has strength in the industrial Midwest, and is making inroads in the upper, more urbanized South and in Florida. It confronts a repugican cabal almost wholly dependent on the interior states of the old Confederacy. (The cabal continues to win in the mountain and prairie West, but the region is too sparsely populated to provide any real electoral heft.) Because of its demographic weakness, it is more beholden than ever to the intensity of its most extreme voters. This has engendered a death spiral in which it must take increasingly radical positions to drive these voters to the polls, positions that in turn alienate ever larger segments of the population, making these core voters even more crucial — and so on. We have a name these days for the electoral residue produced by this series of increasingly rigorous purifications. We call it “the tea party.”
The cry of the hour is that our politics is “dysfunctional” — mired in “gridlock,” all bipartisanship lost. This is of course true, but it must be seen as merely the latest result of the conservative politics of purity. After all, when does a politician, in the normal course of affairs, have a reason to do something? When he thinks it will gain him a vote, or that not doing it will cost him a vote. It follows that politicians have a reason to be bipartisan — to work with the opposition — only when doing so will increase, not decrease, their electoral support. And this can only happen if they potentially share voters with their opposition. But the repugican electorate is now almost as purified as the repugican cabal. Not only is it unlikely to support Democratic candidates, it’s virtually certain to punish any repugican politician who works with Democrats. The electoral logic of bipartisanship has collapsed for most repugicans; they have very little to gain, and much to lose, if they practice it. And so they don’t.
Unfortunately, our government isn’t designed to function in these conditions.  The peculiarities of our system — a Senate, armed with the filibuster, that gives Wyoming’s 576,000 people as much power as California’s 38,000,000; gerrymandered districts in the House; separate selection of the executive and the legislature; a chronically underfunded elections process, generally in partisan hands and in desperate need of rationalization — simply won’t permit it. What we get instead is paralysis — or worse. The repugican cabal, particularly in the House, has turned into the legislative equivalent of North Korea — a political outlier so extreme it has lost the ability to achieve its objectives through normal political means. Its only recourse is to threats (increasingly believable) that it will blow up the system rather than countenance this-or-that lapse from conservative dogma. This was the strategy it pursued in the debt ceiling debacle of 2011, and if firebrands such as Ted Cruz and Mike Lee have their way it will guide the party’s approach to the same issue this fall, and perhaps to government funding (including “Obamacare”) as well. Realignment and polarization have led us to gridlock and instability.
The relentless radicalization of the repugican cabal since 1964 is the most important single event in the political history of the United States since the New Deal. It has significantly shaped the course of our government and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. But this means it has also shaped the individual life of every citizen— the complex amalgam of possibilities and opportunities available (or not) to each of us. The wingnut visionaries of the ‘50s and ‘60s wanted a new world. We’re all living in it now.
* The 1928 election is something of an exception to this statement; eight Southern states, offended by Democratic candidate Al Smith’s catholicism, voted instead for Herbert Hoover. But it seems safe to regard this election as an outlier; FDR won every Southern state in the next four presidential elections.

The U.S. Bugged the United Nations' Headquarters

The U.S. Bugged the United Nations' Headquarters
The NSA bugged the United Nations' headquarters in 2012, hacking into its videoconferencing and spying on the diplomatic work of other countries, according to yet another leak released by Edward Snowden, this time published by Germany's Der Spiegel weekly magazine.

Why Are Some States Trying to Ban LEED Green Building Standards?

The influential timber industry has its own set of standards, and environmentalists aren't happy.

Wayne L. Morse Courthouse 
The amendments and executive orders never actually mention LEED by name. They ban new construction built with public money from seeking (or requiring) any green building certification that's not recognized by something called the American National Standards Institute, or that doesn't treat all certifications for wood products equally. But that's really just a mouthful meant to ensure no more LEED-certified courthouses or state offices or libraries.
Behind the bans are a group of industries—primarily conventional timber, plastics and chemicals – unhappy that much of their product goes unrecognized by the LEED standard created by the US Green Building Council. LEED now certifies a million and a half square feet of real estate a day, affixing a "green" label onto public buildings, commercial offices and private homes that rack up points on a 100-point scale and rewards things like locally sourced materials and energy-efficient design.
Using lumber clear-cut from the side of a sensitive stream half a continent away does not, in short, get you anything.
"Certain things haven't made the cut," says Lane Burt, USGBC's policy director. "As a result we've seen some political agitation, basically a much more threatening posture saying ‘if you don't change this about LEED, or give us more points, we'll use our constitutional rights to petition government to take LEED away.'"
Mississippi was the most recent state to do this, with an amendment just tacked on to a transportation and housing appropriations bill. Alabama and Georgia have done the same through executive order. An industry coalition is also trying to push similar language through Congress that would cover new construction from the largest property manager in the country, the federal government. (Treehugger has a good long-running history of all of this).
The industry objections have grown in direct proportion to LEED's prominence. Thirty-four states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have policies either requiring LEED construction or establishing strong incentives for it in public buildings. The federal government does, too. The industries that now oppose LEED—even as they remain members of the USGBC voting on changes to the certification—aren't out to ban green building, per se. Rather, they've come up with their own standards for what counts as "green."
Instead of LEED, they've got something called Green Globes. Instead of the "Forest Stewardship Council" certification (which LEED recognizes for wood products), they've created the Sustainable Forestry Initiative program. Suffice it to say, these certifications have laxer standards.
To environmental groups, the sleight-of-hand tactic is actually more insidious than if industry were trying to politicize green building all together.
"What they're trying to do," Sierra Club activist Jason Grant says of the timber industry, "is protect their core business model, which largely relies on large-scale clear cutting and replanting." The Forest Stewardship Council demands costlier and more sustainable practices. "The conservation community is united in opposition to the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, not because it doesn't have any merit, but because it is trying to pass off fundamentally status quo, barely legal forestry practices as green and sustainable. Look at the name—the Sustainable Forestry Initiative. That is what is at the heart of the conflict."
The industry-led American High-Performance Buildings Coalition (URL: betterbuildingstandards.com) puts it a little differently. LEED, they argue, lacks transparency, "shuts out stakeholders," isn't built on "consensus."
LEED's own defenders (including Grant) acknowledge that the system isn't infallible. The entire exercise of rating green buildings is inevitably fraught; environmentalists themselves don't agree on many items in the certification. The latest version of LEED passed this summer with 86 percent of the vote of the USGBC's 13,000 members. That would count as a sweeping victory in a democracy. But if "consensus" means everybody, it obviously isn't that.
The entire dispute over the forestry practices behind the lumber that goes into these buildings actually revolves around a single point in the 100-point LEED system. And a building receives that point if just half of its permanently installed wood is FSC certified. A LEED building can contain any kind of wood under the sun. It just may not get that point. (For comparison's sake, if you use locally sourced but less sustainable wood, that counts toward two points.)
All of this means that one industry with a vested interest in the smallest sliver of an entire green-building rating system has so far been successful in undermining the whole model in a few states. And the standards set by government construction have the potential to cascade into the private market, too.
For LEED, this battle is a perverse sign of its expanding influence. But it's unclear if the many proponents of green building—including all the businesses that have grown up around it—are ready yet to mount the kind of defense that could keep LEED from becoming another wedge between red states and blue ones.
"I think we are at an inflection point," Burt says. "The green building industry has grown to 45 percent of the marketplace in new construction. That's significant growth. It's become a real industry. And if these political attacks from certain sub-components, certain special interests are going to continue, the green building industry needs to get a lot more politically savvy."
He doesn't mean that the non-profit USGBC needs to become a political heavyweight. "There's no nonprofit," he says, "that's going to match the lobbying clout of the timber industry."
The USGBC, he says, is content to compete with other certifications. But that's not the scenario these state laws would create. Instead, they would effectively ban LEED. "That's a huge escalation," Burt says.

Activists launch campaign to end unpaid internships

by Alan Scher Zagier Activists launch campaign to end unpaid internships
New York University junior Christina Isnardi and a fellow student started the campus petition that asks the school to refrain from posting unpaid internships offered by for-profit businesses.

A nascent campaign against employers' use of unpaid interns is taking aim at what critics call some of the longstanding practice's biggest enablers: colleges that steer students into such programs in exchange for academic credit.

Organizers hope to have mobilizers raise the issue on campuses as students return to school this fall, with a particular emphasis on schools in New York, Washington and Los Angeles. They also want to join up with organized labor as part of a broader coalition focused on workplace issues.

The backlash against working for free - and sometimes paying tuition for the privilege- comes after a federal judge in New York recently ruled that Fox Searchlight Pictures violated federal minimum wage and overtime laws by not paying interns who worked on the 2010 movie "Black Swan." Angry interns have also sued record companies, magazine publishers, modeling agencies and TV talk show hosts.

Leaders of the Fair Pay Campaign, a group organized in 2012 to fight the internships, say they are taking their social media-driven effort right to the top: they plan to press the White House to end its use of unpaid interns.

Getting college credit "is a tangible benefit" of internships, said campaign organizer Mikey Franklin, a 23-year-old British ex-pat who now lives in Washington. "But I can't pay my rent with college credit."

Franklin said he founded the Fair Pay Campaign when he was unable to land a paid political job after working as a campaign organizer on Maryland's 2012 same-sex marriage ballot measure.

"Everybody told me you can't get a job on (Capitol) Hill unless you're an unpaid intern," he said. "The more I looked, I saw it was an incredibly widespread practice."

His allies include University of Nevada-Las Vegas student Jessica Padron, who is trying to defray the $6,500 costs of a four-month Washington internship for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid with a crowd-sourced online fundraising campaign. At New York University, a petition drive asks the school to remove unpaid internship listings offered by for-profit businesses. More volunteers are pitching in, he said, although he declined to provide specifics about the campaign's finances.

A recent survey reported that 63 percent of graduating college seniors this year had an internship, the highest level since polling began six years ago. Nearly half the internships were unpaid. The expansion of internships comes as President Barack Obama and Congress have been emphasizing the problem of growing student debt.

The federal Fair Labor Standards Act sets out a six-part test to determine whether an internship can be unpaid. The internship must be similar to "training which would be given in an educational environment," run primarily for the intern's benefit and involve work that doesn't replace that of paid employees.

Defenders of academic-driven internships emphasize the educational benefits of bringing students into the workplace.

"It's a developmental opportunity," said Dianne Lynch, president of Stephens College, a women's school in Columbia, Mo.

Lynch, a former journalist, recalled her own start as a cub reporter at the Wisconsin State Journal in Madison, where an unpaid summer internship led to a full-time job on the night police beat.

"I agree that there are organizations that see interns as cheap, unpaid labor," she said. "But I could line up 25 students who could tell you the best learning experience they had was an academic internship."

In Oregon, state lawmakers voted in May to extend workplace civil rights protections to interns, who previously had no legal standing to seek relief from sexual harassment or other forms of discrimination. State Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian said businesses that rely on unpaid interns can easily skirt the law by assigning duties normally carried out by paid workers.

"It really drags down the economy by deflating the wages that should be going to workers," he said.

NYU junior Christina Isnardi, who started the campus petition with another student, agrees. As a summer intern on a movie project, her responsibilities included securing the perimeter on closed sets and guarding expensive equipment.

"I didn't get any educational benefit," she said. "I was doing the work of an employee."

Her petition has garnered more than 1,100 signatures. A university spokesman said NYU is "reviewing the types of internships it posts."

On the other hand, Kate Ibarra, a May graduate of Saint Joseph's University in Philadelphia, has had a more fulfilling experience as an unpaid intern at The Franklin Institute science museum.

With a degree in marketing and aspirations of working as a nonprofit fundraiser, she applied for more than 30 post-graduate internships - none of which were paid positions.

"Getting a job at The Franklin Institute is really prestigious. And I know I'll make some good connections," she said. But she wonders about the disadvantage for lower-income students who can't afford to take unpaid jobs.

Many campuses are beginning to wrestle with the issue, said James Tarbox, director of career services at San Diego State University. In 2011, the California State University System passed new rules for evaluating prospective intern sponsors.

"It's a good idea to examine these issues," he said. "In an economy like the one we've just gone through, we would be remiss if we didn't."

No password is safe from new breed of cracking software

The free password-cracking and -recovery tool oclHashcat-plus runs at 8 million guesses per second 
No password is safe from new breed of cracking software 
Chances are you need to change your password. No matter how long it is.
Over the weekend, the free password cracking and recovery tool oclHashcat-plus released a new version, 0.15, that can handle passwords up to 55 characters. It works by guessing a lot of common letter combinations. A lot. Really really fast.
Other long-string password-crackers exist, such as Hashcat and oclHashcat-lite, though they take a great deal more time to cycle through. This improvement runs at 8 million guesses per second while also allowing users to cut down the number of guesses required by shaping their attacks based on the password-construction protocol followed by a company or group.
A combination of increasing awareness of official scrutiny, such as the NSA leaks, growing instances of hacking of all kinds and leaked password lists, has inspired users to radically lengthen their passwords and use passphrases instead.
As Dan Goodin noted in Ars Technica, “Crackers have responded by expanding the dictionaries they maintain to include phrases and word combinations found in the Bible, common literature, and in online discussions.”
One security researcher cracked the passphrase “Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn1,” a phrase from an H.P. Lovecraft horror story. It was less impossible than it was super easy, crackable in minutes, because it was in an easily available hacker word list.
The release notes state that the ability to target increased character counts was their most requested change in a development process which took the team six months, who modified 618,473 lines of source code, more than half the code in the product.

Marijuana Ruling Could Signal End of Prohibition on Pot

Marijuana Ruling Could Signal End of Prohibition on Pot 
(Photo Credit: David McNew/Getty Images) 
It's legal to light up in Colorado and Washington, and soon smoking pot could be legalized across the country following a decision Thursday by the federal government.

After Washington state and Colorado passed laws in November 2012 legalizing the consumption and sale of marijuana for adults over 18, lawmakers in both states waited to see whether the federal government would continue to prosecute pot crimes under federal statutes in their states.

Both Colorado and Washington have been working to set up regulatory systems in order to license and tax marijuana growers and retail sellers, but have been wary of whether federal prosecutors would come after them for doing so. They are the first states to legalize pot, and therefore to go through the process of trying to set up a regulatory system.

Consumption and sale of marijuana is still illegal in all other states, though some cities and towns have passed local laws decriminalizing it or making it a low priority for law enforcement officers. There are also movements in many states to legalize pot, including legalization bills introduced in Maine and Rhode Island, discussion of possible bills in states including Massachusetts and Vermont, and talk of ballot initiatives in California and Oregon.

But on Thursday, the Department of Justice announced that it would not prosecute marijuana crimes that were legal under state law, a move that could signal the end of the country's longtime prohibition on pot is nearing. "It certainly appears to be potentially the beginning of the end," said Paul Armantano, deputy director of the pot lobby group NORML.

The memo sent to states Thursday by the DOJ said that as long as states set up comprehensive regulations governing marijuana, there would be no need for the federal government to step in, a decision that will save the Justice Department from having to use its limited resources on prosecuting individuals for growing or smoking marijuana.

"This memo appears to be sending the message to states regarding marijuana prohibition that is a recognition that a majority of the public and in some states majority of lawmakers no longer want to continue down the road of illegal cannabis, and would rather experiment with different regulatory schemes of license and retail sale of cannabis," Armantano said.

Richard Collins, a law professor at the University of Colorado Boulder, said that the memo from the DOJ points out specifically that the federal government will only walk away from marijuana crimes in states where there is a solid regulatory system for the drug's growth and disemenation.

For other states to mimic the systems in Colorado and Washington, they will first have to get legalization laws on their ballots or in their state houses, which could post a challenge, he said.

While Colorado and Washington have not yet set up their regulatory systems, both states will likely sell licenses to farmers who want to grow marijuana as well as to manufacturing plants and retail sellers. The marijuana will also likely be taxed at each stage of its growth, processing, and sale.

"In both Colorado and Washington, legalization was done by citizens with no participation by elected representatives until they had to pass laws to comply with the initiative. In other initiative states I would expect such measures - I would expect a new one in California, for instance - and roughly half the states permit this and the rest don't.

"In the states that do have initiatives I expect efforts to get it on the ballot. The other half it will be much tougher. It's hard to get elected representatives to do this," Collins said.

Armantano is more optimistic about the spread of legalized pot. He compared the DOJ's announcement to the federal government's actions toward the end of alcohol prohibition in America a century ago, when states decided to stop following the federal ban on alcohol sales and the federal government said it would not step in and prosecute crimes.

"For first time we now have clear message from fed government saying they will not stand in way of states that wish to implement alternative regulatory schemes in lieu of federal prohibition," Armantano said.

He predicted that within the next one to three years, five or six other states may join Colorado and Washington in legalizing the drug, setting the stage for the rest of the country to follow.

Jim Pasco, executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police, the nation's largest police union, was disappointed with the Justice Department's decision, but said that he had already reached out to set up meetings to talk with leadership in the department and he was "open to discussion" about the benefits.

"I would tell you that certainly the overwhelming majority of law enforcement officers oppose legalization," he said, "but that is not to say that we're not willing to have a conversation about it. It is, from our perspective, a gateway drug and opinions to the contrary don't have the weight of fact behind them."

"We want to talk to (the DOJ) about their thought process and ours and where the disconnect is," he said. "From our perspective the only fault with the status quo is that we aren't making a bigger dent and we'd like to make a bigger one."

Man Says Cops Weighed His Cocaine Wrong

He Knows Because "That's What He Does for a Living."


Police in Fort Pierce, Florida arrested a man and a woman for shoplifting at a Walmart. While searching them, police found crack cocaine and pills on the man. The suspect, it turned out, was a professional in the crack cocaine distribution industry:
"While weighing the narcotics on a scale at the county jail, Ames yelled from the back of my patrol car that I was doing it wrong. Ames told me . . . that I needed to press the scale button to grams," a report states. "Ames told me that the reason he knew how to separate/weigh crack cocaine and pills is because that's what he does for a living."
Career paths involving crack cocaine generally are frowned upon by law enforcement.

Ziggy

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Dragon Con draws huge sci-fi crowd

Forrest Gardner, of Atlanta, dressed as the video game character Lollipop Chainsaw, rides a crowded elevator during the annual Dragon Con sci-fi and fantasy convention on Saturday, Aug. 31, 2013, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/ Ron Harris)  
Forrest Gardner, of Atlanta, dressed as the video game character Lollipop Chainsaw, rides a crowded elevator during the annual Dragon Con sci-fi and fantasy convention on Saturday.
Wookies, Daleks and scantily-clad comic book characters called Atlanta home this weekend while attending the annual Dragon Con science fiction and fantasy convention. It's the rough equivalent of three consecutive days of Halloween held in high-rise Atlanta hotels.
The annual event features panel discussions on time-travel, round-table talks about the philosophical aspects of Star Trek and seminars on gory make-up techniques for horror film fans. Here is a look at some of the people who spent the weekend with like-minded fans of fantasy.

Skeleton doormat upsets some at retirement home

You go in alive and come out dead. That's the message on the doormat outside the entrance to a nursing home in Lund, southern Sweden. To the left, with an arrow pointing in saying enter, is a very much alive person. On the right, with an arrow pointing out saying exit, a skeleton.
"I think it's very macabre. Many of those who live there are very old and may not have long to live, I find it distasteful and unseemly," says Emelie Nilsson who through her work in home care services visits the accommodation.

She is unsure how long the mat has been outside the home, but says that it has been there for several weeks. "It is most distasteful, it does not feel fun at all," says another woman who regularly visits the home. Besides sheltered accommodation the building is also used as a meeting place for seniors.
Doris Bergin, activity coordinator at the meeting point, says it is the residents themselves who put the mat outside the building. "We have no responsibility for the doormat and don't find it find it nice at all. We've thought of throwing it away, but it has come from one of the residents of the home. It was just suddenly there one day," she says.

Goodbye Ossi

 The Demise of Eastern German Identity
 by Stefan Berg
Goodbye Ossi: The Demise of Eastern German Identity
For years following reunification, those from the communist east saw themselves as "eastern Germans." Now, more than two decades after the Berlin Wall fell, that identity is rapidly disappearing. East Germany is almost completely gone.  More
Eastern Germans are still far more likely than others to strip down at the... 
Eastern Germans are still far more likely than others to strip down at the beach, a remnant of the communist country's "FKK" culture. But other aspects of East German life are becoming much more difficult to identify.

"Just a Theory"

7 Misused Science Words
From "significant" to "natural," here are seven scientific terms that can prove troublesome for the public and across research disciplines
Hypothesis. Theory. Law. These scientific words get bandied about regularly, yet the general public usually gets their meaning wrong.
Now, one scientist is arguing that people should do away with these misunderstood words altogether and replace them with the word "model." But those aren't the only science words that cause trouble, and simply replacing the words with others will just lead to new, widely misunderstood terms, several other scientists said.
"A word like 'theory' is a technical scientific term," said Michael Fayer, a chemist at Stanford University. "The fact that many people understand its scientific meaning incorrectly does not mean we should stop using it. It means we need better scientific education."
From "theory" to "significant," here are seven scientific words that are often misused.
1. Hypothesis
The general public so widely misuses the words hypothesis, theory and law that scientists should stop using these terms, writes physicist Rhett Allain of Southeastern Louisiana University, in a blog post on Wired Science. [Amazing Science: 25 Fun Facts]
"I don't think at this point it's worth saving those words," Allain told LiveScience.
A hypothesis is a proposed explanation for something that can actually be tested. But "if you just ask anyone what a hypothesis is, they just immediately say 'educated guess,'" Allain said.
2. Just a theory?
Climate-change deniers and creationists have deployed the word "theory" to cast doubt on climate change and evolution.
"It's as though it weren't true because it's just a theory," Allain said.
 That's despite the fact that an overwhelming amount of evidence supports both human-caused climate change and Darwin's theory of evolution.
Part of the problem is that the word "theory" means something very different in lay language than it does in science: A scientific theory is an explanation of some aspect of the natural world that has been substantiated through repeated experiments or testing. But to the average Jane or Joe, a theory is just an idea that lives in someone's head, rather than an explanation rooted in experiment and testing.
3. Model
However, theory isn't the only science phrase that causes trouble. Even Allain's preferred term to replace hypothesis, theory and law -- "model" -- has its troubles. The word not only refers to toy cars and runway walkers, but also means different things in different scientific fields. A climate model is very different from a mathematical model, for instance.
"Scientists in different fields use these terms differently from each other," John Hawks, an anthropologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, wrote in an email to LiveScience. "I don't think that 'model' improves matters. It has an appearance of solidity in physics right now mainly because of the Standard Model. By contrast, in genetics and evolution, 'models' are used very differently." (The Standard Model is the dominant theory governing particle physics.)
4. Skeptic
When people don't accept human-caused climate change, the media often describes those individuals as "climate skeptics." But that may give them too much credit, Michael Mann, a climate scientist at Pennsylvania State University, wrote in an email.
"Simply denying mainstream science based on flimsy, invalid and too-often agenda-driven critiques of science is not skepticism at all. It is contrarianism ... or denial," Mann told LiveScience.
Instead, true skeptics are open to scientific evidence and are willing to evenly assess it.
"All scientists should be skeptics. True skepticism is, as [Carl] Sagan described it, the 'self-correcting machinery' of science," Mann said.
5. Nature vs. nurture
The phrase "nature versus nurture" also gives scientists a headache, because it radically simplifies a very complicated process, said Dan Kruger, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Michigan.
"This is something that modern evolutionists cringe at," Kruger told LiveScience.
Genes may influence human beings, but so, too, do epigenetic changes. These modifications alter which genes get turned on, and are both heritable and easily influenced by the environment. The environment that shapes human behavior can be anything from the chemicals a fetus is exposed to in the womb to the block a person grew up on to the type of food they ate as a child, Kruger said. All these factors interact in a messy, unpredictable way.
6. Significant
Another word that sets scientists' teeth on edge is "significant."
"That's a huge weasel word. Does it mean statistically significant, or does it mean important?" said Michael O'Brien, the dean of the College of Arts and Science at the University of Missouri.
In statistics, something is significant if a difference is unlikely to be due to random chance. But that may not translate into a meaningful difference, in, say, headache symptoms or IQ.
7. Natural
"Natural" is another bugaboo for scientists. The term has become synonymous with being virtuous, healthy or good. But not everything artificial is unhealthy, and not everything that's natural is good for you.
"Uranium is natural, and if you inject enough of it, you're going to die," Kruger said.
Natural's sibling "organic" also has a problematic meaning, he said. While organic simply means "carbon-based" to scientists, the term is now used to describe pesticide-free peaches and high-end cotton sheets, as well.
Bad education
But though these words may be routinely misunderstood, the real problem, scientists say, is that people don't get rigorous science education in middle school and high school. As a result, the public doesn't understand how scientific explanations are formed, tested and accepted.
What's more, the human brain may not have evolved to intuitively understand key scientific concepts such as hypotheses or theories, Kruger said.
Most people tend to use mental shortcuts to make sense of the cacophony of information they're presented with every day.
One of those tendencies is to make a "binary distinction between something that is true in an absolute sense and something that's false or a lie," Kruger said. "With science, it's more of a continuum. We're continually building our understanding."

The Five Most Hilariously Inept Explorers of All Time

Not every story of exploration is epic or even successful. The ones we aren't familiar with are quite interesting, but there's a reason we aren't familiar with them -like utter failure. Like the time policeman Robert Burke was sent on a mission to find a route from Victoria, Australia, to the continent's northern coast.
When the expedition set off from Melbourne on August 19, 1860, Burke made sure to load his wagons with everything he figured they would need for a few months in the desert, including a Chinese gong, a heavy wooden table and chair set, 1,500 pounds of sugar, and a stationery cabinet (where else was he going to store his stationery? In his backpack like an asshole?). Equipped more like a traveling circus than an exploring party, the group covered a whopping 4 miles on the first day of their journey, making camp basically within sight of their houses.

In fact, it was two months before they actually reached uncharted territory, which is amusing when you consider that the mailman routinely took the same trip in two weeks, but he didn't have a sweet Chinese gong. The long start meant that they arrived in the desert just as summer was beginning, but Burke didn't let a little thing like daily temperatures of over 100 degrees slow him down, possibly because to travel any slower, he'd have to be going in reverse.
Was Burke's mission successful? No. Was it interesting? Yes, and so are the other four stories of explorers in an article at Cracked.

Bronze Age sheepskin discovered in UK

Archaeologists have found evidence of the first Bronze Age body in Britain being wrapped in sheepskin - in a prehistoric cist discovered by accident during work on a septic tank at a village in Sutherland,
Bronze Age sheepskin discovered in UK
Archaeologists at the excavation site in Sutherland
[Credit: GUARD Archaeology Limited]
Fragments of the 4000 year-old sheepskin were discovered around the left arm bone of the skeleton of the middle aged female whose crouched body was contained within the burial cist.

It is the first time that sheepskin or wool has been discovered with Bronze Age remains anywhere in Scotland or Britain.

The remarkable discovery was made back in September, 2011, by a team of archaeologists at Glasgow-based Guard Archaeology in the back garden of Keas Cottage on the outskirts of Spinningdale, overlooking the mouth of the Dornoch Firth.

But details of the unique find have only now been publicly revealed following the official publication of the results of the dig in an archaeological journal.

The team, led by Iraia Arabaolaza, made the find after being commissioned to excavate and analyze the stone cist, built within a substantial pit, containing the remains of a women, believed to have been aged between 35 and 50, whose remains showed signs that she had been suffering from spinal joint disease.

She said: “The sheepskin discovered around the left arm of the body is the first sample of this kind in Scotland and is the first known example discovered from a Bronze Age burial in Britain. There have been two other samples of Bronze Age wool found in the British Isles, but no other examples of potential sheepskin are known.”

She continued: “Findings of hide or fur are few and far between in Britain but are often associated with ‘rich burials’ of adult inhumations.”

Bronze Age sheepskin discovered in UK
The Spinningdale cist burial [Credit: GUARD Archaeology Limited]
A spokesman for the archaeology company said: “ A tripartite food vessel urn, of Early Bronze Age date, was placed to the west of her skull, but what made this burial a particularly extraordinary site was the discovery of sheepskin and wool recovered from under the skeletal remains. The remains of the sheepskin may have been wrapped around the body.”

He added: “ A radiocarbon date of 2051-1911 BC and 2151-2018 BC was obtained from bone and charcoal fragments, placing the cist in the early Bronze Age period. The radiocarbon dating of the cist corresponds with the date of the food vessel urn buried with the body.

“The vessel contained carbonized material of non-botanical origin, unidentified cremated bone and a fragment of a small ring. These were probably placed there to assist the individual’s journey into the next world and indicate belief in the afterlife, which appears to have been a concept only adopted in Scotland.”

The report on the find states: “The small sample from Spinningdale is consistent with established knowledge of Bronze Age wool.”

It continues: “There are two possible explanations for the significance of the grave goods found within the cist. The first is that they represent the individual and were part of her everyday life. The second interpretation is that they symbolize what the people that were burying them wanted to show to others witnessing the funerary rite.”

It adds: ”All the pathological manifestations encountered on the skeletal remains - degenerative joint disease and associated conditions - suggest an older individual with degenerative changes mostly concentrated on the lower lumbar spine. A possible congenital condition was also recorded on the sixth cervical vertebra where bony protuberances were identified on both sides of the vertebrae. None of these pathological conditions would have caused the death of the individual but they do indicate old age and/or a hard working life.”

The report concludes: “The Keas Cottage cist is an example of the complexity and diversity of early Bronze Age burials. The often accidental discoveries of prehistoric burials are increasing the numbers that can be added to the corpus and the general picture of the burial rites and people’s beliefs. The preservation of organic material, such as sheepskin or wool, also supports the view of a elaborate burial rites being carried out in the vicinity of the Dornoch Firth during the early Bronze Age.”

The Romans Were Nanotechnology Pioneers


The British Museum has a a 1,600-year-old Roman chalice that becomes a different color depending on which direction the light comes from. No one knew why until scientists got a good look at the way the glass was made.
The glass chalice, known as the Lycurgus Cup because it bears a scene involving King Lycurgus of Thrace, appears jade green when lit from the front but blood-red when lit from behind—a property that puzzled scientists for decades after the museum acquired the cup in the 1950s. The mystery wasn’t solved until 1990, when researchers in England scrutinized broken fragments under a microscope and discovered that the Roman artisans were nanotechnology pioneers: They’d impregnated the glass with particles of silver and gold, ground down until they were as small as 50 nanometers in diameter, less than one-thousandth the size of a grain of table salt. The exact mixture of the precious metals suggests the Romans knew what they were doing—“an amazing feat,” says one of the researchers, archaeologist Ian Freestone of University College London.
Researchers suspected the chalice would appear in different colors depending on what drink it held, but they weren't about to test that theory with the ancient artifact. So they recreated the material it was made of! Even more intriguing are the potential modern applications of the technology. Read more about it at Smithsonian magazine. More

Mars Landslides Spawned By Weird Layered Craters

Scientists are a step closer to solving a 40-year-old mystery about some unusual looking craters on Mars.

Believe it or not

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Crop Pests Moving North Fast

Climate change is expanding the ranges of all kinds of crop pests, which is seriously bad news for our food security.

Get ready for the rebirth of vanished species

Scientists are getting close to bringing species back from extinction. 
It creates a whole new set of questions
Get ready for the rebirth of vanished species 
The dodo
Every winter the number of southern gastric-brooding frogs in Australia would mysteriously diminish, their loud staccato calls gone missing from the forests in Queensland. Biologists — already fascinated by the females’ practice of swallowing fertilized eggs and giving birth orally after a period of gestation — hypothesized that the population of this unique species weas hibernating in deep rock crevices until they reemerged with the summer rains. But before the frog could be studied further, the species went extinct in the wild in 1981. The last Rheobatrachus silus died in captivity in 1983.
For three decades, samples of the extinct frogs sat in a freezer. But this year, scientists in Australia announced that they have made an extraordinary first step towards bringing the frog back to life. Using the cloning technique called somatic cell nuclear transfer, a team at the University of New South Wales took fresh eggs from another amphibian species and replaced the eggs’ nuclei with that of the extinct species. In March, some of these eggs began to spontaneously divide over the course of several days, reaching the early embryonic stage.
“We are watching Lazarus arise from the dead, step by exciting step. We’ve reactivated dead cells into living ones and revived the extinct frog’s genome in the process,” said Mike Archer, a professor of paleobiology at the University of New South Wales. Archer is a member of the Lazarus Project, a “de-extinction” initiative focused on cloning and reintroducing the Southern Gastric-brooding frog to Australia. “We’re increasingly confident that the hurdles ahead are technological and not biological and that we will succeed.”
Around the world, de-extinction initiatives such as this one are racing to resurrect genomes and living specimens of recently extinct and even long-dead species. In Spain, scientists continue trying to bring back the Pyrenean ibex, a species extinct since 2000 that was briefly resurrected in 2009. (The baby ibex, born to a domestic goat, lived for a few minutes before dying.) In South Korea, the Sooam Biotech Research Foundation is working with Russian scientists and the Beijing Genomics Institute to attempt to clone a woolly mammoth. Scientists at the University of California, Santa Cruz are sequencing the genome of the passenger pigeon — last living on earth in 1914. The Caribbean monk seal, Carolina parakeet and Tasmanian tiger have all been suggested for resurrection by the Revive and Restore Foundation, a new non-profit whose purpose is to bring extinct species back to life.
De-extinction is an even more thrilling and awesome a prospect than cloning pets or farm animals, of which Dolly the Sheep is most famous. There is a reason the movie Jurassic Park still has a grip on our cultural imaginations. For scientists, the technological feats in successful de-extinctions are more complex and challenging than cloning living animals. But these efforts also recall ancient narratives like that of Noah’s Ark and the miracle of resurrection.
And then there is the hope implicit in the possibility of de-extinction that it will help humanity avert the environmental apocalypse that extreme biodiversity loss threatens. De-extinction pioneers are eager to invest their efforts with a deeper moral purpose, one that suggests the power to bring back species could mitigate humanity’s liability in the ongoing Sixth Great Extinction, and even work to correct past crimes against the planet. “Humans have made a huge hole in nature, we have the ability, maybe the moral obligation, to repair that damage,” said environmentalist Stuart Brand, former editor of the 1960s back-to-the-land guide Whole Earth Catalog, and co-founder of the Revive and Restore Foundation.
To date, de-extinction has received a lot of breathless publicity but very little critical debate. The question that remains unanswered is whether it could become a useful conservation tool for the thousands of species that are endangered and facing extinction today. In fact, it is possible that these advances could have the opposite effect, putting endangered species at greater risk.
In May, a dozen scientists, ethicists and conservationists gathered at Stanford University to discuss the potential legal, political and ethical ramifications of de-extinction. A concern echoed among a number of participants was that the current extinction crisis could be viewed by policymakers and the public as less calamitous if we have (or will soon have) the ability to resurrect extinct species. The fear is this could lead to a slowdown in protecting species in the wild, and simply putting genetic material on ice for resurrection at a later date might become standard practice.
Conservationists  know that whoever is inconvenienced by efforts to protect endangered species will try every trick in the book to get the species out of the way, said Stanley Temple, an ecologist and ornithologist at the University of Wisconsin, at the conference. “Certainly de-extinction becomes the most potent of options that people can use to argue that we should be able to go ahead and damage species.”
Jamie Rappaport Clark, president and CEO of Defenders of Wildlife, who formerly directed the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, told the group there was no doubt in her mind that politicians would take advantage of de-extinction technology, not by funding it, but to undermine species conservation. “If the definition of ‘endangered’ is the danger of becoming extinct and you can’t prove it because you can de-extinct it, then I could see some incredible shenanigans,” said Clark. “Revived species are cool and people will pay money to see them but it won’t translate into increased support for wildlife conservation of species that we need to save today.”
The fact is that de-extinction, said Ronald Sandler, a professor of philosophy at Northwestern University who spoke at the conference, does not necessarily preserve the value of the species as a whole and its relationship to its habitat. And it does not prevent extinction or give incentives to reform behaviors that lead to extinction, which in so many cases is the destruction of habitat by humans. In the case of the southern gastric-brooding frog, it is unclear whether the forest streams it once inhabited could support resurrected frog populations again. The region, which is home to half of Australia’s amphibian species, only recently emerged from the longest drought in recorded history.
Even some of the ancillary benefits of de-extinction research — expanding databases of genetic material for genomic or medical research, for instance — can seem dubious when contemplating the prospect of a future world in which habitats themselves are extinct even if the animals who once lived in them aren’t.
None of these concerns, however, has so far diminished the public curiosity and growing scientific race to make real the wondrous possibility of de-extinction. “I just can’t see the moral, the philosophical, the budgetary, the policy or cultural arguments from people like me slowing down or stopping something as cool as bringing back the Passenger pigeon or woolly mammoth,” said Jamie Rappaport Clark in May. “We are going to have to figure out how to do this in a political world.”

Oklahoma woman, pet kangaroo find new home

by Kristi Eaton
Okla. woman, pet kangaroo find new home 
Christie Carr kisses Irwin the kangaroo at the Garold Wayne Interactive Zoological Park, where they now live, in Wynnewood, Okla. 

Christie Carr wants her young ones to cooperate when they sit down for a family portrait, but at times it's so difficult that she has to tell young Irwin to go to his bedroom. He obeys and hops to it.

Irwin may sleep in a bed, wear boy's clothes on occasion and eat Twizzlers, but he's not human. He's a red kangaroo, nursed back to health after he was partially paralyzed from running into a fence a few years ago.

Two years after battling a city council in northeastern Oklahoma over Carr's right to keep a "therapy kangaroo," she found Irwin a home at an exotic animal park. And Carr has found some relief from her depression.

On a recent weekday morning at The Garold Wayne Interactive Zoological Park, Irwin, fresh from playing in the dirt, sat on a cushy chair in a wooden pen next to Carr. He later fussed with his new sister, Larsen, a baby Siberian tiger, in the staff house.

The new home, Carr said, is good for both Irwin and herself. He's able to interact with other people and some animals, and her emotional life is enriched by being around all the animals.

"Just me and him together, it's almost like he was feeding off my depression," Carr said. "He likes people, he likes to be around people and here, there is something always going on."

Irwin, however, can't play with the park's other kangaroo, Pluto, who lives near a pond. Carr and zoo founder Joe Schreibvogel are scared Irwin could lose his balance and fall into the water, so they are hoping to build a new kangaroo enclosure in the future.

Carr and 3-year-old Irwin arrived at the zoo after spats with officials in Broken Arrow. Carr's therapist had certified Irwin as a therapy pet under the Americans with Disabilities Act. But city officials initially feared Irwin could pose a threat to the public's safety.

Native to Australia, healthy male great red kangaroos can grow up to 7 feet tall, weigh more than 200 pounds and bound 25 feet in a single leap. But veterinarians said Irwin would probably not grow larger than 50 pounds because of his injury and because he has been neutered. Irwin has gained about 20 pounds during the past two years and is now able to hop better.

The city council eventually voted to create an exotic animal ordinance exemption that allowed Carr to keep Irwin within city limits under certain conditions. The permit required exotic animal owners to, among other things, have a $50,000 liability insurance policy for any injuries inflicted by the animal, certification that the animal has adequate housing and meet all federal and state guidelines for licensing. An anonymous donor paid for Carr's insurance policy.

But growing frustration with city officials caused Carr to move herself and Irwin first to Claremore, then to her parents' home in McAlester and, in March, to the zoo.

"We called her up and offered her a place to stay and Irwin a zoo to hang out with a bunch of other animals, and they've been here ever since," said Schreibvogel, who founded the zoo, which is named after his brother who died in a car accident in 1997.

The park has close to 800 animals - the majority came from sanctuaries and other zoos - and 18 workers. It's a place, Schreibvogel said, where animals and humans come for a second chance.

"Most of the volunteers here are ex-druggies, ex-alcoholics, on prison's door step," he said. "Why do people turn to drugs and alcohol? Usually because they don't fit in somewhere. Well, here these animals don't judge you."

Schreibvogel, who looks a bit out of place in the Oklahoma countryside with his bleach-blonde hair, earrings and eyebrow ring and arm full of tattoos, is trying to become a country singer. Known as Joe Exotic, he recently released three songs with music videos and has a reality TV show pilot filming soon, which will feature Irwin and other animals at the park.

Schreibvogel and Carr bonded over the backlash they've both received from animal-rights groups. They say it has helped them get to where they are.

"Everybody has an opinion, and everybody has a right to an opinion," Schreibvogel said. "If they would have euthanized him three years ago, he wouldn't be walking around, hopping now, so not everyone knows what they are talking about."

Binturong


Binturongs, aka bear cats, are a tree-dwelling critter from South Asia. While they're usually pretty cute, and they tend to smell like buttered popcorn, their younger versions are simply impossibly cute. If you need more evidence, just check out Zoo Born's collection of photos of the baby recently born at the Staten Island Zoo.