Welcome to ...

The place where the world comes together in honesty and mirth.
Windmills Tilted, Scared Cows Butchered, Lies Skewered on the Lance of Reality ... or something to that effect.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Daily Drift

Art is where you find it ...

Some of our readers today have been in:
Port-Of-Spain, Trinidad and Tobago
Algiers, Algeria
Manama, Bahrain
Vancouver, Canada
Johannesburg, South Africa
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Athens, Greece
As Sulaymaniyah, Iraq
Banadr Seri Begawan, Brunei
Sofia, Bulgaria
Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia
Makati, Philippines
Johor Bahru, Malaysia
Barranquitas, Puerto Rico
Petaling jaya, Malaysia
San Jose, Costa Rica
Hanoi, Vietnam
Bayan Lepas, Malaysia
San Juan, Puerto Rico
Chisinau, Moldova
Cheras, Malaysia
Bangkok, Thailand
Douglas, Scotland
Skopje, Macedonia
Caracas, Venezuela
Chocianow, Poland
Santiago, Chile
Kuwait, Kuwait
Cape Town, South Africa
Baghdad, Iraq
Tallinn, Estonia
Riga, Latvia

As well as in cities across the USA such as:
Plaistow, Ponchatoula, Ravenna, Tigard and Williamtic

Don't forget to visit our sister blog!

Today in History

490 BC   Athenian and Plataean Hoplites commanded by General Miltiades drive back a Persian invasion force under General Datis at Marathon.
1213   Simon de Montfort defeats Raymond of Toulouse and Peter II of Aragon at Muret, France.
1609   Henry Hudson sails into what is now New York Harbor aboard his sloop Half Moon.
1662   Governor Berkley of Virginia is denied his attempts to repeal the Navigation Acts.
1683   A combined Austrian and Polish army defeats the Turks at Kahlenberg and lifts the siege on Vienna, Austria.
1722   The Treaty of St. Petersburg puts an end to the Russo-Persian War.
1786   Despite his failed efforts to suppress the American Revolution, Lord Cornwallis is appointed governor general of India.
1836   Mexican authorities crush the revolt which broke out on August 25.
1918   British troops retake Havincourt, Moeuvres, and Trescault along the Western Front.
1919   Adolf Hitler joins German Worker's Party.
1939   In response to the invasion of Poland, the French Army advances into Germany. On this day they reach their furthest penetration-five miles.
1940   Italian forces begin an offensive into Egypt from Libya.
1940   The Lascaux Caves in France, with their prehistoric wall paintings, are discovered.
1944   American troops fight their way into Germany.
1945   French troops land in Indochina.
1969   President Richard Nixon orders a resumption in bombing North Vietnam.

Non Sequitur


Editorial Comment

Attention all those commenting here on CN ... those 'Comment' Spammers actually ...
Those of us who work on this blog do not have any use for the following:
So if you would spam your offers elsewhere it would be appreciated and you would maybe hit your target audience as well in some other location.

As for those making legitimate comments about CN posts that the spam filter automatically throws in the spam folder (at times for no determinable reason) please be patient we will post your comments as we drain the sea of spam down to where we can find your comments.

The truth be told

Recession feared if US goes over fiscal cliff

A recession is imminent if Congress doesn't find a way to avoid impending drastic spending cuts and tax increases, a business group's top economist said Monday.

Feds to close Wilkesboro, North Carolina courthouse

By Mark Sherman
The federal judiciary said today it will close six courthouses in the South because of inadequate funding from Congress and the prospect of more drastic cuts.
The courthouses to be closed are in Gadsen, Ala.; Pikeville, Ky.; Meridian, Miss.; Wilkesboro, N.C.; Beaufort, S.C.; and Amarillo, Texas, the Judicial Conference said.

The closures are expected to save $1 million a year in rent. The judiciary said it could see its budget cut by more than $500 million if Congress fails to reach a budget deal and automatic across-the-board spending cuts kick in next year.
None of the facilities to be closed has a judge who is based there. Instead, judges travel from larger cities as needed.
They were chosen from among 60 courthouses in 29 states. There are 674 federal courthouses around the country.
The closings were ordered by the Judicial Conference of the United States, a group of 27 judges led by Chief Justice John Roberts that sets policy for the federal courts. The group met Tuesday at the Supreme Court.
The facilities will close over the next several years.
The Beaufort facility was ranked first and the Meridian facility fifth on a list of courthouses being considered for closing, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press in March. But the other four ranked no higher than 22nd, and there was no immediate explanation for how facilities were chosen.

And I Quote

He was speaking of the repugicans of the 19th century - the same repugicans we have today ... they haven't changed in over a century - no wait, they have ... they're worse!

Neocons to the shrub pre-9/11: Ignore Al Qaeda distractions, Saddam is the problem

Seriously? We always knew the neocons were a bunch of frauds but it doesn't say much about the rest of the shrub cabal who fell for their stupidity.

 NY Times:
The direct warnings to the shrub about the possibility of a Qaeda attack began in the spring of 2001. By May 1, the Central Intelligence Agency told the White House of a report that “a group presently in the United States” was planning a terrorist operation. Weeks later, on June 22, the daily brief reported that Qaeda strikes could be “imminent,” although intelligence suggested the time frame was flexible.

But some in the cabal considered the warning to be just bluster. An intelligence official and a member of the shrub cabal both told me in interviews that the neoconservative leaders who had recently assumed power at the Pentagon were warning the White House that the C.I.A. had been fooled; according to this theory, Bin Laden was merely pretending to be planning an attack to distract the administration from Saddam Hussein, whom the neoconservatives saw as a greater threat. Intelligence officials, these sources said, protested that the idea of Bin Laden, an Islamic fundamentalist, conspiring with Mr. Hussein, an Iraqi secularist, was ridiculous, but the neoconservatives’ suspicions were nevertheless carrying the day.

Did you know ...

The shrub ignored multiple warnings about 'eminent''dramatic' attack

That the first responders' cancer linked to 9/11

That with the budgetary dispute resolved, construction on the national 9/11 museum will resume

About the overly-made-up ladies of Faux news

The Basic Laws of Human Stupidity Suggest a Better Way to Choose Politicians

by Marc Abrahams

The basic laws of human stupidity are ancient. The definitive essay on the subject is younger. Called “The Basic Laws of Human Stupidity,” it was published in 1976, by an Italian economist:
Basic Laws of Human Stupidity, Carlo M. Cipolla,
The Mad Millers, 1976.
Cipolla, Stupidity’s Incisive Analyst
Carlo M. Cipolla taught at several universities in Italy, and for many years at the University of California, Berkeley. He also wrote books and studies about clocks, guns, monetary policy, depressions, faith, reason, and of course (he being an economist) money. His essay about stupidity encompasses all those other topics, and perhaps all of human experience.
The Laws of Stupidity
Professor Cipolla wrote out the laws in plain language. They are akin to laws of nature—a seemingly basic characteristic of the universe. Here they are:
• Always and inevitably everyone underestimates the number of stupid individuals in circulation.
• The probability that a certain person be stupid is independent of any other characteristic of that person.
• A stupid person is a person who causes losses to another person or to a group of persons while himself deriving no gain and even possibly incurring losses.
• Non-stupid people always underestimate the damaging power of stupid individuals. In particular non-stupid people constantly forget that at all times and places and under any circumstances to deal and/or associate with stupid people always turns out to be a costly mistake.
Cipolla’s essay gives an x-ray view of what distinguishes countries on the rise from those that are falling.
Countries moving uphill have an inevitable percentage of stupid people, yes. But they enjoy “an unusually high fraction of intelligent people” who collectively overcompensate for the stupid.
Declining nations have instead an “alarming proliferation” of non-stupid people whose behavior “inevitably strengthens the destructive power” of their persistently stupid fellow citizens. There are two distinct, unhelpful groups: “bandits” who take positions of power which they use for their own gain, and people out of power who sigh through life as if they are helpless.
Carlo Cipolla died in 2000, just a year after two psychologists at Cornell University in the U.S. wrote a study called “Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One’s Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments.” Without mentioning any form of the word “stupidity”, it serves as an enlightening and dismaying supplement to the basic laws. (The authors of “Unskilled and Unaware of It” were awarded the 2000 Ig Nobel Prize in psychology.)

Cipolla’s Work Inspired an Insight About Politicians
Many years after Professor Cipolla’s death, inspired by his work on stupidity, three scientists came up with an improved way to choose politicians. They applied a bit of modern mathematics to an old Athenian principle of democracy. The result: governments that more efficiently produce laws that benefit society.
This was the same team that had won the 2010 Ig Nobel Prize in management. Before looking at how “The Laws of Stupidity” influenced their subsequent, post-Ig Nobel work, let’s take a look back at what they did that earned that Ig Nobel Prize.
Background: Random-Promotion Discoveries, Now and Then
The team—Alessandro Pluchino, Andrea Rapisarda, and Cesare Garofalo of the University of Catania, Sicily—won its Ig Nobel Prize for demonstrating mathematically that organizations would become more efficient if they promoted people at random.
Pluchino, Rapisarda, and Garofalo calculated how a pick-at-random promotion scheme compares with other, more enshrined methods. They gave details in a monograph published in the journal Physica A:
The Peter Principle Revisited: A Computational Study,” Alessandro Pluchino, Andrea Rapisarda, and Cesare Garofalo, Physica A: Statistical Mechanics and its Applications, vol. 389, no. 3, February 2010, pp. 467–72.
Pluchino, Rapisarda, and Garofalo based that work on the Peter Principle—the notion that many people are promoted, sooner or later, to positions that overmatch their competence. But their research was neither the beginning nor the end of the story of how bureaucracies try—and fail—to find a good promotion method.
Their paper cited the works of other researchers who had taken tentative, exploratory steps in the same direction. But it failed to mention an unintentionally daring 2001 study by Steven E. Phelan and Zhiang Lin at the University of Texas at Dallas:
Promotion Systems and Organizational Performance: A Contingency Model,” Steven E. Phelan and Zhiang Lin, Computational and Mathematical Organization Theory, vol. 7, 2001, pp. 207–232.
Phelan and Lin wanted to see whether, over the long haul, it pays best to promote people on supposed merit (we try, one way or another, to measure how good you are), on an “up or out” basis (either you get promoted quickly or you get the boot), or by seniority (live long, and by that measure alone you will prosper). As a benchmark—a this-is-as-bad-as-it-could-possibly-get alternative—they also looked at what happens when you promote people at random. They got a surprise: random promotion, they admitted,  “actually performed better than” almost every alternative. Phelan and Lin seemed (at least in my reading of their 25-page-long paper) almost shocked and intimidated by what they found.

Where Pluchino, Rapisarda, and Garofalo would later, independently, hone and raise this discovery for the world to admire, Phelan and Lin merely muttered, ever so quietly in the middle of a long paragraph, that “this needs to be further investigated in our future studies.” Then, by and large, they moved on to other things.
Humans beings, many of them, are clever. Always there is potential to devise a new, perhaps better method of choosing which individuals to promote in an organization.
In 2010, just a few days after the Catania team was awarded their Ig Nobel prize, Phedon Nicolaides of the European Institute of Public Administration, Maastricht, The Netherlands, suggested what he sees as an improvement on random promotion: randomly choose the people who will make the promotion decisions. Professor Nicolaides published his scheme in a newspaper in Cyprus.
“How Promoting the Incompetent Increases Efficiency,” Phedon Nicolaides, Cyprus Mail, October 10, 2010.
Another, very different and non-random method was devised for use by the United States Air Force. Details appear in a 170-page-long paper prepared in 2008 by Michael Schiefer, Albert Robbert, John Crown, Thomas Manacapilli, and Carolyn Wong of the RAND Corporation. Regardless of its merits, that Air Force scheme may be doomed to rejection purely because it has a curious name. The report is called “The Weighted Airman Promotion System”:
The Weighted Airman Promotion System. Standardizing Test Scores,” Michael Schiefer, Albert A. Robbert, John S. Crown, Thomas Manacapilli, and Carolyn Wong, RAND Corporation, 2008.
Why to Choose Politicians Randomly
Democracies would be better off if they chose some of their politicians at random. That’s the word, mathematically obtained, from the Catanians’ extension of their random research, using insights they gleaned from the much earlier stupidity work by Cipilla.
Parliamentary voting behavior echoes, in a surprisingly detailed mathematical sense. Cipolla had sketched this in the “Basic Laws of Human Stupidity.” Cipolla gave an insulting, yet possibly accurate, description of any human group: “human beings fall into four basic categories: the helpless, the intelligent, the bandit, and the stupid.”
Pluchino, Rapisarda, Garofalo and their colleagues base their mathematical model partly on this fourfold distinction. Pluchino, Rapisarda, Garofalo, and two other colleagues at the University of Catania published their new study in the same research journal—a physics journal—that had introduced their random-promotion work. The new study itself is:
Accidental Politicians: How Randomly Selected Legislators Can Improve Parliament Efficiency”, Alessandro Pluchino, Caesar Garofalo, Andrea Rapisarda, Salvatore Spagano, and Maurizio Caserta, Physica A: Statistical Mechanics and its Applications, vol. 390, nos. 21–2, October 15, 2011, pp. 3944–54.
The team made a simple calculation model that mimics the way modern parliaments work, including the effects of political parties or coalitions.
In the model, individual legislators can cast particular votes that advance either their own interests (one of which is to gain re-election), or the interests of society as a whole. Party discipline comes into play, effecting the votes of officials who got elected with help from their party.
But when some legislators have been selected at random—owing no allegiance to any party—the legislature’s overall efficiency improves. That higher efficiency, the scientists explain, comes in “both the number of laws passed and the average social welfare obtained” from those new laws.
The math indicates that parliaments work best when some—but not all—of the members have been chosen at random. The study explains how a country, subject to the quirks of its own system, can figure out what mix will givethe best results.
The Historic Roots of Random Politician-Selection
Random selection may feel like a mathematician’s wild-eyed dream scheme. It’s not. The practice was common in ancient Greece, when democracy was young. The study tells how, in Athens, citizens’ names were placed into a randomization device called a kleroterion.
klKleroterion. (Image credit: Wikipdia user Marsyas)
Later on, legislators were selected randomly in other places, too. Specifically, this was done in Bologna, Parma, Vicenza, San Marino, Barcelona, and bits of Switzerland, say the scientists, and “in Florence in the 13th and 14th century and in Venice from 1268 until the fall of the Venetian Republic in 1797, providing opportunities to minorities and resistance to corruption”.
Athens, way back when, used random selection to people its juries. So, still, does much of the world.
Old Wisdom Applied Anew in Mid-Ocean
And it’s not just juries. Iceland, having survived a financial collapse, is drawing itself up a new constitution. For advice on that, the nation assembled a committee of 950 citizens chosen at random.
That financial collapse was related, by the way, to the research work performed, perhaps not
entirely knowingly, by the people who were awarded the 2009 Ig Nobel Prize in economics. That prize was awarded to the directors, executives, and auditors of four Icelandic banks—Kaupthing Bank, Landsbanki, Glitnir Bank, and Central Bank of Iceland—for demonstrating that tiny banks can be rapidly transformed into huge banks, and vice versa—and for demonstrating that similar things can be done to an entire national economy. For details, see:
Report of the Special Investigation Commission,”
issued April 12, 2010 in Reykjavík, Iceland.

The truth hurts

Romney campaigner Pat Robertson tells man to beat his wife

Mitt Romney spent Saturday campaigning with religious right extremist Pat Robertson.  Romney was using Robertson to "prove" that he's a "real" christian.
Which is ironic, since most would question Robertson's claim to speak for christianity.  (It also makes you wonder what Mitt Romney thinks a real christian is - if he thinks Pat Robertson is god's messenger.)

Here's Mitt and Pat together at an event this weekend.

Yesterday, fresh off of campaigning with Mitt Romney just 48 hours before, Pat Robertson told a caller to his TV show to beat his wife. Via Right Wing Watch:
For example, today on the 700 Club’s “Bring It On” segment where viewers ask Robertson questions, one man wondered how he should go about repairing his marriage with a wife who “insults” him and once tried to attack him.

Well, you could become a Muslim and you could beat her,” Robertson responded. “This man’s got to stand up to her and he can’t let her get away with this stuff,” Robertson continued, “I don’t think we condone wife-beating these days but something has got to be done.”

He later said the woman is a “rebellious child” and pondered if she has psychological problems. Robertson told the viewer that since he “can’t divorce her according to the Scripture, so I say: move to Saudi Arabia.”
Robertson's network has now censored the broadcast, but fortunately Right Wing Watch got it first:

It's not clear if Mitt Romney is just as confused about christianity as Robertson, or whether he's simply pandering to extremists again, in a desperate effort to save his floundering presidential run.

Either way, it's time for Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan to issue a statement about wife-beating. Are they for it or against it?

Mitt Romney thinks cancer and AIDS aren't "significant"

Odd that Mitt Romney thinks your cancer isn't "significant," yet he's repeatedly invoked his own wife's multiple sclerosis on the campaign trail.

It all came about when Paul Ryan said this weekend that states should be able to approve the legal use of medical marijuana.  Ryan then backtracked later, and boy oh boy, Mitt Romney wasn't too pleased to discuss the matter:
Ryan noted that the issue “is something that is not a high priority of ours.” A Ryan spokesman later emphasized that he agrees with Mitt Romney that marijuana should never be legalized. In the video embedded below you can see how Romney scoffed at a reporter who dared to ask a question about medical marijuana: “Aren’t there issues of significance that you’d like to talk about?” He went on to call marijuana a “gateway drug to other drug violations.”
Oh, I don't know.  Why don't you ask people with cancer and AIDS whether they think their illness is of any "significance."
Supporters of medical cannabis argue that cannabis does have several well-documented beneficial effects. Among these are: the amelioration of nausea and vomiting, stimulation of hunger in chemotherapy and AIDS patients, lowered intraocular eye pressure (shown to be effective for treating glaucoma), as well as gastrointestinal illness.
This is classic Romney hubris.  When it's his family, health care is the most important issue in the world, as we learned by the inclusion of talk about Mrs. Romney's illness in the official GOP convention program (putatively to show how "caring" Mitt really is).  Note that the Romney campaign has also talked about Mrs. Romney's illness previously to deflect criticism of Mitt's numerous horses and jockeys which we're told are to help Mrs. Romney with her MS.  (Though it's not clear how having a jockey race a horse in the Olympics helps Mrs. Romney's MS, or how the horses are her "medical treatment," a "hobby," and a tax write-off as a "business deduction" all at the same time).

Clearly the campaign is willing to talk about Mrs. Romney's illness.

But when it's your serious illness we're talking about, Mitt clams up.

That's why Romney is planning on ripping health insurance away from over 6 million kids if he's elected president.  And it's why he's threatening to take health insurance away from another 89 million working Americans as well.

We're not talking about a caring, loving man here.  We're talking about someone who seems to care a lot about his family, Mormonism, foreign travel, and expensive vacation homes.  And unless you're one of those four, you're out of luck.

Premiums for family health plans hit $15,745

by Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar
It sounds like good news: Annual premiums for job-based family health plans went up only 4 percent this year.
But hang on to your wallets. Premiums averaged $15,745, with employees paying more than $4,300 of that, a glaring reminder that the nation’s problem of unaffordable medical care is anything but solved.
The annual employer survey by two major research groups also highlighted another disturbing trend: employees at companies with many low-wage workers pay more money for skimpier insurance than what their counterparts at upscale firms get.
Overall, “it’s historically a very moderate increase in premiums,” said Drew Altman, president of the Kaiser Family Foundation, which conducted the survey with the Health Research & Educational Trust.
He quickly added: “But even a moderate increase feels really big to workers when their wages are flat or falling.”
Last year’s 9 percent increase in premiums was fodder for the political debate, with Republicans blaming President Barack Obama’s health care law. However, Obama’s big push to cover the uninsured doesn’t get going until 2014, and his most significant cost-control measures take effect even later. Rising health care costs reflect underlying problems that have frustrated policymakers of both parties for years, not to mention corporate benefit managers.
The survey comes a week after a report from an arm of the National Academy of Sciences estimated that about 30 cents of every dollar spent on health care — $750 billion a year — is wasted through unnecessary procedures, cumbersome paperwork, uncoordinated care and fraud.
Obama says he’s working to make health care more affordable for all by leveraging the power of government programs like Medicare to pay hospitals and doctors for quality results, rather than sheer volume of tests and procedures. But that will take time.
Republican Mitt Romney wants to give future retirees a fixed amount of money to pick either private insurance or a government plan modeled on Medicare. He expects the private market will find ways to deliver quality service at lower cost. The GOP approach mirrors the shift away from traditional pensions, which pay a standard benefit, to 401(k) savings plans that limit the employer’s exposure.
The Kaiser/HRET survey found that employee-only coverage went up 3 percent this year, with annual premiums averaging $5,615. Companies usually pick up a larger share of the cost for employee-only coverage, so workers typically paid about $950 of that.
The rise in premiums easily outpaced workers’ raises and inflation.
Employer-based coverage, the mainstay for working people and their families, remained stable this year, with 61 percent of all companies offering health benefits. However, only half of companies with 3 to 9 workers offered health insurance, while virtually all large firms with 1,000 or more employees did so.
A trend toward shifting workers into plans with high annual deductibles seems to have slowed somewhat. The deductible is the amount you must pay each year before insurance kicks in. The survey found that 34 percent of workers are in plans with annual deductibles of at least $1,000 for single coverage, up from 31 percent in 2011.
“We don’t know if it’s a timeout, or if it’s reached some natural limit,” said Altman. “It’s really something to watch for in the future because (high deductible plans) have an impact both on people’s budgets and on holding down overall costs.”
The survey’s focus on health insurance provided to lower-wage workers highlights one of the major areas of uncertainty around Obama’s health care law.
If the president is reelected and the law goes into full effect, employers with lots of low-wage workers may be tempted to drop coverage and send their employees into new state-based insurance exchanges, markets that will offer taxpayer-subsidized private insurance. A separate survey this summer by the Mercer benefits consulting firm found that 9 percent of employers in the retail and hospitality industries say it’s likely they will drop coverage, even if they have to pay penalties to the government.
The survey found that workers in lower-wage companies pay $4,977 toward the cost of family coverage, as compared to an average of $4,316 for all workers. And the policy they get for their money is less generous, typically worth about $1,000 less.
“They are really paying more and getting less,” said Altman. “That may not be surprising, but it is a striking finding.”
Although employers and government are doubling down on efforts to keep health care costs manageable, most experts believe the sluggish economy provides the likeliest explanation for the moderate rise in premiums. Last year’s spike is being blamed on a mistaken bet by insurers that the economy would recover faster.
The survey includes more than 2,000 small and large employers. Asked what kind of increase they’re expecting for 2013, employers said their best estimate at this point is 7 percent.

AT&T blocking iPhone FaceTime on its network is a big blow to Deaf people

Brendan Gramer, who is deaf, writes in Wired News today about how AT&T's recent announcement that it will block FaceTime on its networks affects deaf people, who use FaceTime to converse in sign language.

It’s disappointing that AT&T is standing in the way of innovation that addresses the needs of its deaf and hard-of-hearing customers. Sometimes it takes a while (and some prodding) for technology and technology companies to catch up to and embrace accessibility. In this case the technology is there, but it’s AT&T that’s throwing up the barrier.

ENCODE, the media, and what we really know about the human genome

If you've read anything in the past week about ENCODE—a group of laboratories that recently published their latest work on the human genome—then you need to read John Timmer's excellent piece over at Ars Technica.
What ENCODE has actually done, and why it matters, has been widely misrepresented in the mainstream press—largely because of misleading press releases put out by ENCODE, itself. Timmer sets the record straight. It's a long read, but a fascinating one. Highly recommended.
This week, the ENCODE project released the results of its latest attempt to catalog all the activities associated with the human genome. Although we've had the sequence of bases that comprise the genome for over a decade, there were still many questions about what a lot of those bases do when inside a cell. ENCODE is a large consortium of labs dedicated to helping sort that out by identifying everything they can about the genome: what proteins stick to it and where, which pieces interact, what bases pick up chemical modifications, and so on. What the studies can't generally do, however, is figure out the biological consequences of these activities, which will require additional work.
Yet the third sentence of the lead ENCODE paper contains an eye-catching figure that ended up being reported widely: "These data enabled us to assign biochemical functions for 80 percent of the genome." Unfortunately, the significance of that statement hinged on a much less widely reported item: the definition of "biochemical function" used by the authors.
This was more than a matter of semantics. Many press reports that resulted painted an entirely fictitious history of biology's past, along with a misleading picture of its present. As a result, the public that relied on those press reports now has a completely mistaken view of our current state of knowledge (this happens to be the exact opposite of what journalism is intended to accomplish). But you can't entirely blame the press in this case. They were egged on by the journals and university press offices that promoted the work—and, in some cases, the scientists themselves.
Read the rest of John Timmer's story at Ars Technica

Acupuncture May Be Helpful for Chronic Pain

A recent NCCAM-funded study, employing individual patient data meta-analyses and published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, provides the most ...
Continue Reading

Traffic noise contributes to sleep disturbance, annoyance

From the "Tell us something we didn't know" Department:
The World Health Organization recently recognized environmental noise as harmful pollution, with adverse psychosocial and physiological effects on public health.
Continue Reading

The Secret of Parenting, According to a Nobel Laureate

Want your kids to succeed in life? What parent doesn't? That's why we have helicopter parenting, Tiger Moms, Panda Dads and so on and so forth.
But what is the secret to creating happy children that grow up into successful adults? According to Nobel laureate and economist James Heckman, the secret to good parenting is actually less of it:
So what can parents do to help their children develop skills like motivation and perseverance? The reality is that when it comes to noncognitive skills, the traditional calculus of the cognitive hypothesis—start earlier and work harder—falls apart. Children can't get better at overcoming disappointment just by working at it for more hours. And they don't lag behind in curiosity simply because they didn't start doing curiosity work sheets at an early enough age.
Instead, it seems, the most valuable thing that parents can do to help their children develop noncognitive skills—which is to say, to develop their character—may be to do nothing. To back off a bit. To let our children face some adversity on their own, to fall down and not be helped back up. When you talk today to teachers and administrators at high-achieving high schools, this is their greatest concern: that their students are so overly protected from adversity, in their homes and at school, that they never develop the crucial ability to overcome real setbacks and in the process to develop strength of character.

Hiking an abandoned hydroelectric power plant at Niagara Falls

Geology Ph.D. student and volcano blogger Jessica Ball recently took a detour away from volcanoes and into the world of awesome abandoned industrial sites.
Have I mentioned that I LOVE awesome abandoned industrial sites?
Ball went hiking around the former site of the Schoellkopf Power Station—a hydroelectric plant that once turned the force of Niagara Falls into electricity.
The ruins of this power plant were the second station built on the site, and were completed in 1895. Both buildings were constructed by Jacob Schoellkopf, who had purchased a hydraulic canal, the land around it and the power rights in 1877. The plant eventually became part of the Niagara Falls Power Company in the early twentieth century. But by 1956, water that had been seeping through the rock in the gorge wall behind the plant had weakened it. On June 7th, workers noticed cracks in the rear wall of the plant, and at 5 that evening a catastrophic collapse destroyed more than 2/3 of the station. One man died, several had to be rescued from the Niagara River, and debris from the collapse made it as far as the Canadian side of the Gorge.
Before the collapse, the plant was generating 360,000 kilowatts of power for the city of Niagara Falls; afterward plants on the Canadian side picked up the slack, and the destroyed plant was later surpassed by redevelopment of the hydropower infrastructure in the area, including the construction of the Robert Moses Generating Station farther downstream.
Check out her photo-filled tour of the site at the Magma Cum Laude blog

In Search Of … Glenn Miller

On December 15, 1944, big band pioneer Glenn Miller was flying from the UK to Paris to perform for soldiers. His plane reportedly vanished over the English Channel without a trace. There are many theories about what became of Glenn Miller. Some suggest that his plane was destroyed by RAF bombs jettisoned by warplanes short on fuel that were flying above Miller's single-engine plane. Another theory posits that Miller made it to Paris but died from a heart attack while having sex with a prostitute, leading the US government to let his death remain a mystery. Intrigued? For starters, check out the video above, a great episode of one of my favorite TV series. On March 7, 1980, Leonard Nimoy and team went "In Search Of… Glenn Miller."

Astronomical news

When Black Holes Feast on Screaming Stars

Sometimes, a star's final scream rips across light-years of spacetime at a very distinct frequency -- it's the frequency of black hole doom. Read more
When Black Holes Feast on Screaming Stars

Cassini Spots Clumpy Features in Saturn's Ring

A curiously mottled texture fills the outermost edge of Saturn's B ring in this image from the Cassini spacecraft. Read more
Saturn's clumpy rings

Curiosity Flips Powerful Camera's Dust Cap

NASA Mars rover has flipped the dust cap off a powerful camera mounted on its robotic arm. The first MAHLI photos are spectacular. Read more
MAHLI camera Curiosity Mars

Our Dangerous Galactic Passage

Our future in the galaxy is fraught with unpredictable danger, but doomsday is never right around the corner. Read more
Our Dangerous Galactic Passage

Random Celebrity Photo

A would-be juror who claimed 'extremely homophobic and racist views' faces prosecution

A would-be juror faces prosecution after he claimed he was unable to fulfill his service due to his 'extreme homophobic and racist views'. A letter written by the man was read out in court after he was selected to serve on a case of a man on trial for assault and dangerous driving. Presiding Judge Gary Burrell QC read the letter out in open court in which the man said his extreme views made it impossible for him to be impartial. The man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was due to serve at Southampton Crown Court in Southampton, Hants.

He wrote: "I strongly believe that it would be a serious injustice to the legal system to select me for jury service. I hold extreme prejudices against homosexuals and black/foreign people and couldn't possibly be impartial if either appeared in court. Therefore it would not be in the court's interest to have me a juror." He admitted that in his eagerness to bring any case to a swift conclusion, he would simply vote with the majority and not give his true opinion.

He added: "I would be more than happy to speak to a judge regarding my personal views on the legal system, which I do not hold in high regard." Prosecuting and defense barristers Rebecca Austin and Robert Bryan lodged a challenge to him as a juror. When questioned by Judge Burrell about whether these were his true beliefs he confirmed they were. He also added that he didn't think he had the right to 'judge anyone'. Judge Burrell concluded it was difficult to know for sure whether those were the man's beliefs or if he was simply trying to manipulate the system.

Either way, he said the opinions were not those held by the vast majority of the population and dismissed him from both the jury and the court building. Judge Burrell said: "If you do genuinely hold these views then you are someone who should not be on the jury. I also question whether you should be doing anything responsible in society at all." The man, who was escorted from the court, was warned he now faced prosecution under the Contempt of Court act for failing to serve on a jury.

A woman is arrested after forcing husband's mouth apart

A woman in Crestview, Florida, who said her husband was cheating on her was arrested after she allegedly jumped on his back and forced his mouth apart with her fingers. On Aug. 30 two Okaloosa County Sheriff's deputies were called to a residence about a disturbance.

Once there they interviewed a husband and wife, the apparent source of the disturbance. The man said he'd been involved in an argument with his wife over a text message. He came at about 8:30 that night and the argument continued, with his wife following him around the house, yelling in his face.

While in the bedroom, she allegedly jumped on his back and put her arm around his neck. He removed her arm, but then she grabbed him from behind and placed her fingers in his mouth, pulling his mouth apart, the arrest report indicated. This was said to have caused a small cut in his mouth.

The woman told deputies she had found out her husband was cheating on her and she'd told him not to come home. As they argued, somehow her fingers "ended up in his mouth," the deputy wrote. The woman was charged with misdemeanor battery. Her court date is Sept. 18.

A drunk man who wandered home in his underpants sparked lifeboat search

A drunk man wearing just his underwear sparked a coastguard search during the early hours after leaving his clothes and boots on Weymouth beach in Dorset.

Portland Coastguard feared the man had gone into the sea so two lifeboats were launched and lifeguards searched the beach for over an hour. Police found the man "a little worse for wear" at about 05:00 BST.

A coastguard spokesman said he had walked about a mile back to the house he was staying - in just his underwear. "When he was found he was a bit worse for wear," he said. "He turned up back safe at the house where he was staying and was slowly sobering up."

Dorset Police managed to track the man down after finding identification in his discarded wallet. His pile of clothes - including his jeans, boots and socks - had been found by street pastors who raised the alarm.

Three arrested at New Delhi airport after man found with slender loris in his underpants

Three Dubai-bound men were arrested on Sunday for allegedly smuggling rare species of small monkeys after a simian was found hidden in the undergarments of one of the accused at the Indira Gandhi International (IGI) airport in New Delhi.

The passengers identified as Al Dhaheri Hamad, Al Shamsi Mohammed, Al Shamsi Rashid, were intercepted by CISF personnel during checking after they arrived from Bangkok and were proceeding to board a Jet Airways flight to Dubai. The security personnel were stunned to recover a monkey (species 'slender loris'), seven inches in length and 150gm in weight, hidden in the undergarments of one of the passengers, who were traveling in a group.

"On their direction another little monkey was recovered from a dustbin in the airport. They had abandoned him as they were unable to carry him," a senior security official said. Wildlife and Customs department officials were immediately called in and the three were handed over to them for further questioning. Sources said the trio have been booked under various sections of Wildlife Act and were handed over to the Customs authorities who later arrested them.

The authorities will ascertain the details about the exact origin and status of the recovered monkeys, they said. This is a rare instance of smuggled endangered animals being recovered at the IGI airport. The CISF has decided to award its personnel who detected the incident.

Suspected gas leak turned out to be fermented herring

On Saturday, two fire trucks, two police cars and an emergency gas leak team all rushed towards the Stockholm neighborhood Södermalm, having been alerted by concerned neighbors who smelled gas in the stairwell, but the unpleasant smell turned out to come from something less dangerous.

“The person who called the police had spoken to several neighbors in the house who also thought it smelled like gas, and were worried,” said Stockholm fire fighter Björn Hörnsten. On the scene, however, emergency services were quickly able to classify the unpleasant smell as harmless, since it didn’t come from anything more dramatic than a traditional Swedish autumn party.

“I guess somebody didn’t know what surströmming smells like,” said Sven-Erik Olsson from the police’s command center. Surströmming, or fermented herring, is a traditional Swedish delicacy, but its odor is notoriously foul. In the beginning of fall, it’s not uncommon for Swedes to gather some friends and spend an evening together enjoying the smelly fish at what is called a surströmmingsskiva (fermented herring party).

But on this occasion, the smell spread from the apartment out to the stairwell, scaring the neighbors. “They’ve got gas in the building, so I find it a bit strange that they called us. They ought to know what it smells like when you turn on a gas stove. It doesn’t smell like surströmming at all,” said Hörnsten. According to the Stockholm fire department, this isn’t the first time they’ve rushed out to respond to an emergency call and ended up at a surströmming party.

Random Photo


Such a cute leopard print lingerie set.

The Dukha

 The Tsataan Reindeer Herders of Mongolia have learned to co-exist with the reindeer. The Dukha (Mongolian: Цаатан, Tsaatan) are a small culture of reindeer herders living in northern Khövsgöl Aimag of Mongolia.

Fifteen Star-Shaped Forts From Around The World

Star-shaped forts are a particularly interesting type of fortification. They first appeared around the time that gunpowder became commonly used in warfare. The unusual shape of the forts and the fact that they were made of hard-to-shatter brick helped the forts stand up to cannonball fire.

These incredible structures are among the most memorable, the most beautiful, and the most historically important forts from around the world.

Medieval Shipwreck Found in Danube River

Partially buried in mud and gravel near the riverbank some 18 miles north of Budapest, the flat bottomed wreck is about 40 feet long. Read more
Medieval Shipwreck Found in Danube River

Awesome Pictures

Droughts are Pushing Trees to the Limit

As temperatures rise and droughts become more severe in the Southwest, trees are increasingly up against extremely stressful growing conditions ...
Continue Reading

Caribbean Corals Mostly Dead

The Caribbean's coral reefs have collapsed, mostly due to overfishing and climate change, according to a new report released by the International Union for Conservation of Nature .
In the most comprehensive study yet of Caribbean coral reefs, scientists have discovered that the 50 to 60 percent coral cover present in the 1970s has plummeted to less than 10 percent. “I’m sad to tell you it’s a dire picture,” Carl Gustaf Lundin, director of IUCN’s Global Marine and Polar Programme, said at a news briefing Friday at the World Conservation Congress in Jeju Island, South Korea.

A Horseshoe Crab's Death March

150 million years ago, a horseshoe crab found itself at the bottom of a lagoon without any oxygen in the water. It walked for at least 9.7 meters berfore collapsing and dying.
It is sad for the horseshoe crab, but of benefit to modern paleontologists because the crab and its final steps have been preserved in an excellent fossil record. Dean Lomax of the Doncaster Museum and Art Gallery describes the find:
"The lagoon that the animal found itself in was anoxic, so at the bottom of these lagoons there was no oxygen and nothing was living," Mr Lomax told the BBC.
"This horseshoe crab [Mesolimulus walchi] found itself on the lagoon floor and we can tell by looking at the trace that the animal righted itself, managed to get on to its feet and began to walk," he explained.
However, the anoxic conditions of the lagoon floor quickly proved fatal to the arthropod and it soon began to struggle.
"We started to study the specimen closer and saw that the walking patterns and the animal's behaviour started to change. The leg impressions became deeper and more erratic, the telson (the long spiny tail) started being lifted up and down, up and down, showing that the animal was really being affected by the conditions," he said.
"To find a trackway and its track-maker preserved together in the fossil record is extremely rare. Working out who made a trackway is normally like detective work. In this case, the suspect has been caught in the act," Dr Nic Minter, currently of the University of Saskatchewan, Canada, who was not involved in the study, told BBC News.

Animal News

Top Most Threatened Species

Conservationists fear these species will be allowed to die out because none offer obvious benefits to people. Read more
endangered animals

Sea Creature Unchanged for 500 Million Years

A tiny sea creatures known as rhabdopleurids proves that staying the course can be very successful. Read more
Sea Creature Unchanged for 500 Million Years

Post-Dinos Mammal Was Fat and Slow

An ancient mammal wasn't much of a runner. But with the dinosaurs gone, it really didn't need to be. Read more

Angry Leopard Attacks Ranger

While releasing a leopard into the wild, a ranger gets to know its angry side. Read more
Angry Leopard Attacks Ranger: Gotta-See Video

Crows react to threats in human-like way

Cross a crow and it’ll remember you for years. Crows and humans share the ability to recognize faces and associate ...
Continue Reading