August 27, 2015

Posted by orrinj at 5:41 PM

THE KNOW-NOTHING URGE:

The Fearful and the Frustrated : Donald Trump's nationalist coalition takes shape--for now. (EVAN OSNOS, 8/28/15, The New Yorker)

To inhabit Trump's landscape for a while, to chase his jet or stay behind with his fans in a half-dozen states, is to encounter a confederacy of the frustrated--less a constituency than a loose alliance of Americans who say they are betrayed by politicians, victimized by a changing world, and enticed by Trump's insurgency. Dave Anderson, a New Hampshire Republican who retired from United Parcel Service, told me, "People say, 'Well, it'd be nice to have another Bush.' No, it wouldn't be nice. We had two. They did their duty. That's fine, but we don't want this Bush following what his brother did. And he's not coming across as very strong at all. He's not saying what Trump is saying. He's not saying what the issues are."

Trump's constant talk of his money, his peering down on the one per cent (not to mention the ninety-nine), has helped him to a surprising degree. "I love the fact that he wouldn't be owing anybody," Nancy Merz, a fifty-two-year-old Hampton Republican, told me. She worked at a furniture company, she said. "But the industry went down the tubes." Her husband, Charlie, used to build household electricity meters at a General Electric plant, until the job moved to Mexico. Now he parks cars at a hospital. Trump, in his speech, promised to stop companies from sending jobs abroad, and the Merzes became Trump Republicans. They are churchgoers, but they don't expect Trump to become one, and they forgive his unpriestly comments about women. "There are so many other things going on in this country that we've got be concerned about," Nancy said. "I've seen a lot of our friends lose their houses."

Trump's fans project onto him a vast range of imaginings--about toughness, business acumen, honesty--from a continuum that ranges from economic and libertarian conservatives to the far-right fringe. In partisan terms, his ideas are riven by contradiction--he calls for mass deportations but opposes cuts to Medicare and Social Security; he vows to expand the military but criticizes free trade--and yet that is a reflection of voters' often incoherent sets of convictions. The biggest surprise in Trump's following? He "made an incredible surge among the Tea Party supporters," according to Patrick Murray, who runs polling for Monmouth University. Before Trump announced his candidacy, only twenty per cent of Tea Partiers had a favorable view of him; a month later, that figure had risen to fifty-six per cent. Trump became the top choice among Tea Party voters, supplanting (and opening a large lead over) Senator Ted Cruz, of Texas, and Governor Scott Walker, of Wisconsin, both Tea Party stalwarts. According to a Washington Post /ABC News poll conducted last month, the "broad majority" of Trump's supporters hailed from two groups: voters with no college degree, and voters who say that immigrants weaken America. By mid-August, Trump was even closing in on Hillary Clinton. CNN reported that, when voters were asked to choose between the two, Clinton was leading fifty-one per cent to forty-five.

In Hampton, I dropped by Fast Eddie's Diner for the breakfast rush. "He has my vote," Karen Mayer, a sixty-one-year-old human-resources manager, told me. Already? "Already," she said. Her husband, Bob Hazelton, nodded in agreement. I asked what issue they cared about more than any other. "Illegal immigration, because it's destroying the country," Mayer said. I didn't expect that answer in New Hampshire, I remarked. She replied, "They're everywhere, and they are sucking our economy dry." Hazelton nodded again, and said, "And we're paying for it."

When the Trump storm broke this summer, it touched off smaller tempests that stirred up American politics in ways that were easy to miss from afar. At the time, I happened to be reporting on extremist white-rights groups, and observed at first hand their reactions to his candidacy. Trump was advancing a dire portrait of immigration that partly overlapped with their own. On June 28th, twelve days after Trump's announcement, the Daily Stormer, America's most popular neo-Nazi news site, endorsed him for President: "Trump is willing to say what most Americans think: it's time to deport these people." The Daily Stormer urged white men to "vote for the first time in our lives for the one man who actually represents our interests."

Ever since the Tea Party's peak, in 2010, and its fade, citizens on the American far right--Patriot militias, border vigilantes, white supremacists--have searched for a standard-bearer, and now they'd found him. In the past, "white nationalists," as they call themselves, had described Trump as a "Jew-lover," but the new tone of his campaign was a revelation. Richard Spencer is a self-described "identitarian" who lives in Whitefish, Montana, and promotes "white racial consciousness." At thirty-six, Spencer is trim and preppy, with degrees from the University of Virginia and the University of Chicago. He is the president and director of the National Policy Institute, a think tank, co-founded by William Regnery, a member of the conservative publishing family, that is "dedicated to the heritage, identity, and future of European people in the United States and around the world." The Southern Poverty Law Center calls Spencer "a suit-and-tie version of the white supremacists of old." Spencer told me that he had expected the Presidential campaign to be an "amusing freak show," but that Trump was "refreshing." He went on, "Trump, on a gut level, kind of senses that this is about demographics, ultimately. We're moving into a new America." He said, "I don't think Trump is a white nationalist," but he did believe that Trump reflected "an unconscious vision that white people have--that their grandchildren might be a hated minority in their own country. I think that scares us. They probably aren't able to articulate it. I think it's there. I think that, to a great degree, explains the Trump phenomenon. I think he is the one person who can tap into it."

Jared Taylor, the editor of American Renaissance, a white-nationalist magazine and Web site based in Oakton, Virginia, told me, in regard to Trump, "I'm sure he would repudiate any association with people like me, but his support comes from people who are more like me than he might like to admit."

Posted by orrinj at 5:32 PM

LOSING WARS IS WHAT BIBI DOES:

How the Iran Deal Will Pass--and Why It Should (Fred Kaplan, 8/27/15, Slate)

It's looking more and more like Benjamin Netanyahu committed a strategic blunder in so ferociously opposing the Iran nuclear deal and in rallying his American allies to spend all their resources on a campaign to kill the deal in Congress.

If current trends hold, the Israeli prime minister and his stateside lobbyists--mainly AIPAC--are set to lose this fight. It's politically risky for Israel's head of state to go up against the president of his only big ally and benefactor; it's catastrophic to do so and come away with nothing. Similarly, it's a huge defeat for AIPAC, whose power derives from an image of invincibility. American politicians and donors might get the idea that the group isn't so invincible after all, that they can defy its wishes, now and then, without great risk.

That's a rare trifecta, losing to Hezbollah, Hamas and Iran.

Posted by orrinj at 5:30 PM

WHAT ABOUT FENCING THE REST OF THE COUNTRY?:

Trump the Conservative Budget-Buster (Albert R. Hunt, 8/27/15, Bloomberg View)

He's not one for offering lots of policy specifics and it may be too much to ask for a populist firebrand to exhibit fiscal responsibility. Still, Trump makes plenty of proposals. It's fair to wonder how much they'd cost.

The most detailed Trump plank is on immigration, including plans to deport 11 million undocumented immigrants and to erect a 1,900-mile wall along the Mexican border. Jeb Bush has said those would cost hundreds of billions of dollars. Some analysts say that's a conservative estimate.

Trump has also vowed to build up the U.S. military, charging that enemies know America "is getting weaker." That's big-ticket budgeting. He boasts he'll exceed the efforts of President Barack Obama and Senator John McCain to help veterans. In New Hampshire, he promised to build "a full-service, first-class VA hospital." Not cheap. Other early caucus or primary states probably can expect similar promises of largesse.

The money apparently won't come from trimming entitlements. "I'm not going to cut Social Security like every other Republican, and I'm not going to cut Medicare or Medicaid," Trump insists.

Posted by orrinj at 5:27 PM

NO ONE CONSIDERS PSYCHOLOGY SCIENCE, DO THEY?:

OF 100 PUBLISHED PSYCHOLOGY STUDIES, LESS THAN HALF COULD BE REPRODUCED SUCCESSFULLY (Claire Maldarelli, 8/27/15, Popular Science)

One of the pillars of scientific research--perhaps the one that makes science as definitive as it is--is that any study should be capable of being repeated under the same methods and conditions and if the research holds true, the same result will be found every time the experiment is performed--something known as a study's reproducibility.

A group of researchers found that when they actually tried to reproduce 100 psychology studies, they managed to replicate the results in less than half the cases. Their results were published today in Science, and online as a resource for other scientists at The Reproducibility Project.

These new results piggyback on previous studies that attempted to replicate study results already published in scientific journals.

Posted by orrinj at 5:24 PM

BUT THEN THE CANCER OPENED HIS WALLET...:

Leaked emails show new Trump aide used to scorn him (Jennifer Jacobs,  August 26, 2015, Des Moines Register)

Leaked emails show that the Iowan who is Donald Trump's new national co-chairman was throwing bombs at him as recently as last month, expressing grave misgivings about the authenticity of Trump's religious faith and his conservatism.

"(Trump) left me with questions about his moral center and his foundational beliefs. ... His comments reveal no foundation in Christ, which is a big deal," evangelical conservative activist Sam Clovis said in an email just 35 days before he quit his job as Republican Rick Perry's Iowa chairman and signed on with Trump's campaign.

In the emails, shared by Perry backers Wednesday with The Des Moines Register, Clovis castigated Trump for his past liberal positions and admission that he has never asked for God's forgiveness for any wrongdoing.

In an interview Wednesday, Clovis verified that he'd written the sharply worded criticisms of Trump, including one email in which he praises Perry for calling Trump a "cancer on conservatism."

Posted by orrinj at 5:16 PM

OUR CROWD:

Pew Study Finds Orthodox Similar to Evangelical Christians -- Not Other Jews (Nathan Guttman, August 26, 2015, Forward)

The snapshot of the Orthodox community provided by the Pew report portrays a group made up of two separate communities -- the Modern Orthodox, who are involved in secular American life, and the more numerous Haredim, also referred to as ultra-Orthodox, who are more insular. Among the many aspects these two groups share is their rapid growth, their emphasis on marriage and families, their relative political and social conservatism, and their preference for Jewish education for their children.

When it comes to beliefs and practices, the differences between Orthodox Jews and all others -- including Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist and those who consider themselves Jewish with no religion -- become stark.

Asked about the importance of religion in their lives, 83% of Orthodox Jews say it is a very important factor, while only 20% of non-Orthodox Jews say so. By contrast, 86% of white evangelicals replied positively to this question.

There are other ways in which Orthodox Jews are more similar to evangelicals than to their non-Orthodox co-religionists. Orthodox Jews and Christian evangelicals attend religious services frequently (74% and 75%, respectively), while only 12% of non-Orthodox Jews go to synagogue at least once a month. The report shows that 89% of Orthodox Jews and 93% of Christian evangelicals believe in God with absolute certainty, while only 34% of all other Jews share this belief.

On Israel, 84% of Orthodox Jews and 82% of evangelicals believe Israel was given to the Jewish people by God, while only 35% of non-Orthodox Jews hold this view.

This pattern also plays out on the political level. Orthodox Jews and Christian evangelicals share an affinity with the Republican Party (57% and 66%, respectively, support or lean toward the GOP), as opposed to a mere 18% of non-Orthodox Jews who back Republicans.




Posted by orrinj at 5:08 PM

HYGIENE, NUTRITION, ANTIBIOTICS AND VACCINES:

'Major step' towards universal flu vaccine, studies say (AFP, 25 August 2015)

Scientists have long known that the stem of haemagglutinin - a spike-like protein, known as HA, on the surface of the virus - remains largely the same even when the tip, or "head", changes.

But until now, they have not been able to use the stem to provoke an immune reaction in lab animals or humans that would either neutralise the virus, or allow the body to attack and destroy infected cells.

To make that happen, a team led by Hadi Yassine of the Vaccine Research Center at the US National Institutes of Health grafted a nano-particle-sized protein called ferritin onto a headless HA stem.

The next step was to immunise mice and ferrets, then injecting them with the H5N1 "bird flu" that has a mortality rate of more than 50% among people but is not very contagious.

The mice were completely protected against the flu, the researchers found.

And most of the ferrets, the species that best predicts the success of influenza vaccines on humans, did not fall ill either.

Moreover, when a new batch of mice was injected with antibodies from the rodents which had survived the previous round, most of them also shook off what should have been a lethal dose of bird flu.

The other study, led by Antonietta Impagliazzo of the Crucell Vaccine Institute in Leiden, the Netherlands, took a similar approach - also creating an HA "stem-only" vaccine.


Posted by orrinj at 5:01 PM

FUN PLAYER, AWFUL PRECEDENT:

RIP Chocolate Thunder: Former NBA star Darryl Dawkins dead at 58 (Matt Bonesteel August 27, 2015, Washington Post)

Dawkins bestowed nicknames on his dunks. The first backboard-shatterer was dubbed "The Chocolate-Thunder-Flying, Robinzine-Crying, Teeth-Shaking, Glass-Breaking, Rump-Roasting, Bun-Toasting, Wham-Bam, Glass-Breaker-I-Am-Jam." There were other nicknames: "In Your Face Disgrace," "The Go-rilla," "Earthquaker Shaker," "Candyslam," "Dunk You Very Much," "Look Out Below," "Yo Mama," "Turbo Sexophonic Delight," "Rim Wrecker," "Greyhound Bus" (for when he went coast-to-coast), "Cover Your Head," "Spine Chiller Supreme," "Slam Bam Thank You Ma'am" and "Walk Away From Love."

Posted by orrinj at 4:49 PM

THE LEFT IS THE RIGHT:

How Jeremy Corbyn's Coup Hijacked Labour (NICK COHEN, September 2015, Standpoint)

The malaise on the modern Left becomes evident only when you remember what century you are living in. Russia does not pretend to be socialist now. It is a dictatorial kleptocracy, whose oligarchs stash their stolen money in Mayfair, Saint-Tropez and Palm Beach, and whose leader sends his armies over Russia's borders to grab the territory of neighbouring states. Putin boasts to the world that he wants to be the leader of its reactionary and illiberal forces. He is committed to adventurism and the repression of minorities, particularly homosexuals. Modern Russia is the heir to the Tsarist empire, which 19th-century liberals and socialists feared above all other powers. 

Corbyn, like so many on the far Left, does not fear Russia. Nor does he care that UKIP and the French National Front defend Putin because they admire a regime that loathes the European Union as much as they do. The far left has never been comfortable with the EU either. However, it indulges Putin because, as Corbyn explained in the old Communist daily, the Morning Star, "the EU and Nato have now become the tools of US policy in Europe". From this, it follows that all attempts by the former occupied nations of Europe to protect themselves from their old imperial master are American-backed provocations which goad a justly affronted Russia. Or as Corbyn put it, "The expansion of Nato into Poland and the Czech Republic has particularly increased tensions with Russia."

We have a politician at the forefront of one of Europe's great parties telling Poles that their country has no right to defend itself against an expansionist Russia. The man I suppose I now have to call the leader of the British Left is defending a classically reactionary power. Those who have kept their eyes open won't be shocked. Opposition to the West is the first, last and only foreign policy priority of many on the Left. It accounts for its disorientating alliances with movements any 20th-century socialist would have no trouble in labelling as extreme right-wing.

Not just Corbyn and his supporters but much of the liberal Left announce their political correctness and seize on the smallest sexist or racist "gaffe" of their opponents. Without pausing for breath, they move on to defend radical Islamist movements which believe in the subjugation of women and the murder of homosexuals. They will denounce the anti-Semitism of white neo-Nazis, but justify Islamist anti-Semites who actually murder Jews in Copenhagen and Paris. In a telling vignette, Corbyn himself defended a vicar from the supposedly liberal and tolerant Church of England who had promoted the conspiracy theory that Jews were responsible for the 9/11 attacks. Opponents who called for the church authorities to discipline him were not anti-racists fighting an ideology that had led to the murder of millions. On the contrary, said Corbyn, the vicar was the victim, "under attack" because he had "dared to speak out against Zionism".

When the far Left shades into the far Right, I am tempted to hug the centre and treat it as our best protection against the poisonous and the deranged.

Posted by orrinj at 4:43 PM

SO WILL WE ALL:

Meeting God as an American (DAVID PAUL DEAVEL, 8/24/15, Liberty Law)

"When I meet God," wrote Richard John Neuhaus (1936-2009), "I expect to meet him as an American. Not most importantly as an American, to be sure, but as someone who tried to take seriously, and tried to get others to take seriously, the story of America within the story of the world."

This statement is from American Babylon, Neuhaus' last book, which came out the year after his death. The book's argument was

that God is not indifferent toward the American experiment, and therefore we who are called to think about God and his ways through time dare not be indifferent to the American experiment. America is not uniquely Babylon, but it is our time and our place in Babylon. We seek its peace, in which, as Jeremiah said, we find our peace, as we yearn for and anticipate by faith and sacramental grace the New Jerusalem that is our pilgrim goal. It is time to think again--to think deeply, to think religiously--about the story of America within the story of the world.

Such a take on America and Christianity is controversial for many. And yet it was a view that Neuhaus, Lutheran pastor-cum-Catholic priest, largely held over a career that ran the gamut not merely from Protestant to Catholic, but from Left to Right, antiwar protester to defender of the Iraq invasion.

August 26, 2015

Posted by orrinj at 7:46 PM

FOX BUTTERFIELD AWARD OF THE WEEK:

U.S. stocks poised for gains despite new China fall (Ivana Kottasova, 8/26/15, CNN Money)

Posted by orrinj at 7:42 PM

ALL NOODLING, NO CANOODLING:

Ashley Madison was a bunch of dudes talking to each other, data analysis suggests (MATT ROSOFF, 8/26/15, Business Insider)

The Ashley Madison hack has revealed a lot of interesting things about the men who used the extramarital affair-finding site, like which cities, states, and universities they're from.

But what about the women?

Turns out, there may not have been very many women. As in, almost none.

Gizmodo writer Annalee Newlitz analyzed the data from the site's user database and found a lot of suspicious stuff that suggest nearly all the female accounts were fake, maintained by the company's employees.


Posted by orrinj at 7:38 PM

OTHER THAN THAT HOW DID YOU ENJOY THE UNICORN RIDE, MR. PUTIN?:

As Oil Prices Fall, Putin's Russia Faces a Long, Cold Winter (Colin Chilcoat, August 26, 2015, Fiscal Times)

Its surprise run as the world's number one performing major currency is long gone and the ruble has collapsed nearly 25 percent since the end of May, and 11 percent alone in August. For optimists and pessimists alike, speculation on the ruble's future is an exercise in futility. To be sure - on its current path - it's not a very fun activity either.

On a micro level, the ripple effects have hit hard. Real wages, or purchasing power, fell 4.8 percent in July and dropped 9.2 percent compared with the same period a year ago. Disposable income is also down 2.9 percent on the year. Unemployment remained steady, but an increasing number of workers are not getting paid; the amount of salary in arrears climbed 6.2 percent in July. Further, there is talk of delinking pension hikes from inflation, a move that would condemn a growing number of the population to abject poverty should the economic trends continue.

More broadly, the recession is in full swing. Russia's gross domestic product slipped 4.6 percent year-on-year in the second quarter - a fall that makes it the worst performing mid-sized economy in the world, ahead of Iraq and Venezuela. Negative growth in 2016 is looking more and more possible and Bank of Russia economists estimate that western sanctions have lowered the GDP ceiling by as much as 0.6 percent this year.

Earlier this year the Right was lauding him as a strong leader...kind of like Donald Trump.
Posted by orrinj at 7:34 PM

hISTORY eNDS EVERYWHERE:

Africa's democratic road to economic unity : With the launch of an ambitious project to form a free-trade zone, Africa must also realize that trade is best enhanced when states are democratic. (Monitor's Editorial Board AUGUST 26, 2015, CS Monitior)

This week, the United Nations began training officials from 19 African countries on how to negotiate a trade deal. Their bargaining skills are crucial right now to complete an ambitious project launched in June by the African Union: the creation of a free-trade zone from Cairo to Cape Town in the next two years.

The continent's dream of economic integration, dating back at least 35 years, is hardly new. But the urgency is. With free-trade pacts in the works between Europe and the United States, and among 12 countries of the Pacific Rim, African nations realize they must boost trade among themselves.

Only 10 to 12 percent of Africa's trade is across its internal borders, far lower than in other regions and a sure sign of protectionism. And tariffs between African states are far higher than on goods imported from outside the continent.



Posted by orrinj at 7:30 PM

JOURNALISTS AREN'T PARTISAN JUST BECAUSE YOU CAN'T ANSWER THEIR QUESTIONS:

Univision's Jorge Ramos' confrontation with Trump over immigration is a case of deja vu (STEPHEN BATTAGLIO AND KATE LINTHICUM, 8/26/15, LA Times)
 
Every four years, the English-speaking TV world rediscovers Jorge Ramos. [...]

Ramos confronted President Obama in 2012 about his failure to deliver on a promise to enact immigration reform in his first term. He made Obama's Republican opponent, Gov. Mitt Romney, squirm as well after pressing him on his plan for deportation of undocumented immigrants. "He wanted the Hispanic vote and at the same time he was promoting deportation," Ramos said in a 2013 interview. "It was like he was saying 'Vote for me, but I don't want you in this country.'''

Ramos pushes candidates on the issue because he believes that Latino voters are largely ignored until campaign time rolls around.

"I call it the Christopher Columbus syndrome," he said after the 2012 campaign. "They rediscover us every four years." [...]

Ramos, 57, has been called the Walter Cronkite of Spanish-language television. His Univision broadcast, "Noticiero Univision," which he co-anchors with Maria Elena Salinas, is watched by an average of 2 million viewers a night. That represents a much larger audience than what CNN's Wolf Blitzer pulls in the hour.

The Mexican-born Ramos has been the dominant figure in Spanish-language TV news since he joined Univision in 1986. The network's ratings success with telenovelas imported from Mexico has spilled over to his program in the last 30 years.

But he's chosen to use his platform as an advocate for immigration reform, which separates him from traditional TV news anchors.

"I think he sees himself as a voice and someone who can get attention and get answers to certain key questions," said Joe Peyronnin, a former news executive for Univision's competitor, Telemundo.

Peyronnin added that Ramos' independence and fearlessness date back to his work as a TV journalist in Mexico.

"When he worked in Mexico, he quit because his bosses tried to dictate to him what he should say and not say about the government," Peyronnin said.

Posted by orrinj at 5:51 PM

OUR REPUBLICAN PRESIDENT:

Since President Obama took office, 85 of 98 state legislative bodies got more Republican (Philip Bump, August 26, 2015, Washington Post) 

The NCSL's annual breakdown of the composition of each state's Senate and House or Assembly goes back to 2009, when President Obama was inaugurated. Since then, the ratio of Republicans to Democrats has tilted to the right in nearly every Senate and nearly every legislature.

Posted by orrinj at 5:48 PM

IN EFFECT, HE'S RUNNING ON THE BIGGEST TAX INCREASE IN HISTORY:

Trump's immigration plan could spell doom for the GOP (George F. Will, August 21, 2015, Washington Post)

It has come to this: The GOP, formerly the party of Lincoln and ostensibly the party of liberty and limited government, is being defined by clamors for a mass roundup and deportation of millions of human beings. To will an end is to will the means for the end, so the Republican clamors are also for the requisite expansion of government's size and coercive powers.

Posted by orrinj at 4:13 PM

WHY NOT SKIP THE JOB AND GIVE 100% $8?:

A $4 minimum wage can get people back to work (Michael R. Strain, February 14, 2014, Bloomberg)

Because of the federal minimum wage, the company knows that it has to take at least a $7.25-an-hour chance on a worker. If we knocked the minimum wage down to, say, $4 an hour, we would significantly mitigate employers' risk from hiring a long-term unemployed worker. Allowing employers to pay this group of people 45 percent less than other minimum-wage workers provides a strong incentive for businesses to give the long-term unemployed a shot.

Of course, we can't just lower the minimum wage for the long-term unemployed to $4 an hour and leave it at that. Society must have as a goal that no one who works full time and heads a household lives in poverty. This policy would have to be paired with an expanded earned-income tax credit, or with more straightforward wage subsidies -- federal transfer programs that supplement a worker's labor market earnings with tax dollars.

How much will this cost? Let's say that the government decided to give a minimum wage worker an additional $4 for every hour he worked. This wage subsidy effectively increases the financial rewards from an hour of work above what is required under current law, and will induce some workers to take jobs they wouldn't otherwise take. Let's assume that 20 percent of the long-term unemployed take a $4-an-hour job, and that each of them works full time for a year. Under this plan, the annual cost of the wage subsidy would be about $6 billion. Even given this (probably extreme) overestimate, the program would be relatively cheap.

A suggestion for paying for it: Take some money the federal government spends on the highest-earning households and divert it to this program. For example, the government spent $70 billion on the mortgage-interest deduction in fiscal year 2013, the Congressional Budget Office estimates. This spending overwhelmingly benefited households in the top quintile by income. A better use for some of that money would be to help the long-term unemployed make a transition into jobs.

You can still pay for it out of just that one tax credit.
Posted by orrinj at 4:07 PM

UNDERESTIMATING HOW EASY JOBS ARE:

THE PROBLEM WITH AMC'S SCI-FI HIT HUMANS (ANDREW AGHAPOUR,  AUGUST 26, 2015, Religion Dispatches)

[W]hile androids make for a powerful literary device through which to explore our fear that technology might one day surpass us, the human form isn't always best for the job. Take, for example, the synth telephone operator. Why create a physical robot for this job which has to receive audio through a wired earpiece and then respond via speaker into a microphone? Couldn't synth software do the trick without complex parts that mimic the functions of ears and a mouth?

Furthermore, wouldn't it make better economic sense to distribute artificial intelligence across multiple hardware platforms, instead of clustering so much precious technology into a single body? Wouldn't it make more sense to have a dog-like Roomba, a wireless home operating system, and a self-driving car, since each component could be upgraded and replaced?

In our own world, this diversified approach to robot morphology is already the norm. Rather than build androids with broad intelligence and skill sets, manufacturers have been developing highly specialized robots for specific tasks.  Many are modeled after existing creatures, and so it would be more accurate to call them "theroids," or "animal-like" robots. For underwater spying the U.S. Navy built a drone that looks and swims like a Bluefin tuna; Boston Dynamics' "Big Dog" is a tireless pack mule that will walk alongside soldiers in the field; and robotic swans might soon be testing water quality near you, which makes sense since swans are well designed for floating along lakes.

Visit Japan's first robot-staffed hotel, and you'll interact with a number of theroids, including a robotic dinosaur. If the dinosaur accidentally hurts you, and you're elderly, you might be taken care of by a bear. This cuddle bot is a patch of interactive fur, in case that's your thing. Of course animals aren't always the best shape for tasks, either. Hotels around the world are buying room service robots that happen to resemble floating trashcans.

In our own world we're also seeing white-collar jobs outsourced to intelligent machines. Instead of being shaped like humans, however, ours are shaped like computers. In Rise of the Robots, Martin Ford details a number of white-collar careers that have been threatened, or outright replaced, by clever software. The process of legal discovery, for example, was once the job of trained lawyers and paralegals as it took a human mind to discern whether a certain document or fact had potential relevance to the case at hand. Today, "e-Discovery" software can analyze millions of electronic documents and isolate the relevant ones. They go beyond mere keyword searches, using machine learning to isolate concepts, even if specific phrases aren't present.

Androids can't replace pharmacists on their own, but pharmacists can be replaced by a complex automated system like the University of California San Francisco's robotic pharmacy, which is capable of producing hundreds of thousands of labeled doses of medicine without error. This is part of the growing trend within large-scale manufacturing to replace teams of people with customized, automated systems. As John Markoff recently detailed, robotic arms are now picking the lettuce we eat, operating the grocery distribution systems that bring that lettuce to our neighborhoods, and building the cars that get us to the store.

Of course, we'd like to think that only a machine that's just like us could replace us on the job.  

Posted by orrinj at 3:03 PM

ANGER IS THIN GRUEL:

Trump may be 'impossible to take down,' top Republican pollster says (Claude Brodesser-Akner, 8/25/15,  NJ.com)

On Monday night, the group of mostly college-educated Trump supporters -- 17 women, 12 men -- was largely Republican, but also featured some Democrats and independents. What united them was a willingness to trust Trump whether or not they fully agreed with his policies, or in some cases, regardless of whether he even had articulated any. Twenty-three of the 29 participants said that they were more persuaded by his persona, while just six said it was Trump's policies that sold them on him.

"I want to vote for a person," emphasized one participant, a middle-aged man identified as 'David.' "I believe in his ability to make decisions. I trust him to make decisions more than I trust Obama or George W. (Bush)."

The group was similarly unfazed by Trump's reversals of opinion or lack of ideological purity that so often defines primary election contests. 

Luntz said this shows "nothing disqualifies Trump" in the eyes of his supporters: "If you wanted to take him down, I would not know how to do it."

For example, the single biggest reason Trump supporters gave for backing him was his branding of Obamacare as a catastrophe that the GOP must repeal and replace with "something much better." But moments later in the same session, participants in the Trump focus group noted that the thing that made them least likely to vote for Trump was his prior support for a "single payer" or entirely government-funded healthcare system.

The same is true of Trump's flip-flopping over who is best qualified to manage the U.S. economy. Eighteen of the 29 pointed to Trump's promise to restore balance to the nation's trade deficit with Japan and China as a reason they would be most likely to vote for him. However, moments later nearly half of the 29 said that what made them least likely to vote for Trump were his past statements that the U.S. economy does better under Democratic rather than Republican leadership.

By a large measure, the Trump supporters in Luntz's focus group were very pessimistic about the future of the U.S.: Twenty-one of 29 said that they believed the nation's best days were in the past.  Nineteen of the 29 said they believed their kids would have a lower quality of life than they enjoyed unless an outsider intervened.

"They're 'mad as hell and not going to take it anymore,'" Luntz said.  "And (Trump) personifies it: Each sees in him what they want for the country. They want him to fix what makes them mad, and they believe he will."

It is Trump's ability to reflect back to voters their most fervent wishes for the nation, Luntz said, that makes the political outsider so dangerous to the rest of the 16 other GOP 2016 hopefuls. The main reason for this, Luntz found, was what he termed a willingness of Trump supporters to live in "an alternative universe" in which any attempt by the media to point out inconsistencies in Trump's record or position was seen as a politically motivated conspiracy.

"When the media challenges the veracity of his statements, you take his side," Luntz asked of his focus group.  Only one person sat quietly, her hands in her lap, as 28 other arms shot up in agreement.

America doesn't elect angry men.
Posted by orrinj at 2:48 PM

TRUMPING TRUMP:

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro Deploys Army to Deport Colombians ( KEJAL VYAS And  SARA SCHAEFER MUÑOZ, 8/26/15, WSJ)

 Venezuela's President Nicolás Maduro, struggling with falling approval ratings and a deepening economic crisis, has found what critics say is a convenient scapegoat for his country's woes: neighboring Colombia.

In recent days, Venezuela deported more than 1,000 Colombian citizens and closed key border crossings in the frontier state of Táchira, where Mr. Maduro declared martial law in several municipalities.

Posted by orrinj at 2:43 PM

IN FAIRNESS TO THE DONALD...:

Donald Trump: A 21st Century Protectionist Herbert Hoover (Stephen Moore & Larry Kudlow, August 26, 2015, Real Clear Politics)

Here's a historical fact that Donald Trump, and many voters attracted to him, may not know: The last American president who was a trade protectionist was Republican Herbert Hoover. Obviously that economic strategy didn't turn out so well -- either for the nation or the GOP.

Does Trump aspire to be a 21st century Hoover with a modernized platform of the 1930 Smoot-Hawley tariff that helped send the U.S. and world economy into a decade-long depression and a collapse of the banking system?

We can't help wondering whether the panic in world financial markets is in part a result of the Trump assault on free trade.

...his nativism and protectionism are just pandering to the Right.  As president he'd implement amnesty and the trade deals. 

Unlike the governors, who have proven records of governing to run on, his positions are for sale.

Posted by orrinj at 2:35 PM

...AND CHEAPER...:

This Ingenious $20 Lamp Gets All Its Energy From Gravity (Ben Schiller, 8/25/15, Co.Exist)

It provides free light (after you've bought it). It's cheap. And it has none of the environmental or health side-effects as do other light alternatives in the developing world. But even all those things aren't necessarily enough if it's to reach its potential. If the company and foundation behind the device are to make it a success, they need a reliable product; they need to distribute it in places where distribution can be difficult; and, more fundamentally, they need to explain why someone should buy a GravityLight when there's plenty of good, cheap solar on the market today.

Thankfully the company seems to have most of the questions answered, as least so far.

The light has a gear-train and DC generator. As a heavy object pulls down on one side, it creates a force that's converted into electricity. The lamp can last for hours on a single lift to one side, and, of course, that lift is renewable: When one side drops to balance, you just hoist it up again. With a string of mini-lights attached, it can illuminate a small room. And, importantly, without the problems that come with kerosene lamps (fumes, fire), which are still widely used in off-grid places.

Posted by orrinj at 2:33 PM

THE REFORMATION, LED FROM AMERICA:

In Iran, a Women's Soccer Revolution : In a country where women aren't allowed to attend soccer games, the sport is taking off at the youth level--in part thanks to an Iranian-American (BILL SPINDLE, Aug. 24, 2015, NY Times)

[Q]uietly, there is something of a women's soccer revolution going on here. And one of its leaders, of all people, is an Iranian-American.

Katayoun Khosrowyar, 27, moved here at age 17. She has captained the Iranian women's national soccer team, lived through a battle over the wearing of head scarves on the field and, last year, evacuated a team of young Iranian girls from earthquake-ravaged Nepal.

Khosrowyar--Kat to friends and fans--now holds a seat on the sport's national oversight board, in addition to coaching the national under-14 team. While the women's national team has struggled in top-level international competition and is currently in the process of being reconstituted, the sport is taking off at the youth level. Four thousand Iranian girls now play soccer in Iran's women's and girls' leagues, up from none in 2005, according to the country's soccer association.

"The biggest challenge we have is the lack of leader coaches," said Elahe Arabameri, who recently took over as the national head of Iran's women's soccer programs. "She's just one, but she's got a great future."

Khosrowyar and Arabameri hope the nuclear deal recently struck between Iran and six world powers will open Iran to the world again, ushering in a new era for women's sports that includes foreign corporate sponsorship deals and cooperative arrangements with European and perhaps even American soccer programs.

Posted by orrinj at 2:24 PM

THEIR HOLOCAUSTS WERE MALTHUSIAN, SAID THE NEO MALTHUSIAN:

The Coming Age of Slaughter (Timothy Snyder, 12/06/2010, New Republic)

The age of mass killing, the 1930s and 1940s, was also a moment of environmental panic. World War I had disrupted free trade, and the new Europe was divided between those who needed food and those who controlled it. By the 1960s, improvements in seeds, fertilizers, and pesticides would make surpluses rather than shortages the problem. But, during the crucial 1930s and 1940s, when the decisions were made that sealed the fate of millions, European leaders such as Hitler and Stalin were preoccupied with mastering fertile soil and the people who farmed it.

World War I, in which both Hitler and Stalin played a role, had seemed to show that conquest of cropland meant security and power. It ended in 1918 during a failed German attempt to colonize Ukraine, the breadbasket of Europe. To us, the "Ukrainian breadbasket" is a strange notion--perhaps as strange as the concept of "Saudi oil fields" will be 70 years from now. In the 1930s, however, it was at the center of strategic discussions in Moscow and Berlin. The Soviets held Ukraine and wanted to exploit its black earth; the Nazi leadership, ruling a country that was not self-sufficient in food, wanted to take it back.

Both Hitler's Holocaust and Stalin's Terror took place during an interval of environmental risk: between the identification of a critical environmental problem and the introduction of the technologies that would solve it. National Socialism and Stalinism both identified enemies to be eliminated, of course; and today, when we talk about Nazism and Stalinism, we understandably emphasize the hatred--the racial hatred of Hitler and the class hatred of Stalin. But there was an economic and environmental side to their ideologies as well: Both Hitler and Stalin made killing seem to serve a vision of economic development that would overcome environmental limitations. Perhaps we today tend to ignore this dimension because noting environmental limitations smacks of making excuses for horror. Or perhaps we see the economy as a realm of rationality and so assume that economic thought must not be implicated in apparently emotional projects such as mass killing. Or perhaps we have simply forgotten the environmental constraints of an earlier period, so different from those of our time.

We face our own environmental limitations and so have very good reason to recover this history.

Only Darwinists ignore the fact that they were Applied Darwinists.

Posted by orrinj at 2:20 PM

THEY'LL ALWAYS BE THREE TO FIVE YEARS AWAY:

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU'S LONG HISTORY OF CRYING WOLF ABOUT IRAN'S NUCLEAR WEAPONS (Murtaza Hussain, Mar. 2 2015, The Intercept)

It is worth remembering, however, that Netanyahu has said much of this before. Almost two decades ago, in 1996, Netanyahu addressed a joint session of Congress where he darkly warned, "If Iran were to acquire nuclear weapons, this could presage catastrophic consequences, not only for my country, and not only for the Middle East, but for all mankind," adding that, "the deadline for attaining this goal is getting extremely close."

Almost 20 years later that deadline has apparently still not passed, but Netanyahu is still making dire predictions about an imminent Iranian nuclear weapon. Four years before that Congressional speech, in 1992, then-parliamentarian Netanyahu advised the Israeli Knesset that Iran was "three to five years" away from reaching nuclear weapons capability, and that this threat had to be "uprooted by an international front headed by the U.S."

In his 1995 book, "Fighting Terrorism," Netanyahu once again asserted that Iran would have a nuclear weapon in "three to five years," apparently forgetting about the expiration of his old deadline.

Posted by orrinj at 2:17 PM

TOM TANCREDO DISEASE:

Trump Says He Didn't Know He Employed Illegal Aliens (DEAN BAQUET, July 13, 1990, ny tIMES)

Donald J. Trump took the witness stand yesterday to deny seven-year-old charges that he knowingly used 200 undocumented workers to demolish the old Bonwit Teller building to make way for Trump Tower, the glittering centerpiece of his real-estate empire.

To hire construction workers is to know you're hiring illegals.

Posted by orrinj at 2:11 PM

NEDA WINS:

Iran reformists implore Congress: Approve nuclear deal to boost human rights (Jerusalem Post, 8/26/15)

Dozens of prominent figures, many of whom have spent time in jail and faced travel or work bans, have recorded short video clips on social media sites this week praising the July 14 accord that will lift international sanctions from Iran in exchange for strict curbs on its nuclear program.

"These video messages show that those who have paid the highest prices for the cause of democracy and human rights in Iran are supporting the deal," Mohammadreza Jalaeipour, a pro-democracy activist who organized the campaign said.

Many of the videos implored the U.S. Congress to approve the deal in a vote due next month, arguing that it offers the best hope of promoting democracy in Iran and is not a capitulation to Iranian hardline factions to which they, too, are opposed.

Posted by orrinj at 2:09 PM

BONUS!:

Marcy Borders, the Dust-Covered Woman in the Iconic 9/11 Photograph, Has Died of Cancer (Nash Jenkins, 8/26/15, Time)

On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, Borders was one month into a new job as a legal assistant on the 81st floor of One World Trade Center. When American Airlines Flight 11 struck the building a few stories above her office, she fled, making it onto the street just as the adjacent tower collapsed. A stranger pulled her into a nearby lobby, where Agence France-Presse photographer Stan Honda took her picture: her face distraught; her body covered in ash. In the weeks and years following 9/11, the world would thusly know her as the "Dust Lady."

Meanwhile, she found herself haunted by her experiences that morning, ultimately struggling with depression and substance-abuse issues.

"My life spiraled out of control. I didn't do a day's work in nearly 10 years, and by 2011 I was a complete mess," Borders told the New York Post in June 2011. "Every time I saw an aircraft, I panicked. If I saw a man on a building, I was convinced he was going to shoot me."

She checked herself into rehab in April 2011, eight days before President Obama appeared on television to announce the death of Osama bin Laden.

"The treatment got me sober, but bin Laden being killed was a bonus," she told the Post. "I used to lose sleep over him, have bad dreams about bin Laden bombing my house, but now I have peace of mind."

Posted by orrinj at 2:02 PM

WE SHOULD KEEP THE KIDS:

Immigration experts: Jeb Bush had a point on 'anchor babies' : He was referring to 'birth tourism' largely among Chinese women. (SEUNG MIN KIM 8/25/15, Politico)

In recent months, federal authorities have been increasingly scrutinizing "birth tourism," which has been most recently tied to Chinese women who come to the United States and intend to return home with a child who has U.S. citizenship, which confers significant health care, education and civic benefits.

In March, federal agents raided multiple locations in Southern California -- part of an investigation that authorities say showed evidence of birth-tourism businesses specifically catering to the Chinese. The following month, the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Central District of California charged 10 Chinese nationals with violating court orders in connection with a birth-tourism investigation.






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