October 5, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 7:13 PM


Posted by orrinj at 7:08 PM


The Proud Boys Are Furious That Gay Men Have Taken Over #ProudBoys On Twitter (Abram Brown, 10/05/20, Forbes)

The demonstration that Takei and the others took part in is a response to the spotlight recently put on the Proud Boys after President Trump mentioned them in last week's presidential debate. The Proud Boys--an organization labeled as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center--describe themselves as a "western chauvinist" organization and have publicly broadcast white supremacist messaging since their founding in 2016.

The Proud Boys have no official presence on Twitter since the social media site banned them in 2018, so they have spent the last few days in gleeful celebration over their newfound, Trump-fueled fame on Parler, a two-year-old social media app popular among conservatives. And it's their absence on Twitter--the result of toxic and abusive language--that allowed the gay activists to seize control of #proudboys on Sunday. 

The Proud Boys took none too kindly to this, filling up Parler with the type of hateful messages that got them kicked off Twitter in the first place. Much of the action was carried out by the Proud Boys' official account on the app, which has 60,000 followers. Enrique Tarrio, the Proud Boys' chairman, said in a separate Parler post that the left was attempting to turn the group's name into "a slur" and that the gay pride campaign with #proudboys was an attempt "to drown out the voices of our supporters."

Posted by orrinj at 7:02 PM


The five-lined skink is the only lizard native to New England. (BRETT AMY THELEN, 10/5/2020, Valley News)

New England is home to dozens of species of mammals, hundreds of varieties of birds, and tens of thousands of different insects, but only one lizard: the five-lined skink. Though I am fond of reptiles and often seek them out, I have never seen a skink. Unless you're lucky, determined, or a rock climber -- or some combination of the three -- I'm betting you haven't either, at least not in our neck of the woods.

These shiny-scaled, fleet-footed lizards measure from 5 to 8½ inches long and are most active in New England from April through early October. Juveniles and adult females are recognizable by the five cream-colored stripes running the length of their bodies. Young skinks also have electric blue tails, which fade to gray as they age. Older males retain only the faintest trace of their eponymous stripes, morphing instead into a uniform olive-brown, though they do sport reddish chins during the spring courtship season (ooh la la).

Five-lined skinks dine primarily on insects, including crickets, grasshoppers, and beetles. To the delight of one Vermont kayaker -- who witnessed a skink leaping from lily pad to lily pad before launching itself directly into their boat, no doubt in hot pursuit of a meal -- they also eat mayflies, dragonflies, and other arthropods fond of freshwater.

While skinks are widespread throughout the Southeast, where they can be found in almost any woodland, in the Northeast they're limited to rocky summits, talus slopes and exposed ledges, typically near large bodies of water. They don't exist at all in New Hampshire, Maine or Massachusetts, and the entire known population of Vermont skinks occurs at just a handful of sites in two towns, almost all within one mile of Lake Champlain.

Posted by orrinj at 5:02 PM


Trump's touting of 'racehorse theory' tied to eugenics and Nazis alarms Jewish leaders (SEEMA MEHTA, OCT. 5, 2020, LA Times)

President Trump has alarmed Jewish leaders and others with remarks that appeared to endorse "racehorse theory" -- the idea that selective breeding can improve a country's performance, which American eugenicists and German Nazis used in the last century to buttress their goals of racial purity.

"You have good genes, you know that, right?" Trump told a mostly white crowd of supporters in Bemidji, Minn., on Sept. 18. "You have good genes. A lot of it is about the genes, isn't it? Don't you believe? The racehorse theory. You think we're so different? You have good genes in Minnesota."

Rabbi Mark Diamond, a senior lecturer on Jewish studies at Loyola Marymount University, was stunned.

"To hear these remarks said at a rally in an election campaign for the presidency is beyond reprehensible," said Diamond, the former executive vice president of the Board of Rabbis of Southern California.

"This is at the heart of Nazi ideology... This has brought so much tragedy and destruction to the Jewish people and to others. It's actually hard to believe in 2020 we have to revisit these very dangerous theories."

Posted by orrinj at 4:00 AM


Humans Are All More Closely Related Than We Commonly Think (Scott Hershberger, October 5, 2020, Scientific American)

The family tree of humanity is much more interconnected than we tend to think. "We're culturally bound and psychologically conditioned to not think about ancestry in very broad terms," Rutherford says. Genealogists can only focus on one branch of a family tree at a time, making it easy to forget how many forebears each of us has.

Imagine counting all your ancestors as you trace your family tree back in time. In the nth generation before the present, your family tree has 2n slots: two for parents, four for grandparents, eight for great-grandparents, and so on. The number of slots grows exponentially. By the 33rd generation--about 800 to 1000 years ago--you have more than eight billion of them. That is more than the number of people alive today, and it is certainly a much larger figure than the world population a millennium ago.

This seeming paradox has a simple resolution: "Branches of your family tree don't consistently diverge," Rutherford says. Instead "they begin to loop back into each other." As a result, many of your ancestors occupy multiple slots in your family tree. For example, "your great-great-great-great-great-grandmother might have also been your great-great-great-great-aunt," he explains.

The consequence of humanity being "incredibly inbred" is that we are all related much more closely than our intuition suggests, Rutherford says. 

Posted by orrinj at 4:00 AM


How Mark Meadows Became the White House's Unreliable Source (Tim Alberta, 10/04/20,  Politico Magazine)

In January of 2013, after an unsuccessful attempt by Tea Party conservatives to overthrow House Speaker John Boehner, a rookie congressman from North Carolina slinked into the Speaker's office complex inside the U.S. Capitol. Mark Meadows had not voted against Boehner on the House floor. But he had participated in the plotting--and word had since leaked out naming him as one of the conspirators. Frightened that he would be exiled to the hinterlands of the House, the freshman sought an audience with the speaker.

"He's on the couch, sitting across from me in my chair, and suddenly he slides off the couch, down onto his knees, and puts his hands together in front of his chest," Boehner recalled to me. "He says, 'Mr. Speaker, will you please forgive me?'" (This incident was witnessed by several people, including Boehner's chief of staff, Mike Sommers, who described it as "the strangest behavior I had ever seen in Congress.")

The Speaker took pity. He figured Meadows was just a "nervous new member who wanted to be liked" and told him there was no harm done. The two men carried on fine over the next couple of years--until Meadows surprised his colleagues by voting against Boehner's reelection in 2015. "And then he sends me the most gracious note you'll ever read, saying what an admirable job I've done as Speaker," Boehner recalled. "I just figured he's a schizophrenic."

That's one diagnosis of Meadows--and trust me, there are plenty to go around in Washington. Friends would describe him as a respectable player--calculating and slippery but decent to a fault. Enemies would liken him to a political sociopath, someone whose charm and affability conceal an unemotional capacity for deception. What both groups would agree upon is that Meadows, the 61-year-old White House chief of staff, is so consumed with his cloak-and-dagger, three-dimensional-chess approach to Washington that he can't always be trusted.

Which makes him precisely the wrong person to be at the center of an international crisis.

Posted by orrinj at 4:00 AM


Trump COVID-19 diagnosis reveals yet another way he has corrupted our national life (Chris Truax, 10/05/20, USA Today)

What's left of Trump's campaign is now in tatters with the next debate likely to be canceled, the president unable to campaign, and his campaign itself decapitated. Depending on how many Republican senators get sick and how badly, Barrett's Supreme Court nomination may even end up on hold. This accelerated karma is about as close as you can come to irrefutable proof that God exists and that he has an excellent, if slightly dark, sense of humor.

It is also correct for us to take note of the facts that brought us here. Acknowledging those facts and learning from them is the way we give meaning to tragedy. Feeling sympathy for someone who is suffering doesn't preclude us from recognizing that they brought it on themselves. This fiasco wasn't "bad luck." It was bad judgment, even foolishness, on a grand scale.

Images of the Rose Garden super-spreader event reveal no masks and no social distancing. But that has been par for the course with Donald Trump. Trump has repeatedly mocked mask-wearing, even taunting Joe Biden about it at Tuesday's debate and claiming that there had never been any adverse consequences from his flaunting the coronavirus rules laid down by his own Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. At the debate itself, the first family refused to wear masks even though they were required to do so. To her undying shame, Melania Trump was very likely infectious at that point. "National embarrassment" doesn't begin to cover it.

On top of that, we've avoided a constitutional crisis by an accident in the seating arrangement. Pictures from the Rose Garden event show Vice-President Pence sitting directly across the central aisle from Melania Trump with KellyAnne Conway immediately behind her. Had Pence been seated in a slightly different place, he might now be infected. There is no formal mechanism for replacing an incapacitated vice-president. If both Trump and Pence become severely ill, literally no-one will be in charge.

And yet, the president and his advisers have learned absolutely nothing. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Why walking will be an important freedom this winterIt's a good time to embrace the most accessible form of exercise. )JONN ELLEDGE, 10/05/20, New Statesman)

Just as I can't really explain why I started, neither can I explain why I continue. There are things I've seen on my walks that count as interesting curios or which have aided my understanding of the city. (Three, off the top of my head: the Downham Estate is essentially the Becontree Estate, plus hills; one of the poshest areas of the capital has, for some reason, a statue of St Volodymyr commemorating the millennial anniversary of the Christianisation of Kievan Rus; and Croydon is a hell of a lot bigger than you think it is.) But these aren't the point of the exercise, any more than finding that line in the road was.

Partly, of course, it's that the internet has ruined my attention span, and so I often find the best way of getting through a long or difficult book is to have someone, preferably Anton Lesser, read it to me. Partly, too, it's about exercise: as a former fat child who disliked sports even before he didn't get picked for them, any form of activity that leaves me pleasantly knackered without forcing me to interact with other human beings is welcome.

(A sidenote: even in the age of Fitbits and 10,000 steps, you might think the idea that a walk can count as exercise sounds silly, because we all walk every day. To which I respond: you haven't walked far enough. Get above 15 miles, say, and the next day you might find you ache all over, even those parts of the body that seemingly have nothing to do with walking. Do it in the wrong shoes, and you might even damage yourself in such a way that walking as far as the coffee machine is enough to make you nauseous. I do not recommend this part. Wear the right shoes.)

But the reason I walk, I suspect, has nothing to do with exercise or audiobooks or the city around me. Rather, it's to do with my brain. There's a quote from Toni Morrison's Beloved that has always stayed with me: "The pieces I am, she gather them and give them back to me in all the right order." The character who speaks these words is talking about a lover; but a long walk can have much the same effect, focusing your mind on one activity while your subconscious quietly sorts through all the things that are bothering you, throwing up solutions without the need to consciously search for them. Walking is exercise; walking is also therapy.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Rural Pennsylvania voters don't hate Biden as much as they hated Clinton -- and Trump may need them to (Andrew Seidman, Updated: October 4, 2020, Philadelphia Inquirer)

Polls and interviews with about 20 voters in Cambria County last month show Trump retains deep support in a region that was anchored for much of the 20th century by steel and coal industries but has struggled to find a postindustrial identity. The president's supporters praise his forceful opposition to illegal immigration, his confrontation with China on trade, and his emphasis on "law and order." They call him a fighter and express dismay about a future without him in the White House.

"Trump has to win," said Joseph Juretic, 69, a retired union electrical worker who lives in Johnstown. "Trump is holding the line as far as trade, the economy, the pandemic, all the riots."

"If Biden gets in," he added, "it's all gonna fall apart."

But Biden doesn't generate the kind of intense, visceral opposition many voters held -- and still hold -- for Clinton.

Two polls of Pennsylvania voters last week showed Biden with almost a double-digit lead in the state, fueled partly by his strength in the suburbs. Trump is holding strong in central Pennsylvania. But he has lost some support among rural voters overall in the state, according to a New York Times poll. And both the Times survey and a Washington Post poll found that Trump's advantage with white voters who didn't go to college -- especially women -- has slipped.

Trump's announcement Friday that he had tested positive for the coronavirus added new uncertainty to the race, and at a minimum was likely to keep the pandemic at the forefront of a campaign in which he's tried to focus on just about anything else.

Analysts and strategists in both parties see Pennsylvania as the state most likely to decide the election. If Trump is to mount a comeback in the final 30 days of the race, he'll likely need an even bigger landslide in the broad swath of Pennsylvania between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh known in political parlance as "The T."

Cambria County was already trending more Republican by 2016, but Trump accelerated the shift. Mitt Romney won 58% of the vote in 2012, and Trump's share jumped to 67%. The population has been declining for decades, and the county is whiter, less affluent, and has a greater share of residents who didn't go to college than Pennsylvania as a whole.

Losing by only three million votes also required that Hillary be the other option.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


VIDEO: 1 in 5 vegetative patients is conscious. This neuroscientist finds them. (Adrian Owen, 10/05/20,  Big Think)

Dr. Adrian Owen is a Professor at The Brain and Mind Institute, Western University, Canada and the former Canada Excellence Research Chair in Cognitive Neuroscience and Imaging. His research combines neuroimaging (MRI and EEG), with cognitive studies in brain-injured patients and healthy participants. He has spent the last twenty years pioneering breakthroughs in cognitive neuroscience. Find out more at OwenLab.uwo.ca.

What if vegetative patients are conscious? Neuroscientist Adrian Owen, author of Into The Gray Zone and a professor at Western University in Canada, is using fMRI technology to try to reach the people who may still be aware of their surroundings.
Consciousness has traditionally been assessed by asking patients to respond to verbal commands. Through brain imaging, Dr Owen and his team were able to prove that these tests are inadequate, and it's estimated that 20 percent of vegetative patients are conscious but are physically incapable of communicating it.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Biden to end US support for Yemen war (MEMO, October 5, 2020)

Democratic presidential candidate, Joe Biden, has pledged to end his country's support for Saudi Arabia's war in Yemen if he becomes president.

"Under Biden-Harris Administration, we will reassess our relationship with the [Saudi Arabia] Kingdom, end US support for Saudi Arabia's war in Yemen, and make sure America does not check its values at the door to sell arms or buy oil," Biden said in a statement on his campaign website.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Trump's last rally: A catalog of worst pandemic practices (DAVID SIDERS, 10/04/2020, Politico)

The rally was a story of worst practices in a pandemic, with Duluth as the collateral damage. Before Trump's hospitalization and wall-to-wall coverage of his evolving condition, it was in Duluth that the recklessness of his campaign fell plainly into view -- from his scoffing at mask-wearing to his insistence on assembling large crowds.

By the weekend, local public health officials were warning rally attendees about their risk of exposure, and prominent Republicans in the state were in quarantine. Emily Larson, the city's Democratic mayor, asked anyone who attended the rally to "please get tested, self isolate."

"Contact tracing President Trump in Minnesota: Who hung out with him for how long?" blared a headline in the St. Paul Pioneer Press. The Duluth News Tribune's above-the-fold front page read simply, "[Rep. Pete] Stauber traveled with Trump." No further context was necessary.

Photographs of the Duluth rally appeared on social media with red circles drawn around people standing closest to the lectern -- and to Trump. Stauber and two other Republican congressmen who traveled with Trump on Air Force One were pilloried for returning to the state on a Delta Airlines flight on Friday night -- apparently flouting airline rules.

The House members' "stupidity and disregard for the well-being of their fellow passengers is staggering," Ken Martin, chairman of Minnesota's Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, said in a prepared statement.

Gary Anderson, the Democratic president of the Duluth City Council, said Sunday that Trump "took risks with the health of our community, clearly, and I think that's how our community is worse off in the most direct way."