Sioux Falls Free Thinkers

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An Open Mind by Megan Godtland

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Many Christians attack science, facts, truth, logic, and
reason and we just "respect their opinion!" It's time we
all said enough is enough and attack them right back!

"Whenever you find injustice,
the proper form of politeness is attack."
- T-Bone Slim

Special Report

CMM, Child Mental Mutilation!
Speak out against it whenever you hear about it or encounter it!

We at Sioux Falls Free Thinkers are coining a new acronym CMM, "Child Mental Mutilation." Child Mental Mutilation refers to teaching children the anti-science claims that "There is no Evolution", "There was no Evolution", The Earth is only 6,000 Years Old", "Dinosaurs lived at the same time as Man", The Earth is Flat", "The Sun Circles the Earth" and "The Earth is the Center of the Universe", and "The Earth is Square." Teaching these untruths to children cripples them mentally, often for life. It leaves them incapable of dealing with the real world! There are few crimes greater than the deliberate mutilation of a child's mind. It ranks right up there with physical or sexual abuse of a child, which also often mentally cripple a child for life. There can be no excuse for any of these crimes against children!

ATHEISM and HUMANISM

10-22-17 Denmark: With Basic Needs Covered, Pursuing Passions Is Easier.
Denmark: With Basic Needs Covered, Pursuing Passions Is Easier.
The country frequently claims the top spot in the annual World Happiness Report, a reflection of its government-supported education, health care, and financial safety net. Danes grow up believing they have the right to health care, education, and a financial safety net. University students draw a government stipend in addition to free tuition. New parents can take a yearlong government-paid parental leave at nearly full salary; this includes gay and lesbian parents. People work hard in Denmark, but on average less than 40 hours a week, with at least five weeks of vacation a year. The price for such lavish benefits is one of the world’s highest income tax rates, which starts at 41 percent and tops out at 56 percent—a field leveler that makes it possible for a garbageman to earn more than a doctor. (Webmaster's comment: We can be a lot happier! We just have to stop all the greed and the me only thinking! )

10-22-17 America, armed and dangerous
America, armed and dangerous
Would tighter gun control laws reduce America's unparalleled levels of gun violence? Would tighter gun control laws reduce America's unparalleled levels of gun violence? Here's everything you need to know: How severe is the problem? It's worse than in any other nation in the civilized world. Every day, an average of 300 Americans are shot. There were 36,252 firearm deaths in the U.S. in 2015 — including 22,018 suicides and 12,979 homicides — and at least 85,000 injuries. Every day, an average of nearly two women are shot dead by their partners. Nearly 6,000 children are shot each year, a fifth accidentally, with 1,300 fatalities. Since 1982, there have been 81 mass shootings — using the definition in which four or more victims die in a public incident — including three this year. (Under an alternative definition of four or more people shot in one incident, there have been 273 mass shootings so far this year.) Over the past 50 years, more Americans have been killed by guns than in all the wars in the nation's history. The U.S. "suffers disproportionately from firearms," says Erin Grinshteyn, author of a recent study on U.S. gun violence. "They are killing us rather than protecting us."

  • How severe is the problem?
  • Does gun control work?
  • What have they proposed?
  • On what grounds?
  • Could more gun laws be passed?
  • Crossing the NRA

10-20-17 Anger over Donald Trump's UK crime tweet
Anger over Donald Trump's UK crime tweet
Donald Trump has been accused of fuelling hate crime with a tweet erroneously linking a rise in the UK crime rate to "radical Islamic terror". He said crime in the UK had risen by 13% amid the "spread" of Islamist terror - despite the figure referring to all crimes, not just terrorism. The Labour MP, Yvette Cooper, said the statement was "inflammatory and ignorant", while ex-Labour leader Ed Miliband said Mr Trump was "a moron". The Home Office declined to comment. (Webmaster's comment: Reminder: More people died in the Las Vegas shooting than in UK terror attacks this decade. It is angry white males that commit most of the terrorism in the United States!)

10-20-17 Richard Spencer speech at Florida campus sparks mass protest
Richard Spencer speech at Florida campus sparks mass protest
Protesters chanting "Go home Nazis" have disrupted a white supremacist's speech at the University of Florida. Richard Spencer's address in Gainesville prompted Florida's governor to declare a state of emergency. Outside the event, police officers stood guard as hundreds of demonstrators shouted: "Go home, Spencer!" His speech comes two months after a far-right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, left a woman dead. Several dozen supporters of Mr Spencer in the campus auditorium were overwhelmingly outnumbered by protesters who shouted down the speaker. "I'm not going home, I will stand here all day if I have to," Mr Spencer said, calling the crowd a mob of "shrieking and grunting morons". Audience members continued to heckle him, chanting "Nazis are not welcome here" and "Let's go, Gators!" - a reference to the college mascot. The university said it did not want to let "vile" Mr Spencer speak, but was obliged under law to do so. (Webmaster's comment: The Russians knew what to do with the Nazis, they sent them all to Siberia. We should do the same!)

10-20-17 A young leader shifts the country rightward
A young leader shifts the country rightward
Wunderkind! Austria’s likely new chancellor is an energetic young “political entrepreneur,” said Peter Ulram in Die Presse (Austria). In 2013, at age 27, Sebastian Kurz became the country’s youngest-ever foreign minister. Last week, the now 31-year-old Kurz led the center-right People’s Party to first place in Austria’s national election, winning 31 percent of the vote. Before Kurz took over as party leader last May, polls showed the far-right Freedom Party—founded by ex-Nazis—with a clear lead. But the Freedom Party ended up finishing a hair behind the center-left Social Democrats, each getting about 27 percent. Far-right leader Heinz-Christian Strache claimed Kurz stole his supporters by adopting his anti-immigrant, tough-on-crime platform, but that can’t be the whole story, since the Freedom Party also picked up votes. Austrians flocked to Kurz partly for his low-tax populism and partly because they credit the foreign minister with halting the flow of migrants through the country in 2015. Kurz will now be given the first chance to try to form a government, probably with the Freedom Party as a junior coalition partner. If he succeeds, the wunderkind will become one of the world’s youngest national leaders. (Webmaster's comment: We've seen Wunderkind before. They first arose in Nazi Germany!)

10-20-17 Opposition cries foul
Opposition cries foul
Supporters of Venezuela’s authoritarian President Nicolás Maduro won 17 of 23 state governorships this week in a vote the opposition said was neither free nor fair. The leftist government severely restricted the opposition’s airtime, relocated hundreds of polling centers in opposition districts at the last minute, and provided fewer voting machines in opposition neighborhoods than in pro-government ones. Some anti-government activists said the opposition should have boycotted the vote—as it did the July election for a new constituent assembly that was declared superior to the opposition-dominated national legislature. Maduro said the triumph of his allies in the latest vote proved that Venezuela had “the best electoral system in the world.”

10-20-17 Armed and dangerous
Armed and dangerous
Would tighter gun control laws reduce America’s unparalleled levels of gun violence? It’s worse than in any other nation in the civilized world. Every day, an average of 300 Americans are shot. There were 36,252 firearm deaths in the U.S. in 2015—including 22,018 suicides and 12,979 homicides—and at least 85,000 injuries. Every day, an average of nearly two women are shot dead by their partners. Nearly 6,000 children are shot each year, a fifth accidentally, with 1,300 fatalities. Since 1982, there have been 81 mass shootings—using the definition in which four or more victims die in a public incident—including three this year. (Under an alternative definition of four or more people shot in one incident, there have been 273 mass shootings so far this year.) Over the past 50 years, more Americans have been killed by guns than in all the wars in the nation’s history. The U.S. “suffers disproportionately from firearms,” says Erin Grinshteyn, author of a recent study on U.S. gun violence. “They are killing us rather than protecting us.” Republican politicians aren’t the only ones who dare not defy the NRA. In 2000, Smith & Wesson agreed to a deal with the Clinton admin­i­stra­tion to develop a “smart” gun and help prevent firearms from falling into criminals’ hands. The NRA was incensed. Denouncing the company as “the first gunmaker to run up the white flag of surrender,” the organization released the CEO’s phone number and encouraged its members to complain. So many death threats followed—“I’m a dead-on shot,” one caller told him—that another executive took to wearing a bulletproof vest. When the NRA then initiated a boycott of Smith & Wesson, it prompted a sales drop-off so severe that two factories temporarily shut down, and the company’s stock plunged 95 percent in 10 months. Smith & Wesson has since repaired its relationship with the NRA—and hasn’t forgotten its ill-fated attempt to compromise. “It almost took down the company,” says current CEO James Debney. “We won’t make that mistake again.”

  • How severe is the problem?
  • Does gun control work?
  • What have they proposed?
  • On what grounds?
  • Could more gun laws be passed?
  • Crossing the NRA

10-20-17 Active shooter insurance
Active shooter insurance
A growing number of U.S. businesses are purchasing “active shooter insurance.” The policies compensate companies for the cost of lost business after a mass shooting, any lingering “brand stigma,” and claims for damages by victims or their families. One insurer tells the International Business Times that demand for such policies is being driven by the fact that “you can’t prevent crazy.”

10-20-17 Firearms are virtually illegal in Japan
Firearms are virtually illegal there in Japan
Crime in Japan has become so rare that police often have nothing to do. In 2015, there was just one gun homicide. Firearms are virtually illegal there.

10-20-17 What happens when you slash welfare
What happens when you slash welfare
Homelessness is soaring in Britain, said John Harris. Nearly a quarter of a million people are homeless, and thousands of them are sleeping on the streets. These numbers have doubled over the past seven years, not coincidentally during the time that the welfare-slashing Conservative Party has been in power. Anyone could have predicted that “if you cut and cap benefits, leave a snowballing housing crisis untouched, and fail to question the specious morals of the market,” people will be priced out of housing altogether. Worst hit are low-income single people under age 35, whose rent subsidies have been reduced to almost nothing. Young housing-benefit recipients who are lucky enough to live alone in a one-bedroom apartment will, starting in 2019, be forced to switch to the kind of shared housing that is increasingly hard to find. “You’d think you were looking at a policy designed specifically to increase homelessness.” Worse, the new universal credit system, which rolls six types of benefits into one monthly payment, has a lag of six weeks between application and payment. During those six weeks, people dependent on benefit money can’t pay their rent or bills, so they are getting evicted. The “obscenities of current homelessness” are a direct result of the Conservative Party’s “streak of cold cruelty.”

10-20-17 Is the president ‘unraveling’?
Is the president ‘unraveling’?
When Sen. Bob Corker likened the Trump White House to an “adult day-care center” last week, he was merely echoing what people close to the president are privately telling journalists, said Gabriel Sherman in VanityFair.com. Ten months into his chaotic presidency, White House insiders describe Trump as “increasingly unfocused” and “unraveling,” and say his top aides wage a daily battle to restrain his worst impulses. Growing public criticism of Trump’s behavior, tweets, and other public comments—including the embarrassing revelation that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called him a “f---ing moron”—has left Trump “consumed by dark moods.” When Trump is heading down a particularly dangerous or vindictive path, Chief of Staff John Kelly and other Cabinet officials will try to soothe his temper with flattery, said Ashley Parker in The Washington Post. Failing that, they will try to “delay his final verdict” by offering to study the issue, “hoping he may reconsider after having time to calm down.” The president “chafes at the impression that his aides coddle him or treat him like a wayward teenager,” and resents that Kelly limits his access to sycophantic friends and family members. “I hate everyone in the White House!” Trump recently complained. This is getting scary, said Andrew Sullivan in NYMag.com. Trump’s public behavior lately has shown “a sharp decline even from his previously unhinged and malevolent incoherence.” His “executive sabotage” of the health-care system, his undermining of his own diplomats on Iran and North Korea, and his threats to punish TV networks and newspapers for stories he doesn’t like (see Talking Points) are no longer part of any discernible “agenda.” He seems now to be a grouchy, “71-year-old Fox News viewer” lashing out at the world in a fit of “mindless nihilism.” The time for “whispered criticism and quiet snickering is over,” said Michael Gerson in WashingtonPost.com. It’s time for Republican leaders and even Trump’s loyal minders to address out loud the question on everyone’s mind: Is Donald Trump “psychologically and morally equipped to be president?”

10-20-17 Trump’s third travel ban blocked
Trump’s third travel ban blocked
A federal judge in Hawaii blocked the latest version of President Trump’s travel ban this week, hours before it was set to take effect, ruling that the executive order “suffers from precisely the same maladies as its predecessor.” The order, which would have barred residents from Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Syria, Venezuela, Somalia, and Yemen, “plainly discriminates based on nationality,” said Judge Derrick Watson. Travel restrictions imposed on citizens of North Korea and Venezuela were not challenged under the suit. Hours later, a federal judge in Maryland issued a second halt to the ban, saying that Trump’s comments on the campaign trail and Twitter had convinced him that the travel restrictions represented an unconstitutional Muslim ban.

10-20-17 In Boston, some churches are providing sanctuary to undocumented immigrants
In Boston, some churches are providing sanctuary to undocumented immigrant
First-time visitors to Sunday morning services at Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Boston are met with smiles, handshakes, and even hugs. To call it a warm welcome would be an understatement. Bethel AME is no stranger to political activism. But the mostly African-American congregation has taken up a new mission. In late September, the parish decided to give shelter to a man from El Salvador facing deportation. Church officials turned down a request for a face-to-face interview with the man, a father of five, who's now living at Bethel AME. But Rev. Ray Hammond explained the church's thinking behind becoming a sanctuary church. "This is not a political issue. Ultimately it's a human issue," says Hammond, who co-founded Bethel AME with his wife, Gloria White-Hammond, a fellow physician and pastor herself. The couple started the church in 1989. It has done work on various social justice issues, including with youth, prisoners, and the impoverished. "For a number of years, we've been concerned about the immigration crisis in our country," Hammond says. "We've been deeply concerned about the way in which the immigration issue — rather than being dealt with honestly, openly, justly, humanely — has become increasingly a political football." Hammond says he was a little surprised at how much support there was among congregants for taking this latest step. "I expected perhaps more opposition. Historically, sometimes there has been tension between the African-American and Latino community, between what African-Americans see as 'native-born' versus 'immigrant,'" Hammond says. A couple members of the congregation expressed some doubts about giving shelter to someone at risk of being deported, Hammond adds. But that was about it. "The vote was almost unanimous to support it. And people certainly wanted to understand the protocols and how we're going to make sure that this work. But the support was overwhelming," Hammond says.

10-20-17 Trump’s many successes
Trump’s many successes
When President Trump said last week he was “substantially ahead of schedule” in implementing his agenda, liberals laughed in derision, said Yascha Mounk. Most of the outsize promises Trump made on the campaign trail have failed to materialize: Obamacare has not been repealed, the wall isn’t being funded or built, and tax cuts remain a distant, unpopular fantasy. But “there is much more truth to Trump’s claim than the gleefully mocking responses to it would suggest.” Trump may not have built anything new of his own, but he’s been quite effective in his chosen role as a wrecking ball, as he destroys the Obama legacy and the norms of democracy and American foreign policy. Just as he promised, Trump has treated our European allies with disdain, withdrawn from the Paris climate accord, and is close to blowing up NAFTA and the Iranian nuclear deal. At home, Trump has used his bully pulpit to deepen our racial and cultural divisions and convince nearly 40 percent of the country that the press is the enemy, and even to hate the NFL. “If Trump can turn his base against the NFL, then what can’t he get them to do?” Trump is pursuing “a truly radical agenda,” and he may leave this country fundamentally changed.

10-20-17 NFL backs players
NFL backs players
The NFL will continue allowing players to kneel during the national anthem at games, commissioner Roger Goodell announced this week after a meeting with team owners, despite an ongoing barrage of Twitter criticism from President Trump. NFL owners came to their decision after gathering at the organization’s Manhattan headquarters for a daylong meeting, during which they spoke with several players about how teams can show support for players who want to protest social issues. Goodell had indicated last week in a memo that he would prefer all players to stand during the national anthem, following threats by Trump to cut the NFL’s tax breaks. The owners reportedly also discussed how to respond to a legal grievance filed under the league’s collective bargaining agreement by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who started the kneeling movement last season to protest police brutality. Kaepernick has accused all 32 teams of colluding to keep him out of the league for that protest.

10-20-17 Trump campaign subpoenaed
Trump campaign subpoenaed
Lawyers representing a former Apprentice contestant who accused President Trump of sexual harassment have subpoenaed Trump’s campaign for all documents relating to the various groping allegations against him, BuzzFeed?.com reported this week—setting up a potential legal showdown between the sitting president and his multiple female accusers. Summer Zervos accused Trump during the 2016 campaign of kissing her on two separate occasions and groping her breast. She is suing him for defamation after he labeled her accusation “total fiction.” Zervos’ lawyers have asked that Trump’s campaign not only provide all communications with or about the Apprentice contestant, but also “all documents concerning any women who asserted that Donald J. Trump touched [them] inappropriately”—a total of 17 women. Trump called the subpoena “disgraceful” and “totally fake news”; his lawyers have sought to have the suit dismissed or delayed until he is out of office.

10-20-17 Even a 'minor' nuclear war would be a global ecological catastrophe
Even a 'minor' nuclear war would be a global ecological catastrophe
Crops would die, the sun would go dark, and many would starve. The greatest concern derives from relatively new research which has modeled the indirect effects of nuclear detonations on the environment and climate. The most-studied scenario is a limited regional nuclear war between India and Pakistan, involving 100 Hiroshima-sized warheads (small by modern standards) detonated mostly over urban areas. Many analysts suggest that this is a plausible scenario in the event of an all-out war between the two states, whose combined arsenals amount to more than 220 nuclear warheads. In this event, an estimated 20 million people could die within a week from the direct effects of the explosions, fire, and local radiation. That alone is catastrophic — more deaths than in the entire of World War I. But nuclear explosions are also extremely likely to ignite fires over a large area, which coalesce and inject large volumes of soot and debris into the stratosphere. In the India-Pakistan scenario, up to 6.5 million tons of soot could be thrown up into the upper atmosphere, blocking out the sun and causing a significant drop in average surface temperature and precipitation across the globe, with effects that could last for more than a decade. This ecological disruption would, in turn, badly affect global food production. According to one study, maize production in the U.S. (the world's largest producer) would decline by an average by 12 percent over 10 years in our given scenario. In China, middle season rice would fall by 17 percent over a decade, maize by 16 percent, and winter wheat by 31 percent. With total world grain reserves amounting to less than 100 days of global consumption, such effects would place an estimated 2 billion people at risk of famine.

10-20-17 Robert Mueller
Robert Mueller
Robert Mueller, after Hustler publisher Larry Flynt took out a full-page ad in The Washington Post offering $10 million for information leading to the impeachment of President Trump. “We need to flush everything out into the open,” Flynt wrote in the ad.

10-20-17 Hospital admissions for suicidal teenagers have doubled over the past decade
Hospital admissions for suicidal teenagers have doubled over the past decade.
An epidemic of anxiety and depression is affecting American teenagers. In 1985, 18 percent of incoming college freshmen said they “felt overwhelmed by all I had to do” the previous year. By last year, that number had surged to 41 per­cent. Hospital admissions for suicidal teenagers have doubled over the past decade.

10-20-17 To Kill a Mockingbird
To Kill a Mockingbird
A Mississippi school district has removed Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird from its eighth-grade curriculum because it “makes people uncomfortable.” The book is a harrowing tale of racial injustice in a 1950’s Southern town. James LaRue of the American Library Association objected to the removal, saying that the “classic” novel “makes us uncomfortable because it talks about things that matter.”

10-20-17 Trick-or-treaters
Trick-or-treaters
Trick-or-treaters, after creationists in Kentucky began distributing fake $1 million bills to be given to kids on Halloween. “Have you ever lied, stolen, or used God’s name in vain?” the bills say. “The penalty for your crimes against God is death and eternal hell.” (Webmaster's comment: The naked EVIL of Creationists is unbelievable!)

10-20-17 Political outsiders
Political outsiders
Political outsiders, with reports that a Republican congressional candidate from Miami, Bettina Rodriguez Aguilera, has claimed she was abducted by aliens when she was 7. Rodriguez Aguilera, 59, said the aliens were tall and blond and that their spaceship was powered by quartz rocks, “not like airplanes.”

10-20-17 Xi’s thinking big
Xi’s thinking big
Chinese President Xi Jinping laid out an ambitious vision for China’s future this week as he opened the Communist Party’s congress, held every five years. In a speech that lasted three and a half hours and had party bigwigs sneaking glances at their watches, Xi said the world’s most populous country would eradicate poverty in the next six years and become a “fully developed nation” by 2049. He continued his push to win China a more prominent role in world leadership, saying Beijing was now the leader in fighting climate change, and noting that “socialism with Chinese characteristics” could be a model for other developing nations.

10-20-17 New Zealand to hold cannabis referendum within three years
New Zealand to hold cannabis referendum within three years
New Zealand will hold a referendum on legalising the recreational use of cannabis in the next three years, its prime minister-elect has pledged. Jacinda Ardern said she did not personally support imprisoning people for using cannabis but wanted to hear New Zealanders' views. Ms Ardern received a standing ovation at a meeting of her Labour Party. She will head a three-way coalition with the Greens and nationalist party New Zealand First (NZF). Ms Ardern, 37, emerged as the surprise new leader after weeks of negotiation following September's inconclusive election, which resulted in a hung parliament. The incumbent National Party won 56 seats - two more than the Labour-Green bloc - but was unable to agree a governing coalition.

10-20-17 Malawi cracks down on 'vampire' lynch mobs
Malawi cracks down on 'vampire' lynch mobs
Police in the south-east African state of Malawi say they have arrested 140 members of lynch mobs who attacked people suspected of being vampires. At least eight people are believed to have been killed, including two men on Thursday in the second city, Blantyre. One was set on fire and the other stoned, according to police. Two others were arrested for threatening to suck people's blood but police say have no medical reports of any actual bloodsucking. Vigilante mobs started attacking people suspected of drinking human blood as part of magic rituals in September. James Kaledzera, Malawi's national police spokesperson, told BBC News that police patrols had been stepped up in areas affected. (Webmaster's comment: Primative savages are still with us.)

10-18-17 US girl banned from First Communion ceremony for wearing suit
US girl banned from First Communion ceremony for wearing suit
Cady Mansell, a nine-year-old from Indiana, was banned from her First Communion ceremony because she wanted to wear a white suit. Cady's mom shared their story on Facebook. Now she tells the BBC why they've moved churches. (Webmaster's comment: The Catholic church wants to control your life and you must obey. Even the clothes you wear can not be your choice.)

10-18-17 Trump NFL row: NFL won't make players stand for anthem
Trump NFL row: NFL won't make players stand for anthem
The NFL will not force its players to stand during the national anthem despite backlash over recent protests, the league's commissioner says. Roger Goodell said he would "encourage" players to stand, but would not punish them if they refused to do so. The NFL chief said he was "not looking to get into politics" and wished instead to keep the focus on football. President Donald Trump has criticised NFL stars kneeling in protest against perceived racial injustice. "We believe everyone should stand for the national anthem," Mr Goodell told reporters on Wednesday after a second day of meetings with team owners and player representatives in New York. "That's an important part of our policy." The commissioner continued: "We want our players to stand, we're going to continue to encourage them to stand." He added: "Our players will state to you publicly they are not doing this in any way to be disrespectful to the flag, but they also understand how it's being interpreted, and that's why we're trying to deal with those underlying issues." (Webmaster's comment: They will probably stand when the racism and wanton killing of blacks by police stop.)

10-18-17 Police body cams were meant to keep us safer. Are they working?
Police body cams were meant to keep us safer. Are they working?
Equipping police officers with body-worn cameras was intended to defuse tense situations, but footage of brutal incidents keeps going viral. POLICE body-worn cameras have taken off like a flash. The UK has deployed more than 17,000 in the past year, the US is in the midst of rolling out 50,000, Australia has introduced 10,000 since 2015 and other countries are following suit. The idea behind them is simple: recording interactions between cops and citizens should reduce aggression and help to convict either party if they cross the line. However, a string of recent, often racially charged, incidents has shaken public confidence in these devices. Last week, outrage was sparked by newly released video of Salt Lake City police officer Clinton Fox killing Patrick Harmon when he ran away after being pulled over on 13 August for cycling across six lanes of traffic and lacking a rear light. The footage, captured by body cams worn by Fox and his fellow officers, shows him yelling “I’ll fucking shoot you!” before firing. The district attorney’s office ruled that the killing was legally justified, saying that in slowed footage, Harmon turned to face Fox while holding a knife. The FBI has been asked to review the case. In another incident, last month footage went viral of a Salt Lake City police officer roughly handcuffing a nurse in full view of his colleague’s body cam. And in Australia, an officer is being investigated for punching a drunk teenager after his colleague switched off his camera. (Webmaster's comment: The police have learned that they will not be convicted of murder even when the body cam shows that the murder was unjustified. So why worry about what the body cam shows?)

10-18-17 Quebec bans niqab for public services with neutrality law
Quebec bans niqab for public services with neutrality law
A Canadian province has passed a controversial religious neutrality law that bars people from wearing face coverings when giving or receiving a public service. Quebec recently expanded the law to include services provided by municipal and public transit services. Women who wear a burqa or a niqab will now have to show their faces while receiving a government service. Quebec's National Assembly passed Bill 62 by a 66-51 vote. The provincial Liberals, who have been in power since 2014, tabled the bill two years ago. Bureaucrats, police officers, teachers, and bus drivers, as well as doctors, midwives, and dentists who work in publicly funded hospitals and health centres, will have to have their face uncovered. The law will also stop provincially subsidised childcare services from offering religious education. Quebec's Bill 62 does not specifically mention the Muslim faith. (Webmaster's comment: Seeing a person's face is essential for identification and preventing crimes. Hiding one's face is often used by those who wish to do a crime. The women are free to hide their faces at home and in their places of worship.)

10-18-17 Trump's latest travel ban blocked by second federal judge
Trump's latest travel ban blocked by second federal judge
US President Donald Trump's latest bid to impose travel restrictions on citizens from eight countries entering the US has suffered a court defeat. A federal judge slapped a temporary restraining order on the open-ended ban before it could take effect this week. The policy targets Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Chad and North Korea, as well as some Venezuelan officials. Previous iterations of the ban targeted six Muslim-majority countries, and were widely referred to as a "Muslim ban". The state of Hawaii sued in Honolulu to block Mr Trump's third version, which was set to go into effect early on Wednesday. Hawaii argued in court documents that the revised policy was fulfilling Mr Trump's campaign promise for "a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States", despite the addition of North Korea and Venezuela. It also argued the president did not have the powers under federal immigration law to impose such restrictions. US District Judge Derrick Watson, who blocked Mr Trump's last travel ban in March, issued the new restraining order.

10-18-17 What Trump's spurious claim about fallen troops suggests about his future military decisions
What Trump's spurious claim about fallen troops suggests about his future military decisions
If you woke up Monday asking, "What utterly classless thing will the president of the United States do today?" it took all the way until the afternoon for you to get your answer. Asked at a press conference why he had said nothing publicly about the four American soldiers who were killed in Niger two weeks ago, President Trump took it for some reason as a question about him calling the family members of those soldiers, and told a truly revolting lie about his predecessors and how they treated the families of the fallen. "If you look at President Obama and other presidents," he said, "most of them didn't make calls, a lot of them didn't make calls." Asked later in the press conference how he could make such an obviously false claim, he backtracked a bit, saying, "President Obama I think probably did sometimes, and maybe sometimes he didn't. I don't know. That's what I was told." In other words, he had no idea what he was talking about, but decided to smear Obama and other presidents in order to make the insane claim that only he displays the proper caring and concern for Gold Star families. That Trump is a liar, we know. That he is obsessed with comparing himself to Barack Obama — a man possessed of many of the virtues Trump so obviously lacks — we also know. But this may give us some hints about what may or may not be going through Trump's mind when he is faced with a decision about sending American service members into situations where they might be killed.

10-17-17 Americans Widely Support Tighter Regulations on Gun Sales
Americans Widely Support Tighter Regulations on Gun Sales
The great majority of Americans are in favor of more stringent regulation of the sale and ownership of guns in three ways that go beyond current law in most states. U.S. adults offer near-universal support for requiring background checks for all gun purchases, backed by 96%. Also, three-quarters favor enacting a 30-day waiting period for all gun purchases and 70% favor requiring all privately owned guns to be registered with the police.

  • More than nine in 10 Americans favor mandatory background checks
  • Waiting periods and gun registration also favored by most U.S. adults
  • Gun owners support checks and waiting periods, but not registration

10-17-17 Online dating may be breaking down society’s racial divisions
Online dating may be breaking down society’s racial divisions
Racial segregation has eased in the US over the past two decades. Could hooking up online be responsible? PEOPLE often marry people who are just like them – similar in terms of social background, world view and race. Online dating may be changing that, however, breaking us out of our existing social circles. Economists Josué Ortega at the University of Essex, UK, and Philipp Hergovich at the University of Vienna, Austria, suggest it could even lead to more integrated societies. Before the first dating websites appeared in the 1990s, most people would meet dates through existing networks of friends or colleagues. But the rise of dating sites like Match.com and apps like Tinder has made online dating the norm for many. It is the second most common way for heterosexual partners to meet and the most common for homosexual partners. More than a third of marriages now involve people who met online. Ortega and Hergovich claim that if just a small number of online matches are between people of different races, then social integration should occur rapidly. “A few connections can really change the panorama of diversity,” says Ortega. They tested their hypothesis with a simulated social network of male and female “agents” who were looking for a partner of the opposite sex. Initially, each agent was highly connected with agents of their own race, and only poorly so with agents from other races – mimicking real-world relationships in societies with a large degree of segregation. But when they started dropping in the random connections that strangers make on a dating site, their model predicted an increase in the number of interracial marriages.

10-17-17 Welcome to the post-liberal world
Welcome to the post-liberal world
The presidency of Donald J. Trump is an American phenomenon. But it's not just an American phenomenon. It makes sense to see the rise of a right-wing cultural populist with authoritarian instincts as an outgrowth of American trends, from the long-term evolution of the Republican Party to the outsized influence of Fox News and talk radio rabble-rousers. But these American developments aren't happening in isolation. For complicated reasons, similar developments are happening in countries around the world — in Russia, India, Turkey, and all over Europe. A couple of months ago, after elections in the Netherlands and France in which anti-liberal parties underperformed, it was possible to believe that the populist wave had crested and begun to recede on the continent. But not anymore. Those setbacks now look like a temporary hiatus in a much broader-based shift away from the centrist liberalism that, until recently, had prevailed in Europe uninterrupted since 1989. Hungary and Poland are already governed by anti-liberal populists (as are Slovakia, Macedonia, Croatia, Serbia, and Greece). In last month's elections in Germany, a far-right populist party (Alternative for Germany) managed a stunning third-place showing with 12.6 percent of the vote, marking the first time since the end of World War II that such a party has won seats in the legislature. (It will hold more than 90.) And now, in an election on Sunday, the Austrian electorate just handed a victory to the center-right People's Party, which is led by 31-year-old populist firebrand Sebastian Kurz, and delivered a strong second-place showing to the far-right Freedom Party. The center-left Social Democratic party, meanwhile, came in third. This is just the latest example of the electoral collapse of the center-left in Europe. As Slate's Yascha Mounk has pointed out, the outcome of the Austrian vote is likely to be repeated later this week in the Czech Republic, where anti-establishment parties are on track to win a majority of the votes, and where the leading candidate for prime minister, Andrej Babiš, is a cross between Trump and Italy's Silvio Berlusconi. Add a Babiš victory to recent populist advances in Germany, Poland, Hungary, and Austria, and we're left with a picture that's as clear as it is ominous. The last time European electoral trends were headed so starkly against liberalism was in the 1920s and '30, when liberty was extinguished across the continent.

10-17-17 America's opioid genocide
America's opioid genocide
America is in a war against opioids. Whose side is Washington on? There is a genocide going on in this country. And it is a judgment on this nation that we all but ignore it. We treat other lethal threats much more seriously. Many Americans are rightly concerned with the problem of seemingly unpredictable mass shootings carried out by terrorists or random murderous lunatics. It is easy to be cynical about solutions, but surely there is some reasonable middle ground to be sought between letting every American be his own Rambo and the systematic confiscation of privately owned firearms that would likely leave us with fewer corpses. Likewise, no one makes light of the atomic ambitions of North Korea and Iran, which is why President Trump is going to such extraordinary lengths to check the former. Why don't we treat our war against opioids with equal alarm? Some context here is helpful. Around 11,000 people are killed in firearm-related homicides in this country each year. Fewer than 10 Americans have died annually since September 11, 2001, at the hands of Islamic terrorists. Meanwhile, what we have come to refer to so casually as our "opioid epidemic" has now taken more than 200,000 American lives — 30 times more than the Afghanistan and Iraq wars combined, far in excess of the number of Americans who died fighting in our generation-defining misadventure of Vietnam and, indeed, roughly half the U.S. death toll in World War II. This is why it was so dispiriting to read in The Washington Post on Sunday about the casual cynicism with which Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and other members of Congress, including Rep. Tom Marino (R-Penn.), Trump's chosen candidate to be our nation's next "drug czar" — is there a more disgusting neologism in politics? — have effectively neutralized the ability of the Drug Enforcement Agency to go after drug suppliers working openly to supply crooked doctors serving the black market where abusers purchase the poison that will kill them. It is now, the Post reports, "virtually impossible for the DEA to freeze suspicious narcotic shipments from the companies" involved in this activity. This was not a gross lapse of judgment on the part of these public servants. It was the bought-and-paid-for result of relentless lobbying by the pharmaceutical industry — $106 million in total was spent on this bill and related legislation between 2014 and 2016 alone. For their efforts on behalf of the industry in their respective chambers, Hatch received $177,000 and Marino just shy of $100,000. Verily I say unto you, they have their reward.

10-17-17 Transgender Georgians are being left to die
Transgender Georgians are being left to die
Velistsikhe is a small, quiet village about two hours from Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia. It is plain and remote, and in colder months, when snow and rain sweep south from the Dagestani border, cars are often stranded in its boggy, barely paved roads. Velistsikhe's best-known assets are its wineries. There are three major ones and even a winemaking museum. Almost everybody else makes their money from wine, too — the evidence for which is dotted everywhere in the shape of kvevri, giant earthenware pots, buried to the neck in dirt, in which grapes are left to ferment for up to six months. The prettiest part of the village is its cemetery, small but ornate and encircled by wrought iron and flower bouquets. This is where Sabi Beriani is buried. In November 2014, she was attacked and stabbed to death in her Tbilisi apartment. Her body was then set on fire. She was 23. In keeping with Georgian and regional tradition, most of the graves at Velistsikhe cemetery are marked by black marble headstones, with portraits of the dead rendered in photographic detail. Beriani's is no different. But while she died a woman, her headstone depicts a young, androgynous boy, perhaps in his late teens, staring dolefully at the viewer. It was the best Beriani's mother, Tamar, could do. The village rallied behind her when the news of Beriani's death reached Velistsikhe. After all, she was 40 and had lost her only child. But everybody also knew that Beriani was a transgender woman and activist, who regularly appeared on national television shows. It was a life few, if any, in Velistsikhe would condone. Beriani had spent her life campaigning to be recognized as a woman. Now dead, nobody besides Tamar — not even Tamar's own, deeply conservative father — would allow that identity to rest with her. Tamar is short, with rounded cheeks and striking, brown eyes. I met her on Orthodox Easter Sunday last year. In Georgia, it is customary to mark the day by visiting the graves of lost friends and family members. The cemetery was packed with mourners. As Tamar laid roses, panettone sweet bread, and Beriani's favorite soda beside the headstone, many of them stopped and stared. It was little surprise: Georgia, a former Soviet state in the Caucasus region, is a deeply conservative place. It claims to be the second country ever to adopt Christianity, in the fourth century. Research by Gallup in 2015 found the small nation of 3.7 million people to be the most religious nation on Earth: Eighty-three percent of Georgians adhere to the Georgian Orthodox church. Barely 1.5 percent either do not follow a religion or declined to disclose so for a 2014 national census.

10-17-17 Chechen 'gay purge' victim: 'No one knows who will be next'
Chechen 'gay purge' victim: 'No one knows who will be next'
Six months after reports emerged that gay men were being detained illegally and tortured in the Russian republic of Chechnya, a young man has spoken publicly for the first time about his ordeal. Maxim Lapunov has described being held for 12 days in a blood-soaked cell, beaten with sticks, threatened and humiliated by police. But despite reporting what he endured to the authorities, his lawyer says no proper investigation has been conducted. Mr Lapunov, who is 30 and from Siberia, had been working and living in Chechnya for two years when he alleges he was grabbed and dragged into a car one night in March by two men he didn't know. At a police facility he was interrogated, forced to name another man and beaten. "They burst in every 10 or 15 minutes shouting that I was gay and they would kill me," he recalled, speaking at a small gathering in Moscow convened by human rights activists. "Then they beat me with a stick for a long time: in the legs, ribs, buttocks and back. When I started to fall, they pulled me up and carried on," he said quietly. "Every day they assured me they would kill me, and told me how."

10-16-17 Trump’s U-turn may see Iran join North Korea as a nuclear state
Trump’s U-turn may see Iran join North Korea as a nuclear state
In refusing to recertify the Iran nuclear deal, US president Donald Trump risks creating another North Korea – as another Republican president did before him. US president Donald Trump has refused to recertify the 2015 multilateral agreement freezing Iran’s nuclear programme. The impact of the decision – which was opposed by all of the other member nations party to the deal, Trump’s own officials, nuclear experts and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) – won’t be immediate. But it could be very bad – North Korea bad, if history is anything to go by. The 2015 deal was heralded as a major success. At the time, Iran had the capability to make enough highly enriched uranium (HEU) for 10 bombs in a few months. Under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), agreed that year between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus the EU and Germany, it drastically cut its production capacity and stockpile, and gave up making plutonium in return for the lifting of sanctions. This was backed by what Yukiya Amano, head of the IAEA, on 13 October called “the world’s most robust nuclear verification regime”. Those inspections, he said, verified that Iran is in compliance with the JCPOA. But the US required its president to certify that the pact remained in US interests every 90 days, or Congress could re-impose sanctions. In a detailed statement on 13 October, Trump refused to certify it. He didn’t pull the US out of the JCPOA, but said it should be strengthened. He complained that the pact, which took 13 years to negotiate despite focusing only on nuclear weapons, didn’t also address Iran’s missile development or sponsorship of foreign insurgencies.

10-16-17 St Louis protests endure after police acquittal
St Louis protests endure after police acquittal
Six years after Jason Stockley shot and killed Anthony Lamar Smith, a judge found the former St Louis police officer "not guilty". Hundreds came out to protest when the verdict was announced – and one month on, they're showing no signs of stopping.

10-16-17 Why America is coming apart at the seams
Why America is coming apart at the seams
America is tearing itself apart. People are angrier at each other, more resentful and contemptuous of each other, than they've been in living memory. Americans are experiencing a collective nervous breakdown, and there's no telling what happens if they don't find a way out of it. At the center of this is politics, which has become a tribal battle between Team Blue and Team Red. And quite often, at the center of our political battles is race. Race has always been an important and divisive issue in American politics, but there's no question things have become much more abrasive in recent years. Why is this? An obvious answer is "Donald Trump." And he certainly deserves more blame than any other living individual. His career in politics has been defined by racial demagoguery and by remaking the GOP in his image. In taking the White House, he has done more than anyone to make racial divisions deeper and more acrimonious. But Trump is not the whole story. Gallup has been tracking Americans' views of race relations, as good a proxy for the intensity of racial conflict as any, and we were doing okay until 2013-2014, when we start going into a tailspin. That's before Trump was on every TV screen every day. And it makes sense: Demagogues don't create new tensions — they tap into and exacerbate pre-existing anger and conflict, even as they intensify it on their way to the top. So if not just Trump, what or who is to blame? The answer is American political parties, which have become structurally designed to whip up racial anger and division to their maximum extent. The word "structural" here is important: This is bigger than any individual, or even any camp. It's the system.

FEMINISM

10-22-17 Fox renewed Bill O'Reilly deal despite harassment suit
Fox renewed Bill O'Reilly deal despite harassment suit
Former Fox News commentator Bill O'Reilly was handed a new contract in January, despite the network's parent company knowing he had recently settled a sexual harassment case. The $32m (£24m) settlement was paid to former Fox legal analyst Lis Wiehl, according to the New York Times. In a statement, parent company 21st Century Fox said was aware of the settlement, but not the sum, when it signed a $25m-a-year contract renewal. O'Reilly has denied any wrongdoing. He was forced to resign in April following a raft of sexual harassment allegations. The settlement with Wiehl - which was "extraordinarily large" for such cases, according to the Times - is one of six involving O'Reilly that are in the public domain, totalling $45m. Several of those suits also involved former Fox News chairman Roger Ailes, who stepped down in 2016 amid accusations of harassment.

10-21-17 Tech pundit Scoble faces harassment claims
Tech pundit Scoble faces harassment claims
Renowned tech consultant and commentator Robert Scoble has apologised after multiple accusations of inappropriate behaviour towards women. In a post on Medium, journalist Quinn Norton accused Mr Scoble of groping her body at a technology conference in the early 2010s. Another woman, former colleague Michelle Greer, also said Mr Scoble made unwanted advances, touching her leg during a conference in February 2010. On Facebook, Mr Scoble said: "I know that apologies are not enough and that they don’t erase the wrongs of the past or the present.” He became a well-known figure in the technology business while working at Microsoft during the 2000s, where he wrote a blog discussing the latest technology. From here he moved on to other firms such as Fast Company, cloud provider RackSpace, and most recently UploadVR. UploadVR was sued earlier this year for gender discrimination - the case was settled out of court in September. As well as his consulting work, Mr Scoble regularly appears as a guest on media outlets, including BBC News. In his message on Facebook, Mr Scoble referenced his issues with alcoholism. "I have made many steps in my life to try to improve, including getting sober more than two years ago,” he wrote. "I have committed to making amends where appropriate and to living a life of transparency, integrity, and honesty. "I’m deeply sorry to the people I’ve caused pain to. I know I have behaved in ways that were inappropriate.” However, several women have since accused the 52-year-old of unacceptable behaviour after the point when he publicly announced he was giving up alcohol. (Webmaster's comment: "Deeply Sorry" doesn't cut it! 10 years in prison will!)

10-21-17 Brazil police arrests 108 in major anti-paedophilia operation
Brazil police arrests 108 in major anti-paedophilia operation
Police in Brazil say they have arrested 108 people in the biggest operation ever against paedophiles in Latin America. Suspects were arrested in 24 states and the capital, Brasilia. Justice Minister Torquato Jardim said those detained were part of a ring that shared pornographic images of children through computers and mobile phones. The operation comes at the end of a six-month investigation, which involved US and European immigration officials. Investigators have found more than 150,000 files containing disturbing images. They were accessed through the dark web, a part of the internet not reached by most search engines. Among those arrested were retired policemen, civil servants and people in charge of football youth clubs. Mr Jardim said the paedophiles use sophisticated techniques to evade police investigations. "They store their illegal, criminal photos in a computer of someone in another part of the country or even abroad," he said. "And often the people storing the content are unaware," added Mr Jardim. The operation initially targeted suspects of sharing illegal paedophile material. But after seizing dozens of computers, mobile phones, CDs and hard drives, investigators found out that the criminal group was also producing pornographic material to distribute on the internet. The files contained disturbing images of babies and young children being abused. Some of the children and teenagers denounced their own parents or other relatives to officers taking part in the operation. It is not clear if the paedophile ring operated independently in Brazil or if it was connected with other criminal networks abroad. (Webmaster's comment: Great, but there are over 1000 times as many to go.)

10-20-17 Canadian man found not guilty of raping wife
Canadian man found not guilty of raping wife
A Canadian man was found not guilty of rape because he believed he could have sex with his wife whenever he wanted. Ontario Superior Court Justice Robert Smith ruled the prosecution failed to prove the accused man knew his behaviour was criminal. The judge did not dispute that non-consensual sex had taken place multiple times, the Ottawa Citizen reported. The man, from Gaza, was part of an arranged marriage with his wife, a Palestinian who grew up in Kuwait. "Marriage is not a shield for sexual assault," Judge Smith wrote in his decision, according to the newspaper. "However, the issue in this trial is whether, considering the whole of the evidence, the Crown has proven the allegations beyond a reasonable doubt." The judge found the prosecution did not prove beyond reasonable doubt that the man had criminal intent, known as "mens rea" in the law. Both the man and the wife testified that they thought a husband was legally entitled to have sex with his wife whenever he wanted. The wife said she had sex many times with her husband when she did not explicitly give her consent. But when they separated in January 2013, the woman learned that she she had the right to refuse sex with her husband. "He may have believed that he had a right to have sex with her as her husband, but Canadian sexual assault law is clear and was amended to include sexual assault against a spouse in 1983." She alleged that he had pulled her onto the couch, pulled down her pants and had sex with her despite pleading with him to stop at least three times. The judge said he found her to be a credible witness and rejected her husband's account, but said HE could not find the man guilty of a crime. (Webmaster's comment: Many men will ALWAYS stick together to excuse RAPE! Any excuse will do!)

10-20-17 Scotland has banned smacking children – so should everyone else
Scotland has banned smacking children – so should everyone else
Spanking children doesn’t make them better behaved – but it can put them at risk of mental illness, and should be outlawed everywhere. Smacking children was outlawed in Scotland this week. Remarkably, parents in the rest of the UK can still use physical violence to punish or discipline their children, provided it can be considered “reasonable punishment”, a term not properly defined in law. Smacking is allowed in the majority of other nations. Around the world, smacking is common. A 2014 report by UNICEF found that 80 per cent of the world’s children are subject to some form of violent punishment at home. A survey of just over 4000 adults in the UK, conducted this July, found that the majority – 59 per cent – felt that “smacking should not be banned”. Only a fifth of those asked thought the practice should be outlawed. Another survey of US-based adults found that 76 per cent of men and 65 per cent of women feel that sometimes children need a “good hard spanking”. For those with any shred of doubt, there is no good evidence that smacking will benefit a child. Parents might find that children are more obedient if they fear another smack, but this effect is only temporary. In the long run, children who are smacked are more likely to misbehave, and to engage in delinquent, criminal or antisocial behaviour. Worse, they are more likely to develop mental illnesses. The science isn’t even new. Smacking is thought to be the most studied aspect of parental behaviour, with reams of research published since the 1960s. Almost all of it finds that physically punishing children can have disastrous consequences in later life. (Webmaster's comment: I'm sorry, but violent children need physical discipline. A violent, bullying youth will not respond to talk alone. They only understand hurting and when it hurts to bully they will stop! They learn that their bullying behavior has painful consequences for them. And they need to learn that before they become an adult and end up in prison.)

10-20-17 Ben Affleck gropping breasts
Ben Affleck gropping breasts
Ben Affleck is embroiled in his own sexual harassment scandal after trying to distance himself from his old friend and mentor Harvey Weinstein, the disgraced Hollywood producer. Shortly after the Good Will Hunting star tweeted that he was “saddened and angry” about reports of Weinstein’s history of sexual abuse and harassment, another Twitter user uploaded a video of Affleck groping actress Hilarie Burton’s breasts during a 2003 episode of MTV’s TRL. When Affleck “sincerely” apologized for his behavior, makeup artist and blogger Annamarie Tendler asked for her own apology from Affleck, saying he “grabbed my ass at a Golden Globes party in 2014.” TV writer Jen Statsky tweeted that she was “also at this party, and multiple friends had this same exact experience.” Additional video footage also resurfaced of Affleck forcing a Canadian interviewer onto his lap and making comments about her breasts. Affleck hasn’t commented on the latest accusations.

10-20-17 Harvey Weinstein
Harvey Weinstein
“Harvey Weinstein may be the central-casting version of a Hollywood predator, but he was just one festering pustule in a diseased industry. I’ve grown up in this industry, surrounded by predatory behavior, and the idea of making people care about it seemed as distant an ambition as pulling the sun out of the sky. I want to believe that the intense wave of disgust at this sort of behavior will lead to real change. For that to happen, we need to look at ourselves. What have we been willing to accept, out of fear, helplessness, a sense that things can’t be changed? And what, now, will we do about it?”

10-20-17 Poll watch
Poll watch
In the wake of the Harvey Weinstein sexual assault scandal, 64% of Americans now consider sexual harassment in the workplace to be a “serious problem,” up from 47% in 2011. 79% of Democrats and 66% of independents say harassment is a serious problem. 42% of Republicans agree.

10-20-17 Reality Check: Does China's Communist Party have a woman problem?
Reality Check: Does China's Communist Party have a woman problem?
As President Xi delivered his opening address to the 19th Communist Party Congress in Beijing, 2,280 delegates looked on. But fewer than a quarter of those were women. That's got some people asking whether the party should take gender equality more seriously. The New York Times wrote of women being "shut out" - but does the Chinese Communist Party have a woman problem? Of the 89.4 million members of the Chinese Communist Party, just under 23 million are women - that's 26%. And women make up 24% of China's National Congress - the sprawling national parliament. You don't have to be a Communist Party member to sit on that. Women are less represented the higher up the political tree you climb. After the last Congress in 2012, only 33 women sat on the Central Committee which elects the powerful Politburo - that's 9%. Only two of the 25 members of that Politburo were women - 8%. (Webmaster's comment: Only 19.6% of the US congress are women!)

10-20-17 Mexican comedian brings stand-up to female prisoners
Mexican comedian brings stand-up to female prisoners
Best known for her Netflix shows and stand-up tours, Sofía Niño de Rivera is one of Latin America's leading comedians. The 35-year-old from Mexico City has long been making audiences laugh, but she recently embarked on a more serious mission: supporting vulnerable women in Mexico's notoriously dangerous prisons. In a bid to help female inmates overcome frustration and depression, Sofía gave 10 stand-up workshops in the Mexican capital's vast Santa Martha Acatitla penitentiary over the summer. The project came about after her cousin, Saskia Niño de Rivera, asked her to do a benefit gig to raise funds for Reinserta, a charity she runs to improve conditions in Mexican jails. The comedian accepted but wanted to do more than just raise money. They agreed that stand-up workshops could help inmates to use comedy as an emotional release for the benefit of their mental health. "Stand-up is a really cathartic psychological tool. It has helped me a lot in my life," Sofía says at a hotel in Guadalajara, the morning after a sold-out public performance. "Women in prison don't have a lot of tools to help them handle emotional issues," she adds. "I think stand-up is something that can help them."

10-19-17 Canada producer leaves TV amid flurry of sexual abuse allegations
Canada producer leaves TV amid flurry of sexual abuse allegations
Canadian producer Gilbert Rozon has left several television productions amid accusations he sexually abused and harassed several women. Montreal police are investigating an incident that took place in Paris in 1994, Radio Canada reported. The 62-year-old resigned from his role as boss of the Just For Laughs comedy festival on Wednesday. French channel M6 also suspended its broadcast of "France's Got Talent", which features Mr Rozon as a judge. Mr Rozon issued a statement on Facebook shortly before a story by Montreal newspaper Le Devoir was published, detailing allegations of sexual abuse and sexual harassment from nine women spanning three decades. "Shaken by the allegations against me, I want to dedicate all my time to review the matter," Rozon wrote on Facebook. "To all those who I may have offended in my life, I'm sincerely sorry." In addition to leaving Just for Laughs, he also announced that he would be resigning from his role as commissioner of the Montreal 375th anniversary preparations. (Webmaster's comment: "Review the matter?" He belongs in prison!)

10-19-17 When does flirting become sexual harassment?
When does flirting become sexual harassment?
A proclamation of sexual attraction. A hand resting on the knee. A flirty text message. From the right person at the right time, they can make you feel great. But from the wrong person or at the wrong time, an innuendo-laden text becomes creepy and an unwanted touch can make you feel uncomfortable and ashamed. As the number of women making claims against Hollywood film producer Harvey Weinstein grows by the day, women around the world have spoken on social media about their experiences of sexual harassment under the #metoo Twitter hashtag. Weinstein wielded great power, able to make or break his alleged victims' careers, but harassment can be just as damaging away from work. In a global debate, the question of how we define sexual harassment is not altogether clear. And that line between flirtation and harassment is a very fine - and often blurred - one.

10-19-17 The woman who taught us about chimps
The woman who taught us about chimps
When Jane Goodall first went to Africa to study chimpanzees, she had no formal scientific training - but still managed to win the trust of the primates, leading to groundbreaking observations. In Jane, those studies come to life in 140 hours of never-before-seen footage of Goodall from 1962.

10-19-17 Gitanjali Rao: Girl of 11 takes US young scientist prize
Gitanjali Rao: Girl of 11 takes US young scientist prize
A schoolgirl aged 11 has been honoured as "America's top young scientist" for inventing a quick, low-cost test to detect lead-contaminated water. Gitanjali Rao was selected from 10 finalists who had spent three months collaborating with scientists to develop their ideas. Her device uses carbon nanotubes to detect the presence of lead. Thousands of US water systems are reportedly contaminated by lead. Gitanjali's invention was inspired by the scandal in Flint, Michigan, where officials are facing charges including manslaughter over water contamination in 2014-15, she told Business Insider. Until now, testing reliably for lead was expensive and meant sending away samples for analysis. But Gitanjali's portable invention - named Tethys, after the Greek goddess for fresh water - allows a sensor linked to a mobile app to give an accurate, almost immediate analysis via a mobile app. "If you take a shower in contaminated water, you do get rashes and that can easily be studied by an epidemiologist," she told Business Insider. "And if somebody drinks lead in their water, their children might have small, minor defects." Gitanjali said she wanted to further refine the device so it could eventually go on the market. She said she wanted to be either a geneticist or epidemiologist when she grew up.

10-19-17 Speaking up against sexual abuse is hard – #MeToo changes that
Speaking up against sexual abuse is hard – #MeToo changes that
Psychology makes us swift to blame those who experience sexual harassment, but the #MeToo movement could be making it easier to speak up, says Nichola Raihani. In the wake of the scandal over a series of sexual assault allegations that have been hurled at the media mogul Harvey Weinstein, an online movement has begun. Millions of women are sharing their stories of sexual harassment and abuse using the hashtag #MeToo, which rose to prominence after a tweet by actor Alyssa Milano. Scrolling through Twitter or Facebook, it is striking just how many of my colleagues and friends say they have been sexually abused or harassed. If the scale of the problem is this huge, why has no one said anything until now? Indeed, why have I kept quiet myself? Insights from psychology and evolutionary biology offer clues as to why people might not tell others when bad things happen to them. A cruel quirk of human psychology is that we are largely unsympathetic to victims if we can find a way to blame them for their own misfortune, even when it makes no sense to do so. In fact, perceiving that the victim is in some way at fault can provoke anger rather than sympathy. And it doesn’t take a lot for us to attribute blame. In the case of sexual abuse, the accusations are all too familiar. She was wearing a short skirt. She went to his room. She was drinking. The more people know about the circumstances, the more likely they are to tell themselves that things could have been different if only the victim had looked or acted differently. (Webmaster's comment: Blaming the victim is wrong, but making poor choices increases women's risks.)

10-19-17 SA football boss Danny Jordaan 'raped singer Jennifer Ferguson'
SA football boss Danny Jordaan 'raped singer Jennifer Ferguson'
South African singer and ex-MP Jennifer Ferguson has accused the country's football boss Danny Jordaan, 66, of raping her nearly 24 years ago. He "overpowered" her and "painfully" raped her in a hotel in Port Elizabeth city, she has alleged in a blog. Mr Jordaan, who organised the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, has not yet responded to a request for comment. Now living in Sweden, Ms Ferguson said she had been moved by the #MeToo campaign on social media to speak out. She said the attack took place when she was "high and happy" following her unexpected nomination by Nelson Mandela's African National Congress (ANC) party to serve in South Africa's first democratically elected parliament in 1994. Mr Jordaan, a prominent member of the ANC and president of the South African Football Association, came to her hotel suite after she had given a performance at a dinner. "He overpowered me and painfully raped me. It must have been over in about 20 seconds although it felt like a lifetime," she alleged. "He left immediately without saying a word."

10-19-17 Is Hollywood sitting on a pedophilia scandal?
Is Hollywood sitting on a pedophilia scandal?
The flurry of sexual harassment and assault allegations against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein confirms an unsettling truth that deep down we already knew. There's a reason "casting couch" has become a grotesquely ubiquitous term. We have long quietly assumed that big-time movie producers exploit their power to sexually exploit women. We should have heeded the warning signs. The smoke has been there for a long time. Of course the faint plumes were evidence of a fire raging, a fire we both did not imagine and yet knew was burning. How could we have been so blind? The answer to this question will also give you the answer to the next question: Can we seriously doubt that Hollywood is also turning a blind eye to a very real child sex-abuse scandal? The evidence is there, just as it was in the cases of Bill Cosby or Harvey Weinstein. In 2011, former child star Corey Feldman warned that pedophilia in Hollywood was "the big secret" and "the number one problem." Feldman alleged that he was abused and that his friend was raped on a movie set at the age of 11. But he didn't just talk about instances of abuse. In a later interview, he described a system whereby young children were groomed by powerful older men who formed an organized network, with "publicists" providing cover. He would "love to name names," but feared the legal risks, he said. Precisely such an organized system for grooming and abusing children is described by a documentary; one molester described in the film pleaded no contest to two counts of child molestation, but the rest of the network has never been named, let alone investigated or charged. The title of the documentary? An Open Secret.

10-19-17 Jacinda Ardern becomes New Zealand's youngest woman leader
Jacinda Ardern becomes New Zealand's youngest woman leader
New Zealand is set for a centre-left coalition government led by Labour head Jacinda Ardern. Ms Ardern has been opposition leader for the last three months. At 37, she is set to be the country's youngest prime minister since 1856. Her Labour Party came second in September's election, where no party was able to secure a majority. They are now tipped for power after the small New Zealand First party agreed to join them in government. The new coalition will also be supported by the Green Party.

10-19-17 Pussycat Dolls deny prostitution claims
Pussycat Dolls deny prostitution claims
The Pussycat Dolls have issued a joint statement denying allegations that the pop group was a "prostitution ring". Kaya Jones, who left the band before they became famous, claimed that she and other members were regularly subjected to sexual abuse. "We are all abused," she said on Twitter, claiming the group were made to "sleep with whoever they say". The band, led by Nicole Scherzinger, said they "were not aware of Kaya's experiences" and offered her support. However, they firmly denied that the remaining members had been abused. "We cannot stand behind false allegations towards other group members partaking in activities that simply did not take place," they said. "To liken our professional roles in The Pussycat Dolls to a prostitution ring not only undermines everything we worked hard to achieve for all those years but also takes the spotlight off the millions of victims who are speaking up and being heard loud and clear around the world," the statement continued. "We stand in solidarity with all women who have bravely spoken publicly of their horrific experiences of abuse, harassment and exploitation."

10-19-17 Against sex
Against sex
Nearly two weeks after the publication of stories in The New York Times and the The New Yorker on Harvey Weinstein's use of his vast fortune to silence numerous women who had accused him of sexual assault, we are still consumed with the millionaire film producer and other cases involving alleged abusers in Hollywood and the music industry. An exhaustive list of all the women and men in the world of entertainment who have come forward to report everything from unwanted advances to groping and forced kissing to drugging and rape would require a lengthy column in itself. These revelations are unsettling, but the conversations they inspire — about how and why all of this was possible — are a good thing. It would be better to have no films or television programs or albums or singles — no entertainment at all — than to sit back and enjoy knowing that all of this is only possible thanks to the systematic exploitation of vulnerable people by lawyered-up sexual predators. What no one seems willing to admit, however, is that part of the problem is also our all-consuming cultural obsession with "sex." I employ quotation marks because there is, in fact, no such thing. Sex as a catch-all noun that refers not only to what used to be thought of as "the marital act" but to any feelings or actions motivated by lust is an invention of late 19th-century psychologists. As that brilliant historian and renowned pervert Michel Foucault shows us in his monumental History of Sex, it is as dated and redolent of its era — when prostitutes were treated as subhuman and same-sex attraction was considered a disease indicative of criminality — as phrenology. Why are we still trying to make sense of the world with the help of this dated cultural framework?

10-18-17 Self-harming has risen dramatically among UK teenage girls
Self-harming has risen dramatically among UK teenage girls
In every 10,000 teenage girls in the UK, more than 37 have self-harmed. The large rise in rates of self-harming may be due to stress or mental health problems. In every 10,000 teenage girls in the UK, more than 37 have self-harmed. That’s according to an analysis of data from 647 general practices across the country. The study found that, between 2011 and 2014, there was a 68 per cent increase in reports of self-harm among girls aged 13 to 16. The rate of self-harm in 2014 was 37.4 out of every 10,000 girls, aged 10 to 19. But among 13-to-16-year-olds, this rose to 77 girls in every 10,000. In boys aged 10 to 19, the self-harm rate in 2014 was 12.3 per 10,000 boys. “We can’t really explain this possible rapid increase in self-harm among girls. It could reflect better awareness or recording of self-harm in primary care,” says Nav Kapur, at the University of Manchester, UK. “But it could also be a result of increasing stress and higher levels of psychological problems in young people.” There is some evidence that mental health disorders are becoming more common in this age group, says Kapur.

10-18-17 US girl banned from First Communion ceremony for wearing suit
US girl banned from First Communion ceremony for wearing suit
Cady Mansell, a nine-year-old from Indiana, was banned from her First Communion ceremony because she wanted to wear a white suit. Cady's mom shared their story on Facebook. Now she tells the BBC why they've moved churches. (Webmaster's comment: The Catholic church wants to control your life and you must obey. Even the clothes you wear can not be your choice.)

10-18-17 Animal study reveals how a fever early in pregnancy can cause birth defects
Animal study reveals how a fever early in pregnancy can cause birth defects
In chicken embryos, a rise in incubation temperature alone can disrupt normal development. Certain birth defects of the face and heart can occur when babies’ mothers have a fever during the first trimester of pregnancy, a crucial time in an embryo’s development. Now scientists have figured out the molecular players that make it so. In an experiment with chicken embryos, a temporary rise in incubation temperature — meant to mimic feverlike conditions — was enough to produce defects to the face and heart. The elevation in a growing embryo’s temperature, called hyperthermia, impacts the activity of heat-sensitive channels that are present in cells necessary for an embryo’s development, researchers report online October 10 in Science Signaling. Although a connection between fever and these birth defects has been known for decades, says coauthor Eric Benner, a neonatologist at Duke University School of Medicine, there has been some debate as to whether the fever itself or an infectious agent behind the fever is the culprit. The new work shows that “hyperthermia in and of itself can cause these birth defects, and on a molecular level, here’s how it happens,” Benner says.

10-18-17 Weinstein and the women who 'benefited'
Weinstein and the women who 'benefited'
Sexual assault is never a mutually beneficial business transaction. There's an awkward question orbiting the Harvey Weinstein scandal: Who benefited? Who prospered thanks to the culture of silence surrounding years of rumors of sexual assault? Recently, a person I was talking about the case with suggested that Weinstein's alleged targets — the ones who didn't report, the ones who failed to pit their 19-year-old no-names against his brand in lights — were just as culpable as the bystanders who enabled him and knew. I was, I confess, unprepared for this argument. These women had a choice, this person felt. And they made it. They chose to benefit instead of disclose. The point he — an ultra-capitalist — was trying to make was that sex and power are transactional. It's a big world, after all, and there must be some people for whom being raped, or pressured to watch a man masturbate into a potted plant, is the acceptable price of doing business. I find this line of thinking so astonishing I don't often take the trouble to respond. It feels like trolling. It seems steeped in bad faith. It does what capitalist arguments so often do, which is insist there's a choice (or a contract) when none exists. It presumes, further, that male and female artists in Hollywood face similar hurdles that just express a little differently. It's the kind of thinking that says things like women have an advantage men don't: sex! I want to slow down and think this through, because we're at a cultural crux and it seems to me important to be extremely careful; to think rigorously about what happened with Weinstein, and whether his alleged victims were indeed partly to blame — not just for their own harassment, but for everyone who came after, because they benefited. (Webmaster's comment: Many men will use any excuse, any lie, any made-up reason to justify the sexual abuse and rape of women!)

10-18-17 Jennifer Lawrence: I was placed in 'nude line-up'
Jennifer Lawrence: I was placed in 'nude line-up'
Jennifer Lawrence has said she was made to stand in a nude line-up and told to lose weight by film producers at the start of her career. Speaking at Elle's Women in Hollywood event, the 27-year-old said she felt she didn't have any power in the situation as an unknown actress. She said she found that fame protected her from assault as her career went on. "I will lend my voice to any boy, girl, man or woman who doesn't feel like they can protect themselves", she added. The actress, who won an Oscar in 2013 for her role in Silver Linings Playbook, told the audience about auditioning for a film and being asked by a female producer to stand in a nude line-up. She described the experience as "degrading and humiliating", as she was put next to girls she says were thinner than her. "When I was much younger and starting out, I was told by producers of a film to lose 15 pounds in two weeks. "One girl before me had already been fired for not losing the weight fast enough," she told an audience including Kristen Stewart, Margot Robbie and Ashley Greene. "During this time a female producer had me do a nude line-up with about five women who were much, much, thinner than me. We all stood side by side with only tape on covering our privates." Lawrence said the producer then told her she should "use the naked photos" of herself as "inspiration" for her diet.

10-18-17 Spain's hotel chambermaids 'Las Kellys' fight for fair pay
Spain's hotel chambermaids 'Las Kellys' fight for fair pay
Spain's tourism sector is heading for another bumper year, with last year's figure of 76 million foreign visitors looking set to be a short-lived record. But within the industry, some people think their essential work is being seriously underappreciated - chambermaids, women who clean hotel rooms in increasingly precarious conditions and poor pay. "We are all women. There are virtually no men," says Ángeles Muñoz, leader of the Madrid branch of Las Kellys, a play on the Spanish words for "the girls who clean" (las que limpian). While room cleaning has never been a road to riches, Las Kellys argue that a reform to Spain's labour market in 2012 paved their way to hell, allowing hotels to outsource cleaning services to companies that do not have to respect established industry standards. In a tourism industry that last year produced earnings of €125bn (£112bn) - 11% of Spain's economy - hotel room cleaners say they are paid less, prone to more health problems and less respected than ever. "Without clean rooms, a hotel does not have a product. But we are invisible, despite being 30% of a hotel's staff," says Ms Muñoz, who claims to have been blacklisted by two hotel chains for her militancy after 20 years in the job. "Many chambermaids are from especially vulnerable sectors of society, including immigrants and single mothers. They are frightened to be seen and fear reprisals or losing the pay they are getting."

10-17-17 Australia launches revenge porn reporting tool
Australia launches revenge porn reporting tool
Australia has set up the first national reporting tool to help victims of revenge porn. Revenge porn, or image-based abuse, is the sharing of explicit images without consent. The online portal provides advice on getting the images removed, reporting the abuse to authorities and pursuing legal action. The country's eSafety commissioner said 20% of Australians aged between 16 and 49 have experienced image-based abuse. Young women and indigenous Australians were more likely to be victims. The same research found that 76% of victims took no action, often because they didn't know what to do. In a statement, communications minister Mitch Fifield said the $4.8m (£2.8m) portal was "world-first", although the Californian government provides a similar service and non-government organisations elsewhere provide similar resources. Mr Fifield also said the government is considering introducing civil penalties for perpetrators or websites that distribute revenge porn. There are already specific laws against revenge porn in all but three Australian states and territories, and telecommunications laws have also been used to prosecute offenders. Revenge porn is illegal in the UK, Canada, New Zealand and Japan, and in most US states. (Webmaster's comment: These are deliberate acts meant to do harm. The prepetrators should get 5 year prison sentences!)

10-17-17 The Hollywood women tackling sexual harassment
The Hollywood women tackling sexual harassment
Actresses Margot Robbie and Lake Bell, alongside producer Kathleen Kennedy have spoken out. They hope the claims against producer Harvey Weinstein will lead to changes in the film industry.

10-16-17 'My #MeToo experience is sadly typical'
'My #MeToo experience is sadly typical'
The social media conversation around hashtag #MeToo highlights how widespread sexual harassment is. The BBC's Rajini Vaidyanathan shares her personal story. I must have been about 25 years old. We were in an Italian restaurant in New York, just after we'd finished working on a story. I was an ambitious producer who'd just been in Manhattan for the Republican convention. Most of the team had gone but a colleague and I were the last two left and we were having dinner. We'd gone to the East Village and in a dimly lit Italian restaurant, I made small talk about George W Bush and John Kerry. Then he said it. "I'm unbelievably sexually attracted to you. I can't stop thinking about you." I dropped my fork and it bounced on the plate, the spaghetti still woven around it. This was a colleague twice my age, well-respected and with a girlfriend. I had experienced sexism in the workplace before, but not in such an overt way. I can't even remember what I said - but it was something all too polite, as I tried to change the conversation. He continued talking about how beautiful I was, as I ate the pasta as fast I could. I wasn't sure at the time if he'd said anything that I could reasonably complain about, but I remember feeling disgusted and uncomfortable about it. I now know it was utterly unacceptable, and is just another reminder of how some men in the workplace use their power to manipulate, harass and even abuse women.

10-16-17 France minister Schiappa plans anti-street harassment law
France minister Schiappa plans anti-street harassment law
France's gender equality minister has set out plans for a new law cracking down on sexual violence and harassment. Marlène Schiappa's proposals include on-the-spot fines for catcalling and lecherous behaviour in public. The mounting sexual assault allegations against Harvey Weinstein have revived debate about male predation in France. President Emmanuel Macron said on Sunday he would be stripping the Hollywood producer of the prestigious Legion D'Honneur award. During his first in-depth television interview, Mr Macron also said his government would take steps to better define acts of sexual violence under the law. Under Ms Schiappa's plans announced on Monday, a taskforce of politicians will work with police and magistrates to establish what sort of behaviour constitutes sexual harassment. "The idea is that society as a whole redefines what it is acceptable or not," she told La Croix newspaper. Street harassment and catcalling are already illegal in some countries including Portugal and Argentina. (Webmaster's comment: But not in America. Many of our males need to express their disrespect and hatred of women! They still believe women are their property!)

10-16-17 Lisa Wilkinson: Top Australian presenter quits in 'equal pay row'
Lisa Wilkinson: Top Australian presenter quits in 'equal pay row'
The female presenter of one of Australia's most prestigious TV news shows has moved to a rival channel amid reports that she was not able to get pay parity with her male co-presenter. Lisa Wilkinson, 57, announced that because the Nine Network had been "unable to meet her expectations", she was joining Channel Ten's The Project. Her announcement brings an end to six months of contract negotiations. Wilkinson made her last appearance on the Today show on Monday. The talks between her and the Nine Network were held up because of her demand to have pay parity on the breakfast programme with her co-host, Karl Stefanovic, The Daily Telegraph and other media outlets reported. The paper, quoting "well-placed sources", said that Stefanovic earns about $A2m ($1.5m) a year compared to about $A1.1m ($870,000) earned by Wilkinson.

SCIENCE - GLOBAL WARMING and ENVIRONMENT

10-22-17 ‘Killer Hurricanes’ reconstructs the past to predict storms of the future
‘Killer Hurricanes’ reconstructs the past to predict storms of the future
Historical, geologic records offer clues to tropical cyclones. In 1780, a powerful hurricane swept across the islands of the Caribbean, killing an estimated 22,000 people; 5,000 more died of starvation and disease in the aftermath. “Our planet is capable of unleashing extreme chaos,” begins the new NOVA documentary “Killer Hurricanes,” set to air November 1 on PBS. To describe the human impact of such powerful tropical cyclones, the documentary primarily focuses on two storms: the Great Hurricane of 1780 and Hurricane Matthew, a Category 4 storm that slammed into Haiti and Cuba last October. Before the devastating 2017 Atlantic hurricane season (SN Online: 9/21/17), Matthew was considered the biggest Atlantic storm of the last decade. Still, the film’s larger message remains timely: Studying the hurricanes of the past can offer insights into storms of the future — and, hopefully, help coastal and island communities prepare for such events.

10-20-17 Pollution killed 9 million people in 2015
Pollution killed 9 million people in 2015
First global look finds that dirty air, water and soil are to blame for one in six premature deaths. About one in every six premature deaths worldwide is linked to dirty air, water and soil. Most of those deaths are concentrated among the world’s poorest populations, according to a study published online October 19 in the Lancet that documents the health and economic toll of pollution in 2015. In the most severely polluted countries, 25 percent of premature deaths could be attributed to pollution, especially in the air. More than half of the global deaths from air pollution in 2015 occurred in India and China. Previous reports have documented the health cost of environmental damage according to individual types of pollutants. But this report, by the Lancet Commission on pollution and health, “is the first time that it has all been brought together under one umbrella,” said study coauthor Richard Fuller, president of the nonprofit Pure Earth. An estimated 9 million people died from pollution exposure in 2015, the commission reports. That’s “three times as many deaths as [from] AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined and 15 times as many deaths as [from] war and all forms of violence,” the report says. About 90 percent of the world’s urban population lives in cities in which air quality does not meet World Health Organization standards. Air pollution affects more than the lungs — evidence suggests it contributes to deaths from cardiovascular disease and diabetes and may be a contributor to cognitive decline (SN: 9/30/17, p. 18).

10-20-17 Dimming the sun could save corals from bleaching and hurricanes
Dimming the sun could save corals from bleaching and hurricanes
Climate change will harm corals by overheating them and unleashing more violent hurricanes, but cooling the planet by geoengineering could reverse those effects. Time for artificial planet coolers? A cooling “sunshade” for the planet could reduce harmful coral bleaching and the number of hurricanes, which damage reefs. With the effects of climate change becoming increasingly apparent, the idea of squirting a cloud of sulphate aerosols into the upper atmosphere is being investigated by several groups of scientists. This would scatter some of the sun’s rays back into space, reducing the rate at which the Earth is warming. Now a study by James Crabbe at the University of Bedfordshire, UK, and his colleagues examines what this form of geoengineering would do to the Caribbean region and its fragile reefs. “Corals are the rainforests of the sea, and if you lose them the impacts on ecosystems and people would be complex and far-reaching,” says Crabbe. The team used computer models to simulate both the changing climate and rising seas between 2020 and 2069. They then modelled what would happen if solar radiation was artificially reduced. “We show very convincingly that, by injecting sulphur dioxide in the atmosphere, sea surface temperatures would decrease significantly by 2069,” says Crabbe. (Webmaster's comment: This is a very stupid, dangerous idea. It will have unintended consequences for all the life on the planet beyond our ability to predict. Reduce CO2 emmissions to pre-industrial levels and the planet will naturally recover without negative consequences! It will simply return to what it was before.)

10-20-17 Even a 'minor' nuclear war would be a global ecological catastrophe
Even a 'minor' nuclear war would be a global ecological catastrophe
Crops would die, the sun would go dark, and many would starve. The greatest concern derives from relatively new research which has modeled the indirect effects of nuclear detonations on the environment and climate. The most-studied scenario is a limited regional nuclear war between India and Pakistan, involving 100 Hiroshima-sized warheads (small by modern standards) detonated mostly over urban areas. Many analysts suggest that this is a plausible scenario in the event of an all-out war between the two states, whose combined arsenals amount to more than 220 nuclear warheads. In this event, an estimated 20 million people could die within a week from the direct effects of the explosions, fire, and local radiation. That alone is catastrophic — more deaths than in the entire of World War I. But nuclear explosions are also extremely likely to ignite fires over a large area, which coalesce and inject large volumes of soot and debris into the stratosphere. In the India-Pakistan scenario, up to 6.5 million tons of soot could be thrown up into the upper atmosphere, blocking out the sun and causing a significant drop in average surface temperature and precipitation across the globe, with effects that could last for more than a decade. This ecological disruption would, in turn, badly affect global food production. According to one study, maize production in the U.S. (the world's largest producer) would decline by an average by 12 percent over 10 years in our given scenario. In China, middle season rice would fall by 17 percent over a decade, maize by 16 percent, and winter wheat by 31 percent. With total world grain reserves amounting to less than 100 days of global consumption, such effects would place an estimated 2 billion people at risk of famine.

10-19-17 A brief history of the Earth's CO2
A brief history of the Earth's CO2
Climate change has been described as one of the biggest problems faced by humankind. Carbon dioxide is is the primary driver of global warming. Prof Joanna Haigh from Imperial College London explains why this gas has played a crucial role in shaping the Earth's climate. Carbon dioxide (CO2) has been present in the atmosphere since the Earth condensed from a ball of hot gases following its formation from the explosion of a huge star about five billion years ago. At that time the atmosphere was mainly composed of nitrogen, CO2 and water vapour, which seeped through cracks in the solid surface. A very similar composition emerges from volcanic eruptions today. As the planet cooled further some of the water vapour condensed out to form oceans and they dissolved a portion of the CO2 but it was still present in the atmosphere in large amounts. The first life forms to evolve on Earth were microbes which could survive in this primordial atmosphere but about 2.5 billion years ago, plants developed the ability to photosynthesise, creating glucose and oxygen from CO2 and water in the presence of light from the Sun. This had a transformative impact on the atmosphere: as life developed, CO2 was consumed so that by around 20 million years ago its concentration was down to below 300 molecules in every one million molecules of air (or 300 parts per million - ppm). Life on Earth has evolved under these conditions - note that humans did not appear until about 200,000 years ago - and atmospheric CO2 has not exceed that concentration until the industrial revolution brought with it massive emissions from the combustion of fossil fuels: coal and oil.

10-18-17 America the polluted
America the polluted
In the 1970s, the newly formed EPA ambitiously documented the contaminated state of the environment. Before the Environmental Protection Agency was created in 1970, environmental disasters were the norm. Rivers regularly caught on fire, major cities were blanketed in a choking smog, and oil clogged the nation's waterways. While the regularity of such catastrophes numbed many Americans into acceptance, several significant events in the 1960s began to shake the public out of its stupor. In 1962 marine biologist and author Rachel Carson published her quietly shocking book Silent Spring, a compendium of her six-year analysis of the myriad ways man was indiscriminately poisoning the air, water, and soil. It became an instant bestseller. On Jan. 28, 1969, an oil rig off the coast of Santa Barbara, California, exploded, sending three million gallons of crude oil into the ocean. Newspaper photos and televised reports of blackened beaches, oil-stained water, and thousands of tar-covered birds, fish, and marine mammals haunted the public. Just six months later, three Americans landed on the moon, offering the Earth-bound their first glimpse at the delicate blue marble they called home. By the end of the decade, the drumbeat of environmental activism was deafening. Grassroots environmental groups, with the help of Sen. Gaylord Nelson (D-Wis.), organized the first Earth Day — a national, and now global, demonstration in support of environmental reform. The presence of 20 million people marching for the Earth's protection helped spur the government to action. On Dec. 2, 1970, the Environmental Protection Agency was established under President Richard Nixon. "Restoring nature to its natural state is a cause beyond party and beyond factions," the Republican said in his 1970 State of the Union address. "It has become a common cause of all the people of this country."

10-17-17 America's climate idiocy
America's climate idiocy
It's been another month of climate disasters. Puerto Rico remains in ruins, three weeks after being hit by the worst hurricane since 1928. Forty people and counting have died in the most deadly series of wildfires in California history — which is especially unusual for the northern part of the state. And on Monday, Ireland, of all places, was thrashed by a severe tropical storm. Against that backdrop, the American government isn't just failing to address the most immediate problems arising from its domestic disasters, it's actually taking steps to make things worse. And it's not just Trump. A huge bipartisan majority in the House of Representatives (including every single Democrat) voted for a $36.5 billion disaster relief package containing $16 billion in debt cancellation for the broken national flood insurance program — but $5 billion in loans for Puerto Rico, thus adding to the island's already preposterously unpayable $74 billion debt load. Now, that's not all that is in the disaster relief bill. There is also $13.6 billion in disaster relief to be shared between Florida, Texas, and Puerto Rico, plus a $1.3 billion food stamp grant for the island. That's certainly better than nothing. But at a conservative estimate, that disaster relief total will not be remotely sufficient for either Texas or Puerto Rico, the two places hit worst out of the three. It's also maybe only a tenth (or less) of what is needed for a structural overhaul of Puerto Rico, both to rebuild it and to put it on sound economic footing. As for the flood insurance program, it's not a bad idea in itself. It's reasonable for government to help homeowners hit by unusual floods. However, the administration and payout structure of the program is nuts and has been for decades. It uses badly outdated flood maps and funds rebuilding far more than relocation. As a result, it has paid for many homes to be rebuilt again and again and again. This small minority of total membership accounts for a large portion of the overall payouts. Indeed, it's not really a home insurance program, as revealed by the $16 billion debt cancellation. What it amounts to, in many cases, is a subsidy for people to build homes in flood-prone areas.

10-17-17 Ophelia shows many hurricanes could reach Europe in the future
Ophelia shows many hurricanes could reach Europe in the future
Tropical cyclones often get to Europe but normally they have weakened by the time they get there. Not any more, thanks to climate change. The remnants of Hurricane Ophelia have struck the British Isles, causing widespread disruption and damage on Ireland. The cyclone, now downgraded to an extratropical storm, has reportedly led to three deaths. It is unusual for a hurricane to reach western Europe while still at or near hurricane strength. The last comparable event was Hurricane Gordon in 2006, which had also weakened to a storm before it struck. “The historical record only shows one hurricane reaching Ireland whilst still at hurricane strength: Debbie in 1961,” says Julian Heming of the UK Met Office. But in that case the data are sparse. “It is possible that, like Ophelia, Debbie transformed into an ‘extratropical cyclone’ some hours before it struck Ireland.” However, hurricanes could be a big part of Britain and Europe’s future. “There is evidence that hurricane-force storms hitting the UK, like Ophelia, will be enhanced in the future due to human-induced climate change,” says Dann Mitchell at the University of Bristol, UK.

10-16-17 The indiscriminate fury of California's wildfires
The indiscriminate fury of California's wildfires
After more than a week of blazing fires, much of Northern California lies in smoldering ruins. The California wildfires have raged for more than a week, killing 40 people, destroying thousands of structures, and reducing hundreds of thousands of acres to smoldering rubble. Encouraged by gusty winds, more than 20 separate blazes have wiped businesses, homes, wineries, and entire neighborhoods out of existence. While the worst damage has come in the wine country north of the San Francisco Bay Area, the devastation is hardly limited to this area. The Canyon 2 Fire in Anaheim — marked by an ominous glow around Disneyland — burned at least a dozen structures in Orange County and forced thousands from their homes. As officials comb the blackened ruins of the hardest-hit areas of Northern California, they face a new grim reality: "We may never get truly confirmative identification on ashes," Sonoma County Sheriff Rob Giordano said during a press conference. "When you're cremated, you can't get an ID." Officials warn that recovery will be extensive and costly. And while the region's wine business could take years to recuperate, the personal toll is what's truly immeasurable. "We're going to be a long time recovering from this incident," Santa Rosa Mayor Chris Coursey said. "[We've] suffered a serious blow."

SCIENCE - EVOLUTION and GENETICS

10-21-17 The dangers of 'knowing thyself'
The dangers of 'knowing thyself'
The "self" is constantly changing, and that makes it hard to truly understand. There is a phrase you are as likely to find in a serious philosophy text as you are in the wackiest self-help book: "Know thyself!" The phrase has serious philosophical pedigree: By Socrates' time, it was more or less received wisdom (apparently chiseled into the forecourt of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi), though a form of the phrase reaches back to Ancient Egypt. And ever since, the majority of philosophers have had something to say about it. But "Know thyself!" also has self-help appeal. Is your aim to accept yourself? Well, you need to know thyself for that first. Or is it to make good decisions — decisions that are right for you? Again, this would be difficult unless you knew thyself. The problem is that none of this is based on a realistic picture of the self and of how we make decisions. This whole "knowing thyself" business is not as simple as it seems. In fact, it might be a serious philosophical muddle — not to say bad advice. Let's take an everyday example. You go to the local cafe and order an espresso. Why? Just a momentary whim? Trying something new? Maybe you know that the owner is Italian and she would judge you if you ordered a cappuccino after 11 a.m.? Or are you just an espresso kind of person? I suspect that the last of these options best reflects your choices. You do much of what you do because you think it meshes with the kind of person you think you are. You order eggs benedict because you're an eggs benedict kind of person. It's part of who you are. And this goes for many of our daily choices. You go to the philosophy section of the bookshop and the fair-trade section at the grocer's shop because you are a philosopher who cares about global justice, and that's what philosophers who care about global justice do.

10-20-17 A home test kit may let you diagnose endometriosis years earlier
A home test kit may let you diagnose endometriosis years earlier
It can take years to diagnose extreme period pain as endometriosis. The longer it goes untreated, the more it affects fertility - could a spit test change that? One in 10 women have endometriosis, but diagnosis usually takes eight years. A simple spit test could soon help women find out for themselves if they have the condition. Endometriosis is caused by uterus cells moving elsewhere in the body and bleeding in time with a woman’s menstrual cycle. It affects 176 million women worldwide and can cause severe pain as well as infertility. The longer it takes to diagnose the condition, the more scarring takes place. “It’s inexcusable that, for many women, those are lost years of excruciating pain, or not knowing why they’re not able to get pregnant,” says Heather Bowerman, a bioengineer and CEO of DotLab, in San Francisco. Part of the problem is that doctors don’t always realise when a woman’s menstrual pains are worse than what is normally expected for a period. But diagnosis is also delayed by the fact that the condition can only be conclusively diagnosed by surgery. “The main thing that is so frustrating is the time to get a diagnosis,” says Kaye Sedgwick-Jones, who lives in Kent, UK, and has experienced endometriosis symptoms for 22 years, since the age of 14. “Anything to bring that down, so other women don’t have to go through what I went through, is a positive step.”

10-20-17 Scientists battle over whether violence has declined over time
Scientists battle over whether violence has declined over time
Study of wartime deaths suggests that larger populations remain violent but find safety in numbers. Contrary to a popular idea among researchers, modern states haven’t dulled people’s long-standing taste for killing each other in battle, a controversial new study concludes. But living in a heavily populated society may up one’s odds of surviving a war, two anthropologists propose. As a population grows, larger numbers of combatants die in wars, but those slain represent a smaller average percentage of the total population, say Dean Falk of Florida State University in Tallahassee and Charles Hildebolt of Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. That pattern holds for both small-scale and state societies, the researchers report online October 13 in Current Anthropology. Increasing absolute numbers of war dead in human societies have resulted from the invention of ever-more-lethal weapons, from stone axes to airborne bombers, the researchers suspect. But Falk and Hildebolt show that states, which centralize political power in a bureaucratic government, are less likely to lose large portions of their populations to war than are small-scale societies, such as hunter-gatherers. That’s a consequence of large populations acting as a buffer against war casualties among noncombatants, not a lesser appetite for violence, the researchers contend.

10-20-17 This is your brain on cellphones
This is your brain on cellphones
Our addiction to our smartphones is “damaging American mental health,” said Heather Wilhelm. Today’s phones are so powerful, fast, and filled with dazzling images and alluring tidbits of information from social media and the internet that they are virtually impossible to resist. “Who among us hasn’t looked up at least once, smartphone in hand, slightly dazed, only to discover that precious bundles of minutes or hours have somehow slithered by, lost to all eternity, usually in exchange for no discernible enlightenment at all?” The average smartphone user checks in about 80 times a day; click on one Facebook or Instagram feed or web link, and down you go into the digital rabbit hole. Americans now “eat, sleep, and breathe media,” consuming some form of it 12 hours a day. Not surprisingly, scientific research has linked smartphone use to decreased concentration, lower problem-solving skills, and depression. For youngsters, smartphone addiction is truly disastrous, with the incidence of depressive episodes soaring by 60 percent. Why give kids under 12 what for them is “a very expensive portable internet porn finder/social-media stalking system/mean girls text center”? Adults should limit their kids’ smartphone minutes—and their own. Our collective mental health may depend on it.

10-20-17 America’s obesity epidemic has reached a new peak
America’s obesity epidemic has reached a new peak
America’s obesity epidemic has reached a new peak. A record 40 percent of adults and about 20 percent of adolescents are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In total, about 70 percent of Americans are either overweight or obese.

10-20-17 Potassium protects the heart
Potassium protects the heart
People often eat bananas, avocados, and leafy greens for various health benefits. New research adds another benefit: These and other potassium-rich foods may help prevent heart disease, ScienceDaily.com reports. Researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham found that a high-potassium diet makes arteries more flexible, and thus could reduce the risk for atherosclerosis, or “hardening of the arteries.” For the study, the researchers fed mice with a genetic susceptibility to heart disease a diet with low, normal, or high levels of potassium. The mice on the low-potassium diet had more severe narrowing and hardening of the arteries than those with adequate potassium intake. High-potassium diets had the opposite effect, suggesting that potassium-rich foods—which also include potatoes, spinach, carrots, and artichokes—could also help prevent heart disease in people.

10-20-17 Another way sugar can kill
Another way sugar can kill
Consuming too much sugar can increase people’s risk for heart disease—even if they’re otherwise healthy, new research reveals. Scientists asked 11 men with fatty-liver disease and 14 healthy men to follow either a high- or low-sugar diet for 12 weeks. All of the men consumed the same number of calories each day, but sugar accounted for 26 percent of the high-sugar diet (650 calories) and just 6 percent of the low-sugar diet. When the study ended, both the healthy men and those with fatty-liver disease who were on the high-sugar diet showed damaging changes in the way their bodies metabolized fat linked to heart disease. The healthy men on the high-sugar diet also had more fat in their blood and liver, HealthDay?.com reports. Dana Angelo White, a dietitian at Quinnipiac University who was not involved in the study, said its results provide another reason to cut back on sugar. “In addition to piling on the empty calories, sugar creates more metabolic work for the liver,” she said.

10-20-17 Neanderthal genes’ influence
Neanderthal genes’ influence
Before they disappeared some 40,000 years ago, Neanderthals interbred with humans, mixing their DNA with ours. Today, Neanderthal genes make up between 1 and 3 percent of the genetic code of most people with European and Asian ancestry—and a new study says these genes influence how they look, feel, and act, reports the Associated Press. Scientists in Germany analyzed the DNA of a Neanderthal specimen found in the mountains in Siberia and compared it with the genetic data, appearance, and behavior of 112,338 people with British ancestry. (People of pure African descent have virtually no Neanderthal DNA because their ancestors didn’t migrate to Europe.) The researchers found that Neanderthal DNA influences 15 modern human traits, including hair color and skin tone, susceptibility to sunburns, and a tendency to be an “evening person.” Genes passed down from modern humans’ shorter and stockier cousins were also associated with higher rates of loneliness and moodiness. “Most of [the traits] correlate to how much exposure to sunlight you have,” says study author Michael Dannemann. Neanderthals had already adapted to the relatively low and varying levels of sunlight in Europe when they mated with modern humans, the researchers explain. They caution that the influence of genes is subtle and complex, and that dozens or hundreds of genes can play a role in a trait.

10-20-17 Resurrecting extinct species raises ethical questions
Resurrecting extinct species raises ethical questions
New book ponders technical and philosophical challenges of de-extinction. Scientists think they have the tools to transform elephants into woolly mammoths and reverse extinction. A new book explores the promise and pitfalls of de-extinction. A theme park populated with re-created dinosaurs is fiction. But if a handful of dedicated scientists have their way, a park with woolly mammoths, passenger pigeons and other “de-extincted” animals could become reality. In Rise of the Necrofauna, writer and radio broadcaster Britt Wray presents a comprehensive look at the unprecedented technical difficulties of raising the dead, plus the deep philosophical questions surrounding de-extinction. The aim of current de-extinction efforts is to use gene-editing tools to engineer living species to re-create extinct cousins, such as engineering a woolly mammoth from an elephant. This “molecular magic” is not the effort’s main limitation, de-extinction scientist George Church claims in the book. Instead, the biggest hurdles are the same that conservationists face when reintroducing endangered species to native habitats. (Webmaster's comment: Bringing back extinct creatures makes no sense because you can't bring back thier cultures. They will not live like they learned to do over thousands of years.)

10-19-17 Laws to protect athletes’ brains do reduce concussions — eventually
Laws to protect athletes’ brains do reduce concussions — eventually
Girls had almost twice the annual rate of concussions as boys when researchers compared sports — soccer, basketball and baseball/softball — that both played. To guard against the dangers of concussions, by 2014, all 50 states and the District of Columbia had enacted laws to protect young athletes. More than 2½ years after these laws went on the books, repeat concussions began to decline among high school athletes, researchers report online October 19 in the American Journal of Public Health. Researchers reviewed concussion data from 2005 to 2016 collected in an online system for sports injuries from a nationally representative sample of U.S. high schools. An estimated nearly 2.7 million reported concussions occurred during that time — an annual average of 39.8 concussions per 100,000 times a player hit the field for practice or games — among athletes in nine sports: football, basketball, soccer, baseball or wrestling for boys, and basketball, soccer, softball and volleyball for girls. Overall, the rate of new and recurrent concussions was climbing before the implementation of traumatic brain injury laws and continued to rise immediately after. But then, 2.6 years after the laws went into effect, the rate of recurrent concussions dropped roughly 10 percent, the authors say. New concussions showed a slight downturn beginning 3.8 years post-law.

10-19-17 The next wave of bird flu could be worse than ever
The next wave of bird flu could be worse than ever
Test finds mutated strain of H7N9 can pass between lab animals through the air. So far, most cases of human H7N9 infection have come from exposure to birds, often in live poultry markets. A new version of the H7N9 avian influenza virus might be able to cause widespread infection and should be closely monitored, scientists say, although it currently doesn’t spread easily between people. Researchers isolated the virus from a fatal human case and tested it and two genetically modified versions in ferrets, which are susceptible to both human and bird flu viruses. The tested viruses can spread to other ferrets through airborne fluid droplets like those released by a cough or a sneeze, sometimes turning deadly, researchers report October 19 in Cell Host and Microbe.

10-19-17 Doubling up on ‘junk DNA’ helps make us human
Doubling up on ‘junk DNA’ helps make us human
Geneticists ID 80 duplicated regions, many of which may impact the brain. Some DNA is duplicated in humans. The copies may be responsible for some uniquely human traits and diseases. Doubling up on some DNA may have helped make humans human — including giving us uniquely human diseases. DNA that doesn’t produce proteins may be especially important for creating differences between humans and other primates, biochemist Paulina Carmona-Mora reported October 18 at the annual meeting of the American Society of Human Genetics. Carmona-Mora and colleagues in Megan Dennis’ lab at the University of California, Davis identified parts of humans’ entire set of genetic instructions, or genome, that are duplicated in people but not in other primates. Many of those duplicated regions overlap parts of the genome implicated in many diseases and psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia, Carmona-Mora said. Dennis and other researchers have found that some genes duplicated only in humans are involved in brain development and may account for human’s bigger brains (SN: 3/21/15, p. 16; SN: 11/5/11, p. 9). Carmona-Mora concentrated on the space between genes — part of the genome once considered “junk DNA” because it doesn’t encode proteins. Far from being junk, it’s where molecular switches that help control gene activity are located. Carmona-Mora and colleagues found 80 regions where only humans have duplicated DNA. Each copy is 98 percent or more identical to the original copy. And some regions were copied more than once.

10-19-17 Stonehenge builders 'ate food from Scotland'
Stonehenge builders 'ate food from Scotland'
The "army of builders" of Stonehenge ate animals brought from as far away as the north east of Scotland, according to a new exhibition at the famous Neolithic site in Wiltshire. Analysis of pig and cattle teeth has revealed some of the animals were from as far as 500 miles away. The "Feast! Food at Stonehenge" exhibition includes the skull of an aurochs, an extinct species of cattle. It is aimed at allowing visitors to explore diet from 4,500 years ago. English Heritage historian Susan Greany said: "Our exhibition explores the important role feasts and food played at Stonehenge. "Raising the ancient stones was an incredible feat but so too was feeding the army of builders. "Our exhibition reveals just how this was done." The displays reveal research and stories from a "feeding Stonehenge" project, which has been exploring the lives of the people who lived at the nearby settlement of Durrington Walls. The researchers say thousands of discarded animal bones and teeth excavated at Durrington Walls suggest it was not a typical village but a site of major feasting and ceremony.

10-19-17 The mass extinction that might never have happened
The mass extinction that might never have happened
An ecological catastrophe 201 million years ago supposedly paved the way for the rise of giant dinosaurs, but it may not have happened that way after all. Should the “big five” really be the “big four”? For decades, we have recognised five devastating mass extinctions that punctuate the last half-billion years of evolution. But now two geologists are controversially arguing that the end-Triassic extinction – often described as the third largest – has no place on that list. “Certainly there was an environmental crisis, but it’s not a mass extinction per se,” says Lawrence Tanner at Le Moyne College at Syracuse, New York. “It’s misleading to continue to call it one.” If he is correct, our understanding of the early evolution of dinosaurs will need rewriting. The end-Triassic extinction of 201 million years ago is less famous than those before and after. The end-Permian “mother of all mass extinctions” 252 million years ago nearly obliterated all complex life, while the extinction at the close of the Cretaceous 66 million years ago is famous because it wiped out all dinosaurs, apart from birds. The end-Triassic extinction has been linked to a spate of volcanic eruptions around the birth of the central Atlantic Ocean. This “central Atlantic magmatic province” (CAMP) released carbon dioxide and sulphurous compounds into the atmosphere – supposedly triggering global warming, acid rain and widespread extinctions on land and at sea.

10-18-17 This ancient clock rules our lives — and determines our health
This ancient clock rules our lives — and determines our health
Our lives are ruled by time; we use time to tell us what to do. But the alarm clock that wakes us in the morning or the wristwatch that tells us we are late for supper are unnatural clocks. Our biology answers to a profoundly more ancient beat that probably started to tick early in the evolution of all life. Embedded within the genes of us, and almost all life on Earth, are the instructions for a biological clock that marks the passage of around 24 hours. Biological clocks or "circadian clocks" help time our sleep patterns, alertness, mood, physical strength, blood pressure, and much more. Under normal conditions, we experience a 24-hour pattern of light and dark, and our circadian clock uses this signal to align biological time to the day and night. The clock is then used to anticipate the differing demands of the 24-hour day and fine-tune physiology and behavior in advance of the changing conditions. Body temperature drops, blood pressure decreases, cognitive performance drops, and tiredness increases in anticipation of going to bed. While before dawn, metabolism is geared-up in anticipation of increased activity when we wake. A circadian clock also stops everything happening at the same time, ensuring that biological processes occur in the appropriate sequence. For cells to work properly they need the right materials in the right place at the right time. Thousands of genes have to be switched on and off in order and in harmony. Proteins, enzymes, fats, carbohydrates, hormones, nucleic acids, and other compounds have to be absorbed, broken down, metabolized, and produced in a precise time window. Energy has to be obtained and then allocated to growth, reproduction, metabolism, locomotion, and cellular repair.

10-18-17 Hunger-blocking injection lets fat monkeys quickly lose weight
Hunger-blocking injection lets fat monkeys quickly lose weight
A protein injection that decreases appetite has been found to help obese monkeys slim down fast, and to cut their risk of developing diabetes. A protein injection that decreases appetite helps obese monkeys to slim down fast and cuts their risk of diabetes. Excitement is growing about a protein called GDF15, which naturally regulates body weight in humans and animals. When extra amounts are injected into mice, they eat less, lose weight and have fewer signs of diabetes. Several research teams have tried developing GDF15 as an obesity treatment, but it breaks down too quickly in the bloodstream to work. Now a team led by Murielle Véniant at pharmaceutical company Amgen has found a way to make GDF15 last longer in the body. The team added an antibody fragment onto GDF15. Antibodies are immune proteins that help recognise foreign molecules in the body. They found that this hybrid protein caused obese monkeys to eat about 40 per cent less. When given weekly injections, the monkeys lost 10 per cent of their body weight over 6 weeks. Their glucose tolerance also improved, making them less likely to develop type 2 diabetes.

10-18-17 Getting on cancer’s nerves: A surprising way to thwart tumours
Getting on cancer’s nerves: A surprising way to thwart tumours
A technique for alleviating pain has exposed cancer's weak spot and may finally enable us to stop the disease by disabling the nerves that help it spread. DAVID MARTINEZ lives with excruciating pain. He has pancreatitis, a condition in which the pancreas becomes severely inflamed. Over the past five months, he has received three injections of a local anaesthetic into nerves in his abdomen to help ease the agony. But eventually the medicine wears off, and the pain returns. As if pancreatitis weren’t bad enough, Martinez, a 41-year-old former forklift operator in Pasco, Washington, has something else to worry about. Chronic inflammation of the pancreas is a major risk factor for cancer. “I’m afraid of it happening,” he says. But what if the painkilling injections Martinez is getting could do more than just ease his discomfort – even help ward off cancer altogether? New evidence is causing a rethink of the way cancer invades our bodies. It now seems that targeting nerve cells might be an effective way to fight tumours – and even prevent them developing in the first place. Some even think that focussing on nerves may be the missing piece in the fight against the disease. As Gustavo Ayala at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston sees it, “If you don’t take care of the nerves, you’re not going to cure cancer.”

10-18-17 A common herbal medicine may cause liver cancer mutations
A common herbal medicine may cause liver cancer mutations
A compound found in some plants used in traditional medicine has been linked to a 78 per cent of cases of liver cancer in hospitals in Taiwan. A commonly-used herbal medicine causes mutations that are linked to liver cancer, according to research in Taiwan. Extracts taken from plants of the genus Aristolochia, which are used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat a wide range of conditions, may be responsible for many liver cancers in Asia. There are over 500 species of Aristolochia, around 100 of which have been used in herbal medicines. “They have very beautiful, trumpet-shaped flowers,” says Steven Rozen at Duke-NUS Medical School in Singapore. This has led to them being given names like “Dutchman’s pipe”. Extracts of the plants – taken from the flowers, root or stem, for example – have long been used in herbal medicine. But fears over their safety were raised in the 1990s, when women who were given trial weight loss drugs containing Aristolochia extracts developed kidney failure. Since then, the plant extracts have also been linked to Balkan nephropathy – a kidney disease affecting people in Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Romania and Serbia. In 2013, researchers found that a compound in the plants, known as aristolochic acid, seems to cause gene mutations by targeting the base adenine, a component of DNA’s genetic code. “It attacks any part of the genome with equal opportunity,” says Rozen.

10-18-17 The science behind why sweet and salty foods taste so good together
The science behind why sweet and salty foods taste so good together
Go ahead and keep dipping those fries into your milkshake. Sweet and salty: They're two things that go together like Jacques and Julia, the Queen and her martini, and (literally) peanut butter and jelly. And though they're polar opposites on the flavor spectrum, that hasn't stopped us from putting the word salted in front of every trending dessert or dipping french fries into a chocolate Frosty. Here's why this beloved combination works so well — and, more importantly, why people who put pineapple on pizza actually are onto something. Salt makes things taste better, not saltier. Scientifically, you have your taste buds to thank for this. A study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests that in addition to being able to sense sweet and salty, our tongues have additional sweetness receptors that activate only when sugar is in the presence of salt. So as contradictory as it seems, even just a sprinkle of salt on a watermelon wedge can make the fruit taste even sweeter. Our bodies naturally crave both salt and sugar. We're hardwired to crave junk food (which, surprise, tends to be loaded with salt and sugar). According to Barb Stuckey, the author of TASTE: Surprising Stories and Science About Why Food Tastes Good, we've evolved to gravitate to sweet foods since they're traditionally the most energy rich (read: high in calories). Our bodies are also conditioned to like salty foods since sodium is an essential mineral we need to function.

10-18-17 Moms tweak the timbre of their voice when talking to their babies
Moms tweak the timbre of their voice when talking to their babies
Mothers shift the timbre, or quality, of their voice when talking to their babies, a new study finds. Voices carry so much information. Joy and anger, desires, comfort, vocabulary lessons. As babies learn about their world, the voice of their mother is a particularly powerful tool. One way mothers wield that tool is by speaking in the often ridiculous, occasionally condescending baby talk. Also called “motherese,” this is a high-pitched, exaggerated language full of short, slow phrases and big vocal swoops. And when confronted with a tiny human, pretty much everybody — not just mothers, fathers and grandparents — instinctively does it. Now, a study has turned up another way mothers modulate their voice during baby talk. Instead of focusing on changes such as pitch and rhythm, the researchers focused on timbre, the “color” or quality of a sound. Timbre is a little bit nebulous, kind of a “know it when you hear it” sort of thing. For instance, the timbre of a reedy clarinet differs from a bombastic trumpet, even when both instruments are hitting the same note. The same is true for voices: When you hear the song “Hurt,” you don’t need to check whether it’s Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor or Johnny Cash singing it. The vocal fingerprints make it obvious.

10-17-17 Four brain genes help explain obsessive compulsive disorder
Four brain genes help explain obsessive compulsive disorder
OCD has been linked to genes active in a brain circuit involved in learning and decisions. The finding may help explain why the condition can run in families. Four genes have been identified that are linked to obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). The genes all play a role in the same brain circuit, and may help explain why people are more likely to have OCD if they have a relative with the condition. People with OCD have intrusive thoughts and feel driven to repeat rituals, such as handwashing, to relieve their anxiety. To investigate if OCD has a genetic basis, Hyun Ji Noh at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard and her colleagues compared more than 600 genes across 592 people with OCD, and 560 people who don’t have it. They chose these candidate genes from several lines of evidence. Of these genes, 222 had been linked to compulsive grooming in mice, and 196 had been linked to autism in people – a condition that can involve repetitive behaviours. The team also looked at 56 genes that they had identified in a study of dogs with canine compulsive disorder, a condition in which dogs repeatedly chase their tails, pace back and forth, groom themselves or sucks things, sometimes for hours at a time. The analysis identified four genes that are different in people who have OCD. All four of these are active in a brain circuit that links the striatum, thalamus and cortex regions.

10-17-17 How volcanoes may have ended the dynasty of Ptolemy and Cleopatra
How volcanoes may have ended the dynasty of Ptolemy and Cleopatra
Volcanic ash layers suggest eruptions may have messed with crop-dependent monsoons, leading to an era of revolt. An Italian volcano erupted in 44 B.C., likely reducing monsoon rains that fed into the Nile River and ultimately fueling civic unrest in Ptolemaic Egypt. A series of volcanic eruptions may have helped bring about the downfall of the last Egyptian dynasty 2,000 years ago. By suppressing the monsoons that swelled the Nile River each summer, triggering flooding that supported the region’s agriculture, the eruptions probably helped usher in an era of periodic revolts, researchers report online October 17 in Nature Communications. That upheaval ultimately doomed the dynasty that ruled Egypt’s Ptolemaic Kingdom for nearly 300 years until the death of Cleopatra. To piece together this puzzle, Yale University historian Joseph Manning and his colleagues first compared records of Nile River heights dating back to A.D. 622 with volcanic eruptions recorded in ice cores from Greenland and Antarctica that date back 2,500 years. Ash layers in the ice cores, corresponding to “eruption years”, were linked to years of less extensive flooding, they found.

10-17-17 A universal flu vaccine may be nearing reality
A universal flu vaccine may be nearing reality
New strategies aim to attack the influenza virus in creative ways The flu kills tens of thousands of people in the United States each year, and protection is made harder by the need for an annual shot. A onetime vaccine is getting closer to reality. One of the planet’s deadliest viruses makes an annual pass through the United States with little fanfare. It rarely generates flashy headlines or news footage of health workers in hazmat suits. There’s no sudden panic when a sick person shows up coughing and feverish in an emergency room. Yet before next spring, this season’s lethal germ will probably have infected millions of Americans, killing tens of thousands. Still, it’s often referred to as just the flu. The influenza virus seems so normal to most Americans that only about half of us will heed those “time for your flu shot” banners that pop up at pharmacies and worksites every autumn. Those annual shots remain the best means of protection, but they must be manufactured months before flu season starts, based on a best educated guess of what strains of the virus will be circulating. That means even in a successful year, vaccine performance may not be impressive. During the 2015–2016 season, only about half of those immunized were protected, according to a study in the Aug. 10 New England Journal of Medicine. Some years’ vaccines are duds: For the 2014–2015 season, the vaccine protected only 19 percent of people who received it, based on U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data.

10-16-17 Gut fungi might be linked to obesity and inflammatory bowel disorders
Gut fungi might be linked to obesity and inflammatory bowel disorders
Yeast and bacteria can team up to cause trouble. Candida tropicalis usually grows as a harmless roundish budding yeast, but in the presence of two bacteria it stretches into long filaments that may provoke inflammation in intestines. Fungi may affect gut health in unexpected ways, new research suggests. High-fat diets may alter relationships between bacteria and fungi in mice’s intestines, contributing to obesity, researchers report October 11 in mSphere. In independent work, researchers report that a fungus teams up with two types of bacteria to fuel gut inflammation in people with Crohn’s disease. That work was summarized October 4 in Digestive and Liver Disease. Together, the studies are part of a growing body of research indicating that relationships between the bacterial and fungal kingdoms can affect health, says David Andes, a fungal biologist at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health in Madison. Andes wasn’t involved in either study. Scientists have already described links between health issues, including obesity, and gut bacteria — often called the microbiome. But far less is known about the role of the gut’s fungal mix, or mycobiome.

10-16-17 To understand the origins of pain, ask a flatworm
To understand the origins of pain, ask a flatworm
Experiments in planarians identify a chemical middleman that triggers the body’s ouch detectors. In planarians, a protein called TRPA1 detects hydrogen peroxide, a molecule produced when cells are damaged. These new results give hints about the evolution of human pain. Hydrogen peroxide, a molecule produced by cells under duress, may be a common danger signal, helping to alert animals to potential harm and send them scurrying. New details from planarian flatworms of how this process works may deepen scientists’ understanding of how people detect pain, and may ultimately point to better ways to curb it. “Being able to get a big-picture view of how these systems are built and what they’re cuing in on is always really helpful,” says biologist Paul Garrity of Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass. And by finding cellular similarities among planarians, fruit flies and people, the new study, published online October 16 in Nature Neuroscience, provides hints about how this threat-detecting system might have operated hundreds of millions of years ago.

ANIMAL INTELLIGENCE and ZOOLOGY

10-20-17 Songbird gets angry when its rivals are brilliant at singing
Songbird gets angry when its rivals are brilliant at singing
Male tui songbirds signal their prowess with complicated songs, so they respond aggressively when they hear a particularly good vocalist. Not in my backyard. Territorial songbirds in New Zealand reacted more aggressively towards males encroaching on their territory if those rivals sang more complicated songs. The tui birds perceived these snappy singers as greater territorial threats than their simpler singing counterparts. Birdsong has two main functions: defending a territory and attracting a mate, says Samuel Hill at Massey University in Auckland, New Zealand. For tui (Prosthemadera novaeseelandiae), territory defence is a key concern. “There are flowering and fruiting trees year round in New Zealand, so the tui always have resources to defend,” says Hill. This explains why “they natter all year round”. Warbling away takes lots of energy, so males may be showing off their physical endurance to females. Long and complicated songs may also be a sign of skill, as to sing them birds must use superfast vocal muscles to control rapid acoustic changes. In other songbirds, like zebra finches, females prefer males that sing harder songs. This hasn’t been tested in tui, but Hill says the complexity of a male’s song is probably a proxy for more relevant measures of his quality, like body condition and cognitive ability.

10-19-17 Songbirds 'being sold into extinction'
Songbirds 'being sold into extinction'
How Indonesians' love of a good tune threatens to send avian species into oblivion.Sold for a song. The forest birds captured for their tuneful voices. Lush green blankets of vegetation drape over Java's steep mountains. But these dense rain forests - on Indonesia’s most crowded island - are rapidly falling silent. Tuneful songbirds that used to give the mountains a unique melody are being caught and sold. Indonesians are obsessed with birds. Bird-singing competitions are national events. But this is threatening to drive the songbirds to extinction.

10-19-17 Steep decline of wasps and other flying nasties is a bad sign
Steep decline of wasps and other flying nasties is a bad sign
Aphids, midges and wasps are being added to the list of rapidly vanishing insects. It’s another alarming sign of a sixth mass extinction, says Olive Heffernan. It’s not just bees and butterflies that are vanishing. It’s many, many other insects too. In yet more evidence that we are in the throes of Earth’s sixth mass extinction, a new study reports that flying insects have declined precipitously in just 27 years in parts of Germany. We may feel less inclined to save some of these creatures – the midges, aphids and parasitoid wasps – than our trusted pollinators. In fact, motorists might welcome the absence of squashed critters on their windshields. Gardeners may take pleasure in the idea of growing plants free from aphid pests. Even tourists, enthralled by the notion of travel without the midge bites, might see this as a cause for celebration. But if this estimate is right, this loss is huge, both in scale and implication. Previous reports have found a decline of up to 50 per cent of European grassland butterflies, bees and moths in recent decades, but this new work suggests a much higher toll, and possibly across hundreds or even thousands of species that visit nature reserves year on year. In the clearest analysis yet of the plight of flying insects, Dutch and British researchers used data collected over nearly three decades by insect enthusiasts. These hobby biologists sampled 63 German nature reserves, covering a range of habitats including meadows, sand dunes and heathland, from 1989 to 2016.

10-19-17 Dogs really can smell your fear, and then they get scared too
Dogs really can smell your fear, and then they get scared too
There is an urban myth that dogs can smell human emotions, now it seems to be true: dogs can sense a person’s emotional state just by sniffing a sample of their sweat. Dog owners swear that their furry best friend is in tune with their emotions. Now it seems this feeling of interspecies connection is real: dogs can smell your emotional state, and adopt your emotions as their own. Science had already shown that dogs can see and hear the signs of human emotions, says Biagio D’Aniello of the University of Naples “Federico II”, Italy. But nobody had studied whether dogs could pick up on olfactory cues from humans. “The role of the olfactory system has been largely underestimated, maybe because our own species is more focused on the visual system,” says D’Aniello. However, dogs’ sense of smell is far superior to ours. D’Aniello and his colleagues tested whether dogs could sniff out human emotions by smell alone. First, human volunteers watched videos designed to cause fear or happiness, or a neutral response, and the team collected samples of their sweat. Next, the researchers presented these odour samples to domestic dogs, and monitored the dogs’ behaviours and heart rates. Dogs exposed to fear smells showed more signs of stress than those exposed to happy or neutral smells. They also had higher heart rates, and sought more reassurance from their owners and made less social contact with strangers.

10-19-17 Alarm over decline in flying insects
Alarm over decline in flying insects
It's known as the windscreen phenomenon. When you stop your car after a drive, there seem to be far fewer squashed insects than there used to be. Scientists have long suspected that insects are in dramatic decline, but new evidence confirms this. Research at more than 60 protected areas in Germany suggests flying insects have declined by more than 75% over almost 30 years. And the causes are unknown. "This confirms what everybody's been having as a gut feeling - the windscreen phenomenon where you squash fewer bugs as the decades go by," said Caspar Hallmann of Radboud University in The Netherlands. "This is the first study that looked into the total biomass of flying insects and it confirms our worries.'' The study is based on measurements of the biomass of all insects trapped at 63 nature protection areas in Germany over 27 years since 1989. The data includes thousands of different insects, such as bees, butterflies and moths. Scientists say the dramatic decline was seen regardless of habitat, land use and the weather, leaving them at a loss to explain what was behind it. (Webmaster's comment: The great mass extinction caused by human beings continues.)

10-18-17 The physics of mosquito takeoffs shows why you don’t feel a thing
The physics of mosquito takeoffs shows why you don’t feel a thing
Even when full of blood, the insect’s wings do the heavy lifting, so its legs barely need to push. Discovering an itchy welt is often a sign you have been duped by one of earth’s sneakiest creatures — the mosquito. Scientists have puzzled over how the insects, often laden with two or three times their weight in blood, manage to flee undetected. At least one species of mosquito — Anopheles coluzzii — does so by relying more on lift from its wings than push from its legs to generate the force needed to take off from a host’s skin, researchers report October 18 in the Journal of Experimental Biology. The mosquitoes’ undetectable departure, which lets them avoid being smacked by an annoyed host, may be part of the reason A. coluzzii so effectively spreads malaria, a parasitic disease that kills hundreds of thousands of people each year. Researchers knew that mosquito flight is unlike that of other flies (SN Online: 3/29/17). The new study provides “fascinating insight into life immediately after the bite, as the bloodsuckers make their escape,” says Richard Bomphrey, a biomechanist at the Royal Veterinary College of the University of London, who was not involved in the research.

10-18-17 Being a vampire can be brutal. Here’s how bloodsuckers get by.
Being a vampire can be brutal. Here’s how bloodsuckers get by.
What’s most remarkable about real-life bloodsuckers doesn’t show up in movies. Jennifer Zaspel can’t explain why she stuck her thumb in the vial with the moth. Just an after-dark, out-in-the-woods zing of curiosity. She was catching moths on a July night in the Russian Far East and had just eased a Calyptra, with brownish forewings like a dried leaf, into a plastic collecting vial. Of the 17 or so largely tropical Calyptra species, eight were known vampires. Males will vary their fruit diet on occasion by driving their hardened, fruit-piercing mouthparts into mammals, such as cattle, tapirs and even elephants and humans, for a drink of fresh blood. Zaspel, however, thought she was outside the territory where she might encounter a vampire species. She had caught C. thalictri, widely known from Switzerland and France eastward into Japan as a strict fruitarian. Before capping the vial with the moth, “I just for no good reason stuck my thumb in there to see what it would do,” Zaspel says. “It pierced my thumb and started feeding on me.”

10-17-17 Here’s a breakdown of the animals that crossed the Pacific on 2011 tsunami debris
Here’s a breakdown of the animals that crossed the Pacific on 2011 tsunami debris
About two-thirds of the creatures have never been documented off the western coast of North America. Marine sea slugs stowed away on a derelict vessel from Iwate Prefecture in Japan before being washed ashore in Oregon in April 2015. Life’s great diversity has revealed itself in more than 600 pieces of floating tsunami debris that have landed on the western coast of North America. Of nearly 300 living animal and protist species documented on the debris, which crossed the Pacific Ocean following Japan’s destructive 2011 tsunami, researchers analyzed in detail 237 species, which include larger invertebrates and two fish. The critters represent 15 taxonomic groups, as defined by the scientists in the Sept. 29 issue of Science. Most of the species were mollusks, including marine snails, nudibranchs and oysters. Mollusks were followed by annelids (segmented worms), cnidarians (including sea anemones), bryozoans (moss animals that sometimes resemble coral), crustaceans and others. Some species, such as sea anemones and limpets, were able to reproduce and maintain multiple generations on these debris “islands.” The unprecedented marine migration was possible because much of the rubbish caught up in the Pacific currents was durable, made of plastic or fiberglass. “Years ago there were other natural disasters that potentially produced debris, but the debris was, well, organic,” says Nir Barnea, the regional coordinator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s marine debris program in Washington and Oregon. “Now we have plastic materials, man-made materials that remain in the marine environment for many years.”

10-16-17 'Big, bad wolf' image flawed - scientists
'Big, bad wolf' image flawed - scientists
New research casts doubt on the idea that dogs are naturally more tolerant and friendly than wolves. In tests of cooperation skills, wolves outperformed their domesticated relatives. Scientists say the findings challenge assumptions about how dogs were tamed from wolves and came to live alongside humans. Previous evidence has suggested that the domestication process may have given dogs a more tolerant temperament. "We still have very much this idea of the big, bad wolf and the cuddly pooch on your sofa," Dr Sarah Marshall-Pescini, who led the research, told BBC News. "But, I think the simplest message is that the story is not quite as clear as that." Wolves are highly social animals. They live in close-knit family groups, raise puppies together and hunt in groups. This sort of behaviour is not seen in modern dogs, despite the idea that domestication selected for dogs that were more tolerant and friendly, both of each other, and humans.

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