Back in 2017, the new EPA Director Scott Pruitt -- a fantastically pampered shill for corporations whose income is proportional to the noxious effluvia they eject into our air, soil, and water -- passed a policy barring scientists from participating on the EPA’s Scientific Advisory Board if they had ever received a grant from the EPA.
This sneaky-clever move was clearly designed to create the illusion that it was “draining the swamp” by preventing any potential conflicts of interest between scientists and money. Except that most academic scientists rely on EPA (and other) grants. Which limited the pot of scientific advisors on the scientific advisory board to scientists who worked for corporations. Who … somehow … didn’t have any conflicts of interest between their money and their science?
It was, as the NRDC put it, a “pernicious scheme to stack the deck in favor of big polluters by trying to shut out the voices of scientists—all to pump more pollution into our lives.” They added:
Pruitt claimed that his 2017 directive reduced bias on the EPA’s nearly two dozen advisory panels, which offer scientific expertise that then guide policy decisions on environmental pollutants, such as industrial chemicals or airborne particles from power plants. But unsurprisingly, Pruitt’s rule was not extended to scientists and consultants with ties to chemical or fossil fuel companies, allowing the agency to soon fill some open seats with industry insiders who disputed the known harm of pollutants, like ozone and PFOA.
Fortunately, Judge Denise Cote of the U.S. Read the rest
Larry Tesler, the Xerox PARC computer scientist who coined the terms cut, copy, and paste, has died.
Born in 1945 in New York, Tesler went on to study computer science at Stanford University, and after graduation he dabbled in artificial intelligence research (long before it became a deeply concerning tool) and became involved in the anti-war and anti-corporate monopoly movements, with companies like IBM as one of his deserving targets. In 1973 Tesler took a job at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) where he worked until 1980. Xerox PARC is famously known for developing the mouse-driven graphical user interface we now all take for granted, and during his time at the lab Tesler worked with Tim Mott to create a word processor called Gypsy that is best known for coining the terms “cut,” “copy,” and “paste” when it comes to commands for removing, duplicating, or repositioning chunks of text.
Read the rest of his obit on Gizmodo.
[H/t Jim Leftwich]
Image: Yahoo! Blog from Sunnyvale, California, USA - Larry Tesler Smiles at Whisper, CC BY 2.0, Link Read the rest
Julian Assange's lawyer told a London court that Trump offered to pardon the WikiLeaks founder if he agreed to say Russia was not involved in the Democratic National Committee email hack, reports The Daily Beast.
Edward Fitzgerald, Assange’s lawyer, said Wednesday that a message had been passed on to Assange by former Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher.
Fitzgerald said a statement produced by Assange’s lawyer, Jennifer Robinson, showed “Mr Rohrabacher going to see Mr Assange and saying, on instructions from the president, he was offering a pardon or some other way out, if Mr Assange... said Russia had nothing to do with the DNC leaks.”
Image by Espen Moe - originally posted to Flickr as IMG_4739, CC BY 2.0, Link Read the rest
In the early 1800s, agents working for Thomas Bruce of Scotland, the 7th Earl of Elgin, conveniently “removed” about half of the remaining marble statues from the Parthenon, as well as a few other Greek sculptures, and brought them back to Britain in the name of art history cultural preservation colonialism. Bruce claimed to have permission from the Ottoman Empire to borrow these artifacts, but others have insisted that this is total bullshit. This has — understandably! — resulted in some strained tensions between the British Empire and the modern Greek government (post-Ottoman Empire) that’s gone on for about two centuries.
Now that Britain has left the European Union, Greece has renewed their effort to reclaim the Elgin/Parthenon Marbles. From The Times:
A draft negotiating mandate circulated among European governments in Brussels today hardened EU demands in key traditional trade areas, particularly fishing, but also included the unexpected “return and restitution” line.
“The parties should address issues relating to the return or restitution of unlawfully removed cultural objects to their country of origin,” said a newly drafted text that will be signed off by EU governments next week.
The Greek government has said that Brexit will shift the political balance within the EU to force Britain to return the fifth century BC marbles.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the British government is thus far refusing to cooperate. They seem to be under the impression that the marbles were legally acquired. I suppose this makes sense, on the grounds that the British government makes the laws by which the country abides, and thus, according to their own laws, they have acted in accordance with the law (that they made) in their decision to steal cultural artifacts from half the god damn world in the name of Imperialism. Read the rest
The great David J, bassist for Bauhaus and Love and Rockets, is playing two intimate concerts in the San Francisco Bay Area, tonight (2/18) at Santa Rosa's Lost Church and 2/21 at San Francisco's Lost Church. Buy tickets here. I've seen David play solo several times and it's always a lovely, witty, and rousing evening of current and classic songs and stories. David is celebrating his latest record, "Missive To An Angel From The Halls Of Infamy And Allure," that he has said may very well be his last. Above, "I Only Hear Silence Now," the new video from that album.
Meanwhile, the reformed Bauhaus has also announced a handful of life dates for 2020.
image credit: Mila Reynaud (CC BY 3.0) Read the rest
In Pueblo, Colorado at 3:330am Friday morning, terrified McDonald's employees called police after hearing "'demonic sounds' from a screaming woman" inside the restaurant.
According to Pueblo Police captain Tom Rummel, the employees also reported sounds of a "strange language and barking."
"They were so unnerved by the sounds that they said they wouldn’t be going back outside their building until after the sun came up," Rummel tweeted. "Three officers searched the area, but didn’t come up with the source of the disturbance."
image: transformation of photo by Towinn (CC BY-SA 3.0)
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Writing for The New York Times, Randall Monroe (creator of the xkcd comic) looks into the world's worst smell. It turns out that there is no universal agreement, but a strong contender for the title is something called U.S. Government Standard Bathroom Malodor, "a substance that was designed to mimic the scent of military field latrines, in order to test cleaning products."
Another contender was accidentally cooked up one day by Derek Lowe, an industrial chemist:
Dr. Lowe said that the worst thing he’d ever smelled in his career as a chemist arose when he inadvertently combined dimethyl sulfide (think farts) with some silicon he was putting through a reaction called a Peterson olefination. Neither odor would smell great on its own, but combined they produced something transcendently foul. “It smelled like what you’d imagine the exhaust of a U.F.O. to smell like,” he said. “It was spectacularly weird and horrible.”
By Cornischong at lb.wikipedia - Own workTransferred from lb.wikipedia., CC BY-SA 3.0, Link Read the rest
Legendary musical force Andrew Weatherhall -- who produced Primal Scream's seminal album Screamadelica, famously remixed the likes of My Bloody Valentine and Meat Beat Manifesto, and as a DJ helped turn the world on to acid house -- has died. He was 56 and suffered a pulmonary embolism. From The Guardian:
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Following a young adulthood in the post-punk scene, Weatherall became a key figure in countercultural – and occasionally mainstream – British music after becoming one of the key DJs in the acid house movement of the late 1980s. He was recruited by Danny Rampling to play at London nightclub Shoom, and soon founded the record label Boy’s Own Recordings and the production outfit Bocca Juniors.
Further musical projects included the group the Sabres of Paradise, which splintered into the duo Two Lone Swordsmen with Keith Tenniswood, though perhaps his most famous musical work was with Primal Scream on their breakthrough 1991 album Screamadelica. By taking the band’s anthemic songwriting and adding samples, loops and the euphoric energy of Ibiza, Weatherall’s production made the album one of the most celebrated of the 1990s....
He spoke of the eternal appeal of DJing in a 2016 Guardian interview: “It’s quite vampyric, DJing. You’re never going to have that feeling of hearing that record for the first time again, but if you look into the eyes of someone who’s hearing it for the first time, it’s a nice vicarious feeling. But it’s not selfish. I think I’ve never lost that thing I had when I was 12 years old and inviting my mates round to my house.
I have a lot of issues with the American obsession around political binaries. But it's hard to deny that it's an overwhelming force that maintains a maddening influence on our country. Both-side-isms are built on the assumption that the "political center" is the exact middle between two equal but opposite poles. Given the choice between killing 100 people, or killing none, this kind of radical centrist confidently strides forward with their "logical" assertion that killing 50 people is the only possible solution that would allow us to maintain what they see as the equilibrium of the status quo.
The latest example of this comes from an FBI briefing in front of the House Judiciary Committee in early February. The bureau has been working to fine-tune its language in order to better address the (very real!) threat of domestic terrorism, which has often gone overlooked in the past. As part of these linguistic changes, the FBI has broken down domestic terrorism into four broad categories, including "abortion violent extremism," which FBI Director Christopher Wray described as "people on either side of that issue who commit violence on behalf of different views on that topic."
Rep. Karen Bass of California rightly pointed out to Wray that there is no evidence of violence on "both sides" of the abortion issue. But Wray insisted that the threats must be balanced on both sides. Later, when pressed by the Daily Beast, the FBI could only cite a single instance of "pro-choice extremism," which involved a man who threatened anti-abortion activists online. Read the rest
MIT researchers outfitted a baby diaper with an RFID tag that emits a wireless signal when the surrounding material gets wet. The wetness "sensor" is actually a type of hydrogel that's commonly found in diapers to absorb liquid. As the hydrogel gets wet, it swells and its conductivity increases, triggering the RFID tag. The RFID tags are printed as stickers for around 2 cents each compared to other Internet-connected diapers in development with reusable sensors that cost as much as $40/each. From MIT News:
Over time, smart diapers may help record and identify certain health problems, such as signs of constipation or incontinence. The new sensor may be especially useful for nurses working in neonatal units and caring for multiple babies at a time...
(MIT AutoID Lab researcher Pankhuri Sen) envisions that an RFID reader connected to the internet could be placed in a baby’s room to detect wet diapers, at which point it could send a notification to a caregiver’s phone or computer that a change is needed. For geriatric patients who might also benefit from smart diapers, she says small RFID readers may even be attached to assistive devices, such as canes and wheelchairs to pick up a tag’s signals.
image: MIT News (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)
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It is kind of hard to imagine that it's taken until 2020 for the identity of the woman on the cover of Black Sabbath's heavy metal masterpiece, Black Sabbath, to finally be known. The woman has been identified as Louisa Livingston. The image was shot by photographer and album designer, Keith "Keef" Macmillan.
The photographer opted for Oxfordshire's Mapledurham Watermill because it fit the band's sound in his opinion. Louisa told Rolling Stone:
"I remember it was freezing cold. I had to get up at about 4 o'clock in the morning. Keith was rushing around with dry ice, throwing it into the water. It didn't seem to be working very well, so he ended up using a smoke machine.
"It was just, 'Stand there and do that.' I'm sure he said it was for Black Sabbath, but I don't know if that meant anything much to me at the time."
As a teenage headbanger, I spent countless record-spinning hours poring over every inch of this haunting cover, completely enthralled by the creepy building and the beautiful green-skinned witch in front of it. It is probably a good thing that I (and every other pubescent teen listener) was ignorant of this fact:
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"She wasn't wearing any clothes under that cloak because we were doing things that were slightly more risqué, but we decided none of that worked.
"Any kind of sexuality took away from the more foreboding mood. But she was a terrific model. She had amazing courage and understanding of what I was trying to do."
The UK's Far Out Magazine has posted the playlists of 27 songs that Lou Reed was listening to when he died in 2013 of liver disease.
Reed continually kept his finger on the pulse of contemporary and popular music. Taking a hands-on approach to the developing technology around him, Reed controlled his own Spotify account which hosted several different playlists of songs he liked from the radio, or, alternatively, general songs he was listening to at that time.
Entitled ‘What I’m listening to’, Reed’s final contributions to his creative Spotify account was to curate two playlists for his followers. Combining some more predictable selections with the likes of Roy Orbison, Prince, Tom Waits and more, Reed also managed to raise a few eyebrows when he includes artists such as Nicki Minaj, Robyn and more.
Read the rest of the piece and access the playlists here.
Image: Danny Norton, CC BY 2.0 Read the rest
Three female mountain gorillas -- one pregnant -- and one male infant were killed by lightning in Uganda's Mgahinga National Park. With just 1,000 or so left in the world, their deaths is a "big loss for the species," according to the Greater Virunga Transboundary Collaboration that works to conserve wildlife in the region. From the BBC News
The four that died were part of a 17-member group, which has been called the Hirwa family by the authorities.
"The potential of the three females for their contribution to the population was immense," (GVTC executive secretary Andrew) Seguya said.
He added that the 13 surviving members of the Hirwa family have been found and are feeding well.
image: "Mountain gorilla (Gorilla beringei beringei), 10 month old baby, Titus Group, Rwanda" by Charles J Sharp (CC BY-SA 4.0)
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Remember back in 2017, when the entire Right Wing Propaganda Machine suddenly decided that Antifa — literally just some loose affiliations of scrappy anarchists in black bloc attire — were the single greatest threat that humanity had ever faced? (And were also somehow being funded by Hillary Clinton and the DNC and George Soros even though they're anarchists and not liberals?)
One such event, which threw the National Review into a tizzy, involved the Cedar Creek Battlefield Foundation, which had to cancel its annual re-enactment of the Battle of Cedar Creek for fear of violent attacks by "lib-terrorists" in balaclavas who are somehow also snowflakes. The group received a letter, in an envelope marked with a red-and-black flag, saying:
You need to cancel your coming up celebration of the Civil War on October 13, 14, 15, 2017…Many of us have dogs, so will bring dog feces to throw on people! We will also throw cups of human urine! We might resort to actually firing guns into the camps and at the re-enactors! We will put poison in the water, we will use noise to disrupt the battles and sleep! These events must stop! Our local organizer tells us he is ready to go! You have been warned, now if it is not called off, we will destroy you! You have less than 1 month to issue a cancellation notice, do it asap!
Then, during the actual event, an unexploded pipebomb was found on the premises — further proof of the Intolerant Left and their evil agenda. Read the rest
Lloyd Blankfein might sound like the name of a fictional banker villain, but he is in fact the real-life Senior Chairman of Goldman Sachs. Prior to his current position, he served as chairman and chief executive of the infamous banking giant beginning in 2006 — just before that pesky financial crisis from which the world is still recovering.
To his credit, Blankfein did apologize for his company's role as a liquidity provider for subprime mortgages. Specifically, he said, "We participated in things that were clearly wrong and have reason to regret. We apologize." That was in 2009 — the absolute pits of the economy — and around the same time he was named "Person of the Year" by the Financial Times. Within months, he was touting his duties of "doing God's work" while the rest of us were still scrounging for employment or to recover the last few scraps of money we had foolishly invested on the advice of people on Blankfein.
Anyway, he's really concerned that Bernie Sanders will "ruin" "our" economy, should he be elected as President of the United States in the upcoming election.
Presumably, Blankfein was not referring to our economy — as in the economy that affects normal human beings such as you or I, which he has previously participated in ruining — but rather, his economy, that is, the pleasures enjoyed by him and his ilk of obscenely wealthy, out-of-touch, and utterly untouchable oligarchs. Read the rest