The Ledes

Tuesday, February 9, 2016.

New York Times: "Artur Fischer, a German inventor who registered more than 1,100 patents, including the first synchronized camera flash and an anchor that millions of do-it-yourselfers use to secure screws into walls, died on Jan. 27 at his home in Waldachtal, in southwestern Germany. He was 96."

The Wires

White House Live Video
February 9

1:00 pm ET: Senior administration officials discuss the President's FY2017 budget

Go to WhiteHouse.gov/live.

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Public Service Announcement

New York Times (February 4): "Pregnant women whose male sexual partners have spent time in a country with confirmed transmissions of the Zika virus should either abstain from sex or use condoms during intercourse for the duration of their pregnancy, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has announced.'

USA Today: "Women of childbearing age should avoid alcohol unless they're using contraception, federal health officials said Tuesday, in a move to reduce the number of babies born with fetal alcohol syndrome. 'Alcohol can permanently harm a developing baby before a woman knows she is pregnant,' said Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 'About half of all pregnancies in the United States are unplanned, and even if planned, most women won’t know they are pregnant for the first month or so, when they might still be drinking.'"

New York Times (January 14): "Federal health officials are debating whether to warn pregnant women against travel to Brazil and other Latin American and Caribbean countries where mosquitoes are spreading the Zika virus, which has been linked to brain damage in newborn babies. Officials say it could be the first time the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises pregnant women to avoid a specific region during an outbreak." ...

     ... NYT Update (January 15): "Federal health officials on Friday advised pregnant women to postpone traveling to 13 Latin American or Caribbean countries and Puerto Rico where mosquitoes are spreading the Zika virus, which has been linked to brain damage in babies." ...

... The Washington Post reports on the crisis in Brazil.

New York Times: The leader of a group of "aging thieves" who last year pulled off "the largest burglary in England’s history" may have been an ex-policeman. The others have been captured, but "Basil" is still at large & his identity is unknown to investigators. Surely there will be a movie.

Washington Post: "Media mogul Sumner Redstone has resigned as board chairman at CBS Corp. after a court battle raised questions about the 92-year-old executive’s mental competence. He was replaced by Leslie Moonves, the longtime CBS president and chief executive, CBS announced Wednesday. The transition took effect Tuesday when Redstone was appointed to the role of CBS chairman emeritus, CBS said."

... New York Times: "A small 16th-century oil on panel largely kept in storage at a Kansas City, Mo., museum is a work by the Dutch Renaissance master Hieronymus Bosch, researchers [in the Netherlands] said on Monday, a finding that, if accepted by other scholars, would add to the tiny list of about 25 recognized Bosch paintings in the world. The painting, 'The Temptation of St. Anthony,' dated 1500-1510, had previously been attributed to the workshop of Bosch or to a follower of Bosch, known for his comic and surreal images of heaven and hell and the earthly moral purgatory in between."

Radio host Diane Rehm discusses her "retirement" plans with Karen Heller of the Washington Post.

Washington Post: "A lost story by famed British children’s author Beatrix Potter — the Tale of Kitty-in-Boots — has been discovered among her memorabilia and will be published this year more than a century after she wrote it. Jo Hanks, a publisher with Penguin Random House who made the discovery at London’s Victoria & Albert museum in 2013, called the story the biggest Potter discovery in generations and almost certainly the last, the London Times Newspaper reported Tuesday."

Boston Globe: "Late Night host (and New Hampshire native) Seth Meyers stars in this trailer for his fake movie, Boston Accent, which just laughs at all the devices used in every movie ever made in Boston":

Tim Egan's Confession: "I can no longer wait in a grocery store line, or linger for a traffic light, or even pause long enough to let a bagel pop from the toaster, without reflexively reaching for my smartphone."

Planet Nine. Caltech: "Caltech researchers have found evidence of a giant planet tracing a bizarre, highly elongated orbit in the outer solar system. The object, which the researchers have nicknamed Planet Nine, has a mass about 10 times that of Earth and orbits about 20 times farther from the sun on average than does Neptune (which orbits the sun at an average distance of 2.8 billion miles). In fact, it would take this new planet between 10,000 and 20,000 years to make just one full orbit around the sun. The researchers, Konstantin Batygin and Mike Brown, discovered the planet's existence through mathematical modeling and computer simulations but have not yet observed the object directly." ...

... CW: Planet Nine, my ass. I will never abandon Pluto! But this is a mighty thrilling development. ...

... UPDATE. Rachel Feltman of the Washington Post interviews Mike Brown, one of the discoverers of Planet Nine. It turns out, as certainly every astronomer knows, that Mike Brown was also the guy who killed Pluto! Even his daughter is mad at him for that.

New York Times: "Five planets will parade across the dawn sky early Wednesday[, January 20,] in a rare celestial spectacle set to repeat every morning until late next month. Headlining the planetary performance are Mercury, Venus, Mars, Saturn and Jupiter. It will be the first time in more than a decade that the fab five will be simultaneously visible to the naked eye, according to Jason Kendall, who is on the board of the Amateur Astronomers Association of New York."

Los Angeles Times: "The backlash against this year's Academy Award nominations escalated Monday with announcements by director Spike Lee and actress Jada Pinkett Smith that they would boycott the Feb. 28 Oscars ceremony, citing the absence of people of color in all four acting categories for the second year in a row. If other prominent entertainment industry figures join the boycott, it has the potential to spoil Hollywood's annual showcase event."

Donald Trump playing Donald Trump in movies & on teevee shows:

New York Times: "#OscarsSoWhite, that damning hashtag that made the rounds last year, can again, unhappily, be revived for this year’s Oscar nominations, which were announced Thursday morning.... The only Academy nods for two of the year’s biggest films about African-American characters went to white people.... In all the lead categories — best director, picture, and all four acting categories — only Alejandro G. Iñárritu, the Mexican auteur who won best director and picture last year, for 'Birdman,' adds a note of diversity. This year he was nominated for 'The Revenant.'”

Los Angeles Times: "Nominations for the 88th Academy Awards have been announced, and 'The Revenant' is leading with 12, including for best picture. Other nominees for best picture are 'The Big Short,' 'Bridge of Spies,' 'Brooklyn,' 'Mad Max: Fury Road,' 'The Martian,' 'Room,' and 'Spotlight.' All the snubs, surprises and reactions from nominees coming below." Full coverage via the linked page.

Christian Science Monitor: "... thanks to researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Purdue University, the lowly incandescent bulb is getting a jolt of new life. The six-researcher team says it has found a way to boost the bulb's efficiency twenty-fold, which would leave today's favored compact fluorescents (CFLs) and light-emitting diodes (LEDs) in the dust, according to a paper published Monday in the journal Nature Nanotechnology." ...

     ... CW: If these bulbs go into production, it should make Rand Paul very, very happy. If only MIT could do something about his big-shit problem. Science does have its limits.

Los Angeles Times: "A 21-year odyssey came to an end Tuesday when National Football League owners voted to allow the St. Louis Rams to move to Los Angeles for the 2016 season and gave the San Diego Chargers an option to join the Rams in Inglewood."

** Washington Post: "In a paper published in the open-access journal eLife this week, researchers say they have pinpointed what may well be one of evolution’s greatest copy mess-ups yet: the mutation that allowed our ancient protozoa predecessors to evolve into complex, multi-cellular organisms.... Incredibly, in the world of evolutionary biology, all it took was one tiny tweak, one gene, and complex life as we know it was born." The paper is here. ...

... CW: Sorry, fundies, this is a lot more exciting than a trip to the Noah's ark amusement park or whatever it is.

The Los Angeles Times' Golden Globe coverage is here.

New Yorker: More Pluto!

New York: "Lumosity is one of these 'brain training' programs, and yet, according to the Federal Trade Commission, many of those claims aren’t backed up by science. On Tuesday, Lumos Labs — the company behind Lumosity — agreed to settle with the Federal Trade Commission for $2 million for misleading consumers on claims that playing these mental games would help with cognitive performance and prevent mental decline as we age. 'Lumosity preyed on consumers’ fears about age-related cognitive decline, suggesting their games could stave off memory loss, dementia, and even Alzheimer’s disease,' Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a statement. 'But Lumosity simply did not have the science to back up its ads.'”

New York Times: "Twitter is experimenting with introducing a longer form of tweet, according to two people familiar with the company’s plans, in what would be another gradual move away from the simplistic design sensibility that the service was originally founded upon. The project, which internally has been referred to as 'beyond 140,' is still in its testing phase and is not set to be introduced until at least March...."

Washington Post: "Four newly discovered elements managed to squeak their way in[to the periodic table] just before the end of 2015, filling up the table's seventh row and marking the first additions since 2011." CW: Since I know squat about chemistry, let me say here -- in the fullness of my ignorance -- that the periodic table should stick with elements that occur in nature. If chemists want a "sub-periodic table" to show off their lab-created, unstable elements, let 'em have it. I don't see how an "element" can be artificial. Anyone who knows what s/he's talking about is free to set me straight.

TPM: "Twitter announced Thursday it's bringing back Politwoops, the popular gaffe-tracking transparency tool that tracked politicians' deleted tweets, after unceremoniously killing off the service earlier this year.... Twitter revoked developer API access for the project, a venture of The Sunlight Foundation and The Open State Foundation, in August 2015."

If you are interested in what George Lucas thinks about the "Star Wars" series & other stuff, you can find out here, presuming Charlie Rose doesn't monopolize the conversation (okay, silly presumption). ...

... Later Lucas said he was sorry he said some of those nasty things.

... Hank Stuever of the Washington Post: The "final episodes of 'Downton Abbey' are among the show’s best since the first season — and they’ll reassure those hoping for the happiest possible endings for nearly every character."

BBC News: "A monument from a temple in the ancient city of Palmyra destroyed by so-called Islamic State (IS) is to be recreated in London's Trafalgar Square. The 2,000-year-old arch is all that remains of the Temple of Bel, part of the Syrian Unesco World Heritage site, captured by militants in May. It will be recreated from photographs, using a 3D printer. The institute behind the project hopes the arch will draw attention to the importance of cultural heritage." ...

... John Brennan & Sarah Knapton of the (Irish) Independent: "Ireland's saints and scholars were descended from farmers and bronze metalworkers from the Middle East and modern-day Ukraine, scientists have found. Researchers have sequenced ancient Irish human genomes for the first time. They discovered mass migrations to Ireland thousands of years ago resulted in huge changes to the ancient Irish genetic make-up. A team of geneticists from Trinity College Dublin and archaeologists from Queen's University Belfast made the findings, which show a massive shift in our genetic mix over the course of just 1,000 years. They believe the genetic influxes brought cultural change such as moving to settled farmsteads, bronze metalworking - and may have even been the origin of western Celtic language." ...

... CW: One trouble with denigrating certain ethnic groups: we're all cousins. Sorry, "white" people.

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Monday
Apr092012

The Commentariat -- April 9, 2012

My column in today's New York Times eXaminer is on Ross Douthat's Easter Sunday sermon, and I think it's a winner even if it is full of typos I can't see. The NYTX front page is here. You can contribute here.

In a fabulous column, and without naming names, Paul Krugman explains why self-described centrists have fallen for Paul Ryan, "a garden-variety modern G.O.P. extremist, an Ayn Rand devotee who believes that the answer to all problems is to cut taxes on the rich and slash benefits for the poor and middle class." ...

... Krugman blogpost coda: "... the Ryan proposal would lead to bigger, repeat bigger, deficits than the Obama proposal."

** Eric Alterman of The Nation, in the New York Times: "... economic liberalism is on life-support, while cultural liberalism thrives. [That's largely because] cultural liberalism comes cheap.... Liberals must find a way to combine their cultural successes with new approaches to achieving economic equality.... So far the president has been unwilling to put his budgetary moneys where his mouth is. In fact, Obama has proved far more adept at adapting his positions toward the increasingly radical views enunciated by the leaders of the Republican Party than he has in articulating — and sticking to — an alternative vision of the role of government in ensuring a fair economic shake for all its citizens."

Prof. Philip Kitcher has a terrific essay in the New York Times on social Darwinism. ...

E. J. Dionne: "Conservatives are not accustomed to being on the defensive.... So imagine the shock when President Obama decided last week to speak plainly about what a Supreme Court decision throwing out the health-care law would mean, and then landed straight shots against the Mitt Romney-supported Paul Ryan budget as 'a Trojan horse,' 'an attempt to impose a radical vision on our country,' and 'thinly veiled social Darwinism.' ... Conservatives are unhappy because they prefer passive, intimidated liberals to the fighting kind."

Law Prof. Ronald Krotoszynski, in a New York Times op-ed: "In the post-9/11 era, security has too often been an empty pretext for placing dissent out of eyesight and earshot."

Right Wing World

Thomas Edsall, writing in the New York Times, tracks Mitt Etch-a-Sketch Romney's shift to the center. CW: I think it's worth noting, tho Edsall doesn't mention it, that during the general elections the positions of both presidential candidates will be to the left of where they were a year ago. Politicians are shifty people.

James Crugnale of Mediaite: "Republican Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley took a shot at President Barack Obama’s stance on the Supreme Court via Twitter Saturday, tweeting, 'Constituents askd why i am not outraged at PresO attack on supreme court independence. Bcause Am ppl r not stupid as this x prof of con law.' ... Obama chief strategist David Axelrod fired back at the Iowa Senator, alleging a six-year-old had hacked his Twitter account.”

News Ledes

New York Times: "... the aggressive tactics that have served Mr. Romney so well in other states faced an unexpected complication [in Pennsylvania]: the emergency hospitalization of Mr. Santorum’s disabled daughter Bella, which prompted an outpouring of public sympathy."

New York Times: "The special prosecutor appointed to investigate the killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin said Monday that she had decided not to convene a grand jury in the case.... The prosecutor, State Attorney Angela Corey, who was appointed last month by Florida Gov. Rick Scott to investigate the shooting, said in a statement that her decision 'should not be considered a factor in the final determination of the case.'”

New York Times: "A judge set bail at $9.1 million each on Monday morning for the two men accused in the shooting spree here in which three people were killed and two others were wounded.... All five victims were black. Many city and community leaders have said that the shootings were racially motivated, but District Attorney Tim Harris of Tulsa County said on Monday that the authorities were trying to determine whether the rampage constituted a bias crime."

New York Times: "Facebook ... said it had agreed to buy Instagram, the popular mobile-centric photo-sharing service, for $1 billion in cash and stock, giving it a stronger foothold on mobile devices. It would be Facebook’s largest acquisition to date by far."

Washington Post: David Foley, "a top official at the General Services Administration, was placed on administrative leave Monday, four days after a video that features him joking about the lavish spending at a Las Vegas conference became public.

New York Times: Iranian diplomats are sending mixed signals in advance of nuclear arms talks.

AP: "Syrian forces fired across the border Monday into a refugee camp in Turkey, wounding at least five people as a U.N.-brokered plan to end more than a year of violence this week all but collapsed...." ...

     ... Updated New York Times story here.

AP: "The U.S. Navy said Monday it has deployed a second aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf region amid rising tensions with Iran over its nuclear program.The deployment of the nuclear-powered USS Enterprise along the Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group marks only the fourth time in the past decade that the Navy has had two aircraft carriers operating at the same time in the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Sea...."

New York Times: "AOL agreed on Monday to sell a portfolio of over 800 patents, and license about 300 more, to Microsoft for $1.056 billion, amid an arms race within the technology industry over intellectual property."

AP: "Sony Corp. will cut about 10,000 jobs worldwide over the next year as it tries to return to profit, Japanese news reports said Monday."

Reader Comments (4)

On Douthat: It's not just his lying, which you have illuminated wonderfully, it's his simple-minded conception of religion's psychological and sociological aspects (if, to make my own bias clear, there is any other). Douthat seems to believe--there's that word again--that a religious tenet or practice is a constant, like gravity or the speed of light, when all religions and their convictions are subject to drift and change over time. The reasons for those changes are many but the simple proliferation of street corner churches in this country since Douthat's golden age should be proof enough of religion's inconstancy.

To this non-believing observer, the delicious irony at the heart of Douthat's lamentations is that his own party has done all it can to splinter established religious institutions by substituting consumerism and dollar worship for ethical behavior, by hawking belligerent anti-intellectualism, political paranoia and outright racism, and by funneling millions of tax dollars into the coffers of the religious Right and its private religious-based so called schools.

And then Douthat complains about a nation so ignorant, so confused, so angry, so afraid that thousands, if not millions of its citizens seek security in their own egocentrically defined Church of the One True God--themselves.

The Republican Party has done all it can to make the church business big business and has been remarkably successful in doing so in the last forty years. For them it was a simple matter of votes. Unintended consequences or not, that effort has had a significant effect on our politics, some of which Douthat apparently doesn't like. I don't either but he's blaming the wrong folks for the development. He should look in a mirror.

April 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKen Winkes

@Ken Winkes. Thanks for the coda to my column. You're right of course about the inconstancy of religious doctrine and about Douthat's inability to see that. I suppose that's a conservative thing -- those guys don't like change! But all faiths have changed their "cast-in-stone" principles, sometimes for practical reasons & sometimes because of changes in leadership. The ones that don't are no longer around; e.g., Shakers. It's true that some well-established religions are more hidebound than others, so in some cases it isn't the doctrine that changes but the parishioners. The Roman church's contraception ban would be a lot bigger problem in this country if Catholic women paid much attention to it.

And I heartily agree that Republicans have encouraged wacky religious views. What's more, the GOP gets worse every year. When some yokel called Obama an A-rab (that's pronounced with a long "A") at a McCain event, McCain said, "No, he's not." When a woman at a Santorum rally said Obama was a Muslim, Santorum didn't disagree. (I will say that last week or so -- and now that he has the nomination pretty well sewed-up -- Romney did say "No" when some guy who seemed to be looking for a "Yes" answer asked Romney if he believed interracial marriage was immoral.) Their war on science is mind-boggling. The GOP has definitely returned to the pre-Scopes trial era.

Marie

April 9, 2012 | Registered CommenterThe Constant Weader

Blame evolution for the spread of religious dogma of all kinds across the world. Becoming a group in awe of one God or another brought people together in a larger society than the family. Grouped together followers of one God or another started helping each other. People that helped each other survived. Those that did not perished. That Darwin fellow described the process as evolution.
Many of the religious groups do not believe in evolution, What the hell Archie.

April 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCarlyle

Marie, I wanted to share my thoughts on Krugman's take:

Many "Independents" and "Centrists" are closet authoritarian/libertarians (philosophies that would seem to be incompatible until you realize that the combo means "lower taxes for me, behaving yourself for you"). The Republican Redistribution and Redemption Center is doing the heavy lifting for these "centrists" who apparently desire another Golden Age in which we can lionize the rich and admonish the poor about the sin of laziness and then herd them into churches where they can learn about the celestial bootstraps by which they can pull themselves up. (Perhaps the Brooks household can spare a pair.)

Also, it has occurred to me why these folks pine for the 1950s. That era occurred just before television forced us to witness the cost we inflict on those less fortunate for the sake of our elevated lifestyles. In those idyllic times we could choose not to be informed. Television and the Internet have made it impossible for a person to ignore reality, and the response to that has been to split humanity into those who are appalled by much of what they see and those who smugly deny that any of it matters.

One last thing I'd like to ask "centrists": Were you a centrist during, say, the Ford Administration? Can you feel the scale of tectonic shift centrism has experienced since 1975? Does any of that matter to you, or is it important for your own self-image for you to be able to claim to be "fair and balanced"?

April 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJack Mahoney
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