Weekly Address

The President's Weekly Address

White House: "In this week’s address, the President spoke from the place where his political career first began in the Illinois State Senate ... [about] the state of American politics":

The Wires

White House Live Video
February 11

1:00 pm ET: NOBEL Women presents Girls, Gigabytes & Gadgets

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.

Washington Post: "Scientists announced Thursday that, after decades of effort, they have succeeded in detecting gravitational waves from the violent merging of two black holes in deep space. The detection was hailed as a triumph for a controversial, exquisitely crafted, billion-dollar physics experiment and as confirmation of a key prediction of Albert Einstein's General Theory of Relativity."

New York Times: "... 21-year-old [Arthur Ashe] toppled the tournament’s top-seeded tennis player in a stunning upset on July 30, 1964. We published two photographs of Dennis Ralston, ranked No. 2 in the nation at the time, who walked off the court in defeat. But we didn’t run a single photograph of the winner.... On that day in 1964, he was ranked sixth in the nation and had yet to win a national title. ...

... The 1964 Times story is here. The page has blown up the above photo, worth viewing just to feast your eyes on that gorgeous young man. ...

... The Times is publishing previously unpublished photos of black historical figures & events every day this month. You can see those published to date here.

CW: Not sure if the movie is any good, but Ron Howard's intro is primo. Here's the trailer:

... The New York Times story, by Brooks Barnes, is here. "Kept a secret for months — no small task in Hollywood — 'Funny or Die Presents Donald Trump’s The Art of the Deal: The Movie' was released to coincide with Mr. Trump’s victory on Tuesday in the New Hampshire Republican presidential primary."

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.'”

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Tuesday
Feb212012

Worse than the Dark Ages

CW: This post began as a comment, but I wanted to give it greater prominence. Many thanks to author Akhilleus for reminding us that churchmen once were leaders in scientific inquiry in stark contrast to the Santorums & Gingrich's who would take us back to primitive explanations for natural phenomena. 

Bishop Robert Grosseteste. 1168-1253.The antipathy towards science and truth regarding the natural world on shocking display in the warped funhouse mirror that is the Republican Presidential primary campaign represents a new low in the right’s never-ending search for more and more insidious ways to grab onto power with every sucker on each of its slimy tentacles.

The Rick Santorum quotes about the environment offer a chance to consider how far we've come -- and how low we've sunk.

The contemporary hatred and distrust of science by the religious right and right-wingers in general has not always had this kind of power, even in the Dark Ages during which the pursuit of scientific knowledge was highly regarded among many religious teachers, scholars, and leaders. Robert Grossteste, an English bishop and master of theology, wrote extensively on optics, mathematics, astronomy, and even composed a treatise explaining the scientific basis for tidal activity (Bill O’Reilly’s mental capacity has yet to rise to the level of a guy who was writing on parchment paper in the 13th century).

The rise of methods of investigating the natural world and which prompted several scientific revolutions was supported and, largely, created by medieval churchmen like Grossteste, Roger Bacon, Albertus Magnus, Henry of Ghent, William of Ockham, and one of the big guns in Church history, Thomas Aquinas hisself.

Aquinas, at least according to my reading of his work, would kick the intelligent design people down the stairs. They just don't fit in with his understanding of the workings of the natural world. This isn’t to compare Aquinas with Einstein as a pure scientist, but it is a recognition that for these scholars, science and religion could live together. In fact, many of them went toe to toe with the less enlightened clerics of their day. They didn’t always win, but in some cases (Roger Bacon) they were even supported by the pope (Clement IV, I believe).

These guys laid the groundwork for what became the empirical method eventually taken up by beacons of enlightened thought such as John Locke and David Hume, neither of whom were buddies of reactionary religious troglodytes.

So why the regression? Why is today’s religious right and their political enablers and supporters like Santorum and Gingrich even more benighted, more backward than ignorant, uneducated pissants who lived nearly a thousand years ago? Why do today’s religiously (un)informed right-wingers scream bloody murder at the very mention of climate change, stem cell research, natural selection, and a myriad other scientific topics when many of these same fields of study were avidly pursued by prominent members of the Church centuries ago with an eye toward increasing, rather than diminishing, humanity’s knowledge and understanding of the natural world?

The best guess is power and control. Empowering ignorance is a useful way to to stave off the sovereignty of truth. Holding up science as a straw-man/boogieman enables the right to distract the masses from the real problems facing them, problems often directly caused by right-wing policies. The religion vs. science screamfest is a handy smokescreen for the right as they attempt to divert scrutiny away from their actual plan of taking control of the country away from anyone who is not of their tribe and handing it to the wealthy, the oligarchs, and those whose motives are firmly grounded in their book of rules, the right-wing quarto of money, power, war, and control.

There’ve been a number of pieces written recently pointing out the strategic problems of this scheme. First, by elevating the ignorant, they have inadvertently ceded a certain amount of power and now the ringmasters are the ones having to jump through hoops of fire and stumble around the big top after tumbling out of their primary season clown car. The masses, fired up with the fury of imbecility, hatred, and ignorance, now want their show trials in which their enemies (science, truth, rationality) are hung in effigy, if not in reality. And what the rest of the country is left with is the very real possibility of an uninformed, willfully ignorant, hate-spewing birdbrain like Rick Santorum, as President of the United States.

It’s one thing when hypocrisy and rank desire for power cause you to foul your own house with the stinking sluice of sluggish stupefaction and feeble-minded ineptitude, but when you drench the rest of the country with this effluence, you deserve nothing less than perdition and infamy.

And demanding that schoolchildren learn magical thinking in place of scientific truth is more than a step backwards. It’s a descent into insignificance and complete collapse.

But that's the Way of the Right: If we can't be in charge, we'll burn it all down.

Any better reason to go out and vote against these monsters?

-- Akhilleus

Reader Comments (7)

Amen!

February 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLisa

@Akhilleus
I agree with you on all points except I take offense at comparing Santorium's brain to that of a bird. I'm an avid bird watcher and can say with certainty that birds are very intelligent!

I am quite worried over the things that Santorium has been spewing. I find I must remind myself that not all Christians are so radical. Him and his ilk with their words spread fear among people. I just hope that the majority of citizens are more tolerant of differences among people or least we see a revival of the Salem witch trials.

February 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJulie in Massachusetts

@Akhilleus--

As a scientist--by worldview, education and career--and, yet, a Progressive Christian, let me say that IF the whack jobs who seem to dominate Republican primaries actually DO succeed in nominating Santorum, the Republican party will experience the greatest LANDSLIDE LOSS since they ran with Barry Goldwater.

Thinking Conservatives, Independents and, yes, even most Christians will finally take a close look at this guy and either flock back to Obama, sit out the election, or vote for third-party candidates. I know I will do one of the latter two actions.

Here's the latest extremist religious lunacy that has been dredged up on Santorum:

http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-503544_162-57382008-503544/santorum-in-08-satan-is-attacking-america/

February 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterZee

Charles Pierce performs his magic once again:

http://www.esquire.com/blogs/politics/rick-santorum-church-talk-6789284?src=rss

February 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDaveS

From outside the United States, there is very little difference - and what there is only works to US disadvantage - between it and the most fanatical countries on the planet. Exaggeration? Vaginal probes? Ultrasound on fetuses? Arguments against contraception? Years ago, while the Iran hostage crisis was in full swing, our national broadcaster, the BBC, had an interview with an American historian, who said that in order to understand Iran, we had to understand that there was very little difference between the two countries. Imagine what that historian would say now, three decades later.

On another note, I would like to thank Ms Burns for her tireless work on this blog and NYTXaminer. It is much appreciated, although at my darkest moments, I hear her voice as one crying in the wilderness. Thank you very much for your good sense.

February 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTerence

Sorry! Read CBC, not BBC. I was listening to the BBC telling us of the death of Marie Colvin.

February 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTerence

Julie, my apologies for the avian gaffe. You're quite correct about birds. I have several feeders near our kitchen windows that allow us to observe their sociology up close. They seem much more able to negotiate turf disputes and group dynamics than many current politicians. And Zee, I'm always thrilled to hear from thoughtful members from the conservative ranks. I'm thinking that were I in your shoes I would bristle at the way the term "conservative" has been co-opted by those on the far right. When I think of conservatives I think of Theodore Roosevelt not Rick Santorum who is clearly out beyond the pale. And by the way, your self identification as a progressive Christian would make you, in Rick Santorums rheumy eyes no Christian at all. In fact, according to comments he made in 2008, you are the handmaid of the devil. I think (at least I hope) that it is this kind of complete intolerance of any who exhibit the tiniest difference from these buffoons that may eventually bring them down. Claims to be the sole source of the Truth of God, coming from hypocritical fools like Santorum should be a clear indication to real Christians that this guy is damaged. Spiritually, ethically, morally, and intellectually. The pathology of the Rick Santorums of the world would keep a psychology grad student busy for years. It used to be that hard times brought out the crazies. Certainly for many, these are hard times. The incredible part of this puzzle is the fact that a huge number of the difficulties in which we are embroiled stem from policies promoted by politicians like Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich.

The country is in dire need of two serious political parties (we'll leave aside Tom Friedman's third party for the nonce) who can work together when necessary and serve to balance each other when required. Right now we don't have that. We've got a Democratic Party so battered by decades of bullying that they've adopted a permanent shell to hide under. Then we've got a Republican Party that has sold its soul to the likes of Santorum.

What a state we're in!

February 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus
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