July 2, 2016 in 4,178 words

Someone Broke The Dog


This Day In History: July 2, 1566

Michel de Nostradame was born on December 14, 1503 in Saint-Remy-de-Provence, France. His family’s roots were Jewish, but they converted to Catholicism to avoid the terrible persecution inflicted on the Jews during the Inquisition. His grandfather saw potential in the boy and taught him Hebrew, Greek, and Latin, as well as mathematics, and astrology.

In 1522, he began studying medicine at the University of Montpelier and received his license to practice three years later. Like many others with academic degrees, he later Latinized his name to Nostradamus. Over the next few years, Nostradamus used his training to treat victims of the plague all over France and Italy.

Unlike many physicians of the time, reportedly Nostradamus didn’t rely on mercury based concoctions and bleeding his patients. Instead, he pushed for basic hygiene, fresh air, and administered a concoction made from rosehips, which though he didn’t know it is rich in Vitamin C. While the plague being the plague, many of his patients died anyway, his patients did reportedly have an above average survival rate for the time; this is not surprising as one would expect that from a physician who wasn’t poisoning his patients with mercury and then stressing their bodies further by significantly reducing their blood supply regularly. His relatively high cure rate made him something of a local celebrity and sought out healer. …

Donald Trump’s anti-terror policies sound a lot like war crimes

Many thought the GOP nominee would become more centrist for the general election, but he keeps advocating cruel and brutal tactics

Instead of tacking to the center like a lot of pundits thought he would when he became the Republican nominee, Donald Trump seems intent to double down on his moral depravity, calling for outright war crimes in his quest to become US president.

On Wednesday he told a crowd of supporters that to defeat Isis, the US needs to “fight fire with fire”. As NBC News put it, this “seemingly [made] the case for using similarly brutal tactics as terror groups like Isis have in the past.” He once again declared the US should return to waterboarding terror suspects, a tactic that is obviously torture (and was once prosecuted as such after the second world war). And he has repeated his calls for inventing “interrogation” techniques that are “worse” than waterboarding as well.

Trump, as you will remember, spent much of the GOP primary spouting all sorts of nonsense about how waterboarding “works” (even though we know it doesn’t), that he would happily bring back torture in the “war on terror” fight (even though it’s blatantly illegal) and that he would kill the family members of suspected terrorists (despite the general agreement across the political spectrum that that is a war crime as well). …

DEGREE OF DIFFICULTY: He shows no signs of stopping his increasing descent into unhinged lunacy since the Orlando terrorist attacks.

Modern Toss

It’s World UFO day on 2 July …

Bill Maher mocks Libertarians’ economic views: It’s ‘Mad Max takes your gas and you die’

THANKS to HBO and Real Time with Bill Maher for making this program available on YouTube.

Real Time Bill Maher had fun at Gary Johnson’s expense on Friday when the Libertarian presidential nominee tried to present his party’s views as hewing closer to the mainstream than Donald Trump’s.

“When he started talking about going after 11 million undocumented workers, that’s just crazy,” Johnson said.

“Not just Libertarians feel that way,” Maher replied. “All sane people feel that way.”

“I think so,” Johnson said in agreement. “I think most sane people are Libertarian — it’s just that they don’t know it.”

“Unfortunately, a lot of people who are not sane are Libertarian,” Maher shot back. …

Bill Maher and panelists Louise Mensch, Ari Melber, and Rep. Barbara Lee discuss whether Brexit and the rise of populist candidates like Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are signs of the working class’s dissatisfaction with free trade.

Bill talks with comedian Jim Gaffigan – star of TV Land’s “The Jim Gaffigan Show” – about their different views on faith and whether that means they “cancel each other out on planet earth.”

In his editorial New Rule, Bill Maher makes the case that, if Republicans are going to call states the “laboratories of democracy,” they first have to stop replicating failed economic experiments.

10 Shocking Reasons People Faked Deadly Illnesses

Most people may have come up with exaggerated stories of being sick in the past to get out of school or work, but others have taken this tactic to the extreme for various ends. Whether it was for money, sympathy, or even to hide personal problems, faking serious illness almost always leads to being caught by authorities and universal shame.

10. For Cash

This is the first and most obvious reason a person might fake an illness. Imagine you have a family and become too sick to support them. Wouldn’t it seem reasonable that someone might try to help you out in your time of need? Sadly, there are people out there who are perfectly willing to fake illnesses to dupe generous well-wishers. Mandy Hargraves was one of these people.

A 34-year-old mother of two, Hargraves was estranged from her husband and struggling to make ends meet. She then decided that she was going to have stage-4 stomach cancer. Her husband returned to her, and she put up a GoFundMe page for herself. It was remarkably successful, and a movement formed around her called “Mandy Strong.” Her kids were in on the scheme, as they were the first to model “Mandy Strong” T-shirts that started selling like hot cakes. In Valdosta, Georgia, where Hargraves lived, moms, cheerleaders, and other children could be spotted wearing “Mandy Strong” T-shirts, with one person wearing her T-shirt on a trip to Paris.

Soon, cracks began to show in Hargraves’s facade. Friends of hers released that doctor’s appointments she was supposedly going to were all fictional. Biopsies, scans, and MRIs were all faked, and the authorities began to get wind of what was going on. …

How Gay Culture Helped Everyone Come Out of the Closet

The queer-rights movement, Dan Savage argues, helped American culture do something it has traditionally been reluctant to do: talk honestly and openly about sex.

This is, in the United States, an age of (relative) sexual liberation: Sex outside of marriage is common to the point of normalcy. Homosexuality and gender fluidity are increasingly accepted as natural expressions of human sexuality. Sex, in general, is the subject of public and open discussion in a way it hasn’t been before. Within the space of only a few generations—and with an acceleration that occurred over just the past several decades—American culture has done what in the centuries before would have seemed unimaginable: It has become (mostly, sort of, relatively) comfortable with sex.

You can attribute at least some of that, says the sex columnist and LGBTQ advocate Dan Savage, to the queer rights movement—and to the speedy normalization of gay culture in American life that arose as a result of its efforts. As more and more gay characters appeared on TV, and as more actors and athletes came out and encouraged their non-famous counterparts to do the same, and as queer rights advocates worked with their communities, Americans in general became, quickly, much more aware than they had been about gay life. And with that came an awareness, too, of gay sex.

That changed things for the better, and not just for the LGBTQ community. As Savage said today in a conversation at the Aspen Ideas Festival, co-sponsored by the Aspen Institute and The Atlantic: “Gay people coming out, in the face of judgment and shame, about their sexual expressions encouraged a lot of straight people to express their sexual identities beyond just ‘I want to meet someone, get married, and have some babies.’” …

North Carolina’s HB2 Compromise That Wasn’t

Legislators restored the right to bring discrimination suits but otherwise failed to agree on changes to the state’s controversial “bathroom bill.”

North Carolina legislators ended their legislative session late Friday with a small tweak to HB2, the state’s controversial “bathroom bill,” but without touching any of the most contentious issues in the law.

The law, passed by the GOP-dominated General Assembly in a special one-day session in March, required transgender people to use the restroom corresponding to the sex on their birth certificate and prevented cities from passing their own ordinances barring LGBT discrimination or requiring transgender bathroom accommodations.

The tweak legislators made Friday was small. It restores the ability to bring discrimination claims in state courts, a right that appeared to have been removed from law by accident during the drafting process. Governor Pat McCrory, a Republican, signed the bill the day it was passed in March but almost immediately called on the legislature to restore the right to sue. He’s expected to sign the revision into law. …

10 More Fascinating Real-World Easter Eggs

Once again, it’s time to call out the bored, overcaffeinated programmers of this environment we call reality. As we have pointed out on multiple occasions, despite all the obvious and serious problems with the programming, they still apparently find time to leave strange, nonsensical things in unlikely places—purely to screw with us.

We would like to point out that noted extremely smart person Elon Musk has publicly stated his belief that the likelihood that we are not living in a simulated reality is one in billions. We would also like to point out that we appear to have been slightly ahead of the curve on this. Mr. Musk, on the off chance that you are reading this, consider this series an ongoing catalog of evidence to support your assertion.

10. Ponyhenge

On a small parcel of farmland in Lincoln, Nebraska, you can find a herd of horses, currently numbering about 30. The difference between this and any number of other horse gatherings you might find in the area will be immediately obvious: They’re old-style rocking horses—some wood, some plastic, all silently standing in a circle facing each other. Their number has slowly grown over the last several years, and nobody in town has the same story about how the first one got there.

Some say it began as part of a Halloween display. One man remembers a couple of kids with a lemonade stand bringing the first two. Then more kept appearing seemingly every month, placed among their creepy brethren by unknown visitors. Rather than petering out over the years, the proliferation of horses seems to be increasing and their positions in the field change often, also by unknown means. …

There’s a Clear Difference Between Robot-Generated and Human-Generated Art

This sonnet generator makes it obvious.

Accomplishments in artificial intelligence often suffer from the problem of moving goalposts: As soon as a machine or algorithm can accomplish something that has traditionally been the province of humans, we generally dismiss it. To replicate something with a machine is to show that it has always been mechanical, we just had the wrong machines. One aspect of human behavior that has reliably eluded mechanical reproduction is the creation of art. In the wonderful Spike Jonze movie Her, we are presented with a future in which A.I. is so advanced that it can produce an operating system that its hero falls in love with, but even that level of technological achievement is not enough to mechanize his job as a writer of romantic correspondence. Or as summarized more or less by many a person: “Sure, a computer can win at Go. But it could never write a poem or compose music that would make you weep!”

Well, we have some potentially disturbing news for those of you hanging your hats on those kinds of declarations. Google recently announced that their Magenta project, which makes use of new hot advances in machine learning called “deep neural nets,” has created a 90-second melody based on the input of four notes. (No word on whether it has made anyone cry, though.) A small competition we ran several weeks ago at Dartmouth College, the Turing Tests in Creative Arts, shows just how close we are to making robots who can make art. Our goal was to challenge the A.I.–interested world to come up with software that could create either sonnets, short stories, or dance music that would be indistinguishable to a human audience from the same kinds of artistic output generated by humans. While we didn’t get many submissions, those that did come in were very thoughtful, especially in the case of sonnets and dance music. …

Benjamin Patterson: the Fluxus artist who composed with ants

Denied employment as a classical double-bassist because of his race, the multimedia artist, who died last week, went in a more groundbreaking direction

Benjamin Patterson was there at the very beginning of Fluxus, performing his own composition at the first concert co-organized by George Maciunas in Germany, in 1962. Yet while Fluxus-associated figures such as Yoko Ono, Nam June Paik and La Monte Young have all enjoyed a certain purchase with art-world habitués (even among those who may not be intimately familiar with specific works), the contributions of this bassist, sculptor, painter and collagist have not been placed at the center of conceptual art’s history after Dada.

At least not yet. In recent years there have been indications that Patterson’s reputation is on the rise thanks to a slate of archival audio releases, a comprehensive 2010 exhibition of old and newer pieces at Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, as well as similar programming at the Studio Museum in Harlem. And while Patterson’s death last week, at age 82, puts an end to the story of his creations and improvisations, it also offers an opportunity to assess more accurately the scope and impact of this African American artist’s groundbreaking work.

He was classically trained on the double-bass, only to discover that America was not ready to hire black symphony musicians. So he found another way to leave his mark: before Gyorgy Ligeti and Peter Maxwell Davies collaborated with the African American singer William Pearson, the baritone was featured alongside Patterson in a performance of his Duo For Voice And a String Instrument – one of the pieces presented at the first Fluxus concert.


This Day In History: July 2, 1937

Legendary pilot Amelia Earhart (also known as “Lady Lindy,”) thrilled the aviation-crazy public of the ‘20s and ‘30s with her ground breaking accomplishments. She was the first woman to fly over the Atlantic Ocean in 1928 (as a passenger, but went on to do the trip solo as well), and became the first aviator in history to cross both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Unfortunately, during her most daring flight, an attempt to circumnavigate the globe along the equator, the aircraft carrying Amelia and navigator Frederick Noonan was reported missing on July 2, 1937.

Earhart was almost 40 years old when she embarked on the most epic challenge of her career in March of 1937. On the first leg of the trip, the landing gear of her Lockheed Electra failed on arrival in Hawaii. It took two months to repair the damage, after which she and navigator Noonan switched direction to start a new attempt and headed for Puerto Rico. Once there, Earhart spoke to reporters, saying:

I have a feeling there is just about one more good flight left in my system and I hope this trip is it. Anyway, when I have finished this job, I mean to give up long-distance ‘stunt’ flying.

Yeah. …

Why Is Populism Winning on the American Right?

The answer may have less to to with the Trump phenomenon, and more daunting implications, than it seems.

If your political tendencies disinclined you to favor the U.S. presidential candidacy of Donald Trump, you might be tempted to think that for all its initial implausibility, it’s in retrospect not that tough to explain: Trump’s doubters simply underestimated a contempt for reality and depth of bigotry among Republican Party voters. It’s an inversion of Trump’s apparent view of himself, really: His haters couldn’t comprehend how much true-believing Americans would love him for his authenticity, decisiveness, and straight-shooting demolition of nonsense.

Speaking on Thursday at the Aspen Ideas festival, co-hosted by the Aspen Institute and The Atlantic, however, Arthur C. Brooks of the American Enterprise Institute argued for separating out the broad, complex forces behind the rise of populism in the contemporary U.S. and the narrow, contingent reasons for Trump’s success in picking off the GOP nomination. “There are are a couple of black-swan events that happened here,” Brooks said. …

How civil rights activists risked their lives to change America in ‘freedom summer’

1964’s voter registration drive mobilised black people in Mississippi, using skills quickly adopted by protesters against Vietnam. In this extract from a new oral history, participants recall the south’s bigotry and their bid to shape a new society.

Protesters on one of 1965’s Selma to Montgomery voting rights marches.

Barack Obama (born in 1961) wrote in his memoir The Audacity of Hope: “I’ve always felt a curious relationship to the 60s. In a sense, I’m a pure product of that era.” Obama came of age after the dust settled and, like many members of his generation, he is unscarred by the decade’s political and cultural wars, yet a direct beneficiary of them.

Your opinion of the 60s today – whether you think the rebellion pushed the US towards Shangri-la or Armageddon – may depend on your political views. Former president Bill Clinton (born in 1946 and a Yale Law School student of Charles Reich) describes this divide: “If you look back on the 60s and, on balance, you think there was more good than harm, then you’re probably a Democrat. If you think there was more harm than good, you’re probably a Republican.”

What follows is an oral history, the core of which comes from interviews I conducted between 2012 and 2015 with members of the Vietnam antiwar movement of the late 60s. …

How Sex Obsessed Culture Can Ruin Men’s Idea Of Sex

One thing that’s always bothered me is the weird-ass way that modern society sets up sex as its biggest selling point, while at the same time making its audience feel completely inadequate. I’m not just talking about marketing. Our entire culture is built upon that foundation, and it’s like watching a cannibal eating himself from the feet up. “You are woefully repulsive. But you don’t have to be! Buy our product, adopt our philosophy, join our cause.”

This subject is usually presented as a massive problem for women, and it absolutely is, but it’s often assumed that men are immune to its negative effects. I’m not trying to downplay or demean the hardships that women go through where this subject is concerned — I personally believe they have it exponentially harder than men in this area. Women don’t need or want one of the biggest issues in their lives “mansplained” to them. I just happen to relate to this topic, and since I’m a man, the reasoning behind my own issues are tilted in a different direction. I want to show you what it looks like when these problems manifest on the boner end of the spectrum.

You don’t want to see the wide shot of that.

To understand how it can snowball into such a huge issue, you first have to understand a basic concept in why we think the way we do. Before reading another sentence, stop and come up with ten words or short phrases to describe who or what you are.

“Donglord” isn’t a real word. Find a replacement and then continue reading. …

Marijuana Compound Removes Alzheimer’s-Related Protein From Nerve Cells

With the prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease expected to almost triple in the United States by 2050, there is an urgent need to identify effective treatments for the condition.

Now, a new study suggests marijuana may hold the key to such a treatment.

Published in the journal Aging and Mechanisms of Disease, the study reveals how a compound present in marijuana triggered the removal of beta-amyloid protein from nerve cells, or neurons.

Beta-amyloid is considered a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease; the protein clumps together in the brain of people with the condition, forming plaques.

Studies have suggested these beta-amyloid plaques disrupt communication between neurons in the brain, which leads to symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s, such as impaired memory. …

Why AI’s massive disruptions may be just what you’re looking for

Artificial intelligence is becoming a serious part of our lives. Get ready for machines that know you — really, really know you.

It’s your nighttime routine: You drop your phone onto the nightstand charging pad, and it asks about your day. You tell it, talking to the virtual personal assistant just like you’d talk to a friend.

And why not? Your phone’s artificial intelligence knows you almost as well as you know yourself (maybe even better). So when it suggests ways to get through tomorrow’s calendar, you trust its advice.

Get ready, people: It’s not that far off.

AI is practically everywhere, and getting smarter all the time. Tomorrow’s computers could find new treatments for cancer, compose a symphony and drive your child to school. …

10 Fascinating Facts About The Ancient City Of Pompeii

After the eruption of Mount Vesuvius on August 24, 79, the entire city of Pompeii in the Bay of Naples was buried and forgotten until the mid-18th century. Today, Pompeii is one of the most iconic archaeological sites and it holds a special place in the imagination of the general public.

When the volcanic gas and ashes reached Pompeii and sealed its fate, the city was “paused” in time. When the site was rediscovered, its excellent state of preservation became apparent. In terms of volume of detailed archaeological data, no other site can rival Pompeii.

This list contains 10 interesting facts about this rich site, which hopefully will allow the readers to recreate in their minds some fascinating details of this incredible ancient city.

10. Brothels

Excavations at Pompeii have identified roughly 25 building where prostitution was practiced. The majority of these places were merely composed of a single room, but there is one building known as lupanar (lupa in Latin means she-wolf and is the slang for prostitute) which was fairly big and highly organized.

The lupanar has two levels with five rooms on each of them. Archaeologists believe that this building operated as a brothel from the beginning. The interior is decorated with erotic paintings which aimed to trigger the imagination of the customers. …

Tesla crash raises concerns about autonomous vehicle regulation

The fatal crash of a Tesla Model S in Autopilot mode has turned up pressure on auto industry executives and regulators to ensure that automated driving technology is deployed safely.

The first such known accident, which occurred in Florida in May, has highlighted tensions surrounding efforts to turn over responsibility for braking, steering and driving judgments to machines. It may delay the U.S. government’s plan to outline guidelines for self-driving cars this month.

The cause of the Model S crash is still under investigation by federal and Florida state authorities, which are looking into whether the driver was distracted before his 2015 Model S went under a truck trailer. …

People Can’t Stop Stealing Thousands of Pounds of Cheese

Before you slap a piece of bright yellow American cheese on your burger this holiday weekend, consider the plight of a poor truck driver in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, whose truck full of cheese was stolen on Friday.

The thieves managed to get away with 20,000 pounds of Homer Simpson’s favorite nighttime snack, which added up to about $46,000.

“The cheese pirates are back at it again,” Vince Christian, from the Wisconsin Cheese Mart, told NBC26. “It’s kind of crazy that cheese is now so valuable people are going off with entire trucks of it.”

Well, Vince, while you’re not wrong about the cheese pirates—great turn of phrase, by the way—you might be surprised to find out that cheese heists are more common than you think. …


Michael T. asks: Is it true that the thumbs up and thumbs down hand gesture came from crowds in ancient Rome voting on whether a gladiator should live or die?

There are few hand gestures out there as well known or ubiquitous as the humble thumbs up. But why is this seemingly innocuous gesture so widespread; how did it come to mean “everything is okay” in so many cultures and where did it come from?

The commonly told origin is that it came from the Romans and their gladiatorial games: thumbs up meant live and thumbs down meant die. This is unequivocally false. While it is true that in the days of gladiatorial combat in the Colosseum and the earlier (and significantly larger) Circus Maximus, the audience could decide the fate of a fallen gladiator with a simple hand gesture, this isn’t typically depicted accurately and has little to do with why thumbs up and thumbs down means what it does today. …

Video Goodnesses
(and not-so-goodnesses)