February 23, 2016

The Morning After The Night Before

THIS DAY IN HISTORY: FEBRUARY 23RD- ERADICATING POLIO

This Day In History: February 23, 1954

On February 23, 1954, a group of children in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania helped make history by being the first inoculated with the polio vaccine developed by Dr. Jonas Salk. The children were first, second, and third grade students attending local public and parochial schools.

In the 1950s, Poliomyelitis was still an extremely contagious disease. Even though its effects, in the general case, were not as devastating as influenza, outbreaks of polio were seemingly impossible to contain when they did occur. Striking mostly children, the disease attacked the nerve cells and sometimes the central nervous system, which led to muscle deterioration, paralysis, and in some cases, death. The most famous polio victim was President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, whose legs were left permanently paralyzed after he contracted the disease during an outbreak in 1921.

With President Roosevelt’s help, a grassroots organization was formed in the 1940s to find a cure for polio. …

Obama’s Last Guantanamo Pitch to Congress

The Pentagon is expected to send lawmakers a plan for closing the U.S. military prison for suspected terrorists.

In his first week as president, Barack Obama ordered his new administration to close Guantanamo Bay, the prison whose operation he once described as a “sad chapter in history.” Now, with a few months left in office, Obama is making one of his final attempts to convince Congress to close the book on the facility for good.

The Pentagon is expected to send a plan to Congress on Tuesday that outlines the closure of the detention camp in Cuba, which was established in January 2002 to house suspected foreign terrorists detained in the war on terrorism. The plan meets a provision in the current National Defense Authorization Act, approved in November, which directed the administration to send lawmakers within 90 days a “comprehensive strategy” for holding current and future detainees.

Obama will deliver a statement on Guantanamo from the White House at 10:30 a.m. EST. …

Georgetown Campus Conservatives “Traumatized” Over Scalia Reply-All Email Apocalypse

It’s been a difficult week for the students of Georgetown Law.

First, there was the loss of Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia. Depending on your view, he was a legal mind without parallel or a boil on the face of everything that is decent about America. Anyway, he’s gone now.

Then, there were the official emails about Scalia sent to students by the administration of the law school and the university at large, both of which took some version of the former view. “Scalia was a giant in the history of the law, a brilliant jurist whose opinions and scholarship profoundly transformed the law,” the law school dean was quoted as saying in one of them. Strictly speaking, all of that is probably true. The dean might be found guilty of misleading by omission—did Scalia transform the law in good ways or bad, would you say?—but he’s the head of a prestigious institution, you can’t exactly expect him to piss on the dead justice’s grave. …

10 Ancient Attempts At Cursing Someone For Eternity

We all have certain people in our lives—those who we’d love to be able to curse with an eternity of torment and suffering. That’s one aspect of the human race that hasn’t changed at all.

10. The Larzac Curse Tablets

A set of lead tablets were discovered in 1983 in a tomb in Larzac, France. Written in Gaulish with Latin letters, the tablets are more than a curse; they’re also the longest known Gaulish text and a pretty fascinating look at what kind of drama was going on in Gaulish France sometime around AD 100.

The curse comes in two parts on two tablets, written by two different people. One tablet has been translated as a sort of documentation of a conflict between several witches, while the second tablet is a curse that tries to undo—or at least lessen—the evil magic that came from the conflict. Scholars are still debating over what the text says, but it’s generally accepted that the curse was written by someone who thought that they had been the victim of the evil deeds of a group of witches. The second tablet, placed in the tomb believed to have belonged to the guilty party, was an appeal to a goddess named Adsagona. She’s asked to turn the evil deeds of the witches back on them in death, essentially a request for some karmic justice. …

Trump expresses wish to punch heckler and calls Cruz ‘sick’ at Nevada rally

Republican frontrunner, enjoying double-digit lead over rivals, exudes confidence ahead of fourth state contest

Donald Trump exuded the confidence of an emboldened Republican presidential frontrunner who has little to fear, using a rally on the eve of the Nevada caucuses to call his rival Ted Cruz “sick” and reacting to a heckler by saying: “I’d like to punch him in the face.”

It was an extraordinary performance, even by Trump’s standards, alarming to those who fear the rise of a demagogue, but speaking to the apparent strength of the billionaire’s lead in Nevada and elsewhere.

Trump enjoys a double-digit lead in Nevada, which hosts the fourth state contest in the Republican race for the White House on Tuesday. …

This Facebook Video Just Cost Ted Cruz’s Communications Director His Job

It’s just another cautionary tale in the age of social media campaigning.

Last night, Ted Cruz’s communications director, Rick Tyler, shared a video on Facebook that seemed to show Marco Rubio publicly dissing the Bible in front of Ted Cruz’s father and a Cruz campaign staffer.

As it turned out, the video—which was erroneously subtitled by a college newspaper trying (and failing) to make sense of Rubio’s garbled words—got the quote wrong. It showed Rubio pointing to the Bible and saying, “Not a lot of answers in there.” What Rubio really said was, “All the answers are in there.” …

Why is Ben Carson still running for president?

The trend line on Ben Carson’s presidential campaign is going in the wrong direction. After finishing fourth in the Iowa caucuses on Feb. 1, he limped to an eighth-place finish in the New Hampshire primary eight days later. On Saturday in South Carolina, Carson finished sixth — but only because there were just six candidates still running.

All of which makes Carson’s speech following the Palmetto State primary all the more, um, well, interesting? …

10 Historical Brits Who Died Gruesome And Unusual Deaths

Benjamin Franklin once mused that one of life’s only certainties was death. Across the Atlantic from him, on the British Isles, is a rich tapestry of history within which many unusual and gruesome deaths feature. Here is a list of some of the more peculiar and grisly ways that British historical figures met their maker.

10. William Huskisson ~ First Man Killed By A Train

William Huskisson was an influential 19th-century British politician, a pioneer of free trade, a liberal reformer—and the first man to be killed by a train.

This sticky end to a successful career was not the first calamity to which the accident-prone member of parliament had fallen victim. He had previously been flattened by a pole in London, fallen on by a horse just before his marriage, and severely injured his legs trying to jump over a moat in Scotland. However, the morning of September 15, 1830, would prove to be Huskisson’s final accident. …

Is the FBI v Apple PR war even about encryption?

What the US intelligence agency is asking the tech company to do may not affect mobile security as much as its CEO Tim Cook wants you to believe

The war between Apple and the FBI is a PR war. And it’s one that the FBI has fought well, from its initial selection of the battleground (a fight over access to a dead murderer’s government-owned iPhone) to the choreographed intervention of the relatives of the victims of the San Bernadino shootings – who were contacted by the FBI for support before the dispute even became public, according to Reuters.

But Apple has also been carefully controlling the debate through its own interventions, and nowhere is that more obvious than Tim Cook’s open letter published last week, headlined A Message To Our Customers. …

Debtors’ Prison in 21st-Century America

For failing to pay parking tickets, court fees, and other petty municipal citations, black residents of Greater St. Louis are ending up behind bars.

In 1846, Dred Scott began his infamous legal battle in what is now called the “Old Courthouse” in downtown St. Louis. Scott had traveled with his master from Missouri to Illinois and the Wisconsin Territory, neither of which recognized slavery. Having lived for an extended period in free territory, Scott argued that state law supported his claim to freedom. But the Missouri Supreme Court disagreed. The court’s message to Scott was clear: Perhaps you can live freely elsewhere, but not here.

More than a century and a half later, the St. Louis region continues to distinguish itself as one that is hostile to its poor black residents. Since the killing of Michael Brown in August of 2014, St. Louis and its neighboring municipalities have been frequently cited for legal and moral failings in the region’s municipal justice system. A report released by the Department of Justice last year profiled these failings in great detail, as did a white paper released by the local nonprofit law firm ArchCity Defenders in 2014. (Blake Strode, one of the coauthors of this story, is currently on staff at ArchCity Defenders.) …

THE ACCIDENTAL ABORIGINAL

The records of William Buckley’s early life are vague at best. Even Buckley himself stated that he did not remember much of it. What is known is that Buckley was born sometime in 1780, most likely in Marton, Cheshire, England. His parents had three other children, two girls and another boy, and his maternal grandfather was raising Buckley by his sixth birthday. Originally apprenticed to a bricklayer, his life may have turned out differently had he continued on that career path. But a young Buckley ran away from his apprenticeship in order to join the King’s Foot Regiment and later the King’s Own Regiment.

His military career included travel to the Netherlands in 1799 with his regiment under the command of the Duke of York to fight against Napoleon’s forces. However, like his brief career as an apprentice bricklayer, Buckley did not last long as a soldier. But this time, he didn’t leave by choice. In August of 1802, he was accused and convicted of knowingly accepting a bolt of stolen cloth from a woman. …

Use Of HIV Drug During Pregnancy May Affect Unborn Baby’s Social-Emotional And Language Development

A drug that doctors prescribe to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV may have small but significant effect on the unborn baby’s development, findings of a new study show.

In the new study published in the journal AIDS, researchers from Harvard University have found that the antiretroviral drug atazanavir could affect the development of the infant when taken by HIV-infected mothers during pregnancy.

Atazanavir belongs to a class of drug called protease inhibitor and is used to treat HIV patients as well as lower their odds of transmitting the virus. …

Are We Creating Drug-Resistant HIV?

There’s growing evidence that HIV is mutating to become resistant to antiviral drugs—but scientists shouldn’t panic just yet.

The 23rd Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI) opens today in Boston. For the next few days, thousands of scientists will report on the latest trends, threats, and hopes. Much attention likely will given to progress toward ending the HIV epidemic—a concept that no longer is a pipedream but now is an official government slogan.

Also certain to be a hotspot, and in direct contrast with the ambient optimism, will be discussion of the continued erosion of drug potency against the ever-mutable human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), the cause of AIDS. Charts and graphs and PowerPoint sleights of hand surely will be shown, fronted by sour 1950s faces, to demonstrate the doomsday scenario about to play out.

To insiders, this is part of what is called “drawing attention to the problem,” a staged melodrama of sorts. Because in fact, this exact hair-shirt fitting occurs at every meeting where the eternal battle between microbes and antimicrobials is featured. …

The 6 Most Insane Things Ever Done With Nuclear Weapons

When the nuclear bomb put a spectacular end to World War II, the world collectively realized that this whole “apocalyptic explosives” thing might not be so fun after all and dialed way back on the nuke dropping. But, like your first pass through an all-you-can-eat buffet, we got way too excited about nuclear arms at the start and piled our plate too high. Unwilling to let all of this new, possibly civilization-ending technology go to waste, we came up with some novel and incredibly unwise uses for nuclear weapons, such as …

#6. Nuking Beer, And Then Drinking It

When faced with the threat of a nuclear apocalypse sometime in the immediate future, our first and most pressing question is “what about the beer?” Scientists have been preoccupied with this dire issue since the 1950s, when they conducted Operation Teapot, which, among other things, tested the effects of nuclear fallout on the quality of beer.

The original name was “Operation Plutonium Kegger,” but the government was
worried people would think they weren’t taking nuclear weapons seriously.

Here’s What Happened to the Woman Who Started #CancelColbert

Do you remember Suey Park? No? Well, because the Internet has a short memory, here’s a quick refresher: Way back in March 2014, The Colbert Report sent a tweet riffing on a segment about NFL owner Daniel Snyder launching the Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation. The tweet—”I am willing to show #Asian community I care by introducing the Ching-Chong Ding-Dong Foundation for Sensitivity to Orientals or Whatever”—was meant to underscore the absurdity of using a racial epithet in the name of an organization meant to support a minority community.

Park thought the joke went too far. For her, using racially insensitive language, even in satire, reinforced how often, and unfairly, minorities are stereotyped and ridiculed. The 23-year-old responded with a tweet of her own: “The Ching-Chong Ding-Dong Foundation for Sensitivity to Orientals has decided to call for #CancelColbert. Trend it.” Trend it did, and Park quickly became the subject of a lot of news stories—and the target of a doxxing attack. Ongoing threats forced Park to leave her home in Chicago. …

CDC Says It Underestimated Cancer Risk From Lumber Liquidators Flooring

U.S. health regulators acknowledged they miscalculated the amount of formaldehyde emitted from some of Lumber Liquidators’ laminated floor products. Shares of the company fell sharply Monday on the news.

The Centers for Disease Control And Prevention says the risk of cancer is three times higher than it previously estimated, and it strongly urged Lumber Liquidators customers to take steps to reduce exposure to the substance. The company no longer sells the Chinese-made, laminate products.

The agency said its “indoor air model used an incorrect value for ceiling height. As a result, the health risks were calculated using airborne concentration estimates about 3 times lower than they should have been.” …

We all know exercise makes you live longer. But this will actually get you off the couch.

When someone dies in the intensive care unit, the first thing the nurse does is turn off the EKG monitor. That’s because the heart can go on depolarizing — writing its electrical signature on the screen, if not actually pumping blood — for many minutes after everything else stops. It’s creepy, but touching, too. The heart is the soldier who can’t bear to surrender until long after the battle is lost.

Because the heart is the last organ to die, it’s no surprise that medicine has expended much effort to get it to live longer. What’s surprising is that the best strategy is to work it harder, not go easy on it. The ceaselessly pumping organ is happiest if you test its limits in a controlled fashion on a regular basis.

In other words, if you exercise. …

10 Dramatic Events From Europe’s Longest War

Europe has weathered many wars and catastrophes, but few have been as devastating as the Thirty Years’ War. Between 1618 and 1648, Europe’s great powers engaged in a vicious, unending conflict that killed millions of people. Germany lost 20 percent of its total population and some regions saw 75 percent of their inhabitants disappear from the face of the Earth. Filled with massacres, assassinations, epic battles, secret alliances and betrayals, the Thirty Years’ War reads like a Game Of Thrones best-of reel.

The war was unmatched in its duration and intensity—conflicts like the Hundred Years War actually contained long periods of peace, but the Thirty Years’ War saw fighting continue for three straight decades, making it Europe’s longest continuous conflict. Many dramatic incidents unfolded over the course of those fateful decades, but these 10 tower above the rest.

10. The Defenestration Of Prague

In 1517, a disgruntled priest named Martin Luther nailed a list of complaints to his local cathedral and unleashed a religious revolution. The Protestant movement triggered decades of religious warfare, but peace was largely restored to central Europe by 1555. Yet the underlying problems hadn’t been resolved and continued to bubble under the surface.

In 1617, Ferdinand II of Austria was crowned King of Bohemia. Shortly afterward, he also became Holy Roman Emperor, theoretically the overlord of most of Germany. Ferdinand was a devout Catholic from the powerful Hapsburg family, which controlled much of Europe. As such, he was widely distrusted and disliked by the Protestant Bohemians. Shortly after his coronation, Ferdinand prevented Protestant chapels from being built in two Bohemian towns. This was seen as a violation of the religious freedom the Hapsburgs had promised to Bohemia. …

How a Group of MIT Students Gamed the Massachusetts State Lottery

And won millions

Even within a university as famously offbeat as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Random Hall has a reputation for being a little quirky. According to campus legend, the students who first lived there in 1968 wanted to call the dorm “Random House” until the publishing house with that same name sent them a letter to object. The individual floors have names, too. One is called Destiny, a result of its cash-strapped inhabitants selling the naming rights on eBay; the winning bid was $36 from a man who wanted to name it after his daughter.

In 2005, another plan started to take shape in the corridors of Random Hall. James Harvey was nearing the completion of his mathematics degree and needed a project for his final semester. While searching for a topic, he became interested in lotteries.

He began analyzing well-known lottery games such as Powerball and MegaMillions, but soon became intrigued by Cash WinFall, a game that was introduced in 2004 and was unique to the state of Massachusetts. The rules were simple. Players would choose six numbers for each two-dollar ticket. If they matched all six in the draw, they won a jackpot of at least half a million dollars. If they matched some but not all the numbers, they won a smaller sum. The lottery designed the game so that $1.20 of every $2.00 would be paid out in prizes, with the rest being spent on local good causes. …

What do you get when you cross a Volkswagen with an armadillo? This.

Glyptodonts, which lived thousands of years ago, looked like car-sized armadillos. Scientists dug into their DNA and found that there’s a reason for the animals’ similar physical appearance: They are armadillos.

Glyptodonts, humongous armored prehistoric beasts, looked like armadillos. Despite size differences, both animals have similar body shapes and bony skin that forms a shell over their backs, tails, and heads.

But scientists have long debated the extinct Volkswagen Beetle-sized animal’s place in the family tree. Some suggested glyptodonts are armadillos. Others posited that the gigantic animals’ lineage split off and they are cousins to today’s armadillos. Some scientists even suggested that glyptodonts were more distant members of the superorder Xenarthra, which includes armadillos, anteaters and tree sloths.

But a new study places glyptodonts firmly within the armadillo family. …

THE KING OF THE DUDES

If we learned anything from the excellent Bill and Ted movies, it’s that the word “dude” is a remarkably versatile utterance that can either be used to refer to any male acquaintance or as a general vocalisation of surprise or confusion. Go back a hundred years or so to the 1800s and the word dude could actually roughly be understood to mean “a male who dressed in an extremely flamboyant or otherwise eccentric fashion”. Amongst this subset of fashion-conscious men, one man reigned as the undisputed king for over five decades- Evander Berry Wall.

Roughly being analogous to the earlier and more British-centric term “dandy”, which referred to foppish men who spent exorbitant sums of money on their appearance, American dudes were similarly known in high society for their constant one-upmanship of each other through dress and for spending unthinkable amounts of money just to prove that they could. …

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