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Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Donald Trump actually tried to make a joke

This is an actual Donald Trump tweet, not a parody. Maybe he was going for a joke. But then again, maybe not.

Image result for Trump greenland tweet

Donald Trump's very smart energy policy

Pic of the Moment

Why bioplastics?

Are Bioplastics a Better Environmental Choice?
This story was republished from Ensia.

Image result for bioplastics
It's still trash
Have you ever stood in front of a supermarket shelf and wondered if you should buy that product made from bioplastics rather than the conventional kind? 

Many people assume all bioplastics are made from plants and can break down completely in the environment. But that’s not the case.

The term “bioplastics” is actually used for two separate things: bio-based plastics (plastics made at least partly from biological matter) and biodegradable plastics (plastics that can be completely broken down by microbes in a reasonable timeframe, given specific conditions). 

Not all bio-based plastics are biodegradable, and not all biodegradable plastics are bio-based. And even biodegradable plastics might not biodegrade in every environment. Sounds confusing? It certainly is.

“There are a lot of bioplastics or materials that are called bioplastics that are not biodegradable,” says Constance Ißbrücker, head of environmental affairs at the industry association European Bioplastics.

Chilling conversations

Talking about Charlottesville with alt-right students

A Nazi flag flies during the “Unite the Right” white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Aug. 12, Pivotal. A turning point. A venue for strong ideas.

These are some of the terms that college students used to describe the 2017 white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia that claimed the life of Heather Heyer, a counter-protester who died when a man drove his car into a crowd.

Some students, who used these terms during interviews I conducted for a book I’m writing about politically engaged college students, identify with the alt-right, a white nationalist movement.

The Charlottesville rally took place on Aug. 11 and Aug. 12, 2017.

Many people across the country were alarmed by the white nationalist rally, condemning President Donald Trump for failing to condemn the rally strongly enough, and commenting that there were “fine people on both sides.” 

But for college students who identify with the alt-right, one of the biggest regrets they have about Charlottesville is that they weren’t there.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Sheldon Whitehouse takes the lead in Supreme Court challenge

Five Democratic senators taking on the Supreme Court
Image result for sheldon whitehouse & supreme courtA tone of ritualized obsequiousness pervades most briefs filed in the Supreme Court of the United States. Judges are powerful and at the Supreme Court level, unaccountable.

They wield enormous, arbitrary power not just over litigants but over the lawyers who appear in their courtrooms. So when most lawyers speak to a court, they speak with a painful awareness of the arbitrary control separating the bar from the bench.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), however, is not most lawyers.

Whitehouse is one of five senators (the others are Sens. Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Dick Durbin (D-IL), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)) who filed a brief earlier this week in a Second Amendment case the Supreme Court’s Republican majority could use to dismantle what remains of America’s gun regulations.

Whitehouse is also the lead (and only) counsel on the brief.

The brief itself is less a legal document than a declaration of war. Though parts of it argue that the high court lacks jurisdiction over this case, New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. City of New York, the thrust of the brief is that the Supreme Court is dominated by political hacks selected by the Federalist Society, and promoted by the National Rifle Association — and that if those hacks don’t watch out, the American people are going to rebel against them.

New York State Rifle, Whitehouse writes, “did not emerge from a vacuum.” Rather, “the lead petitioner’s parent organization, the National Rifle Association (NRA), promoted the confirmation (and perhaps selection) of nominees to this Court who, it believed, would ‘break the tie’ in Second Amendment cases.”

That promotional effort includes $1.2 million Whitehouse says the NRA spent on television advertisements supporting the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh.

Wisdom from Superman, circa 1950

Image may contain: 2 people

American icons, beware

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Not tonight

Love hormone has stomach-turning effect in starfish
Queen Mary University of London

blue planet ii GIF by BBC AmericaA hormone that is released in our brain when we fall in love also makes starfish turn their stomach inside out to feed, according to a new study from Queen Mary University of London.

Oxytocin, more commonly known as the 'love hormone', is important for sexual reproduction in humans, other mammals and even nematode worms, but this study shows that in the common European starfish (Asterias rubens) it is important for feeding.

The findings, published in the journal BMC Biology, could play an important role in controlling the feeding behavior of the crown of thorns starfish (Acanthaster planci), which feeds on coral and is having a devastating impact on the Australian Great Barrier Reef.

Based on this study the researchers know that oxytocin-type molecules have been acting in the nervous systems of animals for over half-a-billion years.

Apples and tea

Flavonoid-rich diet protects against cancer and heart disease, study finds
Edith Cowan University

Image result for apples and teaConsuming flavonoid-rich items such as apples and tea protects against cancer and heart disease, particularly for smokers and heavy drinkers, according to new research from Edith Cowan University (ECU).

Researchers from ECU's School of Medical and Health Sciences analysed data from the Danish Diet, Cancer and Health cohort that assessed the diets of 53,048 Danes over 23 years.

They found that people who habitually consumed moderate to high amounts of foods rich in flavonoids, compounds found in plant-based foods and drinks, were less likely to die from cancer or heart disease.

No quick fix for poor habits

Lead researcher Dr Nicola Bondonno said while the study found a lower risk of death in those who ate flavonoid-rich foods, the protective effect appeared to be strongest for those at high risk of chronic diseases due to cigarette smoking and those who drank more than two standard alcoholic drinks a day.

Can experts determine who might be a mass killer?

Three questions answered
Arash Javanbakht, Wayne State University

Editor’s Note: After mass shootings, people naturally search for answers. We also want to find the root cause. 

One subject that often arises is mental illness. 

People, and politicians, raise questions about “red flags,” or warning signs a person might commit a violent act, and whether someone could have intervened to stop a mass murderer. 

Psychiatrist Arash Javanbakht answers some questions about mental illness, mass murder and whether it’s possible to prevent horrific shootings.

1. Is a person who commits mass murder mentally ill?

Not necessarily. 

In psychiatry, we do not have diagnostic criteria for a mass murderer, terrorist or violent person. 

There are psychiatric conditions that may include anger, aggression, impulsivity, violence, or lack of remorse or empathy among their symptoms. But there is no one illness that would be found in all mass murderers, or murderers in general.

On the top of the list of the conditions that may lead to violent acts are substance use and personality disorders, specifically antisocial personality disorder. 

This condition, commonly known as “psychopathy” among the public, entails disrespect for social norms and law; deceitfulness; impulsivity; aggression; lack of responsibility; and remorse. 

It is highly prevalent among the criminal and prison population, and less often treated in the psychiatric clinic. That is because no one comes to the clinic asking us to fix their “lack of conscientiousness.”

Another condition is when a psychotic person has paranoid or persecutory delusions with a conviction that others are there to harm them. These conditions are rare. 

In general, most of the psychiatric conditions that affect nearly a fourth of the population, such as depression, anxiety, phobias, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, hair picking, etc., do not increase the risk of violence toward others.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Local Planned Parenthood condemns Trump’s new attack on LEGAL immigrants

Planned Parenthood of Southern New England opposes Trump racist ‘public charge’ rule

Image result for public charge ruleThe Trump-Pence administration’s Department of Homeland Security released its final public charge rule, a harmful rule designed to keep families separated and to dissuade immigrants from accessing health care and meeting other basic needs.

Under this new rule, people could be denied visas, green cards, and entry into the United States simply because they have received any one of a broad range of public benefits they are legally allowed to access, including health care, nutrition assistance, and housing assistance.

The rule will likely take effect on or around October 15, 2019.

Compare your cat to Donald Trump

free cat comic

Arp 87: Merging Galaxies from Hubble


This dance is to the death.

Along the way, as these two large galaxies duel, a cosmic bridge of stars, gas, and dust currently stretches over 75,000 light-years and joins them.

The bridge itself is strong evidence that these two immense star systems have passed close to each other and experienced violent tides induced by mutual gravity.

As further evidence, the face-on spiral galaxy on the right, also known as NGC 3808A, exhibits many young blue star clusters produced in a burst of star formation.

The twisted edge-on spiral on the left (NGC 3808B) seems to be wrapped in the material bridging the galaxies and surrounded by a curious polar ring.

Together, the system is known as Arp 87 and morphologically classified, technically, as peculiar.

While such interactions are drawn out over billions of years, repeated close passages should ultimately result in the death of one galaxy in the sense that only one galaxy will eventually result.

Although this scenario does look peculiar, galactic mergers are thought to be common, with Arp 87 representing a stage in this inevitable process.

The Arp 87 pair are about 300 million light-years distant toward the constellation Leo.

The prominent edge-on spiral galaxy at the far left appears to be a more distant background galaxy and not involved in the on-going merger.

Some good news for RI state workers

Rhode Island's pension system outperforms most peers for second year in a row

Rhode Island's pension system continues to improve its relative investment performance when compared to similarly sized public pension funds, outperforming 78% of its peers in the fiscal year ending on June 30, 2019.

Leading market intelligence firm, InvMetrics, found that Rhode Island performed in the top quartile among public pension funds over $1 billion, according to a report from New England Pension Consulting, which serves as a consultant to pension plans throughout the country, including Rhode Island.

Rhode Island's performance continues to steadily improve compared to its peers, marking the second consecutive fiscal year in which the plan outperformed the median in its peer group. This recent success stands in contrast to historical performance, in which Rhode Island often lagged its peers. 

Save the whales, the elephants....and us

As Elephants and Whales Disappear, They Take Valuable Cancer Clues With Them
By Doug Johnson

whale encounter GIFAround noon one August day in 2011, a familiar dorsal fin rose from the sea off the coast of Massachusetts. Flecked with tiny white scars, it belonged to Salt, a female humpback whale who scientists had been studying since the 1970s and who was named for those distinctive markings.

Aboard the research vessel Shearwater, Jooke Robbins — director of humpback whale research at the Center for Coastal Studies in Provincetown, Massachusetts — loaded a crossbow with a dart, modified with a specialized tip and yellow float, and took aim. 

The bolt went flying. It hit its target but, by design, bounced harmlessly off the whale's bulk, taking with it only a few cubic millimeters of flesh — almost like a mosquito bite, relative to the whale's size.

Robbins and her team collected the sample, preserved it in liquid nitrogen, then sent it away to be analyzed. 

Now, eight years later, a team supported by the Arizona Cancer Evolution Center (ACE) at Arizona State University has discovered that Salt and other cetaceans — the group of mammals that includes whales, dolphins, and porpoises — evolved clever ways of dealing with cancer, including an array of tumor-suppressing genes. The team published its findings in May in the journal Molecular Biology and Evolution.

The findings, along with similar work on elephants, suggest that somewhere, hiding in the genetic code and evolutionary history of large mammals, there could be a new cancer treatment for humans. 

But if the researchers are correct, their window to study these megafauna may be closing as humans continue to threaten the animals’ populations and the biodiversity of their habitats.