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Apr 26, 2017, 05:33 PM
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 on: Apr 24, 2017, 10:27 AM 
Started by Deva - Last post by Deva
Hi, Helena:

Great job! What you have written are all possible expressions of Pluto's polarity point in Pisces/4th house within the evolutionary states. From my understanding, you are illustrating the central principle, or dynamic, of the evolution from the external world and various egocentric identifications and emotional security patterns that have been discussed so far ( Pluto Virgo/10th house) to the inner world relative to ultimate meaning ( Pluto's polarity point in Pisces/4th house). Once ultimate meaning is defined from within, emotional security will become internalized from within the Soul.

Yes, gender assignment is a key factor within this evolution (10th house to the 4th house). In my view, this evolutionary transition occurs as the Soul realizes it does not matter what outer role it plays as long as the role is truly meaningful in the context of the overall life path. In this way, the Soul can actualize It's "right work" independent from socially accepted gender assignments. As you pointed out, the experience of emptiness and loss of meaning can induce the necessary alignment with a higher cause or purpose. Thank you for your continued contributions on the practice thread!



 on: Apr 24, 2017, 08:07 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Michael Bloomberg to world leaders: ignore Trump on climate change

    Former New York mayor defends Paris climate deal in new book
    Bloomberg argues states and markets will ensure US hits emissions goals

Associated Press in New York
Sunday 23 April 2017 20.02 BST

The former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg has urged world leaders not to follow Donald Trump’s lead on climate change, and declared his own intention to stave off the “tragedy” that would be the collapse of the Paris climate deal.

The billionaire said in an interview there was no political motive tied to the release of his new book, Climate of Hope: How Cities, Businesses, and Citizens Can Save the Planet, which is co-authored with the Sierra Club executive director, Carl Pope.

“I’m not running for office,” the 75-year-old said, who considered a 2016 presidential bid after serving three terms as mayor of New York.

His new book, he said, offers a specific policy objective: to help save the Paris climate agreement, which was signed a year ago.

Under the deal, the US pledged that by 2025 it would reduce its annual greenhouse gas emissions by 26% to 28% below 2005 levels, which would be a reduction of about 1.6bn tons.

The Trump White House is debating whether to abandon the pact, as the president promised during his campaign. This week, days before thousands of protesters around the US marched in support of scientific research, a meeting on the issue was abruptly cancelled.

On Sunday, a White House official told Reuters Trump would sign several executive orders on energy this week. In March, Trump signed an executive order to roll back Obama-era climate change regulations such as the clean power plan.

“This builds on previous executive actions that have cleared the way for job-creating pipelines, innovations in energy production and reduced unnecessary burden on energy producers,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Bloomberg said he believed the US would hit its Paris goals regardless of what Trump chooses to do, because of leadership at the state level and market forces at play in the private sector.

“Washington won’t determine the fate of our ability to meet our Paris commitment,” he said. “And what a tragedy it would be if the failure to understand that led to an unraveling of the agreement. We hope this book will help to correct that wrong impression – and help save the Paris deal.”

Bloomberg has played a prominent role in some of the fiercest US policy debates, having invested millions in an advocacy group that pushes for stronger gun control and another that promotes liberal immigration policies. In his new book, which follows what a spokeswoman described as $80m in donations to the Sierra Club, he solidifies his status as a prominent advocate of action to combat climate change.

His policy repertoire aligns him with core values of the Democratic party, although he has no formal political affiliation.

In the interview, Bloomberg shrugged off conservatives who condemn him as an east coast elitist. He noted that policies he helped initiate in New York City – including a smoking ban and high taxes on sugary drinks – have caught on elsewhere.

“My goal has been to save and improve lives,” he said. “Some ways of doing that can be controversial at first, but end up being highly popular and successful.”

In his focus on climate change, Bloomberg directs particularly aggressive language at the coal industry.

“I don’t have much sympathy for industries whose products leave behind a trail of diseased and dead bodies,” he writes in his book, adding: “But for everyone’s sake, we should aim to put them out of business.”

Similar language haunted Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid last year and fueled criticism from Trump and other top Republicans that Democrats were engaged in a “war on coal”.

Asked about the consequences for politicians who embrace such a stance, Bloomberg offered a pragmatic approach.

“The fact is coal in Appalachia is running out,” he said, criticizing a Trump campaign pledge: “Washington can’t put generations of people back to work in a dying industry.”

Saying coalminers “have paid a terrible price” for their work and the decline of the industry, Bloomberg disclosed for the first time plans to donate $3m to organizations that help unemployed miners and their communities find new economic opportunities. Bloomberg Philanthropies highlights the plight of coalminers in a new film to be shown at the Tribeca film festival on Wednesday.

He avoided condemning the Trump administration directly, however, largely casting the new president’s steps on climate change as irrelevant. Asked about Bloomberg’s statements, the White House declined to comment.

“As it turns out, Trump’s election makes the book’s message – that the most important solutions lie outside of Washington – even more important and urgent,” Bloomberg said.

 on: Apr 24, 2017, 06:22 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Will we ever have a theory of everything?

Physicists want to find a single theory that describes the entire universe, but to do so they must solve some of the hardest problems in science
By Katie Silver

The recent film The Theory of Everything tells the story of Stephen Hawking, who managed to become a world-famous physicist despite being confined to a wheelchair by a degenerative disease. It's mostly about his relationship with his ex-wife Jane, but it does find a bit of time to explain what Hawking has spent his career doing.

He certainly didn't lack ambition. Hawking has been one of many physicists trying to come up with a "theory of everything", a single theory that will explain everything about our universe. He was following in the footsteps of Albert Einstein, who tried and failed to devise such a theory.

Finding a theory of everything would be a staggering achievement, finally making sense of all the weird and wonderful things in our universe. For decades, confident physicists have said that one is just around the corner. So are we really on the verge of understanding everything?

On the face of it, a theory of everything sounds like a tall order. It would have to explain everything from the works of Shakespeare to the human brain and the forests and valleys of our natural world, says John Barrow of the University of Cambridge in the UK. "That's the question of the universe."

Nevertheless, Barrow thinks finding a theory of everything "is quite conceivable". That's because "the laws of nature are rather few, they're simple and symmetrical and there are only four fundamental forces."

In a way we have to put aside the complexity of the world we live in. "The outcomes of the laws - the things that we see around us - are infinitely more complicated," says Barrow. But the rules underlying it all may be simple.

In 1687, it seemed to many scientists that a theory of everything had been found.

    Newton was walking in a garden when he saw an apple fall from a tree

The English physicist Isaac Newton published a book in which he explained how objects move, and set out how gravity works. The Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica – that's "Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy" to you and me – presented the world as a beautiful, ordered place.

The story goes that, at the age of 23, Newton was walking in a garden when he saw an apple fall from a tree. At the time, physicists knew that the Earth somehow pulled objects down by the force of gravity. Newton would take this idea further.

According to John Conduitt, his assistant in later years, seeing the apple fall led Newton to the idea that the gravitational force "was not limited to a certain distance from earth, but that this power must extend much further than was usually thought". According to Conduitt's account, Newton then asked: "Why not as high as the Moon?"

Inspired, Newton developed a law of gravity, which worked equally well for apples on Earth and planets orbiting the Sun.  All these objects, which seemed so different, turned out to obey the same laws.

In the same book, Newton set out three laws governing how objects move. Combined with the law of gravity, these laws explained how a ball moves when you throw it and why the Moon orbits the Earth.

"People thought that he had explained everything there was to explain," says Barrow. "His achievement was immense."

The problem was, Newton knew his work had holes.

For instance, gravity doesn't explain how small objects hold themselves together, as the force isn't strong enough.  Also, while Newton could describe what was happening, he couldn't explain how it worked. The theory was incomplete.

    Mercury wasn't playing ball

But there was a bigger problem. While Newton's laws explained most of the common phenomena in the universe, in some cases objects broke his laws. These situations were rare, and generally involved extreme speeds or powerful gravity, but they were there.

One such circumstance was the orbit of Mercury, the closest planet to the Sun. As each planet orbits the Sun it also rotates. Newton's laws could be used to calculate how they should rotate, but Mercury wasn't playing ball. Equally strangely, its orbit was off-centre.

The evidence was clear. Newton's universal law of gravitation wasn't universal, and wasn't a law.

Over two centuries later, Albert Einstein came to the rescue with his theory of general relativity.  Einstein's idea, which in 2015 celebrates its 100th anniversary, offered a much deeper understanding of gravity.

    Really heavy objects like planets, or really fast-moving ones, can distort space-time

The core idea is that space and time, which seem like different things, are actually interwoven. Space has its three dimensions: length, breadth and height. Then there is a fourth dimension, which we call time. All four are linked in a kind of giant cosmic sheet. If you've ever heard a character in a science fiction movie mention "the space-time continuum", this is what they're talking about.

Einstein's big idea was that really heavy objects like planets, or really fast-moving ones, can distort space-time. It's a bit like the taut fabric of a trampoline: if you put a heavy weight on it, the fabric bows and curves. Any other objects will then roll down the sheet towards the object. This, according to Einstein, is why gravity pulls objects towards each other.

This is a deeply weird idea. But physicists are convinced that it is true. For one thing, it explains the strange orbit of Mercury.

According to general relativity, the Sun's huge mass warps space and time around it.

As the closest planet to the sun, Mercury experiences much bigger distortions than any of the other planets.  The equations of general relativity describe how this warped space-time should affect Mercury's orbit, and predict the planet's position down to a tee.

But despite this success, general relativity isn't a theory of everything, any more than Newton's theories were. Just as Newton's theory didn't work for really massive objects, Einstein's didn't work on the very small.

Once you start looking at tiny things like atoms, matter starts to behave very oddly indeed.

Up until the late 19th century, the atom was thought to be the smallest unit of matter. Coming from the Greek atomos meaning "indivisible", the atom by its very definition was not supposed to be able to be divided into smaller particles.

But in the 1870s, scientists found particles that were almost 2000 times lighter than atoms.

    Scientists have found ways to divide matter smaller and smaller

By weighing light rays in a vacuum tube, they found extraordinarily light, negatively-charged particles. This was the first discovery of a subatomic particle: the electron.

In the next half-century scientists discovered that the atom had a nucleus hub, which the electrons buzzed around. This hub – which was by far the heaviest part of the atom – was made up of two types of subatomic particles: neutrons, which are neutrally charged and protons, which are positively charged.

But it didn't stop there. Since this time, scientists have found ways to divide matter smaller and smaller, continuing to redefine our notion of fundamental particles. By the 1960s, scientists had found dozens of elementary particles, drawing up a long list known as the particle zoo.

As we understand it today, of the three components of an atom, electrons are the only fundamental particles. Neutrons and protons can be divided further into teeny, tiny particles called "quarks".

    Einstein never really believed in quantum theory

These subatomic particles were governed by an entirely different set of laws than those governing big objects like trees or planets.  And these new laws – which were far less predictable - threw a spanner in the works.

In quantum physics, particles don't have defined locations: their whereabouts is a bit fuzzy.  All we can say is that each particle has a certain probability of being in each location. This means the world is a fundamentally uncertain place.

This may all seem very unfathomable and far-out. All we can say is, it's not just you that feels that way. The physicist Richard Feynman, an expert on the quantum, once said: "I think I can safely say that no one understands quantum mechanics."

Einstein was also disturbed by the fuzziness of quantum mechanics. "Despite having instigated it, Einstein never really believed in quantum theory," says Barrow.

All the same, for their respective domains – the big and the small – both general relativity and quantum mechanics have proven, time and time again, to be tremendously accurate. 

Quantum physics has explained the structure and behaviour of atoms, including why some of them are radioactive. It also underlies all modern electronics. You could not read this article without it.

Meanwhile general relativity was used to predict the existence of black holes. These are stars so massive that they have collapsed in on themselves. Their gravitational attraction is so powerful that nothing – not even light – can escape from it.   

But the issue is, the two theories are not compatible, so they can't both be right. General relativity says that objects' behaviours can be predicted exactly, whereas quantum mechanics says all you can know is the probability that they will do something.

That means there are some things physicists still can't describe. Black holes are a particular problem. They are massive so general relativity applies, but they are also small so quantum mechanics applies too.

Unless you're close to a black hole, this incompatibility doesn't affect your day-to-day life. But it has perplexed physicists for most of the last century. It's this incompatibility that has driven the quest for a theory of everything.

Einstein spent much of his life trying to find such a theory. Never a fan of the randomness of quantum mechanics, he wanted to create a theory that would bring together gravity and the rest of physics, with all the quantum weirdness as a secondary consequence.

    Einstein spent 30 years on a fruitless quest

His major challenge was to make gravity work with electromagnetism. In the 1800s, physicists had worked out that electrically-charged particles could be attracted or repelled by each other. That's why some metals are attracted to magnets. This meant there were two kinds of force that objects could exert on each other: they could attract each other with their gravity, and either attract or repel with their electromagnetism.

Einstein wanted to bring the two forces together into a "unified field theory". To do this, he extended his space-time to five dimensions. As well as the three of space and one of time, he added a fifth dimension that was so small and curled up we couldn't see it.

This didn't work out, and Einstein spent 30 years on a fruitless quest. He died in 1955, his unified field theory still undiscovered. But in the following decade, the strongest contender for a theory of everything emerged: string theory.

The idea behind string theory is oddly simple. The basic ingredients of the world, such as electrons, are not actually particles at all. Instead they are little loops or "strings". It's just that these strings are so small, they seem to be mere points.

    All the different particles discovered in the 20th century are really the same kinds of strings

Just like the strings on a guitar, these loops are under tension. That means they vibrate at different frequencies, depending on their size.

In turn, these oscillations determine what sort of "particle" each string appears to be. Vibrate a string one way and you get an electron. Vibrate it another way, and you get something else. All the different particles discovered in the 20th century are really the same kinds of strings, just vibrating in different ways.

It may not be immediately obvious why this is a good idea. But it seems to make sense of all the forces acting in nature: gravity and electromagnetism, plus two that were only discovered in the 20th century.

The strong and weak nuclear forces are only active within the tiny nuclei of atoms, which is why it took so long for anyone to notice them. The strong force holds the nucleus together. The weak force normally does nothing, but if it gets strong enough it breaks the nucleus apart: this is why some atoms are radioactive.

    For the first time, general relativity and quantum mechanics had found common ground

Any theory of everything would have to explain all four. Fortunately, the two nuclear forces and electromagnetism are all covered by quantum mechanics. Each is carried by a specialized particle. But there's no particle to carry the force of gravity.

Some physicists think there is. They call this particle the "graviton". Gravitons would have to have no mass, spin in a particular way, and travel at the speed of light. Unfortunately, nobody has ever managed to find one.

This is where string theory comes in. It describes a string that looks exactly like a graviton: it spins in the right way, is massless and travels at the speed of light. For the first time, general relativity and quantum mechanics had found common ground.

As a result, in the mid-1980s physicists became hugely excited about string theory. "In 1985 we realised string theory solved a lot of the problems people had struggled with for the last 50 years," says Barrow. But it also has a host of problems.

For starters, "we don't really understand what string theory is in full detail," according to Philip Candelas of the University of Oxford in the UK. "We don't have a good way to describe it."

It also makes some predictions that seem outright bizarre. While Einstein's unified field theory relied on a single hidden extra dimension, the earliest forms of string theory called for a total of 26 dimensions. These had to be there to make the mathematics consistent with what we already know about the universe.

More advanced versions, known as "superstring theories", get by with just 10 dimensions. But even that is a far cry from the three dimensions we see on Earth.

"The way we reconcile this is by saying that only three expanded in our world and became large," says Barrow. "The others are there but remain fantastically small."

Because of these and other problems, many physicists are unconvinced by string theory. Some have instead studied another theory: loop quantum gravity.

    Loop quantum gravity proposes that space-time is actually divided into small chunks

This isn't an attempt at an overarching theory that incorporates particle physics. Instead, loop quantum gravity just sets out to find a quantum theory of gravity. It's more limited than string theory – but it's also not as unwieldy.

Loop quantum gravity proposes that space-time is actually divided into small chunks. When you zoom out it appears to be a smooth sheet, but when you zoom in, it is a bunch of dots connected by lines or loops. These small fibres, which are woven together, offer an explanation for gravity.

This idea is just as boggling as string theory, and it has the same problem: there's no hard experimental evidence.

Why do these theories keep stumbling? One possibility is that we simply don't know enough yet. If there are major phenomena that we've never even seen, we are trying to understand the big picture while missing half the pieces.

"It's very tempting to think we've discovered everything," says Barrow. "But it would be very suspicious if in the year 2015 we could make all the observations necessary to have a theory of everything.  Why should it be us?"

    For all its problems, string theory still looks promising

There's also a more immediate problem. The theories are really difficult to test, largely because the maths is so fiendish. Candelas has struggled for years to find a way to test string theory, so far without success.

"The main obstacle to the advancement of string theory is there's not enough maths known to advance the study of physics," says Barrow. "It's such an early stage and there's so much to explore."

For all its problems, string theory still looks promising. "For many years people have been trying to unify gravity with the rest of physics," says Candelas. "We had theories that explained electromagnetism and the other forces well, but not gravity. With string theory we put them together."

The real problem is that a theory of everything may simply be impossible to identify.

When string theory became popular in the 1980s, there were actually five different versions of it. "People began to worry," says Barrow. "If there's a theory of everything, why are there five of them?"

Over the next decade, physicists discovered that these theories could be transformed into each other. They were different ways of looking at the same thing.

    M-theory doesn't offer a single theory of everything

The end result was M-theory, put forward in 1995. This is a deeper version of string theory, incorporating all the earlier versions. That looks good: at least we're back to a single theory. M-theory also only needs 11 dimensions, which is at least better than 26.

But M-theory doesn't offer a single theory of everything. It offers billions upon billions of them. In total, M-theory gives us 10 to the power of 500 theories, all of them logically consistent and capable of describing a universe.

That looks worse than useless, but many physicists now think it points to a deeper truth.

The simplest conclusion is that our universe is one of many, each of them described by one of the trillions of versions of M-theory. This huge collection of universes is called the "multiverse".

At the beginning of time, the multiverse was like "a great foam of bubbles, all slightly different shapes and sizes," says Barrow. Each bubble then expanded into its own universe.

"We're in just one of those bubbles," says Barrow. As the bubbles expand, other bubbles can arise inside them, each one a new universe. "It's making the geography of the universe really complicated."

Within each bubble universe, the same physical laws will apply. That's why everything in our universe seems to behave the same.

    There are trillions of other universes, each one unique

But the rules will be different in other universes. "The laws we see in our universe are just like bylaws," says Barrow. "They govern our bit, but not all of the universes."

This leads us to a strange conclusion. If string theory really is the best way to combine general relativity and quantum mechanics, then it both is and isn't a theory of everything.

On the one hand, string theory may give us a perfect description of our own universe. But it also seems to lead, inescapably, to the idea that there are trillions of other universes, each one unique.

"The big change in thinking is we don't expect there to be a unique theory of everything," says Barrow. "There are so many possible theories they're almost filling every possibility of thinking."

 on: Apr 24, 2017, 06:14 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Leopards often eat their lunch sitting in trees. Here's why

After bringing down a springbok or other prey, leopards tend to drag their kill up into a tree. A new study may explain why
By Yao-Hua Law
24 April 2017

Many animals, including Africa's Big Five predators, roam the savannas of the Sabi Sand Game Reserve in South Africa. Sometimes, these animals turn up in unexpected places – such as the young giraffe that game guides found up in a tree, hung over a fork, dead.

A large male leopard straddled the giraffe, its mouth blood-red. Apparently, the leopard had hoisted the giraffe several metres up the tree. The cat feasted for a few days, leaving only bones, skin and bits of flesh scattered around.

The giraffe weighed 300kg, about five times heavier than its killer. To match the leopard's feat of food-lifting, a man would have to heave almost 2000 Big Macs up two floors in one go.

It seems an utterly bizarre thing to do, but the leopard has a good reason for doing all this heavy lifting. If a leopard does not bother to hoist its kill into the tree, it risks losing its meal to hyenas and lions.

Keeping its kill in a tree helps a leopard to prevent theft, according to a study published in February 2017.

    Leopards tend to hoist prey that are between half and one-and-a-half times their own weight

The study by Panthera – a non-profit organisation that focuses on wild cat conservation – found that leopards in the Sabi Sands Game Reserve hunt at least 40 species of prey, from fowls to young giraffes. Leopards hoist half of their kills, and hoisted kills were 67% less likely to be stolen. Still, leopards lose one out of five kills to other predators like spotted hyenas, lions and even other male leopards.

The game guides' familiarity with the leopards gave the scientists a "unique opportunity" to study the animals, says lead author Guy Balme. "The guides know the leopards as well as we know our neighbours." It also helps that "for the most part, leopards accept the game drive vehicles and just ignore them."

Balme and his team collated the guides' observations of leopards and their kills, which they record at the end of every day. Altogether, they analysed information on 104 leopards and 2,215 feeding events between 2013 and 2015.

The scientists found that leopards tend to hoist prey that are between half and one-and-a-half times their own weight. Kills too small or too large were often eaten on the ground. The likelihood of hoisting also spiked if hyenas or other male leopards show up.

If a leopard decides to hoist its prey and senses no competitor nearby, Balme says, it would drag it to find "a tree with a good fork or branch to drape the prey". This sometimes meant hauling it several hundred metres. Once there, the leopard leaps on to the trunk and hoists the prey up to 10m upwards. "These are very powerful cats. Incredibly impressive."

    The study noted 39 cases of hyenas running off with food that leopards accidentally dropped from trees

However, the situation is sometimes more urgent. "If there's a hyena nearby, the leopard will immediately drag the prey and leap into the first tree it can find to keep the food safe," says Balme.

Spotted hyenas can hear the noises of a leopard kill, and they approach quickly. But hyenas do not just sit and wait for a kill. "Very often we see hyenas tracking leopards, because the chance of a free meal is high," says Balme. Hyenas commit half of all kill thefts from leopards. "They are a total nuisance for leopards in this area."

The hyenas are completely brazen about it. "They just ignore the leopard and go running in to grab the prey," says Balme. "We have seen only a handful of occasions where a large male leopard can fend off hyenas." On the ground, hyenas beat leopards most of the time, and sometimes even kill the cat.

Fortunately for leopards, hyenas cannot climb trees. That means leopards can guzzle in a tree while hyenas hustle below.

However, the hyenas can still have the last laugh. The study noted 39 cases of hyenas running off with food that leopards accidentally dropped from trees.

Also, trees offer little protection against robbers that climb, like lions and male leopards. While lions claim only one-tenth of thefts, male leopards commit four times that, stealing mostly from female leopards. The result surprised Balme, but he thinks that male leopards can easily spot another leopard eating in a tree across the plains. "Male leopards patrol large territories. Females feeding in a tree for several days makes it more likely for males to find them."

    I'm pretty convinced [that avoiding food theft] is the primary reason for leopards hoisting their kills

For the female leopards, a lost kill extorts more than a few days' hunger. The more kills a female has lost, the fewer cubs she could raise.

Balme's study shows that leopards hoist their prey in response to the immediate threat of a competitor. In Botswana, where hyenas also reach high numbers, leopards hoist almost 40% of their kills. Where there are fewer competitors or thicker vegetation to hide – as in India – leopards hoist less often.

There are several other potential reasons for leopards to hoist their prey. For example, a hoisted prey might spoil slower, or allow the leopard to hunt elsewhere then return to feed. But Balme found little or no support for these alternative explanations.

"I'm pretty convinced [that avoiding food theft] is the primary reason for leopards hoisting their kills," says Balme.

 on: Apr 24, 2017, 06:09 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Despite what you might think, chickens are not stupid

Chickens have a reputation for being profoundly dumb, but in fact they are remarkably intelligent and may even be empathic 

By Colin Barras

Reputation: Chickens are dumber than your average bird – little more than walking meat factories with a talent for laying tasty eggs

Reality: The world's most common bird is actually intelligent, and perhaps even sensitive to the welfare of its peers – which might raise some uncomfortable ethical questions for the farming industry

There is something odd about chickens. Globally they number more than 19 billion, making them one of the most abundant vertebrate species on the planet. Yet many people have little or no contact with the birds – at least, not while they are alive.

    Chickens can count, show some level of self-awareness, and even manipulate one another

That has led to some strange assumptions about chickens. According to some studies, people can struggle even to see them as typical birds. They are, in fact, reasonably representative of the galliformes, a bird group that also includes turkeys, partridges and pheasants.

It is also common for people to view chickens as unintelligent animals that lack the complex psychological characteristics of "higher" animals like monkeys and apes. This is a view reinforced by some depictions of chickens in popular culture, and one that might help people feel better about eating eggs or chicken meat produced by intensive farming practices.

But chickens are, in fact, anything but dumb.

They can count, show some level of self-awareness, and even manipulate one another by Machiavellian means. In fact, chickens are so smart that even a limited amount of exposure to the living birds can crush longstanding preconceptions.

    I never thought that chickens would be intelligent enough and learn quite so quickly

For a study published in 2015, Lisel O'Dwyer and Susan Hazel ran a class for undergraduates at the University of Adelaide, Australia. As a way to learn about psychology and cognition, the students performed experiments that involved training chickens.

Before the class began, the students completed a questionnaire. Most said they had previously spent little time with chickens. They viewed them as simple creatures, unlikely to feel boredom, frustration or happiness.

After just two hours training the birds, the students were far more likely to appreciate that chickens can feel all three of these emotional states.

"Chickens are a lot smarter than I originally thought," commented one student on a follow-up questionnaire. Another said: "I never thought that chickens would be intelligent enough and learn quite so quickly."

In as-yet-unpublished research, O'Dwyer has replicated this study with workers in the poultry industry, and found the same results. "Basically we had two quite different social groups and found the same [initial] attitudes and the same attitude change in both," she says.

    The researchers have shown that chickens can count and perform basic arithmetic

She now plans to study whether these experiences have any impact on people's eating habits – for instance, whether they shift to eating chicken reared in ways that they believe to be more ethically acceptable.

O'Dwyer's study is just one of many picked out by Lori Marino of the Kimmela Center for Animal Advocacy in Kanab, Utah, as part of a scientific review of chicken cognition published in January 2017.

"The paper is part of a joint venture between Farm Sanctuary and The Kimmela Center, called The Someone Project," says Marino. "The aim of the Project is to educate the public about who farmed animals are from the scientific data."

Marino says the scientific evidence shows clearly that chickens are not as unaware and unintelligent as many people assume.

Take, for instance, a suite of papers published over the last decade by Rosa Rugani at the University of Padova, Italy, and her colleagues. Working with newly-hatched chicks, the researchers have shown that chickens can count and perform basic arithmetic.

    Chickens may also have some ability to perform "mental time travel"

The chicks were raised from hatching with five objects – the plastic containers from Kinder Surprise eggs. After a few days, the scientists took the five objects and, in full view of the chicks, hid three behind one screen and two behind a second screen. The chicks were more likely to approach the screen hiding more of the objects.

A follow-up experiment tested the chicks' memory and ability to add and subtract. After the objects had been hidden behind the two screens, the scientists began transferring objects between the two screens, in view of the chicks. The chicks seemed to keep track of how many objects were behind each screen, and were still more likely to approach the screen that hid the larger number of objects.

Chickens have a strong grasp of numerical tasks from a young age, even if they have limited experience, says Rugani.

She thinks that might be true of higher animals in general, rather than chickens in particular. "These abilities would help animals in their natural environment, for example to reach a larger amount of food, or to find a larger group for social companionship," she says.

    If a male chicken foraging for food finds a particularly tasty morsel, he will often try to impress nearby females by performing a dance

Chickens may also have some ability to perform "mental time travel" – that is, to imagine what will happen in the future – to secure a larger amount of food, according to a 2005 study led by Siobhan Abeyesinghe, then at the University of Bristol, UK.

Abeyesinghe gave chickens the option of pecking one key, which would give brief access to food after a two-second delay, or pecking a second key that gave prolonged access to food after a six-second delay.

The birds were significantly more likely to peck at the second key, which offered a greater food reward but after a longer delay time. In other words, they showed self-control – a trait that some biologists think hints at a degree of self-awareness.

Chickens are also socially complex.

Some studies suggest the birds can appreciate how the world must appear to their peers, and that they can use this information for personal advantage.

    Females quickly wise up to males who perform this sort of deception too often

If a male chicken foraging for food finds a particularly tasty morsel, he will often try to impress nearby females by performing a dance while making a characteristic food call.

However, subordinate males that perform this song-and-dance routine risk being noticed and attacked by the dominant male. So if the dominant male is nearby, the subordinate often performs his special dance in silence, in a bid to impress females without the dominant male noticing.

Meanwhile, some males may try to trick females into approaching by making the characteristic food calls even when they have not found anything worth crowing about. Unsurprisingly, females quickly wise up to males who perform this sort of deception too often.

There are even some hints that chickens may show a rudimentary form of empathy for each other.

In a series of studies over the last six years, Joanne Edgar at the University of Bristol, UK and her colleagues have studied how hens react when they see their chicks having air puffed at them – something the hens have learned, from personal experience, is mildly unpleasant.

    Hens can respond to their personal knowledge of the potential for chick discomfort

When the chicks were puffed, the hens' hearts began to race and they called more frequently to the chicks. However, they did not do so if the air was puffed near the chicks without actually disturbing them.

In a study published in 2013, the hens learned to associate one coloured box with the uncomfortable air puff and a second coloured box with safety – no air puff. The hens again showed signs of concern when chicks were placed in the "dangerous" box, even if the chicks never actually experienced an air puff and remained oblivious to the peril.

This suggests that hens can respond to their personal knowledge of the potential for chick discomfort, rather than simply reacting to signs of distress in the youngsters.

The research is ongoing, says Edgar. "We have not yet established whether the behavioural and physiological responses in hens observing their chicks in mild distress are indicative of an emotional response, or are simply akin to arousal or interest."

    When the chicks were puffed, the hens' hearts began to race and they called more frequently to the chicks

If it does turn out that chickens can show empathy when other birds are in distress, that could raise serious questions about the way farmed chickens are reared.

"There are numerous situations where all farm animals are exposed to the sights, sounds and smells of other individuals showing signs of pain and distress," says Edgar. "It is important to determine whether their welfare might be reduced at these times."

Marino also thinks it may be time to discuss these questions. "The perception of chickens [as unaware and unintelligent] is driven in part by the motivation to dismiss their intelligence and sensibilities because people eat them," she says.

The uncomfortable truth about chickens is that they are far more cognitively advanced than many people might appreciate. But it remains to be seen whether consumers who are armed with this knowledge change their shopping habits at the meat counter.

 on: Apr 24, 2017, 06:05 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
These amazing creative animals show why humans are the most innovative species of all

The Conversation
24 Apr 2017 at 09:20 ET                   

Of all the many millions of species on the planet, only humans have sequenced genomes, invented smart phones and composed moonlight sonatas. To an evolutionary biologist like me, who studies the complex behaviour of animals, this is an uncomfortable observation that demands an evolutionary explanation. The Conversation

Historically, researchers assumed that animals lacked the intelligence to devise novel solutions, and that this creative deficit accounted for the gulf between their behaviour and human technological achievements. But more recent research into animal behaviour suggests otherwise. Animals constantly devise novel innovations, and research into the nature and consequences of their creativity helps to explain how our own species evolved to be so very different.

My laboratory has been investigating animal innovation for two decades. Our studies, and those of other animal innovation researchers, have established beyond doubt that humans do not have a monopoly on creativity. Animals commonly invent new patterns of behaviour, modify their existing behaviour to new contexts, or respond to social and ecological changes in novel ways.

Animal innovation is highly diverse. It can be ingenious, as with the orangutans that devised ways means of extracting heart of palm vegetables from trees with vicious defences such as sharp spines and stalks. It can be morbid, as with the herring gull that invented the habit of catching rabbits and killing them by drowning them at sea.

Sometimes, it is enchanting. For example, Japanese macaques have been known to start rolling snow balls and playing with them. And sometimes it is plain disgusting, as with the rook that made a habit of eating human vomit.

My favourite example concerns a young chimpanzee called Mike, observed by primatologist Jane Goodall. Mike shot up the social rankings and became alpha male in record time by devising an intimidating dominance display that involved banging empty kerosene cans together.

In truth, many animals are enormously inventive, but the extent of animal innovation remained hidden until recently for a simple and obvious reason. You can’t recognise novel behaviour until you have a good understanding of the normal behaviour of a species. For instance, only after capuchin monkeys had been studied in the wild for many years could we be confident that the first recorded instance of them attacking a snake with a club was an innovation.

Innovative species have the edge

Years of careful study means researchers can now count up the number of innovations produced by a species and quantify how creative it is. This measure has taught us an awful lot. For example, not all animals are equally inventive, and birds and primates are more likely to be innovative when they have bigger brains.

Research has also shown innovative animals are more likely to evolve new species, because creativity opens up new niches and triggers evolutionary events. For instance, it is probably no coincidence that the Galapagos islands’ finches, whose diversity helped Charles Darwin formulate his theory of evolution, are members of a highly innovative superfamily of birds called the Emberizoidea. This group has evolved many different species in a process that may have begun when different birds began to develop innovative ways of feeding.

Being creative confers survival value, too. Research shows innovative species of birds are more likely to survive and establish themselves when introduced into new locations. Another fascinating analysis revealed that migratory species are less innovative than non-migrant birds, with the former forced to travel because they can’t adjust their behaviour to the tough winter months. A further study found that small-brained birds are more likely to die in traffic accidents than large-brained species, and this is almost certainly because the large-brained species have the flexibility to learn road safety.

But the role animal innovation plays in brain evolution is potentially of greatest scientific significance. Apes, capuchins and macaques exhibit the greatest amounts of innovation among primates. These are the primate species with the largest brains (in absolute terms or relative to body size), that are the heaviest tool users, have the broadest diets, and exhibit the most complex forms of learning and cognition.

In my recent book, Darwin’s Unfinished Symphony: How Culture Made the Human Mind I argue that these associations are no coincidence. Primates, particularly the great apes, evolved larger brains because doing so gave them multiple evolutionary advantages, including the ability to use tools, gather a more varied diet and develop complex societies. It also gave them the intelligence to invent new solutions to life’s challenges and copy the innovations of others. This favoured further brain expansion in an accelerating cycle that climaxed with the evolution of human cognition.

Why, then, haven’t chimpanzees invented gene-editing techniques or composed symphonies? Non-human animals possess simple cultures and can develop novel foraging techniques or ways of communicating that spread through social learning. But for all their natural inventiveness, these animals rarely, if ever, refine or improve upon the solutions of others, as recent experiments show.

Mathematical analyses have helped explain this puzzle. It turns out that to develop a “cumulative culture” –- technology that constantly ratchets up in complexity and diversity –- a species needs to be able to share information very accurately. It doesn’t matter how much novel invention takes place, unless those inventions are replicated accurately then they die out before they can be built upon.

On the other hand, once a species can share information very accurately, then even very modest amounts of innovation rapidly lead to massive cumulative culture. Only humans build bridges and put satellites into space because only we –- largely through our teaching and language –- can transmit learned knowledge with sufficiently high fidelity.

Our species’ remarkable achievements are first and foremost down to the fact that we pool our knowledge and build upon it. The absence of complex culture in other animals isn’t down to a lack of creativity. Rather it’s their inability to transmit cultural knowledge with sufficient accuracy. That’s why no monkey ever composed a sonata.

Kevin N Laland, Professor of Biology, University of St Andrews

 on: Apr 24, 2017, 06:01 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad

Shitstain Trump’s organized crime ties bring blackmail to the White House

Jefferson Morley, AlterNet
24 Apr 2017 at 06:35 ET                   

The words were positively polite, at least for a man convicted of assault and racketeering. It was the implied target of his blackmail threat that was unusual: the president of the United States.

The threat came from Felix Sater, a Russian-American businessman who partnered with Donald Trump in launching the Trump Soho, a hotel-condominium project in New York City. The building was funded by Sater’s boss, Tevfik Arif, a mogul from Kazakhstan. In 2007, Trump’s children, Donald Jr., Eric and Ivanka attended the unveiling ceremony for the 46-story luxury tower in Manhattan.

Trump, Arif and Sater were photographed standing next to one another at that event. Since then, the three men have parted ways in a haze of recriminations, lawsuits and amnesia.

The Threat

Sater’s attorney came right to the point in a February 2 letter to Arif’s attorney about $3.5 million in disputed legal fees, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.

“Clearly, if this matter between Mr. Sater and Mr. Arif escalates to public litigation, the media spotlight will be negatively cast on Mr. Arif and his past relationship with President Trump and the Republic of Kazakhstan,” the attorney wrote.

In the correspondence reviewed by the Journal, Sater warned he might file another lawsuit in which he would allege wrongdoing in Arif’s dealings in the post-Soviet metals business in Kazakhstan. “The headline will be, ‘The Kazakh Gangster and President Trump,’” Sater warned.

The Back Story

Both Arif and Sater know something about the media spotlight.

In October 2010, Turkish news outlets headlined the arrest of Arif and five other men for alleged involvement in a prostitution ring following a raid on a yacht once used by the country’s founder. Police stormed the 136-meter luxury yacht Savarona after a seven-month investigation. They also detained 10 Ukrainian and Russian women.

Arif had rented the yacht at a daily rate of $50,000, according to Turkish news reports. Arif denied all charges, saying he had only been entertaining friends aboard the Savarona. Nine of the women were deported, and Arif was later acquitted.

Also questioned, but not arrested in the raid, according to Israel’s YNet News was Alexander Mashkevich, an Israeli-Kazakh billionaire who, along with two partners, dominates Kazakhstan’s lucrative mineral sector, according to Wikipedia.

Sater’s recent threat implicitly links Arif’s relationship with Mashkevich to his dealings with Trump.

Tevfik and his brother Refik Arif, former Soviet government officials, achieved success after Kazakh independence in 1991 by gaining ownership of a chromium plant. The Arifs became close with Mashkevich and his partners, who operated large-scale mining projects in Kazakhstan, according to the Diplomat news site. The details of Arif’s business empire emerged when he tried to buy a share of Milan AC, the storied football franchise.

Felix Sater too has some notoriety. In 1993, Sater was convicted and sent to prison for stabbing a commodities broker in the face with a broken margarita glass. He then became involved in a $40 million stock manipulation scheme run by members of the Gambino and Bonanno organized crime families. In return for his “cooperation” as a government informant, he was allowed to plead guilty and get on with his life. He partnered with Arif, who had developed luxury properties in Turkey, and they joined forces with Trump.

The Partnership

By 2007, Sater had an office on the 24th floor of Trump Tower, according to the Washington Post. In sworn testimony reviewed by the Post, Sater said he popped into Trump’s office frequently over a six-year period to talk business. He recalled flying to Colorado with Trump and said Trump once asked him to escort Donald Jr. and Ivanka around Moscow.

At the time, Arif also extolled Trump.

“He’s been very helpful to us from the beginning and he’s been very helpful in opening some doors,” he told Real Estate Weekly.

Donald Trump would prefer to forget such matters. In a 2013 deposition for a court case related to Trump Soho, Trump claimed he only met Sater a couple of times and would not recognize him.

Sater seems to feel the relationship is closer. In February, he and Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen prepared a Ukraine peace proposal for the president, although it’s not clear it ever reached the Oval Office.

The Washington vocabulary of scandal, corruption and sleaze does not quite do justice to the state of affairs that exists when the White House receives a foreign policy proposal from a felon who threatens to blackmail a former business partner (once detained in a prostitution investigation) of the president.

Some might see a moral swamp in need of drainage. In the Trump White House, it’s called business as usual.


Shitstain Trump push for border wall threatens to cause government shutdown

   Officials unsure if president will sign funding bill without money for wall
   Congressional deal to fund government expires at midnight on Friday

Alan Yuhas
Sunday 23 April 2017 17.55 BST

Looming above Washington as Congress and the White House attempt to avert a funding shutdown in only five days’ time, Donald Trump’s central campaign promise to build a wall on the Mexican border threatens to bring the US government to a halt this week in a national display of dysfunction.

On Sunday, even White House officials expressed uncertainty about whether the president would sign a funding bill that did not include money for a wall, which Trump has promised since the first day of his presidential campaign.

“We don’t know yet,” said the White House budget director, Mick Mulvaney, on Fox News Sunday. “We are asking for our priorities.”

The president himself waded into the negotiations on Sunday, holding out two sticks and no carrot. “ObamaCare is in serious trouble,” he tweeted. “The Dems need big money to keep it going – otherwise it dies far sooner than anyone would have thought.”

“The Democrats don’t want money from budget going to border wall despite the fact that it will stop drugs and very bad MS 13 gang members,” he continued, suggesting he would accuse Democrats of being soft on international crime.

But Trump also retreated from a related pledge to the American people: that he would “make Mexico pay” for the wall, which is estimated to cost billions.

“Eventually, but at a later date so we can get started early, Mexico will be paying, in some form, for the badly needed border wall,” the president tweeted, without offering a plan or timeline.

Without a deal, funding for the government will run out at midnight on 28 April, Trump’s 100th day in office. The secretary of homeland security, John Kelly, told CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday he suspected the president would push for the wall.

“He’ll do the right thing, for sure, but I suspect he’ll be insistent about the funding,” Kelly said.

The attorney general, Jeff Sessions, one of the most aggressive anti-immigrant voices in Trump’s administration, also declined to describe the president’s priorities.

“He’ll make those decisions,” Sessions told ABC’s This Week. “I’m not engaged in the budget negotiations.” The attorney general admitted that Mexico would probably not cooperate with the demand to pay, and suggested that trade measures against Mexico could “create the revenue”.

Although the GOP controls Congress and the White House, Republicans from border states and districts have resisted the wall as an expensive measure with limited benefits. Democrats have vociferously opposed it, calling it foolhardy and ineffective. Kelly has said a physical wall alone “will not do the job”. According to an internal department report acquired by Reuters, the wall will cost about $21bn.

The White House chief of staff, Reince Priebus, suggested Republicans might be able to obtain some of that money under the cover of general funds for border security.

“It’ll be enough for us to move forward through the end of September for us to get going on the wall,” he told NBC’s Meet the Press.

All three administration officials said they hoped the government would not grind to a halt, potentially costing the US billions and stopping health, safety and veterans benefits. Sessions said he “can’t imagine” Democrats would refuse funding over what he called “a down payment on a wall that can end the lawlessness”.

Mulvaney meanwhile attempted to broker some peace, saying Republicans would be willing to continue healthcare payments into the Affordable Care Act, should the Democrats grant more border funding.

“I don’t think anybody’s trying to get to a shutdown,” he said. “A shutdown is not a desired end, it’s not a tool, it’s not something we want to have.”

Trump’s threats did not appear to faze Democratic leaders, who watched last month as Republicans failed to make a deal within their own party on repealing and replacing Barack Obama’s healthcare reform.

“It’s a political stunt, an obsession for the president that should not shut down our government,” said Senator Dick Durbin, a senior Democrat in the Senate, in an interview with CNN. “Don’t put any poison pills into this process. Let’s just do our responsible, important work of funding this government.”

A shutdown over the proposed wall “would be the height of irresponsibility”, Durbin said.

Republicans in Congress also made clear they did not want to risk an embarrassing and costly shutdown in a fight over the wall. Representative Mark Sanford, whom Trump threatened over the failed healthcare deal last month, told CNN the wall was not worth a shutdown. Senator Marco Rubio told CBS’s Face the Nation that a shutdown could have “very destabilizing” ripples around the world.

“We cannot shut down the government right now,” Rubio said, noting rising tensions with North Korea and US military entanglements in the Middle East. “The last thing we can afford is to send a message to the world that the United States government, by the way, is only partially functioning.”

Trump has abruptly reneged on several campaign promises, including to stay out of the Syrian civil war and to declare China a currency manipulator, but none were so central to his candidacy as his anti-immigrant proposals – aggressive deportations, a travel ban and a wall – two of which he has attempted.

With or without funding, Trump plans to spend the night after the deadline in Pennsylvania, where he will face supporters at a campaign-style rally much like the dozens he held last year, in which he led chants of “build that wall”


Charles Blow inspired by the growing resistance: Americans aren’t numb to Shitstain Trump’s ‘unmitigated disaster’

Travis Gettys
Raw Story
24 Apr 2017 at 06:52 ET                   

As President Donald Trump closes in on 100 days as chief executive, New York Times columnist Charles Blow said he was encouraged to see the resistance to the former reality TV star’s administration is holding strong.

“I must say that the issue of resilience was one that I worried and wondered about from the beginning,” Blow wrote in Monday’s column. “I worried that modern shortsightedness would prevent resisters from seeing the long game, that the exhaustion of constant outrage would numb them to unrelenting assault.”

Blow has been delighted that Trump’s political foes have remained undaunted, and their numbers even appear to be growing.

“Not only is the movement still strong, it appears to be getting stronger,” he wrote. “People have found a salve for their sadness: exuberant agitation. Far from growing limp, the Trump resistance is stiffening and strengthening.”

He has been encouraged by “throngs” of protesters showing up at town hall events hosted by lawmakers, and he said those resisters have apparently chased the Trump-backing Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) from office.

Voters are also calling their elected representatives to press them on issues, and young people are organizing resistance groups and using data to direct resources to winnable congressional races.

“Taken together, all signs are looking up for the movement,” Blow said. “The Trump administration, from pillar to post, is an unmitigated disaster, lumbering forward and crushing American ideas and conventions as it does. Damage is being done, there is no doubt, but Americans are not taking it lying down. They are standing in opposition. They are feeling their power. They are energized, and I’m very much encouraged.”


‘We’re not even close to how bad it’s going to get’: Why Shitsain Trump will never, ever admit he’s failing

David Ferguson
Raw Story
23 Apr 2017 at 17:10 ET                   

President Donald Trump’s first 100 days are — by any measurable standards — looking an awful lot like a failure to many observers, but Trump himself insists that everything is running perfectly.

According to a feature in Politico magazine on Sunday, Trump’s constant insistence that everything is great — even in the face of bankruptcies, closings and collapsed ventures — is a key to his success and always has been.

“How, wonder people who are even fleetingly familiar with presidential history, can Trump look back at the past three months and seriously say they were the best ever?” asked Politico’s Michael Kruse. “To others, though, who have worked with him, have been watching him for decades and know him well, nothing could be more familiar.”

“I just shake my head,” one former Trump casino executive told Kruse, “and I say, ‘Well, that’s Donald Trump.’”

Kruse compiled a record of the many, many times the president — when faced with business closings, the collapse of his airline, his steak brand, his bottled water brand, his sports team ownership and on and on — has simply said, “Things are great. Business is great” and somehow gotten away with it.

These statements, Kruse wrote, “are potent shots of unadulterated, time-tested Trump —
short, confident declarations of success, in spite of objective evidence of failure, uttered with total disregard for the parsing and fact-checking that constitutes so much of the coverage of him and his administration. Biographers, ex-employees, veteran New York City gossip columnists, public relations professionals and political operatives from both major parties say recognizing this well-established pattern of behavior—stumble, proclaim victory, move on—is imperative to understanding Trump.”

Trump never feels like he’s failing as long as his bottomless need for attention is being met. Furthermore, the president “has perfected a narrative style in which he doesn’t merely obscure reality — he tries to change it with pronouncements that act like blaring, garish roadside billboards… (H)e has defined himself as a success no matter what — by talking the loudest and the longest, and by insisting on having the first word and also the last.”

The approach has worked at every turn thus far in Trump’s adult life, Politico said. Many people who are familiar with Trump and have watched him in the long term say that he may well pull it off, powering through his actual failures and missteps with a relentless barrage of PR.

“He creates his own reality,” former Trump Organization vice president Barbara Res said. “He created the reality that he was this big, successful businessman, and now he’s creating the reality that he’s a big, accomplished president.”

Republican strategist Rick Wilson, one of Trump’s fiercest critics, said, “He’s gotten away with this game his whole life.”

“We’re not even close to how bad it’s going to get,” Wilson said. “It’s going to get substantially more difficult to keep selling this crap. He’s not dealing with some random vendors in New Jersey. He’s dealing with the American people. But I will say this: His cult has shown a great willingness to be a cult.”

Jack O’Donnell — the former casino executive — told Kruse that Trump will use the approach for as long as it works.

“If you or I were sitting there,” he said, “we would have trouble staring into the camera and lying. He doesn’t.”


Shitstain Trump ‘hate-watches’ news that is critical of him as aides struggle to manage his TV addiction

David Ferguson
Raw Story
23 Apr 2017 at 20:21 ET                   

President Donald Trump’s obsession with television is well-documented. He became a household name in the early 2000s with his reality TV game show “The Apprentice” and reportedly consumes a constant daily stream of cable TV news.

The Washington Post said Sunday that in addition to fretting over what the president will do if left alone too long, Trump’s aides and advisers struggle to keep the president from consuming too much TV or watching things that will upset him and cause him to erupt on Twitter.

“Those Trump tweet-storms, which contain some of his most controversial utterances, are usually prompted by something he has seen on television just moments before,” wrote the Post’s Ashley Carter and Robert Costa. “The president, advisers said, also uses details gleaned from cable news as a starting point for policy discussions or a request for more information, and appears on TV himself when he wants to appeal directly to the public.”

Trump turns on cable news immediately upon arising each morning and spends the day checking in via a television in the White House dining room. However, once the president goes upstairs at the end of the day, aides lose their ability to monitor and moderate the president’s intake.

“Once he goes upstairs, there’s no managing him,” one adviser told the Post.

“Sometimes, at night, he hate-watches cable shows critical of him, while chatting on the phone with friends, said someone familiar with the president’s routine — a quirk a senior official jokingly called ‘multi-teching.’” the Post said.

Foreign leaders are urging their diplomats to go on U.S. television when they visit the country so as to catch Trump’s attention. Trump has insisted that he wouldn’t dream of firing Press Secretary Sean Spicer — even after his gaffe comparing Hitler favorably to Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.

“I’m not firing Sean Spicer,” said Trump. “That guy gets great ratings. Everyone tunes in.”

Some fellow Republicans are alarmed by the president’s excessive reliance on TV for news and information. He has already sent his aides off on wild goose chases trying to “reverse-engineer information to support his dubious assertions,” the Post said — because of erroneous stories he saw on TV.

“There are many conversations where it ends: ‘But of course, God knows, he could watch Fox News tomorrow and change his whole position,’” said GOP strategist Rick Wilson of Republicans on Capitol Hill. “They don’t get him, because he’s a creature of television and they’re creatures of politics. They care about the details, he cares about what’s on TV.”


Bernie Sanders Just Terrified Shitstain Trump And Showed How Democrats Will Win In 2018

By Jason Easley on Sun, Apr 23rd, 2017 at 11:28 am

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) revealed exactly how Democrats will treat Trump as the most unpopular president in history, and win in 2018.

Sanders said during an interview on CBS’s Face The Nation:

The major issue is as we go into the 2018 elections dealing with the most unpopular president in a three month period in American history is as you recall, in 2014 we had a voter turnout of 36% in the midterm elections. Almost two out of three Americans didn’t vote, and Republicans did very very well. If that continues, there is no future forward for the Democratic Party. So what we have got to do, and what Democrats have got to do is go all over this country. Start getting into those red states, which have been ignored for decades. Start growing the voter turnout.

Having an agenda which brings people together to say that in the richest country in the history of the world. Yeah. You know what? We can have health care for all people as a right. We can raise the minimum wage to $15/hour. No. Donald Trump is not right. Climate change is not a hoax. It is a major planetary crisis. We’ve gotta transform our energy system.

If we focus on those issues, voter turnout goes up.

Democrats win.

Sen. Sanders was correct on a few different points. The goal shouldn’t be to go into red states and win right away. The goal is to rebuild the party by increasing voter turnout in these states, and the way to get people into the party is by talking about the issues that matter to them. Health care matters. Raising the minimum wage is a proven winning issue in red states.

The Trump White House is terrified that their fake populism will be exposed. If real populism ever replaces the sheep in wolf’s clothing populism that Republicans have been running on, Democrats won’t just win elections in 2018; they’ll win elections for years to come.

 on: Apr 24, 2017, 05:43 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
The Guardian view on France’s election: a win for Macron and hope

Sunday 23 April 2017 20.49 BST

The storming of the Bastille in 1789 sets the bar high. As a result, few phrases should be used with more circumspection than “French revolution”. But the result of the first round of France’s 2017 presidential election is an epochal political upheaval for France all the same. For the first time in the nearly 60-year history of the Fifth Republic the second-round contest on 7 May will be between two outsider candidates, Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen. Neither of the candidates of the established parties of left and right will be in the runoff. Whichever of the second-round candidates emerges as the winner in two weeks’ time, France is set upon a new political course, with major implications for itself and for the rest of Europe.

The defeat of the established parties is a humiliation for modern French party politics of left and right. The Socialist candidate Benoît Hamon, representing the party of the outgoing president François Hollande, received a mere 6.2% of the votes, according to early estimates. The conservative candidate François Fillon, carrier of the tarnished Gaullist baton, did better, with 19.7%. Yet this is the first time that an official centre-right candidate has failed to get into the second round since General de Gaulle created modern France in 1958. Given the scandals about his use of public funds, it was remarkable that Mr Fillon did so well. Even so, between them Mr Hamon and Mr Fillon took only a quarter of the votes. Instead three French voters out of four, in a turnout of 78%, voted for change.

Mr Hamon was quick to accept personal responsibility for the Socialist failure. But there are many other causes, not confined to France. What is clear is that radical leftwing French voters preferred Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s cocktail of social reform, higher public spending and hostility to the EU to anything that Mr Hamon, who is on the left of his party, was offering. Mr Mélenchon took three votes to every one for Mr Hamon. There is a historic lesson for the Socialists there which is similar to the rise of Jeremy Corbyn in Britain in 2015. The French Socialist party that was put together by François Mitterrand in the 1970s is no more. It will have to go right back to basics to regenerate itself.

Before that, though, France faces an absolutely straight choice. The contest on 7 May is a contest between openness and bigotry, internationalism and nationalism, optimism and hatred, reaction and reform, hope and fear. The fact that Ms Le Pen has reached the second round should not be underplayed simply because it was predicted for so long, or because, if the exit polling is confirmed, she finished second behind Mr Macron, not first. She took almost a quarter of French votes. Her projected 21.9% is significantly larger than her father’s 16.9% in 2002. Even if she loses in round two, the FN may still stand on the verge of a historic advance in June’s parliamentary elections.

It is tempting to see Ms Le Pen’s result as a defeat alongside that of Geert Wilders in the Netherlands, and to conclude that European liberal values have successfully rallied to stop another lurch to the racist right. Some of that is true, and it is a cause for immense relief. France stood up and was counted on Sunday. But the threat from the French extreme right is not over. Nor is the threat from kindred extreme-right parties in Europe. Both the AfD in Germany and Ukip in Britain have moved further to the right in the past week. The Front National remains a party of bigotry, hatred and nationalism of the worst kind.

Now France must stand up again in two weeks’ time and complete the job by electing Mr Macron. There are only two in this race and French voters should do what they did in 2002 and rally to defeat the FN candidate on 7 May. Already, several on the centre-right have rallied behind Mr Macron. Others should follow, and so should leftwing voters too.

Mr Macron is the best hope of a deeply troubled but great country. Its problems range from inequality to unemployment, social divisions, terrorism, and a ruling elite with a strong sense of entitlement. Mr Macron comes from that class, is untested in many ways, is mistrusted on the left, and therefore needs to earn the voters’ trust afresh. He has been lucky in his rivals, on the left and on the right, and he was the first choice of only 23.7% of the voters. But he has been rewarded for the great political audacity of his centrist challenge to the ancien régime. Electing him in May is now the only way to open up the chance of progressive, liberal and pro-European reform in France. French voters have made a bold break with the past. Now they must finish the revolution.

 on: Apr 24, 2017, 05:41 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Macron and Le Pen to face off for French presidency

Pro-European centrist and anti-immigration far-right candidate to go head to head after coming top in first round of voting

Angelique Chrisafis in Paris
Monday 24 April 2017 11.11 BST

The pro-European centrist, Emmanuel Macron, and the anti-immigration, far-right Marine Le Pen have begun a final duel for the French presidency after anti-establishment anger knocked France’s traditional political parties out of the race.

Macron took 8.4m votes (23.75%) and Le Pen 7.6m (21.53%) – the highest ever score for the Front National.

The second-round runoff on 7 May will be marked by deep divisions in a country angry at its political class and struggling with unemployment and economic unease. More than 40% of voters chose Eurosceptic candidates – including Le Pen, the hard-left Mélenchon and other candidates.

European politicians rallied around Macron, as the commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker, broke protocol to personally wish the independent candidate well in the next round.

The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, described Macron as a “patriot and European” who he felt confident would win against Le Pen. Barnier added: “France must remain European.”

Macron, 39, a political novice, is the clear favourite to be elected as France’s next president. The euro briefly reached five-month peaks while European shares rose sharply on the likelihood that Macron will win.

As both sides looked to court support from their defeated rivals, Le Pen went on the attack on Monday morning.

“I’m on the ground to meet the French people to draw their attention to important subjects, including Islamist terrorism, to which the least we can say Mr Macron is weak on,” Le Pen told reporters.

“Mr Macron has no project to protect the French people in the face of Islamist dangers,” she said, adding that the runoff with Macron was a referendum on “uncontrolled globalisation”.

Macron came under fire for celebrating his first-round result with his staff, inner circle and a few celebrity friends in a Paris brasserie, La Rotunde, on Sunday night. “One shouldn’t be partying when the far right has reached the second round,” said one politician from the rightwing Les Républicains party.

The Front National accused Macron of premature triumphalism, likening him to Nicolas Sarkozy, who held a final-round celebrity party at a chic Champs-Élysées restaurant in 2007, sparking criticism over a “bling” style that clung to him for five years. “This party at La Rotunde is shameful in a political situation when the far right has qualified for the second round,” tweeted David Cormand, the head of the green party, Europe Ecology Les Verts.

Macron’s team dismissed what they called a “pointless polemic”. Macron himself shot back: “If you haven’t understood that it’s my pleasure tonight to invite out my secretaries, my security guards, then you haven’t understood anything about life.”

After the UK’s vote to leave the European Union and the US vote for the political novice Donald Trump as president, the French presidential race is the latest election to shake up establishment politics by kicking out the figures that stood for the status quo.

The historic first-round result marked the rejection of the ruling political class – it was the first time since the postwar period that the traditional left and right ruling parties were both ejected from the race in the first round.

The Socialist prime minister, Bernard Cazeneuve, led appeals from across the political spectrum to support Macron in order to block Le Pen, who he said represented “regression and division” for France. The scandal-hit rightwing candidate François Fillon, who was knocked out of the race, said he would also vote for Macron because the Front National “has a history known for its violence and intolerance” and its economic and social programme would lead France to bankruptcy.

Le Pen, who has no natural alliances with other parties – crucial for winning the second round – called for all “patriots” to join her. Analysts have said Le Pen’s best chance of hauling back Macron’s big lead in the polls is to paint him as a part of an elite aloof from ordinary French people and their problems.

Macron, a former investment banker who had been a chief adviser and then economy minister to the Socialist François Hollande, is not a member of any political party. He quit government last year and launched his own political movement, En Marche! (on the move), that was “neither left nor right”, promising to “revolutionise” what he called France’s vacuous and decaying political system.

Speaking in front of an ecstatic and raucous crowd in Paris on Sunday evening, Macron said of his fledgling political movement: “In one year we have changed the face of French political life.” He said he represented “optimism and hope”. In a dig at Le Pen, he said he would be a president of “patriots” against the “nationalist threat”.

Le Pen’s place in the final round cements her party’s steady rise in French politics. The Front National has made steady gains in every election since she took over the leadership from her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, in 2011. Le Pen ran a hardline campaign against immigration and promised to crack down on what she called “Islamic fundamentalism”. While Macron’s supporters at rallies waved EU flags and he hailed the positive role of the 27-country bloc, Le Pen told supporters “the EU will die”. She wants to leave the euro, return to the franc, exit the Schengen agreement and close French borders.

The central message of Marine Le Pen’s campaign was the staple of the Front National party since it was co-founded by her father in 1972: keeping France for the French. Le Pen promised to give priority to French people over non-nationals in jobs, housing and welfare, and would hold a referendum to cement this policy into the constitution. She said she would demand extra tax from companies that employed any kind of foreign worker.

Both the rightwing Les Républicains party and the ruling leftwing Socialists, which have dominated government and French politics for decades, were knocked out of the race. They managed to take only about 25% of the vote between them.

The Macron-Le Pen final marks a redrawing of the political divide, away from the old left-right divide towards a contest between a liberal, pro-globalisation stance and “close the borders” nationalism. Le Pen has styled her election campaign as between her party’s “patriots” and the “globalists” she says Macron represents. As the geographer Christophe Guilluy has noted: “The rift between the global market’s winners and losers has replaced the old right-left split.”

Fillon, a former prime minister who was once favourite, was knocked out after his campaign was hit by allegations that he embezzled state funds by giving his wife and children generous, taxpayer-funded “fake jobs” as parliamentary assistants over the course of his long political career. He said he took full responsibility for his failure, but continued to hint that the corruption allegations were not his fault but a plot against him, saying he lost the presidential race because “the obstacles put in my way were too many and too cruel”.

Fillon ended up with 19.91% of the vote, in effect tying in third place with the hard-left Jean-Luc Mélenchon on 19.64%. Mélenchon, leader of grassroots movement La France Insoumise (France Unbowed) enjoyed a surge in support in the final weeks.

The Socialist Benoît Hamon, who came in fourth place with 6.35%, said he had failed in stopping the “disaster” that had been clear in advance. He said the elimination of the left by the far right for the second time in 15 years – following Jean-Marie Le Pen’s second-round presence in 2002 – showed a “moral defeat” for the left. He appealed for voters to choose Macron to block Le Pen, who he called an “enemy of the Republic”.

Whoever wins the Macron-Le Pen race, the parliamentary elections that follow in June will be crucial. The majority in the lower house will determine how a new president could govern, and France is likely to require a new form of coalition politics. If elected president, Macron, fielding MP candidates from his fledgling movement, would have to seek a new kind of parliamentary majority across the centre left-right divide. If Le Pen did win the presidency, she would very probably not win a parliament majority, thwarting her ability to govern. But her party hopes to increase its MPs in the 577-seat house. Currently, Le Pen has only two MPs.


'Great for Europe': reaction to Macron's first-round success in French election

European commission president breaks protocol to join chorus of congratulations as Macron leads Marine Le Pen after first French vote

Daniel Boffey in Brussels
Monday 24 April 2017 12.06 BST

European politicians reacted with tangible relief to the first-round victory of Emmanuel Macron in the French presidential election, as the European commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker, broke protocol to personally wish the independent candidate well in the next round.

Margaritis Schinas, a commission spokesman, tweeted that Juncker had congratulated Macron for his result at the first round and wished him good luck for the rest.

The commission usually avoids commenting on ongoing national elections, but Schinas said circumstances forced Juncker’s hand. Schinas told reporters that the choice “was a fundamental one”, between Macron, who represents pro-Europe values, and Le Pen, who “seeks its destruction”.

The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, described Macron as a “patriot and European” who he felt confident would win out in the runoff round with Marine Le Pen on 7 May. “France must remain European,” he said.

Le Pen has spoken of “liberating” France from the EU and calling a referendum on the country’s membership of the euro.

Macron topped Sunday’s first round with 23.75% of votes, slightly ahead of Le Pen with 21.53%. He is widely expected to enjoy a comfortable victory in the next round, after endorsement from the republican and socialist candidates, François Fillon and Benoît Hamon.

The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, has yet to comment personally but her chief of staff, spokesman and foreign minister signalled similar delight in Berlin at the result.

The German foreign minister, Sigmar Gabriel, said: “I am certain that Emmanuel Macron will be the next president of France. Great for Europe.”

Merkel’s chief of staff, Peter Altmaier, tweeted: “The result for Emmanuel Macron shows: France AND Europe can win together! The middle is stronger than the populists believe!”

The chancellor’s spokesman, Steffen Seibert, wished Macron “all the best” in the runoff against Le Pen. “Good that Emmanuel Macron was successful with its course for a strong EU + social market economy,” he tweeted.

Meanwhile, Merkel’s main opponent in Germany’s September election, Martin Schulz, the Social Democrat candidate, said he hoped Macron would win the second round with a broad majority to defeat the “anti-European and openly racist candidate Marine Le Pen”.

“We cannot underestimate the mobilisation required to ensure that Macron also wins the second round … That’s what has to happen now,” Schulz told reporters.

The Spanish foreign minister Alfonso Dastis said he hoped a victory for Macron in the second round would mark a break in the rise of extremist populist parties in Europe. European countries “need to get their act together, need to re-examine and constantly improve the European project”, Dastis told Cadena Ser radio.

Russia, which had been seen as a keen backer of Kremlin-friendly Le Pen, said it respected the result of the first round and hoped for better ties with Paris whoever won the second round.

“We respect the choice of the French people. We are in favour of building good and mutually beneficial relations,” said the Kremlin spokesman, Dmitry Peskov.

In the UK, Downing Street did not comment. However, George Osborne, the former chancellor, tweeted:

The former leader of Ukip, Nigel Farage, tweeted:

The US president, Donald Trump, who had suggested the recent terror attack in Paris could have an impact on the vote, had yet to comment.

The European Jewish Congress, noting that Monday was Holocaust Remembrance Day, said it was regrettable that more than one in five voters had chosen Le Pen in the first round.

“We call on all Democrats to rally together to prevent Madame Le Pen from winning in the second round, which would be a prize for extremism and intolerance and a dark day for France,” said Moshe Kantor, the ECJ president.


French presidential election 2017: what happens next?

Attention now turns to the second-round runoff that will decide the presidency

Guardian staff
Monday 24 April 2017 07.00 BST

The dust has barely settled on Sunday’s first-round vote, but already attention is turning to what happens next.
This week

The two victors, Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen, will take to the campaign trail again for a final flurry, as they seek to scoop up floating voters and capitalise on any endorsements from other candidates.

On Wednesday, the results from the first round will be officially announced, though this is purely a formality.
Next week

Monday 1 May promises to be something of a flashpoint as traditional May Day manifestations bring out demonstrators from across the political spectrum. Trade unions and others in the labour movement will march in dozens of cities, while the Front National also marks the day by commemorating its adopted symbol, Joan of Arc, in Paris.

Wednesday 3 May

A live television debate between the two candidates will be held. These have proved to be tetchy affairs in the past, but rarely deliver a knockout blow.
Friday 5 May

Campaigning and polling must stop by law on Friday 5 May, leaving a day of grace before ...
Sunday 7 May

Polls open at 8am and close at 8pm. The winner is likely to be known within hours, but the swearing-in ceremony usually does not take place until several days after the election.

Sunday 11 June

The presidentials are followed by parliamentary elections, which will have a significant bearing on what the new president can achieve. In 2012, Hollande’s Socialist party won 280 seats, slightly short of an outright majority in the 577-seat Assemblée Nationale.

The in-tray

The new president – France’s third inside a decade – faces perhaps the most formidable in-tray of any. Security will top the agenda, with the emphasis on how to stop the volley of terrorist attacks that have killed more than 230 people in the country in the past 18 months.

The economy comes a close second – figures for French GDP growth for the first quarter of 2017 are due to be released shortly before the second-round vote and should show that a modest recovery continues. But it is geographically patchy and fitful, and seems to be having little effect on an unemployment rate that persists stubbornly above 10%.

The new president will be a key figure in shaping Brexit talks, and will also be instrumental in defining the all-important Franco-German relationship at the heart of the EU.

 on: Apr 24, 2017, 05:34 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
'It’s going to hit the poorest people': Zika outbreak feared on the Texas border

As mosquito season ramps up again, activists and health workers fear the worst for the the Rio Grande Valley, where conditions are ripe for mosquitoes to breed

Tom Dart in Houston
Sunday 23 April 2017 12.00 BST

When Patricia Pena hosted a Zika awareness class near the Texas border with Mexico on Tuesday, only four people showed up.

“Even though there’s been a lot of announcements on TV about it and how to protect yourself, families are still very naive when it comes to the information on Zika,” said Pena, who works with La Frontera Ministries, a community nonprofit.

While Zika cases in south Florida drew most of the headlines last year, the mosquito-borne virus also struck in the Rio Grande valley. As mosquito season ramps up again, activists and health workers fear that the region is at risk of an outbreak.

More than 1.3 million people live in the Valley, many in deprived neighbourhoods known as colonias, where conditions are ripe for mosquitoes to breed: sprawling settlements limit the effectiveness of spraying, standing water is common, and many houses lack window screens or air-conditioning.

“You have a lot of these families who don’t even have money to get rid of their garbage,” Pena said, “and their houses are infested with all kinds of creatures, including mosquitoes.” She added that many people don’t have equipment to cut their grass, which could hide breeding pools, and that the streets lack proper drainage.

“It’s going to hit the poorest people,” said Joseph McCormick, regional dean of the University of Texas School of Public Health. “People that live in areas where mosquitoes are going to breed, areas where they have poor housing, just like it is in South America.”

Michael Seifert, a community organiser in Brownsville, suggested that until people see local cases of babies with microcephaly – a birth defect that can be caused by Zika – the virus will be viewed as a sort of “urban legend”, distant and unlikely.

It is real enough, if not widespread: according to state health department statistics, 10 Zika cases have been documented in Texas this year and 320 in 2016 and 2015. About 250 women and children have shown evidence of infection reported to the federal Zika Pregnancy Registry.

Last November the state’s first reported case of local mosquito-borne Zika infection was in Brownsville, leading the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to designate the city, of about 185,000 people, a Zika “cautionary area” which pregnant women should consider avoiding.

There were six cases of local transmission via mosquitoes reported in Brownsville in the final two months of 2016. This month the state health department issued a recommendation that all pregnant women in six border counties be tested in their first and second trimesters, as well as others exhibiting possible Zika symptoms.

Efforts to fight Zika and accurately assess the risk and spread are complicated by the lack of access to healthcare: there is no public hospital in the region and the rate of people without health insurance is among the highest in the nation.

Tracking Zika is complicated further by the large volume of cross-border traffic and significant numbers of undocumented immigrants, especially since the Donald Trump’s harsh deportation efforts have caused many people to fear any interaction with authorities.

Seifert said he recently heard from a county official that it’s unclear where Zika cases originated, in part becase “people are too afraid to tell us if they were traveling to Mexico and back, because of the whole Trump mess”.

“If you show up at my door and you’re a health person, and I’ve been shown to have Zika and they say, ‘were you traveling?’ – I’m not so sure I’ll tell you that.”

A 25-mile drive from South Padre Island, one of the country’s most popular spring break destinations, Brownsville stands across from the Mexican city of Matamoros, separated by the Rio Grande.

“When they say we have travel cases of Zika, it’s not like somebody flew in from Brazil,” said Lisa Mitchell-Bennett, a project manager at the School of Public Health. “They went to visit their aunt or their boyfriend 100 metres across the river on the weekend, or they went to their family Sunday dinner.”

McCormick, a member of the CDC’s global advisory group, said the numbers probably do not tell the whole story: 80% of Zika cases do not show symptoms, including cases that cause birth defects, and officials have struggled to develop an improved tracking system.

“We have to have better surveillance so that we know if the virus is expanding, where is it going,” McCormick said. “We need human surveillance and some mosquito surveillance to know where the mosquitoes are.

“This is the tip of the iceberg,” he added. “Without some kind of surveillance of actually testing people we have no idea, frankly, what’s going on.”

With many important questions still to be answered, including for how long a man infected with Zika could sexually transmit it, McCormick said that severe budget cuts to medical research proposed by the Trump administration are worrying.

“More resources are going to have to come but it’s not clear it’s going to come from this administration,” he said. “That part of it’s bleak.”

“There are a lot of unknowns here that are distressing everybody in the public health world.”

Mosquitoes can be a year-round problem in parts of the southern US and in Texas, where an unusually warm winter and rainy spring have created conditions for mass breeding. West Nile virus has already been detected this year in some mosquito pools in the Dallas area.

Dengue fever cases have previously occurred in the valley, and some experts are concerned that other insect-borne tropical diseases transmitted are more prevalent in Texas than previously though. Some fear Chagas disease, typically spread to humans by a “kissing bug” bite around the mouth or eyes, followed by defecation while feeding on blood that transmits a parasite. Chagas can cause fatal heart conditions that may go undetected for decades.

With Zika, Mitchell-Bennett said it can be hard for authorities to explain their fears: they promote early testing, stress that the disease can spread through sex, and warn people to use repellent, stay indoors and drain standing water.

“I think it’s pretty clear that we’re going to get more cases,” Mitchell-Bennett said. “When, how quickly, I don’t think anybody knows.”

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