October 11, 2012

Posted by orrinj at 9:22 PM


Scientists discover 500 MILLION year old bug brain fossil that could revolutionise understanding of insect evolution (DAMIEN GAYLE, 10 October 2012, Daily Mail)
A 500million year old insect brain fossil is the oldest of its kind ever discovered by scientists.

Hailing the find a 'transformative discovery', experts said the 3in long fossil shows that insects evolved to have complex brains much earlier than previously thought.

The specimen, which was unearthed in Yunnan Province, China, provides a 'missing link' that sheds light on the evolutionary history of arthropods, the ancient ancestors of crustaceans, spiders and insects, researchers said.

A transformative discovery: This 3-inch long fossil shows that insects evolved to have complex brains much earlier than previously thought and could revolutionise our understanding of their evolution

The report's author Nicholas Strausfeld, a neurobiologist at the University of Arizona, said: 'No one expected such an advanced brain would have evolved so early in the history of multicellular animals.' [...]
The discovery, which is reported in the October edition of the journal Nature, suggests insect brains evolved from a previously complex structure to a more simple one, rather than the other way round, researchers said.

Rather, it revolutionizes the lack of understanding of evolution, which, in this case, began evolved and then devolved.

Posted by orrinj at 9:15 PM


Romney's Pivot to the Center Hasn't Worked. (But It Didn't Need To.) (JOHN SIDES,  OCTOBER 11, 2012, ny tIMES)

[P]erhaps most importantly, Romney may not have needed this pivot to the center anyway.  Even though he is perceived as more conservative than the average voter--and increasingly so--he is still closer to the average voter than is Obama. This belies the notion that Romney's conservative positions in the primary have damaged him in the general election. Romney's struggles up until his debate win were not about ideology.  And if this debate has a long-term effect on the race, it may not involve making voters see him as more moderate.  In fact, although Romney's embrace of conservatism has attracted more commentary, Obama's perceived liberalism could prove the bigger liability in November.

The key to governing is flexibility and the capacity to compromise, a willingness to accept some of what you want even if it means the other guys get some of what they want. The average voter may already be roughly as conservative as Mitt, but it has to be helpful for them to see him as someone who is not so ideological that he won't be able to govern..  

Posted by orrinj at 9:01 PM


Obama officials' spin on Benghazi attack mirrors Bin Laden raid untruths : In a familiar pattern, White House claims about what motivated the killing of the US ambassador in Libya are now contradicted (Glenn Greenwald, 10/11/12, guardian.co.uk)

The White House's initial statements about what happened, false though they turned out to be, forever shaped perceptions of that event. Many people are unwilling to change their minds even in the wake of new evidence, while many others hear only of the initial claims made when news coverage is at its peak and never become aware of subsequent corrections. Combine that with the generalized "Look Forward, Not Backward" mentality popularized by President Obama - as embodied by John Kerry's "shut up and move on" decree to those asking questions about what really happened in the Bin Laden raid - and those initial White House falsehoods did the trick.

We now see exactly the same pattern emerging with the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya and the killing of the US ambassador. For a full week now, administration officials have categorically insisted that the prime, if not only, cause of the attack was spontaneous anger over the anti-Muhammad film, The Innocence of Muslims.

Last week, White House spokesman Jay Carney insisted that "these protests, were in reaction to a video that had spread to the region." On Friday, he claimed:

"'This is a fairly volatile situation, and it is in response not to US policy, not to, obviously, the administration, not to the American people. It is in response to a video - a film - that we have judged to be reprehensive and disgusting. That in no way justifies any violent reaction to it. But this is not a case of protests directed at the United States, writ large, or at US policy. This is in response to a video that is offensive and - to Muslims.'"

On Sunday, UN ambassador Susan Rice, when asked about the impetus for the attack, said that "this began as, it was a spontaneous - not a premeditated - response to what had transpired in Cairo," and added: "In Cairo, as you know, a few hours earlier, there was a violent protest that was undertaken in reaction to this very offensive video that was disseminated." In other interviews, she insisted that the Benghazi violence was a "spontaneous" reaction to the film.

Predictably, and by design, most media accounts from the day after the Benghazi attack repeated the White House line as though it were fact, just as they did for the Bin Laden killing. Said NPR on 12 September: "The US ambassador to Libya and three other Americans were killed in an attack on the US consulate in Benghazi by protesters angry over a film that ridiculed Islam's Prophet Muhammad." The Daily Beast reported that the ambassador "died in a rocket attack on the embassy amid violent protests over a US-produced film deemed insulting to Islam." To date, numerous people believe - as though there were no dispute about it - that Muslims attacked the consulate and killed the US ambassador "because they were angry about a film".

As it turns out, this claim is almost certainly false. And now, a week later, even the US government is acknowledging that, as McClatchy reports this morning [my emphasis]:

"The Obama administration acknowledged for the first time Wednesday that last week's assault on the US consulate compound in Benghazi that left the US ambassador to Libya and three other Americans dead was a 'terrorist attack' apparently launched by local Islamic militants and foreigners linked to al-Qaida's leadership or regional allies.

"'I would say they were killed in the course of a terrorist attack,' said Matthew Olsen, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, told the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.

"It was the first time that a senior administration official had said the attack was not the result of a demonstration over an anti-Islam video that has been cited as the spark for protests in dozens of countries over the past week .'The picture that is emerging is one where a number of different individuals were involved,' Olsen said." [My emphasis]

Worse, it isn't as though there had been no evidence of more accurate information before Wednesday. To the contrary, most evidence from the start strongly suggested that the White House's claims - that this attack was motivated by anger over a film - were false. From McClatchy:

"The head of Libya's interim government, key US lawmakers and experts contend that the attack appeared long-planned, complex and well-coordinated, matching descriptions given to McClatchy last week by the consulate's landlord and a wounded security guard, who denied there was a protest at the time and said the attackers carried the banner of Ansar al-Shariah, an Islamist militia."

Indeed, Libya's president has spent the week publicly announcing that there is "no doubt" the attack was planned well in advance and had nothing to do with the video.

CBS News reported Thursday morning that there was no anti-video protest at all at the consulate. Witnesses insist, said CBS, "that there was never an anti-American protest outside of the consulate. Instead, they say, it came under planned attack." That, noted the network, "is in direct contradiction to the administration's account of the incident." The report concluded: "What's clear is that the public won't get a detailed account of what happened until after the election."

The Obama White House's interest in spreading this falsehood is multi-fold and obvious...
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Posted by orrinj at 5:16 AM

...ALL MEN...:

Faith and Freedom: Why Liberty Requires Christianity (Joseph Pearce, 10/05/12, Crisis)

One of the truths of Christendom which lays the very foundations of freedom is the Christian insistence on the mystical equality of all people in the eyes of God and the insistence on the dignity of the human person that follows logically, inexorably and inescapably from such an insistence. If everyone is equal in the eyes of God, it doesn't matter if people are black or white, healthy or sick, able-bodied or handicapped, or whether babies are inside the womb or out of it. It doesn't matter that people are different, in terms of race, age or innate abilities; they are all equal in the eyes of God, and therefore, of necessity, in the eyes of Man also. This is the priceless inheritance of Christendom with which our freedoms are established and maintained. If everyone is equal in the eyes of God and Man, everyone must also be equal in the eyes of the law.

If, however, the equality of man is denied, freedom is imperiled. The belief of Nietzsche, adopted by the Nazis, that humanity consists of übermenschen and untermenschen, the "over-men" and the "under-men," led to people being treated as subhuman, worthy of extermination and victims of genocide. The progressivist belief of Hegel, adopted by Marx and his legion of disciples, that a rationalist dialectic, mechanistically determined, governs the progress of humanity, led to the deterministic inhumanity of communism and the slaughter of those deemed to be enemies of "progress." The French Revolution, an earlier incarnation of atheistic progressivism and the progenitor of communism, had led to the invention of the guillotine as the efficient and effective instrument of the Great Terror and its rivers of blood. The gas chamber, the Gulag and the guillotine are the direct consequence of the failure to uphold the Christian concept of human equality and the freedom it enshrines. In our own time, the same failure to accept and uphold human equality has led to babies in the womb being declared subhuman, or untermenschen, without any protection in law from their being killed at the whim of their mothers.

Apart from the connection between freedom and equality, the other aspect of freedom enshrined by Christianity is the freedom of the will and the consequences attached to it. If we are free to act and are not merely slaves to instinct as the materialists claim, we have to accept that we are responsible for our choices and for their consequences.

Posted by orrinj at 5:03 AM


The Wrong Way to Help the Poor (GARY E. MacDOUGAL, October 10, 2012, NY Times)

[F]or now, let's use that $1 trillion figure to ask a broader question: Are we spending this money in truly the best way to help the poor?

Consider a thought experiment: Divide $1 trillion by 46 million and you get around $21,700 for each American in poverty, or nearly $87,000 for a family of four. That's almost four times the $23,050 per year federal poverty line for that family. It's intriguing to think about converting all of this to a cash payment that would instantly lift everyone in poverty up to the middle class.

For a variety of reasons, of course, that's not possible, either logistically or politically. But a middle path might resemble what Mr. Ryan has proposed for Medicaid -- converting the behemoth program to block grants for each state, an idea that in some ways parallels the successful welfare reform plan of the Clinton era.

Put a portion of that into their personal SS, HSA, unemployment, etc. accounts and then a chunk of cash. 
Posted by orrinj at 4:58 AM


Even After the Housing Bust, Americans Still Love the Suburbs (Jed Kolko, 10/10/12, New Geography)

Knowing that we couldn't use these Census data, we decided to tackle this question another way. Using U.S. Postal Service data on occupied addresses receiving mail, we calculated household growth in every ZIP code from September 2011 to September 2012. (A previous Trulia Trends post explains in more detail how these data are collected.) Consistent with earlier studies of city versus suburb growth, we compared the growth in a metro area's biggest city with the growth in the rest of the metropolitan area, across America's 50 largest metros.

By this measure, there was essentially no difference between city and suburban growth. When we looked at all 50 metros together, household growth was 0.536% in the metros' biggest cities and 0.546% in the rest of the metro area over the past year - which means that suburbs grew ever so slightly faster than big cities. The biggest city grew faster than the suburbs in 24 of those metros, including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami and Philadelphia; the suburbs grew faster than the biggest city in the other 26 metros, including Dallas, Houston, Atlanta, Detroit and Phoenix.

But comparing the biggest city with the rest of the metro area misses some of the action. In most metros, there are neighborhoods outside the biggest city that are more urban than some neighborhoods in the biggest city (as measured by density). For example, Hoboken NJ, just across the river from New York City, is denser and feels more urban than much of Staten Island, which is part of New York City. Central Square in Cambridge, next to Boston, feels more urban than West Roxbury and Hyde Park, two quiet neighborhoods within the City of Boston. In southern California, Santa Monica and Pasadena - which are outside the Los Angeles city boundary - feel more urban than Sylmar, Chatsworth and other outlying neighborhoods in the San Fernando Valley that are technically part of the City of Los Angeles.

Therefore, we took a new approach. We compared growth in neighborhoods based on whether they actually are more urban or suburban based on their density, regardless of whether those neighborhoods happen to be inside or outside the boundary of a metro area's biggest city. Within each metro area, we ranked every neighborhood - as defined by ZIP codes -- by household density. Neighborhoods with higher density than the metro area average are "more urban"; neighborhoods with lower density than the metro area average are "more suburban." (See "the fine print" at end of this post.)

By defining "urban" and "suburban" in this way, suburban growth is clearly outpacing urban growth. Growth in the "more suburban" neighborhoods was 0.73% in the past year, more than twice as high as in the "more urban" neighborhoods, where growth was just 0.35%. In fact, urban neighborhoods grew faster than suburban neighborhoods in only 5 of the 50 largest metros: Memphis, New York, Chicago, San Jose and Pittsburgh - and often by a really small margin. In the other 45 large metros, the suburbs grew faster than the more urban neighborhoods.

Posted by orrinj at 4:52 AM


Romney shifts to more moderate stances on taxes, immigration, health care, education (Karen Tumulty, October 10, 2012, Washington Post)

At a rally in Las Vegas, former president Bill Clinton mocked Romney's shifts, saying they were evident in last week's presidential debate, which was almost universally regarded as a win for the Republican.

"I had a different reaction to that first debate than a lot of people did," he said, laying it on with his buttery Arkansas drawl. "I thought: 'Wow, here's old moderate Mitt. Where ya been, boy? I miss you all these last two years.' "

Clinton added: "It was like one of these Bain Capital deals, you know, where he's the closer. So he shows up, doesn't really know much about the deal and says, 'Tell me what I'm supposed to say to close.' Now, the problem with this deal is the deal was made by severe-conservative Mitt."

Of course, a second-half pivot is a time-honored maneuver in the political playbook. In a primary campaign, a candidate must play to the passions of the base; as he moves toward the general election, the sensibilities of swing voters become paramount.

Romney aide Eric Fehrnstrom telegraphed as much in an instantly famous interview on CNN in March, when he said: "I think you hit a reset button for the fall campaign. Everything changes. It's almost like an Etch a Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and restart all over again."

But Romney did not begin making those moves until shortly before the first debate, when polls suggested that victory might be slipping out of his reach.

Obama's campaign strategists say they have suspected all along that Romney would try to dis­entangle himself from the more strident positions he has taken since starting his first presidential campaign in 2007. 

Voters love flip-floppers, because it means they aren't ideologues.

Posted by orrinj at 4:47 AM


Foreclosures fall to 5-year low (Les Christie, October 11, 2012, CNNMoney) 

The wave of foreclosures hitting the nation's housing market has been much less severe than anticipated, with foreclosure filings at their lowest level in five years last month, according to a report out Thursday.