The Koch Brothers and the Puppets They Control:
The Koch brothers for decades operated in the shadows of American public life while pumping hundreds of millions of dollars into front groups promoting what Sen. Bernie Sanders has called the “billionaire agenda.” Now Republicans are trying to silence Koch brother critics like Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. So what are the Republicans trying to hide? It’s not well known, but David Koch was the 1980 Libertarian Party candidate for vice president. He campaigned on a platform that called for abolishing taxes on the wealthy and profitable corporations, shutting down Medicare and Medicaid, repealing Social Security, putting the Postal Service out of business and doing away with the minimum wage. “They want to repeal every major piece of legislation over the past 80 years that protects the middle class, the elderly, the children, the sick and the most vulnerable in our country,” Bernie said. Once Americans know what the Koch brothers stand for, Sanders told Ed Schultz on Wednesday, they will stand up to them and to “the puppets that they control.”
We Don’t Really Do Public Health Surveillance in America: Why?
Corporations combined with gullible Americans who believe corporate propaganda about “Big Government”
Environmental reporter Dan Fagin joins us to discuss his book, “Toms River: A Story of Science and Salvation,” which has just won the Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction. Fagin tells the story of how a small New Jersey town fought back against industrial pollution and astronomical rates of childhood cancer, and ultimately won one of the largest legal settlements in U.S. history. “We don’t look for patterns, we don’t analyze those patterns. That is a terrible tragedy,” Fagin says of the failure to examine environmental and industrial data gathered by local, state and federal agencies. “People are dying because we do not do effective public health surveillance in this country.”
We are not the people; we are not even the cattle.
When 8-year-old Olivia McConnell proposed that her state, South Carolina, adopt a state fossil, she may not have expected her request to prompt a drawn-out fight with creationists in the state legislature.
In letters to her local representatives, Olivia asked that the woolly mammoth be made the official state fossil, because mammoth teeth dug up by slaves in a South Carolina swamp in 1725 were among the first vertebrate fossils discovered in North America.
Her senator, Kevin Johnson, told CBS News this week that he thought a bill honoring the request “would just fly through the House and through the Senate.” But the bill is currently languishing in the House, months after it was proposed in January, because some lawmakers with creationist beliefs have objected on religious grounds.
The original text of the bill simply read: “The woolly mammoth is designated as the official state fossil of South Carolina.”
In its most recent iteration, which was shot down in a vote on April 9, the bill had been amended to read as follows:
"The Columbian Mammoth, which was created on the Sixth Day with the other beasts of the field, is designated as the official State Fossil of South Carolina and must be officially referred to as the ‘Columbian Mammoth’, which was created on the Sixth Day with the other beasts of the field."
Olivia is determined to see her proposal enacted.
"Maybe it might not be until I’m 23 or 40," Olivia told CBS News. "If it doesn’t pass this year, I’m going to be back next year."
If South Carolina adopts a state fossil, it would join a majority of other U.S. states that have their own ancient emblems — many of which are far older than the Columbian mammoth, which went extinct some 12,500 years ago. The 150-million-year-old Stegosaurus represents Colorado; New York has Eurypterus Remipes, a 400-million-year-old extinct sea scorpion relative; and Triceratops, which roamed Earth 68 million years ago, is the mascot for South Dakota.
Interested readers can follow the progress of the bill on the South Carolina state legislature website.
One conclusion, is that Christians are proof that evolution can come to a dead stop for certain intraspecific groups genetically isolated from others of their species by their diminutive mental capacities and their propensity to pass this shortcoming on to their offspring. They will eventually die off and the world will be (finally) a better place to live in.
Justice Stevens’s Solution for ‘Giant Step in Wrong Direction’
Justice John Paul Stevens, who turned 94 on Sunday, is a mild man with an even temperament. He has a reverence for the Supreme Court, on which he served for almost 35 years until his retirement in 2010, and he is fond of his former colleagues.
But there was a hint of anger in some of his remarks when I went to see him last week in his Supreme Court chambers. He said the court had made a disastrous wrong turn in its recent string of campaign finance rulings.
“The voter is less important than the man who provides money to the candidate,” he said. “It’s really wrong.”
He talked about what he called a telling flaw in the opening sentence of last month’s big campaign finance ruling. He filled in some new details about the behind-the-scenes maneuvering that led to the Citizens United decision. And he called for a constitutional amendment to address what he said was the grave threat to American democracy caused by the torrent of money in politics.
The Supreme Scum Reigns
New findings clarify where and how the brain’s “slow waves” originate. These rhythmic signal pulses, which sweep through the brain during deep sleep at the rate of about one cycle per second, are assumed to play a role in processes such as consolidation of memory. For the first time, researchers have shown conclusively that slow waves start in the cerebral cortex, the part of the brain responsible for cognitive functions. They also found that such a wave can be set in motion by a tiny cluster of neurons.
“The brain is a rhythm machine, producing all kinds of rhythms all the time,” says Prof. Arthur Konnerth of the Technische Universitaet Muenchen (TUM). “These are clocks that help to keep many parts of the brain on the same page.” One such timekeeper produces the so-called slow waves of deep sleep, which are thought to be involved in transmuting fragments of a day’s experience and learning into lasting memory. They can be observed in very early stages of development, and they may be disrupted in diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
Previous studies, relying mainly on electrical measurements, have lacked the spatial resolution to map the initiation and propagation of slow waves precisely. But using light, Konnerth’s Munich-based team – in collaboration with researchers at Stanford and the University of Mainz – could both stimulate slow waves and observe them in unprecedented detail. One key result confirmed that the slow waves originate only in the cortex, ruling out other long-standing hypotheses. “The second major finding,” Konnerth says, “was that out of the billions of cells in the brain, it takes not more than a local cluster of fifty to one hundred neurons in a deep layer of the cortex, called layer 5, to make a wave that extends over the entire brain.”
New light on a fundamental neural mechanism
Despite considerable investigation of the brain’s slow waves, definitive answers about the underlying circuit mechanism have remained elusive. Where is the pacemaker for this rhythm? Where do the waves start, and where do they stop? This study – based on optical probing of intact brains of live mice under anesthesia – now provides the basis for a detailed, comprehensive view.
“We implemented an optogenetic approach combined with optical detection of neuronal activity to explore causal features of these slow oscillations, or Up-Down state transitions, that represent the dominating network rhythm in sleep,” explains Prof. Albrecht Stroh of the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz. Optogenetics is a novel technique that enabled the researchers to insert light-sensitive channels into specific kinds of neurons, to make them responsive to light stimulation. This allowed for selective and spatially defined stimulation of small numbers of cortical and thalamic neurons.
Access to the brain via optical fibers allowed for both microscopic recording and direct stimulation of neurons. Flashes of light near the mouse’s eyes were also used to stimulate neurons in the visual cortex. By recording the flux of calcium ions, a chemical signal that can serve as a more spatially precise readout of the electric activity, the researchers made the slow waves visible. They also correlated optical recordings with more conventional electrical measurements. As a result, it was possible to watch individual wave fronts spread – like ripples from a rock thrown into a quiet lake – first through the cortex and then through other brain structures.
A new picture begins to emerge: Not only is it possible for a tiny local cluster of neurons to initiate a slow wave that will spread far and wide, recruiting multiple regions of the brain into a single event – this appears to be typical. “In spontaneous conditions,” Konnerth says, “as it happens with you and me and everyone else every night in deep sleep, every part of the cortex can be an initiation site.” Furthermore, a surprisingly simple communication protocol can be seen in the slow wave rhythm. During each one-second cycle a single neuron cluster sends its signal and all others are silenced, as if they are taking turns bathing the brain in fragments of experience or learning, building blocks of memory. The researchers view these findings as a step toward a better understanding of learning and memory formation, a topic Konnerth’s group is investigating with funding from the European Research Council. They also are testing how the slow waves behave during disease.
The term “evolution” is commonly misused, often accidentally but sometimes with purpose, so it is also necessary to clarify what evolution is not.
Most importantly, evolution does not progress toward an ultimate or proximate goal (Gould 1989). Evolution is not “going somewhere”; it just describes changes in inherited traits over time. Occasionally, and perhaps inevitably, this change results in increases in biological complexity, but to interpret this as “progress” is to misunderstand the mechanism. For instance, that single-celled organisms eventually gave rise to multicellular organisms might appear to exemplify directed movement towards so-called “higher” life-forms. But as Gould (1996) and others point out, there is a left-hand wall to complexity; by definition, the simplest possible organism can only become more complex or stay the same. In this sense, evolution is a “drunkards walk” (Figure 1), wherein certain lineages inevitably attain unexplored novelty in form and function. By the same token, terms like “reverse evolution” and “devolution” are nonsensical; similar traits and gene sequences may recur at different moments in biological history, but this is still just evolution: change over time.
This dude has a sick skill!!
This rock balancing is done by Michael Grab. He is an artist and has killer patience. On his site gravityglue.com, Grab explains:
“The most fundamental element of balancing in a physical sense is finding some kind of ‘tripod’ for the rock to stand on. Every rock is covered in a variety of tiny to large indentations that can act as a tripod for the rock to stand upright, or in most orientations you can think of with other rocks. By paying close attention to the feeling of the rocks, you will start to feel even the smallest clicks as the notches of the rocks in contact are moving over one another. Parallel to the physical element of finding tripods, the most fundamental non-physical element is harder to explain through words. In a nutshell, I am referring to meditation, or finding a zero point or silence within yourself. Some balances can apply significant pressure on your mind and your patience. The challenge is overcoming any doubt that may arise.” Pretty sick, amiright?
I believe that every Floridian who is sick should be able to see a doctor. Every person should get the necessary care to stay healthy and alive. Sadly, not every Floridian can afford health care.
One of my constituents, Charlene Dill, could not afford it. Last month, at 32, Charlene died of heart disease, leaving her three young children behind.
This young mother didn’t have to die. Charlene could never get the care from one single visit to the emergency room that she needed to stay alive. And she won’t be the only one. One study estimates that approximately 1,158 to 2,221 Floridians will die each year as a result of Republicans’ stubborn refusal to expand Medicaid.
The rejection of Medicaid funding is only the latest instance of our GOP state legislators putting party politics ahead of what’s good for Florida. Their intractable opposition to the President has led them repeatedly to turn down federal aid with no strings attached - money that is urgently needed in central Florida.
In 2011, GOP lawmakers attempted to block $8.3 million in federal aid to allow the Osceola County Health Department to expand its community health centers. Why? Because they didn’t like Obamacare.
Lawmakers also turned down $2.1 million over a five-year period to help elderly and disabled nursing home patients regain independence and move back home - again, because they didn’t like Obamacare. (Ironically, the same legislators so morally opposed to accepting any money from Obamacare made an exception for $2.6 million in funding for “abstinence-only” sex education.)
Republican legislators argue that accepting funds from a bill that they opposed would be politically “inconsistent.” But what is more important, saving face or saving lives?
- Alan Grayson
GOP is SHIT
On the Menu?
One Day, While Observing the Diversity of Life…