Tag: The Breakfast Club

The Breakfast Club (Waist Deep in the Big Muddy)

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover  we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

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Breakfast Tune: Waist Deep in the Big Muddy (Featuring Tom Morello, Taj Mahal)

Today in History



Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon suffers a massive stroke; Louis Braille, inventor of the reading system for the blind, is born; Former pro wrestler Jesse Ventura is sworn in as the governor of Minnesota.

Breakfast News & Blogs Below

The Breakfast Club (Légion d’Honneur)

breakfast beers photo breakfastbeers.jpgSo Thomas Piketty has turned down the Légion d’Honneur.

Piketty’s snub

The Economist

Jan 2nd, 2015

With a popularity rating below 20%, France’s Socialist president, François Hollande, is no stranger to criticism. But the decision on January 1st by Thomas Piketty, a French economist and bestselling author of “Capital in the 21st Century“, to refuse the award of the Légion d’Honneur was a cruel snub. Close to the Socialist Party, Mr Piketty backed Mr Hollande for election in 2012. Now he says that his government “would do better to concentrate on reviving growth in France and Europe” rather than handing out honours.



(H)e has in the past voiced two broad criticisms of Mr Hollande, whose presidency he recently called a “disaster”.

First is Mr Hollande’s failure to press his case in the euro zone for less austerity and more pro-growth policies. During his election campaign, Mr Hollande promised to put an end to austerity in the currency area. In office, he then tried to rally a “club Med” group of Mediterranean euro-zone countries in an effort to force the hand of Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel. But it came to little, and Mr Hollande’s political weakness now is such that he has constantly been defeated by German intransigence.

Mr Piketty’s second criticism touches on Mr Hollande’s tax policy. For years the French economist has argued for a more progressive tax system, which would merge both income tax, currently paid by only half of French households, and the “contribution sociale généralisée“, a non-progressive social charge paid by all. This too was one of Mr Hollande’s campaign promises. Yet the president has shelved any plans to overhaul the tax structure, preferring instead simply to increase taxes on the middle-classes and the rich.

Paradoxically, the one measure brought in by Mr Hollande that Mr Piketty did approve of was a top income-tax rate of 75%. An advocate of a global wealth tax, Mr Piketty once said approvingly of this flagship campaign proposal that “lots of other countries will inevitably follow this route.” Instead, the French government quietly let the 75% tax die on December 31st 2014.

As it turns out he has a lot of company.

French economist Thomas Piketty turns down the Legion of Honor

By Martina Stewart, Washington Post

January 2 at 3:47 AM

In April, New York Times columnist and liberal economist Paul Krugman called the book “a bona fide phenomenon.” And Krugman observed that the book “demolishes that most cherished of conservative myths, the insistence that we’re living in a meritocracy in which great wealth is earned and deserved.”

The Legion of Honor is France’s “premier award,” according to the French Embassy in the United States. It was created by Napolean Bonaparte “to recognize eminent accomplishments of service to France.” It “is made up of three ranks – chevalier, officier, commandeur – and two high offices – grand officier and grand croix.” The Legion of Honor has an Order of Academic Palms that recognizes accomplishments in the areas of teaching, scholarship and research.



In turning down the award, Piketty was in good company. Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus, Georges Brassens and Pierre Curie all turned down the honor, as did Maurice Ravel, according to the New York Times.

Piketty’s animosity towards the award appears to stem in part from differences with the administration of French President Francois Hollande. “There is a degree of improvisation in Francois Hollande’s economic policy that is appalling,” he said in June, according to Reuters.

Which will bring us back to Doh, Doh, Doh, Doh and Maurice Ravel (these pieces are about Art Music, News is merely bait and pandering).

Now most United States audiences will recognize Ravel as the composer of Bolero which gentlemen of a certain age have been using to time their climaxes (anywhere between 10 and 20 minutes, depending on the enthusiasm of the conductor) without resorting to Baseball statistics, the homoeroticism of Throwball (’tis the season of accepting the casual butt slap, the between the legs center snap, the gang shower towel snap, and having your team mate stick their penis in your ear while shouting “YOU KNOW YOU WANT SOME OF THIS, MAN!”), or unfavorably comparing their current partner to Bo Derek or Marge Simpson.

Yes ladies, I know I’m no Gene Kelly either.  As my Sainted Aunty Mame said- that’s why they invented lights.

Surprisingly enough very little is known of Ravel’s romantic life which has led some to speculate he was an extremely closeted homosexual.  Considering that Cosmopolitan Europe in general and Paris in particular was amazingly tolerant, while I admit the possibility I have no difficulty at all accepting his own explanation, which was that he was married to his work.  This is the way I feel about things and one of the reasons I score so high on the Sherlock scale (though I’m a polymath and not a specialist) and don’t have problems working with women as colleagues or superiors.

Harry: What I’m saying is – and this is not a come-on in any way, shape or form – is that men and women can’t be friends because the sex part always gets in the way.

Sally: That’s not true. I have a number of men friends and there is no sex involved.

Harry: No you don’t.

Sally: Yes I do.

Harry: You only think you do.

Sally: You say I’m having sex with these men without my knowledge?

Harry: No, what I’m saying is they all WANT to have sex with you.

Sally: How do you know?

Harry: Because no man can be friends with a woman that he finds attractive. He always wants to have sex with her.

Sally: So, you’re saying that a man can be friends with a woman he finds unattractive?

Harry: No. You pretty much want to nail ’em too.

Have I mentioned Harry is a pretty big asshole?  I’m telling you without pervasive cultural brainwashing and Rom-Com (what’s so damn romantic about it anyway?) people like him would never, ever get laid which would go far in improving the gene pool.

So, was it good for you?

Back to the Cheese Shop-

What a senseless waste of human life.

If you think your companion an enthusiast of the Terpsichorean muse, take them dancing.  Dancing is all about sex.  It makes the mid-back and shoulder erogenous zones, the touch of the hand an electric zap, the scent of pheromones an exotic perfume.

Ballet on the other hand is an esoteric intellectual enterprise, a soulless display of Athleticsm and Art deliberately stylized to remove any icky feelings other than pity.  Feigning an appreciation for it is the preening of a peacock.  If you’re not staring at the company considering who can crush you with their thighs, you’re probably surreptitiously checking your iPhone for the latest scores and longing for the sweet release of Death.

My suggestion is that you close your eyes and tell your companion that you’re trying to appreciate the music (some of which is not so bad) and if you fall asleep pray that you don’t snore or drool on yourself too much.

Today’s case in point- Daphnis et Chloé.

Ravel called it a “symphonie choréographique” (choreographic symphony) and it was commissioned by Diaghilev, unlike most Ballets (and Operas) it has a happy ending.

The intervention of Pan is manifest. The old shepherd Lammon explains that, if Pan has saved Chloe, it is in memory of the nymph Syrinx, whom the god once loved. Daphnis and Chloe mime the tale of Pan and Syrinx. Chloe plays the young nymph wandering in the meadow. Daphnis as Pan appears and declares his love. The nymph rebuffs him. The god becomes more insistent. She disappears into the reeds. In despair, he picks several stalks to form a flute and plays a melancholy air. Chloe reappears and interprets in her dance the accents of the flute. The dance becomes more and more animated and, in a mad whirling, Chloe falls into Daphnis’s arms. Before the altar of the Nymphs, he pledges his love, offering two sheep. A group of girls enters dressed as bacchantes, shaking tambourines. Daphnis and Chloe embrace tenderly. A group of youths rushes onstage. There is joyful commotion.

A joyful commotion, what’s not to like?  Unless you’re an unlucky sheep of course.

I’m sure I’ve told you about grandfather’s old ram.

You see, Sile Hawkins was-no, it warn’t Sile Hawkins, after all-it was a galoot by the name of Filkins-I disremember his first name; but he was a stump-come into pra’r meeting drunk, one night, hooraying for Nixon, becuzhe thought it was a primary; and old deacon Ferguson up and scooted him through the window and he lit on old Miss Jefferson’s head, poor old filly. She was a good soul-had a glass eye and used to lend it to old Miss Wagner, that hadn’t any, to receive company in; it warn’t big enough, and when Miss Wagner warn’t noticing, it would get twisted around in the socket, and look up, maybe, or out to one side, and every which way, while t’other one was looking as straight ahead as a spyglass. Grown people didn’t mind it, but it most always made the children cry, it was so sort of scary. She tried packing it in raw cotton, but it wouldn’t work, somehow-the cotton would get loose and stick out and look so kind of awful that the children couldn’t stand it no way. She was always dropping it out, and turning up her old dead-light on the company empty, and making them oncomfortable, becuz she never could tell when it hopped out, being blind on that side, you see. So somebody would have to hunch her and say, ‘Your game eye has fetched loose, Miss Wagner dear’-and then all of them would have to sit and wait till she jammed it in again-wrong side before, as a general thing, and green as a bird’s egg, being a bashful cretur and easy sot back before company. But being wrong side before warn’t much difference, anyway, becuz her own eye was sky-blue and the glass one was yeller on the front side, so whichever way she turned it it didn’t match nohow.

Oh, yeah.  So here’s grandfather’s old ram Daphnis et Chloé in a 9 part playlist performed by the Royal Ballet.

Obligatories, News and Blogs below.

The Breakfast Club (Pure Science)

breakfast beers photo breakfastbeers.jpgYep.  Once again too damn lazy and busy with family/holiday stuff to come up with a clever topic.  It has also been a slow news week unless you like “Ten of … 2014” stories (I only include one of them).  As always I invite the study of Eddington’s Observation-

The law that entropy always increases holds, I think, the supreme position among the laws of Nature. If someone points out to you that your pet theory of the universe is in disagreement with Maxwell’s equations – then so much the worse for Maxwell’s equations. If it is found to be contradicted by observation – well, these experimentalists do bungle things sometimes. But if your theory is found to be against the second law of thermodynamics I can give you no hope; there is nothing for it but to collapse in deepest humiliation.

Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington, The Nature of the Physical World (1927)

NASA team hacks Opportunity to treat Mars rover’s amnesia

By Amina Khan, Los Angeles Times

12/31/14

The episodes of amnesia stem from faulty flash memory – the kind of memory in your digital camera that allows your pictures to stay saved even after your device is turned off.

But flash memory doesn’t last forever – and the seventh, final bank in the flash memory appears to be malfunctioning.

“Flash memory has a limited lifetime,” Callas said. “It only allows so many read-write cycles before it starts to wear out some of the cells. And after 11 years of operation on Mars, we now suspect we’re seeing a wear-out of some of those cells.”



That’s an annoying, but manageable, issue, Callas said. The second snag is that the flash memory issue also causes the rover to reboot – and when it reboots, it stops the long-term activities the team had planned for the rover and simply waits for further instructions on the ground. On weekends and over the holiday season, when people are out of the office, these unexpected hang-ups can put the team days behind schedule, Callas said.



The researchers do have a clever little fix, Callas added. They plan on modifying the software so that the rover thinks it only has six banks’ worth of flash memory – which should make it skip faulty bank No. 7, since that’s at the very end.



Opportunity was never meant to last this long, and it’s picked up a number of scars along the way. It’s been described as arthritic, with a gimpy elbow and a somewhat disabled front wheel, but that hasn’t kept the robot from logging roughly 26 miles on the Red Planet.

NASA Spacecraft Approaching Dwarf Planet Ceres

by Mike Wall, Space.com

December 30, 2014 07:00am ET

Dawn should enter orbit around Ceres – the largest object in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter – on March 6, 2015. When that happens, the spacecraft will become the first ever to orbit two different unexplored solar system bodies. (Dawn circled the protoplanet Vesta, the asteroid belt’s second-largest object, from July 2011 through September 2012.)



“Ceres is almost a complete mystery to us,” Dawn principal investigator Christopher Russell, of UCLA, said in a statement. “Ceres, unlike Vesta, has no meteorites linked to it to help reveal its secrets. All we can predict with confidence is that we will be surprised.”

While Ceres and Vesta reside in the same general neighborhood, they appear to be quite different from each other. For example, the 325-mile-wide (525 km) Vesta is thought to be a dry body, while Ceres possesses an icy mantle and might even harbor a subsurface ocean of liquid water. (Indeed, Ceres might be capable of supporting life as we know it, some researchers say.)

This difference may result from slightly different formation times. Scientists think Vesta came together a bit earlier than Ceres did, when radioactive material was more abundant in the solar system. Vesta’s interior therefore likely incorporated more radioactive stuff, which generated more heat and drove away more water, NASA officials said.

The $466 million Dawn mission does not rely on tradititional chemical thrusters but rather employs a super-efficient ion propulsion system, in which ionized xenon gas is accelerated out the back of the spacecraft to generate thrust.

“Orbiting both Vesta and Ceres would be truly impossible with conventional propulsion. Thanks to ion propulsion, we’re about to make history as the first spaceship ever to orbit two unexplored alien worlds,” Dawn chief engineer and mission director Marc Rayman, of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, said in the same statement.

Venus May Have Once Been Awash With CO2 Oceans

by Charles Q. Choi, SPACE.com

Dec 29, 2014 05:20 PM ET

Venus is often described as Earth’s twin planet because it is the world closest to Earth in size, mass, distance and chemical makeup. However, whereas Earth is a haven for life, Venusis typically described as hellish, with a crushing atmosphere and clouds of corrosive sulfuric acid floating over a rocky desert surface hot enough to melt lead.

Although Venus is currently unbearably hot and dry, it might have once had oceans like Earth. Prior research suggested that Venus possessed enough water in its atmosphere in the past to cover the entire planet in an ocean about 80 feet deep (25 meters) – if all that water could somehow fall down as rain. But the planet was probably too warm for such water to cool down and precipitate, even if the planet did have enough moisture.

Instead of seas of water, then, scientists now suggest that Venus might have once possessed bizarre oceans of carbon dioxide fluid.



Most familiar on Earth as a greenhouse gas that traps heat, helping warm the planet, carbon dioxide is exhaled by animals and used by plants in photosynthesis. While the substance can exist as a solid, liquid and gas, past a critical point of combined temperature and pressure, carbon dioxide can enter a “supercritical” state. Such a supercritical fluid can have properties of both liquids and gases. For example, it can dissolve materials like a liquid, but flow like a gas.



The atmospheric pressure on the surface of Venus is currently more than 90 times that of Earth, but in the early days of the planet, Venus’ surface pressure could have been dozens of times greater. This could have lasted over a relatively long time period of 100 million to 200 million years. Under such conditions, supercritical carbon dioxide with liquidlike behavior might have formed, Bolmatov said.

“This in turn makes it plausible that geological features on Venus like rift valleys, riverlike beds, and plains are the fingerprints of near-surface activity of liquidlike supercritical carbon dioxide,” Bolmatov told Space.com.

A Former Ground Zero Goes to Court Against the World’s Nuclear Arsenals

By MARLISE SIMONS, New York Times

DEC. 27, 2014

Tony de Brum was 9 years old in 1954 when he saw the sky light up and heard the terrifying rumbles of “Castle Bravo.” It was the most powerful of 67 nuclear tests detonated by the United States in the Marshall Islands, the remote Pacific atolls he calls home.

Six decades later, with Mr. de Brum now his country’s foreign minister, the memory of those thundering skies has driven him to a near-Quixotic venture: His tiny country is hauling the world’s eight declared nuclear powers and Israel before the International Court of Justice. He wants the court to order the start of long-promised talks for a convention to ban atomic arsenals, much like the treaties that already prohibit chemical, biological and other weapons of mass destruction.

Mr. de Brum says the initiative is not about seeking redress for the enduring contamination and the waves of illness and birth defects attributed to radiation. Rather, by turning to the world’s highest tribunal, a civil court that addresses disputes between nations, he wants to use his own land’s painful history to rekindle global concern about the nuclear arms race.



One of the key questions that the court’s 15-judge bench is likely to consider is whether modernizing existing arsenals amounts to a new arms race forbidden under existing agreements. The United States and Russia, which control most of the world’s nuclear weapons, have cut old stockpiles and agreed to further reductions under a 2010 bilateral accord. But both countries, along with China, are now engaged in major upgrading of their missile systems. Pakistan and India have been in an arms race for more than 15 years.

The court is also being asked to establish a new disarmament calendar. The Marshall Islands’ suit asks that the nuclear powers begin negotiations on a disarmament treaty one year after the court’s ruling. But, as John Burroughs, director of the New York-based Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy, noted: “There have never even been any multilateral negotiations to eliminate nuclear weapons since the 1968 nonproliferation treaty.”

Have A Private New Year

by: ek hornbeck, The Stars Hollow Gazette, DocuDharma

Wed Dec 31, 2014

One of the key components of a secure and private Internet connection is The Onion Relay Project, commonly known as Tor after its browser, a variation of the popular open source Firefox.

Recently the FBI announced that it had arrested 17 people and brought down over 400 sites including the infamous “Silk Road 2.0”.

Does that mean Tor is broken?  Not so much apparently.



Having used Tor on an experimental basis I’ll tell you the experience is very much like moving from 98 SE to XP 64 in that it’s mostly notable for the many things you used to do and programs that used to work that simply don’t anymore because they’re insecure.  Now this is either an insurmountable hardship for you or it isn’t.  I’ve found that as time progresses I have less and less use for my old stuff which I still have available anyway on my dusty machines that worked until I turned them off.

Nix That: 5 Top Retracted Science Papers of 2014

by Christopher Wanjek, Live Science

December 27, 2014 09:23am ET

A study published in 2013 in the journal PLOS ONE found that retractions are on the rise, although the researchers couldn’t determine why. The phenomenon may be due to a lower barrier to publishing; for example, so-called “predatory” online journals guarantee publication regardless of quality – for a price. But still, many recent retractions stem from fraudulent, rather than sloppy, science.



5. D’oh! The authors are cartoon characters



Alex Smolyanitsky of the National Institute of Standards and Technology was the one who actually penned the articles, and he did so to highlight the ease with which scientists can publish their research, for a fee, in predatory journals. These journals spam scientists and offer to publish their work, regardless of the quality, without legitimate peer review.

Smolyanitsky in fact wrote the paper with a random-text generator. The abstract, in its entirety, reads: “The Ethernet must work. In this paper, we confirm the improvement of e-commerce. WEKAU, our new methodology for forward-error correction, is the solution to all of these challenges.”

Earlier this year, the International Journal of Advanced Computer Technology accepted a paper submitted by an Australian computer scientist that was far easier to understand, titled “Get Me Off Your F… Mailing List.” The paper comprised this seven-word sentence, without the “… ,” printed over and over for 10 pages), complete with a flowchart and graph with the same message.

The “mailing list” paper has since been pulled. But the Aperito Journal of Nanoscience Technology still lists the paper by Simpson et al. as being in press, as of December 2014.



4. Windpipe surgery nothing but wind?



In November 2014, The New York Times reported that Macchiarini’s paper about these surgeries in the medical journal The Lancet is also being investigated. The complaint is that Macchiarini didn’t divulge any major complications the patients experienced in the five months following the surgery, yet according to the investigation, one patient (who ultimately died) required a stent to be placed in the artificial windpipe to keep it open.

The investigation is expected to be complete in January 2015. Macchiarini, who hails from Italy, is now performing his surgery in Krasnodar, Russia, and insists that accusations of fraud and malpractice are unfounded.



3. Coffee bean weight-loss study a little too green



Dr. Mehmet Oz thought green coffee extract was miraculous. Indeed, the celebrity doctor had no qualms promoting the weight-loss potion as “magic” on his afternoon television show in 2012.



But here’s what Oz said on his show back in 2012: “You may think magic is make-believe, but this little bean has scientists saying they found a magic weight-loss cure for every body type. … This is very exciting, and it’s breaking news.”

Yes, breaking news, as in published by paid researchers in an obscure journal and announced on an afternoon talk show. Fortunately for Oz, he hasn’t been embarrassed by other retractions concerning the dubious information he relays about weight loss, anti-aging and miracle cures. Then again, most of that stuff hasn’t been published.



2. Vaccines still don’t cause autism



With these new revelations, the anti-vaccine crowd once again thought they had proof that vaccines cause autism. But by the end of August, Translational Neurodegeneration removed the paper from its Web site, citing “serious concerns about the validity of its conclusions.” By October the journal retracted the paper in full, citing “undeclared competing interests on the part of the author” and “concerns about the validity of the methods and statistical analysis.”

In other words, the journal editors thought that whatever Thomson found wasn’t statistically valid and he may have had some kind of point to prove.

The incident may sound similar to the infamous article in The Lancet by Andrew Wakefield, which started the whole vaccines-causes-autism scare. But Wakefield’s paper, also now retracted, was found to be based on falsified data, not simply weak statistics.



1. The STAP that wouldn’t stop



But the highest-profile retraction in 2014 has been the dual studies published in January in Nature on a technique called STAP (stimulus-triggered acquisition of pluripotency), which is a proposed method for creating multipurpose stem cells from ordinary cells. Although lead scientist Haruko Obokata claimed it was a simple technique – placing mouse blood cells in a mildly acidic solution – no one could reproduce the work … not even Obokata herself.

One by one, the co-authors began to question Obokata’s lead as allegations rose about data manipulation. Nature retracted the papers in July, and the fallout has been intense. The institute where Obokata works, the prestigious RIKEN in Japan, was internationally disgraced. RIKEN deputy director and Nature co-author Yoshiki Sasai committed suicide. Obokata, meanwhile, continues to believe her method works, although she has been found guilty of research misconduct.

New Study May Add to Skepticism Among Security Experts That North Korea Was Behind Sony Hack

By Nicole Perlroth, The New York Times

December 24, 2014 5:17 pm

Fueling their suspicions is the fact that the government based its findings, in large part, on evidence that it will not release, citing the “need to protect sensitive sources and methods.” The government has never publicly acknowledged doing so, but the National Security Agency has begun a major effort to penetrate North Korean computer networks.



“Essentially, we are being left in a position where we are expected to just take agency promises at face value,” Marc Rogers, a security researcher at CloudFlare, the cloud security company, wrote in a post Wednesday. “In the current climate, that is a big ask.”



The simpler explanation is that it was an angry “insider,” Mr. Rogers wrote. “Combine that with the details of several layoffs that Sony was planning, and you don’t have to stretch the imagination too far to consider that a disgruntled Sony employee might be at the heart of it all.”



But without more proof, skeptics are unlikely to simply demur to F.B.I. claims. “In the post-Watergate post-Snowden world, the USG can no longer simply say ‘trust us’,” Paul Rosenzweig, the Department of Homeland Security’s former deputy assistant secretary for policy, wrote on the Lawfare blog Wednesday. “Not with the U.S. public and not with other countries. Though the skepticism may not be warranted, it is real.”

Pope Francis’s edict on climate change will anger deniers and US churches

John Vidal, The Guardian

Saturday 27 December 2014 16.06 EST

In 2015, the pope will issue a lengthy message on the subject to the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics, give an address to the UN general assembly and call a summit of the world’s main religions.



In recent months, the pope has argued for a radical new financial and economic system to avoid human inequality and ecological devastation. In October he told a meeting of Latin American and Asian landless peasants and other social movements: “An economic system centred on the god of money needs to plunder nature to sustain the frenetic rhythm of consumption that is inherent to it.

“The system continues unchanged, since what dominates are the dynamics of an economy and a finance that are lacking in ethics. It is no longer man who commands, but money. Cash commands.

“The monopolising of lands, deforestation, the appropriation of water, inadequate agro-toxics are some of the evils that tear man from the land of his birth. Climate change, the loss of biodiversity and deforestation are already showing their devastating effects in the great cataclysms we witness,” he said.



According to Neil Thorns, head of advocacy at Cafod, said: “The anticipation around Pope Francis’s forthcoming encyclical is unprecedented. We have seen thousands of our supporters commit to making sure their MPs know climate change is affecting the poorest communities.”



Dan Misleh, director of the Catholic climate covenant, said: “There will always be 5-10% of people who will take offence. They are very vocal and have political clout. This encyclical will threaten some people and bring joy to others. The arguments are around economics and science rather than morality.

“A papal encyclical is rare. It is among the highest levels of a pope’s authority. It will be 50 to 60 pages long; it’s a big deal. But there is a contingent of Catholics here who say he should not be getting involved in political issues, that he is outside his expertise.”

Francis will also be opposed by the powerful US evangelical movement, said Calvin Beisner, spokesman for the conservative Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation, which has declared the US environmental movement to be “un-biblical” and a false religion.

“The pope should back off,” he said. “The Catholic church is correct on the ethical principles but has been misled on the science. It follows that the policies the Vatican is promoting are incorrect. Our position reflects the views of millions of evangelical Christians in the US.”

NSA has VPNs in Vulcan death grip-no, really, that’s what they call it

by Sean Gallagher, Ars Technica

Dec 30 2014, 12:45pm EST

The National Security Agency’s Office of Target Pursuit (OTP) maintains a team of engineers dedicated to cracking the encrypted traffic of virtual private networks (VPNs) and has developed tools that could potentially uncloak the traffic in the majority of VPNs used to secure traffic passing over the Internet today, according to documents published this week by the German news magazine Der Speigel.



While some VPN technologies-specifically, those based on the Point-to-Point Protocol (PPTP)-have previously been identified as being vulnerable because of the way they exchange keys at the beginning of a VPN session, others have generally been assumed to be safer from scrutiny. But in 2010, the NSA had already developed tools to attack the most commonly used VPN encryption schemes: Secure Shell (SSH), Internet Protocol Security (IPSec), and Secure Socket Layer (SSL) encryption.



But for those that aren’t successfully cracked, the VPN Exploit Team’s presentation noted, the team works to “turn that frown upside down” by doing more data collection-trying to capture IPSec Internet Key Exchange (IKE) and Encapsulating Security Payload (ESP) traffic during VPN handshakes to help build better attacks. In cases where the keys just can’t be recovered, the VPN Exploit Team will “contact our friends for help”- gathering more information on the systems of interest from other data collection sites or doing an end-run by calling on Tailored Access Operations to “create access points” through exploits of one of the endpoints of the VPN connection.

Newly published NSA documents show agency could grab all Skype traffic

by Sean Gallagher, Ars Technica

Dec 30 2014, 11:38am EST

A National Security Agency document published this week by the German news magazine Der Spiegel from the trove provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden shows that the agency had full access to voice, video, text messaging, and file sharing from targeted individuals over Microsoft’s Skype service. The access, mandated by a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court warrant, was part of the NSA’s PRISM program and allowed “sustained Skype collection” in real time from specific users identified by their Skype user names.



The NSA was then able to “task” any Skype traffic that passed over networks it monitored or by exploitation of a targeted user’s system. “NSA receives Skype collection via prism when one of the peers is a (FISA Amendments Act Section 702) tasked target,” the Skype collection guide stated. Because Skype has no central servers, the guide explained, for multiparty calls, “Skype creates a mesh-network, where users are connected together through multiple peer-to-peer links. Instant Messages sent to this group of meshed participants can be routed through any participant.” If any participant in a chat was monitored, the NSA could capture all of the IM traffic in the shared chat.

Science Oriented Video!

This Day in History

TBC: Morning Musing 12.29.14

I have 3 things for you this morning!

First, from Bill Moyers:

Most Underreported Stories of 2014

Which stories didn’t get the attention they deserved in 2014? Below editors, journalists and friends of BillMoyers.com provide answers.

Jump!

TBC (What Did You Learn in School Today?)

Breakfast Tune:  What Did You Learn in School Today? – Pete Seeger, Tom Paxton



What did you learn in school today,

Dear little boy of mine?

What did you learn in school today,

Dear little boy of mine?

I learned that Washington never told a lie.

I learned that soldiers seldom die.

I learned that everybody’s free.

And that’s what the teacher said to me.

That’s what I learned in school today.

That’s what I learned in school.

What did you learn in school today,

Dear little boy of mine?

What did you learn in school today,

Dear little boy of mine?

I learned that policemen are my friends.

I learned that justice never ends.

I learned that murderers die for their crimes.

Even if we make a mistake sometimes.

That’s what I learned in school today.

That’s what I learned in school.

What did you learn in school today,

Dear little boy of mine?

What did you learn in school today,

Dear little boy of mine?

I learned our government must be strong.

It’s always right and never wrong.

Our leaders are the finest men.

And we elect them again and again.

That’s what I learned in school today.

That’s what I learned in school.

What did you learn in school today,

Dear little boy of mine?

What did you learn in school today,

Dear little boy of mine?

I learned that war is not so bad.

I learned of the great ones we have had.

We fought in Germany and in France.

And some day I might get my chance.

That’s what I learned in school today.

That’s what I learned in school.

Today in History

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover  we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

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Breakfast News & Blogs Below

The Breakfast Club (Contortionists, Freaks, and Circus Folk)

breakfast beers photo breakfastbeers.jpgBridgeport’s favorite son, Phineas T., is generally regarded as a fool, charlatan, and mountebank.  A hopped up midway barker skimming pennies from shill goaded rubes in transparent scams.

Well, yeah, he did that, but he wasn’t foolish at all.

He was the epitome of a Gilded Age entrepreneur, perhaps the first person to truly grasp the power of mass marketing and if we remember him today as a mere traveling showman we are underestimating the complexity of the task and the popularity of the medium before the rise of mechanical performance reproductions.

Before the phonograph and the movie there was only only live performance and if you travel in certain parts of the country you’ll find many wide spots in the road that sport an Opera House, Concert Hall, or Theater, mostly crumbling or re-purposed now but once thriving oases of culture.

Traveling companies produced plays and burlesques.  Visiting orchestras presented Art Music both Classic and Contemporary.  Famous authors (including one Samuel Clemens, a former Mississippi steam boat pilot who happened to settle in Hartford) would read selections from their books.

I’m going to stop here a moment and recall a particular performance.  At one reading Clemens stood to the lectern and plopped down a weighty and dusty tome with many clearly visible bookmarks and a sheaf of foolscap notes.  He opened the book, perused it, consulted his notes, perused the book again, shuffled the papers and made as if to speak…

And then shook his head and opened the book to another mark and repeated the act.

So it went for 45 minutes or an hour when with a flourish and great dignity he gathered his notes, closed the book and exited (probably stage right as that’s usually the one closest to the street door), without ever having said a word.  I’m not usually one for mime, but I think this probably the most brilliant comedy routine of the 19th Century.

I don’t reckon them times will ever come again. There never was a more bullier old ram than what he was. Grandfather fetched him from Illinois-got him of a man by the name of Yates-Bill Yates-maybe you might have heard of him; his father was a deacon-Baptist-and he was a rustler, too; a man had to get up ruther early to get the start of old Thankful Yates; it was him that put the Greens up to jining teams with my grandfather when he moved west. Seth Green was prob’ly the pick of the flock; he married a Wilkerson-Sarah Wilkerson-good cretur, she was-one of the likeliest heifers that was ever raised in old Stoddard, everybody said that knowed her. She could heft a bar’l of flour as easy as I can flirt a flapjack. And spin? Don’t mention it! Independent? Humph! When Sile Hawkins come a browsing around her, she let him know that for all his tin he couldn’t trot in harness alongside of her. You see, Sile Hawkins was-no, it warn’t Sile Hawkins, after all-it was a galoot by the name of Filkins-I disremember his first name; but he was a stump-come into pra’r meeting drunk, one night, hooraying for Nixon, becuz he thought it was a primary; and old deacon Ferguson up and scooted him through the window and he lit on old Miss Jefferson’s head, poor old filly. She was a good soul-had a glass eye and used to lend it to old Miss Wagner, that hadn’t any, to receive company in; it warn’t big enough, and when Miss Wagner warn’t noticing, it would get twisted around in the socket, and look up, maybe, or out to one side, and every which way, while t’ other one was looking as straight ahead as a spy-glass. Grown people didn’t mind it, but it most always made the children cry, it was so sort of scary. She tried packing it in raw cotton, but it wouldn’t work, somehow-the cotton would get loose and stick out and look so kind of awful that the children couldn’t stand it no way. She was always dropping it out, and turning up her old dead-light on the company empty, and making them oncomfortable, becuz she never could tell when it hopped out, being blind on that side, you see. So somebody would have to hunch her and say, “Your game eye has fetched loose, Miss Wagner dear”-and then all of them would have to sit and wait till she jammed it in again-wrong side before, as a general thing, and green as a bird’s egg, being a bashful cretur and easy sot back before company. But being wrong side before warn’t much difference, anyway; becuz her own eye was sky-blue and the glass one was yaller on the front side, so whichever way she turned it it didn’t match nohow. Old Miss Wagner was considerable on the borrow, she was. When she had a quilting, or Dorcas S’iety at her house she gen’ally borrowed Miss Higgins’s wooden leg to stump around on; it was considerable shorter than her other pin, but much she minded that. She said she couldn’t abide crutches when she had company, becuz they were so slow; said when she had company and things had to be done, she wanted to get up and hump herself. She was as bald as a jug, and so she used to borrow Miss Jacops’s wig-Miss Jacops was the coffin-peddler’s wife-a ratty old buzzard, he was, that used to go roosting around where people was sick, waiting for ’em; and there that old rip would sit all day, in the shade, on a coffin that he judged would fit the can’idate; and if it was a slow customer and kind of uncertain, he’d fetch his rations and a blanket along and sleep in the coffin nights. He was anchored out that way, in frosty weather, for about three weeks, once, before old Robbins’s place, waiting for him; and after that, for as much as two years, Jacops was not on speaking terms with the old man, on account of his disapp’inting him. He got one of his feet froze, and lost money, too, becuz old Robbins took a favorable turn and got well. The next time Robbins got sick, Jacops tried to make up with him, and varnished up the same old coffin and fetched it along; but old Robbins was too many for him; he had him in, and ‘peared to be powerful weak; he bought the coffin for ten dollars and Jacops was to pay it back and twenty-five more besides if Robbins didn’t like the coffin after he’d tried it. And then Robbins died, and at the funeral he bursted off the lid and riz up in his shroud and told the parson to let up on the performances, becuz he could not stand such a coffin as that. You see he had been in a trance once before, when he was young, and he took the chances on another, cal’lating that if he made the trip it was money in his pocket, and if he missed fire he couldn’t lose a cent. And by George he sued Jacops for the rhino and got jedgment; and he set up the coffin in his back parlor and said he ‘lowed to take his time, now. It was always an aggravation to Jacops, the way that miserable old thing acted. He moved back to Indiany pretty soon-went to Wellsville-Wellsville was the place the Hogadorns was from. Mighty fine family. Old Maryland stock. Old Squire Hogadorn could carry around more mixed licker, and cuss better than most any man I ever see. His second wife was the widder Billings-she that was Becky Martin; her dam was deacon Dunlap’s first wife. Her oldest child, Maria, married a missionary and died in grace-et up by the savages. They et him, too, poor feller-biled him. It warn’t the custom, so they say, but they explained to friends of his’n that went down there to bring away his things, that they’d tried missionaries every other way and never could get any good out of ’em-and so it annoyed all his relations to find out that that man’s life was fooled away just out of a dern’d experiment, so to speak. But mind you, there ain’t anything ever reely lost; everything that people can’t understand and don’t see the reason of does good if you only hold on and give it a fair shake; Prov’dence don’t fire no blank ca’tridges, boys. That there missionary’s substance, unbeknowns to himself, actu’ly converted every last one of them heathens that took a chance at the barbacue. Nothing ever fetched them but that. Don’t tell me it was an accident that he was biled. There ain’t no such a thing as an accident. When my uncle Lem was leaning up agin a scaffolding once, sick, or drunk, or suthin, an Irishman with a hod full of bricks fell on him out of the third story and broke the old man’s back in two places. People said it was an accident. Much accident there was about that. He didn’t know what he was there for, but he was there for a good object. If he hadn’t been there the Irishman would have been killed. Nobody can ever make me believe anything different from that. Uncle Lem’s dog was there. Why didn’t the Irishman fall on the dog? Becuz the dog would a seen him a coming and stood from under. That’s the reason the dog warn’t appinted. A dog can’t be depended on to carry out a special providence. Mark my words it was a put-up thing. Accidents don’t happen, boys. Uncle Lem’s dog-I wish you could a seen that dog. He was a reglar shepherd-or ruther he was part bull and part shepherd-splendid animal; belonged to parson Hagar before Uncle Lem got him. Parson Hagar belonged to the Western Reserve Hagars; prime family; his mother was a Watson; one of his sisters married a Wheeler; they settled in Morgan county, and he got nipped by the machinery in a carpet factory and went through in less than a quarter of a minute; his widder bought the piece of carpet that had his remains wove in, and people come a hundred mile to ‘tend the funeral. There was fourteen yards in the piece. She wouldn’t let them roll him up, but planted him just so-full length. The church was middling small where they preached the funeral, and they had to let one end of the coffin stick out of the window. They didn’t bury him-they planted one end, and let him stand up, same as a monument. And they nailed a sign on it and put-put on-put on it-sacred to-the m-e-m-o-r-y-of fourteen y-a-r-d-s-of three-ply-car--pet-containing all that was-m-o-r-t-a-l-of-of-W-i-l-l-i-a-m-W-h-e-”

Now consider the current nature of the music industry.  With a glut of digital material flooding the market (interestingly enough, CDs were introduced because the profit margins on Vinyl were deemed insufficent and so they introduced a new medium that was easily duplicated and virtually indestructible because they thought they could charge a premium) RIAA mega-corps are reduced to squeezing pennies from “pirates” (arrgh) and plotting and scheming to seize some of Google’s zillions in corrupt courts where they will simply be out-bid (an honest politician? one that stays bought).

Nope, the only way to actually make money, at least for the musician, is a live performance tour.

There are incredible logistics that go into producing that spectacle, the Gaffers and Grips, the Lighting and Sound, the Pyro Technicians, Caterers, Bookers, and Travel Agents.

P.T.’s Circus Train was an idea perfect for the time, and the Circus Parade as the Tents went up a master stroke of marketing.  Nor was it unique, indeed Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show was kind of the benchmark to which P.T. aspired.

The show business has all phases and grades of dignity, from the exhibition of a monkey to the exposition of that highest art in music or the drama which secures for the gifted artists a world-wide fame princes well might envy.- P. T. Barnum

It’s not that Phineas didn’t aspire to a more erudite audience.  After all he introduced Jenny Lind and bought and expanded the American Museum

Barnum opened his museum on January 1, 1842 to create a place where families could go for wholesome, affordable entertainment, but his success drew from the fact that he knew how to entice an audience. Its attractions made it a combination zoo, museum, lecture hall, wax museum, theater and freak show, that was, at the same time, a central site in the development of American popular culture. Barnum filled the American Museum with dioramas, panoramas, “cosmoramas,” scientific instruments, modern appliances, a flea circus, a loom run by a dog, the trunk of a tree under which Jesus’ disciples sat, a hat worn by Ulysses S. Grant, an oyster bar, a rifle range, waxworks, glass blowers, taxidermists, phrenologists, pretty-baby contests, Ned the learned seal, the Feejee Mermaid (a mummified monkey’s torso with a fish’s tail), midgets, Chang and Eng the Siamese twins, a menagerie of exotic animals that included beluga whales in an aquarium, giants, Grizzly Adams’s trained bears and performances ranging from magicians, ventriloquists and blackface minstrels to adaptations of biblical tales and “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.”

At its peak, the museum was open fifteen hours a day and had as many as 15,000 visitors a day. Some 38 million customers paid the 25 cents admission to attend the museum between 1841 and 1865. The total population of the United States in 1860 was under 32 million.

This way to the Egress

In some ways the circus has always been an egalitarian institution, in Roman times it was one of the few entertainments not segregated by sex and to those who claim Astley the founder of this particular entertainment, fancy horse tricks, freaks, and trained animal acts have an ancient lineage indeed.

Traveling troupes of Troubadores, Actors, and other performers were quite common in Medieval Europe.  Lenin wanted “the circus to become ‘the people’s art-form’, with facilities and status on a par with theatre, opera and ballet.”

Mel Brooks says-

If it wasn’t for Jews, fags, and gypsies, there would be no theater.

In European Circus there’s a little more attention to overall structure and narrative than mere displays of athleticsm and while the setting of Pétrouchka is supposedly a Shrovetide Fair the atmosphere conveyed by Michel Fokine and the Ballets Russes has a decidedly ‘circus-like’ feel from the Midway, Carousel, and Ferris Wheel, down to the dancing Bears (Bears!  Godless killing machines!).

Punch is not a sympathetic character, “Whatever his name, he is a trickster, a rebel, and a wife beater. He enforces moral justice with a slap stick, speaks in a high-pitched, squeaky voice, and argues with the devil. His plays were formulaic and subversive. They repeated key scenes from one play to another. The plays usually ended with a dog, a policeman, or the devil dragging him away.”

Pétrouchka lusts after the Ballerina and resents the Charlatan who is always pulling his (ahem) strings.  He interrupts the Ballerina seducing the Moor (women in theater being nothing but whores all too willing to have sex with brown people) who chases him and eventually splits open his head, showing the sawdust and rags with which it is filled (he’s a puppet after all).  The Charlatan exposes this to the audience who feel no empathy for the real performer and the ghost of Pétrouchka appears to thumb his nose from the roof at him.  The Charlatan flees with the angry (stage) audience in hot pursuit leaving you, the (real?) audience wondering-

And I paid $150 for that?  Not including dinner, drinks, and transit?  What was I thinking?

Of course if you’re in exile in Moscow like Snowden you can pay in devalued Rubles to watch the Bolshoi-

Today’s edition is offered strictly for entertainment value, post holiday ennui has left me, uninspired-

The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings.

Julius Caesar (I, ii, 140-141)

This Day in History

The Breakfast Club (The Truth Is Plain To See)

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover  we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

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This Day in History

A tsunami kills more than 200-thousand people is Southeast Asia; Six-year-old beauty queen JonBenet Ramsey is found beaten to death; Winston Churchill addresses joint session of Congress; Presidents Truman and Ford die. Singer Annie Lennox is born.

Breakfast Tunes

The Breakfast Club (Last ek’smas)

The law that entropy always increases holds, I think, the supreme position among the laws of Nature. If someone points out to you that your pet theory of the universe is in disagreement with Maxwell’s equations – then so much the worse for Maxwell’s equations. If it is found to be contradicted by observation – well, these experimentalists do bungle things sometimes. But if your theory is found to be against the second law of thermodynamics I can give you no hope; there is nothing for it but to collapse in deepest humiliation.

Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington, The Nature of the Physical World (1927)

Autistic Polymath.  Yup.  Astute readers can guess where my head is at.  No spoilers, but I know.

No news either, too depressing for ek’smas, just some sciency stuff (c’mon, that’s at least as good as timey whimey).

I am filling my TV with Mythbusters Marathon goodness.  Beats dealing with relative(aties).

That Old PlayStation Can Aid Science

By LAURA PARKER, The New York Times

DEC. 22, 2014

Making a supercomputer requires a large number of processors – standard desktops, laptops or the like – and a way to network them. Dr. Khanna picked the PlayStation 3 for its viability and cost, currently, $250 to $300 in stores. Unlike other game consoles, the PlayStation 3 allows users to install a preferred operating system, making it attractive to programmers and developers. (The latest model, the PlayStation 4, does not have this feature.)

“Gaming had grown into a huge market,” Dr. Khanna said. “There’s a huge push for performance, meaning you can buy low-cost, high-performance hardware very easily. I could go out and buy 100 PlayStation 3 consoles at my neighborhood Best Buy, if I wanted.”

That is just what Dr. Khanna did, though on a smaller scale. Because the National Science Foundation, which funds much of Dr. Khanna’s research, might not have viewed the bulk buying of video game consoles as a responsible use of grant money, he reached out to Sony Computer Entertainment America, the company behind the PlayStation 3. Sony donated four consoles to the experiment; Dr. Khanna’s university paid for eight more, and Dr. Khanna bought another four. He then installed the Linux operating system on all 16 consoles, plugged them into the Internet and booted up the supercomputer.



Dr. Khanna’s observations caught the attention of the Air Force Research Laboratory in Rome, N.Y., whose scientists were investigating PlayStation 3 processors. In 2010, the lab built its own PlayStation 3 supercomputer using 1,716 consoles to conduct radar image processing for urban surveillance. “Our PS3 supercomputer is capable of processing the complex computations required to create a detailed image of an entire city from radar data,” said Mark Barnell, the director of high performance computing at the Air Force Research Laboratory. The lab later entered into a cooperative research-and-development agreement with Dr. Khanna’s team, donating 176 PlayStation 3 consoles.

His team linked the consoles, housing them in a refrigerated shipping container designed to carry milk. The resulting supercomputer, Dr. Khanna said, had the computational power of nearly 3,000 laptop or desktop processors, and cost only $75,000 to make – about a tenth the cost of a comparable supercomputer made using traditional parts.

Dr. Khanna has since published two more papers on black hole collisions with results from simulations on the PlayStation 3 supercomputer. Later this year, another 220 consoles from the Air Force lab will arrive. While the plan is to use the consoles to perform more involved and accurate simulations of black hole systems, Dr. Khanna has invited colleagues from other departments to use the supercomputer for their own projects: An engineering team, for example, has signed on to conduct simulations that will help design better windmill blades and ocean wave energy converters, and the university’s math department would like to use the supercomputer as a tool to attract students into areas like computational math and science.

But the PlayStation 3 supercomputer isn’t suited to all scientific applications. Its biggest limitation is memory: The consoles have very little compared with traditional supercomputers, meaning they cannot handle large-scale calculations. One alternative is to switch to an even better processor, like PC graphics cards. These are also low-cost and extremely powerful – each card is the equivalent of 20 PlayStation 3 consoles in terms of performance.

Do Aliens Know It’s Christmas?

Dennis Overbye, The New York Times

DEC. 22, 2014

If your dog can go to heaven, can E. T.? Astronomers have discovered in the last two decades that there are probably tens of billions of potentially habitable planets in the Milky Way. Only last week, NASA scientists reported that Mars had blown a methane sigh into the face of the Curiosity rover, though whether from microbes or geochemical grumblings may not be known until there are geologists’ boots on the Red Planet.



This has engendered a sort of how-many-angels-can-dance-on-the-head-of-a-pin argument about whether Christ died for the entire cosmos, or whether the son of God or the metaphysical equivalent has to be born and die on every populated planet.

Each alternative sounds ridiculous on the face of it. The first alternative would make Earth the center of the universe again, not just in space but in time, carrying the hopes for the salvation of beings that lived and died millions or billions of years ago and far, far away.

The second alternative would be multiple incarnations, requiring every civilization to have its own redeemer – “its own adventure with God,” in the words of Professor Peters. That is hardly better. As the old troublemaker Thomas Paine wrote in “The Age of Reason,” “In this case, the person who is irreverently called the son of God, and sometimes God himself, would have nothing else to do than to travel from world to world, in an endless succession of deaths, with scarcely a momentary interval of life.”



In “The Star,” published in 1955, an expedition to the site of an old supernova explosion discovers the remains of an ancient civilization, carefully preserved because its members knew they were about to be obliterated. The story is told through the eyes of the astrophysicist onboard, a Jesuit. He is able to figure out exactly when the explosion that doomed this race took place, and exactly what it would have looked like 2,000 years ago from Earth.

“There can be no reasonable doubt,” he concludes, “the ancient mystery is solved at last. Yet, oh God, there were so many stars you could have used. What was the need to give these people to the fire, that the symbol of their passing might shine above Bethlehem?”

Restoring a Master’s Voice

George Johnson, The New York Times

DEC. 22, 2014

After reading about the case of Anna O., made famous by Sigmund Freud, Pavlov began contemplating neurosis in a dog. Freud believed that Anna’s condition – hysteria, it was called back then – arose from the stress of caring for her dying father. She was devastated by his plummeting health yet determined to repress her grief and maintain a cheerful face. The result of these opposing psychological forces, as Freud saw it, was a nervous breakdown.

Pavlov thought he recognized a similar phenomenon in a dog named Vampire. The animal had been trained, through salivation experiments, to react differently to two images: an ellipse and a circle. One shape would be reinforced, the other suppressed. As the ellipses were made increasingly rounder and less oval-like, the task grew harder until finally Vampire could not tell the two shapes apart.

And so the poor dog snapped. Originally calm by nature, he began yelping and running in circles, habitually barking for no apparent reason and drooling copiously. Like Anna O., he was caught between two impulses – excitation from the circle and inhibition from the ellipse.

As his theories developed, Pavlov proposed that behavior in dogs and in people could be explained through half a dozen such processes. But he was soon overwhelmed by the complications. Even dogs, he came to realize, had different personalities. Early on, he counted three “nervous types,” a number that later grew to more than 25.

“The time will come – and it will be such a wonderful moment – when everything becomes clear,” he wrote in a moment of anticipation. And yet, as his biographer notes, “the opposite proved true.” As his lab expanded, with more scientists, dogs and experiments, Pavlov was cursed by a proliferation of variables. “There are now before us many more questions than there were earlier,” he said. “We are surrounded – nay crushed – by a mass of details demanding explanation.”

Fuel Rods Are Removed From Damaged Fukushima Reactor

By MARTIN FACKLER, The New York Times

DEC. 20, 2014

Tokyo Electric Power Company, removed the last remaining fuel rods from the ruined No. 4 reactor building, putting the rods inside a large white container for transportation to another, undamaged storage pool elsewhere on the plant’s grounds. The company, known as Tepco, had put a high priority on removing the No. 4 unit’s some 1,500 fuel rods because they sat in a largely unprotected storage pool on an upper floor of the building, which had been gutted by a powerful hydrogen explosion during the March 2011 accident.



Tepco still faces the far more challenging task of removing the ruined fuel cores from the three reactors that melted down in the accident. These reactors were so damaged – and their levels of radioactivity remain so high – that removing their fuel is expected to take decades. Some experts have said it may not be possible at all, and have called instead for simply encasing those reactors in a sarcophagus of thick concrete.

The fuel cores from those three reactors, Nos. 1-3, are believed to have melted like wax as the uncooled reactors overheated, forming lumps on the bottom of the reactor vessels. Scientists have warned that the hot, molten uranium may have even melted through the metal containment vessels, possibly reaching the floor of the reactor buildings or even the earth beneath.

Ancient Stone Tool a Clue to Early Human Migrations

by Tia Ghose, Live Science

December 24, 2014 12:45pm ET

Archaeologists working in Turkey have unearthed a 1.2-million-year-old stone tool.



“This discovery is critical for establishing the timing and route of early human dispersal into Europe,” study author Danielle Schreve, an archaeologist at the Royal Holloway University of London, said in a statement. “Our research suggests that the flake is the earliest securely-dated artifact from Turkey ever recorded and was dropped on the floodplain by an early hominin well over a million years ago.”



Stone tools are some of the longest-lasting evidence of ancient human culture, and their workmanship can reveal much about the intelligence and lifestyle of human ancestors. The oldest stone tools are about 2.6 million years old, and the style of their workmanship is called Oldowan, after the Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania where they were found, according to the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. Later, about 1.7 million years ago, ancient hominins such as Homo erectus began making more sophisticated tools, such as hand axes, scrapers and flaked tools.

Google in tussle with state attorney general after Sony leaks

By Grant Gross, IDG News Service

Dec 23, 2014 7:48 PM PT

The recent data breach at Sony Pictures Entertainment has prompted a war of words between Google and the U.S movie industry, with the Internet giant accusing a state attorney general of collaborating with movie studios in a copyright enforcement campaign against it.



Google on Friday asked the court to throw out the subpoena, days after the company accused Hood of using Motion Picture Association of America lawyers to draft a letter accusing Google of profiting from online piracy and illegal drug sales.

The movie studios have long accused Google of not doing enough to stop online distribution of pirated films. The latest tiff started after emails released by Sony hackers showed the MPAA, Sony and five other large movie studios worked together to attack a company code-named Goliath, widely believed to be Google.

The multi-year campaign by the studios would “rebut Goliath’s public advocacy” and “amplify negative Goliath news,” the Verge reported in mid-December. The campaign included an effort to work with state attorneys general and major ISPs to control the flow of data online, the Verge reported.

News reports about the MPAA’s Goliath campaign prompted Google general counsel Kent Walker, in a blog post last Thursday, to accuse the MPAA and Hood of trying to revive the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act SOPA], the antipiracy bill killed in the Congress in early 2012 [after massive online protests.

FBI warned Year Ago of impending Malware Attacks-But Didn’t Share Info with Sony

By Jana Winter, The Intercept

12/24/14

Nearly one year before Sony was hacked, the FBI warned that U.S. companies were facing potentially crippling data destruction malware attacks, and predicted that such a hack could cause irreparable harm to a firm’s reputation, or even spell the end of the company entirely.  The FBI also detailed specific guidance for U.S. companies to follow to prepare and plan for such an attack.

But the FBI never sent Sony the report.



The FBI warning from December 2013 focuses on the same type of data destruction malware attack that Sony fell victim to nearly a year later.  The report questions whether industry was overly optimistic about recovering from such an attack and notes that some companies “wondered whether [a malware attack] could have a more significant destructive impact: the failure of the company.”

In fact, the 2013 report contains a nearly identical description of the attacks detailed in the recent FBI release. “The malware used deleted just enough data to make the machines unusable; the malware was specifically written for Korean targets, and checked for Korean antivirus products to disable,” the Dec. 2013 report said. “The malware attack on South Korean companies defaced the machine with a message from the ‘WhoIs Team.'”

Sony Hack Reveals That MPAA’s Big ‘$80 Million’ Settlement With Hotfile Was A Lie

by Mike Masnick, Tech Dirt

Wed, Dec 24th 2014 12:09pm

For years, we’ve pointed out that the giant “settlements” that the MPAA likes to announce with companies it declares illegal are little more than Hollywood-style fabrications. Cases are closed with big press releases throwing around huge settlement numbers, knowing full well that the sites in question don’t have anywhere near that kind of money available. At the end of 2013, it got two of these, with IsoHunt agreeing to ‘pay’ $110 million and Hotfile agreeing to ‘pay’ $80 million. In both cases, we noted that there was no chance that those sums would ever get paid. And now, thanks to the Sony hack, we at least know the details of the Hotfile settlement. TorrentFreak has been combing through the emails and found that the Hotfile settlement was really just for $4 million, and the $80 million was just a bogus number agreed to for the sake of a press release that the MPAA could use to intimidate others.



Still, is it any surprise that the industry famous both for its fictional “Hollywood Endings” and “Hollywood Accounting” where a hit movie like one of the Harry Potter films can bring in nearly a billion dollars, but still have a “loss” for accounting purposes, would create a made-up scenario in which everyone pretends many tens of millions of dollars are paid due to “infringement”?

Irony: Sony Turns To Google, The Company It Was Plotting Against, To Stream The Interview

by Mike Masnick, Tech Dirt

Wed, Dec 24th 2014 10:57am

To me, the biggest story to come out of the Sony Hack remains how the MPAA and the major studios were conspiring to attack Google by paying for state Attorneys General to drum up silly investigations of the company. Most everyone else in the press seems much more focused on the gossip and, of course, what happens to The Interview, the Seth Rogen/James Franco movie that some think was the reason for the hack in the first place (even if the evidence on that remains questionable). Either way, as you know, Sony briefly shelved the plans to release the movie (which has fairly dreadful reviews from those who have seen it), but then decided to allow a few independent theaters to show it, followed by the announcement this morning that it would stream the movie via YouTube.

There are lots of bizarre story lines related to this — including, apparently, Apple turning Sony down when approached with a similar deal for iTunes. Or the whole idea of how this might actually show the Hollywood studios the value of releasing movies online at the same time as in theaters (a message many have been trying to send Hollywood for ages, which Hollywood is quite resistant to). And, of course, there’s the whole story line about a giant company being bullied by a few stray threats about showing the film in theaters, which almost no one thinks were serious.

Still, the story that is most fascinating to me is tying this whole thing back to that original story, about “Project Goliath” and the plan to conspire to attack Google — and the fact that when Sony needed to find a place to stream the film, it turned to YouTube, a Google-owned company. Huh. Of course, this fits with the long history of the legacy entertainment industry lashing out and attacking the creators of the innovations that industry most needs. The recording industry attacked radio when it first came on the scene, though it eventually enabled the music industry to grow so big. Hollywood, famously, claimed the VCR was “the Boston Stranger” to the movie industry — yet four years after that statement was made, home video brought in more revenue for Hollywood than the box office. The RIAA sued one of the first MP3 players, yet digital music is a major, growing source of revenue these days. And, of course, Viacom engaged in a many years-long battled with YouTube.

How The CIA’s Torture Program Is Destroying The Key Foreign Power The US Had: The Moral High Ground

by Mike Masnick, Tech Dirt

Wed, Dec 24th 2014 7:39pm

Over a year ago, we wrote about a wonderful piece in Foreign Affairs by Henry Farrell and Martha Finnemore, noting that the real “danger” of the Snowden and Manning revelations was that it effectively killed off the US’s ability to use hypocrisy as a policy tool.



The argument that Farrell and Finnemore made was that the revelations that came about because of the whistleblowing by Snowden and Manning made it such that this hypocrisy didn’t function as well, because it made it much easier for others to simply call bullshit.

Now, a new article at Foreign Policy, by Kristin Lord, takes this argument even further, by looking at the CIA torture program and how it has totally undermined America’s “soft power” in diplomacy. Lord, thankfully, makes it quite clear that the problem here is the CIA’s program and not (as some have tried to argue) the release of the report about the program.



The basic stated values of the US are something worth spreading and perpetuating. But the only way you can legitimately do that is to admit when the country has strayed from those values, and that means a true and honest accounting of where things went wrong, along with a transparent and concrete plan for dealing with those failings and making sure they don’t happen again. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be happening, and many in power don’t seem to understand the damages this is doing to the US’s power around the globe.

Obligatories

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

I would never make fun of LaEscapee or blame PhilJD.  And I am highly organized.

This Day in History

Technology Oriented Video!

The Breakfast Club (Then One Foggy Christmas Eve)

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover  we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

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This Day in History

Apollo Eight astronauts orbit the moon; Ku Klux Klan is founded; Human voice first transmitted via radio; Suez Canal opened.

Breakfast Tunes

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

Convicted Felons Are Always Given Prominent Platforms In Our Media

Actually, that’s not true. Why is Bernie Kerik on my teevee? Especially when his crimes were, you know, related to his job from which he supposedly can bring his expertise.

I know the answer is “he’s Rudy’s buddy and the media loves Rudy.” But, um, why is Rudy on my teevee? He’s a horrible person.

Atrios

The Breakfast Club (With True Love and Brotherhood)

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover  we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

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This Day in History

The Christmas poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas” is first published; Former Japanese premier Hideki Tojo is executed; Mormon religion founder Joseph Smith, Jr. is born; North Korea releases the 82 U.S. Seamen.

Breakfast Tunes

TBC: Morning Musing 12.22.14

So, I have 2 articles for you this morning and then a quiz my sister and I put together last night!

First, a sliver of hope for justice:

A Startling Admission By The Ferguson Prosecutor Could Restart The Case Against Darren Wilson

In intentionally presenting false testimony to the grand jury, McCulloch may have committed a serious ethical breach. Under the Missouri Rules of Professional Conduct, lawyers are prohibited from offering “evidence that the lawyer knows to be false.”

McCulloch justified his actions by asserting that the grand jury gave no credence at all to McElroy’s testimony. But this is speculation. Under Missouri law, the grand jury deliberations are secret and McCulloch is not allowed to be present.

A Missouri lawmaker, Karla May, called Friday for a legislative investigation of McCulloch’s conduct. May said that there is evidence to suggest that McCulloch “manipulated the grand jury process from the beginning to ensure that Officer Wilson would not be indicted.”

Even before Friday’s interview, many legal experts were highly critical McCulloch’s use of the grand jury. Marjorie Cohn, a professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, said she believed McCulloch “did not want an indictment” of Darren Wilson and turned the grand jury process on its head, acting as an advocate for the defense.

Jump!

The Breakfast Club (Memphis Moon)

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover  we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

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Breakfast Tune: Mean Mary “Memphis Moon” (live session)

Today in History



Pilgrims land in Plymouth Massachuesttes; Pan Am flight 747 explodes over Lockerbie, Scotland; Apollo 8 lifts off on first manned mission to the Moon; Actress Jane Fonda is born. (Dec. 21)

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