vendredi 31 juillet 2015

Newest active fighter squadron, & where it's going

Yesterday, the United States Marine Corps officially declared "IOC" status (Initial Operational Capability) for the first squadron of F-35s, VFMA-121 (the Green Knights). That means not only that the plane's abilities are proven satisfactorily but also that the squadron has enough of them, the pilots and mechanics are trained and experienced enough at working with them, and their hangars are equipped to keep them running on an ongoing basis. So there are now three different kinds of armed stealth planes in the active inventory (although F-35s in other squadrons still continue testing & development). If the Green Knights were sent on a mission now, they'd fly that mission with F-35s; they have no other planes to do it with. (B-2s were actually sent on real missions against real targets before IOC, but F-22s appear to have gone about 8 years after IOC before they first faced an enemy, as least as far as the public has been aware.)

So, what's the next step in the plan for the first active F-35 squadron? Currently, it's in Arizona, but it's preparing to permanently relocate to Japan in a couple of years. That puts it right next door to China and Korea. F-22s have been there for several years (but possibly not continuously/permanently), and there have long been B-2s in Guam. Compare that to the Middle East, which only had F-22s assigned there in about the last year or so, has had no B-2s any closer than England in about a decade, and is not yet scheduled for any F-35s.

via International Skeptics Forum

Police-injury statistics

I'm just wondering whether anyone might be able to point me in the direction of information pertaining to the rates of injury or attack suffered BY police officers in the US vs other countries?

No political opinions or statements implied here.

via International Skeptics Forum

Is Virtual Reality Finally Going to be a Reality?

I just had a go on the Occulus virtual reality headset - in a couple of short 3D experiences where you are on a rollercoaster and on a fairground ride. Wow - it's pretty amazing - much more immersive than 3D cinema to the extent where it really starts to feel that this is "real". So, given that virtual reality headsets are finally here, what do people think about how this is going to develop in the next 10-20 years? On one extreme you could see it as game-changing as the internet itself - fully immersive digital realities of Sci-Fi proportions, on another extreme it could remain a nifty product with a few nice games and nothing more.

Any thoughts on this? Anyone else tried the headsets? What do you reckon?

via International Skeptics Forum

If you had to save your pet or a stranger, who would you save?

Not sure if this is the right topic thread for this, but it was the closest I could think of. I was listening to the radio and they were talking about Cecil the Lion, and the radiohost said that a lot of animal lovers would save their own pet over a human life it was a stranger.

I have two beagles that I love dearly, but if I knew that saving a stranger would mean that one of my beagles died, I'd save the stranger.

What say you?

via International Skeptics Forum

How The West Was Lost

Dambisa Moyo's book is about economics, specifically growth, and is adorned with brush strokes that paint a rising China (followed by the other three BRIC countries, Brazil, Russia, India) overtaking the west (or just the US) in size, clout, and several kinds of agenda-setting. Such prognostications are neither new nor scarce, and this reviewer never finds herself gripped with fear by them (as she often suspects she is supposed to be) and they fall into the uninteresting category. Likewise so does supposedly rousing end chapter about how this situation can be turned around. To be fair the author is a bit restrained at framing things as zero sum, but she seems rather focussed on the matter of who is "winning" as well.

Partly due to the above, your reviewer was not expecting she would write this up. But it turns out there is enough reason to do so anyway, as there was plenty in the first half of the text that struck her as worthy, outside of the matter about which the book's title speaks. This relates, again, to growth. As Moyo states early on, growth comes from the input of labour, capital (kit) and innovation/skills (normally jargonised as total factor productivity). And it is across this trinity that she generates her thesis: all three resources are being squandered, or misallocated in the west. More than they were and more than they should be. And waste (leaving gains on the table) is unambiguously bad in its own right, leaving aside global tournaments.

Capital first. Most of us have apparently forgotten the anatagonistic yet synergistic relation between debt and equity. Creditors don't want more of themselves, nor do they want volatility in an enterprise. Shareholders love volatility and more debt. Over-arching this conflict of objectives, both claimants do still want the business to do well. So far, so self-correcting. What's gone wrong? Too much demand for debt from households who are cognitively dissonant to the rights they give up/don't have (control, or use, feels a lot like ownership but it isn't). And too much supply of it from lenders happy to (and encouraged to by governments who themselves also lend big time) exploit the illusion that an asset position that looks bigger, is bigger (as long as they get repaid). The result is a systematic neutering of one side of a balance, and a binge of leverage. Worse, banks that manage to a fixed leverage ratio cause a situation where what goes up, is far more damaging when it comes (even a short way) back down; the round trip experience from a bubble is starkly net negative. Worse still, the bad kind of bubbles--"negative carry" ones in low or zero yield stuff--tend to be favoured now. Cash flow producing assets (even tech stocks) are less bad. (Moyo puts housing into the negative carry bucket, apparently because the yield is consumed)

What about labour? This is misallocated because of pension promises about the future which "make labour seem cheaper than it is" by delaying some of its cost. Moyo calls this mispriced optionality: employees consider it certain while firms, or governments anyway who don't subject themselves to international accounting standards, reflect its present value as though it will never happen. Yet such schemes are intergenerational and actually (pace Ms Moyo) whether funded or not, this time mismatch falls foul of trends in fertility and longevity, not to mention real interest rates, that have insidiously transferred benefits towards the baby-boom generation, and costs towards generation Y. In a second labour waste, remuneration attracted by superstars in non socially-productive disciplines (sports, high frequency trading) motivate too many to waste their human capital trying and failing to join these ranks, sacrificing the acquisition of transferable skills. Immigration is also unusefully opposed too much--kneecapping labour mobility is using it badly.

With productivity, Paul Krugman's "almost everything" (in the long run), the author alternates a bit between worrying how well the rest is doing, and observing legitimate shortcomings in the west. Popular voting devalues slow but large payoff things like infrastructure investment (China isn't hobbled by such tedium). Beyond this the west suffers leakage of too-high externalities to the rest in the arena of military spending and drug innovation (both of which Moyo characterises as a free rider problem) and patent theft. Whether any of the foregoing is a moral crusade or not, she points out that it costs lots of money, the other side of which is a massive freebie which hastens the ascent of the rest. This phenomenon is almost, but not quite, linked to American wages mostly rising slower than productivity has.

The foregoing, of course, stand as valuable (or otherwise) diagnoses of western plight regardless of competition for (or "threats to") economic hegemony, and your reviewer could have done without the latter. But she is grateful to have encountered Moyo's analysis and also would plug the author's novel seeming way of introducing much of it (which she probably can't transfer here). And in respect of winners and losers Moyo's last chapter does open with "in theory [ . . . ] the west should be happy about [ the lives of] hundreds of millions of people will be meaningfully improved.". Pretty much in practice, too.

via International Skeptics Forum

"Not Vaccines or Alternative to Vaccines"

It's a start:

Nosode homeopathic labels must read 'not vaccines or alternatives to vaccines:' Health Canada


Homeopathic products promoted to parents will need to be clear they are not vaccines or alternatives to vaccines, Health Canada says.

The department announced Friday it is introducing label changes for certain homeopathic products.

Nosodes are ultradiluted forms of diseased tissue, pus, blood, or excretions from a sick person or animal that some homeopaths and naturopaths sell, often in a pellet form.

The new statement for nosode products is required to be: "This product is neither a vaccine nor an alternative to vaccination. This product has not been proven to prevent infection. Health Canada does not recommend its use in children and advises that your child receive all routine vaccinations."

Health Canada said it will also no longer allow companies to make specific health claims on homeopathic products for cough, cold, and flu for children 12 and under, unless those claims are supported by scientific evidence.

via International Skeptics Forum

The Armadillo Ricochet Thread

a. Man shoots armadillo.
b. Bullet ricochets off armadillo and hits man in head.
c. Texas.

via International Skeptics Forum

You get called a Socialist, and you don't like it

Here's your chance to make an affirmative counter-argument. Just tell us what 'socialist' means to you, and why it doesn't apply to your social/economic/political views.

via International Skeptics Forum

Happy Birthday to you...

It appears that after raking in millions over the years, and casting a legal pall over celebrations, Warner Chappell do not hold the copyright for the song, Happy Birthday To You because the song is not copyright after all.

The copyright was registered in 1935, but a copy of a book published in 1922 has been found (after a photo of the book was seen in Warner Chappell's records) with the lyrics and no copyright notice.


Now with the help of Pitt Law and the University, the world’s most recognized song in the English language (according to the Guinness Book of World Records) may become free to the public. In a new filing in the case (PDF), the attorneys for the plaintiffs write, “[T]he documents prove conclusively that the song is in the public domain, thus making it unnecessary for the Court to decide the scope or validity of the disputed copyrights…”

via International Skeptics Forum

What would you have?

Objects throughout history.

For fun, my first pick would be the suit Neil Armstrong was wearing when he took one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind.

Get avaricious!

via International Skeptics Forum

Putin considers outlawing "gay emojis"

Because they're a threat to children:


The federal group responsible for patrolling Russian media wrote a letter to “Young Guard of United Russia,” the youth wing of the “United Russia” political party, requesting the group’s members investigate emojis posted to social media platforms. Gay emojis might violate the countrywide ban on “gay propaganda,” according to Roskomnadzor.

Roskomnadzor took issue with the gay emojis in particular, like the gay and lesbian same-sex couples and same-sex couples kissing, that Apple unveiled in April. (It’s not clear whether the eggplant emoji fits under the category of problem emoji for Russian officials touting “family values.”)

Gay emojis are part of “the spread on social media of untraditional sexual relations among minors” that “denies family values” and “forms disrespect for parents and other family members,” the statement from Deputy Head of Roskomnadzor, Maxim Ksenzov Mikhael Marchenko, said. This all falls under Russia’s federal legislation “on the protection of children from information that’s harmful to their health and development,” which Putin signed into law in 2013.
Oh my.

via International Skeptics Forum

MH370 was shot down over Diego Garcia!!!!

Or so CT loons say. Because they have SUCH a great track record! :rolleyes:


One of the most persistent conspiracy theories is that the Malaysia Airlines flight was taken towards Diego Garcia, a British territory in the middle of the Indian Ocean hosting a large US military base.

Some proponents claim it landed there, while others claim it was shot down as it neared because of fears of a terror attack.

via International Skeptics Forum

ISIS vids found on McCain's PC?

In a rather stunning note, CyberBerkut, a Ukrainian group of hackers, claims to have hacked John McCain’s laptop while he was in the Ukraine, and as Techworm reports, what they have released from his June visit appears to be a fully staged production of an ISIS execution video…

As Techworm reports, according to the hackers, they broke into the laptop of one of the American politicians, Senator McCain and after found a video with staged IS execution, which they decided to show to the world community.

via International Skeptics Forum

Did Australia really turn the boat around?

Did the Australian authorities really turn the refugee boat around?

via International Skeptics Forum

Progress on Ebola vaccine


"The credit goes to the Guinean government, the people living in the communities and our partners in this project. An effective vaccine will be another very important tool for both current and future Ebola outbreaks."

More research is needed, but the results so far on this trial show 100% efficacy.
This is amazing. Hope it actually works. I suppose it will be like the flu vaccine and require a new batch be made each year?


via International Skeptics Forum

Proof Jesus existed

Atheists don't necessarily say a Rabbi Named Jesus never existed what we say is that he wasn't supernaturalo. He never fed a multitude of people with a handful of bread and a few fishes and he never turned ordinary water into wine etc.

via International Skeptics Forum

Trump should build a giant MALL across the border

Not a wall. A wall serves one purpose, and that purpose generates no economic activity. It prevents economic activity, to the detriment of both nations.

What both nations need is a way to facilitate movement of goods, money and labor in both directions.

I envision a gigantic controlled entry membrane between nations. An indoor Rio Grande water park hundreds of miles long. Free entry from either direction, free exit back in the direction entered from. Clothing stores, car sales and rental offices, hair and nail salons, labor recruiting agencies, cambios, restaurants, apartment finders and real estate agents, health clinics, banks, phone stores, shoes stores, hotels. Law offices. Tax offices. Tutors for both English and Spanish.

This is what happens: people enter and get a wristband or something, like a roller coaster park. But this one has a data chip, and when you want to leave your wristband is scanned. If you came in from the south and want to exit back to the south, no delay. Same in the other direction. Want to exit on the opposite side from where you came in? Immigration checklists, tourist visas, drug and weapon checks are part of the membrane.

One reason illegal immigration seems cost effective is the cost and complexity of legal immigration. The most important people in the entire mall is the army of uniformed movement facilitators; trained, equipped, easily recognized, bilingual and capable of helping legal movement in either direction.

I know there are a million pissy little objections to a harebrained scheme like this but a nation capable of flinging cameras at every planet in the solar system should be capable of overcoming those.

And if Trump wants to get involved, great. He IS a real estate developer, and he is, allegedly, Really Really Rich. Let him put his dang name on the thing.

Just build it.

via International Skeptics Forum

Real or fake automotive news stories

As long as I was old enough to take any interest in the news, I remember car stories, some for sure were faked, but some I don't know...could be?

The Corvair story seems to have been quite ridiculous, especially with the swing axles of today

The exploding Pintos?

Exploding GM gas tanks in trucks?

Runaway Toyotas?

Flipping Jeep SJ's?

Anyone have good examples of flat out news hoaxes on cars?

via International Skeptics Forum

jeudi 30 juillet 2015

Doesn't like gay pride parades.


Israeli police say Shlissel, an Orthodox Jew, was released from prison three weeks ago after serving a 10-year prison sentence for stabbing and wounding three marchers at a Jerusalem gay pride parade in 2005.
I wonder if he got out for good behavior? His attacks are getting more effective now.


Of the six people stabbed Thursday, two were injured seriously, Israeli police spokeswoman Luba Samri said.
I wonder how long they'll keep him in this time?


via International Skeptics Forum

Unitarian Church?

Unitarianism is my best guess when it comes to religion. I think that God, at least in some very broad or general theistic sense, exists, that believers should form a community around this belief, and that they should set out teachings about God and morality. However, I have reservations before joining a UU church and their movement.

Christianity feels colorful, diverse, and inspiring both in its philosophies, history, culture, practices and cultures. The problem is that Jesus' miracles seem more like the ideas of a fringe charismatic movement than of real phenomena.

But UU churches feel bland and empty in contrast, their national culture being that of Reformed WASP anglo-Protestants and anglo New Agers. They seem like a mix between self help classes and support groups with services in the form of Reformed Protestantism but with the message of modern, non-academic psychology. I know that there is such a thing as Unitarian studies, beliefs, and theology, but in general it just seems bland with a mix of old heretical/unrealistic interpretations of Christianity (eg. the virgin birth was real but Jesus didn't claim to be God's pre-Creation Word), polytheism, and atheism.

The approximately 15 minute promotional video I saw just seemed to be people with opposing theologies saying that they love each other, approve of people having same-sex sexual relationships, and that their movement has had some involvement in liberal causes like the Red Cross, women's voting, and African American equality. That's good and nice, but it's still bland, and I don't want to elevate political liberalism to a religious belief system. Is there a better UU video available?

I would generally qualify as leftist, but there are issues on which I disagree with leftist politics. For example, I believe in an armed citizenry, but worry that there are powerful, activist forces in the government and among liberals that want to disarm us like Europeans have been disarmed.

Besides that, I've heard strange things about Unitarian churches, particularly that they have an excessive level of sexual activity between members. In the promotional video, adolescents said that they were being taught about sex. The YRUU (UU youth group) was disowned in 2008 because of scandals in this area.


I know the large gay contingency at my UU church has become a bit of a meat market (no pun intended)- not sure if straight people are hooking up. In a way it makes sense, as many at the UU are reacting to the repressiveness of Christianity- your odds of getting laid might be better in a UU church than in lets say a lutheran church. ~Tinfoil hater

is very attractive culturally and ideologically. I do think that their services have a major bland element due to their unprogrammed/spontaneous music-less, frequently silent worship. The second issue is that in terms of theology it is basically a soft, accepting version of Christianity. So Quakerism actually teaches Christianity, if you are serious about theology, but you don't actually have to accept it to join and be a member, depending on your Quaker sect. And really something similar can be said about mainstream Christianity too, except in the case of adult conversion. Thirdly, Quakerism requires you to accept Pacifism, and although I sympathize with it and find it reasonable, I think that there are probably cases where people should defend their country militarily.

The other two real options I see are to go to a mainstream church with an open mind and try to get things out of it like community and morality, which is what I think some people do, and just give up religious observance even though you believe in God, which is another common response.

via International Skeptics Forum

Genetical Modified Mosquitos

t’s an elegant approach to a health crisis the Genetically Modified Mosquito (officially called OX513A) is not like other mosquitoes. In fact, its like nothing else on earth—a winged creature, made by man, then released into the wild ...

... Eggs fertilized by the creatures hatch normally, but before the new mosquitoes can fly the fatal genes create a condition that kills them ...

I've done some reading on this and favour the program

Mosquitoes (there are over 3000 species) have been responsible for half the deaths in human history and they pose a greater risk, to a larger number of people today, than ever before.

Apparently we transport Mosquitoes around the world in used tires :( ... and areas that were once eradicated are now again flourishing with the deadly bugs.

Of course there's some risk messing with mother nature, but I think it's a worthy cause, the chance to improve the life of literally millions of people, without using pesticides.

via International Skeptics Forum

mercredi 29 juillet 2015

The Democrat’s Trump

“Donald Trump's rise isn't the most surprising revelation in presidential polls” -

The most surprising revelation in recent presidential polling is not that Donald Trump has low favorability in key states — a welcome indicator of national sanity — but rather that Hillary Clinton’s numbers are almost as bad.
Put another way: A vacuous, gaffe-prone, xenophobic, conspiracy-minded reality television star whose nomination, by most accounts, would destroy the GOP has about the same approval ratings in Colorado and Iowa as the prohibitive favourite for the Democratic nomination.
A recognition begins to dawn: Democrats may be coronating a wounded queen…
Ah, and you thought this was gonna be about Bernie, didn’t you?

Well, he was the only candidate of any party to actually have a positive favorability rating (higher positive favorability than negative favorability).

But this isn’t about Bernie, this is about why Democratic voters shouldn’t consider a primary candidate like Hillary, who has such high unfavorable ratings that they are unlikely to win in the national elections if she wins the primary nomination.

via International Skeptics Forum

Why Conservatives and Moderates might Prefer a Socialist President

Why Conservatives and Moderates might Prefer a Socialist President to returning Hillary to the White House: What are the chances that a Sander’s Administration could be productive with the existing congressional demographics?
I keep reading about the turnout makeup at Sander’s events. While the size of the crowds he attracts are impressive, this is magnified by national polling which suggests that nearly half the potential electorate still do not recognize or know anything about “Bernie Sanders.” Another interesting dynamic seems to be a fairly sizable group of self-identifying independents, conservatives, and moderates who are showing up, engaging, and generally coming away thoughtful and impressed with both Bernie and his policy proposals.
I’m sure that most who go to such events, are self-selected to get caught up in the atmosphere of political rallies and not hard-core policy wonks ideologically committed to antithetical policy positions. I’m not sure that all/any of these enthusiasm junkies will translate into votes for Sanders in 6+ months, yet alone 15+ months, from now. One difference between Sanders and the current White House occupant, is that Sanders has a three decade history of work and relationships in both houses of congress (He isn’t a noob, one term Senator). I read a recent piece in the National Journal: “Bernie Sanders Is a Loud, Stubborn Socialist. Republicans Like Him Anyway.” -

…Sanders is constantly ribbing Republicans in his trademark condescending Brooklyn-accented tone. He offers up legislation that's so far to the left that it couldn't get a vote even under Majority Leader Harry Reid. He's the curmudgeon in the Senate Democratic conference, rarely satisfied with how far his leadership will go to pursue progressive policies, and not afraid to vote 'nay' when his leaders come up short. And none of his Senate colleagues, on either side of the aisle, think he could ever be elected president of the United States; most of them even believe he shouldn't be.
But rather than earning the frustration and ire of his peers in the vein of other Senate hard-liners such as Sen. Ted Cruz, Sanders has managed to be respected—even liked—by much of the chamber, according to members on both sides of the aisle…
Sanders also has been able to work well with his colleagues. He's passed bipartisan legislation and forged strong relationships with members of both parties in nearly 25 years on Capitol Hill. But most of all, members say, even when Sanders is ideologically an outlier, he lets others know where he stands. He's not the type to suddenly stab a colleague in the back. And that's earned him respect both on and off the Hill…
Hillary, whether she actually deserves it or not, is perceived to be a hyper-partisan polarizing political figure. Sanders may be a socialist, but conservatives have been calling the last four presidents (two of them closeted) socialists anyway, so what big difference? is it that this socialist owns the label? Most people admire and respect such open-ness, because once we deal with the labels, then we can consider the properties and effects of such policies and whether or not they will likely produce the results we want them to produce.
This article reminds me, with lines like these:

…But even Republican members who balk at those ideological pushes say that when Sanders sees something that needs to get done, he's more than willing to do what it takes to get there…
Wicker added, of the final VA deal: "Obviously, he agreed to some things that in a vacuum would have been abhorrent to him—choice, going outside the system with a voucher. … And of course what Senator Sanders got in return was more VA facilities, which in and of itself [is] not a bad result for anybody."…
…"Clearly if you want to get anything done, you have to work with members of Congress and you have to work with members of both political parties," Sanders said. "I have done that and as president, I certainly would do that. But that's kind of what you have to do—no ifs, buts or maybes."
Asked about his personal relationships with other members, Sanders presented his typical gruffness. "Do I have a personal relationships? Well of course I do; I've known some of these people for 20, 30 years. So of course I do. … If the question is, do I have good friends who are in the United States Senate, then yes. I do."
…that Sanders may not just like to be able to work with and through congress, he actually might be able craft or influence legislation that might pass to law, rather than perpetuating the dysfunctional governance perceptions of most of the electorate.

via International Skeptics Forum

Concave Earth Documentary
This a half hour documentary on Ulysses Grant Morrow's Naples Experiment which was meant to show the existence of a concave earth...I have done a lot of debunking on this subject:
What do you guys think of this video?

via International Skeptics Forum

Comparing "Protocols of Zion" With "Dialogue in Hell"

Has anybody made a list of plagiarism between Dialog in hell and the Protocols?
I was inspired to ask this question by this article while investigating:
I don't believe in this article mostly because it is handwaving away the major comparisons made, but I hear that there was 176 passages copied for the Protocols. Was a list ever gathered?

via International Skeptics Forum

Media double standard

While I know black on white crime is exaggerated:
I also know it tends to get dismissed in mainstream media, which allows stories like this to be ignored:
Here a black man shot three white women on the grounds of 'white privilege' no major news network picked it up. Why? I mean I really shouldn't judge...

via International Skeptics Forum

The End of Annual PRs?

For more years than I can remember I have told employers that annual performance reviews are a complete waste of time and resources.

The idea is finally catching on, and is going to be helped enormously by Accenture throwing them out.

This is how it should be:


It will implement a more fluid system, in which employees receive timely feedback from their managers on an ongoing basis following assignments.

via International Skeptics Forum

Water Purification

I was at the swapmeet last weekend, and we walked past a guy shilling little bags of something that purifies your water, and -- according to him -- gets out way more than the small-batch charcoal filtration systems (like Britta or PUR).

I was kinda believing what he was saying until he said "And it thins the water out, so your body can use it better to clear out the toxins", at which point every one of my bs-detection systems went into hyperdrive.

According to the website (, it greatly increases the available magnesium oxide, which also works magic in the body.

But I wonder if everybody actually needs increased magnesium, and whether this is any better -- or worse -- than the other filtration systems available to us?


via International Skeptics Forum

Why are UFO's "paranormal"?

With the discovery of exoplanets, it would seem to be pretty plausible that there is advanced alien life in the galaxy. It is also within the realm of possibility that they could have made self-replicating probes to explore the galaxy, and we occasionally get a glimpse of one.

The probability of all that might be low, but I don't see how the existence of alien space craft (or probes) in our solar system is "para"-normal. It just seems to be pretty unlikely, when you consider the distances that have to be traveled. But "pretty unlikely" doesn't mean impossible, nor does it even mean "paranormal".

via International Skeptics Forum

Another cop murders a suspect

News conference on right now, because there was a body cam video, the prosecutor is indicting a University of Cincinnati police officer for murder for shooting a man in the head after a "chicken crap" traffic stop.

1:20 p.m. UPDATE: "He purposely killed him." Prosecutor Joe Deters about UC officer Ray Tensing in Sam DuBose's shooting death. "He should never have been a police officer."

Deters says his office reviewed hundreds of police shootings. "This is without question a murder," Deters said.
The news media censored the kill shot, I'll have to wait for the video to be available elsewhere.

And Mark O'Mara's there talking about racism causing these kind of police reactions. :rolleyes: Reminds me of the OJ defense attorneys going out of their way to counter their image they got a murderer off.

via International Skeptics Forum

Biological UFOs Could Produce White Laser Light

This amazing article reveals a new technology soon to change the world:

Is it reasonable to suggest that a biological entity could theoretical grow these same mismatched crystal structures and produce dazzling multicolored lights?

via International Skeptics Forum

U.S. House conservative files motion to oust Speaker Boehner

U.S. House conservative files motion to oust Speaker Boehner

Since the good Representative Boehner always has a way of rising to the occasion, it is quite unlikely that he will loose his job as Speaker of the House, however it is telling that at this stage of things what some of his fellow House Republicans are saying about him:


Meadows' motion said the Speaker has "caused the power of Congress to atrophy" through inaction and "uses the power of the office to punish members who vote according to their conscience instead of the will of the Speaker."


P.S.: Thanks in advance to 'Tricky' for once again letting me steal his Boehner joke. ;)

via International Skeptics Forum

52 year old Georgia man saws his penis off

A 52 year old Georgia man recently sawed his penis off so that he wouldn't go to Hell for masturbating.

via International Skeptics Forum

What is the deal with French protesters?

Why are the protesters not arrested by the police?

French farmers turn back trucks with foreign meat, cheese

I believe everyone has the right to protest, but that does not include the right to inconvenience other people who have a legal right to go about their business unimpeded. Instead the French government is trying to appease the protesters by offering them money. This is rule by mob. A photo shows them burning tires too. That causes pollution and is dangerous. It is probably a crime. Where are the police?


via International Skeptics Forum

Donald Trump's Painful Scalp Reduction Surgery


[In the 1993 book Lost Tycoon: The Many Lives of Donald J. Trump] by former Texas Monthly and Newsweek reporter Harry Hurt III, described a harrowing scene. After a painful scalp reduction surgery to remove a bald spot, Donald Trump confronted his then-wife, who had previously used the same plastic surgeon.

“Your *********** doctor has ruined me!” Trump cried.

What followed was a “violent assault,” according to Lost Tycoon.
And he still can't get the hair right.

via International Skeptics Forum

UK - Some car repair more expensive than others

In the latest non-story in the silly season, Auto Express has "discovered" that some garages are more expensive than others.

How can this even be news ?


The highest hourly rate for repair work was £240 at a garage in Surrey, according to research by Auto Express and Warrantywise.

The lowest rate was just £36 an hour at a garage in Birmingham.
No **** ? The rates for a (probably) franchised garage for an upmarket brand are several times those for a backstreet garage. Is anyone at all surprised by this ?

My local garage here in rural Wales charges £25 an hour (there is no V.A.T. they are not V.A.T. registered) but then again they don't provide a comfortable waiting area or courtesy car (although they will pick up/drop off locally) and they don't have an attractive and efficient receptionist to make your bookings and tell you when your car is ready.

Their staff are not kept up to date with the latest innovations (but then again they don't need to be in order to service the cars they encounter), they don't have all the latest workshop equipment.

via International Skeptics Forum

mardi 28 juillet 2015

Photos from TAM 13

I've posted several hundred photos from TAM 13 on Facebook (Public Access) here:

I encourage others with albums wherever to post links both here and on Lanyard.

via International Skeptics Forum

Light Clock Questions

In Einstein's light clock thought experiment it seems to me that the clock is conveniently aligned and positioned relative to the observer to offer theoretical proof of time dilation.

The theoretical proof “works” when the clock is conveniently set vertically relative to it's line of travel and it passes the observer at some distance.

But what if the clock was set horizontally relative to it's line of travel, or a vertically aligned clock was moving directly toward the observer?

via International Skeptics Forum

Woman kills possible serial killer.


The victim, who is being called "Heather" by investigators, fought back so hard, police in Charleston, West Virginia said, that her attacker -- who police now believe may be linked to other crimes -- lost control of his gun.

Heather grabbed the weapon and blindly fired it, killing 45-year-old Neal Falls in self-defense, police said.

Cooper said Falls had what police are calling a "kill kit," which included four sets of handcuffs, an ax, a machete, bulletproof vests, knives, a box cutter, a large container of bleach, and a large number of trash bags.

Police say it's unlikely this was the 45-year-old Falls' first violent crime.

The last person to see Falls alive said she knew her attacker had experience committing violence.

"I knew he was there to kill me," Heather told CNN affiliate WCSH, "I could tell he had already done something because he said he was going to prison for a long time."

Police said Falls also carried a list of about 10 women -- all escorts in West Virginia -- along with their ages and phone numbers. Those women are all alive and have not had any previous contact with Falls, Cooper said.
Good for her she fought back. One less killer on the loose.


via International Skeptics Forum

Can we trust research in education?

I've recently stumbled upon just how bad the academic field of education is doing, so the thread title is another example of Betteridge's law (and completely plagiarized from this blog). Still I was surprised that nary a post about this kind of influential pseudoscience could be found on these (formerly JREF) skeptics forum.

Is anyone around here interested in education research? Has anyone read Hattie's book? And, if so, could anyone explain to me how supposed academics who chastise teachers for not being scientific enough can perform "mega-analyses" without having the decency of consulting with a statistician? The abuse of Cohen's d as some sort of universal measure of effect regardless of the "intervention" and the response assessed is such insane pseudoscience I am truly baffled that it would be qualified as a Holy Grail of educational research.

Also, I should have been taught to write, clear, short sentences, but that is another matter...

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3rd term Obama v Trump

I was reading this article blog long-ish tweet, when the question occurred to me: If it were down to a third term for Obama or President Trump, who would GOP supporters vote for?

I'm honestly not sure whether or not the right's hatred of Obama would overshadow a clearly insane alternative.

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Cecil The Lion Killed

An American big game hunter has allegedly illegally killed one of the most loved lions in Africa, Cecil.

link to rueters article

We are expecting a statement from the hunter himself within the hour according to MSNBC.

Not a sick animal, not culling the herd, not feeding a village. Just killing a major tourist draw. Big man.

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One of Euler's knight's move squares

If I remember correctly, I asked this question years ago, but even if I did, I'll never find it now. Can anyone help to find the appropriate link to this particular Euler's square on the internet, please? I'm slowly trying to update my web site and I refer to this on the Interests page. Any help will be much appreciated.

18 63 16 33 50 31 48 1
35 14 19 62 3 46 51 30
64 17 34 15 32 49 2 47
13 36 61 20 45 4 29 52
60 21 40 9 56 25 44 5
37 12 57 24 41 8 53 28
22 59 10 39 26 55 6 43
11 38 23 58 7 42 27 54

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Question about the Late Heavy Bombardment.

Lots of rocks hitting Earth during this period, right? So, my question is would we have had a ring during this time? Temporary obviously, but would one have had a chance to form or were the mechanics against that?

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EM Drive still chugging on...

Did anyone notice this yesterday: German scientists confirm NASA results of propellantless 'impossible' EM drive.

One begins to wonder what is the error they are all making, or, if it's not an experimental error, how to account for this effect within the current framework...

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Is Separation Real? Is Objectivity Real?

Is separation real, or merely a story?


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UK - Now more difficult to disinherit

Here's a story making news at the moment. Her mother wanted to disinherit her but the latest ruling is that the estranged daughter will now receive 1/3 of the estate.

This could be important for Mrs Don and I. We have no children and want to leave the vast majority of our estate to charity. It is likely that our estate will be considerable and so it could make sense for our living relatives (probably nephews, nieces and their descendants) to challenge our will and deprive the charities of much needed funds.

My feeling is unless it can be shown that the deceased was not in their right mind and/or were coerced then I think wills should stand even if those people who feel they "ought" to have inherited haven't received what they thought they deserved. We've already had several threads of that type on this forum and I've seen exactly the same in Mrs Don's family.

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Rant thread about dogs

Please feel free to ignore this but I just sat through a conversation about someones dog going to their old owners grave and pineing. How this proves something supernatural.

I didn't have heart to tell her it is because dogs have a sense of smell about 10,000 times humans and a bit of dirt is nothing, because I didn't want to hurt her feelings.

Bit of an awkward convo' though

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RIP Ann Rule


SEATTLE — True-crime writer Ann Rule signed a contract to write a book about an unknown Seattle serial killer six months before he was identified as her co-worker Ted Bundy, who shared the night shift at Seattle’s Crisis Clinic.

The woman credited by her publisher with reinventing the previously male-dominated true crime genre by focusing on the victims has died at age 83.

Rule wrote more than 30 books, including “The Stranger Beside Me,” which profiled Bundy.

I read every book she ever wrote. All other true crime authors pale by comparison. If you disagree, please tell me who you would recommend.

via International Skeptics Forum

Child abuse - not just UK TV Stars

There have been a very large number of child sex allegations and convictions in the UK against TV and radio stars from the 70's and 80's.

Now it seems to be Australia's turn. Applying the term star very broadly, one of the stars of Prisoner Cell Block H has been accused.


Australian actress Maggie Kirkpatrick, who starred in 1980s soap Prisoner Cell Block H and later Home and Away, has been charged with child sex offences.

Ms Kirkpatrick, 74, denies two counts of indecent assault and one count of gross indecency with a person under 16.
The allegations are strenuously denied.

edited to add.....

So is this further evidence of prominent people abusing their position or is it instead a case of innocent celebrities being caught up in a trawling expedition ?

via International Skeptics Forum

lundi 27 juillet 2015

Moving to a new windows 8 computer and it sucks

If anyone can help with this I would appreciate it (I still can't believe how MS has screwed up the simplest and commonest functionality like email, not to mention navigation).

I use an email address from Bright House (Road runner) that uses POP3 and SMTP servers, which MS in their wisdom doesn't support and neither does the current version of outlook apparently, or rather it says it can't connect to my SMTP server even as it asks for my login.

Then there is no provision at all to migrate email to the new PC automatically and I have wasted hours already learning that I can't get from A to B.

Is there any simple solution to go from a Windows 7 to 8 for email when using another service provider?

I have tried web searches, and found nothing that makes sense.

via International Skeptics Forum

How much do you really know about the "Hot Coffee" case?

Long the poster child for "tort reform" (aka, the ability for corporations to use laws to limit their liability when they hurt someone), the "Hot Coffee" case (Liebeck v MdDonalds) is not the case the popular (and corporate controlled) media presented to us as the reason why damage awards should be capped and in some cases plaintiffs be excluded from seeking court relief.

Did you know:
  • At the time, McDonald's procedure specified a serving pot temperature of 180-190 F. Your home machine will serve your cup at 145-155 F. Premium coffee shops do serve hotter, with Starbucks at 170 or so. A cup of coffee at 190 F is 20-30 degrees or more hotter than what most would reasonably expect.
  • Liebeck sought to settle with McDonald's for $20,000 to cover her actual and anticipated expenses. Her past medical expenses were $10,500; her anticipated future medical expenses were approximately $2,500; and her loss of income was approximately $5,000 for a total of approximately $18,000. With this information, the company offered her $800.
  • McDonald's own documents that emerged in the case, from 1982 to 1992 McDonald's received over 700 formal written complaints from customers with scalded lips or tongues, mouth blisters, as well as spill induced burns very similar to those in the lawsuit. McDonald's took no action to address the complaints.
  • The woman suffered severe 3rd degree burns requiring skin grafting and surgeries. (even has a picture of the injuries, but don't open it at work or if you have a weak stomache)

"Tort reform" is a sham and a scam. Corporations just want to be able to hurt people with impunity (and immunity) by cutting corners and doing unsafe things.

Excellent documentary about the Liebeck case and "tort reform" in general:

via International Skeptics Forum

More Proof our Justice system is broken: KBR poisons troops, bullies them in court


n 2003, 300 National Guard members from Oregon got sent to Iraq to help Kellogg, Brown and Root (KBR) — a defense contractor with ties to then-Vice President Dick Cheney — repair the Qarmat Ali water treatment plant. There, KBR carelessly exposed them to hexavalent chromium, a dangerous chemical known for causing asthma, lung cancer, and other serious, life-threatening ailments.

When soldiers expressed concern, KBR told them they had “sand allergies.” When a trooper entered a room with torn bags of sodium dichromate — a yellow powder compound used to purify water — the folks from KBR assured him the noxious stuff that felt like “snorting pepper” was just a “mild irritant.” Within months, as Oregon Live reports, a rash of dire health issues forced a KBR safety manager to shut the plant down.
After winning an $85 million judgement against KBR in Oregon, the company struck back:


Alas, our veterans’ victory was short-lived. According to The Fifth Column, KBR challenged the ruling in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which reversed the decision. Why? The three-judge panel bizarrely cited a SCOTUS ruling on a totally unrelated case involving the 4th Amendment and illegal search and seizure to claim the state of Oregon has no jurisdiction over KBR.

That’s right. The judges from 9th Circuit Court of Appeals claim a state court and its jurors has no right to protect their citizens, demand a neglugrnt company pay for harming our veterans, or hold our nation’s giant, predatory corporations accountable for their abuses.
While the veterans were slogging through a new round of filings in Texas (good luck finding justice against a corporation in THAT state, btw), KBR decided to rub salt in and pour alcohol on the proverbial wound by launching a $850,000 counter-suit for legal fees.

And just to be complete and utter douche-bags about it:


KBR claims the U.S. government has to bail them out of this mess, because they have a secret indemnity agreement with the Pentagon! That’s right. The folks at KBR created this mess by being too cheap and sleazy to bother complying with laws requiring them to protect their workers from harm, and now they expect US to pay their **** legal fees and other costs. But guess what? We, the people, never signed up for this.
It just gets worse and worse.

via International Skeptics Forum

quantumphysics is supernatural

People are searching for 'the supernatural'.
Well, we already found it: quantumphysics.
It's behaving in a non-lawful way. Quantumphysics doesn't obey physical laws.
That's, in strictu sensu, the very definition of 'supernatural'.
Why do scientists not call it 'supernatural'. Because they don't like that terminology. It's contaminated with woo.
But the fact is: quantumparticles (or waves?) are behaving in such a way that we can label these processes as 'supernatural' or 'woo'.
Supernatural = it doesn't obey laws of nature. It's non-lawful.
quantumphysics is 'woo'...
Ergo: the supernatural exists.

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Worst purchase?

Name the worst electronics purchases you ever made.

One of mine is the Electro-Harmonix B9 organ simulator for guitars.

Cool sound, but it has a ghost tone that exists regardless of what you do with it. I tried three of them before giving up and subsequently finding that the company's QC is legendarily bad.

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UK - House of Lords Standards

Lord Sewel chairs the Standards and Privileges committee which is responsible for investigating breaches of standards. The Sun (a scurrilous tabloid) has published pictures of him snorting cocaine from a hooker's breasts.

Unsurprisingly there are calls for his departure (not least because he's been outspokenly critical of pretty much everyone for years).

I know it's a rhetorical question but why do people in power think that they can get away with this kind of thing without it coming to public attention ?

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Does Parfit's teletransporter thought accurately summarize personal identityovertime?

Do we know enough facts about the brain to get a pretty accurate answer if the self exist as the same person a second or even 4 years from now?

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dimanche 26 juillet 2015

Thread Title Mouse Over Text...

Can the time the pop-up displays be increased, please?
It currently stays up for 5 seconds... eezs not enough! :p

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My local paper printed this editorial about marijuana legalization...

I don't want to add my own comment at this point, I'd just ike to hear what some of your think of this editorial (from the paper's staff) about marijuana legalization.

If that link won't open for anyone, let me know and I will c&p the text.

via International Skeptics Forum

"Kafkatrapping"...knew it existed...didn't know what it was called

From the article:


Good causes sometimes have bad consequences. Blacks, women, and other historical out-groups were right to demand equality before the law and the full respect and liberties due to any member of our civilization; but the tactics they used to “raise consciousness” have sometimes veered into the creepy and pathological, borrowing the least sane features of religious evangelism.

One very notable pathology is a form of argument that, reduced to essence, runs like this: “Your refusal to acknowledge that you are guilty of {sin,racism,sexism, homophobia,oppression…} confirms that you are guilty of {sin,racism,sexism, homophobia,oppression…}.” I’ve been presented with enough instances of this recently that I’ve decided that it needs a name. I call this general style of argument “kafkatrapping”, and the above the Model A kafkatrap. In this essay, I will show that the kafkatrap is a form of argument that is so fallacious and manipulative that those subjected to it are entitled to reject it based entirely on the form of the argument, without reference to whatever particular sin or thoughtcrime is being alleged. I will also attempt to show that kafkatrapping is so self-destructive to the causes that employ it that change activists should root it out of their own speech and thoughts.
BOTH sides of the political spectrum use this, IMO, just on different issues.

via International Skeptics Forum

Would-be energy educator wants input, resources

Can someone point out Web or other resources that would give me a decent overview of energy? I'm a writer and teacher who at present is substituting. The local electricity utility is looking for energy educators. Though I would be giving scripted presentations I'd like to learn as much as I can about the methods, pluses and minuses of various fuels or renewable resources. I'm also interested in ways to optimize resources - using solar for what solar does best, for example - is that heating water, or harvesting rays with photovoltaic panels? How could a given community assess its needs and come up with a practical mix of ways to meet energy needs? I am mainly talking about electricity, but this overlaps to automobiles as they sometimes use the same fuels.

One thing I've always wondered: Could a car generate more energy than is harvested with the battery? If two batteries were hooked up would they both charge fully?

I don't have much of a tech background but I am used to studying various topics and effectively communicating about them.

via International Skeptics Forum

Millenials, the Internet, Occupy's failure, and the problem with the "New New Left"

This is a really interesting diary over at Kos. It's not specifically about Occupy, or Millenials per se though it uses them as its thesis bearer/examples.

I quote the following as particularly resonant (a few words will be *bleeped*):


Consider this: When you hear the term multi-tasking, how often is it spoken of glowingly, as an ideal goal to be sought with near-religious fervor, vs. being spoken of as the inherent compromise it actually is? Personally, I've never seen it referred to negatively, as something that was hindering the achievement of any desirable goal. And frankly, that fact makes me think that some amazingly effective cultural brainwashing has occurred. Everyone is brought to believe that "multi-tasking" means something akin to "two for the price of one" rather than being what it really is - 1.5 for the price of two, 2 for the price of 4, or 3 for the price of 9, etc. "We're going to force you to do so many things at once that you won't have the necessary attention or energy left to make effective plans, understand what you're doing, or make any sensible moral judgments about it."

It's the new form of making workers too tired to attend labor union meetings: Make them too distracted and intellectually occupied to form coherent subversive thoughts and effectively implement them into action.


So think about that fact in deciding the relative advantages and disadvantages the "New New Left" is going to bring to the table: Extremely vulnerable to electronic-mediated social conditioning and irrational memes that are aesthetically pleasing and self-vindicating to egos, less capable of compassionate restraint because of the abstraction of relationships, and permitted an ever-diminishing share of time and attention to devote to figuring out what is right and doing it rather than letting some tiny fraction of themselves make political decisions on pure impulse and social cues.

(And yes, I am aware that the Irony Factor of discussing the failures of social-media/Internet culture in an on-line forum is nose-bleed high...)

I'd expand on this by noting something the article doesn't. Another way that the Internet culture is being used by the elites to control our exposure to information and shape our perceived reality: news, particularly the concept of the "citizen-journalist" and the rise of Hyper-localism.

The corporate controlled Big Media interests are increasingly breaking up traditional media providers such as major national newspapers and seconding matters of reportage to everyday citizens who take a short clip with their cell-phones, upload it to You Tube then blog about it on their Facebook page. This devolution of responsibility to a large mass of mostly untrained, under-equipped and unsophisticated individual actors largely or entirely lacks the insider connections of their media forbears to access the "deep data" from inside power structures, the physical resources to travel wherever the search for information may take them, and/or the legal "clout" to fend off counter-attacks from the very persons whose wrongdoings they uncover.

With such reportage left to the sub-bush league, major media sources, particularly newspapers, are being encouraged to change their formats to super-emphasize the fluff and trivia of local news markets. This is euphemistically called "hyper-localism", and it results in "news reportage" that focuses on such vital issues of the day as the Little League schedule, the price of corn-on-the-cob at the Farmer's Market, and the high-school choir recital.

Trans Pacific Partnership is being negotiated in secret? What's that? Corporations still hiding $100s of billions in taxable income overseas? Who cares? There's gonna be a bingo game at the Legion hall on Friday...

Really good documentary about the devolution of news media: (Hours 3 and 4 are the most relevant)

This is something we all need to keep in mind as mass culture continues its descent into triviality and our attention is stretched out further and further by competition between the latest Kim Kardashian pics and what the frak ever the latest Hollywood social scandal might be...

Edited by Loss Leader:  Edited for Rule 4. Do not post long quotes from copyrighted and otherwise-available material.

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Free Will and Knowledge

1. If there's no free will, then one can't choose one's beliefs.

2. If one can't choose one's beliefs, then one has no control over what they believe.

3. One who has no control over what they believe cannot evaluate evidence, for to evaluate evidence is to choose to either believe (or not believe) in the veracity of the evidence.

4. People who cannot evaluate evidence cannot know if their beliefs reflect reality.

5. People who cannot know if their beliefs reflect reality are clueless.

6. Therefore, if there's no free will, we're all clueless. We just have to hope that what we believe corresponds to reality. In other words, it's pointless for a materialist to debate a theist, since neither has any control over what they believe- all both sides can simply do is hope that they're beliefs are right.

It may be that even without free will, our beliefs match a materialistic reality, because of evolutionary forces (e.g., incorrect beliefs about reality are more likely to be lethal beliefs), but our history is a history of wrong beliefs, from pantheism to Aristotelian physics, to geocentrism, to miasmic vapors, etc.

I don't see how a theory of knowledge works without the ability to evaluate evidence, which requires some kind of free will.

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Beer memories.

I worked in a grocery store when I was in high school. They sold beer, but only warm beer. You needed a liquor licence to sell cold beer. I remember coming in one day to find the assistant manager cussing a blue streak. He was trying to figure out how to add another row of beers to the current display without displacing any other merchandise. His comment floats to the surface once in a while.

"Why do we need another beer? We already have six!"

Just a few years later I'd be in Singapore sampling a dozen different beers in one night and laughing at poor old Phil's dilemma. :D

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can anesthesia be given to the brain temporarily to create a split brain patient?

If yes could you completely separate the 2 halves and apply anesthesia to the brain stem and some other connected areas intact.

Or would the brain stem cause you stop breathing? If yes could you give someone oxygen temporarily so they could breath to perform the test.

During the test I wonder if consciousness would feel unified or 2 separate halves.

Another question has there ever been anyone where the entire brain has been divided into 2 even more so than split brain patients?

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The Lord of Hypocrisy has been crowned.

Baron Sewell, member of House of Lords, and a Deputy Speaker, recently wrote:


Originally Posted by Hypocritical Old Git
All members now sign a declaration to obey the code and the seven principles of public life.

The requirement that members must always act on their personal honour has been reinforced.

He also said, somewhat more prophetically:

Scandals make good headlines

Which point he is now finding out to be true, with his boat-race splashed across the tabloids as they show footage of him naked, snorting coke with two hookers.

Lord Sewell FTW!

via International Skeptics Forum

Conn Dems Scrub Jackson/Jefferson From Fundraiser

"Democratic Party leaders in Connecticut have decided to distance themselves from Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson because of the two former presidents' ties to slavery.

In a unanimous vote on Wednesday, it was decided that the two will no longer be honored as part of the annual Jefferson Jackson Bailey fundraising dinner

My wife is offended by this. She feels that singling out Jefferson and Jackson for exclusion ignores all the other presidents who won office in obviously sexist disqualifying male-only elections.*

*sentiment borrowed from this article:

via International Skeptics Forum

Slot Machine Odds

So there's a three reel slot machine. It has 14 symbols on each reel. It pays out any time three symbols come up the same.

Anybody know the formula for calculating the odds of a win for a given play? And how would the odds change if the number of symbols per reel increased or decreased?

I googled, but most models I find assume that you have to get three particular symbols to win, rather than any three the same.

Thanks in advance...

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Saudi King Goes on Vacation in France with 1k large entourage


More than 100,000 people have signed a petition against the closure of a beach on the French Riviera to allow Saudi King Salman to holiday in private.
The petition insists the public beach in Vallauris should be "available for the benefit of all".

Authorities sealed off the beach early on Saturday to prevent any protesters from occupying it as King Salman was due to arrive in the area.

The Saudi monarch is expected to stay at his villa for three weeks.
He and his entourage of about 1,000 people arrived at Nice airport on Saturday on board two Saudi Arabian Airlines Boeing 747s.

The king's inner circle is staying at the villa - between Antibes and Marseille - while about 700 others will stay at hotels in Cannes.

Thank god the French are showing such hospitality to the ruler of a country renowned worldwide for its complete and utter disregard for those precious and inalienable human rights and the laws of war.

Presumably they would have no problem with allowing Bashar Al Assad to vacation there as well? Considering that the Saudis seem intent on outdoing the Syrians in wanton destruction of civilian infrastructure and housing while waging their war in Yemen I'm sure they would make a lovely couple.

via International Skeptics Forum

California is doomed

This is crazy stuff. To explain, I recently listened to an episode of one of my favorite podcasts, Planet Money from NPR and this one is about the drought in California and what's happening in places like Porterville, which is south of Fresno in the Central valley. People there got their water from wells, but the wells are drying up. People who used to get their water from wells literally cannot get water out or their taps. And meanwhile you have these pistachio farmers who are digging deeper and deeper wells, and what's more they're planting more pistachio trees in the middle of an epic drought. Because that's what's most profitable. It's all going to end in disaster but they are hurtling toward that disaster with the accelerator pedal floored. All for the almighty dollar they are going to turn it into a Mad Max wasteland.

Maybe you think I'm being hyperbolic, but they say that the aquifer there is dropping by 10 feet a week right now. Where wells used to be 100 feet deep they are now drilling them 1000s of feet. It's a race to see who can dig deepest to get the last bit of water out of the aquifer so they can make more money selling pistachio nuts.

Anyway, you can listen to it or read the transcript.

If you want to listen to it then don't read any further until you are finished. It's a good listen.



The drought in California has made life inconvenient for a lot of people there in a lot of ways. You hear about people not being able to wash their cars and the brown lawns, people taking slightly shorter showers, sure. But there are places where people's taps, where they get their water, are actually running dry, where you go to the faucet, turn it on and nothing comes out.


And that is happening in a city called Porterville, Calif. It's about an hour south of Fresno. They used to get their water from wells, wells that supplied their homes. And the wells aren't deep enough to reach the water anymore, and their taps actually went dry. They have no water in their house.

SMITH: So what do they do? How do they get water just to live their daily lives?

VANEK SMITH: The city has set up these kind of temporary facilities - portable showers and sinks. I went and visited one. It was in the parking lot of a church. And they kind of look like an airplane bathroom. They had little benches and showerheads and a curtain. And out in the blazing hot afternoon sun were rows of sinks with mirrors. And people come there in the morning and shave before work. It was really grim. And while I was walking around, a car pulled up and Karen Hendrickson rolled her window down.

So what were you hoping to get today?

KAREN HENDRICKSON: Water, today, for our house - the drinking water - 'cause our well is dry, so we come here for support on drinking water.

VANEK SMITH: How long ago did your well go dry?

HENDRICKSON: It's been a year already.
. . .


SMITH: The thing that's heartbreaking about all of this is that there is actually water still left in the valley. There is water literally below Karen's home. There's a giant aquifer, and Karen used to tap into it with her well. But the level is getting lower and lower and lower, so she and her neighbors can't reach it anymore. It's like this race to get the water. Karen and the people here lost out on the race.

VANEK SMITH: But there are people still getting this water, people who are still in this race. Not that far away from Karen's house, you see it - acres and acres of lush farmland, corn, cotton, tomatoes, pistachio trees, walnuts, almonds. This is where Karen's water went. Hello, and welcome to PLANET MONEY. I'm Stacey Vanek Smith.

SMITH: And I'm Robert Smith. Today on the show - the screwed-up economics of drought, why the most lucrative thing you can do right now in California is to use more and more and more of the scarce resource, water.

VANEK SMITH: Grow more almonds, grow more pistachios and beat out your competitors to the sweet, sweet water at the bottom of the well.
. . .


VANEK SMITH: Mark Watte farms 3,000 acres in California's Central Valley. And Mark is a very energetic guy, super organized. He likes to tape lists to the steering wheel of his truck.

So is that a to-do list on your steering wheel?

MARK WATTE: It is. It is. Yeah, it certainly is.

VANEK SMITH: We're in Mark's truck, and we're driving across his farm. His fields stretch as far as the eye can see, these beautiful black-eyed peas and corn and pistachio trees, and it's incredibly lush and green. And the reason for this is that Mark's farm sits on top of that aquifer, the same aquifer that Karen's house well used to tap.

SMITH: Except he's better at getting to the water.

VANEK SMITH: He is better at getting to the water. But it's getting harder and harder, even for Mark. The level of the aquifer has been dropping really fast. It's been dropping 10 feet a week.

SMITH: Which is amazing - 10 feet a week.

VANEK SMITH: Ten feet a week. In fact, half of the wells on his 3,000 acres have dried up. He shows me one.
. . .


VANEK SMITH: Mark is deepening wells as fast as he can, and he's also putting in new wells. He's put in eight at a cost of around $2 million. And the reason for this is all around us - pistachio trees. There are little baby ones he's just planted. They're, like, up to your hip, tied to these little stakes. And there are bigger ones in the next field with big clusters of pistachios almost ready to pick.

These are the pistachios?

WATTE: Yep. Yeah, they are. There you can see it's about half developed.

VANEK SMITH: It's so green.

These little pistachios are very thirsty. It takes almost a gallon of water to grow one pistachio and a gallon of water to grow an almond. Nut trees are some of the thirstiest crops around. And yet, here we are in the middle of a drought and Mark is planting pistachio trees as fast as he can.

Why are you planting so many new trees right now?

WATTE: We just think it's - financially, it's the right decision to make. Once they get up into production, we hope to make good money.

VANEK SMITH: So they're - are they pretty profitable, pistachios?

WATTE: Extremely profitable today. I mean, wildly profitable.



VANEK SMITH: Actually, 10 times more profitable than most other crops. For pistachios, Mark can make $10,000 an acre, for most other crops, $1,000 an acre.

SMITH: The reason for this is both supply and demand. The demand part is that people are eating more nuts. People in China and India are discovering them, and so there's a much bigger market for nuts. But the supply side is also important. The reason why they can make so much money off of these crops is because of the drought. The drought has made pistachios and almonds harder to grow - rarer. And as a result, the price has naturally shot up.

VANEK SMITH: So everyone is planting them. And when you drive through California's Central Valley, it's striking. All of the fields are these new trees. Farmers are ripping out their old crops and putting in nut trees.

SMITH: And they've become so profitable, you hear these stories about hedge funds and big banks buying California farmland and planting almond and pistachio trees because hedge funds and banks have plenty of cash upfront to drill these really deep wells, tap the aquifer, get the water first. And the payoff for them could be huge.
So the nuts are very profitable to grow, but the trees are very thirsty. So profitable that farmers are planting more trees even though they are fast running out of water. And spending millions to dig deeper and deeper wells. It just seems nuts to me (no pun intended). How could it not end in disaster? Classic case of the tragedy of the commons.

via International Skeptics Forum

samedi 25 juillet 2015

Monster Energy: Antichrist in disguise

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A part of me refuses to believe that people like this even exist in the 21rst century.

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I got a kick out of this anti-vax article

The punchline comes about 2/3rds of the way down:

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Climate Scientist: Big Oil murdered my colleagues

This in today. Climate scientist Professor Peter Wadhams from Cambridge University claims big oil conspired to murder him and three researchers, all of whom perform research into the thickness of Arctic sea ice. He claims a narrow escape when a lorry tried to run him off the road; the other three were killed in various accidents, including one who was struck by lightning. He claims big oil or "sinister government forces" were behind the attacks.

Wadhams, who this year will have predicted three of the last zero Arctic ice-free summers, claimed that a cluster of events made it unlikely to be chance alone: "Yes. I do believe assassins possibly murdered them but I can see that I would be thought of as a looney for believing this." That may well be the first prediction he has ever made that will actually come true.

News article here:


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Randi with Penn and Teller together!

From 1987!! A short film with Penn&Teller-The Invisible Thread- not sure if Randi is featured a lot but this is a funny clip ,Randi even introduces himself as Randall Zwinge!

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Why do conservatives lie so much?

Because this is just so, so common.

Setup. The Navy decided that they wanted to update the way they feed sailors. To do this they looked to their own Navy Seals, guys who typically like to eat well, and adopted their Fuel To Fight program. The Navy rebranded it "Go For Green" and started to revamp their galleys on ships and bases.

From The Navy Times.

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus announced a host of sweeping changes in May that will affect everything from promotions and training to uniforms and fitness. As part of that, he has set his sights on a well-balanced diet, which he calls "the foundation of a healthy lifestyle" that will provide capable warfighters and lower medical costs.

Mabus touted the SEALs' "Fuel to Fight" program as an example. It increases the availability of lean-proteins, vegetables, and complex carbohydrates to fuel, rather than feed, the warfighter. Other galleys here have implemented "Go for Green," a Department of Defense nutrition program that teaches sailors to recognize and select healthier foods.
As leadership looks to boost sailors' nutrition to new levels, the recipe will mix these programs and add new ingredients. Mabus promised to "further develop the concept at one sea-based and one shore-based unit next year, and implement it fleet-wide in 2017."
Sounds okay to me. Does it sound nefarious to you?

And that's where the popular online news site Conservative Tribune comes into the picture. Conservative Tribune (tagline: In Defense Of Western Civilization) ran the following headline.
BREAKING: Michelle Takes Food From U.S. Navy, Sailors Immediately Unleash THIS Response

Hmm, so what? This enigmatic lead then was followed by this:

The brave, hard-working sailors who make up the ranks of the United States Navy were outraged after they learned of a coming food ban that may have been instigated by the gross overreach of First Lady Michelle Obama’s “healthy” eating agenda.

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus announced that at some point in the near future, fried chicken, french fries and other fried foods often served to hungry, calorie-burning sailors busy defending our country will be permanently banned from Navy menus.

Sailors aren’t happy about it, either. They used the Navy Time’s Facebook page to vent their frustrations, accusing Obama of using her influence to promote what she thinks is considered healthy eating, even though that’s largely not the case.
So...what was a Navy initiative to make their menus healthier, on e based on a preexisting Navy Seals program, somehow got turned into a "food ban" by Michelle Obama.

Interestingly the first link up there in that article leads to another Conservative Tribune article about a single case where a single student found a worm in their lunch which somehow was Michelle Obama's fault. The last link is to another CT article about a student writing a letter complaining about their lunch.

Did Michelle Obama have any connection to this Navy initiative? Well aside form the fact that I'm pretty sure the First Lady has little to no authority over the Department of Defense flower gardens let alone their nutritional policies I also can find zero reference to it outside of this CT article. In fact Snopes came up empty too.

So, to recap. The Navy changes their menu. Conservatives turn this into a food ban which will lead to sailors starving while out at sea. This gets shared a bazillion times on facebook which is where I ended up finding it when someone smeared it in my virtual face going "SEE, THIS IS WHY MOOOCHELLE IS EVIL!"

And there you go. Lies and confirmation bias. Par for the course for the right wing these days.

via International Skeptics Forum

Was Captain Kirk A Republican?

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Sandra Bland - have we reached the point that this isn't even thread-worthy?

Is that how desensitised we've become on this forum, that a hot ticket issue like this doesn't even warrant a thread?

I just watched footage of the arrest from CNN. There's no way it was a lawful arrest. The officer was asked on numerous occasions on what grounds was he arresting her, he just got angrier and angrier then threatened her with the taser.

I can see nothing that Bland did that was in any way wrong, it is not illegal to smoke in your car, an officer is not legally entitled to arrest someone for refusing to put a cigarette out.

Even if we find out she did commit suicide, the elephant in the room is that there is no way she should ever have been in a cell in the first place. How can you be "resisting" arrest when you are being arrested without any cause whatsoever? Talking back to a cop and insisting that your rights be respected is not a crime.

I ruefully await the cop apologists to rationalise why this person is responsible for escalating a simple traffic infringement and deserves to be dead for daring to exercise her lawful rights.

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vendredi 24 juillet 2015

Great. What did my wife see last night?

My wife told me she saw something she'd never seen before while she was driving home from work last night, and she still doesn't know what it was. It was about 12:30 am, on a well traveled 4 lane road that stretches between two rivers, with a large tree lined median between the north and south bound lanes. She's traveling north. Two lanes, same direction, lines with trees on both sides, right side trees are higher. Not well lit, no street lights, but it was a clear night and the lights of the bridge and the city are in view about a mile ahead. The Mississippi river is very wide at that point, plus the area is flooded right now.
What she says she saw, "shot out of the top of the trees and out into the sky". She says it was 'dark gray' and, as she put up her hand and held her fingers apart about two inches, "by", hands spread about three feet. "So you saw a dark gray sausage shoot out of the trees?" "Yes, it was way up in the trees, so it wasn't some kind of animal, it almost looked... supernatural." "Was it behind the trees and shot into view?" "No, it shot out of the trees. It was in the trees and came out. It moved fast."
I tried to get some more answers out of her, but she didn't want to talk about it anymore and went to bed. I'm sure she saw, 'something', she doesn't know how to lie, but she also has a pretty vivid imagination. I wish I could have got more details out of her, but she'd have none of it, and she did need to go to bed. I asked if it was an owl, and she was pretty adamant that it wasn't a bird.
I'm pretty sure it wasn't a 'rod', a ropen, or Pogomofo ether, for that matter.:covereyes
I'd sure like an answer she'd find acceptable though.

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