Body Counts Rise As Chaos Deepens: Is There A Way Out?

Logo of Boko HaramAs a journalist, I became something of a body count expert. It started with the Vietnam War, where I soon learned to distrust the exaggerated counts of enemy dead made by our self-styled “intelligence” agencies.

That didn’t mean that people, alas, weren’t dying in droves, but not quite the people they were claiming to have killed, even if the sheer number was desensitizing and hard to relate to.

It’s still like that, what with the daily drone victims, collateral damage estimates and killings on battlefields and villages from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria and Iraq.

Now we can add Nigeria to the countries in pain with massacres by the Boko Haram, and their own military goons, and, with the collapse of a mega church in Lagos that looked like the ‘planned demolition’ fall of Building 7, claiming the lives of 67 visiting South Africans and we still don’t know how many Nigerians. That House of God, known as a Synagogue Church, could not protect praying parishioners from the slaughter.… Read the rest

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Live Webcast of Supernova

X-ray, Optical & Infrared Composite of Kepler's Supernova Remnant

X-ray, Optical & Infrared Composite of Kepler’s Supernova Remnant

This was brought to my attention by a science loving Disinfonaut.

via I Fucking Love Science:

Located 38 million light years away in the constellation Dorado, visible in the Southern Hemisphere, the intermediate galaxy NGC 1566 appears to have had a recent supernova. The event was discovered within the last week by researchers in Chile collecting data for the All-Sky Automated Survey for Supernovae (ASASSN).

The supernova candidate, dubbed ASASSN-14ha, cannot readily be seen with the average amateur telescope. To make up for that unfortunate fact, the folks at Slooh Community Observatory will be doing a live broadcast of observations from Pontificia Universidad Católica De Chile (PUC).

“Supernovae are the most violent events in the universe. And among the most useful, since their brightness can help pin down the distance to their parent galaxy,” Slooh astronomer Bob Berman stated in a press release.

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Censors At Work

CensoredHave you ever really thought about the historical role of the censor? Here’s a lengthy and academic look at censorship, adapted from the conclusion to Robert Darnton’s Censors at Work: How States Shaped Literature and published in the New York Review of Books:

What is censorship?

If the concept of censorship is extended to everything, it means nothing. It should not be trivialized. Although I would agree that power is exerted in many ways, I think it crucial to distinguish between the kind of power that is monopolized by the state (or other constituted authorities such as religious organizations in some cases) and power that exists everywhere else in society. Censorship as I understand it is essentially political; it is wielded by the state.

Not that all states impose sanctions in the same way. Their actions might be arbitrary, but they clothe them in procedures that had a tincture of legality.

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What Movies Are You Watching This Weekend?

Still from The Zero Theorem.

Still from The Zero Theorem.

Do any of you Disinfonauts have movie plans for the weekend? Two films I’ve been highly anticipating are opening tonight: The Zero Theorem by Terry Gilliam and Tusk by Kevin Smith. Though, I’m not sure if I’m going to be able to get to a theater in the next few days. I did, however, finally finish reading The Trial by Franz Kafka and am hoping to find some time to watch Orson Welles’ version on Netflix. Do you have anything you want to check off your Netflix queue? Or any recommendations for me to add to mine?

I did catch As Above, So Below a couple of weeks ago. I’m probably one of the only people left who still has hope for the found footage subgenre, but I usually end up disappointed. As Above, So Below’s storyline had a lot of potential as Paris’ catacombs are fascinating, and I was excited to see how the filmmakers would utilize them.… Read the rest

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The Hijacking of Philosophy

By dakine kane via Flickr. (CC by 2.0)

By dakine kane via Flickr. (CC by 2.0)

via Things That Shouldn’t Still Exist:

By my estimate, the majority of people who begin reading this are already of the opinion that philosophy is little more than a tedious form of mental masturbation, and worse, almost entirely useless.  My response:  I must sadly agree.  On the other hand, I only concede under the assumption we are speaking about 98% of the philosophy you learn in school and that most supposed “philosophers” choose to focus on.  Therefore, if you think philosophy sucks and has little bearing on anything real, I don’t blame you.  However, do read on as I would like to explain how it has been hijacked over the last 50 years.  In particular, the modern connotation of the word “philosophy” seems to largely exclude it’s most useful facet:  ethical philosophy, or as I refer to it, personal philosophy.

Below is a brief history on the progression of my thought processes and how I came to give a shit about any of this:

I can remember back to when I first began to have thoughts of depth.  My parents moved us out of state between fourth and fifth grade, so not only was I friendless, but also suddenly in the lowest grade at a brand new school.  Before that, I had lots of friends and mindless social interactions, but unlike the elementary grades, middle school was full of cliques.

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Islamic State wants Australians to attack Muslims: terror expert

 

Police outside one of the Sydney homes raided earlier today, which has prompted warnings against an anti-Muslim backlash. AAP Image/Dean Lewins

Police outside one of the Sydney homes raided earlier today, which has prompted warnings against an anti-Muslim backlash. AAP Image/Dean Lewins

This article was originally published on The Conversation.
Read the original article.

By Nick O’Brien
Former head of International Counter Terrorism in Special Branch at New Scotland Yard; Associate Professor Counter Terrorism at Charles Sturt University

It’s in the interests of Islamic State for Muslims in Australia to be attacked or for their mosques to be attacked, because doing so would help divide the Australian community. But we should be very clear: the only people who win if Australia is divided are the extremists.

The new allegations of a plot to kidnap and behead Australians as a way of supporting the Islamic State didn’t surprise me, because there was a similar plot in the UK about seven years ago. In that UK case, it was a plot to kidnap, torture and behead a British Muslim soldier, film it, and put it on the internet.… Read the rest

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Defensive Pessimism: How Planning for the Worst can be Beneficial

"Optimism Wisdom Pessimism Future Presence Past" by HKD via Flickr (CC by 2.0)

“Optimism Wisdom Pessimism Future Presence Past” by HKD via Flickr (CC by 2.0)

Julie Norem, a psychology professor at Wellesley College, explores Defensive Pessimism in her 2002 book, The Positive Power Of Negative Thinking. In short, Defensive Pessimists expect the worst, but are proactive in planning against it. Thus they are more prepared, while reducing anxiety levels.

Olga Khazan interviews Norem at The Atlantic (Follow the link to read the entire interview):

Olga Khazan: What is defensive pessimism?

Julie Norem: It’s a strategy for dealing with anxiety and helping to manage anxiety so that it doesn’t negatively influence performance. If you feel anxious in a situation, it doesn’t really matter if it’s realistic or not, you feel how you feel. It’s hard not to feel that particular way. If you feel anxious, you need to do something about it. Usually people try to run away from whatever situation makes you anxious. But there are other ways of dealing with it.

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Hubble Helps Find Smallest Known Galaxy Containing a Supermassive Black Hole

 

Artist's View of M60-UCD1 Black Hole Image Credit: NASA, ESA, STScI-PRC14-41a

Artist’s View of M60-UCD1 Black Hole
Image Credit: NASA, ESA, STScI-PRC14-41a

How awesome is this?!

via Nasa.gov:

Astronomers using data from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and ground observation have found an unlikely object in an improbable place — a monster black hole lurking inside one of the tiniest galaxies ever known.

The black hole is five times the mass of the one at the center of our Milky Way galaxy. It is inside one of the densest galaxies known to date — the M60-UCD1 dwarf galaxy that crams 140 million stars within a diameter of about 300 light-years, which is only 1/500th of our galaxy’s diameter.

If you lived inside this dwarf galaxy, the night sky would dazzle with at least 1 million stars visible to the naked eye. Our nighttime sky as seen from Earth’s surface shows 4,000 stars.

The finding implies there are many other compact galaxies in the universe that contain supermassive black holes.

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