HBO’s Bombshell Scientology Documentary

Alex Gibney has an excellent portfolio of hard-hitting documentary films including Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room (2005), Taxi to the Dark Side (2007) and We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks (2013). Now he’s turning the lens on the “church” of Scientology, with backing from HBO, reports the Hollywood Reporter:

THR has learned that Oscar winner Alex Gibney (Taxi to the Dark Side) is putting the finishing touches on a film that tackles the Church of Scientology and its Tinseltown tentacles. HBO, no stranger to controversy, having ushered such hot-button docs as The Case Against 8 and the Paradise Lost trilogy to the screen, is eyeing a 2015 airdate for Going Clear, which is based on Lawrence Wright’s controversial book that was also exclusively excerpted in THR.

HBO long has championed documentary filmmaking. It commissioned the Scientology project nearly two years ago, right after the book’s January 2013 publication, when frequent collaborator Gibney brought it to the network.

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What Comes After Money?

In a straight to camera monologue, Daniel Pinchbeck asks “A recent article in Foreign Affairs proposes that Central Banks could just print money and give it to the people – particularly the bottom 80%. This is a startling idea, and it points to the need for a broader discussion around money as an instrument humans have created for exchanging and storing value. Do we need different tools for this, going forward?”

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Learn physics with CERN’s John Ellis in ‘A Brief Guide to Everything’

iai-academy

Last month, The Institute of Art and Ideas (IAI), an organization committed to spreading “a progressive and vibrant intellectual culture in the UK,” launched IAI Academy — a new online educational platform that features free courses in everything from theoretical physics to the future of feminism. Get up to speed with what physicists do and don’t know with CERN physicist John Ellis’ ‘A Brief Guide to Everything’ or discover the meaning of life with sociologist Steve Fuller.

The initial lineup has 12 courses – here’s the list:

  • A Brief Guide to Everything – Web Video – John Ellis, King’s College London, CBE 
  • The Meaning of Life – Web Video – Steve Fuller, University of Warwick
  • New Adventures in Spacetime – Web Video – Eleanor Knox, King’s College London
  • Minds, Morality and Agency – Web Video – Mark Rowlands, University of Miami
  • Nine Myths About Schizophrenia – Web Video – Richard Bentall, University of Liverpool
  • The History of Fear – Web Video – Frank Furedi, University of Kent
  • Physics: What We Still Don’t Know – Web Video – David Tong, Cambridge
  • Science vs.
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Measuring the Impact of the Occupy Movement

Occupy Wall Street, Unofficial LogoLucy Townsend asks “Activists from the Occupy movement held their latest campaign in London this weekend. The protest movement, now three years old, has global recognition. But how can its impact be measured?” at BBC News Magazine:

The campaign started in New York, on 17 September 2011. They camped in Zuccotti Park, near Wall Street, protesting against corporate greed. Celebrities visited – Kanye West and Susan Sarandon among them. Press coverage followed and President Obama said he “understood their frustrations“.

The Twitter handle @OccupyWallSt has 205,000 followers. The @OccupyWallStNYC and @OccupyWallStNY have 185,000 between them. The Facebook page has 660,544 likes.

The initial action spawned hundreds of similar protests around the world. In London, a month later, activists erected tents at St Paul’s Cathedral. Again it was the city’s financial heart. For more than four months they camped, gave speeches, tweeted and networked before being removed forcibly by bailiffs following a court battle.

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Psilocybin: The Science behind a Magical Molecule

Excellent summary of some of the recent scientific research on the main constituent of psychedelic fungi via The Nexian:

Liberty CapsPsilocybin is a naturally occurring psychedelic compound found in many species of mushrooms. In this form it has a long history of use by humanity in the context of healing and divination, and it is still employed in this manner today by indigenous groups such as the Mazatec. Since the 1960’s awareness of psilocybin and the fungi within which it resides has spread into the Western world. Following the legal clamp down that resulted from widespread use of this and other psychedelics like LSD and mescaline at this time, scientific research into this compound and other psychedelics all but drew to a halt. In the last few years regulatory red tape has been loosening to some degree, and scientists have began studying psilocybin for a number of reasons. It appears that psilocybin is a highly multifaceted compound and has the capacity to act as a profound tool in the study of the brain and consciousness, as well as act as a treatment for a variety of psychological conditions.… Read the rest

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The Godfather of Right-Wing Radio

The Daily Beast tells the tale of Talk Radio Network, “the house that wingnuts built, with its on-air talent peddling radical views. It took over America’s airwaves—until it ran into trouble”:

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September 6, 2013 is a day that will go down in history, at least in the minds of former staff members of Talk Radio Network. It was a Friday—payday—and for many employees, it would be their last day. At the radio syndication company’s Oregon headquarters, paychecks were distributed alongside pink slips. It didn’t take long for employees to discover that some D.C.-based colleagues, including those who worked for the news offshoot America’s Radio News Network—also owned by their boss, Mark Masters—were being handed a similar fate.

Few could have predicted this hit to Masters’ talk radio empire. During the 2008 presidential election and Obama’s first term, the Talk Radio Network family was home to some of the most popular and conservative personalities on the airwaves, including Michael “America is on the brink of a second Civil War” Savage and Laura Ingraham.

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Violence Against U.S. Homeless on the Rise

David Blackwell. (CC BY 2.0)

David Blackwell. (CC BY 2.0)

Ehab Zahriyeh writes at Al Jazeera America:

Despite a decrease in the U.S. homeless population, new research by an advocacy group for the homeless indicates an alarming increase in violent crimes targeting those living on the streets.

In 2013, homeless Americans experienced a 23 percent increase in violence compared with the year before, according to preliminary figures by the National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH). The U.S. homeless population declined over the same period, with 610,000 people going without shelter on any given day in 2013 — 20,000 fewer than in 2012.

The homeless “are targeted solely because of their circumstances,” coalition director Jerry Jones told Al Jazeera. “People who are in shelters and marginalized are often preyed upon.”

Because the NCH bases its research on reported crimes covered in news media, the actual number of violent attacks targeting the homeless may be much higher, since many go unreported.

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CERN frees LHC data

Construction of one detector (called CMS ) of the LHC at CERN

Construction of one detector (called CMS ) of the LHC at CERN

via Symmetry Magazine:

Today CERN launched its Open Data Portal, which makes data from real collision events produced by LHC experiments available to the public for the first time.

“Data from the LHC program are among the most precious assets of the LHC experiments, that today we start sharing openly with the world,” says CERN Director General Rolf Heuer. “We hope these open data will support and inspire the global research community, including students and citizen scientists.”

The LHC collaborations will continue to release collision data over the coming years.

The first high-level and analyzable collision data openly released come from the CMS experiment and were originally collected in 2010 during the first LHC run. Open source software to read and analyze the data is also available, together with the corresponding documentation. The CMS collaboration is committed to releasing its data three years after collection, after they have been thoroughly studied by the collaboration.

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