Jon Stewart & Obama Meetings Ethics Debate

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President’s Obama administration used Jon Stewart as a “useful prod.” Stewart was often summoned to the White House before big announcements. A debate about the ethics of the TV host rages on.

Jackie Salo via International Business Times:

President Barack Obama summoned television host Jon Stewart to the White House on several occasions before he made major announcements, according to a Politico article that revealed the secret connection between “The Daily Show” host and the president. News of the private meetings surfaced Tuesday as Stewart prepares to end his tenure as host on Aug. 6.

Some have questioned Stewart’s ethics because he did not disclose his connection to Obama. “The summoning of Stewart to the White House validates the belief that the comedian is more influential on the public discourse than any journalist,” said a Minnesota Public Radio article Tuesday. “But do the rules of journalism apply to a comedian who doesn’t consider himself a journalist even as the people watching consider him one?”

While still at the White House, former Obama advisor David Axelrod kept in touch with the host by phone and email.

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Sex With Neanderthals Forever Changed Homo Sapiens

There’s now little doubt that modern day humans, homo sapiens, are partly Neanderthal. From skin disorders to the immune system, sex with archaic species changed Homo sapiens reports Nature:

Our ancestors were not a picky bunch. Overwhelming genetic evidence shows that Homo sapiens had sex with Neander­thals, Denisovans and other archaic relatives. Now researchers are using large genomics studies to unravel the decidedly mixed contributions that these ancient romps made to human biology — from the ability of H. sapiens to cope with environments outside Africa, to the tendency of modern humans to get asthma, skin diseases and maybe even depression.

Neanderthal Mother (detail of diorama)

The proportion of the human genome that comes from archaic relatives is small. The genomes of most Europeans and Asians are 2–4% Neanderthal1, with Denisovan DNA making up about 5% of the genomes of Mela­nesians2 and Aboriginal Australians3. DNA slivers from other distant relatives probably pepper a variety of human genomes4.

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I hid Illuminati symbols in broadcast news graphics because I was bored

Todd Huffman (CC BY 2.0)

Todd Huffman (CC BY 2.0)

This story was told anonymously to Hopes&Fears author Gabriella Garcia, who’s transcribed it below:

When I was working for a major broadcasting conglomerate, I passed the time sneaking cult symbols into its affiliates’ news graphics. I don’t really know why I did it. Maybe because I’m just easily amused.

I became interested in graphics when I was young. In high school, I used some savings to buy a new computer with really high quality graphics capability for its day and started making 2D cartoons, mostly involving things killing each other, because I was a teenage boy that was funny—things dying, things running into walls—all poorly animated.

I applied to a bunch of schools for Comp Sci and Electrical Engineering, but went to a state school. It was the cheapest and offered a good scholarship. At the time the school was in the process of dismantling their traditional arts studies department while simultaneously stepping up their computer graphics department, so I ended up in the imaging and digital arts field.

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Cinemasters: Lars von Trier

Lars von Trier is one of my favorite directors working today. When I first started getting into film, a friend recommended Breaking the Waves (he also recommended Come and See, but that has its own backstory). I must have been a sophomore in high school and I distinctly remember renting the flick from my local library and watching it alone in the middle of a summer afternoon. What a jarring, devastating, and yet beautiful film. I sat, sobbing in my dark bedroom for a good twenty minutes. Then I immediately started the film over and watched it again.

I was hooked. Von Trier has a sensibility that’s at once repelling and captivating. I now make it a point to see all of his new releases in the theater. I actually took a guy on our first date to see Antichrist. How’s that for a good time? (In case you’re curious, we’re still friends and we joke about that experience to this day.)

I’m also a sucker for a good mash-up.… Read the rest

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Alice Goes Gonzo

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This year we celebrate the sesquicentennial of Alice in Wonderland — a landmark of kid lit and a cornerstone of psychedelic fiction. This probably won’t be my last post about Alice.

As a fantasy for the wee, Alice inspires illustrations, and it’s assumed that Walt Disney owns that territory. Little did I know that Ralph Steadman’s pen had penetrated Wonderland, bringing his pointed probings to the gonzo goings-on in this important tale about growing up and growing small…

Here, Steadman is cast as Alice’s godfather, the wizard with the wisdom to will the wild out of his charge, pointing her past the mundane to the mirthful, the macabre, the miraculous. See a collection of Steadman’s 1973 images at Brainpickings. Also be sure to check out this exhaustive Steadman documentary, For No Good Reason

Stay Awake!

Please subscribe to my YouTube channel where I archive all of the videos I curate at Insomnia.… Read the rest

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Koch Brothers Brave Spotlight to Try to Alter Their Image

What would Robert Greenwald say? The New York Times profiles the brothers Koch as they try to recolor themselves in a less devilish hue:

Once known for grim letters to fellow wealthy Americans warning of socialist apocalypse, Charles G. Koch now promotes research on the link between freedom and everyday happiness. Turn on “The Big Bang Theory” or “Morning Joe,” and you are likely to see soft-focus television spots introducing some of the many employees of Koch Industries.

Charles and David Koch - The Koch Brothers

Credit: DonkeyHotey (CC)

Instead of trading insults with Harry Reid, the Democratic Senate leader, Mr. Koch and his brother, David H. Koch, are trading compliments with President Obama, who this month praised the Kochs’ support for criminal justice reform at a meeting of the N.A.A.C.P.

After two elections in which Democrats and liberals sought to cast them as the secretive, benighted face of the Republican Party, the Kochs are seeking to remake public perceptions of their family, their business and their politics, unsettling a corporate culture deeply allergic to the spotlight.

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Michael Moore’s New Movie ‘Where to Invade Next’

Michael Moore has kept his new movie about America’s infinite war on the down low, but will debut “Where To Invade Next” in September at the Toronto International Film Festival. MarketWatch reports on Moore’s announcement:

Six years after “Capitalism: A Love Story,” Michael Moore is back with a new film called “Where to Invade Next” that examines the U.S. government’s appetite for war, a project Moore has been shooting and editing in secret, a major feat in the age of NSA surveillance and social-media leaks.

Michael Moore 2011 Shankbone 3

Photo: David Shankbone (CC)

The Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker and political commentator revealed in a Periscope broadcast this week that “Where to Invade Next” will premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in September. He refers to the movie as “epic in nature” and says he and a small team filmed in stealth mode on three continents.

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Elongated Skull Found at Russian Stonehenge

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An elongated skull has been unearthed at Arkaim, otherwise known as “Russia’s Stonehenge,” and the alien theories have already started. Though, the most likely explanation is head binding.

Paul Seaburn writes at Mysterious Universe:

Researcher Maria Makurova announced the discovery to the Russian news agency TASS. She described it as “a well-preserved skeleton” of a female. The skeleton appears to be from the 2nd or 3rd century AD, most likely after the original settlement was abandoned by its first residents. Markurova speculates she was a member of the Sarmati tribe which lived at the time in what are now central Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan.

If she’s a Sarmati tribal woman, that might explain the elongated skull since they were known for head binding – the gruesome practice of deforming a child’s head by applying constant force over long periods.

That explanation will satisfy the skeptics but not those who believe that, like Stonehenge, Arkaim may have been visited and perhaps even populated at one time by grey aliens or another alien species with outsized skulls.

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Beam Me Up? Teleporting Is Real, Even If Trekkie Transport Isn’t

Geoff Brumfiel via NPR:

“I have a hard time saying this with a straight face, but I will: You can teleport a single atom from one place to another,” says Chris Monroe, a biophysicist at the University of Maryland.

His lab’s setup in a university basement looks nothing like the slick transporters that rearrange atoms and send them someplace else on Star Trek. Instead, a couple million dollars’ worth of lasers, mirrors and lenses lay sprawled across a 20-foot table.

“What they do in the TV show is, they send the atoms over a long distance,” says David Hucul, who recently got his Ph.D. with Monroe. “But, really — if you could build anything, you wouldn’t send the atoms.”

That’s because atoms are big and heavy, and you don’t really need them, he explains. The laws of physics say that any atom of carbon is identical to any other atom of carbon.

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Fear and Loathing in Thet Kal Pyin: Myanmar’s Healthcare Crisis

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Staffan Scherz (CC BY 2.0)

As Myanmar prepares for a historic election on 8 November 2015, its leadership is rolling out plans for dramatic health sector reforms. But there are enormous obstacles, including the legacy of war and a rising threat of drug-resistant infectious diseases in restive border areas. Mike Ives reports.

Two speakers send the Islamic call to prayer sailing across Thet Kal Pyin, a refugee camp less than 100 km from Myanmar’s border with Bangladesh. The call wafts over several neat rows of large, low-slung buildings with blue roofs. Several families live in each structure, and the camp is home to around 5,000 people. Most, if not all, belong to the Rohingya ethnic group, a persecuted Muslim minority.

In response to the prayer call, bearded men in sandals emerge into the gathering dusk. They file into a thatched pavilion that serves as their makeshift mosque. At its entrance, they wash their hands and remove their shoes.… Read the rest

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