Author Archive | Breshvic

The Failed War on Drugs

As the financially and morally expensive Drug War rages on, it's become all too obvious to most of us how futile the efforts of those 'powers that be' have been. Virgin Group's Richard Branson sponsored a global survey that found over 90% of respondents around the world say the War on Drugs has failed. Technology giants like Google may even make a bigger difference when it comes to battling the big Mexican cartels, and Anonymous has even joined the digital fray. While still a very dangerous game (the cartels have been deadly and merciless in their retribution against online critics in the past), it is clear that the current actions of our governments are not working. In fact, incompetence, mixed messaging and/or collusion have only benefited the drug trade. Since all the facts and figures can be overwhelming, here is a tasty infographic (sent by Camille Brockman) on the wasted tax dollars, inverse consequences, and cost to human lives...
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The Positive Effects of a Deviant Coworker

Picture: Flickr, uberphot (CC

Even more possible evidence that the weirdos of the world provide crucial social utility! Researchers at Wichita State University have published their findings in the Journal of Social Psychology.

Via Discover Magazine‘s Discoblog:

“Drawing on the labeling perspective of deviance, we investigate employee reactions to coworkers perceived as deviants. We look at two positive effects for employees in the presence of a deviant coworker. First, in comparison to a deviant individual, other employees can draw more positive conclusions about themselves; and second, a deviant can be informative about organizational norms, thereby improving employee role clarity. We also examine individual and situational moderators. For the purpose of the study, we developed a measure of the presence of a deviant. The hypothesized relationships were tested in two large samples using multiple regression analyses. The results revealed that in the presence of a deviant coworker, employees reported enhanced self-evaluation.

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New Research on “Junk” DNA Raises Questions on Eve of Crucial Court Hearing

Picture: Flickr, Peter Alfred Hess (CC)

It seems that new discoveries about DNA, and our own human genome in particular, are coming more rapidly today. More things seem to exist on a scale of genetic variance, and it was recently found that our so-called “junk DNA” is full of important ramifications for genetic disorders and random mutations that determine our evolutionary fate.

But in a more immediate sense, DNA research may raise dire questions and have important bearing on current legal arguments, such as the Ninth Circuit‘s Haskell v. Harris, a case challenging California’s warrantless DNA collection program.

Via Jennifer Lynch at the Electronic Frontier Foundation:

EFF asked the court to consider ground-breaking new research that confirms for the first time that over 80% of our DNA that was once thought to have no function, actually plays a critical role in controlling how our cells, tissue and organs behave.

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TPP Trade Delegates Meet Behind Closed Doors

Picture: WILPF.org (CC)

Even more secret negotiations to further the aims multinational corporate globalists have been ongoing in resorts outside Washington, DC. Press, citizenry, and even lawmakers were unable to gain entry or answers concerning the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement (TPP), which concerns international trade and copyright laws that will supersede any individual country’s court system or fair use, putting the internet, privacy, and free speech at risk.

Last weekend, the Electronic Frontier Foundation was able to participate in the “stakeholder” events that were otherwise mostly represented by corporations:

The stakeholder engagement events in the morning were followed by a stakeholder briefing in the afternoon. The briefing allowed registered individuals from civil society and the public to ask questions of and make comments to eight out of the nine negotiators who represent a TPP country. The press was barred from the room. Roughly 25 people rose from the audience to ask questions to the trade delegates during the 90-minute briefing period.

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‘Muslims’ Movie Producer Was Arrested for PCP, Snitched for Feds

Picture: US DEA (PD)

With so much media noise about a con artist using more names than Blackwater, who has allegedly kept himself busy in his 55 years with everything from check fraud to producing soft-core pornography, it’s probably wise to take all of the initial reporting on Nakoula Basseley Nakoula with a pillar of salt. That being said, WIRED‘s Danger Room columnist Noah Shachtman has another bizarre addition to the story of this mysterious, and clearly upstanding, public figure:

Before he was involved in the making of a noxious video that provided an excuse for anti-American riots in the Middle East, and before he was convicted of federal bank fraud, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula was arrested on charges relating to the making of angel dust.

Court records reviewed by Danger Room show that Nakoula and a co-defendant were brought before the Los Angeles County Superior Courthouse in Downey, California on April 15, 1997.

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Social Rejects Are More Creative

Picture: MJT16 (PD)

Most of the outliers know that being strange, unique, and original has always been advantageous to creative ingenuity and discovery. Drawing, for example, is not simply the muscle memory of the hand, but a different way of ‘seeing’. Actors and writers succeed mostly due to their ability to craft alternate realities based on experiences from their twisted past. Scientists, futurists, inventors, political scientists and philosophers make history by asking heretofore unthinkable questions, and proposing even more absurd answers (both of which may have elicited some odd looks from peers and family members alike).

It’s about time science recognized the value of being a loser, an outcast, or a social reject. Many successful ventures, after all, may have been the result of a fair bit of name-calling back in middle school.

From Fast Company, found via Big Think:

Researchers at Johns Hopkins and Cornell have recently found that the socially rejected might also be society’s most creatively powerful people.

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Schrödinger’s Drone: The Assassination Program That Both Does and Doesn’t Exist

Picture: WikiMedia Commons (CC)

Despite his many ’08 campaign promises and pronouncements after being inaugurated, Barack Obama’s may be the least transparent presidency in modern history, decreasing the fulfillment of FOIA requests each year, and prosecuting record numbers of whistle-blowers. Some of his past statements now seem laughably naïve (either for him or for us):

“For a long time now, there’s been too much secrecy in this city. The old rules said if there was a defensible argument for not disclosing something to the American people, then it should not be disclosed. That era is now over.”

~Barack Obama, January 21, 2009

Nowhere has this hypocrisy been more *ahem* clear, than with the administration’s ramped up drone program, which it alternately attributes and denies is being coordinated between the military and the CIA. The drone strikes which eyewitness and press reports have shown to take place (even at funeral processions and against those trying to give aid to drone strike victims) are veiled behind contradictory official reports, classifications, outright denials, and obfuscatory language. … Read the rest

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DNC and Net Neutrality

Picture: Elizabeth Cromwell (CC)

Though the Republicans seem content to either ignore scientific and technological progress, or move us backwards to the “Good Old Days,” it bears mentioning that the Democrats aren’t much better at answering the serious questions posed at this time of rapid change and development.

At least they aren’t totally ignoring issues like net neutrality, but addressing and then “vigorously” glossing over them with obfuscatory language and corporate messaging.

Via Ars Technica:

Last week, the Republicans called for “vigorous enforcement of current laws on all forms of pornography and obscenity,” as well as the preservation of the ban on online gambling. The Democrats are silent on pornography and gambling, but they make the case for “vigorous” copyright enforcement efforts.

“The administration is vigorously protecting US intellectual property,” the new Democratic platform declares, through “better enforcement and innovative approaches such as voluntary efforts by all parties to minimize infringement while supporting the free flow of information.” That’s a reference to things like the “graduated response” system in which ISPs would penalize their users if they were accused of copyright infringement six times.

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Robot learns ‘self-awareness’

Picture: Flickr user (((o.kvlt))) (CC)

Instead of being pre-programmed with experiential knowledge, a robot named Nico is learning the relationships of its grippers and sensors, space and environment.

Nico may be slowly approaching self-awareness, and its programmers are utilizing an even better test than the Turing Test. The ‘Mirror Test‘, the same one that we humans believe separates us (as well as elephants, magpies, orcas, dolphins and the great apes) from other tested species, by showing that we can both use the mirror as a tool to explore a reflected environment, and recognize that our reflections are indeed of ourselves.

Via Kurzweil AI:

Using knowledge that it has learned about itself, Nico is able to use a mirror as an instrument for spatial reasoning, allowing it to accurately determine where objects are located in space based on their reflections, rather than naively believing them to exist behind the mirror.

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Hiroshima, the Original Ground Zero

This month marks the sixty-seventh anniversary of the mass destruction the United States wrought on the civilians in Nagasaki and Hiroshima. And though it is often framed through the lens of 'bringing an end to WWII's bloody Pacific front', the harsh images and stories of survival after the blasts reveal some of the most horrific realities of war and devastation any nation has ever had to face. Last year, the International Center of Photography exhibited many of the 1,100 images taken by the Physical Damage Division of the United States Bombing Survey in 1945. They have over 700 photos in their collection, and a new book published by Steidl:
After the United States detonated an atomic bomb at Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, the U.S. government restricted the circulation of images of the bomb's deadly effect. President Truman dispatched some 1,150 military personnel and civilians, including photographers, to record the destruction as part of the United States Strategic Bombing Survey. The goal of the Survey's Physical Damage Division was to photograph and analyze methodically the impact of the atomic bomb on various building materials surrounding the blast site, the first "Ground Zero." The haunting, once-classified images of absence and annihilation formed the basis for civil defense architecture in the United States.
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