Author Archive | majestic

U.S. Supreme Court To Rule On Texas Confederate Flag License Plates

Non-Americans (and probably Un-Americans) must think the fuss over the display of the Confederate flag is peculiarly parochial, but here it’s still front-page news at AP via Yahoo News (as an aside, do you think that Nat Hentoff and P.J. O’Rourke really meant to say “odorous”?):

Texas commemorates the Confederacy in many ways, from an annual celebration of Confederate Heroes Day each January to monuments on the grounds of the state Capitol in Austin. Among the memorials is one that has stood for more than a century, bearing an image of the Confederate battle flag etched in marble.

Supreme Court License Plates

But you’re out of luck if you want to put that flag on your license plate. Texas says that would be offensive.

Now the Supreme Court will decide whether the state can refuse to issue a license plate featuring the battle flag without violating the free-speech rights of Texans who want one. The justices hear arguments Monday in a challenge brought by the Texas division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

Read the rest
Continue Reading

What the Hell is the Purpose of Hell?

William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1825-1905) - Dante And Virgil In Hell (1850).jpg

Dante And Virgil In Hell (1850) by William-Adolphe Bouguereau

“Whether hell is other people, a place, or just a bad date, it’s deeply ingrained in society’s collective consciousness. But why?,” asks Candida Moss at Daily Beast:

Whether hell is an expletive, a coercive threat to keep naughty congregants in line, or a euphemism for a bad date, it seems that hell is thoroughly ingrained in our religious and cultural consciousness. But this wasn’t always the case. And there are many believing theologians today who think that hell is immoral, nonexistent, or both, prompting the question: where does hell come from and why do we have it?

Chronologically speaking, hell didn’t always feature in conceptual maps of the afterlife. In the Hebrew Bible there are frequent references to Sheol, a place of shadows located physically beneath us. This is where everyone goes when they die, because people are buried in the ground.

Read the rest
Continue Reading

‘The Anarchist Cookbook’ and the Rise of DIY Terrorism

Anarchist cookbookThe Anarchist Cookbook is the book that just won’t die, despite its author’s wishes to the contrary. Now The Kernel assesses its importance for modern-day DIY terrorism:

On Sept. 14, 2010, a dry cleaner in Toronto, Canada, found something suspicious. In a bag of clothes dropped off by a client, a USB stick had likely been left in one of his pockets. Curious, he plugged the small device into a computer and read through the contents. Two days later, the dry cleaner called the police.

The following April, Canadian law enforcement officials arrested the USB drive’s owner, Mohamed Hassan Hersi, at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport as he was boarding a plane to Cairo. A joint force of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Toronto Police Department had been investigating Hersi for months. Posing as a consultant, an undercover cop had visited Hersi at his job, where he worked as a security guard.

Read the rest
Continue Reading

What I Saw At the Conspiracy Theory Conference

Hey how come we weren’t invited to the Conspiracy Theory Conference? Luckily Jesse Walker went and filed this report for Reason:

“I get the feeling that a lot of philosophers can poke a hole in anything,” Ted Goertzel complained, his voice radiating prickly impatience. The site was the University of Miami, where nearly 50 scholars from institutions across Europe and America had gathered to discuss conspiracy theories in a room named for Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Goertzel, a retired Rutgers sociologist, was addressing a panel of philosophers who had indeed just spent an hour poking holes in popular notions about conspiratorial beliefs. One had presented a paper with the cheeky title “Why Do We Believe Conspiracy Theories Exist?”

Fnord.png

Goertzel wasn’t buying it. “I think the reason we think conspiracy theories exist is because they exist,” he declared.

It was neither the first nor the last contentious moment of the conference, which took place on the university’s Coral Gables campus from March 12 to 14.

Read the rest
Continue Reading

World Health Org Says Monsanto’s Roundup ‘Probably Carcinogenic’

Roundup herbicide logo.jpg

For the few people left who think that Roundup, Monsanto’s ubiquitous killer herbicide (a/k/a glyphosphate) is benign to humans, the World Health Organization would have you know that Roundup is “probably carcinogenic,” reports Bloomberg News:

Monsanto Co.’s best-selling weedkiller Roundup probably causes cancer, the World Health Organization said in a report that’s at odds with prior findings.

Roundup is the market name for the chemical glyphosate. A report published by the WHO in the journal Lancet Oncology said Friday there is “limited evidence” that the weedkiller can cause non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and lung cancer and “convincing evidence” it can cause cancer in lab animals. The report was posted on the website of the International Agency for Research on Cancer, or IARC, the Lyon, France-based arm of the WHO.

Monsanto, which invented glyphosate in 1974, made its herbicide the world’s most popular with the mid-1990s introduction of crops such as corn and soybeans that are genetically engineered to survive it.

Read the rest
Continue Reading

Meet the ‘Living Dead’: Forensic Scientists’ New Weapon

Federico Aldrovandi Aut31801.jpg

Federico Aldrovandi

Forensic scientists are trying to harness the “necrobiome” of expired humans to find out how they died, reports BBC Future:

In the seconds after you breathe your last breath, the living dead take over. Now that your blood no longer flows, oxygen levels within your body plummet and degrading chemical processes start up, making your tissues more acidic. Some of your bacterial inhabitants relish the change and flourish, while others die off.

The shift in your internal chemistry also attracts insects, which land on your body and creep into your orifices to lay their eggs, bringing with them their own microbial hitchhikers. Several days later, these eggs hatch, and as the larvae begin to feast on your flesh they carry with them yet more microbes – as well as antimicrobial compounds that inhibit the growth of susceptible bugs.

In other words, you might be dead, but your body is more alive than ever.

Read the rest
Continue Reading

The News Dissector Danny Schechter Dies Age 72

"Plunder" Filmmaker Danny Schechter

“Plunder” Filmmaker Danny Schechter

Danny Schechter was a close friend and ally of disinformation®. An activist to the core, Danny had a long and varied career as a journalist with ABC News and CNN before unshackling from the mainstream media to produce prescient films like In Debt We Trust (made before the credit crisis and crash of 2008) and Plunder, write books like The Crime of Our Time, and blog like a madman (check out all his posts for disinformation® here).

One of Danny’s friends and allies, Don Hazen of Alternet, has written a fine obituary which also features insight from Rory O’Connor, perhaps Danny’s closest collaborator.

One of my best memories of Danny was going to a protest rally with him. He was truly in his element, as you can see in this clip:

RIP Danny Schechter, forever the News Dissector.

Read the rest

Continue Reading

Sorry, Hippies, Homeopathy Is Totally Useless

adidas, the venerable German sports brand, is promoting the hashtag #therewillbehaters in connection with some of its crazier designs. Alternative medicine practitioners might want to adopt it too in light of this unabashed attack on homeopathy by Russell Saunders, the pseudonym for a pediatrician in New England, at Daily Beast:

Homeopathy is a worthless means of sustaining your health. In terms of preventing or treating disease, it’s up there with bloodletting or erecting a shrine to Asclepius in your pantry. It is literally good for nothing from a medical perspective.

Homeopathic332.JPG

That was the conclusion of a report from Australia’s National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), albeit not precisely in those words. After reviewing numerous studies, as well as information submitted by supporters of homeopathy, the NHMRC (similar to the National Institutes of Health in the United States) found there is nothing valid to substantiate that homeopathic treatments do anything at all for those who take them.

Read the rest
Continue Reading

Mystery of Darwin’s Strange South American Mammals Solved

“We have resolved one of the last unresolved major problems in mammalian evolution,” claims Ian Barnes of London’s Natural History Museum, as reported by the Guardian:

To 19th century British naturalist Charles Darwin, they were the strangest animals yet discovered, one looking like a hybrid of a hippo, rhino and rodent and another resembling a humpless camel with an elephant’s trunk.

Toxodon platensis.jpg

“Toxodon platensis” by Robert Bruce Horsfall

 

Ever since Darwin first collected their fossils about 180 years ago, scientists had been baffled about where these odd South American beasts that went extinct just 10,000 years ago fit on the mammal family tree. The mystery has now been solved.

Researchers have revealed that a sophisticated biochemical analysis of bone collagen extracted from fossils of the two mammals, Toxodon and Macrauchenia, demonstrated that they were related to the group that includes horses, tapirs and rhinos.

Some scientists previously thought the two herbivorous mammals, the last of a successful group called South American ungulates, were related to mammals of African origin like elephants and aardvarks or other South American mammals like armadillos and sloths.

Read the rest
Continue Reading

DARPA’s Solution to Ebola (and all other Infectious Diseases)

It’s tempting to think of DARPA as the US Government’s evil technology agency, but Alexis Madrigal has discovered one DARPA program that might just be an incredible solution to infectious diseases, reporting for Fusion:

Saving the world from Ebola suddenly sounds so simple, as the solution spills from Colonel Dan Wattendorf’s mouth, up on the stage in the windowless banquet hall of this Marriott hotel south of San Francisco.

“We’re going to take the genetic code and put it into a format where you go to your drug store or doctor and get a shot in the arm,” Wattendorf told a room full of medical researchers and technologists. “There’s a low-cost of goods, no cold chain, and we would produce the correct antibody in [any] individual directly.”

DARPA

Wattendorf, a clean-cut, angular triathlete, is a program manager for the Defense Advance Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the military’s far-out research wing. On this day, he’s speaking at a DARPA-sponsored conference called Biology Is Technology.

Read the rest
Continue Reading