Author Archive | majestic

This Is What Dollarocracy Looks Like

Dollar symbol gold.svg

Rugby471 (CC)

John Nichols (featured in Pay 2 Play!) writes “The 2014 election campaign was an exercise in dollarocracy, not democracy,” at The Nation:

In a democracy, citizens are in charge, votes matter and the governments that take shape after elections reflect the will of the people.

In a dollarocracy, money is considered “speech,” corporations are considered “people” and elected officials take their cues from the billionaires and corporate interests that write the biggest checks. Campaigns cost exponentially more from cycle to cycle (the 2014 price tag will exceed $4 billion for federal races and billions more for state, local, judicial and initiative and referendum contests), and government becomes reflective of the demands of donors.

But that is just the most obvious evidence of the crisis.

Dollarocracy is about a lot more than the money raised and spent in campaigns. It is about the collapse of meaningful journalism, resulting from the downsizing and closure of newspapers, the replacement of local news and talk radio programming with syndicated “content” from afar, the reduction in political coverage by local television news outlets, and the horse-race coverage and spin that tend to characterize national news programs on broadcast and cable television.

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European Space Agency Has Attached Probe to Hurtling Comet

Philae’s parting image of Rosetta, taken shortly after separation. Credit: ESA/Rosetta/Philae/CIVA

Philae’s parting image of Rosetta, taken shortly after separation. Credit: ESA/Rosetta/Philae/CIVA

The European Space Agency (ESA) has achieved a first in space exploration: it has managed to attach a probe to a comet and it’s now going along for the ride. From the ESA’s Rosetta site:

ESA’s Rosetta mission has soft-landed its Philae probe on a comet, the first time in history that such an extraordinary feat has been achieved.

After a tense wait during the seven-hour descent to the surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, the signal confirming the successful touchdown arrived on Earth at 16:03 GMT (17:03 CET).

The confirmation was relayed via the Rosetta orbiter to Earth and picked up simultaneously by ESA’s ground station in Malargüe, Argentina and NASA’s station in Madrid, Spain. The signal was immediately confirmed at ESA’s Space Operations Centre, ESOC, in Darmstadt, and DLR’s Lander Control Centre in Cologne, both in Germany.

The first data from the lander’s instruments were transmitted to the Philae Science, Operations and Navigation Centre at France’s CNES space agency in Toulouse.

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DARPA Speaks

DARPA HeliplaneWell more accurately, Dr. Arati Prabhakar, the Director of Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) speaks, answering some questions for Engadget:

What is DARPA, and what is your job as director?

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is an agency of the Department of Defense with a very specific mission: to make seminal investments in breakthrough technologies for national security. We are explicitly a “projects” agency — we identify technical capabilities that don’t exist today, but that we think could be made real with the right kind of concerted effort; we pick individuals to lead the charge toward achieving those bold and sometimes even implausible goals; and we provide a carefully balanced mix of funding, freedom and insistence upon meeting milestones along the way. If progress does not continue apace or failure appears inevitable, we drop the effort, shift our focus and move on, in the recognition that when one bets on breakthroughs, one will sometimes lose.

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The Weird World of Ultra-Realistic Sims

steamworkshop_collection_123715746_collection_brandingNick Gillett says “Forget alien encounters in space and orc slaying, a new range of simulation games offer up the more mundane delights of driving a ferry – or acting the goat,” writing for the Guardian:

The enduring appeal of video games is that they let you pretend to be someone you’re not. Roman emperor, Renaissance assassin and space marine are all standard-issue jobs for gamers. Not only that, most games sex up their subject matter, Michael Bay-style, with relentless, meaningless action and unnecessary explosions. Yet, despite all the high-octane thrills offered by much of the medium, a growing number of players are opting for a less fanciful form of escapism.

The upcoming European Ship Simulator, for example, places you at the controls of ferries, tugs and fishing boats, as well as vast, ponderous ocean-going behemoths. Euro Truck Simulator 2, meanwhile, features reasonably lifelike trips between neighbouring European industrial centres, its joy derived from the journey rather than constant gaudy fanfares of achievement.

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Mormon Founder Joseph Smith Had Up to 40 Wives

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Rhoda Richards Smith Young, one of Joseph Smith’s wives

The Mormons may try to downplay bigamy as a part of their “religion,” but founder Joseph Smith had up to 40 wives reports the New York Times:

Mormon leaders have acknowledged for the first time that the church’s founder and prophet, Joseph Smith, portrayed in church materials as a loyal partner to his loving spouse Emma, took as many as 40 wives, some already married and one only 14 years old.

The church’s disclosures, in a series of essays online, are part of an effort to be transparent about its history at a time when church members are increasingly encountering disturbing claims about the faith on the Internet. Many Mormons, especially those with polygamous ancestors, say they were well aware that Smith’s successor, Brigham Young, practiced polygamy when he led the flock in Salt Lake City. But they did not know the full truth about Smith.

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Geoengineering Climate Change

Today’s New York Times has a lengthy front page (A1) story focusing on geoengineering “tools” to change our climate (hopefully for the better, although a devastating Snowpiercer-like scenario must surely be at the back of most people’s minds):

UTRECHT, the Netherlands — The solution to global warming, Olaf Schuiling says, lies beneath our feet.

For Dr. Schuiling, a retired geochemist, climate salvation would come in the form of olivine, a green-tinted mineral found in abundance around the world. When exposed to the elements, it slowly takes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Olivine has been doing this naturally for billions of years, but Dr. Schuiling wants to speed up the process by spreading it on fields and beaches and using it for dikes, pathways, even sandboxes. Sprinkle enough of the crushed rock around, he says, and it will eventually remove enough CO2 to slow the rise in global temperatures.

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Olivine. Photo by Psammophile (CC)

 

“Let the earth help us to save the earth,” said Dr.

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Bionic Bird Drones Latest Surveillance Tool

Drones that look like birds apparently are sufficiently bird-like to fool not only grounded humans but actual airborne birds, thanks to what the inventor, Edwin Van Ruymbeke, describes as biomimicry. His crowdfunding appeal has already met its goal and the Bionic Bird is about to be a reality according to his page at indiegogo:

If you act now you can have your own avian drone in time for Christmas, enabling you to spy on the neighbors and see what Santa brings them this year…

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What Happens To Your Brain When You’re Lost In A Book?

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Photo: B.Davis2003 (CC)

Entitled “The Neuroscience of Harry Potter,” this Fast Company story investigates what happens to your brain when you’re truly lost in a book:

Let’s do a casual experiment. Here’s a brief passage from the first book in some obscure fiction series called Harry Potter:

A bush on the edge of the clearing quivered. … Then, out of the shadows, a hooded figure came crawling across the ground like some stalking beast. Harry, Malfoy, and Fang stood transfixed. The cloaked figure reached the unicorn, lowered its head over the wound in the animal’s side, and began to drink its blood.

And here’s another passage from the final book of the series:

He got up off the floor, stretched and moved across to his desk. Hedwig made no movement as he began to flick through the newspapers, throwing them on to the rubbish pile one by one; the owl was asleep, or else faking; she was angry with Harry about the limited amount of time she was allowed out of her cage at the moment.

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A Conspiracy Theory Top Five

Lady Gaga, ARTPOP Ball Tour, Bell Center, Montréal, 2 July 2014 (59) (145632775550).jpg

Lady Gaga, Illuminati puppet, by proacguy1 (CC)

There’s one or two conspiracy connoisseurs in the disinfoverse, so what do y’all think of the Telegraph‘s top five conspiracy theories? Should “the Middle Ages never happened” really be included?

The best conspiracy theories are like enchanting mazes of logic whose thresholds, once crossed, are hard to return from. As ludicrous as they can appear from a distance, the closer you get, the stronger their gravity and the greater the danger of being sucked in. How else to describe the extraordinary rebirth of David Icke? Best known to some as the former BBC sports presenter who appeared on Wogan in a turquoise tracksuit implying he might be the son of God, to the post-Twin Towers generation he’s the visionary master of conspiracy, performing his unscripted 10-hour lecture about the secret forces that rule the world to sell-out crowds at Wembley Arena.

A 2011 BBC poll found that 14 per cent of Britons believed 9/11 was an inside job.

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