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Showing posts from February 6, 2016

Anti-austerity Portuguese government gets EU's OK for budget

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[See also: Spain's Anti-Austerity Podemos Closer to Coalition Government. *RON*]

By Barry Hatton & Raf Casert, Associated Press / The Province, 5 February 2016

LISBON, Portugal - In a tug of war over budgets, the European Commission approved Portugal's so-called anti-austerity spending plan on Friday, but only after extracting a promise for almost $1 billion in additional cost cuts.

The approval was conditional, however, with EU Commissioner Pierre Moscovici saying the new Portuguese "government's plans are at risk of non-compliance with" EU rules to keep deficits down and would need strict monitoring.

Left-wing and centre-left governments — particularly in Greece, Spain, Italy and France — have long complained that the EU's executive Commission required them to cut public spending they argued was needed to foster economic growth.

Lobbying Is A Profession In Need Of A Makeover

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[At play in the fields of the corporatocracy. On the lack of regulation and transparency regarding the lobbying of government in BC. In BC there are 30 lobbyists per legislator; in Ottawa there are 9. Corporations don't spend that kind of money if they aren't getting a good return on their investment. *RON*]

Dermod Travis, Executive Director, IntegrityBC, Huffington Post, 4 February 2016

Last month, lobbyists gathered in Vancouver for The Future of Lobbying, a one-day conference put on by B.C.'s Office of the Registrar of Lobbyists, Simon Fraser Institute's Governance Studies and Public Affairs Association of Canada (B.C. Chapter).
Hate to be the bearer of bad news, but there does seem to be a future for the industry. In fact, if we're not careful, B.C. could be overrun by lobbyists.
Last year, there were 2,502 in-house and consultant lobbyists registered in the province, up from 1,451 four years ago. Whoever said the B.C. Jobs P…

FGM: number of victims found to be 70 million higher than thought

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[A terrible thought. Half of girls and women who are cut live in just three countries as Unicef statistics reveal the shocking global scale of this barbaric ritual. *RON*]
Jessica Elgot, The Guardian, 5 February 2016
The huge global scale of female genital mutilation has been revealed in disturbing new statistics, which show at least 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone ritual cutting, half of them living in just three countries.

The latest worldwide figures, compiled by Unicef, include nearly 70 million more girls and women than estimated in 2014 because of a raft of new data collected in Indonesia, one of the countries where FGM is most prevalent despite the practice being banned since 2006.

In the analysis of 30 countries, published to mark the International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM, statistics showed women in Indonesia, Egypt and Ethiopia account for half of all FGM victims worldwide. Somalia has the highest prevalence of…

The superfluid Universe

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[Modern physics tends to make my head throb. This, however, looks like the start of a promising approach to understanding dark matter, the single biggest puzzle in the study of the universe. Quote of the day: " When I was a student, I used to wake up every 30 nights from a dream about modified gravity."  *RON*]

by Sabine Hossenfelder, Aeon, 1 February 2016
Most of the matter in the Universe is invisible, composed of some substance that leaves no mark as it breezes through us – and through all of the detectors the scientists have created to catch it. But this dark matter might not consist of unseen particle clouds, as most theorists have assumed. Instead, it might be something even stranger: a superfluid that condensed to puddles billions of years ago, seeding the galaxies we observe today.

This new proposal has vast implications for cosmology and physics. Superfluid dark matter overcomes many of the theoretical problems with the particle …

Monocle-Wearing Oil Baron’s Cigarette Holder Splinters In Clenched Teeth After Hearing Bernie Sanders’ Environmental Platform

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[The other humor piece that got me going this morning! And I couldn't resist this unintentionally funny bit: Ted Cruz's Logo Is Hilariously Appropriate.  ;-) *RON*]
News in Brief, The Onion, Vol 52 Issue 4, 4 February 2016.

GREENWICH, CT—Leaving him visibly seething as he sat in his tufted leather wingback chair in his study, monocle-wearing oil baron Frederick Porter Harriman’s ivory-inlaid cigarette holder reportedly splintered between his clenched teeth upon him hearing presidential candidate Bernie Sanders outline his environmental platform during Thursday night’s Democratic debate. “Sanders!” the petroleum tycoon reportedly snarled, throwing his silk top hat to the floor and stomping on it in aggrievement before shaking his ruby-encrusted cane at the television set and growling that he would make the Vermont senator pay. “Impose a carbon tax on me, will you? Well, you’ll see what happens when someone tries to make a fool of F. P. Ha…

Shkreli Miraculously Makes Nation Side with Congress

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[What caught my attention this morning were humorous stories and science stories. That smirking creep Shkreli is incapable of controlling himself well enough to meet his self interest. It's well worth searching YouTube to watch some of his non-testimony. The hilarity lies in watching the smirking creeps in Congress mount their high horses. Best read in conjunction with: Wall Street Billionaire Appears to Be Genuinely Puzzled by Bernie Sanders' Populist Crusade Against the Richest 1%, and Smirking Shkreli refuses lawmakers' questions, calls them 'imbeciles'. *RON*]

By Andy Borowitz, New Yorker, 4 February 2016

(The Borowitz Report)—In a feat that some observers called nothing short of miraculous, the embattled pharmaceuticals C.E.O. Martin Shkreli single-handedly made the American people side with Congress on Thursday morning.

According to polls taken after his appearance before the despised legislative body, Shkreli’s smug, s…

Lessons of Demopolis

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[Wisdom from classical Greece: argues that the marriage of democracy and liberalism is not inevitable, and suggests that this perspective might be usefully applied to understanding the Arab Spring and the colour revolutions of Eastern Europe. *RON*]

by Josiah Ober, Aeon, 4 February 2016.

Josiah Ober is Professor of Political Science and Classics at Stanford University. His most recent book is The Rise and Fall of Classical Greece (2015). Edited by Sam Haselby

Is it better to live in a democratic society or a liberal one? Join the conversation →

A quarter-century ago, the American political scientist Francis Fukuyama announced that history had ended. The long search for the best possible political order had come to a close. Liberal democracy – defined as popular sovereignty plus individual autonomy and human rights – was the answer.

Today, in an age of terrorism, enduring war and resurgent autocracies, history has returned with a vengeance. Fukuyam…

Frozen Animal Brought Back to Life After 30 Years

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[A story from last month, but I just like tardigrades; they're so weird and so numerous on the planet. Their name means "slow walkers," their fossil record goes back 530 million years, they have a maximum length of 0.5 mm, and their eight legs each have between four and eight claws. *RON*]

By Kieran Mulvaney, Discovery, 21 January 2016

An animal that had been frozen for 30 years has been revived by scientists — and it then successfully reproduced.
The animal in question was a species of tardigrade, a microscopic creature sometimes referred to as a “water bear” that is perhaps the hardiest lifeform on Earth. There are over 1,000 known species, all of which have eight legs and measure between 0.5 and 1.2 mm in length, and they are found more or less everywhere.

As Brian Resnick wrote recently for Vox: “Pick up a piece of moss, and you’ll find tardigrades. In the soil: tardigrades. The ocean: You get it. They live on every continent, …