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Why Dogs & Cats Can’t Dance, But Parrots Do April 30, 2009

Posted by tkcollier in Enviroment, Humor, Music, Science & Technology, Video.
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In lab studies of two parrots and close review of the YouTube videos, scientists looked for signs that animals were actually feeling the beat of music they heard.

The verdict: Some parrots did, and maybe an occasional elephant. But researchers found no evidence of that for dogs and cats, despite long exposure to people and music, nor for chimps, our closest living relatives.

Why? The truly boppin’ animals shared with people some ability to mimic sounds they hear, the researchers say. (Even elephants can do that). The brain circuitry for that ability lets people learn to talk, and evidently also to dance or tap their toes to music, suggests Aniruddh Patel of The Neurosciences Institute in San Diego.

via Boogie birdie: Animals shown to ‘dance’ to music – washingtonpost.com.

Staged Illusions April 30, 2009

Posted by tkcollier in Art, Video.
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Thanks to Suzzane in France for sharing this video

Swine Flu Started At Smithfield Farm In Mexico April 26, 2009

Posted by tkcollier in health, In The News.
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The operations, grouped under a Smithfield subsidiary called Granjas Carrol, raise 950,000 hogs per year, according to the company Web site—a level nearly equal to Smithfield’s total U.S. hog production.

April 6 – Veratect reported local health officials declared a health alert due to a respiratory disease outbreak in La Gloria, Perote Municipality, Veracruz State, Mexico. Sources characterized the event as a “strange” outbreak of acute respiratory infection, which led to bronchial pneumonia in some pediatric cases. According to a local resident, symptoms included fever, severe cough, and large amounts of phlegm. Health officials recorded 400 cases that sought medical treatment in the last week in La Gloria, which has a population of 3,000; officials indicated that 60% of the town’s population (approximately 1,800 cases) has been affected. No precise timeframe was provided, but sources reported that a local official had been seeking health assistance for the town since February.

via Biosurveillance: Swine Flu in Mexico- Timeline of Events.

Drug Decriminalization? Portugal’s Success Story April 26, 2009

Posted by tkcollier in Life, philosophy & politics.
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At the recommendation of a national commission charged with addressing Portugal’s drug problem, jail time was replaced with the offer of therapy. The argument was that the fear of prison drives addicts underground and that incarceration is more expensive than treatment — so why not give drug addicts health services instead? Under Portugal’s new regime, people found guilty of possessing small amounts of drugs are sent to a panel consisting of a psychologist, social worker and legal adviser for appropriate treatment (which may be refused without criminal punishment), instead of jail.

The paper, published by Cato in April, found that in the five years after personal possession was decriminalized, illegal drug use among teens in Portugal declined and rates of new HIV infections caused by sharing of dirty needles dropped, while the number of people seeking treatment for drug addiction more than doubled.

via The Portuguese Experiment: Did Legalizing Drugs Work? – TIME.

India and China want IMF to sell its $100b gold April 21, 2009

Posted by tkcollier in Economy & Business.
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Another example of the emerging Markets thinking outside-of-the-box to come up with a seemingly simple solution to re-starting the developing world’s growth.

India and China may press for the sale of the entire gold reserves of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to raise money for the least developed countries.

The IMF holds 103.4 million ounces (3,217 tonnes) of gold that, if sold, can fetch about $100 billion.

A draft paper exchanged between New Delhi and Beijing proposes that the gold be sold in bullion markets over a period of two to three years. The money thus raised must be used in tackling poverty in the poorest nations.

via India and China want IMF to sell its $100b gold.

Inside the War Against Robert Gates April 18, 2009

Posted by tkcollier in Geopolitics.
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It would take an idealist of John Lennon’s lyrical stature to predict a future in which terrorism — in all its low-tech and emerging high-tech forms — isn’t the predominant mode of conflict in a world undergoing twin paradigm shifts of its own: a religious “great awakening” (Imagine plenty more religion…) and the rise of history’s first truly global middle class of consumers (…and more possessions, too!). So while I’m not given to surrendering the future to John Robb’s “global guerillas” any time soon, I’m hard-pressed to locate a more gritty and realistic appraisal of the enemies America will persistently face in coming decades — as in, plenty to kill or die for.

Gates understands this nuance of modern warfare, too. So he wants to create a home for today’s warfighters — the Dances with Wolves guys who get stuck manning those tiny forts in southern Afghanistan. He wants the Pentagon to stop looking down upon them, to stop haphazardly welding so-called “hillbilly” armor onto vehicles that lacked such basic protection. He wants America to stop casually trading their lives in the here-and-now fight against real insurgencies for theoretical casualties in dreamed-up, there-and-then fights against, I dunno, the Chinese or something. He wants, ultimately, to show them the money.

In response to his “radical” vision, Gates is preparing for the Know Nothings — those same national-security figureheads who have long sung his praises from the Capitol — to put him through the meat grinder. He will be dubbed, with all appropriate indirectness, “naïve” and “reckless.” His opponents, all of whom fear that the loss of home-district defense jobs will ultimately end their congressional careers, will suddenly accuse Gates of disregarding this or that “disturbing trend.” Try not to laugh out loud when you spot these security neophytes on TV, spouting absolute nonsense fed to them by staffers smarted-up by Google searches.

Inside the War Against Robert Gates.

IMF Warns Over Limits Of Stimulus April 17, 2009

Posted by tkcollier in Economy & Business.
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Mr Strauss-Kahn called for a urgent action to “cleanse banks” of toxic assets and for further fiscal stimulus beyond the 2pc of global GDP already agreed. The snag is that high-debt countries may have hit the limits already.

“The impact becomes negative for debt levels that exceed 60pc of GDP,” said the Fund.

While no countries were named, this would raise questions about Japan, Germany, France, Italy and ultimately Britain and the US after their bank rescues.

via IMF warns over parallels to Great Depression – Telegraph.

How Sweet It Is? April 17, 2009

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The new stevia extract, which is an extract 300 times more potent than sugar, is the only widely marketed sugar substitute derived from a shrub. Other commonly used sweeteners aspartame (Nutrasweet, Equal) and saccharin were developed artificially in labs. Sucralose (Splenda) is derived from sugar but is processed with chlorinated chemicals.

Studies indicate that consuming something with a sweet taste primes the body for a calorie delivery that doesn’t happen. As a result eaters seek more sweets to satisfy the body’s cravings. Recent research also found that sucralose may alter people’s gut bugs in ways that promote weight gain.

A recent study by researchers at Louisiana State University’s School of Public Health found that liquid calories are a bigger problem than food when it comes to weight gain, and that sugar-sweetened beverages are the main culprit. What’s worse, Americans consume an average of 20 teaspoons of added sugars a day, about twice as much as recommended, according to government reports.

via New sweetener not so sweet for your diet – TODAY Health.

A ‘Copper Standard’ for the world’s currency system? – Telegraph April 16, 2009

Posted by tkcollier in Economy & Business.
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One thing is clear: Beijing suspects that the US Federal Reserve is engineering a covert default on America’s debt by printing money. Premier Wen Jiabao issued a blunt warning last month that China was tiring of US bonds. “We have lent a huge amount of money to the US, so of course we are concerned about the safety of our assets,” he said.

This is slightly disingenuous. China has the world’s largest reserves – $1.95 trillion, mostly in dollars – because it has been holding down the yuan to boost exports. This mercantilist strategy has reached its limits.

The beauty of recycling China’s surplus into metals instead of US bonds is that it kills so many birds with one stone: it stops the yuan rising, without provoking complaints of currency manipulation by Washington; metals are easily stored in warehouses, unlike oil; the holdings are likely to rise in value over time since the earth’s crust is gradually depleting its accessible ores. Above all, such a policy safeguards China’s industrial revolution, while the West may one day face a supply crisis.

The next industrial revolution is going to be led by hybrid cars, and that needs copper. You can see the subtle way that China is moving into 30 or 40 countries with resources

via A ‘Copper Standard’ for the world’s currency system? – Telegraph.

GM Car -1st Post-Bailout Model April 16, 2009

Posted by tkcollier in Humor, Video.
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Post-Madoff Palm Beach Blues April 13, 2009

Posted by tkcollier in Economy & Business, Lifestyle.
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The last time he was here, he fell for a $2,000 pair of worsted spun cashmere pants, which the up-scale Worth Avenue boutique Trillion didn’t have in his size, and had to be ordered from Italy.After the slacks arrived, but before Mr. Madoff could come by for a fitting, he was arrested.

“I remember I heard about the arrest and I went directly to the store to charge those pants on his credit card,” recalls Mr. Neff, a fit, gray-haired man in perpetual motion. “But the card had already been canceled.”

So, what happened to the pants?

“They’re in the racks, over there,” Mr. Neff says, nodding toward the trouser section.

via Recession Pain, Even in Palm Beach – NYTimes.com.

Freedom To Criticize Faith Threatened April 12, 2009

Posted by tkcollier in News and politics, Religion.
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History has shown that once governments begin to police speech, they find ever more of it to combat. Countries such as Canada, England and France have prosecuted speakers and journalists for criticizing homosexuals and other groups. It’s the ultimate irony: free speech curtailed for the sake of a pluralistic society.

Religious orthodoxy has always lived in tension with free speech. Yet Western ideals are based on the premise that free speech contains its own protection: Good speech ultimately prevails over bad. There’s no blasphemy among free nations, only orthodoxy and those who seek to challenge it.

via The Free World Bars Free Speech – washingtonpost.com.

Free Food, Party All Night – At Denny’s April 11, 2009

Posted by tkcollier in Economy & Business, Food.
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On February 1, the 56-year-old company aired a Super Bowl commercial that promised free Grand Slams to anyone who walked through the door from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Feb. 3. Denny’s, which is open 24/7, says some two million free meals were served.

Do these promotions justify the cost? CEO Marchioli. The additional customers buying juice and coffee with their free breakfast, plus the repeat business the giveaways generate, covers the cost. “We’ve already paid for the Super Bowl promotion, and then some,”

dennys-free-breakfast1Denny’s has created something called the “Allnighter” program. From 10 p.m. to 5 a.m., the chain has started playing alternative rock music on the restaurant soundtrack. Denny’s has now sponsored over 30 emerging bands —they get free meals while on tour — and organized late-night meet-and-greets, and occasional jam sessions, with the musicians in the restaurants. The servers wear casual black t-shirts instead of a buttoned-up uniform. Denny’s also just introduced four new late-night menu items, each priced between $3 and $4. These include the “Pancake Puppy 12-pack,” a dozen bite sized hotcakes rolled in cinnamon and sugar, and “Kickin’ Flavor Wraps,” two tortillas served with chicken strips. The idea is to serve stuff that groups of amped-up rabble-rousers can share. Denny’s wants to give the late-night crowd a social experience they can’t get at the fast-food drive-thrus, which are now staying open later through the night and eating away at the chain’s graveyard shift revenues.

via Denny’s: Where The Food Is Free, and Drunks Can Pee – TIME.

Search For The Best Grateful Dead Show April 10, 2009

Posted by tkcollier in Music.
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dead1977THE GRATEFUL DEAD’S live recordings represent a special order of surfeit. Nearly 2,200 Dead shows exist on tape, of the 2,350 or so that the group played. Most of those are available online — either for free streaming on Web sites like archive.org and nugs.net, , or for download on iTunes, like the “Dick’s Picks” series and the more recent “Road Trips” archival series, which uses master-tape audio sources.

Deadheads have often been polled about their favorite show, through fanzines and Web sites. The answers have stayed fairly consistent. May 8, 1977, at Barton Hall, Cornell University. The pairing of Feb. 13 and 14, 1970, at the Fillmore East in New York — perhaps the first widely traded shows.

via Music – Dissecting the Grateful Dead, Forever Live – NYTimes.com.

Delaying Gratification – the New Frugality April 8, 2009

Posted by tkcollier in Lifestyle.
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cat_police_dogsThe brain has a limited capacity for self-regulation, so exerting willpower in one area often leads to backsliding in others. The good news, however, is that practice increases willpower capacity, so that in the long run, buying less now may improve our ability to achieve future goals — like losing those 10 pounds we gained when we weren’t out shopping.

No one knows why willpower can grow with practice but it must reflect some biological change in the brain. Perhaps neurons in the frontal cortex, which is responsible for planning behavior, or in the anterior cingulate cortex, which is associated with cognitive control, use blood sugar more efficiently after repeated challenges. Or maybe one of the chemical messengers that neurons use to communicate with one another is produced in larger quantities after it has been used up repeatedly, thereby improving the brain’s willpower capacity.

Whatever the explanation, consistently doing any activity that requires self-control seems to increase willpower — and the ability to resist impulses and delay gratification is highly associated with success in life. Thanks to frugal Maria for this article

via Tighten Your Belt, Strengthen Your Mind – New York Times.

Black Swan-proof World April 8, 2009

Posted by tkcollier in Economy & Business.
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We love 10 step programs. So here an economic perscription by the author who was a veteran trader, a distinguished professor at New York University’s Polytechnic Institute and the author of The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable 1. What is fragile should break early while it is still small. Nothing should ever become too big to fail. Evolution in economic life helps those with the maximum amount of hidden risks – and hence the most fragile – become the biggest.

2. No socialisation of losses and privatisation of gains. Whatever may need to be bailed out should be nationalised; whatever does not need a bail-out should be free, small and risk-bearing. We have managed to combine the worst of capitalism and socialism. In France in the 1980s, the socialists took over the banks. In the US in the 2000s, the banks took over the government. This is surreal.

via FT.com / Comment / Opinion – Ten principles for a Black Swan-proof world.

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The End of Philosophy April 8, 2009

Posted by tkcollier in philosophy & politics, Religion.
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What shapes moral emotions in the first place? The answer has long been evolution, but in recent years there’s an increasing appreciation that evolution isn’t just about competition. It’s also about cooperation within groups. Like bees, humans have long lived or died based on their ability to divide labor, help each other and stand together in the face of common threats. Many of our moral emotions and intuitions reflect that history. We don’t just care about our individual rights, or even the rights of other individuals. We also care about loyalty, respect, traditions, religions. We are all the descendents of successful cooperators.

The rise and now dominance of this emotional approach to morality is an epochal change. It challenges all sorts of traditions. It challenges the bookish way philosophy is conceived by most people. It challenges the Talmudic tradition, with its hyper-rational scrutiny of texts. It challenges the new atheists, who see themselves involved in a war of reason against faith and who have an unwarranted faith in the power of pure reason and in the purity of their own reasoning.

Finally, it should also challenge the very scientists who study morality. They’re good at explaining how people make judgments about harm and fairness, but they still struggle to explain the feelings of awe, transcendence, patriotism, joy and self-sacrifice, which are not ancillary to most people’s moral experiences, but central. The evolutionary approach also leads many scientists to neglect the concept of individual responsibility and makes it hard for them to appreciate that most people struggle toward goodness, not as a means, but as an end in itself.

via Op-Ed Columnist – The End of Philosophy – NYTimes.com.

The Road to Area 51 April 8, 2009

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The problem is the myths of Area 51 are hard to dispute if no one can speak on the record about what actually happened there. Well, now, for the first time, someone is ready to talk—in fact, five men are.

“We couldn’t have told you any of this a year ago,” Slater says. “Now we can’t tell it to you fast enough.” That is because in 2007, the CIA began declassifying the 50-year-old OXCART program. Today, there’s a scramble for eyewitnesses to fill in the information gaps. Only a few of the original players are left.

via The Road to Area 51 – Los Angeles Times.

Exposed! Barbie at 50 April 8, 2009

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barbie-at-50

Sports Gene Found? April 3, 2009

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A difference in just one amino acid in a protein might explain why some people learn new motor skills faster and reach higher levels of performance.

The protein, called brain-derived neurotro­phic factor (BDNF), is a key driver of synaptic plasti­city, the ability of the connections between brain cells to change in strength. This plasticity is an important factor in learning, explains neurologist Janine Reis, who led the study at the National Institutes of Health. According to Reis, this finding offers the first evidence that slight variations in BDNF’s structure affect learning ability.

Other groups have found that the BDNF version that Reis linked with poorer acquisition of skills is associated with reduced function of the hippocampus, a brain region involved in motor learning.

via Athletic Ability May Lie in a Single Gene: Scientific American.

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