Category Archives: Idiocy

Headline of the day: Idiocy of the first order


From the London Daily Mail:

Assange says a 14-year-old could have hacked Democratic emails as he reveals John Podesta’s password was ‘password’

  • Julian Assange claimed Clinton made no attemot to secure her party’s emails
  • He reiterated claims Russia was not behind hacks during presidential election
  • Emails stolen from DNC and Clinton’s campaign chairman were published online
  • But Assange said ‘source is not Russian government and it is not a state party’

Headline of the day: More fuel for Mideast flames


Along with Trump’s support for building more settlements, this move, reversing a long American policy, is certain to fuel more anger and violence. From the London Daily Mail:

GOP senators launch effort to move America’s embassy in Israel to ‘eternal capital’ Jerusalem

  • Republican Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida, Ted Cruz of Texas and Dean Heller of Nevada introduced the Jerusalem Embassy and Recognition Act on Tuesday
  • New law would force the U.S. to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital city – and move the American embassy there from Tel Aviv
  • Current law allows the president to opt out every six months for ‘national security’ reasons
  • New bill would erase that loophole and force the White House’s hand
  • President-elect Donald Trump has already signaled that he agrees with the move, and his designated ambassador David Friedman agrees

Calls to end a dangerous new GMO technology


What if scientists devised to introduce new genetic alternations in a way that ensured the altered genes spread rapidly through a species in the wild?

The scientists who have done just that contend their inventions would ensure the rapid diffusion of genetic traits that would benefit humanity.

But that assertion implies a godlike omniscience, and if we know anything of the fathomless human capacity for hubris, just sucj thinking invariably leads to catastrophe.

The technology is called the gene drive, and its so scary that the even Pentagon has grown wary of a technology they have supported, as Scientific American reported last month:

Over the next four years a new program in the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) plans to cultivate, among other things, a kind of cleanup crew for engineered genes deemed harmful to or undesirable in an ecosystem. The initiative, called Safe Genes, comes at a time when so-called “gene drive” systems, which override the standard rules of gene inheritance and natural selection, are raising hopes among some scientists that the technology could alter or suppress populations of disease-carrying insects or other pests in as few as 20 generations.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation sees so much promise in gene drive technology that it plans to double spending on its Target Malaria initiative, which aims to create systems for driving genes in two species of malaria mosquitoes, to $70 million. Yet without careful precautions, a gene drive released into the wild could spread or change in unexpected ways. Kevin Esvelt, head of the Sculpting Evolution lab at MIT Media Lab, which is applying for Safe Genes funding in collaboration with eight other research groups, predicts that eventually, perhaps around 15 years from now, an accident will allow a drive with potential to spread globally to escape laboratory controls. “It’s not going to be bioterror,” he says, “it’s going to be ‘bioerror.’”

DARPA itself has been one of the largest public funders of synthetic biology research in the U.S. in recent years, upping its spending on synthetic biology projects to more than $100 million in 2014 from nothing in 2010, according to one analysis. The agency announced its Safe Genes program in September 2016 and plans to award funding to multiple research teams by the first half of 2017. “If we’re going to be really bullish about genome engineering,” says DARPA program manager Renee Wegrzyn, “we need to be just as aggressive with tools to reverse those changes.”

The fact that t’s the Pentagon which has backed the technology should be frightening enough, given that the building they’re in was built by the same fellow who headed the American nuclear weapons program for what was then called [more honestly than today] the Department of War.

Civil groups call for a stop to gene drives

And now a coalition of global environmental , labor, and other civil groups is calling for a halt to the new technology.

From Via Campesina News:

At the 2016 UN Convention on Biodiversity held in Cancun Mexico this month, international conservation and environmental leaders called upon governments to establish a moratorium on the controversial genetic extinction technology called gene drives.

Gene drives, developed through new gene-editing techniques- are designed to force a particular genetically engineered trait to spread through an entire wild population – potentially changing entire species or even causing deliberate extinctions. The statement urges governments to put in place an urgent, global moratorium on the development and release of the new technology, which poses serious and potentially irreversible threats to biodiversity, as well as national sovereignty, peace and food security.

Over 170 civil society organisations from six continents have joined the call. Among them were environmental organizations including Friends of the Earth International; trade unions such as the International Union of Food Workers representing over 10 million workers in 127 countries; the largest global organization  of small-scale famers La Via Campesina International, and organics movements like the International Federation of Organic Agricultural Movements; the international indigenous peoples’ organization Tebtebba; scientist coalitions including European Network of Scientists for Social and Environmental Responsibility and Unión de Científicos Comprometidos con la Sociedad (Mexico); as well as ETC Group and Third World Network.

We can be certain that corporations seeking to release the new technology into the world will lie about it, just as Monsanto conducted a massive smear campaign to destroy the reputations and careers of scientists like Ignacio Chapela of the University of California at Berkeley [previously] when he reported that genes from Monsanto’s patented corn strains had escaped into the wild, infecting root race varieties of maize in Mexico.

The Law of Unintended Consequences speaks to the inevitability that  actions on complex system designed to create a similar response will inevitably lead to other consequences unanticipated by those who initiate the actions.

And when those actions could impact the whole biosphere, we should tremble in our boots.

Caution: Selfies may be hazardous to your health


Not just hazardous, but lethal, as two new stories reveal.

We’ve noted before the sometimes calamitous nature of our indulgence in digital narcissism, with selfie-snapping stupidity now listed as a cause of more deaths than shark attacks.

Wikipedia even maintains a list of selfie-related deaths and injuries.

And now we have two more tragedies to add to the list.

We start with a fatality

First from the Press Trust of India:

A 21-year-old engineering student died when he was hit by a speeding train while trying to take a selfie here in the wee hours today, police said. The incident occurred past midnight when the student was returning after celebrating New Year, they said.

Gunasekharan, a resident of Dindigul district studying at a private college in the city’s outskirt, died on the spot when he was trying to take a selfie with the train in the background using his mobile phone, police said.

The victim was hit by the train and hurled at a distance of around 100 feet, they said.

And a near-lethal bite from a crocodile

And while the consequences of the second selfie disaster weren’t lethal, they could’ve been.

From Radio France International:

A French tourist has been bitten by a crocodile in a Thai national park as whe tried to take a selfie with the beast. She was taken to hopsital and is expected to recover.

The crocodile bit 47-year-old Muriel Benetulier on the leg when she ignored warning signs and approached it to take a selfie, park officials said.

The incident took place at the Khao Yai national park, three hours north of Bangkok.

Local media posted pictures of park rangers dressed in camouflage carrying the victim strapped to a stretcher, a thick bandage around her knee. Another photo showed a ranger pointing to a pool of blood close to a sign saying in Thai and English “Danger Crocodile No Swimming”.

Headline of the day: Things could be worse, OK?


From the McClatchy Washington Bureau:

Charlie Sheen thinks he and Ted Cruz could beat Donald Trump in 2020, apparently

  • If you thought the 2016 presidential campaign was weird, prepare for an even weirder 2020.
  • Not only will controversial President-elect Donald Trump presumably be running for another term, he could be squaring off against a man with presidential experience of his own, albeit fictional: Charlie Sheen.
  • In a tweet sent out Friday, the actor asked Texas Republican senator Ted Cruz to join him as his running mate in what would almost certainly be the most long shot bid for the White House in political history.

Holiday greetings, the surreal sociopathic edition


Yep, puerile President Pussygrabber loves us all, according to his latest absolutely insane tweet:

blog-t-tweetAnd in case you’ve forgotten, here’s a replay of his fascistic fist-raising Christmas tweet:

blog-t-trump

Greenland’s ice cap marches towards extinction


We begin with a brief excerpt from a report By Clare Foran, associate editor of and political writer for The Atlantic:

Denial of the broad scientific consensus that human activity is the primary cause of global warming could become a guiding principle of Donald Trump’s presidential administration. Though it’s difficult to pindown exactly what Trump thinks about climate change, he has a well-established track record of skepticism and denial. He has called global warming a “hoax,” insisted while campaigning for the Republican nomination that he’s “not a big believer in man-made climate change,” and recently suggested that “nobody really knows” if climate change exists. Trump also plans to nominate Republicans to lead the Environmental Protection Agency and the Energy Department who have expressed skepticism toward the scientific agreement on human-caused global warming.

Indeed, Trump’s election is a triumph of climate denial, and will elevate him to the top of a Republican Party where prominent elected officials have publiclyrejected the climate consensus. It’s not that the presidential election was a referendum on global warming. Climate change barely came up during the presidential debates, and voters rated the environment as a far less pressing concern than issues like the economy, terrorism, and health care. But that relative lack of concern signals that voters have not prioritized action on climate change, if they want any action taken at all. Trump’s victory sends a message that failing to embrace climate science still isn’t disqualifying for a presidential candidate, even as scientists warn that the devastating consequences of global warming are under way and expected to intensify in the years ahead.

Trump’s elevation of the Republican booboisie to positions of unprecedented power over the national climate agenda represents the start of a truly dystopian nightmare.

It would all be bizarrely humorous were the consequences not so great and at what history may well look back on as a nexial moment in world politics.

and as for that evidence, consider this from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration:

blog-greenland

And the report:

Although surface melt on the Greenland Ice Sheet did not set a new record in 2016, the long-term trend of decreasing mass continued, according to the latest Arctic Report Card from NOAA and its partners. Multiple factors likely contributed to ice loss in 2016: early melt-season onset, low reflectiveness (“albedo” to climate experts), and unusually high air temperatures and prolonged melt in some regions.

Adapted from the 2016 Arctic Report Card, this graph shows monthly changes in Greenland’s total ice mass between April 2002 and April 2016. The ice mass amounts measured (vertical axis) are relative to the ice mass as of April 2002 (horizontal line set to 0). Report card authors estimated the changes based on measurements by NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE). The background photo is from Operation IceBridge.

The ups and downs in the graph track the accumulation of snow in the cold season and the melting of the ice sheet in the warm season. The Arctic Report Card: Update for 2016 reported that between April 2015 and April 2016, Greenland lost approximately 191 gigatonnes of ice, roughly the same amount that was lost between April 2014 and April 2015. Though the April 2015–April 2016 mass loss was lower than the average April-to-April decline over the entire observation period, it continued the long-term melt trend: approximately 269 gigatonnes per year from 2002 to 2016.

Over the course of the  2016 warm season, melting was especially pronounced in Greenland’s southwest and northeast. Melt season lasted about 30 to 40 days longer than usual in the northeast, and about 15 to 20 days longer along the west coast. Albedo (the proportion of incoming solar radiation reflected back into space) was the fifth lowest since the year 2000. Albedo was particularly low in the southwest, and near normal only in the northwest.