Tuesday, September 30, 2014

TED Talk: Why Learn Penmanship?

Penmanship for the 21st Century | Jake Weidmann | TEDxMileHigh

Graph: Obamacare Is Working

Line chart showing the uninsured rate in the U.S. declining sharply since ACA went into effect.
"Obamacare: Where's The Train Wreck?"


Republican leadership says Obamacare is not working.

To the contrary:
"Republicans Finally Admit Why They Hate Obamacare"


"GOP's Anti-Medicaid Expansion Body Count, By State"


"Why Are Murderous GOP Governors Protected By The Press?"


The Hard, Central Truth Of Contemporary Conservatism

The hard, central "fact" of contemporary "conservatism" is its insistence on a socio-economic threshold above which people deserve government assistance, and below which people deserve to die. 

The sooner the better. 

Unless conservatives are showing n'er-do-wells The Door of Doom, they just don't "feel right." 

To allay this chthonic anxiety, they resort to Human Sacrifice,  hoping that spilled blood will placate "the angry gods," including the one they've made of themselves. 

Having poked their eyes out, they fail to see  that self-generated wrath creates "the gods" who hold them thrall.

Almost "to a man," contemporary "conservatives" have apotheosized themselves and now -- sitting on God's usurped throne -- are rabid to pass Final Judgment

Self-proclaimed Christians, eager to thrust "the undeserving" through The Gates of Hell, are the very people most likely to cross its threshold. 

Remarkably, none of them are tempted to believe this. 

Albuquerque Police Officer Jokes About Shooting James Boyd, Kills Him 2 Hours Later

Quote from Officer Keith Sandy,
On March 16, Albuquerque police opened fire on homeless camper James Boyd in the New Mexico foothills. The entire scene was caught on video and sparked instant public outrage.
The death of James Boyd was one of many fatal shootings in New Mexico, something the Department of Justice determined was a pattern of unjustified excessive force by the Albuquerque Police Department.
Now a dashcam video has surfaced, which recorded audio of Albuquerque Police Officer Keith Sandy, one of the two officers involved in the fatal shooting of James Boyd, saying he wouldshoot Boyd in the penis:
Sandy: What do they have you guys doing here?
Ware: I don't know. The guy asked for state police.
Sandy: Who asked?
Ware: I don't know.
Sandy: For this f***ing lunatic?  I'm going to shoot him in the penis with a shotgun here in a second.
Ware: You got uh less-lethal?
Sandy: I got…
Ware: The Taser shotgun?
Sandy: Yeah.
Ware: Oh, I thought you guys got rid of those?
Sandy: ROP's got's what we're thinking, because I don't know what's going on, nobody has briefed me...
A mere two hours later, Officer Sandy did fatally shoot James Boyd.
The Albuquerque police are denying he said it, but jump below the fold to hear the audio for yourself and read on about how the Albuquerque Police continue to stonewall the investigation.
From KOB4, which has done some excellent reporting around the story:
The Albuquerque Police Department are sticking to their story:
The Albuquerque Police Department maintains that instead of saying "For this f**ing lunatic? I'm going to shoot him in the penis with a shotgun here in a second," Officer Keith Sandy said, "For this f**ing lunatic? I'm going to shoot him with a Taser shotgun in a second."
They've also refused to release the official report:
APD also released one single page from the ten-page New Mexico State Police report on the shooting, which details a follow-up interview with state police Sgt. Chris Ware, who said he "doesn't remember" what was said that day, but that he "believes" he said "Taser shotgun."
KOB says repeated requests for comments from Mayor Richard Berry have been ignored.
This isn't the first troubling incident for Officer Sandy. In 2007, he was fired by the New Mexico State Police:
Albuquerque Police Department brass took a chance in 2007, when they hired four ex-State Police officers who had freshly been relieved of duty from that agency because of a double-dipping scandal.
One officer had resigned from State Police. The other three had been fired. All four faced criminal charges at one point for receiving payments from a private security contractor while on the clock for State Police, although those never materialized.
And it gets worse:
“They do not carry guns, they are not going to be badged,” Castro said in July 2007 . “They’re civilian employees. They’ll be collecting evidence.”
In fact, they all got badges. And they all got guns. And some of them also got tremendous power and standing within the department.
Officer Sandy is currently on paid leave while the investigation continues.



600-Year-Old Canoe Found in New Zealand, Last Major Landmass Settled By Humans

600-Year-Old Canoe Discovered in New Zealand
New Zealand was one of the last major landmasses settled by humans. Radiocarbon dating, evidence of deforestation and mitochondrial DNA variability within Māoripopulations suggest New Zealand was first settled by Eastern Polynesians between 1250 and 1300... Dutch explorer Abel Tasman sighted New Zealand in 1642 and called it Staten Landt, supposing it was connected to a landmass of the same name at the southern tip of South America. In 1645 Dutch cartographers renamed the land Nova Zeelandia after the Dutch province of Zeeland. British explorer James Cook subsequently anglicised the name to New Zealand.  In 1893 the country became the first nation in the world to grant all women the right to vote and in 1894 pioneered the adoption of compulsory arbitration between employers and unions
600-Year-Old Canoe Discovered in New Zealand
By Amina Khan
Centuries before Captain Cook explored the South Pacific, Polynesian seafarers in canoes crossed vast swaths of water to colonize lonely islands from Samoa and New Zealand all the way to Hawaii. But how they managed such a feat remains something of a mystery.Now, a roughly 600-year-old canoe discovered in New Zealand may shed some light on the Polynesians' sailing technology. The vessel, described in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is one of just two canoes dating back to such an early time period. A second paper in the same journal finds that shifting ancient wind patterns may have created ideal windows of opportunity for certain generations of sailing Polynesians.
The preserved canoe remains were discovered in 2012 on New Zealand's South Island near the Anaweka estuary, pulled from a sand dune some time after a major storm. The 19.95-foot-long section of hull is part of what the authors call a "complex and robust composite canoe, carved from a single timber."
Few such vessels have lasted long enough to be found, because wood is organic matter and decays quickly. But the swampy, oxygen-poor spot it was buried in allowed the canoe to survive the centuries, researchers said. And the shape of it turned out to be very unlike the boats that early European explorers had described.
"It was one of those situations where it sort of took your breath away," said lead author Dilys Amanda Johns, a senior research fellow at the University of Auckland. "I'd never seen anything like it."
Using radiocarbon dating, the team found that the canoe was last caulked around AD 1400. The canoe, known as a waka, was probably at least 45.9 feet long when it was whole, Johns said.
The image of a sea turtle is carved into the hull -- a symbol that's rarely found in the Maori culture of New Zealand but that featured widely in art, myths and ritual throughout Polynesia. (Sea turtles were held in high regard, known -- perhaps fittingly -- for their long voyages through open ocean.)
"A sea turtle on a 600-[year]-old Polynesian canoe is a unique and powerful symbol," the study authors wrote.
A few features, including four transverse ribs carved into the hull, haven't been known historically in New Zealand, but have been featured in canoes in the Southern Cook Islands, described in 1913. The New Zealand canoe also shares some design elements with a canoe found about 30 years ago on Huahine in the Society Islands. It's thought to be from around the same time period as the New Zealand canoe, even though it was discovered roughly 2,500 miles away. The canoes "could have come from the same design tradition," the authors wrote. Clearly, the Polynesians knew how to get around.(continued...)

Wildlife Populations Down 52% Since 1970

A lion is shown on July 21, 2010, in Kruger National Park, South Africa. Lions are among a lengthy list of animals whose populations and habitats have been decimated over the last few decades.

A lion is shown on July 21, 2010, in Kruger National Park, South Africa. Lions are among a lengthy list of animals whose populations and habitats have been decimated over the last few decades.

A disturbing report released by the World Wildlife Fund Tuesday estimates that Earth holds less than half as many animals as it did roughly 40 years ago.
Global wildlife populations shrunk by 52 percent between 1970 and 2010, according to the group's biennial Living Planet Report. Tuesday’s numbers almost double 2012’s projections, suggesting wildlife decline is happening at a much faster rate than previously believed.
The report tracks population changes in more than 10,000 vertebrate species, according to a news release. It also examines consumption of goods and resources, greenhouse gas emissions, natural resource availability and other bookmarks of humanity’s ecological footprint.
The 2014 report concludes that humanity has left one massive footprint on wildlife populations.
“We’re gradually destroying our planet’s ability to support our way of life,” said Carter Roberts, president and CEO of World Wildlife Fund in the U.S. “We all live on a finite planet, and it’s time we started acting within those limits.”
The report breaks wildlife populations down into three major categories: Terrestrial, freshwater and marine. Terrestrial populations – like elephants, tigers, lions and rhinos – saw a 39 percent decline, as did marine animals. Freshwater animals – like frogs, salamanders, shorebirds and non-marine aquatic life – were hardest hit, with a population decline of 76 percent.

Tropical regions have seen the biggest wildlife declines geographically, especially in the Southern Hemisphere. The Neotropical region that the report says encompasses Central and South America had animal populations in 2010 that were 83 percent smaller than they were in 1970.
That doesn’t necessarily mean that 83 percent of all species alive in 1970 are now extinct in Central and South America, according to Vox. Rather, the vertebrate populations across the board in those regions are only a fraction of what they were four decades ago.
So who’s to blame for all this? The report suggests, in large part, it’s all our fault.
The fund assigns up to three primary threats to the habitats it pulls together for the report. Exploitation – including hunting and fishing, legally or otherwise – is the main culprit in diminishing wildlife populations, according to the study.
Other studies appear to support that finding. A study of African elephant populations released in an August issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found poachers had wiped out nearly 100,000 elephants over a three-year period.
Poaching is believed to account for 65 percent of elephant deaths each year, according to the study. Only a decade ago, that number was 25 percent. Officials have begun airlifting elephants and rhinos out of highly poached regions in central and southern Africa and into more protected reserves.
A black rhino is transported by helicopter to avoid poachers in South Africa in this undated photo.
A black rhino is transported by helicopter to avoid poachers in South Africa in this undated photo. 

A study released by The Pew Charitable Trusts in June also estimates that overfishing has cut bluefin tuna populations by 64 percent since 1970. And pollution from BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010 “could affect the reproductive potential of bluefin for decades,” according to the report.
Collectively, threats spurred by human development – including exploitation, habitat degradation, habitat loss, climate change and pollution – account for 93 percent of primary threats to wildlife around the world, according to the World Wildlife Fund report.
“There is a lot of data in this report, and it can seem very overwhelming and complex,” said Jon Hoekstra, World Wildlife Fund's chief scientist. “What’s not complicated are the clear trends we’re seeing – 39 percent of terrestrial wildlife gone, 39 percent of marine wildlife gone, 76 percent of freshwater wildlife gone – all in the past 40 years.”
The report finds that the U.S. and China alone account for nearly a third of the world’s total ecological footprint, which is defined by the fund as a measurement of "the area required to supply the ecological goods and services we use." And the world as a whole is operating at a pace well beyond our biocapacity, or "land actually available to provide these goods and services," according to the report.
At the rate society’s going, the fund says it would take one and a half Earths to meet our continuously growing demands on land and resources.
“This continuing overshoot is making it more and more difficult to meet the needs of a growing global human population, as well as to leave space for other species,” the report says. “Adding further complexity is that demand is not evenly distributed, with people in industrialized countries consuming resources and services at a much faster rate.”
On a less depressing note, high-income countries like the U.S. actually have managed to increase domestic biodiversity through conservation efforts. Mammal populations were up 80 percent in North America in 2010, and bird populations increased more than 460 percent in the region since 1970.
“Things look so worrying that it may seem difficult to feel positive about the future,” Marco Lambertini, international director general of World Wildlife Fund International, writes in the report. “Difficult, certainly, but not impossible … it is by acknowledging the problem and understanding the drivers of decline that we can find the insights and, more importantly, the determination to put things right.” 

Kids And Screen Time: Cutting Through The Static

By Cory Turner
The walls are lined with robots and movie posters for Star Wars and Back to the Future. But this is no 1980s nerd den. It's the technology lab at Westside Neighborhood School in Los Angeles, and the domain of its ed-tech coordinator, Don Fitz-Roy.
"So we're gonna be talking about digital citizenship today."
Fitz-Roy is a mountain of a man, bald with just the hint of a goatee. Of the half-dozen students sitting in small, plastic chairs around him, any three could easily fit inside his shirt. And he's trying to keep them safe — from the Internet.
He's talking about the laundry list of athletes and actors these kids have seen, of late, making fools of themselves using social media.
He tells the students: "They say something online, and then suddenly they say, 'I'm gonna delete this. No, I changed my mind.' They didn't mean to say that. And it's out there."
This class is just one example of WNS' pretty radical technology policy — a policy that has second- and third-graders not just typing, but doing Internet research and computer programming.
Here's the challenge: Much of it requires screen time.
The Screen-Time Experiment
And, with so much talk these days of bad screen time, what is good screen time? It's a question that perplexes parents and educators alike.
One of the emotion photos used by UCLA researchers to gauge kids' ability to perceive emotion. Sixth-graders who spent five days at outdoor camp, away from their electronic devices, got much better at perceiving this young woman's happiness.
One of the emotion photos used by UCLA researchers to gauge kids' ability to perceive emotion. Sixth-graders who spent five days at outdoor camp, away from their electronic devices, got much better at perceiving this young woman's happiness.
Courtesy of Stephen Nowicki
We've heard the arguments, the warnings, the prescriptions. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that kids' entertainment screen time be limited "to less than one or two hours per day." And for kids under 2: none at all.
We recently reported on a study out of the University of California, Los Angeles. The short of it: Researchers found that sixth-graders who spent just five days at an outdoor camp, away from their electronic devices, improved remarkably at reading emotion in other people's faces.
The experiment comes with lots of caveats. It was small (roughly 100 kids). And removing screens from the equation did not, by itself, improve these kids' social skills. What likely led to the improvement was the fact that, instead of texting or gaming, the students were working together, face-to-face, constantly decoding each other's expressions, voice tone and posture.
The take-home: Social skills require constant maintenance.
The good news, according to this study, is that we can improve those skills in relatively short order, with practice. The bad news is that screen time often comes at the expense of that vital face-to-face time.
Which is why what's happening at one independent school in Los Angeles is so interesting.
Westside Neighborhood School
With kids from pre-K through 8th grade, WNS sits tucked into the shadow of a Home Depot in L.A.'s booming Playa Vista neighborhood. It's close enough to the ocean that the air is more salt than smog.
When talking about screen time and kids' access to handheld devices, Brad Zacuto, who heads the school, likes to use an old-fashioned analogy: "It's like putting a child behind a wheel of a car. There's a lot of power there."
Think about how dangerous it was back when cars first hit the road, Zacuto says. No traffic lights or street signs. That's where we are now, he warns, with kids and all this technology at their fingertips. "It's here to stay. But at some point you have to teach kids how to drive a car responsibly."
The storage box for seventh-graders' cellphones.i
The storage box for seventh-graders' cellphones.
Cory Turner/NPR
Zacuto's tech policy begins with a few basics:
First, no smartphones till sixth grade. Even then, kids can bring them, but they have to check them at the front desk.
Second, engaging and educating parents: WNS makes them sign a commitment to limit screen time at home and to keep kids off of social media — again, until sixth grade.
Also, at school, no technology until second grade. "We choose to have our youngest children engaged in digging in dirt," Zacuto says, "and building things and using their hands."
Not just their hands but their eyeballs and brains, too: interacting with other kids face to face. Because they need lots of early practice relating, reading emotion and responding to it.
In second grade, Zacuto says, kids start using classroom laptops. They get some basic lessons in typing and word processing and their first taste of Internet research.

Which makes this a good time to go back to that tech lab and Don Fitz-Roy.
'Star Wars Kid'
The idea behind Fitz-Roy's digital citizenship class is to get kids thinking hard about the dangers of social media before they have Twitter handles or Facebook pages.
The kids gathered for today's conversation are a little older than usual and have heard much of this before.
Thirteen-year-old Tom Zimmerman gets it: "One example: this one kid who was, like, in this room, and he had, like, this fake lightsaber, and he was acting really crazy. And it looked really stupid. And it was funny, but I'm sure that kid won't want it in the future. But so many people have taken that video and put it on their channels that there's no way of getting rid of it."
That 2002 video — of one teen boy in a heated lightsaber battle with himself —has been watched millions of times, but the so-called "Star Wars Kid," now in his 20s, says he was bullied because of it and had to leave school.

And that gives principals like Brad Zacuto not one but two big reasons to worry about screen time: 1) Because of what's not happening — important face-to-face time; and 2) Because of what is happening — kids putting themselves out there in embarrassing and potentially dangerous ways.
Which, again, raises the question:
What Is Good Screen Time?
"It's all about how things are used. And how much they're used. And what they're used for," saysPatricia Greenfield, who co-authored that screen-time study we mentioned earlier. She's a professor of psychology at UCLA and has been writing about screen time for 30 years.
Greenfield offers this example of good screen time: asking kids to write an essay using the computer. Word-processing software can help with spelling and grammar, and kids can use the Internet for research. Here's the key:
"You're not substituting screen time for interaction time," Greenfield says. "You're substituting alone time with the screen for alone time with your paper and pen."
Greenfield describes a kind of cost-benefit analysis: Is this screen time coming at the expense of face-to-face time? And what unique value does the technology add?
At Westside Neighborhood School, when kids use tech, they're often still working collaboratively — and doing things they couldn't do without it.
"We have a design class where they imagine a product," Zacuto says. "They design it. And we have a 3-D printer where they then create it. I mean, there's amazing things going on that's preparing them for the world."
Preparing Them For The World
By sixth grade, WNS students may have to check their smartphones at the door, but they get their own school-issued tablets with textbooks on them. Still, Zacuto insists, little valuable class time is spent simply looking down.
When sixth-grade social studies teacher Caitlin Barry gives her students time to read from the textbooks on their iPads, they often do it in pairs, encouraging each other to explore confusing terms or ideas. Some teachers even put short lectures online, for students to watch at home. The reason goes back to Greenfield's cost-benefit analysis:
"It sort of flips the content," Zacuto says. "I'd rather be spending my time in school with the teacher, with the kids — doing interactive, collaborative [things], using what we've learned."
In other words: using screens at home to increase the time students spend working face to face in the classroom. It's a delicate dance, preparing kids for both the Digital Age and the social world.
And it's important not to sacrifice the latter for the former, says Yalda Uhls, who is a senior researcher at the Children's Digital Media Center@LA and co-author of the screen-time study with Patricia Greenfield. Especially in middle school, she says, when the balance of power in kids' lives tilts away from their parents and toward friends.
"One of the reasons it's so miserable," Uhls says, "is because we're trying to learn our place in the social world outside of our safe little haven at home."
The more practice kids get reading emotion in voices and posture, the better they'll be able to navigate the turmoil of early adolescence.
That kind of social learning just won't fit in the palm of your hand.