Partial eclipse of the sun, today

Partial eclipse

Sunsets are always pretty. One sunset this month could be out of this world. On Thursday, Oct. 23rd, the setting sun across eastern parts of the USA will be red, beautiful and … crescent-shaped.

“It’s a partial solar eclipse,” explains longtime NASA eclipse expert Fred Espenak. In other words, the New Moon is going to ‘take a bite’ out of the sun…

The partial eclipse of Oct. 23rd will be visible from all of the United States except Hawaii and New England. Coverage ranges from 12% in Florida to nearly 70% in Alaska. Weather permitting, almost everyone in North America will be able to see the crescent.

The eclipse will be especially beautiful in eastern parts of the USA, where the Moon and sun line up at the end of the day, transforming the usual sunset into something weird and wonderful…

A partial eclipse may not be total, but it is totally fun.

See for yourself on Oct. 23rd. The action begins at approximately 6 pm on the east coast, and 2 pm on the west coast. Check NASA’s Eclipse Home Page for viewing times near your hometown.

Thanks, Ursarodinia

Unfair pay for women and people of color

unfair pay
Click on the graphic for a personal view

American women who work full time, year round are paid only 77 cents for every dollar paid to their male counterparts. But the wage gap is even larger for many women of color working full time, year round, as African-American women are paid only 64 cents, and Hispanic women only 54 cents, for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men.

These gaps translated into a loss of $18,650 for African-American women and $24,111 for Hispanic women in 2012. Closing the wage gap is, therefore, particularly important for African-American and Hispanic women, who are already more likely to have lower incomes and to be in poverty than virtually all other groups.4 Although enforcement of the Equal Pay Act and other civil rights laws has helped narrow the wage gap over time, addressing the significant disparity that remains is critical for women and their families.

The wage gap for African-American and Hispanic women [.pdf] working full time, year round persists even when the effect of race or sex is considered alone.

• The typical African-American woman working full time, year round is paid roughly 83 cents for every dollar paid to her white, non-Hispanic female counterpart. The gap is larger for Hispanic women working full time, year round, who are paid just 69 cents for every dollar paid to their white, non-Hispanic female counterparts.

• The typical African-American woman working full time, year round is paid roughly 88 cents for every
dollar paid to her African-American male counterpart. The gap is the same for Hispanic women working full time, year round, who are also paid 88 cents for every dollar paid to their Hispanic male counterparts.

RTFA for example after example of death by a thousand cuts if you ain’t white and male.

Not so incidentally, if you are white and male don’t get smug. Although you may not have confronted pay cuts directly, part of the discrimination that adds to profit – is that white men also receive less than they might because “Hey, look. You’re better off than they are, eh?” And that’s good enough for plenty of guys who haven’t looked at what they might be earning if they got together and joined forces with the rest of their class.

Thanks, Mike

Blackwater thugs finally convicted of killing Iraqi civilians

Blackwater and Bush

Three security guards working for the private US contractor Blackwater have been found guilty of the manslaughter of a group of unarmed civilians at a crowded Baghdad traffic junction in one of the darkest incidents of the Iraq war.

A fourth, Nicholas Slatten, was found guilty of one charge of first-degree murder. All face the likelihood of lengthy prison sentences after unanimous verdicts on separate weapons charges related to the incident.

The Nisour Square massacre in 2007 left 17 people dead and 20 seriously injured after the guards working for the US State Department fired heavy machine guns and grenade launchers from their armoured convoy in the mistaken belief they were under attack by insurgents.

But attempts to prosecute the guards have previously foundered because of a series of legal mistakes by US officials, and the case had attracted widespread attention in Iraq as a symbol of apparent American immunity.

Now, after a 10-week trial and 28 days of deliberation, a jury in Washington has found three of the men – Paul Slough, Evan Liberty and Dustin Heard – guilty of a total of 13 charges of voluntary manslaughter and a total of 17 charges of attempted manslaughter.

The fourth defendant, Slatten, who was alleged to have been first to open fire, was found guilty of a separate charge of first-degree murder. Slough, Liberty and Heard were found guilty of using firearms in relation to a crime of violence, a charge which can alone carry up to a 30-year mandatory sentence…

Federal prosecutor Anthony Asuncion said: “These men took something that did not belong to them: the lives of 14 human beings. They were turned into bloody bullet-riddled corpses at the hands of these men.”

“It must have seemed like the apocalypse was here,” said Asuncion in his closing argument, as he described how many were shot in the back, at long range, or blown up by powerful grenades used by the US contractors.

“There was not a single dead insurgent on the scene,” claimed the prosecutor. “None of these people were armed.”

Sounds like the qualities sought after by your local police department – guaranteeing these gangsters a job when they return to the States. That’s not just a smartass remark. It’s already part of the process of turning our local PD’s into military police.

RTFA for all the details. Personally, I think the GUARDIAN is too kind referring to “a series of legal mistakes by US officials”. Because never in over a half-century of civil rights activism have I ever seen any American officials make “legal mistakes” on behalf of someone poor, Black, working class.

The 14 victims killed by the Blackwater guards on trial were listed as Ahmed Haithem Ahmed Al Rubia’y, Mahassin Mohssen Kadhum Al-Khazali, Osama Fadhil Abbas, Ali Mohammed Hafedh Abdul Razzaq, Mohamed Abbas Mahmoud, Qasim Mohamed Abbas Mahmoud, Sa’adi Ali Abbas Alkarkh, Mushtaq Karim Abd Al-Razzaq, Ghaniyah Hassan Ali, Ibrahim Abid Ayash, Hamoud Sa’eed Abttan, Uday Ismail Ibrahiem, Mahdi Sahib Nasir and Ali Khalil Abdul Hussein.

Someone in the United States ought to remember their names.

2014 IgNobel Prizes awarded


Some of my favorites:

NEUROSCIENCE PRIZE [CHINA, CANADA]: Jiangang Liu, Jun Li, Lu Feng, Ling Li, Jie Tian, and Kang Lee, for trying to understand what happens in the brains of people who see the face of Jesus in a piece of toast.

REFERENCE: “Seeing Jesus in Toast: Neural and Behavioral Correlates of Face Pareidolia,” Jiangang Liu, Jun Li, Lu Feng, Ling Li, Jie Tian, Kang Lee, Cortex, vol. 53, April 2014, Pages 60–77. The authors are at School of Computer and Information Technology, Beijing Jiaotong University, Xidian University, the Institute of Automation Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China, and the University of Toronto, Canada…

PUBLIC HEALTH PRIZE [CZECH REPUBLIC, JAPAN, USA, INDIA]: Jaroslav Flegr, Jan Havlíček and Jitka Hanušova-Lindova, and to David Hanauer, Naren Ramakrishnan, Lisa Seyfried, for investigating whether it is mentally hazardous for a human being to own a cat…

REFERENCE: “Changes in personality profile of young women with latent toxoplasmosis,” Jaroslav Flegr and Jan Havlicek, Folia Parasitologica, vol. 46, 1999, pp. 22-28…

REFERENCE: “Describing the Relationship between Cat Bites and Human Depression Using Data from an Electronic Health Record,” David Hanauer, Naren Ramakrishnan, Lisa Seyfried, PLoS ONE, vol. 8, no. 8, 2013, e70585. WHO ATTENDED THE CEREMONY: Jaroslav Flegr, David Hanauer, Naren Ramakrishnan…

ECONOMICS PRIZE [ITALY]: ISTAT — the Italian government’s National Institute of Statistics, for proudly taking the lead in fulfilling the European Union mandate for each country to increase the official size of its national economy by including revenues from prostitution, illegal drug sales, smuggling, and all other unlawful financial transactions between willing participants.

REFERENCE: “Cambia il Sistema europeo dei conti nazionali e regionali – Sec2010″, ISTAT, 2014…

A good time was had by all…

Thanks, Mike

Here’s one Democrat I vote for

First, the video. Someone caught Allen Weh in his “47% moment” – thinking he’s only talking to his peers, his buddies in the millionaires club, he lets out how he really feels about low-income working folks.

Yes, he’s a miserable low-life prick Republican. Former head of the New Mexico Republican Party, BTW – just so you know who that party represents.

Second, I’m not especially a fan of the Democrat Party either. Nationally or here in New Mexico. They’re running a generational candidate for governor from one of the old NM Democrat families. He ain’t worth crap. But, the Dems have a minimal tradition of fighting to maintain what has been won in the past for working class families in New Mexico. I can count on that much. And that’s way more than anyone can expect from our royal Republicans.

Tom Udall is different. He maintains his family tradition of fighting for the environment, all classes of working folks – from young to old geezers like me. I particularly like his stand – introducing a call every session of Congress – to rid Congress of the crap procedures they maintain like filibusters, etc. which are as anti-democratic as possible. He voted against Bush’s War. He opposed the VietNam War.

Good enough for me.

As for whoever caught this schmuck, Allen Weh, telling the truth for once in his life about his elitist politics? Thank you, whoever you are.

Malaysia investigates public dog petting

I want to touch a dog
No one was struck down by lightning

Islamic authorities in Malaysia are conducting an investigation into a controversial “dog patting” event aimed at removing the stigma regarding the animal in the multi-ethnic Muslim-majority country.

The event, titled “I want to touch a dog” and held in a park on the outskirts of the capital Kuala Lumpur on Sunday, encouraged patting dogs, widely considered to be unclean in Islam, and reportedly drew hundreds of Muslims, raising the ire of religious leaders.

Islamic authorities said they would investigate the event, while a Muslim leader, Nooh Gadut, said it was an attempt to insult clerics…

The organiser, Syed Azmi Alhabshi, who is a Muslim, had said his intention was to help people overcome their fear of dogs and promote compassion towards animals.

Many Malaysians posted positive comments about the event on social media…

Muslims who took part in the event last Sunday performed in a special washing ritual at the end of the event.

The Southeast Asian country generally practises a moderate brand of Islam, but conservative views have gained increasing traction in recent years, with minorities complaining of what they see as Islamisation.

Theocracy is bad enough – in and of itself. It allows no respect for freedom of thought. In particular, the freedom to be perfectly satisfied with material reality as the foundation for philosophy, politics, economics and social life. Education eventually restricts superstition to the ignorant.

Malaysia is joining other nations like Turkey, run by hypocrites, saying one thing about liberty for citizens while gradually imposing theocracy. No more desirable in Asia than in the United States. Fundamentalists of one flavor or another always seem to think they have a cellphone connection with whichever deity they think makes them special – and the rest of us folk should just sit back and obey.

The sillier aspects of most are as concerned with food and pets as they are about stopping equal opportunities for human beings. They deserve opposition – especially from believers who want to bring their beliefs more in line with the time we live in – rather than in the distant past.

Cripes – Republicans have a war on wedding dresses!

The GOP’s increasingly sad attempts to court the votes of American women remind me of that love-struck guy who just can’t take the hint. He wants your attention, even after you tell him you’re not interested, and you’re not interested because of just how weird he is about women. He tries everything, from arguing that his bad behavior is actually good for you to getting his girl friends (who really should know better) to talk him up. He even hires a relationship counselor.

So it’s hard not to see the Republican party’s latest round of midterm campaign ads – part of a $1m dollar effort to reach young voters with “culturally relevant” messages – as the last-ditch, desperate effort of a long-ago-dumped delusional loser. Playing off the TLC reality show about wedding gowns, Say Yes to the Dress, the College Republican National Committee (CRNC) put out videos on Wednesday comparing the way a woman votes to how she picks a wedding dress. Because ladies like clothes, right? Wedding clothes especially.

The CRNC released six videos for six different candidates; the one about Florida governor Rick Scott, who is obsessed with not letting women have abortions, has been getting most of the attention. They all feature the same young woman shopping for a wedding dress with her mother and some friends. The savvy young woman wants to vote for the Republican dress, but her out-of-touch mom wants her to go with the Democrat dress, Charlie Crist. It’s incredibly offensive, to be sure – as if women can only understand politics, or voting, if you dress them up in reality TV – but it’s sort of difficult to be outraged while you’re busy laughing at how pathetic these Republican get-out-the-vote ads have become…

If Republicans want their “woman problem” to go away, they need to stop being such a problem for women. Stop the ongoing attacks on our bodies and health. Stop the stupid comments about rape. Stop questioning our ability to cast a vote. Actually … just stop.

Jessica Valenti’s column is straight to the point. And we can’t lay the blame exclusively at the feet of ancient old farts whose knowledge of sex and life were learned watching “Father Knows Best” on black-and-white TV. Though you’d think so.

Republican ideology, reticence to look outside the pews of old-fashioned white guys dead and gone for decades, fear of learning, fear of accepting new folks into the fold of royalist thought – limits any message of change they might bring to voters. An attitude apparently shared by every collegiate male voice in that party. Even if the change they want marches backwards instead of facing the future, they haven’t the courage or even cunning to lose the suits they’ve been wearing since the days of Herbert Hoover..

Sugary soft drinks linked to accelerated aging

Consumption of sugary soda drinks such as cola and lemonade may be linked to accelerated DNA ageing, say researchers who have studied the impact of the drinks in more than 5,000 people.

High-sugar fizzy drinks have been under fire from campaigners for contributing to obesity and type-2 diabetes, but this is the first study to suggest a link with ageing. The researchers found that people who reported drinking a 350ml bottle of fizzy drink per day had DNA changes typical of cells 4.6 years older.

Yes, this sort of sugar consumption shortens your life much as smoking.

The study, published in the American Journal of Public Health, asked 5,309 healthy adults aged between 20 and 65 about their consumption of fizzy drinks and examined the DNA from each participant’s white blood cells.

The team found that telomeres – protective DNA caps on the end of chromosomes – were shorter in people who reported habitually drinking more fizzy drinks.

Telomeres are repetitive sections at the end of chromosomes that get shorter each time cells divide. They act as a kind of genetic ticking clock and in the past have been associated with human lifespan as well as the development of some forms of cancer, heart disease and diabetes. Other studies have suggested a link between telomere length and lifestyle factors such as smoking and psychological stress.

Prof Elissa Epel, of UCSF, stressed that the study only showed an association and did not prove that sugary drink consumption caused cell ageing. If high soda consumption was to blame, it may be due to the huge rush of sugars into the blood after a drink, leading to oxidative stress and inflammation – “the perfect storm for degrading telomeres,” said Epel.

Next in line for study – a tighter focus on sugar. Overdue as far as I’m concerned.

Thanks, Mike