Category: History

U.S. Census Maps = the True America

non-english at home

In 1874, the U.S. Census Bureau published the Statistical Atlas of the United States. For the first time, essential information about who we were, where we lived and how we lived was available in the form of user-friendly U.S. census maps that could be accessed by all. The Bureau continued to publish atlases after each census until 1930, when the powers that be decided to cease production. In fact, no such atlas was produced again until 2007, when the Bureau published the Census Atlas of the United States, based on the results of the 2000 census. But with no plans in the works for an atlas based on the 2010 census (with only some U.S. census maps made available and hardly anyone else stepping up), one intrepid statistician, Dr. Nathan Yau of FlowingData, took matters into his own hands.

Yau’s elegant and endlessly fascinating homemade U.S. census maps, sport a design similar to those in the original atlas nearly 150 years ago. Some of these maps will, no doubt, confirm your assumptions (population density). Others will upend them (proportion of non-citizens). Others still will address issues about which you likely had no assumptions in the first place (cancer mortality). Some show how slowly the gears of history can move (population with French ancestry). Some show how fast the gears of history can move (English not spoken at home). And almost all show that, for whatever reason, Nevada is a major wild card.

Maps are fascinating. The best compress a great deal of information into a severely limited space. Some are ginormous. These arem’t very big; but, they are a delight. Worth studying to add to your knowledge of this cranky nation.

Which is probably why there are politicians who would rather these maps didn’t exist.

Pigeons wearing bras go to war

The pigeon vest was a vest that was created to protect carrier pigeons as they parachuted through the air strapped to the chest of paratroopers during World War II. Once the paratroopers hit the ground behind enemy lines, they would release the pigeons so they could fly off to deliver important messages.

And what does this have to do with brassieres? The pigeon vest was designed and manufactured by the brassiere company, Maidenform. On December 22, 1944, Maidenform agreed to make 28,500 pigeon vests for the U.S. government, switching, as many companies did, from peacetime production to producing necessary supplies for the war. In addition to the pigeon vest, Maidenform also made parachutes.

RTFA. It all makes sense.

Solar Impulse 2 lands safely in Hawaii

Hawaii landing

Solar Impulse 2, piloted by Andre Borschberg, exceeded the previous record of 76 hours’ flying time.

The journey from Nagoya in Japan to Kalaeloa, Hawaii, breaks the absolute distance and duration world records for manned solar-powered aeroplanes – records set by Solar Impulse on earlier flights.

We watched the landing, live on BBC World, at 9:54 MDT.

Black churches targeted by racist arson across the South

racist arson
Click to enlargeTWC News
Briar Creek Road Baptist Church fire ruled arson, Charlotte, North Carolina

Since nine people were gunned down in the Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, South Carolina…by a 21-year-old white man tied to white supremacist groups, there have been a string of arson attacks on other black churches in the South.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, at least six predominantly black churches in four Southern states have been damaged or destroyed by fire in the past week. While some may have been accidental, at least three have been determined to be the result of arson.

The first arson fire was on Monday at the College Hills Seventh Day Adventist Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. The Knoxville fire department has said that the arsonist set multiple fires on the church’s property and the church’s van was also burned. On Tuesday, a fire in the sanctuary of God’s Power Church of Christ in Macon, Georgia was also blamed on arson, although the investigation is ongoing. And on Wednesday, a fire at the Briar Creek Baptist Church in Charlotte, North Carolina was determined to be caused by arson, destroying an education wing that was meant to house a summer program for children, impacting its sanctuary and gymnasium, and causing an estimated $250,000 in damage…

Black churches have frequently been targets of violence. Since 1956, there have been at least 91 incidents of shootings, bombings, arson, or vandalism against black churches, according to a tally by the Huffington Post. One particular incident stood out during the Civil Rights Movement, when four young girls were killed and 22 were injured at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963.

That’s likely a vast undercount, however, given that records from the 1970s and 1980s are scarce. There was a spike in violence in the 90s, with more than 30 black churches burned within 18 months in 1995 and 1996. That led to the passage of the Church Arson Prevention Act in 1996, which gave federal authorities more oversight of such crimes, increased sentencing, and reauthorized the Hate Crimes Statistics Act.

The assault continues in an unimpeded string of violence against anyone who stands up to racist policies. But, especially if you or your organization is predominantly comprised of Black folks – you are a critical target for racist American bigots.

So, see any coverage of this on your local network TV station? You probably saw the baseball catch of the day, a plane crash somewhere on the globe, maybe the 12th or 13th useless Republican announcing their candidacy for President of the United States – if not the new Confederacy. But, nothing about this spike in arson of Black churches made it onto the screens of my local TV guardians of the Free World.

Solar plane starts on longest section of flight across Pacific Ocean

A solar-powered aircraft has now passed the point of no return on a record-breaking attempt to fly across the Pacific Ocean from Japan to Hawaii…

The plane, which has a wingspan bigger than a jumbo jet, took off from Nagoya Airfield in Japan at 18:03 GMT on Sunday. On Monday morning it was off the east coast of Japan and, all going well, it is scheduled to land in Hawaii in approximately 120 hours.

Live video from the cockpit of the plane is being broadcast on YouTube, and shows the pilot André Borschberg wearing an oxygen mask and thick flight clothes to protect him from the cold…

The five-day leg from Japan to Hawaii is regarded as the most challenging part of the journey.

“If we did a five day flight across a continent and we encountered any problems – be it weather, operational issues, there’s an alternate airport we can land,” the project’s managing director Gregory Blatt told Al Jazeera.

“Crossing the Pacific, there no alternate airport so that’s what keeps me up at night, that’s what keeps up the teams, the engineers, the pilots. This is a first ever – are we going to be able to make it?”

If successful, the 120-plus hour flight to Hawaii will be the longest solo flight in aviation history. It will also break records for being the longest distance flown by a aircraft powered only by the sun.

Stay in touch folks. Here’s the link, again, for the live YouTube link.

Washington think tank says cute little nukes are just what America needs

Normally, when you hear the term “think tank” you assume that the people within the organization are there to actually think. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. During the course of trying to find “outside the box” solutions to national and international problems, sometimes think tanks come up with ideas that are patently absurd. Such is the case with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and their plan to arm America with numerous small, tactical nukes.

The United States should develop new low–yield, tactical nuclear weapons to deter countries from seeking nuclear weapons of their own, a new think-tank report says. It also argues that the U.S. should base more nuclear weapons around the world to better deter attacks.

“Forward deploying a robust set of discriminate nuclear response options conveys the message that the United States will ‘respond in kind’ and proportionately to nuclear attacks on its allies,” wrote Clark Murdock, a former Pentagon policy official who is now a senior adviser with the Center for Strategic and International Studies…

Boy, where I do start? First off, since when did building nuclear missiles prevent other countries from doing the same? Doesn’t it have the opposite effect? I thought that was the Cold War in a nutshell. We built a few, then they built a few, and then we kept going back and forth with the Russians like that, until they went bankrupt. Now the planet is littered with thousands of these weapons in several different countries. Also, haven’t the war hawks in Washington been telling us for years that the Iranians want to build nuclear weapons, in part because they want to counter Israel’s nukes?…

…And finally, arming ourselves with small yield nuclear weapons is just an all around terrible idea. In fact, we’ve done it before. Meet the Davy Crockett:

2,100 of these nukes were produced in the late 50’s, and they were deployed to conventional forces between 1961 and 1971. There were several different versions that had an explosive yield of between 10 tons, and 1 kiloton. Franz Josef Strauss, the former defense minister of West Germany, was obsessed with this weapon and desperately wanted the Americans to give them to the German Army. His request was repeatedly denied.

Why? Because it practically guaranteed that any ground war with the Soviets would inevitably escalate into a nuclear war. If you considered using high yield strategic nukes, you’re talking about the end of the world as we know it. But these tiny devices don’t carry the same psychological weight. It’s easier to pull the trigger on something that would only level a few acres.

So all in all, this think tank’s plan for maintaining America’s military dominance, is probably one of the worst ideas anyone has ever come up with. It reads like a how-to guide for starting a nuclear war.

Joshua Krause at The Daily Sheeple has it wired.

And I fall apart every time, any time, someone reminds me of the Davy Crockett rocket. Because I did a little bit of work on that silly-ass piece of crap. I made it clear at the time it was one of the dumbest ideas in military history.

Krause doesn’t wander into details; but, the damned thing never sent a warhead far enough away to keep from frying the troops using it in their own radiation-whoopee. A portable death trap. Anyone who survived the testing phase was a walking lawsuit for stupid WMDs.

NO, even BITD no one let me near the part that went BOOM! I was involved with other portions of the launch.

Of course a country that spies on its citizens spies on its allies?

American security

France has summoned the US envoy in Paris over claims that the US spied on President Francois Hollande and his two predecessors…

Whistleblower website Wikileaks reports the US National Security Agency (NSA) spied on Mr Hollande, Nicolas Sarkozy and Jacques Chirac between 2006-12.

Mr Hollande called the allegations “unacceptable” and is expected to speak with President Obama over the claims.

The US said it would not comment on “specific intelligence allegations”.

Is there any reason to expect the United States to tell the truth about trust and honesty?

The French president called an emergency meeting to discuss the issue and insisted France would “not tolerate” acts that threaten its security…

The NSA has previously been accused of spying on German Chancellor Angela Merkel and on Brazilian and Mexican leaders…

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has summoned US Ambassador Jane Hartley to discuss the latest claims…

A statement from the French presidency said the US must respect a promise not to spy on French leaders. The statement came after the emergency meeting of security chiefs in Paris.

A senior French intelligence official is meanwhile expected to visit Washington to discuss the spying claims…

The NSA has come under increased scrutiny since revelations by former employee Edward Snowden…One of the files, dated 2012, is about Mr Hollande discussing Greece’s possible exit from the eurozone. Another one – from 2011 – alleges that Mr Sarkozy was determined to resume peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, possibly without US involvement…

According to the summary of an intercepted exchange, the French envoy to Washington and Mr Sarkozy’s diplomatic adviser discussed Mr Sarkozy’s plan to express his “frustration” over US unwillingness to sign a “bilateral intelligence co-operation agreement”.

The main sticking point is the US desire to continue spying on France,” the intercept says.

“Lafayette we are here” no longer describes the arrival of American forces coming to aid of our oldest ally. France, the one nation that stood beside American rebels in our struggle for freedom and democracy.

Not anymore, man.

Long-banned chemical continues to kill

Fifty-three years after Rachel Carson, in her book Silent Spring, first raised concerns about the safety of the pesticide DDT, the chemical once again is in the news.

Public health researchers in California have published findings that connect maternal exposure to DDT during pregnancy to breast cancer—not in the exposed mothers but rather, 40 or 50 years later, in offspring exposed in utero. The article was published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. In it, the authors looked at the rates of breast cancer in a group of 9,300 women born between 1959 and 1967. Of these, 118 developed breast cancer…

The authors used a well-established study approach called case-control: the 118 daughters with breast cancer (cases) were paired with 354 breast cancer-free daughters born at the same time (controls) and standard clinical variables extracted from each group. In this way, variables like race, maternal weight, lipid profiles, and breast-feeding history could be eliminated as likely causes of any difference in breast cancer rates.

By this analysis, the mothers with high rates of detectable DDT during pregnancy produced daughters who, 50+ years on, had three or four times more breast cancer than daughters of Moms with substantially lower DDT levels. A potentially very big deal for sure.

There is a large and important caveat in the analysis however. The investigators also examined the frequency of breast cancer in mothers, comparing the rate between cases and controls. Here, there was a large and very strong tilt: About 20 percent of daughters with breast cancer had a mom with the disease; in the controls, only 4 percent had a mother with breast cancer. Thus, some and perhaps most of the risk of breast cancer might be explained not by DDT exposure but genetic predisposition.

Which does not exclude DDT as an amplifying effect on genetic risk—but it does deflate some of the headline grabbing excitement the article already has claimed.

The Daily Beast further classifies divergent opinions of the results into Right vs Left instead of the fact that conservative denial is almost wholly grounded in ideology. The counterpoint being individuals and groups dedicated to science and scientific method for progress – a truly conservative style.

That the Daily Beast sees only the conflict between political entities is a reflection of their own tidy journalistic ideology. Historically, properly termed sophistry – that truth lies only safely between opposing contradictions.

Eating human brains protected a tribe from brain disease

The Fore people, a once-isolated tribe in eastern Papua New Guinea, had a long-standing tradition of mortuary feasts — eating the dead from their own community at funerals. Men consumed the flesh of their deceased relatives, while women and children ate the brain. It was an expression of respect for the lost loved ones, but the practice wreaked havoc on the communities they left behind. That’s because a deadly molecule that lives in brains was spreading to the women who ate them, causing a horrible degenerative illness called “kuru” that at one point killed 2 percent of the population each year.

The practice was outlawed in the 1950s, and the kuru epidemic began to recede. But in its wake it left a curious and irreversible mark on the Fore, one that has implications far beyond Papua New Guinea: After years of eating brains, some Fore have developed a genetic resistance to the molecule that causes several fatal brain diseases, including kuru, mad cow disease and some cases of dementia.

The single, protective gene is identified in a study published…in the journal Nature. Researchers say the finding is a huge step toward understanding these diseases and other degenerative brain problems, including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

The gene works by protecting people against prions, a strange and sometimes deadly kind of protein. Though prions are naturally manufactured in all mammals, they can be deformed in a way that makes them turn on the body that made them, acting like a virus and attacking tissue. The deformed prion is even capable of infecting the prions that surround it, reshaping them to mimic its structure and its malicious ways…

The study by Collinge and his colleagues offers a critical insight into ways that humans might be protected from the still-little-understood prions. They found it by examining the genetic code of those families at the center of the Fore’s kuru epidemic, people who they knew had been exposed to the disease at multiple feasts, who seemed to have escaped unscathed.

When the researchers looked at the part of the genome that encodes prion-manufacturing proteins, they found something completely unprecedented. Where humans and every other vertebrate animal in the world have an amino acid called glycine, the resistant Fore had a different amino acid, valine…

When the scientists re-created the genetic types observed in humans — giving the mice both the normal protein and the variant in roughly equal amounts — the mice were completely resistant to kuru and to CJD. But when they looked at a second group of mice that had been genetically modified to produce only the variant protein, giving them even stronger protection, the mice were resistant to every prion strain they tested — 18 in all.

“This is a striking example of Darwinian evolution in humans, the epidemic of prion disease selecting a single genetic change that provided complete protection against an invariably fatal dementia,” Collinge told Reuters…

Unintended consequences – one of the best reasons in science for basic research.

Fortunately, for our economy, beaucoup CEOs recognize the importance of that process. Unfortunately, for our economy, damned few of the hacks holding elected office recognize the importance of that process.