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Rise of the Christian left: Why the religious right’s moment may be ending


Rise of the Christian left: Why the religious right’s moment may be ending

From Pope Francis to a generation with new priorities, the finest Christian traditions are being reinvigorated

Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig
Monday, Jul 21, 2014 04:45 AM PST

It’s hard to tell if the near-constant stream of millennial-centric political think-pieces are perpetuating or reflecting growing curmudgeonly fears about the future of the country. Maybe it’s a little of both, and Fox is probably observing within its competency when it pegs more than a handful of us as “deluded narcissists” – but it appears there’s room for some political optimism among all the moral panic and the reign of the religious right. With millennial religious and political attitudes in flux compared to our predecessors, the upcoming years could be the Christian left’s big moment.

Which isn’t to say the United States has no Christian left history — with Civil Rights and the heyday of Catholic labor in our past, there is healthy precedent — but for the millennial growing up in the age of Jesus Camp and ‘Teach the Controversy’, Christian political activity has almost always veered rightward. Yet if the Culture Wars are losing momentum in light of issues like unemployment — which 76% of millennials identified as a critical issue in a 2012 Public Religion Research Institute survey, compared with 22% who found abortion or same sex marriage critical — how will Christian millennials fall out politically?

One thing seems clear: however they align themselves, it won’t be along typical partisan lines. A recent Reason-Rupe poll of young Americans found millennials to be, in the words of Nick Gillespie, tired of “partisan crap,” which more or less covers it. The Reason-Rupe findings track well with the 2012 PRRI results linked above, which concluded that 45% of young people identify as independent, with only 33% calling themselves Democrats, and 23% Republican. While Reason-Rupe concludes its report hoping millennials’ anti-partisan tendencies will eventually lead them to a kind of libertarianism — socially liberal and fiscally conservative — as it stands, the young favor a variety of policies that tend to the economic left, with majorities generally favoring government guaranteed living wages, health insurance and food and shelter. Nonetheless, roughly a quarter consider themselves some kind of social conservative, and 40% call themselves socially liberal, with the remainder suspended somewhere in the murky middle.


Spotify, Pandora and how streaming music kills jazz and classical


It’s not just David Byrne and Radiohead: Spotify, Pandora and how streaming music kills jazz and classical

More musicians are taking aim at the rates paid by Spotify and Pandora, and warning whole genres are in danger

Scott Timberg
Sunday, Jul 20, 2014


There are distinctive qualities to jazz and classical music that make it a difficult fit to the digital world as it now exists, and that punish musicians and curious fans alike. To Jean Cook, a new-music violinist, onetime Mekon, and director of programs for the Future Musical Coalition, it further marginalizes these already peripheral styles, creating what she calls “invisible genres.”

It doesn’t matter if it’s Spotify, Pandora, iTunes, or Beats Music, she says. “Any music service that’s serving pop and classical music will not serve classical music well.” The problem is the nature of classical music, and jazz as well, and the way they differ from pop music. They all make different use of metadata – a term most people associate with Edward Snowden’s NSA revelations, but which have a profound importance to streaming services. Put most simply: Classical music and jazz are such a mismatch for existing streaming services, it’s almost impossible to find stuff. Cook realized this when she got a recommendation from a music lover, and found herself falling down an online labyrinth trying to find it.

Here’s a good place to start: Say you’re looking for a bedrock recording, the Beethoven Piano Concertos, with titan Maurizio Pollini on piano. Who is the “artist” for this one? Is it the Berlin Philharmonic, or Claudio Abbado, who conducts them? Is it Pollini? Or is it Beethoven himself? If you can see the entire record jacket, you can see who the recording includes. Otherwise, you could find yourself guessing.


Jazz offers similar difficulties, she says. Say you want to find recordings by pianist Bill Evans. You can find a bunch of them — but nothing linking him to “Kind of Blue,” perhaps the most important (and, in vinyl and CD form, certainly the bestselling) recording he was ever a part of. Evans shaped that album profoundly. You won’t find John Coltrane — another key voice on that session — there either, since it’s a Miles Davis record.

“Listing sidemen is something that is just not built into the architecture,” says Cook. It’s not a small problem. “I can’t think of a single example of a jazz musician who was not a sideman at one point in their career. We’re talking about a significant portion of jazz history that can’t get out.” It also makes you wonder — what are the chances that sidemen, or their heirs, get paid when things are streamed? And what do potential music consumers do when they can’t find what they’re looking for?


So far, Wang’s solution has been to drop out. It’s nearly impossible for artists to withdraw, but as a label head, he can pull all of Pi’s music off Spotify. After three or four months on the service, two years back, he received a royalty statement of about $25 for all of it, and decided it just wasn’t worth it.

“What we found when we got out of Spotify — after these dire warnings — was that our sales went up; they absolutely jumped.”


Boosting the force of empty space: Theorists propose way to amplify force of vacuum fluctuations


Boosting the force of empty space: Theorists propose way to amplify force of vacuum fluctuations
Date: July 22, 2014
Source: Vienna University of Technology, TU Vienna

Vacuum fluctuations may be among the most counter-intuitive phenomena of quantum physics. Theorists have now proposed a way to amplify their force. The researchers believe that their proposed enhancement of the power of vacuum fluctuations can have profound implications for understanding Casimir and Van der Waals forces and it may even be used for applications in quantum information processing and other emerging quantum technologies.


Vacuum is not as empty as one might think. In fact, empty space is a bubbling soup of various virtual particles popping in and out of existence -- a phenomenon called "vacuum fluctuations." Usually, such extremely short-lived particles remain completely unnoticed, but in certain cases vacuum forces can have a measurable effect. A team of researchers from the Weizmann Institute of Science (Rehovot, Israel) and the Vienna University of Technology has now proposed a method of amplifying these forces by several orders of magnitude using a transmission line, channelling virtual photons.


Ephraim Shahmoon, Gershon Kurizki (Weizmann Institute of Science) and Igor Mazets calculated what happens to vacuum forces between atoms when they are placed in the vicinity of an electrical transmission line such as a coaxial cable or a coplanar waveguide (a device used in cavity quantum electrodynamics experiments as an open transmission line), cooled to very low temperatures. "In that case, the fluctuations are effectively confined to one dimension," says Igor Mazets. The virtual particles will be forced to go into the direction of the other atom.

In that case, the fluctuation-mediated attraction between the atoms becomes orders of magnitude stronger than in free space. Usually, the force decreases rapidly with increasing distance between the atoms. Due to the transmission line, it falls off with one over the distance cubed, instead of one over the seventh power of the distance, as in the usual case.

The researchers believe that their proposed enhancement of the power of vacuum fluctuations can have profound implications for understanding Casimir and Van der Waals forces and it may even be used for applications in quantum information processing and other emerging quantum technologies.

The evidence that shows Iron Dome is not working - by Theodore A. Postol


The evidence that shows Iron Dome is not working
Theodore A. Postol

Editor's note: Images referenced in this article can be viewed in the slide show above; captions appear when a cursor is placed over the images. The images can also be seen in a separate slide show found here, or by clicking on the red button to the right of the story's third paragraph.)


During the November 2012 conflict, a detailed review of a large number of photographs of Iron Dome interceptor contrails revealed that the rocket-defense system's success rate was very low—as low as 5 percent or, perhaps, even less. A variety of media outlets have attributed the low casualty number to the supposed effectiveness of the Iron Dome system, quoting Israeli officials as saying it has destroyed 90 percent of the Hamas rockets it targeted. But close study of photographic and video imagery of Iron Dome engagements with Hamas rockets—both in the current conflict and in the 2012 hostilities—shows that the low casualties in Israel from artillery rocket attacks can be ascribed to Israeli civil defense efforts, rather than the performance of the Iron Dome missile defense system.

The collection of similar data for Iron Dome's performance in July 2014 is still in progress. The data we have collected so far, however, indicates the performance of Iron Dome has not markedly improved.

Historical data on civil defense measures—including those taken to protect citizens from V-1 and V-2 rocket bombings of London during World War II—suggest that Israel’s low casualty rate from Hamas rockets is largely attributable to the country's well-developed early-warning and quick-sheltering system for citizens under imminent rocket attack. That is to say, Iron Dome appears to have had no measurable effect on improving the chances of Israelis escaping injury or death from Hamas artillery rocket attacks in Israel.


If Iron Dome doesn't work well, why are Israeli casualties from rocket attacks so low? Israel has a vast system of shelters, arranged so citizens can easily find protection within tens of seconds or less of warning. The Israeli rocket attack warning system is sophisticated; Figure 15 shows warning times published by the Israelis for artillery rockets of varying ranges. Figure 16 shows the screen of a mobile phone warning system that issues an audible alert of an impending artillery rocket impact. This particular phone application is called “red alert.”

The app's message indicates the general area where an artillery rocket impact is expected; depending on the location of individuals receiving the warning message, they know whether or not to take shelter.


Another example of the hazards of not taking shelter occurred in November 2012. Three people were out on a terrace; one of them was hoping to observe the Iron Dome system intercepting incoming artillery rockets. An artillery rocket hit the terrace, killing all three people. Had these people followed the simple procedure of taking shelter, they would be alive today.


NASA's Next Giant Leap - a conversation with Morgan Freeman at JPL

NASA's Next Giant Leap
Published on Jul 18, 2014

A live conversation about the future of space exploration with actor, director and narrator Morgan Freeman. He spoke at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, about his personal vision for space. The event also included NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman and Expedition 40 Commander Steve Swanson participating from the International Space Station.

Why Are Scientists Building an "Ocean" in the Middle of a Desert?


Why Are Scientists Building an "Ocean" in the Middle of a Desert?
They hope the scaled-down version of the Gulf of California will open doors to exciting new science and outreach opportunities.

By Jane J. Lee
National Geographic
Published July 18, 2014

If you build it, scientists and the public will come. That's the hope researchers are holding on to as they work to revive a defunct artificial ocean in the middle of the Arizona desert.

The ocean belongs to Biosphere 2, the glass-walled structure near Tucson, Arizona, made famous by human experiments in the 1990s. Eight people sealed themselves inside the facility designed as a self-sustaining version of Earth. The two-year mission was supposed to approximate how people would have to live and work on a space colony. (Related: "1994: People Migrate to Biosphere 2.")

Biosphere 2's original 676,000-gallon (2,555,894-liter) ocean was designed as a coral reef reminiscent of the Caribbean. But over the years, most of the coral died and a series of Biosphere 2 owners have considered draining the miniature sea entirely. Then the University of Arizona in Tucson took over the site in 2007, the latest in a line of efforts aimed at reviving the facility. After years of watching the ocean lie dormant, marine biologist Rafe Sagarin decided to turn it into a research and education tool.


The educational and public outreach opportunities have already started being realized. A new "ocean gallery" allows visitors a peek inside Biosphere 2's marine realm via viewing windows, and exhibits present the ecology and history of the Gulf of California.


Facts Needed on Malaysian Plane Shoot-Down - by Ray McGovern


Facts Needed on Malaysian Plane Shoot-Down
July 18, 2014

Exclusive: As usual, the mainstream U.S. media is rushing to judgment over the crash of a Malaysian airliner in war-torn eastern Ukraine, but the history of U.S. government’s deceptions might be reason to pause and let a careful investigation uncover the facts, says ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern.

By Ray McGovern

It will likely take some time to determine who downed the Malaysia Airlines Boeing-777 over eastern Ukraine on Thursday, killing all 298 people onboard. Initial speculation is that someone with a missile battery mistook the plane as a military aircraft, but the precise motive may be even harder to discern.

Given the fog of war and the eagerness among the various participants to wage “information warfare,” there is also the possibility that evidence – especially electronic evidence – might be tampered with to achieve some propaganda victory.


... the U.S. press might pause to recall how it’s been manipulated by the U.S. government in the past, including three decades ago by the Reagan administration twisting the facts of the KAL-007 tragedy.


U.S. intelligence also knew from sensitive intercepts that the tragedy had resulted from a blunder, not from a willful act of murder (much as on July 3, 1988, the USS Vincennes fired a missile that brought down an Iranian civilian airliner in the Persian Gulf, killing 290 people, an act which President Ronald Reagan explained as an “understandable accident”).


On Sept. 6, 1983, the Reagan administration went so far as to present a doctored transcript of the intercepts to the United Nations Security Council (a prelude to a similar false presentation two decades later by Secretary of State Colin Powell on Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction).

“The tape was supposed to run 50 minutes,” Snyder said about recorded Soviet intercepts. “But the tape segment we (at USIA) had ran only eight minutes and 32 seconds. … ‘Do I detect the fine hand of (Richard Nixon's secretary) Rosemary Woods here?’ I asked sarcastically.’”

But Snyder had a job to do: producing the video that his superiors wanted. “The perception we wanted to convey was that the Soviet Union had cold-bloodedly carried out a barbaric act,” Snyder wrote.


Scientists "fingerprint" a culprit in depression, anxiety and other mood disorders

"the researchers found a connection between this particular microRNA, (miR135), and two proteins that play a key role in serotonin production and the regulation of its activities."


Scientists "fingerprint" a culprit in depression, anxiety and other mood disorders
Monday 23 June 2014

According to the World Health Organization, such mood disorders as depression affect some 10% of the world's population and are associated with a heavy burden of disease. That is why numerous scientists around the world have invested a great deal of effort in understanding these diseases. Yet the molecular and cellular mechanisms that underlie these problems are still only partly understood.

The existing anti-depressants are not good enough: Some 60-70% of patients get no relief from them. For the other 30-40%, that relief is often incomplete, and they must take the drugs for a long period before feeling any effects. In addition, there are many side effects associated with the drugs. New and better drugs are clearly needed, an undertaking that requires, first and foremost, a better understanding of the processes and causes underlying the disorders.

The Weizmann Institute's Prof. Alon Chen, together with his then PhD student Dr. Orna Issler, investigated the molecular mechanisms of the brain's serotonin system, which, when misregulated, is involved in depression and anxiety disorders. Chen and his colleagues researched the role of microRNA molecules (small, non-coding RNA molecules that regulate various cellular activities) in the nerve cells that produce serotonin. They succeeded in identifying, for the first time, the unique "fingerprints" of a microRNA molecule that acts on the serotonin-producing nerve cells. Combining bioinformatics methods with experiments, the researchers found a connection between this particular microRNA, (miR135), and two proteins that play a key role in serotonin production and the regulation of its activities. The findings appeared recently in Neuron.

The scientists noted that in the area of the brain containing the serotonin-producing nerve cells, miR135 levels increased when antidepressant compounds were introduced. Mice that were genetically engineered to produce higher-than-average amounts of the microRNA were more resistant to constant stress: They did not develop any of the behaviors associated with chronic stress, such as anxiety or depression, which would normally appear. In contrast, mice that expressed low levels of miR135 exhibited more of these behaviors; in addition, their response to antidepressants was weaker. In other words, the brain needs the proper miR135 levels - low enough to enable a healthy stress response and high enough to avoid depression or anxiety disorders and to respond to serotonin-boosting antidepressants. When this idea was tested on human blood samples, the researchers found that subjects who suffered from depression had unusually low miR135 levels in their blood. On closer inspection, the scientists discovered that the three genes involved in producing miR135 are located in areas of the genome that are known to be associated with risk factors for bipolar mood disorders.


Dr. Martin Ross: Expanding the Boundaries of Climate Science

"Every time I expressed an interest in something, books would appear, as if by magic."


Dr. Martin Ross: Expanding the Boundaries of Climate Science

Corporate Staff
posted May 08, 2014

Interviewed by Lindsay Chaney

Dr. Martin Ross, senior project engineer in the Launch Systems Division, leads research concerning the effects of space systems on the stratosphere at The Aerospace Corporation.

A 26-year Aerospace employee, he is the lead author of a recently published scientific paper in a new journal from the American Geophysical Union called Earth’s Future. The paper, published April 28, is titled “Radiative Forcing Caused by Rocket Engine Emissions.”

In his own words, Ross discusses his new research and what influenced him to become an engineer.


As far as rocket exhaust goes, we looked at gases such as CO2 and H2O, and particles such as soot from hydrocarbon-fueled rocket engines and alumina from solid rocket motors. What we found was that CO2 is a total non-issue by orders of magnitude compared with the particles.

It’s disturbing to see in the press discussions of CO2 from rockets like it means anything substantial. Surprisingly, it’s all about the soot.

The other surprise we found was that alumina particles were known to reflect sunlight, so people thought they would cool the atmosphere. But we found that alumina absorbs upwelling infrared energy from the Earth and this absorption wins out over the reflection of sunlight.

So, alumina is a net warmer of the Earth’s atmosphere, exactly the opposite of the commonly accepted wisdom.

This is important because solid rocket motor use is increasing again after the retirement of the space shuttle, which accounted for much of the solid motor use before 2010.


Earth’s Future is a new journal trying to establish a new point of view for Earth systems science. It’s a cross-discipline look at how the Earth will look decades from now if current trends continue.

There’s a little bit of philosophy in the journal, which resonates with my interest in academic philosophy. Since 2004, I’ve been an adjunct professor at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, where I teach a class in the history of scientific thought.


My father read to me in a big green chair every night, this book called “You Will Go to the Moon” and I thought that was the greatest thing ever – going to the moon.

Both of my parents were teachers, so they showered me with books. Every time I expressed an interest in something, books would appear, as if by magic.


California Public Utilities Commission harasses attorney Mike Aguirre


Video: California Public Utilities Commission harasses attorney Mike Aguirre

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Last week (June 16th, 2014) I witnessed former San Diego city attorney Mike Aguirre being harassed by the California state police prior to his speaking before the California Public Utilities Commission about the San Onofre steam generator debacle. Fortunately I had my camera handy:

Here is a report about the incident by Charles Langley:

Looks like the sort of thing you would expect to see in a Banana Republic or a totalitarian state, but it happened right here in California ....

On June 17, 2014, Karen Miller, a bureaucrat with the California Public Utilities Commission's Public Advisor's Office, ordered armed highway patrol officers to seize documents from Attorney Mike Aguirre as he was preparing to make a presentation at a public hearing to speak out against the $3.3 Billion bailout of the failed nuclear generators at San Onofre. Two of the CPUC's Commissioners have endorsed the bailout which has been fraudulently portrayed as a refund.*

The officers had been ordered to search Mr. Aguirre's work papers, and were instructed to forbid Mr. Aguirre from recording a public meeting.

This unlawful harassment, search, and attempts to muzzle Mr. Aguirre under orders of a Public Utility Commission official were meant to intimidate or silence Mr. Aguirre and create a chilling effect on free speech at CPUC hearings by other members of the public.


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