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Paul Krugman: Money Makes Crazy

Monetary policy probably won’t be a major issue in the 2016 campaign, but it should be. It is, after all, extremely important, and the Republican base and many leading politicians have strong views about the Federal Reserve and its conduct. And the eventual presidential nominee will surely have to endorse the party line.

So it matters that the emerging G.O.P. consensus on money is crazy — full-on conspiracy-theory crazy.

Right now, the most obvious manifestation of money madness is Senator Rand Paul’s “Audit the Fed” campaign. Mr. Paul likes to warn that the Fed’s efforts to bolster the economy may lead to hyperinflation; he loves talking about the wheelbarrows of cash that people carted around in Weimar Germany. But he’s been saying that since 2009, and it keeps not happening. So now he has a new line: The Fed is an overleveraged bank, just as Lehman Brothers was, and could experience a disastrous collapse of confidence any day now.

This story is wrong on so many levels that reporters are having a hard time keeping up, but let’s simply note that the Fed’s “liabilities” consist of cash, and those who hold that cash have the option of converting it into, well, cash. No, the Fed can’t fall victim to a bank run. But is Mr. Paul being ostracized for his views? Not at all.

Moreover, while Mr. Paul may currently be the poster child for off-the-wall monetary views, he’s far from alone. A lot has been written about the 2010 open letter from leading Republicans to Ben Bernanke, then the Fed chairman, demanding that he cease efforts to support the economy, warning that such efforts would lead to inflation and “currency debasement.” Less has been written about the simultaneous turn of seemingly respectable figures to conspiracy theories.



A new twist in understanding the brain’s maps

The way that the brain’s internal maps are linked and anchored to the external world has been a mystery for a decade, ever since 2014 Nobel Laureates May-Britt and Edvard Moser discovered grid cells, the key reference system of our brain’s spatial navigation system. Now, researchers at the Mosers’ Kavli Institute for Systems Neuroscience believe they have solved this mystery. The results are published in this week’s edition of Nature.

To understand the finding, think of regular maps and how they relate to your surroundings. When we go hiking and orient ourselves with a map and compass, we align the map using the north arrow on the compass and match it to the longitude lines on the map, to align the map with the terrain and make sure we find our way (unless we have a GPS that does the work for us).

We know our brains contain a number of internal maps, all mapped onto the surroundings, ready to be pulled up to guide us in the right direction. These grid maps come in different sizes and resolutions, but until now they have offered few clues as to how they are anchored to the surroundings.

The findings published in Nature this week explain the surprising twist the brain uses to align its internal maps.



New Genus of Flowering Plants Discovered in Gabon, Named after Sir David Attenborough

An international team of botanists led by Dr Thomas Couvreur from the Institut de Recherche pour le Développement in Montpellier has described a new genus in the custard apple family Annonaceae.

The new genus was in fact erected to accommodate a new plant species, Sirdavidia solannona, found in Monts de Cristal National Park, Gabon.

The generic name Sirdavidia honors Sir David Attenborough, for his influence on the life and careers of the scientists who discovered it.

“Sir David Attenborough has been such a wonderful and important influence in my life and the life of so many,” said Dr Couvreur, the first author of the paper published online in the journal PhytoKeys.



Scientists Get First Glimpse of a Chemical Bond Being Born

A Fundamental Advance Has Big Implications for Making Chemistry More Efficient
February 12, 2015
Menlo Park, Calif. — Scientists have used an X-ray laser at the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory to get the first glimpse of the transition state where two atoms begin to form a weak bond on the way to becoming a molecule.

This fundamental advance, reported Feb. 12 in Science Express and long thought impossible, will have a profound impact on the understanding of how chemical reactions take place and on efforts to design reactions that generate energy, create new products and fertilize crops more efficiently.

“This is the very core of all chemistry. It’s what we consider a Holy Grail, because it controls chemical reactivity,” said Anders Nilsson, a professor at the SLAC/Stanford SUNCAT Center for Interface Science and Catalysis and at Stockholm University who led the research. “But because so few molecules inhabit this transition state at any given moment, no one thought we’d ever be able to see it.”



A Pancreas in a Capsule

Fourteen years ago, during the darkest moments of the “stem-cell wars” pitting American scientists against the White House of George W. Bush, one group of advocates could be counted on to urge research using cells from human embryos: parents of children with type 1 diabetes. Motivated by scientists who told them these cells would lead to amazing cures, they spent millions on TV ads, lobbying, and countless phone calls to Congress.1

Now the first test of a type 1 diabetes treatment using stem cells has finally begun. In October, a San Diego man had two pouches of lab-grown pancreas cells, derived from human embryonic stem cells, inserted into his body through incisions in his back. Two other patients have since received the stand-in pancreas, engineered by a small San Diego company called ViaCyte.+

It’s a significant step, partly because the ViaCyte study is only the third in the United States of any treatment based on embryonic stem cells. These cells, once removed from early-stage human embryos, can be grown in a lab dish and retain the ability to differentiate into any of the cells and tissue types in the body. One other study, since cancelled, treated several patients with spinal-cord injury (see “Geron Shuts Down Pioneering Stem-Cell Program” and “Stem-Cell Gamble”), while tests to transplant lab-grown retina cells into the eyes of people going blind are ongoing (see “Stem Cells Seem Safe in Treating Eye Disease”).



US faces worst droughts in 1,000 years, predict scientists

The US south-west and the Great Plains will face decade-long droughts far worse than any experienced over the last 1,000 years because of climate change, researchers said on Thursday.

The coming drought age – caused by higher temperatures under climate change – will make it nearly impossible to carry on with current life-as-normal conditions across a vast swathe of the country.

The droughts will be far worse than the one in California – or those seen in ancient times, such as the calamity that led to the decline of the Anasazi civilizations in the 13th century, the researchers said.

“The 21st-century projections make the mega-droughts seem like quaint walks through the garden of Eden,” said Jason Smerdon, a co-author and climate scientist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.


Germany to mark 70th anniversary of Dresden firebombing

Commemorations are due to take place in Germany to mark the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Dresden.

An estimated 25,000 people died in the British and American attack, which created a firestorm that left 33 sq km (12 sq miles) of the city in ruins.

German President Joachim Gauck is due to attend the events in the Church of Our Lady, which has been rebuilt since it was destroyed in the WW2 raids.

The city was believed by allied forces to be a vital Nazi command centre.



Critics protest Hogan's education budget cuts in Maryland

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Gov. Larry Hogan's proposed funding for education threatens to create larger classrooms and cut teaching jobs, opponents of the plan said Tuesday — but Hogan's budget secretary said the Republican governor is open to dialogue about how to address tough financial choices his administration inherited.
Continue reading

Betty Weller, president of the Maryland State Education Association, said Hogan's budget plan amounts to roughly $144 million in reductions to K-12.

"Governor Hogan campaigned to change Maryland, but unfortunately his budget is going to shortchange Maryland," said Weller, who heads a teachers' union representing 71,000 teachers and education support professionals across the state. "His education cuts would be felt in every classroom across the state."

The union has launched a website to enable residents to see how the budget plan would affect local jurisdictions.

Read more: http://www.wjla.com/articles/2015/02/website-shows-impact-of-hogan-s-education-budget-plan-for-maryland-111147.html

GOP infighting grows over Homeland Security funding

GOP infighting between the House and Senate is growing as Republicans work to prevent a partial shutdown of the Homeland Security Department at the end of the month.

House conservatives on Thursday pointedly criticized Senate Republicans for saying a House-approved bill funding the agency and reversing President Obama’s executive actions on immigration was dead in the Senate.

“If we're going to allow seven Democratic senators to decide what the agenda is of the House Republican conference, of the Senate Republican majority, then we might as well just give them the chairmanships, give them the leadership of the Senate,” Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho) said at an event held with the Heritage Foundation.

He and other conservatives called for Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) to gut the Senate’s filibuster if necessary to move the House bill to President Obama. With Democrats objecting to the immigration language, Republicans in the Senate are far short of the 60 votes needed to overcome procedural hurdles.

Senate Republicans quickly fired back at Labrador, arguing the suggestion was unrealistic.



Friday TOON Roundup 3 - The Rest








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