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Weekend Toon Roundup 2- The rest








Weekend Toon roundup 1- If the Bundy Stinks, Wear it.

Mike Luckovich Toon: Take me to your Leaders!

Koch brothers sponsor pension reform seminar for judges

As state courts across the nation prepare to referee numerous public pension reform disputes, a gaggle of interested parties — from major corporations to the Koch brothers — will next week sponsor an expenses-paid conference on public pension reform for judges who may decide the cases’ fates.

Conference funders, which include ExxonMobil, Google and Wal-Mart, could benefit from efforts to slash benefits for public employees. Alternative approaches to shore up state budgets would likely require higher corporate taxes, fewer corporate subsidies and reduced government services, all of which would be bad for business.

The three-day gathering in a Charleston, S.C., hotel is hosted by George Mason University’s Law & Economics Center.

The “Judicial Symposium on the Economics and Law of Public Pension Reform,” according to a George Mason event description, is intended to “comprehensively outline the underlying structure of pension systems, address the differences between public and private pensions and detail the unfunded liabilities and potential bankruptcy issues arising from this crisis.”



Idaho won’t let Navy veteran be buried with her wife

Madelynn Taylor served in the Navy for six years. That should be enough for her to have a final resting place in the Idaho Veterans Cemetery.

But Taylor, 74, wants the ashes of her late wife to join her. In Idaho, state law has it that marriage is between a man and a woman. It’s in the state constitution.

Taylor could go to a national veterans cemetery. That would be out of state.

She told the Boise Weekly she wants to be buried close to home.

State veterans officials told the Boise Weekly that they are sympathetic, but the law is the law.

“We have to honor, foremost, the state constitution,” one officials said.

So Taylor’s last wishes can’t be granted.

“I’m not surprised,” Taylor KBOI in Boise. “I’ve been discriminated against for 70 years, and they might as well discriminate against me in death as well as life.”


Like humans, apes and crows, dolphins use tools to explore the parts others cannot reach

In one population of Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops aduncus) in Shark Bay, Western Australia, members use sponges for foraging. Lacking hands, they pick up and wear the sponges over their rostra (beak), possibly to protect themselves from sharp objects and noxious critters when probing in the sea floor sediment.

Previous work has shown that it is mainly daughters that learn the sponging behaviour from their mothers, and that this is passed on through social learning cultural transmission. As among humans and as documented in numerous other animal species, the innovation of sponging is transmitted via social learning mechanisms between individuals, such as daughters closely observing their mothers when they use sponges as tools.

The sponging-foraging technique was thought to be part of dolphins' efforts to find nutritious, bottom-dwelling fish that do not have a swim bladder. As the dolphins' echolocation sense uses the swim bladder to detect fish, a lack of it makes it hard or impossible for the dolphin to detect them with sonar. But until now there’s not been much evidence to support this idea.


Cultural transmission, including of tool use, has been identified as the major driver of human evolution. The dolphins' method for finding new food sources has led to a significant reduction in competition for food – perhaps one of the reasons why it is in Shark Bay that the highest density of dolphins are found.



'Chameleon' Vine Discovered in Chile

Move over, Sherlock Holmes. There is a new master of disguise—and it’s a plant. Camouflage and mimicry are usually reserved for the animal realm. The hawk moth caterpillar scares away predators by resembling a snake. Myrmarachne jumping spiders imitate ants as they creep up on unsuspecting insects—fangs ready. Fewer examples of mimicry—or crypsis—are known for plants. But as in some mistletoe species in Australia, all of these imposters copy only one other species. That’s not the case with the woody vine Boquila trifoliolata, which transforms its leaves to copy a variety of host trees. Native to Chile and Argentina, B. trifoliolata is the first plant shown to imitate several hosts. It is a rare quality—known as a mimetic polymorphism—that was previously observed only in butterflies, according to this study, published today in Current Biology. When the vine climbs onto a tree’s branches, its versatile leaves (inset) can change their size, shape, color, orientation, and even the vein patterns to match the surrounding foliage (middle panel; the red arrow points to the vine, while the blue arrow indicates the host plant). If the vine crosses over to a second tree, it changes, even if the new host leaves are 10 times bigger with a contrasting shape (right panel). The deceit serves as a defense against plant-eating herbivores like weevils and leaf beetles, according the researchers. They compared the charlatan leaves hanging on branches with the leaves on vines still crawling on the forest floor in search of a tree or scaling leafless trunks. Herbivory was 33% and 100% worse for the vines on the ground and on tree trunks, respectively. It is unclear how B. trifoliolata vines discern the identity of individual trees and shape-shift accordingly. The vines could read cues hidden in odors, or chemicals secreted by trees or microbes may transport gene-activating signals between the fraud and the host, the researchers say.



25 dead cats in bags found hanging from tree branches in N.Y. woods

What a grisly scene.

About 25 dead cats were found in plastic bags hanging from tree branches in the woods in Yonkers, N.Y., the Journal News reports. The bags were neatly tied around the branches.

City sanitation workers performing their annual cleanup of the woods discovered the bags. Police responded on Thursday.

"It's something very odd," Ernest Lungaro, director of the SPCA of Westchester's Humane Law Enforcement Division, told the Journal News. "It's a lot of cats to be disposed of in a year."

Each bag appeared to have one cat inside, which varied in age and stage of decomposition. Wildlife appeared to have ripped open five or so bags, spilling the dead cats out, Lungaro said.


Verizon Wireless sells out customers with creepy new tactic

As far as corporate notices go, they don't get much creepier than this recent alert from Verizon Wireless.

The company says it's "enhancing" its Relevant Mobile Advertising program, which it uses to collect data on customers' online habits so that marketers can pitch stuff at them with greater precision.

"In addition to the customer information that's currently part of the program, we will soon use an anonymous, unique identifier we create when you register on our websites," Verizon Wireless is telling customers.

"This identifier may allow an advertiser to use information they have about your visits to websites from your desktop computer to deliver marketing messages to mobile devices on our network," it says.

That means exactly what it looks like: Verizon will monitor not just your wireless activities but also what you do on your wired or Wi-Fi-connected laptop or desktop computer — even if your computer doesn't have a Verizon connection.

The company will then share that additional data with marketers.


Paul Krugman Blog- Piketty and Pareto

Well, it’s Piketty day at the Times, with David Brooks and yours truly even having more or less matching headlines. And David’s take reminds me of something I’ve been meaning to do: explain one important point in Piketty that even economist readers have, it seems, tended to miss.

In his critique David says of Piketty,

He predicts that family fortunes will concentrate, though big ones in the past have tended to dissipate and families like the Gateses give a lot away.

So, two points. Piketty doesn’t just assert that fortunes will concentrate, he shows that they have in fact concentrated in the past. That’s the whole point of his extended analysis of Belle Epoque France, with its dominance by inherited wealth. And for every Bill Gates, there are many families that do all they can to perpetuate dynastic wealth. Remember, the 10 wealthiest Americans include 4 Waltons and two Kochs.

Second, Piketty predicts a high concentration of wealth, but not concentration without limit. He alludes to his modeling here rather than presenting it explicitly, but maybe he should have said more.



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