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GOP Ignores Children Once They’re Outside The Womb

by Cynthia Tucker

A recent road trip took me into the precincts of rural Georgia and Florida, far away from the traffic jams, boutique coffeehouses and National Public Radio signals that frame my familiar landscape. Along the way, billboards reminded me that I was outside my natural habitat: anti-abortion declarations appeared every 40 or 50 miles.

“Pregnant? Your baby’s heart is already beating!” “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you. — God.” And, with a photo of an adorable smiling baby, “My heart beat 18 days from conception.”

The slogans suggest a stirring compassion for women struggling with an unplanned pregnancy and a deep-seated moral aversion to pregnancy termination. But the morality and compassion have remarkably short attention spans, losing interest in those children once they are outside the womb.

These same stretches of Georgia and Florida, like conservative landscapes all over the country that want to roll back reproductive freedoms, are thick with voters who fight the social safety net that would assist children from less-affluent homes. Head Start, Medicaid and even food stamps are unpopular with those voters.

Through more than 25 years of writing about Roe vs. Wade and the politics that it spawned, I’ve never been able to wrap my head around the huge gap between anti-abortionists’ supposed devotion to fetuses and their animosity toward poor children once they are born. (Catholic theology at least embraces a “whole-life” ethic that works against both abortion and poverty, but Catholic bishops have seemed more upset lately about contraceptives than about the poor.) While many conservative voters explain their anti-abortion views as Bible-based, their Bibles seem to have edited out Jesus’ charity toward the less fortunate.


Indiana gives BP a pass on mercury

After a 2007 Tribune investigation, BP pledged to tackle its Whiting refinery's toxic discharges into Lake Michigan. Today, state regulators allow the pollution to persist.

By Michael HawthorneChicago Tribune reporter
June 23, 2013

Faced with public outrage and congressional pressure, the oil company BP vowed six years ago to develop cutting-edge technology that could sharply reduce toxic mercury discharged into Lake Michigan by its massive refinery about 20 miles southeast of downtown Chicago.

BP enlisted scientists at Argonne National Laboratory and the Purdue-Calumet Water Institute to come up with methods that company officials said could set a model for factories and sewage treatment plants throughout the Great Lakes region. But despite promising results from two options tested, a new draft permit from Indiana regulators allows BP to avoid installing the mercury-filtering equipment at the Whiting refinery.

Under the terms of an earlier decision by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, the BP refinery can legally discharge an annual average of 23.1 parts per trillion of mercury — nearly 20 times the federal water quality standard for Great Lakes polluters. The proposed new permit would allow that special exemption to continue indefinitely.



House Republicans Hate Poor Too Much to End Farm Socialism

By Jonathan Chait

The right-wing critique of Big Government — bloated, wasteful spending with no real purpose that imposes huge costs on the market — is basically wrong, but there’s one major piece of the government in which it’s completely right: agriculture policy. The farm sector is a vast archipelago of socialism sitting amid a free-market economy. Agri-socialism commands essentially zero intellectual support. Conservatives hate it. Liberals hate it. Experts or academics who study it tend to say things like, “It's so astonishingly irrational, it just takes your breath away.” Agri-socialism operates largely in a self-contained world dominated by the economic interests that benefit from it. So, for instance, the “National Milk Producers Federation” can say things like, “This supply management provision is crucial to ending low milk prices,” as if maintaining high prices were a sensible public policy goal.

Basically, there is no reason at all for the government to single out farmers for special support, as opposed to any other kind of business owners. If I were looking to cut domestic spending, or even if I weren’t, farm subsidies would be the first thing to go, the most unjustifiable government program of any significant size. It’s worth noting that the budget figures don’t nearly capture the cost of agriculture subsidies, much of which come in the form of quotas and tariffs that result in higher consumer prices but don’t entail writing checks from Washington.

Unfortunately, even though congressional Republicans are looking to cut domestic spending, most of them regard agriculture subsidies as an especially meritorious program, not an especially awful one. Some of them want to cut it deeply or even do away with it, but not enough. And the main dynamic that prevents reform, and the reason the farm bill ultimately went down on the House floor today, is that the conservatives who do want to cut agriculture subsidies will only do it if they can also kick the living crap out of the poor.

Agriculture subsidies have traditionally been bundled together with food stamps, in order to create a legislative coalition. (Farmers like the fact that food stamps mean more people can buy their food.) But in recent years, conservatives have gone from tolerating food stamps to absolutely loathing them. This year, House Republicans have attached to their farm bill deep cuts in food stamps, which have grown costlier because the recession has vastly increased the number of poor, hungry Americans (and not, as many Republicans claim, because of loose eligibility standards).


Toon: Paula Deen's Signature Dish

And 2 more

Why Does Rain Smell Good?

Elizabeth Palermo,

Do you love the good smell of rain? If so, you're not alone.

In fact, some scientists believe that people inherited their affection for the scent of rain from ancestors who relied on rainy weather for their survival.

But what makes rain smell so nice? There are several scents associated with rainfall that people find pleasing.

One of these odors, called "petrichor," lingers when rain falls after a prolonged dry spell. Petrichor — the term was coined in 1964 by two Australian scientists studying the smells of wet weather — is derived from a pair of chemical reactions.

Some plants secrete oils during dry periods, and when it rains, these oils are released into the air. The second reaction that creates petrichor occurs when chemicals produced by soil-dwelling bacteria known as actinomycetes are released. These aromatic compounds combine to create the pleasant petrichor scent when rain hits the ground.


Restaurant Where Tony Soprano Last Sat Pays Tribute To James Gandolfini

Sam Parker
BuzzFeed Staff

Holsten’s, the ice cream shop in New Jersey where James Gandolfini filmed the final scene of The Sopranos, have left his seat ‘Reserved’ today in a poignant tribute to the actor, who died of a heart attack yesterday.


The Breathtaking Flower Hill of Hokkaido

By Spooky

Home to nearly one million pink shibazakura flowers, spread over an area of 100,000 square meters, on a hillside overlooking the picturesqe town of Takinoue, the Higashimokoto Flower Park is a must-see attraction for flower lovers.

There are lost of impressive tourist destinations on Japan’s Hokkaido island, but the hillside flower park overlooking the town of Takinoue stands out as the most colorful. Every year, from early May to mid June, the hill is covered with a pink carpet of Moss Phlox flowers, commonly known as shibazakura. Winding paths lead visitors from the base of the hill to the very top where they are treated to a magnificent view of the surrounding sea of flowers. Higashimokoto Park was founded in 1956, with only a box full of shibazakura seeds, but a growing number of plants have been planted every year since, and today the pink flowers cover an area of over 100,000 square meters. During the month-long blooming season, the bright pink flowers fill the air with a sweet scent that complements the amazing view. At the height of the moss phlox season, locals hold an annual festival dedicated to the flowers, featuring all kinds of themed events, and stalls selling snacks and souvenirs.


A map showing the original meanings of place names in North America


Now this is impressive: It's called the Atlas of True Names, and it reveals the etymological origins and translations of familiar place names whose original meanings we've mostly forgotten. Looking at it, you'd think North America was some sort of fantasy novel.

The Atlas of True Names was compiled by cartographers Stephan Hormes and Silke Peust. The duo has, in addition to the map of the United States, also produced similar maps of Canada and the British Isles. And they're all available for purchase.

Hormes and Peust point out some of the more Tolkien-like place names:

Middle-earth’s evocative “Midgewater”, “Dead Marshes” and “Mount Doom” are strikingly similar in nature to Europe’s “Swirlwater”, “Darkford” or “Smoky Bay”, as revealed by the Atlas of True Names.

Many geographical names are clearly rooted in Man’s observation of his natural environment; the physical location of a settlement: “At the Foot of the Mountain” – Piedmont, the character of an important water course: “The Gentle One” – The Seine or even just the local vegetation: “Under the Oaks” – Potsdam.



Why Do Babies Twitch in Their Sleep?

by Virginia Hughes
When I brought my puppy home last August, I knew he would be fun to play with. I had no idea how entertaining he would be when asleep. He dozed constantly, and more often than not, his whole body — legs, tail, lips, eyes, ears — would twitch. This isn’t a quirk of canines. Sleep twitching happens to “literally every mammal that has been looked at”, says Mark Blumberg, a psychology professor at the University of Iowa. Dogs, cats, rats, ferrets, sheep, squirrels — they all twitch. Even whales twitch their flippers. “I have YouTube videos of a guy who recorded his girlfriend’s toes when they twitched,” Blumberg says.

I undoubtedly spent too much time in the past couple of days doing YouTube searches for twitching babies. What’s funny about many of these videos is the commentary of those behind the camera. They tend to say one of two things: “OMG, look at that spaz!” or, “Awww, he’s dreaming.” And that’s how sleep researchers have traditionally thought of twitches, too, according to Blumberg.

“The sleep field really started off in many ways as an offshoot of Freudian psychoanalysis and the study of dreams,” Blumberg says. “People see these movements and they think, ‘Oh, Fido is chasing rabbits in his dreams.’ But it turns out that that’s almost certainly not the case.” In an engaging new review in Current Biology, Blumberg argues that these sleep twitches actually have an indispensible purpose: to teach a newborn what all of its limbs and muscles can do, and how to use them in concert to interact with the big, wide world.

The first big study to propose this idea was published more than 40 years ago in Science. Howard Roffwarg, then director of the Sleep Laboratory at the New York State Psychiatric Institute, described the behaviors and brain-wave patterns of newborn human babies as they sleep. He noted that a newborn spends “one-third of its entire existence” in a REM state, with intense brain activity and continuous muscle contractions.

much more, with cute videos!

A Clear View of Alaska—and Maybe Our Future

By Phil Plait

Alaska, it so happens, is pretty big. If you take Alaska and subtract Texas, the amount left over is still bigger than Texas.

Given that, plus the usual atmospheric conditions, it’s pretty rare to get a picture of the nearly the entire state free of clouds. But that’s just what NASA’s Terra satellite saw on Monday:

What an amazing shot! The snow-covered mountains in the southeast really stand out, and you can see a forest fire raging farther to the west. I know we’re seeing a huge swath of land, so the scale is huge—the picture shows an area about 1,500 kilometers (900 miles) across—but it’s still striking not to see any real signs of human activity here.

Or are we? The reason the state is cloudless is because of a huge high-pressure system squatting over the state. This has also brought record high temperatures to much of the state. This reminds me of the same sort of system that’s been plaguing Greenland and which caused record ice melting last year.

A new study just came out possibly linking that Greenland system to global warming. It’s not a direct link; that is, it’s not that things are warmer now so we got more melting. What may be happening is that the changing climate is affecting the pattern of the jet stream, causing warmer high-pressure systems to sit and stay in one place in what’s called a blocking pattern.


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