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Home country: USA
Current location: Georgia
Member since: Tue Feb 10, 2004, 01:08 PM
Number of posts: 46,454

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Environmental Scientist

Journal Archives

Do Bean Plants Show Intelligence?

Last week, in our World Changers Issue, Michael Pollan wrote about the growing field of plant neurobiology and the ways that plants seem to exhibit intelligence, intention, and even choice. Pollan explains that our perception of plant intelligence is hindered by our own sense of time, and that “time-lapse photography is perhaps the best tool we have to bridge the chasm between the time scale at which plants live and our own.”

In this video, Pollan considers time-lapse videos of bean plants searching for a metal pole to climb. Even before the plants reach the pole, they seem to “know” where it is and to try to wrap around it. One plant even seems to cede a pole to another plant that found it first. Some question whether these videos show “plant intelligence,” but the footage is compelling, regardless.

video at link


Obama can’t point to a single time the NSA call records program prevented a terrorist attack

December 23 at 9:43 am

National Security Agency defenders, including President Obama, continue to cite the terrorist attack on Sept. 11, 2001 when defending the program that scoops up domestic call records in bulk. But asked specifically, on Friday, if he could identify a time when that program stopped a similar attack, President Obama couldn't. That's because the program hasn't prevented a second 9/11.

At the end of the year news conference, Reuters's Mark Felsenthal asked:
As you review how to rein in the National Security Agency, a federal judge says that, for example, the government has failed to cite a single instance in which analysis of the NSA's bulk metadata actually stopped an imminent attack. Are you able to identify any specific examples when it did so? Are you convinced that the collection of that data is useful to national security to continue as it is?

But President Obama never answered the question about a specific examples. Instead he spoke more broadly and tied the program, again, back to 9/11.

What I've said in the past continues to be the case, which is that the NSA, in executing this program, believed, based on experiences from 9/11, that it was important for us to be able to track, if there was a phone number of a known terrorist outside of the United States calling into the United States, where that call might have gone and that having that data in one place and retained for a certain period of time allowed them to be confident in pursuing various investigations of terrorist threats.

The president's reliance on a 9/11 narrative is expected. The terrorist attack was a defining moment for a generation and now serves as a tragic reminder of a time when the U.S. government failed to protect its citizens. It's understandable that any president would want to be seen as vigilant in preventing another such attack.

But the reason the president can't cite a specific time the phone meta-data program stopped a similar tragedy is because it hasn't.



Infographic: Who Owns Your Congressperson? (warning big image)


Good Poor, Bad Poor


I met a wheat farmer not long ago in Montana whose family operation was getting nearly $300,000 a year in federal subsidies. With his crop in, this wealthy farmer was looking forward to spending a month in Hawaii. No one suggested that he pass a drug test to continue receiving his sizable handout, or that he be cut off cold, and encouraged to grow something that taxpayers wouldn’t have to subsidize.

One person deserves the handout, the other does not. But these distinctions are colored by your circumstances — where you stand depends on where you sit.

When a million Irish died during the Great Famine of the 1850s, many in the English aristocracy said the peasants deserved to starve because their families were too big and indolent. The British baronet overseeing food relief felt that the famine was God’s judgment, and an excellent way to get rid of surplus population. His argument on relief was the same one used by Rand Paul.

“The only way to prevent the people from becoming habitually dependent on government is to bring the operation to a close,” Sir Charles Trevelyan said about the relief plan at a time when thousands of Irish a day were dropping dead from hunger.



Ex-Wells Fargo employee: ‘We were constantly told we’d be working for McDonald’s'

Christmas is coming, but that doesn’t mean the banking news stops. Here’s the latest roundup:

Under pressure: The L.A. Times is out with an investigation into what it describes as an intense and stressful sales culture at Wells Fargo & Co. WFC , which might have boosted sales revenue but also unraveled ethical standards and employee morale. To meet high quotas, the paper said, employees have opened unneeded accounts for customers, ordered credit cards without customers’ permission and forged signatures. “We were constantly told we would end up working for McDonald’s,” said one former branch manager. The bank said it roots out ethical breaches and takes them seriously.




Michigan telemarketing firm takes huge chunk out of charity donations

By Zlati Meyer

When the Vietnam Veterans of Michigan was looking to augment its fund-raising, the charity turned to a Southfield-based telemarketing firm to call up potential donors.

For the past dozen years, Associated Community Services has put its banks of script-reading phone solicitors to work for the veterans group, dialing into homes and convincing people to give up their credit card number and make a donation.

In 2011, the most recent year for which records are available, Associated Community Services raised $89,740 on behalf of the veterans group. But when the final check was cut, the charity received only $8,855 — a mere 10% — to put toward services for veterans. ACS kept the remaining $80,885 as payment for its fund-raising work, according to forms filed with the Internal Revenue Service.

ACS is one of the nation’s largest charity telemarketing firms. Employees call millions of Americans on behalf of cancer patients, homeless veterans or disabled firefighters. Donors who give once over the phone find themselves flooded with calls for the firm's other charity clients, according to a recent investigation by the Tampa Bay (Florida) Times and The Center for Investigative Reporting.



Evil Scammers....

5 Amazing Pieces of Good News Nobody Is Reporting

By J. Wisniewski

If you share some uplifting link with somebody on Facebook -- some video of an act of human kindness captured on camera, or this dolphin masturbating with the aid of its little fish friend -- the response is usually the same. "Nice to see there are still heartwarming stories in this awful world!"

In other words, any positive news or trend is treated as the exception, when the overall arc of civilization is clearly downward. The only problem is that it is absolutely not true, and it's actually very easy to prove, as we have made it our mission to point out.

So you can sit around and worry about debt ceilings and terror attacks, but take a moment to appreciate that you happen to be alive during the goddamned golden age of human civilization. Just think about the fact that ...

#5. We're Closing in on World Peace (Seriously)

Read more: http://www.cracked.com/article_20731_5-amazing-pieces-good-news-nobody-reporting.html

The unlikely cuddlers....

A bid to restore spiritual artifacts to Hopi and Apache tribes

By John M. Glionna
December 22, 2013, 9:27 p.m.
They were two veteran emissaries for a Los Angeles-based philanthropy, tasked with staging a clandestine operation to rescue a series of Native American spiritual artifacts from public sale half a world away.

This month, Annenberg Foundation staffers Allison Gister and Carol Laumen found themselves making anonymous telephone bids at a Paris auction to secure rarities considered sacred by the Hopi and San Carlos Apache tribes in Arizona, including exotic mask-like visages that had been lost — some say looted — over the last century.

For 80 fast-paced minutes, the women huddled in Gister's office, eyes on their computer screens, phones held to their ears. Secrecy was crucial so as not to drive up prices, or hopes. Not even the tribes knew.

Directing a Paris auction house worker to place her bids using philanthropy money, Gister, a Des Moines native whose French amounted to an 18-month crash course, yelled "Go! Go!" It was often mistaken by the worker as "No! No!"

Laumen, a Canadian fluent in the language, urged: "Don't say 'Go! Go!' Say 'Oui! Oui!'"

It worked. Twenty-one kachina masks for the Hopis and three sacred gaan headdresses for the Apaches were purchased for a total of $530,000 and soon will be returned to the two tribes.



Monday Toons










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