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Books of The Times: A Poet Remembers Her Impulsive Trip Into a Civil War

NY Times - Wed, 2019-03-20 13:47
In her new memoir, Carolyn Forché tells the story of how a stranger’s suggestion that she visit El Salvador in the late 1970s changed the course of her art and her life.

“He’s literally suing an imaginary cow”: Late-night hosts mock Nunes

Ars - Wed, 2019-03-20 13:42


On Monday, Devin Nunes' cow was an obscure Twitter account with around 1,200 followers. Then Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) filed a lawsuit demanding that Twitter and several Twitter accounts—including the user behind the pseudonymous cow—pay him $250 million for the "pain, insult, embarrassment, humiliation, emotional distress and mental suffering, and injury to his personal and professional reputations" caused by their tweets.

Now, Devin Nunes' cow has more than 420,000 Twitter followers—that's more than Nunes himself, who has 395,000 followers.

It's a beautiful example of the Streisand Effect. Nunes appears to have filed the lawsuit in part to raise his own profile within the conservative movement, as the lawsuit was peppered with gratuitous swipes at the Democratic Party, Fusion GPS, and other high-profile villains in the conservative pantheon.

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Attention, Dogs: Bark at Your Owners’ Peril

NY Times - Wed, 2019-03-20 13:36
Three dogs who live in a Saddle River, N.J., mansion once owned by Russell Simmons have inspired an ordinance that bans and defines excessive barking.

F.A.A. Approval of Boeing Jet Involved in Two Crashes Comes Under Scrutiny

NY Times - Wed, 2019-03-20 13:35
A software system suspected of playing a role in two deadly crashes involving the same jet, the Boeing 737 Max, did not raise red flags during the approval process.

About a third of medical vaccine exemptions in San Diego came from one doctor

Ars - Wed, 2019-03-20 13:31

Enlarge / A nurse prepares to administer the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine as well as a vaccine used to help prevent the diseases of diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, and polio at Children's Primary Care Clinic in Minneapolis, MN. (credit: Getty | The Washington Post)

A single San Diego doctor wrote nearly a third of the area’s medical vaccination exemptions since 2015, according to an investigation by the local nonprofit news organization Voice of San Diego.

The revelation follows growing concern that anti-vaccine parents are flocking to doctors willing to write dubious medical exemptions to circumvent the state’s vaccination requirements. Since California banned exemptions based on personal beliefs in 2015, medical exemptions have tripled in the state. The rise has led some areas to have vaccination rates below the levels necessary to curb the spread of vaccine-preventable illnesses. Moreover, it signals a worrying trend for other states working to crack down on exemptions and thwart outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases. There are currently six outbreaks of measles across the country.

Medical vaccination exemptions are intended for the relatively few people who have medical conditions that prevent them from receiving vaccines safely. That includes people who are on long-term immunosuppressive therapy or those who are immunocompromised, such as those with HIV or those who have had severe, life-threatening allergic reactions (e.g. anaphylaxis) to previous immunizations. Such patients typically receive medical exemptions incidentally during their medical care. But some doctors are providing evaluations specifically to determine if a patient qualifies for an exemption and granting exemptions using criteria not based on medical evidence. Some doctors are even charging fees for these questionable exemption evaluations—including the doctor in San Diego, Tara Zandvliet.

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Earth-changing asteroid impact theory gets new evidence

Futurity.org - Wed, 2019-03-20 13:31

Researchers have discovered new evidence to support the Younger Dryas Impact Hypothesis, which postulates that a fragmented comet slammed into the Earth close to 12,800 years ago.

When James Kennett and his colleagues set out years ago to examine signs of a major cosmic impact toward the end of the Pleistocene epoch, little did they know just how far-reaching the projected climatic effect would be.

“It’s much more extreme than I ever thought when I started this work,” notes Kennett, a professor of geology at the University of California, Santa Barbara. “The more work that has been done, the more extreme it seems.”

The hypothesis maintains that the impact caused rapid climatic changes, megafaunal extinctions, sudden human population decrease and cultural shifts, and widespread wildfires (biomass burning). The hypothesis suggests a possible triggering mechanism for the abrupt changes in climate at that time, in particular a rapid cooling in the Northern Hemisphere, called the Younger Dryas, amid a general global trend of natural warming and ice sheet melting that show changes in the fossil and sediment record.

The researchers found evidence of cosmic impact at the Pilauco dig site in a suburb of the Osorno province in Chile. (Credit: UC Santa Barbara)

Controversial from the time scientists proposed it, those who prefer to attribute the end-Pleistocene reversal in warming entirely to terrestrial causes continue to contest the hypothesis even now. But Kennett and fellow stalwarts of the Younger Dryas Boundary (YDB) Impact Hypothesis, as it is also known, have recently received a major boost: the discovery of a very young, 31-kilometer-wide (19-mile-wide) impact crater beneath the Greenland ice sheet, which they believe may have been one of the many comet fragments that struck Earth at the onset of the Younger Dryas.

Now, in a paper in the journal Nature Scientific Reports, the researchers present further evidence of a cosmic impact, this time far south of the equator, that likely led to biomass burning, climate change, and megafaunal extinctions nearly 13,000 years ago.

‘A major expansion’

“We have identified the YDB layer at high latitudes in the Southern Hemisphere at near 41 degrees south, close to the tip of South America,” Kennett says. This is a major expansion of the extent of the YDB event.” The vast majority of evidence to date, he adds, has been found in the Northern Hemisphere.

This discovery began several years ago, according to Kennett, when a group of Chilean scientists studying sediment layers at a well-known Quaternary paleontological and archaeological site, Pilauco Bajo, recognized changes known to be associated with YDB impact event. They included a “black mat” layer, 12,800 years in age, that coincided with the disappearance of South American Pleistocene megafauna fossils, an abrupt shift in regional vegetation and a disappearance of human artifacts.

“Because the sequencing of these events looked like what had already been described in the YDB papers for North America and Western Europe, the group decided to run analyses of impact-related proxies in search of the YDB layer,” Kennett says. This yielded the presence of microscopic spherules that researchers interpreted as forming by melting due to the extremely high temperatures associated with impact. The layer containing these spherules also show peak concentrations of platinum and gold, and native iron particles rarely found in nature.

“Among the most important spherules are those that are chromium-rich,” Kennett explains. The Pilauco site spherules contain an unusual level of chromium, an element from South America, not in Northern Hemisphere YDB impact spherules.

“It turns out that volcanic rocks in the southern Andes can be rich in chromium, and these rocks provided a local source for this chromium,” he adds. “Thus, the cometary objects must have hit South America as well.”

Other evidence, which, Kennett notes, is consistent with previous and ongoing documentation of the region by Chilean scientists, pointed to a “very large environmental disruption at about 40 degrees south.” These included a large biomass burning event that, among other things, micro-charcoal and signs of burning in pollen samples researchers collected at the impact layer shown.

“It’s by far the biggest burn event in this region we see in the record that spans thousands of years,” Kennett says. Furthermore, he continues, the burning coincides with the timing of major YDB-related burning events in North America and western Europe.

Climate shifts

The sedimentary layers at Pilauco contain a valuable record of pollen and seeds that show change in character of regional vegetation—evidence of a shifting climate. However, in contrast to the Northern Hemisphere, where conditions became colder and wetter at the onset of the Younger Dryas, the opposite occurred in the Southern Hemisphere.

“The plant assemblages indicate that there was an abrupt and major shift in the vegetation from wet, cold conditions at Pilauco to warm, dry conditions,” Kennett says.

According to Kennett, the atmospheric zonal climatic belts shifted “like a seesaw,” with a synergistic mechanism, bringing warming to the Southern Hemisphere even as the Northern Hemisphere experienced cooling and expanding sea ice. The rapidity—within a few years—with which the climate shifted is best attributed to impact-related shifts in atmospheric systems, rather than to the slower oceanic processes, Kennett says.

Meanwhile, the impact with its associated major environmental effects, including burning, is thought to have contributed to the extinction of local South American Pleistocene megafauna—including giant ground sloths, sabretooth cats, mammoths, and elephant-like gomphotheres—as well as the termination of the culture similar to the Clovis culture in the north, he adds. The amount of bones, artifacts, and megafauna-associated fungi that were relatively abundant in the soil at the Pilauco site declined precipitously at the impact layer, indicating a major local disruption.

The distance of this recently identified YDB site—about 6,000 kilometers (around 3728 miles) from the closest well-studied site in South America—and its correlation with the many Northern Hemispheric sites “greatly expands the extent of the YDB impact event,” Kennett says.

The sedimentary and paleo-vegetative evidence researchers gathered at the Pilauco site is in line with previous, separate studies Chilean scientists conducted that indicate a widespread burn and sudden major climate shifts in the region at about YDB onset. This new study further bolsters the hypothesis that a cosmic impact triggered the atmospheric and oceanic conditions of the Younger Dryas, he says.

“This is further evidence that the Younger Dryas climatic onset is an extreme global event, with major consequences on the animal life and the human life at the time,” Kennett says. “And this Pilauco section is consistent with that.”

Additional researchers contributing to the work came from Universidad Austral de Chile, Universidad Católica de Temuco, Elizabeth City State University, University of South Carolina, Northern Arizona University, DePaul University, Comet Research Group.

Source: UC Santa Barbara

The post Earth-changing asteroid impact theory gets new evidence appeared first on Futurity.

Tech We’re Using: Talking to Taffy Is Low Tech. And Intense.

NY Times - Wed, 2019-03-20 13:30
Armed with an Olympus recorder, she’s spent time with Gwyneth Paltrow and Bradley Cooper. Here’s how Taffy Brodesser-Akner of The New York Times Magazine tries to make herself unobtrusive in interviews.

It just became easier for employers to dump retirees' pensions

CNN - Wed, 2019-03-20 13:29
Traditional pensions are disappearing in America, and the federal government just made it easier for employers to get rid of them.

Fed Holds Rates Steady and Predicts No Increases in 2019

NY Times - Wed, 2019-03-20 13:25
The Federal Reserve updated its 2019 economic projections on Wednesday and telegraphed where it sees interest rates heading.

Physicists “flip the D” in tokamak, get unexpectedly good result

Ars - Wed, 2019-03-20 13:21

Enlarge / "Small" isn't necessarily all that small when it comes to tokamaks like the DIII-D. (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

In the world of fusion physics, two letters say it all: ‘L’ and ‘H’. All the cool kids play with the H-mode, which is hot and fiery and is our best prospect for achieving useable fusion energy. The L-mode, which is neither hot nor fiery, has been largely abandoned. But by changing the shape of the L-mode, researchers have been able to get unexpectedly high pressures. High enough for fusion? Maybe.

To understand what all that means, we need a quick refresher on what a tokamak is.

We’ve covered fusion physics before, but in short, a tokamak reactor uses a series of twisted magnetic fields to confine a fluid of charged particles (called a plasma) in a donut shape. The temperature and pressure of the plasma is the key to fusion; once it's hot enough, the positively charged nuclei will collide to fuse, releasing gloriously large amounts of energy. 

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Trump weighs in on Conways' marriage in feud

CNN - Wed, 2019-03-20 13:21
President Donald Trump escalated his public feud with the spouse of a top adviser Wednesday, attacking counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway's husband George as "jealous" and a "husband from hell."

The American Bar Association says US immigration courts are 'on the brink of collapse'

CNN - Wed, 2019-03-20 13:17
The American Bar Association is proposing a major overhaul of the US immigration system, calling the courts that decide whether to deport immigrants "irredeemably dysfunctional."

Behind Olive Garden's huge comeback

CNN - Wed, 2019-03-20 13:15
It's been about five years since activist investor Starboard first targeted Darden Restaurants and issued a scathing criticism of the business, particularly the food at Olive Garden.

N.B.A. Size? Check. N.B.A. Future? That’s More Complicated.

NY Times - Wed, 2019-03-20 13:15
Central Florida’s Tacko Fall and Florida State’s Christ Koumadje have the stunning size that teams used to love. But the N.B.A. may no longer covet what they’re offering.

Clarence Thomas Breaks a Three-Year Silence at Supreme Court

NY Times - Wed, 2019-03-20 13:09
Justice Thomas asked questions in the case of Curtis Flowers, who has been tried six times for murder. The court will decide whether jury selection was marred by racial discrimination.

National parks in Senegal may save chimps

Futurity.org - Wed, 2019-03-20 13:04

A new study of animal populations inside and outside Senegal, Niokolo-Koba National Park, shows that protecting these areas from human interaction and development could save chimps and many other endangered species.

The West African chimpanzee population has declined nearly 80 percent in recent decades. Habitat loss is threatening their livelihoods across the continent, especially in Senegal, where corporate mining has started eating up land in recent years.

The geographical distribution of West African chimps overlaps almost perfectly with gold and iron ore deposits, and unfortunately for the chimps, mining is a key piece of the country’s development strategy, says Stacy Lindshield, a biological anthropologist at Purdue University.

Extractive industries are already improving people’s livelihoods and promoting investment and infrastructure development, and researchers are trying to find a way to protect Senegal’s chimps without surrendering those benefits.

Many of Earth’s animal species are now dying off at accelerated rates, but as human’s closest living relatives, chimps tend to tug at our heart strings. They’re scientifically important, too—because they participate in collective activities such as hunting and food-sharing, social science researches often study them.

Habitat loss and humans

Although habitat loss poses the biggest threat to West African chimps, humans sometimes kill them for meat. This is uncommon in Senegal, where eating chimpanzee meat is a taboo—people think chimps are too similar to humans to eat.

That’s not the case in other West African countries, however, where researchers might see a bigger difference in chimp populations inside and outside protected areas. National parks could offer even greater protection in these nations.

“We saw the same number of chimpanzee species inside and outside the park, but more species of carnivores and ungulates in the protected area,” Lindshield says.

The difference in the number of species of carnivores and hooved animals (known as ungulates), inside and outside the park was stark—14 and 42 percent higher in the park, respectively. This marks a sharp contrast with what Lindshield heard on the ground in Senegal: There’s nothing in the park; all the animals are gone.

“There were qualitative and quantitative differences between what people were telling me and what I was seeing in the park,” she says. “Niokolo-Koba National Park is huge, and the area we study is nestled deeply in the interior where it’s difficult for humans to access. As a consequence, we see a lot of animals there.”

‘This park is not a lost cause’

Hunting practices and human-carnivore conflict are two big reasons for ungulates thriving inside the park. Hunters frequently target these animals and some carnivore species turn to livestock as a food source when their prey species dwindle, which creates the potential for conflict with humans.

Because the two sites are relatively close geographically and have similar grassland, woodland, and forest cover, the researchers point to human activity as the root of differences between the two sites.

Lindshield’s team conducted basic field surveys by walking around the two sites and recording the animals they saw. They also installed camera traps at key water sources, gallery forests, and caves to record more rare and nocturnal animals.

“We’re engaging in basic research, but it’s crucial in an area that’s rapidly developing and home to an endangered species,” Lindshield says. “This provides evidence that the protected area is effective, at least where we are working, counter to what I was hearing from the public.

“The management of protected areas is highly complex. Myriad challenges can make management goals nearly impossible, such as funding shortfalls or lack of buy-in from local communities, but I think it’s important for people to recognize that this park is not a lost cause; it’s working as it’s intended to at Assirik, especially for large ungulates and carnivores.”

Lindshield hopes future studies will uncover not only which species exist in each site, but population sizes of each species. This metric, known as species evenness, is a key measure of biodiversity.

The findings of the new study appear in Folia Primatologica.

Researchers from Texas State University, the University of Florida, the Université Cheikh Anta Diop, and Niokolo-Koba National Park contributed to the research. The National Science Foundation, National Geographic Society, Leakey Foundation, Rufford Foundation, Primate Conservation Inc., Jane Goodall Research Center at University of Southern California, Purdue University, and Iowa State University contributed to the work.

Source: Purdue University

The post National parks in Senegal may save chimps appeared first on Futurity.

Enter to win a BlackBerry KEY2 Red Edition from CrackBerry

CrackBerry - Wed, 2019-03-20 12:58

It's real, and it's spectacular. And you can win one in this giveaway! Enter here!

It's real, and it's spectacular. And you can win one in this giveaway!

BlackBerry Mobile has announced the KEY2 Red Edition and it's a beautiful device. We know a lot of you are super excited to get your hands on one of these lovely phones, so we're going to go ahead and hook one of our readers up with one for free in our latest giveaway! Scroll down for details and to enter.

THE RULES Use the widget below to enter. There are several different options, and if you complete them all you'll have the maximum chance at winning! Come back daily for more entries! Please note, we DO verify the winning entries, so if you say you completed something, but you didn't actually do it, you'll be disqualified and a new winner will be chosen.

This one's open internationally, so everyone can enter. The prize does not include service, and we cannot guarantee that the phone will work on your carrier. In the event the winner does not reside in the US, please be aware that the prize may be subject to customs fees and taxes, which are the responsibility of the winner. The contest ends on March 20, 2019. We'll announce the winners in the widget below shortly after the closing date.

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He’s the Star of ‘Tootsie’ on Broadway. Wearing Heels Is the Easy Part.

NY Times - Wed, 2019-03-20 12:54
Santino Fontana’s turn as a man in a wig comes at a time when Broadway has been reckoning with the idea that musical comedies need to offer fully realized female characters.
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