Someone found some old photos of Greenland. An interesting story of glacial melt. Ironically, the Clean Air Act, by cutting down sulfur dioxide, actually increased melting.
As preparation for giving her up for adoption I took Arabella to the vet's today to get her checked out and to update her shots.
She has a microchip in her, which is interesting. She's lost a few teeth but otherwise she's in wonderful health. We got her shots, and she'll go back for boosters in a few weeks.
She clearly doesn't like the cat transporter. In it she weighed 9.6 pounds, so subtract the weight of the cage and you've got a very small kitty. The vet and her assistant gave me some advice as to where I may be able to put her up for adoption.
Yesterday I drove over to the senior center here in Beaverton, but it was closed for the holiday. Arabella would make a fine indoor lap cat and companion for a senior. She's very friendly and loves to cuddle and be petted.
When we got home from the vet's I gave her a few of her favorite treats. She hopped up and sat in my lap for awhile. Now she's back in her bed, taking another catnap.
Here is an interesting story from Wired, about a computer virus apparently made by a government or governments to spy on other countries. The main target appears to be Iran, and the suspects appear to be Israel and the United States.
A massive, highly sophisticated piece of malware has been newly found infecting systems in Iran and elsewhere and is believed to be part of a well-coordinated, ongoing, state-run cyberespionage operation.
The malware, discovered by Russia-based anti-virus firm Kaspersky Lab, is an espionage toolkit that has been infecting targeted systems in Iran, Lebanon, Syria, Sudan, the Israeli Occupied Territories and other countries in the Middle East and North Africa for at least two years.
Dubbed “Flame” by Kaspersky, the malicious code dwarfs Stuxnet in size – the groundbreaking infrastructure-sabotaging malware that is believed to have wreaked havoc on Iran’s nuclear program in 2009 and 2010. Although Flame has both a different purpose and composition than Stuxnet, and appears to have been written by different programmers, its complexity, the geographic scope of its infections and its behavior indicate strongly that a nation-state is behind Flame, rather than common cyber-criminals — marking it as yet another tool in the growing arsenal of cyberweaponry.
The researchers say that Flame may be part of a parallel project created by contractors who were hired by the same nation-state team that was behind Stuxnet and its sister malware, DuQu.
“Stuxnet and Duqu belonged to a single chain of attacks, which raised cyberwar-related concerns worldwide,” said Eugene Kaspersky, CEO and co-founder of Kaspersky Lab, in a statement. “The Flame malware looks to be another phase in this war, and it’s important to understand that such cyber weapons can easily be used against any country.”
Early analysis of Flame by the Lab indicates that it’s designed primarily to spy on the users of infected computers and steal data from them, including documents, recorded conversations and keystrokes. It also opens a backdoor to infected systems to allow the attackers to tweak the toolkit and add new functionality.
The malware, which is 20 megabytes when all of its modules are installed, contains multiple libraries, SQLite3 databases, various levels of encryption — some strong, some weak — and 20 plug-ins that can be swapped in and out to provide various functionality for the attackers. It even contains some code that is written in the LUA programming language — an uncommon choice for malware.
Kaspersky Lab is calling it “one of the most complex threats ever discovered.”
“It’s pretty fantastic and incredible in complexity,” said Alexander Gostev, chief security expert at Kaspersky Lab.
Flame appears to have been operating in the wild as early as March 2010, though it remained undetected by antivirus companies.
“It’s a very big chunk of code. Because of that, it’s quite interesting that it stayed undetected for at least two years,” Gostev said. He noted that there are clues that the malware may actually date back to as early as 2007, around the same time-period when Stuxnet and DuQu are believed to have been created.
Gostev says that because of its size and complexity, complete analysis of the code may take years.
Here's another story on Flame. It's fascinating in and of itself, but we good people of the world should also note that whatever anyone does on computer can be spied on. I am reminded of the underreported scandal of PROMIS software all the way back in the 1980s (here's a book review that summarizes the story).
Don't have it exactly, but it went something like "The new Harry Potter theme park is popular with Anglophiles and pedophiles."
There was also a good on-going joke about The Barefoot Contessa.
About the Melungeons of Appalachia.
For years, varied and sometimes wild claims have been made about the origins of a group of dark-skinned Appalachian residents once known derisively as the Melungeons. Some speculated they were descended from Portuguese explorers, or perhaps from Turkish slaves or Gypsies.
Now a new DNA study in the Journal of Genetic Genealogy attempts to separate truth from oral tradition and wishful thinking. The study found the truth to be somewhat less exotic: Genetic evidence shows that the families historically called Melungeons are the offspring of sub-Saharan African men and white women of northern or central European origin.
And that report, which was published in April in the peer-reviewed journal, doesn't sit comfortably with some people who claim Melungeon ancestry.
"There were a whole lot of people upset by this study," lead researcher Roberta Estes said. "They just knew they were Portuguese, or Native American."
Beginning in the early 1800s, or possibly before, the term Melungeon (meh-LUN'-jun) was applied as a slur to a group of about 40 families along the Tennessee-Virginia border. But it has since become a catch-all phrase for a number of groups of mysterious mixed-race ancestry.
In recent decades, interest in the origin of the Melungeons has risen dramatically with advances both in DNA research and in the advent of Internet resources that allow individuals to trace their ancestry without digging through dusty archives.
G. Reginald Daniel, a sociologist at the University of California-Santa Barbara who's spent more than 30 years examining multiracial people in the U.S. and wasn't part of this research, said the study is more evidence that race-mixing in the U.S. isn't a new phenomenon.
"All of us are multiracial," he said. "It is recapturing a more authentic U.S. history."
Estes and her fellow researchers theorize that the various Melungeon lines may have sprung from the unions of black and white indentured servants living in Virginia in the mid-1600s, before slavery.
There's more. Read it all. Often the obvious answer is the one that people try to ignore.
The world has been an economic depression for five years (it started officially in the fall of 2007, a year before the Wall Street banking collapse). There is an easy solution to solving this, but it's going to be hard to implement it because the new conventional economic wisdom is wrong.
The reason why economies are flat around the world is because of a lack of demand. That means that there aren't enough people spending enough money. But people aren't spending like they used to because, for example, a large portion of people, certainly here in the U.S., are underwater with their mortgages. People are unemployed. Because demand is down factories aren't working at full capacity. Building has slowed to a crawl. Each one of these things is slowing up the economy further.
What's worse is that the economic philosophy in vogue among the elite, "the Chicago School" as it's been known (but has a much wider gyre these days), is proposing the opposite policies of what needs to be done. As bad as things are in the U.S. Europe is in worse shape if they follow their current plans will probably destroy the Euro and crash the world into another Great Depression.
What are the Chicago School recommending? They are recommending cutting taxes on the rich and cutting government spending. Cutting government spending at state and local levels has further deepened the recession. You can argue about teachers salaries and pensions (and many on the right do) but teachers are also consumers. When they lose jobs they don't contribute to the economy. The same with cops, firemen, and government clerks. That means fewer paychecks spent in stores, which means more layoffs and more store closings.
Often public employees are used as scapegoats for the bad economics. While one can reasonably argue about pensions and salaries in relationship to various kinds of work it doesn't mean that they caused the current problems. Unions often are the target when trying to find blame for the current state of things. But looking at history, when union membership was high the middle class was much off than it is presently.
While not the immediate problem in this depression, one problem with our economy is the increasing disparity of wealth. If you recall, the Reagan Administration promised a "trickle down" of wealth with tax cuts to the wealthy. It hasn't happened, and each subsequent tax cut for the wealthy and for corporations increases the disparity. The top 1% have quadrupled their relative wealth in the last thirty years while the bottom 99%'s wealth has remained relatively flat (based on inflation). At the very least we now know that wealth does not trickle down. Rather, it tends to concentrate, more so under current conditions in our economy.
If the middle class had more money they would buy more. Capitalism, as it's existed in the U.S. for the last century, has depended on the middle class buying things to keep business going. Thus, the workers are also the consumers who drive this economy, so the problem with too much wealth at the top isn't immoral (at least in economic terms) as much as anti-capitalist. If you imagine the world as a monopoly game, once someone "wins" everyone else loses. No one builds houses and hotels, no one owns anything, everything shuts down. That's essentially what's been happening to our economy.
How do you get the economy going when no one wants to spend money? Someone needs to spend money.
Longer-lasting methods are more popular.
Long-acting birth control devices are nearly 22 times as reliable as contraceptive pills or other short-acting approaches that need close monitoring, a new study shows. Since about half of all unplanned pregnancies are traceable to failed birth control, switching to a long-term, reversible contraceptive could prevent many accidental pregnancies, researchers say.
“As a doctor, if you had a drug for cancer or hypertension that was 20-fold better than the next drug, you would never write [a prescription] for that other drug,” says study coauthor Jeffrey Peipert, a physician and epidemiologist at Washington University in St. Louis. “We hope that clinicians will re-think what is standard practice — that a young woman comes in and gets pills or condom counseling. We have methods that are much, much better.”
The findings also hint that if cost were not an issue, most women given a choice of common hormone-based contraceptives would prefer the long-acting devices. About 77 percent of the women who volunteered for the new study chose an intrauterine device (IUD) or a small implant placed under the skin while only 20 percent requested shorter-acting options such as the pill, a vaginal ring or a skin patch. Fewer still opted for hormone injections called Depo-Provera. All costs were covered by the study. The findings appear in the May 24 New England Journal of Medicine.
“This study brought home how big a difference there is between effective methods and really effective methods” of contraception, and comes at a time when demand for birth control is growing, says Lawrence Finer, a demographer and public health researcher at the Guttmacher Institute and Columbia University in New York City. The point at which women are getting married and giving birth is getting later, he says. “But the age at first sex hasn’t changed that much. You’ve got a long period where people need contraception.”
They work better. And there are new and good birth control methods finally being developed for men.
Humans were painting and sitting around campfires making music all the way back to 40,000 years ago.
When you make a flute you put the holes in places to make notes. Notes are mathematical. There was not only a flute made out of mammoth tusk but also smaller flutes made out of bird bones. So you have octaves and harmonies. You undoubtedly had songs that they repeated around the fire. Imagine a dark night 40,000 years ago in Germany. There are still glaciers from the Ice Age. Strange animals roaming the night. And up in a cave the glow of a campfire and the sounds of several flutes playing the oldest music ever made.
Early modern humans could have spent their evenings sitting around the fire, playing bone flutes and singing songs 40,000 years ago, newly discovered ancient musical instruments indicate. The bone flutes push back the date researchers think human creativity evolved.
Researchers were studying a modern human settlement called Geißenklösterle, a part of the Swabian caves system in southern Germany, when they came across the bone flutes. One is made of mammoth ivory, while the other seems to be made of bones from a bird. They also found a collection of perforated teeth, ornaments and stone tools at the site.
"These results are consistent with a hypothesis we made several years ago that the Danube River was a key corridor for the movement of humans and technological innovations into central Europe between 40,000 and 45,000 years ago," study researcher Nick Conard, of Tübingen University, said in a statement.
"Geißenklösterle is one of several caves in the region that has produced important examples of personal ornaments, figurative art, mythical imagery and musical instruments. The new dates prove the great antiquity of the Aurignacian in Swabia." The Aurignacian refers to an ancient culture and the associated tools.