America is back to normal. After the hard fought 2012 election, there is something almost reassuring about the news that two powerful boy-toys, CIA Director David Petraeus and Lockheed Martin’s incoming CEO, Chris Kubasik, were forced to resign due to extramarital sexual affairs.
There’s something about men with power: they just can’t keep their zippers zipped. Over the last couple of decades, the U.S. has been witness to wave after wave of infidelity scandals with considerable social power and position.
The 2012 election was a major rejection of the Christian right’s culture wars against the rights of woman to choose an abortion and use birth control and homosexual couples to marry. It may also prove to be a pivotal event in the long war against public shaming of married people who commit infidelity, who violate the “sacrament” of monogamous marriage.
According to current estimates, more than half (53%) of first marriages end in divorce and more than half of men (57%) and women (54%) admit to committing infidelity in a relationship.
Clearly, far more is at stake in the Petraeus and Kubasik affairs. While both incidents seem to have been voluntary and non-coercive, other concerns are at issue. With the former, national security might have been violated; with the latter, corporate employment policies were breached. Both are firing offenses for the male honchos involved.
What “religious freedom” bill?
Republicans stung by the culture wars that dominated the nation’s political discourse this year are standing down on social issues, acutely aware that the presidential and congressional elections five months off are expected to turn on a thin margin of cash-strapped independent voters neither party can afford to alienate.
How about House Speaker John Boehner’s vow to reverse President Barack Obama’s birth control policy? There’s no sign of any such legislation. The Ohio Republican reminds people daily that he is focused on jobs now.
Obama’s revelation that he supports gay marriage? Told ya so, said social conservatives at the core of the GOP - before they turned back to assailing the president’s stewardship of the economy.
And what happened to the GOP’s efforts to curb abortion? House Republican leaders made it go away by offering a vote on a bill to ban gender-based abortions Thursday - under special rules that guaranteed it would fail.
When Henry Amador and his partner Joe Batten attended South Florida PrideFest last year, they were only contemplating having a family. This year they were there as parents.
“This is his first festival,” said Amador, 48, cradling in his arms the couple’s adopted 4-month old son Benjamin, who seemed eager to take in the sights and sounds of the gathering in Holiday Park at War Memorial Auditorium.
“And he seems to be enjoying it.”
The theme of this year’s two-day event was “Beyond the rainbow,” a phrase that suggested a celebration of social and legal gains made by gay, lesbian and transgender people as well as the work left undone.
“The importance of this festival is to remind people that we have to continue fighting,” said Marc Hansen, co-chair of the 35th annual edition of the festival sponsored by Pride South Florida. “The fight is not over. We don’t want special, we want equal.”
The blinkered, blindered, robots of the right have their own political correctness, which they apply to everything.
The political press takes it as a given that there is a sharp dividing line between the “social issues” propelling the culture wars (abortion, school prayer, gay rights) and matters of substance (the economy, foreign policy, immigration and safety-net programs like unemployment benefits). But as the American conservative movement has veered sharply rightward over the past 30 years, that line is no longer so clean. Today, conservatives have a social argument for every subject of debate - everything has become part of the culture wars.
Viewing tangible matters through a cultural lens is not new. In the 19th century, dime novelist Horatio Alger wrote a series of formulaic books about poor, young, street urchins meeting some wealthy benefactor who teaches them the value of hard work and living a clean life. Once the urchins get on a properly Protestant, chaste path, their fortunes grow and they end up rising to the middle-class. It’s a narrative that resonates with the right today.
But the intermingling of social and concrete issues has accelerated in the age of Obama. Many on the right consider Barack Obama alien - consider birtherism, or Dinesh D’Souza’s claim that the president is influenced by “Kenyan anti-colonial behavior.” Whereas social issues once served as a distraction from matters of substance, today cultural narratives dominate conservatives’ arguments.
This is not just a matter of academic interest. It’s helping to fuel the growing reality-gap between conservatives and liberals - and not just because we continue to see these issues as matters of substantive policy while increasingly they see them as cultural.
The Rice University-based open-education platform Connexions today unveiled a bold plan to shake up the $4 billion college textbook industry by providing free online publisher-quality textbooks for five of the country’s most-attended college courses.
The OpenStax College textbook initiative, which is funded by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the 20 Million Minds Foundation and the Maxfield Foundation, will publish its first two books — College Physics and Introduction to Sociology — in March. Three more books are in production and slated to go online this fall.
“If we capture just 10 percent of the market with these first five textbooks, an estimated 1 million college students in the United States could save $90 million over the next five years,” said Rice’s Richard Baraniuk, the founder and director of Connexions.
“We are investing the resources necessary to create professional-quality textbooks,” said former publishing executive David Harris, the editor in chief of OpenStax College. “In terms of quality, our free books will be competitive with texts that currently retail for $150 or more. Furthermore, because our content is openly licensed, faculty will be able to easily modify and adapt OpenStax College content to meet specific course needs.”
OpenStax College is a nonprofit, but Harris said the organization is forging partnerships with for-profit companies that will provide homework, testing, tutoring and other services that college students need.
“OpenStax College believes the future of education lies in greater access for more students, and free high-quality books are a key to that,” Baraniuk said. “By lowering the barriers for students, we’re creating new business opportunities for the market. In particular, we’re developing a self-sustaining ecosystem of companies that will provide services around our content.”
Harris said OpenStax College will announce its first partnerships Feb. 15 at Connexions’ annual conference at Rice.
OpenStax College is powered by Connexions, a Rice University-based open-education platform launched in 1999 that draws more than 1 million visitors per month. Connexions allows anyone to publish, modify and use free, high-quality online educational texts.
OpenStax College books will be available for free online via computers, tablets and smartphones. Connexion’s print-on-demand feature will make it possible for students to order low-cost print copies. Baraniuk said a full-color edition of its 600-page introductory sociology textbook will sell for about $30.
OpenStax College’s physics and sociology texts will be online by early March, in time for colleges and community colleges to make fall textbook decisions.
Two biology textbooks - one for majors and one for nonmajors - and a textbook for introductory anatomy and physiology will be published this fall.
“Open textbooks have the potential to save students millions of dollars,” said Hewlett Foundation Program Director for Education Barbara Chow. “By focusing on the highest-volume college courses first, OpenStax College will have the broadest possible impact, and it will reach a large and diverse set of students.”
A perfect partner who’s always happy and never complains, is apparently now a reality. But there’s a catch - he or she is likely be made of plastic. From simple dolls to sophisticated robots, they seem to be winning the hearts and minds of people who’ve given up on finding true love. Gayane Chichakyan has more from the world of the synthetic spouse.
I think I’ll wait for the upgrade.
Artificial intelligence researcher Hooman Samani would like to make your long distance relationship easier. Or if that fails, perhaps a robot will suffice?
ExtremeTech first introduced us to Samani — currently a research fellow at the National University of Singapore — and a new region of scientific study he calls “Lovotics.”
Over the past few years, Samani been equipping robots with robot versions of human hormones like “Oxytocin, Dopamine, Seratonin, and Endorphin,” which can “increase or decrease, depending on their state of love.”
He has written many papers on the subject, and has even made a few vaguely disconcerting videos, like this one below.
Basically, the robot in this video is an oversized brain, and if this brain does not rise up and kill us all in a few years, perhaps it will fall in love with us first.
But Samani’s most recent invention is the “Kissenger,” a small pig or cow-esque pair of lips stuck to a circular body that you can plug into your computer via a USB chord while you’re Skyping with your partner far across the world. Simply kiss this non-bacteria-covered device and have your partner do the same. The lips of the Kissenger will mold around yours, thereby simulating the feeling of a real, live human kiss.
“Kissing is a very important mode of human communication,” explains the helpful Lovotics website, “that involves joining lips in order to express many deep felt positive emotions such as affection, respect, greeting, farewell, good luck, romantic affection or sexual desire.”
The site goes on to explain that you don’t have to use the Kissenger to simulate love with a real person on your computer screen, but instead you might simply enjoy kissing a robot, if that’s your thing. The circular pig or cow is totally cool with however you’d like to use it.
The Kissenger “enables an intimate relationship with a robot,” the website adds, and “such technology provides a new facility for closer and more realistic interactions between humans and robots.”
But Lovotics doesn’t stop there. There’s also the “Mini-Surrogate,” a Cabbage Patch Kid-sized robot that you can apparently bring with you anywhere? And it moves its arms and hangs out on your countertop, just like your long-distance partner would?
“In this project miniature robots are used as small cute, believable and acceptable surrogates of humans for telecommunication,” the website explains.
Other long-distance relationship aids have also been created in recent months. In November of 2011, we were introduced to “Pillow Talk,” a pillow with a heartbeat, that suggests the illusion of your partner sleeping next to you. It beats “in sync” with your partner’s heartbeat, thereby providing an extremely sad doppelganger for your absent lover. The prototype exists but the product itself is not available yet according to Little Riot, the design company created by Scottish designer Joanna Montgomery, who created Pillow Talk.
Either way, Furby better watch its back. Or develop a pair of lips. Or cry.
A New Era Has Come, Anonymous is no longer playing nice, and we do not intend to ever play nice.
We have seen you Corrupt our People, Corrupt our country and we will not sit and watch while you allow bills such as SOPA and PIPA to be passed.
On January 19, 2012 a popular sharing website named Megaupload was taken down. We were not hesitant and reacted quickly. Remaining to our word, we took down their main sources (??), MIAA and FBI are down.
Our Power is too strong and soon they will have to listen to the people. This is a time of action. We as a nation must come together and fight the tyrants!
Do not sit and watch Do not sit and cheer! Use your powers.
Artists be creative, Singers be lyrical, writers spread our word! We will not be silenced!
We are Anonymous! We are legion! We do not Forgive! We do not forget! Expect Us!
Faced with inadequate progress on nuclear weapons reduction and proliferation, and continuing inaction on climate change, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (BAS) announced today that it has moved the hands of its famous “Doomsday Clock” to five minutes to midnight.
The last time the Doomsday Clock minute hand moved was in January 2010, when the Clock’s minute hand was pushed back one minute from five to six minutes before midnight.
In a formal statement issued at the time of today’s announcement, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists noted: “It is five minutes to midnight. Two years ago, it appeared that world leaders might address the truly global threats that we face. In many cases, that trend has not continued or been reversed. For that reason, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists is moving the clock hand one minute closer to midnight, back to its time in 2007.”
BAS noted that other key recommendations for a safer world have not been taken up and require urgent attention, including:
Ratification by the United States and China of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and progress on a Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty;
Implementing multinational management of the civilian nuclear energy fuel cycle with strict standards for safety, security, and nonproliferation of nuclear weapons, including eliminating reprocessing for plutonium separation;
Strengthening the International Atomic Energy Agency’s capacity to oversee nuclear materials, technology development, and its transfer;
Adopting and fulfilling climate change agreements to reduce carbon dioxide emissions through tax incentives, harmonized domestic regulation and practice;
Transforming the coal power sector of the world economy to retire older plants and to require in new plants the capture and storage of the CO2 they produce; and
Vastly increasing public and private investments in alternatives to carbon emitting energy sources, such as solar and wind, and in technologies for energy storage, and sharing the results worldwide.
Noted science-fiction writer Isaac Asimov predicted that one day, we’d “have computer outlets in every home, each of them hooked up to enormous libraries where anyone can ask any question and be given answers, be given reference materials, be something you’re interested in knowing, from an early age, however silly it might seem to someone else,” and with this appliance, be able to truly enjoy learning instead of being forced to learn mundane facts and figures. His insight has proven to be amazingly accurate, as we now live in a world with the Internet, where nearly the entire wealth of human knowledge can live at our fingertips or even in our pockets. Such an amazing feat, of course, doesn’t happen without impacting our lives, and scientists have begun to note that the Internet has not only served to fulfill our brains’ curiosities, but also rewired them. So what exactly is the Internet doing to our brains? Read on to find out.
The Internet is our external hard drive
Children are learning differently
We hardly ever give tasks our full attention
We don’t bother to remember
We’re getting better at finding information
Difficult questions make us think about computers
IQ is increasing over time
Our concentration is suffering
We’re getting better at determining relevance
We’re becoming physically addicted to technology
The more you use the Internet, the more it lights up your brain
Our brains constantly seek out incoming information
We’ve become power browsers
Online thinking persists even offline
Creative thinking may suffer