Wednesday, June 12, 2013

young, uncorrupted, useful cats - hazardous to the whole gub'mint lying/cheating game...,

The full powerpoint presentation
WaPo | The closest parallel for Snow­den and Manning may be Daniel Ellsberg, who in 1971 was the New York Times’ and The Washington Post’s source for the Pentagon Papers, a secret assessment of the Vietnam War that eroded the credibility of U.S. government’s more-optimistic public claims about the conflict. Ellsberg in recent days has praised Snowden and described the material Snowden disclosed as more significant than the documents he leaked four decades ago.

There are differences, however. Ellsberg was a senior military analyst working at the Pentagon who had a direct role in drafting the Pentagon Papers. The document was largely a record of U.S. decision-making rather than a blueprint of ongoing operations. Drafts were undoubtedly stored in safes, not on networks where they might be read by low-level employees at distant military or intelligence outposts.

A former senior NSA official recalled procedures in the 1970s that were archaic but secure. “When hot documents would go around they’d be in a double-sealed envelope, and some person would wait while you read it, re-
envelope it and leave,” the former official said. “By contrast, now you bring it up on your computer screen.”

Some U.S. officials question whether there is a generational gap in views on privacy and government transparency. Manning and Snowden, who are in their 20s, grew up with technology and the Internet as fixtures in their lives.

“We are recruiting Americans from a culture that has a deeper desire for absolute transparency than any previous cohort of people entering the service,” said Michael V. Hayden, former CIA and NSA director. “They are coming from a culture in which, for many, transparency is an absolute good, and it appears that in these two cases it influenced these people.”

Snowden appears to have left fewer online footprints than many of his generation, with no evidence of Facebook or Twitter accounts. In his comments to The Post, he indicated that was in part because of what he had learned.

The Internet “is a TV that watches you,” he said, a technology “governments are abusing . . . to extend their powers beyond what is necessary and appropriate.”

gub'mint sketchiness messing with tech companies smooth criminal money?

WaPo | Both Google and Facebook, whose business models depend on hundreds of millions of users voluntarily sharing information about themselves, have denied participating in a surveillance program as broad as described in news reports on PRISM. Yet all the companies named in reports have struggled to stanch the damage to their reputations as stewards of personal privacy.

Google on Tuesday published an open letter to Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. and FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III requesting the right to report publicly the numbers and scope of national security data requests, a move that would allow Google to significantly expand its semiannual “transparency reports” on the information sought by courts and police worldwide.

“Google has nothing to hide,” wrote Chief Legal Officer David Drummond. The Justice Department declined to comment.

Facebook soon after issued a statement suggesting that it may start publishing its own “transparency reports” — a move the company has long resisted. “We urge the United States government to help make that possible by allowing companies to include information about the size and scope of national security requests we receive, and look forward to publishing a report that includes that information,” wrote Ted Ullyot, general counsel to Facebook. (Washington Post Co. Chairman Donald E. Graham is on Facebook’s board.)

Microsoft issued a statement as well, saying that greater transparency “would help the community understand and debate these important issues.”

Yahoo said late Tuesday that “we recognize the importance of privacy and security, and we also believe that transparency . . . will help build public trust.”

"Fascism is when you cannot slide a cigarette paper between business and government." ~Benito Mussolini

WaPo story as it broke

WaPo story the next day

ZDNet | Summary: A bombshell story published in the Washington Post this week alleged that the NSA had enlisted nine tech giants, including Microsoft, Google, Facebook, and Apple, in a massive program of online spying. Now the story is unraveling, and the Post has quietly changed key details. What went wrong?

the dueterostomes have their say on the nsa..., (friedman channeling sullivan channeling simon)

NYTimes | what I cherish most about America is our open society, and I believe that if there is one more 9/11 — or worse, an attack involving nuclear material — it could lead to the end of the open society as we know it. If there were another 9/11, I fear that 99 percent of Americans would tell their members of Congress: “Do whatever you need to do to, privacy be damned, just make sure this does not happen again.” That is what I fear most.

That is why I’ll reluctantly, very reluctantly, trade off the government using data mining to look for suspicious patterns in phone numbers called and e-mail addresses — and then have to go to a judge to get a warrant to actually look at the content under guidelines set by Congress — to prevent a day where, out of fear, we give government a license to look at anyone, any e-mail, any phone call, anywhere, anytime.

So I don’t believe that Edward Snowden, the leaker of all this secret material, is some heroic whistle-blower. No, I believe Snowden is someone who needed a whistle-blower. He needed someone to challenge him with the argument that we don’t live in a world any longer where our government can protect its citizens from real, not imagined, threats without using big data — where we still have an edge — under constant judicial review. It’s not ideal. But if one more 9/11-scale attack gets through, the cost to civil liberties will be so much greater.

A hat tip to Andrew Sullivan for linking on his blog to an essay by David Simon, the creator of HBO’s “The Wire.”  For me, it cuts right to the core of the issue.

“You would think that the government was listening in to the secrets of 200 million Americans from the reaction and the hyperbole being tossed about,” wrote Simon. “And you would think that rather than a legal court order, which is an inevitable consequence of legislation that we drafted and passed, something illegal had been discovered to the government’s shame. Nope. ... The only thing new here, from a legal standpoint, is the scale on which the F.B.I. and N.S.A. are apparently attempting to cull anti-terrorism leads from that data. ... I know it’s big and scary that the government wants a database of all phone calls. And it’s scary that they’re paying attention to the Internet. And it’s scary that your cellphones have GPS installed. ... The question is not should the resulting data exist. It does. ... The question is more fundamental: Is government accessing the data for the legitimate public safety needs of the society, or are they accessing it in ways that abuse individual liberties and violate personal privacy — and in a manner that is unsupervised. And to that, The Guardian and those who are wailing jeremiads about this pretend-discovery of U.S. big data collection are noticeably silent. We don’t know of any actual abuse.”
We do need to be constantly on guard for abuses. But the fact is, added Simon, that for at least the last two presidencies “this kind of data collection has been a baseline logic of an American anti-terrorism effort that is effectively asked to find the needles before they are planted into haystacks, to prevent even such modest, grass-rooted conspiracies as the Boston Marathon bombing before they occur.”

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

somebody very sophisticated has scripted Snowden's exit strategy...,

The Motch Brothers

slate | As I explained earlier today, NSA whistle-blower/leaker/source Edward Snowden's decision to flee for Hong Kong doesn't look like the wisest decision given the former British colony's existing extradition treaty with the United States. But the GlobalPost's Benjamin Carlson explains one detail that everyone seems to be overlooking: A potential bureaucratic loophole that could buy Snowden some much-needed time while he figures out where he'll go next.
Simon Young, director of the Centre for Comparative and Public Law at the University of Hong Kong, told GlobalPost that a decision delivered by Hong Kong's High Court in March of this year required the government to create a new procedure for reviewing asylum applications.
Until the government does this, he said, asylum seekers are allowed to stay in Hong Kong indefinitely. "We’re still waiting to hear from government how they are going to implement this decision," said Young. "Until that’s the case, you can’t return anyone until the law’s in place." 
In other words, should Snowden apply for asylum, then even if the US made a valid extradition request and Hong Kong was willing to comply he could not be deported until the government figured out a new way to review asylum cases — a potentially lengthy process.
Nicholas Bequelin of Human Rights Watch says that any Snowden extradition must be "a long way off" because of this gap in the law. "If it comes to the point where the US does issue a warrant on Snowden, and then passes it over to the Hong Kong authorities, and he decides to fight it, at this point it would be a court case," he told GlobalPost. "And it can be a long court case, going up to the court of final appeals."
It's unclear if Snowden and his allies planned to exploit this loophole all along, although it would certainly provide the missing rationale for why he chose to head to Hong Kong in the first place, and why he felt comfortable enough to out himself and his (rough) location over the weekend. Regardless, it's unlikely that he'll be resting easy any time soon.

you CAN beat the state with a little assistance from friends in very high places..,

To have Hollywood tell it, the bare knuckles end of the machinery of state is just oh, so super bad. While at one time, say during that era in which Time Life was the Google of our world, this may indeed have been the case. But since the era in which Moore's Law has run wild, and during which the 1% have sponged up more wealth on a vaster scale than the Medici ever dared imagine, things have changed considerably.

See, the DOJ, the NSA, and all the rest of the alphabet soup (with the exception of the CIA's self-funding fronts, blinds, and other business interests) have all had to compete for talent and manage personnel under the exceedingly cumbersome rubric of the general schedule system.

This is a system which has produced generations of deeply inbred and incumbent double and triple-dippers, i.e., young retirees from the military who then get on the federal civil service roll and who know and have gamed the system to such an extent that many don't have to produce a whole lot in order to maintain their status, their station, and their lucrative incumbency. I'm guessing that in large measure, the whole complex of outsourced contractors in just about every field of federal endeavor is a response to the realities and limitations that a moribund federal work force imposes.

But back to the topic at hand, outside the echelons of certain elite, or should we say "rogue", self-funding CIA operations, is there really any entity of government that can compete toe-to-toe for talent, or, provide greater access and exposure to a whole world of accumulated knowledge and data than an enormous, brilliantly run, multinational corporation with deep and globe-spanning infrastructural and specialist knowledge? 

The minute you understand what Koch Industries is, what it does, and how superbly it does it - in that precise moment you will be forced to accept the very distinct possibility that it is indeed possible for certain entities, under certain circumstances, and with the appropriate malice of forethought - to flatly contradict Jean Paul's admonishment to over-the-hill CIA enforcer Brian Mills "you can't beat the state Bryan!"  

What if, consistent with their principles, their politics, and their means - Koch minions have scripted the unfolding episode which has so galvanized our collective short attention spans? Fist tap sistah Joyce!

icelandic legislator: I'm ready to help NSA whistle-blower eric snowden seek asylum

Forbes | When WikiLeaks burst onto the international stage in 2010, the small Nordic nation of Iceland offered it a safe haven. Now American whistleblower Edward Snowden may be seeking that country’s protection, and at least one member of its parliament says she’s ready to help.

On Sunday evening Icelandic member of parliament Birgitta Jonsdottir and Smari McCarthy, executive director of the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative, issued a statement of support for Snowden, the Booz Allen Hamilton staffer who identified himself to the Guardian newspaper as the source of a series of top secret documents outlining the NSA’s massive surveillance of foreigners and Americans.

 “Whereas IMMI is based in Iceland, and has worked on protections of privacy, furtherance of government transparency, and the protection of whistleblowers, we feel it is our duty to offer to assist and advise Mr. Snowden to the greatest of our ability,” their statement reads. “We are already working on detailing the legal protocols required to apply for asylum, and will over the course of the week be seeking a meeting with the newly appointed interior minister of Iceland, Mrs. Hanna Birna Kristjánsdóttir, to discuss whether an asylum request can be processed in a swift manner, should such an application be made.”

It’s not yet clear whether Snowden has officially applied for asylum in Iceland. A press contact for the Icelandic Ministry of Interior, which handles asylum requests, said that he hadn’t yet seen an application from Snowden and that the ministry couldn’t comment until one was received.

Snowden, who left his home in Hawaii in May and is taking refuge in a Hong Kong hotel, noted his interest in seeking asylum in Iceland in the Guardian’s interview, telling the newspaper that his ”predisposition is to seek asylum in a country with shared values, The nation that most encompasses this is Iceland,” he said. “They stood up for people over internet freedom.”

Monday, June 10, 2013

kwestin numero uno: BoozAllenHamilton black employment demographics?

So, I'm wondering to myself, "self?" 

What percentage of the Booz Allen Hamilton workforce is black?

Cause, well, you know - as a military contractor, (intelligence industrial complex to be exact) they've got certain regulatory quotas they've got to meet.

I'm saying to myself, "self?" 

Why'na phuk during the height of black nationalist foment in the U.S., when the first and arguably greatest barrier crossing brothers and sisters went to work in everything from the national nuclear security adminstration, to bell labs, to the NSA - why were there NEVER any such breaches of security?

But now, when hiring practices are outsourced to 3rd party private entities, (is that because you can't possibly train up a federal, general schedule work force in the type of massively scalable open source technologies?), or, because you can gerrymander employment in that space through private auspices such that black folk never receive consideration - that now you wind up with the human capital management nightmare that GED, parents worked for the Feds, SNOWDEN comprises?

Somebody with more perspicacious online query skills look into this one for me please? I need not only the first line demographic, but also Booz Allen's second-tier black supply chain data, as well. 

Finally, I'd like to know whether the has been providing mimetic cover for these busters for some time now, as well. Inquiring minds want to know, I want to know....,

how a GED-having, army reserve washout, get a $200K Booz gig capable of hurting the NSA?

politico | According to The Guardian, Snowden was raised in North Carolina and suburban Maryland. Though he did not graduate from high school, the paper said he later received a GED.

The former CIA computer technician who leaked last week’s explosive details about American classified surveillance programs spent just five months in the Army Reserve before he was discharged, records show.

Edward Snowden, the self-proclaimed whistleblower who sent the information to The Guardian and The Washington Post, joined up in 2004, but separated just five months later, an Army official told POLITICO.

“His records indicate he enlisted in the Army Reserve as a Special Forces Recruit (18X) on 7 May 2004 but was discharged 28 September 2004. He did not complete any training or receive any awards,” the spokesman said.

PRISM is simply putting people’s Gmail, Google, Facebook and Skype data all in one place...,

NYTimes | Edward Snowden, a former Central Intelligence Agency worker who disclosed on Sunday that he was the one who leaked government surveillance documents to The Guardian newspaper, ranks high among the disturbed. In an interview with the newspaper, he called the Internet “the most important invention in all of human history.” But he said that he believed its value was being destroyed by unceasing surveillance. 

“I don’t see myself as a hero,” he told the paper, “because what I’m doing is self-interested: I don’t want to live in a world where there’s no privacy and therefore no room for intellectual exploration and creativity.” 

President Obama, trying to play down the uproar, said Prism targets only foreign nationals and that it was worth giving up a little privacy for more security

“I think that’s a dangerous statement,” said Bob Taylor, a computer scientist who played a major role in the 1960s in formulating what would become the Internet. “The government should have told us it was doing this. And that suggests the more fundamental problem: that we’re not in control of our government.” 

For some tech luminaries with less than fond feelings for Washington, the disclosures about Prism had special force. This was personal. 

Bob Metcalfe, the acclaimed inventor of the standard method of connecting computers in one location, wrote on Twitter that he was less worried about whatever the National Security Agency might be doing “than about how Obama Regime will use their data to suppress political opposition (e.g. me).”
But if Silicon Valley is alarmed about the ways that the personal data now coursing through every byway of the Internet can be misused, it has been a long time coming.

um..., they're not just collecting metadata..,

washingtonsblog | The reason that Business Insider is speculating about the use of private Israeli companies to thwart the law is that 2 high-ranking members of the Senate Intelligence Committee – Senators Wyden and Udall – have long said that the government has adopted a secret interpretation of section 215 of the Patriot Act which would shock Americans, because it provides a breathtakingly wide program of spying.

Last December, top NSA whistleblower William Binney – a 32-year NSA veteran with the title of senior technical director, who headed the agency’s global digital data gathering program (featured in a New York Times documentary, and the source for much of what we know about NSA spying) – said that the government is using a secret interpretation of Section 215 of the Patriot Act which allows the government to obtain:
Any data in any third party, like any commercial data that’s held about U.S. citizens ….
(relevant quote starts at 4:19).

I called Binney to find out what he meant.

I began by asking Binney if Business Insider’s speculation was correct. Specifically, I asked Binney if the government’s secret interpretation of Section 215 of the Patriot Act was that a foreign company – like Narus, for example – could vacuum up information on Americans, and then the NSA would obtain that data under the excuse of spying on foreign entities … i.e. an Israeli company.

Binney replied no … it was broader than that.

Binney explained that the government is taking the position that it can gather and use any information about American citizens living on U.S. soil if it comes from:
Any service provider … any third party … any commercial company – like a telecom or internet service provider, libraries, medical companies – holding data about anyone, any U.S. citizen or anyone else.
I followed up to make sure I understood what Binney was saying, asking whether the government’s secret interpretation of Section 215 of the Patriot Act was that the government could use any information as long as it came from a private company … foreign or domestic. In other words, the government is using the antiquated, bogus legal argument that it was not using its governmental powers (called “acting under color of law” by judges), but that it was private companies just doing their thing (which the government happened to order all of the private companies to collect and fork over).

Binney confirmed that this was correct. This is what the phone company spying program and the Prism program – the government spying on big Internet companies – is based upon. Since all digital communications go through private company networks, websites or other systems, the government just demands that all of the companies turn them over.

the surveillance state is built upon perversely incentivized corporate watchers

usnews | The spy in your pocket. And that doesn’t even get into the personal, portable surveillance tools practically everyone in the country voluntarily carries around with them: mobile phones and other wireless devices. Pew Research reported this week that for the first time a majority of Americans own a smart phone of some kind, while fully 91 percent of the adult population now owns some flavor of cell phone. (The wireless industry lobbying group CTIA reports that wireless devices have now reached 102 percent penetration in the U.S. and its territories, which means that the machines now outnumber the people.)

And if you’re using your mobile phone, you’re being tracked. “I don’t think people realize they’re revealing their location to their carrier just by using their device,” says Ashkan Soltani, an independent privacy researcher and consultant. A 2011 investigation by the Wall Street Journal (on which Soltani consulted) found that Apple and Android smart phones routinely send location information, including information about local Wi-Fi networks, back to Apple and Google. Separately, the Journal reported in 2011, Apple’s iPhone collected and stored location data even when users had turned off “location services” – which is to say when they thought they had opted out of being tracked.

Why? This information is a potential treasure trove for these companies. From the Journal:
Google and Apple are gathering location information as part of their race to build massive databases capable of pinpointing people’s locations via their cellphones. These databases could help them tap the $2.9 billion market for location-based services – expected to rise to $8.3 billion in 2014, according to research firm Gartner, Inc.
Google uses this information to help show on its maps where automobile traffic is especially heavy or light. Verizon sells aggregate location data to advertisers, according to Soltani, so they can know where to place billboards. The wireless companies' viewpoint, according to Soltani, is “we got this information for free, let’s use it for this other use-case, which is the marketing data.”

And there are a lot of companies trying to get a piece of this financial pie. In another story, the Journal surveyed 101 popular iPhone and Android apps and found that “56 transmitted the phone’s unique device ID to other companies without users’ awareness or consent. Forty-seven apps transmitted the phone’s location in some way. Five sent age, gender and other personal details to outsiders.” As Soltani told a Senate subcommittee in 2011, “applications can access and transmit data which includes text messages, emails, phone numbers, contacts stored and even browser history stored on the device.”

So if you woke yourself up this morning with an alarm clock app on your phone, the instant it went off, says Soltani, not only did it transmit noise to your ears but location data back to people you don't know. “There are times where there are 50 or 100 third parties – companies that you’ve never had a relationship with – who are able to monitor your … activities,” he says.

Not big on apps? Consider your next visit to the local mall. Carriers and other companies are installing sensors around shopping malls, Soltani says, allowing them to track where people are lingering, what’s popular and what’s not, analytics that then go to the mall.

Perverse incentive. All of this creates what Soltani calls a “perverse incentive that creates this worst case scenario for consumers.” Companies have an incentive to collect and keep user data; and that trove proves an irresistible target for the government in its ongoing war on terrorists.

Which brings us back to the current uproar over the NSA’s data collection and data mining. The outrage is justified, as is the broader concern about how the cult of secrecy has infected and distorted the government. But there is something somewhat comforting to the notion that government agencies are ultimately responsible to the voters, even if that process has become calcified and overly complex.

But the surveillance state is built upon its corporate counterpart. And who watches those watchers?

Sunday, June 09, 2013

if this is in the WaPo and the Guardian, you KNOW sum'n not right....,

WaPo | Edward Snowden, a 29-year-old former undercover CIA employee, unmasked himself Sunday as the principal source of recent Washington Post and Guardian disclosures about top-secret National Security Agency programs.

Snowden, who has contracted for the NSA and works for the consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton, denounced what he described as systematic surveillance of innocent citizens and said in an interview that “it’s important to send a message to government that people will not be intimidated.”

Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. said Saturday that the NSA had initiated a Justice Department investigation into who leaked the information — an investigation supported by intelligence officials in Congress.

Snowden, whose full name is Edward Joseph Snowden, said he understands the risks of disclosing the information but felt it was important to reveal.

“I intend to ask for asylum from any countries that believe in free speech and oppose the victimization of global privacy,” Snowden told The Post from Hong Kong, where he has been staying. The Guardian was the first to publicly identify Snowden. Both media organizations made his name public with his consent.
“I’m not going to hide,” Snowden said Sunday afternoon. “Allowing the U.S. government to intimidate its people with threats of retaliation for revealing wrongdoing is contrary to the public interest.”

Asked whether he believed his disclosures would change anything, he said: “I think they already have. Everyone everywhere now understands how bad things have gotten — and they’re talking about it. They have the power to decide for themselves whether they are willing to sacrifice their privacy to the surveillance state.”

Snowden said nobody was aware of his actions, including those closest to him. He said there wasn’t a single event that spurred his decision to leak the information.

“It was more of a slow realization that presidents could openly lie to secure the office and then break public promises without consequence,” he said.

Snowden said President Obama hasn’t lived up to his pledges of transparency. He blamed a lack of accountability in the Bush administration for continued abuses. The White House could not immediately be reached for comment Sunday afternoon.

“It set an example that when powerful figures are suspected of wrongdoing, releasing them from the accountability of law is ‘for our own good,’ ” Snowden said. “That’s corrosive to the basic fairness of society.”

when genes became information...,

whyevolutionistrue | The great step forward made by Watson and Crick in their second paper was to take these pre-existing ideas and reshape them in a less literal form. The sequence of bases was no longer seen in terms of a physical template for protein synthesis, but as something far more abstract – a code carrying genetical information.

What is intriguing is where this novel interpretation came from. The first person who explicitly suggested that genes contained a ‘code-script’ was the physicist Erwin Schrödinger, in 1943. Although his ideas were widely-read, there were few attempts to explore the idea of a ‘code’, because the physical nature of the gene was unknown.

The importance of ‘information’ as an abstract concept – so widespread in our modern view – was a direct product of war-time work on electronic transmissions by Claude Shannon, and on the development of control systems to guide anti-aircraft guns carried out by Norbert Wiener. In 1948, these two mathematicians each published a popular book – Information Theory and Cybernetics, respectively. (For best-sellers they contained a surprising number of mathematical formulae. Maybe people were more maths-savvy back then. Or more tolerant of things they didn’t quite understand.)

There were a growing number of meetings at which physicists, mathematicians and biologists tried to see how they could forge a new way of looking at life (the cyberneticians were particularly bold in this respect). In the end, nothing came of these attempts, but at some point along the way, the idea of seeing that genes contain ‘information’ seeped its way into Watson and Crick’s thinking, leading them to explain the implications of the double helix structure in this radically novel way.

How exactly the pair came up with the idea is not known (that’s why yesterday I asked Jerry to ask Watson this question when they met – we should get a post on this later today). We know that Crick wrote most of this article, in a terrible hurry. Did either of them read Shannon or Wiener? Or were these just terms they heard floating about on the Cambridge air, or idly discussed in the corridors at conferences? Whatever the case, today it is impossible to think about genes – or evolution – without using this powerful metaphor.

schrodinger: what is life?

wikipedia | What Is Life? is a 1944 non-fiction science book written for the lay reader by physicist Erwin Schrödinger. The book was based on a course of public lectures delivered by Schrödinger in February 1943, under the auspices of the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies at Trinity College, Dublin. The lectures attracted an audience of about 400, who were warned "that the subject-matter was a difficult one and that the lectures could not be termed popular, even though the physicist’s most dreaded weapon, mathematical deduction, would hardly be utilized."[1] Schrödinger's lecture focused on one important question: "how can the events in space and time which take place within the spatial boundary of a living organism be accounted for by physics and chemistry?"[1]

In the book, Schrödinger introduced the idea of an "aperiodic crystal" that contained genetic information in its configuration of covalent chemical bonds. In the 1950s, this idea stimulated enthusiasm for discovering the genetic molecule. Although the existence of DNA had been known since 1869, its role in reproduction and its helical shape were still unknown at the time of Schrödinger's lecture. In retrospect, Schrödinger's aperiodic crystal can be viewed as a well-reasoned theoretical prediction of what biologists should have been looking for during their search for genetic material. Both James D. Watson,[2] and independently, Francis Crick, co-discoverers of the structure of DNA, credited Schrödinger's book with presenting an early theoretical description of how the storage of genetic information would work, and each respectively acknowledged the book as a source of inspiration for their initial researches.[3]

A Structure for Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid

exploratorium | We wish to suggest a structure for the salt of deoxyribose nucleic acid (D.N.A.). This structure has novel features which are of considerable biological interest.

A structure for nucleic acid has already been proposed by Pauling (4) and Corey1. They kindly made their manuscript available to us in advance of publication. Their model consists of three intertwined chains, with the phosphates near the fibre axis, and the bases on the outside. In our opinion, this structure is unsatisfactory for two reasons:

(1) We believe that the material which gives the X-ray diagrams is the salt, not the free acid. Without the acidic hydrogen atoms it is not clear what forces would hold the structure together, especially as the negatively charged phosphates near the axis will repel each other.

(2) Some of the van der Waals distances appear to be too small.

Another three-chain structure has also been suggested by Fraser (in the press). In his model the phosphates are on the outside and the bases on the inside, linked together by hydrogen bonds. This structure as described is rather ill-defined, and for this reason we shall not comment on it.

We wish to put forward a radically different structure for the salt of deoxyribose nucleic acid (5). This structure has two helical chains each coiled round the same axis (see diagram). We have made the usual chemical assumptions, namely, that each chain consists of phosphate diester groups joining beta-D-deoxyribofuranose residues with 3',5' linkages. The two chains (but not their bases) are related by a dyad perpendicular to the fibre axis. Both chains follow right-handed helices, but owing to the dyad the sequences of the atoms in the two chains run in opposite directions (6) . Each chain loosely resembles Furberg's2 model No. 1 (7); that is, the bases are on the inside of the helix and the phosphates on the outside. The configuration of the sugar and the atoms near it is close to Furberg's "standard configuration," the sugar being roughly perpendicular to the attached base. There is a residue on each every 3.4 A. in the z-direction. We have assumed an angle of 36° between adjacent residues in the same chain, so that the structure repeats after 10 residues on each chain, that is, after 34 A. The distance of a phosphorus atom from the fibre axis is 10 A. As the phosphates are on the outside, cations have easy access to them.

Saturday, June 08, 2013

increasing human grasp of GOD...,

wired | At the most basic level, scientists create phylogenetic trees by grouping species according to their degree of relatedness. Lining up the DNA of humans, chimpanzees and fish, for example, makes it readily apparent that humans and chimps are more closely related to each other than they are to fish.

Researchers once used just one gene or a handful to compare organisms. But the last decade has seen an explosion in phylogenetic data, rapidly inflating the data pool for generating these trees. These analyses filled in some of the sparse spots on the tree of life, but considerable disagreement still remains.

For example, it’s not clear whether snails are most closely related to clams and other bivalves or to another mollusk group known as tusk shells, said Rokas. And we have no idea how some of the earliest animals to branch off the tree, such as jellyfish and sponges, are related to each other. Scientists can rattle off examples of conflicting trees published in the same scientific journal within weeks, or even in the same issue.
“That poses a question: Why do you have this lack of agreement?” said Rokas.

Rokas and his graduate student Leonidas Salichos explored that question by evaluating each gene independently and using only the most useful genes — those that carry the greatest amount of information with respect to evolutionary history — to construct their tree.

They started with 23 species of yeast, focusing on 1,070 genes. They first created a phylogenetic tree using the standard method, called concatenation. This involves stringing together all the sequence data from individual species into one mega-gene and then comparing that long sequence among the different species and creating a tree that best explains the differences.

The resulting tree was accurate according to standard statistical analysis. But given that similar methods have produced trees of life that are rife with contradiction, Rokas and Salichos decided to delve deeper. They built a series of phylogenetic trees using data from individual yeast genes and employed an algorithm derived from information theory to find the areas of greatest agreement among the trees. The result, published in Nature in May, was unexpected. Every gene they studied appeared to tell a slightly different story of evolution.

“Just about all the trees from individual genes were in conflict with the tree based on a concatenated data set,” says Hilu. “It’s a bit shocking.”

They concluded that if a number of genes support a specific architecture, it is probably accurate. But if different sets of genes support two different architectures equally, it is much less likely that either structure is accurate. Rokas and Salichos used a statistical method called bootstrap analysis to select the most informative genes.

In essence, “if you take just the strongly supported genes, then you recover the correct tree,” said Donoghue. Fist tap Dale.

increasing human grasp of biological computation...,

technion | Using only biomolecules (such as DNA and enzymes), scientists at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology have developed and constructed an advanced biological transducer, a computing machine capable of manipulating genetic codes, and using the output as new input for subsequent computations. The breakthrough might someday create new possibilities in biotechnology, including individual gene therapy and cloning. The findings appear in (May 23, 2013) Chemistry & Biology (Cell Press).

Interest in such biomolecular computing devices is strong, mainly because of their ability (unlike electronic computers) to interact directly with biological systems and even living organisms. No interface is required since all components of molecular computers, including hardware, software, input and output, are molecules that interact in solution along a cascade of programmable chemical events.

“Our results show a novel, synthetic designed computing machine that computes iteratively and produces biologically relevant results,” says lead researcher Prof. Ehud Keinan of the Technion Schulich Faculty of Chemistry. “In addition to enhanced computation power, this DNA-based transducer offers multiple benefits, including the ability to read and transform genetic information, miniaturization to the molecular scale, and the aptitude to produce computational results that interact directly with living organisms.”

The transducer could be used on genetic material to evaluate and detect specific sequences, and to alter and algorithmically process genetic code. Similar devices, says Prof. Keinan, could be applied for other computational problems.

“All biological systems, and even entire living organisms, are natural molecular computers. Every one of us is a biomolecular computer, that is, a machine in which all components are molecules “talking” to one another in a logical manner. The hardware and software are complex biological molecules that activate one another to carry out some predetermined chemical tasks. The input is a molecule that undergoes specific, programmed changes, following a specific set of rules (software) and the output of this chemical computation process is another well defined molecule.”

Friday, June 07, 2013

what's the matter with metadata?

newyorker | Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat from liberal Northern California and the chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, assured the public earlier today that the government’s secret snooping into the phone records of Americans was perfectly fine, because the information it obtained was only “meta,” meaning it excluded the actual content of the phone conversations, providing merely records, from a Verizon subsidiary, of who called whom when and from where. In addition, she said in a prepared statement, the “names of subscribers” were not included automatically in the metadata (though the numbers, surely, could be used to identify them). “Our courts have consistently recognized that there is no reasonable expectation of privacy in this type of metadata information and thus no search warrant is required to obtain it,” she said, adding that “any subsequent effort to obtain the content of an American’s communications would require a specific order from the FISA court.”

She said she understands privacy—“that’s why this is carefully done”—and noted that eleven special federal judges, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which meets in secret, had authorized the vast intelligence collection. A White House official made the same points to reporters, saying, “The order reprinted overnight does not allow the government to listen in on anyone’s telephone calls” and was subject to “a robust legal regime.” The gist of the defense was that, in contrast to what took place under the Bush Administration, this form of secret domestic surveillance was legitimate because Congress had authorized it, and the judicial branch had ratified it, and the actual words spoken by one American to another were still private. So how bad could it be?

The answer, according to the mathematician and former Sun Microsystems engineer Susan Landau, whom I interviewed while reporting on the plight of the former N.S.A. whistleblower Thomas Drake and who is also the author of “Surveillance or Security?,” is that it’s worse than many might think.

“The public doesn’t understand,” she told me, speaking about so-called metadata. “It’s much more intrusive than content.” She explained that the government can learn immense amounts of proprietary information by studying “who you call, and who they call. If you can track that, you know exactly what is happening—you don’t need the content.”

“economics is haunted by more fallacies than any other study known to man.”― Henry Hazlitt

globalresearch | Over millennia, numerous enterprises have sought the status of science. Few have succeeded because they have failed to discover anything that stood up to scrutiny as knowledge. No body of beliefs, no matter how widely accepted or how extensive in scope, can ever be scientific.

In the Ptolemaic system of astronomy, the epicycle is a geometric model of the solar system and planetary motion. It was first proposed by Apollonius of Perga at the end of the 3rd century BCE and its development continued until Kepler came up with a better model in the 17th century, and the geocentric model of the solar system was replaced by Copernican heliocentrism. In spite of some very good approximations to the problems of planetary motion, the system of epicycles could never get anything right.

Phrenology was originated by Franz Joseph Gall [right] in the late 1700s. After examining the heads of a number of young pickpockets, Gall found that many of them had bumps on their skulls just above their ears and suggested that the bumps, indentations, and shape of the skull could be linked to different aspects of a person’s personality, character, and abilities. Gall measured the skulls of people in prisons, hospitals, and asylums and developed a system of 27 different “faculties” that he believed could be directly diagnosed by assessing specific parts of the head, and he chose to ignore any contradictory evidence. After Gall’s death in 1828, several of his followers continued to develop phrenology. Despite some brief popularity, it was eventually viewed as a pseudoscience much like astrology, numerology, and palmistry. All of these, too, could never get anything right.

Sigmund Freud was an Austrian neurologist who is known as the father of psychoanalysis which is a clinical method for treating psychopathology by having a patient talk to a psychoanalyst. Results on the mental health of patients were scanty at best. Some contend that Freud set back the study of psychology and psychiatry “by something like fifty years or more”, and that “Freud’s method is not capable of yielding objective data about mental processes”. Others consider psychoanalysis to be perhaps the most complex and successful pseudoscience in history. Karl Popper, who argued that all proper scientific theories must be potentially falsifiable, claimed that no experiment could ever disprove Freud’s psychoanalytic theories and thus were totally unscientific. Now Freud’s work has little relevance in psychiatry. It could never cure anyone. But it was not Freud who created a pseudoscience, it was the people who uncritically adopted his views.

Today the great fraudulent science is economics, but I don’t intend to beat that carcass. It has been shown not to be a science by numerous astute people. Even some renowned economists have been convinced of it. Paul Samuelson has said, “Economics has never been a science—and it is even less now than a few years ago.” Even Nassau William Senior knew it: “The confounding Political Economy with the Sciences and Arts to which it is subservient, has been one of the principal obstacles to its improvement.”

Yet many working economists continue to claim that it is or at least that it is more of a science than its siblings in the social enterprises of study. Perhaps these people feel that their work lacks dignity if it is not scientific, being unable to say exactly what it is if it is not science. So let’s look at some things that economists regularly do to see if what they are doing can be defined.

these jokers have no coherent conception of their subject matter either?

project-syndicate | One of the dirty secrets of economics is that there is no such thing as “economic theory.” There is simply no set of bedrock principles on which one can base calculations that illuminate real-world economic outcomes. We should bear in mind this constraint on economic knowledge as the global drive for fiscal austerity shifts into top gear.

Unlike economists, biologists, for example, know that every cell functions according to instructions for protein synthesis encoded in its DNA. Chemists begin with what the Heisenberg and Pauli principles, plus the three-dimensionality of space, tell us about stable electron configurations. Physicists start with the four fundamental forces of nature.

Economists have none of that. The “economic principles” underpinning their theories are a fraud – not fundamental truths but mere knobs that are twiddled and tuned so that the “right” conclusions come out of the analysis.

The “right” conclusions depend on which of two types of economist you are. One type chooses, for non-economic and non-scientific reasons, a political stance and a set of political allies, and twiddles and tunes his or her assumptions until they yield conclusions that fit their stance and please their allies. The other type takes the carcass of history, throws it into the pot, turns up the heat, and boils it down, hoping that the bones will yield lessons and suggest principles to guide our civilization’s voters, bureaucrats, and politicians as they slouch toward utopia.

Not surprisingly, I believe that only the second kind of economist has anything useful to say. So what lessons does history have to teach us about our current global economic predicament?

Thursday, June 06, 2013

the phoenix program, informants, interrogation, and penetration

douglasvalentine | "Central to Phoenix is the fact that it targeted civilians, not soldiers. As a result, its detractors charge that Phoenix violated that part of the Geneva Conventions guaranteeing protection to civilians in time of war. "By analogy," said Ogden Reid, a member of a congressional committee investigating Phoenix in 1971, "if the Union had had a Phoenix program during the Civil War, its targets would have been civilians like Jefferson Davis or the mayor of Macon, Georgia."

"Under Phoenix, or Phung Hoang as it was called by the Vietnamese, due process was totally non-existent. South Vietnamese civilians whose names appeared on blacklists could be kidnapped, tortured, detained for two years without trial, or even murdered simply on the word of an anonymous informer. At its height, Phoenix managers imposed a quota of eighteen hundred neutralizations per month on the people running the program in the field, opening up the program to abuses by corrupt security officers, policemen, politicians, and racketeers, all of whom extorted innocent civilians as well as VCI. Legendary CIA officer Lucien Conein described Phoenix as, "A very good blackmail scheme for the central government: 'If you don't do what I want, you're VC.'"

"Because Phoenix "neutralizations" were often conducted at midnight while its victims were home, sleeping in bed, Phoenix proponents describe the program as a "scalpel" designed to replace the "bludgeon" of search and destroy operations, air strikes, and artillery barrages that indiscriminately wiped out entire villages and did little to "win the hearts and minds" of the Vietnamese population. Yet the scalpel cut deeper than the U.S. government admits. Indeed, Phoenix was, among other things, an instrument of counter-terror - the psychological warfare tactic in which members of the VCI were brutally murdered along with their families or neighbors as a means of terrorizing the entire population into a state of submission. Such horrendous acts were, for propaganda purposes, often made to look as if they had been committed by the enemy.

"This book questions how Americans, who consider themselves a nation ruled by laws and an ethic of fair play, could create a program like Phoenix. By scrutinizing the program and the people who participated in it, and by employing the program as a symbol of the dark side of the human psyche, the author hopes to articulate the subtle ways in which the Vietnam War changed how Americans think about themselves. This book is about terror and its role in political warfare. It will show how, as successive American governments sink deeper and deeper into the vortex of covert operations - ostensibly to combat terrorism and Communist insurgencies - the American people gradually lose touch with the democratic ideals that once defined their national self-concept. This book asks what happens when Phoenix comes home to roost."

the quotidian tyranny of big data - all day, every day, like it was their job....,

guardian | The National Security Agency is currently collecting the telephone records of millions of US customers of Verizon, one of America's largest telecoms providers, under a top secret court order issued in April.

The order, a copy of which has been obtained by the Guardian, requires Verizon on an "ongoing, daily basis" to give the NSA information on all telephone calls in its systems, both within the US and between the US and other countries.

The document shows for the first time that under the Obama administration the communication records of millions of US citizens are being collected indiscriminately and in bulk – regardless of whether they are suspected of any wrongdoing.

The secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (Fisa) granted the order to the FBI on April 25, giving the government unlimited authority to obtain the data for a specified three-month period ending on July 19.
Under the terms of the blanket order, the numbers of both parties on a call are handed over, as is location data, call duration, unique identifiers, and the time and duration of all calls. The contents of the conversation itself are not covered.

The disclosure is likely to reignite longstanding debates in the US over the proper extent of the government's domestic spying powers.

Under the Bush administration, officials in security agencies had disclosed to reporters the large-scale collection of call records data by the NSA, but this is the first time significant and top-secret documents have revealed the continuation of the practice on a massive scale under President Obama.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

no wonder these bankster beehotches fear and despise bitcoin...,

outpost-of-freedom | I've been following the concepts of digital cash and encryption since I read the article in the August 1992 issue of Scientific American on "encrypted signatures." While I've only followed the Digitaliberty area for a few weeks, I can already see a number of points that do (and should!) strongly concern the average savvy individual:

1. How can we translate the freedom afforded by the Internet to ordinary life?

2. How can we keep the government from banning encryption, digital cash, and other systems that will improve our freedom?

A few months ago, I had a truly and quite literally "revolutionary" idea, and I jokingly called it "Assassination Politics": I speculated on the question of whether an organization could be set up to legally announce that it would be awarding a cash prize to somebody who correctly "predicted" the death of one of a list of violators of rights, usually either government employees, officeholders, or appointees. It could ask for anonymous contributions from the public, and individuals would be able send those contributions using digital cash.

I also speculated that using modern methods of public-key encryption and anonymous "digital cash," it would be possible to make such awards in such a way so that nobody knows who is getting awarded the money, only that the award is being given. Even the organization itself would have no information that could help the authorities find the person responsible for the prediction, let alone the one who caused the death.

It was not my intention to provide such a "tough nut to crack" by arguing the general case, claiming that a person who hires a hit man is not guilty of murder under libertarian principles. Obviously, the problem with the general case is that the victim may be totally innocent under libertarian principles, which would make the killing a crime, leading to the question of whether the person offering the money was himself guilty.

On the contrary; my speculation assumed that the "victim" is a government employee, presumably one who is not merely taking a paycheck of stolen tax dollars, but also is guilty of extra violations of rights beyond this. (Government agents responsible for the Ruby Ridge incident and Waco come to mind.) In receiving such money and in his various acts, he violates the "Non-aggression Principle" (NAP) and thus, presumably, any acts against him are not the initiation of force under libertarian principles.

The organization set up to manage such a system could, presumably, make up a list of people who had seriously violated the NAP, but who would not see justice in our courts due to the fact that their actions were done at the behest of the government. Associated with each name would be a dollar figure, the total amount of money the organization has received as a contribution, which is the amount they would give for correctly "predicting" the person's death, presumably naming the exact date. "Guessers" would formulate their "guess" into a file, encrypt it with the organization's public key, then transmit it to the organization, possibly using methods as untraceable as putting a floppy disk in an envelope and tossing it into a mailbox, but more likely either a cascade of encrypted anonymous remailers, or possibly public-access Internet locations, such as terminals at a local library, etc.

In order to prevent such a system from becoming simply a random unpaid lottery, in which people can randomly guess a name and date (hoping that lightning would strike, as it occasionally does), it would be necessary to deter such random guessing by requiring the "guessers" to include with their "guess" encrypted and untraceable "digital cash," in an amount sufficiently high to make random guessing impractical.

For example, if the target was, say, 50 years old and had a life expectancy of 30 years, or about 10,000 days, the amount of money required to register a guess must be at least 1/10,000th of the amount of the award. In practice, the amount required should be far higher, perhaps as much as 1/1000 of the amount, since you can assume that anybody making a guess would feel sufficiently confident of that guess to risk 1/1000th of his potential reward.

The digital cash would be placed inside the outer "encryption envelope," and could be decrypted using the organization's public key. The prediction itself (including name and date) would be itself in another encryption envelope inside the first one, but it would be encrypted using a key that is only known to the predictor himself. In this way, the organization could decrypt the outer envelope and find the digital cash, but they would have no idea what is being predicted in the innermost envelope, either the name or the date.

If, later, the "prediction" came true, the predictor would presumably send yet another encrypted "envelope" to the organization, containing the decryption key for the previous "prediction" envelope, plus a public key (despite its name, to be used only once!) to be used for encryption of digital cash used as payment for the award. The organization would apply the decryption key to the prediction envelope, discover that it works, then notice that the prediction included was fulfilled on the date stated. The predictor would be, therefore, entitled to the award. Nevertheless, even then nobody would actually know WHO he is!

It doesn't even know if the predictor had anything to do with the outcome of the prediction. If it received these files in the mail, in physical envelopes, which had no return address, it would have burned the envelopes before it studied their contents. The result is that even the active cooperation of the organization could not possibly help anyone, including the police, to locate the predictor.

Also included within this "prediction-fulfilled" encryption envelope would be unsigned (not-yet-valid) "digital cash," which would then be blindly signed by the organization's bank and subsequently encrypted using the public key included. (The public key could also be publicized, to allow members of the public to securely send their comments and, possibly, further grateful remuneration to the predictor, securely.) The resulting encrypted file could be published openly on the Internet, and it could then be decrypted by only one entity: The person who had made that original, accurate prediction. The result is that the recipient would be absolutely untraceable.

The digital cash is then processed by the recipient by "unbinding" it, a principle which is explained in far greater detail by the article in the August 1992 issue of Scientific American. The resulting digital cash is absolutely untraceable to its source. Fist tap Dale.

brief interruptions spawn errors

msu | Short interruptions – such as the few seconds it takes to silence that buzzing smartphone – have a surprisingly large effect on one’s ability to accurately complete a task, according to new research led by Michigan State University.

The study, in which 300 people performed a sequence-based procedure on a computer, found that interruptions of about three seconds doubled the error rate.

Brief interruptions are ubiquitous in today’s society, from text messages to a work colleague poking his head in the door and interrupting an important conversation. But the ensuing errors can be disastrous for professionals such as airplane mechanics and emergency room doctors, said Erik Altmann, lead researcher on the study.

“What this means is that our health and safety is, on some level, contingent on whether the people looking after it have been interrupted,” said Altmann, MSU associate professor of psychology.

The study, funded by the U.S. Navy’s Office of Naval Research, is one of the first to examine brief interruptions of relatively difficult tasks. The findings appear in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

book reviews: the trouble with neuroscience

newscientist | NO CREVICE of the human experience is safe. Our deepest fears and desires, our pasts and our futures – all have been revealed, and all in the form of colourful images that look like lava bubbling under the skull. 

That, at least, is the popular conception of neuroscience – and it's worth big money. The US and the European Union are throwing billions of dollars at two new projects to map the human brain. Yet there is also a growing anxiety that many of neuroscience's findings don't stand up to scrutiny. It's not just sensational headlines reporting a "dark patch" in a psychopath's brain, there are now serious concerns that some of the methods themselves are flawed.

The intrepid outsider needs expert guidance through this rocky terrain – and there's no better place to start than Brainwashed by Sally Satel and Scott O. Lilienfeld. Satel, a practising psychiatrist, and Lilienfeld, a clinical psychologist, are terrific sherpas. They are clear-sighted, considered and forgiving of the novice's ignorance.

Their first stop is the fMRI scan – a staple of much brain research. Worryingly, the statistical techniques used to construct the images sometimes create a mirage of activity where none should exist. They have a telling example: one research team watching a salmon in an fMRI scanner as images of human faces were flashed at it saw its brain spark into life in certain shots – even though it was dead.

Such fishy results are troubling enough, but even legitimate scans can be problematic. As the authors point out, brain images should be used only alongside other kinds of evidence. But all too often they are given the final say on human behaviour. A common pitfall, assert Satel and Lilienfeld, is "neurodeterminism" – the idea that a murderer, say, had been cursed with a brain defect that destroyed their sense of morality.

book review: philosophical foundations of neuroscience

notredame | Neuroscience is the study of the physiological mechanisms that give rise to a manifold of human capacities, including perception, memory, vision and the emotions. To achieve the goals of scientific understanding, neuroscientists must of necessity advance claims and hypotheses which are subjected to scientific experiment. In addition to experimental techniques, neuroscientists need a conceptual framework within which to make sense of the results of their empirical work. In short, a necessary complement to empirical research is a coherent conception of the phenomena under investigation, that is, human psychological capacities.

Bennett - a distinguished neuroscientist - and Hacker - the preeminent scholar of Wittgenstein's thought - have teamed up to produce a withering attack on the conception of the mental that lies at the heart of contemporary neuroscience. Although neuroscientists are committed materialists, and adamantly insist on this aspect of their anti-Cartesianism, they have, Bennett and Hacker argue, merely jettisoned the dual substance doctrine of Cartesianism, but retained its faulty structure with respect to the relation of mind and behavior.

Sunday, June 02, 2013

name as a unit of social control...,

theroot | "I'm a young black woman with what you would call a 'ghetto' name. I'd have no problem with my name if it weren't for the fact that for my entire life, white people have made fun of me. I've been made fun of by teachers, even professors in college when they call out my name. I've had people tell me, 'You seem like such a good person, though -- I can't believe you have such a ghetto name.' People have said my parents made a huge mistake. I've had hiring managers tell me that they would hire me only on the condition that I 'shorten' my name for the customers.

"My name is Laquita, so it really isn't even complicated. Anyway, I'm tired of it all.

"The problem with this is telling my family -- I have no idea why my mother gave me this name. I feel like it's a curse. So how do I tell her that I'm doing this without offending her? Do you think it's the right choice, or am I 'giving up'?"

religion historically the most important form of social control - that is all....,

nih | A social contingency analysis of religion is presented, arguing that individual religious behaviors are principally maintained by the many powerful benefits of participating in social groups rather than by any immediate or obvious consequences of the religious behaviors. Six common strategies are outlined that can shape the behaviors of large groups of people. More specifically, religious behavior is shaped and maintained by making already-existing contingencies contingent upon low-probability, but socially beneficial, group behaviors. Many specific examples of religious themes are then analyzed in terms of these common strategies for social shaping, including taboos, rituals, totems, personal religious crises, and symbolic expression. For example, a common view is that people are anxious about life, death, and the unknown, and that the direct function of religious behaviors is to provide escape from such anxiety. Such an explanation is instead reversed—that any such anxiety is utilized or created by groups through having escape contingent upon members performing less probable behaviors that nonetheless provide important benefits to most individual group members. These generalized beneficial outcomes, rather than escape from anxiety, maintain the religious behaviors and this fits with observations that religions typically act to increase anxiety rather than to reduce it. An implication of this theory is that there is no difference in principle between religious and nonreligious social control, and it is demonstrated that the same social strategies are utilized in both contexts, although religion has been the more historically important form of social control.

Saturday, June 01, 2013

finally, an interesting correlation....,

medicalexpress | As a person's IQ increases, so too does his or her ability to filter out distracting background motion. This surprisingly strong relationship may help scientists better understand what makes a brain more efficient, and, as a result, more intelligent.

A brief visual task can predict IQ, according to a new study. This surprisingly simple exercise measures the brain's unconscious ability to filter out visual movement. The study shows that individuals whose brains are better at automatically suppressing background motion perform better on standard measures of intelligence.

The test is the first purely sensory assessment to be strongly correlated with IQ and may provide a non-verbal and culturally unbiased tool for scientists seeking to understand neural processes associated with general intelligence. "Because intelligence is such a broad construct, you can't really track it back to one part of the brain," says Duje Tadin, a senior author on the study and an assistant professor of brain and cognitive sciences at the University of Rochester. "But since this task is so simple and so closely linked to IQ, it may give us clues about what makes a brain more efficient, and, consequently, more intelligent." The unexpected link between IQ and motion filtering was reported online in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on May 23 by a research team lead by Tadin and Michael Melnick, a doctoral candidate in brain and cognitive sciences at the University of Rochester. In the study, individuals watched brief video clips of black and white bars moving across a computer screen. Their sole task was to identify which direction the bars drifted: to the right or to the left. The bars were presented in three sizes, with the smallest version restricted to the central circle where human motion perception is known to be optimal, an area roughly the width of the thumb when the hand is extended. Participants also took a standardized intelligence test.
As a person's IQ increases, so too does his or her ability to filter out distracting background motion. This surprisingly strong relationship may help scientists better understand what makes a brain more efficient, and, as a result, more intelligent.

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