Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for June 22nd, 2017

Great little movie (it’s a written-and-directed by, of course): “Two Days in the Valley”

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And with a knockout cast. Available now on Amazon Prime streaming.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 June 2017 at 10:02 pm

Posted in Movies & TV

Talking to Boys the Way We Talk to Girls

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Andrew Reiner writes in the NY Times:

At a Father’s Day breakfast, my 5-year-old son and his classmates sang a song about fathers, crooning about “my dad who’s big and strong” and “fixes things with his hammer” and, above all else, “is really cool.”

Now, there’s nothing wrong with most of these qualities in and of themselves. But when these lyrics are passed down as the defining soundtrack to masculine identity, we limit children’s understanding not just of what it means to be a father but of what it means to be a man — and a boy, as well.

When fathers appear in children’s picture books, they’re angling for laughs, taking their sons on adventures or modeling physical strength or stoic independence. There is the rare exception in children’s books where a father baldly demonstrates — without symbolic gestures — his love for his son (a few are “Guess How Much I Love You” and “Oh, Oh, Baby Boy!”). Just as women’s studies classes have long examined the ways that gendered language undermines women and girls, a growing body of research shows that stereotypical messages are similarly damaging to boys.

A 2014 study in Pediatrics found that mothers interacted vocally more often with their infant daughters than they did their infant sons. In a different study, a team of British researchers found that Spanish mothers were more likely to use emotional words and emotional topics when speaking with their 4-year-old daughters than with their 4-year-old sons. Interestingly, the same study revealed that daughters were more likely than sons to speak about their emotions with their fathers when talking about past experiences. And during these reminiscing conversations, fathers used more emotion-laden words with their 4-year-old daughters than with their 4-year-old sons.

What’s more, a 2017 study led by Emory University researchers discovered, among other things, that fathers also sing and smile more to their daughters, and they use language that is more “analytical” and that acknowledges their sadness far more than they do with their sons. The words they use with sons are more focused on achievement — such as “win” and “proud.” Researchers believe that these discrepancies in fathers’ language may contribute to “the consistent findings that girls outperform boys in school achievement outcomes.”

After visits to the emergency room for accidental injuries, another study found, parents of both genders talk differently to sons than they do to daughters. They are nearly four times more likely to tell girls than boys to be more careful if undertaking the same activity again. The same study cited earlier research which found that parents of both genders used “directives” when teaching their 2- to 4-year-old sons how to climb down a playground pole but offered extensive “explanations” to daughters.

Even boys’ literacy skills seem to be impacted by the taciturn way we expect them to speak. . .

Continue reading.

Later:

. . . Nowhere is this truer than in English classes where, as I’ve witnessed after more than 20 years of teaching, boys and young men police each other when other guys display overt interest in literature or creative writing assignments. Typically, nonfiction reading and writing passes muster because it poses little threat for boys. But literary fiction, and especially poetry, are mediums to fear. Why? They’re the language of emotional exposure, purported feminine “weakness” — the very thing our scripting has taught them to avoid at best, suppress, at worst.

Women often say they want men to be emotionally transparent with them. But as the vulnerability and shame expert Brené Brown reveals in her book, “Daring Greatly,” many grow uneasy or even recoil if men take them up on their offer.

Indeed, a Canadian study found that college-aged female respondents considered men more attractive if they used shorter words and sentences and spoke less. This finding seems to jibe with Dr. Brown’s research, suggesting that the less men risk emoting verbally, the more appealing they appear.

Such squelching messages run counter-intuitively to male wiring, it turns out: Guys are born more emotionally sensitive than girls. . .

Later:

“Research shows that people who suppress emotions have lower-level resilience and emotional health.”

Written by LeisureGuy

22 June 2017 at 9:27 pm

“Republicans are mean.”

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I usually say that Republicans (in general—I’m sure there are exceptions, though why those empathetic exceptions would want to belong to the GOP is beyond me) are mean-spirited, which express (for me) the crabbed, hostile, angry, miserly aspect of the Republican part. Someone once was wondering at some policy promulgated by the GOP, surprised at how much it would hurt the poor in the course of fulfilling the legislation. I explained to her that what you observe the Republican party doing—and this has predictive value as well as explanatory value—is perfectly consistent with what they would do if they actively hated the poor. They go out of their way to hurt the poor. States paid millions to avoid expanding Medicaid (which the Federal government would pay for, not the state) because expe anding Medicaid would help the poor and the thrust of GOP policy is in the opposite direction. So mean-spirited refers to exactly what the words mean: smallness of soul. Small in love, small in empathy, small in sympathy, small in mercy, small in justice, small in ethics, small in morality, small in respect for norms, the common good, women, minorities, arts, nature, the environment, science—well, just about everything. And why? Because they don’t respect themselves. How could they? Looking at Mitch McConnell and how he handled the Senate’s healthcare bill. Mitch complained that the Democratic effort that gave us Obama care was secretive and rushed and forced on them, but in fact the drafting of the Affordable Care Act was a nine-month effort (building on earlier efforts, and in fact incorporating the conservative Heritage Foundation’s recommended approach, which the GOP stopped liking as soon as the Democrats supported it—the GOP is also small in convictions, consistency, fairness, and integrity. Not only that but there were many hearings, from all the stakeholders: patients and the public, doctors and nurses, hospitals and medical departments, insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies—all who would be affected had representatives at the hearings. And the bill was open to amendments, and amendments were made by the GOP. (Democrats don’t have the strong-nuclear-force tribal loyalty of the GOP, so if a Democrat thinks a policy is good, they don’t much care who wrote it: they judge the policy on content and effects. Contrast the Republicans: 22% supported airstrikes in Syria when Obama proposed that and 86% supported the very same thing when Trump did it. Democrats? No real change: 37% support for one, 38% support for the other. For Democrats, it didn’t make any difference who the president was. Democrats judged the idea on its merits, not its source. With the GOP, it’s the exact opposite, and we saw much evidence of that over the past 8 years. The GOP is very much an “Us” vs. “Them” operation. Democrats are not, which is why they readily incorporate into the party those the GOP views as “Other” in a big way: minorities, the poor, LGBTQ people, immigrants, those with disabilities and those who require services of the community: medical attention, physical care, protection, curing. Democrats and Republicans have very different attitudes toward the mentally ill, for example. You’ll note that the police (overwhelmingly politically conservative, and quite conservative at that) regularly shoot mentally ill people, which seems to be the actual police idea of how you treat the mentally ill. They cannot fathom any other approach. And the police seem to show much the same attitude to African Americans. John Crawford, shopping for a BB gun in a store that sells BB guns, shot dead—and I feel sure with no notice or effort to determine what is going on. Tamir Rice is another: shot dead within 2 seconds of the stop of the patrol car. The video of Philandro Castile’s shooting makes the clear that the officer (later fired by the police department) simply panicked and lost his mind. For no reason: Castile’s voice is calm, he’s explaining the situation, and then the officer goes nuts.

What’s odd is that the NRA, staunch defender of Second Amendment rights, has been totally silent on this. I think the NRA views Second Amendment rights as a whites-only sort of thing.

I got carried away. Kevin Drum posts:

Here’s a story for you. My mother grew up in a Republican family.1 When Herbert Hoover was on the radio, everyone listened. But later she became a Democrat. What happened?

Well, she went off to college. But not some bleeding heart lefty bastion. She went to USC, which was even more Republican in 1950 than it is now. She didn’t get indoctrinated by a bunch of fuzzy liberal professors.

So what caused the switch? I asked her once, and she said that during her college years she came to the conclusion that Republicans were just mean. So she became a Democrat.

This struck me because I’ve long used the exact same word in the privacy of my own thoughts. I can write a sophisticated critique of conservative ideology as well as the next guy, but the truth is that it mostly boils down to a gut feel that Republicans are mean. I’ve never said this out loud because it sounds so kindergarten-y, but there it is. I think Republicans are mean, just like my mother did.

But now our time has come. Donald Trump started it, with his contention that Paul Ryan’s health care bill was “mean.” Today, Barack Obama picked up the ball, writing on Facebook about the “fundamental meanness at the core of this legislation.” And then Chuck Schumer weighed in with a big red poster calling the Senate health care bill “meaner.”

So that’s that. It’s now OK to . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 June 2017 at 9:13 pm

Posted in GOP

It’s worse than we thought: A Cyberattack ‘the World Isn’t Ready For’

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Nicole Perlroth has a frightening report in the NY Times:

There have been times over the last two months when Golan Ben-Oni has felt like a voice in the wilderness.

On April 29, someone hit his employer, IDT Corporation, with two cyberweapons that had been stolen from the National Security Agency. Mr. Ben-Oni, the global chief information officer at IDT, was able to fend them off, but the attack left him distraught.

In 22 years of dealing with hackers of every sort, he had never seen anything like it. Who was behind it? How did they evade all of his defenses? How many others had been attacked but did not know it?

Since then, Mr. Ben-Oni has been sounding alarm bells, calling anyone who will listen at the White House, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the New Jersey attorney general’s office and the top cybersecurity companies in the country to warn them about an attack that may still be invisibly striking victims undetected around the world.

(p>And he is determined to track down whoever did it.

“I don’t pursue every attacker, just the ones that piss me off,” Mr. Ben-Oni told me recently over lentils in his office, which was strewn with empty Red Bull cans. “This pissed me off and, more importantly, it pissed my wife off, which is the real litmus test.”

Two weeks after IDT was hit, the cyberattack known as WannaCry ravaged computers at hospitals in England, universities in China, rail systems in Germany, even auto plants in Japan. No doubt it was destructive. But what Mr. Ben-Oni had witnessed was much worse, and with all eyes on the WannaCry destruction, few seemed to be paying attention to the attack on IDT’s systems — and most likely others around the world.

The strike on IDT, a conglomerate with headquarters in a nondescript gray building here with views of the Manhattan skyline 15 miles away, was similar to WannaCry in one way: Hackers locked up IDT data and demanded a ransom to unlock it.

But the ransom demand was just a smoke screen for a far more invasive attack that stole employee credentials. With those credentials in hand, hackers could have run free through the company’s computer network, taking confidential information or destroying machines.

Worse, the assault, which has never been reported before, was not spotted by some of the nation’s leading cybersecurity products, the top security engineers at its biggest tech companies, government intelligence analysts or the F.B.I., which remains consumed with the WannaCry attack.

Were it not for a digital black box that recorded everything on IDT’s network, along with Mr. Ben-Oni’s tenacity, the attack might have gone unnoticed.

Scans for the two hacking tools used against IDT indicate that the company is not alone. In fact, tens of thousands of computer systems all over the world have been “backdoored” by the same N.S.A. weapons. Mr. Ben-Oni and other security researchers worry that many of those other infected computers are connected to transportation networks, hospitals, water treatment plants and other utilities.

An attack on those systems, they warn, could put lives at risk. And Mr. Ben-Oni, fortified with adrenaline, Red Bull and the house beats of Deadmau5, the Canadian record producer, said he would not stop until the attacks had been shut down and those responsible were behind bars.

“The world is burning about WannaCry, but this is a nuclear bomb compared to WannaCry,” Mr. Ben-Oni said. “This is different. It’s a lot worse. It steals credentials. You can’t catch it, and it’s happening right under our noses.”

And, he added, “The world isn’t ready for this.”

Targeting the Nerve Center . . .

Continue reading.

It gets worse. Later:

. . , No one he has spoken to knows whether they have been hit, but just this month, restaurants across the United States reported being hit with similar attacks that were undetected by antivirus systems. There are now YouTube videos showing criminals how to attack systems using the very same N.S.A. tools used against IDT, and Metasploit, an automated hacking tool, now allows anyone to carry out these attacks with the click of a button.

Worse still, Mr. Ben-Oni said, “No one is running point on this.” . . .

Later:

. . . Last month, he personally briefed the F.B.I. analyst in charge of investigating the WannaCry attack. He was told that the agency had been specifically tasked with WannaCry, and that even though the attack on his company was more invasive and sophisticated, it was still technically something else, and therefore the F.B.I. could not take on his case.

The F.B.I. did not respond to requests for comment. . .

The US will be destroyed because of bureaucratic turf issues.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 June 2017 at 8:37 pm

Moonlighting Genes Evolve for a Venomous Job

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Christie Wilcox writes in Quanta:

Venoms are among nature’s fiercest adaptations. The geographer’s cone snail, for example, only injects about a tenth of a milligram of venom when it stings, and yet, this is more than enough to kill a person in under an hour. These chemical cocktails contain some of the most potent compounds known, and their fearsome power has awed people since the dawn of history. It wasn’t until modern advances in genetics, though, that scientists were able to study how the genes encoding for such potent toxins arise, providing glimpses into the workings of evolution at the molecular level. From such studies came the current canonical model of how venom genes evolve through the chance replication and mutation of genes for enzymes, peptides and other proteins.

But new findings published today in Current Biology challenge this model, finding that the majority of toxin genes for parasitoid wasp species are instead “moonlighting” from other physiological roles. A further exciting implication is that if this discovery is relevant to compounds other than venoms, it might be a pathway that nature uses to develop other evolutionary solutions rapidly.

“I’ve been working on parasitoid wasps for a very long time,” remarked Jack Werren, a professor of biology at the University of Rochester. His fascination with these animals centers on their specialized venoms, which allow the wasps to be masterful physiological puppeteers. Parasitoid wasps are an enormous group of between 100,00 and 600,000 species that are parasitic when they are larvae, living on or frequently inside a host they eat alive. As free-living adults, they must find and subdue an appropriate creature to play host to their young, which they do with the aid of behavior-altering venoms. The emerald cockroach wasp, for example, transforms its formidable targets — cockroaches many times its size — into complacent meals for the wasps’ hungry offspring by manipulating the animals’ brain chemistry. The Glyptapanteles wasp goes even further, turning its caterpillar offerings into zombie bodyguards that protect the young wasps that have just eaten their way out of the caterpillars’ tissues. Another wasp, Reclinervellus nielseni, forces its arachnid victims to transform their webs into sturdy nests that will continue to protect the wasp larvae after the spiders expire.

“The venoms of parasitoids are quite different from those of most of the venomous animals that have been studied because they’ve evolved to manipulate metabolism” rather than to kill outright, Werren explained. He and Ellen O. Martinson, a postdoctoral fellow in his lab, were interested in understanding the diversity of toxins in parasitoid venoms and how those toxins evolve. They and their colleagues started by assembling genomes for several closely related wasp species, and they found something striking: Even close relatives among the wasps shared only about 30 to 40 percent of their venom genes. That surprisingly low number suggested the evolution of new species was accompanied by rapid turnover of the venom genes, with old genes being abandoned and new ones with novel venom functions suddenly arising. “Our next question was, okay, well what happened?” Werren said. “These genes that are being picked up, where are they coming from? And that got us into this broad question of: How do new genes’ functions evolve?”

Based largely on studies of snakes, spiders and other species dangerous to our own, it is thought that most venom genes arise through the mechanism of gene duplication followed by mutation and repurposing (which scientists refer to as neofunctionalization). The process begins when a gene for a molecule with a potentially toxic function, like a protein-chopping enzyme, is accidentally duplicated, typically during the formation of egg cells and sperm. The extra copy, free of the burden of performing the original gene’s biological duties, can accumulate changes through random mutations. Those changes may render the duplicate gene or its protein worthless, and it may disappear. Sometimes, however, those changes alter the protein in such a way that it becomes a useful toxin — and voilà, a venom toxin is born.

But when Martinson, Werren and their colleagues compared the venom proteins and genes from four closely related species of parasitoid wasps, that’s not what they saw. In stark contrast to studies of other venomous animals, they found that nearly half of the 53 most recently recruited venom genes uncovered through their genetic analyses were single-copy, meaning they were not duplicates of other genes with which evolution had tinkered. In fact, less than 10 percent of the toxin genes clearly arose through duplication and mutation. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 June 2017 at 7:36 pm

Posted in Evolution, Science

Criminal convictions per administration: Republicans 89, Democrats 1

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And that 1 was just collateral damage in Kenneth Starr’s crusade against all things Clinton.

Kevin Drum has more.

Average per administration figures:

Republicans: 17.8
Democrats: 0.25

So per administration the GOP has racked up more than 71 times as many convictions as the Democrats.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 June 2017 at 7:31 pm

President Trump and White House staffers are illegally deleting messages, lawsuit says

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Jason Silverstein reports in NY Daily News:

President Trump and his White House staffers are breaking federal law by using confidential messaging apps that keep their conversations from entering public records, a federal lawsuit charged Thursday.

Two Washington watchdog groups accused Trump and his workers of illegally deleting emails, official records and even tweets sent to millions of people.

“President Trump and others within the White House are either ignoring or outright flouting these responsibilities,” the civil complaint from the National Security Archive and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) says.

The deletions could be a violation of the Presidential Records Act, which says White House internal communications must be preserved.

The complaint documents many indications that Trump’s White House is openly defying records requirements.

It notes that Trump has deleted several of his tweets since becoming President, even though presidential tweets as expected to be kept as official records.

It also cites multiple media reports that said White House staffers have been communicating through Signal, an encrypted app, and Confide, an app that deletes messages after they are read.

Trump’s White House has no policies about how its staff should be using these apps and what the standards are for confidential conversations, the complaint says.

The suit also suggests White House employees might secretly be conducting business that would normally be handled by federal agencies that are subject to speedy records requests. Presidential records laws stipulate that internal White House messages can be made available to the public five years after a President leaves office. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 June 2017 at 6:30 pm

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