Later On

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

Archive for April 26th, 2018

If you love Euler’s number, watch this

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Good approximation, I’d say. (Much better than the approximation for π that I used frequently in Forth (355/113), especially with */.)

Written by LeisureGuy

26 April 2018 at 10:06 pm

Posted in Math, Video

“Make America Dinner Again”

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Very interesting.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 April 2018 at 9:57 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food, Politics, Video

Stockfish takes apart a classic chess problem, blowing up the accepted solution

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Worth watching if you like chess:

Written by LeisureGuy

26 April 2018 at 9:55 pm

Posted in Chess, Games

Free Yale on-line course: “The Science of Well-Being” (i.e., happiness)

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Looks interesting, and it’s free. I’m in.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 April 2018 at 6:22 pm

Posted in Daily life, Education

Pruitt: Memo from Inspector General justifies my actions; Inspector General: I did not write that memo

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Timothy Cama reports in The Hill:

The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Inspector General (OIG) pushed back Thursday against EPA head Scott Pruitt, saying he misrepresented a memo about the threats against him in testimony to the House.

In two separate hearings Thursday, Pruitt presented to lawmakers a “threat assessment” that he said came from Inspector General Arthur Elkins detailing various death threats against him.

He used the memo to justify his security costs, including the purchase of first-class airline tickets and the employment of a 24/7 security detail.

But the OIG says the document wasn’t from Elkins.

“The memo that he read from was not from Inspector General Elkins. It was an internal memo from Assistant IG for Investigations Patrick Sullivan,” OIG spokeswoman Kentia Elbaum said in a statement.

“It was leaked without authorization,” Elbaum said, adding that the OIG plans to release it soon in response to a Freedom of Information Act request.

Elbaum’s statement described Pruitt as “waving a document he said was from the Inspector General.”

At the afternoon hearing with the House Appropriations Committee’s subcommittee with authority over the EPA’s budget, Rep. Betty McCollum(Minn.), the subpanel’s top Democrat, repeatedly asked Pruitt whether the document was from Elkins.

“The document says ‘inspector general,’” Pruitt replied. He similarly claimed earlier to the House Energy and Commerce Committee that the inspector general wrote the report.

Sullivan has told multiple news outlets that Pruitt has gotten far more death threats than previous EPA administrators.

“We have at least four times — four to five times the number of threats against Mr. Pruitt than we had against Ms. [Gina] McCarthy,” he told CNN.

The New York Times reported this month that Sullivan was spotted drinking at a bar near the EPA’s headquarters with Pasquale Perrotta, the head of Pruitt’s security detail and the impetus behind much of Pruitt’s high-level security.

That spurred . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 April 2018 at 3:22 pm

Human Brain Gain: Computer Models Hint at Why We Bested Neandertals

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Simon Makin writes in Scientific American:

The parallel existence of an intelligent species closely related to us has long fascinated scientists and the public alike. The most debated issue is why Neandertals ultimately disappeared. Potential explanations include violent conflict with Homo sapiens, disease, difficulty adapting to rapid environmental and climate change, interbreeding with modern humans and differences between the two species in technical, social and cognitive abilities.

Now new research from a group led by paleoanthropologist Takeru Akazawa of Kochi University of Technology in Japan has shed light on the question using computational techniques to reconstruct the Neandertal brain and estimate differences in the size of specific regions between species. The results add weight to the idea that cognitive differences contributed to the Neandertals being out-competed and ultimately replaced by our ancestors.

The study, published April 5 in Scientific Reports, used fossils of four Neandertals and four early human skulls to estimate the shapes and structures of their brains. “Previous studies studied shape differences of braincases but there are no studies of reconstruction of the brain itself,” says biomechanical engineer and co-lead author Naomichi Ogihara of Keio University in Japan. “Our method allows estimation of the shape and volume of each brain region, which is quite impossible just by analyzing the endocranial surfaces.”

The team achieved this feat by averaging brain scans from 1,185 living humans to generate a model of the average human brain. “[The authors] deform a statistical model of the human brain onto Neandertals’ braincases, proposing a new method to delineate the brain in fossil species,” says paleoneurologist Emiliano Bruner of the National Research Center for Human Evolution in Spain who was not involved in the study. This allowed them to estimate what the brains of the two species may have looked like and how specific regions may have differed between them.

The results show that although there was no difference in the overall size of Neandertals’ brains, significant differences may have characterized the dimensions of specific regions, particularly the cerebellum. “This was surprising since the cerebellum is traditionally considered important for motor-related functions, Ogihara says. “We initially expected that the frontal lobe would be different between the two species because it has been considered to be related to higher cognitive functions, but it was not the case.”

The researchers, however, went further by analyzing correlations between brain scans and behavioral data in an existing database (from the Human Connectome Project). They found greater cerebellum volume is associated with abilities such as cognitive flexibility, attention, language processing and memory. “The paper gives the impression the cerebellum is intimately involved in a large number of higher cognitive functions, says evolutionary psychologist Robin Dunbar of the University of Oxford in England who was not involved in the work. “This isn’t strictly true—its function seems to be rather one of coordination between different brain units and cognitive processings—in effect, making sure computations are done in the right order. That role is almost certainly crucial to higher cognitive functions and allows us to do what we do,” he says. One reason for the importance of cerebellum volume, the authors suggest, is that unlike other regions it consists of a large array of identical processing units, so larger volumes logically equate to higher processing capacity.

One caveat, Bruner says, is the methods used in the study would be blind to any brain changes that occurred after Neandertals split from humans on the evolutionary tree.  . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 April 2018 at 2:39 pm

Posted in Evolution, Science

Fox News twists CNN’s Acosta’s words about threats to journalists

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Fox News is worth avoiding because of their deliberate and systematic distortions of the news. And Sarah Huckabee Sanders, if karma and reincarnation are true, can look forward to her next life as a silverfish. Oliver Darcy reports at CNN Media:

Fox News, accompanied by a flurry of right-wing media organizations, took remarks made by Jim Acosta, CNN’s chief White House correspondent, out of context on Wednesday to suggest he was disparaging the intellectual prowess of President Trump’s supporters.

Speaking to Variety magazine about what it’s like to cover the Trump White House, Acosta commented on the threats journalists doing so often face. He remarked that individuals who might send such threats to reporters “don’t know” that the “fake news” attacks from Trump and his allies are “an act.”

“They don’t have all their faculties in some cases, their elevator might not hit all floors,” Acosta said. “My concern is that a journalist is going to be hurt one of these days. Somebody’s going to get hurt.”

But Fox News and other pro-Trump media organizations twisted Acosta’s comments to suggest he was saying Trump voters are not smart.

On “Fox & Friends,” the highest-rated morning news program on cable news, which the president frequently watches, the chyron at the bottom of the screen read, “ACOSTA: TRUMP VOTERS CAN’T GRASP HIS ACT.” When the program aired a clip of Acosta’s remarks, it conveniently stopped playing immediately before he spoke directly of the possibility of journalists getting hurt.

Throughout the morning, the “Fox & Friends” hosts ridiculed Acosta. Steve Doocy said that what Acosta was saying is that “the people who voted for [Trump] are crazy.” Ainsley Earhardt said Acosta had said Trump voters “don’t have their faculties.” And Fox News contributor Tomi Lahren said Acosta’s remarks were an example of “the leftist mainstream media insulting Trump voters” and calling them “stupid.”

Over on Fox Business, the sister station of Fox News, host Stuart Varney questioned how Acosta can continue to perform his job: “Can he cover the White House with an opinion like that?” he asked.

Sean Spicer, the former White House secretary, also used the out-of-context remark to slam Acosta. Spicer said on “Fox & Friends” that for Acosta to “frankly make fun of and ridicule people around this country is really sad.”

Acosta responded to the misleading media coverage on Twitter, where he wrote that his comments had been “twisted by some outlets.

“As you can plainly see, I’m not referring to Trump supporters,” Acosta said, including a link to the video and transcript of his remarks in his tweet. “I am talking about people who threaten journalists.” . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 April 2018 at 9:45 am

Bannon directed Cambridge Analytica to research discouraging voter turnout, whistleblower says

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The GOP is increasingly coming out into the open with its authoritarian and anti-democratic, anti-American views and practices. One example is Mick Mulvaney, who is working to remove any consumer protections in financial matters by destroying the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. He said that he would not even talk to a lobbyist until and unless the lobbyist donated money to him.

And the GOP’s long campaign to prevent Democratic-leaning voters from having a vote is also coming into the open. Ali Breland reports in The Hill:

Whistleblower Christopher Wylie told House Democrats on Tuesday that former Trump campaign strategist Stephen Bannon asked Cambridge Analytica to research voter suppression techniques.

Wylie told House Judiciary Democrats and the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee during a private briefing that Bannon directed the British research firm to explore methods for “discouraging particular types of voters who are more prone to voting for Democratic or liberal candidates.”

The whistleblower also told House Democrats that Bannon directed the firm to test messaging regarding Russia, Vladimir Putin and Russian expansion in Eastern Europe.

“It was the only foreign issue or foreign leader, I should say, being tested at the time I was there,” Wylie told lawmakers.

Bannon was a founder of Cambridge Analytica and held a position on its board before joining the Trump campaign.

Wylie also shed light on Michael Flynn’s advisory role at the research firm, saying that his function was to “open doors and look at potential contracts” for the company as a consultant.

The research firm, which Wylie described on Tuesday as a “full-service propaganda machine,” has been embroiled in controversy since Facebook disclosed that it would cut ties with Cambridge Analytica over its improperly harvesting the data of 87 million Facebook users.

While Facebook has been under scrutiny in the matter, it has tried to shift at least some of the blame to Cambridge Analytica, characterizing it as a rogue actor that violated its data policies.

Members of the House Intelligence Committee held a separate closed-door meeting with Wylie on Wednesday.

That committee’s top Democrat, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), said in a statement after the meeting that Wylie outlined connections between Cambridge Analytica, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and WikiLeaks, but did not provide specifics on those ties.

According to Schiff, Wylie provided new details on . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 April 2018 at 9:32 am

Posted in Election, GOP, Technology

Michael Cohen will take the Fifth. Trump has said innocent people don’t do that.

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James Hohmann writes in the Washington Post:

THE BIG IDEA: Neither President Trump nor his lawyer wants to talk under oath. [But earlier Trump had said that he was eager to be interviewed by Mueller. – LG]

— Michael Cohen — Trump’s longtime attorney and consigliere — told a federal judge in California last night that he will invoke his Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate himself in a civil case brought by adult entertainer Stormy Daniels. He made the declaration as part of a request to pause that lawsuit, citing an “ongoing criminal investigation by the FBI and U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York.”

— Separately, Rudy Giuliani — who joined Trump’s legal team last week — met with special counsel Robert Mueller to reopen negotiations for a presidential interview. The former New York mayor, who has known Mueller for decades, “conveyed the ongoing resistance of Trump and his advisers to an interview with federal investigators, but did not rule out the possibility,” Robert Costa and Carol Leonning report. “One person briefed on the discussions described the session as relaxed and an opportunity for both sides to ‘feel each other out.’ Still, Trump remains ‘extremely opposed’ to granting Mueller an interview, according to one close adviser— setting up a potential high-stakes legal battle between the White House and the special counsel, who could ultimately seek to try to subpoena the president.”

Trump soured on meeting with Mueller as soon as he learned on April 9 that Cohen was under criminal investigation by federal prosecutors in Manhattan. That’s the day the FBI raided Cohen’s office and residences seeking his communications with Trump before the 2016 election and records related to two women who received payments during the campaign to stay quiet about sexual encounters they say they had with Trump. Cohen has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and has not been charged with a crime.

— “In New York, meanwhile, lawyers for Cohen and Trump continue to fight for the ability to review material seized in the raids before prosecutors have access to it,” Emma Brown and Rosalind Helderman report. “In letters to the court filed Wednesday, lawyers for Cohen, Trump and the Trump Organization said they were prepared to put significant resources into quickly reviewing the documents.”

The president is offering to personally review the materials seized from Cohen’s office. “Our client will make himself available, as needed, to aid in our privilege review on his behalf,” Trump’s lawyers wrote.

— Appearing on “Fox & Friends” this morning, Trump sought to distance himself from Cohen. He said his lawyer is really more of a businessman. “I have nothing to do with his business,” Trump said.

But after saying recently that he was unaware of the payments to Daniels, he acknowledged that Cohen represented him in the case: . . .

Appearing on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Daniels’s attorney called that a “hugely damaging admission.” He also tweeted this of Cohen taking the Fifth:  . . .

Continue reading. There’s a lot more.

Later in the article:

— A remarkable Fox News poll that just published finds that a 56 percent majority of Americans believe it’s “likely” Mueller’s probe will find Trump committed criminal or impeachable offenses. That includes 85 percent of Democrats but also 22 percent of Republicans. Three other nuggets:

  • 67 percent say it is at least somewhat important the investigation continues.
  • 64 percent feel confident Mueller is treating the White House fairly.
  • 71 percent think it’s likely Trump will fire Mueller before the investigation is complete.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 April 2018 at 9:09 am

Legal Marijuana Dispensaries Appear to Reduce Opioid Abuse

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Kevin Drum notes a Mark Kleiman post:

Does access to legal marijuana reduce opioid abuse? It’s a tricky question to answer, but Mark Kleiman points today to a recent Rand report that tests the effect of medical marijuana laws between 1999-2013 on both opioid deaths and treatment for opioid addiction.

The study finds that medical marijuana laws appear to have almost no effect on opioid use. What’s important, it turns out, is the existence of legally-protected dispensaries. Once those are in operation, the authors estimate that within a few years admission to addiction treatment programs declines 38 percent and opioid deaths decline 25 percent:

It’s worth noting a couple of things. First, these numbers tend to vary a fair amount depending on precisely which years are included in the study and which controls are used. Second, the total distribution of legal opioid painkillers doesn’t decline after legal marijuana dispensaries become active. Taken together, this means that (a) the findings aren’t especially robust, (b) the paper is unable to say why opioid abuse seems to decline after legal dispensaries are opened, and (c) the sample sizes are fairly modest—something that’s inevitable since we’re still in the early days of legal pot dispensaries.

Those are all good reasons not to treat these results as gospel. FWIW, I’d add another: the results seem too large. It makes sense that opioid abuse might decline when a different kind of pain therapy becomes widely available, but it’s a little hard to believe that the effect would be this large within just a few years. For more reasons to be cautious about these results, Kleiman has you covered in his post. However,  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 April 2018 at 9:05 am

Maggard 22mm synthetic, Dr. Jon’s Propaganda, iKon X3, and Chatillon Lux

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Propaganda has a fragrance I like, and Dr. Jon’s (handcrafted) shaving soaps always give a good lather, helped along this morning with Maggard Razors’ 22mm synthetic, one of the brushes that is just right for me.

Three easy passes of the iKon X3 (here on a UFO handle) and a splash of Vide Poche and the day is well-launched.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 April 2018 at 8:45 am

Posted in Shaving

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