Archive for February, 2013

“Ben, the two of us need look no more …”

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Using brain implants, researchers at Duke University have allowed lab rats to communicate with each other, brain to brain, in a crude form of mental telepathy. In fact, researchers say, the two rats quickly began to collaborate, with one rat using its “brain-to-brain interface” to assist the second one in figuring out how to complete a task that would bring both of them a reward.*

In a sense, the two rats became a single biological entity. As researchers concluded, lab results “are a clear indicator that a fundamentally more complex system emerged from the operation of the BTBI; one which required considerable adaptation from the participant animals so that they could jointly perform the sensorimotor tasks.”

At one point, and just to show off, the experiment was conducted with one rat located in Brazil and a second in North Carolina, giving new meaning to Internet connectivity.

I will now give you a paragraph taken from the scientific paper reporting these discoveries, …

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When did Bob Woodward become such a weenie?

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Last night on CNN, Bob Woodward made national news when he complained that he had been threatened in an email exchange with an unnamed top White House official. According to the Watergate legend, the “very senior” official warned him that if he reported news about the sequestration in a way the White House did not like, “you will regret doing this.”

Put that way, it certainly sounds ominous. And just to drive the point home, Woodward repeated the claim in an interview with Politico:

“Woodward repeated the last sentence, making clear he saw it as a veiled threat. “ ‘You’ll regret.’ Come on,” he said. “I think if Obama himself saw the way they’re dealing with some of this, he would say, ‘Whoa, we don’t tell any reporter ‘you’re going to regret challenging us.’”

“They have to be willing to live in the world where they’re challenged,” Woodward continued in his calm, instantly recognizable voice. “I’ve tangled with lots of these people. But suppose there’s a young reporter who’s …

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Yawn … yet another budget crisis looms

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When a picture is worth a thousand words, go with the picture.

As my colleague Mike Luckovich depicts so well, the sequester is yet another in what is now seems like a never-ending series of artificial budget crises in Washington. What was once extraordinary has become ordinary.

The sequester, for example, is the bastard child of a previous crisis in 2011, when Republicans threatened to push the country into default by refusing to raise the debt ceiling. To get past that crisis, Washington created the sequester, timing the new crisis for after the election and designing it to be so painful to both parties that when the time came, Democrats and Republicans would surely be forced to compromise to avoid it.

They underestimated their own — or each other’s — intransigence. House Republicans have passed a plan to replace the sequester by gutting a series of government poverty and social service programs, in other words putting the burden entirely on those already …

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Conservatives have no interest in what Chris Christie might say

Yup, it's a real head-scratcher.

Yup, it’s a real head-scratcher.

Chris Christie is a nationally popular Republican governor of a blue state in the Northeast, a region where the GOP barely remains competitive. He has a 74 percent approval rating, in a state that Barack Obama carried by 18 percentage points. In fact, no Republican presidential candidate has managed to carry New Jersey since 1988.

Yet Christie has been pointedly NOT invited to speak to the highly influential Conservative Political Action Conference, which meets in Washington, D.C. next month. The confab is widely considered an essential showcase for Republicans with presidential aspirations.

Bobby Jindal will be there. A speech by Ted Cruz will close the convention. The NRA’s Wayne LaPierre has a place of honor on the program. Under the rubric “America’s Future: The Next Generation of Conservatives,” Republican up-and-comers Marco Rubio, Paul Ryan, Rand Paul and Sarah Palin — wait, Sarah Palin? — will thrill convention-goers.

And for anyone who …

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Sadly, the federal Voting Rights Act still has work to do

The federal Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965, in the aftermath of a bloody assault on voting-rights protesters in Selma, Ala.. The law remains one of the crowning achievements of the civil rights movement, but almost 50 years later, conservatives argue that important provisions of that law have outlived their usefulness.

There’s no question that the nation as a whole, and the South in particular, has made enormous strides over the past half century. Every American can take pride in those hard-won improvements. But has discrimination against minority voters in Georgia and other states disappeared to the point that federal intervention into state and local elections is no longer justified?

Ten years ago, I might have said yes. Not today. Passage of Georgia’s voter ID law back in 2005, and the legal battle that followed, changed my mind about the relevance of the Voting Rights Act, proving that it remains a necessary part of American law.

Today, Georgia’s voter ID law is …

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Pew: 65% of independents say GOP is ‘out of touch’

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From the Pew Research Center:

At a time when the Republican Party’s image is at a historic low, 62% of the public says the GOP is out of touch with the American people, 56% think it is not open to change and 52% say the party is too extreme….

Republicans are more critical of their party than Democrats are of theirs on most issues. For example, 36% of Republicans say the GOP is out of touch with the American people. Just 23% of Democrats say their party is out of touch. And while 30% of Republicans say their party is not open to change, just 10% of Democrats make the same criticism of their party.

However, Republicans overwhelmingly credit their party for having strong principles; 85% say the GOP has strong principles while 13% say it does not. And 80% of Republicans say their party is looking out for the country’s long-term future.

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Among independents, 65 percent say the GOP is out of touch with the American people, and just 39 percent say the party is open to …

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Drug-testing of welfare applicants violates Constitution

Today, a three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals voted unanimously to bar the state of Florida from forcing welfare applicants to undergo drug testing.

As the judges found:

“… the State failed to offer any factual support or to present any empirical evidence of a “concrete danger” of illegal drug use within Florida’s TANF population. The evidence in this record does not suggest that the population of TANF recipients engages in illegal drug use or that they misappropriate government funds for drugs at the expense of their own and their children’s basic subsistence. The State has presented no evidence that simply because an applicant for TANF benefits is having financial problems, he is also drug-addicted or prone to fraudulent and neglectful behavior.”

Exactly right. The state failed to offer “any factual support or to present any empirical evidence,” because no such evidence exists. As the judges went on to note, “there is nothing inherent to the condition of …

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On gay marriage, the GOP monolith crumbles a bit

From The New York Times:

WASHINGTON — Dozens of prominent Republicans — including top advisers to former President George W. Bush, four former governors and two members of Congress — have signed a legal brief arguing that gay people have a constitutional right to marry, a position that amounts to a direct challenge to Speaker John A. Boehner and reflects the civil war in the party since the November election.

The document will be submitted this week to the Supreme Court in support of a suit seeking to strike down Proposition 8, a California ballot initiative barring same-sex marriage, and all similar bans. The court will hear back-to-back arguments next month in that case and another pivotal gay rights case that challenges the 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act…

Legal analysts said the brief had the potential to sway conservative justices as much for the prominent names attached to it as for its legal arguments. The list of signers includes a string of Republican …

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How sequestration will affect Ga. citizens, businesses

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Because of required furloughs and spending reductions for TSA security agents, FAA air traffic controllers, customs agents and other personnel, flight delays of up to four hours are predicted at major airports such as Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

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On Friday, March 1, federal spending cuts forced by sequestration will be implemented. The total amount of spending to be cut — $85 billion — is somewhat small, but its impact is magnified by three specific provisions of the sequestration law:

1.) Major budgetary areas such as Social Security, interest on the debt, the Department of Veterans Affairs and military pay are off-limits to cuts. Cuts in Medicare reimbursement are limited to 2 percent. That concentrates spending reductions to remaining portions of the budget.

2.) By law, federal agencies that do face sequestration do not have the ability to pick and choose which programs will be cut or by how much. All cuts must be across the board, by …

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First Mom struts her stuff

Cue expressions of horror.

Do you think Mary Todd Lincoln did it like this?

– Jay Bookman

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