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Topics - VoxRat


Hoping to thwart a sophisticated malware system linked to Russia that has infected hundreds of thousands of internet routers, the F.B.I. has made an urgent request to anybody with one of the devices: Turn it off, and then turn it back on.

The malware is capable of blocking web traffic, collecting information that passes through home and office routers and disabling the devices entirely, the bureau announced on Friday.

A global network of hundreds of thousands of routers is already under the control of the Sofacy Group, the Justice Department said last week. That group, which is also known as A.P.T. 28 and Fancy Bear and believed to be directed by Russia's military intelligence agency, hacked the Democratic National Committee ahead of the 2016 presidential election, according to American and European intelligence agencies.
Science / Ebola Outbreak in DRC
In the past five weeks, there have been 21 suspected viral haemorrhagic fever in and around the iIkoko Iponge, including 17 deaths.
Something to keep an eye on. 
CNN article
Nature article: Earliest known hominin activity in the Philippines by 709 thousand years ago.

From the abstract:
Here we describe the results of recent excavations at Kalinga in the Cagayan Valley of northern Luzon in the Philippines that have yielded 57 stone tools associated with an almost-complete disarticulated skeleton of Rhinoceros philippinensis, which shows clear signs of butchery, together with other fossil fauna remains attributed to stegodon, Philippine brown deer, freshwater turtle and monitor lizard. All finds originate from a clay-rich bone bed that was dated to between 777 and 631 thousand years ago using electron-spin resonance methods that were applied to tooth enamel and fluvial quartz. This evidence pushes back the proven period of colonization6 of the Philippines by hundreds of thousands of years, and furthermore suggests that early overseas dispersal in Island South East Asia by premodern hominins took place several times during the Early and Middle Pleistocene stages1,2,3,4

No clue about who these hominins were or anything about them.
Just a bunch of stone tools, and the fact that a rhinoceros was butchered.
I mean, I have limited respect or sympathy for anyone who would have a consensual sexual relationship with that abomination :barf:
And I doubt her motivations here have much to do with altruism or patriotism.

But, hey. News is news.

CBS tentatively sets March 25 for airing '60 Minutes' interview with Stormy Daniels

Porn star Stormy Daniels' crowdfunding campaign to battle Trump raises $150,000 in two days
In less than two full days, former porn star Stormy Daniels raised more than $150,000 through a crowdfunding campaign to help fund her legal fight against President Donald Trump and his lawyer Michael Cohen.

The campaign, launched on Wednesday via, will collect pledges from Daniels' supporters for 30 days. By 10:30 a.m. ET Friday, the online fundraiser received donations from more than 5,000 people totaling $152,304.

Stormy Daniels Physically Threatened To Keep Quiet, Attorney Tells 'Morning Joe'
As a group interview of Daniels' attorney Michael Avenatti had already came to a close, co-host Mika Brzezinski, seemingly as an afterthought, asked the lawyer if Daniels had been threatened in any way.

"Yes," Avenatti responded.

A surprised Brzezinski followed up with, "Was she threatened with physical harm?"

"Yes," Avenatti said.

Stormy Daniels, you're our only hope
... At this moment, there aren't many people left who are in a position to stop Trump and his increasing appetite for war.

There is James Mattis, the secretary of defence who worked with Rex Tillerson to restrain Trump's most wild-eyed impulses. But it is unlikely such a bond could be forged with Pompeo.

There is Robert Mueller, of course, the tenacious special counsel whose investigation into Trump's ties with Russia appears to be getting dangerously close to the Oval Office. But if Trump becomes desperate, we shouldn't forget that he has the power to fire Mueller.

And finally, there is adult film star Stormy Daniels who says -- quite credibly, it seems -- that she had an affair with Trump in 2006 just after his wife Melania gave birth to their son. She is believed to have photos and emails to prove it.

Who would have thought that the future of America's democracy might one day hinge on whether or not a porn star gets the chance to tell her story?

Trump flips his own script when it comes to Stormy Daniels
The president directly engaged women who accused him of sexual impropriety during the campaign but has stayed uncharacteristically quiet on the porn actress.
Politics and Current Events / Arpaio for Senate!
Joe Arpaio, controversial sheriff pardoned by Trump, enters Arizona Senate race

Now that we don't have Roy Moore to kick around any more.

Pope Francis has called for a translation of a phrase about temptation in the Lord's Prayer to be changed.
The current wording that says "lead us not into temptation" is not a good translation because God does not lead humans to sin, he says.
His suggestion is to use "do not let us fall into temptation" instead, he told Italian TV on Wednesday night.

Since I think 'theology' is all basically bullshit, my reaction is basically "... whatever ..."
(Though I have to admit that, as popes go, I rather like this one, and inasmuch as this tweak seems to be a move in the direction of people being responsible for their screw-ups rather than blaming them on some invisible inexorable force, that's not a bad thing.)

But I'm not sure about the linguistic assertion.
From my admittedly superficial acquaintance with 'koiné' the ancient Greek dialect in which the New Testament was written,
"and lead us not into temptation" is a pretty accurate English representation of  "καὶ μὴ εἰσενέγκῃς ἡμᾶς εἰς πειρασμόν". 

(Faid? Are you here?)

One might question whether those Greek words are an accurate translation of words allegedly originally spoken in Aramaic, but as no record of those Aramaic words exists (as far as I know) I think His Holiness is on shaky ground, linguistically if not theologically.



Texas: 14-Year Old Virgin Falls Pregnant After Flu Shot
A 14-year old schoolgirl has suffered serious complications after a flu shot allegedly left the young girl terribly ill and with severe cramps, until the family doctor finally realized weeks later she had been impregnated by the vaccine, reports the Forth Worth Telegram this week.

"She had all the typical symptoms of a pregnant woman. It's not the first time a young woman falls pregnant without the consent of her parents, but the girl seemed sincere when she said she had never had sexual relations with a boy, and she urged me to check her hymen, which I eventually did, and to my utter surprise, the hymen was fully intact. It is impossible she has been impregnated by male sperm" she assures. "In my 26 years of practice, I have never heard once of such a thing as someone being impregnated by a vaccine, but I did some research and found out it is more common than most people think".
And it's not just the flu vaccine!
The United Nations estimates over 4,000 people each year fall pregnant to vaccine shots, but a 2012 World Health Organization (WHO) report concludes the benefits of mass vaccination campaigns worldwide are well worth the risk.

Hey! It's from World News Daily Report, which our resident PhD in Truth Detection regards as reliable. Not Fake News, like the mainstream media. fact check, just for the record.
In biology, the dinosaurian origins of birds is pretty much settled science.
Apparently Dave Hawkins - unburdened by even basic high school textbook knowledge of the subject, let alone reading a single research article - knows better.  Here's his chance to set science straight.
( although with Darwinists, you never know because supposedly birds are a type of dinosaur )
You're confusing "Darwinists" with "scientists".
The dinosaurian origins of birds is well established.
What evidence do you - someone who has not read a single paper on the subject - have to the contrary?
Let's discuss that elsewhere ...
I've never actually watched it, mind you.
But I've never heard a good word about it from anyone who seems the least bit sophisticated.
And the idea of a TV comedy that sounds like the premise is exploitation of autism spectrum people pisses me off.

There is a Netflix comedy series called "Atypical", though, about an AS kid and his family that is sympathetic and gets a lot right.
An enormous prospective study of food intake in adults, reported here, challenges several staunchly held beliefs about dietary components and their association with health risks: finding, for example that diets rich in fats, including saturated fats, don't increase mortality risk, but high-carbohydrate diets do.
And the study, called PURE (Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology), also found that the benefits of fruits, vegetables, and legumes top out at just three to four total servings per day.

In sum, the results suggest that nutritional guidelines and conventional wisdom regarding these basic dietary elements may be seriously mistaken.

The actual paper (paywalled, but you can read the abstract for free):
GOP rep asks NASA panel if there were ancient civilizations on Mars
"You have indicated that Mars had, was totally different thousands of years ago. Is it possible that there was a civilization on Mars thousands of years ago?" Rohrabacher asked.

Kenneth Farley, a project scientist on NASA's Mars Rover 2020 Project, said the congressman's premise behind the question was inaccurate because evidence showed that Mars was significantly different billions of years ago, not thousands.
Thousands... billions... whatever
"There is no evidence that I'm aware of," Farley said.

"Would you rule that out?" Rohrabacher asked, referring to civilizations existing on the planet.

"I would say that is extremely unlikely," Farley responded.

Embarrassing enough if it were just any member of congress, but
Mr. Rohrabacher is currently serving as Vice Chairman of the Science, Space and Technology Committee and has also served as a member of the Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee since he first entered Congress in 1989, presiding 8 years as Chairman.
wtf, Europe?

The Court of Justice of the European Union ruled Wednesday that courts may consider vaccines to be the cause of an illness, even in the absence of scientific evidence confirming a link.
Regular drinkers may find their mental abilities beginning to slip as they age.

Overall, the study found, people who regularly drank showed more atrophy in a brain region called the hippocampus, versus those who'd consistently been occasional drinkers or abstainers.

Hippocampus size is linked to memory, explained lead researcher Dr Anya Topiwala. Atrophy in that brain region, she said, is one of the early changes seen in Alzheimer's disease.

This study makes me feel...  < can't think of the word >

I wonder if someone who's conversant in neuropsych research and brain imaging wants to give us her expert opinion on this article.

Link to the research paper
Science / Newest oldest Homo sapiens!
Scientists discover the oldest Homo sapiens fossils at Jebel Irhoud, Morocco

An international research team led by Jean-Jacques Hublin of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology (Leipzig, Germany) and Abdelouahed Ben-Ncer of the National Institute for Archaeology and Heritage (INSAP, Rabat, Morocco) uncovered fossil bones of Homo sapiens along with stone tools and animal bones at Jebel Irhoud, Morocco. The finds are dated to about 300 thousand years ago and represent the oldest securely dated fossil evidence of our own species. This date is 100 thousand years earlier than the previous oldest Homo sapiens fossils.
"We used to think that there was a cradle of mankind 200 thousand years ago in east Africa, but our new data reveal that Homo sapiens spread across the entire African continent around 300 thousand years ago. Long before the out-of-Africa dispersal of Homo sapiens, there was dispersal within Africa," says palaeoanthropologist Jean-Jacques Hublin.

... if the vaccination is done by untrained individuals (including children!) who don't keep the vaccine sterile and they end up injecting a live bacterial culture into the vaccinees.

A Botched Vaccine Campaign For Measles Killed 15 Children in South Sudan

In a tragic turn in South Sudan, an effort to protect 15 children ended up killing them.

The children, all under age 5, died of severe sepsis and toxicity due to a botched vaccination campaign, according to a joint statement issued Thursday by UNICEF and the World Health Organization.

The vaccine had been left unrefrigerated. One syringe was reused over the course of four days.
Politics and Current Events / Comey
I was going to put this under Trumpocalypse, or Kompromat, but those have become so crowded with separate Trumpocalyptic subthreads, I thought L'affaire Comey deserves its own thread. So apologies if someone's started this discussion in one of the others.

Trump threatens Comey in Twitter outburst

President Donald Trump issued a thinly veiled threat Friday to fired FBI Director James Comey, an extraordinary development in the ongoing feud between the President and the agencies investigating alleged ties between his campaign and Russia.

The tweet seemed to suggest there are possibly recorded conversations between Trump and Comey that could be leaked to counter the former FBI director if necessary: "James Comey better hope that there are no 'tapes' of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press."

This is just...  extraordinary*. 

Now with the President of the United States insulting him and his work, what's he supposed to do?
Is he not expected, or allowed, to correct the record?

just... not enough wtf's

* (gave up searching for the word that captures the full enormity of this.)
Anti-vaccine activists spark a state's worst measles outbreak in decades
The young mother started getting advice early on from friends in the close-knit Somali immigrant community here. Don't let your children get the vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella -- it causes autism, they said.

Suaado Salah listened. And this spring, her 3-year-old boy and 18-month-old girl contracted measles in Minnesota's largest outbreak of the highly infectious and potentially deadly disease in nearly three decades. Her daughter, who had a rash, high fever and a cough, was hospitalized for four nights and needed intravenous fluids and oxygen. ...

Last month, with immunization rates having plummeted, the first cases of measles appeared. In just weeks, there was a full-blown outbreak, one of the starkest consequences of an intensifying anti-vaccine movement in the United States and around the world that has gained traction in part by targeting specific communities.
Science / Origins of Indonesian hobbits

The most comprehensive study on the bones of Homo floresiensis, a species of tiny human discovered on the Indonesian island of Flores in 2003, has found that they most likely evolved from an ancestor in Africa and not from Homo erectus as has been widely believed.
"The analyses show that on the family tree, Homo floresiensis was likely a sister species of Homo habilis. It means these two shared a common ancestor," Dr Argue said.
"It's possible that Homo floresiensis evolved in Africa and migrated, or the common ancestor moved from Africa then evolved into Homo floresiensis somewhere."
Now that Trump has weighed in, I think this deserves its own thread, outside of Dave Hawkins's Alternative Reality Shit Show.

Trump, Citing No Evidence, Suggests Susan Rice Committed Crime
President Trump said on Wednesday that he thought that the former national security adviser Susan E. Rice may have committed a crime by seeking the identities of Trump associates who were swept up in the surveillance of foreign officials by American spy agencies and that other Obama administration officials may also have been involved. ...

Mr. Trump, who has a history of promising to produce evidence to back up his unverified claims, and failing to do so, did not make clear what crime he was accusing Ms. Rice of committing. It is legal and not unusual for a national security adviser to request the identities of Americans who are mentioned in intelligence reports.
I was vacillating between posting this in "Science" or "Politics", but then remembered we have this special place for exactly this kind of thing.

The Heartland Institute, a Chicago-based think tank promoting public policy based on individual liberty, limited government, and free markets, has mailed 25,000 copies of its book "Why Scientists Disagree About Global Warming" and an accompanying explanatory DVD to science teachers across the United States. It plans to continue the campaign until all 200,000 K-12 science teachers in the country have a copy.

< clip most of article, which you should read >

One teacher who won't be using the book is Lori Baker, a sixth-grade science teacher from Indiana, who described the contents of the package as follows: "I read quite a bit of the book, actually, and it was extremely frustrating. It's an attempt to sound science literate, but there's very little actual data," she told Frontline.

Specifically, she cited the first paragraph of the forward, which called Obama's description of the threat of climate change as "laughable" in comparison to the terrorist activities of the Islamic State militant group.

"That as a foreword to something claiming to be scientific is pretty shocking," said Ms. Baker.
introductory article for middle-school level inquiring minds.
 Or "fake news" - depending on which side of The Looking Glass you call home.
I guess "Alternative Science" is the right place for this.
He made that case in an op-ed article published in 2000 and has made no public effort to update his position since.

"Time for a quick reality check," Pence wrote. "Despite the hysteria from the political class and the media, smoking doesn't kill. In fact, 2 out of every three smokers does not die from a smoking related illness and 9 out of ten smokers do not contract lung cancer."

I have a feeling there's going to be a high demand for :facepalm: s in the coming years.
Science / They're bringing the aurochs back!
The wild, extinct supercow returning to Europe
For thousands of years the aurochs were the largest land mammals in Europe, until the rise of human civilization decimated their numbers, and the last of the species died in Poland in 1627 -- one of the first recorded cases of extinction.
Conservationists now believe the loss of the keystone herbivore was tragic for biodiversity in Europe, arguing that the aurochs' huge appetite for grazing provided a natural "gardening service" that maintained landscapes and created the conditions for other species to thrive.
The theory is now being put to the test, as a "near 100% substitute" of the beast is returned to the forests.
Rather than attempt the type of gene editing or high-tech de-extinction approaches being employed for species from woolly mammoths to passenger pigeons, Goderie chose a method known as back-breeding to create a substitute bovine he named "Tauros."
Auroch genes remain present in various breeds of cattle around the continent, and the team identified descendants in Spain, Portugal, Italy and the Balkans. Geneticists advised breeding certain species together to produce offspring closer to the qualities of an auroch, and then breed the offspring.

(quibble: the article uses "auroch" as singular; I believe "aurochs" is both singular and plural:
one moose, two moose; one aurochs, two aurochs )

Two separate studies identified a single mutation in the ebolavirus  surface protein that resulted in more infectious (for humans) virus.
Human Adaptation of Ebola Virus during the West African Outbreak
Ebola Virus Glycoprotein with Increased Infectivity Dominated the 2013-2016 Epidemic

Washington Post summary here

The good news is that, with the human to human infection chain now broken, that mutant has a tougher time surviving in the reservoir (bats), so the next outbreak can't just pick up where the last one left off and build even greater infectivity on it.