horror

Here we are now, entertain us

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A 30,000-year-old giant virus has been revived from the frozen Siberian tundra, sparking concern that increased mining and oil drilling in rapidly warming northern latitudes could disturb dormant microbial life that could one day prove harmful to man.

The latest find, described online Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, appears to belong to a new family of mega-viruses that infect only amoeba. But its revival in a laboratory stands as “a proof of principle that we could eventually resurrect active infectious viruses from different periods,” said the study’s lead author, microbiologist Jean-Michel Claverie of Aix-Marseille University in France.

{ LA Times | Continue reading }

photo { John Gutmann, I am the Magic Hand, 1937 }

Give us that brisket off the hook. Plup.

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The most disturbing thing that ever happened at the Ueno Zoo was the systematic slaughter of the garden’s most famous and valuable animals in the summer of 1943. At the height of the Second World War, as the Japanese empire teetered on the brink of collapse, the zoo was transformed from a wonderland of imperial amusement and exotic curiosity into a carefully ritualized abattoir, a public altar for the sanctification of creatures sacrificed in the service of total war and of ultimate surrender to emperor and nation. The cult of military martyrdom is often recognized as a central component of Japanese fascist culture, but events at the zoo add a chilling new dimension to that analysis. They show that the pursuit of total mobilization extended into areas previously unexamined, suggesting how the culture of total war became a culture of total sacrifice after 1943. […] The killings were carried out in secret until nearly one-third of the garden’s cages stood empty, their former inhabitants’ carcasses hauled out of the zoo’s service entrance in covered wheelbarrows during the dark hours before dawn.

{ University of California Press | PDF }

This unprecedented ceremony known as the “Memorial Service for Martyred Animals” was held on the zoo’s grounds where nearly a third of the cages stood empty. Lions from Abyssinia, tigers representative of Japan’s troops, bears from Manchuria, Malaya and Korea, an American bison, and many others had been clubbed, speared, poisoned and hacked to death in secret. Although the zoo’s director had found a way to save some of the condemned creatures by moving them to zoos outside Tokyo, Mayor Ōdaichi Shigeo insisted on their slaughter. Ōdaichi himself, along with Imperial Prince Takatsukasa Nobusuke and the chief abbot of Asakusa’s Sensōji Temple, presided over the carefully choreographed and highly publicized “Memorial Service”, thanking the animals for sacrificing themselves for Japan’s war effort.

{ The Times Literary Supplement | Continue reading }

art { Ito Shinsui, After the bath, 1917 }

Equipped with a 9 mm Intratec TEC-9 semi-automatic handgun with one 52-, one 32-, and one 28-round magazine and a 12-gauge Stevens 311D double-barreled sawed-off shotgun

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We define mass murder as the intentional killing of 3 or more individuals, excluding the perpetrator, during one event, and have studied cases in both the US and overseas. […]

Immediately following a mass murder, there is a steady stream of newspaper headlines and what I call “entertainment profilers” who appear on television and proclaim that the perpetrator “snapped.” There is no known psychological term called “snapping,” but it appears to be the assumption of many that anyone who commits a mass murder has done it impulsively, without any planning or preparation, and has completely lost control. […] Our research, and others’ studies, have consistently shown that mass murderers, whether adolescents or adults, will research, plan, and prepare for their act of targeted violence over the course of days, weeks, and even months. […]

Since 1976, there have been about 20 mass murders a year. […] What was the most lethal school mass murder in US history? It was in Bath, Michigan, in 1927, and the bombing resulted in the deaths of 45 people, mostly children in the second to sixth grades. […]

The majority of adult mass murderers—not adolescent shooters—are psychotic, meaning they have broken with consensual reality, and now perceive the world in an idiosyncratic and often paranoid way. Yet they may research the internet for the appropriate weapons, practice video games to sharpen their marksmanship, purchase weapons and ammunition online, conduct surveillance of the target, probe for security protecting the target, and tactically carry out their mass murder, all from within a delusion. Paradoxically, delusions may help the mass murderer eliminate any ambivalence in his mind, and commit him irrevocably to a path of homicidal destruction. Our research has also found that mass murderers who are psychotic have a higher casualty rate than those who are not. Typically they will select victims who are complete strangers, yet in their mind those strangers make up a “pseudocommunity” of persecutors bent on their destruction. […]

[T]here is a warning behavior that is quite frequent: mass murderers, both adolescents and adults, will leak their intent to others. This leakage has been defined by us as the communication to a third party of an intent to attack a target; put more simply, it is a phrase expressed to another, or posted on the internet, that raises concern. It may be overt: “I’m going to kill my supervisor and his cohorts tomorrow”; or it may be covert: “don’t come to work tomorrow, but watch the news.” The logical consequence of such comments should be to alert someone in a position of authority; however, most people don’t. The sad reality is that the leakage surfaces after the event, with the rationale, “I just didn’t think he was serious.”

{ Psychiatric Times | Continue reading }

Zarathustra descended alone from the mountains, encountering no one

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Now add $1.99 per month subscription to connect Nest to Google services, and you’ve opened a lot more consumers to replacing their “ugly” thermostat, rather than paying the upfront $249 Nest one-off purchase cost. Which could allow Nest to work its way into millions of homes; this means that 56% of all electricity used, the monthly service that we all are forced to pay, will largely be monitored and controlled by one of the most powerful companies in the world: Google. […]

a shift from one-off product sales to services that will become essential to our everyday lives, things that we will pay for over and over again.

{ Pando | Continue reading }

Punk is dad

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We have identified a Y-chromosomal lineage with several unusual features. It was found in 16 populations throughout a large region of Asia, stretching from the Pacific to the Caspian Sea, and was present at high frequency: ~8% of the men in this region carry it, and it thus makes up ~0.5% of the world total. The pattern of variation within the lineage suggested that it originated in Mongolia ~1,000 years ago. Such a rapid spread cannot have occurred by chance; it must have been a result of selection. The lineage is carried by likely male-line descendants of Genghis Khan, and we therefore propose that it has spread by a novel form of social selection resulting from their behavior.

{ National Institutes of Health }

An international group of geneticists studying Y-chromosome data have found that nearly 8 percent of the men living in the region of the former Mongol empire carry y-chromosomes that are nearly identical. That translates to 0.5 percent of the male population in the world, or roughly 16 million descendants living today. […]

To have such a startling impact on a population required a special set of circumstances, all of which are met by Genghis Khan and his male relatives, the authors note in the study.

[Genghis Khan lived from 1162-1227 and raped and pillaged from Mongolia to the gates of Vienna. Once he captured a village or town, he would essentially kill all the men and rape the women.]

The Y-chromosome is passed on as a chunk of DNA from father to son, basically unchanged through generations except for random mutations.

These random mutations, which happen naturally and are usually harmless, are called markers. Once the markers have been identified, geneticists can go back in time and trace them to the point at which they first occurred, defining a unique lineage of descent.

In this particular instance, the lineage originated 1,000 years ago. The authors aren’t saying that the genetic mutations defining the lineage originated with Khan, who was born around 1162; they are more likely to have been passed on to him by a great great grandfather.

[…]

The connection to Genghis Khan will never be a certainty unless his grave is found and his DNA could be extracted.

{ National Geographic | Continue reading | Audio: Radio Lab, Genghis Khan Episode }

The location of the tomb of Genghis Khan has been the object of much speculation and research. The site remains undiscovered. […] According to one legend, the funeral escort killed anyone and anything that crossed their path, in order to conceal where he was finally buried. After the tomb was completed, the slaves who built it were massacred, and then the soldiers who killed them were also killed.

{ Wikipedia | Continue reading }

Abandon hope, all ye who enter here

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There are somewhere between 50 million and 100 million farms in the world (if you exclude those smaller than about three American football fields). But about half the crops produced by those farms rely on the seeds, fertilizers, and pesticides supplied by a mere dozen or so companies. Most of those crops are bought, traded, and transported around the world by another half dozen. […] And when it’s time for agricultural products to be processed and distributed to stores, that’s another dozen or so, many overlapping with the aforementioned traders and suppliers. […]

Researchers and activists have questioned the safety or long-term consequences (or both) of various Big Ag [Big Agriculture] practices, such as the use of certain pesticides, fertilizers, animal hormones, and food additives. […] Among the other specific complaints these days are deforestation and negligence. In Brazil, for example, a tripling of soybean production since 1990 has been blamed for the ongoing stripping of the Amazon basin. In the United States, ill-managed factory farms and processing plants have contributed to repeated outbreaks of food-borne illnesses that kill about a thousand people a year and sicken millions. […]
For farmers, oligopolies mean fewer choices of supplier and sometimes no choice at all about whom they will sell to. One ongoing trend is contract farming, in which farmers grow according to a food company’s specifications, with all supplies provided by the company, in return for its commitment to purchase the farmers’ output if it is acceptable.

{ IEEE | Continue reading }

related { The world is approaching Peak Meat, producing 7 times more than in 1950 }

photo { Kyoko Hamada }

‘Hell is more bearable than nothingness.’ –PJ Bailey

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China, India and Pakistan have increased their nuclear weapons by about 10 warheads each in the past year, and other nuclear states appear set on maintaining their arsenals, a Swedish think tank said Monday. […]

“It is not so much about an increase in numbers, but an increase in quality,” said researcher Pillip Schell.

{ News Tribune/AP | Continue reading }

related { A way of thinking may enable battle but prevent war crimes. Researchers show brain operates differently depending on how we dehumanize others. }

Canto III: The Gate of Hell

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What technology, or potential technology, worries you the most?

In the nearer term I think various developments in biotechnology and synthetic biology are quite disconcerting. We are gaining the ability to create designer pathogens and there are these blueprints of various disease organisms that are in the public domain—you can download the gene sequence for smallpox or the 1918 flu virus from the Internet. So far the ordinary person will only have a digital representation of it on their computer screen, but we’re also developing better and better DNA synthesis machines, which are machines that can take one of these digital blueprints as an input, and then print out the actual RNA string or DNA string. Soon they will become powerful enough that they can actually print out these kinds of viruses. So already there you have a kind of predictable risk, and then once you can start modifying these organisms in certain kinds of ways, there is a whole additional frontier of danger that you can foresee.

{ Interview with Nick Bostrom | Continue reading }

Saint abroad, and a devil at home

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People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is an organization that publicly claims to represent the best interest of animals.” Yet approximately 2,000 animals pass through PETA’s front door every year and very few make it out alive. The vast majority — 96 percent in 2011 — exit the facility out the back door after they have been killed. […]

In 2012, 733 dogs entered this building. They killed 602 of them. Only 12 were adopted. Also in 2012, they impounded 1,110 cats. 1,045 were put to death. Seven of them were adopted. They also took in 34 other companion animals, such as rabbits, of which 28 were put to death. Only four were adopted. […]

Despite $35,000,000 in annual revenues and millions of “animal-loving” members, PETA does not even try to find them homes. PETA has no adoption hours, does no adoption promotion, has no adoption floor, but is registered with the State of Virginia as a “humane society” or “animal shelter.”

{ Nathan J. Winograd/HuffPost | Continue reading }

‘I feel so blessed that the government protects my wife and me from the dangers of gay marriage so we can safely go buy some assault weapons.’ –Will Ferrell

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As I reported a couple of weeks ago, a recent Senate bill came with a nice bonus for the genetically modified seed industry: a rider, wholly unrelated to the underlying bill, that compels the USDA to ignore federal court decisions that block the agency’s approvals of new GM crops. I explained in this post why such a provision, which the industry has been pushing for over a year, is so important to Monsanto and its few peers in the GMO seed industry. […]

Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) has revealed to Politico’s ace reporter David Rogers that he’s the responsible party. Blunt even told Rogers that he “worked with” GMO seed giant Monsanto to craft the rider.

{ Mother Jones | Continue reading }

art { Cady Noland, Mutated Pipe, 1989 }

Hobbyhorses at the Mirus bazaar

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Roofies — a street name for the drug flunitrazepam, sold under the brand name Rohypnol — have never been approved for sale in the U.S. A quick glance through some of the other popular street names will give a clue as to why: roaches, mind erasers, ropies, wolfies, forget pills, and the date-rape drug are among the most menacing endearments for the stuff.

The drug was developed in the 1970s by Hoffman LaRoche and began appearing stateside in the 1980s, but the FDA never approved it, not even as a sleep aid, the intention for which it was originally developed. Elsewhere, it’s sold as that or as a hypnotic, which — I don’t even know what to say about living in a country like Sweden, where you could be prescribed a hypnotic. It’s also used to treat hospital patients in preparation for surgery. Here in the U.S., the Safe Streets and Communities Act of 2012 reclassified it a Schedule I drug — one with no medical value whatsoever, like cocaine and heroin.

The side effects of flunitrazepam are what make it such a troubling concoction. In addition to slowing psychomotor performance (e.g., the ability to run away if threatened) and causing whatever combination of relaxation, sedation, and suggestibility, which brings about the designation hypnotic in Europe, the drug also causes memory loss. A standard dosage — one or two milligrams — can last for eight to 12 hours, with hangover effects extending from several days to over a week. It’s also highly addictive. And it can kill you. Although some merely vomit.

Users self-administer roofies as a sleep aid, to enhance the effects of alcohol, or to mitigate depression caused by withdrawal from other drugs. (I’m told it’s a great rush.) Yet flunitrazepam isn’t always self-administered, which is where the mythology that surrounds the stuff is born. It’s been known to have been given to people, unwittingly if not against their will. This is because most who have ingested a standard dosage will exhibit within fifteen minutes a troubling combination of physical docility and compliant suggestibility.

{ Anne Elizabeth Moore/TNI | Continue reading }

Deodorized central mass with satellites

{ At standard pressure and 59 °F a metric ton of carbon dioxide gas would fill a sphere 33 feet across. If this is how New York’s emissions actually emerged we would see one of these spheres emerge every 0.58 seconds. }