Tag Archives: power

Liberal group threatens to challenge Democrats with primary …

Posted: February 22, 2017 at 4:40 am

To press the issue, Sanders veterans, along with allied activists and organizers, have launched a new political action committee called We Will Replace You. The group is demanding that Democrats on Capitol Hill uniformly oppose all Trump nominees, including Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, demand the firing of top Trump strategist Steve Bannon and use all the levers of their limited congressional power to gum up the White House agenda — or face opposition from within their own party.

They are also asking new supporters to sign a pledge — written at the top of their homepage — promising to back “primary election challengers against any Democrats who won’t do everything in their power to resist Trump.”

“Democrats need to know there is an actual political cost and this isn’t just going to be folks showing up at their offices, but folks showing up at the ballot and different organizations supporting challengers who are going to push the party in a different direction,” said Max Berger, a co-founder of #AllOfUs, the millennial progressive group that launched the new campaign.

Early opposition to the Trump administration, most visibly in the form of mass protests and rowdy recriminations against Republicans at town hall meetings around the country, has turned up the heat on long-simmering efforts by the left to pressure moderate Democrats. With the party now totally out of power in Washington and at a crossroads, activists who gained experience during Occupy Wall Street and through work with the Movement for Black Lives, the Fight for $15 and other aligned causes see an opportunity for greater influence.

“We’ve had a generation of protests where people have learned how to fight those in power. But eventually, you get to a point where you realize that it’s necessary for the communities that you represent to actually have power and not just to protest,” Berger said. “The leaders that we see coming out of those movements are now looking to win elections and represent the communities they have been serving for the past decade.”

We Will Replace You is operating as a hybrid PAC, meaning it can raise money and offer capped support to specific candidates while also making independent expenditures from a separate account. Co-founder Claire Sandberg, a former digital organizing director for the Sanders campaign, said the group is banking on a financial groundswell, delivered through ActBlue and other familiar channels, to deliver an early boost.

“We’ve seen the power of what an army of small dollar donors and grassroots volunteers can do when they are asked to do something that they believe in,” she said. “We don’t think that we need a giant pile of cash to make this project extremely successful electorally.”

As Republicans learned earlier this decade, dedicated efforts to influence policy from within by launching contentious primary fights can yield mixed results. For every Mike Lee or Ted Cruz, both tea party-backed candidates who took on the GOP establishment before knocking off Democratic opponents in Senate races, there have been cautionary tales, like Sharron Angle and Richard Mourdock, who fumbled away seats Republicans expected to win.

Democrats have little margin for error in 2018, when 10 of their own come up for re-election. Republicans currently hold 52 seats in the upper chamber. If the GOP can flip eight more, they will claim a filibuster-proof majority and go forward with virtually no constraints on their legislative agenda.

Sandberg dismissed concerns, most often voiced by party centrists who backed Hillary Clinton in the 2016 primary, that a “tea party of the left” could harm Democrats on Election Day.

“We reject out of hand the notion that pushing Democrats to be better candidates will lead to more Republican victories,” she said. “The much greater danger is a Democratic base that is uninspired by the party’s tepid response to the Trump administration will not feel motivated to turn out.”

We Will Replace You expects to ramp up its efforts in the summer. It has not yet named or set its sights on any particular race, though it could offer support to Virginia gubernatiorial hopeful Tom Perriello, who is running this year in a primary many Democrats will look at as a bellwether for 2018.

Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, told CNN that while there has been “a constant appetite” for pitting progressive newcomers against establishment picks in open seat primaries, the increased pressure on elected Democrats has been a long time coming.

“There’s been ebbs and flows in the willingness to primary incumbents and that will likely be way more on the table in 2018 than it’s been in past cycles,” he said. “And most likely there will be at least one clear poster child that people identify and collaborate around.”

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Emanate Wireless unveils artificial intelligence-powered … – Healthcare IT News

Posted: at 4:14 am

Emanate Wireless, a vendor of systems that continuously monitor key clinical assets at healthcare facilities, introduced at HIMSS17 two new temperature sensors for its PowerPath Temp Solution. Emanate expects commercial shipment of both new temperature sensors to begin in the second quarter.

These two sensors add value to our current offering by supporting additional types of devices, and by making installation faster, which leads to cost savings for our customers, said Neil Diener, co-founder and CEO of Emanate Wireless.

The first new temperature sensor is an expanded range device capable of measuring down to -200 Celsius. This ultra-low temperature sensor enables the PowerPath Temp Solution to be used to monitor Cryogenic freezers and other deep freezers used in hospitals and other healthcare facilities. The expanded range sensor works with all PowerPath Temp Monitors.

The second new temperature sensor is a wireless Bluetooth Low Energy device. The wireless sensor makes it simple to deploy the PowerPath Temp Solution: Just plug in the monitor in-line with the AC power cord of the refrigerator to monitor AC current and the operation of the refrigeration unit, then place the wireless sensor inside the refrigerator to monitor temperature, the vendor said. This gets rid of the need for temperature cabling the wireless sensor communicates with the monitor device using Bluetooth Low Energy.

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Emanate Wireless unveils artificial intelligence-powered … – Healthcare IT News

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The difference between Malcolm Turnbull and Justin Trudeau – The Australian Financial Review

Posted: at 4:09 am

Malcolm Turnbull and Francois-Philippe Champagne at the opening of the Australia-Canada Economic Leadership Forum.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s address to the Australia-Canada Economic Leadership Forum was typically enthusiastic about how much the two countries have in common and how well they can co-operate in promoting open economies and increased trade.

He can only wonder quietly at the difference in their governments’ political fortunes. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has managed to extend his political honeymoon while Australian voters are already contemplating a quickie divorce from the Coalition.

Trudeau unexpectedly won government in November 2015, a couple of months after Turnbull surprised Tony Abbott with a successful challenge. Trudeau also leads the Liberal Party, although in Canada that translates into a centre-left rather than a centre-right coalition.

Yet despite Turnbull’s reference to coming from different sides of the political spectrum, both men represented a return to the centre from what was regarded as the hard right under Tony Abbott and former Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper.

Both men were seen as progressive, socially liberal leaders with pro-trade and pro-immigration credentials and softer edges, including on climate change. They attracted voters wanting change for the better and a more positive, optimistic agenda. Trudeau exudes rock star appeal in an environment made for celebrity style. Even in cynical Australia there was a brief sense of political euphoria that there would be a coming together of the country under the personable, popular Turnbull.

Yet that’s where the similarities start to weaken. Despite the same loss of manufacturing jobs, sluggish growth, growing deficits and a resource-based economy, Trudeau remains popular if with a few more dints on his shiny image. He has managed to deliver agreement with the states on some contentious issues including energy policy. And Canada can’t help but show a little smugness about its ability to espouse the virtues of immigration, trade and openness without attracting much domestic blowback. The upsurge in populism has a different hue in Canada.

In Australia, the Turnbull gloss tarnished more quickly, and well ahead of the resurgence of One Nation’s Pauline Hanson.

In part that is because of the government’s difficulties in the Senate due to the power of wayward crossbenchers combined with the opportunism of Labor. Still, Turnbull’s problem goes deeper.

It is also because he has been mostly unable to articulate his own beliefs and clear policies in a way that sounds persuasive to voters. That compounds the image of drift, with disappointed Australian voters confused about what their Prime Minister stands for. He is left looking dangerously like a man without a mission.

And the weaker his position in the polls, the weaker his position in a party riven by the open antagonism between conservatives like Abbott and the more liberal positions traditionally taken by Turnbull.

Add in a Labor party that has moved further to the left on economic and social issues, including on free trade, and that votes against all significant government bills as a matter of course. While Labor and Bill Shorten may not be popular, they are able to keep the focus on the government’s lack of momentum rather than their own.

The embers of protectionism, anti-immigration and anti-politics as usual are being stoked into a decent-sized fire as evidenced by the renewed popularity of One Nation, tapping into a vein of sentiment similar to that driving Donald Trump. Australia’s system of proportional representation in the Senate means an ability to constant leverage a minority vote.

Trudeau has no such problem given Canada has an appointed upper house with no real power. The two opposition parties, left and right, are still voting for their new leaders, meaning there is no alternative leader criticising government.

Trudeau also has a much clearer policy definition, including his willingness to go into deficit spending and negotiating with the states for a national carbon tax. The question is whether Trudeau’s ability to keep campaign promises will protect him or whether he too will eventually share in the fallout from the lack of faith in major parties.

The costs of Trudeau’s energy policy have yet to bite politically, for example, although rising electricity bills have started to stir community resistance. The impact of a national carbon tax with sharply increasing rates over the next few years at the same time US energy policy is heading in the opposite direction under Trump risks turning that into a blunt political weapon for the conservative party. That would be especially potent if business investment flees south of the border attracted by lower US energy costs and business taxes.

The timing of that reality check in Canada may be delayed but the dilemma seems inevitable.

In the wake of the South Australian blackouts and growing business concern, Turnbull is now attacking the Labor party over its rush to renewable energy without paying enough attention to cost or security of supply. Yet this issue hardly rated a mention in the election campaign, with Turnbull deciding not to fight on it given the popular appeal of renewable energy and his own previous strong support for carbon pricing.

The implication of Trump’s lower corporate tax policies will also reach deep into both countries’ competitiveness given their relatively high tax rates. Turnbull’s reluctance a year ago to take on comprehensive tax reform means he is left arguing for corporate tax cuts over a decade while voters complain about unfairness right now. So far, Trudeau’s key measure has been to raise taxes on the highest income earners to symbolically help fund a tax cut for the middle class. That’s unlikely to be sufficient ahead of the next election.

But right now, despite Canada and Australia having so much in common, it’s the difference in the domestic political balance that is most striking. Trudeau should hope any greater convergence remains limited.

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The difference between Malcolm Turnbull and Justin Trudeau – The Australian Financial Review

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The Magical Rationalism of Elon Musk and the Prophets of AI – New York Magazine

Posted: at 3:59 am

Photo: Justin Chin/Bloomberg via Getty Images

One morning in the summer of 2015, I sat in a featureless office in Berkeley as a young computer programmer walked me through how he intended to save the world. The world needed saving, he insisted, not from climate change or from the rise of the far right, or the treacherous instability of global capitalism but from the advent of artificial superintelligence, which would almost certainly wipe humanity from the face of the earth unless certain preventative measures were put in place by a very small number of dedicated specialists such as himself, who alone understood the scale of the danger and the course of action necessary to protect against it.

This intense and deeply serious young programmer was Nate Soares, the executive director of MIRI (Machine Intelligence Research Institute), a nonprofit organization dedicated to the safe which is to say, non-humanity-obliterating development of artificial intelligence. As I listened to him speak, and as I struggled (and failed) to follow the algebraic abstractions he was scrawling on a whiteboard in illustration of his preferred doomsday scenario, I was suddenly hit by the full force of a paradox: The austere and inflexible rationalism of this mans worldview had led him into a grand and methodically reasoned absurdity.

In researching and reporting my book, To Be a Machine, I had spent much of the previous 18 months among the adherents of the transhumanist movement, a broad church comprising life-extension advocates, cryonicists, would-be cyborgs, Silicon Valley tech entrepreneurs, neuroscientists looking to convert the human brain into code, and so forth all of whom were entirely convinced that science and technology would allow us to transcend the human condition. With many of these transhumanists (the vast majority of whom, it bears mentioning, were men), I had experienced some version of this weird cognitive dissonance, this apprehension of a logic-unto-madness. I had come across it so frequently, in fact, that I wound up giving it a name: magical rationalism.

The key thing about magical rationalism is that its approach to a given question always seems, and in most meaningful respects is, perfectly logical. To take our current example, the argument about AI posing an existential risk to our species seems, on one level, quite compelling. The basic gist is this: If and when we develop human-level artificial intelligence, its only a matter of time until this AI, by creating smarter and smarter iterations of itself, gives rise to a machine whose intelligence is as superior to our own as our intelligence currently is to that of other animal species. (Lets leave the cephalopods out of this for the moment, because who knows what the hell is going on with those guys.) Computers being what they are, though, theres a nontrivial risk of this superintelligent AI taking the commands its issued far too literally. You tell it, for instance, to eliminate cancer once and for all, and it takes the shortest and most logical route to that end by wiping out all life-forms in which abnormal cell division might potentially occur. (An example of the cure-worse-than-the-disease scenario so perfect that you would not survive long enough to appreciate its perfection.) As far as I can see, theres nothing about this scenario that is anything but logically sound, and yet here we are, taken to a place that most of us will agree feels deeply and intuitively batshit. (The obvious counterargument to this, of course, is that just because something feels intuitively batshit doesnt mean that its not going to happen. Its worth bearing in mind that the history of science is replete with examples of this principle.)

Magical rationalism arises out of a quasi-religious worldview, in which reason takes the place of the godhead, and whereby all of our human problems are soluble by means of its application. The power of rationalism, manifested in the form of technology the word made silicon has the potential to deliver us from all evils, up to and including death itself. This spiritual dimension is most clearly visible in the techno-millenarianism of the Singularity: the point on the near horizon of our future at which human beings will finally and irrevocably merge with technology, to become uploaded minds, disembodied beings of pure and immutable thought. (Nate Soares, in common with many of those working to eliminate the existential threat posed by AI, viewed this as the best-case scenario for the future, as the kingdom of heaven that would be ours if we could only avoid the annihilation of our species by AI. I myself found it hard to conceive of as anything other than a vision of deepest hell.)

In his book The Singularity is Near, Ray Kurzweil, a futurist and director of engineering at Google, lays out the specifics of this post-human afterlife. The Singularity, he writes, will allow us to transcend these limitations of our biological bodies and brains. We will gain power over our fates. Our mortality will be in our hands. We will be able to live as long as we want (a subtly different statement from saying we will live forever). We will fully understand human thinking and will vastly extend and expand its reach. By the end of this century, the nonbiological portion of our intelligence will be trillions of times more powerful than unaided human intelligence. This is magical rationalism in its purest form: It arises out of the same human terrors and desires as the major religions the terror of death, the desire to transcend it and proceeds toward the same kinds of visionary mythologizing.

This particular Singularitarian strain of magical rationalism could be glimpsed in Elon Musks widely reported recent comments at a conference in Dubai. Humans, he insisted, would need to merge with machines in order to avoid becoming obsolete. Its mostly about the bandwidth, he explained; computers were capable of processing information at a trillion bits per second, while we humans could input data into our devices at a mere ten bits per second, or thereabouts. From the point of view of narrow rationalism, Musks argument was sort of compelling if computers are going to beat us at our own game, wed better find ways to join them but it only really made sense if you thought of a human being as a kind of computer to begin with. (Were computers; were just rubbish at computing compared to actual computers these days.)

While writing To Be a Machine, I kept finding myself thinking about Flann OBriens surreal comic masterpiece The Third Policeman, in which everyone is unhealthily obsessed with bicycles, and men who spend too much time on their bicycles wind up themselves becoming bicycles via some kind of mysterious process of molecular transfer. Transhumanism a world as overwhelmingly male as OBriens rural Irish hellscape often seemed to me to be guided by a similar kind of overidentification with computers, a strange confusion of the distinct categories of human and machine. Because if computation is the ultimate value, the ultimate end of intelligence, then it makes absolute sense to become better versions of the computers we already are. We must optimize for intelligence, as transhumanists are fond of saying meaning by intelligence, in most cases, the exercise of pure reason. And this is the crux of magical rationalism: It is both an idealization of reason, of beautiful and rigorous abstraction, and a mode of thinking whereby reason is made to serve as the faithful handmaiden of absolute madness. Because reason is, among its other uses, a finely calibrated tool by which the human animal pursues its famously unreasonable ends.

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The Magical Rationalism of Elon Musk and the Prophets of AI – New York Magazine

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Appeals Court Says Filming The Police Is Protected By The First … – Techdirt

Posted: at 3:54 am

In news that will surprise no one, police officers decided they must do something about someone filming the police department building from across the street. That’s where this Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals decision begins: with a completely avoidable and completely unnecessary assertion of government power.

Phillip Turner was filming the police department. He was accosted by two officers (Grinalds and Dyess). Both demanded he provide them with identification. He refused to do so. The officers arrested him for “failure to identify,” took his camera, and tossed him in the back of a squad car. Given the circumstances of the initial interaction, it’s surprising the words “contempt of cop” weren’t used on the official police report. From the opinion [PDF]:

Grinalds asked Turner, Hows it going, man? Got your ID with you? Turner continued videotaping, and Grinalds repeatedly asked Turner if he had any identification. Turner asked the officers whether he was being detained, and Grinalds responded that Turner was being detained for investigation and that the officers were concerned about who was walking around with a video camera. Turner asked for which crime he was being detained, and Grinalds replied, I didnt say you committed a crime. Grinalds elaborated, We have the right and authority to know whos walking around our facilities.

Grinalds again asked for Turners identification, and Turner asked Grinalds, What happens if I dont ID myself? Grinalds replied, Well cross that bridge when we come to it. Grinalds continued to request Turners identification, which Turner refused to provide. Grinalds and Dyess then suddenly and without warning handcuffed Turner and took his video camera from him, and Grinalds said, This is what happens when you dont ID yourself.

Turner asked to speak to their supervisor. Given that this happened right across the street from the department, Turner didn’t have to wait very long. A supervisor arrived and came to at least one correct conclusion:

Lieutenant Driver identified himself as the commander. Driver asked Turner what he was doing, and Turner explained that he was taking pictures from the sidewalk across the street. Driver asked Turner for his ID, and Turner told the lieutenant that he did not have to identify himself because he had not been lawfully arrested and that he chose not to provide his identification. Driver responded, Youre right.

Texas police officers love to misread the state’s “failure to identify” statute. It doesn’t say what they think it does or what they want to believe it does. A former cop-turned-law student has a full explanation here, but suffice to say, cops cannot arrest someone for refusing to ID themselves — at least not in Texas. The charge can be added after an arrest (if the refusal continues), but it can’t be the impetus for an arrest.

After some discussion between the officers, Turner was released and his camera was given back. Turner filed a civil rights lawsuit. The lower court granted immunity to the officers on all allegations. The Fifth Circuit, however, refuses to go as far. And in doing so, it actually takes it upon itself to address an issue it easily could have avoided: whether the First Amendment covers the filming of public servants, specifically law enforcement officers.

First, the court asks whether the right to film police was “clearly established” at the time the incident took place (September 2015). It can’t find anything that says it is.

At the time in question, neither the Supreme Court nor this court had determined whether First Amendment protection extends to the recording or filming of police. Although Turner insists, as some district courts in this circuit have concluded, that First Amendment protection extends to the video recording of police activity in light of general First Amendment principles, the Supreme Court has repeatedly instructed courts not to define clearly established law at a high level of generality: The general proposition, for example, that an unreasonable search or seizure violates the Fourth Amendment is of little help in determining whether the violative nature of particular conduct is clearly established. Thus, Turners reliance on decisions that clarified that [First Amendment] protections . . . extend[] to gathering information does not demonstrate whether the specific act at issue herevideo recording the police or a police stationwas clearly established.

The court doesn’t leave it there, although it could have. The court notes that there’s a circuit split on the issue, but just because the issue’s far from decided doesn’t mean courts have not recognized the right exists. It points to conclusions reached by the First and Eleventh Circuit Appeals Courts as evidence the right to film police has been acknowledged. Even so, there’s not enough clarity on the issue to remove the officers’ immunity.

We cannot say, however, that existing precedent . . . placed the . . .constitutional question beyond debate when Turner recorded the police station. Neither does it seem that the law so clearly and unambiguously prohibited [the officers] conduct that every reasonable official would understand that what he is doing violates [the law]. In light of the absence of controlling authority and the dearth of even persuasive authority, there was no clearly established First Amendment right to record the police at the time of Turners activities.

This is where the opinion gets interesting. While many judges would leave a trickier, somewhat tangential issue open and unanswered, the Fifth Circuit Appeals Court decides it’s time for it to set some precedent.

We conclude that First Amendment principles, controlling authority, and persuasive precedent demonstrate that a First Amendment right to record the police does exist, subject only to reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions.

[…]

To be sure, [s]peech is an essential mechanism of democracy, for it is the means to hold officials accountable to the people. The right of citizens to inquire, to hear, to speak, and to use information to reach consensus is a precondition to enlightened self-government and a necessary means to protect it. Filming the police contributes to the publics ability to hold the police accountable, ensure that police officers are not abusing their power, and make informed decisions about police policy. Filming the police also frequently helps officers; for example, a citizens recording might corroborate a probable cause finding or might even exonerate an officer charged with wrongdoing.

In the Fifth Circuit — joining the First and Eleventh Circuits — the First Amendment right to film police has been asserted. Unfortunately, the issue still remains mostly unsettled, and there’s currently nothing in front of the Supreme Court that would set national precedent. Unfortunately, the decision doesn’t help Turner with his First Amendment claim, but it will help others going forward.

The court also reverses immunity on one of Turner’s Fourth Amendment claims. While it finds the officers were justified in questioning him, they went too far when they arrested him. First, as pointed out above, the “failure to identify” law can’t be used to predicate an arrest. And, after questioning him, the officers still had nothing approaching the probable cause they needed to make a warrantless arrest. Even though Turner was detained in the back of the squad car for only a short period of time, the fact that he was obviously not free to go makes it an arrest under the Fourth Amendment.

Strangely, the dissent, written by Judge Edith Brown, claims the Appeals Court has no business setting precedent. In her opinion, the nation’s second-highest courts should stand idly by and wait for the Supreme Court to do the work.

The majority asserts, unconnected to the particular facts and unnecessary to the disposition of this case, that a First Amendment right to record the police does exist, subject only to reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions. The majority derives this general right to film the police from First Amendment principles, controlling authority, and persuasive precedent. But the Supreme Court has repeatedly reversed attempts to define clearly established law at such a high level of generality. White, 137 S. Ct. at 552.

The judge narrowly defines Turner’s filming to ensure it would never fall under this supposedly “broad” definition of the right. She says the Appeals Court defines the protection as covering “filming police.” But Turner wasn’t doing that.

To the extent there is any consensus of persuasive authority, those cases focus only on the narrow issue of whether there is a First Amendment right to film the police carrying out their duties in public. E.g., Glik v. Cunniffe, 655 F.3d 78, 82 (1st Cir. 2011). Turner did not allege that he filmed police officers conducting their public duties, but rather that he filmed a police station.

Somehow, filming police officers as they enter and exit a public building is not “filming police carrying out their duties in public.” Remarkably, Judge Brown says there may be “reasonable” security concerns that could Constitutionally prevent Turner’s actions.

The majority does not determine that the officers here violated Turners First Amendment rightsperhaps because it would be reasonable for security reasons to restrict individuals from filming police officers entering and leaving a police station.

If police officers are entering and exiting a building from doors clearly viewable by the public from a public area, the officers obviously aren’t that concerned about their “security.” If so, they would use an entrance/exit members of the public can’t see or don’t have access to. If the Fourth Amendment doesn’t protect the privacy of citizens in public areas, the same public areas can’t be given a heightened privacy protection that only covers public servants.

Unsurprisingly, Judge Brown thinks Turner’s involuntary stay in the back of a squad car could reasonably be viewed as Turner just hanging out there waiting to speak to a supervisor:

Because Turner himself requested a supervisor, a reasonable police officer in that situation could believe that waiting for the supervisor to arrive at the scene did not transform Turners detention into a de facto arrest. At the very least, Officers Grinalds and Dyess did not act objectively unreasonably in waiting for the requested supervisorespecially because Lieutenant Driver had to come from the Fort Worth Police Station across the street.

Except that most people “waiting for a supervisor” don’t do so while:

a.) handcuffed

b.) sitting in the back of a locked squad car

The length of the detention doesn’t matter. And it was ultimately the supervisor’s arrival that sprung Turner. If not for the arrival of the supervisor — who immediately recognized Turner couldn’t be arrested for refusing to ID himself — Turner would undoubtedly have spent an even longer period being detained, if not taken into the PD and processed.

The good news for Turner is that his sole remaining Fourth Amendment claims — the wrongful arrest — lives on. But the bigger win — the First Amendment protections confirmation — helps everyone else but him.

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Personalized medicine may do more to treat rather than prevent chronic diseases – Salon

Posted: at 3:46 am

Personalized medicine, which involves tailoring health care to each persons unique genetic makeup, has the potential to transform how we diagnose, prevent and treat disease. After all, no two people are alike. Mapping a persons unique susceptibility to disease and targeting the right treatment has deservedly been welcomed as a new power to heal.

The human genome, a complete set of human DNA, was identified and mapped a decade ago. But genomic science remains in its infancy. According to Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health, It is fair to say that the Human Genome Project has not yet directly affected the health care of most individuals.

Its not that there havent been tremendous breakthroughs. Its just that the gap between science and its ability to benefit most patients remains wide. This is mainly because we dont yet fully understand the complex pathways involved in common chronic diseases.

I am part of a research team that has taken on the ambitious goal of narrowing this gap. New technologies are allowing us to probe DNA, RNA, proteins and gut bacteria in a way that will change our understanding of health and disease. Our hope is to discover novel biological markers that can be used to diagnose and treat common chronic conditions, including Alzheimers disease, heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

But when it comes to preventing the leading causes of death which include chronic diseases, genomics and precision medicine may not do as much as we hope.

Many diseases arent due only to genetics

Chronic diseases are only partially heritable. This means that the genes you inherit from your parents arent entirely responsible for your risk of getting most chronic diseases.

The estimated heritability of heart disease is about 50 percent. Its 64 percent for Type 2 diabetes mellitus, and 58 percent for Alzheimers disease. Our environment and lifestyle choice are also major factors; they can change or influence how the information coded in our genes is translated.

Chronic diseases are also complex. Rather than being controlled by a few genes that are easy to find, they are weakly influenced by hundreds if not thousands of genes, the majority of which still elude scientists. Unlocking the infinite combinations in which these genes interact with each other and with the environment is a daunting task that will take decades, if ever, to achieve.

While unraveling the genomic complexity of chronic disease is important, it shouldnt detract from existing simple solutions. Many of our deadliest chronic diseases are preventable. For instance, among U.S. adults, more than 90 percent of Type 2 diabetes, 80 percent of coronary arterial disease, 70 percent of stroke and 70 percent of colon cancer are potentially avoidable.

Smoking, weight gain, lack of exercise, poor diet and alcohol consumption are all risk factors for these conditions. Based on their profound impact on gene expression, or how instructions within a gene are manifested, addressing these factors will likely remain fundamental in preventing these illnesses.

Will more knowledge be more power?

A major premise behind personalized medicine is that empowering patients and doctors with more knowledge will lead to better decision-making. With some major advances, this has indeed been the case. For instance, variants in genes that control an enzyme that metabolizes drugs can identify individuals who metabolize some drugs too rapidly (not giving them a chance to work), or too slowly (leading to toxicity). This can lead to changes in medication dosing.

When applied to prevention, however, identifying our susceptibility at an earlier stage has not aided in avoiding chronic diseases. Research challenges the assumption that we will use genetic markers to change our behavior. More knowledge may nudge intent, but that doesnt translate to motivating changes to our lifestyle.

A recent review found that even when people knew their personal genetic risk of disease, they were no more likely to quit smoking, change their diet or exercise. Expectations that communicating DNA-based risk estimates changes behavior is not supported by existing evidence, the authors conclude.

Increased knowledge may even have the unintended consequence of shifting the focus to personal responsibility while detracting from our joint responsibility for improving public health. Reducing the prevalence of chronic diseases will require changing the political, social and economic environment within which we make choices as well as individual effort.

What about treating chronic diseases?

Perhaps the most awaited hope of the genomic era is that we will be able to develop targeted treatments based on detailed molecular profiling. The implication is that we will be able to subdivide disease into new classifications. Rather than viewing Type 2 diabetes as one disease, for example, we may discover many unique subtypes of diabetes.

This already is happening with some cancers. Patients with melanoma, leukemia or metastatic lung, breast or brain cancers can, in some cases, be offered a molecular diagnosis to tailor their treatment and improve their chance of survival.

We have been able to make progress in cancer therapy and drug safety and efficacy because specific gene mutations control a persons response to these treatments. But for complex, chronic diseases, relatively few personalized targeted treatments exist.

Customizing treatments based on our uniqueness will be a breakthrough, but it also poses a challenge: Without the ability to test targeted treatments on large populations, it will make it infinitely harder to discover and predict their response.

The very reason we group people with the same signs and symptoms into diagnoses is to help predict the average response to treatment. There may be a time when we have one-person trials that custom tailor treatment. However, the anticipation is that the timeline to getting to such trials will be long, the failure rate high and the cost exorbitant.

Research that takes genetic risk of diabetes into account has found greater benefit in targeting prevention efforts to all people with obesity rather than targeting efforts based on genetic risk.

We also have to consider decades of research on chronic diseases that suggest there are inherent limitations to preventing the global prevalence of these diseases with genomic solutions. For most of us, personalized medicine will likely complement rather than replace one-size-fits-all medicine.

Where does that leave us? Despite the inherent limitations to the ability of genomic medicine to transform health care, medicine in the future should unquestionably aspire to be personal. Genomics and molecular biosciences will need to be used holistically in the context of a persons health, beliefs and attitudes to fulfill their power to greatly enhance medicine.

Sharon Horesh Bergquist, Physician, teacher, researcher in preventive medicine and healthy aging, Emory University

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Personalized medicine may do more to treat rather than prevent chronic diseases – Salon

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Politically incorrect nonsense – McCook Daily Gazette

Posted: at 3:45 am

This morning in church the song leader choose one of my long time favorites from a new hymnal. “Lord I Want To Be A Christian.”

This version was written in four-part harmony and listed as an “American Folk Song.”

Baloney! According to Wikipedia this song was written in the 1750s Virginia by African-American slaves exposed to the teaching of evangelist Samuel Davies.

Until recent times it has been billed as a Negro Spiritual. Now, I have to assume, the advocates of political correctness somehow dream that the song can be sung in 4:4 time, four part harmony with all the words in proper English rather than how the original slaves sang it in the dialect of the day. They ruined it!

Your columnist started singing in church choir while in high school. At first chance I joined the Air Force Academy Cadet Chapel Choir in college at the Academy and did that for four years. A highlight was singing one Easter morning at the Red Rocks open air Cathedral at Colorado Springs. Then over the years I joined and sang with several different civilian church and military chapel choirs wherever we happened to be stationed. In allhonestly I was never a great voice or soloist but simply enjoyed the four part harmony and comradery of being part of a good choir.

In my experience the best way to sing a Negro Spiritual is probably how the slaves that put together the beloved “Lord I want To Be A Christian” did it. The song is led by a strong voice, probably baritone, who sings out as leader and all the other members harmonize with the lead voice. “Lord I want to be a Christian in-a-my heart” then several voices echo “In-a my heart” while the lead and the majority of the choir holds the note, in harmony, of “heart.” Many voices blending together it is a wonderful sound to my ear.

I would urge you dear reader to attend a black church at first opportunity and listen to their choir rejoice in singing Christian music. Catch it on TV or radio if you can. If you are lucky you will enjoy them blending their voices on a true spiritual to really experience the beauty of that style of music. I’m sorry but white choirs just can’t seem to do justice to true American spirituals.

Brought to America in chains sentenced to a lifetime of slavery it must have been a hard life mentally and physically. No escape conceivable, just day-to-day living. The message of Christ and a higher power than one’s self truly must have been a great comfort to those trapped people.

No wonder they could sing of hope for a more perfect existence after death. Unlettered and self-taught in music it would only be natural to blend their voices with whoever stepped forth in song as a leader.

I’m reminded of my own contemporaries who were captured and became prisoners of war in Vietnam. Reading intelligence reports while on active duty and later books written post release from the Hanoi Hilton I have gleaned the fact that those who had a personal faith in a Higher Power survived the ordeal of prison life much better than those who had no faith.

After their return, the suicide rate of those who had no faith was many times higher than those who had a personal faith. Interestingly the two groups, faith or no faith, separated themselves on the airplanes carrying them out of Hanoi and had little contact with each other.

Not too long before the truce was signed ending the Vietnam War, the North Vietnamese allowed the American POW’s to gather together in communal living instead of the isolation of two or three men to a prison cell or total isolation as had been the practice for years. Then word leaked out that the POW’s had formed a choir. Aha! — I knew instantly that their choir director had to be Major Quincy Collins, who had been our choir director years before at the Academy.

I knew that Quincy had been shot down in his F-105 and had been spotted from time to time being led down jungle paths roped at the neck with other shot down aircrew members. Then he disappeared completely from any intelligence reports that I had access to. What a feeling of hope that Quincy had made it when the news leaked of a POW choir!

Incidentally the final performance by the POW choir, and yes it was led by Quincy, was at the White House in a reunion in the POW’s honor by President Richard Nixon. No sheet music, no musical instrument accompaniment all done a cappella just as the slaves in the south did it centuries before.

Political correctness run amuck.

Why not keep the proud heritage of the Negro Spiritual alive just as those proud slaves performed their heartfelt songs? “Lord I want be like Jesus, In-a-my heart, In-a my heart (In-a my heart).”

That is the way I saw it.

Dick Trail

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CPAC Organizer Tries To Pawn Off Milo Yiannopoulos as "Libertarian" – Reason (blog)

Posted: at 3:44 am

Breitbart.comWhat do you do when you’re Matt Schlapp, the guy heading up the American Conservative Union, which runs the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (emphasis added), and it turns our your biggest draw to this year’s event defends pedophilia? Well, first you disinvite him and then you bluster your way through an excrutiatingly painful few minutes on Morning Joe before trying to pawn Milo Yiannopoulos off as a libertarian:

“He doesn’t call himself conservative. He calls himself more of a libertarian…. Some libertarians would deny that he’s a libertarian.”

On that much, we agree. Most libertarians I know wouldn’t claim Milo as one of our own. You know who else says Milo isn’t a libertarian? Well, Milo himself, it turns out:

“Libertarians are children. Libertarians are people who have given up looking for an answer. This whole ‘everybody do what they want’ is code for ‘leave me to do what I want.’ It’s selfish and childish. It’s an admission that you have given up trying to work out what a good society would look like, how the world should be ordered and instead just retreated back into selfishness. That’s why they’re so obsessed with weed, Bitcoin, and hacking.”

Read more about that here and here.

Milo’s critique of libertarianism is not so strong, is it? As it happens, the policy work being done by folks at Reason Foundation (the nonprofit that publishes this website) is revolutionizing K-12 education, public-sector pensions, transportation infrastructure, and more. Same goes for ideological compadres at the Cato Institute and elsewhere. To the extent that there’s a principled opposition to really dumb military interventions, runaway spending, and conservative-approved idiocies such as a border wall and trade protectionism, well, it’s not conservatives pushing it. And none of that is to deny one bit that drug policy, criminal justice reform, crypto-currencies, and forced transparency of government overreach are in any way about “selfishness.”

What does it say about the modern conservative movement that CPAC was so desperate to get Milo on its stage in the first place? Nothing good. He’s outrageous (not really “dangerous” in any meaningful sense of the word) and he is fully capable of bringing out the worst elements of the idiot-progressive left. But does he have anything to say when he’s actually allowed to speak? Derp, not really. Schlapp can say that ACU wants to teach the controversy and all that, but the fact of the matter is that as an intellectual force and a serious place for discussion about policy, CPAC has been more watered-down than the beer at Delta House for a very long time. It’s a good sign that someone with the last name Paul won five of the last seven presidential straw polls, but conservatives and Republicans have almost completely squandered their power and influence throughout the 21st century. When George W. Bush and the GOP ran the federal government, they busted the budget in a way that would embarrass drunken sailors the world over. When Obama was in power, they did virtually nothing to demand actual budgets or restrain executive power, and they’re still pretending that they are really…just…about…ready…to…reveal an alternative health-insurance plan. They nominated and elected Donald Trump for president and it’s surprising that CPAC invited/disinvited a flyweight trash talker to their big shindig? It’s almost as if they didn’t kick out the gays a couple of years ago or that Newt Gingrich doesn’t show up every year and talk about the need for flag-burning amendments and English-only laws.

It’s never easy for a movement founded on the cry of standing athwart history, yelling Stop to move forward, but this is simply ridiculous.

Here’s Matt Schlapp on Morning Joe:

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Trump’s new national security adviser is a futurist with warnings about technology – TechCrunch

Posted: at 3:40 am

A week after Michael Flynns abrupt fall from grace, President Trump will smooth things over with a national security adviser that at least some people can agree on.

Called everything from a warrior scholar to the rarest of soldiers,, Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster is an about-face from the divisive Flynn, who resigned amid the escalating controversy over his contact with Sergey Kislyak, Russian ambassador to the U.S.

McMaster, often described as the armys own futurist, holds a complex view on technology, cautioning against technological hubris as a solution to modern warfare. Be skeptical of concepts that divorce war from its political nature, particularly those that promise fast, cheap victory through technology, McMaster wrote in a 2013 op-ed in the New York Times titled The Pipe Dream of Easy War. He continued:

Wars like those in Afghanistan and Iraq cannot be waged remotely. Budget pressures and persistent fascination with technology have led some to declare an end to war as we know it. While emerging technologies are essential for military effectiveness, concepts that rely only on those technologies, including precision strikes, raids or other means of targeting enemies, confuse military activity with progress toward larger wartime goals.

That same characteristic deep perspective appears to be on display in his controversial but largely well-respected book, Dereliction of Duty, about the failing of military leaders, particularly theJoint Chiefs of Staff, during the Vietnam war. McMasters academic streak is just one of the traits that paints him in stark contrast to Flynn, who is widely regarded as ideologically driven, particularly by anti-Islamic sentiment.

During an April 2015 symposium on Army innovation, McMaster expanded on the risk inherent in an overreliance on military technology.The biggest risk that we have today is the development of concepts that are inconsistent with the enduring nature of war, McMaster said. What we see today is really an effort to simplify this complex problem of future war and to essentially make it a targeting exercise. The idea is that the next technology we develop is going to make this next war fundamentally different from all those that have gone before it.

At a defense conference in London a few months later, McMaster emphasized that traditional manpower cant be ignored in favor of flashy technological advances that appear to provide short-term gains. [There is a] delusion that a narrow range of military technologies will be decisive in future war, he said. Technology is the element of our differential advantage over our enemies which is most easily transferred to our enemies.

McMaster is no technophobe, but he dismisses conceptions of the future of war that cut against wars political nature, wars human natures, wars uncertainty and war as a contest of wills.

Notably, he also really, really hates PowerPoint. Its dangerous because it can create the illusion of understanding and the illusion of control, McMaster told the New York Times. Some problems in the world are not bullet-izable. (Good luck telling that to the commander-in-chief.)

Its too early to tell how McMaster will fit into Trumps roiling inner circle, or perhaps the outermost circle of his concentric inner circles, but McMasters willingness to critique authority around issues of national security is likely to prove relevant.

As Middle East scholar and former U.S. Army officer Andrew Exum writes in the Atlantic:

One thing that stands out in the book is the way in which McMaster criticized the poorly disciplined national security decision-making process in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, and especially the way in which the Kennedy administration made national-security decisions by a small group of confidants without a robust process to serve the president.

Its not hard to imagine howthe Armysbig picture thinkermightextend that criticismto a president who prefers to craftdecisionsthrougha small clusterof loyalists, incorporating little outside input. It remains to be seen if Trump will bring McMaster fully into the fold or if hell just freeze him out like so many other administration officials who have expresseddissent.

Whatever role he ends up playing, McMaster will joinDefense Secretary James Mattis and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly to round out the trifecta of well-respected military leaders who have Trumps ear.

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New German film addresses Nazi child ‘euthanasia’ – euronews

Posted: February 20, 2017 at 7:48 pm

Fog In August (Nebel im August) is the first feature film to address the Nazis euthanasia programme.

Based on Robert Domes 2008 novel of the same name, the film tells the story of 13-year-old Ernst Lossa, who was committed to a mental hospital in 1942 because of his Roma origins.

The hospitals staunch Nazi chief physician Werner Veithausen is played by German actor Sebastian Koch, who shot to fame after starring in the 2007 Oscar-winning The Lives of Others.

He explains how he got into character: For me as an actor, the challenge was to play a character whose alienated logic makes sense. Thats why there are no devilish smiles. Veithausen gets up in the morning and sees himself in the mirror and thinks he is doing a really important job for the German people and he believes in his mission, he is convinced of what he is doing. And thats whats fascinating with this role: the man whom we see today as a murderer was doing no harm as far as he was concerned.

The film marks a return for director Kai Wessel to dark periods in German history, after his award-winning TV series Klemperer based on the diaries of a Jewish literature professor during the Third Reich, and the TV drama Die Flucht, set in the winter of 1945, which was shown in more than 50 countries.

For him, casting the main character was key to the films success. We saw a lot of actors it was a huge casting process, he says. But very early, there was no question that Ivo [Pietzcker] was a hot candidate. We did a lot of improvisation because we wanted to be 100 percent sure he was the right choice and, in the end, we knew he was.

Young Ernst soon discovers the truth behind the hospitals facade and tries to sabotage its euthanasia programme to help his new friends. Ernst is played by young Berliner Ivo Pietzcker, who was the lead character in Edward Bergers 2014 award-winning movie Jack.

I am very interested in history and I read a lot of books, history books, so, yes, I knew about euthanasia, I wasnt clueless about that, says the young actor.

One way to kill the patients was to lace raspberry juice with poison. Another, invented by Dr Faltlhauser, whose real name was changed to Veithausen in the movie, was to feed the patients with vegetable soup that had cooked so long it no longer had any nutritional value.

I am convinced that Dr Veithausen never considered himself as a criminal, rather he saw himself as part of a scientific avant-garde on a mission that he believed in, says Koch.

To invent food without any nutritional substance, where the patient believes he is eating but hes actually dying of malnutrition, is a relatively humane way to die, I mean, of course, seen from the perspective of Dr Veithausen. He was proud of his invention and he was praised by the Nazis. He had the power to decide, when the euthanasia programme ended, who would die and who would live, and he could solve that issue in a very way humane way with typical German efficiency. Such perfidy is unbelievable.

The real-life Dr Faltlhlauser was sentenced to three years in jail after the war and was pardoned by the Bavarian secretary of justice in 1954. He died in 1961.

Conservative estimates suggest that at least 5,000 German children perished as a result of the Nazis child euthanasia programme.

Fog In August was released in Germany in October.

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New German film addresses Nazi child ‘euthanasia’ – euronews

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