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The Journey of Man – Spencer Wells

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The Journey of Man
A Genetic Odyssey
Spencer Wells

Genre: Life Sciences

Price: $1.99

Publish Date: October 31, 2012

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group

Seller: Penguin Random House LLC


Around 60,000 years ago, a man—genetically identical to us—lived in Africa. Every person alive today is descended from him. How did this real-life Adam wind up as the father of us all? What happened to the descendants of other men who lived at the same time? And why, if modern humans share a single prehistoric ancestor, do we come in so many sizes, shapes, and races? Examining the hidden secrets of human evolution in our genetic code, Spencer Wells reveals how developments in the revolutionary science of population genetics have made it possible to create a family tree for the whole of humanity. Replete with marvelous anecdotes and remarkable information, from the truth about the real Adam and Eve to the way differing racial types emerged, The Journey of Man is an enthralling, epic tour through the history and development of early humankind.

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The Journey of Man – Spencer Wells

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Science in the Soul – Richard Dawkins

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Science in the Soul
Selected Writings of a Passionate Rationalist
Richard Dawkins

Genre: Essays

Price: $13.99

Publish Date: August 8, 2017

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group

Seller: Penguin Random House LLC


The legendary biologist and bestselling author mounts a timely and passionate defense of science and clear thinking with this career-spanning collection of essays, including twenty pieces published in the United States for the first time. For decades, Richard Dawkins has been a brilliant scientific communicator, consistently illuminating the wonders of nature and attacking faulty logic. Science in the Soul brings together forty-two essays, polemics, and paeans—all written with Dawkins’s characteristic erudition, remorseless wit, and unjaded awe of the natural world. Though it spans three decades, this book couldn’t be more timely or more urgent. Elected officials have opened the floodgates to prejudices that have for half a century been unacceptable or at least undercover. In a passionate introduction, Dawkins calls on us to insist that reason take center stage and that gut feelings, even when they don’t represent the stirred dark waters of xenophobia, misogyny, or other blind prejudice, should stay out of the voting booth. And in the essays themselves, newly annotated by the author, he investigates a number of issues, including the importance of empirical evidence, and decries bad science, religion in the schools, and climate-change deniers. Dawkins has equal ardor for “the sacred truth of nature” and renders here with typical virtuosity the glories and complexities of the natural world. Woven into an exploration of the vastness of geological time, for instance, is the peculiar history of the giant tortoises and the sea turtles—whose journeys between water and land tell us a deeper story about evolution. At this moment, when so many highly placed people still question the fact of evolution, Dawkins asks what Darwin would make of his own legacy—“a mixture of exhilaration and exasperation”—and celebrates science as possessing many of religion’s virtues—“explanation, consolation, and uplift”—without its detriments of superstition and prejudice. In a world grown irrational and hostile to facts, Science in the Soul is an essential collection by an indispensable author. Advance praise for Science in the Soul “The illumination of Richard Dawkins’s incisive thinking on the intellectual world extends far beyond biology. What a treat to see so clearly how matter and meaning fit together, from fiction to philosophy to molecular biology, in one unified vision!” —Daniel C. Dennett, author of From Bacteria to Bach and Back: The Evolution of Minds “I thank Thor and Zeus that in their infinite wisdom they chose to make the great wordsmith of our age a great rationalist, and vice versa.” —Matt Ridley, author of The Evolution of Everything: How New Ideas Emerge “In this golden age of enlightened science writing, it is stunning that no scientist has won the Nobel Prize for Literature. It is time literature’s highest award be granted to a scientist whose writings have changed not just science but society. No living scientist is more deserving of such recognition than Richard Dawkins. . . .  Science in the Soul is the perfect embodiment of Nobel–quality literature.” —Michael Shermer, publisher of Skeptic magazine, columnist for Scientific American, and author of The Moral Arc: How Science Makes Us Better People “ Science in the Soul is packed with Dr. Dawkins’s philosophy, humor, anger, and quiet wisdom, leading the reader gently but firmly to inevitable conclusions that edify and educate.” —James Randi, author of The Faith Healers

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Science in the Soul – Richard Dawkins

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Behave – Robert M. Sapolsky

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Behave

The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst

Robert M. Sapolsky

Genre: Life Sciences

Price: $18.99

Publish Date: May 2, 2017

Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group

Seller: Penguin Group (USA) Inc.


Why do we do the things we do? Over a decade in the making, this game-changing book is Robert Sapolsky's genre-shattering attempt to answer that question as fully as perhaps only he could, looking at it from every angle. Sapolsky's storytelling concept is delightful but it also has a powerful intrinsic logic: he starts by looking at the factors that bear on a person's reaction in the precise moment a behavior occurs, and then hops back in time from there, in stages, ultimately ending up at the deep history of our species and its genetic inheritance. And so the first category of explanation is the neurobiological one. What goes on in a person's brain a second before the behavior happens? Then he pulls out to a slightly larger field of vision, a little earlier in time: What sight, sound, or smell triggers the nervous system to produce that behavior? And then, what hormones act hours to days earlier to change how responsive that individual is to the stimuli which trigger the nervous system? By now, he has increased our field of vision so that we are thinking about neurobiology and the sensory world of our environment and endocrinology in trying to explain what happened. Sapolsky keeps going–next to what features of the environment affected that person's brain, and then back to the childhood of the individual, and then to their genetic makeup. Finally, he expands the view to encompass factors larger than that one individual. How culture has shaped that individual's group, what ecological factors helped shape that culture, and on and on, back to evolutionary factors thousands and even millions of years old. The result is one of the most dazzling tours de horizon of the science of human behavior ever attempted, a majestic synthesis that harvests cutting-edge research across a range of disciplines to provide a subtle and nuanced perspective on why we ultimately do the things we do…for good and for ill. Sapolsky builds on this understanding to wrestle with some of our deepest and thorniest questions relating to tribalism and xenophobia, hierarchy and competition, morality and free will, and war and peace. Wise, humane, often very funny, Behave is a towering achievement, powerfully humanizing, and downright heroic in its own right.

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Behave – Robert M. Sapolsky

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Pandora’s Seed – Spencer Wells

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Pandora’s Seed

The Unforeseen Cost of Civilization

Spencer Wells

Genre: Life Sciences

Price: $1.99

Publish Date: June 8, 2010

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group

Seller: Penguin Random House LLC


Ten thousand years ago, our species made a radical shift in its way of life: We became farmers rather than hunter-gatherers. Although this decision propelled us into the modern world, renowned geneticist and anthropologist Spencer Wells demonstrates that such a dramatic change in lifestyle had a downside that we’re only now beginning to recognize. Growing grain crops ultimately made humans more sedentary and unhealthy and made the planet more crowded. The expanding population and the need to apportion limited resources created hierarchies and inequalities. Freedom of movement was replaced by a pressure to work that is the forebear of the anxiety millions feel today. Spencer Wells offers a hopeful prescription for altering a life to which we were always ill-suited.  Pandora’s Seed  is an eye-opening book for anyone fascinated by the past and concerned about the future.

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Pandora’s Seed – Spencer Wells

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Scientists figured out a simple way to discover what’s troubling bees.

We’ve seen big declines in wild bee populations. That’s not just bad for the fuzzy little bees; it could drive up prices for almonds, blueberries, and other pollinator-dependent treats.

The challenge is knowing what would help them. Do we focus on preserving habitat and flowers? Or should we focus on certain pesticides? Is climate change behind this, too? It’s hard to say because bees are hard to study. It’s relatively easy to count long-legged pronghorns or wide-winged condors compared to counting the gnat-sized Perdita minima, the world’s tiniest bee.

That’s why a research team at the University of Missouri has been putting little microphones in alpine meadows. When those mics record buzzing, the team’s software analyzes the noise to tell scientists the number and species of bees visiting. They just published a paper, showing that their methods work.

This breakthrough could allow regular folks to collect solid scientific data from the safety of their porch. Farmers could “monitor pollination of their orchards and vegetable crops and head off pollination deficits,” said Candace Galen, a biological science professor who led the university’s research team, in a news release.

Interested? The group is working on an app that would let you collect bee data with your smartphone.

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Scientists figured out a simple way to discover what’s troubling bees.

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A New Wave of Left-Wing Militants Is Ready to Rumble in Portland—and Beyond

Mother Jones

One week after two men were stabbed to death while defending two girls from a racist and Islamophobic diatribe on a commuter train, Portland, Oregon, is bracing for more violence. On Sunday, over the mayor’s objection, a right-wing group will hold a pro-Trump “free speech rally,” while anti-fascist activists are preparing to protest the gathering.

It’s a pattern that has played out across the country since the election: Pro-Trump events from Pikeville, Kentucky, to Berkeley, California, attract white nationalists, neo-Nazis, and Klansmen along with other provocateurs from the so-called “alt-right.” And, predictably, “antifa” counterprotesters mask up to oppose them—often physically.

Yet joining up with the well-established networks of antifascists and anarchists is a new generation of militant organizers. In Portland, Rose City Antifa’s coalition at this weekend’s pro-Trump rally will include the local chapter of Redneck Revolt, a national network whose outreach has targeted right-wing militia members.

Redneck Revolt is just one among a handful of left-wing groups that have pledged to resist emboldened white supremacists and right-wing extremists through “direct action” that sometimes goes beyond nonviolent protest—including picking up arms. Some see themselves as the heirs of ’60s radicals like the Black Panthers, while others look to the antifa movement for inspiration. Here are a few:

Bastards Motorcycle Club: A couple of years ago, South Carolinians Steven “Chavez” Parker and Joseph Guinn organized an anti-racist, LGBT-friendly motorcycle gang. Traditional biker clubs, Parker thought, “were all going to think one thing: ‘What a bunch of bastards.'” Since then, the Bastards Motorcycle Club has rolled up to oppose racist events across the South, sometimes armed and ready to rumble. April 2016 they joined a small army of counterprotesters at a rally of white supremacists in Stone Mountain, Georgia, home of a rock carving honoring the Confederacy. They’re now looking to set up new chapters—women need not apply. That’s “not the way things work,” says the group’s president, who insists on being called by his biker name, Gigolo.

By Any Means Necessary: BAMN formed in 1995 to fight California’s rollback of affirmative action. The group, which is led by civil rights lawyer Shanta Driver, has organized anti-Trump rallies and high school walkouts. But it also supports more aggressive tactics. “When we say ‘by any means necessary,’ we mean everything from doing legal cases to organizing more militant actions,” Driver says. “We are not people who believe, in situations where we’re under attack, that we should turn the other cheek.” Last June, BAMN teamed up with antifas to confront a small group of white nationalists marching outside California’s Capitol building in Sacramento. Anti-racist protesters, many in black clothing and masks, pelted marchers with water bottles and hit them with wooden bats. Several people from both camps were beaten or stabbed. “They are organizing to attack and kill us, so we have a right to self-defense,” BAMN activist Yvette Felarca told a TV crew. “Anyone who’s thinking about joining them, don’t. Because it’s not going to be a good day for you.”

Redneck Revolt: This network, largely made up of anarchists and libertarians, is focused on anti-racist organizing among the white working class. Inspired by the Young Patriots—white Appalachian activists who allied with the Black Panthers in the late 1960s—the group now claims chapters in more than 30 regions. Redneck Revolt’s members can speak to their neighbors more easily than ivory-tower liberals, says Lucas Kelly, a member of the Phoenix chapter. “‘Privilege’ means one thing to them. It means a different thing to working-class folks who put in 60, 80 hours a week to support their family.” The group also runs firearms trainings. Last December, Kelly’s chapter sent members to a gun show, where they handed out posters tagged with the slogan “Fighting Nazis Is an American Tradition: Stop the Alt-Right.”

Huey P. Newton Gun Club: After a white Dallas police officer killed an unarmed black man in 2013, community organizers Yafeuh Balogun and Babu Omowale launched the Huey P. Newton Gun Club, a coalition of black self-defense groups named after the co-founder of the Black Panthers. “We’re going to educate black, brown, and poor white people to arm up or at least get familiar with weapons,” Balogun says. “So if a situation does arise, if they feel threatened, at least they can defend themselves.” When an anti-Muslim group held an armed protest outside a Nation of Islam mosque in South Dallas in April 2016, armed Gun Club members showed up to counterprotest. Balogun says his group, which operates armed patrols in South Dallas, has drawn the attention of the FBI. But he also emphasizes that it’s not just about guns: “What we advise people is to not necessarily be so quick, so fast, to pick up arms.”

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A New Wave of Left-Wing Militants Is Ready to Rumble in Portland—and Beyond

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American Health Care Is Expensive. It Will Take Years to Change That.

Mother Jones

A couple of days ago I tossed off a late-night post pointing out that health care is expensive, so it’s hardly surprising that estimates of California’s proposed single-payer plan have clocked in at a net additional cost of around $200 billion. That was pretty much my only point, but this post caused quite a…stir…on Twitter from the usual suspects, who were outraged that I hadn’t assumed single-payer would radically slash medical costs. Today, Jon Walker provides a more measured version of the argument:

It is critical to address this weird claim from Drum because the idea that single-payer would cut health care costs isn’t some optimistic liberal talking point. It is a near universal assumption and the main reason achieving single-payer has politically been so difficult. It is the heart of the whole debate.

Again, this is not a liberal idea. The Lewin Group, a health care consulting firm owned by UnitedHealth Group, has repeatedly concluded that single-payer would cut health care costs. For example, they analyzed a single-player plan for Minnesota and concluded, “that the single-payer plan would achieve universal coverage while reducing total health spending for Minnesota by about $4.1 billion, or 8.8 percent.” It reached the same basic conclusion looking at a national single-payer plan in years past.

As it happens, I’ve found Lewin Group estimates in the past to be a little optimistic, but set that aside. I put the ballpark additional cost of national single-payer health care at $1.5 trillion, but if someone wants to assume it would be $1.36 trillion instead, that’s fine. That’s still in the ballpark. More important, though, is this chart, which accompanies that Lewin report on Minnesota:

This is basically right. As I mentioned in the original post, “If we’re lucky, a good single-payer system would slow the growth of health care costs over the long term, but it’s vanishingly unlikely to actually cut current costs.” And that’s pretty much what Lewin shows. The initial cost saving is small, but the cost containment measures inherent in a government-funded plan push the cost curve down over time. Their estimate is that within a decade Minnesota’s proposed plan would have been a third less expensive than business-as-usual. This is roughly what I’d expect for a national single-payer plan too.

Is it technically possible to cut initial spending more? Sure. We could nationalize the whole medical industry, cut nurse and doctor pay by a third across the board, and create a mandatory formulary for drugs at a tenth of the price we currently pay. When the revolution comes, maybe that will happen—and doctors and pharma executives will be grateful we didn’t just take them out and shoot them. In the meantime, I’m more interested in real-world movements toward single payer. Obamacare was a good start. Adding a public option would be another step. Medicare for all might be next. And something better than Medicare would be the final step. That will be hard enough even if we don’t make mortal enemies out of every single player in the health care market.

Roughly speaking, if we adopted national single-payer health care today it would cost us an additional $1.5 trillion in taxes. That’s reality, and as a good social democrat I’m fine with that. In theory, after all, my taxes might go up 30 percent, but Mother Jones will also increase my salary 30 percent because they no longer have to provide me with health insurance. Roughly speaking, this would be a good deal for half the country, which pays very little in income taxes; a wash for another third; and a loss for the top 10 percent, whose taxes would go up more than the cost of the health insurance they currently receive. If we decide to tax corporations instead of individuals, the incidence of the tax would pass through to individuals in a pretty similar way.

So that’s that. I don’t believe in Santa Claus, and I don’t believe that we can pass a bill that slashes health care costs to European levels. They’ve had decades of cost containment that got them to where they are. We, unfortunately, haven’t, so we have to start with our current cost structure. One way or another, that’s what we have to deal with.

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American Health Care Is Expensive. It Will Take Years to Change That.

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Trump Appears to Shove NATO Leader Aside for Better Position in Photos

Mother Jones

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During a meeting with fellow NATO leaders in Brussels on Thursday, President Donald Trump appeared to shove Prime Minister Milo Dukanovic of Montenegro aside in order to position himself front and center for photographers.

The gesture was swiftly mocked on social media. Trump’s first visit to the Belgian capital, a city the president previously described as a “hellhole,” was already fraught with anxiety. Trump vowed to pull the United States out of NATO and repeatedly described the group as “obsolete” during the presidential campaign. Although he appeared to reverse course after meeting with the group’s secretary general in April, Trump’s commitment to NATO remained unsure.

Those apprehensions were reaffirmed Thursday: Shortly before appearing to push Dukanovic, Trump delivered a speech chastising NATO countries for failing to “meet their financial obligations”—a popular refrain from his campaign days. Keep a lookout for the faces of European leaders as Trump lectures them in the clip below:

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Trump Appears to Shove NATO Leader Aside for Better Position in Photos

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Black Lives Matter is Bailing Out Women for Mother’s Day

Mother Jones

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Black Lives Matter has a big gift for some moms this Mother’s Day—their freedom. Groups affiliated with the police and criminal justice reform movement have been bailing black women out of jail ahead of the holiday on Sunday. The nationwide effort, dubbed National Black Mamas Bail Out Day, seeks to reunite the women with their families and raise awareness of the disparate impact of incarceration and the bail system on black women.

So far, more than 50 women around the country have been bailed out by the Mother’s Day effort. Organizing groups in Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, New York City, Oakland, and 13 other cities, have been raising money through an online fundraising campaign. So far, they have brought in nearly $500,000 for the campaign, with $25,000 set aside for use in each city. The average bail paid off has varied widely; organizers in Atlanta bailed out 19 women with their pot of money, whereas 4 women have been bailed out in Oakland.

Activists have also raised money individually as well. Members of the Atlanta chapter of Southerners on New Ground (SONG), an LGBT-focused racial justice group, canvassed neighborhoods and collected small donations in a hat, according to Mary Hooks, an organizer with the chapter who came up with the idea for the nationwide initiative. “Black people have a tradition of using our collective resources to buy each other’s freedom,” she says, referring to the slavery-era practice of free black people saving money to purchase the freedom of their enslaved family members and friends. “We have an opportunity to do that when we understand how the cash bail system works. The sooner we can get folks out, the ability for them to mitigate their cases increases and the less collateral damage they are likely to incur.”

The organizers have drawn on their existing relationships with other criminal justice organizations to identify women to bail out of jail. In Oakland, the public defender’s office sent organizers names of women in jail, says Gina Clayton, an organizer with Essie Justice Group. Essie Justice organizers also sat in on arraignment hearings to identify women who would need to be bailed out. One of the people bailed out in Oakland was a mother of two who was jailed on a $10,000 bail about a week earlier, Clayton says. When organizers visited the woman to tell her they were paying her bail, she cried. Organizers with the Oakland office of the Black Alliance for Just Immigration, an immigrants’ rights group that focuses on black migrants, bailed out a Haitian woman who had been held in a detention facility in Southern California. The woman had fled domestic abuse in her home country, according to Devonte Jackson, an organizer with the group. BAJI bought the woman a bus ticket to Florida so she could visit her family for Mother’s Day.

The term “mama,” as it’s used by the National Black Mamas Bail Out Day campaign, is broadly defined to include not just women with biological children, but all women—including trans women—who are linchpins for their families and neighborhoods. “It’s about knowing and naming that black women play such a critical role in our communities,” Hooks says.

The number of women behind bars in the United States has increased 700 percent since 1980, according to the Sentencing Project. More than 100,000 women are currently in jail. Many have not been convicted of anything but are unable to make bail, and a disproportionate number of them are black. Eighty percent of incarcerated women are mothers, according to the Vera Institute of Justice.

Nationally, the median bail set for a felony charge is $10,000, almost a year’s income for the average person unable to meet bail, according to the Sentencing Policy Initiative. Nearly 90 percent of inmates awaiting trial can’t afford bail; The average bail amount in felony cases has nearly tripled since 1990.

Bail reform is a key part of the national policy platform released last summer by the Movement for Black Lives, a broad coalition of groups affiliated with the Black Lives Matter movement. Many of the groups bailing out women this week are also working on efforts to pass local and state legislation that would abolish cash bail in their jurisdictions. Earlier this year, New Orleans and New Jersey eliminated cash bail requirements for a range of low level offenses.

This weekend, organizers in some cities are holding events to welcome newly freed women back home. In Atlanta, organizers are hosting a picnic for the women and their families on Mother’s Day. Volunteers will help connect the women with resources for housing, employment, and legal assistance, Hooks says. The groups are also raising money for a possible bail-out effort to commemorate Father’s Day on June 18.

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Black Lives Matter is Bailing Out Women for Mother’s Day

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Britain just went a whole day without burning any coal for electricity.

Ten years ago, Mark Magaña was a D.C. lobbyist, when the Bipartisan Policy Center hired him to rally Latino support for an ill-fated bill to limit corporate carbon emissions. As Magaña soon found, there was no network to tap. Even within green groups in Washington, most Latino environmentalists didn’t know each other.

“The more I got into it, the more I saw the individuals in D.C. were very isolated,” Magaña says. “If I went to a green reception, maybe I’d be the only Latino in the room. Maybe there’d be one other, but I wouldn’t know them.”

In response, Magaña founded GreenLatinos, a national network of Latino environmental advocates that connects grassroots efforts with power and money in Washington. So far, the group has convinced the Environmental Protection Agency to close several contaminating landfills in Puerto Rico and brought attention to the Standing Rock pipeline protests in the Spanish-language media.

Diversity is the future of the environmental movement, Magaña says. “Now it’s investment time, investing in the communities,” he says. “They will be the environmentalists of the future.”


Meet all the fixers on this year’s Grist 50.

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Britain just went a whole day without burning any coal for electricity.

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