The knives are out for Bernie Sanders as his popularity surges

Political commentators are expressing surprise at the surge in support for Bernie Sanders and already the political and media establishment are trying to find ways to undermine him. His massive fundraising haul from mostly small donations and the endorsements from unions and the rise in polls could not be ignored any longer so now they are trying to foment conflict between him and Elizabeth Warren, a naked attempt to revive the ‘Bernie Bros’ narrative that was used in the 2016 campaign by some supporters of Hillary Clinton to suggest that Sanders’ support came largely from anti-women men.

Establishment columnist Margaret Carlson is urging other Democrats to attack Sanders now “before it is too late” (i.e., before he gets an overwhelming start to the nomination) while they are quick to criticize him if he should dare say the slightest word against their favored candidates like Joe Biden, accusing him of forming a circular firing squad. There have been conflicting recollections about a meeting between Sanders and Warren in 2018, and disputes about what was actually said, especially that Bernie has been on the record for decades saying that women can be president.
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When and why did our fishy ancestors move to land?

We are the descendants of fish ancestors. Clearly at some point, a transition to land occurred and thus began the process of learning to walk. The question naturally arises of when and why our ancestors made the leap onto land. It is always a tricky to say how any particular feature that is now present evolved in the deep past and there is usually more than one possible explanation.

This caption to the video below explains a possible reason, that moving to land made it possible to see better and farther.

Some 400 million years ago, humanity’s ancient sea-dwelling ancestors made a giant leap to land, sprouting weight-bearing fins that would eventually carry us out of the water forever. So what precipitated this evolutionarily pivotal change of terrain? According to recent research led by Malcolm MacIver, a computational neuroscientist and engineer at Northwestern University in Illinois, the jump to solid ground might have more to do with vertebrates’ eyes than limbs. Testing their theory that exponentially clearer views of bountiful prey above water led our ancestors to select for eyes atop the head, with primitive limbs coming long after, MacIver and colleagues ran extensive fossil-data simulations. They concluded that above-water sight did indeed provide an ‘informational zip line’ out of the water – what they call the buena vista (or ‘good view’) hypothesis. Moreover, they believe that those above-water views would eventually lead our land-dwelling ancestors to select for prospective cognition – the ability to mentally place oneself in the future – while fish were left in the muck of the moment.

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MIT professor suspended for getting secret donations from Jeffrey Epstein

Seth Lloyd is a well-known MIT professor who has done important work on quantum computing and information theory. (I quote him in my latest book.) But an internal investigation by the university’s law firm Goodwin Proctor, commissioned by MIT after it was revealed that its highly regarded MediaLab had been getting unreported donations from Jeffrey Epstein, reveals that Lloyd has also been getting secret gifts from Epstein.
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A sensible attitude

It has always been absurd that the followers of a faith that believes in an all-powerful deity would think that they need to take law into their own hands or to require the government to crack down on what they see as heresy and heretics. If their god is upset, surely he could deal with it by himself? Conversely, the fact that their god did not do anything must be because he was not upset by whatever it was that got his followers all hot and bothered.
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A ghastly tragedy shows the madness of war

Iran has admitted that it shot down the Ukrainian airliner flight 752 that resulted in the deaths of 176 people and has issued an apology.

A military statement on state TV early on Saturday blamed “human error” for the downing of Ukraine International Airlines flight 752 on Wednesday in the tense aftermath of strikes on US targets. It was followed by an apology from Iran’s president and condolences from the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

The Iranian foreign minister, Javad Zarif, wrote: “A sad day. Preliminary conclusions of internal investigation by armed forces: human error at time of crisis caused by US adventurism led to disaster. Our profound regrets, apologies and condolences to our people, to the families of all victims, and to other affected nations.”

The plane was mistaken for a hostile target after it turned towards a sensitive military centre of the Revolutionary Guards, according to the military statement, carried on the official IRNA news agency.

“The military was at its highest level of readiness” amid the heightened tensions with the US, it said, adding: “In such a condition, because of human error and in an unintentional way, the flight was hit.”

Iranian president Hasan Rouhani has called the shooting an “unforgivable mistake”.

In addition to the many deaths that are deliberately caused which are bad enough, the conditions of war and the heightened tensions result in tragedies of this kind happening, such as the shooting down by the Soviet Union of the Korean Air 007 in 1983 during the Cold War that resulted in 269 deaths and the shooting down by the US of the Iranian Airbus 655 during the Gulf War in 1988 that killed 290 people.

I cannot repeat it enough. War is a sign of madness.

AOC breaks the rules both small and big

This profile of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez says that her outspokenness and progressive views means that she has few friends in Washington, that cradle of the corporate-military-political establishment, but that does not bother her.

As the rest of the world has changed, Congress remains a place of traditions. Even the chaos merchants — the Ted Cruzes and Rand Pauls and tricornered tea-party Republican congressmen — still end up playing by the rules as laid out by the leadership. Ocasio-Cortez, at least so far, has not. She is at once a movement politician and a cultural phenomenon, someone equally at home on CSPAN and Desus & Mero. She isn’t especially interested in compromising with those who don’t share her values, and isn’t afraid to be the lone “no” vote, as she was last January, when she was the only Democrat to vote against funding the government because it meant continuing to fund ICE. Twelve months later, it is clear she isn’t trying very hard to amass power in Congress. Her heroes are Bernie Sanders, who withstood party pressure decade after decade in the Senate, and Howard Thurman, a mentor of Martin Luther King Jr.’s who believed in merging the spiritual and political.

“People come here, and they have served in state legislatures or they may have been executives for health-insurance or fossil-fuel companies or lobbyist groups or PACs, and they’re part of this whole club,” she said.
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A hopeful vision for the future

This excellent short video, narrated by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, illustrated by Molly Crabapple, and produced by The Intercept and Naomi Klein, imagines a future where people took the threat of catastrophic climate change seriously and adopted the Green New Deal. But the visions extend well beyond combating climate change but also deals with changing our society to make it more egalitarian and socially cohesive.

Trump’s flirtation with war with Iran did not poll well

If Donald Trump had hoped that his killing of Iranian general Qassem Suleimani would be a big boost for his popularity by generating jingoistic sentiment and taking attention away from his impeachment troubles, then he will be disappointed.

A majority of those surveyed, by 52%-34%, called Trump’s behavior with Iran “reckless.”

Americans were divided on the wisdom of the drone strike at the Baghdad airport last week that killed Soleimani and others: 42% supported it, 33% opposed it; 25% said they didn’t know what to think. Republicans were much more supportive than Democrats; independents were almost evenly split.

But there was overwhelming agreement – in each case by more than 6-1 – that the attack made it more likely Iran would strike American interests in the Middle East (69%), that there would be terrorist attacks on the American homeland (63%), and that the United States and Iran would go to war with each other (62%).

By 52%-8%, those polled said the attack made it more likely that Iran would develop nuclear weapons.
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