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In recent days, both Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh have suggested that the H1N1 flu vaccine may be unsafe and questioned the Obama administration’s recommendation that Americans get vaccinated, with Limbaugh asserting that “[y]ou’ll be healthier” if you don’t believe what the government says and Beck suggesting that the vaccine may be “deadly.” However, health experts have repeatedly stated that the vaccine is a safe and necessary tool to combat the virus, and that, in CDC chief Thomas Frieden’s words, “This flu vaccine is made as flu vaccine is made each year, by the same companies, in the same production facilities, with the same procedures, with the same safety safeguards” and “[t]hat enables us to have a high degree of confidence in the safety of the vaccine.” –“Beck, Limbaugh Fomenting Fear About H1N1 Vaccine,” Media Matters
Criticism of the NYTimes coverage of the decline of Harvard (where robot bees will soon swarm;
Neiman Marcus threatens the rich with Roz Chast/George Stephanopoulos dinner (via);
Technology Review‘s plans to save publishing;
NBC sued for font abuse;
museum with mechanized Madame Bovary;
Gazan zoo dyes donkeys into zebras
Last month, [Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS)] editor-in-chief Randy Schekman wrote to academy member Lynn Margulis, a cell biologist at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, asking for “a satisfactory explanation for [her] apparent selective communication of reviews” for a paper she ushered through the peer-review process. Schekman made the demand after a report in Scientific American cited Margulis as saying that she obtained “6 or 7″ reviews before netting “2 or 3″ favourable ones that recommended publication. The paper in question, by Donald Williamson, a retired zoologist at the University of Liverpool, UK, claims that the transition of caterpillars into butterflies can be explained by ancient butterflies inadvertently mating with velvet worms . This controversial idea is supported by Margulis, who is a strong proponent of the hypothesis that new species form by symbiotic mergers between unrelated organisms. She denies any wrongdoing and stands by the work. But Williamson’s claims met with scepticism from many scientists after the paper was published online. “If you know the literature on insect metamorphosis and insect development, you would know right away that this is absolutely ridiculous,” says Fred Nijhout, an insect developmental biologist at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. –“Row at US Journal Widens,” Elie Dolgin, Nature News
Herta Müller’s Nobel prize;
Robert Thurman and Pico Iyer talk about why the Dalai Lama matters (Ken Silverstein, however, still finds the Dalai Lama to be an “overrated gasbag”);
Lululemon: “Children are the orgasm of life.”
In terms of evolutionary history, I do not think that reciprocal altruism, inclusive fitness (kin selection), or group selection in its various forms can account for empathy-induced altruistic motivation in humans. Rather, generalized parental nurturance now seems the most likely evolutionary basis of empathic concern—even for strangers. Human parental nurturance is far more flexible and future-oriented than the parental instincts found in most—perhaps all—other mammalian species. It is need-oriented, emotion-based, and goal-directed. And it can be generalized well beyond our own children—in the case of pets, even to members of other species. If parental nurturance is the prototype for empathy-induced altruism, then the intensity of tender, empathic feeling for strangers should vary with perceived similarity to progeny, not perceived similarity to self. Is this true?
–“Empathic Concern and Altruism in Humans,” Dan Batson, On the Human (via)
Rep. Jeff Flake (R., Ariz.) takes a solo survivalist vacation in Marshall Islands, with beefcake photos;
evolutionary paleontologist: “finding your inner fish”;
Michael Swanwick is writing short-short stories about chemical elements (via);
clouds scare Russia;
Feynman: imagine the gods are playing chess (video)
Many comedians consider stand-up the purest form of comedy; Doug Stanhope considers it the freest. “Once you do stand-up, it spoils you for everything else,” he says. “You’re the director, performer, and producer.” Unlike most of his peers, however, Stanhope has designed his career around exploring that freedom, which means choosing a life on the road. Perhaps this is why, although he is extremely ambitious, prolific, and one of the best stand-ups performing, so many Americans haven’t heard of him. Many comedians approach the road as a means to an end: a way to develop their skills, start booking bigger venues, and, if they’re lucky, get themselves airlifted to Hollywood. But life isn’t happening on a sit-com set or a sketch show — at least not the life that has interested Stanhope. He isn’t waiting to be invited to the party; indeed, he’s been hosting his own party for years.
Because of the present comedy boom, civilians are starting to hear about Doug Stanhope from other comedians like Ricky Gervais, Sarah Silverman, and Louis CK. But Stanhope has been building a devoted fan base for the past two decades, largely by word of mouth. On tour, he prefers the unencumbered arrival and the quick exit: cheap motels where you can pull the van up to the door of the room and park. He’s especially pleased if there’s an on-site bar, which increases the odds of hearing a good story from the sort of person who tends to drink away the afternoon in the depressed cities where he performs. Stanhope’s America isn’t the one still yammering on about its potential or struggling with losing hope. For the most part, hope is gone. On Word of Mouth, his 2002 album, he says, “America may be the best country, but that’s like being the prettiest Denny’s waitress. Just because you’re the best doesn’t make you good.”
Ratio of husbands who say they fell in love with their spouse at first sight to wives who say this:
Mathematicians announced the discovery of the perfect method of cutting a cake.
Indian prime-ministerial contender Narendra Modi, who advertises his bachelorhood as a mark of his incorruptibility, confessed to having a wife.
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Science’s crisis of faith