Monday, March 16, 2015

The Dynamics of Disbelief

Climate change does not exist.
Evolution never happened.
The Moon Landing was fake.
Vaccinations can lead to autism.
Genetically modified food is evil.

Skepticism about science is on the rise, and polarization is the order of the day. In the March issue of National Geographic Magazine there is an interesting cover story by Joel Achenbach about the current push back on science, “The War on Science”. With more technology and information at our ready there is more information available creating segmented beliefs about science.

Today you hear and what you want to hear, as long as it supports your particular beliefs. News organizations have their agendas; values are being attacked by scientific fact. The hallmark of a good scientist is to be skeptical – data verification is the rule. But the credibility of the source of data is being questioned by partisan thinking and politics.

Less than half of all Americans believe the Earth is warming because humans are burning fossil fuels. Science appeals to our rational brain, but our beliefs are motivated largely by emotion, and the biggest motivation is remaining tight with our peers. “People still have a need to fit in, and that need to fit in is so strong that local values and local opinions are always trumping science. Meanwhile the Internet makes it easier than ever for climate skeptics and doubters of all kinds to find their own information and experts.

The University of Google is what I call it, the Internet filter that allows us to find what we want to find, to reinforce our beliefs and values.

“Eat or not to eat eggs?”  “Drinking red wine is good for you.” “The water is okay to drink.” It goes on and on. How wide is science between what we believe and the truth?

I am not a scientist, but I have many friends who are, who read this blog. I welcome their comments about this topic. Personally I think science is cool, but what is not cool is Bill O’Reilly or Rachel Meadow telling me that it is all nonsense and what they believe is the true scientific fact.

COLLEGE CHRONICLES – DIVEST HARVARD GAINS MOMENTUM: Natalie Portman and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. want Harvard to sell all fossil fuel stocks held by its endowment - and they're not alone. Last month, prominent Harvard alumni sent a letter calling on fellow Harvardians to lobby their alma mater to divest. The movement is gaining ground elsewhere: Stanford University and others have committed to end investments in coal.  "Harvard announcing a decision to divest would send an incredible moral and political statement," said Talia Rothstein, a co-coordinator of Divest Harvard, which is organizing a week-long event in mid-April to call attention to the cause. Divestment, she added, would be a "cultural catalyst."

Divest Harvard has been around since 2012, but the group hasn't been able to get an open, on-the-record meeting with the school's president. Students have tried a blockade, fasts and sit-ins - seven members even sued. They hope the April event will make a difference. Groups at other schools, like Yale, are also struggling to have an effect on their administrations. "They've circumvented that conversation by focusing on campus sustainability efforts, while their investments tacitly approve of a business model that exploits communities through destructive extraction ... and actively works against the climate solutions that would ensure students graduate into a livable world," Tristan Glowa, communications coordinator for Fossil Free Yale, told Morning Education.

In 2013, Harvard President Drew Faust explained why divesting of fossil fuels wasn't the right choice saying, in part, that 'We should ... be very wary of steps intended to instrumentalize our endowment in ways that would appear to position the University as a political actor rather than an academic institution.

Fossil fuels aren't the only thing at issue for university endowments. Earlier this year, Boston University decided the school wouldn't end investments in stocks of civilian gun manufacturers, despite the recommendations from the BU Advisory Committee on Socially Responsible Investing. The Board of Trustees began discussing divestment after the Sandy Hook shooting, even before the advisory committee was created.

ELECTRIC SLIDE - General Electric is a complicated company at a turning point. Chief Executive Jeff Immelt already had problems convincing investors he was moving fast enough to remake the conglomerate into a simpler industrial machine, and then he took a bet on the energy boom; falling oil prices are taking their toll on GE’s business and raising new questions about Mr. Immelt’s legacy. Some investors and executives fear it could now be even longer before GE shares escape their losing streak. “In one way, shape or form, I created all the problems,” Mr. Immelt said in September, discussing efforts to cut corporate-bureaucracy layers that have built up over his tenure. “It’s not like I can say…this was Jack Welch’s fault. It’s our fault, and my fault.”

SMITHSONIAN BANS SELFIE STICKS - Go ahead and enjoy that dinosaur skeleton, space ship or portrait at your favorite Smithsonian museum, but don't plan on capturing the moment with a selfie stick. The Smithsonian announced Tuesday that selfie sticks are included in its ban on tripods as "a preventive measure to protect visitors and objects, especially during crowded conditions."

HARD DRIVE - Google's (GOOG) planned wireless service may launch by the end of March, but will work only on the company's latest Nexus smartphone and not on other phones using Google's Android operating system.

Amazon (AMZN) has opened an online store on Alibaba's (BABA) business-to-consumer platform Tmall, in a move that analysts say will boost awareness of its brand in China.

Apple will join the Dow Jones Industrial Average this month, a long-anticipated change that adds the world's most-valuable company to the 119-year-old blue-chip index. The move is the latest milestone for Apple, which has emerged in recent years as the standard-bearer for a resurgent U.S. technology sector. The Cupertino, Calif., company in January reported latest-quarter net income of $18 billion, the largest quarterly profit on record, fueled by roaring sales of iPhones.

Apple will replace telecommunication giant AT&T, according to S&P Dow Jones Indices, the unit of McGraw Hill Financial Inc. that owns the Dow.

GOOGLE tops Fortune's' 100 Best Companies to Work For': 1. Google ... 2. Boston Consulting Group ... 3. Acuity ... 4. SAS Institute ... 5. Robert W. Baird ...6. Edward Jones ... 7. Wegmans Food Market ... 8. ... 9. Genentech ...10. Camden Property Trust.

BIRTHDAYS THIS WEEK – Birthday wishes and thoughts this week to: Alex Ball …famous political strategist, Frank Borman (87), Billy Crystal (67), Al Jarreau (75),  Quincy Jones (82), Eva Longoria (40), Jerry Lewis (89), Mike Love (74), Mitt Romney (68), Hollis Stacy (61),  James Taylor (67), Andrew Young (83).

FIFTY YEARS – Gay Talese -- age 83, a former copyboy at The New York Times who later was a reporter there from 1956 to 1965, and was one of the Times reporters who covered Bloody Sunday in Selma - returns to Page 1  with "Assignment America ('This series will explore changes in American politics, culture and technology, drawing on the reporting and personal experiences of New York Times journalists around the country'): Selma, Ala. - The Story Lines Blur, 50 Years After the Bloodshed at the Bridge."

Talese writes: "Selma today is a place expected to carry perhaps more symbolic weight than any small city can bear. Without doubt, civil rights history - American history - was made here. But ... when I first became part of the University of Alabama's all-white campus in 1949, I saw nothing so different from what I had observed during my New Jersey boyhood.

"In June of 1963 , as a reporter at The Times, I had an interview in New York with Alabama's Gov. George C. Wallace, who had flown in to appear on NBC's 'Meet the Press.' He stayed in a large suite at the Pierre hotel on Fifth Avenue, where our talk took place. The interview had been going well for the first 10 minutes, but then Governor Wallace suddenly rose from his chair, took me by the arm, and led me to one of the windows overlooking Central Park and the row of expensive buildings that line Fifth Avenue.

"'Here we have the citadel of hypocrisy in America,' he said, pointing down to the street and declaring that hardly any black people, even those who could afford it, could hope to share living space with whites in this area, or in surrounding areas, because of the longstanding, if unacknowledged, practices of real estate segregation in New York and other Northern cities.

"And still, he went on, they come down to the South and rant about equal rights! I quoted him at length in the next day's paper, but I left the interview without mentioning to Governor Wallace that I myself had an apartment a few blocks away from the Pierre - and I did not have then, nor do I have to this day, an African-American neighbor on my block." With pic of Gay Talese gazing at the Edmund Pettus Bridge

--HOW THE TIMES covered Bloody Sunday: On a crowded eight-column front page, Selma was a 1-col. headline in col. 1 (the off-lede), next to a 4-col. Associated Press Wirephoto pic. (The 3-col. lead was the release of the plan for New York City school integration). Here was the headline over Roy Reed's article from Selma: "ALABAMA POLICE USE GAS AND CLUBS TO ROUT NEGROES: 57 Are Injured at Selma as Troopers Break Up Rights Walk in Montgomery -- DR. KING IS IN ATLANTA -- He Reveals Plans to Lead a New March Tomorrow."

--The lead: "Alabama state troopers and volunteer officers of the Dallas County sheriff's office tore through a column of Negro demonstrators with tear gas, nightsticks and whips here today to enforce Gov. George C. Wallace's order against a protest march from Selma to Montgomery."

--GAY TALESE has a scene story on p. 20 (the jump page for the main story), "New York Doctors Barred at Scene: "SELMA, March 7 - The long line of Negroes walked slowly and silently to the main sidewalk of Selma's business district on this quiet Sunday. There were 525 of them, walking two abreast, and they were headed for a small concrete bridge at the end of the street."

SPORTS TALK -- "Why America fell out of love with golf," by Drew Harwell: "It's been years since the increasingly unpopular sport of golf plunked into the rough, and the industry now is realizing that it may not be able to ever get out. All the qualities that once made it so elite and exclusive are, analysts say, now playing against it. ... Even what loyalists would say are strengths -- its simplicity, its traditionalism -- can seem overly austere in an age of fitness classes, extreme races and iPhone games. ... The number of Americans who said they played golf at least once last year has fallen to one of its lowest point in years.

SPRING TRAINING – It was good to see Hall of Fame Coach George Valesente’s Ithaca College Bomber baseball team make their annual spring visit to SCIAC teams this past week. Coach Valesente begins his 38th season as head coach. Their trip was not too successful, going 2 – 5 for the week.

WHAT’S ON THE iPAD? – five songs we are listening to this week:

1). Adele, “Rolling in the Deep” (2010)
2). Garth Brooks, “What’s She Doin Now” (1991)
3). Chely Wright, “Single White Female” (1999)
4). The Hollies, “Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress” (1972)
5). Harry James, “Sleepy Lagoon” (1942)

BRACKETOLOGY 101 - Kentucky's chasing history, trying to become the first undefeated champion in March Madness since Indiana in 1976. They're seeded first in the Midwest Region, in search of six more wins for a perfect season. Kansas is the No. 2 seed in the Midwest. ... Kentucky's first game will be Thursday against the winner of Tuesday's play-in game between No. 16 seeds Manhattan and Hampton. The 68-team tournament begins Tuesday in Dayton, Ohio, with a pair of play-in games; it goes into full swing Thursday, with 16 games. ... Villanova seeded No. 1 in East Region, Duke seeded No. 1 in the South, and Wisconsin seeded No. 1 in the West.

The Swami’s Final Four – Kentucky, Wisconsin, Michigan State, Gonzaga.

COLLEGE HOCKEY GAME OF THE WEEK – Friday 3/20, 7:30 PM ET, TWCS; It is conference playoff time, in the ECAC #16 Colgate University Raiders (21-11-4) coached by Don Vaughn, St. Lawrence ’84, v. St. Lawrence University Saints (20-13-3), coached by Greg Carvel, St. Lawrence ’93. The game will be watched by yours truly, St. Lawrence ’76.  St. Lawrence wins 5 – 4.   Season to date (5-2)


(SCIAC Softball Game of the Week, Mar. 21) Cal Lutheran Regals (10-11) 4 vs. Whittier Richard Nixons (11-4) 6

(Big Ten hockey, Mar. 19) Wisconsin Badgers (4-25-5) 2 vs. #19 Michigan Wolverines (20-14-0) 6

(NBA, Mar. 21) Portland Trail Blazers (44-20) 95 vs. Memphis Grizzlies (46-20) 97

(NHL, Mar. 21) St. Louis Blues (44-20-5) 3 vs. Minnesota Wild (38-24-7) 4

Season to date (28-15)

MARKET WEEK – Last week marked six years since the 2009 stock market bottom. Since then, the Dow has risen 173 percent, the S&P 500 has added more than 206 percent, while the Nasdaq has gained more than 288 percent.

U.S. stock futures were higher in early trading, ahead of this week's Fed meeting, and after a third straight week of losses for the Dow and S&P 500 and two straight negative weeks for the Nasdaq.  Anticipation of a Fed rate hike has recently been sending ripples through financial markets. Investors may get more hints on the timing, after the central bank's two-day meeting ends on Wednesday.

Apple (AAPL) investors are looking for a turnaround, following three weeks of losses in a row, despite last week's smartwatch unveiling and the stock's upcoming inclusion this week in the Dow.  The battered euro hit new 12-year lows against the dollar early this morning, before recovering. Meanwhile, oil prices were under pressure again, with U.S. crude trading under $44 a barrel at one point.

DRIVING THE WEEK – Big week for the Fed with an FOMC statement and Janet Yellen presser on Wednesday ... House and Senate Republicans are set to produce budget blueprints that could differ on key points including defense spending and how long it takes to get to balance ... U.S. and Iranian negotiators resume talks today toward a possible nuclear deal ... Treasury Secretary Jack Lew testifies before House Financial Services at 10:00 a.m. Tuesday on the state of the int'l finance system ... Lew testifies before House appropriations subcommittee on Wednesday ... CFTC holds a roundtable Wednesday on cyber security ... House Financial Services on Wednesday has a hearing on 'Preserving Consumer Choice and Financial Independence" ... Industrial production this morning at 9:15 a.m. expected to rise 0.2 percent ... FOMC announcement at 2:00 p.m. Wednesday expected to drop the "patient" language, setting the stage for possible rate hike later this year ... Index of leading indicators at 10:00 a.m. Thursday expected to rise 0.3 percent.


May the road rise to meet you, 
May the wind be always at your back,
May the sun shine warm upon your face.
The rains fall soft upon your fields,
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of his hand.
    ~~Old Irish Blessing ~~

Next week: Spring Training continues and The Puzzler.

Until Next Monday, Adios

Claremont, CA

March 16, 2015

CARTOON OF THE WEEK –  Science Fact: The Composition of the human body

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