THE ILLUSION OF COMPETENCE

 

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What a Know-It-All Does Not Know

One day in 1995, a large, heavy middle-aged man robbed two Pittsburgh banks in broad daylight. He didn’t wear a mask or any sort of disguise. And he smiled at surveillance cameras before walking out of each bank. Later that night, police arrested a surprised McArthur Wheeler. When they showed him the surveillance tapes, Wheeler stared in disbelief. ‘But I wore the juice,’ he mumbled. Apparently, Wheeler thought that rubbing lemon juice on his skin would render him invisible to videotape cameras. After all, lemon juice is used as invisible ink so, as long as he didn’t come near a heat source, he should have been completely invisible.

Police concluded that Wheeler was not crazy or on drugs – just incredibly mistaken.

The saga caught the eye of the psychologist David Dunning at Cornell University, who enlisted his graduate student, Justin Kruger, to see what was going on. They reasoned that, while almost everyone holds favourable views of their abilities in various social and intellectual domains, some people mistakenly assess their abilities as being much higher than they actually are. This ‘illusion of confidence’ is now called the ‘Dunning-Kruger effect’, and describes the cognitive bias to inflate self-assessment.

To investigate this phenomenon in the lab, Dunning and Kruger designed some clever experiments. In one study, they asked undergraduate students a series of questions about grammar, logic and jokes, and then asked each student to estimate his or her score overall, as well as their relative rank compared to the other students. Interestingly, students who scored the lowest in these cognitive tasks always overestimated how well they did – by a lot. Students who scored in the bottom quartile estimated that they had performed better than two-thirds of the other students!

This ‘illusion of confidence’ extends beyond the classroom and permeates everyday life. In a follow-up study, Dunning and Kruger left the lab and went to a gun range, where they quizzed gun hobbyists about gun safety. Similar to their previous findings, those who answered the fewest questions correctly wildly overestimated their knowledge about firearms. Outside of factual knowledge, though, the Dunning-Kruger effect can also be observed in people’s self-assessment of a myriad of other personal abilities. If you watch any talent show on television today, you will see the shock on the faces of contestants who don’t make it past auditions and are rejected by the judges. While it is almost comical to us, these people are genuinely unaware of how much they have been misled by their illusory superiority.

Sure, it’s typical for people to overestimate their abilities. One study found that 80 per cent of drivers rate themselves as above average – a statistical impossibility. And similar trends have been found when people rate their relative popularity and cognitive abilities. The problem is that when people are incompetent, not only do they reach wrong conclusions and make unfortunate choices but, also, they are robbed of the ability to realise their mistakes. In a semester-long study of college students, good students could better predict their performance on future exams given feedback about their scores and relative percentile. However, the poorest performers showed no recognition, despite clear and repeated feedback that they were doing badly. Instead of being confused, perplexed or thoughtful about their erroneous ways, incompetent people insist that their ways are correct. As Charles Darwin wrote in The Descent of Man (1871): ‘Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge.’

Interestingly, really smart people also fail to accurately self-assess their abilities. As much as D- and F-grade students overestimate their abilities, A-grade students underestimate theirs. In their classic study, Dunning and Kruger found that high-performing students, whose cognitive scores were in the top quartile, underestimated their relative competence. These students presumed that if these cognitive tasks were easy for them, then they must be just as easy or even easier for everyone else. This so-called ‘imposter syndrome’ can be likened to the inverse of the Dunning-Kruger effect, whereby high achievers fail to recognise their talents and think that others are equally competent. The difference is that competent people can and do adjust their self-assessment given appropriate feedback, while incompetent individuals cannot.

And therein lies the key to not ending up like the witless bank robber. Sometimes we try things that lead to favourable outcomes, but other times – like the lemon juice idea – our approaches are imperfect, irrational, inept or just plain stupid. The trick is to not be fooled by illusions of superiority and to learn to accurately reevaluate our competence. After all, as Confucius reportedly said, real knowledge is knowing the extent of one’s ignorance.Aeon counter – do not remove

Kate Fehlhaber

This article was originally published at Aeon and has been republished under Creative Commons.

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THE WORLD’S TALLEST MAN

http://listverse.com/2017/05/12/top-10-freaky-facts-about-the-tallest-man/

BY ANTHONY SFARRA MAY 12, 2017

 

Guinness World Records recognizes Robert Wadlow as the tallest human ever for whom there are indisputable, documented measurements. The Alton Giant, as he was called, stood 272 centimeters (8’11″) tall. Robert’s stature led to a very unique life, and he became something of a celebrity for his height. Being the tallest person who ever lived, however, wasn’t always easy.

10 He Was Normal-Sized At Birth

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Robert Pershing Wadlow was born on February 22, 1918, in Alton, Illinois, a town along the Mississippi River not far from St. Louis. The first child of parents Harold and Addie Wadlow appeared completely normal at birth, weighing 3.8 kilograms (8.4 lb). He was a normal-sized baby, and why not? Harold and Addie were of average height, and their subsequent four children after Robert were also of normal height.[1]

After birth, however, Robert began to grow far faster than normal. When he was six months old, he weighed 14 kilograms (30 lb), roughly twice as heavy as a typical six-month-old. At 12 months, he’d grown to 20 kilograms (45 lb), and at 18 months, he’d reached 30 kilograms (67 lb). By the time Robert was a toddler, he was 91 centimeters (3’) tall.

9 A Very Big Kid

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When Robert was five years old, he stood 163 centimeters (5’4″) and weighed 48 kilograms (105 lb). When he entered kindergarten, he wore clothes sized for a 17-year-old. Robert was said to be well behaved in school and smart for his age. His main difficulty was finding desks that he could sit in.[2]

By the time Robert was eight, few stores had clothes that would fit him properly, and he became a regular customer for tailors. At age nine, Robert was able to carry his father up a flight of stairs. At 10, he’d reached a height of 196 centimeters (6’5″) and a weight of 95 kilograms (210 lb). His shoe size was 17.5. Try finding shoes of that size at a local store in 1928.

Robert joined the Boy Scouts at 13, becoming the world’s tallest Boy Scout at 224 centimeters (7’4″). He required a specially made uniform, sleeping bag, and tent. At this time, the ever-growing teen was consuming five times as many calories per day compared to typical boys his age. When Robert graduated high school, he towered over his classmates at 254 centimeters (8’4″). He tipped the scales at 177 kilograms (391 lb).

8 The Cause

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Not long before his 12th birthday, Robert and his family visited Barnes Hospital in St. Louis. There, the 211-centimeter (6’11″) boy finally learned just why he was growing so prodigiously. He had an overactive pituitary gland that was releasing far too much growth hormone.

The most common cause of an overactive pituitary gland is a benign tumor (called an adenoma) forcing excess hormone to be secreted. More often than not, such growths will cause too much prolactin to be secreted, but in some cases, excess growth hormone is released. It is also possible for pituitary tumors to simply be present without affecting hormone release at all. Such tumors are referred to as non-secreting.[3]

Today, several medical interventions can deal with adenomas, such as surgery or medication. In 1930, however, no treatments were available. Robert would only continue to grow.

7 The Difficulties Of Being The Tallest

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Being a literal giant isn’t easy. For one, Robert required a lot of food. A typical breakfast during his teen years consisted of eight eggs, 12 slices of toast, several glasses of orange juice, five cups of coffee, and plenty of cereal.[4]

Robert’s size began to take its toll on his body from a young age. His heart didn’t have an easy job, having to circulate blood to the ends of his long limbs. At age 10, his feet were cyanotic, so they had a blue color due to poor circulation. Robert had little sensation in his feet. He would not feel minor injuries to them until they were aggravated and raw.

When he was 14, Robert stumbled only slightly while pushing a boy on a tricycle, but doing so still broke two bones in his feet. Afterward, he had to wear an iron brace on that leg. As an adult, Robert needed leg braces to walk and also used a cane nearly as tall as an average adult. However, he never required a wheelchair.

Physical ailments aside, Robert lived in a world that was too small for him. To sit at tables, he had to keep his legs straight, causing his feet to stick out from the other end, where people would inevitably trip over them. There was always the danger of chairs breaking under his weight. He had to stoop considerably to get through most doors, and most ceilings weren’t high enough for him to stand up straight. If Robert stayed at a hotel, he needed multiple beds pushed together. Common activities such as going to the movies were unfeasible for him.

6 Adult Life

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As Robert entered his adult years, he continued to grow. At age 19, he’d reached 262 centimeters (8’7″) and was declared the tallest man in the world. His hands were 32.4 centimeters (12.8 in) from the tip of his middle fingers to his wrists. He had an arm span of about 2.9 meters (9.5 ft), and his shoes were size 37, which is 47 centimeters (19 in) long. At the time of his death, he had a pair of 39s under construction. At his heaviest, Robert weighed 223 kilograms (492 lb). He ate around 8,000 calories a day.

In 1936, Robert did a tour of the US with the Ringling Brothers Circus. In general, his main source of income was public appearances. When he was 20, he found a useful arrangement as a paid spokesman for the International Shoe Company, which also agreed to build his $100 shoes for free. He visited more than 800 towns in 41 states, traveling over 500,000 kilometers (300,000 mi) for the company. Robert also became a Freemason, presumably the tallest ever.[5]

5 Giant-Sized Items

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Robert was a very big man, and he needed some very big items for day-to-day life. All of his clothes had to be custom-made and required three times the normal amount of material to assemble. As previously mentioned, his shoes were both big and expensive. Unlike Robert’s other clothes, however, building his shoes was more than a question of extra leather. To withstand the stress they’d be placed under, the footwear had to be constructed with special materials and reinforced with metal parts. Robert also had a 2.9-meter (9.5 ft) bed at home.

For Robert’s shoe spokesman travels, his father modified the family car. The front passenger seat was removed, allowing Robert to sit in the back and stretch his legs out. The seven-person automobile effectively became a three-seater.[6]

In 1937, Robert’s parents made plans to build him a house scaled for his tremendous size. The doors would have been 2.7 meters (9 ft) high, the ceilings would have been 3.4 meters (11 ft), and even the stairs would have measured 0.6 meters (2 ft). All the furniture would have been fitted to Robert, and he would have had a 3-meter (10 ft) bathtub. The bathtub alone provided quite a snag, as it would have had to have been cast at a foundry, at a cost of up to $1,000. The plans for the house never came to fruition.

4 ‘The Gentle Giant’

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Robert was known for being quiet, good-natured, and friendly and was nicknamed the “Gentle Giant.” In his spare time, he was said to enjoy photography and stamp collecting. Many of his days, however, were spent facing crowds.

Outside his hometown, he couldn’t walk far without a group of onlookers accumulating and invariably stepping on his feet as they drew close. On top of that, his job also involved facing large assemblages of people. Robert generally didn’t mind. When asked if it bothered him when people would stare, he said, “No, I just overlook them.”[7]

Some crowd antics could get on Robert’s nerves, though. He didn’t like questions on how much he ate, and he especially grew tired of being asked, “How’s the weather up there?” When he was 18, Robert told a newspaper reporter that he hadn’t heard a new joke about his height in three years. Robert would sometimes bring his photography into his public appearances, surreptitiously photographing the crowds without their realizing it. His hands were large enough to completely conceal his camera, with the lens poking out between his thumb and forefinger.

3 The Court Case

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On June 2, 1936, a medical doctor named Charles Humberd visited Robert and his family. According to the Wadlows, he was very rude, and Robert ultimately refused to cooperate with Humberd or be examined by him. Humberd then trashed Robert in a paper published in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

The JAMA write-up described Robert as “surly,” “apathetic,” “antagonistic,” and “vapid,” among other things. Humberd painted Robert as a bitter introvert, angry with his physical state. He also expressed doubt on various teachers’ claims that Robert was intelligent. Humberd derided Robert as having “defective attention” and stated, “All functions that we attribute to the highest centers in the frontal lobes are languid and blurred.”

The Wadlows decided to sue Humberd for libel. He had made all these insulting claims about their son based on cursory observations. In court, several witnesses refuted Humberd’s description of Wadlow. Nevertheless, the Wadlows lost the suit, as the judge concluded that it could not be proven that Humberd’s description of Robert wasn’t accurate the day he met him. The family chose not to appeal.[8]

2 Robert’s Death

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On June 27, 1940, Robert’s height was measured. The Alton Giant, 22 years old and still growing, had reached 272 centimeters (8’11″). It would be the last time his height was measured.

On July 4, Robert appeared at the National Forest Festival in Manistee, Michigan, and walked in a parade. The next morning, he had a temperature of 41 degrees Celsius (106 °F). A doctor was called. Upon examining Robert, he discovered that his new iron brace, which had been fitted a week earlier, had created a large blister on his right ankle that would normally have been painful, if not for Robert’s poor sensation in his lower extremities. The blister was infected and septic.[9]

Robert had to sleep at a hotel, as the hospital had nothing large enough to accommodate him. He remained bedridden for days. Despite doctors’ best efforts, the infection would not abate. Robert Wadlow died in his sleep at 1:30 AM on July 15, 1940.

1 Aftermath

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Over 40,000 people attended Robert’s funeral in Alton. All businesses in town closed for the service as a show of respect. Robert was buried in Alton’s Oakwood Cemetery. Two grave plots were needed for his interment.

Robert’s coffin was 3.3 meters (10.8 ft) long. The 450-kilogram (1,000 lb) casket required 18 pallbearers and stuck out from the back of the hearse carrying it, necessitating a black cloth to be draped over the vehicle’s doors to cover the remainder. The Wadlows feared that Robert’s body might be dug up, perhaps by doctors for research, so his coffin was placed in a solid concrete vault. His tombstone has a simple epitaph of “At Rest.”[10]

After Robert’s death, his family destroyed most of his possessions to prevent them from being stolen and exhibited as “freak memorabilia.” Some items survive, however. In 1985, a life-size statue was constructed at the Southern Illinois University of Dental Medicine in Alton.

The Most Dangerous Species On The Planet

http://www.greeningz.com/interesting/most-dangerous-species-on-the-planet/7/

, Apr 23, 2017

Although many creatures on Earth are docile and harmless, there are many who are just the opposite. Both large and small, the earth is home to some very ferocious animals. Here are the most dangerous species on the planet.

Blue-Ringed Octopus

The Blue-Ringed Octopus lives in tide pools and coral reefs in the Pacific and Indian Oceans. They are considered one of the most venomous marine animals. They are normally rather passive, unless they feel threatened. If handled or provoked, they will sting humans with a neurotoxin that is powerful enough to kill. If stung, artificial respiration on the victim is required, as the venom causes paralysis of the respiratory muscles.

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Portuguese Man O’ War

The Portuguese Man O’ War is found in the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is commonly identified as a jellyfish, however it is is a siphonophore (a colonial organism). The stinging venom for the man o’ war leaves humans in severe pain and normally large red welts. The venom can also travel to the lymph nodes and cause symptoms similar to an allergic reaction. Other symptoms can include fever and shock. Not only can these species sting you while alive but detached tentacles can also cause just as painful of a sting.

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Great White Shark

The Great White Shark is a predator that can be found all over the Earth, more specifically coastal oceans. Both male and females can grow to a very large animal, however, the females can grow slightly larger than the males. Females can grow up to 20 feet (6.1 m) in length and weigh up to 4,300 pounds (1,950 kg). The Great White is responsible for the largest number of recorded shark bites on human beings. Although Great Whites do not normally seek out humans as food, humans are normally just “test-bitten” by the shark when attacked.

Great white shark breaking the surface in South Africa.

Cape Buffalo

The Cape Buffalo is found in sub-saharan Africa. They are normally relatively calm and they travel in herds. However, if an individual buffalo is injured, they become insane killers. Perfectly nicknamed, the Black Death, Cape Buffalo kill more hunters in Africa than any other animal. They will continue to attack even if you injure them. These behemoths can grow up to 6 feet long and weight nearly a ton.

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Deathstalker

This scorpion certainly has a fitting name, the Deathstalker. This highly venomous scorpion is found in North Africa and the Middle East. The venom of this guy contains a high level of neurotoxins. One sting to a grown adult, although extremely painful, will most likely not kill. However, a sting to a child, or the elderly, may be lethal. There is an anti-venom, however, sometimes the venom is resistant to the treatment.

Giant Pacific Octopus

One of the largest octopi on earth is the Giant Pacific Octopus. This octopus has 8 arms, all of which are lined with two rows of suckers. The suckers are then lined with hooks to capture its prey. In the center of the arms is a mouth that contains a beak and a toothed-tongue. Although not known to attack humans, this octopus is strong enough to feed on tiny sharks.

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Cone Snail

The Cone Snail can be found in warm waters near the equator. They are normally seen in shallow depths close to the shore around rock formations and coral reefs. Although tempting, if you see one do not touch it! The snails have harpoon-like teeth which contain a venom called conotoxin. The toxin stops nerve cells from communicating and can cause paralysis almost immediately. There is no antivenin.

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Siafu Ant

Don’t underestimate these guy because of their sizes. They are the true definition of strength in numbers. Also known as driver ants, if they feel attacked or threatened, the whole swarm will come after you. The swarms can contain up to 50 million and all will bite you. Their bites are extremely hard to remove once they attach to their prey. Even after death, their jaws will remain clamped. Although they may not be the most deadly, they are certainly very dangerous.

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Saw-Scaled Viper

The Saw-Scaled Viper kills more people than any other snake each year. Although it only grows to 1-3 feet long, its venomous bite can do lots of damage. Their venom contains hemotoxins and cytotoxins, which leads to multiple bleeding disorders including the possibility of an intracranial hemorrhage. Many of these snakes are found in areas where modern medicine is not found. Therefore, victims sometimes suffer a long, painful death.

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African Lion

The African Lion lives in groups called prides and can weigh 265 to 420 pounds. These animals are very territorial. The males will protect the land and the pride, while the females hunt for food. Although rare, there are accounts of lions eating man. Due to its cunning hunting skills, speed and strength, if targeted by an African Lion a person stands little chance of survival.

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Inland Taipan

The Inland Taipan is the most venomous of all the snakes in the world. What also separates this snakes from many others is its prey. The snake is an expert in hunting mammals, therefore, its venom is adapted to kill warm-blooded species. It normally does not strike unless provoked. Its venom contains neurotoxins which affect the nervous system, hemotoxins which affect the blood, and myotoxins which affect the the muscles. If untreated the venom can be lethal.

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Assassin Bug

The Assassin bug is perfectly named as it kills around 12,000 people each year. Although its bite does not directly kill, the disease it carries does. The assassin bug, also known as the kissing bug, carries the Chagas Disease. Chagas Disease is a parasitic infection, and if left untreated can be fatal. However, there is no vaccine for the disease. Prevention is focused on decreasing the bugs contact with humans by using sprays and paints that contain insecticides, as well as improving sanitary conditions.

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Flower Urchin

The flower urchin, or scientifically known as the Toxopneustes pileolus, is commonly found in the Indo-West Pacific. The name was given to the creature because if its numerous and distinctively flower-like, which are normally pinkish or yellowish white. The urchin normally inhabits coral reefs, sea grass beds or rocky environments. Although they may look pretty, do not touch. When touched they deliver a very painful sting causing debilitating pain.

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Africanized Honey Bee

The Africanized Honey Bee, also known as the Killer Bee, was created by man, not by nature. The bee is a cross-breeding of the African Honey bee and various European Honey bees.  The new breed of bee was taken to Brazil in the 1950s in hopes to increase honey production. However, several swarms escaped, and has since spread throughout the Americas. They are a very defensive species and chase humans long distances. They have killed over 1,000 humans, as well as many other animals such as horses.

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Mosquito

Many people see mosquitoes just as tiny annoyances. However, they are actually much more dangerous than most people perceive. The World Health Organization has reported that close to 725,000 people each year are killed by mosquito-born diseases. Hundreds of millions have been affected with malaria, many of which die for the disease. The bug also carries deadly diseases such as dengue fever, yellow fever, and encephalitis.

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Black Mamba

The Black Mamba is found in the savannas and rocky areas in southern and eastern Africa. It can grow up to 14 feet long and can slither up to 12.5 mph, making it the fastest snake in all the planet. Although it only attacks when it is provoked, when it does attack beware. The Black Mamba will bite several times, delivering enough toxins to kill 10 people. There is a antivenin but it must be received within 20 minutes.

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Tsetse Fly

The Tsetse Fly is found in Sub-Saharan African countries. The flies, like mosquitoes, feed other other animal’s blood. However, it’s not the bite that will harm you, it’s the parasites they spread that are so harmful. The parasite known as Trypanosomes are the direct cause for African Sleeping Sickness. The sickness leads to behavioral changes, poor coordination, trouble sleeping, and if not treated, death. The only way to prevent a bite is to wear neutral colors, avoid bushes during the day, and use permethrin-treated gear.

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Stonefish

The Stonefish is one of the most venomous fish. Mainly found on the coasts in the Indo-Pacific oceans, stonefish get their name from its ability to camouflage itself amongst the rocks. Due to its camouflage, swimmers may not see the fish and accidentally step on it. Unfortunately, this normally does not end well for the swimmer. The Stonefish has needle-like dorsal fin spines which secrete neurotoxins when disturbed. There is an anti-venom, and if the sting is minimal, hot water may also destroy the venom.

Stone fish.

Saltwater Crocodiles

The Saltwater Crocodile inhabits the Indo-Pacific Ocean waters. This croc can grow up to 23 feet long and weigh more than a ton. Although contradictory to their name, they can swim in both salt and freshwater, and can strike a bite delivering 3,700 pounds per square inch (psi) of pressure. That amount of pressure is close to the strength of a T. Rex! Crocodiles are responsible for more human deaths than sharks.

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Dogs

Dogs truly are a man’s best friend. They love you unconditionally no matter what your faults are. However, they can also be very dangerous. Dogs kill roughly 25,000 people each year, the majority of which died from rabies. The prevalence of infection where rabies is well contained, such as North America and Western Europes, is very low. However, there are other countries that have a high rate of stray dogs, like India, where 20,000 people die from rabies each year.

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Tarantula Hawk

The Tarantula Hawk wasp has the most painful sting of any insect on earth. However, humans do not normally have to worry about these bugs. They hunt the tarantula. However, human stings are possible if the wasp feels provoked. But, no medical attention is necessary. The pain will last for about 5 minutes and then dissipate. Due to their large stingers, most predators avoid these bugs. Therefore, even though they are tiny they are thriving predators.

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Hippopotamus

Although the Hippopotamus is mostly a herbivorous mammal, they can be very dangerous. The Hippo is very aggressive and territorial. Due to its large stature (it is the third-largest land mammal), sharp teeth and good mobility, it can be a deadly creature. Males can average around 3,300 pounds (1,497 kg). Many reports have been made about Hippos attacking people both in the water and on land. Therefore, its best to stay away if you see one, in the wild.

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Polar Bear

From zoos and media, people have become to know polar bears as cute and cuddly creatures. However, their natural instinct is just the opposite. The are the most carnivorous species in the bear family, and the most likely to attack humans. However, unless you plan to take a trip to the Arctic, you do not have to worry about becoming a polar bear’s dinner. Polar bears can weigh up to 1,750 pounds (800 kg).

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King Cobra

The King Cobra is the world’s longest venomous snake. It is predominantly found in India and other parts of Southeast Asia. The King Cobra’s venom’s toxins attack the victim’s central nervous system resulting in pain, vertigo and eventually paralysis. It has been reported that death can occur as short as 30 minutes without the antivenin. The toxin is so deadly, it could even kill a large elephant.

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Pufferfish

Better known as blowfish, Pufferfish are found in tropical seas all over the world. They are the second most poisonous vertebrae in the world. Their poison, called tetrodoxin, is found in the fish’s skin, muscle tissue, liver, kidneys and gonads. Tetrodoxin is over 1,000 times more poisonous than cyanide. However, chefs have still found ways to cook the fish, and it is considered a delicacy in places like Japan. Chefs must be licensed to do this, but accidental deaths from eating it still happen.

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Box Jellyfish

Box Jellyfish are considered by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration one of the most venomous marine animals in the world. Found in the Indo-Pacific waters north of Australia, the nearly invisible jellyfish contains up to 15 tentacles each growing up to 10 feet long. Each tentacle is lined with stingers that contain toxins that can attack the heart, nervous system and skin cells. There is an antivenin, however, many of its victims go into shock and drown.

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Golden Poison Dart Frog

The Golden Poison Dart Frogs are found on Colombia’s Pacific coast, and only grow to approximately the size of a paperclip. However, don’t let its small size fool you. This tiny frog has enough poison in it’s body to kill 10 grown men. It only takes 2 micrograms to kill one individual. That amount of liquid would fit onto the head of a pin.  The frog releases the poison out of glands beneath its skin. Therefore, one touch can kill you.

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Hyena

The Hyena is a very intelligent animal. Hyenas can weigh up to 190 pounds and their bite is capable of breaking bones. Although they normally do not attack people, they will if they perceive the human as hurt, sick or incapacitated. Their ability to coordinate hunts enables them to easily capture and kill their prey. However, there are many African people who have learned to live peacefully amongst the hyenas, and even keeping some as pets.

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Bullet Ant

The bullet ant, which was named for its powerful sting is found in humid lowland rainforests in parts of South America. The sting from one ant causes immediately and extreme pain. Their stings attack the central nervous system and can cause paralysis. One sting could incapacitate a full grown man. However, some South American tribes use the sting as initiation rites to become warriors.

Gray Wolf

The Gray Wolf is amongst one of Eurasia’s and North America’s most feared predators. They are about the size of a medium-to-large-sized dog, and travel in packs. What makes them such good predators is their sense of smell. They can smell their prey from a far distance, and then coordinate attacks with their pack. Wolf attacks on humans are rare, but when they do attack, they can be deadly and are normally directed towards small children.

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ENDING THE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION

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Report: Plan To Force God Into Public Schools Released

New Education Reform Report written for the Trump administration would put the Christian God in public schools.

An alarming report, written by a Christian conservative group with ties to Education Secretary Betsy Devos, plans for the promotion of Christianity in public schools and putting an end to the Department of Education.

The Washington Post reports:

A policy manifesto from an influential conservative group with ties to the Trump administration, including Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, urges the dismantling of the Education Department and bringing God into American classrooms.

The “Education Reform Report” released by the Center for National Policy, a front for radical conservative Christians with “ties to several top White House officials — including Education Secretary Betsy Devos,” states:

We submit this report to the Donald Trump/Betsy DeVos administration with the hope that our organization may be of assistance with the restoration of education in America, in accordance with historic Judeo-Christian principles.

According to the report, education reform under the Trump administration should be based on the following assumptions:

  1. All knowledge and facts have a source, a Creator; they are not self-existent.
  2. Religious neutrality is a myth perpetrated by secularists who destroy their own claim the moment they attempt to enforce it.
  3. Parents and guardians bear final responsibility for their children’s education, with the inherent right to teach, or to choose teachers and schools, whether institutional or not.
  4. No civil government possesses the right to overrule the educational choices of parents and guardians.

The committee responsible for the report adds the following pledge:

The CNP Education Committee pledges itself to work toward achievable goals based on uncompromised principles, so that their very success will provoke a popular return to the Judeo-Christian principles of America’s Founders who, along with America’s pioneers, believed that God belonged in the classroom.

The report calls for the dismantling of the Department of Education, claiming it is “unconstitutional, illegal and contrary to America’s education practice for 300 years from early 17th century to Colonial times.”

The Education Department is to be replaced with “Presidency’s Advisory Council on Public Education Reform.” The Council would:

  1. Restore Ten Commandments posters to all K-12 public schools.
  2. Clearly post America’s Constitution and Declaration of Independence.
  3. Encourage K-12 schools to recognize traditional holidays (e.g., Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas) as celebrations of our Judeo-Christian heritage.
  4. Implement select bible classes, such as Chuck Stetson’s Bible Literacy Project.
  5. Encourage instruction on U.S. and world history from the Judeo-Christian perspective for middle school and high school history and civics classes.
  6. Develop and recommend in-service training on philosophy of education for K-12 faculty based on historical Judeo-Christian philosophy of education.
  7. Strongly push states to remove secular-based sex education materials from school facilities, and emphasize parental instruction.

The Washington Post sums it up:

The five-page document produced by the Council for National Policy calls for a “restoration of education in America” that would minimize the federal role, promote religious schools and home schooling and enshrine “historic Judeo-Christian principles” as a basis for instruction.

Bottom line: This is what theocracy looks like.

Hillbillies and Rednecks

http://www.tartansauthority.com/global-scots/us-scots-history/hillbillies-and-rednecks/

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By Todd J. Wilkinson

Many words commonly used in America today have their origins in our Celtic roots. While the following terms discussed are associated today with the American South and southern culture, their origins are distinctly Scottish and Ulster-Scottish (Scots-Irish), and date to the mass immigration of Scottish Lowland and Ulster Presbyterians to America during the 1700’s. Whilst there are other competing explanations of the derivation of some of them, we prefer the ones here!

Hillbilly
The origin of this American nickname for mountain folk in the Ozarks and in Appalachia comes from Ulster. Ulster-Scottish (The often incorrectly labeled “Scots-Irish”) settlers in the hill-country of Appalachia brought their traditional music with them to the new world, and many of their songs and ballads dealt with William, Prince of Orange, who defeated the Catholic King James II of the Stuart family at the Battle of the Boyne, Ireland in 1690.

Supporters of King William were known as Orangemen and Billy Boys and their North American counterparts were soon referred to as hill-billies. It is interesting to note that a traditional song of the Glasgow Rangers football club today begins with the line, ‘Hurrah! Hurrah! We are the Billy Boys!’ and shares its tune with the famous American Civil War song, Marching Through Georgia.

Stories abound of American National Guard units from Southern states being met upon disembarking in Britain during the First and Second World Wars with that tune, much to their displeasure! One of these stories comes from Colonel Ward Schrantz, a noted historian and native of Carthage, Missouri ative, and veteran of the Mexican – and veteran of the mexican Border Campaign, as well as the First and Second World Wars – documented a story where the US Army’s 30th Division, made up of National Guard units from Georgia, North and South Carolina and Tennessee arrived in the United Kingdom…’a waiting British band broke into welcoming American music, and the soldiery, even the 118th Field Artillery and the 105 Medical Battalion from Georgia, broke into laughter.The excellence of intent and the ignorance of the origins of the American music being equally obvious. The welcoming tune was Marching Through Georgia.’

Redneck
The origins of this term are Scottish and refer to supporters of the National Covenant and The Solemn League and Covenant, or Covenanters, largely Lowland Presbyterians, many of whom would flee Scotland for Ulster (Northern Ireland) during persecutions by the British Crown. The Covenanters of 1638 and 1641 signed the documents that stated that Scotland desired the Presbyterian form of church government and would not accept the Church of England as its official state church.

Many Covenanters signed in their own blood and wore red pieces of cloth around their necks as distinctive insignia; hence the term Red neck, which became slang for a Scottish dissenter. One Scottish immigrant, interviewed by the author, remembered a Presbyterian minister, one Dr. Coulter, in Glasgow in the 1940’s wearing a red clerical collar – is this symbolic of the rednecks? Since many Ulster-Scottish settlers in America (especially in the South) were Presbyterian, the term was applied to them, and then, later, their Southern descendants. One of the earliest examples of its use comes from 1830, when an author noted that red-neck was a name bestowed upon the Presbyterians. It makes one wonder if the originators of the ever-present redneck jokes are aware of the term’s origins?

Blackmouth
Another term for Presbyterians in Ireland was a Blackmouth. Members of the Church of Ireland (Anglicans) used this as a slur, referring to the fact that one could tell a Presbyterian by the black stains around his mouth from eating blackberries while at secret, illegal Presbyterian Church Services in the countryside.

Cracker
Another Ulster-Scot term, a cracker was a person who talked and boasted, and craic is a term still used in Scotland and Ireland to describe talking, chat or conversation in a social sense (‘Let’s go down the pub and have a craic’ or ‘What’s the craic?’). The term, first used to describe a southerner of Ulster-Scottish background, later became a nickname for any white southerner, especially those who were uneducated.
And while not an exclusively Southern term, but rather referring in general to all Americans, the origins of this word are related to the other three.

Gringo
Often used in Latin America to refer to people from the United States, gringo also has a Scottish connection. The term originates from the Mexican War (1846-1848), when American Soldiers of Scots descent would sing Robert Burns’ Green Grow the Rashes, O!, or the very popular song Green Grows the Laurel (or lilacs) while serving in Mexico, thus inspiring the locals to refer to the Yankees as green-grows or gringos. The song Green Grows the Laurel refers to several periods in Scottish and Ulster-Scottish history. Jacobites might change the green laurel for the bonnets so blue of the exiled Stewart monarchs of Scotland during the Jacobite Rebellions of the late 1600’s – early 1700’s. Scottish Lowlanders and Ulster Presbyterians would change the green laurel of James II in 1690 for the Orange and Blue of William of Orange, and later on, many of these Ulstermen would immigrate to America, and thus change the green laurel for the red, white and blue.

An opposing theory to the origin of Gringo claims that the term actually comes from the Spanish word “griego”, which means “Greek”, as in the expression, It’s all Greek to me. The term reportedly referred to foreigners living in Spain, whose accent made their attempts to speak Spanish difficult to understand by Spanish natives. The term may specifically refer to the Irish, many of whom fled to Spain in the late 1600’s to escape religious persecution.

Sources
Adamson, Ian. The Ulster People: Ancient, Medieval and Modern. Bangor, Northern Ireland: Petani Press, 1991.
Bruce, Duncan. The Mark of the Scots: Their Astonishing Contributions to History, Science, Democracy, Literature and the Arts. Secaucus, New Jersey: Birch Lane Press, 1997.
Fischer, David Hackett. Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989.
McWhiney, Grady. Cracker Culture: Celtic Ways in the Old South. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1988.
Personal Interview, Mr. Bill Carr, Ayrshire native and member, Celtic Society of the Ozarks, January 2001.
Colonel Ward Schrantz papers, Jasper County Archives and Record Center, Carthage, Missouri.
Stevenson, James A.C. SCOOR-OOT: A Dictionary of SCOTS Words and Phrases in Current Use. London: The Athlone Press, 1989.
Urban Legends Reference Pages: http://www.snopes.com/language/stories/gringo.htm
Walsh, Frank, and the 12th Louisiana String Band. Songs of the Celtic South album, 1991.

WHY MEN DO NOT LIVE AS LONG AS WOMEN

http://aging.nautil.us/feature/189/why-men-dont-live-as-long-as-women?utm_source=digg&utm_medium=email

by RICHARD G. BRIBIESCAS

Years ago when I was conducting my doctoral research on the evolutionary history of men among a remote indigenous community of hunter-gatherers living in the forests of South America, I came across a man donning a well-worn baseball cap likely donated by missionaries. The cap read, “There are three stages to a man’s life: Stud, Dud, Thud.” Indeed. It is somewhat sobering to see one’s life’s research summarized on a piece of headwear that can probably be found for a few dollars at a roadside truck stop. But such is the elegance of interesting science.

It’s no secret that mortality due to accidents and risky behavior is much higher in young men, particularly those in their late teenage years and early 20s. This, by the way, is not news to insurance companies. It’s also true that men die earlier than women, regardless of their environment or lifestyle, and are often more susceptible to some cancers and heart disease at an earlier age. In fact, men are at a higher risk than women when it comes to most of the top 15 contributing sources of mortality in the United States—which account for nearly 80 percent of all deaths.

In the words of a Yale evolutionary biologist, “Macho makes you sick.”

Evolutionary factors are clearly at play. The question is why. What is natural selection’s deal with men? It’s a compelling academic question, for sure. But now that I’m in my 50s, I have to admit the issue of aging gets more relevant with every new gray hair.

As it turns out, shorter lifespans and higher male mortality risk are quite common in many species. Natural selection doesn’t necessarily favor traits commonly associated with health, vigor, and longevity. Instead, it promotes characteristics that provide greater lifetime reproductive success, or in the parlance of evolutionary biology, fitness. If the benefits of increased fitness are greater than the cost of a shorter lifespan or poor health, biology will prioritize those traits. In essence, sex trumps birthday candles.

This tradeoff between longevity and reproduction takes an obvious form in women: Pregnancy, childbirth, and lactation are all physically taxing and energetically costly. Research has shown that bearing more children is associated with higher oxidative stress, which can in turn lead to accelerated aging in post-menopausal women.1 A 2006 historical study of rural Polish women, for example, found a correlation between having more children and a significantly shorter post-menopausal lifespan.2 Although more research needs to be done, it would seem that reproductive effort can literally take years off your life.

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FATAL ATTRACTIONMale quolls (above) experience a dramatic one-time rise in testosterone that triggers intense bouts of mating—and very high mortality.
Wildlife Explorer / Wikimedia Commons

But what about men? While they obviously don’t bear the costs of pregnancy, they do still allocate a great deal of energy—also to their own detriment later in life—to improve their chances of reproduction. This “reproductive effort” takes place through engagement in riskier behavior and the accumulation of greater body mass, particularly sexually dimorphic skeletal muscle mass, the extra male-specific muscle in the shoulders, back, and arms. The metabolic costs of maintaining this muscle in men over a lifetime are comparable to the energy expenditure women experience during pregnancy and breast-feeding, but they and their associated health challenges are somewhat manageable. After all, it would be a good idea to evolve physiological mechanisms to manage the tradeoffs that result from the often conflicting needs of body functions. Hormones are one of the most vital agents in managing these tradeoffs. In men, testosterone regulates investment in muscle and reproductive behavior. But like everything else, it, too, has its price.

Testosterone is often described as the male sex hormone. Women also produce testosterone, but in much smaller amounts. Aside from its sexual effects such as stimulating beard growth and deeper voices, testosterone is an important anabolic hormone that has a significant impact on the energetic costs in men. That is, it promotes anabolism, or muscle-building, and increases metabolism, the rate at which that muscle burns calories. Testosterone also promotes the burning of fat tissue. And yes, it can also boost libido and mood. So testosterone does a lot of things that sound healthy—but it can be a double-edged sword.

Burning fat may make you look better in the mirror, for instance, but in the wild, less fat makes you more vulnerable to food shortfalls and infection. This is apparent in many organisms, whose acute rises in testosterone signal an increase in reproductive effort, only to cause challenges to other physiological demands related to well-being. Take the northern quoll (Dasyurus hallucatus), a medium-sized Australian marsupial. Male quolls experience a dramatic one-time rise in testosterone that triggers intense bouts of mating—and very high mortality due to male/male aggression and fat depletion. Females live up to three years, whereas males are lucky to make it a year. As ecologist Jaime Heiniger so eloquently states, “It could likely be that they [males] shag themselves to death.”3

The cap read, “There are three stages to a man’s life: Stud, Dud, Thud.”

The effects of testosterone on longevity and aging in humans are more nuanced and challenging to assess, but given men’s shorter lifespans, an analogous situation could very well be at play. Since it would be unethical to experimentally manipulate testosterone in men to determine effects on lifespan, researchers have to look for more subtle clues, often in historical data. In late 19th-century China and the Ottoman Empire, for example, men of certain religious sects underwent not only castration but complete genital removal, including the penis and scrotum.4 And eunuchs were common in the courts of royalty in preindustrial Korea, as well as in boys choirs in 17th- and 18th-century Europe.5Although there are other ethnographic instances of castration, these three cases are unique in that longevity was recorded. The Chinese and boys choir records revealed no difference in longevity compared to men who had not been castrated; the Korean study, however, recorded longer lives for eunuchs. Such is science. Even if these studies had been unanimous in their findings, they provide insufficient evidence for reaching a firm conclusion. Other factors, such as nutritional or socioeconomic status, could affect longevity, independent of the effects of testosterone.

To get a better picture, then, scientists have had to examine the effects of testosterone supplementation in “intact” males as well. Ornithologists have shown that experimentally increasing testosterone levels often improves a male bird’s ability to establish multiple nests, ward off competitors, and father more offspring compared to unsupplemented males.6 Moreover, males that have naturally high testosterone levels exhibit the same advantages. If testosterone is so beneficial for reproductive fitness, then why don’t all males maintain such high testosterone levels? Again: There are costs. While testosterone-supplemented male birds had greater reproductive fitness, they also exhibited compromised survivorship. Supplemented males put on less fat and had a harder time making it through the breeding season.

Moving beyond birds, testosterone supplementation in otherwise healthy men has become increasingly popular and could provide insights into the tradeoffs between reproductive effort and longevity. Although it is still too soon to determine whether men on testosterone have shorter life spans, evidence is emerging. According to one 2014 study, older men taking testosterone were more likely to experience an acute, non-fatal myocardial infarction 90 days after the first prescription, as compared with prior to the treatment.7 Higher testosterone might be beneficial for muscle growth, but other organs in older men may not be able to tolerate the metabolic burden. Clearly, more research is necessary.

As an ecologist eloquently states, male quolls, a small marsupial, “shag themselves to death.”

Testosterone doesn’t just cause metabolic changes: It’s also responsible for significant immunological effects during a man’s lifetime. In the words of Yale evolutionary biologist Stephen Stearns, “Macho makes you sick.” Indeed, men often have a harder time than women fighting off infections. There are several potential underlying causes for these differences. Perhaps males are simply exposed to more opportunities for infection than women are. Or it may be that men are at a chemical disadvantage when it comes to fighting off infection—a hypothesis for which there is mounting evidence. Testosterone suppresses immune function, while estradiol, the primary sex steroid in women, bolsters immune function. (The latter does, however, also increase women’s risk of autoimmune disease—again, a compromise nature is willing to make in return for estradiol’s beneficial role in reproduction.) In wild bird, reptile, and mammal populations, testosterone has been found to compromise immune function, and increase the severity of infection and consequentially mortality. Whether this is true for humans remains to be seen, but it seems to fit data collected from men living in regions with high infection risk. In 2005, researchers conducting a study in Honduras found that testosterone levels were lower in men with malarial infections compared to uninfected individuals. When infected men were treated, testosterone rebounded to levels exhibited by uninfected controls.8

And infection isn’t the only kind of disease men have to worry about. Testosterone and other sex hormones are also associated with greater cancer risk, particularly when it comes to prostate cancer. Populations with higher testosterone levels, for example, tend to also exhibit higher incidence of prostate cancer.9 Once again, sex trumps candles.

So why do males tolerate the negative effects of testosterone? The Darwinian explanation is that the potential reproductive payoffs are huge in mammalian males compared to females. Mating opportunities are an important constraint for male fitness. Hypothetically, a male mating with 100 different females in a year could potentially father 100 offspring or more. The same is not true for females. The prevalence of polygyny in mammals, other primates, and many human societies is evidence of the influence of this difference in fitness constraints between males and females. Women can also increase their fitness by obtaining more mating opportunities, but not through bearing more offspring. In essence, mammalian males are willing to deploy costly hormones such as testosterone, invest in expensive tissue, and engage in risky behavior because the potential fitness payoffs are so high.

This makes sense if you’re hominid living in the Pleistocene a couple million years ago. But is this relevant for men today? Perhaps. While humans are tremendously influenced by culture, the conditions of natural selection—trait variation, trait heritability, and differential reproductive success—are difficult to escape.

This does not mean, however, that men cannot evolve other reproductive strategies. Despite their propensity to engage in risky behavior and exhibit expensive, life-shortening physical traits, men have evolved an alternative form of reproductive effort in the form of paternal investment—something very rare in primates (and mammals in general). For paternal investment to evolve, males have to make sure they are around to take care of their offspring. Risky behavior and expensive tissue have to take a backseat to investment that reflects better health and perhaps prolongs lifespan. Indeed, men can exhibit declines in testosterone and put on a bit of weight when they become fathers and engage in paternal care.10, 11 Perhaps, then, fatherhood is good for health.

I doubt that natural selection is done with men, or humans, in general. We may still endure shorter lifespans and worse health due to our evolutionary history, but the essence of evolution is change over time. At our core, humans are incredibly malleable. The physiology that supports this malleability is probably why our species has evolved the traits that define us: big, expensive brains; long lives; extended childhood; offspring that require lots of care. It might also help explain why there are over 7 billion of us. That is a lot of reproductive fitness. Men have evolved novel reproductive strategies such as paternal care that likely contributed to their evolutionary success. But that doesn’t change the fact that they still require testosterone to reproduce. It is unlikely they will ever do away with the associated costs to lifespan and health—but that being said, it’s certainly better than being a northern quoll. Although it is a hell of a way to go.

 

References

1. Ziomkiewicz, A., et al. Evidence for the cost of reproduction in humans: High lifetime reproductive effort is associated with greater oxidative stress in post-menopausal women. PLoS One 11, p. e0145753 (2016).

2. Jasienska, G., Nenko, I., & Jasienski, M. Daughters increase longevity of fathers, but daughters and sons equally reduce longevity of mothers. American Journal of Human Biology 18, 422-425 (2006).

3. Dunlevie, J. & Daly, N. Sex life of northern quolls: Reproduction rituals on Groote Eylandt exposed. www.abc.net (2014).

4. Wilson, J.D. & Roehrborn, C. Long-term consequences of castration in men: Lessons from the Skoptzy and the eunuchs of the Chinese and Ottoman courts. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism 84, 4324-4331 (1999).

5. Min, K.J., Lee, C.K., & Park, H.N. The lifespan of Korean eunuchs. Current Biology22, R792-793 (2012).

6. Reed, W.L., et al. Physiological effects on demography: A long-term experimental study of testosterone’s effects on fitness. The American Naturalist167, 665-681 (2006).

7. Finkle, W.D., et al. Increased risk of non-fatal myocardial infarction following testosterone therapy prescription in men. PLoS One 9, e85805 (2014).

8. Muehlenbein, M.P., Alger, J., Cogswell, F., James, M., & Krogstad, D. The reproductive endocrine response to Plasmodium vivax infection in Hondurans. The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene 73, 178-187 (2005).

9. Calistro Alvarado, L. Population differences in the testosterone levels of young men are associated with prostate cancer disparities in older men. American Journal of Human Biology 22, 449-455 (2010).

10. Garfield, C.F., et al. Longitudinal Study of Body Mass Index in Young Males and the Transition to Fatherhood. American Journal of Men’s Health 10, NP158-NP167 (2015).

11. Gettler, L.T., McDade, T.W., Feranil, A.B., & Kuzawa, C.W. Longitudinal evidence that fatherhood decreases testosterone in human males. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 108, 16194-16199 (2011).

Lead image: Mondadori Portfolio / Getty Images

WHY SENATOR BENNET DOES NOT SUPPORT A FILIBUSTER

http://www.coloradoindependent.com/164667/littwin-bennet-trump-gorsuch-supreme-court-filibuster-nuclear-option

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by Mike Littwin
April 03, 2017
Littwin: Bennet won’t support Gorsuch filibuster, but says it’s complicated
First the news. Michael Bennet tells me he’s not going to vote to filibuster Neil Gorsuch.
“I don’t think it’s wise for our party to filibuster this nominee or for Republicans to invoke the nuclear option,” Bennet says.
That makes him the fourth Democratic senator to break from the ranks and the only one from a state that voted against Donald Trump. Republicans still need four more Democrats to defect to block a filibuster, and, at this point, it seems unlikely they’ll get them.
This vote was always going to be a lose-lose proposition for Bennet. He would either have to enrage the Democratic base with a decision that looks like heresy — which is what he’s done — or vote against a fellow Coloradan who is strongly supported by the downtown legal and business establishment, which, not coincidentally, generally supports Bennet. Gov. John Hickenlooper laid out the case when he said he wouldn’t blame Democrats for trying to delay or block Gorsuch after the Merrick Garland fiasco, but that he was “honored” a Coloradan as talented as Gorsuch was nominated.
But the decision is more complicated than local politics. And it’s more complicated than Gorsuch’s obvious qualifications. Bennet’s vote for cloture is not simply a vote for Gorsuch. Bennet says, in fact, that if Republicans go nuclear, “all bets are off,” presumably meaning that if it comes to an up-or-down vote, he’s going to vote down. And no wonder.
When I ask Bennet to describe his view on Gorsuch as a potential justice, he responds “very conservative,” and not in a good way. He means it in the way Gorsuch decided the Hobby Lobby case and dissented in the “frozen trucker” case — taking a strongly pro-business slant in which for-profit businesses can have religious beliefs and praying-for-their-life workers can be fired for choosing not to freeze to death.
Bennet’s vote is to try to save the Supreme Court filibuster, which may be the Democrats’ only hope of blocking future Trump nominees who Bennet guarantees will be “far more extreme.” It’s a long-shot hope. Mitch McConnell has promised to use the nuclear option — ending the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees as Harry Reid did for all other lifetime judicial nominees in 2013 — if Democrats filibuster Gorsuch. But if Republicans are prepared to go nuclear over Gorsuch, they can go nuclear at any time. There may be nothing to save.
Bennet, whose case would be stronger if he unequivocally said he would oppose Gorsuch in an up-and-down vote, says opposing the filibuster is worth the risk. Otherwise, Democrats are putting all their chips on a bet they know they can’t win.
“If the nuclear option is invoked,” Bennet is saying by phone from his Washington office, “that means Gorsuch will be confirmed on the court with a 50-plus-1 vote. He’s going to be confirmed either way. But then the next justice will be confirmed with a 50-plus-1 vote. And the next justice.
“Trump might get two more nominees in his first term as president. Having a 51-vote threshold guarantees that you’re going to have far more extreme nominees.”
That’s the danger. Very conservative Gorsuch would replace very conservative Antonin Scalia. But the three oldest justices on the bench are swing vote Anthony Kennedy, who’s 80, liberal Stephen Breyer, who’s 78, and very liberal Ruth Bader Ginsburg who, though she figures to live forever, is 83. All three, it should be noted, are votes in favor of keeping Roe v. Wade. If Trump replaces even one of them, that would probably swing the balance of the court against Roe. If he replaces all of them — and this is where someone raises the point about elections mattering — conservatives could have a 7-2 majority.
So, this is the crux of Bennet’s argument. Yes, Merrick Garland should have been nominated, and, yes, the liberal wing should have a 5-4 majority and, yes, McConnell did basically steal the seat, and, yes, Democrats should not just back away from that insult, and, yes, Gorsuch is a very conservative jurist who could be on the court for 30 years or more, and, yes, the Democrats risk giving Trump a victory at a time when he is floundering at every turn and, yes, the danger of thinking too long-term in politics is that you never really have any idea what will happen tomorrow.
But this is what could happen next. Trump’s approval ratings, already at historically low ratings at this point in a presidential term, could continue to slide. He’s around 40 percent now and could easily fall another 10 points. Is there a point at which Republicans abandon him? The 2018 and 2020 elections are the places to look. And if the filibuster remains in place, will Republicans, with a truly unpopular president and with the prospect of supporting a truly extreme nominee and with the future of Roe in the balance, vote to overturn it then?
Overturning Roe has been the holy grail for Republicans ever since it was decided, but it would almost certainly be a political disaster for them. And if three Republicans abandon Trump at the next nomination — which Ted Cruz is already predicting will look like Armageddon — the Supreme Court filibuster, should it still be alive, could be saved.
This is the argument Bennet has been trying to sell. “I’ve been spending weeks in conversation with Democrats and Republicans trying to put the genie back in the bottle, to get people to understand what the stakes are,” Bennet says. “I’m not very optimistic that any of this is going to bear fruit. But it’s gut-check time now. Are Democrats really going to filibuster the nominee? Are Republicans really going to use the nuclear option?”
Bennet makes a rational case. But we live in an irrational time. Do you fight Trumpism strategically or do you fight it at every turn? Senate Democrats, with their 48 votes, are at a loss and have done nothing to prepare the base for what happens when Democrats inevitably lose the Gorsuch vote. At this point, it’s all about resistance. And though Bennet makes a good case, at this time, with this president, it’s hard to see how the Gorsuch fight could be about anything else.

Photo courtesy of Senate Democrats via Flickr:Creative Commons

Vast Underwater Ocean Trapped Beneath Earth’s Crust

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Jun 13, 2014 11:33 AM EDT

Scientists have discovered evidence of a vast water reservoir trapped hundreds of miles beneath the surface, capable of filling Earth’s oceans three times over.

Located 400 miles (660 km) beneath Earth’s crust, this body of water is locked up in a blue mineral called ringwoodite that lies in the transition zone of hot rock between Earth’s surface and core. Interestingly, this water is not in a form familiar to us – it’s neither liquid, ice nor vapor. Geophysicist Steve Jacobsen from Northwestern University suggests it means that water on Earth may get pushed to the surface from below, contradicting previous beliefs that water was delivered via icy comets.

“Geological processes on the Earth’s surface, such as earthquakes or erupting volcanoes, are an expression of what is going on inside the Earth, out of our sight,” Jacobsen, co-author of the paper published in the journal Science, said in a press release.

“I think we are finally seeing evidence for a whole-Earth water cycle, which may help explain the vast amount of liquid water on the surface of our habitable planet. Scientists have been looking for this missing deep water for decades.”

Ringwoodite here is key. Its crystal-like structure makes it act like a sponge and draw in hydrogen and trap water.

Jacobsen and his colleagues based their findings on a study of the transition zone, an underground region extending across most of the interior of the United States.

Along with Jacobsen’s lab experiments on rocks simulating the high pressures found deep underground, the study compiled data from the USArray, a network of seismometers across the United States used to measure earthquake vibrations.

It produced evidence that melting occurring 400 miles beneath the surface, plus the movement of rock in the transition zone, leads to a process where water can become fused and trapped within the rock.

Scientists were astounded because most melting in the mantle was previously thought to occur at a much shallower distance – about 50 miles (80km) below the Earth’s surface.

And according to The Guardian, Jacobsen said that this trapped, hidden water may explain why Earth’s oceans have stayed the same size for billions of years.

“If [the stored water] wasn’t there, it would be on the surface of the Earth, and mountaintops would be the only land poking out,” he said.

The findings were published June 13 in the journal Science.

Katherine Stinson: Her Story

 

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Before there was Amelia Earhardt there was Katherine Stinson. A decade after the Wright Brothers lifted off the ground, Katherine Stinson achieved the unthinkable in a male-dominated field: she learned how to fly! This is the inspirational story of a brave, talented, young woman who fought for what she believed in — that she could fly and be the best. She traveled around the world, set records, cheated death, was adored in the United States, Japan, and China and shows us that with great spirit and believing in oneself, anyone can accomplish their dreams.

Katherine Stinson: Her Story | New Mexico PBS

 

Katherine Stinson, aka “The Flying Schoolgirl”

Stunt-flyer Katherine Stinson, along with her brothers Jack and Eddie and sister Marjorie, ran a flying school in San Antonio, Texas, and was the fourth woman in the U.S. to earn a pilot’s license. The first woman to fly the mail, she set increasingly longer endurance and distance records, and gave flying exhibitions in Japan and China. Stinson, like Ruth Law, volunteered to fly combat missions for the Army and was rejected. She ended up flying for the Liberty Loan Drives. Marjorie Stinson was also a pilot and trained Canadian pilots for the British Royal Flying Corps at the family flying school, where her students were nicknamed “The Texas Escadrille.” In 1918 Katherine Stinson traveled to Europe and worked for the American Red Cross as a flyer and an ambulance driver. After she contracted influenza, Stinson eventually developed tuberculosis and had to retire from flying in 1920.

 

A brief biography of Katherine, Edward, and Marjorie Stinson, American aviation pioneers.

DOW’S TOXINS GET GREEN LIGHT

pesticide_cautionDow’s toxic Enlist Duo pesticide just got the green light in 34 states.

 

Scott Pruitt and the Environmental Protection Agency are putting corporate interests ahead of people’s health and the health of our planet. Now, we’re taking them to court.

Dow AgroScience’s Enlist Duo is a highly toxic pesticide with extremely adverse effects on human health and wildlife. It is a mixture of glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup, and 2,4-D, a known carcinogen and a component of Agent Orange. Knowing this, the Environmental Protection Agency still approved the agricultural use of this pesticide in 34 states.

Last week we filed a federal lawsuit against the EPA and the Trump administration challenging the agency’s decision. This is an uphill battle and we need your continued support. Become a monthly donor today and your first 12 monthly gifts will be matched $1-for-$1 by a generous donor.

Using this toxic duo on corn, soybean and cotton plants will have grave effects on farmworkers and the surrounding communities. Enlist Duo not only damages neighboring crops and threatens endangered species such as the whooping crane, but has also been linked to Parkinson’s disease, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and reproductive problems. Simply put, the EPA’s decision could have a lasting impact and devastating consequences.

Moreover, the decision reinforces a disturbing trend in which crops are being genetically engineered to withstand these toxic pesticides. Companies like Dow and Monsanto not only sell the expensive GE seeds but also the pesticide cocktails that are sprayed on them—all for a substantial profit. This toxic cycle benefits the company’s bottom line at the expense of the public’s health.

Using this toxic duo on corn, soybean and cotton plants will have grave effects on farmworkers and the surrounding communities. Enlist Duo not only damages neighboring crops and threatens endangered species such as the whooping crane, but has also been linked to Parkinson’s disease, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and reproductive problems. Simply put, the EPA’s decision could have a lasting impact and devastating consequences.

Moreover, the decision reinforces a disturbing trend in which crops are being genetically engineered to withstand these toxic pesticides. Companies like Dow and Monsanto not only sell the expensive GE seeds but also the pesticide cocktails that are sprayed on them—all for a substantial profit. This toxic cycle benefits the company’s bottom line at the expense of the public’s health.

Last week we filed a federal lawsuit against the EPA and the Trump administration challenging the agency’s decision. This is an uphill battle and we need your continued support. Become a monthly donor today and your first 12 monthly gifts will be matched $1-for-$1 by a generous donor.

 


 

Not so long ago, environmental destruction nearly drove America’s bald eagles to extinction in the wild. DDT, then a popular chemical for mosquito management, poisoned the fish eaten by these iconic birds, thinning the shells of their eggs to the point that many eaglets were crushed in the nest before they could ever hatch.

But that was before the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was established.

Since then, the EPA has helped clear choking smog from the skies of major cities, kept dangerous pesticides from poisoning rare wildlife and pets, and largely eliminated the threat of acid rains to North American forests.

Now the EPA — and its vital, nature-protecting work — is under assault.

Environmental Action has launched an all-out campaign to protect this, our nation’s most important guardian of the environment, and we need your support to fund these urgent efforts.

The Trump administration’s recently released budget proposal calls for:

    • Slashing the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget by nearly a third;
    • Reducing the agency’s staff by more than one-fifth; and
    • Eliminating at least 50 programs that protect our air, water, wildlife and wild places.

These cuts would have real — and devastating — consequences in CO, across the country, and around the world.

That’s why Environmental Action has launched an all-out campaign to save the EPA. With your support, we can mobilize hundreds of thousands of people, educate the media and lawmakers, and — ultimately — Save the EPA!