If You Still Think Humans Come In Distinct ‘Races,’ This Biologist Will Set You Straight

[Note:  This item comes from friend Ed DeWath.  DLH]

From: Edward DeWath <dewath@prodigy.net>
Subject: If You Still Think Humans Come In Distinct ‘Races,’ This Biologist Will Set You Straight
Date: July 6, 2015 at 08:25:44 PDT
To: Hendricks Dewayne <wa8dzp@gmail.com>

If You Still Think Humans Come In Distinct ‘Races,’ This Biologist Will Set You Straight
By  David Freeman  
Jul 6 2015
<http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/07/06/human-race-biology-scientific-racism_n_7699490.html>

There’s no doubt that different groups of people can look very different from one another. But to contemporary anthropologists and sociologists, the notion that there are distinct “races” of human beings, each with its own specific attributes, doesn’t make much sense.

The same goes for biologists like Stanford University’s Dr. Marcus Feldman, who has done pioneering research on the differences between human populations.

Recently, HuffPost Science posed several questions about race and racism to Feldman. Here, lightly edited, are his answers.

Does the concept of race have any scientific validity? Or have biologists discarded the term?

Many biologists have replaced the term “race” with “continental ancestry.” This is because such a large fraction of the world has ancestry in more than one continent. The result is hyphenated nomenclature, which attempts to specify which continents are represented in one’s ancestry.

For example, our president is as European in his ancestry as he is African. It is arbitrary which of these an observer chooses to emphasize. Obama’s opponents overtly and by implication denigrate him because of his African ancestry. But he is equally European.

How did the concept of race originate?

Probably from Aristotle’s predilection with classification. But more recently with [German physician Johann Friedrich] Blumenbach’s classification in 1775 of the five human races.

How do biologists today view race, and how has that view changed in recent years?

Biologists generally agree that with enough data on DNA, it is possible to say that someone’s ancestry is more likely to include representation from a given set of continents. However, the fraction of genes that contribute to visible differences between individuals from different continents is about 10 percent of all the genes that we carry.

How do biologists explain the differences between different populations of humans?

It depends what differences are referred to. Skin color differences, for example, may be the result of the action of 40 genes. Height might involve several hundred genes.

On one hand, some differences may be due to differences in the founding size of a population (for example, the relatively high frequency of some genetic diseases in Ashkenazi Jews could reflect the small original populations in Eastern Europe). Other differences could be due to natural selection–for example, tolerance of low oxygen pressure in Tibetans and Andean populations. Other differences are obviously cultural–for example, the preference of some Middle Eastern and South Asian populations to marry their cousins results in higher rates of genetic disorders in those populations than in other populations.

So why did we evolve to look so different from one another?

Some genes are involved in phenotypic differences that are detectable by the naked eye, and some are involved in musculature-related phenomena. Many people focus on these, ignoring the vast majority of genes whose differences are insignificant.

How much does DNA differ from one population to another?

Eighty percent to 90 percent of genetic variation is within populations, so the fraction between populations is very small.

As a result of the genes they carry, different populations can face different vulnerabilities—for example, their risk of suffering from certain diseases. Is there any evidence that certain populations have specific physical or intellectual attributes?

As I mentioned above, some populations do show higher frequencies of some disorders. These differences may be due to increases in the frequencies of genes that occurred by chance due to the small size or constitution of their founders. Other diseases can be due to cultural choices or societal constraints, such as dietary preferences or poverty. The latter are not genetically determined.

Do any non-human animals exhibit races?

Biologists use the term “race” to describe variants of a species that exhibit phenotypic differences over geographical ranges. The term gets confused with sub-species and other names. [Evolutionary biologist Theodosius] Dobzhansky referred to fruit fly races, and others use the term for populations that have chromosomal differences but can still mate successfully. It is not clear what the exact criteria for such races are.

Are humans “hard wired” to be suspicious of those who look different from ourselves?

“Hard-wired” is generally a synonym for genetically determined. Four-leggedness in dogs as opposed to two-leggedness in humans is probably genetic, but there is no evidence that I would accept xenophobia as genetic.

[snip]

Hacking Team spyware company hacked, embarrassing emails revealed

Hacking Team spyware company hacked, embarrassing emails revealed

By Tom Warren
Jul 6 2015
 

Hacking Team, a company that helps police hack citizens, has been hacked itself. In a series of tweets from the company’s compromised Twitter account, the unknown hackers appear to have revealed embarrassing internal emails and a torrent with 400GB of internal files, source code, and communications. One particular tweet appears to show an email from Hacking Team CEO David Vincenzetti, mocking a competitor for being “severely hacked.” No hacking groups have claimed responsibility for the breach yet.

Hacking Team has more than 40 employees and sells commercial hacking software to law enforcement in several dozen countries, including Morocco, Ethiopia, and the United Arab Emirates. A recent report from Motherboard revealed that the Hacking Team also supplies spyware tools to the Drug Enforcement Agency to implant software in a suspect’s phone and record texts, emails, passwords, and monitor conversations.

Hacking Team is infamous in security circles for injecting targeted malware into YouTube and Microsoft’s Live services. Formed by two Italian programmers, the pair originally created a program called Ettercap that quickly became the weapon of choice for hackers wanting to spy on people. The success of Ettercap led to Hacking Team, and now attention from rival hackers who have renamed the company’s Twitter account to “Hacked Team.”

The Republican War on Vegetables

[Note:  This item comes from friend Shannon McElyea.  DLH]

From: Shannon McElyea <shannonm@gmail.com>
Subject: Fwd: The Republican War on Vegetables | Alternet
Date: June 29, 2015 at 11:12:19 PDT
To: Dewayne Hendricks <dewayne@warpspeed.com>

May be of interest to your group. A friend forwarded me this morning. It’s NOT an Onion article. it’s real.

The Republican War on Vegetables
Experts say to cut down on meat for the sake of our health and the environment. Republicans react like 3-year-olds.
By Lindsay Abrams / Salon
Jun 26 2015
<http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/republican-war-vegetables>

New recommendations released earlier this year by the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC), an independent group of doctors and nutritionists, say we should cut down on meat for the sake of our health and the environment. In response, congressional Republicans are throwing a temper tantrum.

But because “you can’t make us eat more fruits and vegetables” sounds kind of petulant, they’re pretending their objections are all about the science.

The report, which informs the Dietary Guidelines for Americans that are updated every five years, found that “a diet higher in plant-based foods, such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds, and lower in calories and animal-based foods is more health promoting and is associated with less environmental impact than is the current U.S. diet.” This is the first time the sustainability of our dietary choices has been taken into consideration by the DGAC; according to the report, it is “essential to ensure a healthy food supply will be available for future generations.”

Yet the move has predictably been met with hostility, particularly on the part of the meat industry, which accused the recommendations of being “flawed” and “nonsensical.”

Republicans agree. This past Wednesday, the House approved two spendingbills that would completely alter the way the government is permitted to adapt the DGAC’s evidence-based recommendations. They do so by raising that standard of evidence: the agencies that form the Dietary Guidelines, they say, can only rely on the very strongest science in these matters. The DGAC rates its evidence on a three-level scale — “strong,” “moderate” and “limited” — and the science supporting a plant-based diet was deemed “moderate”: too low, by the bills’ standards, to be relevant.

The bills are, in effect, a giant roadblock to progress pushed through under the guise of reasonability. That’s because the term “strong,” as defined by the DGAC, is an extremely difficult ideal to obtain — it’s only when a large number of studies are able to reach near-uniform conclusions that any piece of evidence will be granted that classification. According to the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest, straightforward health advice included in past guidelines, like “try to spend less time sitting in front of the T.V.” and “eat less fast food,” would fail to quality under the new standards House Republicans are demanding. This new directive to “eat more fruits and vegetables,” for that matter, also seems pretty common-sensical.

“Research evolves and we expect it to change,” panel chairman Barbara Millen told the Associated Press in defense of recommendations that rely on “moderate” evidence. “That doesn’t negate the importance of a large body of consistent data that may have limitations of a certain kind.”

The riders, along with a similar bill passed last week by a Senate subcommittee, also require that the guidelines “shall be limited in scope to only matters of diet and nutrient intake” — that excludes consideration of whether one’s diet is actively harming the environment, as well as policy recommendations for how the dietary and fitness advice should be implemented. But hey, at least our hamburgers would be safe.

Just what is it that has Republicans crying, “Let them eat steak?” It’s likely, in part, a Ron Swanson-style attempt to preserve the “classic” American meat and potatoes diet. Surely, it is apiece with a pattern of redefining nutrition to fit an agenda that extends back to Reagan’s infamous (only somewhat apocryphal) “ketchup is a vegetable” controversy. And as Ariana Eunjung Chawrites at the Washington Post, it’s probably not a coincidence that the majority of the meat industry’s political contributions go to the GOP. It’s safe to say the outcry isn’t actually about the science, because as anyone who’s following the climate change “debate” knows well, Republicans are happy to reject even the most rigorous of scientific evidence when it challenges their ideology.

But the argument for why we should consider cutting down on meat in favor of plants has become more and more convincing, and it defies a number of food myths that vegetarians (ahem) are constantly having to answer for: most prominently, the idea that you can’t get enough protein without meat. In a recent talk held at the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Sustainable Foods Institute, Stanford University scientist Christopher Gardner and food systems consultant Arlin Wasserman destroyed that misconception: Plant-based foods, they told a somewhat surprised audience (of food and nutrition folks, no less), are more than capable of meeting human requirements for the essential amino acids. When put on the spot, that same audience was at a loss as to how much protein the average American requires per day — the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) is about 50 grams. Yet we consume, on average, twice that amount: a full 50 grams of unnecessary excess that aside from beingunhealthy is hastening climate change and contributing to a whole host of other environmental problems.

[snip]

‘Leap second’ confuses some Internet routers, bringing down a small slice of networks

[Note:  This item comes from friend Bob Frankston.  DLH]

From: “Bob Frankston” <bob19-0501@bobf.frankston.com>
Subject: ‘Leap second’ confuses some Internet routers, bringing down a small slice of networks | BetaBoston notsp
Date: July 3, 2015 at 11:41:52 PDT
To: “Dewayne Hendricks” <dewayne@warpspeed.com>, “ ‘RISKS List Owner'” <risko@csl.sri.com>

Not to belabor my point but the day after we find stories like this. (OK, to belabor)

A reminder that leap seconds do break things because one size does not fit all. So why do we impose them on everyone?

‘Leap second’ confuses some Internet routers, bringing down a small slice of networks
By Eden Shulman
Jul 2 2015
<http://www.betaboston.com/news/2015/07/02/leap-second-confuses-some-internet-routers-bringing-down-a-small-slice-of-networks/>

Sometimes, the littlest changes can have big effects. This week, a “leap second” — an occasional one-second adjustment that keeps the world’s official clock in time with the Earth’s rotation — caused intermittent outages to more than 2,000 Internet networks around the globe.

Dyn Inc., a Manchester, N.H.-based company that monitors Internet performance, reported the outages occurred just after midnight, around the time the extra second was added. Generally, when service outages are reported, it’s the fault of a single internet service provider, or ISP — however, in this case, because the outages were so widespread, Dyn concluded that time change was the most likely reason.

“It seems like a couple of different types of routers couldn’t handle that, and their software crashed,” said Doug Madory, Dyn’s director of Internet analysis. Madory said that software engineers were discussing the problem on forums across the Web, and found that the crash most likely occurred because of rusty software in a variety of routers, including ones by MikroTik.

Most networks were back online within a few minutes, although others took a few hours to reset themselves. Madory said that the fix was simple: restart the router.

[snip]

Re: Leap second causes Internet hiccup, particularly in Brazil

[Note:  This comment comes from friend Bob Frankston.  DLH]

From: “Bob Frankston” <bob19-0501@bobf.frankston.com>
Subject: RE: [Dewayne-Net] Leap second causes Internet hiccup, particularly in Brazil
Date: July 1, 2015 at 10:53:30 PDT
To: dewayne@warpspeed.com

Yes, Leap seconds show a misunderstanding of time as a construct. We don’t 
modify GMT because the sun is overhead in Chicago so why do we modify GMT for 
one of many ways time is used. The leap second breaks TimeSpan(2 minutes) == 
120 in a way that is impossible to fix. Worse, because the correction is 
implicit and unknowable in the future you don’t know which clocks have been 
“corrected” and thus get these kind of slippages.

If the leap seconds, like time zones, are applied as an explicit correction 
factor for those who care we’d have far fewer such problems.

Time to unwind the leap second and stop the madness.

Next — why gold is not money.

Leap second causes Internet hiccup, particularly in Brazil

 

By Jeremy Kirk

 

Jun 30 2015

 

<

http://www.networkworld.com/article/2942994/leap-second-causes-internet-hiccup-particularly-in-brazil.html

>

 

This magic exoskeleton for industrial workers is the future—we know, we wore one

This magic exoskeleton for industrial workers is the future—we know, we wore one
“We figured out how to support weight without any power.”
By Cyrus Farivar
Jul 5 2015
<http://arstechnica.com/business/2015/07/why-you-might-be-seeing-mechanical-exoskeletons-on-construction-sites-soon/>

RICHMOND, Calif.—Wearing Ekso Bionics’ forthcoming exoskeleton for construction and industrial workers is probably the closest that I will ever come to having a real physical superpower.

Through the magic of gravity and amazing industrial and mechanical design, a 40-pound industrial tool that I was holding became totally weightless. After just a few minutes, I quickly figured out that if I let the tool go it would fly off into space, as if gravity had no effect on it at all.
The Ekso Works suit is slated to hit the market in 2016 in the “tens of thousands of dollars” range. (One financial analyst, Jeffrey Cohen, believes it will cost about $12,000.)

Ekso Bionics hopes that within a few years, this suit will become as commonplace as other large tools that major construction firms would bring to a job site. If the company’s projections are right, the Ekso Works will set the company on the path to profitability: an elusive goal over the last decade.

The exoskeleton is incredibly neat: there are shoe-like platforms that fit beneath my shoes. (Co-founder and Chief Technology Officer Russ Angold told me that I was the first to wear the exoskeleton over a pair of Birkenstock sandals—as someone who works at home barefoot nearly everyday, that is my footwear of choice.) Going up my legs were some large velcro straps and bendable metal brackets following up to my knees. There, a hinge allowed me to bend and jump as normal. When the exoskeleton rose up to my hip area, it met a metal ring that went around my entire waist.

There, at my right hip, was a strange device where a large swing arm fit into a socket. At the business end of this arm was what I thought was a 30 to 40 pound power sander, or some other large power tool. As someone who spends his days behind a computer screen, and not at large industrial job sites, my familiarity with substantial power tools is quite limited.

Ars tries on the Ekso Works suit.

Connected further up my torso was a stripped down backpack—replete with two traditional shoulder straps—but also with a pocket along my upper back area for Angold to drop weighted discs into, to act as a counterweight. The suit is totally mechanical: it has no battery of any kind.

As Angold was strapping me in, he performed what seemed like a well-rehearsed demo, handing me this massive power tool that looked like an oversized power sander. It had an inverted L-shaped handle, with my left hand holding the short end of the L, and my right hand holding a lower grip.

“Here, hold this,” he said, as I took it, and I struggled a little bit to keep it upright. “Now imagine you’re holding this thing for four, five, six hours a day.”

Angold grinned.

But once I had the suit on, all of the weight was gone. The swing arm and the exoskeleton took off all of the weight, as if while on a hike, I had set my backpack down on a rock while it was still on me. The arm was incredibly fluid, there was no jerkiness or hesitation as I moved it around in all directions.

[snip]