Drudge Retort: The Other Side of the News

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Saturday, February 24, 2018

A lawyer for President Barack Obama's national security adviser, Susan Rice, told Congress late Friday that the outgoing administration was fearful of sharing classified intelligence with members of the incoming Trump team, especially Rice's successor, Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn. read more

A red hand stencil. A series of lines that look like a ladder. A collection of red dots. These images, painted in ocher on the walls of three separate caves in Spain, are the oldest-known examples of cave art ever found. And new research suggests that all three were created not by humans, but by our ancient cousins the Neanderthals. In a paper published Thursday in Science, an international team of archaeologists shows that each of the three paintings was executed at least 64,000 years ago -- more than 20,000 years before the first modern humans arrived in Europe. read more

Increasingly, Americans are bringing pets on planes to destress. But there's little rigorous evidence to back them up. read more

Thursday, February 22, 2018

In fact, no federal appeals court has ever held that assault weapons are protected. read more

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Donald Trump wants to know why Obama didn't do more about Russian meddling. He should ask Mitch McConnell. read more


"A drawing of the red ladder symbol from the La Pasiega cave. Dating shows it has a minimum age of 64,000 years but it is unclear if the animals and other symbols were painted later."

In Maltravieso cave in western Spain, a hand shape – thought to have been created by spraying paint from the mouth over a hand pressed to the cave wall – was found to be at least 66,700 years old. At the Ardales cave near Malaga, stalagmites and stalactites that form curtain-like patterns on the walls appear to have been painted red, and have been dated to 65,500 years ago. What the creators sought to express with their efforts is anyone's guess. "We have no idea what any of it means," said Dirk Hoffmann at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig.

It is not the only question left unanswered. "It's fascinating to demonstrate that the Neanderthals were the world's first artists, and not our own species," said Paul Pettit, professor of palaeolithic archaeology at Durham University. "The most important question still remains, however. What were Neanderthals doing in the depths of dark and dangerous caves if it wasn't ritual, and what does that imply?"

In a second paper, published in Science Advances, Hoffman and others show that dyed and decorated seashells found in the Aviones sea cave in southeast Spain were made by Neanderthals 115,000 years ago, pointing to a long artistic tradition.

Historically, works of art and symbolic thinking have been held up as proof of the cognitive superiority of modern humans – examples of the exceptional skills that define our species. Neanderthals, by comparison, have suffered a bad press since the first skeletons were unearthed in the Neander valley near Düsseldorf in the 19th century. While the German biologist Ernst Haeckel failed to convince his fellow scientists to name the species ---- stupidus, Neanderthals were still described as incapable of moral or theistic conceptions, and depicted as knuckle-dragging apemen.

"To my mind this closes the debate on Neanderthals," said João Zilhão, a researcher on the team at the University of Barcelona. "They are part of our family, they are ancestors, they were not cognitively distinct, or less endowed in terms of smarts. They are just a variant of humankind that as such exists no more."

"[T]he right-wing suggests that mental health is clearly the culprit," Jones points out. "Never mind that in reality, mental illness is rarely violent in an external sense. It tends to direct violence toward the self: Research suggests that people with mental illness are more likely to commit suicide rather than they are to kill others if they have access to firearms. They are 16 times more likely to be killed by police even though a 2014 study by the American Psychological Association found that only 7.5 percent of all violent crime could be linked to perpetrators' symptoms of mental illness."

There is really only one way to effectively reduce gun violence, and that is to reduce the number of gun owners. But the only reductions that interest Trump and his party are reductions to the very social safety net that ensures access to affordable mental health care to begin with. For people with mental illness, conservative policies and rhetoric represent an existential threat: The GOP's war on welfare and Medicaid could make it dramatically harder for people to access care, and Republicans have proposed expansive waivers for essential health benefits that would also impact mental health parity in private insurance.

Now, the party's rhetoric on gun violence as a mental health crisis isolates the same vulnerable community they've abandoned by positioning them as a dangerous fifth column. There's a McCarthyite impulse here, a drive to identify and scrutinize the deviant so as to purify society. Profiling the "off" and the "weird" won't reduce the number of mass shootings any more than eliminating their care will. Meanwhile, the grim total of Americans who die at the end of a gun will continue to rise.

"In America, some lives always matter more than others," writes author Jones. "But guns matter more than almost anything else."

The United States is flooded with guns, a reflection both of its cowboy mythos and its obeisance to profit. It's lucrative to make guns, to sell them, and to lobby for their unfettered possession. In 2016, there were nearly 300 million guns in America -- the highest rate of per-capita gun ownership in the developed world. Globally, the United States represents half of the world's supply of civilian-owned guns. But while there's roughly one gun for every person in the country, gun ownership is hardly evenly distributed. The Washington Post reported in 2016 that 3 percent of Americans own half the country's guns. What we do not possess in any disproportionate measure compared with other countries, however, are people with mental illness.

Look exclusively at the money fueling the National Rifle Association, and a clearer picture emerges: Only 19 percent of the nation's gun owners donate to the NRA. Those gun owners lean heavily to the right, and their hostility to any restriction on gun ownership places them firmly outside the American mainstream. If there is an American pathology, this is the demographic where it resides. And if we must rank human threats to American security, the NRA's activist network comes far above even the seriously mentally ill. The beliefs and donations of a select few grip the Republican Party so tightly that they are able to essentially contravene democracy. Most Americans want gun control. But whenever the nation is confronted with tragedy, the Republican Party offers prayers and scapegoats -- and people with mental illness are among the easiest, most vulnerable targets the country has to offer.

The scapegoat, as defined in the Book of Leviticus, is a propitiation. He is to be presented alive before the Lord as an atonement for the sins of the people. The goat is an individual solution to a collective problem; he becomes too dangerous to tolerate. So he is sent into an uninhabited place to wander, where no one can see him. If he suffers, then he suffers alone. This is how the guilty scrub themselves clean: They pass their shame to the innocent. They create outcasts. And then they continue to sin.

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