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Via WaPo:

BERLIN – The most talked about man in Germany is a 65-year-old economist whose hot new book and sudden groundswell of popular support have the media dubbing him a folk hero. But that is not the only thing they are calling Thilo Sarrazin these days.

Some are also calling him dangerous. Sarrazin, a board member of the German Central Bank until he resigned under pressure Thursday, has divided the nation by postulating the theory that Germany is being “dumbed down” by Muslim immigrants and their children. Wielding statistics and scientific arguments both in his book and in public comments, he delves into territory largely taboo here since the Holocaust, suggesting that “hereditary factors” are at least partly to blame. Turks and Kurdish immigrants, he asserts, are genetically predisposed to lower intelligence than Germans and other ethnic groups, including Jews.

His statements have shocked many in Germany not only because of a national sensitivity to anything remotely smacking of genetic superiority claims in the post-World War II era. What has also shocked many is that so many Germans have rallied to his side as the central bank and his political party have sought to oust him for his pronouncements.

The article says most of his backers are distancing themselves from the heredity statement, but they love the other part, as though there is a fine demarcation between the racist aspect of this and the non-racist part, if there is one.

The sickening part is that this guy is being embraced as a “folk hero” for saying things people want to say but are afraid to.

The story gets weirder:

German-Jewish groups, for instance, are among Sarrazin’s staunchest critics, calling him a dangerous racist. Though Sarrazin has spoken positively of Jews, saying they have “high IQs,” he courted controversy after declaring in an Aug. 29 interview that “all Jews share a certain gene.” In fact, observers here say that the official outcry against Sarrazin – including the move to expel him from the board of the central bank – would have been far more muted had he simply stuck to his generalizations about Muslims.

But by generalizing about Jewish genetics, albeit positively, Sarrazin also “crossed a red line,” said Stephan Kramer, secretary general of the Central Council of Jews in Germany.

“It’s absolutely unacceptable with the history here that such a large amount of people follow what he says,” Kramer said. “The lesson of the Holocaust is not just about Jews, but that human dignity is indivisible. Yet now, they react if there is a genetic comment about Jews, but not if it’s about the Roma or the Turks. We obviously still have some homework to do.”

Part of the propaganda against the Jews in the early Nazi years was the fact that their “hairsplitting” distinction making in academic matters was problematic. While much of the propaganda was dehumanizing, the success of Jews as prominent thinkers was also held against them. So saying the Jews have a high IQ does not erase the problem of this sort of ethnic categorization. This whole thing is downright creepy.

Via BBC:

Dr Nick Neave looks at the difference between “good” and “bad” dancing

Scientists say they’ve carried out the first rigorous analysis of dance moves that make men attractive to women.

The researchers say that movements associated with good dancing may be indicative of good health and reproductive potential.

“When you go out to clubs people have an intuitive understanding of what makes a good and bad dancer,” said co-author Dr Nick Neave, an evolutionary psychologist at Northumbria University, UK.

“What we’ve done for the very first time is put those things together with a biometric analysis so we can actually calculate very precisely the kinds of movements people focus on and associate them with women’s ratings of male dancers.”

Dr Neave asked young men who were not professional dancers, to dance in a laboratory to a very basic drum rhythm and their movements with 12 cameras.

These movements were then converted into a computer-generated cartoon – an avatar – which women rated on a scale of one to seven. He was surprised by the results.

“We thought that people’s arms and legs would be really important. The kind of expressive gestures the hands [make], for example. But in fact this was not the case,” he said.

“We found that (women paid more attention to) the core body region: the torso, the neck, the head. It was not just the speed of the movements, it was also the variability of the movement. So someone who is twisting, bending, moving, nodding.”

Movements that went down terribly were twitchy and repetitive – so called “Dad dancing”.

Dr Neave’s aim was to establish whether young men exhibited the same courtship movement rituals in night clubs as animals do in the wild. In the case of animals, these movements give information about their health, age, their reproductive potential and their hormone status.

“People go to night clubs to show off and attract the opposite sex so I think it’s a valid way of doing this,” Dr Neave explained.

“In animals, the male has to be in good physical quality to carry out these movements. We think the same is happening in humans and certainly the guys that can put these movements together are going to be young and fit and healthy.”

Dr Neave also took blood samples from the volunteers. Early indications from biochemical tests suggest that the men who were better dancers were also more healthy.

So says Stephen Hawking.

British physicist and mathematician Stephen Hawking says no, arguing in his new book that there need not be a God behind the creation of the universe.

Via ABC:

A Croatian teenager awoke from a coma last week to find she could no longer speak in her native Croatian — but was fluent in German, a language she had just started studying in school, the U.K. press reports.

Following a mysterious 24-hour coma, the thirteen-year-old girl from the southern town of Knin has been able to understand Croatian, according to the U.K. press. She can only respond in German and requires a translator to communicate with her family, the stories said.

Via CNN:

Officials in Argentina’s Mendoza province have authorized chemical castration for rapists after a significant increase in sexual assaults last year.

Mendoza authorities convened a scientific legal committee and authorized the voluntary chemical castration by decree.

“By using medication that lowers the person’s sexual desire and with psychological treatment, the person can be reintroduced into society without being a threat,” Mendoza Governor Celso Jaque said.

Eleven convicted rapists in the province have agreed to the treatment in return for reduced sentences.

Several members of the legal committee said the treatment must be voluntary or it would violate international law and Argentina’s constitution.

This is one of things that makes you say, “wow”! I had never even considered this as a possibility. There’s something about the words “chemical” and “castration” that make this sound brutal. But this medication and counseling which make sense. I still think the idea that a less active libido makes them less than a threat is wrong. They aren’t compelled by desire to rape, they chose to act on the impulse. So releasing them into the public on the assumption that a lower libido makes them less likely to do something wrong is not the smartest thing. I think the psychological and rehabilitative measures must be very effective.

Via BBC:

Fuller lips are high on some people’s cosmetic wish list. Lips are a sexual symbol and where attractiveness is concerned, some believe size is everything.

Lip augmentation is not new. Since ancient times, women have used plant dyes and coloured clays to enhance their lips.

In the 1980s, collagen injections were introduced into the cosmetic surgery market and rapidly gained popularity.

Since then, other similar procedures have followed.

But experts still strive for the ideal permanent fix, according to Dr Anurag Agarwal and colleagues.

They say the neck muscle graft technique they have used offers improved appearance for at least two years.

All of the patients they treated using segments of the sternocleidomastoid muscle running along the side of the neck, as well as the connective tissue that overlies it, were pleased with the results.

But one requested extra treatment to further plump the lips with a gel.

The researchers say the surgery is simple and the recovery straightforward with few complications. Once the swelling has gone down after a few weeks, the lips should have the desired fullness.

I am very curious about the physiology of this. Do the grafted muscle nerves connect with the lip nerves and is there feeling in there? Does the lip feel heavy?  How soon do they get used to eating after years of a defined eating utensil to mouth pattern?

Via WaPo, Murray Hill, Inc, a corporate person with equal rights as breathing human beings will begin its bid to unsit Chris Van Hollen.

Murray Hill might be the perfect candidate for this political moment: young, bold, media-savvy, a Washington outsider eager to reshape the way things are done in the nation’s capital. And if these are cynical times, well, then, it’s safe to say Murray Hill is by far the most cynical.

That’s because this little upstart is, in fact, a start-up. Murray Hill is actually Murray Hill Inc., a small, five-year-old Silver Spring public relations company that is seeking office to prove a point (and perhaps get a little attention).

After the Supreme Court declared that corporations have the same rights as individuals when it comes to funding political campaigns, the self-described progressive firm took what it considers the next logical step: declaring for office.

“Until now, corporate interests had to rely on campaign contributions and influence-peddling to achieve their goals in Washington,” the candidate, who was unavailable for an interview, said in a statement. “But thanks to an enlightened Supreme Court, now we can eliminate the middle-man and run for office ourselves.”

Via ABC News, an unemployed, homeless man lives off frequent flier points. As someone who did a lot of work travel, it would get old very quickly.

Wherever he can find a room for points, Kennedy stays. He switches hotels, sometimes staying up to a week in one location, depending on the availability of free nights or where he needs to travel for interviews. Hotels often charge different rates, even when paying for points, for different nights and Kennedy shops around for the best bargain.

Finding a hotel that offers a free breakfast is a bonus, though he notes that the free breakfasts can get monotonous. A lot of hotels, regardless of chain, seem to get their food from the same supplier, so even the powdered eggs taste the same.

“You get tired of the same options every day,” said Kennedy, who was at first reluctant to let his identity be known because his 85-year-old mother doesn’t know that he lost his job 19 months ago. He said she has no money to help him and “she worries a lot.”

Via BBC, the internet is in the running for the Nobel Peace Prize:

The internet is among a record 237 individuals and organisations nominated for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize. The number of nominations surpasses last year’s record of 205 nominations.

The internet’s nomination has been championed by the Italian version of Wired magazine for helping advance “dialogue, debate and consensus”.

The director of the Nobel Institute, Geir Lundestad, told BBC News that the organisation had received “thousands of nominations” for the coveted prize.

“Some were nominated by one person, others by 10, others by 100,” he said.

The secretive organisation does not release the list of nominees, but nominators sometimes announce their choices.

Via CNN

Ancient man may have started global warming through massive deforestation and burning that could have permanently altered the Earth’s climate, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Virginia and the University of Maryland-Baltimore County.

Primitive slash-and-burn agriculture permanently changed Earth’s climate, according to a new study. The study, published in the scientific journal Quaternary Science Reviews and reported on the University of Virginia’s Web site, says over thousands of years, farmers burned down so many forests on such a large scale that huge amounts of carbon dioxide were pumped into the atmosphere. That possibly caused the Earth to warm up and forever changed the climate.

This is why people are suspicious of global warming. The implication basically that there is nothing that we could have done to not start the trend. If that’s the case, then what’s the fuss.