Monday, January 30, 2012


President Obama’s old car on eBay

Matthew Barney - Chrysler Imperial, 2002

Time Piece - Jim Henson

The Neuroscience Of Integrity: Now They Can Measure In The Brain When You Sell Out

Let your better self rest assured: Dearly held values truly are sacred, and not merely cost-benefit analyses masquerading as nobel intent, concludes a new study on the neurobiology of moral decision-making. Such values are conceived differently, and occur in very different parts of the brain, than utilitarian decisions. “Why do people do what they do?” said neuroscientist Greg Berns of Emory University. “Asked if they’d kill an innocent human being, most people would say no, but there can be two very different ways of coming to that answer. You could say it would hurt their family, that it would be bad because of the consequences. Or you could take the Ten Commandments view: You just don’t do it. It’s not even a question of going beyond.” Blood flows to different parts of the brain in utilitarian (green) and matter-of-principle (yellow) decisions. Image: Berns et al./Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B In a study published Jan. 23 in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, Berns and colleagues posed a series of value-based statements to 27 women and 16 men while using an fMRI machine to map their mental activity. The statements were not necessarily religious, but intended to cover a spectrum of values ranging from frivolous (“You enjoy all colors of M&Ms”) to ostensibly inviolate (“You think it is okay to sell a child”). After answering, test participants were asked if they’d sign a document stating the opposite of their belief in exchange for a chance at winning up to $100 in cash. If so, they could keep both the money and the document; only their consciences would know. According to Berns, this methodology was key. The conflict between utilitarian and duty-based moral motivations is a classic philosophical theme, with historical roots in the formulations of Jeremy Bentham and Immanuel Kant, and other researchers have studied it — but none, said Berns, had combined both brain imaging and a situation where moral compromise was realistically possible. “Hypothetical vignettes are presented to people, and they’re asked, ‘How did you arrive at a decision?’ But it’s impossible to really know in a laboratory setting,” said Berns. “Signing your name to something for a price is meaningful. It’s getting into integrity. Even at $100, most all our test subjects put some things into categories they were willing to take money for, and others they wouldn’t.” When test subjects agreed to sell out, their brains displayed common signatures of activity in regions previously linked to calculating utility. When they refused, activity was concentrated in other parts of their brains: the ventrolateral prefrontal cortex, which is known to be involved in processing and understanding abstract rules, and the right temporoparietal junction, which has been implicated in moral judgement. 'If it's a sacred value to you, then you can't even conceive of it in a cost-benefit framework.' In short, when people didn’t sell out their principles, it wasn’t because the price wasn’t right. It just seemed wrong. “There’s one bucket of things that are utilitarian, and another bucket of categorical things,” Berns said. “If it’s a sacred value to you, then you can’t even conceive of it in a cost-benefit framework.” According to Berns, the implications could help people better understand the motivations of others. He’s now studying how moral equations change according to the social popularity of values, and what happens in the brain when deep-seated principles are confronted with reasoned arguments. “Can I change your mind? Lessen your conviction? Strengthen it? And how does this happen? Is this appealing to rule-based networks, or to systems of reward and loss?” Berns wondered. Whether sacred principles offer utilitarian benefits over long periods of time — many years, perhaps many generations, and at population-wide as well as individual scales — is beyond the current study design, but Berns suspects that one of their benefits is simplicity. “My hypothesis about the Ten Commandments is that they exist because they’re too hard to think about on a cost-benefit basis,” he said. “It’s far easier to have a rule saying, ‘Thou shalt not commit adultery.’ It simplifies decisionmaking.” - Brandon Keim
Image: BenFrantzDale/Flickr
Citation: “The price of your soul: neural evidence for the non-utilitarian representation of sacred values.” By Gregory S. Berns, Emily Bell, C. Monica Capra, Michael J. Prietula, Sara Moore, Brittany Anderson, Jeremy Ginges and Scott Atran. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, Vol. 367 No. 1589, March 5, 2012.

Send Money

Alain de Botton plans to build a £1m "temple for atheists" among the international banks and medieval church spires of the City of London have sparked a clash between two of Britain's most prominent non-believers. The philosopher and writer Alain de Botton is proposing to build a 46-metre (151ft) tower to celebrate a "new atheism" as an antidote to what he describes as Professor Richard Dawkins's & Christopher Hitchens "aggressive" and "destructive" approach to non-belief."Atheists don't need temples," the author of The God Delusion said. "I think there are better things to spend this kind of money on. If you are going to spend money on atheism you could improve secular education and build non-religious schools which teach rational, sceptical critical thinking." The philosopher said he has raised almost half the funds for the project from a group of property developers who want to remain anonymous. He hopes to find the rest of the money with a public appeal, and construction could start by the end of 2013 if permission is granted by the Corporation of London. De Botton said he chose the country's financial centre because he believes it is where people have most seriously lost perspective on life's priorities.
- Robert Booth
Read more:

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Tiny Tim - Living In the Sunlight

Rene LeBouvier

In France, an elderly man is fighting to make a formal break with the Catholic Church. He's taken the church to court over its refusal to let him nullify his baptism, and the case could have far-reaching effects. Seventy-one-year-old Rene LeBouvier's parents and brother are buried in a churchyard in the tiny village of Fleury in northwest France. He himself was baptized in the Romanesque stone church and attended mass here as a boy. LeBouvier says this rural area is still conservative and very Catholic, but nothing like it used to be. Back then, he says, you couldn't even get credit at the bakery if you didn't go to mass every Sunday. LeBouvier grew up in that world and says his mother once hoped he'd become a priest. But his views began to change in the 1970s, when he was introduced to free thinkers. As he didn't believe in God anymore, he thought it would be more honest to leave the church. So he wrote to his diocese and asked to be un-baptized. "They sent me a copy of my records, and in the margins next to my name, they wrote that I had chosen to leave the church," he says. That was in the year 2000. A decade later, LeBouvier wanted to go further. In between were the pedophile scandals and the pope preaching against condoms in AIDS-racked Africa, which LeBouvier calls "criminal." Again, he asked the church to strike him from baptismal records. When the priest told him it wasn't possible, he took the church to court. Last October, a judge in Normandy ruled in his favor. The diocese has since appealed, and the case is pending. "One can't be de-baptized," says Rev. Robert Kaslyn, dean of the School of Canon Law at the Catholic University of America. Kaslyn says baptism changes one permanently before the church and God. "One could refuse the grace offered by God, the grace offered by the sacrament, refuse to participate," he says, "but we would believe the individual has still been marked for God through the sacrament, and that individual at any point could return to the church." French law states that citizens have the right to leave organizations if they wish. Loup Desmond has been following the case for the French Catholic newspaper La Croix. He thinks it could set a legal precedent and open the way for more demands for de-baptism. "If the justice confirms that the name Rene LeBouvier has to disappear from the books, if it is confirmed, it can be a kind of jurisprudence in France," he says. Up to now, observers say the de-baptism trend has been marginal, but it's growing. In neighboring Belgium, the Brussels Federation of Friends of Secular Morality reports that 2,000 people asked to be de-baptized in 2010. The newspaper Le Monde estimated that about 1,000 French people a year ask to have their baptisms annulled. There is much anger across the continent by the recent pedophile scandals. In September, Germans marched to protest the pope's visit. Christian Weisner is with the German branch of the grassroots movement We Are Church. He says Europeans still want religion, and they want to believe, but it has become very difficult within the Catholic Church. "It's the way that the Roman Catholic Church has not followed the new approach of democracy, the new approach of the women's issue," he says, "and there is really a big gap between the Roman Catholic Church and modern times." Back at the church in Fleury, LeBouvier stands by his parents' grave. When asked if the case has ruined his chances of being buried in the family plot, he says he doesn't have to worry about that. He's donating his body to science. - ELEANOR BEARDSLEY


Al Sharpton Newt Gingrich

Cynthia Gordy: Who do you predict will win the Florida primary?
Al Sharpton: At this point, Mitt Romney would be my guess. And let me say this: Even though Mitt Romney has not said the things that Gingrich has, Romney stood on the stage next to Gingrich and never took issue with it, never said he disagreed with it. And Romney himself has taken positions like, "Let Detroit go bankrupt," and says that poor and working-class people who are talking about economic equality are just envious of him. So he has his own baggage to deal with.
In the past Gingrich has partnered with African-American public figures, including the NAACP's Ben Jealous on criminal justice reform, and Al Sharpton on education. - The RootBen Jealous - KAREN CALDICOTT

Uncle Teddy

Friend --
Four years ago today, I joined my Uncle Teddy and thousands of excited students at American University to endorse Barack Obama as the next president of the United States. Barack Obama had stirred something in young people and the young at heart. I saw the passion in my own teenage children, and I heard it from a different generation of people who said they felt like they did when my father ran for president. We felt strongly that we needed to elect a president who urged us to believe in ourselves, who could tie that belief to our highest ideals, and who understood that together we can do great things. Four years later, as I think about what first inspired me to support Barack Obama, I'm proud we have a president who has fought hard for the values Teddy held dear, and stood up on issues that matter. Will you join me by saying what first inspired you to stand with Barack Obama?

How proud he would have been to see his candidate sign the Affordable Care Act into law as president, giving all Americans the security of knowing that their health care will be there when they need it most. In his speech four years ago today, Teddy reminded us all of that bright light of hope and possibility that shines even in the darkest hours. He knew that with Barack Obama as president, America would shine again. I don't think he would be surprised to know that four years later, this president would have ended the war in Iraq, repealed "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," and guaranteed women the right to equal pay for equal work. The 2012 election will be harder than the last. As you think about what role you can play this time, I want you to remember that when Teddy joined this campaign, it wasn't just Barack Obama who drew him in. It was you. The possibility of a campaign run by ordinary people determined to change our country for the better and willing to work as hard as necessary inspired him then, and it's what inspires me today.

Thanks for all you do.

I'll see you out there,


Egyptians move to reclaim streets through graffiti

CAIRO (AP) — The conflict between Egypt's ruling military and pro-democracy protesters isn't just on the streets of Cairo, it's on the walls as well, as graffiti artists from each side duel it out with spray paint and stencils. Earlier this month, supporters of the ruling generals painted over part of the largest and most famous antimilitary graffiti pieces in the capital. - AYA BATRAWY

Saturday, January 28, 2012



Robert Hegyes - Juan Luis Pedro Philippo DeHuevos Epstein

Amy Winehouse by Jean Paul Gaultier

The most memorable of this week's Spring 2012 couture shows was undoubtedly Jean Paul Gaultier's homage to Amy Winehouse. The irreverent French designer sent Winehouse lookalikes, complete with beehive hair, swipes of black eyeliner and the occasional cigarette, down the Paris runway with the singer's signature bluesy voice wafting through the speakers. Gaultier intended the collection as a wholly literal take, telling Women's Wear Daily, "I think Amy Winehouse was truly a fashion icon" whose style has failed to be honored by magazines since her July 2011 death. But Winehouse's family did not appreciate the sentiment. The Sun reports today that Mitch Winehouse, Amy's father, expressed displeasure at Gaultier's unauthorized use of his daughter's image and memory. "The family was upset to see those pictures, they were a total shock," said Mitch, according to the Sun. With the family marking the six-month anniversary of Amy's tragic passing just this week, Mitch noted, "to see her image lifted wholesale to sell clothes was a wrench we were not expecting or consulted on." Her father also added:

We're proud of her influence on fashion but find black veils on models, smoking cigarettes with a barbershop quartet singing her music in bad taste."

Attendees of the show were perceptive enough to suspect the same. Women's Wear Daily pointed out that the show "felt at best ill-advised: a young woman who died tragically less than a year ago the fodder for an oh-so-feisty fashion show." Some of Amy's friends agreed. Kelly Osbourne tweeted, "Although @JPGaultier was paying homage to my dear friend & icon to the world i found it to be lucratively selfish and distasteful!" Surely Gaultier did not intend any offense. But one would think that with such sensitive material, the designer would have consulted the family. But when asked backstage, Gaultier admitted that he had never even met Amy but simply thought that their "styles had always been similar," according to AP. - The Huffington Post


Don't leave your wallet in the dressing room.

Dallin Morgan

ROY, Utah (AP) — The two teens had a detailed plot, blueprints of the school and security systems, but no explosives. They had hours of flight simulator training on a home computer and a plan to flee the country, but no plane. Still, the police chief in this small Utah town said, the plot was real. "It wasn't like they were hanging out playing video games," Roy Police Chief Gregory Whinham said Friday. "They put a lot of effort into it." Dallin Morgan, 18, and a 16-year-old friend were arrested Wednesday at Roy High School, about 30 miles north of Salt Lake City, after a fellow student reported that she received ominous text messages from one of the suspects. "If I tell you one day not to go to school, make damn sure you and your brother are not there," one message read, according to court records. "We ain't gonna crash it, we're just gonna kill," read another message. While police don't have a motive, one text message noted they sought "revenge on the world." - PAUL FOY

Friday, January 27, 2012

NY art dealer charged in $4M fraud

NEW YORK — A New York art dealer has been charged in a $4 million fraud for selling works by Picasso, Matisse and others without informing the owner or giving him the proceeds. The charges in a criminal complaint in Manhattan accuse Robert Scott Cook of selling 16 works of art without the owner/collector's knowledge. The artwork included watercolors, drawings, photographs, and other works by artists including Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse and Pierre-Auguste Renoir, among others. Lawyers in court papers filed in a civil case against him say Cook is likely living abroad because he travels frequently around the world. A lawyer for the 62-year-old Cook did not immediately return a phone message for comment. From 2005 to 2011, Cook owned Cook Fine Art, LLC. - Associated Press

Death Row

Joshua Komisarjevsky & Steven Hayes of Connecticut


Fu Baoshi (1904-1965)

“Drunk Monk” (1944)
FU BANKSY DRUNK MONK - LeRoy "King of Art" Jan 27 2012

Jan Brewer & President Obama

Federal suit settled over wastewater in McKeesport

January 25, 2012 - Two environmental groups and McKeesport's municipal authority have settled a federal lawsuit that claimed the city was violating state and federal environmental laws by treating wastewater from Marcellus shale drilling operations, according to court documents. Attorneys for both sides and representatives for the city, Clean Water Action and Three Rivers Waterkeeper couldn't immediately be reached for comment. U.S. District Judge Nora Barry Fischer ordered the case closed Monday after the attorneys said they reached a settlement. Joseph Rost, executive director for the authority, said he couldn't discuss the settlement because the authority board hasn't approved it. The board's next regular meeting is Feb. 14, but it might meet before then to get the lawsuit settled, he said. "We're really close," he said. The judge's order doesn't provide any details of the settlement. The two groups claimed that McKeesport's sewage treatment plant was accepting drilling wastewater even though its permit doesn't provide for the treatment of industrial waste. The state Department of Environmental Protection in April asked drillers to stop sending wastewater to municipal sewage treatment plants and asked plants to stop accepting it. - Brian Bowling

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Barney Frank to marry longtime partner

Retiring congressman Barney Frank (D-Mass.) will marry his longtime partner, Jim Ready. Frank and Ready plan to wed in Massachusetts. Frank's home state is one of six states, in addition to the District of Columbia, that permits gay marriage. Frank announced in November that he would be retiring from Congress after 16 terms to pursue other opportunities. In 1987, Frank disclosed that he was gay, becoming the first openly gay member of Congress. Ready and Frank have known each other since they met in 2005 at a fundraiser in Maine, and began a relationship in January of 2007 after Ready's partner died. Ready works as a photographer and has a small buisness doing custom awnings, carpentry, painting, and welding according to Frank's office.
Ready, like many political spouses, has occasionally found himself in the headlines. He was arrested in 2007 for growing marijuana outside his Maine home; Frank was present at the time he was arrested. Ready later pleaded guilty to a fine for civil possession, and related charges were dropped. "I told him that our relationship could not develop if he could not promise me that he would not repeat this. He apologized, with great sincerity I believe, and he made that promise and has lived up to it," Frank said in a statement in 2010. Frank's vows come at a crucial time for the gay-rights movement. In Maryland, New Jersey and Washington, bills that would legalize same-sex marriage are poised to pass this legislative session. In Maine, voters will be able to vote to allow same-sex marriages in November, while North Carolina and Minnesota voters will consider constitutional amendments that would ban gay marriage. During a 2004 debate in Congress over a federal constitutional amendment that would ban gay marriage, Frank railed against the proposal. - Justin Sink


Banana Republic Kate Middleton Dress Inspired By Reiss Original -- Want to relive one of the most awesome moments of 2011? The May 2011 meeting of the Duchess of Cambridge and Michelle Obama, two HuffPost Style faves, was one of our favorite photo opps of the year because it revealed just how distinctive each of the women's personal style is. The contrast was day and night: Michelle wore a typically bold, playful outfit, choosing a swingy, colorful and print-covered look by Barbara Tfank; Kate went for youthful yet quiet elegance in a neutral-colored, body-conscious sheath by Reiss. Now that oh-so Middleton dress can be yours. Banana Republic is now selling a dress dubbed the "Kate sheath," retailing online for $130. According to InStyle, it's a great deal cheaper than the Reiss original, which sold for $340. Then again, it's also missing the layers of fabric around the skirt that gave it that sexy, bandage effect. The original, called the Shola, sold out immediately and crashed the Reiss website, obvi. But Banana's brought it back. See the pics below -- how did the American retailer do? If you approve and so desire your own "Meet the Obamas" moment, you can find the Kate sheath at

Annie Leibovitz: Pilgrimage

Photographer Annie Leibovitz says project that became Smithsonian exhibit revived her spiritWASHINGTON (AP)— Photographer Annie Leibovitz says she has come back from some dark days and revived her creativity with a new project now on view at the Smithsonian American Art Museum that marks a departure from her popular celebrity portraits. Two years ago, Leibovitz was facing millions in debt and a mismanaged fortune that nearly cost her the legal rights to her own work, which includes some of pop culture’s most memorable images. The ordeal was a good lesson in managing her business, Leibovitz said, but left her “emotionally and mentally depleted.” On Tuesday, she led a tour through the photographs she says renewed her inspiration with a few road trips through U.S. history. The idea grew out of a book she had wanted to make with her partner, Susan Sontag, with a list of destinations and an excuse to visit them. After Sontag died, she eventually revived the idea with her young children. It began with a six-hour drive to Niagara Falls during the period of her financial troubles only to find out her credit card had been rejected at a hotel and their rooms had been given away. While they found another place to stay, Leibovitz was upset wanted to go home. But she agreed to go to a lookout point at the waterfalls with her kids. “I was sitting off to the side, feeling a little down, and I saw my children mesmerized, studying the falls,” she said. “And I walked over, stood behind them ... and I took this picture.”

Nick Gruber

Not not in love
Calvin Klein and his 21-year-old boy toy Nick Gruber are still together, despite reports that the two are “on a break.” The fashion designer, 67, was in good spirits at the Ziegfeld on Tuesday night for the premiere of Madonna’s film “W.E.” without his beau, but with Drena De Niro. Klein explained that Gruber was out West skiing, adding, “We still have a wonderful relationship and I love him.” He emphasized: “We’re not not together . . . he’s a very special person in my life.” NY Post