Happy Hour Links

10 awesome bottle openers from around the world.

A dentist who bought the late John Lennon’s tooth wants to use it to clone the Beatle.

Owls have maps in their brains. They use them to catch their dinner.

Canada spent half a mil on a stealth snowmobile, in the hopes of conquering the Arctic, I guess.

How to ruin a state in five easy steps. Kevin D. Williamson explains…

Make work expensive. The nine states with the highest personal-income-tax rates lost $100 billion in AGI from 1995 to 2010. The nine states without any personal-income tax gained $146 billion…Attack lifetime savings. Florida is a good place to live and a great place to die. Its lack of a personal income tax is attractive, and so is its lack of an estate tax. By way of contrast, Minnesota imposes a significant estate tax, one that is more rapacious than the federal levy: Whereas the federal tax excludes $5.25 million per person, Minnesota excludes only $1 million. And if you try to give away some of your assets before you kick off, Minnesota imposes its own gift tax, too, at 10 percent. Minnesota lost nearly $4 billion in AGI from 1992, with the largest amounts going to Florida, Arizona, Wisconsin (which recently eliminated its estate tax), Texas, and Colorado…Run up your state’s long-term liabilities. That means fat pensions for unionized state employees funded mostly by hopes and dreams and fairy dust…Tax fanciful things. Maryland is the innovation leader here, with the ingenious leadership of Governor Martin O’Malley having decided to levy a tax on rain. Already down $7 billion in AGI largely ceded to Florida, North Carolina, and Virginia, Maryland has declared war on economic development, with its rain tax levying charges on every square inch of impervious surface — rooftops, parking lots, driveways — that will produce runoff in the event of rain…Don’t just be crazy — be California crazy. California is running out of things in the present to tax, and its future does not look terribly bright, so it has resorted to taxing the past. A combination of judicial shenanigans and legislative incompetence resulted in California’s reneging on tax incentives that had been offered to some businesses — and then demanding the retroactive payment of taxes for which businesses had never been legally liable. Small-business owners, some of whom had sold their businesses years ago, suddenly got demands for taxes running well into the six figures. And, California being California, it had the gall to charge those businesses interest on taxes they had never owed.

Miley Cyrus on last night’s VMAs was one of the worst, most horrifying things I’ve ever seen, but did you also know it was racist? THE LEFT IS INSANE.

Apparently, we are getting ready to take military action against Syria. Too bad it’s too late.

If, as many think, the president orders some sort of a strike on Assad’s forces or that of his Iranian and Hezbollah allies that are currently winning the war in Syria by a clear margin, perhaps he thinks he will have vindicated his reputation as a man of his word since he has taken so much heat for letting Assad cross his “red line” earlier this year with impunity. But short of a shower of cruise missiles that would decapitate the Syrian regime and completely change the course of the war there, it’s likely that any American action now would be more about Obama’s self-regard than anything else. Having passed on the chance to deal with the situation in Syria when minimal action might have ended Assad’s reign of terror without opening the gates to the al-Qaeda-related forces that currently play a huge role in the opposition, it’s just too late for a single show of force to make a difference…In the coming days we may be treated to the spectacle of a demonstration of American power in Syria. Expect the usual photos out of the situation room in the White House as the president and his team are depicted waiting for news of the strike and the subsequent celebration in the manner which we saw when the president took credit for the heroism of the Navy SEALs that killed Osama bin Laden. But nobody should mistake such theatrics for a coherent policy. President Obama didn’t create this mess by himself, but he worsened it with rhetoric that he chose not to back up with action. So now that the world turns to the United States and ponders what it will do about Assad’s atrocities three years on, all Washington can offer is a gesture that is unlikely to make a whit of difference in Syria. At this point, even a full-fledged American decision to get involved in the military effort to oust Assad may be too little, too late.

Agreed. Obama blew it and if he’s just going to lob some cruise missiles in now to save face, which would possibly result in civilian casualties, then we shouldn’t bother. If we’re going to do more than that and put a thumb on the scale against Assad, how will Russia and Iran react and who the hell will be in charge when he falls? Al-Qaeda? If you think no one could possibly be worse than Assad, you’re wrong.

If we do strike, the lion’s share of the work will be borne by the Navy. Here’s how it might work…

In the early 2000s the U.S. Navy took four old nuclear-powered ballistic-missile submarines, removed their atomic rockets and transformed them into undersea arsenals, each packing up to 154 Tomahawk long-range cruise missiles that can be launched while the sub is still underwater. These so-called “SSGN” submarines—two based on each U.S. coast—also carry Navy SEALS with their special mini-subs for infiltrating enemy coasts plus, it seems, small aerial drones…It was the USS Florida that opened up the Libya intervention two years ago, firing more than 90 cruise missiles to destroy dictator Muammar Gaddafi’s air defenses, clearing the way for NATO air strikes. “Never before in the history of the United States of America has one ship conducted that much land attack strikes, conventionally, in one short time period,” Rear Adm. Rick Breckenridge crowed. As recently as this spring Florida was back in the U.S. Sixth Fleet’s patrol area, centered on the Mediterranean. The 560-foot vessel returned to her base in Georgia in June and her sister vessel USS Georgia apparently took her place on deployment. But then in July a Navy photograph depicted Florida departing base for routine operations.” Meanwhile Georgia was last publicized patrolling the Indian Ocean…The U.S. Defense Department has specifically mentioned four vessels in connection with a possible assault on Syria—all of them 500-foot-long Arleigh Burke-class destroyers deployed with the Sixth Fleet. The USS Mahan, USS Gravely, USS Barry and USS Ramage, each packing a mix of 90 surface-to-air and cruises missiles, are all in the Med…Indeed two of the Navy’s thousand-foot-long nuclear-powered aircraft carriers are within a quick jaunt of Syria. The USS Nimitz and USSHarry S. Truman—each with around 70 jet fighters, support planes and helicopters plus several additional destroyers, cruisers and submarines—are both listed as being with the U.S. Fifth Fleet as of Aug. 23. The Fifth Fleet patrols the Persian Gulf and Red Sea.

The Road: A Comedic Translation.

Yes, that’s what Saudi Arabia needs. Thousands of cluster bombs.

Oh, shut up, Central and South America.

Are left-handed people smarter? Obviously.

This spring, a group of psychiatrists from the University of Athens inviteda hundred university students and graduates—half left-handed and half right—to complete two tests of cognitive ability. In the Trail Making Test, participants had to find a path through a batch of circles as quickly as possible. In the hard version of the test, the circles contain numbers and letters, and participants must move in ascending order while alternating between the two as fast as possible. In the second test, Letter-Number Sequencing, participants hear a group of numbers and letters and must then repeat the whole group, but with numbers in ascending order and letters organized alphabetically. Lefties performed better on both the complex version of the T.M.T.—demonstrating faster and more accurate spatial skills, along with strong executive control and mental flexibility—and on the L.N.S., demonstrating enhanced working memory. And the more intensely they preferred their left hand for tasks, the stronger the effect…The Athens study points to a specific kind of cognitive benefit, since both the T.M.T. and the L.N.S. are thought to engage, to a large extent, the right hemisphere of the brain. But a growing body ofresearchsuggests another, broader benefit: a boost in a specific kind of creativity—namely, divergent thinking, or the ability to generate new ideas from a single principle quickly and effectively. In one demonstration, researchers found that the more marked the left-handed preference in a group of males, the better they were at tests of divergent thought. Left-handers were more adept, for instance, at combining two common objects in novel ways to form a third—for example, using a pole and a tin can to make a birdhouse. They also excelled at grouping lists of words into as many alternate categories as possible. Another recent study has demonstrated an increased cognitive flexibility among the ambidextrous and the left-handed—and lefties have been found to be over-represented among architects, musicians, and art and music students (as compared to those studying science). Part of the explanation for this creative edge may lie in the greater connectivity of the left-handed brain. In ameta-analysis of forty-three studies, the neurologist Naomi Driesen and the cognitive neuroscientist Naftali Raz concluded that the corpus callosum—the bundle of fibers that connects the brain’s hemispheres—was slightly but significantly larger in left-handers than in right-handers. The explanation could also be a much more prosaic one: in 1989, a group of Connecticut College psychologists suggested that the creativity boost was a result of the environment, since left-handers had to constantly improvise to deal with a world designed for right-handers. In a 2013 review of research into handedness and cognition, a group of psychologists found that the main predictor of cognitive performance wasn’t whether an individual was left-handed or right-handed, but rather how strongly they preferred one hand over another. Strongly handed individuals, both right and left, were at a slight disadvantage compared to those who occupied the middle ground—both the ambidextrous and the left-handed who, through years of practice, had been forced to develop their non-dominant right hand. In those less clear-cut cases, the brain’s hemispheres interacted more and overall performance improved, indicating there may something to left-handed brains being pushed in a way that a right-handed one never is. Whatever the ultimate explanation may be, the advantage appears to extend to other types of thinking, too. In a1986 study of students who had scored in the top of their age group on either the math or the verbal sections of the S.A.T., the prevalence of left-handers among the high achievers—over fifteen per cent, as compared to the roughly ten percent found in the general population—was higher than in any comparison groups, which included their siblings and parents. Among those who had scored in the top in both the verbal and math sections, the percentage of left-handers jumped to nearly seventeen per cent, for males, and twenty per cent, for females. That advantage echoes anearlier sample of elementary-school children, which found increased left-handedness among children with I.Q. scores above a hundred and thirty-one.

Karl Rove disproves the notion that Republicans don’t have a replacement plan for Obamacare.

Many congressional Republicans, such as Oklahoma’s Sen. Tom Coburn and Wyoming’s Sen. Mike Enzi, have long advocated making health insurance completely portable so workers can take their plans with them from job to job. This means giving individuals who buy coverage for themselves a tax advantage similar to the one that employers enjoy when they cover employees. That change also could make coverage more affordable for the self-employed and even universal for all workers. In the House, Republicans such as Texas Rep. Sam Johnson and Louisiana’s Charles Boustany (a cardiovascular surgeon), want to allow smaller companies to pool their risk to get the same discounts from insurance carriers that bigger companies do. Others, including Rep. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee and Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, want to spark increased competition by allowing health-insurance policies to be sold across state lines, as are auto insurance policies…Defensive medicine—the use of unnecessary tests and procedures to ward off malpractice suits—cost Medicare and Medicaid an estimated $55.6 billion in 2008, according to a 2010 study in Health Affairs. Thus Texas Rep. Lamar Smith has championed medical liability reform at the federal level to rein in junk lawsuits, despite qualms that the issue should be left to the states. Texas Reps. Mike Burgess (who practiced obstetrics and gynecology) and Joe Barton have introduced bills to establish transparency in pricing and medical outcomes so patients can compare the costs for procedures at area hospitals and their relative success in performing them…Republicans have put these and other ideas into comprehensive reform packages. Georgia Rep. Tom Price, an orthopedic surgeon, has introduced a comprehensive alternative to ObamaCare that includes many of the GOP’s reforms. Tennessee’s Phil Roe, a retired OB/GYN, will introduce a new ObamaCare replacement package next month when Congress returns. Mr. Enzi first introduced a comprehensive bill including GOP reform proposals in 2007 and has updated it regularly. The president and his liberal posse have a fundamental, philosophical objection to conservative ideas on health care. They oppose reforms that put the patient in charge rather than government, that rely on competition rather than regulation, and that strengthen market forces rather than weaken them. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid recently called ObamaCare “a step in the right direction,” but noted that his goal is “absolutely” a single-payer system in which government delivers all health care. When he was running for president in 2008, Mr. Obama admitted he “would probably go ahead with a single-payer system” if he was “designing a system from scratch.” It’s no surprise that he professes not to have heard any good ideas from Republicans.

Lamar Smith explores the EPA’s game of secret science.

To cite a few examples of where the EPA would like to take the country, the agency is moving forward with strict new limits on ozone that by its own estimates will cost taxpayers $90 billion per year, which would make the regulation the most costly in history. Other examples include a Mercury and Air Toxics Standard for power plants (previously known as “Utility MACT”) that the EPA estimates could cost up to $10 billion a year. Yet more than 99% of the EPA’s health-based justifications for the rule are derived from scientific research that the EPA won’t reveal. Taxpayers are supposed to take on faith that EPA policy is backed by good science. We know this much: Virtually every major EPA air-quality regulation under President Obama has been justified by citing two sets of decades-old data from the Harvard Six Cities Study and the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Prevention Study II…For two years, the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, of which I am the chairman, has sought to make this information available to the public. But the EPA has obstructed the committee’s request at every step. To date, the committee has sent six letters to the EPA and other top administration officials seeking the data’s release…The federal government has no business justifying regulations with secret information. This principle has been supported by two of the president’s own science and technology advisers, John Holdren and Deborah Swackhamer. “The data on which regulatory decisions and other decisions are based should be made available to the committee and should be made public,” said Dr. Holdren in testimony before the committee last year. Executive-branch rules dating to the Clinton administration require that federally funded research data be made publicly available, especially if it is used for regulatory purposes. The data in question have not been subjected to scrutiny and analysis by independent scientists. And the EPA does not subject its cost-benefit claims to peer review. This means we have no way of evaluating the quality of the science being used to justify the agency’s claims.

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Filed under Around the World, Politics, Science, Uncategorized

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