Grassley at center of court storm | TheHill


The Iowa Republican won’t commit to scheduling hearings on President Obama’s expected nominee to the court, drawing criticism from Democrats and puzzled reactions from some longtime observers of his career.

“He’s always been a champion of transparency. I’m just thinking of all the whistleblower legislation and issues that he’s been involved in,” said David Yepsen, who long covered Grassley as chief political reporter for the Des Moines Register.

Source: Grassley at center of court storm | TheHill

Pity the Republicans | Bloomberg View


For a party with faith in itself and in the American project, a Supreme Court vacancy is worthy of a pitched, strategic battle.

But Republicans don’t believe they have a popular judicial or political philosophy, and they are so dependent on the court’s activist conservative bloc that a potential shift of a single judge is deemed catastrophic.

Source: Pity the Republicans – Bloomberg View

Why Do Beluga Whales Blow Bubbles? | Smithsonian


When it comes to quirky animal behaviors, few are more charming than 2,000-pound beluga whales blowing delicate bubbles.

But why do they do it?

Source: Why Do Beluga Whales Blow Bubbles? | Science | Smithsonian

Giving Up Palm Oil Might Actually Be Bad for the Environment | Smithsonian


As destructive as the oil palm is to the environment, it may be better than the alternatives.

No other crop can yield even a third as much oil per acre planted. And along with using less land, the oil palm gobbles up significantly fewer pesticides and chemical fertilizers than coconut, corn or any other vegetable oil source.

Palm oil’s big problem has always been the jungle-covered terrain where the tree is grown. It’s native to Africa, but Malaysia and Indonesia now produce 85 percent of the world’s supply.

Clearing land for plantations involves burning rainforest—in the process, endangering rare species and, on peatland, releasing 100 times the greenhouse gas of conventional forest fire.

Source: Giving Up Palm Oil Might Actually Be Bad for the Environment | Science | Smithsonian

Texting Isn’t the First New Technology Thought to Impair Social Skills | Smithsonian


.. Eventually phone firms realized there was more money in selling lines for banter than for business.

“They realized, ‘We can make money off gossip and idle conversation and sociability on the telephone,'” says Claude Fischer, author of America Calling: A Social History of the Telephone to 1940.

Source: Texting Isn’t the First New Technology Thought to Impair Social Skills | Innovation | Smithsonian

SQUIDs for Axion Detection


Perhaps fortunately, most folks haven’t noticed that 85% of the Milky Way is missing: The kind of familiar, ordinary matter we know – made up of protons, neutrons, electrons, and their kin – amounts to barely one-sixth of the total mass of our galaxy and others, according to repeated astronomical observations.

Where’s the rest?

That’s the mission of the Axion Dark Matter Experiment (ADMX), a multi-institution collaboration based at the University of Washington.

It too relies on PML’s (Physical Measurement Laboratory) long-standing expertise in fabricating SQUIDs (superconducting quantum interference devices) for special purposes.

ADMX operates on the theory that once in a while an axion will reveal itself because when it is in a magnetic field and excited by radio waves at the precise frequency that corresponds to the particle’s mass, the axion will decay into extremely faint microwave photons.

Source: SQUIDs for Axion Detection

Scientists Printed a Human Ear | Smithsonian


The secret of the printer’s success is hydrogel, which is made of water, gelatin and other substances that support cell growth.

The printer lays down that substance along with biodegradable structural materials that eventually dissolve once the tissue is strong enough to support itself. When fully printed tissues were implanted into animals, they matured and even developed their own blood vessels.

Source: Scientists Printed a Human Ear | Smart News | Smithsonian

China’s Subprime Crisis Is Here | Bloomberg Gadfly


The dynamic is clear.

A splurge of new lending can help to dilute existing bad loans, but only at a cost. This is a game that can’t continue forever, particularly if credit is being foisted on to an already over-leveraged and slowing economy.

At some point, the music will stop and there will have to be a reckoning. The longer China postpones that, the harder it will be.

Source: China’s Subprime Crisis Is Here – Bloomberg Gadfly

Could Germany’s attempt to ban neo-Nazis backfire?


NPD and other far-right groups are gaining traction in Germany, thanks in part to their ability to attract people threatened by globalization and disenchanted with Germany’s growing role on the world stage — from euro zone bailouts to an open-arms refugee policy.

The NPD goes one step further, denying the Holocaust and espousing a racist ideology that contends people with Asian or African backgrounds could never be German.

Source: Could Germany’s attempt to ban neo-Nazis backfire?

How Scalia’s death restarts the energy fight | Washington Times


.. Never before had the Supreme Court stayed a set of regulations before a federal court had even heard the initial case or ruled on them.

The Supreme Court delivered this big surprise on the very day of the New Hampshire primary, shocking onlookers from the White House to my house.

If the stay were to be revisited and reversed by a court no longer including Justice Scalia, the impact could be dramatically bad for energy producers and consumers alike. Let me explain …

Source: TIM ECHOLS: How Scalia’s death restarts the energy fight – Washington Times