I am back from Israel, still Jewish and still an atheist, but sad to be back in a country where the hummus is dire. The jet lag is bad this time, so give me a few days to catch up. I do my best.
Welcome to Sunday, September 24, 2023, and National Cherries Jubilee Day, with a historical background:
Auguste Escoffier receives the credit for the Cherries Jubilee recipe. Since he knew Queen Victoria’s fondness for cherries, Escoffier prepared the dish for one of her Jubilee celebrations. However, his original method didn’t include ice cream. Instead, the chef poached the cherries in a simple syrup and poured warm brandy over them. Then just before serving, dramatically set the alcohol aflame.
For an updated recipe with ice cream, go here.
Readers are welcome to mark notable events, births, or deaths on this by consulting the September 24 Wikipedia page.
*Oy! A new Washington Post/ABC News poll shows Biden trailing Trump in a rematch election, which will be the match next year. This is a bigger margin than some other polls show, and it’s early days, but it’s not to early for those of us who are anxious to start worrying: \
Biden and former president Donald Trump appear headed for a rematch of their 2020 contest, although more than 3 in 5 Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents say they would prefer a nominee other than the president. But Biden’s advisers have argued that he is the strongest Democrat for 2024 and those who wish for someone else share no consensus on who that should be, with 8 percent naming Vice President Harris, 8 percent naming Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and 20 percent saying they prefer “just someone else.”
The Post-ABC poll shows Biden trailing Trump by 10 percentage points at this early stage in the election cycle, although the sizable margin of Trump’s lead in this survey is significantly at odds with other public polls that show the general election contest a virtual dead heat. The difference between this poll and others, as well as the unusual makeup of Trump’s and Biden’s coalitions in this survey, suggest it is probably an outlier.
If it’s probably an outlier, why the deuce did they PUBLISH it, sending me and a gazillion other Democrats into sweat mode. I think it would help, though, if Biden, given the worries about his age, would choose a Vice-President with more than a few working neurons. Note that 20% of Democrats would prefer “just someone else” compared to either Harris or Sanders. I nominate Mayor Pete. I do worry seriously that Biden is lapsing into dementia, and is that the Democrat we want? Of course I’ll vote for him, as Trump is demented in a more dangerous way, but really, is this the best we Democrats can do?
One other bit of worry:
In his bid to become the Republican presidential nominee for a third time, Trump is in a strong position nationally despite facing multiple criminal charges. He is favored by 54 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, little changed from 51 percent in May. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is second at 15 percent, down from 25 percent in May. No other Republican reaches double digits. Trump also leads his GOP rivals in recent state polls, which are likely to be more reliable indicators than national polls of the shape of the GOP race in the coming months.
*Nellie Bowles’s weekly news summary at The Free Press is called “TGIF: Ennui the People,” and as usual I’ll steal three of her items.
→ This man won a Nobel Prize in Economics: It turns out that if you exclude all the things people buy, there is actually very low inflation. We did it, Paul!
Even Trump has realized that many state laws enacted after the Supreme Court’s latest ruling on abortion are draconian:
→ Abortion is a winning issue even in red states: Andy Beshear, the Democrat governor of Kentucky, has made abortion rights the center of his campaign in its final weeks. He put out a remarkable ad with a young woman speaking straight to camera, addressing his competitor in the race: “This is to you, Daniel Cameron. To tell a 12-year-old girl she must have the baby of her stepfather who raped her is unthinkable.” Meanwhile, Donald J. Trump this week bashed Ron DeSantisfor taking such a hard-line pro-life stance. It’s just amazing to see politicians finally reflect back to voters what has long been the American consensus on this: that abortion, by and large, should be legal.
→ How are things for the Jews? Tunisia’s president claimed that a storm was caused by Zionist “attack on the mind and thought.” Someone entered the University of Pennsylvania’s Jewish student center screaming antisemitic obscenities days before an on-campus Palestinian literature festival that features many open antisemites. The ambassador for Iran, a genocidal regime, is set to be Chair of the UN Human Rights Council Social Forum. Trump lashed out at “liberal Jews” in a disturbing post to Truth Social, writing: “Just a quick reminder for liberal Jews who voted to destroy America & Israel because you believed false narratives! Let’s hope you learned from your mistake & make better choices moving forward! Happy New Year!”
In a happy twist, Arab News, a major English-speaking source of news for the Middle East, wished a happy Jewish New Year. You win some, you lose most.
*The WSJ discusses three scientists who are making their careers not producing original research, but in an equally valuable way: showing that “truths” published by other scientists are bogus. They and others recently helped bring down neuroscientist Marc Tessier-Lavigne, the President of Stanford, who resigned after having his name on many fraudulent pieces of research. And others are engaged in sleuthing, too. Check out the numbers
An award-winning Harvard Business School professor and researcher spent years exploring the reasons people lie and cheat. A trio of behavioral scientists examining a handful of her academic papers concluded her own findings were drawn from falsified data.
It was a routine takedown for the three scientists—Joe Simmons, Leif Nelson and Uri Simonsohn—who have gained academic renown for debunking published studies built on faulty or fraudulent data. They use tips, number crunching and gut instincts to uncover deception. Over the past decade, they have come to their own finding: Numbers don’t lie but people do.
“Once you see the pattern across many different papers, it becomes like a one in quadrillion chance that there’s some benign explanation,” said Simmons, a professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and a member of the trio who report their work on a blog called Data Colada.
Simmons and his two colleagues are among a growing number of scientists in various fields around the world who moonlight as data detectives, sifting through studies published in scholarly journals for evidence of fraud.
At least 5,500 faulty papers were retracted in 2022, compared with 119 in 2002, according to Retraction Watch, a website that keeps a tally. The jump largely reflects the investigative work of the Data Colada scientists and many other academic volunteers, said Dr. Ivan Oransky, the site’s co-founder. Their discoveries have led to embarrassing retractions, upended careers and retaliatory lawsuits.
While it’s possible that fraud has increased 50-fold in two decades due to increased competition, I’m betting that most of the retractions are coming simply from both a climate that’s gives more scrutiny to bogus research, but is also intensified by the successes of debunkers. This trend can only be a healthy one, for what is published gets high credibility as “scientific truth” (though it must of course be replicated to become truly credible), and, given the public’s increasing mistrust of science, the sight of scientists ardently checking each other’s work can only be good for both science and the public.
*According to the NYT, China has built a sophisticated military base on a reef in the South China Sea, although an international court says China has no claim to the waters its defending there (yeah, and who’s gonna enforce that?) and is also defending them against a wide variety of both civilian and military traffic and forcing Asian fishermen from several countries to simply stop fishing there:
The Chinese military base on Mischief Reef, off the Philippine island of Palawan, loomed in front of our boat, obvious even in the predawn dark.
Radar domes, used for military surveillance, floated like nimbus clouds. Lights pointed to a runway made for fighter jets, backed by warehouses perfect for surface-to-air missiles. More than 900 miles from the Chinese mainland, in an area of the South China Sea that an international tribunal has unequivocally determined does not belong to China, cellphones pinged with a message: “Welcome to China.”
The world’s most brazen maritime militarization is gaining muscle in waters through which one-third of global ocean trade passes. Here, on underwater reefs that are known as the Dangerous Ground, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, or P.L.A., has fortified an archipelago of forward operating bases that have branded these waters as China’s despite having no international legal grounding. China’s coast guard, navy and a fleet of fishing trawlers harnessed into a militia are confronting other vessels, civilian and military alike.
. . .The mounting Chinese military presence in waters that were long dominated by the U.S. fleet is sharpening the possibility of a showdown between superpowers at a moment when relations between them have greatly worsened. And as Beijing challenges a Western-driven security order that stood for nearly eight decades, regional countries are increasingly questioning the strength of the American commitment to the Pacific.
While the United States makes no territorial claims to the South China Sea, it maintains defense pacts with Asian partners, including the Philippines, that could compel American soldiers to these waters. Just as anxiety over nearby Taiwan has focused attention on the deteriorating relations between Washington and Beijing, the South China Sea provides yet another stage for a contest in which neither side wants to betray weakness. Complicating matters, Chinese diplomats and military officers are engaging less at a time when open communication could help defuse tensions.
Here’s a satellite image from the NYT of the facilities on “Mischief Reef”. Click to enlarge:
The U.S, seems to have little taste for military conflict with China, and can you blame them? It’s World War III, Jake? But I feel sorry for the Taiwanese, who are surely suffering mass anxiety in the face of rumors that China will take over their island by 2027.
*It pays to read the “oddities” page of the Associated Press, for you learn vital information like the Oscar Meyer “Wienermobile” (a hot-dog-shaped vehicle) was temporarily renamed the “Frankmobile.” But here’s some biology news: five American flamingos, a denizen of the tropics, have showed up in Wisconsins, of all places, wading along the shores of Lake Michigan and driving birders to drag out their cameras and run to photograph them.
Five flamingos that showed up in Wisconsin to wade along a Lake Michigan beach attracted a big crowd of onlookers eager to see the unusual visitors venturing far from their usual tropical setting.
The American flamingos [Phoenicopteridae ruber] spotted Friday in Port Washington, about 25 miles (40 kilometers) north of Milwaukee, marked the first sighting of the species in Wisconsin state history, said Mark Korducki, a member of the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.
The birds stood quietly 25 feet (7.6 meters) off Lake Michigan’s western shoreline as waves lapped against their thin legs. Three were adults, identifiable by their pink plumage, and two were juveniles clad in gray.
Jim Edelhuber of Waukesha was among a crowd of about 75 bird enthusiasts drawn to the city’s South Beach after word spread on social media about the flamingos’ appearance there.
Gotta be either hurricanes or global warming!
The sighting was unexpected but not a total shock because of recent reports of flamingos in Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio and Pennsylvania, said Ryan Brady, conservation biologist with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.
Wildlife biologists hypothesized that the flamingos were pushed north in late August by the strong winds of Hurricane Idalia, the Journal Sentinel reported.
The typical range of the American flamingo is Florida and other Gulf Gulf Coast states as well as the Caribbean and northern South America.
The errant birds:
Here’s the range of the American flamingo, followed by a photo of the Wienermobile, which I’ve seen three times (once it was parked and they gave me a wienermobile-shaped whistle):
FrankWienermobile, and a bit of the report:
Those who drive Wienermobiles around to promotional events are known as Hotdoggers. Perhaps the most famous Hotdogger is former U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan, who drove a Wienermobile one summer while in college.
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili makes a joke:
Hili: Did you read about the elephant in the room?A: Many times.Hili: A cat in the garden doesn’t surprise anybody either.
Hili: Czytałeś o słoniu w salonie?Ja: Wiele razy. Hili: Kot w ogrodzie też nikogo nie dziwi.
From Seth Andrews:
From the Absurd Sign Project 2.0, the Big Truck That Couldn’t:
From Masih, more of Iran’s brave women fighting for both personal and national freedom. Sound up (language is Farsi).
Breaking: Zeinab Kazemi, who courageously removed her hijab at an engineers' gathering in Tehran, is now sentenced to 74 lashes. In a video unveiled today, she declares she has no regrets and remains steadfast in her fight against oppression. Iranian women won't be silenced by… pic.twitter.com/7f7CjvJ3Ii
— Masih Alinejad 🏳️ (@AlinejadMasih) September 7, 2023
From Barry, who asks, “But what is the drink?”
this chimp is to chill for what ever problems there are in the world pic.twitter.com/mgxVhCUJnt
— Nature is Amazing ☘️ (@AMAZlNGNATURE) September 19, 2023
From Emma Hilton. Yes, it does have to stop:
This has to stop. https://t.co/ZQPBcEDseD
— Emma Hilton (@FondOfBeetles) September 11, 2023
From Simon; there’s other (and sadder) news about Larry below:
Rishi Sunak’s family dog, Nova, has had some “heated exchanges” with Larry the Downing Street cat, the prime minister’s wife has revealed — with Larry coming out on tophttps://t.co/bBrHAlx9T1
— The Times and The Sunday Times (@thetimes) September 22, 2023
From the Auschwitz Memorial; this looks like a wedding photo:
24 September 1906 | A Hungarian Jewish woman, Rozsa Szigeti, was born.
— Auschwitz Memorial (@AuschwitzMuseum) September 24, 2023
Tweets from Matthew. This first one is very good!
— place where cat shouldn't be (@catshouldnt) September 23, 2023
I get this when I put my hospital bills on my website (I have insurance). “If you’re poor you’re dead.”:
British woman asked how much Americans are forced to pay for drugs.
Watch her 🤯 pic.twitter.com/LsoDx0QERn
— Jon Cooper (@joncoopertweets) September 21, 2023
This makes me very sad. Larry is sixteen years old:
EXCL – Fears are growing inside Downing Street for the health of beloved chief mouser Larry the cat
No10 officials drawing up emergency PR plan on how to break the news to the nation when the ailing moggy does pass awayhttps://t.co/EEjUNMrP4Q
— Kate Ferguson (@kateferguson4) September 23, 2023