Readers comment on these controversial tweets from NRO’s Kevin Williamson:

In this country, even the most vile criminals are entitled to lethal injection. Why hanging? Is that not how the theocracy in Iran hands out its moral judgments?​

Another:

I consider myself strongly pro-choice, but I do have to give Williamson props for at least being logically consistent in his beliefs, which is more than I can say for 99% of pro-lifers. If one makes the assertion that a fetus has the same right to life as any human being, it logically follows that the termination of that fetus should be treated under the law like every other homicide. And, under current law, this would mean that a woman who paid a doctor to perform an abortion would be participating in a “murder for hire”, which in many states is a capital offense.

Punishing only doctors is a tacit admission that a fetus IS different in some respects from living, breathing human beings. But, of course, nothing would turn this country more in a pro-choice direction than deciding to punish women in this manner. Which is why it will never happen, and why the pro-life rhetoric regarding personhood will never match up with reality.

Another digs into Williamson’s past:

Here’s his typical pattern.

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The View From Your Window

Sep 30 2014 @ 7:14pm

Segovia-Spain-3pm

Segovia, Spain, 3 pm

Nature Is Free

Sep 30 2014 @ 6:45pm

Well, that’s not quite right. But as of next month, the journal’s sister publication Nature Communications will be. In light of the news, The Economist deems the rise of open-access academic publishing “unstoppable”:

All seven of Britain’s research councils, for example, now require that the results of the work they pay for are open-access in some way. So does the Wellcome Trust, a British charity whose medical-research budget exceeds that of many scientifically successful countries. And by 2016 every penny of public money given to British universities by the government will carry the same requirement.

Elsewhere, the story is the same.

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Face Of The Day

Sep 30 2014 @ 6:18pm

Secret Service Director Julia Pierson Testifies To House Committee On Recent Security Breaches At White House

Secret Service Director Julia Pierson prepares to testify to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on the White House perimeter breach at the Rayburn House Office Building on September 30, 2014 in Washington, DC. Pierson is giving an account of an incident involving a security breach at the White House after a man jumped the fence and was not subdued until after he had entered the mansion, deeper into the building than what it was previously reported. By Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

“Yes Means Yes” Becomes Law

Sep 30 2014 @ 5:47pm

On Sunday, Jerry Brown signed California’s controversial affirmative-consent bill. Amanda Marcotte welcomes the news:

This means that during an investigation of an alleged sexual assault, university disciplinary committees will have to ask if the sexual encounter met a standard where both parties were consenting, with consent defined as “an affirmative, conscious and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity.” Notice that the words “verbal” or “stone sober” are not included in that definition. The drafters understand, as most of us do when we’re actually having sex, that sometimes sexual consent is nonverbal and that there’s a difference between drunk, consensual sex and someone pushing himself on a woman who is too drunk to resist.

She calls out what she views as “misrepresentations of the bill,” explaining:

The law has no bearing on the vast majority of sexual encounters.

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A reader writes:

The United States should feel some pressure to enhance relations with India and Prime Minister Modi. Chinese President Xi Jinping visited India this month andUS-INDIA-DIPLOMACY-MODIsigned signed three pacts meant to boost trade and investment between the two nations. Setting aside the economic impact, the visit indicated a significant trend in two ways: It was the first time India has welcomed a Chinese head of state with a public reception since the Sino-Indian War in 1962. The leaders were said to have had an easy chemistry and seem to be looking to ease border tensions through the pragmatism of economic trade. The other aspect worth noting is that the trade pacts weren’t signed in Delhi, setting aside the tradition of making international agreements in the capital. Prime Minister Modi’s tenure as Chief Minister of the western state of Gujarat saw rapid industrial growth. He clearly was aiming to highlight the impressive development the region has made since 2001.

The Obama Administration’s outreach toward the new Prime Minister has been circumspect. There was an understandable caution given Modi’s unabashed Hindu nationalism and the Gujarat religious riots in 2002. However, a détente between India and China would certainly complicate Obama’s “Asian Pivot”. The diplomatic dance over waivers on the Iranian sanctions certainly hasn’t helped matters. The “champagne and roses” probably aren’t a bad idea.

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Foodies Are Fools

Sep 30 2014 @ 4:44pm

The evidence mounts:

Paying $27 for a burger might seem extortionate. But the chefs behind the most expensive burger in Washington, D.C. – a wagyu skirt steak burger at BLT Steak – can take comfort in new research suggesting that inflated prices can translate into inflated enjoyment:

A new paper, forthcoming in the Journal of Sensory Studies, has found that we enjoy food more if we spend extra money on it. A team of researchers at the Cornell Food and Brand Lab, led by David Just, carried out an experiment on 139 unwitting diners at an Italian restaurant in upstate New York. Customers were charged either $4 or $8 for an all-you-can-eat lunch buffet of pizza, salad, breadsticks, pasta, and soup; the researchers stopped them on their way out and asked them to fill out a short questionnaire on the amount they ate, the quality of the pizza, and their enjoyment of the whole experience. Diners who paid the higher price rated the whole lunch more highly, and judged the pizza more favorably on measures of taste, satisfaction and enjoyment. “The way people appreciate taste,” said Just, is tied into “expectations based on the presentation of the food or what other people have said. They interpret taste through that lens.”

Update from a reader:

I may be a foolish foodie, but the phenomenon Alice Robb describes is, I think, that of the Veblen Good, whereby the demand for (the conspicuous consumption of) a thing is driven by its price. That must surely be universal across any luxury category, so at least we foodists (my preferred term) are in good company.

Mental Health Break

Sep 30 2014 @ 4:20pm

Catching some air:

A Sunny Energy Future

Sep 30 2014 @ 3:57pm

Rebecca Leber spotlights two reports suggesting that “the world could be largely powered by the sun, instead of coal, within decades”:

The reports come from the International Energy Agency (IEA). It focuses on two kinds of solarthe kind that’s commonly seen installed on homes and businesses in the U.S. (solar photovoltaic) and the kind that generates heat to power (solar thermal). Within 35 years, according to the reports, they could account (respectively) for 16 and 11 percent of the world’s electricity generation.

It wouldn’t be easy to get to this level. Today, solar accounts for less than 1 percent of global energy consumption and 0.2 percent in the United States. To hit the levels IEA projects, there would have to be substantial investment upfront. But advances in technology, in addition to taxpayer subsidies, have helped solar panel costs come down some 80 percent in the last five years. If the IEA is right, costs may shrink another 65 percent by 2050.

Dave Roberts highlights the fact “that solar costs are plunging so fast that even the stodgy IEA is scrambling to keep up”:

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China vs #OccupyCentral

Sep 30 2014 @ 3:42pm

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Beijing’s censors have been working overtime to scrub coverage of the Hong Kong protests from social media:

Weibo censorship hit its highest point this year at 152 censored posts per 10,000, according to Weiboscope, an analytics project run by the University of Hong Kong. (“Hong Kong” and “police” were the day’s top censored terms.) To put that in perspective, the Sept. 28 censorship rate was more than double that on June 4, the 25th anniversary of the crackdown on the Tiananmen student movement — an event so meticulously censored in both traditional and social media that many of China’s younger generation are largely ignorant of the event. …

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