SDB Evening News Reads for 083111: Chaz, Chickens, Moths and Jack the Ripper

After a rather depressing morning news blog post I wanted to keep today’s evening news reads light…or at least try to.

Many of you may have heard that the recent selection of “stars” for Dancing With The Stars is turning into a showdown of anti-gay sentiment.  ABC receives complaints about Chaz Bono’s addition to ‘DWTS’ – MSN TV News

Dancing With the Stars” aims for provocative casts, and Chaz Bono’s addition to the show has already yielded strong reaction — some of it ugly.

Bono, the only child of Sonny Bono and Cher, was born a woman but legally changed his gender and name last year. The announcement Monday that he would join the highly rated ABC dance competition immediately made him one of the highest-profile transgendered people in the world.


But for everyone who vented disgust — or questioned whether Bono would dance with a man or a woman — there were many who defended Bono and accused his critics of bigotry.

Bono’s casting is only the latest to make a lighthearted reality show the impetus for deeper discussions about values, tolerance, bigotry and politics.

The question now is, will America vote Bono off because of his transgender, or will they keep him on the show, no matter if he is a good dancer or not.  Any voting would be seen as a statement about the perception of attitudes towards GLBTs in America.

Here are a couple of perspectives for you to think about.

First, is this article posted by David Wiegand from the San Francisco Chronicle.  Dancing With the “Normal” Stars : Culture Blog!

Ok, I gotta admit, this really took me by surprise. I really didn’t just fall of the turnip truck and know all too well that bigotry, stupidity and rank ignorance not only still exist in 21st century USA, but fester in every state of the union.

But the reaction that ABC got when it announced that Chaz Bono would be among the celebrities on the new “Dancing With the Stars” season had my jaw dropping to the floor.

Chaz Bono, who was born Chastity to Sonny Bono and Cher.

Kevin Scanlon/New York Times

Chaz Bono, who was born Chastity to Sonny Bono and Cher.

Homophobia itself is ugly and uninformed, of course, but those who spew anti-gay epithets often do so because they believe sexual orientation is a “choice” and, as such, some kind of mental abberation, despite what people like, oh I don’t know, doctors and pyschiatrists have said repeatedly for decades.

But just looking at some of the comments from “DWTS” fans on the show’s ABC page is nothing short of a reminder of how blindly ignorant so many people remain in this country.

Wiegand gives some examples of the bigot laden remarks and comments on the DWTS fan page, and then goes on to express how he feels about it:

I should be angry. I should be mightily pissed off, and to an extent, I am. But even more than that, I’m sad — not just that this kind of “thinking” still exists in a supposedly educated society, but because it says so much about the fractiousness of our culture and why we can’t make progress on so many issues that have nothing to do with sexuality or gender.

Faith is not a bad thing. Faith can be empowering, uplifting, reassuring — all of the things that can make human beings want to better their lives.

But it can also be used not just as a crutch, but an excuse to avoid having to open the mind to any new idea or thought. The same people who think that upper casing the “H” in “his” and the “W” in “word” reaffirms their fear-based ignorance to the facts about transexualism, are equally incapable of opening their minds to new thoughts and ideas on other issues.

And, of course, it’s ultimately their fear and tenacious adherence to their beliefs that politicians use to get elected and to keep us from finding solutions to all kinds of issues.

And, for the record, ignorance, alas, is not only the stock in trade of the right. Liberals are just as capable of this kind of intractable “thinking.”

I won’t presume to speak for God, upper or lower case. I’m just one person who finds all of this quite sad.

On Huffington Post, there is this article from Hayley Rose Horzepa: Chaz Bono Joins Dancing With the Stars: Will This Impact the Public’s Perception of the Transgender Community?

She discusses her attitude and experiences with a transgender friend of hers who when through the same gender reassignment surgery as Chaz Bono, and ends her post with this conclusion:

So will Chaz Bono’s gig on Dancing with the Stars offend some people? Most definitely. What’s more important is the courage that Chaz lends and will continue to lend to other transgenders who haven’t yet gained the courage to be themselves. His appearance on Dancing could make a big difference in a lot of lives.

People like Chaz and Jordan serve as inspirations for all; like them, we should always speak the truth within our hearts and strive to honor the unique thumb print within our spirits in a bold and unapologetic way.

Personally, I lump the DWTS show in with all the other crappy reality shows that have taken over the airwaves. I’ve never seen it, nor will I be tuning in this time, but the reaction Chaz Bono has received to being announce as a contestant is interesting indeed. Is it a surprise? Nope, and  people like Wiegand, who believe homophobia, bigotry and hate are not going to express themselves like we see on the DWTS fan site, are living in a blind delusion. Just look at the group of anti-gay presidential candidates that are participating in their own version of dancing with the wingnuts…or is it nitwits?

And that is all I gotta say about that.

Recent forensic technologies are giving a possible face to the suspect of Jack the Ripper.

BBC News – Is this the face of Jack the Ripper?

Clockwise from top left: Newspaper report on Ripper murder, new e-fit of suspect Carl Feigenbaum, drawing of police discovering a victim and a letter to the police signed Jack the Ripper

On this day 123 years ago, Jack the Ripper claimed his first victim. But who was this serial killer? This new e-fit finally puts a face to Carl Feigenbaum, a key suspect from Germany.

Creepy huh?

More than 200 suspects have been named. But to Ripper expert Trevor Marriott, a former murder squad detective, German merchant Carl Feigenbaum is the top suspect.

Convicted of murdering his landlady in Manhattan, Feigenbaum died in the electric chair in New York’s Sing Sing prison in 1894. His lawyer suspected him of the Ripper murders too.

No photos of Feigenbaum exist. So Marriott has produced this new e-fit for BBC One’s National Treasures Live, created from the description on the admittance form when he was in prison on remand in New York.

Just give the article a read, it goes into detail what theories and deductions Marriott has made by while investigating Feigenbaum for connections to the Ripper murders.

From serial killers to chickens? Yup…14 Fun Facts About Chickens | Surprising Science

Chickens at a Florida farmhouse museum (courtesy of flickr user Kristine Paulus)

Why chickens? Well, I think we need a break from natural disasters, and chickens are a good distraction (how can the Chicken Dance not amuse?).

1 ) The chicken, Gallus gallus domesticus, is a domestic subspecies of the red junglefowl, a member of the pheasant family that is native to Asia. Genetic studies have found that the grey junglefowl also contributed to the chicken’s evolution.

2 ) This bird was probably first domesticated for the purpose of cockfights, not as food.

3 ) Chickens aren’t completely flightless—they can get airborne enough to make it over a fence or into a tree.

4 ) These birds are omnivores. They’ll eat seeds and insects but also larger prey like small mice and lizards.

They will also eat their own…but that is another story.

Because they are chickens. Although chickens will happily eat chicken and other meat products. After butchering a chicken you can leave the skeleton in the pen and they will pick the bones clean. If done on a large scale, making chicken feed from chickens (especially the brain and spinal cord) can lead to an outbreak of encephalopathy, similar to mad cow disease.

Would that be called mad chicken disease?

I am sure this link makes all of you having chicken for dinner tonight happy that you read this post first. (Sorry bout that.)

This next article was something I found last week, it just seems like a good time to bring it up now.  College students stumped by search engines, research finds | The Lookout – Yahoo! News

Researchers with the Ethnographic Research in Illinois Academic Libraries project watched 30 students at Illinois Wesleyan University try to search for different topics online and found that only seven of them were able to conduct “what a librarian might consider a reasonably well-executed search.”

The students “appeared to lack even some of the most basic information literacy skills that we assumed they would have mastered in high school,” Lynda Duke and Andrew Asher write in a book on the project coming out this fall.

At all five Illinois universities, students reported feeling “anxious” and confused when trying to research. Many felt overwhelmed by the volume of results their searches would turn up, not realizing that there are ways to narrow those searches and get more tailored results. Others would abandon their research topics when they couldn’t find enough sources, unaware that they were using the wrong search terms or database for their topics.

The researchers found that students did not know “how to build a search to narrow or expand results, how to use subject headings, and how various search engines (including Google) organize and display results.” That means that some students didn’t understand how to search only for news articles, or only for scholarly articles. Most only know how to punch in keywords and hope for the best.

I can tell you, this is a very distressing to see this struggle first hand. Granted my own kids are 12 and 13, but to watch them look for answers to homework questions is just frustrating…considering the fact that both of their parents are history majors, and very capable of conducting research using both the “old school” and “high-tech” methods.

This can be a problem because Google organizes results in part on how many other sites link to a page. That means scholarly articles are rarely at the top of basic search results for any topic. Asher points out that searching for “How Google Works” turns up an April Fool’s prank by Google engineers in its top results.

A survey last year of 1,000 college students backed up the somewhat counterintuitive finding that the millennials (sometimes defined as those born between 1980 and 1995) are actually not that good at the Internet. Most students said they trusted whatever website was the first result for their search on Google. Other students said they trusted most the “sponsored” links that appear at the top of the page, which are actually paid advertisements.

That just makes me cringe…

I’ll just take this great opportunity to link to this article I saved a few weeks ago, Crazy: 90 Percent of People Don’t Know How to Use CTRL+F – Alexis Madrigal – Technology – The Atlantic

This week, I talked with Dan Russell, a search anthropologist at Google, about the time he spends with random people studying how they search for stuff. …90 percent of people in their studies don’t know how to use CTRL/Command + F to find a word in a document or web page! I probably use that trick 20 times per day and yet the vast majority of people don’t use it at all.


It makes me think that we need a new type of class in schools across the land immediately. Electronic literacy. Just like we learn to skim tables of content or look through an index or just skim chapter titles to find what we’re looking for, we need to teach people about this CTRL+F thing.

Google itself is trying to teach people a little something with their campaign, but the ability to retrieve information via a search engine is actually much bigger than the search engine itself. We’re talking about the future of almost all knowledge acquisition and yet schools don’t spend nearly as much time on this skill as they do on other equally important areas.

Cool isn’t it? And don’t forget about the Google Scholar search engine:

Google Scholar

About Google Scholar

It is an excellent research tool.

One last link for you today:  BBC News – Species flee warming faster than previously thought

Comma butterfly (Credit: Martin Warren)
Warmer weather has brought the British comma dancing around Scottish nettles for the first time

Animals and plants are shifting their natural home ranges towards the cooler poles three times faster than scientists previously thought.

In the largest study of its kind to date, researchers looked at the effects of temperature on over 2,000 species.

They report in the journal Science that species experiencing the greatest warming have moved furthest.

The results helped to “cement” the link between climate change and shifts in species’ global ranges, said the team.

The research included studies,

Analysing the range shifts of more than 2,000 species – ranging from butterflies to birds, algae to mammals – across Europe, North and South America and Malaysia over the last four decades, they show that organisms that experience the greatest change in temperatures move the fastest.

The team found that on average organisms are shifting their home ranges at a rate of 17km per decade away from the equator; three times the speed previously thought.

Organisms also moved uphill by about 1m a year.

… it seemed that species were able to seek out cooler habitats as long as there was not an obstacle in their way, like a highway.

And what happens to the animals that reach the end of that highway…damn, and I wanted this post to be lighthearted.

Well, after those species reach the top of the mountains, they have nowhere else to go…so they die.

On Mount Kinabalu in Borneo, Dr Thomas’ graduate student, I-Ching Chen, has been following the movement of Geometrid moths uphill as temperatures increase. Their natural ranges have shifted by 59m in 42 years.

These moths “don’t have options; they are being forced up, and at some point they will run out of land,” reflected Dr Thomas.

The British scientist said that it was really too early to start generalising about the characteristics of the species that had shifted their distribution to stay within their optimal temperature range.

“But we know that the species which have expanded the most and fastest are the species that are not particularly fussy about where they live,” he told BBC News.

Geometrid moths (Credit: I-Ching Chen)

Well, at least the moths aren’t too particular about their surroundings.

Alrighty then, that is all I got for you today. What are you reading about in the news this evening? Feel free to link to whatever you like in the comments below.

25 Comments on “SDB Evening News Reads for 083111: Chaz, Chickens, Moths and Jack the Ripper”

  1. Minkoff Minx says:

    Well, I guess a date has been set for Obama’s Jobs speech:

    Boehner Fires Back at Obama Over Scheduling of Jobs Speech – George E. Condon Jr. –

    The prize is next Wednesday night, Sept. 7.

  2. dakinikat says:

    The Six Worst Excuses by Anti-Gay Public Figures Caught Doing (Allegedly) Gay Things

    • northwestrain says:

      DAK — I’m repeating my advice about smoke from down below.

      We have really bad smoke up here from slash burn piles — from clear cutting forests. I suffer from a smoke allergy and asthma from the smoke.

      The air purifiers do help — get yourself a air purifier — costco in my area of the country sells several brands. I have one going in the bedroom all the time. It makes a huge difference.

      Now back to reading all the neat stuff in tonight’s evening read!!

      • dakinikat says:

        thx, I’ve put my fan on behind my ac so it’s on all the time … some one told me to put a wet towel on the AC intake too… I’ll have to see how long this goes on. I’m not exactly flush with cash at the moment.

      • northwestrain says:

        The air conditioner will help — and yes even at Costco the air purifiers are for free. I have an old loud unit — but it makes a huge difference during the slash burn season.

  3. Branjor says:

    As you already know, Irene is not yet history in parts of New Jersey, upstate New York and, of course, Vermont. I seem to be lucky to live in a little bubble of relatively slight damage in NJ despite the mandatory evacuation of the barrier island I work on.

  4. paper doll says:

    What an amazing round up!Thanks! I love chickens. Which I had the space for them

    The reaction to CB is appalling , but think Chaz Bono was picked by the network for just this purpose.. for the PR value etc. .This is the network afterall that is also airing Pan Am…the main stream mad men knock off…furthing the media celebration of the gashly time women had then….They ain’t vangaurds of freedom.

    I find the dancing show amazingly sad…I mean it’s today equivalent to pro wrestling, what you do when the career is kaput…and I apologize to those who enjoy the show …but seeing the has beens sweat for a dollar ain’t my cup of tea

  5. JeanLouise says:

    I understand that it’s not everyone’s cup of tea but I love ballroom dancing. I used my rather small inheritance to pay for lessons and have never regretted it. Those classes helped me through my mother’s death in a way that paying down my mortgage never could have.

    I’ve watched every season of DWTS. I haven’t always enjoyed every minute of it but there’s more than an occasional gem of a dance. My first thought when I read that Chas Bono was going to be a contestant was a tinge of pity because heavier people tend to get lower scores. Otoh, I think his appearance will be good for the transgender community. I think that many people are uncomfortable with LGBT people because they don’t know that they know any.

  6. northwestrain says:

    Huntsman Proposes New Taxes On Seniors And Veterans To Pay For Tax Cut For The Richest 0.1 Percent

    The whole class of GOP prez candidate — it’s official they are all nut jobs.

    • northwestrain says:

      She didn’t attend the meetings of the inscription committee — according to the article.

      • Minkoff Minx says:

        I got the impression she was not asked about the change to the inscription:

        Jackson said the project outlined the situation and the solution to the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, which was overseeing the memorial design. “They didn’t have a problem with it.”

        “Now, did I ask Maya Angelou?” he said. “No.”


        “I’m the guy that’s making the decisions,” Jackson said. “I informed them of what I was doing. I didn’t ask them for permission, or whether or not they agreed. But they liked the idea.

        Whether she approved of the inscription before the change is not detailed in the article.

    • paper doll says:

      Maya Angelou says King memorial inscription makes him look ‘arrogant’ – The Washington Post

      omg…did they make him sound like ….Obama?? ( sort of joking )