House Republicans Pass Anti-Abortion Bill Based On Pseudo-Science

Conservatives rarely give up on a bad idea, and have no problem with basing their legislation on junk science. Back in January, 2015 I wrote about Republican efforts to restrict abortion based upon the scientifically invalid idea that a fetus can feel pain at twenty weeks:

Conservative efforts to ban abortions after 20 weeks are based on ignoring science, just as many conservatives do in denying evolution and climate change. Conservatives make pseudo-scientific claims that the fetus can feel pain at this point, despite the cerebral cortex not being developed until well after this point. There is no real controversy over this point in medicine. Conservatives sometimes twist studies showing simple reflexes as indicating that the fetus is feeling pain. Often they misquote researchers to falsely claim their is a scientific basis for their bogus claims. More on this faux controversy over the science here and here.

The 20 week ban is especially harmful to the rights of women as fetal abnormalities are often not discovered until after this point. It is understandable that a woman who discovers after 20 weeks that she is carrying a fetus which has severe brain abnormalities which would prevent survival might want to abort, but Republicans would deny them this choice by setting an arbitrary limit before such abnormalities are apparent. It is also feared that once they set the line at 20 weeks they will use more pseudo-science to justify moving it up.

Conservatives have also practiced pseudo-science in trying to make the abortion debate over the moment when life begins, when development of the human embryo and fetus is a continuum. Conception is a process without an exact moment at which it occurs, and even fertilization can take twenty-four hours.

If conservatives are really concerned about preventing fetal pain their policies are counterproductive. Late term abortions are very rare in this country, primarily done when the mother’s health is in danger. Another common reason for abortions being delayed until after 20 weeks is the inability of the mother to obtain the abortion earlier, often due to roadblocks placed by Republicans making abortions more difficult to obtain. Of course Republican opposition to contraception further increases the number of abortions. If conservatives were consistent in desiring to prevent fetal pain, they should facilitate the ability of women to obtain both contraception and to obtain early abortions even beyond twenty weeks and before the actual ability to feel pain is present.

What I wrote in that previous post still applies today as the House of Representatives passed a bill to ban abortions nationwide after twenty weeks, ignoring the fundamental right of a woman to control her own body, ignoring the science, and even ignoring conservative arguments regarding states’ rights. Vox reports on this, and presents arguments regarding the science similar to those made above:

The House voted on Tuesday to pass a bill that would make abortion after 20 weeks illegal in every state in the country. Called the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, it’s based on the idea that a fetus at 20 weeks’ gestation can feel pain.

“The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act will protect the voiceless, the vulnerable, and the marginalized,” said Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), the House majority leader, in a statement last month. “It will protect those children who science has proven can feel pain.” President Donald Trump has promised to sign the bill if it passes; during the campaign, he said such a bill “would end painful late-term abortions nationwide.”

In fact, the best available science shows that fetuses probably cannot feel pain until well after 20 weeks. Advocates of abortion rights say 20-week bans at the state level have harmed women, forcing them to travel to another state, often at great expense, to get the care they seek. And opponents of the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act fear that, though it is unlikely to pass the Senate, it will ultimately spread dangerous misinformation…

The text of the bill includes a section on the science of fetal pain, which states that “there is substantial medical evidence that an unborn child is capable of experiencing pain at least by 20 weeks after fertilization, if not earlier.”

However, the general scientific consensus is that no such evidence exists. “There’s actually conclusive evidence that shows that the neurologic structures in a fetus aren’t completely laid down and working yet until much further along in pregnancy, we think even the third trimester,” said Jennifer Conti, a clinical assistant professor and OB-GYN at Stanford University and a fellow with Physicians for Reproductive Health. Twenty weeks, she said, “is just an arbitrary limit set in place by politicians that has no medical or scientific backing.”

The most comprehensive look at fetal pain to date was a literature review published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2005. According to the review, the structures needed for fetuses to feel pain begin to develop between 23 and 30 weeks’ gestation, and studies of premature babies suggest they can’t feel pain until 29 or 30 weeks. While this review is now 12 years old, it still holds true — “no research since its publication has contradicted its findings,” wrote Mark S. DeFrancesco on behalf of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists in 2015.

The House bill makes a number of claims that contradict scientific consensus. For instance, the bill states that “after 20 weeks, the unborn child reacts to stimuli that would be recognized as painful if applied to an adult human, for example, by recoiling.” However, according to the group Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH) at the University of California, San Francisco, “limb withdrawal occurs even in full-term babies in response to non-painful tactile sensations, including light touch. Thus the appearance of limb withdrawal on ultrasound represents a reflex rather than a response to pain.”

Donald Trump Looked Up At The Eclipse, Apparently Denying Science And “Fake News”

If you paid even the slightest attention to the news, the most important thing discussed about the eclipse was to not look up at the sun. It would take someone who thinks that almost all the news is fake (with even Mitch McConnell publicly disagreeing with him), and doesn’t believe in science, to ignore these warning. Apparently Donald Trump thought that the stories about effects of the eclipse on vision were a hoax, like climate change and the earth being round. Despite a warning from a nearby aide, Donald Trump actually did look up at the solar eclipse.

What makes this even stranger is that Trump actually had protective glasses, which he put on later.

Now it will be interesting to see if Donald Trump starts bumping into walls, has difficulty reading teleprompters, or stops talking about how beautiful he thinks Ivanka is.

Regardless of whether he develops visual problems, this is yet another example of bizarre behavior on his part. There is a reason that some psychiatrists are publicly questioning his sanity. There is also a reason for the 25th Amendment.

White House Plans Announcement On Whether Comey Tapes Really Exist

Donald Trump and James Comey have given a different account of what happened when the two met. Trump has suggested that he has tapes to verify his side of the story while Comey has said, “Lordy, I hope there are tapes” when the topic came up during his Congressional testimony.

This is just one aspect of the Russia investigations which have raised comparisons to Watergate.

The White House has been vague as to whether such tapes actually exist, but I noted this item from the Associated Press earlier today:

The White House says President Donald Trump is expected to make an announcement this week on whether any recordings exist of his private conversations with former FBI Director James Comey.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer says he expects an announcement “this week” on the possibility of tapes. Trump fired Comey in May and has suggested — but refused to confirm — that he may have tapes of his discussions with Comey. The FBI was investigating Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election and possible contacts with Trump campaign associates.

The House Intelligence Committee has asked White House counsel Don McGahn to provide an answer to the ongoing question about tapes by Friday.

It is hard to believe that the White House would actually release any tapes if incriminating, and risk suffering the same fate as Richard Nixon. In the unlikely event that there are tapes showing that it is Comey who was lying, I would expect Trump to be rushing to release them. At this time there is no evidence of collision between Trump and Russia to affect the election but there is considerable suggestion of obstruction of justice on his part. Tapes which were to show that Trump was telling the truth would take a lot of wind out of the investigations, but it is rather doubtful that this will be the case.

Scientists March Against Trump’s War On Science

Scientists celebrated Earth Day by marching in support of science. The New York Times reports:

Thousands of scientists and their supporters, feeling increasingly threatened by the policies of President Trump, gathered in Washington on Saturday under rainy skies for what they called the March for Science, abandoning a tradition of keeping the sciences out of politics and calling on the public to stand up for scientific enterprise.

Mona Hanna-Attisha, a pediatrician who helped expose lead poisoning in Flint, Mich., and who addressed a rally before the march, called the protest the beginning of a movement to ensure that governments do not dismiss or deny science.

“If we want to prevent future Flints, we need to embrace what we’ve learned and how far we’ve come in terms of science and technology,” Dr. Hanna-Attisha said in an interview…

Its organizers were motivated by Mr. Trump, who as a presidential candidate disparaged climate change as a hoax and cast suspicions on the safety of vaccines.

Their resolve deepened, they said, when the president appointed cabinet members who seemed hostile to the sciences. He also proposed a budget with severe cuts for agencies like the National Institutes of Health — which would lose 18 percent of its funding in his blueprint — and the Environmental Protection Agency, which faces a 31 percent budget cut and the elimination of a quarter of the agency’s 15,000 employees.

Bill Nye spoke at one rally in Washington, D.C.:

“Without scientifically literate citizens, the United States — any country, in fact — cannot compete on the world stage,” Bill Nye the Science Guy told a cheering crowd at the March for Science in Washington, D.C., on Saturday. “Yet today we have a great many lawmakers — not just here, but around the world — deliberately ignoring and actively suppressing science. Their inclination is misguided, and in no one’s best interest.”

Nye touted the ways scientific discoveries have improved global quality of life, arguing that science is not merely “purview of a different, or special, type of citizen.” “Our numbers here today show the world that science is for all,” he said, and government must come to recognize that “science serves every one of us.”

I am happy to see them protesting, but it sure is pathetic that it is necessary to protest in support of science. The importance of science should be accepted by anyone elected to the presidency in the 21st century.

 

Clinton & Trump Failing At Fooling The Voters While News From NASA Offers Potential Escape Plan

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Regardless of what other surprises occur during this campaign, it is safe to  predict that Hillary Clinton will not convince people she is not a crook, and Donald Trump will not convince people he is not xenophobic and racist. Among the worst consequences of Clinton being elected will be to see Democrats become the Republican Party of 2001. After opposing both neocon foreign policy and the “culture of corruption” under Bush, the Democratic Party now owns both with the nomination of Hillary Clinton.

It is rather disappointing to see how many Democratic bloggers who criticized corruption under Bush find ways to rationalize actions they would have never tolerated under Republicans, and attack the media as opposed to those acting unethically. No, just because you think your party represents the good guys, this does not excuse such action. Less partisan sources are more critical of the latest revelations regarding the unethical relationships between the Clinton Foundation and the State Department revealed in the latest batch of emails and the AP’s review of the number of meetings Clinton had as Secretary of State with large donors to the Foundation. For example, USA Today called for the Clinton Foundation to be mothballed:

Ending foreign and corporate contributions is a good step, but allowing them to continue at least through the first week of November looks more like an influence-peddling fire sale (Give while you still can!) than a newfound commitment to clean government.

And the complex plan for allowing donations from U.S. citizens and permanent residents, keeping some parts of the Clinton Foundation alive, and maintaining scores of Clinton-family allies on the payroll is less an opportunity for a clean slate than a guarantee of new controversy.

Yes, the Clinton Foundation supports many good works, notably the fight against HIV/AIDS. No, it is not “the most corrupt enterprise in political history,” as Donald Trump is calling it, nor is there enough evidence of potential criminality to warrant appointment of the special prosecutor Trump is seeking.

But the only way to eliminate the odor surrounding the foundation is to wind it down and put it in mothballs, starting today, and transfer its important charitable work to another large American charity such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. If Hillary Clinton doesn’t support these steps, she boosts Trump’s farcical presidential campaign and, if she’s elected, opens herself up to the same kind of pay-to-play charges that she was subject to as secretary of State…

When Clinton became secretary in 2009, new ethical quandaries arose that few people imagined at the time. She gave key State Department aides permission to work for the Clinton Foundation while they worked at State and drew paychecks from a Clinton-affiliated for-profit consulting firm. Emails from her private server reveal communications between foundation representatives and her aides about setting up meetings between America’s top diplomats and the Clinton Foundation’s top donors, including Gilbert Chagoury, a Lebanese-Nigerian billionaire.

According to an Associated Press analysis of Clinton’s State Department calendars released so far, more than half the people outside of government she met with or spoke with on the phone as secretary of State had made pledges or donations to her family charity. Those 85 people donated as much as $156 million. The tabulation published Tuesday does not include the meetings and phone calls with representatives of 16 foreign governments that contributed as much as $170 million to the foundation.

Should Clinton win, she’ll face an uphill battle to rebuild trust in government and find a way to get Washington working again. That task will be all the harder if millions of voters repulsed by Trump’s rhetoric and concerned with his volatile behavior find that his “Crooked Hillary” taunt had some substance in fact.

While Clinton, enjoying a huge and possibly insurmountable lead, prefers to try to run out the clock and continues to avoid the press as much as possible, Donald Trump is trying to convince voters that he is not racist. Aaron Blake poked holes in Trump’s statement of regret for some of the things he has said and, Jonathan Chait pointed out that the one flaw in Trump’s plan is that he really is a racist:

The main difficulty Trump faces in dispelling the impression that he is a racist is that Trump is, in fact, a gigantic racist. His first appearance in the New York Times came in the context of his being caught refusing to rent apartments to African-Americans. A former Trump employee has detailed a series of private racist statements and acts — saying “laziness is a trait in blacks,” objecting to black people working for him in accounting, his staff shooing black people off the casino floor when he arrived. Trump has replied that the comments were “probably true,” but berated the person who made them as a “loser.” He has questioned the legitimacy of President Obama’s birth certificate, called him a “terrible student,” and implied he only made it into Harvard Law School due to affirmative action…

Trump has spent more than a year identifying himself as the candidate of white-backlash politics, using his appeal to the most racially resentful Republicans to win the nomination. And now he’s running to Clinton’s left on criminal justice! Trump adviser Roger Stone tells the Post, “an entire generation of young black men are incarcerated” because of the 1994 bill. So African-Americans should instead vote for the candidate who literally called for “retribution” and an end to civil liberties. Does Trump’s campaign really think anybody is going to believe this?

One of these dreadful candidates will win, with most voters hating the outcome regardless of how they vote. The one good news in this awful political year is that NASA announced finding a potentially habitable planet as close as Proxima Centauri, the closest star to our solar system. This might provide a potential escape route from an earth in which either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump is President of the United States.

Hillary Clinton Is The Richard Nixon Of Our Era

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I’ve often compared Hillary Clinton to Richard Nixon, at least with regards to ethics. She is far closer to George W. Bush ideologically. Walker Bragman has an article at Paste on Clinton and Nixon. Walker mentions some (but not all) of the comparisons I’ve made in the past, and comes up with at least one I had not thought of before.

There are many similarities between Nixon and Clinton, but I think the biggest is their views on secrecy to the point of paranoia. There’s also the comparison between the gap in Nixon’s tapes and Clinton’s destroyed email. Plus both are admirers of Henry Kissinger.

I did like Nixon’s campaign unofficial campaign slogan better, at least when running for reelection: Don’t Change Dicks In The Middle Of A Screw–Reelect Nixon in ’72. That beats Clinton’s campaign de facto slogans: It’s My Turn and No We Can’t.

Walker’s most interesting addition is to show an analogy between Nixon’s silent majority and how Clinton campaigned against Sanders and the left, even if the comparison isn’t exact:

In a way, Clinton claimed to speak for her own “Silent Majority”—older, more “responsible” (economically conservative) Democrats who don’t necessarily turn up at rallies, or want sweeping changes to the status quo, but who vote. Like her, these older voters remembered Nixon, and the decades in which liberal candidates and their ‘radical’ movements driven by young, naive voters, lost to older, more experienced, ‘pragmatic’ conservatism. Clinton and her allies did their best to tie Sanders’ progressives into that long tradition by drawing a contrast between their platform and his lofty goals and most radical fringe supporters—mostly online fringe…

This is why, throughout the primary, Clinton provoked Sanders’ movement by implying they were merely naive and lazy, and why her surrogates like Sen. Barbara Boxer, played up the aggressive, sexist “Bernie Bro” meme. It is also why former President Bill Clinton accused Sanders progressives of wanting to shoot “every third person on Wall Street.”

The dismissive and incendiary rhetoric was designed to generate exactly the outrage (or even violence) needed to sell these narratives, and ultimately distract from the staggering economic and political inequality that Clinton herself played a role in creating. In other words, use familiar tropes to social liberals to sell a candidate whose record would make her right at home in the ‘80s or ‘90s GOP.

Even after she became the presumptive nominee, Clinton’s camp has been continued to alienate Sanders’ supporters. Rather than make peace, Clinton’s appointees to the Democratic Platform Committee (who, as I’ve mentioned in previous pieces, but bears repeating now, include “influence peddlers”) have voted down basic progressive proposals like supporting a ban on fracking, opposing the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), and pushing for single-payer health care. In defense of her position, one Clinton appointee accused Sanders’ side of having a “litmus test” for caring about the environment.

Not an exact comparison, but I see his point.

Most significantly, while Richard Nixon could never escape his nickname of Tricky Dick, no matter how awful Donald Trump is, his nickname of Crooked Hillary will also likely stick to her.

It has been over a year since the email scandal broke, with no end in sight. Last week we had the revelations of additional examples of  non-personal email having been destroyed. Both this email, and the testimony from Huma Abedin, debunk her claims of acting out of convenience–demonstrating she used the private server in a deliberate effort to keep her email secret. The State Department Inspector General report also demonstrated her efforts to cover-up her actions. It is impossible to hear the term cover-up without thinking of Nixon.

This week there is more adverse news for Hillary Milhouse Clinton following the rather inappropriate meeting between her husband and Attorney General Loretta Lynch, which has resulted in bipartisan disapproval, even if Democrats are more trusting of Bill’s motives:

Clinton’s denials on her email, which have been throughly debunked both by fact checkers and the Inspector General report, have a ring of “I am not a crook” to them. I’m still waiting to hear Hillary slip and promise that Chelsea will be allowed to keep Checkers.

SciFi Weekend: Captain America; Agents of Shield; Legends of Tomorrow & The Justice Society of America; DC Four-Way Crossover; Star Trek; Mr Robot; Limitless

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Captain America: Civil War, like the previous movie in the series, made major changes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe which also extend to Agents of SHIELD on television. Spoilers ahead for both the movie and television series. Civil War showed a continuation of what was seen in Captain America: Winter Soldier, which led to moving SHIELD underground. It ends not with Captain America being killed as in the comics, but with both giving up his shield and going underground. Other members of the Avengers are in similar situations. Collider summarizes how the MCU has changed, with major spoilers for those who have not seen the movie and recent episodes of Agents of SHIELD.

It did seem strange that Nick Fury was not involved, and his role since the changes in SHIELD remain unclear. Civil War writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely were asked about this by The Los Angeles Times:

I’m curious. Where was Fury? 

Stephen McFeely: I’m curious too!

Christopher Markus: We called him, but he let the line blink. Primarily it felt like one too many possible opinions. We didn’t want him to take one side or the other, because that’s not his place in the universe. And then we didn’t want another, “Is he still with the government? Is he opposed to the government but supporting the government?” It got to be the potential for a lot more polemic discussion that the movie did not have room for.

He’s the guy who put it together. He’s been the sort of parent figure to the Avengers. Let the parent go away, and see if the kids can handle this. See if the kids can be who they’re supposed to be without that governing voice. Um… and they didn’t do that good of a job.

Are we going to see him in “Infinity Wars?”

McFeely: I would think.

Markus: It’s probably all hands on deck.

McFeely: Don’t you assume you’ll see everybody in the “Infinity Wars?”

You heard it here first: Everybody is in “Infinity Wars.” Hopefully that includes Sam Rockwell’s Justin Hammer and Whiplash’s bird.

Captain America: Civil War acted as the origin story for Black Panther, and introduced Spider-Man to the rest of the MCU. Iron Man will be appearing in Spider-Man’s upcoming solo movie, Spider-Man: Homecoming. There is also speculation that there is yet another connection, with “homecoming” being one of the trigger words used by Hydra in brainwashing Bucky Barnes.

Deadline has a long interview with  Kevin Feige. One of the many items discussed included the possibility of  Black Widow getting a solo movie in the future:

DEADLINE: You’ve got a bunch of characters in this movie from Falcon and War Machine and Black Widow and Hawkeye, who have so far guest starred in movies with another characters title above the fold. Is there one destined to get a solo movie down the line?
FEIGE: We’ve announced the next nine movies, 10 counting Civil War, through the end of 2019. Where we go beyond that are ongoing discussions that we’ll focus on in the next few years because we have a lot to do before then. Of the characters that you’ve just mentioned I would say certainly the one creatively and emotionally that we are most committing to doing is Black Widow.

DEADLINE: Why?
FEIGE: We think she’s an amazing character. We think Scarlett Johansson’s portrayal of her is amazing. She’s a lead Avenger and has amazing stories in her own right to tell that we think would be fun to turn into a stand-alone franchise.

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Agents of SHIELD also worked in the Sokovia Accords, the movie version of the Superhero Registration Act, and ended the season with some deaths. Even Daisy now appears to be on the run, and who is this new Director of SHIELD? There was a second death for a Brett Walton villain, first Grant Ward, and now Hive. It looks like he might finally be finished with the series.  Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen spoke with Comic Book Resources about the finale.

CBR News: How difficult was it to say goodbye to Brett Dalton and Lincoln Mitchell?

Maurissa Tancharoen: It was so, so hard. There were many tears. It was very emotional. Even in the process of developing their arcs and breaking the season, it was a decision we struggled to finalize. We knew that we had to, though. We had to close a chapter with Ward. To sustain an antagonist for this long or to go beyond three seasons — we just didn’t want it to lose any steam. At our wrap party, there were several emotional speeches being made for both of those guys.

Jed Whedon: One of the things about television is that it’s fluid. You always have to generate a lot of different stories. Sometimes you eliminate a character and it’s easy, because you either don’t like the person or you don’t like the character. This was a situation where we didn’t have that. Both of these actors are just great guys, they’re great to work with and are pros. It was a very emotional end of the season for everybody.

Tancharoen: A week before we wrapped, we were here at home. I was thinking of Brett and Luke. They are such great people, and so talented and so handsome. “Oh, my God. What have we done?”

After watching Ward evolve from a member of S.H.I.E.L.D., to Hydra agent, to Hive, why did it feel that this was the time to let him go?

Whedon: One of the reasons we closed that chapter was to start a very different, very new chapter next year. We’re very excited about it, but that’s as specific we can get.

Now that viewers have seen the finale, what were the most important aspects, to you, about the send-off you gave Ward/Hive?

Whedon: Hive revealed his motivation: “I want a connection.” That’s a fitting end to his story. Also, to Ward’s story, he wanted that with Skye. Now, here he is, sitting with Lincoln, the one person who had that with Skye/Daisy. There’s some poetry to the simplicity and the quietness in that moment that we loved. It was a fitting end for someone with [goals of] world domination, and to our buddy Grant Ward, who we managed to maintain as an antagonist for three seasons, which is a lot for one character.

While some themes from the movies are reflected in Agents of SHIELD, the two are also disconnected, especially with Coulson being alive in the television show but still considered dead in the movies. It is also strange that nobody from The Avengers got caught up in the battle against Hive. Chloe Bennet talked about this last week. When asked if she would like to show up in the movie universe she replied, “The Marvel Cinematic Universe loves to pretend that everything is connected, but then they don’t acknowledge our show at all. So, I would love to do that, but they don’t seem to keen on that idea.”

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The Berlanti shows on CBS and the CW Network are almost completed for the season, with Arrow and The Flash presumably to complete their story lines related to Zoom and Damian Dahrk next week. Legends of Tomorrow remains the weakest of the four, but did improve in its final episodes. The good news was that it got more timey wimey. The bad news is that it handled their rules of time travel much more poorly than other genre shows such as Continuum and 12 Monkeys. As time travel does not really exist (which I assume as I have never received a list of winning lottery winners from my future self), a show can get away with their own rules, but they should be internally consistent and make sense. Screen Rant has more on the plot holes. More spoilers ahead.

It should help the show in the future to have Vandal Savage defeated. Having them spend the season getting close to him but not killing him led to many unsatisfactory episodes. Some old members of the cast will be gone. Ciara Renée is leaving as a series regular, but the manner in which Hawkgirl and Hawkman flew off certainly leaves open for the possibility of their return, even without using time travel. Wentworth Miller’s character Leonard Snart (Captain Cold) sacrificed his life on Legends of Tomorrow. In the Berlanti universe, death is not a permanent change (except for the Earth 1 Laurel Lance), and Miller will be a recurring character in various shows in the universe. Presumably time travel or effects from the destruction of the Oculus will  provide the explanation.

While some characters are gone, the ending suggested the introduction of the Justice Society of America. Collider has background information on this. Marc Guggenhein also discussed this with The Hollywood Reporter:

The CW’s Legends of Tomorrow used Thursday’s season one finale to reveal that Rex Tyler aka Hourman (Patrick J. Adams), along with the JSA, would be a major part of the Arrow/Flash spinoff’s sophomore run. He arrived on a Waverider as the Legends team intended to take off as Time Masters, warning them that they would all die if they did.

“With his final words in the finale, he planted a pretty deep flag about where we’re headed in season two, which is not just introducing Hourman but introducing his teammates in the Justice Society of America,” executive producer Marc Guggenheim tells The Hollywood Reporter. “For comic book fans, everyone knows the Justice Society is really the precursor to the Justice League, so it’s a pretty big move in our DC universe here on TV.”

Although the DC Comics franchise keeps its film and television projects separate (unlike rival Marvel, which connects its film and TV projects in one shared universe), it’s interesting to note that it’s the newest — rather than the highest-rated DC show (Flash) — that is going to be the one introducing the iconic superhero team…

The introduction of Hourman and the JSA won’t be the only reason Legends of Tomorrow will look different in season two. Along with some casting shakeups, the elimination of the Time Council and the set timeline takes away a huge part of the story and the rules that were established all season long.”One of the other big things we’ve done in the season finale is we planted another flag in the form of Rip’s [Arthur Darvil] statement. Because the Time Masters are essentially gone and the Legends have destroyed the Oculus, that all means that someone else has to do the job of the Time Masters,” Guggenheim says. “Our Legends take that on as their new responsibility. It’s sort of like, you break it, you buy it.”

“That’s really exciting to us, that our team of Legends, our misfits, are going to be responsible for the preservation of the timeline and protection of history,” he adds. “As we’ve seen, our team, our guys are not always the most responsible people around so maybe time has got some new troubles. But it will provide a lot of fodder, a lot of fun story for season two.”

With Supergirl getting picked up by the CW Network, they didn’t waste any time in announcing  plans for a four way crossover with Arrow, The Flash, and Legends of Tomorrow. This is facilitated by all four now being on the same network and all being filed in Vancouver starting next season. These matters are far more important then the logistics of getting Supergirl involved with characters who are on a different earth.

Above is a trailer for the movie Star Trek Beyond. It also looks like Paramount has been convinced that it is not a good idea to sue fans over copyright infringements in fan-made movies. JJ Abrams made this announcement:

A few months back there was a fan movie, Axanar that was being fan made, and there was this lawsuit between the studio and these fans. And Justin was sort of outraged by this as a longtime fan. And, we started talking about it and realized this was not an appropriate way to deal with the fans. The fans should be celebrating this thing, we all [as] fans are part of this world. So he went to the studio and pushed them to stop this lawsuit and now within the last few weeks it will be announced that this is going away and the fans will be able to [continue] their productions.

Hopefully they realize that it has been the fans who have kept interest in Star Trek alive, enabling them to make money from continued movies and soon a new television series.

CBS also released the above teaser for the upcoming Star Trek television series, which does not really provide any information. There has been some speculation that the statement of “new crews” in pleural might suggest more than one crew, possibly taking place in different eras.

The above trailer was released for season two of Mr. Robot which begins on July 13. We see that Christian Slater’s character is still around, and don’t know how much of anything else is real or in someone’s head.

With it doubtful that CBS will renew Limitless (but no cancellation announcement either), there is now talk of trying to sell it to another network. I don’t know if the finances would work, but it seems like it might be a good fit at USA Network. Supergirl has already moved from CBS to the CW Network, and I’m still hoping attempts to keep Person of Interest alive at anther network are successful.

Moving from science fiction to science, Mars is appearing as it biggest in over a decade:

Mars comes into opposition — the point when Mars and the Sun are on directly opposite sides of the Earth — once every two years.

But on Sunday night, as the Red Planet edged towards its closest point to Earth in 11 years, it appeared much bigger and brighter in the night sky than usual.

Amateur astronomer Dr Ian Musgrave, from the University of Adelaide, said it would trump Venus as the brightest object in the sky, aside from the Sun and the Moon.

SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who; Sleepy Hollow; More on the Continuum Series Finale; Sherlock; Supergirl; Gilmore Girls; Married Canceled; Beware of Cats; Fred Thompson Dies At 73

Doctor Who Zygon Invasion

The Zygon Invasion picks up on the Zygon plot of The Day of The Doctor which was left hanging. The episode of Doctor Who included three doctors, and if we include the Zygon version, two Osgoods, allowing for her return after being killed by Missy in Death in Heaven. It was not so simple as a totally separate human and Zygon version, leading to yet another mention of a hybrid this season.

The two presented this message regarding the peace treaty between humans and Zygons:

“Every race is capable of the best and the worst.”

“Everyone is peaceful and warlike.”

“My race is no different.”

“And neither is mine.

Unfortunately the peace has fallen apart, leading to yet another threat of aliens taking over the earth. This led to the return of UNIT, and the Doctor to his role of president of the world:

Clara: I thought you didn’t like being president of the world
The Doctor: No but I like poncing about in a big plane

I’m not so hot on continuing the idea of president of the world, and like the idea of “Doctor Disco” even less. Fortunately these moments did not harm an otherwise excellent episode.

The episode was better than the typical alien invasion show by the efforts to maintain peace and to understand the aliens. This included the message above, along with the Doctor trying to prevent further killing:

Kate: You left us with an impossible situation Doctor
The Doctor: Yes I know its called peace

There were moments when characters did not act all that wisely. It is debatable whether the soldiers in Turmezistan were showing humanity or acting foolishly when deciding not to kill the Zygons who had taken on the form of members of their family, despite the evidence that they were fakes. It was even more questionable that Kate went to Truth or Consequences alone, without any backup, and failed to suspect that the other woman was actually a Zygon. It was not surprising that Clara had memorized Trivial Pursuits cards, and was therefore aware of this American city named after a television show.

This all led to the cliff hanger with a missile being shot towards the plane carrying the Doctor and the Doctor being told, “Clara Oswald is dead, Kate Stewart is dead.” Most likely they both can be rescued from the pods, but the knowledge that Jenna Coleman is leaving this season leaves just a tiny bit of doubt.

Videos from Doctor Who Extra can be seen here.

Sleepy Hollow Bones Cross Over

There are a couple of crossovers in genre shows last week and in the upcoming week. Sleepy Hollow has done their cross-over  with Bones.If the purpose was to get fans of Sleepy Hollow to watch Bones, it did not impress me. While Sleepy Hollow  remains weaker than its first season (but better than last year), the little I saw of Bones did not tempt me at all to watch any more. For that matter, for those who are holding out to determine if it is necessary to watch Bones to follow the plot on Sleepy Hollow, you don’t have to bother. Spoiler: The episode deals with the exhumation of General Howe’s corpse (which is more important on Sleepy Hollow) and basically keeps it in the background until Crane and Abbey are able to take the body at the end of the episode.

Bones showrunner Michael Peterson discussed the cross over with Assignment X. Here is a small portion:

AX: And how is the SLEEPY HOLLOW crossover going to work? There have been hints of ghosts and an afterlife on BONES, but no Headless Horsemen.

PETERSON: I’ve been saying that it’s like X-FILES – we’re the Scully hour, they’re the Mulder hour. We make sense of what seems to be supernatural, but there’s always logic behind it. Our people will not see ghosts, they will not see vampires, they will not see zombies. We’re not that show. We do science-based, but it’s going to be a handoff. There will be one mystery that leads to another, and we think it’s going to work pretty nicely. But it’s going to be very much a BONES show, with elements of SLEEPY HOLLOW.

AX: So the BONES characters are going to step into and out of the more exotic SLEEPY HOLLOW universe without realizing what they’ve been in and out of?

PETERSON: Exactly. And part of the fun is that we get to do it on Halloween. So that leaves it open to a lot of things that are going on. We have costumes, we have superstitions that are going on, but we’re going to handle it in the BONES way. It’s worked for over two hundred episodes, it’ll work for this one.

Meanwhile Arrow has recently had  Sara Lance’s resurrection in the Lazarus Pit, but with rather unfavorable results. This leads to the crossover with Constantine next week (and ultimately leads into DC’s Legends of Tomorrow.

Following the series finale of Continuum, (which I discussed in greater detail here), Simon Barry both answered questions from fans (video above) and had an interview with Blastr. In the interview, Barry described the rules of time travel established for the series:

In Season 1, I addressed the writers’ room with a simple set of guidelines.

1. Time travel could not exist in a closed loop, because it would remove stakes from the show if everything was simply preordained to happen and our characters were fighting windmills.

2. We needed to preserve the stakes of guideline #1 for as long as possible to keep the characters and audience wondering what the consequences were of changing history.

3. Kiera was going to be able to change history and return to a better future as a result.

It became obvious once we dispensed with paradoxical time travel that anything was possible with multiple timelines. The only way to not get lost in this was to limit the number of time-travel events in the show. This way you couldn’t just hit reset with your characters to fix things. And even if you thought you could, as Alec did at the end of Season 2, there had to be unforeseen consequences to these choices that made you wish you hadn’t.

By making time travel as rare an event as possible, by making it difficult, we could minimize the impact of this technology. It’s also about perspective. Time travel is a purely relative process. It means nothing to those that aren’t themselves traveling, so we had to ensure that the only characters who would have access to the technology were characters whose perspectives were relevant in the show. Kiera and Alec are therefore the only perspectives we wanted to experience, because it’s really their journey.

I listened to the above Q&A in the above video on an audio podcast in the background soon after it came out and have to rely on notes I took after the fact, so there very well could be other things of interest which I’m leaving out. Regarding time travel, Barry discussed, as he made up his own rules, how incredibly difficult and unlikely actual time travel would be. He pointed out how rapidly the earth is moving around the sun, making it quite difficult to have the earth in the same location when you get back in time. (So, if the goal was to kill Kellogg off at the end, he could have wound up in empty space).

As we know would happen, once the series was canceled and Barry had only six episodes to wrap things up (which were definitely better than ending without even a rushed conclusion), many planned  plot threads were left out. “Emily, Julian, the Traveler were all supposed to get larger stories. We had also discussed an entire season set in 2077 to really get to know each member of Liber8 and how they eventually got signed up with the cause.”

In both interviews, Barry talked about a desire to tell more about this universe in other medium. This was also raised in this Reddit AMA which took place before the final six episodes aired. In the podcast, he talked about how difficult this could be to get on television. Stories left to tell ranged from the Traveler to what happened to Kellogg after winding up in the past. Barry had wanted to send him even further back to be among dinosaurs, but the budget did not allow this.

During the podcast, Barry said he had worked on a scene which took place five years from now, which would include Emily, showing what the characters who remained in the present were doing. Unfortunately the scene was never filmed. The story of the Traveler might have done to religion what the show in general did to corporate greed. Barry described the Freelancers as being like religious fanatics, who thought they were following the Traveler, but got the message wrong.

It was necessary to tie up the story of how Alec sent people back into the past way too quickly. This could have included reasons for sending back Kiera beyond young Alec mentioning her name. Among ideas which might have been presented if time permitted was that Alec sent Kiera into the past because of the manner in which she investigated a murder at Sadtech. This both gave Alec reason to see her as an effective cop, along with giving him reason for wanting to get rid of her.

Sometimes the show was affected by the availability of actors. Escher was written out of the show earlier than planned for this reason. The original plan was still to ultimately kill him off, except Kellogg would have been the one to kill Escher. The actor who played Kiera’s husband was not available for the final season, which is why he did not appear. I still think it would have made more sense to have mentioned him. While it is obviously necessary to ignore some scientific implausibilities in a show such as this, I also find it hard to believe that, if Kiera had changed the future, her parents were in the same place at the same time to conceive her, and that the same happened to conceive her son. A more plausible version of the ending might have had Kiera return to her time and find that she had never been born, as opposed to having a duplicate there who never traveled back in time. Instead we will allow Barry to make up his own science, knowing that everything was implausible anyways.

It is unfortunate that such an excellent series could not have been completed as envisioned by Simon Barry. Under the circumstances, he did do an excellent job of tying  up as much as possible in the final six episodes.

An extended trailer for the Victorian era episode of Sherlock, The Abominable Bride, has been released (video above). The episode will air in the US and the UK on January 1. They apparently don’t understand about college bowl games in the UK.

If you missed the excellent Supergirl pilot, or want to see it again, it remains widely available on line, as it has now been for several months. Plus you can stream it for free (and legally) from Vudu, iTunes and Amazon  (Hat tip to ComicBook.com). These sources will charge for subsequent episodes, so it makes more sense to catch them as they air on CBS.

The recently announced new episodes of Gilmore Girls to be presented on Netflix will each deal with a different season. This leaves room for a lot of Stars Hollow seasonal festivals, and perhaps a June wedding for Lorelei.

Married was much better in its second season, but apparently did not bring in enough new viewers as FX has canceled the show. This is leading to speculation as to whether You’re The Worst might also be in trouble. Both comedies premiered at the same time on FX  summer of 2014, with You’re The Worst moving to FXX and currently being shown in the fall. While also not doing well in the ratings. You’re The Worst has received far more critical attention and hopefully will survive because of this.

Researchers found that cats are neurotic, and are probably planning how to kill you.

In joint political and entertainment news, former actor and Senator Fred Thompson has died. From The Tennessean:

Fred Thompson, a former U.S. senator for Tennessee, GOP presidential candidate, Watergate attorney and longtime “Law and Order” star, died on Sunday. He was 73.

Mr. Thompson died after a recurrence of lymphoma, according to a prepared statement issued by the Thompson family.

“It is with a heavy heart and a deep sense of grief that we share the passing of our brother, husband, father, and grandfather who died peacefully in Nashville surrounded by his family,” the statement reads.

“Fred once said that the experiences he had growing up in small-town Tennessee formed the prism through which he viewed the world and shaped the way he dealt with life.  Fred stood on principle and common sense, and had a deep love for and connection with the people across Tennessee whom he had the privilege to serve in the United States Senate. He enjoyed a hearty laugh, a strong handshake, a good cigar, and a healthy dose of humility.  Fred was the same man on the floor of the Senate, the movie studio, or the town square of Lawrenceburg, his home.

“Fred believed that the greatness of our nation was defined by the hard work, faith, and honesty of its people. He had an enduring belief in the exceptionalism of our country, and that America could provide the opportunity for any boy or girl, in any corner of our country, to succeed in life. “

On his acting career:

In 1977 Mr. Thompson found himself representing the whistle-blower in one of Tennessee’s biggest political scandals. In her role as a parole administrator, Marie Ragghianti refused to release inmates granted pardons after paying then-Gov. Ray Blanton. Mr. Thompson successfully represented Ragghianti in a wrongful termination case, helping her win a settlement and a return to her job in 1978.

That case eventually became the subject of a book and launched Mr. Thompson’s acting career. Mr. Thompson played himself in the 1985 version of the movie “Marie.” Critics praised his performance, and more roles soon followed.

Five years later, Mr. Thompson had roles in three of the biggest films of 1990: “Days of Thunder,” “The Hunt for Red October” and “Die Hard 2.”  He also enjoyed a five-year run on NBC’s “Law and Order” as District Attorney Arthur Branch from 2002-2007.

Though he took a break to run for the Republican nomination for president in 2008, acting remained a constant in Mr. Thompson’s life.

He appeared in box office hits as recently as 2012, with a role in the horror film “Sinister,” and had a recurring role on NBC’s short-lived 2015 series “Allegiance.”

Update: News came out on Monday that CBS is planning a new Star Trek television series to be streamed on their All Access service. The show, to be produced by Alex Kurtzman, is to start in January 2017.

Yes, There Is A 97% Scientific Consensus on Climate Change

Climate Change Consensus Skeptical Science

Earlier today David Robertson defended Republicans for their anti-scientific viewpoint in denying the scientific consensus on climate change at The Moderate Voice, where many of my posts are also posted. Dorian De Wind followed up, citing work by NASA to debunk what David wrote on the science. As this part of the debate has already been answered, I will address a more specific claim that there is no consensus. Climate change denialists typically make one of two related arguments, either denying that there is a strong consensus among climate scientists or denying the entire concept of a scientific consensus.

David quoted a paper by science fiction writer Michael Crichton denying the concept of a scientific consensus. Crichton is not a climate scientist, but  is a well known denier of climate science. Both his view on the scientific consensus and his arguments against climate change have frequently been debunked. As a fellow physician, he should have known very well that the use of consensus statements is common in science.  Consensus papers are actually extremely common in medicine, as experts in a field decide what the best evidence shows to guide those providing medical care. For example, a quick Google search will show what seems like an endless number of consensus statements from the National Institute of Health. This is just one of many organizations which has issued consensus statements in health care, and other scientific fields also commonly use consensus statements.

Reaching a scientific consensus does matter beyond the scientific community. For example, the scientific consensus on climate change has often been compared to the scientific consensus that cigarette smoking causes cancer. This consensus has resulted in both a change in attitude by the general public and a change in laws regarding cigarette smoking. A comparable change is necessary to respond to the scientific consensus on climate change.

There is a scientific consensus on climate change, and NASA has described it:

Multiple studies published in peer-reviewed scientific journals show that 97 percent or more of actively publishing climate scientists agree: Climate-warming trends over the past century are very likely due to human activities. In addition, most of the leading scientific organizations worldwide have issued public statements endorsing this position. The following is a partial list of these organizations, along with links to their published statements and a selection of related resources.

The report then goes on to cite statements from several organizations and includes this list of almost two hundred organizations which take the position that climate change has been caused by human action.

Skeptical Science has also reviewed the claims that there is no scientific consensus on climate change, debunking such arguments. Their findings were consistent with what NASA and other scientific organizations have reported on the scientific consensus on climate change. They note that, “A survey of over 12,000 peer-reviewed climate science papers by our citizen science team at Skeptical Science has found a 97% consensus in the peer-reviewed literature that humans are causing global warming.”

Originally posted at The Moderate Voice

SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who; SHIELD; The Flash; John Snow; Jessica Jones; Getting Hooked on Netflix; Black Mirror; Continuum

Doctor Who s09e02

The Witch’s Familiar, the concluding episode of last week’s episode of Doctor Who, The Magician’s Apprentice, works despite the weakness in its plot due to its dual match-ups. One was the Doctor and a supposedly dying Davro,s and the other pair was Clara and Missy.

Pairing the Doctor and Davros was an idea which Steven Moffat has had since watching Genesis of the Daleks according to an interview at blastar:

“When I was very young, I watched Genesis of the Daleks and began a long plan.”

“I was doing what I do in my spare time which is watch old episodes of Doctor Who – because I really know how to kick back and relax,” he explained. “Davros had already returned within the series…and it occurred to me, and I think this is just true, there isn’t a bad scene between the Doctor and Davros.”

“Whatever you think of the stories – and I think they’re all good – all the time, every time you have the Doctor confronting Davros, in the classic series and in the new series… every time they meet, it’s really quite electric. There’s something about those two characters meeting, so I wanted to have a go at it.”

“What surprised me, looking back at the old stories, was how little screen time they have together. In Genesis of the Daleks they have a couple of scenes, that’s all – brilliant scenes, beautifully written and played, beautifully done. But they’re very short – they’re not long at all. I’d imagined it in my memory as being most of the story, but it wasn’t at all.

“So my notion was to actually stick them in a room together and see what happens after a long while. So that’s, you know, a childhood ambition that hasn’t changed into my 50s.”

Doctor Who s09e02a

The pair spent a considerable part of the episode talking to each other and launching plots against each other. Reminiscent of the question posed by the Doctor last season, Davros even asked the Doctor, “Did I do right Doctor? Tell me, was I right? I need to know before the end. Am I a good man?”

The pairing of Clara and Missy was more amusing. This included Missy’s implied threat to eat Clara if there wasn’t anything else to hunt and Missy’s response when Clara suggested throwing a stone down into the sewers to see how deep they were. “Ah yeah, good idea.” And she pushed Clara in. Plus what is the deal with Missy’s reference to a daughter?

The resolution of the story was weak. Even if we accept that the Doctor can just turn on regeneration energy at will, what was his end-game? He was assisted in escaping by Missy, but at the time the Doctor thought that Missy was dead. His plan might have worked to have the decaying Dalek sewer slime attack the other Daleks, but how was the Doctor planning to escape?

It is also questionable why the Doctor revealed to Davros that Gallifrey still existed. Other questions also came up in the discussion with Davros, such as the idea that the Doctor might have been running from something when he left Gallifrey, and a possible Dalek/Timelord hybrid. Presumably some, if not all, of this will come up in future episodes.

Missy posed an additional threat to Clara when Clara was inside a Dalek. This was actually the third time she was, one way or another, inside a Dalek. We  saw Clara’s mind trapped inside a Dalek in Asylum of the Daleks in Jenna Coleman’s first appearance. Last season there was the journey by a team inside a Dalek in Into the Dalek.

This was an amusing sequence in which Clara tried to communicate but there were many words which the Dalek  translated differently from what she desired, being limited by what it knew. Then she said “mercy” which was not a concept the Dalek should have known. This led to the other somewhat weak aspect of the conclusion as the Doctor went back in time to show mercy to young Davros, therefore introducing the concept of mercy into the Dalek DNA.

The episode also eliminated the sonic screwdriver for now, with the Doctor moving on to wearable technology. There is still the question of the confession dial, which I bet will play a part later this season in typical Moffat style.

The two-part format did allow for many ideas to be inserted into the story, along with a cliff hanger. As plot holes have always been a part of Doctor Who, being present well before Moffat despite the frequent criticism of him for this, it does make sense to have less stories and include more in each one.

ABC has released the first four minutes of Agents of SHIELD, which is returning on Tuesday. Video above with Daisy and other SHIELD agents helping an Inhuman.

TV Guide has some information on Cisco’s new powers on The Flash.

TV Guide also has some set pictures which might provide spoilers on the fate of John Snow on Game of Thrones.

Fox will have a two part trailer for The X-Files on Monday night on Gotham and Minority Report. Minority Report did premiere last week but I’ve held off on watching until I hear more about how the show is. Starting to follow genre shows on Fox doesn’t always turn out very good. The season premier of Gotham left me with hope for improvements in the second season over the first.

Netflix has released the above teaser for Jessica Jones, providing a glimpse of her super powers.

Netflix has released some interesting information on how many episodes viewers had to watch of certain shows before becoming hooked on them. They found the episode at which seventy percent of those viewing would then go on to finish the season. Viewers were hooked with the second episode of Breaking Bad. Some other shows took longer.

Streaming has become a way to provide a future for television shows, in addition to provide access to old episodes of shows. Netflix has ordered twelve new episodes of Black Mirror.

Steven Spielberg has always been a master of fiction. Reportedly Hillary Clinton turned to Spielberg for acting coaches to help her appear more likable. This comes from the book Unlikable by Edward Klein. I’m not sure how much of this book is fact versus fiction.

Tonight we have the rare super blood moon total eclipse. National Geographic describes how to view it.

Continuum Power Hour

The third episode of Continuum, Power Hour, finally started to reveal much more of what is going on (and the reveals are even greater in the fourth episode–but no spoilers for episode four as this has not aired in the United States yet). Kiera and Garza teamed up to find out what the Time Marines are up to. In the process Curtis met a heroic death. After previously warning Alec that his superpower was in computers, not fighting, Curtis himself got drawn into the action.

Julian tried to destroy the Theseus manifesto. Leading a rebellion against the Corporate Congress in which there would be thousands of casualties, followed by failure, just did not seem like a good future for him. He could not escape his fate as, in sort of a time loop, Chen made sure a copy of the manifesto from the future came out, also leading Julian to a toddler Kagami. This leads back to the question of whether the future we know about will still come about, which directly impacts Kiera’s attempts to return home.

After two episodes which were largely setup, the story did progress in the third episode–already half way into the final season. The fourth episode does move the story forward considerably, making it possible to speculate as to the end game of the series. Here are a some teasers which will not spoil the episode, but those who want to go into the episode with zero information might want to look away. Alec responds to Emily being gone, but does not destroy the entire timeline this time. There is an unexpected conversation between characters. A puzzle from the first season is resolved. Keep wondering whether Kellogg should trust his future self.