TPM News

Campaigning in New Hampshire Thursday, Texas Governor, and GOP Presidential candidate Rick Perry claimed that Texas public schools teach both evolution and creationism in their science classes.

Perry described evolution as "a theory that is out there," telling a young child questioning him that "it's got some gaps in it." That's why, he said, "in Texas we teach both creationism and evolution in our public schools. Because I figure...because I figure you're smart enough to figure out which one is right."

There's just one problem with that: in 1987 the Supreme Court ruled that teaching creationism in public schools is an unconstitutional violation of the Establishment Clause.

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Rick Perry is sure about a lot of things. But the theory of evolution, or even how old the planet Earth is, are not on that list.

A woman who will probably not be supporting the Texas governor brought her young son along to a campaign event in New Hampshire on Thursday, and had the boy ask Perry his views about science. "How old do you think the earth is?" the boy asked. This was an apparent allusion to how fundamentalist Christians often insist that Earth -- and indeed, the whole universe -- is about 6,000 years old.

"How old do I think the earth is? You know what, I don't have any idea," Perry responded. "I know it's pretty old. So it goes back a long, long ways. I'm not sure -- I'm not sure anybody actually knows completely and absolutely hold the earth is.

Perry then steered the conversation to some questions the boy's mother had been asking him, about evolution.

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Florida Secretary of State Kurt Browning wrote in an editorial on Thursday that the Justice Department had determined "all 76 provisions" of Florida's new elections law were not discriminatory, except for the four controversial parts of the law he didn't want the department to review.

In fact, Browning retracted his submission of four controversial provisions of Florida's new election law from the pre-clearance process at the Justice Department after the agency started asking questions.

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A staffer working for Rep. Darrell Issa's Oversight Committee on financial regulation issues has come under scrutiny by ThinkProgress for changing his name after he left his previous position at Goldman Sachs. The story implied that he changed his name three years ago to hide his background with the company.

But Peter Haller, formerly known as Peter Simonyi, said in a statement to TPM that he and his sister switched their names a few years back to respect the last wish of his grandfather to carry on his mother's family name.

His mother's father, Alfred haller-koi gr Haller, was killed by fascists in Budapest in 1944 when he tried to stop children from being conscripted into the military, Haller said.

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To most people, predictions about machines soon becoming more intelligent than humans might seem like a far off possibility, but an announcement Thursday from IBM about its development of cognitive computing chips seems to bring us one very significant step forward in that direction.

IBM unveiled a working prototype of silicon computer chips Thursday that emulate the processes of the human mind rather than relying on the traditional architecture of computer chips, which have remained basically unchanged since the 1940s.

The research team's design uses fewer transistors than traditional chips, and it features 256 digital processors that act as "neurons," that do the computation, and synapses that learn and remember things. One of the chips has 262,144 programmable "synapses" and the other has 65,536 "learning synapses," according to IBM.

Traditional integrated circuits feature many more transistors, and are programmed. The new IBM chips won't be programmed in the same way, and they'll process information differently.

One major breakthrough significance of the "neurosynaptic core" chip is that the technology could use much less power than computer chips do currently because they're designed like a human brain (which is, believe it or not, extremely efficient at processing information.) They would also occupy less space than the supercomputers of today.

"This is a major initiative to move beyond the von Neumann paradigm that has been the ruling computer architecture for more than half a century," said IBM's Project Leader Dharmendra Modha, in a press statement. "Future applications of computing will increasingly demand functionality that is not efficiently delivered by the traditional architecture. The chips are another significant step in the evolution of computers from calculators to learning systems, signaling the beginning of a new generation of computers and their applications in business, science and government."

John von Neumann was a polymath and mathematician who laid the foundations for modern computer chip architecture.

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Tommy Thompson, the former four-term Wisconsin governor and Bush-era Health and Human Services Secretary, has now taken significant steps toward running for the open Senate seat in his state, where Democrat Herb Kohl is retiring.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that Thompson has announced two co-chairs for his nascent campaign: Former top political aide Jim Klauser, and current state Attorney General JB. Van Hollen.

"I'm honored to have the support and commitment of Jim and J.B.," Thompson said in a statement. "We need to get America working again. We can do better, and it begins with getting government out the way of creating the jobs that make our families and communities stronger."

Following Kohl's retirement announcement in May, Thompson said that he would wait until after the very high-profile state Senate recalls, which concluded this past Tuesday, to make a decision about whether he would run for the U.S. Senate.

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Signalling a possible run for office, consumer advocate and Harvard law professor Elizabeth Warren has launched an exploratory committee in Massachusetts.

The website, ElizabethForMA.com, went live on Thursday with a contact form for supporters interested in tracking her decision. According to the Boston Globe, Warren filed the paperwork for the new committee the same day. Warren has been heavily courted by top Senate Democrats to run against Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA), who took office after winning the 2010 special election to replace the late Ted Kennedy. She gained a national following in her role as head of the Congressional Oversight Panel Chair for TARP and was a leading advocate for the creation of a consumer protection agency, a key piece of the Dodd-Frank financial reform law.

Warren has been on a "listening tour" of the state this week and recently published a post on liberal blog Blue Mass Group in which she sounded very much like a candidate.

"It is time for me to think hard about what role I can play next to help rebuild a middle class that has been hacked at, chipped at, and pulled at for more than a generation--and that that is under greater strain every day," she wrote.

GreenCarReports2.jpg


By John Voelcker

How many vehicles are there on Earth?

We'd ask you to guess, except the headline above gives away the answer.

According to industry trade journal Ward's, which added up both reported vehicle registrations and historical trends, the total crossed 1 billion sometime last year.

The vehicles include passenger cars, light-, medium-, and heavy-duty trucks, and buses, but not off-road or heavy construction vehicles.

The total at the end of 2009 was about 980 million, and with strong growth in emerging regions--particularly China, now by far the world's biggest car market--the number powered past the 1-billion mark sometime last summer.

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