A new University of Washington study breaks new ground on brain structure and language skills: Researchers found that brain-imaging of infants provides a good prediction of what their language abilities will be months later, as 1-year-olds. The study in the journal Brain and Language showed that MRIs found structural differences in the brains — concentrations of gray and white matter — that indicated who would be good at language. And there's a practical aspect, according to a UW release: "Identifying which brain areas are related to early language learning could provide a first glimpse of development going awry, allowing for treatments to begin earlier."
Federal Attorney General Eric Holder offered no hint of how he is leaning in regard to the federal stance on the state's marijuana legalization initiative, according to Gov. Jay Inslee. In a conference call with reporters right after their meeting with Holder this afternoon, the governor and state Attorney General Bob Ferguson portrayed Holder as attentive but not at a point of making decisions on any federal action — or, hopefully, inaction — on the implementation of the state's measure.
Inslee said he and Ferguson didn't expect a decision. Ferguson said that they "particularly emphasized the issue of timing" to Holder. He added, "It's fair to say that Attorney General Holder understood that we would need some clarity in the coming months." Holder also wants more information on what the state will do to prevent what Inslee referred to as "leakage" of marijuana to other parts of the country.
"I feel good about having this meeting with an attorney general who is willing to hear us out," Inslee told callers. We tweeted highlights of Inslee and Ferguson's remarks here during the call. Check back for a full story later this afternoon.
In true Seattle style, Mars Hill pastor Mark Driscoll sent the ultimate passive-aggressive tweet yesterday. The message, which seattlepi.com's Joel Connelly first reported, was nominally prayerful and supportive but actually, well, quite damning of the president on the most personal level. "Praying for our President, who today will place his hand on a Bible he does not believe to take an oath to a God he likely does not know,” he wrote.
The discussion continues today. On the Huffington Post's religion section, the Rev. Emily C. Heath writes in a way that most of Seattle will get:
If Barack Obama says he is a Christian, if he confesses his faith in Christ, that's where the conversation ends. The same is true for George W. Bush, or Franklin D. Roosevelt, or even Mark Driscoll.
There is a difference between saying to someone "my understanding of Christian faith is different from yours on this issue" and saying "we don't believe the same thing, so you must not be a Christian." I often disagreed with George W. Bush's actions, and struggled to reconcile them with my understanding of Christian faith, but I refused to speculate on the sincerity of his faith. That's not my place. And I've had it done far too often in my life to turn around and do it to others.
And it happens far too often. We forget that some Christian right figures believe that Catholics are not "real Christians". We forget that "real Christians" used their firm belief that they were right to rail against the faith of those who wanted to end slavery and later segregation. We forget that on an ongoing basis, gay Christians are told by these "loving" "real Christians" their faith is not real.
A gun plan for Seattle
Mayoral candidate Charlie Staadecker today released what he calls "a simple, realistic, three-point plan for gun safety." In a nutshell, Staadecker is advocating for more funding for mental health evaluations, gun-lock storage laws and tighter permitting and real waiting periods for gun purchases.
His argument shows more attention to supporting evidence for his arguments — there are a number of hot links — than most politicians would bother with. Yet, even as a political newcomer, he shows a bit of flair for making his points: "As a real estate professional, I am required by state law to be fingerprinted and yet I can buy a handgun or long gun at a gun show without providing my fingerprints or a waiting period. Does this make sense?"
Weather, whether we like it or not
The National Weather Service forecast says we are finally about to switch back from our schizophrenic fog/sun conditions to more normal winter weather. The burn bans are already being lifted, but the odd winter weather has given meteorologist Cliff Mass license to put on his professorial hat again. This morning, Mass looked at how the inversion affects Snoqualmie Pass, writing: "How would you like to take a ski lift where you begin with temperatures in the low teens and by the end of your journey minutes later (and after a second lift), you are sweating in the sun with temperatures close to 50F?"
Here are videos from gloriously sunny conditions at the pass, both posted Sunday.
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