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Experimental Evidence for Phonemic Contrasts in a Nonhuman Vocal System

Engesser S, Crane JMS, Savage JL, Russell AF, Townsend SW (2015) Experimental Evidence for Phonemic Contrasts in a Nonhuman Vocal System. PLoS Biol 13(6): e1002171. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1002171

“The ability to generate new meaning by rearranging combinations of meaningless sounds is a fundamental component of language. Although animal vocalizations often comprise combinations of meaningless acoustic elements, evidence that rearranging such combinations generates functionally distinct meaning is lacking. Here, we provide evidence for this basic ability in calls of the chestnut-crowned babbler (Pomatostomus ruficeps), a highly cooperative bird of the Australian arid zone. Using acoustic analyses, natural observations, and a series of controlled playback experiments, we demonstrate that this species uses the same acoustic elements (A and B) in different arrangements (AB or BAB) to create two functionally distinct vocalizations. Specifically, the addition or omission of a contextually meaningless acoustic element at a single position generates a phoneme-like contrast that is sufficient to distinguish the meaning between the two calls. Our results indicate that the capacity to rearrange meaningless sounds in order to create new signals occurs outside of humans. We suggest that phonemic contrasts represent a rudimentary form of phoneme structure and a potential early step towards the generative phonemic system of human language.”

CBO Answers to Questions About Dynamic Analysis

Keith Hall, CBO Director – “In May, the Congress adopted a concurrent resolution on the budget for fiscal year 2016. That resolution requires CBO, to the greatest extent practicable, to incorporate macroeconomic effects into its 10-year cost estimates for major legislation that Congressional committees approve. Such estimates must also include, when practicable, a qualitative assessmentContinue Reading

Report – Who Has Your Digital Back?

Who Has Your Back? 2015: Protecting Your Data From Government Requests. July 2, 2015 | By Parker Higgins: “We live digital lives—from the videos shared on social networks, to location-aware apps on mobile phones, to log-in data for connecting to our email, to our stored documents, to our search history. The personal, the profound, andContinue Reading

Greece: Preliminary Draft Debt Sustainability Analysis

International Monetary Fund – IMF Country Report No. 15/165. July 2, 2015 – “At the last review in May 2014, Greece’s public debt was assessed to be getting back on a path toward sustainability, though it remained highly vulnerable to shocks. By late summer 2014, with interest rates having declined further, it appeared that noContinue Reading

Washington Post database collecting data on citizen killings by police

“The Washington Post is compiling a database of every fatal shooting in the United States by a police officer in the line of duty in 2015. The Post is tracking more than a dozen details about each killing — including the race of the deceased, the circumstances of the shooting, and whether the person wasContinue Reading

Unisys Security Insights – Report for US

“Consumers in the U.S. are most concerned about data breaches at retailers and government agencies. U.S. consumers indicated relatively lower levels of concern about data breaches at other organizations such as airlines, healthcare and telecom companies. Interestingly, the perceived threat of data breaches is low for banks and utilities, possibly reflecting traditional high levels ofContinue Reading

BP Deep Water Horizon Settlement of 18.7B to states is tax deductible and spread over 18 years

WSJ blog: “BP PLC agreed Thursday to pay $18.7 billion to settle federal and state claims over the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The penalty includes the biggest pollution fine in U.S. history. Here’s what you should know…” See also via New York Times –  BP to Pay $18.7 Billion for Deepwater Horizon Oil SpillContinue Reading

Promoting an open research culture

Science 26 June 2015:  Vol. 348 no. 6242 pp. 1422-1425 DOI: 10.1126/science.aab2374 “Transparency, openness, and reproducibility are readily recognized as vital features of science. When asked, most scientists embrace these features as disciplinary norms and values. Therefore, one might expect that these valued features would be routine in daily practice. Yet, a growing body of evidenceContinue Reading

GAO Reports – VA Disability Benefits, Navy Working Capital Fund, Electricity, Federal Transit Benefits, Medicaid, Youth Athletes

Veterans’ Disability Benefits: VA Can Better Ensure Unemployability Decisions Are Well Supported, GAO-15-464: Published: Jun 2, 2015. Publicly Released: Jul 2, 2015. Navy Working Capital Fund: Budgeting for Carryover at Fleet Readiness Centers Could Be Improved, GAO-15-462: Published: Jun 30, 2015. Publicly Released: Jun 30, 2015. Electricity: Generation Mix Has Shifted, and Growth in ConsumptionContinue Reading

GAO – Bank and Other Depository Regulators Need Better Data Analytics

Cybersecurity: Bank and Other Depository Regulators Need Better Data Analytics and Depository Institutions Want More Usable Threat Information, GAO-15-509: Published: Jul 2, 2015. Publicly Released: Jul 2, 2015. “Regulators use a risk-based examination approach to oversee the adequacy of information security at depository institutions—banks, thrifts, and credit unions—but could better target future examinations by analyzingContinue Reading

Medicare Advantage 2015 Spotlight: Enrollment Market Update

Kaiser Family Foundation – Jun 30, 2015 | Gretchen Jacobson, Anthony Damico, Tricia Neuman, and Marsha Gold “Despite concerns that reductions in payments to Medicare Advantage plans enacted in the Affordable Care Act of 2010 (ACA) would lead to reductions in Medicare Advantage enrollment, the number and share of Medicare beneficiaries enrolling in Medicare AdvantageContinue Reading

A ten-year follow-up of a study of memory for the attack of September 11, 2001

A ten-year follow-up of a study of memory for the attack of September 11, 2001: Flashbulb memories and memories for flashbulb events. Hirst, William; Phelps, Elizabeth A.; Meksin, Robert; Vaidya, Chandan J.; Johnson, Marcia K.; Mitchell, Karen J.; Buckner, Randy L.; Budson, Andrew E.; Gabrieli, John D. E.; Lustig, Cindy; Mather, Mara; Ochsner, Kevin N.;Continue Reading