Is religion for dumb people?

A research published in a recent “Psychology Review” shows very interesting data about the correlation between the persons’ IQ and their religious beliefs and behavior.

Researchers from University of Rochester in Rochester, New York and the Northeastern University in Boston, MA have analyzed significant amount of studies that show that there’s a negative correlation of ~0.24 (on the scale from 0 to -1) between a person’s IQ and the person’s religious behavior and beliefs.

According to the researchers, the more the person is educated – the more the correlation is stronger. For example, college graduates are less likely to be religious than younger or less educated people.

This confirms my own empiric observations: the more educated people are and the more intelligent people are – the less likely they are to become religious zealots. Sure, a lot will go to church/synagogue/mosque, but many do so not because of a strong religious conviction but rather to pay respect to their traditions. Rarely these people become fanatics. But those who are poor (and hence less educated), less intelligent (not everyone is a genius, after all…) – those are more likely to be brainwashed into fanatic bigotry.

So yes, the data is in. As Marx once said – religion is the opium of the people. Mostly uneducated masses. No wonder that they object anything that would lead to more educated society.

Your Little (and educated) Advisor.

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So the court has decided.

The Proposition 8 has been stricken down by the lower courts. The US Supreme Court tossed the appeal because the appellants have no standing. Finally, we have a legal precedence for people to mind their own f***ing business. I hope the bigots get the clue – the relations between two grown ups are none of their business. If the two grown ups happen to be of the same sex, or opposite sex, shouldn’t matter when it comes to the benefits and additional rights they get just because they make their relationship official.

DOMA Section 3, that defines the “marriage” for Federal purposes – got invalidated as unconstitutional. That was  so obvious to all that even the United States Department of Justice decided not to defend the statute any more. Millions of dollars the Republican majority in the House of Representative has spent on the fruitless defense and the prolonged suffering of the gay couples could have been spent much better in this economy. But hey, Republicans are all for fruitless waste of taxpayers’ money, aren’t they?

Unfortunately DOMA Section 2, that allows States to ignore other states’ marriage licenses, has not been challenged yet and thus yesteraday’s ruling doesn’t affect it. I hope it will get repealed by the Congress, and if not – invalidated by the SCOTUS next time.

It was a good day for all of us. Lets hope it will only get better from now on.

Your Little Advisor.

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Google being evil

So Google+ is a big flop, people don’t like it and don’t want to use it.

What does Google do? Forces you.

Many people are reporting that their most frequent chat buddies on Google Talk have been blocked automatically by Google, with the only available solution to be joining Google+ and unblocking them there.

Google are aware of the “problem” and claim it is a bug, however all the other (previously available) workarounds like using the stand-alone client to unblock have been disabled after being reported working to Google in this thread.

More reports and details here.

It appears that someone became quite desperate there in Google+ team, and after all the other strategies failed decided to just force people in to boost membership. And of course, you cannot become a member without providing a great deal of personal information, starting with your name.

Google, back off.

Your Little Advisor.

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Happy Victory Day!

May 8th/9th (depending on what heritage you have) is the Victory day – the day when the Nazi Germany capitulated to the allied forces. The Germans had officially ceased hostilities as of May 8th 23:01 (May 9th 1:00 Moscow time) 1945, and the appropriate capitulation documents had been signed in the presence of the allied forces commanders.

Let us not forget what that war was about, and who won.

USSR Soldiers' Memorial in Vienna, Austria

USSR Soldiers' Memorial in Vienna, Austria

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Safety Measures in Crowded Areas – Stay Safe!

Nothing can describe the sorrow and sadness that the recent Boston Marathon disaster has brought.

But, there are some ways for you to avoid getting hurt in case of a similar occurrence in the future.  Following these simple guidelines may save your life, and the lives of those around you. It has been proven very efficient in Israel, a country that has known similar deadly attacks during the most of the 65 years of its existence, and its about time to adopt it here in the US.

Unattended bags

Pay attention to suspicious unattended bags. In fact, pay attention to any unattended bags. DO NOT IGNORE THEM! Especially if its in a crowded, or soon to become crowded, area.

If you see a bag, and no-one claims it to be theirs, call the police and ask people to stay away from it. The police will take care of it and if needed – destroy it in a controlled manner.

If you see a bag that is just lying there do the following:

0. Don’t panic. Don’t let anyone near you panic.

1. Ask loudly “whose bag is this?”. If no-one responds – proceed.

2. Ask the people next to the bag “Is this yours?”. If they respond negatively or ignore you, suggest them to move further away, without causing panic.

3. Call local police (911 call may be in order) and inform them that you found a suspicious bag. Describe the bag and the location.

4. Move away from the bag, and notify anyone in the near vicinity that there’s a suspicious object found and they should move away.

5. Wait for the police to arrive and show the suspicious object to them.

6. From the point the police is there – follow the police instructions.

Suspicious people

People don’t like being suspected of bad things. So if you see someone who raises suspicion in your eyes in any way – don’t be rude, offensive or aggressive. Do not ignore your guts, however. If you feel someone is suspicious – notify the police, DO NOT APPROACH that person on your own.

What can be suspicious? Here’s a couple of examples (but all of these could describe a person who is not a terrorist in any way, of course, so again – exercise your best judgement and in any case – be courteous):

1. People dressed not as you’d expect. For example, someone wearing a big warm coat in a hot summer day would raise my guards. Especially in a crowded area.

2. People not behaving as you’d expect an average person. Someone who looks terribly stressed, worried, keeping his hands in his pockets could be a bomber. Could, of course, be a someone who’s worried about something and wants to keep his hands warm.

If you find yourself in an event

If you were unfortunate enough to find yourself in an event such as the Boston Marathon bombing – there are several things you could (and should) do:

1. Make sure you’re not wounded.

2. Take cover.

3. If you can safely help others – do so.

The reason for #2 is the way these attacks are carried out: multiple bombings in the same event. Why do they do that? First attack causes people to panic, run in all directions, and then start helping the wounded. The second attack targets those rushing to the scene to help. So if you’re a victim of an attack, you should always expect another explosion – so take cover.

These events are horrible, and no-one wants to be anywhere near to one. But unfortunately, those that carry these attacks out target the general public in order to spread terror and frighten you. Don’t let them succeed, don’t get frightened of any public event or occasion. Make sure the security is adequate, make sure to look around yourselves and notice any suspicious objects or people, and you’ll be fine.

Stay safe,

Your Little Adviser

 

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Tax deadline is almost here, and you’re still not ready. What to do?

April 15th is in 9 days from now, and some people are still not ready to file their tax returns. There are many reasons for that, with more common being missing forms from various payers and entities. So, if you’re one of those unlucky investors in publicly traded partnerships (like USO, for example), or partners in an enterprise, or shareholders of a S-Corporation, or members of LLC that are not yet done with their tax returns – you’ll have to wait before you can submit your own paperwork.

But the deadline is near, so what to do?

Easy: postpone.

The extension to file may be requested by anyone for any reason, and will be granted automatically for additional 6 months. This means, that you can get an automatic extension of the deadline to file till October 15th, you just need to ask. Note, that the extension is only for the return filing deadline, not the payment of the tax owed. You have to pay the estimate tax you expect to end up owing with the extension. If you don’t expect to owe any additional tax over what you’ve already paid through your salary withholding or quarterly estimated payments – there’s no need to pay additional money with the extension, but I’d suggest paying $1 just to have a physical proof that the extension has indeed been filed and received by the IRS.

Note, that any payment attached to the extension form is an addition to the tax paid, and will be refunded to you if you end up overpaying your taxes. There’s no additional fee or costs for filing the extension (except for mailing, if you file by mail).

How to file the extension?

1. By mail: fill the IRS form 4868 (get it here) and mail it with your check to the address shown in the instructions. As I said – even if you don’t expect to owe additional money over what you’ve already paid, and even if you expect a refund, do attach a $1 payment to the form – that’s how you can later prove that it was timely filed.

2. Online: You can file the extension electronically and pay using your credit/debit card (here the minimum $1 may in fact be required regardless of estimate tax). You can do it through any tax-preparation software or provider, either through the software, or on their web-sites. Here’s the link to Intuit (maker of Turbo Tax) free extension filing service.

Similarly, you can file extension to file with your state – check for the forms on the respective State government web site. Some states allow automatic extension without even requiring you to ask for it. Just file before October, and make sure you paid all your taxes on time (i.e.: before April 15th), and you’re fine. Check if your state is one of these. California is one such state.

Happy tax season!

Your Little Advisor

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Tracking your tax return, tax refund and amended return

Its the tax season, and we all know the drill – buy a software, get a professional to do it for you, or just fill the forms directly. Either way we are all filing our tax returns now.

But what happens after we drop the envelope at the post office? How to track it? Well, apparently there are ways.

First – dropping at the post office: we don’t really have to do that. Whether you’re using a software to prepare taxes on your own, or hire a professional to that – chances are that you can file electronically. I.e.: the data will flow over the Internet (securely, of course) directly to the IRS. You’ll receive a notification that your return had been delivered to the IRS within minutes or hours, and that would be your proof of timely filing.

If you do send paper return via mail, make sure you send it via certified mail. That is the only way to ensure that the postal receipt you get will be treated as a valid proof of timely filing. You would also be able to track the package and know when it was delivered to the IRS.

But once it has been delivered, whether electronically or physically, what can you do to track your tax return?

Well – there are two ways:

1. Call the IRS and ask. You’ll be waiting for a while until a representative answers, and then you’ll have to actually talk to the IRS.

2. Get the very same information over the Internet.

Its easy, really, and the IRS added a new option to also track your amended return now.

In order to track a return with a payment you don’t really need to do much, just watch your bank account, and you’ll see the check cashed/withdrawal initiated. But if you want to track your refund – you should start here: The IRS Where’s My Refund page. For returns filed electronically you can start checking there as soon as 24 hours after filing, but for returns filed via mail on paper – it may take up to  a month until they appear in the system. No need to call anyone, the representative over the phone will see exactly the same information.

The amended returns are always filed on paper, and will not show at the “Where’s My Refund” page. Instead, for amended returns, go to this new page: The IRS Where’s My Amended Return page. Remember that it might take up to 3 months for the amended return to show up there.

When on the site, make sure you’re on the right site. Check through your browser that the site is secured and it is indeed “IRS.GOV” and not anything else. Most browsers will show on the address bar a notice about it.

Similar on-line sites exist for the States as well. For example, here in California you can track your refunds through this CA FTB web page: Check your California Refund Status. Check your own State’s taxing authority web site for details for your location.

Enjoy the tax season!

Your Little Advisor.

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