30 December, 2011

Egyptian army officer's diary of military life in a revolution | World news | guardian.co.uk

Egyptian army officer's diary of military life in a revolution | World news | guardian.co.uk: After Mubarak fell and the rule of Scaf (Supreme Council of the Armed Forces) began, the top brass moved quickly to secure the loyalty of all mid-level and junior officers. Whenever a big Friday street demonstration or rally in Tahrir Square took place we would all receive a bonus of between 250 and 500 Egyptian pounds (�26-52), whether or not we had anything to do with policing the protests.

It's ridiculous; at the height of the unrest reserve officer salaries doubled and everyone was getting huge bonuses all the time (an average of 2,400 pounds – �254 – for me in January and February). Most full-time officers didn't really care what was happening politically on the streets, they were just happy with the extra money. Occasionally though you'd hear guilty jokes about how we were the only people who were benefiting from the revolution and the Egyptian people had been screwed over.

Still the Governors

Still the Governors:

Our brand suffered a lot of damage in the years from 2004-2008, and if the people of the United States actually give us another chance and we elect a Republican who screws things up, we might not elect another Republican for another 20 years. Therefore, I consider it to be especially important this year of all years that we nominate someone who can actually do the job of being President well, as opposed to merely someone who can beat Barack Obama.

The job of being President is sui generis, so it is impossible to predict with 100% certainty who will perform well at it. Just because someone has been a successful governor does not necessarily mean they will be a successful President. However, I can say with some degree of certainty that without some experience that at least approximates the job of being President, a person is almost certainly guaranteed to fail. And the job of being a Congressman/Senator is so far removed in terms of responsibilities and scope from that of being Governor – and certainly from being President – that their experience essentially counts for nothing.

29 December, 2011

Apocalypse City by Colin Thubron | The New York Review of Books

Apocalypse City by Colin Thubron | The New York Review of Books: No city is harder to chronicle than Jerusalem. Its symbolic reach so far exceeds the limits of its temporal power in any age that the city demands a particular understanding and knowledge. The sensitivities that surround its formidable tangle of archaeology, faith, and history can tempt the scholar into either partisanship or pallid tact. Above all, the author’s attitude toward the Israeli–Palestinian conflict tingles like an electric current through every account. Even the most emollient history will cause offense to somebody.

If it's true....cool!

Ruins in Georgia mountains show evidence of Maya connection - National Architecture & Design | Examiner.com: Archaeological zone 9UN367 at Track Rock Gap, near Georgia’s highest mountain, Brasstown Bald, is a half mile (800 m) square and rises 700 feet (213 m) in elevation up a steep mountainside. Visible are at least 154 stone masonry walls for agricultural terraces, plus evidence of a sophisticated irrigation system and ruins of several other stone structures. Much more may be hidden underground. It is possibly the site of the fabled city of Yupaha, which Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto failed to find in 1540, and certainly one of the most important archaeological discoveries in recent times.

Is finance placebo?

interfluidity � Why is finance so complex?: This is the business of banking. Opacity is not something that can be reformed away, because it is essential to banks’ economic function of mobilizing the risk-bearing capacity of people who, if fully informed, wouldn’t bear the risk. Societies that lack opaque, faintly fraudulent, financial systems fail to develop and prosper. Insufficient economic risks are taken to sustain growth and development. You can have opacity and an industrial economy, or you can have transparency and herd goats.

A lamentable side effect of opacity, of course, is that it enables a great deal of theft by those placed at the center of the shell game. But surely that is a small price to pay for civilization itself. No?

28 December, 2011

How squeaky clean is Mitt Romney?

How squeaky clean is Mitt Romney?:
A reader notes:

If you Google "mitt romney sex scandal", the first result is about Herman Cain.

Tweet Of The Day

Tweet Of The Day:

Screen shot 2011-12-28 at 1.50.53 AM

(Hat tip: Andrew Exum)

Japan's nuclear exclusion zone

Japan's nuclear exclusion zone:
What does a sudden evacuation look like? After everyone is gone, what happens to the places they've abandoned? National Geographic Magazine sent Associated Press photographer David Guttenfelder to the nuclear exclusion zone around Japan's Fukushima Daiichi power plant to find out. Evacuated shortly after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami led to a nuclear radiation crisis, the area has been largely untouched, with food rotting on store shelves and children's backpacks waiting in classrooms. The area may face the same fate as the town of Pripyat, Ukraine after the Chernobyl disaster 25 years ago. This isn't the first time Guttenfelder has gotten a rare glimpse of a place few see, as The Big Picture featured his photographs of North Korea in an earlier post. Collected here are Guttenfelder's haunting images just released of a place abandoned, and of people dealing with the loss. -- Lane Turner (39 photos total)

In this April 7, 2011 photo, local police wearing white suits to protect them from radiation, search for bodies along a river inside Odaka, Japan. Weeks after authorities had searched for victims and started recovery in other tsunami-hit regions, cleanup crews hadn't yet been dispatched around the crippled reactors because of high radiation levels. (AP Photographer David Guttenfelder on assignment for National Geographic Magazine)

Tackled by a Neurologist: Redefining Male Touch by @bkassoy — The Good Men Project

Tackled by a Neurologist: Redefining Male Touch by @bkassoy — The Good Men Project: At birth, from a doctor’s hands into our mother’s, all people are welcomed into a world of touch. But despite its universality, touch carries varying implications depending on culture, geography, and circumstance. Studies have shown the French touching each other 110 times in on hour. Meanwhile, in the same period of time, their British counterparts managed zero physical contact. Parents and chaperones practically encouraged cross-gender canoodling at my Jewish youth group conventions. Strictly observant Jews, on the other hand, won’t lay a pinky on the opposite gender until marriage.

Touch also serves a wide array of purposes for each of us every day, whether functional, friendly, or romantic. And yet, for men, much of our touch—or lack thereof—is often misinterpreted or misunderstood, resulting from and reinforcing stereotypes towards our gender.

27 December, 2011

The Oligarchy We Live In, Ctd

The Oligarchy We Live In, Ctd:


I wonder how Levinger would respond.

How I became a 'terrorist' - Haaretz Daily Newspaper | Israel News: The first time I was attacked by an Israeli settler, I was 14 years old. I was walking to school when an armed man wearing a skullcap, standing near some Israeli soldiers, pulled my pack off my back and threw it in the mud. That wasn't last month, nor was it near a new outpost in Nablus. Rather, this happened 30 years ago, on the main road running through Bethlehem, near Deheisheh refugee camp, where I lived. The settler was not just any alienated, disaffected man. He was, I learned later, the father of the national religious settlement project - Rabbi Moshe Levinger.

The Xinjiang Procedure | The Weekly Standard

The Xinjiang Procedure | The Weekly Standard: “Maybe it feels a little weird at night,” Nijat answered. “Why do you think that?”

“Because too many people have been killed here. And for all the wrong reasons.”

Nijat finally understood. The anticoagulant. The expensive “execution meals” for the regiment following a trip to the killing ground. The plainclothes agents in the cells who persuaded the prisoners to sign statements donating their organs to the state. And now the medical director was confirming it all: Those statements were real. They just didn’t take account of the fact that the prisoners would still be alive when they were cut up.

“Nijat, we really are going to hell.”

Economic Downturn Took a Detour at Capitol Hill - NYTimes.com

Economic Downturn Took a Detour at Capitol Hill - NYTimes.com: In an effort to gauge how directly the country’s economic problems affected lawmakers, The New York Times contacted the offices of the 534 current members (one seat is vacant) for an informal survey. It asked if they had close friends or family members who had lost jobs or homes since the 2008 downturn.

Only 18 members responded.

Decades later, a Cold War secret is revealed - Yahoo! News

Decades later, a Cold War secret is revealed - Yahoo! News: DANBURY, Conn. (AP) — For more than a decade they toiled in the strange, boxy-looking building on the hill above the municipal airport, the building with no windows (except in the cafeteria), the building filled with secrets.

They wore protective white jumpsuits, and had to walk through air-shower chambers before entering the sanitized "cleanroom" where the equipment was stored.

They spoke in code.

Few knew the true identity of "the customer" they met in a smoke-filled, wood-paneled conference room where the phone lines were scrambled. When they traveled, they sometimes used false names.

Biased but....?

The Epidemic of Mental Illness: Why? by Marcia Angell | The New York Review of Books: Altogether, there were forty-two trials of the six drugs. Most of them were negative. Overall, placebos were 82 percent as effective as the drugs, as measured by the Hamilton Depression Scale (HAM-D), a widely used score of symptoms of depression. The average difference between drug and placebo was only 1.8 points on the HAM-D, a difference that, while statistically significant, was clinically meaningless. The results were much the same for all six drugs: they were all equally unimpressive. Yet because the positive studies were extensively publicized, while the negative ones were hidden, the public and the medical profession came to believe that these drugs were highly effective antidepressants.

A conservative vision

Beyond the Welfare State > Publications > National Affairs: It is becoming increasingly clear that we in America are living through a period of transition. One chapter of our national life is closing, and another is about to begin. We can sense this in the tense volatility of our electoral politics, as dramatic "change elections" follow closely upon one another. We can feel it in the unseemly mood of decline that has infected our public life — leaving our usually cheerful nation fretful about global competition and unsure if the next generation will be able to live as well as the present one. Perhaps above all, we can discern it in an overwhelming sense of exhaustion emanating from many of our public institutions — our creaking mid-century transportation infrastructure, our overburdened regulatory agencies struggling to keep pace with a dynamic economy, our massive entitlement system edging toward insolvency.

Features of a successful therapeutic fast of 382 days' duration -- Stewart and Fleming 49 (569): 203 -- Postgraduate Medical Journal

Features of a successful therapeutic fast of 382 days' duration -- Stewart and Fleming 49 (569): 203 -- Postgraduate Medical Journal: A 27-year-old male patient fasted under supervision for 382 days and has subsequently maintained his normal weight. Blood glucose concentrations around 30 mg/100 ml were recorded consistently during the last 8 months, although the patient was ambulant and attending as an out-patient. Responses to glucose and tolbutamide tolerance tests remained normal. The hyperglycaemic response to glucagon was reduced and latterly absent, but promptly returned to normal during carbohydrate refeeding. After an initial decrease was corrected, plasma potassium levels remained normal without supplementation. A temporary period of hypercalcaemia occurred towards the end of the fast. Decreased plasma magnesium concentrations were a consistent feature from the first month onwards. After 100 days of fasting there was a marked and persistent increase in the excretion of urinary cations and inorganic phosphate, which until then had been minimal. These increases may be due to dissolution of excessive soft tissue and skeletal mass. Prolonged fasting in this patient had no ill-effects

The Inequality That Matters - Tyler Cowen - The American Interest Magazine

The Inequality That Matters - Tyler Cowen - The American Interest Magazine: First, the inequality of personal well-being is sharply down over the past hundred years and perhaps over the past twenty years as well. Bill Gates is much, much richer than I am, yet it is not obvious that he is much happier if, indeed, he is happier at all. I have access to penicillin, air travel, good cheap food, the Internet and virtually all of the technical innovations that Gates does. Like the vast majority of Americans, I have access to some important new pharmaceuticals, such as statins to protect against heart disease. To be sure, Gates receives the very best care from the world’s top doctors, but our health outcomes are in the same ballpark. I don’t have a private jet or take luxury vacations, and—I think it is fair to say—my house is much smaller than his. I can’t meet with the world’s elite on demand. Still, by broad historical standards, what I share with Bill Gates is far more significant than what I don’t share with him.

The Broken Contract | Foreign Affairs

The Broken Contract | Foreign Affairs: Inequality hardens society into a class system, imprisoning people in the circumstances of their birth -- a rebuke to the very idea of the American dream. Inequality divides us from one another in schools, in neighborhoods, at work, on airplanes, in hospitals, in what we eat, in the condition of our bodies, in what we think, in our children's futures, in how we die. Inequality makes it harder to imagine the lives of others -- which is one reason why the fate of over 14 million more or less permanently unemployed Americans leaves so little impression in the country's political and media capitals. Inequality corrodes trust among fellow citizens, making it seem as if the game is rigged. Inequality provokes a generalized anger that finds targets where it can -- immigrants, foreign countries, American elites, government in all forms -- and it rewards demagogues while discrediting reformers. Inequality saps the will to conceive of ambitious solutions to large collective problems, because those problems no longer seem very collective. Inequality undermines democracy.

26 December, 2011

#Riot: Self-Organized, Hyper-Networked Revolts—Coming to a City Near You | Magazine

#Riot: Self-Organized, Hyper-Networked Revolts—Coming to a City Near You | Magazine: And it’s not too far a stretch to extend this same idea into the realm of protests. This is, at root, the way that Occupy Wall Street defied expectations to become a genuine political force. The media harped on how these protests grew through Twitter, but it was really the movement’s Tumblr—wearethe99percent.tumblr.com—that made it work. Those photos of struggling Americans essentially virtualized the occupation; the street protesters were merely the visible symbol of the giant, subterranean mob of Americans struggling to get by. What’s really revolutionary about all these gatherings—what remains both dangerous and magnificent about them—is the way they represent a disconnected group getting connected, a mega-underground casting off its invisibility to embody itself, formidably, in physical space.

n 1: Outsourcing Jobs

n 1: Outsourcing Jobs: Yet few people needed or wanted Apple products in 2003, when Apple had been around for twenty-six years. Starting in 2003, Apple was able to grow revenue exponentially not due to a mass craze for its computers but by being the first company to build self-contained, smartly designed products that leveraged three technological advances well beyond Apple’s invention: the easy digitization of artistic content, the mass availability of the internet, and the spread of wireless broadband. One of the ironies of the present Age of Apple is that the company, a product developer, finally reached the pinnacle of global industry in an era of dematerialization, when the giddy-up in the technology sector has moved towards the internet, ways to communicate, and content itself.

25 December, 2011

Well this is creepy

Amazon Patents Deducing Religion From Gift Wrap:

"If you're the giver or recipient of presents gift-wrapped by Amazon, you may want to take a gander at U.S. Patent No. 8,060,463, granted to Amazon last month for Mining of User Event Data to Identify Users with Common Interests. Among other things, Amazon explains the invention can be used to identify recipients of gifts as Christian or Jewish based on wrapping paper. From the patent: 'The gift wrap used by such other users when purchasing gifts for this user, such as when the gift wrap evidences the user's religion (in the case of Christmas or Hanukkah gift wrap, for example.)'"

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas:


The Gospel of Luke 2:1-20

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas:


The Gospel of Luke 2:1-20

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

23 December, 2011

Does Airport Security Really Make Us Safer? | Culture | Vanity Fair

Does Airport Security Really Make Us Safer? | Culture | Vanity Fair: From an airplane-hijacking point of view, Schneier said, al-Qaeda had used up its luck. Passengers on the first three 9/11 flights didn’t resist their captors, because in the past the typical consequence of a plane seizure had been “a week in Havana.” When the people on the fourth hijacked plane learned by cell phone that the previous flights had been turned into airborne bombs, they attacked their attackers. The hijackers were forced to crash Flight 93 into a field. “No big plane will ever be taken that way again, because the passengers will fight back,” Schneier said. Events have borne him out. The instigators of the two most serious post-9/11 incidents involving airplanes— the “shoe bomber” in 2001 and the “underwear bomber” in 2009, both of whom managed to get onto an airplane with explosives—were subdued by angry passengers.

From Politico

STOCKING STUFFER: When the big Amazon boxes arrived this week, the Playbooker’s wife ribbed him for ordering $256 worth of Legos for their 4-year-old son. He's a smart kid, but the 8 Legos were just too complex. Dad protested: "I didn't order it!" So they checked with grandparents and aunts and uncles, but no one 'fessed up. Then when Dad was going through online receipts, he realized that the 4-year-old had discovered Amazon Prime “1-Click Ordering” -- and bought the Legos himself.

22 December, 2011

GOP Primary Candidate Venn Diagram #3: Willard Mitt Romney | Matt Glassman

GOP Primary Candidate Venn Diagram #3: Willard Mitt Romney | Matt Glassman

Santa Claus Is Coming to Town

Santa Claus Is Coming to Town:

With only three days left until Christmas, Santa Claus appears to be just about everywhere - assisted by armies of Santa's Helpers. Photographers have captured images of people dressed as jolly old Saint Nick in the United Kingdom, Japan, India, Australia, the United States, and other countries throughout the world. People everywhere are observing the season of giving not only by donning red and white apparel but by participating in charitable events, passing out gifts, listening to Christmas wishes, and simply having fun. Collected below are recent images of Santa Claus and his many helpers around the world. (Disclaimer: At least one of them may not be the Real Santa Claus.) [28 photos]

Olivia Ruch, a seven-month-old with a look of concern on her face, sits on Santa's lap in Santa's Grotto in Selfridges department store in London, England, on December 7, 2011. Santa is portrayed by actor David Warren, who has been playing the role for the past ten years. (Reuters/Suzanne Plunkett)

21 December, 2011

Newt Gingrich to gay Iowan: Vote for Obama | Iowa Caucuses

Newt Gingrich to gay Iowan: Vote for Obama | Iowa Caucuses: Newt Gingrich told a gay man and longtime resident of Oskaloosa here today that he should vote for President Obama.

“I asked him if he’s elected, how does he plan to engage gay Americans. How are we to support him? And he told me to support Obama,” said Scott Arnold, an adjunct professor of writing at William Penn University

List of animals with fraudulent diplomas - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

List of animals with fraudulent diplomas - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

20 December, 2011

Equality Is Efficient

Equality Is Efficient: Conversely, you could look at the case of Greg Mankiw who agrees with Lane that redistributive taxation is a bad idea. Mankiw, however, is too familiar with my argument about the inefficiency of inequality and instead argues on ethical grounds that redistributive taxation is morally wrong even though it can improve social welfare. This rather than old arguments about whether the United States should abandon the mixed economy in favor of socialism seems like the real question to grapple with.

Don't Break the Internet - Stanford Law Review

Don't Break the Internet - Stanford Law Review: It would be not just ironic, but tragic, were the United States to join the ranks of these repressive and restrictive regimes, erecting our own “virtual walls” to prevent people from accessing portions of the world’s networks. Passage of these bills will compromise our ability to defend the principle of the single global Internet—the Internet that looks the same to, and allows free and unfettered communication between, users located in Boston, Bucharest, and Buenos Aires, free of locally imposed censorship regimes. As such, it may represent the biggest threat to the Internet in its history.

What the nanny saw: Housekeeper's stunning images of 1950s Chicago show working class America in a new light | Mail Online

What the nanny saw: Housekeeper's stunning images of 1950s Chicago show working class America in a new light | Mail Online: After spending decades collecting dust the work of an unlikely artist has finally been uncovered.

To the outside world Vivian Maier was just a nanny and housekeeper working in Chicago. But she also had a hidden talent was not recognised until after her death in 2009.

Maier spent her life wandering the streets of Chicago with a Rolleflex camera strapped to her neck taking remarkable black and white pictures of a different side of the city, and a different side of life in America.

Armed Forces Humor

PffIO.jpg (JPEG Image, 960x720 pixels) - Scaled (88%)

The Worst Man | The New Republic

The Worst Man | The New Republic: The world may not lack for oppressive regimes and mass murderers—from Bashir in Sudan to Mugabe in Zimbabwe to Ahmadinejad in Iran to the leaders of China’s Communist Party—but there can be little doubt that the suffering of North Koreans is “sui generis,” in the words of the United Nations special rapporteur on human rights. Because North Korea is less open than any other society, we hear comparatively little about conditions on the ground there. But what information we have about life in the country is horrifying. The massive labor camps in which political prisoners and their offspring toil (the sickening details can be found in this Washington Post profile of an inmate who escaped); the radios installed in people’s homes that play government propaganda and cannot be turned off; the widespread reports of malnutrition and starvation even as Kim and his family hoarded luxury items: All of it paints a picture of a reality so horrifying that it is probably beyond our comprehension to fully understand.

Prettty cute

Cat mom hugs baby kitten - YouTube

Winners of the National Geographic Photo Contest 2011

Winners of the National Geographic Photo Contest 2011:

[See also this earlier collection of 45 entries from this year's contest.] [15 photos]

"Splashing", Grand Prize Winner and winner of the Nature category. This photo was taken when I was taking photos of other insects, as I normally did during macro photo hunting. I wasn't actually aware of this dragonfly since I was occupied with other objects. When I was about to take a picture of it, it suddenly rained, but the lighting was just superb. I decided to take the shot regardless of the rain. The result caused me to be overjoyed, and I hope it pleases viewers. Location: Batam, Riau Islands, Indonesia. (© Shikhei Goh)

14 December, 2011

Marines’ Haditha Interviews Found in Iraqi Junkyard - NYTimes.com

Marines’ Haditha Interviews Found in Iraqi Junkyard - NYTimes.com: “So, you know, maybe — I guess maybe if I was sitting here at Quantico and heard that 15 civilians were killed I would have been surprised and shocked and gone — done more to look into it,” he testified, referring to Marine Corps Base Quantico in Virginia. “But at that point in time, I felt that was — had been, for whatever reason, part of that engagement and felt that it was just a cost of doing business on that particular engagement.”

Target Gets Robbed via Facebook Promotion | b/c

Target Gets Robbed via Facebook Promotion | b/c: As you can see via this 37 page thread with almost 1500 posts, people found that they could effectively rob Target legally (At least I think its legal. I’m not an attorney.) What they found they could do was this:

They would buy a $50 Target gift card, use the coupon and get a $10 Target gift card free. They would then purchase another $50 Target gift card using the FIRST $50 Target gift card to pay for the SECOND Target gift card, use another coupon and get another $10 Target gift card. (Initial purchase: $50. Profit: $20. etc.) Rinse and repeat.

13 December, 2011

How to Get Dumped by a Hollywood Starlet by @Markradcliffe — The Good Men Project

How to Get Dumped by a Hollywood Starlet by @Markradcliffe — The Good Men Project: When she asks about it, mention your brief stint in acting. When she asks why you quit, be honest and say the uncertainty was driving you mad, that you realized you cared more about the writing than the performance. Then realize you haven’t asked her what she does yet. When she tells you she’s an actor, turn an appropriate shade of red.

Ask her if there’s anything you’ve seen her in. She’ll like that you have no idea who she is—because frankly, you’ll later realize, you should have. She’ll cop to a few small roles, but completely hide the fact that she’s been the lead in major motion pictures, one of which was number one at the box office.

The real definition of Terrorism - Salon.com

The real definition of Terrorism - Salon.com: The FBI yesterday announced it has secured an indictment against Faruq Khalil Muhammad ‘Isa, a 38-year-old citizen of Iraq currently in Canada, from which the U.S. is seeking his extradition. The headline on the FBI’s Press Release tells the basic story: “Alleged Terrorist Indicted in New York for the Murder of Five American Soldiers.” The criminal complaint previously filed under seal provides the details: ‘Isa is charged with “providing material support to a terrorist conspiracy” because he allegedly supported a 2008 attack on a U.S. military base in Mosul that killed 5 American soldiers. In other words, if the U.S. invades and occupies your country, and you respond by fighting back against the invading army — the ultimate definition of a “military, not civilian target” — then you are a . . . Terrorist.

HSIjI.gif (GIF Image, 469x555 pixels)

HSIjI.gif (GIF Image, 469x555 pixels)

HSIjI.gif (GIF Image, 469x555 pixels)

HSIjI.gif (GIF Image, 469x555 pixels)

BBC News - Top economists reveal their graphs of 2011

BBC News - Top economists reveal their graphs of 2011

China's Abandoned Wonderland

China's Abandoned Wonderland:

In Chenzhuang Village, China, about 20 miles northwest of central Beijing, the ruins of a partially built amusement park called Wonderland sit near a highway, surrounded by houses and fields of corn. Construction work at the park, which developers had promised would be "the largest amusement park in Asia," stopped around 1998 after disagreements with the local government and farmers over property prices. Developers briefly tried to restart construction in 2008, but without success. The abandoned structures are now a draw for local children and a few photographers, who encounter signs telling them to proceed at their own risk. Reuters photographer David Gray visited the site on a chilly morning earlier this month and returned with these haunting images of a would-be Wonderland. [21 photos]

A farmer carries a shovel over his shoulder as he walks to tend his crops in a field that includes an abandoned castle-like building that was to be part of an amusement park called "Wonderland", on the outskirts of Beijing, China, on December 5, 2011. (Reuters/David Gray)

12 December, 2011

I hope such exchanges can happen everywhere

Vietnam Vet Challenges Romney On Gay Marriage : NPR: Even in New Hampshire, old-fashioned retail campaigning is somewhat rare this election season. And an exchange Monday between GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney and a Vietnam veteran may only reinforce the pattern. While shaking hands in a Manchester diner this morning, the former Massachusetts governor asked the vet if he could sit down to talk for a few minutes. What Romney couldn't have predicted is that the veteran is gay — and had a simple question on gay marriage.

Oh good Lord, this isn't fair

Santorum And Sandusky:

This I didn't know:

Another audience member questioned the candidate about Santorum awarding former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky with the Angels in Adoption Award. Santorum explained that he lacked knowledge of the situation at the time and noted that the award has since been withdrawn.

In response to his explanation, the audience member asked, "So we shouldn't trust Obama with our kids, but we can trust you?"

11 December, 2011

How Doctors Die

How Doctors Die � Z�calo Public Square: Years ago, Charlie, a highly respected orthopedist and a mentor of mine, found a lump in his stomach. He had a surgeon explore the area, and the diagnosis was pancreatic cancer. This surgeon was one of the best in the country. He had even invented a new procedure for this exact cancer that could triple a patient’s five-year-survival odds—from 5 percent to 15 percent—albeit with a poor quality of life. Charlie was uninterested. He went home the next day, closed his practice, and never set foot in a hospital again. He focused on spending time with family and feeling as good as possible. Several months later, he died at home. He got no chemotherapy, radiation, or surgical treatment. Medicare didn’t spend much on him.

It’s not a frequent topic of discussion, but doctors die, too. And they don’t die like the rest of us. What’s unusual about them is not how much treatment they get compared to most Americans, but how little. For all the time they spend fending off the deaths of others, they tend to be fairly serene when faced with death themselves. They know exactly what is going to happen, they know the choices, and they generally have access to any sort of medical care they could want. But they go gently.

I don't see how anyone can see trans people as anything but natural with stories like this.

Led by the child who simply knew - The Boston Globe: Jonas and Wyatt Maines were born identical twins, but from the start each had a distinct personality.

Jonas was all boy. He loved Spiderman, action figures, pirates, and swords.

Wyatt favored pink tutus and beads. At 4, he insisted on a Barbie birthday cake and had a thing for mermaids. On Halloween, Jonas was Buzz Lightyear. Wyatt wanted to be a princess; his mother compromised on a prince costume.

Once, when Wyatt appeared in a sequin shirt and his mother’s heels, his father said: “You don’t want to wear that.’’

“Yes, I do,’’ Wyatt replied.

“Dad, you might as well face it,’’ Wayne recalls Jonas saying. “You have a son and a daughter.’’

Awesome. If true.

BBC News - Republicans Gingrich and Huntsman to hold epic debate: Republican presidential hopefuls Newt Gingrich and Jon Huntsman plan to hold a debate styled on the historic 1858 tussles between Abraham Lincoln and Senator Stephen Douglas.

Their campaigns say the debate, to be held on Monday 12 December at St Anselm College in New Hampshire, will provide a detailed exploration of their positions and views for the country.

09 December, 2011

The Physics of Great White Sharks Leaping Out of the Water to Catch Seals

Correction Of The Day

Correction Of The Day:

From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

CMU professor Kiron Skinner, recently named to GOP presidential candidate and former House speaker Newt Gingrich's national security team, says she was misquoted in a story Monday about her appointment. She said her quote was: "I've been a supporter of Speaker Gingrich for a long time because I've seen him in numerous professional circumstances..." The published quote was "... numerous unprofessional circumstances ..."

War Games - The Rumpus.net

War Games - The Rumpus.net: Perhaps the most famous moment of war and sports converging occurred in the winter of 1914, on the Western Front. “The Christmas Truce,” between British and German soldiers, led to a spontaneous game of soccer in No man’s land, while their brothers in arms cheered them on and swapped gifts with one another. By all accounts, it was a fleeting moment of peace and compassion in the midst of one of the darkest times in world history. Men put down their rifles, picked up a soccer ball, and tried to find themselves again, if only for a day. And there’s the rub. For all the similarities between war and sports, the latter enriches our humanity, while the former attempts to destroy it. Sometimes, too many times really, the world goes entirely mad. And when that happens, playing a kid’s game to wait it out doesn’t seem childish at all.

08 December, 2011

A woman recants when the gov't does something for her....

Breast cancer, health insurance and an apology to President Obama - latimes.com: Fortunately for me, I've been saved by the federal government's Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plan, something I had never heard of before needing it. It's part of President Obama's healthcare plan, one of the things that has already kicked in, and it guarantees access to insurance for U.S. citizens with preexisting conditions who have been uninsured for at least six months. The application was short, the premiums are affordable, and I have found the people who work in the administration office to be quite compassionate (nothing like the people I have dealt with over the years at other insurance companies.) It's not perfect, of course, and it still leaves many people in need out in the cold. But it's a start, and for me it's been a lifesaver — perhaps literally.

07 December, 2011

Christopher Hitchens Takes on Nietzsche: Am I Really Stronger? | Culture | Vanity Fair

Christopher Hitchens Takes on Nietzsche: Am I Really Stronger? | Culture | Vanity Fair: Reviewing familiar principles and maxims in the face of mortal illness, Christopher Hitchens has found one of them increasingly ridiculous: “Whatever doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.” Oh, really? Take the case of the philosopher to whom that line is usually attributed, Friedrich Nietzsche, who lost his mind to what was probably syphilis. Or America’s homegrown philosopher Sidney Hook, who survived a stroke and wished he hadn’t. Or, indeed, the author, viciously weakened by the very medicine that is keeping him alive.


People Who Criticize the City of South Fulton, TN are History’s Greatest Monster | RedState: The political and PR pressure being exerted on city officials (who, as politicians, are as averse to these things as gremlins are to sunlight) is enormous. A sizeable number of people are apparently of the belief that the City of South Fulton simply must continue to provide fire protection services to people who are beyond its power to tax and who refuse to pay for them voluntarily. This despite the fact that the people who have chosen to live in unincorporated areas are surely saving well over a paltry $75 a year by not having to pay city property taxes.

Huge Japan quake cracked open seafloor - Technology & science - Science - OurAmazingPlanet - msnbc.com

Huge Japan quake cracked open seafloor - Technology & science - Science - OurAmazingPlanet - msnbc.com: SAN FRANCISCO — The March 2011 megaquake off the coast of Japan opened up fissures as wide as 6 feet (3 meters) in the seafloor, a new study finds.

The fissures now scar the seafloor where peaceful clam beds once lay, according to Takeshi Tsuji, a researcher at Kyoto University in Japan. Along with seismic studies, the fissures, revealed by manned submersible vehicles that investigated the seafloor after the quake, show how the crust around the quake's epicenter expanded and cracked

Blagojevich handed 14-year jail term as judge ignores pleas for leniency | World news | guardian.co.uk

Blagojevich handed 14-year jail term as judge ignores pleas for leniency | World news | guardian.co.uk: A district judge ignored pleas for leniency as he sent the former governor of Illinois, Rod Blagojevich, to prison for 14 years for trying to sell a vacant seat to the US Senate.

Under federal rules Blagojevich must serve just under 12 years at the very least – almost twice as much as his predecessor, George Ryan, who was imprisoned for six years for his corrupt activities as governor.

The judge said a harsh penalty was necessary because Blagojevich had "torn at the fabric" of the state and left it disfigured by trying to secure a high-paying job or campaign funds through his power to appoint someone to Barack Obama's vacant senate seat. Blagojevich does not have to report to federal prison until 16 February.

This would be cool. But.....

Michael Kazin: Why A Gingrich Vs. Obama Matchup Would Be Good For The Country | The New Republic: But if Newt somehow manages to surmount these obstacles, imagine what a refreshing campaign he and Obama could wage. Gingrich has already vowed to challenge the president to hold lengthy debates—absent the usual moderators, with their tired Q & A format. Obama would have to agree, lest he seem cowardly. And this could set up the kind of campaign Americans have never witnessed before: a serious debate between articulate exponents of liberalism and conservatism—the ideological conflict that has shaped American politics since the emergence of a mass movement on the right in the 1950s.

2011: The Year in Photos, Part 2 of 3 - Alan Taylor - In Focus - The Atlantic

2011: The Year in Photos, Part 2 of 3 - Alan Taylor - In Focus - The Atlantic

Number 5

06 December, 2011

The Fitness of Physical Models - Miller-McCune

The Fitness of Physical Models - Miller-McCune: The four main bays that make up the San Francisco Bay estuary can all be seen from here: San Pablo, Suisun, Central and South Bay. The entire San Francisco Bay, including its famous bridges, is visible, and the whale is spectacular.

This view is possible from only one vantage point on Earth: inside a WWII-era warehouse.

That warehouse holds the Bay Model, the largest working hydraulic model in the United States; its 1.5 acres replicate a 1,600-square-mile area that runs from the Pacific Ocean to the Sacramento Delta. It is not an exact replica: the delta has been shifted 45 degrees so that it fits into the building, and the whale and the Pacific Ocean are painted on a wall.

Our World: An ally no more - JPost - Opinion - Columnists

Our World: An ally no more - JPost - Opinion - Columnists: Until the US-supported overthrow of Hosni Mubarak, Egypt served as the anchor of the US alliance system in the Arab world. The Egyptian military is US-armed, US-trained and US-financed.

The Suez Canal is among the most vital waterways in the world for the US Navy and the global economy.

Due to Mubarak’s commitment to stemming the tide of jihadist forces that threatened his regime, under his rule Egypt served as a major counter-terror hub in the US-led war against international jihad.

GIVEN EGYPT’S singular importance to US strategic interests in the Arab world, the Obama administration’s response to the calamitous election results has been shocking. Rather than sound the alarm bells, US President Barack Obama has celebrated the results as a victory for “democracy.”

05 December, 2011

The Muppets and moi | Television & radio | The Guardian

The Muppets and moi | Television & radio | The Guardian: Some of us, for the record, have always played the music. And some of us, also just to clarify, never stopped lighting the lights. That's because, for us in the cultural elite, we are always ready to meet the Muppets on The Muppet Show tonight.

When it was announced on Tuesday that US TV broadcaster NBC has commissioned a script for a new series of the Muppets, the reaction among critics, commentators and tweeters was, frankly, remarkable. It is rare that a four-decades old franchise can announce a return to TV and prompt such unabashed enthusiasm as well as a total lack of cynicism about quality control. Everyone loves the Muppets – that goes without saying. More surprising is how many people want them back, creating, satirising, karate chopping.


Steven Spielberg | Spielberg Still Cashing In Star Wars Bet | Contactmusic: STEVEN SPIELBERG still makes money from STAR WARS thirty years after coming out on top in a bet with movie mogul pal GEORGE LUCAS. Lucas was so convinced his first Star Wars film would be a flop in 1977, he bet Spielberg a percentage of the take his sci-fi epic, Close Encounters Of The Third Kind would be a bigger film.

Dear Left: Corporatism Is Your Fault | Bleeding Heart Libertarians

Dear Left: Corporatism Is Your Fault | Bleeding Heart Libertarians: You complain, perhaps rightly, that corporations are just too big. Well, yeah, we told you that would happen. When you create complicated tax codes, complicated regulatory regimes, and complicated licensing rules, these regulations naturally select for larger and larger corporations. We told you that would happen. Of course, these increasingly large corporations then capture these rules, codes, and regulations to disadvantage their competitors and exploit the rest of us. We told you that would happen.

Dear Left: Corporatism Is Your Fault | Bleeding Heart Libertarians

Dear Left: Corporatism Is Your Fault | Bleeding Heart Libertarians: You complain, perhaps rightly, that corporations are just too big. Well, yeah, we told you that would happen. When you create complicated tax codes, complicated regulatory regimes, and complicated licensing rules, these regulations naturally select for larger and larger corporations. We told you that would happen. Of course, these increasingly large corporations then capture these rules, codes, and regulations to disadvantage their competitors and exploit the rest of us. We told you that would happen.

04 December, 2011

Good point

Andy Stern’s Peculiar Idea - By Reihan Salam - The Agenda - National Review Online: To really learn from the Chinese, and to enjoy such staggering growth rates, we should go about things differently: let’s have a Maoist insurrection followed by a civil war that lasts for several years. Then let’s destroy most of the wealth in the country, and drive out millions of our most enterprising and educated citizens by launching systematic terror campaigns during which millions of others will die in violence or of starvation. Next, let’s have a modest economic opening in coastal regions: impoverished citizens will be allowed to launch small-scale township and village enterprises and components will be assembled in a handful of cities by our stunted descendants. Then...

The saddest statistic in Iowa

The saddest statistic in Iowa:

The Des Moines Register poll asked:

"Which of the candidates have you seen in person before the caucuses?"

Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum got 12%. Santorum has run a traditional, all-in Iowa campaign, practically moving to the state and visiting each of its counties.

Romney has been there four times this year.

This may be `08 hangover, or it may be the extent to which the national media primary has confused voters about even their own experience.

30 November, 2011

The Sing-Off: Best singing competition you never watched!

The Sing-Off: Best singing competition you never watched!: NBC put some major stock in The Sing-Off. Everything was increased from before: episode order up to eleven, two-hour episodes, number contestants rose from ten groups to sixteen, promos and social media flooded the market.

So how did it fare?

Not well. The show’s been living on Monday nights at 8pm, facing stiff competition from ABC’s Dancing with the Stars and CBS’s comedy block (How I Met Your Mother, 2 Broke Girls, Two and a Half Men, and Mike and Molly). The ratings have been dismal: just 1.4 adults in the 18-49 rating for last week’s finals. All and all, a total flop.

But here’s the twist in all this: The Sing-Off is actually the best reality singing competition on television. Far better than American Idol, The X Factor, and The Voice combined. Because unlike those other shows, The Sing-Off features:

I swear this blog

We Are the 99 Percent: I am 42 years old, with a graduate degree. I am one of the lucky ones. I work three jobs. I am a teacher, an interpretr, and a braille processor. I work as much as I can because I am the sole support of my household, and I am the only one with health insurance. We live paycheck to paycheck. I am lucky, but I too am part of the 99%

Into the Light - Esquire

Into the Light - Esquire: May looked at everything in the office, and everything was fascinating. Light and information kept blasting in, and he wanted to keep up with it all, to catalog this incredible parade. When Goodman finally sent him on his way, he could not take a step down the hallway without asking Jennifer, "What's this? What's that?" He touched everything. Is that a step? Is that a flower? That's a painting? Let me feel it. Can I touch that plant? Let me touch a car. That's a red zone on the street. I can see the red."

Driving home, the world rushed in. He saw a tree that Jennifer told him was, in fact, a cement divider. He saw exit signs and recognized letters but could not read the words. He saw the water below a bridge and that the water was moving. He told Jennifer, "I'm thrilled. It's endless. This is thrilling."

The Germans go to town

A Club of Liars, Demagogues, and Fools—By Scott Horton (Harper's Magazine): Africa is a country. The Taliban rule in Libya. Muslims are terrorists. Immigrants are mostly criminals, Occupy Wall Street protesters are always dirty. And women who claim to have been sexually molested should kindly keep quiet.”

Welcome to the wonderful world of the Republican Party. Or rather: to the distorted world of its presidential campaign. For months it has coiled through the country like a traveling circus, from debate to debate, from scandal to scandal, contesting the mightiest office in the world — and nothing is ever too unfathomable for them… These eight presidential wannabes are happy enough not only to demolish their own reputations but also that of their party, the once worthy party of Abraham Lincoln. They are also ruining the reputation of the United States.

Endorsed. Waterboarding is torture.

The Torture Party:

Gingrich cements the new orthodoxy of the GOP:

Waterboarding is by every technical rule not torture. [Applause] Waterboarding is actually something we’ve done with our own pilots in order to get them used to the idea to what interrogation is like. It’s not — I’m not saying it’s not bad, and it’s not difficult, it’s not frightening. I’m just saying that under the normal rules internationally it’s not torture.

I think the right balance is that a prisoner can only be waterboarded at the direction of the president in a circumstance which the information was of such great importance that we thought it was worth the risk of doing it and I do that frankly only out of concern for world opinion. But we do not want to be known as a country that capriciously mistreats human beings.

The problem is not caprice. The problem is torture. Waterboarding by every conceivable rule is torture. No court has ever found otherwise in any country that adheres to the Geneva Conventions or the UN Coinvention on Torture signed by Ronald Reagan. Several federal court opinions define waterboarding as torture. The US government executed Japanese military leaders following World War II for waterboarding. It was judged torture in the 1926 Mississippi Supreme Court case, which Gingrich as a "historian" should know by now. It is featured in Cambodia's Museum of Torture to commemorate the abuses of the Khmer Rouge. As the UN Rapporteur on torture has said:

I don’t think there is any question, any serious question. I mean it’s a question of severity. If you think that waterboarding is not severe mistreatment you don’t really know what waterboarding is. … I mean if you then redefine upwards the severity standard to say that it’s only severe if it’s organ failure or death, then you know you’re really very clearly distorting the sense of the words and you know words have to be interpreted in treaty language, they have to be interpreted in their plain meaning and their plain meaning couldn’t be more clear in the case of waterboarding.

This is not an opinion. It is a fact. What Gingrich has said is untrue. It cannot stand. What the last president authorized was torture, a war crime under domestic and international law.

Whither Occupy? (Probably not the ballot box.)

What the Occupiers actually need to do is elect Occupy-approved candidates to Congress. If they do not do this, then their movement is meaningless – which it is, of course; but the ongoing lack of Congressional representation that is beholden to the Occupy movement will merely make that fact more obvious, more quickly (and to more people). And note that I did not write ‘have Occupy-friendly advocates in Congress:’ it’s not enough to have sitting progressive Democrats show solidarity. They don’t need Occupier support to keep their seats, you see; which limits the amount of change that Occupiers can force them to support.

And, in case nobody’s ever pointed this out to the Activist Left, let me be the first: sometimes you have to use the stick on your party’s politicians. To paraphrase Machiavelli… it’s great if your politicians love you, but it’s even better if they’re also slightly afraid of you, too. And they have to keep being slightly afraid of you, which means that you have to sustain your original effort and make it clear that you’re still paying attention to their shenanigans. In other words, electing like-minded public officials is a process, not an event (Tea Party activists, please take note).

I don't see any problem with a country buying these ads if it wishes, but it's not my business.

Netanyahu Government Suggests Israelis Avoid Marrying American Jews - Jeffrey Goldberg - International - The Atlantic: The Netanyahu government's Ministry of Immigrant Absorption is sponsoring advertisements in at least five American communities that warn Israeli expatriates that they will lose their identities if they don't return home.

The Ministry is also featuring on its website a series of short videos that, in an almost comically heavy-handed way, caution Israelis against raising their children in America -- one scare-ad shows a pair of Israeli grandparents seated before a menorah and Skypeing with their granddaughter, who lives in America. When they ask the child to name the holiday they're celebrating, she says "Christmas." In another ad, an actor playing a slightly-adenoidal, goateed young man (who, to my expert Semitic eye, is meant to represent a typical young American Jew) is shown to be oblivious to the fact that his Israeli girlfriend is in mourning on Yom HaZikaron, Israel's memorial day.

Musings On Iraq: How Iraq’s Oil Plans May Set Back The Country’s Economy

Musings On Iraq: How Iraq’s Oil Plans May Set Back The Country’s Economy: Iraq has the potential to become an oil superpower. It is expanding and repairing its petroleum infrastructure, and plans on bringing in more foreign companies next year. That would seem to be beneficial for the country, and offer wealth to the entire nation. Instead, the boost in the petroleum industry will enrich the government, which has proven incapable of managing its funds. More useless government jobs will be created, more large development projects will be announced with many failing to come to fruition, and there will be even less reason for the authorities to push the private sector.

The Prosecution’s Case Against DNA - NYTimes.com

The Prosecution’s Case Against DNA - NYTimes.com: More often, though, the fate of an inmate with powerful new evidence of innocence still rests with local prosecutors, some of whom have spun creative theories to explain away the exculpatory findings. In Nassau County on Long Island, after DNA evidence showed that the sperm in a 16-year-old murder victim did not come from the man convicted of the crime, prosecutors argued that it must have come from a consensual lover, even though her mother and best friend insisted she was a virgin. (The unnamed-lover theory has been floated so often that defense lawyers have a derisive term for it: “the unindicted co-�ejaculator.”) In Florida, after DNA showed that the pubic hairs at the scene of a rape did not belong to the convicted rapist, prosecutors argued that the hairs found on the victim’s bed could have come from movers who brought furniture to the bedroom a week or so earlier.

BUSTED! Secret app on millions of phones logs key taps • The Register

BUSTED! Secret app on millions of phones logs key taps • The Register: An Android app developer has published what he says is conclusive proof that millions of smartphones are secretly monitoring the key presses, geographic locations, and received messages of its users.

In a YouTube video posted on Monday, Trevor Eckhart showed how software from a Silicon Valley company known as Carrier IQ recorded in real time the keys he pressed into a stock EVO handset, which he had reset to factory settings just prior to the demonstration. Using a packet sniffer while his device was in airplane mode, he demonstrated how each numeric tap and every received text message is logged by the software.

29 November, 2011

The Sing-Off’s Sara Bareilles on Selling A Cappella and Shows Like American Idol -- Vulture

The Sing-Off’s Sara Bareilles on Selling A Cappella and Shows Like American Idol -- Vulture: It’s tough, because the TV world has become more and more sensationalistic and I think some of our direct competition feeds into that. I’m not judging whether it’s good or bad, but I think the eye of the audience member is drawn to the most bombastic version. The heart of this show really stays with harmony, that’s something Ben Folds brought up early on in our journey: This show is about harmony, and a lot of shows are about dissonance.

Be a Jerk: The Worst Business Lesson from the Steve Jobs Biography - Tom McNichol - Business - The Atlantic

Be a Jerk: The Worst Business Lesson from the Steve Jobs Biography - Tom McNichol - Business - The Atlantic: The fact is, Steve Jobs didn't succeed because he was an asshole. He succeeded because he was Steve Jobs. He had an uncanny sixth sense about what consumers wanted, an unmatched ability to adapt existing technology and turn it into something new, and a commitment to quality that turned ordinary Apple customers into fans for life. Being an asshole was part of the Steve package, but it wasn't essential to his success. But that's not a message most of the assholes in the corner offices want to hear.

wired.com by Mobify

wired.com by Mobify: The Iran hostage crisis, which would go on for 444 days, shaking America's confidence and sinking President Jimmy Carter's reelection campaign, had begun. Americans would soon be haunted by Khomeini's grim visage, and well-armed Islamic militants would parade blindfolded hostages across the nightly news and threaten trials for the "spies" that they'd captured. Everyone remembers the 52 Americans trapped at the embassy and the failed rescue attempt a few months later that ended with a disastrous Army helicopter crash in the Iranian desert. But not many know the long- classified details of the CIA's involvement in the escape of the other group — thrust into a hostile city in the throes of revolution.

By 3 o'clock that afternoon, the five people huddled in Anders' one-bedroom apartment realized they were in serious trouble. As the militants seized control, there were fewer English speakers on the radio net. Codename Palm Tree had fled. After the last holdouts in the chancery's vault radioed their surrender, the only voices coming through the box were speaking in Farsi. The embassy was lost. The escapees were on their own.

News Desk: Central Booking : The New Yorker

News Desk: Central Booking : The New Yorker: To be on the other side of the law-and-order machine in this country is awful. It is dehumanizing, and degrading, and deforming. It fills you with a helpless rage: because, once there, you can only make things worse for yourself by speaking up. From the brown phone in our cell at the Tombs, I’d called Emily a few times, and I called the office of n 1, the magazine where I’m an editor. But it felt like those people, my friends, might as well have been on a different planet. They could do what they pleased when they pleased. We could not. I left the world of jail with plenty of relief but more than anything with a sense of unease that I still can’t quite shake. We will be judged as a society and as a culture by how we treated our meanest and most vulnerable citizens. If we keep going the way we’re going, we will be judged very, very harshly—and sooner, perhaps, than we think.

Thanks FTC!

Facebook Settles FTC Charges That It Deceived Consumers By Failing To Keep Privacy Promises: Facebook told users they could restrict sharing of data to limited audiences – for example with "Friends Only." In fact, selecting "Friends Only" did not prevent their information from being shared with third-party applications their friends used.
Facebook had a "Verified Apps" program & claimed it certified the security of participating apps. It didn't.
Facebook promised users that it would not share their personal information with advertisers. It did.
Facebook claimed that when users deactivated or deleted their accounts, their photos and videos would be inaccessible. But Facebook allowed access to the content, even after users had deactivated or deleted their accounts.
Facebook claimed that it complied with the U.S.- EU Safe Harbor Framework that governs data transfer between the U.S. and the European Union. It didn't.

28 November, 2011

An Open Letter to the Left | Alas, a Blog

An Open Letter to the Left | Alas, a Blog: Look, as we on the left are fond of hurling at the right, we’re entitled to our own opinions, but not our own facts. And too often lately, the left is going on with their own facts at the same time the right is going on with theirs. And this leads us to where we are now, where there is literally no common ground between the activists in both parties, because both sides are so certain that they are right, and everyone else is wrong.

The truth is messy. It doesn’t fit into narratives, and it’s often uncomfortable. But damn it, it’s the truth. If the left decides to completely divorce itself from reality at the same time the right does, then we are in trouble — big trouble.

So, lefties, I am asking you politely: please stop. Stop pretending that questionable sources are the gospel truth. Stop pretending that rumor and innuendo are the same as facts. Stop listening to anything Moore and Wolf and Hamsher are saying — because their concern for the truth is roughly the same as that of Hannity and Limbaugh and Coulter, and believe me, it pains me to say that, but it’s true.

27 November, 2011

President Obama Weighs Harry Truman Strategy for 2012 Reelection Campaign - The Daily Beast

President Obama Weighs Harry Truman Strategy for 2012 Reelection Campaign - The Daily Beast: If McConnell concludes that, in an election year focused on the wealth gap, the GOP’s stance on taxes could backfire and cost Republicans their chance to control the Senate, or threaten their majority in the House, then Obama might have a negotiating partner. “The best way to reach a deal for Obama is to pull out the partisan cudgel and slam them between the eyes repeatedly,” says Ornstein. “They’ll only come to the table if their political brand is damaged. They’re not coming for the good of the country.”

Republicans want voters to believe that the supercommittee failed because Obama didn’t show leadership. No one in the White House will admit to a conscious decision to let the supercommittee combust on its own, but that was the practical result. Obama did inject a plan of his own into the deliberations with a 65-page roadmap that the White House released right after Labor Day. It incorporated elements of the Simpson-Bowles deficit commission, which Obama had created but then largely ignored.

26 November, 2011

The Top 10 Relationship Words That Aren't Translatable Into English | Marriage 3.0 | Big Think

The Top 10 Relationship Words That Aren't Translatable Into English | Marriage 3.0 | Big Think: Retrouvailles (French): The happiness of meeting again after a long time.

This is such a basic concept, and so familiar to the growing ranks of commuter relationships, or to a relationship of lovers, who see each other only periodically for intense bursts of pleasure. I’m surprised we don’t have any equivalent word for this subset of relationship bliss. It’s a handy one for modern life.

Fishy Business Here

What Really Happened to Strauss-Kahn? by Edward Jay Epstein | The New York Review of Books: May 14, 2011, was a horrendous day for Dominique Strauss-Kahn, then head of the International Monetary Fund and leading contender to unseat Nicolas Sarkozy as president of France in the April 2012 elections. Waking up in the presidential suite of the Sofitel New York hotel that morning, he was supposed to be soon enroute to Paris and then to Berlin where he had a meeting the following day with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. He could not have known that by late afternoon he would, instead, be imprisoned in New York on a charge of sexual assault. He would then be indicted by a grand jury on seven counts of attempted rape, sexual assault, and unlawful imprisonment, placed under house arrest for over a month, and, two weeks before all the charges were dismissed by the prosecutor on August 23, 2011, sued for sexual abuse by the alleged victim.

25 November, 2011

How London Tried (and Failed) to Become a Cycling City | This Big City

How London Tried (and Failed) to Become a Cycling City | This Big City: One potential reason for these differing reactions could be our collective experience of bicycle use during World War II. Occupying Germans stole thousands of bicycles from the Dutch when they seized the Netherlands, leaving them unable to transport themselves in the manner they were used to. In Britain, however, strict petrol rationing meant bicycle use rose considerably as, for many, it was the only way to get around. The actions of war meant that the Dutch lost their bicycles, but the British were forced on to them.

As soon as the Brits had the opportunity to get off their bicycles they did, with car ownership increasing rapidly in the post-war years, and continuing to remain high. This despite the fact that, as in the Netherlands, campaigns to improve London’s bicycle provisions and encourage a return to bicycle use have been happening since the 1970s.

Dear Princeton Law School

Dear Princeton Law School: Early-1957, Harvey Wax — a young man hoping to one day become a lawyer — sent an application letter to Princeton University's Law School and crossed his fingers. A short time later, he received the following rejection letter. It never fails to amuse me.

It's worth noting that Mr. Wax subsequently applied to Harvard's Law School, was far more successful, and to this day works as a lawyer.

Transcript follows. Image from Bill Shapiro's excellent book, Other Peole's Rejection Letters.



February 11, 1957

Dear Mr. Wax:

In reply to your recent letter, I regret that we must inform you that Princeton University has no Law School.

Sincerely yours,


Joseph L. Bolster, Jr.

Mr. Harvey Wax

1805 Washtenaw

Ann Arbor, Michigan


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24 November, 2011

Agreed, somewhat.

The Liberal Critique of Obama: Judging the President by His Own Standards - Conor Friedersdorf - Politics - The Atlantic: I thought Obama got this. That's what he promised, again and again. That was "the reason [he] was running for President[--]to challenge that system." Yet Obama hasn't played the game that he promised. Instead, the game he has played has been exactly the game that Hillary Clinton promised and that Bill Clinton executed: striking a bargain with the most powerful lobbyists as a way to get a bill through--and as it turns out, the people don't have the most powerful lobbyists. As I watched this strategy unfold, I could not believe it. The idealist in me certainly could not believe that Obama would run a campaign grounded in "change" yet execute an administration that changed nothing of the "way Washington works."

Conspiracy theorists, east your heart out

Sinister Sites: The Georgia Guidestones | The Vigilant Citizen: The Georgia Guidestones is an enigmatic granite monument situated in Elbert County, Georgia. Also known as the American Stonehedge, the gigantic structure is almost 20 feet high and is made of six granite slabs, weighing in total 240,000 pounds. The most astonishing detail of the monument is however not its size but the message engraved into it: Ten rules for an “Age of Reason”. These guides touch upon subjects that are associated with the “New World Order”, including massive depopulation, a single world government, the introduction of a new type of spirituality, etc. The authors of those rules have requested to remain totally anonymous and, until now, their anonymity has been duly preserved. However, this mysterious group left a text explaining the reasoning behind the rules, a text that was not discussed online before. With this new information, the purpose behind the Guidestones become very clear, leaving little room for hypotheses. The Guidestones describe the ideal world, as envisioned by occult Secret Societies. The monument is therefore proof of an existing link between secret societies, the world elite and the push for a New World Order.

Not real. Yet.

Stanford creates everlasting battery electrode & free, water-based electrolyte | ExtremeTech: ow, batteries are already extensively used in the power grid to even out the peaks and troughs of generation and consumption — but such batteries are incredibly expensive, must be regularly maintained, and have very short lifespans. Stanford, however, has developed a new battery electrode that can survive 40,000 charge/discharge cycles — enough for 30 years of use on the grid. Its ruggedness and longevity is a virtue of the material being used: copper hexacyanoferrate.

NFL: The All-22 Football Footage the League Won't Show You - WSJ.com

NFL: The All-22 Football Footage the League Won't Show You - WSJ.com: Every play during an NFL game is filmed from multiple angles in high definition. There are cameras hovering over the field, cameras lashed to the goalposts and cameras pointed at the coaches, who have to cover their mouths to call plays.

But for all the footage available, and despite the $4 billion or so the NFL makes every year by selling its broadcast rights, there's some footage the league keeps hidden.


The Closed, Unfriendly World Of Wikipedia: Right now, Wikipedia is busy asking for donations to stay afloat. Here’s a thought. If it wants donations, maybe open things up so that outsiders feel like they can contribute expert knowledge without wasting their time.

“Mahna Mahna”: How a ditty from a soft-core Italian movie became the Muppets’ catchiest tune. - Slate Magazine

“Mahna Mahna”: How a ditty from a soft-core Italian movie became the Muppets’ catchiest tune. - Slate Magazine: Mahna Mahna, as the character would come to be known, made his televised debut on Nov. 27, 1969, during Sesame Street’s first season. (The YouTube clip below reads Nov. 30, but the authoritative MuppetWiki says Nov. 27.) The setup is identical to the more familiar Muppet Show version, with Mahna Mahna’s hoarse scat pitted against the dulcet “doo dee doo” of the twin Snouths (a portmanteau of “snout” and “mouth”), who shake their heads and purse their lips in disapproval when their irrepressible colleague strays from the script. In Street Gang, Michael Davis’s history of Sesame Street, several of Henson’s colleagues describe his artistic style as “affectionate anarchy,” and it doesn’t take much in the way of exegesis to see an anti-conformist message at work here.

Home for the Holidays | Longform.org

Home for the Holidays | Longform.org: This led to a series of questions about other people in the world that marked the end of my parents’ genius. Up to that point, Dad was an authority on aerodynamics and clouds. Mom knew the names of really fancy diseases and could spell anything. They could identify any animal and tap dance adequately around tougher questions. But right then, my world got bigger than theirs. And I developed a preoccupation with the fleeting consecutive “nows” that passed in distant places without my experience of them. I plotted to replace the sacrificed contentment of home with my very own big world.

The myth of renewable energy | Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

The myth of renewable energy | Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists: There are now seven billion humans on this planet. Until we find a way to reduce our energy consumption and to share Earth's finite resources more equitably among nations and generations, "renewable" energy might as well be called "miscellaneous."

23 November, 2011

Woman Charged For Telling Airline Her Ex-Lover Was Terror Threat | Fox News

Woman Charged For Telling Airline Her Ex-Lover Was Terror Threat | Fox News: Temple City resident Lizet Sariol called United Airlines on Sept. 25 to say there would "be an emergency" on a Las Vegas to Paris flight, according to a criminal complaint filed by the federal government.

Prosecutors allege the 45-year-old woman was seeking revenge on a man who she'd had sexual encounters with over four meetings -- and who had just unfriended her on Facebook, among other rejections.

What An Angry, Conservative Belgian Could Tell The GOP. | RedState

What An Angry, Conservative Belgian Could Tell The GOP. | RedState: to modernize the decision-making-procedures of this country;

This could be done by simplification. If the laws are too numerous and too complex to be intelligently understood and applied, three things happen. Corruption leads to unethical thievery and dishonest special pleading. Confusion leads to inaction and non-enforcement (which then renders all of the diverse regulations useless to the cause of protecting the tax-paying citizenry.) Complexity leads to human error and unintended consequences. Nobody in their right minds should feel safe or liberated while they live under a government that is too complex to adequately monitor or understand.

Story! Story! ...uh....

Homeland Security: No 'malicious activity' linked to water pump - Springfield, IL - The State Journal-Register: Curran-Gardner water district officials are happy that federal officials have ruled out a cyber attack as the cause of a water pump failure at the district.

“The whole thing was a general pain,” Don Craven, a trustee of the Curran-Gardner Township Public Water District, said Tuesday.

“First, they tell us that it’s the first instance of cyber hacking in the entire world, and everyone goes nuts. Now, all of a sudden, they tell us it’s not.”

A contrary take

The New Inquiry - Grudge Lust: Hate is not the actual opposite of love. Hatred is the opposite of a far more insidious and menacing emotion: apathy. Hazlitt notes that “we cannot bear a state of indifference and ennui.” When the tedium of our lives lulls us into nonchalance, then we are really in danger of blending into the wallpaper, of mattering little and to few. But when one hates something, one takes a stand for oneself and for one’s values. Hating is important because it keeps things interesting. It allows us to take the most omnipresent and heartbreaking emotion in life — disappointment — and weave it into something garish and bright. Even if you are just hurling silent insults at a nemesis who doesn’t know you exist, the effect is the same. You are awake.

Penn State scandal: How what happened in State College forced me to confront my own abuse. - Slate Magazine

Penn State scandal: How what happened in State College forced me to confront my own abuse. - Slate Magazine: I have always encouraged students to bring current events to class, and the Penn State situation was nearly impossible to avoid last week. Still, I had prayed no one would ask about it because I was not sure I could make it through any sort of answer. As I’d feared, the question stopped me cold.

I have spent the better part of my life working to cover wounds from my own childhood abuse, about which I have never spoken publicly. In fact, I’ve hardly talked about it at all; I can count on two hands the number of people who know anything about it. Some of my siblings will learn of it from this article.

The Pest Who Shames Companies Into Fixing Security Flaws | Magazine

The Pest Who Shames Companies Into Fixing Security Flaws | Magazine: When the FBI showed up, Soghoian asked the agents to wait a moment, went to his computer, and posted a quick note to his blog—”FBI are at the door. Off to chat.”—then told them to come back with a warrant. They did. “Having my own computer seized by the FBI turned what had been an academic interest in privacy into something that directly impacted my life,” Soghoian says. “I saw firsthand how a massive government agency can, in my opinion, abuse its power to go after a critic of government policies. That one experience made it very easy to see the government as an adversary, against which I continue to fight.”

When Did Liberals Become So Unreasonable?

When Did Liberals Become So Unreasonable?: For almost all of the past 60 years, liberals have been in a near-constant emotional state of despair, punctuated only by brief moments of euphoria and occasional rage. When they’re not in charge, things are so bleak they threaten to move to Canada; it’s almost more excruciating when they do win elections, and their presidents fail in essentially the same ways: He is too accommodating, too timid, too unwilling or unable to inspire the populace. (Except for Johnson, who was a bloodthirsty warmonger.)

Is it really likely that all these presidents have suffered from the same character flaws? Suppose you’re trying to find dates online, and everybody you meet turns out to be too ugly. Might it be possible that the problem isn’t the attractiveness of the single people in your town but rather your standards?

THIS IS AWESOME. And sucky for the sea creatures.

BBC Nature - 'Brinicle' ice finger of death filmed in Antarctic: With timelapse cameras, specialists recorded salt water being excluded from the sea ice and sinking.

The temperature of this sinking brine, which was well below 0C, caused the water to freeze in an icy sheath around it.

Where the so-called "brinicle" met the sea bed, a web of ice formed that froze everything it touched, including sea urchins and starfish.

The unusual phenomenon was filmed for the first time by cameramen Hugh Miller and Doug Anderson for the BBC One series Frozen Planet

Debunking Obama’s So-Called Leadership Failure -- Daily Intel

Debunking Obama’s So-Called Leadership Failure -- Daily Intel: What is at least somewhat remarkable is that Republicans have taken up this talking point as well. Today’s The Wall Street Journal editorial page shakes its head that Obama should have “honored the findings of his own Bowles–Simpson deficit commission.” A companion op-ed by Representative Jeb Hensarling, a member of the supercommittee, laments that Democrats rejected “the approach to tax reform used by recent bipartisan deficit reduction efforts such as the Bowles–Simpson fiscal commission.” That would be the same Bowles–Simpson plan that the Journal editorial page opposed and that Hensarling voted against.

Pamela Geller: Beware "Stealth Halal" Turkeys This Thanksgiving | Mother Jones

Pamela Geller: Beware "Stealth Halal" Turkeys This Thanksgiving | Mother Jones: Now, assuming Geller's right about Butterball turkeys being halal, you might think that in a capitalist economy, halal turkeys are a sign of meat sellers responding to market demand for food prepared a certain way. You might even be tempted to observe that Muslim Americans marking a secular, American holiday celebrating pluralism and freedom from religious persecution might be a sign of the extent to which American Muslims have assimilated into American culture. What you didn't know was that when markets respond to the demands of Muslim consumers, freedom dies.

Libya: Post-Khadafy

Libya: Post-Khadafy:

It's been just over a month since the capture and death of Libyan dictator Moammar Khadafy, ending his 42-year reign. Since then, the rebels have declared that the nation is liberated, installed a transitional government, and started the process of writing a constitution. Still, substantial problems remain. Pockets of fighting have erupted among rival tribes and some rebels have refused to give up their cache of weapons. Doctors continue to struggle to treat the wounded and sick, with a few of the most severely injured being sent to rehabilitation centers in Boston and elsewhere. Last weekend, Khadafy’s son, Seif, was captured and could face war crimes for his part in the conflict. -- Lloyd Young (EDITOR'S NOTE: We will not post a Big Picture on Friday, November 25, due to the Thanksgiving Holiday.) (40 photos total)

Anti-Khadafy fighters acknowledge the crowd during a review of the brigades from the eastern region to commemorate the liberation of Quiche in Benghazi Oct. 27. (Esam Al-Fetori/Reuters)

The other side of a story

Shame On You, Wall Street Journal - Onward State: It’s a powerful message that the only real damage from the “riots” two weeks ago came in the form of a tipped news van. I don’t mean to condone the actions of a few idiots–it was wrong, in every way–but it was emblematic of our frustration with a media that came to Happy Valley with one goal in mind: burying our iconic coach.

And now, a fortnight later, with the damage already done, The Wall Street Journal has joined those ranks, running a story that not only fails to be timely, but is also hardly fair and blatantly unbalanced.

It’s shocking and discouraging–if not completely unsurprising, given how this month has gone–to see a major newspaper give a forum to a disgruntled former employee for the voicing of grievances. Vicky Triponey, the former (and disgraced) Vice President for Student Affairs at Penn State, clearly went to the newspaper, selling a story, and in another sad chapter of this affair, the Journal bought it.

Friedman is right

Go Big, Mr. Obama - NYTimes.com: Obama aides argue that so many G.O.P. lawmakers are committed to making his presidency fail, or have signed pledges to an antitax cult, that they would never buy into any grand bargain. I think that is true for a lot of Republicans in Congress. But I have some questions: Why are the Republicans getting away with this? Why are so many independents and even Democrats who voted for Obama sitting on their hands? Obama owns the bully pulpit of the presidency and he’s losing to Grover Norquist? Also, assuming it is all true about the G.O.P., how can Obama trump them? I think he can, if he leads in a new way.

American troop deployments: Boots on the ground | The Economist

American troop deployments: Boots on the ground | The Economist: Where American troops have served during the past 60 years

THE American government is keen to show its commitment to security in Asia by putting boots on the ground there. As this analysis shows, the number of American troops (Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force active duty personnel) in Asia is only slightly smaller than the number in Europe, where Americans in uniform are largely a hangover from the carve-up of the continent at the Yalta conference in 1945.

Also Clyburn, and Becarra, right?

Jon Kyl’s search-and-destroy mission - The Washington Post: “Walking napalm” is how one Democratic aide involved in the supercommittee described Kyl this week. And if the senator makes some mistakes as he burns down the village — well, that’s just a cost of doing business. Earlier this year, when Kyl was leading an effort to cut off funding for Planned Parenthood, he claimed on the Senate floor that abortion is “well over 90 percent of what Planned Parenthood does.” The actual number is 3 percent. An aide to Kyl explained: “His remark was not intended to be a factual statement.”

As Kyl leaves the Senate, he will be remembered as a lawmaker who intended to be not factual but destructive.

Questlove should apologize for the sex-based insult

Why Jimmy Fallon Apologized To Michelle Bachmann -- And Why It Doesn't Matter - Business Insider: The Roots didn't start out as a late night orchestra.

They're a multiplatinum, groundbreaking band with scores of fans -- in fact, when Fallon's show first launched, the idea of them becoming a group with a day job (or, rather, a late-night job) was baffling.

The gig worked out because Fallon's show is innovative and has a loose fan intimacy. The Roots' cred came out unscathed, and Fallon has always treated them as part of the cast, not backup singers.

And while host Fallon may have over 4 million Twitter followers, the band's de facto leader Questlove is no slouch with 1.7 million.

He hasn't made any conciliatory statements. Fallon's word will likely be the last one -- but it still means only one of the show's stars apologized.

22 November, 2011

No integrity

News Desk: Why Didn’t Reporters Call Romney a Liar? : The New Yorker: This is one of those cases where a candidate has put out something that is demonstrably false. If a journalist or writer quoted someone in such an intellectually dishonest way, you would never trust the person’s writing again. And yet this episode is being reported by some as a clever tactic by the Romney camp to spark a debate about the ad’s accuracy that will serve to highlight its overall message that Obama has been a failure. (See, it worked!)

Here’s one example, from a very fine reporter at Politico whom I do not mean to pick on:

“The sicario: A Ju�rez hit man speaks” by Charles Bowden (Harpers) � Various Enthusiasms

“The sicario: A Ju�rez hit man speaks” by Charles Bowden (Harpers) � Various Enthusiasms: I am ready for the story of all the dead men who last saw his face.

As I drank coffee and tried to frame questions in my mind, a crime reporter in Ju�rez was cut down beside his eight-year-old daughter as they sat in his car letting it warm up. This morning as I drove down here, a Toyota passed me with a bumper sticker that read, with a heart symbol, i love love. This morning I tried to remember how I got to this rendezvous.

I was in a distant city and a man told me of the killer and how he had hidden him. He said at first he feared him, but he was so useful. He would clean everything and cook all the time and get on his hands and knees and polish his shoes. I took him on as a favor, he explained.

I said, “I want him. I want to put him on paper.”

And so I came.

The End of Borders and the Future of Books - BusinessWeek

The End of Borders and the Future of Books - BusinessWeek: The one thing Borders did have going for it was its huge selection, yet even that wasn’t worth as much as the company thought. An average Borders superstore stocked around 140,000 titles at immense cost, but if a customer craves selection, no store can compete with the long tail of the Internet. Maybe more crucially for Borders, the assortment of titles that provided the key to its identity didn’t give it a competitive edge over Barnes & Noble. Mark Evans, a director of merchandising strategy and analytics at Borders until 2009, says that the company surveyed customers to understand why Barnes & Noble, with its slimmer selection, continued to clobber them in terms of year-over-year growth, average sales per store, and even the number of books sold at each location. “Customers didn’t notice our larger assortment of books,” Evans laments. “They didn’t care.”