30 September, 2012

How the iPhone's screen was created

Glass Works: How Corning Created the Ultrathin, Ultrastrong Material of the Future | Wired Science | Wired.com: Corning’s one fusion-capable factory in the US is in Harrodsburg, Kentucky. In early 2007, that plant’s seven 15-foot-tall tanks were going full blast, each churning out more than 1,000 pounds per hour of sold-out LCD glass for TV panels. One tank could meet Apple’s initial request. But first the old Chemcor compositions had to be reformulated. The glass not only needed to be 1.3 mm now, it also had to have better visual characteristics than, say, a pane in a telephone booth. Ellison and his team had six weeks to nail it. To be compatible with the fusion process, the glass also needed to be extra stretchy, like chewing gum, at a fairly low temperature. The problem was, anything you do to increase a glass’s gooeyness also tends to make it substantially more difficult to melt. By simultaneously altering seven individual parts of the composition—including changing the levels of several oxides and adding one new secret ingredient—the compositional scientists found they were able to ramp up the viscosity while also producing a finely tuned glass capable of higher compressive stress and faster ion exchange. The tank started in May 2007. By June, it had produced enough Gorilla Glass to cover seven football fields.

America and Democracy

Council for Secular Humanism: Democracy is not a panacea that brings with it all good things, as Americans are inclined to believe. It is a challenging form of government that requires certain conditions to avoid descending into chaos, sectarianism, or the tyranny of the majority. The American Founding Fathers were particularly wary of the tyranny of the majority, so they created a republic of laws with a Bill of Rights to protect minorities and individuals from the power of the majority. A constitution that sets limits on the power of the majority is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for democracy.

There are at least four virtues that are required to make a democracy successful. In this article, I will discuss two of them: courage and moderation. The erosion of these virtues in the American body politic, especially among elected officials, is a reason for concern. It is a clear indication that America is not fit to teach the world about democratic governance. [I don't agree with the last sentence]

How to Make Almost Anything | Foreign Affairs

How to Make Almost Anything | Foreign Affairs: Personal fabrication has been around for years as a science-fiction staple. When the crew of the TV series Star Trek: The Next Generation was confronted by a particularly challenging plot development, they could use the onboard replicator to make whatever they needed. Scientists at a number of labs (including mine) are now working on the real thing, developing processes that can place individual atoms and molecules into whatever structure they want. Unlike 3-D printers today, these will be able to build complete functional systems at once, with no need for parts to be assembled. The aim is to not only produce the parts for a drone, for example, but build a complete vehicle that can fly right out of the printer. This goal is still years away, but it is not necessary to wait: most of the computer functions one uses today were invented in the minicomputer era, long before they would flourish in the era of personal computing. Similarly, although today’s digital manufacturing machines are still in their infancy, they can already be used to make (almost) anything, anywhere. That changes everything.

29 September, 2012

All prizes, like all titles, are dangerous

All prizes, like all titles, are dangerous:

In 1926, on discovering that his novel, "Arrowsmith," had been awarded what was then called the Pulitzer Prize for the Novel, author Sinclair Lewis wrote the following letter to the Pulitzer Prize Committee and declined the honour. He remains the only person to have done so.
...I wish to acknowledge your choice of my novel "Arrowsmith" for the Pulitzer Prize. That prize I must refuse, and my refusal would be meaningless unless I explained the reasons.

All prizes, like all titles, are dangerous. The seekers for prizes tend to labor not for inherent excellence but for alien rewards: they tend to write this, or timorously to avoid writing that, in order to tickle the prejudices of a haphazard committee. And the Pulitzer Prize for novels is peculiarly objectionable because the terms of it have been constantly and grievously misrepresented.

Those terms are that the prize shall be given "for the American novel published during the year which shall best present the wholesome atmosphere of American life, and the highest standard of American manners and manhood." This phrase, if it means anything whatever, would appear to mean that the appraisal of the novels shall be made not according to their actual literary merit but in obedience to whatever code of Good Form may chance to be popular at the moment.

That there is such a limitation of the award is little understood. Because of the condensed manner in which the announcement is usually reported, and because certain publishers have trumpeted that any novel which has received the Pulitzer Prize has thus been established without qualification as the best novel, the public has come to believe that the prize is the highest honor which an American novelist can receive....

Cutting the British Empire Down to Size | History Today

Cutting the British Empire Down to Size | History Today: Cost was the other convenience. Britain’s commercial expansion, and the formal imperialism that rode on the back of it, were on the whole cheap. Free trade was more than merely a commercial policy. It was tied in to a whole economic ideology, called ‘political economy’ then – ‘free marketism’ or ‘neo-liberalism’ today – one tenet of which was that enterprise worked best if it was not taxed. Anything that required tax revenues was therefore discouraged. That is partly why the British army was relatively skimpy and why colonies could not be allowed to become a direct burden on the British Treasury. They had to be ‘self-sufficient’: their revenues, even for their defence, raised locally.

China's Leaders: Who Holds the Real Power? - Businessweek

China's Leaders: Who Holds the Real Power? - Businessweek: The Standing Committee, which Cabestan says usually meets once a week in the Zhongnanhai leadership compound just off Tiananmen Square, makes the ultimate decisions on all major policies, and the members must reach consensus. The committee has a record of effectiveness: rolling out a massive stimulus during the global financial crisis; building national infrastructure; combating severe acute respiratory syndrome and the religious sect Falun Gong; and more recently, deciding to allow and even encourage anti-Japanese protesters to take to the streets. With these initiatives, there were no clear losers inside the establishment. “What they are able to get done is more nuts and bolts. They can arrest people. They can build a railroad or an airport. But it’s the bigger things that are much harder,” says Schell.

Rookie � On Falling Apart

Rookie � On Falling Apart: I want you to see how it sneaked up on me. Mental illness is like this. It doesn’t always show up suddenly and dramatically. I had been diagnosed in the past with depression and generalized anxiety disorder, both of which were common illnesses, and which I thought explained my problems. I would have been insulted if you’d suggested I had anything more serious. I was just joyless, I was just angry, I was just lonely. I thought maybe I had chronic fatigue or something, but I didn’t see a reason to get it checked out. By the time I was unwashed, incoherent, and skeletal, I had gotten so used to being unhappy that I almost didn’t see the difference. (Note: if you start to feel bad for long periods of time, if your thought patterns or personality start to change in odd ways, go to a doctor. It could be a bad mood. It could also be something much more dangerous.)

Meet the Man Who Built a 30-Story Building in 15 Days | Wired Design | Wired.com

Meet the Man Who Built a 30-Story Building in 15 Days | Wired Design | Wired.com: n late 2011, Broad built a 30-story building in 15 days; now it intends to use similar methods to erect the world’s tallest building in just seven months. Perhaps you’re already familiar with Zhang’s handiwork: On New Year’s Day 2012, Broad released a time-lapse video of its 30-story achievement that quickly went viral: construction workers buzzing around like gnats while a clock in the corner of the screen marks the time. In just 360 hours, a 328-foot-tall tower called the T30 rises from an empty site to overlook Hunan’s Xiang River. At the end of the video, the camera spirals around the building overhead as the Broad logo appears on the screen: a lowercase b that wraps around itself in an imitation of the @ symbol.

Georgia's Prison Rape Scandal—and What It Says About the Rose Revolution - Charles H. Fairbanks Jr. - The Atlantic

Georgia's Prison Rape Scandal—and What It Says About the Rose Revolution - Charles H. Fairbanks Jr. - The Atlantic: Some U.S. political leaders, John McCain notably among them, have responded to Georgia's electoral contest with the generous instinct to help Saakashvili in his hour of tribulation. But instinct isn't always the best guide to complicated foreign realities, particularly at a moment when we need to come to terms with the counterintuitive dark side of Saakashvili's rule. However you look at the decisive elections next week, let's be clear-minded in understanding that the methodical torture and rape uncovered last week are not isolated breakdowns of civilization within Georgia's prison system; they're symptoms of a deeper crisis that now permeates Georgia's whole political system.

How High Oil Prices Will Permanently Cap Economic Growth - Bloomberg

How High Oil Prices Will Permanently Cap Economic Growth - Bloomberg: A double whammy of rising oil and food prices means inflation will be here sooner than anyone would like to think.

Rising inflation rates in China and India are a clear signal that those economies are growing at an unsustainable pace. China has made GDP growth of more than 8 percent a priority but needs to recalibrate its thinking to recognize the damping effects of high oil prices. Growth might not stall entirely, but clocking double-digit gains is no longer feasible, at least without triggering a calamitous increase in inflation. If China and India, the new engines of global economic growth, are forced to adopt anti-inflationary monetary policies, the ripple effects for resource-based economies such as Canada, Australia and Brazil will be felt in a hurry.

Triple-digit oil prices will end the lofty economic hopes of India and China, which are looking to achieve the same sort of sustained growth that North America and Europe enjoyed in the postwar era. There is an unavoidable obstacle that puts such ambitions out of reach: Today’s oil isn’t flowing from the same places it did yesterday. More importantly, it’s not flowing at the same cost.

The League of Dangerous Mapmakers - Robert Draper - The Atlantic

The League of Dangerous Mapmakers - Robert Draper - The Atlantic: The byzantine trade of redistricting was long dominated by brainy eccentrics like Hofeller and his Democratic counterparts Mark Gersh and Michael Berman. But that began to change in the 1990s, when the availability of mapping software (such as Maptitude, Red�Appl, and autoBound) and block-by-block census data for the whole country opened up the field to a waiting world of political geeks. The democratization of redistricting—made manifest last year in Virginia, which held a student competition, complete with cash prizes, to draw the best maps—is a lovely thing, perhaps. But as one redistricting veteran told me, “There’s an old saying: Give a child a hammer, and the world becomes a nail. Give the chairman of a state redistricting committee a powerful enough computer and block-level census data, so that he suddenly discovers he can draw really weird and aggressive districts—and he will.”

Mitt’s Stake

Mitt’s Stake: And yet there is something genuinely mysterious—and not just underexposed—in Romney’s faith. As a church leader, Romney seemed devoted to a Mormon ethic of sacrifice for the welfare of the group, an almost communitarian system of belief. As a candidate, his philosophy has been nakedly individualistic and elitist—a turn made explicit last week, when a video emerged of Romney at a Florida fund-raiser writing off 47 percent of the country as shiftless freeloaders: “My job is not to worry about these people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.” Many of the Boston Mormons believe the Romney they saw in church reflected a separate, genuine strain of his character, one that was opportunistically quashed as he entered national politics. But the clues from Romney’s tenure as a church leader suggest a more complicated relationship to his religion and, therefore, a different explanation—that his approach to leadership seems not so much a departure from his own version of Mormonism as an extension of it. More than anything else, Romney’s church seems to have armed him with a particular view of success.

Pussy Riot's Prison Interview: Newsmakers: GQ

Pussy Riot's Prison Interview: Newsmakers: GQ: This year, Russia launched its first crossover pop stars since the days of Gorky Park—and it's done so by throwing them in jail. Pussy Riot, a feminist punk collective that staged guerrilla performances all over Moscow (culminating in a "punk prayer" in a cathedral, which got three of its members arrested), showed up on every front page from Lib�ration to the New York Post and single-handedly revived riot-grrrl chic. Meanwhile, the fate of the three prisoners—Nadezhda "Nadya" Tolokonnikova, Maria "Masha" Alyokhina, and Yekaterina "Katya" Samutsevich—became an international cause, championed by everyone from Madonna to David Cameron. Sentenced to two years each on the absurd charge of "hooliganism motivated by religious hatred," the "girls," as everyone in Russia calls them, are getting by without the Internet, only vaguely aware of their global celebrity. GQ managed to correspond with them by slipping questions in with their lawyers. Katya's answers got confiscated. Nadya's and Masha's follow.

His designs sell out, but....

Portrait of the Artist as a Postman: Texas Monthly October 2012: I tried to ask about this, but his entire body winced at the mention of fame or money. “That doesn’t interest me,” he said. “Painting is just something I do. I chose not to support my family that way.” Which is why, for the past 28 years, he’s sorted mail at the Waco post office. He works the night shift. His job is processing “hot mail,” the mail that can’t be handled by machines or must be delivered that day. For eight and a half hours—sometimes an hour or two extra if he can score the overtime—Kermit sorts these high-priority messages into a dovecote of cases so that they can be sent off to nearby towns for delivery. When he gets home he paints for a spell, then sleeps for two or three hours. “That’s the schedule we keep,” he said plainly, folding his hands in his lap.

Melting Greenland Weighs Perils Against Potential - NYTimes.com

Melting Greenland Weighs Perils Against Potential - NYTimes.com: But previous attempts at mining mostly failed, proving too expensive in the inclement conditions. Now, warming has altered the equation.

Greenland’s Bureau of Minerals and Petroleum, charged with managing the boom, currently has 150 active licenses for mineral exploration, up from 20 a decade ago. Altogether, companies spent $100 million exploring Greenland’s deposits last year, and several are applying for licenses to begin construction on new mines, bearing gold, iron and zinc and rare earths. There are also foreign companies exploring for offshore oil.

“For me, I wouldn’t mind if the whole ice cap disappears,” said Ole Christiansen, the chief executive of NunamMinerals, Greenland’s largest homegrown mining company, as he picked his way along a proposed gold mining site up the fjord from Nuuk, Greenland’s capital. “As it melts, we’re seeing new places with very attractive geology.”

27 September, 2012

Spoiler: It was Nixon

The Great Disconnect - NYTimes.com: Once upon a time there was a radical president who tried to remake American society through government action. In his first term he created a vast network of federal grants to state and local governments for social programs that cost billions. He set up an imposing agency to regulate air and water emissions, and another to regulate workers’ health and safety. Had Congress not stood in his way he would have gone much further. He tried to establish a guaranteed minimum income for all working families and, to top it off, proposed a national health plan that would have provided government insurance for low-income families, required employers to cover all their workers and set standards for private insurance. Thankfully for the country, his second term was cut short and his collectivist dreams were never realized.

Obama campaign had twice the staff as Romney last month at same cost - latimes.com

Obama campaign had twice the staff as Romney last month at same cost - latimes.com: According to an analysis by the Times Data Desk, part of the Los Angeles Times, the Obama campaign had 901 people on its payroll last month, and paid them a median salary of $3,074 a month, or $36,886 a year.

The Romney campaign, in contrast, had 403 people on its payroll, and paid them a median salary of $6,437 in August, which would mean $77,250 a year.

25 September, 2012

Replacement "Weather Guy" Forecast - www.nbc26.com

Replacement "Weather Guy" Forecast - www.nbc26.com: To shed a little light on last night's Packers game the NBC 26 Today crew was having a little bit of fun this morning with the replacement "Weather Guy."

We Are the 96 Percent

We Are the 96 Percent - NYTimes.com: The use of government social policies cuts across partisan divides. Some policies were used more often by members of one party or the other. Republicans were more likely to have used the G.I. Bill and Social Security retirement and survivors’ benefits, while more Democrats had taken advantage of Medicaid and unemployment insurance. Overall, 82 percent of Democrats and 64 percent of Republicans acknowledged receipt of at least one direct social benefit. More Republicans (92 percent) than Democrats (86 percent) had taken advantage of submerged policies. Once we take both types of policies into account, the seeming distinction between makers and takers vanishes: 97 percent of Republicans and 98 percent of Democrats report that they have used at least one government social policy.

Paul Ryan says reversal of DADT repeal is step in wrong direction, sets out to revive American dream

Paul Ryan says reversal of DADT repeal is step in wrong direction, sets out to revive American dream: One year after the repeal of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy that barred openly gay and lesbian service members from serving in the military, U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) said in an interview with WPTV NewsChannel 5 that the controversial policy should not be reinstated.

"Now that it's done, we should not reverse it," Ryan told WPTV NewsChannel 5 during a visit to Miami. "I think that would be a step in the wrong direction because people have already disclosed themselves."

"I talked to a lot of good friends of mine who are combat leaders in the theater and they just didn't think the timing of this was right to do this when our troops were in the middle of harm's way in combat," Ryan said. "I think this issue is past us. It's done. And, I think we need to move on."

23 September, 2012

Risk factors for voices in your head:

The Wilson Quarterly: Beyond the Brain by Tanya Marie Luhrmann: Epidemiologists have now homed in on a series of factors that increase the risk of developing schizophrenia, including being migrant, being male, living in an urban environment, and being born poor. One of the more disconcerting findings is that if you have dark skin, your risk of falling victim to schizophrenia increases as your neighborhood whitens. Your level of risk also rises if you were beaten, taunted, bullied, sexually abused, or neglected when you were a child. In fact, how badly a child is treated may predict how severe the case of an adult person with schizophrenia becomes—and particularly, whether the adult hears harsh, hallucinatory voices that comment or command.

"Voter Fraud."

Voting Wrongs by Elizabeth Drew | NYRblog | The New York Review of Books: This national effort to tilt the 2012 election is being carried out on the pretext that the country’s voting system is under threat from widespread “voter fraud.” the fact that no significant fraud has been found doesn’t deter the people pursuing this plan. Myths are convenient in politics. Want to fix an election? No problem. Just make up a story that the other side is trying to rig the election—and meanwhile try to rig the election.

From Playbook: Romney overpaid his taxes to stay above 13%

BRUNCH EDITION -- 45 days to Nov. 6; 11 days to Debate 1 -- Allies yearn for Ryan unplugged -- Romney manipulated taxes to INCREASE publicized rate -- Santorum cameo in Bruni column - POLITICO Playbook - POLITICO.com: --STATEMENT FROM THE CAMPAIGN, emailed to reporters who asked, on why the Romneys didn’t take the full charitable deduction: “Governor Romney made a public statement, based upon the January estimate of income, that he paid at least 13% in income taxes in each of the last 10 years. In order to be consistent with that statement, the Romneys limited their deduction of charitable contributions.”

22 September, 2012

The Gray Tsunami | Aging | DISCOVER Magazine

The Gray Tsunami | Aging | DISCOVER Magazine: Birt describes a favorite graphic of his, derived from a 2007 United Nations publication. He calls it “Solving for X” because of the problem it raises for the world’s health-care systems. Two lines are crossing, the percentage of people over 65 and the percentage under 5. Back in 1950, children predominated in the world; in 2050 the seniors will be on top. “The percent over 65 and under 5 are trading places,” Birt says. “We’re almost at the X spot.” The forecast date for global X to occur is 2017, but each country will arrive at the transition at a different time. “Japan blasted through its intersection years ago,” he notes.

Was there a single factor to account for this world-shaking reversal? “Yes,” Glick says. “You start educating girls.”

Where Is Cuba Going? - NYTimes.com

Where Is Cuba Going? - NYTimes.com: The things he said, which I had heard many times before — that you can go to prison for nothing, that there’s no opportunity, that people are terrified to speak out — are the reason I can never quite get with my leftie-most friends on Cuba, when they want to make excuses for the regime. It’s simply a fact that nearly every Cuban I’ve ever come to know beyond a passing acquaintance, everyone not involved with the party, will turn to you at some point and say something along the lines of, “It is a prison here.” I just heard it from one of the men who worked for Erik, back in the hometown. I remarked to him that storefronts on the streets looked a little bit better, more freshly painted. It was a shallow, small-talky observation.

No Evidence of Disease (Idle Words)

No Evidence of Disease (Idle Words): Cancer is a crucible that tests every relationship you have. One of its first lessons is that having your relationships tested sucks. At 33, Diane found herself in the role of patient zero for many of her friends, their first time confronting real illness. Some of them disappeared. Others wrapped themselves so tightly in platitudes that they might as well have not been there. Still others accepted the news, but did not seem to internalize it, talking and behaving as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened, as if the best way to deal with the cancer was to ignore it. And a few sterling people came through, offering comfort, giving rides, showing up, and finding creative ways to help.

The Agony of Syria

The Agony of Syria by Max Rodenbeck | The New York Review of Books: Statistics have consistently failed to capture the scale of Syria’s tragedy. The widely cited current death toll of around 20,000 may not seem large by the standards of modern conflict. Yet this is a conservative estimate of numbers that are accelerating very fast, with more people killed in July alone than in all of 2011. Tens of thousands more Syrians have been injured, while even larger numbers have suffered while under arrest. For many if not most, this has meant often shockingly extreme forms of torture in a detention system whose systematic cruelty has been extensively documented.

20 September, 2012

What Bush Knew, and Romney Doesn't - NYTimes.com

What Bush Knew, and Romney Doesn't - NYTimes.com:
What the younger Bush did while running for president in 2000 was uncomplicated, disciplined, and effective. He picked a few issues — education, in particular, but also health care and immigration and poverty — where voters trusted Democrats more than Republicans and made it his business to talk about them almost as often as he talked about traditional Republican strengths like taxes and defense. He spoke consistently about bipartisanship and changing the tone in Washington, constantly invoking his own record in Texas as an example. When he championed conservative ideas, he stressed their impact on the middle class and the working poor, rather than just lionizing entrepreneurs and businessmen. When he showed an unconventional side — on immigration reform, say, or faith-based initiatives — the aim was always to make the G.O.P. seem as inclusive as possible, and to cast himself as a president for all Americans, even constituencies that would never vote for him.

He campaigned, in other words, in a way designed to reassure non-ideological voters that he cared about the issues that they cared about, and that he would be something other than a down-the-line ideologue if elected.

The Invention of Political Consulting : The New Yorker

The Invention of Political Consulting : The New Yorker: Never underestimate the opposition. The first thing Whitaker and Baxter always did, when they took on a campaign, was to “hibernate” for a week, to write a Plan of Campaign. Then they wrote an Opposition Plan of Campaign, to anticipate the moves made against them. Every campaign needs a theme. Keep it simple. Rhyming’s good. (“For Jimmy and me, vote ‘yes’ on 3.”) Never explain anything. “The more you have to explain,” Whitaker said, “the more difficult it is to win support.” Say the same thing over and over again. “We assume we have to get a voter’s attention seven times to make a sale,” Whitaker said. Subtlety is your enemy. “Words that lean on the mind are no good,” according to Baxter. “They must dent it.” Simplify, simplify, simplify. “A wall goes up,” Whitaker warned, “when you try to make Mr. and Mrs. Average American Citizen work or think.”

Mitt Romney 47 percent: Conservatives like Ann Coulter, Sean Hannity, and Rush Limbaugh want the Republican nominee to stand firm on his comments captured by a hidden camera. - Slate Magazine

Mitt Romney 47 percent: Conservatives like Ann Coulter, Sean Hannity, and Rush Limbaugh want the Republican nominee to stand firm on his comments captured by a hidden camera. - Slate Magazine:
Neither Mitt Romney nor Barack Obama expects to reach more than 51 or 52 percent of the electorate this year. Both of them want to max out turnout among the demographic groups that favor them. They just can’t admit it.

Here’s what I mean. Way back in November 2011, back when Newt Gingrich was going to be the Republican presidential nominee, the progressive Center for American Progress published a curiously optimistic paper about Barack Obama’s chances. The president’s record was terrible. His 2008 rainbow coalition was fading as working-class white voters sprinted away from Democrats.

Lucky enough, in 2012, Obama wouldn’t have to worry so much about those voters, according to the liberal think tank. The new map would bring out more nonwhite votes than ever before, and more college-educated whites who hadn’t joined the Tea Party. “The underlying demographic composition of the white vote,” wrote researchers Ruy Texiera and John Halpin, “is likely to shift in Obama’s favor in the 2012 election.”

19 September, 2012

The Invention of Political Consulting : The New Yorker

The Invention of Political Consulting : The New Yorker:
No single development has altered the workings of American democracy in the last century so much as political consulting, an industry unknown before Campaigns, Inc. In the middle decades of the twentieth century, political consultants replaced party bosses as the wielders of political power gained not by votes but by money. Whitaker and Baxter were the first people to make politics a business. “Every voter, a consumer” was the mantra of a latter-day consulting firm, but that idea came from Campaigns, Inc. Political management is now a diversified, multibillion-dollar industry of managers, speechwriters, pollsters, and advertisers who play a role in everything from this year’s Presidential race to the campaigns of the candidates for your local school committee. (Campaigns, now, never end. And consultants not only run campaigns; they govern. Mitt Romney, asked by the Wall Street Journal’s editorial board how he would choose his Cabinet, said that he’d probably bring in McKinsey to sort that out.)

A week watching Fox and listening to Limbaugh

My Embed in Red:
You don’t have to agree with these people’s politics to see they have a compelling beef. They are true believers in a minimalist American government. They see Obama’s economic record as a golden opportunity to throw him out. They helped propel Ryan, a dogged champion of conservative ideals, onto the national ticket. And they saw all of that jeopardized by a Republican National Committee and Romney campaign that muted and dumbed down the message in its tightly disciplined, highly scripted game plan to win over the tiny and elusive percentage of American voters who hold no strong views at all. It’s no wonder that the only authentic moment in the convention was also its only improvised one. When Clint Eastwood implicitly inserted the words “Tell Romney to fuck himself” into the mouth of his imaginary “Obama,” he tapped, however artlessly, into the raw id of the right as nothing else in the convention did all week. For an instant, his off-message and off-script gesture of profane disrespect for the president captured the grassroots anger that went largely unacknowledged by the mainstream press and Fox alike.

18 September, 2012

What the Arab Movie Riots Mean for U.S. Foreign Policy

Bacevich: What the Arab Movie Riots Mean for U.S. Foreign Policy - Newsweek and The Daily Beast:
The notion that American power can be counted on to deliver American-style freedom is particularly wrongheaded when applied to the Muslim world. The problem is not that Arabs, Iranians, Afghans, or Pakistanis have an aversion to freedom. On the contrary, they’ve provided abundant evidence that they hunger for it. Rather, the problem is that 21st-century Muslims don’t necessarily buy America’s 21st-century definition of the term—a definition increasingly devoid of moral content. Instead, the varied inhabitants of a dauntingly complex Islamic world want to decide for themselves what the exercise of freedom should entail. Many of them believe it should consist of something more than individual autonomy and conspicuous consumption.
What they are demanding, in short, is their collective right to self-determination. That desire has made them seem stubbornly unreceptive to outside tutelage, and painfully sensitive to perceived expressions of disrespect, no matter how insignificant the source—even in the form of a preposterously bad film made by some demented jackass. Insults directed at the Prophet Mohammad are going to provoke a hostile response among the world’s Muslims, much as Christians once reacted to the heresies propounded by those who dared to question the doctrines and prerogatives of the Holy Roman Church. Back then, defying the pope could land you in serious trouble.

16 September, 2012

Borrowed Dreams

Borrowed Dreams - The Chronicle Review - The Chronicle of Higher Education: Panics are not just about the financial health of borrowers. Panics have always been about debt and doubt. America's first panic in 1792 had everything to do with foreign lenders' doubts about Americans' ability to subdue Indians who blocked westward expansion. Recovery came when European investors judged New England smugglers to be safer borrowers than French revolutionary assemblies or Saint Domingue slaveholders and put their money back into American banks.

15 September, 2012

Flowers for Algernon - A classic

SPED 23200: Reading #4: progris riport 1-martch 5, 1965 Dr. Strauss says I shud rite down what I think and evrey thing that happins to me from now on, I dont know why but he says its importint so they will see if they will use me. I hope they use me. Miss Kinnian says maybe they can make me smart. I want to be smart. My name is Charlie Gordon. I am 37 years old. I have nuthing more to rite now so I will close for today.

Inside the State Department During the Benghazi Attacks - The Daily Beast

Inside the State Department During the Benghazi Attacks - The Daily Beast: Through it all, Hillary Clinton was a source of strength for her wounded department, employees say. She moved back and forth between public appearances and private internal diplomacy, showing her trademark combination of resolve, empathy, and hyper-competence. She began at State, looking drawn but determined, calling the events in Benghazi “an attack that should shock the conscience of people of all faiths around the world.” Later that morning she stood by President Obama at the White House, looking alternately stoic and stricken. Then the president and his secretary of state traveled to Foggy Bottom where they met with shocked employees. Those who saw Clinton in action this week say it was in the more private, intimate moments where she was at her best.

Don’t Say “Desperate”

Don’t Say “Desperate”: One day this spring, over lunch in Chicago, David Axelrod offered up a concise summary of Team Obama’s prevailing view about the race ahead against Mitt Romney. “We have the better candidate, and we have the better argument,” Axelrod told me. “The question is just whether the externalities trip us up.” For months before that and every day since, the litany of potential exogenous shocks—from the collapse of the eurozone to a hot conflict between Israel and Iran to a succession of brutal jobs reports—has kept Axelrod and his colleagues tossing and twitching in their beds at night. For all their overt confidence, the Obamans are also stone-cold paranoiacs, well aware of the iron law of politics enunciated long ago by the poet Robert Burns: “The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men / Gang aft agley.” Which, for those unversed in archaic Scottish, translates roughly as “Shit happens.”

Major Taylor, the Cycling Champion Who Broke the Color Barrier

The Unknown Story of the Major Taylor, the Cycling Champion Who Broke the Color Barrier | Past Imperfect: Marshall W. Taylor was just a teenager when he turned professional and began winning races on the world stage, and President Theodore Roosevelt became one of his greatest admirers. But it was not Taylor’s youth that cycling fans first noticed when he edged his wheels to the starting line. Nicknamed “the Black Cyclone,” he would burst to fame as the world champion of his sport almost a decade before the African-American heavyweight Jack Johnson won his world title. And as with Johnson, Taylor’s crossing of the color line was not without complication, especially in the United States, where he often had no choice but to ride ahead of his white competitors to avoid being pulled or jostled from his bicycle at high speeds.

On the strange video

Inside the strange Hollywood scam that spread chaos across the Middle East | Max Blumenthal | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk:
Did an inflammatory anti-Muslim film trailer that appeared spontaneously on YouTube prompt the attack that left four US diplomats dead, including US ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens? American officials have suggested that the assault was pre-planned, allegedly by of one of the Jihadist groups that emerged since the Nato-led overthrow of Libya's Gaddafi regime. So even though the deadly scene in Benghazi may not have resulted directly from the angry reaction to the Islamophobic video, the violence has helped realize the apocalyptic visions of the film's backers.

Produced and promoted by a strange collection of rightwing Christian evangelicals and exiled Egyptian Copts, the trailer was created with the intention of both destabilizing post-Mubarak Egypt and roiling the US presidential election. As a consultant for the film named Steve Klein said: "We went into this knowing this was probably going to happen."

On Sexual Compatibility - an alternative take

Women Aren't Victims Of The Hookup Culture, Ctd - The Dish | By Andrew Sullivan - The Daily Beast: I specifically want to respond to the comment one of your other readers made: "I ... don't want [my daughters] to marry as virgins and find out they're completely incompatible with their husbands."

Certainly many of your readers see this line and nod in approval. "Yes," they say to themselves, "that is a true danger." I just want to point out that that idea - being "sexually incompatible" - is a complete construct of ... wait for it ... the hookup culture! And, in my opinion, is a large reason marriages and relationships fall apart so often.

Full disclosure: I'm a Mormon. I was brought up in many places around in the country, including Utah, California, and Iowa. I have seen dozens of my Mormon friends marry and have (so far) extremely happy relationships. To the person, we were all virgins when we got married, including all of our spouses. And you know what? Nobody cares! I had never even heard the term "sexual compatibility" until after my marriage, and it made me laugh out loud.


Everest Deaths in 2012 | Mount Everest | OutsideOnline.com

Everest Deaths in 2012 | Mount Everest | OutsideOnline.com:
This matters because it points to a new status quo on Everest: the routinization of high-altitude death. By and large, the people running the show these days on the south side of Everest—the professional guides, climbing Sherpas, and Nepali officials who control permits—do an excellent job of getting climbers to the top and down again. Indeed, a week after this year’s blowup, another hundred people summited on a single bluebird day, without a single death or serious injury.

But that doesn’t mean Everest is being run rationally. There are no prerequisites for how much experience would-be climbers must have and no rules to say who can be an outfitter. Many of the best alpinists in the world still show up in Base Camp every spring. But, increasingly, so do untrained, unfit people who’ve decided to try their hand at climbing and believe that Everest is the most exciting place to start. And while some of the more established outfitters might turn them away, novices are actively courted by cut-rate start-up companies that aren’t about to refuse the cash.

It’s a recipe that doesn’t require a storm to kill people. In this regard, things are much different now than in the past: they’re worse.

A facinating profile

Elon Musk, the 21st Century Industrialist - Businessweek:

Steve Jurvetson, a SpaceX board member and early investor in everything from Tesla to HotMail to Synthetic Genomics, says Musk has unusual intuition about what will work in space. Jurvetson builds and fires rockets as a hobby and has an office full of space memorabilia—much of which he bought directly from former astronauts. “You can’t finesse your way around this stuff,” he says. “There’s not a lot of room for artistry because the physics will bite you in the ass.” Musk has come up with modular designs for mixing and matching engine configurations depending on the payload, says Jurvetson. He thinks Musk has built the safest, most cost-effective spacecraft yet, which is why SpaceX has ended up as America’s only real answer to date for sending goods and people to and from the space station and perhaps beyond. “We’re not Moon people,” says Gwynne Shotwell, the president of SpaceX, “but we’re definitely Mars people.”

13 September, 2012

‘No Labels’ Stops Whining, Offers Political Agenda: Ezra Klein - Bloomberg

‘No Labels’ Stops Whining, Offers Political Agenda: Ezra Klein - Bloomberg: But last week, No Labels surprised me. They released an agenda that did the impossible: proposed a plausible path for moving in that most elusive direction: forward. They did it, unexpectedly, by refusing to suggest that they themselves knew which direction ultimately is forward.

Enter Bibi | Swampland | TIME.com

Enter Bibi | Swampland | TIME.com: It may be, as Jeff Goldberg asserts, that Bibi Netanyahu is just frustrated over President Obama’s refusal to approve an Israeli attack on Iran. Or it may be something else: an unprecedented attempt by a putative American ally to influence a U.S. presidential campaign. Either way, Netanyahu’s recent behavior is outrageous. He is trying push us into a war that is not in our national interest, a war that would only further destabilize a region that is already teetering near chaos. He is trying to get us to damage our relations with the rest of the world–especially the Russians and Chinese, whom we spent great diplomatic effort luring into the Iranian economic sanctions–so that he can pursue a strategy that even the Israeli military and intelligence communities find questionable. President Obama will not yield to this pressure, nor should he–and every American should know the implications of what Netanyahu and his American neoconservative allies, including Mitt Romney, are proposing.

The Age of the Would-Be Princips - WSJ.com

The Age of the Would-Be Princips - WSJ.com: .

What is needed from Mr. Romney now, or soon, is a serious statement about America's role and purpose in the world. If such a statement contained an intellectually serious critique of the president's grand strategy, or lack of it, all the better. As far as I can tell, that strategy largely consists of spurts of emotion and calculation from his closest aides, and is not a strategy but an inbox.

Mr. Romney might also contemplate this, because it will soon be on the American mind: Our embassies under siege in the Mideast gives us a sense of what a war with Iran would look like. It would be bloody. Not neat, not surgical, but bloody.

The world is very hot right now. It wouldn't be a bad thing to lower the temperature.

Quotes For The Day

Quotes For The Day:
"This is the time for us as a nation and a people to stand united,' - Ronald Reagan, Republican candidate, after president Carter's botched mission to save US hostages.
"I unequivocally support the president of the United States -- no ifs,
ands or buts -- and it certainly is not a time to try to go one-up
politically. He made a difficult, courageous decision," - George H.W. Bush, a candidate at the same time.

Adjusted for inflation, print newspaper advertising will be lower this year than in 1950 | AEIdeas

Free-fall: Adjusted for inflation, print newspaper advertising will be lower this year than in 1950 | AEIdeas: The blue line in the chart above displays total annual print newspaper advertising revenue (for the categories national, retail and classified) based on actual annual data from 1950 to 2011, and estimated annual revenue for 2012 using quarterly data through the second quarter of this year, from the Newspaper Association of America (NAA). The advertising revenues have been adjusted for inflation, and appear in the chart as millions of constant 2012 dollars. Estimated print advertising revenues of $19.0 billion in 2012 will be the lowest annual amount spent on print newspaper advertising since the NAA started tracking ad revenue in 1950.

Why Are All the Religious References in "Innocence of Muslims" Dubbed? [UPDATED] - On The Media

Why Are All the Religious References in "Innocence of Muslims" Dubbed? [UPDATED] - On The Media: I can't help but wonder if the actors involved in the project were told what kind of film they were making. If you remove all the references to Islam in the trailer, the movie reads like some cheesy Arabian Nights story, and it is quite possible that that is all the actors thought they were doing. In a world where the cartoon depiction of the Prophet Muhammed can spark riots, it seems plausible that an actor would not want to be involved in a project that so blatantly offends a whole religion (and whether or not you are Muslim, it is evident that this film is meant to be offensive). Perhaps the filmmakers thought they would have a problem getting people to sign on to such a project.

Romney: I wouldn’t turn down Netanyahu meeting

This is Netanyahu playing politics again - Israel chose to make this a big deal, but one of these days, it's going to be an overreach for the mainstream US. I think it's already gone past that for the rest of the world, though there's anti-Semetism at work there as well.

Romney: I wouldn’t turn down Netanyahu meeting: While greeting supporters in Jacksonville, Fla. after his press conference on the attacks in Egypt and Libya, Mitt Romney took a subtle swipe at President Obama’s relations with Israel.

“I can’t ever imagine if the Prime Minister of Israel asked to meet with me, I can’t imagine ever saying no,” Romney said when asked about Israel, according to a pool report. “They’re our friends. They’re our closest allies in the Middle East.”

Amid tension over how to stop Iran’s nuclear program, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had sought a meeting with Obama when they both attend the annual United Nations General Assembly in New York later this month. The White House told Jerusalem that a meeting was impossible, because the two leaders would not be in the city at the same time.

Barack H. Obama - Nobel Lecture: A Just and Lasting Peace

Barack H. Obama - Nobel Lecture: A Just and Lasting Peace: But the world must remember that it was not simply international institutions – not just treaties and declarations – that brought stability to a post-World War II world. Whatever mistakes we have made, the plain fact is this: The United States of America has helped underwrite global security for more than six decades with the blood of our citizens and the strength of our arms. The service and sacrifice of our men and women in uniform has promoted peace and prosperity from Germany to Korea, and enabled democracy to take hold in places like the Balkans. We have borne this burden not because we seek to impose our will. We have done so out of enlightened self-interest – because we seek a better future for our children and grandchildren, and we believe that their lives will be better if others' children and grandchildren can live in freedom and prosperity.

Michael Lewis: Obama’s Way | Vanity Fair

Michael Lewis: Obama’s Way | Vanity Fair: “There are times when you come in here and you’re having a particularly difficult day,” said the president. “Sometimes I come in here.” He pulled back the cloth and revealed a handwritten copy of the Gettysburg Address. The fifth of five made by Lincoln but the only one he signed, dated, and titled. Six hours earlier the president had been celebrating the Lady Bears of Baylor. Four hours earlier he’d been trying to figure out what, if anything, he would do to save lives of innocents being massacred by their government in Syria. Now he looked down and read the words of another president, who also understood the peculiar power, even over one’s self, that comes from putting your thoughts into them.

11 September, 2012

The Weatherman Is Not a Moron - NYTimes.com

The Weatherman Is Not a Moron - NYTimes.com:
The Weather Service has struggled over the years with how much to let the public in on what it doesn’t exactly know. In April 1997, Grand Forks, N.D., was threatened by the flooding Red River, which bisects the city. Snowfall had been especially heavy in the Great Plains that winter, and the service, anticipating runoff as the snow melted, predicted that the Red would crest to 49 feet, close to the record. Because the levees in Grand Forks were built to handle a flood of 52 feet, a small miss in the forecast could prove catastrophic. The margin of error on the Weather Service’s forecast — based on how well its flood forecasts had done in the past — implied about a 35 percent chance of the levees’ being topped. 
The waters, in fact, crested to 54 feet. It was well within the forecast’s margin of error, but enough to overcome the levees and spill more than two miles into the city. Cleanup costs ran into the billions of dollars, and more than 75 percent of the city’s homes were damaged or destroyed. Unlike a hurricane or an earthquake, the Grand Forks flood may have been preventable. The city’s flood walls could have been reinforced using sandbags. It might also have been possible to divert the overflow into depopulated areas. But the Weather Service had explicitly avoided communicating the uncertainty in its forecast to the public, emphasizing only the 49-foot prediction. The forecasters later told researchers that they were afraid the public might lose confidence in the forecast if they had conveyed any uncertainty.

Mars Curiosity Rover Takes a Selfie - Alexis C. Madrigal - The Atlantic

Mars Curiosity Rover Takes a Selfie - Alexis C. Madrigal - The Atlantic: This is the shot we've all been waiting for: the first time that our robot on Mars would rotate its camera and snap an image of its Short Circuit-like head.

McSweeney’s Internet Tendency: The Long Walk: A Column About Washington: We Own This Country.

McSweeney’s Internet Tendency: The Long Walk: A Column About Washington: We Own This Country.: With this trickier kind of back-and-forth—and with news operations happy to let mere he-said-he-said win out; even everyone’s boyfriend/radio network NPR shrugged out this mealy-mouthed headline: “Fact Checkers Say Some of Ryan’s Claims Don’t Add Up”—campaigns are free to say what they want. Still, as campaigns get more cynical and disrespectful, it stands to reason that they are just mirroring this critical percentage of the electorate, the fed-up possible voters unsure if they’ll even bother on Nov. 6. By campaigning in the dirt, the two camps are specifically targeting those who don’t trust political promises, are royally pissed off and are looking for someone to blame.

“The Satanic Verses,” the Fatwa, and a Life Changed : The New Yorker

“The Satanic Verses,” the Fatwa, and a Life Changed : The New Yorker: How the fatwa changed a writer’s life.

(A fascinating take of history as experienced by the instigator, the initiate)

10 September, 2012

Trending Upward - By Michael C. Horowitz and Philip E. Tetlock | Foreign Policy

Trending Upward - By Michael C. Horowitz and Philip E. Tetlock | Foreign Policy: The next 15 years will witness the transformation of North Korea and resulting elimination of military tensions on the peninsula. No, this is not our rosy assessment of Northeast Asian politics or the reformist goals of Kim Jong Un. It was the verbatim prediction of the senior-most officials in the U.S. intelligence community -- 15 years ago. Needless to say, the Stalinist regime, though hardly the picture of health, remains untransformed. In fact, Pyongyang has since tested nuclear weapons, and relations between North and South show little sign of improving; military tensions are high.
Share on twitter Twitter

Share on reddit Reddit

Bookmark and Share More...

One suspects the analysts who wrote that line regret it. But the truth is that prediction is hard, often impossible.

09 September, 2012

The Washington Monthly - The Magazine - A Malevolent Forrest Gump

The Washington Monthly - The Magazine - A Malevolent Forrest Gump: Today Strom Thurmond’s name brings to mind two sentiments: revulsion and disgrace. Here was a racist hypocrite who denounced the intermixing of black and white while secretly paying hush money to his own biracial daughter. He never apologized for his years as a segregationist, and even had the nerve later in life to deny that they ever occurred. Thurmond’s association was toxic enough to cost Trent Lott his position as Senate majority leader in 2002, when Lott suggested during an unguarded moment that the United States would have been a better place had Thurmond been elected president in 1948.

Yet as Joseph Crespino demonstrates in his outstanding biography, Strom Thurmond’s America, it is precisely Thurmond’s loathsomeness on racial issues that obscures his larger role in American politics. Like some malevolent Forrest Gump, Thurmond was there at all the major choke points of modern conservative history: the 1948 breakaway from the Democrats of the short-lived States’ Rights Democratic (or Dixiecrat) Party, Barry Goldwater’s 1964 presidential campaign, Richard Nixon’s southern strategy in 1968, and Ronald Reagan’s ascendance in 1980.

Facebook Investors Know Exactly Whom to Blame - Bloomberg

Facebook Investors Know Exactly Whom to Blame - Bloomberg: As for investing advice for the masses, particularly on newly minted stocks, Cuban said: “You don’t know enough to invest in individual stocks. You are gambling. If that suits you, great. Go for it. You might win. But realize that no one sells stocks expecting you to make money on the deal.”

So who is to blame if you lost money on Facebook? The fault is entirely your own. This isn’t a game for crybabies.


Quote For The Day II:
The Government wants to place itself as the sole arbiter of when a habeas petitioner is 'seeking' to challenge their own detention and when a habeas case is 'impending,' and thus when they can have access to counsel. But access to the Court means nothing without access to counsel.' The MOU actually gives the Government final, unreviewable power to delay, hinder, or prevent access to the courts. Moreover, the Government actions thus far demonstrate that it cannot be trusted with such power," - Judge Royce Lamberth, striking down the Obama administration’s scheme to restrict access to counsel for prisoners at Guantánamo through a "memorandum of understanding" which habeas lawyers were being coerced to sign, in a ruling yesterday. More here.

07 September, 2012

Revisiting Robbers Cave: The easy spontaneity of intergroup conflict | Literally Psyched, Scientific American Blog Network

Revisiting Robbers Cave: The easy spontaneity of intergroup conflict | Literally Psyched, Scientific American Blog Network: The groups themselves were highly similar. They’d been previously matched as closely possible for things like height and weight, athleticism and popularity outside of camp, previous camp experience and musicality, and so on. To an outside eye, they were just your typical kids arriving for a relaxing stay at summer camp.

In reality, they were no such thing. They were instead the subjects in what has since become one of the most famous studies in social psychology—specifically, the area devoted to intergroup relations: Muzafer Sherif’s Robbers Cave experiment. The goal of the study was multifold: to see how quickly group identity could become established among strangers, how fixed or flexible that identity was, how it would play out in competitive settings with other groups, and how the group conflict dynamic could be mitigated after the fact.

06 September, 2012

Excerpt: Read Part of Kurt Eichenwald’s 500 Days | Vanity Fair

Excerpt: Read Part of Kurt Eichenwald’s 500 Days | Vanity Fair: A report summarizing the conversations was sent to David Manning, Blair’s foreign policy advisor, and Jack Straw, the foreign secretary. Straw was bowled over by what he read. The Americans seemed to be planning a war based on a wishful thinking that bordered on fantasy. There was nothing to suggest they understood the magnitude and complexity of military action against Iraq, and they seemed to have reverted to the mindset that, if other nations didn’t see it their way, they would just go it alone.

On July 8, Straw prepared a three-page memo to Blair deriding the American plans as fatally flawed by logical inconsistencies and pie-in-the-sky assumptions.

The Bush Administration had “no strategic concept for the military plan and, in particular, no thought apparently given to ‘day after’ scenarios,” Straw wrote.

How Google Builds Its Maps -- And What It Means for the Future of, Well, Everything

How Google Builds Its Maps -- And What It Means for the Future of, Well, Everything:

Behind every Google Map, there is a much more complex map that's the key to your queries but hidden from your view. The deep map contains the logic of places: their no-left-turns and freeway on-ramps, speed limits and traffic conditions. This is the data that you're drawing from when you ask Google to navigate you from point A to point B -- and last week, Google showed me the internal map and demonstrated how it was built. It's the first time the company has let anyone watch how the project it calls GT, or "Ground Truth," actually works.


AP Fact-Checks Clinton By Pointing Out That He Lied Once:
CLINTON: "Their campaign pollster said, 'We're not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact checkers.' Now that is true. I couldn't have said it better myself — I just hope you remember that every time you see the ad."
THE FACTS: Clinton, who famously finger-wagged a denial on national television about his sexual relationship with intern Monica Lewinsky and was subsequently impeached in the House on a perjury charge, has had his own uncomfortable moments over telling the truth. "I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky," Clinton told television viewers. Later, after he was forced to testify to a grand jury, Clinton said his statements were "legally accurate" but also allowed that he "misled people, including even my wife."

Why Bill Clinton's Speeches Succeed

Why Bill Clinton's Speeches Succeed: Because he treats listeners as if they are smart.

The main other place you hear discussion based on the same assumption that people of any background, education level, or funny-sounding accent can understand sophisticated back-and-forth of argument and counter-claim is sports-talk radio. ("I understand the concern about Strasburg's arm. But ... ") You hear insults and disagreements and put-downs on sports-talk discussions. You rarely hear the kind of deliberate condescension, the unconcealable effort as if talking to slow learners, of many political "authorities" addressing the unwashed.


Different people have different natural modes for their speech, and not many people can pull it off just the way Clinton does. But Clinton reminds us of the value (and rarity) of this tone in politics -- and the next time you listen to a sports-talk channel, think how much better our political discussion would be if participants assumed as much sophistication about argument as ESPN and radio-talk hosts do.

What Bill Clinton Wrote vs. What Bill Clinton Said - Politics - The Atlantic Wire

What Bill Clinton Wrote vs. What Bill Clinton Said - Politics - The Atlantic Wire: Now, People ask me all the time how we delivered got four surplus budgets in a row. What new ideas did we bring to Washington? I always give a one-word answer: arithmetic. If — arithmetic! If they stay with a $5 trillion tax cut plan — in a debt reduction plan? — the arithmetic tells us no matter what they say that one of three things will is about to happen:

05 September, 2012

Paralympics Fever by Nicole Gelinas - City Journal

Paralympics Fever by Nicole Gelinas - City Journal: Thanks in part to NBC’s conviction that American viewers aren’t interested in the event, most of us likely don’t know that the Paralympics are not the Special Olympics. The Special Olympics represent a worthy cause: supporting intellectually challenged people and their families by boosting capabilities and self-esteem through sports. The Paralympics are neither a charity nor a cause. Like their Olympian counterparts, Paralympians aren’t interested in anything but medaling. Athletes win or lose gold, silver, and bronze—and are thus exhilarated or disappointed—according to their own work, talent, equipment, and luck. Nobody “wins” here just because he or she is missing a limb or two.

Coming Soon: Artificial Limbs Controlled by Thoughts: Scientific American

Coming Soon: Artificial Limbs Controlled by Thoughts: Scientific American: If we succeed in meeting still formidable challenges, the first ceremonial kick of the World Cup game may be made by a paralyzed teenager, who, flanked by the two contending soccer teams, will saunter onto the pitch clad in a robotic body suit. This suit—or exoskeleton, as we call it—will envelop the teenager's legs. His or her first steps onto the field will be controlled by motor signals originating in the kicker's brain and transmitted wirelessly to a computer unit the size of a laptop in a backpack carried by our patient.

How I Quantified Myself - IEEE Spectrum

How I Quantified Myself - IEEE Spectrum: By the end of my experiment, I’d realized that mere data probably isn’t enough to motivate me either. The stats made it clear that less alcohol and more exercise would improve my sleep. But lazing about the house with my husband, my son, and a glass of wine is my favorite thing to do, and I suspect that no amount of data will make me change my ways. Obsessing over my health data, however, was a much easier habit to kick. After two months of quantifying and analyzing, it felt blissful to unstrap all my monitors, forget about my daily stats, and just fall asleep.

04 September, 2012

Still Separate and Unequal - Rhena Catherine Jasey - The American Interest Magazine

Still Separate and Unequal - Rhena Catherine Jasey - The American Interest Magazine: As an educator who has taught in public schools for nine years, I can tell you something that only other teachers and professional educators really understand: You’re mistaken. An educational system doesn’t work like a vending machine, or like any machine or business delivering a product for consumption. Money matters, to be sure, but the labor and material resources money buys are only necessary but far from sufficient components for educating our children properly. Our educational system is far more complex than even very attentive outsiders can grasp, and it is, moreover, not an independent actor by any means. What goes on in the homes of students and in the wider society matters enormously to educational outcomes. Few ardent supporters of public education really understand what it takes to provide high-quality learning opportunities for children in a public school classroom, and for that reason few are aware of the vast chasm between public school systems that are well provisioned to do so and those that aren’t.

Joe Biden Isn’t Finished

Joe Biden Isn’t Finished: But the truth about Biden is, in fact, more subtle and complex: that his greatest asset, what Obama strategist David Axelrod calls his “bluntness and ebullience,” is equally his gravest liability; that his old-school m.o. makes him almost uniquely unsuited to this postmodern political-media moment; that in a culture that pines ardently for authenticity and then punishes it cruelly, his utter incapacity for phoniness (and, yes, his grievous inability to control his yap) endows him with enormous charm and guile—and also renders him a human IED.

Tutu spends some capital

Why I had no choice but to spurn Tony Blair | Desmond Tutu | Comment is free | The Observer: The immorality of the United States and Great Britain's decision to invade Iraq in 2003, premised on the lie that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction, has destabilised and polarised the world to a greater extent than any other conflict in history.

Instead of recognising that the world we lived in, with increasingly sophisticated communications, transportations and weapons systems necessitated sophisticated leadership that would bring the global family together, the then-leaders of the US and UK fabricated the grounds to behave like playground bullies and drive us further apart. They have driven us to the edge of a precipice where we now stand – with the spectre of Syria and Iran before us.

I shall always be with you

On June 8th of 1950, nine months after being arrested by the Czech secret police on suspicion of leading a plot to overthrow the Communist regime, 48-year-old socialist politician Milada Horáková was found guilty of "high treason" following a show trial that was broadcast on national radio, and in which she remained defiant. On the 27th of that month, despite international outcry and a petition signed by, amongst others, Albert Einstein and Winston Churchill, Milada Horáková was executed at Prague's Pankrác Prison.

The night before her death, she wrote the following letter to her 16-year-old daughter....

03 September, 2012

It's Becoming Clear That No One Actually Read Facebook's IPO Prospectus Or Mark Zuckerberg's Letter To Shareholders - Business Insider

It's Becoming Clear That No One Actually Read Facebook's IPO Prospectus Or Mark Zuckerberg's Letter To Shareholders - Business Insider: As Facebook's stock continues to collapse, the volume of whining is increasing.

Four months ago, you will recall, Facebook was viewed as "the next Google." Now, with no major change in the fundamentals, it's viewed as an over-hyped disaster. Meanwhile, there is ever-louder grumbling that 26-year-old Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is in over his head and should be relieved of command.

As I listen to all this whining, I have a simple question:

Didn't anyone even read Facebook's IPO prospectus?

The answer, I can only assume, is "no."


Supersonic Flying Wing Nabs $100,000 from NASA | Bidirectional Flying Wing Aircraft | Innovationnewsdaily.com: Zha's bidirectional flying wing kicks the general concept up a notch by essentially laying two flying wings on top of one another at a 90 degree angle, so that the aircraft faces one way for subsonic flight and rotates another way for supersonic flight. [Supersonic Biplane Design Stops Sonic Booms]

The midair transformation allows the aircraft to fly in its most fuel-efficient modes at both subsonic and supersonic speeds, Zha explained. Jet engines located on top of the aircraft in concept illustrations appear to rotate independently of the aircraft so that they can always point forward in flight.

01 September, 2012

BBC News - Cardinal Carlo Martini says Church '200 years behind'

BBC News - Cardinal Carlo Martini says Church '200 years behind': Catholics lacked confidence in the Church, he said in the interview. "Our culture has grown old, our churches are big and empty and the church bureaucracy rises up, our religious rites and the vestments we wear are pompous."

Unless the Church adopted a more generous attitude towards divorced persons, it will lose the allegiance of future generations, the cardinal added. The question, he said, is not whether divorced couples can receive holy communion, but how the Church can help complex family situations.

And the advice he leaves behind to conquer the tiredness of the Church was a "radical transformation, beginning with the Pope and his bishops".