31 July, 2014

Stop blaming black parents for underachieving kids - The Washington Post

Stop blaming black parents for underachieving kids - The Washington Post: Mayors, teachers unions, and news commentators have boiled down the academic achievement gap between white and black students to one root cause: parents. Even black leaders and barbershop chatter target “lazy parents” for academic failure in their communities, dismissing the complex web of obstacles that assault urban students daily. In 2011, then-New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg exemplified this thinking by saying, “Unfortunately, there are some parents who…never had a formal education and they don’t understand the value of an education.” Earlier this year, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette columnist Tony Norman diagnosed that city’s public schools’ chief problem: the lack of “active, radical involvement of every parent.” And even President Obama rued last week that in some black communities, gaining education is viewed as “acting white.”

CIA director John Brennan apologizes for search of Senate committee’s computers - The Washington Post

CIA director John Brennan apologizes for search of Senate committee’s computers - The Washington Post: CIA employees improperly searched computers used by Senate investigators involved in a multiyear probe of the agency’s use of harsh interrogation measures on terrorism suspects, according to the findings of an internal agency inquiry that prompted CIA Director John Brennan to apologize to lawmakers this week.

Ten agency employees, including two lawyers and three computer specialists, surreptitiously searched Senate Intelligence Committee files and reviewed some committee staff members’ e-mails on computers that were supposed to be exclusively for congressional investigators, according to a summary of the CIA inspector general’s report released Thursday.

The document criticizes members of the computer team for a “lack of candor about their activities” when they were questioned by investigators working for CIA Inspector General David Buckley.

30 July, 2014

At Front Lines, Bearing Witness in Real Time - NYTimes.com

At Front Lines, Bearing Witness in Real Time - NYTimes.com: Bearing witness is the oldest and perhaps most valuable tool in the journalist’s arsenal, but it becomes something different delivered in the crucible of real time, without pause for reflection. It is unedited, distributed rapidly and globally, and immediately responded to by the people formerly known as the audience.

 It has made for a more visceral, more emotional approach to reporting. War correspondents arriving in a hot zone now provide an on-the-spot moral and physical inventory that seems different from times past.

That emotional content, so noticeable when Anderson Cooper was reporting from the Gulf Coast during Hurricane Katrina in 2005, has now become routine, part of the real-time picture all over the web.

The absence of the conventional layers of journalism — correspondents filing reports that are then edited for taste and accuracy — has put several journalists under scrutiny, mostly for responding in the moment to what they saw in front of them.

28 July, 2014

Pentagon: Russia Could Move Heavier Weapons Into Ukraine 'Imminently'

Pentagon: Russia Could Move Heavier Weapons Into Ukraine 'Imminently': Russia is seeking to escalate the conflict in Ukraine and could move larger, more sophisticated multiple-launch rocket systems into the country to support the separatist rebels as early as Friday, July 25, the Pentagon warns.

"We believe that they're able to transfer this equipment at any time, at any moment," Pentagon spokesman Col. Steve Warren told reporters on Friday.

The United States has been tracking a continual flow of weapons moving across the border and into the hands of pro-Russian separatists over the last several weeks.

"We know that they've transferred tanks, artillery, multiple-launch rocket systems," Warren said. "We have indications that the Russians plan to move larger-caliber rocket systems to the Ukrainian separatists."

Hey Spencer Ackerman: do you still think Libya ended successfully? | Fredrik deBoer

Hey Spencer Ackerman: do you still think Libya ended successfully? | Fredrik deBoer: As I said at the time, the time frame of genuine humanitarianism– of ensuring that actual human beings are capable of living lives with basic material security and democratic power– is far, far longer than the time frame of pundit careerism. To declare Libya won at that date was wrong on its face, as there was no possibility that anyone could have safely said that security and political stability had been established. Those things take time, and I’m afraid our political media doesn’t have time to wait.

27 July, 2014

Glavine and Maddux Lead a Hall of Fame Day Dominated by Braves - NYTimes.com

Glavine and Maddux Lead a Hall of Fame Day Dominated by Braves - NYTimes.com:

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. — The Atlanta Braves
washed ashore at Otsego Lake here on Sunday and took over the Hall of
Fame induction ceremony as if they were trying to win one more World
Series for Bobby Cox.

Yes, Joe Torre and Tony La Russa
were inducted, as managers, as was the tearful slugger Frank Thomas.
But it was a Braves day with the induction of pitchers Greg Maddux and
Tom Glavine, and Cox, their manager, before a besotted crowd of
tomahawk-chopping fans, many in blue and red jerseys and caps, and the
ultimate Brave, Hank Aaron, onstage with about 50 other Hall of Famers.

Why Google's Best Leaders Aren't Stanford Grads With Perfect SATs | Inc.com

Why Google's Best Leaders Aren't Stanford Grads With Perfect SATs | Inc.com: Crunching the numbers on the question of what makes a successful leader, Google found out that leaders must be predictable and consistent. When managers are predictable, they eliminate an obstacle from employees' progress--themselves. Managers have their own tendency to interfere, dictate, second-guess, and be a backseat driver. Without this obstacle, employees don't have to worry about whether their manager will try to jump in or suddenly veer in a different direction. Instead, they have the mental space to do great work.

On the flip side, as Laszlo Bock, senior vice president of people operations at Google, puts it, "If your manager is all over the place, you're never going to know what you can do, and you're going to experience it as very restrictive." But "[i]f a leader is consistent, people on their teams experience tremendous freedom."

Physicist George Ellis Knocks Physicists for Knocking Philosophy, Falsification, Free Will | Cross-Check, Scientific American Blog Network

Physicist George Ellis Knocks Physicists for Knocking Philosophy, Falsification, Free Will | Cross-Check, Scientific American Blog Network: Physics experiments are approaching the highest energies it will ever be possible to test by any collider experiment, both for financial and technical reasons. We can’t build a collider bigger than the surface of the Earth. Thus our ability to test high energy physics – and hence structures on the smallest physical scales – is approaching its limits. Astronomical observations at all wavelengths are now probing the most distant cosmological events that will ever be “seeable” by any kinds of radiation whatever, because of visual horizons for each form of radiation.

It’s rather like the situation as regards exploring the Earth: once
upon a time we had only fragmentary knowledge of what is there. Then we
obtained a global picture of the Earth’s surface, including detailed
satellite images of the entire land mass. Once you have seen it all, you
have seen it all; apart from finer and finer details, there is nothing
more to find. You might respond, But we can’t see to the bottom of the
oceans. However, we do indeed now have quite good maps of the ocean
floor too, through various sounding techniques.  This is similar to the
way we have seen right back to the last scattering surface in the early
universe at a redshift of 1200 (the analogue of seeing the entire
surface of the Earth from space) with satellites such as COBE, WMAP, and
Planck, and also (indirectly) to the time of emission of gravitational waves by Bicep2 (the analogue of seeing to the bottom of the ocean). We’ll sort out that controversy in the next couple of years.

So what we can see at the largest and smallest scales is approaching
what will ever be possible, except for refining the details.

Rise of the Christian left: Why the religious right’s moment may be ending - Salon.com

Rise of the Christian left: Why the religious right’s moment may be ending - Salon.com: At this very moment, different factions of the religious left are duking it out over Obama’s proposed executive order banning discrimination against LGBT workers on behalf of federal contractors, and though the diversity of the religious left might concern some, the big picture is that the religious left is a growing force for political influence. As time passes and the mantle of political participation passes from prior partisan generations down to millennials, we might see that influence continue to grow, re-invigorating some of the finest features of the Christian tradition: to resist categorization, pull hard for the oppressed and downtrodden and insist upon hope while coping with the realities of power.

25 July, 2014

The Forgotten Internment

The Forgotten Internment: The invasion triggered the chaotic removal of all the Aleut civilians from the islands. On June 12, a naval commander ordered the immediate evacuation of Atka, the next-most-westerly Aleut settlement, 875 kilometres east of Attu. Once its residents had retreated to the hills, they watched as a military crew burned the village to the ground to prevent its use by the invaders. Then the Atkans were ordered to board a military ship and, without further explanation, their long voyage east began.

Over the next month, the remaining nine Aleut settlements were emptied and their buildings, instead of being burned, were occupied for military use. Residents received little to no warning of their departure and no information about where they were going or how long they would be gone. Some were allowed to bring a single suitcase each; others carried nothing at all.

Final Voyage of the Costa Concordia - In Focus - The Atlantic

Final Voyage of the Costa Concordia - In Focus - The Atlantic: More than two and a half years since it crashed near Isola del Giglio, Italy, the wreck of the Costa Concordia was successfully refloated this week, and has begun its final journey—a four-day trip to a scrap yard in Genoa. The cruise ship capsized after striking a reef on January 13, 2012, killing 32 passengers and crew members. The complex salvage operation was the largest and most expensive in history. Gathered here are images, including several interior shots, of the ship's time near Isola del Giglio—from the initial disaster to today's towing away of the Costa Concordia. [30 photos]

Photos of the Week: 7/19-7/25 - In Focus - The Atlantic

Photos of the Week: 7/19-7/25 - In Focus - The Atlantic: A row of hearses carrying victims of the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 plane disaster are escorted on highway A27 near Nieuwegein, Netherlands, by military police, on their way to be identified by forensic experts in Hilversum, on July 23, 2014. (Reuters/Marco de Swart) #

Jonathan Gruber on Halbig: Says Quote on Exchanges Was a Mistake | New Republic

Jonathan Gruber on Halbig: Says Quote on Exchanges Was a Mistake | New Republic: Did the people who designed Obamacare intend to deprive millions of people of health insurance, just because officials in their states decided not to operate their own insurance marketplaces?

A lawsuit making its way through the federal judiciary, and perhaps on its way to the Supreme Court, claims the answer is yes. And while every federal official and member of Congress who worked on crafting the law in 2009 and 2010 disagrees, now there’s a video from 2012 in which one of the law’s best known advocates and architects—MIT economist Jonathan Gruber—makes the same basic argument that the lawsuit does.

Among those who say they are surprised by the statement is Gruber himself, whom I was able to reach by phone. "I honestly don’t remember why I said that," he said, attempting to reconstruct what he might have been thinking at the time. "I was speaking off-the-cuff. It was just a mistake." As evidence that it was not indicative of his beliefs, he noted that his projections of the law's impact have always assumed that all eligible people would get subsides, even though, he said, he did not assume all states would choose to run their own marketplaces.

24 July, 2014

Christians United for Israel: The most insanely pro-Israel conference of the year.

Israel certainly wants to put a stop to the
loss of life — but the goal that Netanyahu set at the outset of this
war, ensuring sustained quiet, can only be achieved through the
long-term weakening of Hamas or its ouster. If there is no viable
political solution, that means Israeli military action – bolstered by
our fortunately burgeoning security partnership with Abdel-Fattah
el-Sissi’s Egypt, preventing the influx of weaponry and materials into
the Strip. (One fervently hopes there’s a great deal of Jerusalem-Cairo
coordination going on right now.) Israel needs Gaza demilitarized, and
the UN, US, EU et al are no more capable of ensuring that than the
international community was capable of disarming Hezbollah in south
Israelis don’t doubt that the army can prevail
in Gaza — to degrade Hamas’s capacity to harm us in the near term,
maybe even the medium term. If the ground offensive proceeds for another
week or two — the government and the generals say, and most Israelis
believe — Hamas’s fighting force, its tunnels, its rocket capabilities
will be devastated. At a terrible cost. And with nothing to prevent
Hamas’s prompt revival.

Thane Rosenbaum’s Wall Street Journal op-ed: This New York University scholar—like Osama Bin Laden—thinks civilians can be legitimate targets.

Thane Rosenbaum’s Wall Street Journal op-ed: This New York University scholar—like Osama Bin Laden—thinks civilians can be legitimate targets:

For both Rosenbaum and Bin Laden, the situation is straightforward:
Because a majority of Gazans/Americans voted for leaders who used
violence or waged war against Israelis/Muslims, both have forfeited
their claim to noncombatant status. After all, if they wanted to avoid
conflict, they wouldn’t have elected those people in the first place.

If you recoil from this logic, your head is in the right place. By
any standard, it’s perverse and morally wrong—a justification for the
worst atrocities. What’s more, it’s based on the faulty assumption that
there are no innocents in a democratic polity—that all individuals, from
aid workers and conscientious objectors to children and the disabled,
bear responsibility for every action of their government. If this were
true, then the logic of Rosenbaum and Bin Laden would make sense, and
everyone would stand as a legitimate target in armed conflict.

Health Insurance for Millions Threatened; Republicans Celebrate

Health Insurance for Millions Threatened; Republicans Celebrate: Am I being unfair? Well here's a challenge. Let's see if anybody can point me to a single prominent conservative—member of Congress, movement figure, media figure—whose response to that decision is not just what they're all saying (some variant of "This just shows what a terrible law Obamacare is") but also something like, "Of course, we don't want anyone to lose their health coverage, so if this decision is upheld we should pass a law correcting the drafting error that gave rise to this case and making sure those millions of Americans can keep getting the subsidies that make it possible for them to buy private insurance."

Iraqi Christians are raped, murdered and driven from their homes – and the West is silent – Telegraph Blogs

Iraqi Christians are raped, murdered and driven from their homes – and the West is silent – Telegraph Blogs:

The West’s direct intervention in Iraq created Hell on Earth for its
Christian citizens, while the West’s lack of action in Syria (out of
deference to its failings in Iraq) has permitted a regrouping of
Islamist forces and the opening of a second front against Christians.
The lesson is: “either leave other countries alone or, if you must
intervene, do so with consistency and resilience”. The consequences of
going in, messing things up and then quitting with a weary shrug are
terrible for those left behind.

Yet, having been so intimately involved in the collapse of Iraq, the
West is now bizarrely silent about events in Mosul. The streets of
London fill with thousands marching against Israel’s military operation
in Gaza; the West rails mightily against the Russian separatists in
Ukraine. But of Iraq there is nothing. Why?

Dating while mentally ill: When to tell the guy about my condition?

Dating while mentally ill: When to tell the guy about my condition?: So what’s the answer? I would love to feel I could keep my mental illness under wraps until I was comfortable with someone, as if it were a hobby like collecting international Barbie dolls. But that seems both unfair and dangerous. Having a panic attack in front of someone unprepared is not great for building trust. With new friends, I try to rummage around conversationally in their own lives first, and then drop in a few details to see how they land. I am much better at picking friends than romantic partners, and nothing has ever gone terribly wrong with this approach. But somehow it doesn’t seem quite enough when you’re taking the first steps toward asking someone to love you for better or for worse. I come with more worse than most people, and it’s only fair that I’m honest about that.

Why are so many parents being arrested? - The Week

Why are so many parents being arrested? - The Week: But today those communities seem rarer, and so, too, those shared premises about how kids should behave. More than that, there's a fear of taking responsibility for kids in the neighborhood. Deliver a short report on a child's behavior and his parents may snap back, "Don't tell me how to parent my child." A neighbor's interest may seem invasive or even creepy. Lacking church or community, bystanders in a neighborhood refer their concern about a suboptimal parental situation (one they usually know little about because they are not very neighborly) to the only other institution empowered to look out for the welfare of children: the state.

The state's guardianship functions were developed to handle only the most extreme cases of neglect or abuse. The incentives of those within these departments incline them to suspicion and dramatic intervention. "We only get called in an emergency, so this must be one."

Non-Combatants and Gaza | The American Conservative

Non-Combatants and Gaza | The American Conservative:

Thane Rosenbaum unintentionally endorses the logic of every terrorist group in history:

On some basic level, you forfeit your right to be called
civilians when you freely elect members of a terrorist organization as
statesmen, invite them to dinner with blood on their hands and allow
them to set up shop in your living room as their base of operations. At
that point you begin to look a lot more like conscripted soldiers than
innocent civilians. And you have wittingly made yourself targets.
This is perverse and absolutely wrong, but it’s the sort of argument
that one will end up making in order to defend a military operation that
has already killed hundreds of non-combatants. Civilian deaths
reportedly make up the overwhelming majority of Palestinian casualties
in Gaza over the last few weeks, and these have resulted from the
indiscriminate use of force in a densely populated area. More to the
point, Rosenbaum’s argument is extremely similar to the justifications
that terrorist groups use when they target civilians in their own
attacks. It is based on the completely false assumption that there are
no real innocents or bystanders in a given country because of their
previous political support for a government and its policies, which
supposedly makes it permissible to strike non-military targets. It is
very important to reject this logic no matter where it comes from or
whose cause in a conflict it is being used to advance, because this is
the logic that has been used to justify countless atrocities down
through the years.

Russia Conspiracy Theories Trap Putin Malaysia Airlines MH17 | New Republic

Russia Conspiracy Theories Trap Putin Malaysia Airlines MH17 | New Republic:

The result of all this Russian coverage is that Russians’ understanding
of what happened is as follows. At best, the crash is an unfortunate
accident on the part of the Ukrainian military that the West is trying
to pin on Russia, which had nothing to do with it; at worst, it is all
part of a nefarious conspiracy to drag Russia into an apocalyptic war
with the West. So whereas the West sees the crash as a game-changer, the
Russians do not see why a black swan event has to change anything or
they want to resist what they see is a provocation. To them, after a few
days of watching Russian television, it’s not at all clear what
happened nor that their government is somehow responsible for this
tragedy. And the more we insist on it, the less likely the Russians are
to agree. 

Government by moral panic | a paper bird

Government by moral panic | a paper bird:

Corporate conglomerates, a military-industrial complex, rich and
insecure churches, noisy social movements (more of them on the Right
than the Left), local governments carving out their own extortion zones,
and many more mini- and mega-oligarchies multiply. As happens when a
once coherent power is privatized, each tries to establish its own small
dictatorship over whoever it can influence. This Russia, one scholar says,
is ” a highly corrupt state that still cannot fully control its
borders, monopolize the legal means of violence, or clearly articulate
its role in the contemporary world.” For all his shirtless preening,
Putin is no muscle-man able to wield top-down control. Instead he must
exhort, scare, cajol, and distract the rest of society till he gets his

Government by moral panic is a way of governing when the government
fears impotence, as in a morning nightmare where your legs won’t
move: its power shaling into paralysis, its strength sloughing off like

Israel’s Gaza Incursion Sets Off Protests in Europe - NYTimes.com

Israel’s Gaza Incursion Sets Off Protests in Europe - NYTimes.com: France, with some of Europe’s largest Muslim and Jewish populations, has become a flash point for anger against Israel, and Jewish community leaders say they fear that criticism of Israeli policy is being seized upon by some to promote anti-Semitism.

Over the weekend, the authorities banned protests in selected areas of Paris, citing security concerns.

Several recent pro-Palestinian demonstrations in Paris have boiled over into violence, and earlier this month several hundred protesters sought to storm two synagogues in the French capital during an anti-Israel demonstration in which protesters chanted, “Death to Jews!” and “Hitler was right,” according to Serge Cwajgenbaum, secretary general of the European Jewish Congress, a Brussels-based organization representing European Jewry.

This chart shows every person killed in the Israel-Palestine conflict since 2000 - Vox

This chart shows every person killed in the Israel-Palestine conflict since 2000 - Vox:

You can see the pattern of the last several years clearly on the top
chart: the conflict remains at a relatively low level until, every
couple of years, it flares up with heavy Israeli strikes on Gaza that
also cost a large number of Palestinian lives. This status quo, on net,
clearly causes a large number of Palestinian lives. But it kills very
few Israelis, which is a big part of why Israeli voters and leaders have
appeared willing to accept it.

This Israeli strategy is sometimes described as "cutting the grass."
In this thinking, Israel never really solves the conflict or even
tries; it tolerates a level of violence from Gaza-based militant groups,
but every few years bombs and maybe invades Gaza to weaken militants
there and destroy their weapons – to cut the grass. It treats the
Israel-Palestine conflict, at least as it pertains to Gaza, as something
to be managed rather than solved.

It is important to stress that this strategy is not one that ever
produces peace or that is designed to lead to a solution. It accepts a
low level of Israeli deaths from rocket fire, and occasionally dozens or
hundreds of Palestinian deaths from air strikes, as status quo.

Flight 17: Ukraine’s War and Europe’s Passivity - NYTimes.com

Flight 17: Ukraine’s War and Europe’s Passivity - NYTimes.com:

Vladimir Putin of Russia has been playing with fire. His irredentism
has made him a hero in Russia. It has endangered the world. Crimea was
the swaggering precedent to this crime. The shooting down of Malaysia
Airlines Flight 17 amounts to an act of war. It was impromptu perhaps,
but still. Dutch corpses have rained down on the sunflowers and
cornfields of eastern Ukraine, to be defiled even in death, 193 innocent
Dutch souls dishonored by the thugs of the Donetsk People’s Republic.

is murder, mass murder. Let’s call it what it is,” said Julian
Lindley-French, a defense analyst who lives in the small Dutch village
of Alphen. “Shock is turning to anger here,” he told me, “and that anger
will resonate in the coming weeks. This is the beginning of a period of
complex torture for the Netherlands.”
Dutch response has been of tip-toeing deference to Moscow. As for the
European Union, it has been near-nonexistent. When crisis comes, Europe
vanishes — the ghost that slithers away. The West has become an empty
notion. The Dutch trade a lot with Russia. Europe floats along in a
bubble of quasi pacifism. Better to be bullied than belligerent. Nobody
wants the guns of August.

When and Why Civil Resistance Works Against Authoritarian Regimes | Foreign Affairs

When and Why Civil Resistance Works Against Authoritarian Regimes | Foreign Affairs: Between 1900 and 2006, campaigns of nonviolent resistance against authoritarian regimes were twice as likely to succeed as violent movements. Nonviolent resistance also increased the chances that the overthrow of a dictatorship would lead to peace and democratic rule. This was true even in highly authoritarian and repressive countries, where one might expect nonviolent resistance to fail. Contrary to conventional wisdom, no social, economic, or political structures have systematically prevented nonviolent campaigns from emerging or succeeding. From strikes and protests to sit-ins and boycotts, civil resistance remains the best strategy for social and political change in the face of oppression. Movements that opt for violence often unleash terrible destruction and bloodshed, in both the short and the long term, usually without realizing the goals they set out to achieve. Even though tumult and fear persist today from Cairo to Kiev, there are still many reasons to be cautiously optimistic about the promise of civil resistance in the years to come.

The Pope and the Pederasts by Garry Wills | NYRblog | The New York Review of Books

The Pope and the Pederasts by Garry Wills | NYRblog | The New York Review of Books: 3. Patriarchy. The Vatican is not only the West’s oldest monarchy, but its most entrenched patriarchy. For long its official teaching was Thomas Aquinas’s assertion (taken from Aristotle) that “the female is a defective male.” Though the Vatican has tried in recent years to back off from that position, as late as 1976 Paul VI’s Curia said that there can be no women priests because women do not look like Jesus: they lack “this ‘natural resemblance’ which must exist between Christ and his minister.” Pope John Paul II said in 1994 that if Jesus had wanted to ordain women, he would have begun with the best of them, his mother. He ignores the fact that Jesus in the Gospels ordained no priests, male or female. The investigation of American nuns for daring to have opinions of their own shows how far Vatican officials are from understanding women. (How could they understand them?)

A Strange Political Dustup Clouds Kansas Governor's Future : NPR

A Strange Political Dustup Clouds Kansas Governor's Future : NPR: Kansas's Republican Gov. Sam Brownback is locked in an unexpectedly tough re-election battle for doing exactly what he said he would do – cut taxes.

Citing mounting evidence that those tax cuts are creating a budget crisis – not stimulating the Kansas economy as promised – some in the state's moderate Republican establishment recently did the unthinkable: endorse a Democrat for governor.

That's not only endangering Brownback's re-election hopes, it's also tarnishing his plans to turn one of the reddest of red states into a national model.

W.H. blocks press on West Coast tour - POLITICO.com

W.H. blocks press on West Coast tour - POLITICO.com: "Despite constant complaints from the press corps and promises from White House officials, access to the president continues to be limited in ways not seen in previous administrations. The constantly repeated line that they’re running the 'most transparent administration in history' tends to prompt snickers. Halfway through Obama’s West Coast swing, it’s tipping toward outrage," Dovere and Gerstein write.

What's even more irksome for the press is that this approach to super PAC events is coming from a president who has publicly criticized the Citizens United decision and distances himself from the PAC that supports him.

"How many people Obama met with was a secret. How much they paid to get in was a secret. Finding out who the people were? Forget it. Even a general account of what the president said to them? Not from this White House."

23 July, 2014

Weird Al Yankovic Scores With ‘Mandatory Fun’ - NYTimes.com

Weird Al Yankovic Scores With ‘Mandatory Fun’ - NYTimes.com: Because RCA did not provide any production budget, Mr. Yankovic said, the videos were paid for by various partner sites that brought their own audiences, like Nerdist, Funny or Die and College Humor. The gambit worked. Mr. Yankovic’s web stats exploded. On Wikipedia, for example, his profile has drawn 575,000 views so far this month, according to the music data-tracking firm Next Big Sound. On Spotify, Mr. Yankovic’s music was streamed 3,282,937 times around the world last week, up 785 percent from the week before.

19 July, 2014

Inside John Kerry’s Diplomatic Save in Afghanistan | TIME

Inside John Kerry’s Diplomatic Save in Afghanistan | TIME:

As they headed to a midnight press conference, officials present say
the men seemed to take pride in an agreement that had spared their
country the threat of a nightmarish descent into chaos.

On July 16, President Obama opened his press conference announcing
new economic sanctions against Russia by congratulating his Secretary of
State for brokering the Afghan deal. Obama said it had preserved “the
first democratic transfer of power in the history of that nation.”

In a conversation the day after Kerry’s departure, Ghani shared his
relief over the outcome. The agreement, he said, may have saved one
million Afghan lives.

Moral Responsibility and the Israel-Palestinian Conflict

Moral Responsibility and the Israel-Palestinian Conflict: It's been said many times that no government would tolerate rockets being fired into its territory without a response, which is true. But those rockets do not grant Israel a pass from moral responsibility for what it does and the deaths it causes, any more than prior acts of terrorism have. In this as in so many conflicts, both sides—and those who defend each—try to justify their own abdication of human morality with a plea that what the other side has done or is doing is worse. We've heard that argument made before, and we'll continue to hear it. But when we do, we should acknowledge it for what it is: no justification at all.

Actions are either defensible on their own terms or they aren't. The brutality of your enemy makes no difference in that judgment. It wasn't acceptable for the Bush administration's defenders to say (as many did) that torturing prisoners was justified because Al Qaeda beheads prisoners, which is worse. And our judgment of Hamas's lobbing of hundreds of rockets toward civilian areas tells us nothing about whether Israel's actions in Gaza are right or wrong.

Why I Stand With Israel

Why I Stand With Israel: I used to have a great personal interest in the policy detail of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I could lecture at length on the subtleties of Camp David, Taba, the Road Map; on the different kinds of settlements; on the security barrier, its precise shape and contours; on the various UN resolutions; on the history of Fatah and Hamas. By now, like Lord Palmerston and the Schleswig-Holstein Question, I have forgotten most of the details.

What I have not forgotten is the following: the State of Israel is a democracy with the rule of law and respect for human rights (yes, imperfect, unlike the United States and Europe, which, as we all know, are perfect); demonic hatred of Jews is a real and persistent fact of history and when left unchecked it always leads to atrocities; this demonic hatred is absolutely clearly distilled into the enemies of Israel; and most, most importantly this: if tomorrow Hamas, Hizbullah and other enemies of Israel dropped their weapons, peace would break out; if tomorrow Israel dropped its weapons, a genocide would break out.

 There is, there can be, no moral equivalency. Sometimes there really are Good Guys and Bad Guys.

That the Palestinians are weak and poor while Israel is comparatively strong and rich changes nothing. That Israel is often unwise and, yes, occasionally criminal, changes nothing.

Health survey gives government its first large-scale data on gay, bisexual population - The Washington Post

Health survey gives government its first large-scale data on gay, bisexual population - The Washington Post: Less than 3 percent of the U.S. population identify themselves as gay, lesbian or bisexual, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Tuesday in the first large-scale government survey measuring Americans’ sexual orientation.

The National Health Interview Survey, which is the government’s premier tool for annually assessing Americans’ health and behaviors, found that 1.6 percent of adults self-identify as gay or lesbian, and 0.7 percent consider themselves bisexual.

Syrian diary: Life in Aleppo | The Economist

Syrian diary: Life in Aleppo | The Economist: Bringing myself back to today, I make my coffee while reading Facebook to see what damage last night’s bombings caused. I am lucky to have the money to pay for a satellite internet connection. This is the only way to get online here in the rebel-held areas of Syria because for almost two years all means of communication have been cut—landlines, the mobile network and the internet—as collective punishment for areas that rebelled against the regime. Fighters and activists use walkie-talkies but as a woman I am not allowed to use one. This area of the city has long been very conservative and women don’t participate in public life; now it is also a frontline in a warzone, even more of a male-only domain.

The electricity is on for around four hours a day, so many people have paid to get an alternative source of power. Local traders invest in huge generators and they distribute electricity to others for a monthly fee. Sometimes the electricity is completely cut off for a week and the generator breaks, like today.

I’m sorry for coining the phrase “Manic Pixie Dream Girl” - Salon.com

I’m sorry for coining the phrase “Manic Pixie Dream Girl” - Salon.com: So I’d like to take this opportunity to apologize to pop culture: I’m sorry for creating this unstoppable monster. Seven years after I typed that fateful phrase, I’d like to join Kazan and Green in calling for the death of the “Patriarchal Lie” of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope. I would welcome its erasure from public discourse. I’d applaud an end to articles about its countless different permutations. Let’s all try to write better, more nuanced and multidimensional female characters: women with rich inner lives and complicated emotions and total autonomy, who might strum ukuleles or dance in the rain even when there are no men around to marvel at their free-spiritedness. But in the meantime, Manic Pixies, it’s time to put you to rest.

Parenting in an Age of Bad Samaritans | The American Conservative

Parenting in an Age of Bad Samaritans | The American Conservative: This is the unfortunate result of living in a world where parenting is no longer supported and bolstered by private association and community. If only there had been a family member, friend, or church member who had volunteered to watch Harrell’s little girl. If only the “good samaritan” at the dollar store had considered calling Justin’s father, or offered to take the boys home. We live in a society that neglects the sort of private stewardship that could foster truly safe environments for our children—and unfortunately, when parents are thrown into prison, it hardly seems to create more safe surroundings for these kids.

Hamas is destroying Gaza: The Palestinian militant organization is sacrificing Palestinians.

Hamas is destroying Gaza: The Palestinian militant organization is sacrificing Palestinians.: That’s what Hamas is doing. It’s trading Palestinian blood for political ambitions it foolishly expects to achieve through war. No amount of suffering in Gaza has persuaded it to stop. During the war’s first week, there was vague talk of a cease-fire, with each side reportedly holding out for further demands. Netanyahu declared that “no international pressure will prevent us from operating with full force.” Israel looked like a belligerent bully. On Monday, when Egypt announced a cease-fire proposal based on ideas sketched by Abbas, all Hamas had to do was say yes. The proposal entailed no concessions. It was just a break in the bloodshed, followed by talks.

A Positive Example of the Internet Comforting a Grieving Stranger - Cari Romm - The Atlantic

A Positive Example of the Internet Comforting a Grieving Stranger - Cari Romm - The Atlantic: And for others, like this family, it comes in the form of something much more rare: crowdsourced comfort, delivered by total strangers from across a digital divide.

Selfishly, it's comforting for the rest of us, too. The longer we exist on social media, the more loss we'll all eventually live out through our computer screens. Let's hope that this, rather than funeral selfies, becomes the future norm for public grief.

18 July, 2014

Verizon’s Accidental Mea Culpa | Beyond Bandwidth

Verizon’s Accidental Mea Culpa | Beyond Bandwidth: To summarize: All of the networks have ample capacity and congestion only occurs in a small number of locations, locations where networks interconnect with some last mile ISPs like Verizon. The cost of removing that congestion is absolutely trivial. It takes two parties to remove congestion at an interconnect point. I can confirm that Level 3 is not the party refusing to add that capacity. In fact, Level 3 has asked Verizon for a long time to add interconnection capacity and to deliver the traffic its customers are requesting from our customers, but Verizon refuses.

17 July, 2014

Working Mom Arrested for Letting Her 9-Year-Old Play Alone at Park - Conor Friedersdorf - The Atlantic

Working Mom Arrested for Letting Her 9-Year-Old Play Alone at Park - Conor Friedersdorf - The Atlantic: Statistically speaking, the South Carolina mother would almost certainly be putting her daughter in more danger if she strapped her into the car beside her for a hypothetical one-hour daily commute. No one would arrest her for that. It wouldn't surprise me if the child would more likely suffer harm sitting in a McDonald's in front of a laptop, presumably eating fast food at least reasonably often, rather than spending summer days playing outdoors in a park with lots of parents.

I can't say with certainty that she'd be statistically safer. But neither have the South Carolina officials who arrested this woman.

The actual safety of a given kid is not being rigorously determined. State employees are drawing on their prejudices to make somewhat arbitrary judgment calls. They wouldn't think of preventing many statistically riskier parenting decisions so long as those decisions jive comfortably with social norms. They're sometimes taking away children based on what amounts to their gut feeling–even though kids are far more likely to be abused in state-administered foster care. Again, I haven't run the numbers, but my hunch is that a single parent with a new boyfriend or girlfriend hanging around the house puts a kid at greater statistical risk of being molested than letting them play alone in a typical park.

Mom Arrested for Letting Daughter Play Outside -- NYMag

Mom Arrested for Letting Daughter Play Outside -- NYMag:

Debra Harrell is currently in jail
because she let her 9-year-old daughter play, unsupervised, in a public
park. Almost everything about this story (which I noticed courtesy of Lenore Skenazy)
is horrifying. Harrell works at McDonald's. Her daughter used to tag
along and stare at a screen at her mother’s workplace during the day.
She asked to go to the park instead, was discovered to be without an
adult, and her mother was arrested. Compounding the horribleness is the
news coverage, in which reporters and onlookers alike are united in
disgust at Harrell:

The story is a convergence of helicopter parenting with
America’s primitive family policy. Our welfare policy is designed to
make everybody, even single mothers, work full-time jobs. The social
safety net makes it difficult for low-wage single mothers to obtain
adequate child care. And society is seized by bizarre fears that
children are routinely snatched up by strangers in public places. The
phenomenon is, in fact,
nearly as rare
as in-person voting fraud. But when you watch the report above, you can
see everybody involved believes such a thing plainly happens all the

Obviously, leaving a child unattended in a park is not an ideal
child-care arrangement. It is, however, a perfectly sensible balancing
of risks.

16 July, 2014

Panic in the Kitchen: Blogging, liberty, and the fear of the dinner plate | Kate Williams | The Hypocrite Reader

Panic in the Kitchen: Blogging, liberty, and the fear of the dinner plate | Kate Williams | The Hypocrite Reader: One’s own diet is the perfect arena in which to (literally) internalize one’s stance on personal liberty. As long as we have the means to choose our meals, food becomes a deeply personal choice. We are, after all, the ones putting the fork into the pasta and sticking it in our mouths. Our fears and desires are easily manifested on the plate: even eaters who eat just about anything often show preference for certain foods based on mood or weather (Google “eat your feelings”). Using a diet to demonstrate difference is a simple extension of emotional eating.

Demonstrating difference is not, in and of itself, a bad thing. The problem with this way of eating is that it reduces food to a sort of obligatory social contract instead of a source of enjoyment. As in the political arena at large, associating with members across the aisle is not only ill thought of, it is also socially dangerous. Where once there was curiosity, now there is fear. Engaging with the online food media means sifting through a pile of dos and don’ts; the consequences of mixing these up, many argue, can be deadly. As Americans, we are already fearful of government shutdowns, global warming, terrorist attacks, and the next election. We don’t need to be afraid of our food, too

15 July, 2014

Mom Jailed Because She Let Her 9-Year-Old Daughter Play in the Park Unsupervised - Hit & Run : Reason.com

Mom Jailed Because She Let Her 9-Year-Old Daughter Play in the Park Unsupervised - Hit & Run : Reason.:

Here are the facts: Debra
Harrell works at McDonald's in North Augusta, South Carolina.
For most of the summer, her daughter had stayed there with her,
playing on a laptop that Harrell had scrounged up the money to
purchase. (McDonald's has free WiFi.) Sadly, the Harrell home was
robbed and the laptop stolen, so the girl asked her mother if she
could be dropped off at the park to play instead.

Harrell said yes. She gave her daughter a cell phone. The girl
went to the park—a
place so popular
 that at any given time there are about 40
kids frolicking—two days in a row. There were swings, a
," and shade. On her third day at the park, an adult
asked the girl where her mother was. At work, the daughter

The shocked adult called the cops. Authorities declared the girl
"abandoned" and proceeded to arrest the mother.

14 July, 2014

The Art of Water Recovery - NYTimes.com

The Art of Water Recovery - NYTimes.com: “When you have a pressurized system, what you do in one place affects all other places,” said Meir Wietchner, Miya’s chairman. Replace a leaky pipe segment and the pressure will increase in other segments and more leaks will sprout.

“It’s simple physics,” he added. “And the larger the pressure the larger the leakage. If a hole that’s receiving one unit of pressure will leak X gallons per day, with 2 units of pressure it will leak 4X, and with 3 units pressure it will leak 9X. It’s a square function.”

One of Allan Lambert’s insights was to separate leaks into “bursts” and “background” losses (pdf). “It isn’t the main leaks that cause the most loss of water,” he said. “It’s the long-running leaks that go on for months or years that aren’t detected. One leaking toilet will lose as much water in two years as a burst in a four-inch main for a full day.”

So how do you fix and manage a system that’s leaking in tens or hundreds of thousands of places — and how do you do it cost effectively?

What tech offices tell us about the future work – Kate Losse – Aeon

What tech offices tell us about the future work – Kate Losse – Aeon: What connects Facebook’s incongruous graffiti and Twitter’s incongruous log cabins is their expense. Both represent a complete renovation of the space, making graffiti and log cabins (not in themselves luxurious) seem like high-end amenities. The homesteader who originally lived in Twitter’s log cabin lived a much more rugged life than the office worker, and this contrast is part of the log cabin’s frisson in the office. Likewise the men’s clothing shops in fashionable areas of San Francisco such as Hayes Valley and the Mission that sell multiple styles of artisanal leather boots and allow the tech worker to model himself on a rugged 19th-century labourer. The rough-hewn, old-fashioned look of Twitter’s cabins is repeated in all the reclaimed wood that has crept into the high-tech workspace in recent years. Any splinters you get from these textures is a small price to pay for the tactile, pre-modern feeling of a place that is otherwise devoted to the collection of ethereal data. It is this very need to represent high-tech luxury at the same time as invoking its opposite that drives the modern baroque of early 21st-century tech offices.

13 July, 2014

Hector Tobar: How the Chilean Miners Survived : The New Yorker

Hector Tobar: How the Chilean Miners Survived : The New Yorker:

Urzúa was pretty sure that there was no escape, and little prospect
of rescuers reaching them. He broke the silence by counting the men.
Raúl Villegas, an ore-truck driver, was missing, but Lobos and
Galleguillos said that they had seen him on his way to the surface.
(Villegas was the only one who got out that day.) Urzúa’s count came to
thirty-two men, but he was not confident that the figure correctly
reflected the shift, because in the San José Mine the lists of workers
changed from one day to the next.

 The men split into two groups.
One, a small escape party that included Urzúa, Sepúlveda, and Bustos,
would search for an opening to the surface. The second, about two dozen
men, headed back to the Refuge to wait. Florencio Ávalos, the shift’s
foreman and the second in command after Urzúa, spoke privately to Yonni
Barrios, who was among the oldest and most experienced in the group.
“Down in the Refuge, take care of those provisions,” Ávalos said. “Don’t
let the boys eat them yet, because we may be trapped for days.”

Prey | Hazlitt

Prey | Hazlitt: In the aftermath of rape, and throughout the two-year-long rape trial, I was obsessed with dangerous animals. This is how I went from prey to predator.

Dawn of the Web: an oral history - Ideas - The Boston Globe

Dawn of the Web: an oral history - Ideas - The Boston Globe: SUDBURY: We had people who were using the cafe computers the way you’d use Wi-Fi now—like, they were tech savvy, they knew what they needed to do, but they needed access because they needed to look something up or send an e-mail....And then there were people who just wanted to see what it was like. They just wanted to go look at a website. It was sort of just very novel to them, and they would just click around on things. Because back then, clicking around on things was wildly entertaining, because it was so novel....It sounds corny, but it blew people’s minds.

Lessons From America's War for the Greater Middle East // News // Notre Dame Magazine // University of Notre Dame

Lessons From America's War for the Greater Middle East // News // Notre Dame Magazine // University of Notre Dame: Since 1980, back when President Jimmy Carter promulgated the Carter Doctrine, the United States has been engaged in what we should rightfully call America’s War for the Greater Middle East. The premise underlying that war can be simply stated: with disorder, dysfunction and disarray in the Islamic world posing a growing threat to vital U.S. national security interests, the adroit application of hard power would enable the United States to check those tendencies and thereby preserve the American way of life.

Choose whatever term you like: police, pacify, shape, control, dominate, transform. In 1980, President Carter launched the United States on a project aimed at nothing less than determining the fate and future of the peoples inhabiting the arc of nations from the Maghreb and the Arabian Peninsula to the Persian Gulf and Central Asia.

Since the end of World War II, American soldiers had fought and died in Asia. Even when the wars in Korea and Vietnam ended, U.S. troop contingents continued to garrison the region. In Europe, a major U.S. military presence dating from the start of the Cold War signaled Washington’s willingness to fight there as well. Prior to Carter’s watershed 1980 statement, no comparable U.S. commitment toward the Islamic world existed. Now that was going to change.

Should We 'Fix' Intersex Children? - ​Charlotte Greenfield - The Atlantic

Should We 'Fix' Intersex Children? - ​Charlotte Greenfield - The Atlantic: M was born with genitals that were not clearly male or female. Also known as disorders of sex development (DSDs), the best guess by researchers is that intersex conditions affect one in 2,000 children.

The response by doctors is often to carry out largely unregulated and controversial surgeries that aim to make an infant’s genitals and reproductive organs more normal but can often have unintended consequences, according to intersex adults, advocates and some doctors.

A long and gut-wrenching list of damaging side effects—painful scarring, reduced sexual sensitivity, torn genital tissue, removal of natural hormones and possible sterilization—combined with the chance of assigning children a gender they don’t feel comfortable with has left many calling for the surgeries to be heavily restricted.

Kansas was supposed to be the GOP’s tax-cut paradise. Now it can barely pay its bills. - Vox

Kansas was supposed to be the GOP’s tax-cut paradise. Now it can barely pay its bills. - Vox: After the cuts became law, it was undisputed that Kansas's revenue collections would fall. But some supply-side analysts, like economist Arthur Laffer, argued that increased economic growth would deliver more revenue that would help cushion this impact.

Yet it's now clear that the revenue shortfalls are much worse than expected. "State general fund revenue is down over $700 million from last year," Duane Goossen, a former state budget director, told me. "That's a bigger drop than the state had in the whole three years of the recession," he said — and it's a huge chunk of the state's $6 billion budget. Goossen added that the Kansas's surplus, which had been replenished since the recession, "is now being spent at an alarming, amazing rate." You can see that in this chart (the surplus is cumulative, not yearly):

Israeli drones hunt Hamas as militants fire rockets deeper into Israel - The Washington Post

Israeli drones hunt Hamas as militants fire rockets deeper into Israel - The Washington Post: Israeli aircraft are targeting houses in the Gaza Strip as never before, firing precision-guided missiles into family living rooms. They have killed at least five known militants with the tactic — but they appear to have killed more civilians, including a growing number of women and children.

Israeli defense officials say their mission is not only to stop Hamas and other militant groups in the Gaza Strip from firing ever-more-powerful rockets deeper into Israel, as they did Wednesday, but also to weaken Hamas by killing its commanders.

 But by targeting 60 houses in the past 48 hours, Israel’s risk of inflicting collateral damage has soared. The health ministry in Gaza reported Wednesday evening that 41 residents of the crowded coastal enclave had been killed in Israeli strikes since the conflict began early Tuesday, and that 13 of the dead were 16 years old or younger. At least seven were women and a handful were elderly, such as Naifeh Farjallah, who was 80.

Moderate voters are a myth - Vox

Moderate voters are a myth - Vox: What happens, explains David Broockman, a political scientist at the University of California at Berkeley, is that surveys mistake people with diverse political opinions for people with moderate political opinions. The way it works is that a pollster will ask people for their position on a wide range of issues: marijuana legalization, the war in Iraq, universal health care, gay marriage, taxes, climate change, and so on. The answers will then be coded as to whether they're left or right. People who have a mix of answers on the left and the right average out to the middle — and so they're labeled as moderate.

The tragedy never ends: Palestinian rockets force Israeli peace conference to evacuate - Vox

The tragedy never ends: Palestinian rockets force Israeli peace conference to evacuate - Vox: An Israeli peace conference held in Tel Aviv by the left-leaning newspaper Ha'aretz, established to put "peace [with Palestinians] at the top of the national agenda" and "to end the occupation and the settlement project," was abruptly halted on Tuesday when the audience had to evacuate due to incoming rockets launched by Palestinian groups.

 It was a coincidence, yes; the rockets are barely accurate enough to be aimed at a single city, let along a single building holding an Israel-Palestine peace conference, and no one was hurt. But it is a moment of profoundly tragic symbolism, exceptional even in a conflict that produces many such moments, that a Palestinian militant group with the desire of ending the Israeli occupation would fire rockets at Israeli civilians who had themselves gathered with the express purpose of ending the occupation.

 Observers of the Israel-Palestine conflict often say that the violence committed by both sides is self-defeating, but rarely is this so demonstrably and immediately true as with today's evacuation of the Ha'aretz peace conference.

Meet the Muslim-American Leaders the FBI and NSA Have Been Spying On - The InterceptThe Intercept

Meet the Muslim-American Leaders the FBI and NSA Have Been Spying On - The InterceptThe Intercept:

Government agencies have invoked a host of legal theories over the
years to justify spying on Americans without obtaining individual FISA
warrants. Prior to mid-2008, for example, the NSA could target Americans
when they were located on foreign soil simply by obtaining an
authorization from the attorney general. The NSA also relies on the
so-called “FISA backdoor” to read the emails of Americans communicating with foreign targets without obtaining a warrant, and engages in the bulk collection of “metadata”
from Internet service providers without individual warrants. In other
cases, it can obtain a warrant against an entire organization—and then
monitor the emails of individuals allegedly associated with the group.

While the NSA documents do not prove that the government has been
systematically monitoring the communications of political dissidents,
Jaffer notes that some of the most abusive surveillance practices
carried out by the FBI during the 1960s were arguably legal at a time
when many Americans believed that the groups targeted by Hoover’s
FBI—including anti-government activists on the left and right—posed a
threat to the country.

What a Muslim American Said to Defend His Patriotism - Conor Friedersdorf - The Atlantic

What a Muslim American Said to Defend His Patriotism - Conor Friedersdorf - The Atlantic: Gill correctly perceives that we'll all know what he means when he invokes the characteristics he possesses that would seem to make him less suspicious. The fact that most people internalize these judgments to some degree illustrates how chilling effects work: Americans, especially those who belong to minority groups, formulate a sense of what speech and actions will cast suspicion on or away from them. The mere existence of surveillance thus changes behavior that is constitutionally protected and in many cases civically valuable. This is a significant cost that I've yet to see any national-security official acknowledge.

Why There Are No Easy Answers to the Latest Border Dilemma

Why There Are No Easy Answers to the Latest Border Dilemma:

for a bit of background. The trouble we're having now is really two
problems coming together: an increase in the number of children from
Central America making this journey, and a system that doesn't have the
resources to handle them once they get here. A number of conditions are
combining to create the former: desperate poverty and violence in the
three countries most of these kids are coming from (Guatemala, El
Salvador, and Honduras), false rumors that children who come today will
get to stay under the administration's Deferred Action For Childhood
Arrivals policy (which actually
only applies to
people who came to the US before June 2007), and the more accurate
belief that if you make it to the US you might get to stay anyway, at
least for a while until your deportation hearing.

And that's the second part: because of the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act—a
law passed in 2008 with the support of many Republicans (it was named
for a 19th century British evangelical abolitionist) and signed by
President George W. Bush—children stopped at the border can't just be
shoved on a bus back home. They have to be given a deportation hearing,
and until that hearing occurs, the law says the child must be "promptly
placed in the least restrictive setting that is in the best interest of
the child." The law also says that "[a] child shall not be placed in a
secure facility absent a determination that the child poses a danger to
self or others or has been charged with having committed a criminal
offense." In other words, we can't just lock them up, and if they have
some family in the U.S., placing the minor with them is going to be "the
least restrictive setting that is in the best interest of the child."

11 July, 2014

The case for shutting down Stuyvesant High School, the best public school in New York.

The case for shutting down Stuyvesant High School, the best public school in New York.: Noguera is exactly right. The politicians and the education experts who are so fixated on the racial balance at Stuyvesant neglect the fact that Stuyvesant is not built to support and nurture students who need care and attention to excel academically and socially. It is a school that allows ambitious students who know how to navigate their way around a maddening, complex bureaucracy to connect with other students with the same skill sets. Being in a fiercely competitive environment spurs a small number of sleep-deprived students to stretch themselves to the limit, to compete for admission to elite universities. The truth is that while Stuyvesant certainly does send many hyperaggressive students to the Stanfords and MITs and Princetons, students who find themselves in the bottom half of the class often languish without the support they’d get at other schools.

08 July, 2014

How to rob a bank without stealing any money - Vox

How to rob a bank without stealing any money - Vox:

It could be something as simple as having two cups of
coffee — like when I went into  the elevator at Vox’s office, somebody
saw I was busy and they just swiped me in because I look like I belong
here. Another famous one is the smokers' door. If you get to the
smokers' door before the smokers come out and you seem like you belong
there, they'll let you back in the building because people are very
reluctant to challenge people.

To beat social engineering, you would have to challenge
everyone, which just isn't in our makeup. It works at the Pentagon, they
have guys with podiums everywhere whose job is to challenge people. But
otherwise if you turned around and slammed the door in someone's face
and said, "swipe in," you would seem so rude, and that's just so against
human nature. That's the trait that these guys use to break into

07 July, 2014

Why Wars Always End Up Hurting the Most Vulnerable Americans - Peter Beinart - The Atlantic

Why Wars Always End Up Hurting the Most Vulnerable Americans - Peter Beinart - The Atlantic: Most Americans have forgotten how repressive a period World War I was. “You can’t even collect your thoughts without getting arrested for unlawful assemblage,” quipped the writer Max Eastman. “They give you ninety days for quoting the Declaration of Independence, six months for quoting the Bible.” Walter Lippmann said Woodrow Wilson’s administration had “done more to endanger fundamental American liberties than any group of men for a hundred years.”

Data Pirates of the Caribbean: The NSA Is Recording Every Cell Phone Call in the Bahamas - The Intercept

Data Pirates of the Caribbean: The NSA Is Recording Every Cell Phone Call in the Bahamas - The Intercept: The National Security Agency is secretly intercepting, recording, and archiving the audio of virtually every cell phone conversation on the island nation of the Bahamas.

According to documents provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, the surveillance is part of a top-secret system – code-named SOMALGET – that was implemented without the knowledge or consent of the Bahamian government. Instead, the agency appears to have used access legally obtained in cooperation with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration to open a backdoor to the country’s cellular telephone network, enabling it to covertly record and store the “full-take audio” of every mobile call made to, from and within the Bahamas – and to replay those calls for up to a month.

Will Uber Serve Customers With Disabilities? – Next City

Will Uber Serve Customers With Disabilities? – Next City: The ADA requires vehicles-for-hire to offer “reasonable accommodations” for wheelchair users, but “generally that phrase has meant nothing,” says Sandra Rosenbloom, an urban planning professor at the University of Texas-Austin and a transportation expert at the Urban Institute. And though wheelchair-accessible vehicles are rare both in the traditional taxi system and through rideshare services, traditional taxi companies are required in many cities to make some of their vehicles wheelchair-accessible. Companies like Uber and Lyft have no such obligation.

How to Save the Afghan Election

How to Save the Afghan Election: Afghan politics rarely reward gracious losers and public demonstrations, along with the use of violence, are well-worn negotiating tactics. As Anna Larson and Noah Coburn point out, protests against fraud are particularly common. By negating the electoral process, failed candidates distract from their own inability to come out on top. It's a self-defeating and dangerous strategy. Nonetheless, the very real possibility that protests could have turned violent played on the international community's fears of the process going off the rails and increased media coverage of Abdullah's grievances.

In my conversations with Afghan friends and colleagues in Kabul over the past few days, no one disputes that there has been widespread fraud and many are disillusioned with the way the process has played out. Few think the accusations should be brushed under the rug. But they also think it is up to the election bodies, with the international community's support, to investigate and address discrepancies -- however long it takes.

How A Woman's Plan To Kill Herself Helped Her Family Grieve : Shots - Health News : NPR

How A Woman's Plan To Kill Herself Helped Her Family Grieve : Shots - Health News : NPR: This story is in no way an endorsement of suicide. It's a description of one woman's choice and what came of it.

Five years ago, after doctors told her that she had Alzheimer's disease that would eventually steal her ability to read, write and recognize people, Sandy Bem decided to kill herself.

Sandy was 65 years old, an unsentimental woman and strong willed. For her, a life without books and the ability to recognize the people she loved wasn't a life she wanted.

And so she decided there was only one thing to do. Sandy's plan was to wait until the last conceivable moment that it was physically possible for her to commit suicide alone, then go off and kill herself.

Our Libertarian Age: Dogma of Democracy is a Dogma of Decline | New Republic

Our Libertarian Age: Dogma of Democracy is a Dogma of Decline | New Republic: From the start there never was any consensus about just what sort of trick the EU was supposed to be, apart from a machine to keep the peace and generate prosperity. All agreed that this would require a diminution of national sovereignty. But at the beginning very little thinking went into establishing democratic procedures within it, in part because after the experience with fascism the Founding Fathers did not fully trust le peuple. Even less thinking went into how to build public identification with the project—how to turn Scots and Sicilians into compatriots who feel they share a destiny and recognize the same institutions. The result is that ordinary Europeans today do not know what to make of the “European project.”

A Record Number of Refugees Are Suffering in Record Heat | Motherboard

A Record Number of Refugees Are Suffering in Record Heat | Motherboard: So, there is a fast-rising number of refugees and displaced people, coupled with fast-rising temperatures. Record displacement and record heat. And there's no functional mode of governance in place to deal with either—and both factors will feed into each other. Not only should we deem it flat-out unacceptable that millions of people are without homes or states, but it's recipe for even further disaster.

It is, as the Pentagon would say, a "threat multiplier." A hot, homeless world is also, justifiably, an angry, unpredictable one. Perversely, the hotter it gets, the more destabilized the world will become—and the more displacement and suffering we'll see.

06 July, 2014

New Statesman | This won't hurt a bit: the cultural history of pain

New Statesman | This won't hurt a bit: the cultural history of pain: In particular, people who had been placed at the “lower” end of the Chain of Feeling paid an extremely high price for prejudices about their “inability” to feel. In many white middle-class and upper-class circles, slaves and “savages”, for instance, were routinely depicted as possessing a limited capacity to experience pain, a biological “fact” that conveniently diminished any culpability among their so-called superiors for acts of abuse inflicted on them. Although the author of Practical Rules for the Management and Medical Treatment of Negro Slaves, in the Sugar Colonies (1811) conceded that “the knife of the anatomist . . . has never been able to detect” anatomical differences between slaves and their white masters, he nevertheless contended that slaves were better “able to endure, with few expressions of pain, the accidents of nature”. This was providential indeed, given that they were subjected to so many “accidents of nature” while labouring on sugar-cane plantations.

iPhone, phone home — Medium

iPhone, phone home — Medium: A concept that makes it easier for a good samaritan to return a lost iPhone.

U.S. should take lead on setting global norms for drone strikes - The Washington Post

U.S. should take lead on setting global norms for drone strikes - The Washington Post: We both have enormous respect for the men and women charged with keeping our nation safe and believe that there are many circumstances in which drone strikes are entirely appropriate. Nonetheless, we are troubled by the lack of transparency and accountability surrounding U.S. use of targeted strikes far from traditional battlefields, as well as the lack of strategic clarity.

The United States’ drone policies damage its credibility, undermine the rule of law and create a potentially destabilizing international precedent — one that repressive regimes around the globe will undoubtedly exploit.

BBC News - Search for Honduran miners continues amid fading hopes

BBC News - Search for Honduran miners continues amid fading hopes: Informal mines are common in Honduras but the lack of adequate safety means serious accidents are not unusual.

The mine is in an area prone to landslides and earthquakes.

The mayor of the nearby town of El Corpus, Luis Andres Rueda, said there were more than 50 informal mines in the area.

He estimated that hundreds of people use ladders to climb down into shafts as deep as 200m every day.

Armed with pickaxes, they hack away at the tunnel walls to try to extract minute gold nuggets from the soil.

An Interview With Tom Ricks on the Crisis in Iraq: How Bad Can It Get? | New Republic

An Interview With Tom Ricks on the Crisis in Iraq: How Bad Can It Get? | New Republic: A lot of this is all fruit of the poisoned tree. Maliki is the result of a botched political process that began under Bremer. We went in and said, "we’re going to hold national American-style elections, one man, one vote." And the country had three profoundly different groups who are at each other’s throats. It was insane. At that point, when we wanted one man, one vote, we turned control of that country over to Iran and that’s why it appalls me when you see Cheney and Wolfowitz and Elliott Abrams saying the Obama administration blew it. No, the Obama administration was trying to clean up the mess these guys made, and Maliki results directly from that mess. We should have grown the politics slowly. You start with town councils, district councils, then you go to provincial elections. And then you go, a couple of years later, to national elections. And that way you grow a new generation. Instead, we basically thrust the old class of exiles into power. Maliki is a low-grade Kerensky.

New ACLU report takes a snapshot of police militarization in the United States - The Washington Post

New ACLU report takes a snapshot of police militarization in the United States - The Washington Post: In fact, just 7 percent of SWAT raids were “for hostage, barricade, or active shooter scenarios.”
In at least 36 percent of the SWAT raids studies, no contraband of any kind was found. The report notes that due to incomplete police reports on these raids this figure could be as high as 65 percent.
SWAT tactics are disproportionately used on people of color.
65 percent of SWAT deployments resulted in some sort of forced entry into a private home, by way of a battering ram, boot, or some sort of explosive device. In over half those raids, the police failed to find any sort of weapon, the presence of which was cited as the reason for the violent tactics.

A SWAT team blew a hole in my 2-year-old son (UPDATE) - Salon.com

A SWAT team blew a hole in my 2-year-old son (UPDATE) - Salon.com: I know that SWAT teams are breaking into homes in the middle of the night, more often than not just to serve search warrants in drug cases. I know that too many local cops have stockpiled weapons that were made for soldiers to take to war. And as is usually the case with aggressive policing, I know that people of color and poor people are more likely to be targeted. I know these things because of the American Civil Liberties Union’s new report, and because I’m working with them to push for restraints on the use of SWAT.

A few nights ago, my 8-year-old woke up in the middle of the night screaming, “No, don’t kill him! You’re hurting my brother! Don’t kill him.” How can I ever make that go away? I used to tell my kids that if they were ever in trouble, they should go to the police for help. Now my kids don’t want to go to sleep at night because they’re afraid the cops will kill them or their family. It’s time to remind the cops that they should be serving and protecting our neighborhoods, not waging war on the people in them.

Cell Phones in Papua New Guinea Used to Call Dead People | New Republic

Cell Phones in Papua New Guinea Used to Call Dead People | New Republic: The Ambonwari have also incorporated the new technology into their existing systems of thought. They have long been confident in their ability to talk to the dead, believing they can communicate with the world of spirits in dreams, visions, and trances induced by special rituals. The introduction of mobile phones has opened up new possibilities: The Ambonwari believe they can use them to contact their dead relatives, whose numbers they obtain from healers. And once they reach them, they can ask for anything. “It is a general conviction,” write Telban and Vavrova, “that once people know the phone numbers of their deceased relatives they can ring and ask the spirits to put money in their bank accounts.” I asked Telban if the villagers are discouraged that they never get through to the spirit world; he assured me that they’re not. They might assume the spirits aren’t available. And they ring random numbers so often that occasionally they do reach someone, whose voice they attribute to a spirit.

Awlaki Assassination Memo Finally Released | Mother Jones

Awlaki Assassination Memo Finally Released | Mother Jones: The AUMF is now more than a dozen years old, and it's long past time for Congress to emerge from its fetal crouch and write a new law specifically designed for our present circumstances. Among other things, it should address the president's ability to target American citizens for killing. If Congress wants to give the president that power, it should debate and pass a law and the courts should rule on its constitutionality. That's the rule of law. And regardless of whether I liked the law, I'd accept it if Congress passed it, the president signed it, and the Supreme Court declared it constitutional.

Instead, as usual, Congress prefers to do nothing. This leaves them free to kibitz if they don't like what the president is doing, or to simply avoid having to take a stand at all. It's shameful.

'Columbusing': The Art Of Discovering Something That Is Not New : Code Switch : NPR

'Columbusing': The Art Of Discovering Something That Is Not New : Code Switch : NPR: If you've danced to an Afrobeat-heavy pop song, dipped hummus, sipped coconut water, participated in a Desi-inspired or sported a henna tattoo, then you've Columbused something.

is when you "discover" something that's existed forever. Just that it's existed outside your own culture, nationality, race or even, say, your neighborhood. Bonus points if you tell all your friends about it.

William R. Polk on American Grand Strategy for Iraq, Syria, and the Region - James Fallows - The Atlantic

William R. Polk on American Grand Strategy for Iraq, Syria, and the Region - James Fallows - The Atlantic: We don't want to live in fear, and we believe that the danger is foreign. The irony, as one of the authors of our Constitution already put it over 200 years ago, is that our principal danger is ourselves. Of course, he could not have guessed the extent: we murdered almost 200,000 of our fellow citizens in the first decade of this century. (That was with guns and knives; we killed about twice that many in the same period with our most dangerous weapon, the automobile.) The number of Americans killed by foreign terrorists in America was less than 3,000. The odds of an American being killed by a terrorist were said to be about 1:20,000,000. But, the number of Americans killed in foreign wars (not counting Vietnam) is approaching 10,000 and the number with long-term disabilities caused by wounds several times as high as the total of all these figures (including Vietnam).

Being a Neocon Means Never Having to Say You're Sorry

Being a Neocon Means Never Having to Say You're Sorry: From 2001 until sometime around 2006, the United States followed the core neoconservative foreign-policy program. The disastrous results of this vast social science experiment could not be clearer. The neoconservative program cost the United States several trillion dollars and thousands dead and wounded American soldiers, and it sowed carnage and chaos in Iraq and elsewhere.

One would think that these devastating results would have discredited the neoconservatives forever, just as isolationists like Charles Lindbergh or Robert McCormick were discredited by World War II, and men like former Secretary of State Dean Rusk were largely marginalized after Vietnam. Even if the neoconservative architects of folly are undaunted by failure and continue to stick to their guns, one might expect a reasonably rational society would pay them scant attention.

05 July, 2014

Why Jimmy Carter Was (and Is) a Rare Breed | Christianity Today

Why Jimmy Carter Was (and Is) a Rare Breed | Christianity Today: Balmer ends his book with the "impression that Carter was driven—almost obsessed—by a kind of works righteousness." He observes quite rightly that too many Christians seek "to prove by their good works that they are among the elect." From his days on his family farm to his years in the Navy to his many years on the campaign trail, Carter was an incessant worker. Most of the time, his hard work paid off, but Carter's work ethic could not solve the Iranian hostage crisis, his nation's economic malaise, or the electoral threat of Ronald Reagan. Balmer observes, however, that after his defeat to Reagan "Carter reaffirmed his commitment to works righteousness as a way to redeem his loss," and his ceaseless activism and philanthropy bolstered his reputation in the United States and abroad. Balmer thinks that the former president, now approaching 90 years of age, has earned a respite. That is undoubtedly true, but it is difficult to know whether Carter suffers from a theological blind spot or mere workaholism.

04 July, 2014

The Case for Assad | The National Interest

The Case for Assad | The National Interest: Even if the United States could properly vet and support only moderates, such as the Free Syrian Army, victory would still be unlikely. The balance of power does not favor moderates; they are fighting on two fronts against the militarily superior regime and the intractable ISIL. Over the last few months, Assad has used siege tactics, starvation and ceasefire negotiations to secure most of Syria’s major population centers. Moderate insurgents still cling to control of some towns and even suburbs of Aleppo and Damascus, but their prospects for victory are dimming quickly. Meanwhile, ISIL—a group denounced by Al Qaeda for being too extreme—continues to strengthen its position in Syria at the expense of the moderates. American aid to moderates at this stage is too little, too late.

The British View the War of 1812 Quite Differently Than Americans Do | History | Smithsonian

The British View the War of 1812 Quite Differently Than Americans Do | History | Smithsonian: Although nobody gained from the Treaty of Ghent, it is important to note that (with the exception of the later betrayals suffered by the Native American tribes) nothing was lost either. Moreover, both countries had new victories to savor. The U.S. found glory at the Battle of New Orleans, while six months later the British found theirs when the Duke of Wellington inflicted a crushing defeat over Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo. Both victories overshadowed everything that had taken place during the previous two years. For America, 1812 became the war in which it had finally gained its independence. For Britain, 1812 became the skirmish it had contained, while winning the real war against its greatest nemesis, Napoleon.

02 July, 2014

▶ Wake Me Up - Avicii - Sam Meador (Percussive Guitar Cover) - YouTube

▶ Wake Me Up - Avicii - Sam Meador (Percussive Guitar Cover) - YouTube: Sam performs his version of Avicii's "Wake Me Up" in his unique percussive guitar style. Sam Meador is the vocalist and keyboardist of Cinematic Black Metal band Xanthochroid. This video was filmed in his backyard by bandmate Brent Vallefuoco and friend Robert Punya.

01 July, 2014

Jeff Weintraub: Feisal Istrabadi on the tragedy of Iraq

Jeff Weintraub: Feisal Istrabadi on the tragedy of Iraq:

RY: How painful is that for you personally? You were one of the Iraqis who, as we said, had left the country and pushed for the US invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein. Some analysts [are] saying that Saddam Hussein, although he ruled with an iron fist, that iron fist kept these different factions together. Now we have this. You're watching this from Indiana. How painful is this for you?

 FI: Well, let me first address the first part of your remark about, "well, he may have been unpleasant, but ..." This is a man who is guilty of the deaths of no less than one million Iraqis over a period of 35 years. So there is no "he may have been a brutal tyrant" ... there is no "but" after that, there's no comma after that phrase. It's a period.

Having said that, I can say that none of my aspirations for Iraq have come true. My worst fears, my greatest nightmares, have all been exceeded. [....]

Tony Blair is mad to deny Iraq was a tragic error

Tony Blair is mad to deny Iraq was a tragic error: Advertisement

The reality is that before the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, there was no al-Qaeda presence in that country, none at all. Saddam was a ruthless Ba’athist tyrant who treated his population with appalling brutality. But he did not have anything to do with the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Centre, and he did not possess weapons of mass destruction.

The truth is that we destroyed the institutions of authority in Iraq without having the foggiest idea what would come next. As one senior British general has put it to me, ‘‘we snipped the spinal cord’’ without any plan to replace it. There are more than 100,000 dead Iraqis who would be alive today if we had not gone in and created the conditions for such a conflict, to say nothing of the troops from America, Britain and other countries who have lost their lives in the shambles.

Ghana has to ration electricity so that everyone can watch the World Cup - Vox

Ghana has to ration electricity so that everyone can watch the World Cup - Vox: Ghana is actually one of the better-off countries on this score — roughly 72 percent of its population has access to electricity. In neighboring Ivory Coast, by contrast, it's 59 percent. In Tanzania, only 15 percent of people have reliable access to electricity.

Add it all up, and some 590 million people across sub-Saharan Africa don't have any power at all. Among other things, that's a major public-health issue: Without electricity, many households turn to wood stoves, whose indoor pollution now kills 4.3 million people per year (worldwide), more than AIDS and malaria combined.