Eclectic Spacewalk — 07/14/17

Here is a sampling of the best content I consumed this past week. Enjoy scratching your brain’s curiosity itch!

Top 9 articles and/or essays —
“Living costs are an “underdiscussed” aspect of college affordability, as Zakiya Smith, a strategy director at the Lumina Foundation, told The Chronicle in 2014. But they play a large part in many students’ budgets: For the 2013–14 academic year, cost-of-living estimates exceeded the price of tuition at more than one in five colleges. An errant estimate can mean a difference of thousands of dollars per year, creating mismatches between prospective students and colleges they think they can afford. Students might take out larger loans than necessary, increasing their chances of defaulting. Unanticipated expenses can compromise their studies by forcing students to take on more part-time work or do without meals or textbooks. Students with fewer resources, who already struggle to afford college and are less likely to graduate, are disproportionately affected.”
“…It’s because they realize — either consciously or at some gut level — that there’s something fundamentally flawed about a system that has a prime directive to churn nature and humans into capital, and do it more and more each year, regardless of the costs to human well-being and to the environment we depend on.
Because let’s be clear: That’s what capitalism is, at its root. That is the sum total of the plan. We can see this embodied in the imperative to grow GDP, everywhere, year on year, at a compound rate, even though we know that GDP growth, on its own, does nothing to reduce poverty or to make people happier or healthier. Global GDP has grown 630% since 1980, and in that same time, by some measures, inequality, poverty, and hunger have all risen
None of this is actually radical. Our leaders will tell us that these ideas are not feasible, but what is not feasible is the assumption that we can carry on with the status quo. If we keep pounding on the wedge of inequality and chewing through our living planet, the whole thing is going to implode. The choice is stark, and it seems people are waking up to it in large numbers: Either we evolve into a future beyond capitalism, or we won’t have a future at all.
“What began in 2001 as a misdirected use of military force to punish a group of formerly U.S.-backed jihadis in Afghanistan for the crimes of September 11th has escalated into a global asymmetric war. Every country destroyed or destabilized by U.S. military action is now a breeding ground for terrorism. It would be foolish to believe that this cannot get much, much worse, as long as both sides continue to justify their own escalations of violence as responses to the violence of their enemies, instead of trying to deescalate the now global violence and chaos.
There are once again 10,000 US troops in Afghanistan, up from 8,500 in April, with reports that four thousand more may be deployed soon. Hundreds of thousands of Afghans have been killed in 15 years of war, but the Taliban now control more of the country than at any time since the U.S. invasion in 2001…
Although our post-9/11 wars have probably killed at least 2 million people in the countries we have attacked, occupied or destabilized, U.S. forces have suffered historically low numbers of casualties in these operations. There is a real danger that this has given U.S. political and military leaders, and to some extent the American public, a false sense of the scale of U.S. casualties and other serious consequences we should look forward to as our leaders escalate our current wars, issue new threats against Iran and North Korea, and stoke rising tensions with Russia and China.
The argument that there are extraordinarily violent individuals living within these populations has always been a part of immigrant exclusion projects,” Hernandez said. “Especially for Mexican-Americans, there was a clear shift in the middle of the 1950s, after Operation Wetback” — a 1950s crackdown on immigration rife with civil rights violations — “which was supposed to have solved the problem of immigration but didn’t actually stop it. So to rationalize the ongoing immigration, authorities explicitly no longer spoke about immigrants as workers, but as criminals. We’ve been stuck with that discourse ever since.
BI2’s iris surveillance expansion on the border is moving ahead full steam despite these concerns. According to Leonard, the El Paso County sheriff’s department now has iris identification up and running, and Cameron County is next. Leonard says these installations will help authorities finally gain “control” of the border by documenting the undocumented…
Hernandez, however, predicts that BI2’s iris solution will fail to stop migration flows, just as every law enforcement strategy before it failed. “This is just another example of profit making in immigration control, which seems to be on the rise with this administration,” Hernandez said. “We have always seen different waves of investment in technology, but they never have an impact on immigration. Yet we remain eternally convinced this stuff will save us from the larger problems of the border.
“Donald Trump has called America’s inner cities “crime infested,” “almost at an all-time low” and “more dangerous than some of the war zones,” even as violent crime in America has been declining for decades. Which isn’t to say that our cities don’t still face serious problems. But what are they really? We asked mayors, urbanists and other thinkers to name the biggest threats that American cities currently face, and most took the long view — looking beyond Trump to challenges like urban broadband deserts, a shallow mayoral talent pool, crippling pension crises, and state or federal meddling.
“For what it’s worth, I think the answer to the question in general is “it depends,” but for now is “yes.”
We have, at the moment, the following speculation: an activity may to some uncertain extent contribute to the set of causes of an unknown increase in the chance of an unknown but small (if not zero) number of students engaging in behavior that may be harmful to themselves.
If the activity in question had no benefit whatsoever, then the foregoing speculation may be sufficient to give us pause. But the activity in question is teaching what we’re presuming are subjects we otherwise consider quite valuable or important. Again, we’re not just talking about the meaning of life here, but subjects in any discipline that can plausibly be taken to be seriously depressing. To justify stopping teaching those things we’d need much more than the speculations of small increases of risks to small numbers of people.
“I was determined to understand this birthright, including what was toxic in it, as completely as possible. I’m now an English professor at Harvard, and in recent years some of my students have seemed acutely anxious when they are asked to confront the crueller strains of our cultural legacy. In my own life, that reflex would have meant closing many of the books I found most fascinating, or succumbing to the general melancholy of my parents. They could not look out at a broad meadow from the windows of our car without sighing and talking about the number of European Jews who could have been saved from annihilation and settled in that very space. (For my parents, meadows should have come with what we now call “trigger warnings.”) I was eager to expand my horizons, not to retreat into a defensive crouch. Prowling the stacks of Yale’s vast library, I sometimes felt giddy with excitement. I had a right to all of it, or, at least, to as much of it as I could seize and chew upon. And the same was true of everyone else.
I already had an inkling of what I now more fully grasp. My experience of mingled perplexity, pleasure, and discomfort was only a version — informed by the accidents of a particular religion, family, identity, and era — of an experience shared by every thinking person in the course of a lifetime. What you inherit, what you receive from a world that you did not fashion but that will do its best to fashion you, is at once beautiful and repellent. You somehow have to come to terms with what is ugly as well as what is precious
What Shakespeare bequeathed to us offers the possibility of an escape from the mental ghettos most of us inhabit. Even in his own world, his imagination seems to have led him in surprising directions. At a time when alehouses and inns were full of spies trolling for subversive comments, this is a playwright who could depict on the public stage a twisted sociopath lying his way to supreme authority. This is a playwright who could have a character stand up and declare to the spectators that “a dog’s obeyed in office.” This is a playwright who could approvingly depict a servant mortally wounding the realm’s ruler in order to stop him from torturing a prisoner in the name of national security. And, finally, this is a playwright who almost certainly penned the critical lines we find preserved in the British Library’s manuscript of an Elizabethan play about Sir Thomas More. (The play was probably banned from performance by the censor.)”
“However, LBRY does this not through a proprietary service or network, but as a protocol, or a method of doing things, much like HTTP, DNS and other specifications that make up the internet itself. Just as many different domains owned by many different companies all speak a shared language, so too can any person or company speak LBRY. No special access or permission is needed.
LBRY differs from the status quo in three big ways:
Coupled payment and access. If desired, the person who publishes to lbry://wonderfullife can charge a fee to users that view the content.
Decentralized and distributed. Content published to LBRY is not specific to one computer or network, making LBRY robust to failure and disruption.
Community controlled. No party other than the publisher (including us) can unilaterally remove or block content on the LBRY network.2
While creating a protocol that we ourselves cannot control sounds chaotic, it is actually about establishing trust. Every other publishing system requires trusting an intermediary that can unilaterally change the rules on you. What happens when you build your business on YouTube or Amazon and they change fees? Or Apple drops your content because the Premier of China thought your comedy went too far?
Only LBRY consists of a known, promised set of rules that no one can unilaterally change. LBRY provides this by doing something unique: leaving the users in control rather than demanding that control for itself.

WTF Google… —
The irony is that so many people opposed the settlement in ways that suggested they fundamentally believed in what Google was trying to do. One of Pamela Samuelson’s main objections was that Google was going to be able to sell books like hers, whereas she thought they should be made available for free. (The fact that she, like any author under the terms of the settlement, could set her own books’ price to zero was not consolation enough, because “orphan works” with un-findable authors would still be sold for a price.) In hindsight, it looks like the classic case of perfect being the enemy of the good: surely having the books made available at all would be better than keeping them locked up — even if the price for doing so was to offer orphan works for sale. In her paper concluding that the settlement went too far, Samuelson herself even wrote, “It would be a tragedy not to try to bring this vision to fruition, now that it is so evident that the vision is realizable…
It was strange to me, the idea that somewhere at Google there is a database containing 25-million books and nobody is allowed to read them. It’s like that scene at the end of the first Indiana Jones movie where they put the Ark of the Covenant back on a shelf somewhere, lost in the chaos of a vast warehouse. It’s there. The books are there. People have been trying to build a library like this for ages — to do so, they’ve said, would be to erect one of the great humanitarian artifacts of all time — and here we’ve done the work to make it real and we were about to give it to the world and now, instead, it’s 50 or 60 petabytes on disk, and the only people who can see it are half a dozen engineers on the project who happen to have access because they’re the ones responsible for locking it up.”
“Company paid $5,000 to $400,000 for research supporting business practices that face regulatory scrutiny; a ‘wish list’ of topics.”
“Google has today awarded €706,000 ($800,000) to the UK’s Press Association to develop robot reporters that can crank out 30,000 articles a month for local newspapers and bloggers
Natural language processing software will be used to piece together information and emit computer-generated stories on an industrial scale. We’re told a team of five journos will apply the code to publicly available government databases to create stories about politics, crime, and so on, all from templates. So, basically, churned press releases.

Net Neutrality —

Big Ups! Rohan Rajiv

“Here are 4 ideas we’ll spend time on today (the “executive summary” if you will)
Freedom of expression isn’t a function of the values of a place but the structure of the information infrastructure. Oppressive regimes led by the likes of Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin understood this and used the power of centralized/consolidated information systems to spread propaganda.
The 1960s were famous for the rejection of these centralized systems (in this case, the Bell/AT&T monopoly). And, the internet was explicitly designed to be network neutral as a way to fight consolidation. Side note: the internet’s design is a work of art.
This network neutrality or net neutrality means that every service on the internet competes on a level playing field and it is users (i.e. us) that choose which internet service wins. This system brings its own set of issues with it but it is better than the alternative.
Net neutrality principles are closely aligned with the principles behind the freedom of expression. So, the real question underlying the net neutrality discussion is — how much do you care about freedom of expression?
“The wireless giant says it’s participating in the tech industry’s so-called “day of action,” stressing in a blog post that it believes in “preserving and advancing an open internet” — even though AT&T long has disagreed with staunch net neutrality advocates over how to enforce it.
Tech giants and consumer groups plan to rally Wednesday in support of rules implemented under the Obama administration that subject internet providers, like AT&T, Charter, Comcast* and Verizon, to utility-like regulation. The U.S. Federal Communications Commission under the leadership of its new Republican chairman, Ajit Pai, has sought to scrap those rules, arguing they are too heavy-handed.
Pai has the support of AT&T, which previously joined its counterparts in the telecom industry in suing the FCC — unsuccessfully — to quash the government’s existing net neutrality rules. But AT&T insisted its legal qualms with the FCC’s current regulations shouldn’t diminish the fact it believes in the principle of an open internet.

Hi Andrew Jerell Jones

“In 2016 alone, Comcast shelled out $1,240,000 to law firms to represent them in lobbying public officials on the topic of net neutrality. That was slightly less than the 2015 total of $1,6222,000 spent on the topic, including $470,000 during the first quarter of 2015 when the FCC voted on the principle. Add on $410,000 spending in the final quarter of 2014 alone, and Comcast’s lobbying on net neutrality in the final five month period when the Obama-led FCC pondered a final vote on the provision was nearly $1 million.
“Historic day of action for Net Neutrality breaks records: more than 2 million comments to FCC, millions of emails and phone calls to Congress”
“But there’s an even bigger and possibly more insidious policy in the works that will result in far greater woes for consumers. It involves the not terribly well-understood part of the system called the “middle mile.” As with the last mile, the new administration wants to avoid enforcing any legal protections. And it‘s doing this in a manner that just happens to benefit the powerful forces that take citizens’ money while denying them the best services.
So what is this “middle mile?” Think of a small, local cul-de-sac connected to a medium-sized avenue. The high-speed internet access analog to the cul-de-sac is usually your local cable monopoly (the “last mile”), and the medium-sized avenue is the next step. From that medium-sized avenue, one can eventually connect to consumers and businesses in other cities or neighborhoods, themselves connected to many instances of the last mile. That crucial midpoint avenue — the so-called “middle mile,” or “backhaul,” “special access,” or “business data services” part of the network — is usually a monopoly as well. Often, it’s the local incumbent telephone company — either AT&T or Verizon — that controls that monopoly.
It’s easy to understand how overwhelming concentration in the ~$50 billion “middle-mile” marketplace could cause huge problems for any competition in the last mile. Any new player in the last-mile market will have to pay through the nose to actually get data anywhere useful. Result: Everyone — every business, every residence — pays indirect rent to a monopoly-controlled “middle mile” in their area. The only remedy is regulation, because the barriers to entry by competitors in many areas are simply too high.

Monopolies/Anti-trust; Data/Privacy —
“”This is monopoly capitalism in action,” said Marion Nestle, author of Food Politics and professor of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University. “Whenever Amazon takes over more and more and more of any consumer area, that gives consumers less choice. And now it’s food…
Antitrust laws were originally instated to level the playing field between businesses and consumers. The repeal in sector after sector has given the average American firsthand experience with monopolies. From cell phone service suppliers to cable companies, when moneyed entities face off and snuff the competition, both consumers and small businesses suffer.
“Amazon did not come to dominate the way we shop because of its technology. It did so because we let it. Over the past three decades, the U.S. government has permitted corporate giants to take over an ever-increasing share of the economy. Monopoly — the ultimate enemy of free-market competition — now pervades every corner of American life: every transaction we make, every product we consume, every news story we read, every piece of data we download. Eighty percent of seats on airplanes are sold by just four airlines. CVS and Walgreens have a virtual lock on the drugstore and pharmacy business. A private equity firm in Brazil controls roughly half of the U.S. beer market. The chemical giant Monsanto is able to dictate when and how farmers plant its seeds. Google and Facebook control nearly 75 percent of the $73 billion market in digital advertising. Most communities have one cable company to choose from, one provider of electricity, one gas company. Economic power, in fact, is more concentrated than ever: According to a study published earlier this year, half of all publicly traded companies have disappeared over the past four decades
But the lower prices offered by monopolies come at a steep cost. A corporate giant like Amazon is able to use its economic advantage to eliminate jobs, drive down wages, dictate favorable terms to its suppliers, and even set the price the postal service is permitted to charge for the privilege of delivering its packages. In 2012, Amazon bought a robotics company that automates warehouse labor, and then blocked its competitors from using the technology. If robots are going to take all our jobs, Amazon wants to make sure it owns all the robots.
“But as important as today’s antitrust questions are, regulators shouldn’t lose sight of the bigger picture. The coming battle in antitrust will not be about controlling markets in the traditional sense. It will be about the battle for control over consumers’ information. The tech titans are currently in a race to see which of them can build a better digital replica of their consumers, which means finding a way to not just collect user data but also make it harder for competitors to do so. Tomorrow’s monopolies won’t be able to be measured just by how much they sell us. They’ll be based on how much they know about us and how much better they can predict our behavior than competitors
In sum, data acquisition for digital replicas can manifest itself in many forms. These quests for data may pose major challenges for regulatory authorities keen on maintaining a well-functioning market system. As digital titans expand their reach and ownership of data across multiple domains, they may create a world where the atomistic competition so beloved by economists may become impossible.
The study scraped 1000 of the most popular websites on the internet — including everything from to the dating site for people looking to have an affair — and counted how many third-party trackers each used. What Lewis found was that many of the internet’s most popular destinations (45 percent) are connected to each other because they use the same tracking software. Lewis dubbed the entire connected infrastructure “The Information-Tracking Superhighway.”
“I don’t have an issue with tracking in general,” Lewis explained. “However it’s the fact that every site is using the exact same provider.”
The information being collected about you by web trackers hasn’t yet become a major privacy problem, but it could as tech firms grow even more powerful. For example, what could happen to the trove of web-tracking data Google has if its next CEO is untrustworthy or has ulterior motives? “We’re going to run into issues in the future,” Lewis said.
The kind of data that web trackers gather about you is also more sensitive than it might seem at first. “We do most of our thinking on the web these days,” Hoffman-Andrews said. “Oftentimes when we have a question or are curious about something, we search for it online. Over time, the data web trackers collect on us can paint “a deep picture of your personality and your interests,” he said.”

Courts —
‘“The opinion in Fields by the Third Circuit adds to the growing number of U.S. Court of Appeals decisions affirming the First Amendment rights of citizens and journalists to photograph and record police performing their official duties in a public place, as being ‘clearly established.’ This is extremely important for a number of reasons,” he said.
“The Third Circuit was the only U.S. Court of Appeals that had held in a 2010 case (Kelly v. Borough of Carlisle), that ‘the claimed right was not clearly established.’ When police interfere with, harass or arrest people who are doing nothing more than photographing or recording while standing in a place where they have a legal right to be present (such as a public sidewalk or park), citizens and journalists may bring a federal civil rights lawsuit against the officers and the department for violating their constitutional rights. Police, in turn, then may assert the defense of ‘qualified immunity’ against such claims.
“The Intercept’s parent company, First Look Media, has taken steps to provide independent support for the legal defense of Reality Winner, the NSA contract employee who was recently arrested in the first instance of the Trump administration using the 100-year-old Espionage Act to prosecute an alleged journalistic source.
Winner, who has pleaded not guilty, is accused of having anonymously mailed a document to The Intercept relating to a federal investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. The NSA report, which was the basis of a story published by The Intercept on June 5, describes efforts by Russian military intelligence to hack into several states’ voting infrastructure, highlighting vulnerabilities in the U.S. election system and providing vital context for the current debate over Russian interference in the election.”

K Street lobbyists are the symbol of Washington influence-peddling as they push government for favors, subsidies, exemptions, and other special treatment for their clients. Their customers include, in addition to domestic clients, foreign governments, oligarchs, fugitive speculators, and a rogue’s gallery of questionable figures. Washington lobbyists trade on their access to power. Many are former administration officials or members of Congress. If Trump fulfills his promise to “drain the swamp,” these influence peddlers would have nothing to sell. They are under attack.
In pushing its Manchurian-candidate-Trump narrative, the media fail to mention the much deeper ties of Democratic lobbyists to Russia. Don’t worry, the media seems to say: Even though they are representing Russia, the lobbyists are good upstanding citizens, not like the Trump people. They can be trusted with such delicate matters.
The media’s focus on Trump’s Russian connections ignores the much more extensive and lucrative business relationships of top Democrats with Kremlin-associated oligarchs and companies. Thanks to the Panama Papers, we know that the Podesta Group (founded by John Podesta’s brother, Tony) lobbied for Russia’s largest bank, Sberbank. “Sberbank is the Kremlin, they don’t do anything major without Putin’s go-ahead, and they don’t tell him ‘no’ either,” explained a retired senior U.S. intelligence official. According to a Reuters report, Tony Podesta was “among the high-profile lobbyists registered to represent organizations backing Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich.” Among these was the European Center, which paid Podesta $900,000 for his lobbying.”
Propaganda has become more sophisticated and possibly more effective than it was during the Soviet years, when television was a tool used to sustain an ideology. The goal today is simpler: to support the Kremlin and its corporate interests. “It’s a magic process now,” Anna Kachkaeva, who broadcasts a weekly interview show on Radio Liberty, told me. Kachkaeva, who is also the head of the Television Department at Moscow State University, went on, “There is no censorship — it’s much more advanced. I would call it a system of contacts and agreements between the Kremlin and the heads of television networks. There is no need to start every day with instructions. It is all done with winks and nods. They meet at the end of the week, and the problem, for TV and even in the printed press, is that self-censorship is worse than any other kind. Journalists know — they can feel — what is allowed and what is not.

Journalism —
Here’s a tour of the world, by way of iceberg-sized places: In Argentina
the iceberg was 25 times the size of Buenos Aires In Australia
it was twice the size of the Australian Capital Territory In Belgium
it was half the size of Flanders In Brazil
it was the size of the Federal District In Canada
it was the size of Prince Edward Island In Chile
it was the size of Cordillera Province In Cyprus
it was equivalent to two Luxembourgs In Denmark
it was the size of Funen In Finland
it was twice the size of Gotland In France
it was 60 times larger than Paris In Germany
it was twice as big as Saarland In Greece
it was the size of Crete In India
it was one-and-a-half times the size of Goa In Indonesia
it was almost as large as the island of Bali In Italy
it was the size of the Liguria region In Japan
it was the size of Mie prefecture In Mexico
it was 55 times the size of Paris In the Netherlands
it was slightly larger than the province of Gelderland In Norway
it was the size of Akershus county In Poland
it was one-third the size of Malopolska Province In Russia
it was quarter the size of the Moscow region In South Korea
it was half the size of Gyeonggi Province In Spain
it was the size of 10 Madrids In Taiwan
it was one-sixth of Taiwan In Turkey
it was four times the size of Istanbul In the UK
it was a quarter the size of Wales In Ukraine
it was half the size of the Transcarpathian region And in the US
it was definitely a Delaware
The bad…
“While maintaining a baseline level of security, media companies have gone on high alert in response to particular incidences of violence against journalists, including the January 2015 attack on the Charlie Hebdo newspaper in Paris and an August 2015 attack on a local television reporter and producer in Virginia.
Matthew W. Doherty, a senior vp for security risk management firm Hillard Heintze and a former Secret Service special agent, said that news organizations routinely share information with each other about potential threats to personnel. “Because they threaten one reporter, they could be a danger to another reporter,” he said.
Doherty said there’s been a shift in the direction of greater caution among public-facing talent. “We are noticing that news organizations, the on-air talent, they are being more cautious about their personal life being portrayed on social media,” he said.”
“I learned a new word from the estimable writer Steve Silberman the other day: kayfabe. It’s pro wrestling jargon for the long-arc narrative, the soap opera that plays out beyond the ring. The idea of kayfabe reminded me of that New York article pointing out that CNN president Jeff Zucker was instrumental in bringing Donald Trump to prominence when Zucker was at NBC, making The Apprentice. But a Politico post that made social media rounds last week about a party at Lally Weymouth’s house in the Hamptons felt even more like a look behind the American kayfabe curtain. Former Washington Post owner Don Graham — Weymouth’s brother (and, overfull disclosure, my uber-boss when I worked at Newsweek in the 1990s) — gave a toast in front of Jared and Ivanka Trump and Steven Spielberg and a Koch brother and Senator Chuck Schumer and Kellyanne Conway and … well, it’s getting tough to tell the pigs from the men. Who extorted it better? They all did it.
But let’s take a dutiful look at the scoreboard anyway, folks. The president seems to have attempted to make the fundamentals of journalism contingent upon his whims! (“Gosh, nice little free republic you’ve got here. It’d be a shame if something was to happen to it.”) But CNN sure ate its own foot.
Somehow the audience says that’s a tie? And that’s how power dynamics work: No matter what you think of the press, a tie goes to the president.
“The intersection between America’s age-old race problem and the crisis of race in journalism takes two forms. The first is a simple failure of integration: the news organisations that have traditionally comprised “mainstream” journalism have done little to welcome or encourage African-Americans, who are substantially underrepresented by comparison to their numbers in the overall population. This problem is obvious to anyone who cares to look — and it has become sufficiently embarrassing for a number of publications to make sporadic but ultimately ineffectual efforts to redress it. As soon as one or two hires are made, attention inevitably shifts elsewhere, much as the focus of the press drifted away from racial bias in the criminal justice system once a whiff of the campaign season could be sensed in the air.
But the second and more subtle issue is a persistent problem of typecasting — a deeply embedded view that regards certain topics as “black” and the rest as “white”. Those black people who make their way into the business are heavily concentrated in stereotypical roles. This has meant sport, entertainment and especially what is euphemistically called urban affairs, often meaning reporting on black people. By contrast, there are very few black journalists writing about politics and national security, international news, big business, culture (as opposed to entertainment) or science and technology — they are essentially absent from large swaths of coverage, and even more sparsely represented among the ranks of editors. This is not a trivial matter, or a subject of concern solely to journalists: the overwhelming whiteness of the media strongly but silently conditions how Americans understand their own country and the rest of the world…
The importance of diversity in the media — as in other sectors of society — is not about scoring points in some imaginary scale of civic virtue. It has nothing to do with the granting of favours — or even concessions — by a white majority. It is akin to restoring vision to a creature with impaired sight, making it whole and allowing it to function at the full limits of its perceptive and analytical capacity. The majority cannot understand this — cannot realise that it is partly blind — because its own provincialism has persisted uninterrupted for so long.
BONUS: NY MAG “Climate Change Apocalypse” Controversy —
— So it begins…
“FINISH HIM” (Mortal Kombat Voice)

The Brain —
“Coining the term “Nature Deficit Disorder” to explain the increasing loss of connection to nature as a chronic condition that results in emotional and behavioral problems in kids, award-winning author of Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder, Richard Louv says the cure is to turn off the screens and play outdoors, hike, fish, or camp. “The evidence indicates that experiences in the natural world may reduce the symptoms of Attention Deficit & Hyperactivity Disorder, serve as a buffer to depression and anxiety, help prevent or reduce obesity, boost the immune system, and offer many other psychological and physical health benefits,” he says. “Time spent in nature may also improve social bonding and reduce social violence, stimulate learning and creativity, strengthen the conservation ethic, and even help raise standardized test scores.””
“And when he put the heads of the powerful and the not-so-powerful under a transcranial-magnetic-stimulation machine, he found that power, in fact, impairs a specific neural process, “mirroring,” that may be a cornerstone of empathy. Which gives a neurological basis to what Keltner has termed the “power paradox”: Once we have power, we lose some of the capacities we needed to gain it in the first place
Hubris syndrome,” as he and a co-author, Jonathan Davidson, defined it in a 2009 article published in Brain, “is a disorder of the possession of power, particularly power which has been associated with overwhelming success, held for a period of years and with minimal constraint on the leader.” Its 14 clinical features include: manifest contempt for others, loss of contact with reality, restless or reckless actions, and displays of incompetence. In May, the Royal Society of Medicine co-hosted a conference of the Daedalus Trust — an organization that Owen founded for the study and prevention of hubris.”
“Now, new evidence is emerging suggesting the changes can go even deeper — to how our bodies assemble themselves, shifting the types of cells that they are made from, and maybe even how our genetic code is expressed, playing with it like a Rubik’s cube thrown into a running washing machine. If this science holds up, it means that poverty is more than just a socioeconomic condition. It is a collection of related symptoms that are preventable, treatable — and even inheritable. In other words, the effects of poverty begin to look very much like the symptoms of a disease.
That word — disease — carries a stigma with it. By using it here, I don’t mean that the poor are (that I am) inferior or compromised. I mean that the poor are afflicted, and told by the rest of the world that their condition is a necessary, temporary, and even positive part of modern capitalism. We tell the poor that they have the chance to escape if they just work hard enough; that we are all equally invested in a system that doles out rewards and punishments in equal measure. We point at the rare rags-to-riches stories like my own, which seem to play into the standard meritocracy template.
“The ultimate source of this trend is an old-fashioned worldview. Most agree that the predictive power of science reveals a Universe that can be captured by laws. When we make an error in prediction, it is because we have not yet discovered the right law. The old-fashioned worldview is that these laws should privilege the microphysical domain, such that all happenings at the macro level — the level at which we experience the world — are ideally described by happenings at the micro level. In this view, even if we cannot provide an account of our conscious experience in terms of electrons, our experience comes down to the movement of electrons.
What’s more, activity at the micro level is ultimately deterministic: the movement of electrons that account for our conscious experience right now comes down to the movement of electrons a moment before, and the movement of electrons a moment before comes down to … the movement of electrons at the very beginning of the Universe. There is no accounting for true indeterminism in this view, nor for effects of scale. There is no room for autonomy or free will (or, at least, one way of thinking about free will), since all microphysical events have already been accounted for by prior microphysical events.
Yet, another worldview is now emerging that emphasises nonlinear dynamics and complex systems. Importantly, this worldview sets aside the assumptions of reductionism and micro-level determinism. In this vein, neuroscientists have begun to argue that the brain’s causal power cannot be reduced to small-scale brain activity. This provides room for a substantive self, with its own powers and properties, distinct from those of individual neurons or mere collections of neurons. (Note that whether it is truly a causal power or some other power, such as what the philosopher Carl Gillet calls ‘machretic determination’, is a complex question that I won’t be answering here.)”
The problem is that excessive focus exhausts the focus circuits in your brain. It can drain your energy and make you lose self-control. This energy drain can also make you more impulsive and less helpful. As a result, decisions are poorly thought-out, and you become less collaborative.
So what do we do then? Focus or unfocus?
In keeping with recent research, both focus and unfocus are vital. The brain operates optimally when it toggles between focus and unfocus, allowing you to develop resilience, enhance creativity, and make better decisions too.”
“In synch with this, our increasing knowledge of brain plasticity is giving rise to therapies based on self-regulation. These cognitive techniques, tapping mindfulness, breathing and more, can reduce toxic stress to at least more tolerable stress. Metabolic and cardiovascular health, not to mention memory and mood, can all be enhanced by a healthy diet, positive social interactions, adequate sleep, and regular physical activity. Government policies and business cultures that promote these values are key — whether dealing with housing, transportation, healthcare, education, flexible working hours or vacations, decisions at the top can dramatically impact healthspan of the population throughout life. Healthy behaviours and humanistic policies can ‘open a window’ of plasticity and allow the wisdom of the body to exert itself. With the windows open, targeted behavioural interventions — for instance, intensive physical therapy for stroke — can shape brain circuits in a more positive direction. Even if one has gotten off to a bad start in life, the trajectory can be changed by understanding how to lower the allostatic load and banish toxic stress.”

Gallup reports today that 60 percent of Americans now say they favor legalizing marijuana, a new high since the pollster started asking about the topic 47 years ago. To put that in perspective, Hillary Clinton has an average favorability rating of just 43.8 percent, according to HuffPost Pollster. Donald Trump clocks in at a mere 34.7 percent. Even President Obama, who has enjoyed a late-term spike in popularity as America has pondered his potential replacements, only enjoys about 54 percent favorability — meaning pot is more popular than POTUS and his would-be successors.”
“The Oregon legislature passed a bill late last week that reclassifies possession of several drugs from a felony to a misdemeanor, reducing the punishments and expanding access to drug treatment for people without prior felonies or convictions for drug possession. Oregon lawmakers hope to encourage drug users to seek help rather than filling up the state’s prisons as an epidemic of abuse spreads.
“We are tying to move policy towards treatment rather than prison beds,” said state Sen. Jackie Winters (R), co-chair of the Public Safety Committee and a supporter of the bill. “We can’t continue on the path of building more prisons when often the underlying root cause of the crime is substance use.”
The bill also attempts to reduce racial profiling via data collection and analysis to help police departments understand when their policies or procedures result in disparities.”

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