July 15, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 11:16 AM


Turkey and the coup attempt: How it changed the country's behaviour (Rabia Iclal, Sunday 15 July 2018, Middle East Eye)

The July 2016 coup bid, carried out, the government says, by supporters of exiled Fethullah Gulen, was the bloodiest in modern Turkish history. Social observers and analysts report that the anger and fear it generated still permeate Turkish society two years later.

Nurullah Ardıc, an associate professor of sociology at Istanbul Sehir University, said that while the defeat of the coup had strengthened social bonds, it had also weakened the prestige of the military, police, religious groups and even NGOs.

According to a survey on social cohesion in Turkey conducted by the Istanbul Policy Centre (IPC), an independent research policy institute at Sabanci University, between January and February 2018, 47 percent of Turks were happy about the measures taken by the government to restructure the state after 15 July, against 21 per cent who were not.

Pinar Akpinar, an academic at the centre, said: "One cannot really speak of an overall 'change' of society but, rather, the alleviation of fears."

She said the coup had touched on several existential fears of Turks, including Sèvres syndrome, named after the post-First World War treaty which abolished and then divided the Ottoman Empire.

That fear, Akpinar said, meant that "people from very different segments of society united under a perceived threat of their country being carved up".

But that moment of unity, she said, was very short-lived. "Eventually, Turkish politics went back to its usual agenda of polarisation."

Like Alkilic, Adviye Gul, 17, took to the street on the night of the attempted coup, along with four other members of her family. She headed for Istanbul's Sarachane district, where she and hundreds of others gathered outside the municipality building to prevent it being taken over by coup plotters.

"We went out to the streets, praying," she said. "We stood against the traitors and occupiers, with bare hands and the love of our land.

"Normally, I'm a very young person with dreams for the future, and I wouldn't risk my life. But, that day, my god had completely taken the fear from us." 

Eventually, forces who backed the coup opened fire on the crowd: Gul was hit in the arms and remained in a critical condition for four days.

Before the coup she had always been interested in politics. But now she has taken more of an interest and watches the news more frequently.

"I am now awake to the facts about our history and the dangers we face today. As a young Turk, I'm now more hopeful and confident about my future."

As news of the coup reached the wider world, the response from the West was slow in coming, with many governments lukewarm in their support for Erdogan.

Gurkan Zengin, formerly news director of Al Jazeera Turk, who wrote Kusatma (Siege) about the coup attempt, said that events in July 2016 woke Turkish society to the "level of danger the Gulen movement poses to Turkish society".

He said that the general perception was that the US wanted to depose Erdogan and his regional policies by using Gulenist supporters.

"No one in Turkey can believe that any military coup can occur in a Nato country without approval from the Pentagon or another US security and intelligence apparatus."

That sense, academics believe, was also at play on 24 June 2018, when Turkey held its first presidential and parliamentary election since the attempted coup, despite the two events being almost two years apart.

Ali Yasar Saribay, political sociologist at Uludag University, said: "It can be safely concluded that 15 July had a decisive influence on the 24 June election results, meaning that Erdogan was supported by the electorate, against the West."

He said that several of the political, legal and economic measures that Erdogan's ruling AK Party had taken after 15 July were not fully backed by the West.

"The support in the election was not only a show of favour for Erdogan, but a political reaction against the Western world fuelled by instinctive preservation of the state. It's difficult to understand this without taking into consideration the sensitive points of the state-society relations in Turkey historically."

Posted by orrinj at 11:12 AM


Posted by orrinj at 10:54 AM


Trump's ambassador lobbied Britain on behalf of jailed right-wing activist Tommy Robinson (Mark Hosenball, 7/15/18, Reuters) 

Sam Brownback, the U.S. Ambassador for International Religious Freedom, complained to the British ambassador in Washington D.C. about the treatment of an English right-wing activist who is in jail for disrupting a trial, according to three sources familiar with the discussion. [...]

Reuters was unable to determine why the top U.S. official responsible for defending religious freedom would try to intervene with the British government on behalf of an activist who has expressed anti-Islamic views.

Posted by orrinj at 10:45 AM


Posted by orrinj at 8:51 AM


Mueller's Blockbuster Indictment: With the special counsel's latest indictment, Americans are one step closer to knowing the truth of what happened during the 2016 election. (PAUL ROSENZWEIG, JUL 13, 2018, The Atlantic)

[T[hese forensic details are stunning, and the import of their publication is far broader that the verisimilitude they lend to the allegations. At a minimum, the level of detail here makes it difficult to deny the truth of what they assert. Take but one example--the question of the identity of Guccifer 2.0. Guccifer 2.0 was an on-line persona who claimed to be behind the hack of the Democrat emails. He also claimed he was not a Russian but rather an independent Romanian hacker. The evidence of the indictment, linking web searches by the Russian conspirators to posts by Guccifer 2.0 is damning indeed.

But perhaps more saliently, the level of detail suggests that the veil of anonymity that has long protected hackers is slowly being torn apart. The forensic information here (doubtless sourced from the intelligence community) makes it clear that, with enough time and effort, the chances of penetrating a secret operation are much higher than they have been in the past. That's a good thing for American counter-terrorism and counter-intelligence operations, but it is not necessarily a good thing for social or political dissent--especially not that in authoritarian Russia.

Fourth, Wikileaks is revealed to be, at best, a pawn of Russian intelligence and at worst part of a coordinated Russian operation. Wikileaks affirmatively solicited DNC material from Guccifer 2.0, and scheduled its release immediately before the Democratic National Convention, in an effort to harm the Clinton campaign. If they knew that Guccifer 2.0 was a Russian operative, they were willing participants; if they did not then they were dupes. Either way, anyone who continues to take Wikileaks seriously as a journalism outlet strains credulity. Their anti-America and anti-Clinton bias is demonstrable.

Finally, Trump adviser Roger Stone is in a great deal of trouble and the specter of "collusion" is more real now than it has been in the past. Stone, who the indictment describes as "in regular contact with senior members of the [Trump] presidential campaign" was also in regular contact Guccifer 2.0, now known to be the front for Russian intelligence. Stone had previously given conflicting statements about the state of his knowledge as to Guccifer 2.0's identity, and about what, if anything, he did with information he may or may not have received. But the indictment now puts Stone's actions squarely in focus and will, undoubtedly, result in more scrutiny of his conduct by prosecutors.

Moreover, the indictment also alleges that the Russian attempt to hack the Clinton campaign's emails began, quite literally, on the very day that Trump publicly asked the Russians to find Hillary's missing emails. This may well be nothing more than a case of conscious parallelism, but when combined with the Stone allegations, it is yet another strand of evidence suggesting actual contact and collaboration between Trump supporters and the Russians.

Posted by orrinj at 8:41 AM


The car industry needs to embrace open source (RAMI SASS, 7/15/18, TNW)

In 2017, a report from Visual Capitalist showed that software for the automotive market contains upwards of 100 million lines of code. To give some perspective, only Google, with all of their services, was said to have more code in their products.

If the automotive market wants to stay ahead of these software giants, who may have their own ambitions of breaking into the car making game, they need a secret weapon to give them that nitrus boost into the next generation of development.

Automakers have begun to understand that if they are going to have a shot at beating Silicon Valley at their own game, then they are going to have to pool their resources and work smarter together.

One of the ways that they are already doing this is in their use of open source components. This software is written and maintained by the open source community and made available for reuse by others so long as they follow their licenses.

Open source components are essentially the building blocks of software, comprising between 60-80 percent of the code base in modern applications. These reusable components give developers a fast and free way to solve problems and add powerful features to their products without having to write new code themselves.

In hopes of making code sharing in the industry a reality, the majority of stakeholders -- including Panasonic, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz, Honda, Toyota, and many more -- have joined with The Linux Foundation's Automotive Grade Linux (AGL) project.

The goal of the AGL initiative is to create a space, through the Unified Code Base (UCB), where developers can contribute to projects, which in turn will be available to developers at other companies. Through this code sharing, companies can speed up their development of products without having to reinvent the wheel.

Posted by orrinj at 8:38 AM


The quantified heart (Polina Aronson & Judith Duportail, 7/15/18, Aeon)

Some people might be more comfortable disclosing their innermost feelings to an AI. A study conducted by the Institute for Creative Technologies in Los Angeles in 2014 suggests that people display their sadness more intensely, and are less scared about self-disclosure, when they believe they're interacting with a virtual person, instead of a real one. As when we write a diary, screens can serve as a kind of shield from outside judgment.

Soon enough, we might not even need to confide our secrets to our phones. Several universities and companies are exploring how mental illness and mood swings could be diagnosed just by analysing the tone or speed of your voice. Sonde Health, a company launched in 2016 in Boston, uses vocal tests to monitor new mothers for postnatal depression, and older people for dementia, Parkinson's and other age-related diseases. The company is working with hospitals and insurance companies to set up pilot studies of its AI platform, which detects acoustic changes in the voice to screen for mental-health conditions. By 2022, it's possible that 'your personal device will know more about your emotional state than your own family,' said Annette Zimmermann, research vice-president at the consulting company Gartner, in a company blog post.

Posted by orrinj at 8:16 AM


Some MAGA hats made in China may increase in price because of tariffs (JOHN BOWDEN, 07/14/18, The Hill)

A California-based company that sells "Make America Great Again" hats similar to the official hats sold by the Trump campaign says its prices may rise in response to trade tensions with China prompted by President Trump's tariffs.

David Lassoff, who runs the company IncredibleGifts, told ABC News that prices of the hat could double from between $9 and $12 to at least $20 if he is forced to abandon his Chinese manufacturers and make the hats in the United States.

Posted by orrinj at 8:01 AM


How the Russians hacked the DNC and passed its emails to WikiLeaks (Ellen Nakashima and Shane Harris, July 13, 2018, Washington Post)

The DCCC served as the hackers' gateway to the DNC. Armed with the credentials of a DCCC contractor authorized to gain access to the DNC network, the GRU infiltrated the national committee, eventually gaining access to 33 computers, according to the indictment.

Once inside the DCCC and DNC computers, the hackers searched for keywords related to the 2016 election, prosecutors allege. In mid-April 2016, they searched one DCCC computer for terms including "hillary," "cruz" and "trump," the indictment states. The hackers also copied particular DCCC folders, including one labeled "Benghazi Investigations." And they "targeted" computers that contained information about opposition research and "field operation plans" for the 2016 election.

The hackers used computer network infrastructure that they leased inside the United States, including in Arizona and Illinois, to move files from the targeted computers.

On June 22, the indictment stated, WikiLeaks sent a private message to Guccifer 2.0 asking to have access to the material, saying "it will have a much higher impact" on its site.

The GRU made repeated attempts to transfer the stolen DNC emails to WikiLeaks beginning in late June 2016. On July 14, the Russians got an email to WikiLeaks with an attachment titled "wk dnc link1.txt.gpg." The attachment contained an encrypted file with instructions on accessing an online archive of hacked DNC documents, the indictment said.

On July 18, WikiLeaks confirmed it had "the 1Gb or so archive" and would release the material "this week," according to the indictment.

On July 22, three days before the Democratic National Convention opened, WikiLeaks put up the DNC email archive of more than 20,000 emails and other documents hacked by the GRU, the indictment said.

Posted by orrinj at 7:57 AM


'Conservativism' Review: Holding On to the Good Things (RICHARD ALDOUS, 7/14/18, WSJ)

On one level this slim volume is the ideal primer for those who are new to conservative ideas -- a kind of "conservatism: the greatest hits."  Smith, Burke, Jefferson, Arnold, T.S. Eliot, Leo Strauss : They're all here.  Less commonly celebrated writers, such as Michael Oakeshott and James Burnham, are restored to their place in the canon.  Others who did not identify as conservatives -- such as George Orwell and, stretching the point almost to breaking, Simone Weil -- are claimed philosophically for the tradition.

Mr. Scruton is an agreeable companion.  His style is brisk and often amusing, and he has a nice way of summarizing complexity without being simplistic.  Individual thinkers fit within a broader narrative that sets out to show how modern conservatism, beginning in the 17th and 18th centuries as a defense of tradition during debates over popular sovereignty, became an appeal on behalf of religion and culture against materialism in the 19th century.  It then joined forces with classical liberals, such as Friedrich Hayek, in the fight against socialism in the 20th century and eventually became today "the champion of Western civilisation" against its enemies, notably "political correctness" and religious extremism.  "In all these transformations something has remained the same," Mr. Scruton writes, "namely the conviction that good things are more easily destroyed than created, and the determination to hold on to those good things in the face of politically engineered change."

Among Mr. Scruton's many strengths is an ability to make fresh the ideas of writers who may otherwise appear bloodless or, worse, heartless.  Adam Smith, for example, is famous (and often reviled on the left) for his defense of the market economy in The Wealth of Nations.  But Smith himself saw his less well-known work, The Theory of Moral Sentiments, as the more important book.  There he developed his theory of the "impartial spectator," that part of ourselves that allows us to assess our own thoughts, feelings and actions and to pass judgment on their moral worth. 

This ability to view ourselves from the outside, to see ourselves in fact as others see us, is for Smith the greatest of social goods, because it creates sympathetic feelings -- the foundation of community -- and implies a responsibility for others that will inevitably place limits on freedom.  This idea, Mr. Scruton argues, is at odds with the extreme liberal view, which values the freedom of the individual "above all other things."  The conflict, he says, is "one of the principal political issues of our time."  It is a battle over whether liberty requires us to look at our own conduct and that of others from the standpoint of impartiality -- to be able to say, in other words, that sometimes we may be wrong and that others within our community, even if they're our opponents, may have a point. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:53 AM


Worker wages drop while companies spend billions to boost stocks ( IRINA IVANOVA, 7/11/18, CBS News MONEYWATCH)

Six months after the Tax Cut and Jobs Act became law, there's still little evidence that the average job holder is feeling the benefit.

Worker pay in the second quarter dropped nearly one percent below its first-quarter level, according to the PayScale Index, one measure of worker pay. When accounting for inflation, the drop is even steeper. Year-over-year, rising prices have eaten up still-modest pay gains for many workers, with the result that real wages fell 1.4 percent from the prior year, according to PayScale. The drop was broad, with 80 percent of industries and two-thirds of metro areas affected.

Posted by orrinj at 7:46 AM


GOP Candidate Disavows 'Jews Must Be Stopped' Robocalls -- But Sticks With Holocaust Denial (Alyssa Fisher, July 12, 2018, The Forward)

Although the call's message is consistent with his anti-Semitic rhetoric -- he's an known Holocaust denier -- Fitzgerald denied responsibility, writing on his congressional campaign site Wednesday that it was the work of a person known as The Road To Power. [...]

Despite his disavowals, Fitzgerald's campaign website includes plenty of anti-Semitic claims. It falsely says that 9% of U.S. government officials are dual citizens of Israel and that Jews played a "prominent role" in the African slave trade, and celebrates a "courageous" elderly German woman who was sentenced to two years in prison for denying the Holocaust.

"Why is the holocaust the ONLY historical issue that cannot be questioned without fear of fines and/or imprisonment in eighteen countries - and counting - throughout the world?" Fitzgerald wrote on May 16.

Posted by orrinj at 7:42 AM


By allowing towns to segregate, Israel may cross a different kind of red line: The wounds of America's redlining policy, which led to segregated housing, still fester 50 years after it was rescinded. Will the nation-state bill put Israel on the same path? (Joshua Davidovich, 13 July 2018, Times of Israel)

It took over 30 years for the US to reverse course, passing the Fair Housing Act that outlawed discrimination in April 1968.

Yet according to Rothstein and other historians, the damage had already been done, and even 50 years later, cities still bear not only the scars but festering open wounds of those policies.

A 2017 study from the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago found that inequalities persisted as late as 2010 along border areas between red and yellow, and yellow and blue areas. "The maps had a causal and persistent effect on the development of neighborhoods through credit access," the authors wrote.

"We still have a very, very segregated society, in terms of housing and [by extension] schools," Brown University sociologist John R. Logan recently told US News and World Report.

According to Rothstein, a large part of the problem was the fact that by the time blacks could buy in more affluent areas, the homes there were already out of reach because prices had risen so much.

"In Levittown, there were very inexpensive homes. They sold for $8,000 to $9,000 [$100,000 in today's inflation-adjusted dollars] a piece. African American families could have afforded those and could have moved out of public housing," Rothstein said, referring to the post-war New York suburb where blacks were forbidden. By the time the town was desegregated, those homes were out of reach. "Today they are worth $400,000 to $500,000. The white families who purchased them gained enormous equity appreciation."

Meanwhile, blacks were in debt to unregulated money lenders, the only places they could get a loan, and even after 1968 some banks continued to practice racist lending policies.

The resulting legacy is rampant inequality, in both wealth and opportunities for escaping poverty. Black communities continue to not only be separate but unequal.

"Nationwide today African American wealth is about 10 percent of white wealth, but African Americans make 60 percent as much as whites. That's an enormous difference," said Rothstein, pointing the legacy of segregated housing as the main factor keeping blacks in poverty.

"Discrimination ... laws reached their apex in the mid-20th century, when the federal government--through housing policies--engineered the wealth gap, which remains with us to this day," wrote Ta-Nehesi Coates in a landmark 2014 Atlantic article titled "The Case for Reparations."

"An unsegregated America might see poverty, and all its effects, spread across the country with no particular bias toward skin color. Instead, the concentration of poverty has been paired with a concentration of melanin. The resulting conflagration has been devastating."

Historians say the racist housing policies were a way to continue segregating communities after the Supreme Court knocked down explicitly racist zoning regulations.

In Israel, clause 7B of the controversial Nation-State Bill presents a virtual mirror of those century-old processes in the US, using law to directly further existing arrangements.

Much housing in Israel is already de-facto segregated. Towns describe themselves as Jewish or Arab, aside from the odd mixed city like Haifa or Lod, and even these places have Jewish or Arab neighborhoods.

It's extremely rare for a Jew to have an Arab neighbor or vice versa, but until now it has never been part of the country's de facto constitution to enforce those separations.

The clause, which has come under vociferous criticism and may now be softened, would "authorize a community composed of people having the same faith and nationality to maintain the exclusive character of that community."

Posted by orrinj at 7:39 AM


U.S. oil boom delivers surprise for traders - and it's costly (Julia Payne, Devika Krishna Kumar, Dmitry Zhdannikov, 7/15/18, Reuters) 

The world's biggest oil traders are counting hefty losses after a surprise doubling in the price discount of U.S. light crude to benchmark Brent WTCLc1-LCOc1 in just a month, as surging U.S production upends the market.

Posted by orrinj at 7:33 AM


Illinois elections board 'very likely' named in Mueller indictment of Russian hackers, officials say. (Monique Garcia, Patrick M. O'Connell, 7/14/18, Chicago Tribune)

Though the Mueller probe continues to make national waves, Illinois voters have known about the cyberattack for nearly two years. It was discovered in July 2016, and the FBI issued an alert the following month. The timeline listed in the indictment matches up with what the state publicly acknowledged about a data breach in 2016.

Still, state officials said Friday's charges help put to rest some uncertainty.

"We are grateful that DOJ has identified who the perpetrators are," state election board spokesman Matt Dietrich said at a hastily arranged news conference at the Illinois Capitol. "We never had anything on paper until today, and even then we don't have a firm statement saying 'Yes, it's you,' although we think it's more than likely 'yes.' "

Posted by orrinj at 7:02 AM


Emirati Prince Flees to Qatar, Exposing Tensions in U.A.E. (David D. Kirkpatrick, July 14, 2018, NY Times)

Sheikh Rashid's flight to Doha appears to be the first time in the nearly 47-year history of the U.A.E. that a member of one of its seven royal families has publicly criticized its rulers, according to scholars of the region. In an interview with The New York Times, Sheikh Rashid accused Emirati rulers of blackmail and money laundering, though he provided no evidence to support his claim.

He also spoke publicly about tensions among the Emirates that were previously discussed only in whispers -- notably resentments over Abu Dhabi's leadership of the U.A.E.'s military intervention in Yemen.

The rulers of Abu Dhabi, he charged, did not consult the emirs of the other six Emirates before committing their troops to the war, now three years old, against an Iranian-allied faction in Yemen. But soldiers from smaller emirates, such as Fujairah, have filled the front lines and accounted for most of the war deaths, which Emirati news reports have put at a little more than 100.

"There have been more deaths from Fujairah than anywhere else," Sheikh Rashid said, and he accused Abu Dhabi of hiding the full death toll.

He said he decided to give the interview in the hope that public attention to his case would protect his family in Fujairah from pressure by Abu Dhabi, and he appeared to hope that threatening further disclosures might give him leverage against Abu Dhabi as well. "I am the first in a royal family going out of the U.A.E. and telling everything about them," he said.

But his arrival in Doha has also posed a dilemma for Qatar, in part because of uncertainty surrounding Sheikh Rashid's dispute with Abu Dhabi.

The U.A.E. and Saudi Arabia have led a campaign to isolate Qatar, cutting off all diplomatic and trade relations in an effort to pressure the tiny petroleum-rich monarchy to adhere to a common foreign policy and join their crackdown on political Islam. Adding to the pressure, Abu Dhabi has played host to a handful of exiled members of the Qatari royal family, playing up their criticism of the current emir and promoting them as alternative leaders.

Posted by orrinj at 6:52 AM


Public perception of crime rate at odds with reality

July 14, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 11:13 PM


Posted by orrinj at 5:06 PM


Gov. Matt Bevin's 'disturbing' West End comments spark outrage (Thomas Novelly, 7/10/18, Louisville Courier Journal)

Gov. Matt Bevin said in a promotional video featuring the West Louisville chess club that some people might be surprised by the connection between the club and the neighborhoods it draws children from, unleashing a barrage of criticism on social media.

"I'm going to go in and meet the members of the West Louisville Chess Club," Bevin said in the video. "Not something you necessarily would have thought of when you think of this section of town." [...]

Councilman David James, who represents District 6 in Louisville, was present at the event where Bevin filmed the promo. James said it is a sign of Bevin's deteriorating relationship with the state's African-American community. 

Didn't he ever watch Shelby Lyman cover chess on PBS?

Posted by orrinj at 4:55 PM


Man Who Harassed Woman Over Puerto Rican Flag Shirt Is Charged With Hate Crimes (Matt Stevens, July 11, 2018, NY Times)

A Chicago man who was caught on video harassing a woman over a Puerto Rican flag shirt was charged with felony hate crimes on Thursday, just hours after a police officer who ignored the woman's pleas for help resigned, the authorities said.

July 13, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 8:17 PM


Moscow now accused of US election meddling, in indictment (Eric Tucker, 7/13/18, Associated Press) 

Twelve Russian military intelligence officers hacked into the Clinton presidential campaign and Democratic Party and released tens of thousands of private communications in a sweeping conspiracy by the Kremlin to meddle in the 2016 U.S. election, according to an indictment announced days before President Donald Trump's summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The indictment represents special counsel Robert Mueller's first charges against Russian government officials for interfering in American politics, an effort U.S. intelligence agencies say was aimed at helping the Trump campaign and harming Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton. The case follows after a separate indictment that accused Russians of using social media to sow discord among American voters two years ago.

The 29-page indictment lays out how, months before Americans went to the polls, Russian officers schemed to break into key Democratic email accounts, including those belonging to Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Stolen emails, many politically damaging for Clinton, appeared on WikiLeaks in the campaign's final stretch.

The charges allege the Russian defendants, using a persona known as Guccifer 2.0, in August 2016 contacted a person who was in touch with the Trump campaign to offer help. And they say that on the same day Trump said in a speech, "Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing," Russian hackers tried for the first time to break into email accounts used by Clinton's personal office.

Posted by orrinj at 4:17 AM



But from this crisis is emerging a series of fintech platforms that are helping young Nigerians save better. There's PiggyBank, which launched in 2016 and works on simultaneously securing money and instilling financial discipline. Customers earn a minimum of 6 percent annual interest, and if they keep their savings longer, can secure even higher returns. Between 2016 and 2017, it built a savings customer base of more than 53,000 registered users. CowryWise, which started in July 2017, combines digital savings and investments with wealth management, all online. Over the past year, its user base has grown 30 percent month-on-month. Alat, launched in May 2017, describes itself as Nigeria's first digital bank. Diamond Bank, a retail bank, in 2016 launched what it calls the Diamond eSUSU platform, modeled after Esusu, a traditional West African contributory and rotational savings practice.

Their strategies vary, but they share a common core market: Nigerian millennials. And they're tapping distrust of Nigeria's commercial banks while leveraging the digital comfort enjoyed by this demographic.

"Most millennials couldn't be bothered to save in banks because there is a general distrust of the banking system in Nigeria," says Seun Oyajumo, an investment and venture analyst, before arguing that digital savings platforms like PiggyBank appear to be clicking with this section of Nigerians better. "PiggyBank has taken a different approach to customer service and is not failing in its promises."

A year since launching CowryWise, founders Razaq Ahmed and Edward Popoola aren't sitting at ease, despite the rapid growth in their customer base. Because of the volatility of Nigeria's economy -- Africa's largest -- Ahmed emphasizes that just savings aren't enough. In addition to savings, CowryWise offers financial advisory services. "Because the Nigerian economy doesn't run as optimally as it is supposed to, saving will never be enough," says Ahmed. "Arming people with knowledge of finances is something that needs to be done."

Posted by orrinj at 4:04 AM


Turkey's Gulen movement on the rise in Germany: After Turkey's foiled coup attempt in 2016, many supporters of exiled Muslim cleric Fetullah Gulen were driven out of the country. But in Germany, the movement is increasingly gaining influence (Gunnar Köhne, 7/13/18, Deutsche-Welle)

When the Turkish government crushed an attempted coup on July 15, 2016, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan blamed supporters of Fethullah Gulen, a Muslim cleric in self-imposed exile in the United States. There were plenty of rumors about Gulen's involvement in the incident, yet the authorities in Ankara have so far failed to present conclusive evidence to prove this.

It is undisputed, however, that Gulen supporters previously held many positions in the Turkish state apparatus, which they used to their own advantage, and which Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) tolerated. That is, until Erdogan and Gulen had a falling out.

After Turkey's foiled coup, Erdogan ordered an unprecedented purge of the state apparatus. Some 100,000 civil servants were fired and 40,000 jailed. Most of these individuals are suspected members or sympathizers of the Gulen movement, or Hizmet. Tens of thousands were forced to flee the country. Many of the 800 Gulen-affiliated schools in Turkey and across the world were forced to close. Turkish authorities pressured Muslim countries in particular, such as Kosovo and Malaysia, to shut down these schools and expel Turkish teachers.

In Germany, meanwhile, the situation is much more hospitable for Gulen supporters. They enjoy wide-ranging support from German media, political figures and even the country's Christian churches, as DW research reveals.

Posted by orrinj at 4:00 AM



FIFA recently launched "Nations League" play to determine some qualifiers for the 2020 European Championships. Europe and North America will start Nations Leagues this fall, while FIFA hopes to take the concept worldwide soon. The governing body also envisions a "mini-tournament," held the year before the World Cup, to decide the final places in the Cup.

The Nations Leagues are promising ventures, but they're a bit redundant with qualifying games for the World Cup and continental championships. The mini-tournament idea is also interesting, but why make it so "mini"?

Instead, let's do this:

Reward the top 16 teams in the Global Nations League with direct qualification to the World Cup. They get one summer off, aside from some tune-up friendly matches.

Take the next 64 teams in the Global Nations League, including some from the lower tiers, and have them play off for the other 16 berths in the World Cup.

Split them into four 16-team tournaments in different sites across the globe.

Call the whole thing the Pre-Cup.

Tournaments pretty much suck until you get to the knockout round.  Just put every nation in a seeded bracket and play all knockout games.

Posted by orrinj at 3:59 AM


Is There Really a 'China Model'? (Bonnie Girard, July 13, 2018, The Diplomat)

If China's model is so successful, and represents a viable and perhaps more appropriate development "alternative" to the American model, then why is China itself using a completely different economic and investment paradigm than its own in most of the rest of the developing world? If, as He Yafei declares, the Chinese model is so strong that it has allowed China to make "remarkable contributions to the world and U.S. economies," then why doesn't it apply the principles of that model in developing countries in which it has strong economic relationships and interests? For example, much of China's relationship with developing African and Latin American nations suggests that it accepts local terms and practices, and seeks to benefit economically from them.

This is very different from the 1980s and 1990s in China, when China was first becoming familiar with various aspects of business and contract law, and was indeed, inviting foreign assistance in formulating those laws. Along with other factors, this cooperation with the richer, industrialized nations of the world to create at least a semblance of a reliable international business framework and legal foundation, inspired foreign direct investment into China of unprecedented levels, which in turn played a large role in China's overall development.

Two other key conditions play a large role in the "China model." The first is the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). China's economic model rests on a one-party political system, which is part and parcel of the fabric of the country. The CCP is the connective tissue that ties all business, social, and public sectors together in China. Its presence and power had already been established by the time that it decided to let go of strict Marxist principles and allow a modicum -- which became a tidal wave -- of for-profit business to take root in the country. For good or for bad, there is no denying the pivotal role that the CCP plays in the "China model" of economic development.

China does not, however, any longer openly encourage other developing nations to develop their own communist parties, or to organize under Marxist (with Chinese characteristics) principles. Yet, as He surely knows and would agree with, without the CCP, the China model doesn't exist.

A second, more technical condition exists in the China model, one which has had a profound importance on the development of business at all levels in China. Chinese companies, whether domestic or foreign-owned, must be capitalized.

In its original iteration, all companies in China were required to deposit in a bank in China an amount of money, called Registered Capital, that authorities in the relevant Industry and Commerce Bureau deemed sufficient to start up, operate, and maintain the business as a going concern for at least a year. [...]

Do Chinese companies advise their counterparts in the developing countries in which they operate to require Registered Capital as a component of their company law? A review of the record would suggest no.

There is little evidence that China, in practice, promotes its own model of development in the developing countries in which it operates around the world.

July 12, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 2:30 PM


North Koreans skip meeting to discuss remains of American troops: report (BRETT SAMUELS, 07/12/18, The Hill)

North Korean officials reportedly did not show up Thursday at a scheduled meeting with U.S. officials to discuss returning the remains of American soldiers, and instead suggested talking with United Nations military leaders about the issue.

Posted by orrinj at 4:27 AM

Posted by orrinj at 4:20 AM


These 9 Candidates Have Ties To White Nationalists Or Nazis -- And They're All Republicans (Juliana Kaplan and Alyssa Fisher, July 11, 2018, The Forward)

More white nationalists are running for state or federal office than in any other election in modern history, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. Some of these candidates are proud, card-carrying Nazis, while others have had more subtle flirtations with the "alt-right." There's even a Jew among them.

Posted by orrinj at 4:18 AM


Zimbabwe's elections: a turning point? (Stuart Doran, 7/12/18, The Strategist)

In the 38 years since the end of colonial rule, Zimbabwe has never held an election in which Robert Mugabe has failed to participate--or win. The country gets its first chance in combined presidential and parliamentary polls on 30 July, following the November 2017 coup that brought the ancient autocrat's remarkable and seemingly interminable rule to an end. But will it make any difference?

The optimists point to new energy and new ideas, built around new leaders. Those who lean towards the ruling Zanu-PF party--from which Mugabe has been ejected--note that his successor, Emmerson Mnangagwa, has adopted a modernising agenda, focused on economic reform and international reengagement. Supporters of the opposition, meanwhile, cite a renewed sense of unity and purpose since Mugabe's departure and the death in February of Morgan Tsvangirai, Mugabe's long-time bête noire. 

Posted by orrinj at 4:07 AM


Nobody's Going to Sports in Person Anymore. And No One Seems to Care. (Will Leitch, 7/11/18, New York)

But the main reason attendance is down, in Major League Baseball as well as most of the other major professional sports, and the main reason owners and commissioners aren't sweating it too much, I'd argue, is because it can be. Teams don't really care anymore about bringing fans to the stadium -- at least not as much as they used to --because they no longer need people in the seats to make money.

Last year, the NFL brought in revenues of more than $17 billion, and Major League Baseball earned more than $10 billion, records for both sports. An increasingly small percentage of all that revenue came from attendance. The NFL attributes most of its 2017 improvement to a new Thursday Night Football television package and increased media payments from other properties. MLB's numbers, which grew even more the year before (when its Advanced Media arm spun off into its own company and was sold for $2.58 billion to Disney), came from expanded partnerships, local television ratings, and its own media-rights deals. Attendance has been down each of last seven years in MLB, and MLB's revenue has been up every single season. Knowing that, how much would you sweat attendance numbers?

Posted by orrinj at 4:04 AM


The Role Kavanaugh Played in the Starr Investigation of Clinton (Fred Lucas, July 11, 2018, Daily Signal)

At the age of 33, Kavanaugh wrote most of the portion of the Starr report to Congress that laid out grounds for impeachment against Clinton. His broad grounds for impeachment included abuse of power for Clinton lying to the public and to White House staff and Cabinet officials. [...]

CNN legal pundit Jeffrey Toobin lamented how 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton must feel, seeing someone from the Starr team nominated to the high court.

"I mean, Brett Kavanaugh made his name by investigating not just the Starr--not just Whitewater, but the Monica Lewinsky part, the sexual details," Toobin said. "And his, you know, making his name for himself got him on the trajectory that he is today. And Hillary Clinton has to watch yet another Supreme Court nomination that she thought she was going to be able to [make]."

Kavanaugh and Bittman co-authored a Washington Post op-ed in November 1999 with fellow Starr team member Solomon Wisenberg defending the Starr investigation, responding to a critical piece by the Post's longtime liberal columnist Richard Cohen.

Their op-ed said, in part:

Contrary to Cohen's table-thumping, the record establishes that Starr was a thorough, fair, ethical, and successful prosecutor. His record is one of extraordinary accomplishment and integrity. And to us, Starr is an American hero.

Over time, fair-minded people will come to hail Starr's enormous contributions to the country and see the presidentially approved smear campaign against him for what it was: a disgraceful effort to undermine the rule of law, an episode that will forever stand, together with the underlying legal and moral transgressions to which it was connected, as a dark chapter in American presidential history.

The independent counsel's probe began with the investigation of the collapse of the Madison Guaranty Savings and Loan Association, owned by the McDougal family, who entered into the Whitewater land deal with the Clintons. It expanded into the White House travel office firings, the White House's questionable obtaining of hundreds of FBI files relating to political opponents, and eventually, the Lewinsky matter.

The op-ed noted convictions in other matters, including that of Arkansas Gov. Jim Guy Tucker for fraud. Further, it said it was U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno who referred other matters to the independent counsel, rather than Starr seeking to investigate other potential crimes.

Posted by orrinj at 4:00 AM


How the Know Nothing Party Turned Nativism into a Political Strategy  (MICHAEL TODD LANDIS, JULY 12, 2018, What it Means to be American)

Though the United States is a nation built by immigrants, nativism--the fear of immigrants and the desire to restrict their entry into the country or curtail their rights (or both)--has been a central strain in the national fabric from the beginning. Nativism waxes and wanes with the tides of American culture and politics, with some eras exhibiting more virulent anti-immigrant activism than others.

But few eras have exceeded the 1840s and 1850s, when a ferociously anti-Catholic, anti-immigrant, and xenophobic secret society grew into a nativist political entity called the Know Nothing Party and briefly dominated the politics of a handful of states by stirring up violent outbursts before imploding over the slavery issue in 1855.

Though the United States always enjoyed robust immigration, it was not until the 1840s and 1850s that it became a divisive issue in politics. The highest level of immigration in U.S. history (as a proportion of overall population) occurred in 1854, in the wake of the massive influx of people from Ireland and the German states. The Irish were desperate to escape the infamous "potato famine," which struck in 1845, and the Germans were motivated by overpopulation and unemployment in their homeland.

Coastal cities, in particular New York, were the primary entry points for European immigrants, with Irish and Germans establishing their own neighborhoods, maintaining their ethnic identities, and becoming the new industrial working class. Many current residents, fancying themselves "natives" (with no sense of irony concerning actual Native Americans), were none too pleased, unfairly condemning the newly-arrived Americans as job-stealers, drunks, criminals, and--perhaps worst of all, to their way of thinking--Roman Catholics.

Religion was at the core of the fight over immigration in the 19th century. Though not all the Germans and Irish who disembarked in the antebellum period were Catholics, the majority were.

Not much of an excuse, but at least economics were less well understood then.

July 11, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 1:35 PM


Why Productivity Isn't Keeping Up With Technology (Peter R. Orszag, July 11, 2018,  Bloomberg)

The disconnect between productivity growth and the technology revolution has triggered a sharp debate in economics. A scintillating new paper by Adair Turner of the Institute for New Economic Thinking suggests that rather than presenting a puzzle, the combination of technological innovation and low measured productivity growth is exactly what we should expect.  [...]

 He writes that "it is quite possible that an acceleration in underlying technological progress, which allows us to achieve dramatic productivity improvement in existing production processes, can be accompanied by a decline in total measured productivity." 

In other words, there is really no puzzle to explain.

The core of Turner's argument is that the impact of new technology on total productivity growth depends crucially on who accrues the income from the new inventions; what additional consumption they choose to enjoy with that income; and the nature of productivity advances in the sectors that workers are shifted into as a result. In particular, if those who directly accrue income from the new inventions choose to consume more services (such as personal services or artistic ones) that are hard to automate, the net result could be the coexistence of rapid technological progress and slow or nonexistent overall productivity growth.

So technological progress and productivity growth have tended to coexist in the past because the workers shifted as a result of the new technologies moved from one sector (say, farming) to another (manufacturing) and in both the sender and recipient sector rapid productivity growth was occurring.

What would happen, though, if the recipient sectors suffer from "Baumol's disease," which features limited potential for productivity improvements because it is hard to replace people with machines in those areas? Then, aggregate productivity growth will not march in lockstep with technological progress. 

Furthermore, as our incomes rise, we may demand more services with Baumol's disease characteristics. The employment projections from the Bureau of Labor Statistics highlight the point. The top four occupations ranked by the number of new jobs projected to be created between 2016 and 2026, for example, are personal care aides, cooks and servers, registered nurses and home health aides. In all four cases, the service provided involves person-to-person interactions that are, at least for now, difficult to automate. That means productivity explosions are unlikely, whatever is happening in the rest of the economy.

Posted by orrinj at 1:07 PM


Soccer Is a Fundamentally Flawed Game (RICH LOWRY, July 10, 2018, National Review)

The problem from my amateur's point of view is that the regular action in soccer can't be relied on to create scoring. So a lot of it happens as a result of interruptions in play and referee calls -- on corner kicks, free kicks, and penalty kicks.

I watched some of the Russia-Croatia game last weekend (which did have a thrilling finale), and the announcer kept saying after a goal something like: AND ANOTHER BIG SET PIECE IN THIS WORLD CUP! Well, yeah. When else does something happen? This creates the incentive for players to flop and pretend they've just gotten shot in the leg. If a referee falls for it, the tactic might change soccer history.

And then there are the penalty kicks. They have much too much of an element of randomness since the goaltender has to guess which way to jump. This is absurd and makes ending a tied game on penalty kicks a travesty.

The World Cup of Set Pieces: How Teams Are Living Off Dead-Ball Plays (GRANT WAHL, July 10, 2018, Sports Illustrated)

Set pieces fueled deep World Cup runs for England and Uruguay, to say nothing of Russia 2018 itself. Through the quarters, 30% of the tournament's goals had come on free kicks and corners, outpacing the previous high of 23% (in '02 and '06) among the five most recent men's World Cups.

Even in the unwatchable NBA, free throws only account for about 16% of scoring.  The problem is not just that the scoring comes from stoppages in play but that it makes officiating such an integral part of the game. 

Posted by orrinj at 1:06 PM


Posted by orrinj at 4:35 AM


Is Lab-Grown Meat Really Meat? (ROSE EVELETH, JULY 11, 2018, Slate)

After centuries of a veritable monopoly, meat might have finally met its match. The challenger arises not from veggie burgers or tofu or seitan, but instead from labs where animal cells are being cultured and grown up into slabs that mimic (or, depending on whom you ask, mirror) meat. It currently goes by many names--in-vitro meat, cultured meat, lab-grown mean, clean meat--and it might soon be vying for a spot in the cold case next to more traditionally made fare. To put it bluntly: the kind that comes from living animals, slaughtered for food.

Cultured-meat manufacturers like Just Inc. and Memphis Meats are hoping to provide consumers with meat that is just like its predecessor, that tastes and looks and feels and smells exactly the same as something you might get in stores today but will be more sustainable. Whether that will turn out to be true won't be clear for some time. But there's another, more immediate battle heating up between the cattle industry and these new entrants into the meaty ring. So buckle up and put on your wonkiest hat, because the labeling war is about to begin.

In February, the U.S. Cattlemen's Association wrote a petition to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, asking the government to ban cultured-meat companies from using the terms meat and beef at all.

Posted by orrinj at 4:06 AM


Posted by orrinj at 4:05 AM


GOP Senators Tell Contradictory Stories About Moscow Trip (Andrew Desiderio, 07.10.18, Daily Beast)

A top Republican senator shocked his colleagues when he suggested, after returning from a trip to Moscow with fellow GOP lawmakers, that U.S. sanctions targeting Russia were not working and the Kremlin's election interference was really no big deal.

Now, the senators who joined him for the series of meetings with senior Russian officials are sharply disputing not only Sen. Ron Johnson's (R-WI) conclusions--but also his account of what went on behind closed doors in Moscow.

Posted by orrinj at 4:01 AM


Secular Materialism Can't Make Sense of Reality (Justin Dyer, July 10th, 2018, Public Discourse)

Setting aside whether the concept of good is meaningful in this context, let us note that the problem was acknowledged in Western theology and jurisprudence before neuroscientists began studying the brain. Biblical commentators, for example, have long interpreted one of the consequences of the fall of man to be humanity's tendency to elevate material reality as the ultimate or highest source of meaning. As R.R. Reno writes in his recent commentary on Genesis, synthesizing the insights of classical Jewish, Catholic, and Protestant interpreters, "When the eye of the soul becomes carnal, taking the physical and finite as the measure of all things, the testimony of creation awakens a sense of shame. We know ourselves pursuing a futile life-project--even as we commit ourselves to its futility." Smilansky and others, of course, might see this tradition as useful nonsense. Tabling that question, we can say that people have long been aware of the disheartening implications of a worldview that makes the physical and finite the measure of all things, and it arguably is our deep longing for the infinite and immortal that leads us to be disheartened.

In light of this unease, and the disparity between materialism and experiential reality, the practical question for us today is what it would take for the people who control the key institutions in our society to embrace the old idea that we are rational animals capable of making decisions fraught with moral consequence. So long as our choices are entirely determined by physical causes, however, freedom is an illusion. If freedom is an illusion, then nothing is right or wrong, since unavoidable necessity is not a moral category. The practical stakes for how we answer these abstract questions are high. In one of his best and most reflective essays on this topic, Lewis observed:

The very idea of freedom presupposes some objective moral law which overarches rulers and ruled alike. Subjectivism about values is eternally incompatible with democracy. We and our rulers are of one kind only so long as we are subject to one law. But if there is no Law of Nature, the ethos of any society is the creation of its rulers, educators and conditioners; and every creator stands above and outside his own creation.

Lewis's observation does not mean the natural law exists (although he of course thought it did). His narrower point is that the idea of natural law is essential to the idea of freedom, because, as he wrote elsewhere, it provides the foundation of "a rule which is not tyranny or an obedience which is not slavery."

In the modern world, some have been tempted to dispense with the metaphysical baggage of the natural-law tradition, but without metaphysics we are left simply with physics, and physics is about power, leverage, and force. If power is all there is, then everything is about power, including the arguments we engage in as academics. The alternative to reason is strength: it has always been the alternative. In the reigning worldview of many intellectuals, material nature in an endless chain of cause-and-effect necessitates all human action. The strong rule, as must be the case, but strong can also mean clever, if cleverness helps one gain power. For this reason, many academics see law and public discourse as little more than linguistic power struggles, necessitated in advance by the course of matter.

It is a grim worldview that cannot give a coherent account of many of the fundamental concepts at the base of our law and politics, and cannot account for our actual lived experiences in the world. "Everyone knows," as the late Peter Lawler wrote, "that physics can't explain the physicist." Physics, by itself, simply explains away the physicist--and much else. The older theological and metaphysical view gave us two basic things that so far we have not been able to recover: a confidence in practical reason and a belief in freedom. Both grew out of a deeper philosophical anthropology that understood human beings as rational animals unique in their capacity to deliberate about the standards of justice rooted in human nature.

Materialists give away the game when they complain if you punch them in the face.

Posted by orrinj at 3:56 AM


US Tariffs Hurt Americans More Than Anyone Else (Walter E. Williams, 7/10/18, Daily Signal)

Guess what tariffs on Canadian lumber do to home prices. If you answered that they raise the cost and American homebuyers are forced to pay higher prices, go to the head of the class.

This retaliation policy is both cruel and not very smart. It's as if you and I were in a rowboat out at sea and I shot a hole in my end of the boat.

What should be your response?

If you were Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross or Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin, you might advise retaliating by shooting a hole in your end of the boat.

If I were president, I'd try to persuade officials of other countries not to serve special producer interests by forcing their citizens to pay higher prices. But if they insisted, I'd say, "Go ahead, but I'll be damned if I'll do the same to Americans!"

The ruse used to promote producer interests through tariff policy is concern about our large trade deficit. It's true that we have a large current account trade deficit. However, that's matched exactly by a very large capital account surplus.

Translated, that means Americans buy more goods from other countries than they buy from us; that's our current account deficit. But other countries find our investment climate attractive and invest more in the U.S. than we invest in other countries; that's our capital account surplus.

July 10, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 1:21 PM


GOP Congressional Nominee Seth Grossman Shared White Nationalist Articles (Aiden Pink, 7/09/18, The Forward)

New Jersey Republican congressional nominee Seth Grossman used his Facebook account to share articles from well-known white nationalist websites, Media Matters reported Monday.

One article, published on the white nationalist website American Renaissance and shared in 2014, claimed that black people "are different by almost any measure to all other people. They cannot reason as well. They cannot communicate as well. They cannot control their impulses as well. They are a threat to all who cross their paths, black and non-black alike."

Posted by orrinj at 11:20 AM


Secret tape recordings rock Georgia governor race (Associated Press, Jul.09.2018)

Another secret recording is shaking up Georgia's Republican primary runoff in the governor's race.

Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle's campaign was already rocked last month by the release of a secretly recorded conversation in which Cagle said he backed what he called "bad public policy" for political gain. Cagle's runoff opponent, Secretary of State Brian Kemp, released another snippet of that conversation Monday.

In this 50-second piece , Cagle can be heard candidly discussing the GOP primary's sharp turn to the right, saying the five-man race came down to "who had the biggest gun, who had the biggest truck and who could be the craziest."

...that these guys are contemptuous of the voters who push them to take such positions?  

Posted by orrinj at 4:36 AM


Israel 'not ruling out' eventual ties with Syria's Assad (Dan Williams, 7/10/18, Reuters) 

Israel held out the prospect on Tuesday of eventual contacts with Syria under President Bashar al-Assad, in a nod to his regime-consolidating advances in a seven-year-old civil war that Israeli officials had initially predicted would topple him.

What quarrel can Israel have with a religious state occupying a Sunni majority?

Posted by orrinj at 4:33 AM


George W. Bush Praises Nomination of Kavanaugh for Supreme Court: 'Outstanding Decision'
(David Rutz, July 9, 2018, Free Beacon)

"President Trump has made an outstanding decision in nominating Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court," Bush said in a statement. "Brett is a brilliant jurist who has faithfully applied the Constitution and laws throughout his 12 years on the D.C. Circuit. He is a fine husband, father, and friend--and a man of the highest integrity. He will make a superb Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States."

Posted by orrinj at 4:33 AM


NOT EVERYONE LOVES PROUST (Emily Temple, 7/10/18, LitHub)

Kazuo Ishiguro, in an interview with HuffPo:

To be absolutely honest, apart from the opening volume of Proust, I find him crushingly dull. The trouble with Proust is that sometimes you go through an absolutely wonderful passage, but then you have to go about 200 pages of intense French snobbery, high-society maneuverings and pure self-indulgence. It goes on and on and on and on. But every now and again, I suppose around memory, he can be beautiful.

Evelyn Waugh, in a 1948 letter to Nancy Mitford:

I am reading Proust for the first time--in English of course--and am surprised to find him a mental defective. No one warned me of that. He has absolutely no sense of time. He can't remember anyone's age. In the same summer as Gilberte gives him a marble & Francoise takes him to the public lavatory in the Champs-Elysees, Bloch takes him to a brothel. And as for the jokes--the boredom of Bloch and Cottard.

D. H. Lawrence, in his essay "The Future of the Novel":

Let us just for the moment feel the pulses of Ulysses and of Miss Dorothy Richardson and M. Marcel Proust . . . Is Ulysses in his cradle? Oh, dear! What a grey face! . . . And M. Proust? Alas! You can hear the death-rattle in their throats. They can hear it themselves. They are listening to it with acute interest, trying to discover whether the intervals are minor thirds of major fourths. Which is rather infantile, really.

So there you have the "serious" novel, dying in a very long-drawn-out fourteen-volume death-agony, and absorbedly, childishly interested in the phenomenon "Did I feel a twinge in my little toe, or didn't I?" asks every character of Mr. Joyce or of Miss Richardson or M. Proust. Is my aura a blend of frankincense and orange pekoe and boot-blacking, or is it myrrh and bacon-fat and Shetland tweed? The audience round the death-bed gapes for the answer. And when, in a sepulchral tone, the answer comes and length, after hundreds of pages: "It is none of these, it is abysmal chloro-coryambasis," the audience quivers all over, and murmurs: "That's just how I feel myself."

Which is the dismal, long-drawn-out comedy of the death-bed of the serious novel. It is self-consciousness picked into such fine bits that the bits are most of them invisible, and you have to go by smell.

Germaine Greer, writing in The Guardian:

If you haven't read Proust, don't worry. This lacuna in your cultural development you do not need to fill. On the other hand, if you have read all of A la Recherche du Temps Perdu, you should be very worried about yourself. As Proust very well knew, reading his work for as long as it takes is temps perdu, time wasted, time that would be better spent visiting a demented relative, meditating, walking the dog or learning ancient Greek.

The point of such writing is not to entertain the reader but to dominate him.

Posted by orrinj at 4:28 AM


Democrats' little tent on abortion is holding them back (David Von Drehle, July 6, 2018, Washington Post)

Democrats at the national level have been debating for years over the precise dimensions of the party's tent and whether it has room for abortion dissenters. In 1992, the party drew a line by refusing to allow Pennsylvania's then-governor, Robert P. Casey -- who had recently lost the landmark abortion rights case Planned Parenthood v. Casey in the Supreme Court -- to deliver an antiabortion speech at the national convention. Years later, in what was widely viewed as a fence-mending moment, Casey's son, Sen. Robert P. Casey Jr., was given a featured slot at the 2008 convention.

But to let the issue flare up in the Midwest so close to Election Day suggests a lack of focus on the task at hand. Many voters are looking for alternatives to the increasingly harsh and frantic Republicanism of President Trump, and might be willing to take a fresh look at a Democratic Party comfortable with all types of diversity -- including diversity of ideas and beliefs.

There's no question that the wedge of abortion divides Democrats from Republicans in a general sense. But what do Democrats gain by sharpening the wedge? It won't help them win back the working-class Catholic voters of Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan who were so central to Trump's electoral college victory. Nor will it help them hold key Senate seats in otherwise red states such as Missouri, North Dakota and Montana.

Posted by orrinj at 4:24 AM


A Liberal's Case for Brett Kavanaugh (Akhil Reed Amar, July 9, 2018, NY Times)

The nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to be the next Supreme Court justice is President Trump's finest hour, his classiest move. Last week the president promised to select "someone with impeccable credentials, great intellect, unbiased judgment, and deep reverence for the laws and Constitution of the United States." In picking Judge Kavanaugh, he has done just that.

In 2016, I strongly supported Hillary Clinton for president as well as President Barack Obama's nominee for the Supreme Court, Judge Merrick Garland. But today, with the exception of the current justices and Judge Garland, it is hard to name anyone with judicial credentials as strong as those of Judge Kavanaugh. He sits on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (the most influential circuit court) and commands wide and deep respect among scholars, lawyers and jurists.

Judge Kavanaugh, who is 53, has already helped decide hundreds of cases concerning a broad range of difficult issues. Good appellate judges faithfully follow the Supreme Court; great ones influence and help steer it. Several of Judge Kavanaugh's most important ideas and arguments -- such as his powerful defense of presidential authority to oversee federal bureaucrats and his skepticism about newfangled attacks on the property rights of criminal defendants -- have found their way into Supreme Court opinions.

Except for Judge Garland, no one has sent more of his law clerks to clerk for the justices of the Supreme Court than Judge Kavanaugh has. And his clerks have clerked for justices across the ideological spectrum.

Posted by orrinj at 4:17 AM


The Deadliest Drug (J.B. WOGAN | JULY 2018, Governing)

The total number of alcohol-impaired traffic fatalities actually rose in both 2015 and 2016. "Drunk driving has been around since the automobile was invented and it's still the biggest killer on the highway," says J.T. Griffin, the chief government affairs officer for Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). Indeed, alcohol causes more traffic deaths per year than either speeding or driving without a seatbelt. 

In January, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine issued a report about the causes of the problem and potential solutions. "Yes, we made progress. No, we didn't get rid of it," says David Jernigan, a Boston University public health researcher who helped write the report. "Ten thousand deaths are too many."

The report provided a package of policy recommendations, one of which was for every state to lower the legal BAC limit from .08 to .05. In practical terms, that would mean most women couldn't drive after two glasses of wine in an hour; most men couldn't drive after three. The report is only the latest to call for a more stringent BAC limit: The National Transportation Safety Board has also called for a lower level. 

Up to now, no state has imposed a limit of .05, but that's about to change. Utah will go to .05 in December. In the past year, Delaware, Hawaii, New York and Washington state have also considered legislation to lower the limit. "It will change the conversation from, 'If you have been drinking too much, you shouldn't drive,' to, 'If you've been drinking, you shouldn't drive,'" says Utah Rep. Norm Thurston, who sponsored the .05 legislation. The new message -- that driving shouldn't occur after even moderate drinking -- "is probably what it should have been all along," he says. 

We can't automate fast enough.

Posted by orrinj at 4:11 AM


GET READY FOR THE BUSH COURT (Daniel Malloy, JUL 10 2018, OZY)

Few people in his position know the space so well. Brett Kavanaugh learned the nooks and crannies of the White House when he was working in the counsel's office, helping select conservatives to fill the federal judiciary, and then as George W. Bush's staff secretary -- an immensely important position that manages the paper crossing the president's desk. [...]

[I]f Kavanaugh does join the court, the conservative majority will be composed of the following:

A George H.W. Bush SCOTUS and appeals court nominee (Clarence Thomas)

A George W. Bush SCOTUS nominee who advised Gov. Jeb Bush during the 2000 Florida recount (John Roberts)

A George W. Bush SCOTUS nominee who was nominated to an appeals seat by George H.W. Bush (Samuel Alito)

A deputy attorney general in George W. Bush's Justice Department, later nominated by Bush to an appeals judgeship (Neil Gorsuch)

Brett Kavanaugh

Posted by orrinj at 4:05 AM


Did North Korea's Kim put potatoes over Pompeo? (AFP, 7/10/18)

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un may have been too busy visiting a potato farm to meet US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Pyongyang's state media implied Tuesday.

Posted by orrinj at 4:03 AM



The announcement of Trump's Supreme Court nominee pick is merely days away -- yet one name on the list has some influential conservatives cringing behind the scenes.

That name is Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh. [...]

Kavanaugh drew the ire of multiple influential conservative movement staffers and judicial activist who spoke with The Daily Caller, some on background due to their positions within the White House and decision-making judicial circles. Insiders say that the base criticism of Kavanaugh are beginning to reach Trump. "The White House Counsel's Office is reeling today on Kavanaugh," says one GOP judicial insider with direct knowledge of the selection process. "Kavanaugh is crashing and burning today. I cannot figure out how this happened in one day."

"The conservative grassroots I speak with are terrified that this will be another Harriet Miers," says Terry Schilling, executive director, American Principles Project referencing the ill-fated George W. Bush selection for SCOTUS, citing Bush family nepotism and lack of enthusiasm with the base as Kavanaugh weaknesses.

"Kavanaugh is Jeb Bush's pick for the Supreme Court," one senior administration official lamented. "This is the low-energy Jeb Bush pick. No one in the base will be animated by [Kavanaugh] -- especially Trump supporters who rejected the Bush legacy." [...]

Kavanaugh was a Bush campaign official and White House aide who married George W.'s personal secretary. Bush nominated Kavanaugh to the D.C. Circuit in 2003 where he has presided in the minority ever since. Kavanaugh's confirmation was held up for three years on partisan lines by Democrats objection to his party ties.

Posted by orrinj at 3:50 AM


Colorado's strong jobs performance yet another sign of state's robust economy (DAVE LEMERY, JUL 9, 2018, Pueblo Chieftain)

WalletHub assembled rankings from 29 different categories to devise its ultimate scores for the 50 states. They were sorted into two main subcategories, "economic environment," where Colorado was only 19th best, and "job market," where Colorado finished first. [...]

The forecast noted that the state is still seeing strong employment growth, but the lack of workers could begin to drag on the state's economy. [...]

WalletHub reached out to experts in the field of employment to provide more context to their findings. They asked Bruce Sacerdote, a professor of economics at Dartmouth College, what the government could do to encourage manufacturing growth in the years to come.

"The corporate tax cuts are a sensible way to stimulate business investment," Sacerdote said. "But the onshoring of manufacturing will look quite different than the manufacturing jobs that left. Coal mining is also heavily subject to substitution of sophisticated capital equipment to save labor. But given the greener and cleaner ways to produce energy [including fracked natural gas], perhaps we should not have policies to encourage additional coal production."

Sacerdote also suggested that there was no particular reason to expect that the strong growth in jobs in Colorado and nationwide is necessarily going to come to an end in the near term.

"Expansions do not die of old age," he said. "There is still ample room for labor force participation to grow. I am looking forward to at least another couple of years of robust job growth, but my random guess is no better than anyone else's."

Source: WalletHub

July 9, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 8:40 PM


Africa's Revolutionary New Free Trade Area Could Lift Millions out of Poverty (Alexander Hammond  , 7/08/18, FEE)

Being able to trade freely with one's neighbors is vital for economic growth. In 2016, just 18 percent of Africa's total exports were traded within the African continent. In Europe and Asia, intra-regional trade accounted for 69 percent and 59 percent of total exports respectively.

If adopted, the AfCFTA has the potential to revolutionize African trade and add billions to the continent's GDP.

Under the AfCFTA, the UN Economic Commission on Africa estimates, intra-African trade could increase 52.3 percent by 2022. It could double again, after the final 10 percent of tariffs are removed. If adopted, the AfCFTA has the potential to revolutionize African trade and add billions to the continent's GDP.

Quality of government could also improve through competition to create welcoming and stable business environments.

Posted by orrinj at 8:36 PM


Open-plan offices have a surprising effect on workplace communication (Lila MacLellan, July 5, 2018, Quartz)

Ethan Bernstein, an associate professor of organizational behavior, built the research around a real-life renovation at the headquarters of an unnamed Fortune 500 company engaged in a "so-called war on walls."  He had employees wear people analytics badges that track (but do not record) conversations through anonymized sensors, which gave the professor and his co-author data they could compare against changes in online communication. (To minimize the effects of outside factors, their research took snapshots of two three-week periods that fell at that same point in different business quarters, one before walls were banished, and one after.)

In two studies, the researchers found that conversations by email and instant messaging (IM) increased significantly after the office redesign, while productivity declined, and, for most people, face-to-face interaction decreased. Participants in the first study spent 72% less time interacting in person in the open space. Before the renovation, employees had met face to face for nearly 5.8 hours per person over three weeks. In the after picture, the same people held face-to-face conversations for only about 1.7 hours per person.

These employees were emailing and IM-ing much more often, however, sending 56% more email messages to other participants in the study. This is how employees sought the privacy that their cubicle walls once provided, the authors reason. IM messages soared, both in terms of messages sent and total word count, by 67%  and 75%, respectively.

Posted by orrinj at 4:59 PM


Miami grandma targeted as U.S. takes aim at naturalized immigrants with prior offenses (ADIEL KAPLAN, July 09, 2018, Miami Herald)

The United States government has long reserved its power to revoke citizenship for the rarest of cases, going after the likes of war criminals, child rapists and terrorist funders.

Norma Borgono is none of those. The 63-year-old secretary who immigrated from Peru in 1989 volunteers weekly at church, raised two children on a $500-a-week salary and suffers from a rare kidney disorder. But a week after her baby granddaughter came home from the hospital, Borgono received a letter from the U.S. government: The Department of Justice was suing to "denaturalize" her as part of an unprecedented push by the Trump administration to revoke citizenship from people who committed criminal offenses before they became citizens.

"I don't know what's going to happen if she goes to Peru," said her daughter, Urpi Ríos. "We have nothing there."

Borgono, a Miami resident for 28 years, is being targeted based on her minor role in a $24 million fraud scheme in the previous decade. As the secretary of an export company called Texon Inc., she prepared paperwork for her boss, who pocketed money from doctored loan applications filed with the U.S. Export-Import Bank.

When the feds caught wind of the scheme, Borgono cooperated. The secretary never made any money beyond her regular salary and helped the FBI make a case that put her former boss behind bars for four years. On May 17, 2012, Borgono took a plea deal and was sentenced to one year of house arrest, four years of probation and $5,000 of restitution.

Working two jobs, she paid off her restitution and was relieved of her sentence early. Two years after she put it all behind her, Borgono received the letter notifying her that the U.S. government wanted to take away her citizenship.

Posted by orrinj at 4:54 PM


What Is QAnon? The Craziest Theory of the Trump Era, Explained (Will Sommer, 07.06.18, Daily Beast)

Plotters in the deep state tried to shoot down Air Force One and foil President Trump's North Korea summit. A cabal of global elites, including top figures in Hollywood, the Democratic Party, and the intelligence agencies, are responsible for nearly all the evil in the world. And now Trump is going to fix it all with thousands of sealed indictments, sending the likes of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama straight to Guantanamo Bay.

Or at least that's how the world is going for the believers of QAnon, the complex pro-Trump conspiracy theory that's starting to having unpredictable effects in real life. The real  news can be bad for Trump, but in QAnon-world, the president and his supporters really are getting sick of winning. [...]

Since Q could be anyone with internet access and a working knowledge of conspiracy theories, there's no reason to think that Q is a member of the Trump administration rather than, say, a troll or YouTube huckster. But incredibly, lots of people believe it.

In April, hundreds of QAnon believers staged a march in downtown Washington, D.C. with a vague demand for "transparency" from the Justice Department. "Q" shirts have become frequent sites at Trump rallies, with one QAnon believer scoring VIP access. In June, an armed man in an homemade armored truck shut down a highway near the Hoover Dam and held up signs referencing QAnon. And celebrities like comedian Roseanne Barr and former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling have signed on.

QAnon is unusual, according to University of Miami professor Joseph Uscinski, because it offers Republicans an alternate view of the world when they already control nearly the entire government. Usually, "conspiracy theories are for losers," Uscinski said,

"Normally you don't expect the winning party to use them, except when they're in trouble," Uscinski said.

Not so much.  People believe in conspiracy theories because they hate reality, so it's entirely understandable.
Posted by orrinj at 4:17 AM


Deporting the American Dream (Anita Isaacs and Anne Preston, July 9, 2018, NY Times)

Over the last few weeks we were in Mexico, beginning an oral history project documenting the migrant experience. Over the course of three weeks our team surveyed and interviewed more than 200 returning Mexican migrants, the vast majority of them deportees. Some were caught in roadblocks. Others were pulled over for running a stop light or for speeding. They were detained in American county jails and immigration detention centers before being sent to Mexico. Many had lived in the United States almost their entire lives.

And yet, despite that experience, when we asked them what they missed about the United States, their responses were automatic: "everything." "I feel American," they told us over and over again. And why wouldn't they? They grew up as the kids next door. They went to our children's schools and birthday parties. They attended our churches, played on our sports teams. As high schoolers they flipped hamburgers at McDonald's.

But they also always had it a little rougher. Occasionally they faced discrimination. Their parents worked multiple jobs, often seven days a week. They left home before their children woke up and returned long after they were asleep. Children as young as 8 shouldered the burdens of caring for younger siblings. They began working as soon as they reached high school. But their unauthorized status limited their job opportunities; they couldn't get a driver's license and college was a remote possibility. Some got into the same kind of trouble native-born children do, but most worked hard to keep their families afloat.

Still, the American dream meant everything to them. In optimistic terms rarely heard from native-born Americans, they described the United States as a place where success was possible. Whether they lived in a big city or small town, in a red state or a blue state, they overwhelmingly recall an American society that was genuine, open, diverse and accepting.

One man teared up remembering his childhood friend, Matthew, with whom he played baseball, swam in the neighborhood pool and shared tacos and mac and cheese. Another missed ice fishing on frozen Minnesota lakes, using snowmobiles fashioned with special drills that he helped assemble through his work at a fiberglass factory. He shared another memory: After introducing his friends to guacamole, they insisted on eating at his place. "We had an arrangement: They'd bring the avocados," he'd make the dip.

Posted by orrinj at 4:04 AM


Med Schools Adding Nutrition to Training (Rachel Cernansky, 7/08/18, The Washington Post)

An estimated 50 to 80 percent of chronic diseases, including heart disease and cancer, are partly related to or affected by nutrition, according to Martin Kohlmeier, a research professor in nutrition at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

For those experiencing risk factors early on, a change in diet is important.

"People are gaining a pound or two a year, and nobody says anything. But then by age 50 or 55, they've often gained 30 or 40 pounds, which has huge impacts on their health," said Walter Willett, an epidemiology and nutrition professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. "In the younger years, middle age, people are acquiring the risk factors that often don't show up as major diseases until later in life."

"You can practice only what you know," Kohlmeier said.

According to the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, malnutrition is prevalent but underrecognized in the United States. That does not surprise Kohlmeier, who said, "This is what happens when you don't teach nutrition."

He oversees UNC's Nutrition in Medicine project, which offers educational modules for medical students. But Kohlmeier said these are far from enough. "You cannot learn in two hours what it takes 20 hours to learn," he said. In a 2015 survey of 121 four-year medical schools, Kohlmeier and colleagues found that 71 percent did not require at least 25 hours of nutrition education and that fewer than 20 percent required a nutrition course -- fewer even than 15 years before.

"The biggest thing that drives a lot of medical schools to put particular things in their curriculum is what gets tested on the boards. And unfortunately, as of right now, doctors are not tested on what foods a patient should eat," said Tracy Rydel, a clinical associate professor of medicine at the Stanford School of Medicine.

Stanford and UNC are among medical schools working to turn that tide by integrating nutrition into their curriculums.

Posted by orrinj at 3:57 AM


REVIEW: of Red Card: How the U.S. Blew the Whistle on the World's Biggest Sports Scandal
 By Ken Bensinger (Jay Price, July 9, 2018, Washington Independent Review of Books)

Now, as then, the Justice Department's investigation turns on the work of a government number-cruncher: in this case, IRS agent Steve Berryman. Working out of a nondescript office in California, Berryman happens onto the case of Chuck Blazer, a high-ranking official of FIFA, soccer's world governing body, and CONCACAF, its North and Central American subsidiary.

Wildly bearded and obese, Blazer occupies not one but two $18,000-a-month apartments (one for him, and the adjacent unit for his cats) on the 49th floor of Trump Tower in Manhattan, keeps a condo in Miami, and dines alongside the New York elite at Elaine's -- all on pro soccer's dime.

Oh, and one other thing: Much to Berryman's excited surprise, he discovers Blazer hasn't paid a nickel in taxes -- or bothered to file a return -- in 15 years of skimming millions from all manner of soccer transactions.

Armed with that knowledge, and the RICO statutes designed to combat organized crime, it's only a matter of time before Justice Department attorneys and Berryman's FBI counterparts get Blazer to plead guilty to tax evasion and turn cooperating witness -- even wearing a wire to implicate unsuspecting former co-conspirators.

After that, in the words of the Watergate mole known as Deep Throat, they "follow the money," flipping one dirty mogul to get to the next.

July 8, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 7:02 PM


Posted by orrinj at 6:51 PM


Returning to Manzanar (Inyoung Kang, July 6, 2018, NY Times)

During World War II, up to 120,000 American citizens and residents of Japanese ancestry on the West Coast were evicted from their homes and held in remote camps.

Mas Okui was one of them. He was born and raised in the San Fernando Valley in Southern California, but his father and maternal grandparents were immigrants from Japan. 

Every year, Mr. Okui, 86, visits Manzanar, where he and his family were imprisoned. His purpose is to remember -- and to educate.

Posted by orrinj at 6:17 PM


Is democracy really in danger? The picture is not as dire as you think. (Daniel Treisman, June 19, 2018, Washington Post)

How serious are the challenges to democracy today? One way to assess this is to examine historical experience, using the best global data available. Doing this, I find a picture that -- although hardly inspiring -- is less dire than much commentary suggests.

Scholars use a number of ratings to classify countries' political systems. I examined four common ones -- those of Polity; Freedom House; Boix, Miller, Rosato; and VDEM. All code which states in a given year are democracies or, in Freedom House's case, "free" countries.

Far from suggesting a major retreat, all four sources show the global proportion of democracies at or near an all-time high.

For instance, Polity's measure -- which combines assessments of political competition, constraints on the executive, and openness of executive recruitment -- put the proportion of democracies in 2016 at 59 percent, up from 50 percent in 2000. Each of the other three was within 4 percent of its all-time peak.

Posted by orrinj at 6:13 PM


A journalist's conscience leads her to reveal her source to the FBI. Here's why. (Margaret Sullivan, July 8, 2018, Washington Post)

It's pretty much an inviolable rule of journalism: Protect your sources.

Reporters have gone to jail to keep that covenant.

But Marcy Wheeler, who writes a well-regarded national security blog, not only revealed a source -- she did so to the FBI, eventually becoming a witness in special counsel Robert S. Mueller III's investigation of President Trump's possible connections to Russia. [...]

"For her to go to the FBI, that made my jaw drop," said Daniel Drezner, a Tufts University professor of international politics. (He doesn't know her personally but has followed her work.)

"It's like Glenn Greenwald calling up the CIA and saying I've discovered a mole," Drezner said. [...]

Her blog post centers on a text message she says she got from the source on Nov. 9, 2016 -- about 14 hours after the polls closed -- predicting that Michael Flynn, who would be Trump's appointee for national security adviser, would be meeting with "Team Al-Assad" within 48 hours. Russia has been perhaps the Assad regime's staunchest ally.

As she noted: "The substance of the text -- that the Trump team started focusing on Syria right after the election -- has been corroborated and tied to their discussions with Russia at least twice since then."

Wheeler won't say when she went to the FBI other than that it was in 2017. In December 2017, Flynn flipped, pleading guilty to one count of lying to the FBI about his contact with the Russian government during the presidential transition; Trump had fired him in February.

In addition to the knowledge of her source's inside information, Wheeler said, she had reason to believe that the source was involved with efforts to compromise her website and other communications. And perhaps most important, that he was involved in cyberattacks -- past and future -- that had done and could do real harm to innocent people.

Posted by orrinj at 4:02 PM


3D printing will bring artificial limbs to patients in Madagascar and Togo (IAFRIKAN NEWS, 7/08/18)

3D printing technology is being used to help provide prosthetic and orthopedic support for patients in need. The 3D printing technology being trialed in Madagascar and Togo by Humanity & Inclusion (HI), formerly Handicap International, is part of Impact 3D, a program that began in November 2017 and is funded by the Belgian Development Agency.

The orthotics, artificial limbs, are created using 3D scanners and 3D printers.

Posted by orrinj at 1:06 PM


How the Townshend Brothers Accidentally Sparked the American Revolution (PATRICK GRIFFIN, MAY 31, 2018, What it Means to be American)

Americans normally see our Revolution as the culmination of a long period of gestation during which a free people finally threw off their colonial shackles and became what they were destined to be. On the Fourth of July, we commemorate a moment in 1776 that encapsulates all that we as Americans were, are, and hope to be. We consider ourselves a nation bound together by God-given rights and a pact with each other and with our government that we will stand as a free people. The ideas laid out in the Declaration are, then, widely said to mark us as Americans.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

I don't say this to act as a "myth-buster"; rather, to put that moment in a more accurate context so that we might understand it better. In the years just before 1776, Americans did not consider themselves "American" in any substantive way. They regarded themselves as Britons living in America.  [...]

 In 1767, [Charles Townshend, as Chancellor of the Exchequer] introduced duties on select goods to fund an American administration that could serve as the basis for a centralized empire.

It did not seem at the time to be a high-risk tax policy. Americans, after all, considered George III to be, in an expression of the period, "the best of all kings." They reveled in their lives, liberty, and property, rights that were guaranteed to them as British subjects.

But in crafting his idea of empire, Townshend set off a backlash--not because the British subjects in America were somehow different, but because they were so similar in outlook.

Charles Townshend's policies placed the British Americans in a bind, one that would lead to 1776. When Bostonians and others up and down America's Atlantic coast contested Charles' duties, they did not think they were declaring independence. Far from it. They pushed back in hopes of holding onto a loosely federated understanding of empire that would allow them to retain their traditional liberties while continuing to profit from the Atlantic trade.

It would have been better for everybody if George had demanded that we be granted representation in the British Parliament or else he'd recognize a parliament of our own, with him as sovereign.

Posted by orrinj at 11:26 AM


South America's World Cup is over but Uruguay are an example to everyone: Uruguay were eliminated in the quarter-finals in Russia but their approach to football - and life - should be applauded (Jorge Valdano, 8 Jul 2018, The Guardian)

When the most epic moment of Uruguayan football came, the famous Maracanazo, his figure took on heroic proportions. "There are 11 of them and 11 of us too" he told his team-mates in the tunnel, adding: "they're made of wood". Outside were 200,000 Brazilians who had no doubt that glory awaited them that day. But glory awaits no one. You have to go and find it. Legend has it that in the silence after Uruguay scored, Obdulio could be heard asking for "more blood". Given that every time we talk about Uruguay we talk about Garra Charrúa, that warrior spirit, it is appropriate to clarify here that the blood he demanded was that of his team-mates, not his opponents. There is mythology too, the tales are not always entirely true: this Uruguay team in Russia has again demonstrated that.

In the midst of that surreal atmosphere, described as the "Waterloo of the tropics", Ghiggia scored the goal that my friend Mario celebrated, for the umpteenth time, in a café in Milan. A small country, proud in the best sense of the word, with players for whom humility appears to be a profession, continues to pay tribute to those who laid the first stones in the edifice of Uruguay's footballing glory, and in the best manner imaginable: by imitating them, or trying to.

 They fought for every centimetre of turf; killed for every ball; never felt like visitors anywhere
Obdulio was the incarnation of a great player. To define what it is that makes a great team, you need only hear the story of Jorge Fucile during the 2010 quarter-final when Uruguay played Ghana. Fucile offered to sacrifice himself, volunteering to take the place of condemned man and cause celebre Luis Suárez. You will remember it: in the last second of the game, Suárez reached out with his hand to make a save on the goalline. Penalty, red card. With swift reflexes sharpened over thousands of games on the street, Fucile approached the referee and said: "You're right, sir. It was me: send me off." It didn't work but that's not really the point. The theory says that to be a true team-mate, you have to be prepared to subsume your individuality into that of the group, to put yourself at the service of the collective. Fucile did something that goes well beyond that: he was prepared to sacrifice the natural desire for glory that every footballer feels at a World Cup because he understood that Suárez was more necessary than he was in that battle and, if it came to it, in the next battle too. Ghana missed the penalty and Uruguay went through.

In 2018, Uruguay are still Uruguay. At this World Cup, they were the same collective they always were, a lesson in life and in defeat too. They appeared at the team hotel in shorts and flip flops, drinks of mate in hand. I feel admiration every time I see the first team to encounter footballing glory living with such extraordinary normality. Extraordinary and normality might seem mutually contradictory terms, but in this case and in these times they go together because remaining so normal having reached a footballing level this high is an almost heroic feat. And this is a subject worth pursuing. Given that more than one team departed the World Cup because of the sin of frivolity, afflicted by something approaching vanity, Uruguay pose a question: could it be that humility is more important than we think?

They have departed now, it is true, knocked out by France. But they did so on the same day as Brazil - a nation of three million against a country of 208 million. None of the countries in the Americas that dwarf them outlasted them. This is a loss, yes. But it is a lesson too. Uruguay are different, unique. They may lack the resources that others on the continent have in abundance, but they have something that those nations do not, that the rest could benefit from embracing. That allows Uruguay to compete, yet it goes beyond the pitch. It is lasting.

The BBC podcast had a great interview about Uruguay with Suarez's old strike-partner Diego Forlan.

Posted by orrinj at 11:19 AM


Founding philosophy: A review of The Political Theory of the American Founding by Thomas G. West. (Michael Anton, June 2018, New Criterion)

The idea is elegantly simple: all men are by nature equally free and independent. Nature has not--as she has, for example, in the case of certain social insects-- delineated some members of the human species as natural rulers and others as natural workers or slaves. (If you doubt this, ask yourself why--unlike in the case of, say, bees--workers and rulers are not clearly delineated in ways that both groups acknowledge and accept. Why is it that no man--even of the meanest capacities--ever consents to slavery, which can be maintained only with frequent recourse to the lash?) No man may therefore justly rule any other without that other's consent. And no man may injure any other or infringe on his rights, except in the just defense of his own rights. The existence of equal natural rights requires an equally natural and obligatory duty of all men to respect the identical rights of others.

Because men are driven by passions as well as reason, the temptation to violate the rights of others is always present, especially in the strong over the weak. Men in the state of nature-- that is, without government, whether understood as a pre-political state or one following the dissolution of a political order--while free, are thus at grave risk of injury and depredation. Such afflictions are not merely bad for individual men, they violate a moral standard which nature provides but leaves to man to enforce. Moreover, in the state of nature, men cannot utilize to their full potential those talents God and nature have given them. Living well requires not merely the society of others, but also security, which requires government. Hence men consent to government to secure their equal natural rights and to thrive within that security. Upon establishing a government, men conditionally cede some of their rights and liberty to secure the far larger remainder. For instance, men must surrender to government their natural right to inflict just punishment personally. (This insight was not the founders' innovation. The lesson of Aeschylus's Oresteia is that if there is to be lasting civilization, private vengeance must give way to pubic penalty.) This ceding is conditional because men's rights remain the gift of God and nature, not of government, and men's consent can be withdrawn if the government fails in its duties or abuses its powers. Therefore, there is an inalienable natural right "to alter or to abolish" an oppressive or incompetent government.

Men naturally differ in virtue, intelligence, and talent. This natural inequality will inevitably lead to unequal outcomes, especially when equal natural rights to use unequal talents are properly secured. Since excellence in husbandry, the arts and sciences, commerce, and many other endeavors is a boon to individual men, to society, indeed to all mankind, inequality of outcomes is welcome and just.

These principles, while universally valid for all men in all times and places, are subject to practical limits. First, any social compact--and hence any political community--is inherently particular. Its scope and authority extend only to those men who have consented to its terms, and whose membership has been consented to by all other citizen-members. The equal natural rights of all men do not demand or imply world government or open borders. To the contrary, a social compact without limits is impossible, a self-contradiction. A compact that applies indiscriminately to all is not a compact. If--as the founders insist--mutual consent is an indispensable foundation of political legitimacy, then the political community must be invitation-only. Moreover, the same "Laws of Nature and of Nature's God" that endow men with inalienable natural rights similarly entitle the nations of the world to a "separate and equal station" with respect to other nations. "As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master," Lincoln said. Applied to international relations, we may similarly express the founders' thought: as no nation is by right a colony, none should be an empire.

Second, as noted, form must fit matter. It is, in the founders' view, a sad but intractable fact that not all peoples in all times and places are ready or able to assume the responsibilities of liberty or to secure their equal natural rights through republican government. (Here is a lesson our own political leaders should have heeded before upsetting the imperfect but--at least before they intervened--stable political order of the Middle East.) The particular traditions, customs, laws, talents, education, religious practices, and private habits of America's largely English-descended colonists made that people especially--perhaps uniquely-- qualified to devise, institute, and maintain a regime based on equal natural rights.

West shows that the founders, far from being hostile to or dismissive of religion, tradition, and other non-rational sources of guidance for human life, saw these things as not only broadly useful for political society but fully compatible with natural rights and absolutely indispensable to a political order based thereon. In the founders' view, it is reasonable that the God who both revealed the Decalogue and is author of the natural world created that world with natural moral principles that accord with His law. The alternative--moral commands with no basis in, or that contradict, nature--seemed to the founders profoundly irrational and implausible.

But the founders also agreed that religions and traditional sources of human guidance should not be authoritative for politics. In Europe, resting political legitimacy on religion led, first, to a millennium of oligarchic stagnation and, later, to bloody religious wars. Any attempt to do so in America would also crash into the many deeply held religious convictions on the new continent. Whose understanding of God would rule? Better to ground politics in a reasoned account of human nature that admits man's inability to know the mind of God and respects each person's equal natural right to follow his own conscience in matters of worship. Similarly, traditions not infringing on the equal natural rights of others were to be tolerated, and even celebrated. Under the new "form," men would be freer to live as men than ever before in human history.

This points to other, closely related but distinct, errors with which West also contends. In doing so, he is unafraid to criticize many eminent scholars, some of them ostensibly on "his side," as conservatives, Straussians, or both. One such error identifies the founding as identical with "liberalism"--in that term's original, Enlightenment meaning--and holds that the founders' political theory emphasizes rights at the expense of duties, or even that the founders' idea of rights logically excludes any concept of duty. At the extreme, this view insists that the founders saw getting and spending as the ends of political life. Another error admits that there is a "republican" as well as "liberal" element to the founding but finds the two in irresolvable tension. Another allegedly irresolvable tension is said to be that between equality and liberty.

West answers all of this, both in the book's more theoretical first part and in its more practical second and third parts. We have seen that, according to the founders, the concept of equal natural rights is logically incoherent without a concomitant duty to respect the rights of others. Morality and virtue, they insisted, are indispensable both for private happiness and for the common good. The former is too often simply identified with "liberalism," the latter with "republicanism," as if the two are always at odds. The founders didn't see any conflict, and neither does West. 

Posted by orrinj at 11:13 AM


Kurt Gödel and the mechanization of mathematics (JULIETTE KENNEDY, TLS Online)

[G]ödel showed that truth and provability cannot be identical, because one concept is definable, while the other is not. Perhaps it should come as no surprise that mathematical truth, which has to do with objectivity and existence, is not the same thing as the concept of formal proof, which has to do with evidence and justification.

Gödel knew that because of the anti-metaphysical bias in the air at the time, mainly emanating from the so-called Vienna Circle, which he attended from time to time, logicians would not have accepted his proof, given that the concept of truth, together with its undefinability, played such a central role in it. So Gödel published neither this first proof of the incompleteness theorem nor the theorem on the undefinability of truth, only speaking of them many years later - a remarkable show of restraint, given the importance of those theorems.

Here now is a sketch of the proof of the First Incompleteness Theorem that Gödel published in 1931. The definability of provability played a role in Gödel's original proof, as I sketched above, as did self-reference. The phenomenon of self-reference can be harmless, as when one says of oneself, that one is thirsty. But it can also create paradoxes in natural language, the most notable of which is the Liar's Paradox.

To see this, consider the natural language sentence S, where S stands for: "This sentence is false".

S is self-contradictory. For if S is true then what it says about itself must be the case: it is false. On the other hand, if S is false then what it says of itself, namely that it is false, is true. This shows that S is true if and only if it is false. Or in technical terms, that S has no truth value.

With arithmetization, Gödel was able to express the Liar's Paradox in Peano arithmetic, but with provability in place of truth, to wit: "This sentence is unprovable" rather than "This sentence is false".

It is very striking that with such an apparently trivial device, namely the encoding of syntax, one could prove such a devastating theorem. In fact, Gödel wondered about this himself, referring to his proof as a "parlour trick" in conversation with the logician Georg Kreisel.

Even more striking is the fact that Gödel held to his rationalistic view of mathematics (and of philosophy) throughout his life, even in the face of his own theorems. "As to [mathematical] problems with the answer Yes or No," he said in the 1930s, "the conviction that they are always decidable remains untouched by these results." Decidable by humans, that is, using methods that transcend any given finite set of computational rules.

Posted by orrinj at 11:07 AM


U.S. Opposition to Breast-Feeding Resolution Stuns World Health Officials (Andrew Jacobs, July 8, 2018, ny tIMES)

A resolution to encourage breast-feeding was expected to be approved quickly and easily by the hundreds of government delegates who gathered this spring in Geneva for the United Nations-affiliated World Health Assembly.

Based on decades of research, the resolution says that mother's milk is healthiest for children and countries should strive to limit the inaccurate or misleading marketing of breast milk substitutes.

Then the United States delegation, embracing the interests of infant formula manufacturers, upended the deliberations.

American officials sought to water down the resolution by removing language that called on governments to "protect, promote and support breast-feeding" and another passage that called on policymakers to restrict the promotion of food products that many experts say can have deleterious effects on young children.

When that failed, they turned to threats, according to diplomats and government officials who took part in the discussions. Ecuador, which had planned to introduce the measure, was the first to find itself in the cross hairs.

The Americans were blunt: If Ecuador refused to drop the resolution, Washington would unleash punishing trade measures and withdraw crucial military aid. The Ecuadorean government quickly acquiesced. [...]

In the end, the Americans' efforts were mostly unsuccessful. It was the Russians who ultimately stepped in to introduce the measure -- and the Americans did not threaten them.

Posted by orrinj at 11:05 AM


Inside Pompeo's Fraught North Korea Trip (Nick Wadhams, July 8, 2018, Bloomberg)

As U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo touched down in Pyongyang at 10:54 a.m. on Friday he had few details of his schedule in the North Korean capital -- even which hotel he and his staff would stay in.

Not much was clear aside from lunch with counterpart Kim Yong Chol to start filling in the "nitty-gritty details'' from the Singapore declaration signed between the leaders of the U.S. and North Korea, according to his spokeswoman Heather Nauert. A handshake with Kim Jong Un, at least, seemed certain.

Mike Pompeo and Kim Yong Chol in Pyongyang on July 7.Photographer: Andrew Harnik/AFP via Getty Images
In the end, Pompeo stayed at neither of the hotels where he thought he'd be. The North Koreans took him, his staff and the six journalists traveling with the delegation to a gated guesthouse on the outskirts of the capital, just behind the mausoleum where the bodies of regime founder Kim Il Sung and his son Kim Jong Il lie embalmed and on occasional display.

It was the start of a confused visit of less than 30 hours, marked by a pair of lavish banquets that the secretary and his staff appeared to dread for their length and the daunting number of courses presented by unfailingly polite waiters. He only learned of his own schedule hours ahead of time, and the meeting with Kim Jong Un never happened -- despite strenuous efforts from his staff.

Posted by orrinj at 10:57 AM


For many waiting in Tijuana, a mysterious notebook is the key to seeking asylum (Cindy Carcamo, JUL 05, 2018, LA Times)
The notebook holds nearly 2,000 names of foreigners waiting to seek asylum in the United States. It's origins are unclear, but it was created after U.S. border officials began to limit the number of asylum seekers allowed to enter the San Ysidro port of entry.
All conversations stopped when they saw the notebook.

Men, women and children -- asylum seekers from Central America, Mexico, Africa and beyond -- parted to make way for its keeper.

The Mexican woman named Gaby waded through the crowd. She clutched the ledger-like notebook, its spine reinforced with duct tape.

Mothers scooped up their toddlers. Older children dropped their toys. Fathers hushed infants.

The notebook holds the names of hundreds of asylum seekers -- from Guadalajara to Ghana -- all trying to make their case at the San Ysidro Port of Entry.

It is an improvised response, an attempt to inject order into chaos. Getting in the notebook is paramount. For the desperate foreigners whose future hinges on it, the stakes are high.

Nearly 2,000 people seeking asylum in the United States have put their name in the notebook. Its origins are unclear, but it was created after U.S. border officials began to limit the number of asylum seekers allowed to enter the San Ysidro Port of Entry.

The notebook became a way for the immigrants to keep track of who is next in line. The book's guardian -- always an asylum seeker -- scrawls each person's name and country of origin in blue ink. The names of those who already entered the port of entry to make their case for refuge are highlighted in yellow or pink.

On this day, the crowd clamored for information. The notebook held answers: How many people were ahead ? How many people were let in the day before? How much longer would they have to wait?

Posted by orrinj at 10:54 AM


Kids as young as 1 in US court, awaiting reunion with family (AP, 7/08/18)

The 1-year-old boy in a green button-up shirt drank milk from a bottle, played with a small purple ball that lit up when it hit the ground and occasionally asked for "agua."

Then it was the child's turn for his court appearance before a Phoenix immigration judge, who could hardly contain his unease with the situation during the portion of the hearing where he asks immigrant defendants whether they understand the proceedings.

"I'm embarrassed to ask it, because I don't know who you would explain it to, unless you think that a 1-year-old could learn immigration law," Judge John W. Richardson told the lawyer representing the 1-year-old boy.

Posted by orrinj at 10:46 AM


The science wars behind football's penalty shoot-outs: Teams are now talking science instead of luck or fate when discussing penalty shootouts. (David Cox, 7/08/18, Al Jazeera)

Over the past four years, major European teams have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on analysts who examine hours and hours of video footage to identify potentially decisive trends.

Such is the intensity of preparation that when a match goes to penalties, even the five first-choice penalty takers are typically selected based on scientific information and psychometric evaluations which identifies the players that will prove most resilient to the pressure of such a situation.

Even the precise order is often decided through using this data, with studies showing that the first and fifth kicks are the most important, so they need to be taken by those most robust to handling stress.

"We did this kind of testing well in advance of the World Cup to ensure that if a shoot-out came around, there would be a calmness in the way in we approached it," said England manager Gareth Southgate who masterminded his country's first World Cup shoot-out victory over Colombia in the last-16.

"You want as much of your analysis and thinking done well beforehand to avoid making any decisions on the spur of the moment."

Psychometric evaluations are the mere tip of the iceberg when it comes to the scientific battleground before a penalty shoot-out.

Following a trend set by clubs in the English Premier League and La Liga in recent years, most of the teams in the World Cup now either employ independent consultants to gather penalty data or subscribe to services provided by teams of analysts at large companies such as Opta. 

Essentially, if you put the ball above waist level to either side of the goalie the only way it doesn't go in is if the kicker misses the goal frame.

Posted by orrinj at 10:42 AM


The biomechanics of a perfect penalty kick: Something to keep in mind during the World Cup: it's harder than it looks. (Tim Bennett, 7/08/18, The Conversation)

Research which looked at previous World Cups and European Championship tournaments shows that the successful conversion of a penalty resulted in a 61% increased chance of winning--this decreased substantially to 29% if the penalty was missed. All of which makes the ability to score a penalty kick in a competitive match of critical importance, especially considering the low number of goals scored during a typical game.

Kicking a stationary ball from the penalty spot was first introduced in 1902 with the ball situated 12 yards from the goal. In 1997 the kick rules were amended to allow goalkeepers to move sideways along the goal line prior to the ball being kicked.

The importance of this rule change has been highlighted in kicking research, which shows that if the goalkeeper has a greater opportunity to distract the player--think waving arms--it results in a higher percentage of saved penalties. This is particularly the case in situations that provoke higher levels of anxiety for the penalty shooter, like a World Cup deciding penalty kick.

In this sense then, it's important the kicker isn't distracted by the goalkeepers tactics when lining up to take a penalty kick--which can take less than 400 milliseconds in flight time to the goal mouth.

Former Polish goalkeeper, Jerzy Dudek, used the distraction strategy very effectively in the 2005 Champion's League final: he saved two penalties from Andrea Pirlo and Andriy Shevchenko, and distracted Serginho enough for him to strike his effort over the bar.

The most important kicking skill in football is the instep kick or the "laces" kick. 

Posted by orrinj at 10:39 AM


This House Costs Just $20,000--But It's Nicer Than Yours (ADELE PETERS, 7/08/18, Fast Company)

For over a decade, architecture students at Rural Studio, Auburn University's design-build program in a tiny town in West Alabama, have worked on a nearly impossible problem. How do you design a home that someone living below the poverty line can afford, but that anyone would want-while also providing a living wage for the local construction team that builds it?

In January, after years of building prototypes, the team finished their first pilot project in the real world. Partnering with a commercial developer outside Atlanta, in a tiny community called Serenbe, they built two one-bedroom houses, with materials that cost just $14,000 each.

Posted by orrinj at 7:14 AM


Keep New York's Speed Cameras: State legislators shouldn't block a critical piece of safety infrastructure. (Nicole Gelinas, July 3, 2018, City Journal)

New York's five-year-old network of cameras near schools has reduced speeding, and thus reduced injuries and, most likely, prevented deaths, but now, in a case of byzantine politics and self-dealing, the Republican-led state senate wants to end the program. Republican leaders aren't just acting against New Yorkers' interests; they're acting against their own, and against those of downstate businesses. With GOP control over the senate hanging in the balance in November, it's unwise for the party to be seen as skimping on safety.

Though it has nearly half of the state's population, New York City holds surprisingly little control over its own affairs. Even on something as uncontroversial as regulating speeding, the state legislature and Governor Cuomo are ultimately in charge. Five years ago, during the final spring of the Bloomberg administration, state lawmakers refused to approve the cameras, causing the then-mayor to "erupt in fury," as the New York Times put it. Bloomberg directed his ire at three legislators in particular, warning that the "parents of the child when a child is killed" should call one or all of them: Dean Skelos, senate majority leader; Simcha Felder, a Brooklyn Democrat who caucuses with Republicans; and Marty Golden, a Brooklyn Republican. The lawmakers backed down and approved a plan for 20 school zones that summer.

The program was modest. The city could install cameras in 20 of the city's 2,300 school zones (expanded to 140 a year later). The violation for a vehicle caught on camera going more than 10 miles above the legal speed limit was $50, a fraction of the $288 minimum cost of a school-zone speeding ticket and state surcharge. The city couldn't issue violations outside a range of 1,320 feet around a school, nor could it issue violations outside of school hours (plus one hour before and after school). Unlike police-issued speeding tickets, the violations do not accrue points on a driver's license or result in higher insurance costs; the violation is attached to a car, not a person.

Despite these limitations, Bloomberg's insistence that cameras would improve safety has proved correct.

Posted by orrinj at 6:54 AM


The Neymar challenge is the latest trend sweeping the internet (Narjas Zatat, 7/08/18, Independent)

The #NeymarChallenge is quickly sweeping the internet.

How does it work? Fans yell Neymar's name at the top of their lungs, a little like 'The floor is laval!' and other fans immediately dive to the ground dramatically, feigning an injury. 

The failure to consistently give yellow cards for simulation blights the game, but the acting itself demonstrates how mistaken it is to attach such a high value to being fouled in the first place--a penalty kick should only be awarded if the foul denies an obvious opportunity to shoot on goal. 

Posted by orrinj at 6:50 AM


Posted by orrinj at 6:23 AM


Qatar Open To Larger Tournament (The Associated Press, July 08, 2018)

One option stands out. A playoff round involving 32 nations from which 16 winners would join 16 seeded teams in a traditional group stage.

That format was rejected in January 2017 by FIFA's ruling council when it agreed to expand the World Cup. The 48 teams at the 2026 edition, which is set to be staged in the United States, Canada and Mexico, will play in 16 groups of three teams.

FIFA said last year that the playoff round idea was disliked because sudden-death losers would feel they were going home before the real World Cup started with 32 teams.

A further barrier to 48 teams in Qatar is any format would add to the 28-day World Cup program already agreed for November-December 2022, which is already a departure from the regular mid-year schedule.

Europe's top leagues have said it would be unacceptable for them to lose another weekend of fixtures in November to add extra World Cup playing days.

Make it a 64 team final, but the entire tournament, including qualifiers, knock-out games, hosted by the higher seeded team.

Posted by orrinj at 6:04 AM


Thousands cheer Ethiopian leader's visit to former enemy Eritrea for unprecedented summit (Paul Schemm, July 8, 2018, Washington Post)

The rumored visit was confirmed by Abiy's chief of staff, Fitsum Arega, on Sunday morning.

"Abiy Ahmed has left to Eritrea, Asmara today to further deepen efforts to bring about lasting peace between the people of Ethiopia & Eritrea," he tweeted. "Our two nations share a history & bond like no other. We can now overcome two decades of mistrust and move in a new direction."

Nearly 30 years ago, the future leaders of the two countries were comrades in the struggle against Ethiopia's communist dictatorship. But after its overthrow and Eritrea's declaration of independence, relations soured despite close cultural and linguistic ties.

Ethi­o­pia's new reformist prime minister, Abiy, broke the deadlock between the two countries on June 5 by accepting the 2000 peace agreement that ended the war, which would involve ceding territory still held by Ethi­o­pia.

Events moved quickly after that, with Isaias accepting the overtures as a "positive" move and sending a delegation led by his foreign minister to Addis Ababa a week later. Now there has been talk of reopening long-closed air links between the two countries this year.

The summit will probably involve negotiations on how to begin the complex process of returning territories to each other and separating populations as well as restoring ties.

Under Abiy, Ethi­o­pia appears to be embarking on a new path of reform, but Eritrea has been characterized as one of the most authoritarian states in Africa.

July 7, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 8:18 PM


Defense contractor detained migrant kids in vacant Phoenix office building (Aura Bogado, Ziva Branstetter and Vanessa Swales / July 6, 2018, reveal News)

A major U.S. defense contractor quietly detained dozens of immigrant children inside a vacant Phoenix office building with dark windows, no kitchen and only a few toilets during three weeks of the Trump administration's family separation effort, Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting has learned.

Videos shot by an alarmed neighbor show children dressed in sweatsuits being led - one so young she was carried - into the 3,200-square-foot building in early June. The building is not licensed by Arizona to hold children, and the contractor, MVM Inc., has claimed publicly that it does not operate "shelters or any other type of housing" for children.

Defending the administration's policy to separate families at the border in a May interview with NPR, White House chief of staff John Kelly promised: "The children will be taken care of - put into foster care or whatever."

Whether or not these children were taken from their parents, that "whatever" for them was the vacant building tucked away in a midtown Phoenix neighborhood. It is not listed among shelters operating through the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement or on the state child care licensing website.

Posted by orrinj at 6:12 PM

Posted by orrinj at 4:46 PM


Immigrant NYC Grandparents Detained While Visiting Son-in-Law at Fort Drum, Family Says (Chris Glorioso, Jul 6, 2018, NBCNY)

A Mexican family from Brooklyn says they were headed upstate to Fort Drum to celebrate Independence Day with an Army sergeant family member when border patrol agents questioned their parents' New York City IDs, and then took them to a detention facility hundreds of miles away. 

Eduardo Silva tells News 4 New York that his parents, Concepcion and Margarito Silva, have lived in New York for two decades. They came to the country undocumented from Mexico but in 2007 they were approved for an official Department of Labor work permit. 

Eduardo said they had valid New York City IDs, which they'd used to access military bases before, but on July 4, when they came to the gates of Fort Drum, they were stopped by military police. 

Perla Silva, another daughter of the detained couple, took video showing the part of Fort Drum where her parents were taken into custody. She said in a matter of minutes, Border Protection agents arrived and took her parents to the federal ICE detention center hundreds of miles away in Buffalo.  [...]

"He's about to be deployed again while my sister is pregnant, and he works so hard for his country, and he loves his country so much," said Perla Silva.

Posted by orrinj at 2:34 PM


Evidence That New Tariffs, Not Immigrants, Are Costing Jobs (Stuart Anderson , 7/07/18, Forbes)

The Trade Partnership analysis concluded:

"The tariffs, quotas and retaliation would increase the annual level of U.S. steel employment and non-ferrous metals (primarily aluminum) employment by 26,280 jobs over the first one-three years, but reduce net employment by 432,747 jobs throughout the rest of the economy, for a total net loss of 400,445 jobs;

"Sixteen jobs would be lost for every steel/aluminum job gained;

"More than two thirds of the lost jobs would affect workers in production and low-skill jobs.

"Every state will experience a net loss of jobs."

One reason for this result is that nearly 40 times more people in America work in jobs that use steel and aluminum than in jobs connected to producing steel and aluminum. "American workers making steel/aluminum: 170,000. American workers consuming steel/aluminum: 6.5 million," notes trade attorney Scott Lincicome.

Behind the numbers are stories of companies and workers affected by the tariffs and retaliation from other countries. "One week after the Commerce Department recommended heavy tariffs on steel and aluminum in February, Mr. Czachor [CEO of the American Keg Company] gathered 10 of his 30 workers in a conference room at work and broke the news that they were being laid off," according to the Wall Street Journal. The Washington Post reported that at Stripmatic Products in Ohio because of higher steel prices due to the tariffs "the $1 million in new factory investment and the 10 new jobs it would have created have evaporated."

The U.S. farm sector is also at risk due to retaliation for, among other things, a separate set of tariffs against Chinese imports. "Worries over a looming trade war have already hit Iowa pork producers' pocketbook to the tune of $240 million from falling prices, and the damage will likely grow, industry leaders say," reported the Des Moines Register. "The pork industry will have to downsize modestly," according to Iowa State University economist Dermot Hayes.

Let's contrast this turmoil created by a protectionist U.S. trade policy with positive news about the impact of immigrants on native employment. "The results of the state-level analysis indicate that immigration does not increase U.S. natives' unemployment or reduce their labor force participation," concluded a recent study for the National Foundation for American Policy by Madeline Zavodny, an economics professor at the University of North Florida (UNF) in Jacksonville. "Instead, having more immigrants reduces the unemployment rate and raises the labor force participation rate of U.S. natives within the same sex and education group."

Posted by orrinj at 2:25 PM


They Came Here to Serve. But for Many Immigrants, the Army Isn't Interested. (Dave Philipps, July 6, 2018, NY Times)

Recruit Zhang, an immigrant from China, joined the United States military on the promise that enlisting would lead to American citizenship. He swore an oath to uphold the Constitution and was handed an Army T-shirt. But, after two years of delays, there came a sudden discharge that has left him reeling.

"They just said one word: I was 'unsuitable,'" said the 30-year-old, who has a wife and child and a business management degree. He asked that only his last name be used. "I came here legally, made an agreement to stay legally, and they have not kept the agreement."

A growing number of foreign-born recruits who joined the United States military through a special program created to recruit immigrant troops with valuable language and medical skills are being terminated before they can qualify for citizenship. Lawyers for the recruits say at least 30 have been discharged in recent weeks and thousands more are stuck in limbo -- currently enlisted but unable to serve -- and may also be forced out.

They are being cut even as the Army has been unable to meet its 2018 recruiting goals.

Posted by orrinj at 2:23 PM


Posted by orrinj at 2:03 PM


Jim Jordan says all five Ohio State accusers know the truth, but are lying instead  (Jennifer Smola  & Jessica Wehrman,  Jul 6, 2018, Columbus Dispatch)

 On the day a fifth former Ohio State wrestler emerged to say U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan knew about sex abuse by a team doctor, the Urbana Republican said all five know the truth but are lying anyway.

Jordan, former assistant wrestling coach for the Buckeyes, linked the statements from his former team members to his aggressive questioning of deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein last week about the investigation into whether Russia influenced the 2016 presidential election, and his consideration of running for speaker of the House.

But in the Fox News interview, Jordan made a distinction between "conversations in the locker room" and reporting abuse, saying overhearing chatter in the locker room "is a lot different than people coming up and talking about abuse."

Posted by orrinj at 4:23 AM


California Must Be Doing Something Right (Matthew Winkler, May 29, 2018, Bloomberg)

California's 4.9 percent increase in GDP last year was more than twice the gain for the U.S. and enabled the state's jobless rate to slide to 4.2 percent, the lowest on record since such data was compiled in 1976. Per capita income since 2013 grew 20.5 percent, making California the perennial No. 1. Among the biggest states sharing the Trump agenda, Texas remains an also-ran with less than a third of California's $31.8 billion in receipts from agriculture, forestry and fishing and $63 billion less than California's $289 billion in equivalent GDP as the nation's largest manufacturer, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. While the Texas unemployment rate is lower at 4.1 percent, California's is falling faster and its total workforce of 17 million is 37 percent greater and has increased 2 million during the past five years, more than any other state.

Investors also make California the best-performing state, with 462 native companies in the Russell 3000 index producing a 587 percent total return (income plus appreciation) during the past decade, 262 percent the past five years, 76 percent the past two years, and 27 percent the past year -- easily surpassing the Russell 3000's total return of 371 percent, 154 percent, 59 percent, and 22 percent, respectively. In the market for state and local government debt, California also is superior, representing more than 20 percent of the No. 1 BlackRock Strategic Municipal Opportunities Fund, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. [...]

Brown said that the market forces driving California ahead of other states are inexorable: "China also appears to be ready to adopt ever increasing requirements for zero emissions vehicles. That's the biggest market. That is the market, and they have to sell into it with electric cars and California is trying to do the same thing as well as the states that follow us. It can't be resisted. It's too powerful a force."

Investors already are benefiting from the trend, reflected in analyst estimates compiled by Bloomberg showing the sales of California clean companies rising 29 percent, 16 percent and 11 percent in 2018, 2019 and 2020, compared to 17 percent, 8 percent and 6 percent for similar out-of-state firms.

Shares of California's clean companies, which spend twice as much on research and development as their out-of-state peers, gained an average of 70 percent the past two years, or 23 percentage points more than the average return for the rest of the country. At the same time, California's clean companies created twice as many jobs as their counterparts elsewhere. Productivity also is unsurpassed in California, where the revenue per employee of clean companies rose 7 percent last year, while it fell 3 percent outside the state, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The new California law mandating that new homes be built with solar energy is a boon for the renewable industry. San Francisco-based Sunrun Inc., whose shares appreciated 122 percent the past 12 months, will report sales growth of 36 percent in 2018, according to analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. The same analysts predict Sunrun will appreciate another 21 percent by December.

Posted by orrinj at 3:56 AM


Marvel's Spider-Man and Doctor Strange co-creator Steve Ditko dies at age 90 (AP, 07 July, 2018)

While Lee embraced his status as a creative god among comics fans, appearing at conventions and in constant cameos in Marvel's films, Ditko was a recluse who won the worship of the most hard core comic-book geeks.

They were quick to praise him and the massive influence he had on art, film and culture Friday.

"Thank you Steve Ditko, for making my childhood weirder," fantasy author and graphic novel author Neil Gaiman said in a series of tweets to his 2.7 million followers. "He saw things his own way, and he gave us ways of seeing that were unique. Often copied. Never equalled. I know I'm a different person because he was in the world."

Edgar Wright, director of films including Baby Driver and Shaun of the Dead, said on Twitter that Ditko was "influential on countless planes of existence".

"Comics are unimaginable without his influence," tweeted Patch Zircher, a comic-book artist who has worked on Batman and Superman comics for rival DC Comics. "He co-created Spider-Man, which will be remembered as significant as Doyle creating Sherlock Holmes or Fleming creating James Bond. Spider-Man may outlast them both."

English television and radio host and comic books super-fan Jonathan Martin tweeted that Ditko was "the single greatest comic book artist and creator who ever lived".

The son of a steel-mill worker, Ditko was born in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, in 1927. He served in the army in Europe after second world war and began working in comics in the 1950s in New York, eventually landing a drawing job with Marvel forerunner Atlas Comics.

Jack Kirby, Lee's artist on the Fantastic Four and many other Marvel characters, took a stab at creating Spider-Man in 1961, but Lee was unsatisfied and gave the gig to Ditko, who gave Spidey the essential look he still has today.

Ditko left Marvel in 1966, but returned in 1979. One of his later creations was Squirrel Girl, who after her debut in 1992 became a cult favourite among comics fans.

He maintained a writing studio in Manhattan until his death, but had no known surviving family members and was incredibly reclusive, turning down nearly all offers to do interviews, meet fans or appear at movie premieres.

...Kirby's lines (which peaked with Frank Miller) or Ditko's circles (perfected by John Byrne).

July 6, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 8:43 PM


Uruguay Had the Perfect Plan to Beat France. Uruguay Did Not Beat France. (ERIC BETTS, JULY 06, 2018, sLATE)

Sometimes in sports you can come up with the perfect plan and it still won't be good enough.

Consider Uruguay's World Cup quarterfinal against France, which was a lot closer than the 2-0 score would lead you to believe. Uruguay fought back and for a time exposed a superior French side using all the weapons at its disposal: fear, surprise, ruthless efficiency, and an almost fanatical devotion to 71-year-old manager Óscar Tabárez.

Tabárez was leading Uruguay for the fourth time at the World Cup despite being diagnosed in 2016 with Guillain-Barré syndrome, which has him relying on a crutch or a wheelchair for mobility. He has been coaching nearly all these players for their entire international careers, and it's clear he knows how to squeeze every ounce of potential from a side representing a nation of just 3 million people.

Uruguay played aggressive, physical defense, combined in interesting and unexpected ways on counterattacks, and rarely spurned good chances. Its set-piece dominance in this World Cup had been absolute. Center backs Diego Godín and José Giménez are among the world's best at attacking and defending dead balls. Every foul whistled or ball knocked out of play seemed a small Uruguay victory.

Posted by orrinj at 8:40 PM


Immigrant soldier sues Defense Department for discharging him without explanation (LORELEI LAIRD, JULY 6, 2018, ABA Journal)

A private in the U.S. Army Reserve has sued the Army for discharging him without warning or explanation, apparently because of his participation in a program for immigrants.

As the Associated Press reported July 5, the U.S. Army has been discharging soldiers who are not U.S. citizens. That includes Lucas Calixto, the private second class who sued the Army on June 28 for his sudden discharge. [...]

Calixto enlisted in the Army Reserve in early 2016 and has not been subject to any discipline or complaints, according to the complaint. In fact, it says, he was promoted to private second class shortly before his discharge. His lawsuit argues that the Army violated its own rules, Department of Defense rules and his due process rights by offering no explanation or chance to respond. Army regulations require that someone who is the subject of an "unfavorable administrative action" should be given a comprehensive, detailed written statement of the reasons for the action, and a chance to respond.

Calixto's lawsuit asks the court to revoke the discharge order and issue a declaratory judgment saying the Army failed to follow its own rules.

Posted by orrinj at 8:37 PM


Family separation lawsuit offers chilling details as Trump administration says it will fulfill federal court order (NewsHour, Jul 5, 2018)


So, Lisa, separately from all that, there's a set of legal documents, legal filings from a number of states. They're suing the federal government. Tell us about what you see there.



This is an extraordinary trove of firsthand accounts from people who have experienced this policy. First, let's talk about that lawsuit. It's 17 states and the District of Columbia have filed a lawsuit.

What they want, a few things. They want a court to order that this policy is unconstitutional and it must stop permanently. They also want courts to order that asylum seekers be allowed to process and go through the border without being detained.

Now, as that court case works out, the states filed 1,000 pages, nearly 1,000 pages of documentation of people who have experienced this process or have knowledge about it.

Poring through those documents, Judy, is the firsthand accounts that we have been trying to get our hands on for so long. And just overall, we see many themes that are the same, many parents who were separated with little or no notice that they would be separated. Sometimes, they were taken away to a hearing, returned to find their child had been taken.


Tell us a little bit about what you see there. What are these families saying?


First, we learned a lot about what these families in this legal documentation says how the physical situation was for them.

First of all, 15-by-15 size cells with 30 to 50 adults, sometimes children in them as well, with one toilet usually for those people to share. Usually, there's some privacy. However, it's still in the same room. And children and adults sharing that space. They're called iceboxes.

Many, many people of these refer them as so cold that they had to huddle together on cement floors. We also have some very gripping and frankly difficult-to-read personal testimonies. I want to point to one of them.

This is from a mother whose 14-month-old child was separated from her and from the father. They were reunited after 85 days. She wrote- "The child continued to cry when we got home and would hold on to my leg and would not let me go. When I took off his clothes, he was full of dirt and lice. It seemed like they had not bathed him the 85 days he was away from us."

She went on to say that she had thought, her child being so young, he wouldn't have really significant effects from the separation. But when she was reunited with him, she's worried that now actually he is really feeling and has changed because of the separation.

Posted by orrinj at 5:20 PM


Most Americans oppose key parts of Trump immigration plans, including wall, limits on citizens bringing family to U.S., poll says (Dan Balz and Scott Clement, July 6 , 2018, The Washington Post)

Americans overwhelmingly oppose the Trump administration's now-rescinded policy of separating immigrant children from their parents, and smaller majorities also disagree with the president's call to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border and to restrict legal immigration by limiting citizens from bringing parents and siblings to this country, according to a new Washington Post-Schar School poll. [...]

Democrats appear more energized than Republicans about the fall elections, especially in battleground districts. Among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independent voters in those districts, 59 percent say the midterms are extremely important, compared with 46 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents. Overall, registered voters say they prefer to vote for a Democrat over a Republican for the House, 47 percent to 37 percent. The margin on that question is not statistically larger in battleground districts, standing at 12 percentage points.

Posted by orrinj at 5:10 AM


Republicans on Russia trip face scorn and ridicule from critics at home (Karoun Demirjian, July 5 , 2018, Washington Post)

Republican lawmakers who went to Russia seeking a thaw in relations received an icy reception from Democrats and Kremlin watchers for spending the Fourth of July in a country that interfered in the U.S. presidential election and continues to deny it.

"Cannot believe GOP, once the party that stood strong against Soviets & only a decade ago sought to democratize the Middle East, is now surrendering so foolishly to [Russian President Vladimir] Putin and the Kremlin's kleptocracy -- only two years ­after Russia interfered in U.S. election," tweeted Clint Watts, an information warfare specialist at the Foreign Policy Research Institute and frequent featured expert before congressional panels examining Russian influence operations.

Posted by orrinj at 4:20 AM


Posted by orrinj at 4:09 AM


AP NewsBreak: US Army quietly discharging immigrant recruits (MARTHA MENDOZA and GARANCE BURKE, 7/05/18, AP) 

Some immigrant U.S. Army reservists and recruits who enlisted in the military with a promised path to citizenship are being abruptly discharged, the Associated Press has learned.

The AP was unable to quantify how many men and women who enlisted through the special recruitment program have been booted from the Army, but immigration attorneys say they know of more than 40 who have been discharged or whose status has become questionable, jeopardizing their futures.

"It was my dream to serve in the military," said reservist Lucas Calixto, a Brazilian immigrant who filed a lawsuit against the Army last week. "Since this country has been so good to me, I thought it was the least I could do to give back to my adopted country and serve in the United States military."

Some of the service members say they were not told why they were being discharged. Others who pressed for answers said the Army informed them they'd been labeled as security risks because they have relatives abroad or because the Defense Department had not completed background checks on them.

July 5, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 7:06 PM


The Best Way to See the U.S. Is by Train (William D'Urso, Jul 1, 2018, Outside)

Trains have long endured as a fixture of American industry, transporting goods and people across the country and forging what has become the United States as we know it. They still do a lot of that stuff, but long ago they stopped being a primary mode of long-haul transportation. Now they're mostly fun to gawk at while you match their speed from the highway.

Trains are more expensive than buses and cheaper than airplanes. They're definitely more spacious than both, and they chug along at just the right speed--slow enough to take in scenery and fast enough not to be bored by it--through mountain canyons, over fields of grass the settlers once trod on horseback, past decaying factory towns and deep forests.

"These secret pleasures of a railroad summon forth a vision of a sweet pastness, a lost national togetherness," wrote author Tom Zoellner in his book Train: Riding the Rails in the Modern World. "The train is a time traveler itself, the lost American vehicle of our ancestors, or perhaps our past selves."

Posted by orrinj at 5:13 PM


Has "Freedom" Lost Its Ring? (Jessica Hooten Wilson, Spring 2018 - Intercollegiate Review Online)

If, however, we distinguish between one interpretation of freedom--liberty--and another--license--we are able to use the word with accuracy. In John Milton's Paradise Lost, a poem that illustrates the human fall from reasonable and just into slavish and unjust creatures, the angel Michael explains to the postlapsarian Adam that he has lost "true liberty" because it was "twinned" with "right reason." Liberty, in this rendering, is freedom to act according to reason. For those of us predisposed to think of freedom as "doing whatever we want," we may be surprised to hear the traditional definition of freedom. Writers such as Milton--and before him Dante, Boethius, and others--considered an autonomous individual let loose to pursue her desires freely to be a soul enslaved. The "freedom" to consume, to surrender to your appetites, or to pursue your goals at the expense of others, in the traditional understanding, would be called "license." On the heels of Milton, political philosopher John Locke considered such license detrimental to society. Only liberty was an appropriate freedom within a society.

Posted by orrinj at 5:11 PM


E.P.A. Chief Scott Pruitt Resigns Under a Cloud of Ethics Scandals (Coral Davenport, July 5, 2018, NY Times)

Mr. Pruitt had been hailed as a hero among conservatives for his zealous deregulation, but he could not overcome a spate of ethics questions about his alleged spending abuses, first-class travel and cozy relationships with lobbyists. Earlier on Thursday, The New York Times reported on new questions about whether aides to Mr. Pruitt had deleted sensitive information about his meetings from his public schedule, potentially in violation of the law.

Posted by orrinj at 5:08 PM


The big picture: How Corporate America is silencing the gun industry (Michael Sykes, 7/04/18, Axios)

[C]orporate entities are hesitant to support gun manufacturers and sellers as today's social media age of instant reactions increasingly demands that corporations take a stand on social issues.

Payment processing firms are limiting firearm transactions, per the Chicago Tribune.

Some financial institutions, including the Bank of America and Citigroup, have both restricted their business with gun manufacturers and buyers in recent months.

Walmart raised the age requirement to purchase firearms to 21 in February.

Dick's Sporting Goods also raised its minimum age to purchase firearms to 21 -- and banned the sale of assault-style weapons.

Posted by orrinj at 2:09 PM


They Walked Out On Birthright To See Palestinians -- And Created Their Own Conflict (Aiden Pink, June 28, 2018, The Forward)

Katie Fenster says that she wasn't planning on walking out on her Birthright Israel tour when she arrived. But during the free 10-day trip, she grew increasingly frustrated that the answers to her questions about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict "all came from one perspective" and did not include Palestinian views. "We felt like we weren't being engaged with honestly," she told the Forward.

So on Wednesday, the final day of activities on her trip, she and four other women staged a walkout in Tel Aviv, meeting up with the controversial anti-occupation group Breaking the Silence for a tour of Hebron in the West Bank, where they met with Palestinians and saw a shrine dedicated to an Israeli terrorist.

The video taken of the walkout, which has since gone viral, shows the five women being angrily confronted by other trip participants and their Israeli tour guide, who accused them of "pulling a fast one" and "trying to enforce [their] opinions on the rest of the participants." [...]

"Judaism is about asking questions," she added. "It seems so surprising that they would be upset at us for asking questions."

Posted by orrinj at 2:04 PM


Why America needs more immigrants (The Economist, Jun 25th 2018)

Rogelio Sáenz of the University of Texas and Kenneth M. Johnson at the University of New Hampshire used data from the National Centre for Health Statistics of the Centre for Disease Control to find that deaths amongst non-Latino whites surpassed births in the same group for the first time in history two years ago. The white non-Latino population declined in 26 states in 2016, up from four states in 2004. Declining fertility and rising mortality both played a role: between 1999 and 2016, the number of non-Latino white births fell by 11%--with a particularly rapid decline during the financial crisis--while the number of deaths rose by 9%.

The trends are unlikely to reverse much: every year, there are fewer white non-Latino women of child-bearing age and more white old men and women. The median age of this demographic group has risen from 39 in 2000 to 43 in 2016.

The researchers' work suggests that recent Census Bureau forecasts for white non-Latino population size are probably biased upward. But even those forecasts suggested that in 2020 there would be 70,000 fewer births than deaths among that population group, with its overall size only sustained in that year by migration. And even accounting for migration, the forecasts predict the white non-Latino population will fall by about a quarter of a million people each year by 2030 and nearly three quarters of a million a year by 2050.   

Minorities and migrants are filling the gap.

Posted by orrinj at 2:00 PM


Studies: Mass Detention of Migrant Families is Unnecessary, Inefficient (Eleanor Acer, July 5, 2018, jUST sECURITY)

At Human Rights First, we provide pro bono legal representation to refugees seeking asylum. From this experience, we know that asylum seekers who are afforded accurate information and legal representation overwhelmingly appear for their immigration removal hearings. Recent government data, published by Syracuse University's Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), reveals that 97% of represented mothers whose cases were initiated in 2014 were in compliance with their immigration court hearing obligations three years later, as Human Rights First detailed in a February 2018 analysis of that data. A new comprehensive statistical study, conducted by Professor Ingrid Eagly and colleagues, reveals that 86 percent of families appeared for their hearings and 96 percent of families seeking asylum attended all their hearings. With legal representation, 97 percent of asylum seekers appeared for all hearings.

In cases where people need some appearance support, there are other options, as my colleague Robyn Barnard and I pointed out in our summary of the Top 10 Reasons Family Incarceration is Not a Solution. For instance, ICE operated a Family Case Management Program that resulted in 99% attendance for ICE check-ins and appointments, as well as 100% attendance at court hearings. The program used professional social workers to provide education about participants' responsibilities, individualized family service plans and other case management support. Launched by ICE, the program was operated by GEO Group, the private prison company which also operates many immigration detention facilities. Despite the program's successes, ICE mysteriously canceled the program last year.

Faith-based groups have also initiated case management programs that are community-based. For example, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Migration and Refugee Services (MRS) piloted small, privately-funded community-based models, showing promising initial results with program compliance rates of 96 to 97 percent.

DHS's own advisory committee recommended expansion of community-based case management programs rather than family detention. Concluding that detention is "never in the best interest of children," the committee recommended DHS "discontinue the general use of family detention, reserving it for rare cases when necessary following an individualized assessment of the need to detain because of danger or flight risk that cannot be mitigated by conditions of release." The DHS Advisory Committee specifically recommended that "[i]f necessary to mitigate individualized flight risk or danger, every effort should be made to place families in community-based case-management programs that offer medical, mental health, legal, social, and other services and supports, so that families may live together within a community."

As the CATO Institute's Alex Nowrasteh explains, another ICE program, an intensive supervision program operated by BI Incorporated, a wholly owned subsidiary the GEO Group Inc, resulted in a 99.6% appearance rate at immigration court hearings, and a 91.1% compliance rate with court orders, meaning these participants either left the country as ordered or earned legal status. The "full service" program involved both case management and monitoring through the use of technology and visitation, while "technology assisted" programs use only monitoring by technology - including electronic ankle monitors.

Posted by orrinj at 4:42 AM


Al Qaeda-backed terror group bans single-use plastic bags (Times of Israel, 7/05/18)

According to the newspaper, the website broadcast an audio clip in which Mohammed Abu Abdullah, al-Shabaab's governor in the Jubaland region, said that plastic bags "pose a serious threat to the well-being of humans and animals alike."

According to the BBC there was no mention of how the ban was to be enforced; however, fear of violence at the hands of the terrorists means that their edicts are usually followed. [...]

This is not the first time terrorists have shown concern for the environment -- documents seized during the 2011 raid on Osama Bin Laden's hideout in Pakistan included a letter in which he called on Americans to help then-president Barack Obama fight "catastrophic" climate change and "save humanity," the Reuters news agency reports.

Posted by orrinj at 4:32 AM


Our Say: Today, we're walking in the Fourth of July parade to help Annapolis heal (Capital Gazette, 7/04/18)

We're hurting, but we know Annapolis and Anne Arundel County are, too. It's so difficult to grasp that our community was the site of a mass shooting; that Annapolis has joined the names synonymous with abhorrent violence.

On Independence Day, we're not taking part in the parade because we stand for some brand of political thought or calls for gun control or arguments against. We will not be there for those who are mad at the president or those who are mad at people who are angry with the president. Even those in the world of journalism who have offered a breathtakingly welcome wave of support for us aren't the reason we'll walk.

We'll be on West Street and Main Street because we want our readers and our community to see that we believe things will, eventually, be OK again. Eventually.

Have a glorious Fourth.

Posted by orrinj at 4:25 AM


American cities are reviving-but leaving the poor behind: The post-industrial U.S. "legacy" cities are experiencing a renaissance. But lower-income, majority-black enclaves are struggling more than ever. (EILLIE ANZILOTTI, 7/05/18, Fast Company)

The popular narrative of gentrification goes something like this: In cities, young, affluent college grads move into lower-income neighborhoods of color, and before long, coffee shops and hip boutiques start to replace older stores. It's not long before the real estate developers and agents follow and the rents skyrocket. This narrative is largely derived from cities like New York, D.C., and Seattle, where population growth-especially due to an influx of wealthy people-is far outstripping the housing supply, and essentially all neighborhoods are changing and becoming more expensive.

But cities like Pittsburgh and Baltimore, which are the focus of Mallach's book, have only recently begun to welcome new residents. These new people were likely drawn, Mallach says, by jobs at the educational and medical institutions like the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and Johns Hopkins in Baltimore that have slowly but surely replaced the manufacturing industries that anchored the cities in the past. Gentrification in these places is more gentle, and revolves around not displacing residents (because there were so few to begin with), but more around filling in gaps.

The movement of young people into Lawrenceville, for instance, brought a swath of new amenities and investment. While some, like a yoga studio, might prompt older residents to roll their eyes, Mallach writes, others, like better grocery stores and improved transit, offer fairly universal benefits. It's still affordable, because Pittsburgh is still affordable, and Mallach argues that if Lawrenceville hadn't experienced that initial influx of young residents, it may very well have declined: "The reality," he writes, "is that today most neighborhoods that don't survive, go downhill."

The latter situation, Mallach says, is something that low-income, majority-black neighborhoods in U.S. legacy cities are all too familiar with. And even as the cities around them draw buzz and New York Times culture pieces, and as the Lawrencevilles of the landscape start to turn around, they're unlikely to do the same. In American cities, race and poverty are inextricably linked, and in these post-industrial cities, as Mallach writes, "the revival is ignoring the poor."

Cities make fine business parks, entertainment complexes and temporary housing for young professionals, but no one else should live there--especially if they have children. Like Disneyworld, they should empty overnight.

Posted by orrinj at 4:19 AM


The good news about black men in America (W. Bradford Wilcox, @WilcoxNMP Wendy Wang, Ronald Mincy, July 3, 2018 | CNN

Our new report, "Black Men Making It In America," spotlights two pieces of particular good news about the economic well-being of black men.

First, the share of black men in poverty has fallen from 41% in 1960 to 18% today. Second, and more importantly, the share of black men in the middle or upper class -- as measured by their family income -- has risen from 38% in 1960 to 57% today. In other words, about one-in-two black men in America have reached the middle class or higher.

This good news is important and should be widely disseminated because it might help reduce prejudicial views of black men in the society at large, and negative portrayals of black men in the media. It should also engender hope among all African-Americans -- particularly young black males.

Correcting overly negative depictions and attitudes regarding black men is important because they shape how black men are treated, and how black men view their potential. Alan Jenkins, executive director of Opportunity Agenda, a social justice organization, noted that "Research and experience show that expectations and biases on the part of potential employers, teachers, health care providers, police officers, and other stakeholders influence the life outcomes of millions of black males."

Posted by orrinj at 4:18 AM


Clean energy will do to gas what gas has done to coal: Globally, solar and wind projects now have the lowest life-cycle cost of all electricity sources (Jules Kortenhorst & Mark Dyson, 5/30/18, WEF)

Natural gas is currently cheap and its power plant technology is mature. This is why it is so prominent in electricity production and why so much investment is planned for it. But innovation in other technologies is quickly catching up and will likely put that investment in natural gas at risk. RMI analysis found that the costs of renewable energy, battery storage and energy efficiency are continuing to fall very quickly. In the US, benchmark prices for wind, solar photovoltaic and battery projects have fallen by 65-90% in the past 10 years. They are forecast to continue falling by a further 50% or more through 2030. Globally, solar and wind projects now have the lowest life-cycle cost of all electricity sources, according to data from the World Economic Forum released in December 2016.

The rapid pace of decline in cost has important implications for the global market for new gas infrastructure. Even in the US, with its domestic sources of cheap natural gas, the recent RMI report found that a portfolio of renewable energy, battery storage and energy efficiency can often be developed at a lower cost than a new gas-fired power plant, with lower financial risk and zero carbon emissions. RMI also found that because the cost to develop new clean energy portfolios is falling so rapidly, they are likely to beat just the operating costs of efficient gas-fired power plants within the next two decades.

RMI's US-focused analysis suggests that hundreds of billions of dollars of planned investment in natural gas infrastructure could be stranded over the coming decades, despite the US' abundance of cheap, local gas. In many global markets, imported LNG is much costlier than domestic gas in the US (adding US$2-4/MMBtu). In other markets, such as Western Europe, political risks associated with gas supply could limit availability or raise prices even further. As prices for renewable energy fall quickly around the world, more and more markets will find it attractive to lock in low-cost renewables, instead of paying more for natural gas-based power generation.

Posted by orrinj at 4:17 AM


WANT A WIFE? GROW A BEARD (Melissa Pandika, NOV 30 2016, OZY)

A team led by Barnaby Dixson of the University of Queensland concluded that women find men with scruff attractive as short-term partners, but gravitate to full-on beards for long-term relationships.

Although it's not clear why women view a bearded man as a keeper, earlier research suggests that beards make men look more mature and socially dominant -- in other words, more likely to take the lead, whether it's overseeing a project or rounding everyone up for happy hour. The authors of the study, published in the Journal of Evolutionary Biology, propose that a full beard does double duty, masking extremely masculine features -- which signal a potential Mr. Hit and Quit -- while also advertising husband qualities.

Posted by orrinj at 4:15 AM


The robodoctor will see you now (Mark Piesing, 05 JULY 2018, UnHerd)

The heroic age of the surgeon, they believe, is coming to an end for the same reasons the age of the pilot and driver did. Robot surgery offers patients more precise and less invasive keyhole surgery than they get from a human with a scalpel, gown and mask. In time, whole new operations may become possible.

More precise surgery means faster operations, quicker recovery times and less chance of secondary infection - of vital importance with an ageing population and the spread of antibiotic-resistant infections. It is predicted that in some countries, 40% of the population may be over 65 by the middle of the century. And deaths from these opportunistic infections could amount to 50 million a year globally by 2050. The robots could save them.

Robotic surgery would also mean busier operating theatres and patients spending less time in hospital beds afterwards. It would make recruitment easier, when the predicted shortage of 100,000 doctors in the USA becomes a reality.

Posted by orrinj at 4:14 AM


Assad critic seizes chairmanship of key Iran parliament commission (Ehsan Bodaghi July 4, 2018, Al Monitor)

After 14 years, the Iranian parliament's national security and foreign policy commission has a new chairman. Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh will replace Alaeddin Boroujerdi, who has headed the commission since 2005. Although both men are conservatives, they differ greatly in the policies they have adopted in the past. They also diverge in terms of the support they have derived from parliamentary factions. As such, the leadership shift is viewed by observers as much more than simply a game of musical chairs. Indeed, a commission headed by Falahatpisheh will likely experience very different days ahead. [...]

But more than anything, the difference between Boroujerdi and Falahatpisheh can be seen in how they coordinate their policies based on the viewpoints of Iran's leadership, and particularly how their stances on two key foreign policy issues are completely opposite (one being Syria and Iraq, and the other Iran's relations with Russia). Boroujerdi is among the Iranian politicians who are close allies to movements in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon. In recent years, he has traveled to these countries on several occasions and has expressed strong support for President Bashar al-Assad during visits to Syria.

Conversely, Falahatpisheh is perhaps among one of the first officials within the Iranian political establishment who has strongly criticized Assad's policies. Referring to a call by the Syrian president for regional states not to turn Syria into a theater for their own conflicts in the aftermath of a series of Israeli airstrikes, Falahatpisheh retorted on May 12, "Bashar al-Assad's passive stance comes as Iranian youths have been losing their lives while defending the territorial integrity of Syria for the past six years. It was after these measures that Russia began its support, and after the conditions for stabilizing the Syrian government, that Bashar al-Assad's international equations moved forward."

Their views on Russia also differ. While Boroujerdi is among those within the political establishment who believe that Iran should strengthen its tilt toward Russia and China, Falahatpisheh has a completely different view. In August 2016, when Iran allowed Russia to use an air base in the northwestern Iranian city of Hamadan for operations in Syria, he was the only person who criticized the move, calling it "against the constitution." Moreover, in June, he said, "Iranians have repeatedly been a plaything in Russia's [self]-interest seeking policies."

As such, the evident differences in the political positioning of these two men can only guarantee one thing: Looking ahead, the Iranian parliament's national security and foreign policy commission is about to be reshaped.

Posted by orrinj at 4:06 AM


Who Really Stands to Win from Universal Basic Income? (Nathan Heller, 7/05/18, The New Yorker)

One cause of the program's especial popularity in Northern California is also a reason for the urgency of its appeal: it is a futurist reply to the darker side of technological efficiency. Robots, we are told, will drive us from our jobs. The more this happens, the more existing workforce safety nets will be strained. In "Raising the Floor: How a Universal Basic Income Can Renew Our Economy and Rebuild the American Dream" (2016), the labor leader Andy Stern nominates U.B.I. as the right response to technological unemployment. Stern, a lifetime labor guy, is a former president of the two-million-member Service Employees International Union. But he thinks that the rise of robots and the general gig-ification of jobs will "marginalize the role of collective bargaining," so he has made a strategic turn to prepare for a disempowered working class. "You go into an Apple store and you see the future," he quotes an economist saying. "The future of the labor force is all in those smart college-educated people with the T-shirts whose job is to be a retail clerk." (This presumes that people will frequent brick-and-mortar shops in the first place.)

By Lowrey's assessment, the existing system "would falter and fail if confronted with vast inequality and tidal waves of joblessness." But is a U.B.I. fiscally sustainable? It's unclear. Lowrey runs many numbers but declines to pin most of them down. She thinks a U.B.I. in the United States should be a thousand dollars monthly. This means $3.9 trillion a year, close to the current expenditure of the entire federal government. To pay, Lowrey proposes new taxes on income, carbon, estates, pollution, and the like. But she is also curiously sanguine about costs, on the premise that few major initiatives balance out on the federal books: "The Bush tax cuts were not 'paid for.' The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were not 'paid for.' " When the country wants to launch a big project, she insists, the double joints and stretchy tendons of a giant, globalized economy come into play.

This open planning won't exactly soothe the cautious. A big reason for chariness with a U.B.I. is that, so far, the program lives in people's heads, untried on a national scale. Then again, by the same mark, the model couldn't be called under-thunk. The academic counterpart to Lowrey's journalistic book is Philippe Van Parijs and Yannick Vanderborght's recent "Basic Income: A Radical Proposal for a Free Society and a Sane Economy" (Harvard), a meticulously comprehensive, frequently persuasive accounting of U.B.I.'s superiority by measures economic, philosophical, and pragmatic. Like Lowrey, they see basic income as a sound social program and a corrective "hope": not a perfect system, but better than anything else.

Traditionally, a challenge for means-tested aid is that it must determine who is most deserving--a vestige of the old Elizabethan system. Often, there's a moralizing edge. Current programs, Lowrey points out, favor the working poor over the jobless. Race or racism plays into the way that certain policies are shaped, and bureaucratic requirements for getting help can be arcane and onerously cumulative. Who will certify the employee status of a guy who's living on the streets? How can you get disability aid if you can't afford the doctor who will certify you as disabled? With a universal income, just deserts don't seem at issue. Everybody gets a basic chance.

Observers often are squeamish about that proposition. Junkies, alcoholics, scam artists: Do we really want to hand these people monthly checks? In 2010, a team of researchers began giving two-hundred-dollar payments to addicts and criminals in Liberian slums. The researchers found that the money, far from being squandered on vice, went largely to subsistence and legitimate enterprise. Such results, echoed in other studies, suggest that some of the most beneficial applications of a U.B.I. may be in struggling economies abroad.

Like many students of the strategy, Lowrey points to Kenya, where she reported on a U.B.I. pilot in a small village. (She won't say which, for fear of making it a target for thieves--a concern worth counting as significant.) The pilot is run by a nonprofit called GiveDirectly, and is heavily funded through Silicon Valley; in that respect, it's a study in effective philanthropy, not a new model of society. But the results are encouraging. Before GiveDirectly sent everyone the equivalent of twenty-two U.S. dollars a month (delivered through a mobile app), Village X had dirt roads, no home electricity, and what Lowrey genteelly calls an "open defecation" model for some families. Now, by her account, the village is a bubbling pot of enterprise, as residents whose days used to be about survival save, budget, and plan. (The payments will continue until 2028.)

A widow tells her, "I'll deal with three things first urgently: the pit latrine that I need to construct, the part of my house that has been damaged by termites, and the livestock pen that needs reinforcement, so the hyena gets nothing from me on his prowls." A heavy-drinking deadbeat buys a motorbike for a taxi business, sells soap, buys two cows, and opens a barbershop. His work income quadruples. He boasts to Lowrey of his new life.

Purely as a kind of foreign aid, Lowrey suggests, a basic income is better than donated goods (boxes of shoes, mosquito nets), because cash can go to any use. The Indian government's chief economic adviser tells her that, with a U.B.I. of about a hundred U.S. dollars a year, India, where a third of the world's extreme poor live, could bring its poverty rates from twenty-two per cent to less than one per cent. Those figures are stunning. But India is in the midst of major bureaucratic change. Would there be any chance of a U.B.I. finding a foothold in the entrenched U.S. political climate?

Advocates have noted that the idea, generally formulated, has bipartisan support. Charles Murray, the conservative welfare critic, was an early enthusiast. His book "In Our Hands: A Plan to Replace the Welfare State" (2006) called for a U.B.I. of ten thousand dollars a year, plus catastrophic health insurance, to replace existing social programs, including Social Security. Rather than fester for years under the mismanaging claws of Big Government, he thought, money could flow directly to individual recipients. "The UBI lowers the rate of involuntary poverty to zero for everyone who has any capacity to work or any capacity to get along with other people," Murray declared.

But although politically dissimilar people may support a U.B.I., the reasons for their support differ, and so do the ways they set the numbers. A rising group of thinkers on the left, including David Graeber and Nick Srnicek, tout a generous version of U.B.I. both as a safety net and as a way to free people from lives spent rowing overmanaged corporate galleons. Business centrists and Silicon Valley types appreciate it as a way to manage industry side effects--such as low labor costs and the displacement of workers by apps and A.I.--without impeding growth. In "The War on Normal People: The Truth About America's Disappearing Jobs and Why Universal Basic Income Is Our Future" (Hachette), Andrew Yang, the Venture for America founder who has already filed for Presidential candidacy in 2020, recommends the model as a way to bypass kludgy governmental systems. He imagines it paired with something he calls "human capitalism." "For example, a journalist who uncovered a particular source of waste, an artist who beautified a city, or a hacker who strengthened our power grid could be rewarded with Social Credits," he explains. "Most of the technologists and young people I know would be beyond pumped to work on these problems."

Many of the super-rich are also super-pumped about the universal basic income. Elon Musk has said it will be "necessary." Sir Richard Branson speaks of "the sense of self-esteem that universal basic income could provide to people." What's the appeal for the plutocracy? For one thing, the system offers a hard budget line: you set the income figure, press start, go home. No new programs, no new rules. It also alleviates moral debt: because there is a floor for everyone, the wealthy can feel less guilt as they gain more wealth. 

Posted by orrinj at 4:00 AM


There is no productivity crisis, experts say (Steve LeVine, 5/27/18, Axios)

[I]n a presentation at the Dallas Fed on Friday, Chad Syverson, an economics professor at the University of Chicago, said technological history has been one of lag-times between the launch of new technologies and their visibility in productivity numbers. In work he did with MIT's Erik Brynjolfsson and Daniel Rock, Syverson said advances in artificial intelligence in particular simply have not worked their way through the economy and into complementary products.

He cited analogies:

At least half of U.S. factories remained unelectrified until 1919, three decades after the invention of the first functional AC motor.

It wasn't until the 1980s, more than 25 years after the invention of the integrated circuit, that computers had penetrated U.S. businesses.

It took two decades for e-commerce to reach 10% penetration of retail.

Posted by orrinj at 3:49 AM


Hispanic Texans on pace to become largest population group in state by 2022 (ALEXA URA AND NAEMA AHMED, JUNE 21, 2018, Texas Tribune)

With growth among the Hispanic population in Texas continuing to easily outpace growth among white Texans, it's likely the state will reach that demographic milestone as soon as 2022. That's according to the state demographer and new population estimates released Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau.

The new figures, which account for the state's population growth through July 2017, reflect the extent to which the white population growth rate pales in comparison to growth among Texans of color since 2010 -- a disparity that has set the Hispanic community on its way to becoming a plurality of the state's population.

Posted by orrinj at 3:47 AM


Gina's Way  (DANIEL C. VOCK | JULY 2018, Governing)

It was in the midst of all that economic distress and political distrust that Raimondo introduced herself to Rhode Island voters. Her first step was to run for state treasurer, which fit her background as a venture capitalist. As a Rhodes scholar with an economics degree from Harvard and a law degree from Yale, she had impeccable credentials. But she also had authentic connections to blue-collar Rhode Island. Raimondo often relayed the story of her father being laid off from his job in Providence when the Bulova watch factory closed. She says she jumped into politics because libraries around the state were shutting down, a point that hit home for her because her grandfather learned English at his local public library.

Raimondo moves comfortably in these two worlds. But, inevitably, these worlds collide.

They certainly did after the Central Falls bankruptcy, in which Wall Street investors remained unscathed but retired city workers faced steep benefit cuts. "It broke my heart to see 75-year-old firefighters saying, 'I can't buy food. I can't buy my medicine. I can't stay in my house,'" Raimondo said in an interview with the podcast Freakonomics earlier this year. She worried the same thing would happen to teachers and other workers in the state pension funds, which were also dangerously underfunded. "I decided, I'm not going to do that. It's not about my politics, it's about shoring up the system. ... There are a lot of people in this system who need their pension to be there in 30 years, and it wasn't going to be. My tagline at the time was, 'This is math, not politics.'" 

She insisted that existing benefits had to be reduced, and said that if lawmakers didn't act, the system would be broke in 25 years. She proposed eliminating cost-of-living increases and moving recipients into a system that more resembled the riskier 401(k) plans used in the private sector. After Raimondo made her case around the state, lawmakers in 2011 passed her proposal by wide margins. Unions fought the deal unsuccessfully. They eventually reached a settlement with the state several years later, but resentment over the issue, particularly among teachers unions, has never really died away.

Raimondo's pension victory boosted her profile, setting up her campaign for governor in 2014. She narrowly won a three-way primary against two labor-friendly Democrats, then won the governorship in November in another three-way race. Raimondo didn't dwell on the pension fight during her campaign, although it galvanized support for her opponents. Instead, her message in that race was all about job creation. It still is.

During Raimondo's term as governor, she has appeared countless times touting one commitment or another by companies to bring or add jobs to Rhode Island. She joined the head of General Dynamics Electric Boat in May to tout the creation of 1,300 jobs. Electric Boat is expanding to build parts for a new class of nuclear submarines for the U.S. Navy. Raimondo has announced 500 new jobs from Infosys, an Indian tech company; 75 jobs at a tech center for Johnson & Johnson; 50 new positions for GE Digital; 300 additional jobs for Virgin Pulse, a health software company; and 700 jobs for Infinity Meat Solutions to package and process meat. And the list goes on.

But Raimondo has backed more controversial projects as well. She appeared with the CEO of Deepwater Wind in 2016, when the company started building the first offshore wind farm in the United States. Residents of nearby Block Island tried to fight the new development because it obstructed their view of the ocean, but the governor forged ahead anyway. This spring, she signed off on a deal to let the company construct a wind farm that would produce 13 times as much energy as its first project. Meanwhile, Raimondo backed an effort to build a $1 billion natural gas-fueled power plant in the northern part of the state, despite fierce objections from environmentalists and local residents. 

Laurie White, the president of the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce, credits Raimondo for rebuilding the state's economic development agency, which had languished under previous governors. "There were zero tools in the toolbox," she says. "The state didn't even have marketing materials. This governor understands what a contemporary economic development agency must do today to be in the game in order to win."

The company officials who appear with Raimondo to announce new jobs often tout the tax incentive packages that the state has offered to lure them there. Most of those incentives were created under the Raimondo administration. "Massachusetts and nearly every other state in the Northeast still uses incentives. And they've been doing it for years," Raimondo explained in her State of the State address this year. "Until recently, though, our leaders didn't have a strategy and, because of that, Rhode Islanders got left behind. And the few times our past leaders did take action, they put all their eggs in one basket or chased special deals. Any way you slice it, Rhode Islanders got hurt."

The governor's supporters note that some of the biggest state tax credits companies can qualify for require them to actually create jobs before they get the tax subsidy. In the end, they argue, the jobs will bring in more than enough money to pay for the breaks that drew them to Rhode Island. But to the governor's opponents, especially the ones lining up to run against her this year, the tax breaks smack of "corporate welfare," gifts to out-of-state companies that won't change the fundamentals of a broken Rhode Island economy. 

Posted by orrinj at 3:42 AM


Lesson Plan: After Decades of Reform, Has Chicago Finally Learned How to Fix Education?  J. BRIAN CHARLES | JULY 2018, Governing)

The phone call Janice Jackson had been waiting for came in early December. She was going to be named interim CEO of the Chicago Public Schools (CPS). A protégé of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, she would be taking over the third largest school district in the nation. She was also getting the job she had predicted for herself since her days as a student at the University of Illinois at Chicago. A month after her appointment, the city closed the deal by dropping the word "interim" from her title.

Jackson has joined a long list of Chicago schools CEOs who have attracted national attention for their role in the city's seemingly endless series of reform efforts. One of them, Arne Duncan, went on to become U.S. education secretary in the Obama administration. Another, Paul Vallas, narrowly missed in a bid for governor of Illinois in 2002 and is currently campaigning to succeed Emanuel in city hall. 

But Jackson, who is 41 years old, has also taken over an institution that has never been able to divorce itself from Chicago's reputation for political controversy and corruption. Her rise to CEO was hastened by the resignation of Forrest Claypool, a former county commissioner and head of the Chicago Transit Authority, who was the target of an ethics investigation during his short tenure running the city schools. Before Claypool, Barbara Byrd-Bennett ran CPS until she was indicted and later sentenced to prison for steering contracts to a former employer and accepting kickbacks as compensation. 

Jackson is managing a district that has lost more than 50,000 students since 2000, triggering the closure of nearly 50 elementary schools and breeding resentment in much of the city. School administrators have been caught falsifying attendance and graduation rates. And recently the district has come under fire for not doing enough to stop rampant sexual abuse of students by staff. 

Still, good news landed on Jackson's desk just before she took the reins at CPS. New research from Stanford University showed that Chicago schoolchildren between the third and eighth grades were improving their performance at a faster rate than those in 96 percent of the school districts in the country. A significant number of Chicago pupils who came into third grade far behind their peers nationally were said to be attaining six years of academic growth in five school years. 

July 4, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 11:06 PM


Posted by orrinj at 6:21 PM


Possession lost on the World Cup stage as defences learn to adapt: Tactical postmortems must also factor in those things which cannot be planned for, as Spain and Germany can attest (Jonathan Wilson,  4 Jul 2018, The Guardian)

And, as so often, there is a danger when dealing with general trends in overlooking specifics. The reason for the early exits of Germany and Spain are manifold, and only partly related to tactics. Joachim Löw admitted his side had been arrogant and had perhaps not seen the warning signs. Perhaps he selected too many established names on reputation rather than recent form. The squad seems to have been riven by cliques.

Löw himself was perhaps found out: at the last World Cup he struggled to get the balance right between attack and defence and was bailed out by Miroslav Klose, who scored a vital goal against Ghana before offering a focal point to the forward line from the quarter-final on. Here, without Klose, or an in-form Thomas Müller, there was no edge to Germany's attack and so despite 65.3% possession over the group stage, their threat was limited. Combine that with their issues in checking opposing counterattacks - damningly highlighted in pre-tournament friendlies - and the only outcome can be disappointment.
It's natural, of course, that the longer a mode of play exists, the more strategies spring up to counter it. Xavi observed two years ago that Spain often struggled against a 3-5-2 (such as Chile deployed against them in 2014 and Italy in 2016) because it is difficult to press high against a team with five passing outlets at the back, particularly if they have two centre-forwards to occupy the central defenders. That was the route Russia's coach, Stanislav Cherchesov, took, and it worked - but Spain were also guilty of wastefulness in midfield in a way their champion sides were not.

No one is better on strategy and the history of strategy than Mr. Wilson, but a few American observations:

(1) When an opponent plays defensively and packs defenders into the box it tends to neutralize your advantage in skills.  at that point, if you don't have a striker or two up front who can head a ball in off a cross, you're always going to struggle to score.  You can temper this advantage if you have a midfielder who can score from range, but Spain never replaced Xavi Alonso.

(2) alternatively, you could choose to absorb some pressure yourself and then hit the other team on the break, with a more open field to play with. But, if your team is old, as both Spain and Germany are, you not only lose that second option--you just don't have enough pace for an effective counter-attack--but are going to have even more trouble getting anyone open in the attacking zone.

(3) Meanwhile, the ability to play that sort of quick counter depends on having a strong back four to cover if you lose the ball, measured in a very different way than soccer analysts think of it: not the four defenders but your goalie two central defenders and your holding midfielder.  Spain used to have Casillas, Puyol, Pique and Busquets in those spots, all of whom were great.  Neither Germany nor Spain is terribly good in those positions this year (though David DeGea should be). [by this measure alone, we'd expect Brazil to win and Uruguay to be dangerous.]

Combine it all and there's really no reason to expect an old, ball possession team with weak defense to do terribly well.

Posted by orrinj at 11:05 AM


The only question is whether the PSA is funded by the Watermelon Growers or the Fireworks Vendor Association...
Posted by orrinj at 9:31 AM


Happy 4th, everybody.  Seems a good day to ask what folks are enjoying reading, watching, listening to.

I have a (roughly) two hour dog walk every day, but dropped off the hounds and kept going so I could finish this fabulous podcast in three days:


American Fiasco (WNYC Radio)

Join host Roger Bennett of Men in Blazers for this story of the U.S. men's soccer team that swaggered onto the international stage and set out to win the 1998 World Cup in France. When they arrived, they faced only one serious opponent: themselves. WNYC Studios is a listener-supported producer of other leading podcasts including Freakonomics Radio, Death, Sex & Money, On the Media and many more.

It fairly cries out to be made into a movie or miniseries, a la Damned United.

Statcast Podcast:

Statcast™ is changing the way we watch baseball, and we're only beginning to figure out how it will revolutionize the game. Mike Petriello, Matt Meyers and special guests discuss what this groundbreaking technology is teaching us.  

Be sure to follow @Statcast on Twitter for the best daily video clips featuring this new technology!

Listen to or download individual episodes below, subscribe via iTunes or use your RSS reader so you never miss a single episode.

PitcherList Podcast

Having two Rotisserie teams, I listen to CBS Fantasy Baseball Today every day, but for pure baseball enjoyment, these are the two most enjoyable analytical casts. 


Chance the Rapper : Coloring Book (Kris Ex, MAY 17 2016, Pitchfork)

When Chicagoan Chance the Rapper delivered his verse on "Ultralight Beam," the opening song from Kanye West's The Life of Pablo, there was a lot going on--sly homage was being paid to West; rappers were being put on notice ("This is my part/Nobody else speak"); and, most importantly, Chance was encapsulating his past, asserting his present, and telegraphing his future. He was finally positioning himself as a rapper to be reckoned with from a mainstream podium, but he was also delving deep into Christian ideology, with allusions to Noah's Ark and Lot's wife, with his "foot on the Devil's neck 'til it drifted Pangaea."

That verse rolled out the red carpet for Kanye's long-awaited album, but it doubled as an announcement of Chance's new Coloring Book (then given the working title Chance 3), which may very well be the most eagerly-anticipated hip-hop project this year that doesn't come attached to an actual record label. West billed his album as "a gospel album with a whole lot of cursing on it," but The Life of Pablo wasn't that; it was a rap album with some gospel overtures. Coloring Book, however, fits the billing, packing in so much gospel verve that it sounds like Hezekiah Walker & the Love Fellowship Crusade Choir are going to drop into half the tracks and recite 1 Timothy 4:12 in chorale. Instead, we get Kirk Franklin promising to lead us into the Promised Land, alongside appearances by demonstrated materialistic heathens like 2 Chainz, Lil Wayne, Young Thug, and Future--and the result is an uplifting mix that even an atheist can catch the Spirit to.

Francis and the Lights : Farewell, Starlite! (Cameron Cook, OCTOBER 6 2016, Pitchfork)

 The album's focus is, rightfully, "Friends," a collaboration with Justin Vernon of Bon Iver and Kanye West. It's a deeply affecting, mellow slice of alternative R&B, gliding along on a placid sea of finger snaps and interlocking vocal harmonies by all three artists, like some impossibly cool barbershop trio. When Starlite sings, "We could be friends/Just put your head on my shoulders," it's lusher than velvet. It sounds more like a lovesick supplication than a call for restraint. Francis and the Lights have been compared to Peter Gabriel before, but nowhere has this been more apparent as "May I Have This Dance," a song that truly could be added to a reissue of So without anyone batting an eyelid. Its subtle Afro-pop drumbeat and jubilant chorale of lyrics about reclaiming lost love are so evocative of mid-'80s art pop that it defiantly stands out as an example of the kind of diversity Farewell, Starlite! could desperately use more of.


Review: 'Bosch' and the Art of the Pure Police Procedural (Mike Hale, April 13, 2018, NY Times)

Developed for television by Eric Overmyer from novels by Michael Connelly, the show accommodates the modern serial drama's requirements for psychology and back story. Bosch's daughter and ex-wife are significant characters, and the unsolved murder of his mother (with its echoes of the Black Dahlia case) continues to haunt him in Season 4. (A fifth season has already been ordered.)

But the soul of the series is procedural crime-solving, and that's more than ever the case in the new season, which focuses on the murder of an African-American lawyer who was about to go to court with a brutality case against the Los Angeles Police Department. [...]

Anchoring it all is the deliberate, heavy quietude of Titus Welliver's performance as Bosch, communicating untold skepticism and disdain through an arched eyebrow or a downturned lip. Mr. Welliver can suggest an entire personality in the way he stares at a whiteboard or silently chooses which chair to sit in, and the show has matched him with other nonhistrionic actors like Jamie Hector (as his partner), Sarah Clarke (his former wife) and Madison Lintz (his daughter).

The unhurried pace of "Bosch" can sometimes slow to a crawl, the writing can be workmanlike and the secondary story lines involving Bosch's family or Los Angeles politics can be thin. But when it errs, it errs on the side of literalness rather than falseness, of plainness rather than pretension. The show doesn't require patience so much as relaxation. Surrender to its hard-boiled charms, and it will treat you right.

Those requirements do make the plots way too busy, combining as many as three of the novels into one series, but we've loved Harry for a quarter century now and it's nice to see someone make good use of many of the actors from The Wire. One especially nice tough in the latest cycle is the use of a tunnel setting that the novels' Harry would love.


The Cloudspotter's Guide: The Science, History, and Culture of Clouds by Gavin Pretor-Pinney  

Found the book at the Thrift Store the other day, but saw his documentary years ago and have long been a member of his Cloud Appreciation Society

The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas

It's always been a favorite, but I'm rereading after listening to an interview with a new translator on NR's great Books podcast.

Posted by orrinj at 9:26 AM


Our wonderful, frustrating, dynamic, messy American republic (Edward Morrissey, July 4, 2018, The Week)

[F]ocusing on America's bad outcomes misses the point. A nation that governs itself owns its own mistakes -- and has the ability to rectify them. We create the laws under which we are governed, and when we don't like the outcomes, our elected officials have the ability to correct them. Our Constitution has been amended 18 times since its initial ratification to deal with the worst of the outcomes, including slavery, and even once to correct an earlier amendment prohibiting the sale and consumption of alcohol.

Our Independence Day gave us the ability to set our own course, for better or worse. No doubt the worse outcomes of those decisions, and the slow process of correcting them, made our forefathers despair at times, too. The long string of injustices seen in our history belong to the people who governed at that time and plagued the people they served, but we remember them now to remind us of the responsibility we have to govern ourselves wisely and judiciously in the future. The successes and failures of self-governance provide the perspective necessary to keep a sharp check on the use of power, lest we create the disconnect that created the need for the Declaration of Independence in the first place. Sundering governance from accountability is the surest and the shortest way to arrive at such a crisis.

Freedom and self-governance may not be pretty, but it is the antidote for the ills of every other form of government. 

Posted by orrinj at 9:19 AM


Plea Deal For Former Congressional IT Staffer Debunks Right-Wing Conspiracy Theories (SCOTT NEUMAN, 7/04/18, NPR)

"The Government has uncovered no evidence that your client violated federal law with respect to the House computer systems," prosecutors noted in the plea agreement signed Tuesday.

"Particularly, the Government has found no evidence that your client illegally removed House data from the House network or from House Members' offices, stole the House Democratic Caucus Server, stole or destroyed House information technology equipment, or improperly accessed or transferred government information, including classified or sensitive information," it said.

The plea deal said the government had conducted "a thorough investigation of those allegations. Including interviewing approximately 40 witnesses."

The investigation was led by Trump-nominated U.S. Attorney Jessie K. Liu, according to the Post.

Awan's attorney said in a statement that his client had been the target of "political persecution."

"There has never been any missing server, smashed hard drives, blackmailed members of Congress, or breach of classified information," he said in the statement, according to the Post. "Yet Fox News and its media children continued to peddle a story in perfect coordination with House Republicans and the President."

Posted by orrinj at 9:18 AM