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.