October 7, 2015

A friend of mine told me the following curious story. In the early 1990s, while taking a course at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, he sat next to an ordinary-looking older man, a soft-spoken, pudgy fellow, who said he was from Guatemala. After a few weeks into the term, he came to class one day and found the man sitting alone, far from the other students, who seemed to be avoiding him. Another student explained to my friend who the man was: Hector Gramajo, a former Guatemalan general and defense minister who was there on a Mason fellowship, studying for a degree in public administration. While he was Army Vice-Chief of Staff and Director of the Army General Staff, the Guatemalan army massacred more than 75,000 Mayans in what a United Nations Truth Commission later (1999) called genocide. Read

PAUL THEROUX – The Hypocrisy of ‘Helping’ the Poor

October 5, 2015

EVERY so often, you hear grotesquely wealthy American chief executives announce in sanctimonious tones the intention to use their accumulated hundreds of millions, or billions, “to lift people out of poverty.” Sometimes they are referring to Africans, but sometimes they are referring to Americans. And here’s the funny thing about that: In most cases, they have made their fortunes by impoverishing whole American communities, having outsourced their manufacturing to China or India, Vietnam or Mexico. Buried in a long story about corruption in China in The New York Times a couple of months ago was the astonishing fact that the era of “supercharged growth” over the past several decades had the effect of “lifting more than 600 million people out of poverty.” From handouts? From Habitat for Humanity? From the Clinton Global Initiative? Read

Are Your Casual Clothes Toxic?

September 28, 2015

A Greenpeace report has found that several major sportswear brands—including Adidas, Nike, and Puma—contain polyfluorinated chemicals (PFCs), nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs), and phthalates. All of these chemicals are linked to major health issues. PFCs, which make items stain-proof, are linked to problems like low birth weight and prostate cancer; phthalates are linked to attention deficit disorder, asthma, breast cancer, obesity, and behavioral and neurodevelopmental issues; and NPEs degrade into hormone-disrupting chemicals.This was one of a series of reports looking at toxic chemicals in clothing. Another reportinvestigated luxury children’s clothing from brands like Dior, Dolce & Gabbana, Giorgio Armani, and Louis Vuitton, and found similarly troubling results. Fifty-nine percent of the products tested positive for one or more hazardous chemicals. Read

Fred Gardner – Veterans Suicide Epidemic Proves Lucrative for Therapists

September 28, 2015

Marine Corps veterans have formed their own suicide-prevention network for reasons laid out in a very powerful article by Dave Philipps in the New York Times. The men Philipps writes about served in the Second Battalion, Seventh Marine Regiment (the 2/7), in Afghanistan. Many had been deployed in Iraq, too. No one knows whether the battalion’s suicide rate is abnormally high or a common trait of fighting units hit hard by combat, because no one monitors troops over time. In an era of Big Data, when algorithms can predict human patterns in startling detail, suicide data for veterans is incomplete and years old by the time it is available. The most recent data is from 2011. The Department of Veterans Affairs and the Pentagon say they have introduced a new system, called the Suicide Data Repository, that is faster and more complete. Read

Jason M. Breslow – New: 96% Deceased NFL Players Test Positive for Brain Disease

September 21, 2015

A total of 87 out of 91 former NFL players have tested positive for the brain disease at the center of the debate over concussions in football, according to new figures from the nation’s largest brain bank focused on the study of traumatic head injury. Researchers with the Department of Veterans Affairs and Boston University have now identified the degenerative disease known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, in 96 percent of NFL players that they’ve examined and in 79 percent of all football players. The disease is widely believed to stem from repetitive trauma to the head, and can lead to conditions such as memory loss, depression and dementia. Read

Kalla Hale-Stern – Don’t Have Sex With Robots, Say Ethicists

September 16, 2015

Robot ethicists have launched the Campaign Against Sex Robots, seeking a ban on the development of robotic sexytimes. The reality of pleasure bots is fast approaching. Mechanical toys for sexual pleasure already exist, of course, and hardware developers are working to incorporate A.I. into their designs. A company called True Companion claims to be producing “the world’s first sex robot,” Roxxxy, this year. Despite questions of technical readiness and ethics, Roxxxy, priced at $7000, has thousands of pre-orders. Robot ethicists Kathleen Richardson of De Montfort University and Erik Billing from University of Skövde are the co-creators of the Campaign Against Sex Robots, which seeks to bring awareness to the issue and proposes a robot sex ban. They compare it to similar campaigns that seek to limit development of “killer” robots. Richardson and Billing believe that sex robots will degrade human relationships and reinforce a view of women as sexual objects. Read

Jeb Lund – The NFL and the military: a love affair as strange and cynical as ever

September 15, 2015

This is the power of the NFL: it can brand something you respect into something nauseous. I have a lifelong fascination with the military: my grandfathers were pilots in WWII, one also in Korea. My stepfather, a man I love and respect, only retired from the Air Force this decade. I attended high school near Eglin Air Force Base, living out near Range Road, where you could sit on your roof at night and watch the bomb tests light up the underside of clouds. Most of my friends’ dads were in the service. But just like that friend’s dad who got in your face all OORAH about how you could never dare question him (on anything) when you knew in reality that he ran Quicken for the 101st Chairborne, doing sorties on Excel columns, the NFL doesn’t have an off switch on its deployment of big words like battle and sacrifice. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell glad-handing veterans who’ve lost something, smirking under a flyover, is another avatar of the rear-echelon dudes who spent their Iraq War scanning the base doppler for tornados in the midwest and up-armoring their word rage to combat the “libturd” War on Christmas, daring you to

Monsanto’s Sealed Documents Reveal the Truth behind Roundup’s Toxicological Dangers -Richard Gale and Gary Null

September 15, 2015

The year 2015 hasn’t been kind to Monsanto. In March, the World Health Organization declared that the company’s flagship product, its herbicide glyphosate or Roundup, is a probable human carcinogen. Increasingly, national health ministries are taking a hard second look at glyphosate’s health and environmental dangers and efforts are underway to ban the herbicide.[1] To protect its citizens, last year the Netherlands, Bermuda and Sri Lanka have either banned or imposed strict limits on Roundup. Last June, France banned its use in gardens. Brazil, Germany and Argentina are considering legislative bans. And this month, California’s environmental protection agency launched plans to label Roundup as a carcinogen.[2] Glyphosate is the most widely used herbicide in the world today. Over 130 countries currently permit extensive use of the chemical. The US is the largest consumer, using approximately 20% of the world’s Roundup.[3] The latest reliable figures from the US Geological Survey record 280 million pounds of Roundup were used in 2012, nearly a pound for every American.[4] In 2013, gross profit of $371 million on crop chemicals including Roundup climbed 73% due to a 37% increase in sales. That same year Monsanto’s net income rose 22% to $1.48 billion.[5]

STEPHANIE CHAN – When Simple Living Is No Simple Proposition

September 14, 2015

With the world at our fingertips and only a click, tap, and push notification away, there still seems to be one thing that eludes our grasp: simplification. A new wave of wearable tech aims to minimize smartphone use and silence the clamoring The tiny house movement is just what it sounds like: eschewing the breakfast nook and the guestroom and living in a smaller, simpler space. It goes beyond just tidying up: it’s an all-out war against clutter and perceived excess. Also called the small house movement, the motives for tiny living often include financial freedom, environmental sustainability, and self-sufficiency. Most tiny houses range from 120 to 500 square feet and frequently exchange the large foyer for an element of mobility; many are mounted on wheels so they can be towed to various locations. Read

Eric London – A portrait of life in America’s Rust Belt

September 9, 2015

Spread out across the prairies of north-central Indiana are dozens of towns and small cities whose streets and industrial parks once buzzed and hummed with the sound of automobile production. Over the highways and railroad tracks linking places like Muncie, Kokomo, and Marion to the industrial capitals of Detroit and Chicago there passed millions upon millions of loads of car bodies and parts to be processed and shipped to dealers around the world. The auto towns of rural Indiana make up part of a constellation of production that was once a world center of industrial output—the area forms the geographical center of what was known as the “Factory Belt,” spanning westward into Illinois and Missouri and east to Ohio, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. The history of the rise and fall of the towns that now lie between highway I-65 and I-69 is typical of many small towns and major cities all over the United States. For this reason, sociologists from the 1920s onward made Muncie the subject of numerous academic studies of working class life. Researchers developed a term to refer to towns like Muncie: “Middletown.” Read
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