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TWP: Bacteria Evolved to Save the Planet. Can We?

TWP: Bacteria Evolved to Save the Planet. Can We?

After millions of years of gloriously successful life on Earth, a dangerous new organism arose and spread rapidly across the planet. Mankind? No. Two billion years ago the delinquent organisms were cyanobacteria, the first photosynthetic life forms to give off pure oxygen gas, a chemical deadly to all extant organisms. There may be surprising parallels between the, eventually positive, cyanobacteria impact 2 billion years ago and human impact today. Human beings too are a self-inflicted biosphere disaster in progress, but, in the extremely long-term, we could be just what the planet needs. We have much to learn before we become guardians rather than despoilers of Earth. If our destiny is to safeguard life’s future, it’s time our apprenticeship began.

TN: Walmart’s Billion $ Tax Avoidance

TN: Walmart’s Billion $ Tax Avoidance

Walmart avoids $1 billion a year in taxes through federal loopholes. The losers are the working-class consumers who think they’re getting a good deal by elbowing through the mob surrounding the Xbox floor display. An even more convenient source of “savings” for Walmart operates on the retail level, through the pockets of consumers and workers who rely on taxpayer-funded federal welfare programs.

AJA: 1.2m Veterans Lack Health Insurance

AJA: 1.2m Veterans Lack Health Insurance

A study published in The Lancet sheds light on a little-discussed issue affecting U.S. military veterans – a lack of health insurance coverage. Using numbers from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, the authors determined that more than 1.2 million veterans lacked health insurance in 2012, in line with previous studies that came to similar conclusions.

PS: The Population Challenge

PS: The Population Challenge

When people think of the world’s “population problem,” they often focus on rapid demographic growth in parts of the developing world. But, globally, the population-growth rate is actually falling, and population is expected to plateau later this century. Though we cannot afford to ignore the fact that, according to United Nations estimates, there will be 2.4 billion more mouths to feed worldwide by mid-century, another population problem also merits serious attention: large pockets of demographic decline.

NYT: Elite Campus Arts Race

NYT: Elite Campus Arts Race

Elite campuses across the country have emerged from the recession riding a multibillion-dollar wave of architecturally ambitious arts facilities, even as community arts programs struggle against public indifference. The current tide of building developed over years, as universities reassert the essential value of the arts to a well-rounded education, aided by deep-pocket alumni willing to underwrite elaborate new facilities.

BI: Drones and Aerial Surveillance

BI: Drones and Aerial Surveillance

The campaigns mounted by privacy advocates oftentimes make a compelling case about the threat of pervasive surveillance, but the legislation is rarely tailored in such a way to prevent the harm that advocates fear. In fact, the new laws are focused on the technology (drones) not the harm (pervasive surveillance) and have been aimed at restricting the government’s use of drone technology, while allowing the government to conduct identical surveillance when not using drone technology. This absurd anachronism is intentional.

NYT: Climate Accord Not Groundbreaking

NYT: Climate Accord Not Groundbreaking

For all the pronouncements about the United States and China reaching a historic climate pact, the agreement they announced Wednesday does not signal a seismic shift in policies by either nation, experts said. The deal is important for what it shows the rest of the world, particularly other large carbon emitters like India and Russia, in advance of a meeting in Paris next year to negotiate a new climate treaty.

AJ: Palestinians Remind World of Their Own Wall

AJ: Palestinians Remind World of Their Own Wall

Palestinian youth have dug a hole in Israel’s separation wall with the Palestinian territories, as a symbolic gesture to mark 25 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall. Palestinians refer to the current wall separating the West Bank from Israel as the “apartheid wall”. The International Committee of the Red Cross stated that the Israeli barrier “causes serious humanitarian and legal problems” and goes “far beyond what is permissible for an occupying power”.

RE: US Military Good But Not That Good

RE: US Military Good But Not That Good

We live within a myth of efficiency. That the world actually operates with a cool precision — the way it does in the movies. Seen through this prism, you could say that voter frustration is not so much the result of reputed Oval Office incompetence as of our having been spoiled by the movies and television. Americans cannot accept the fact that our abilities are seldom as good as movies make them out to be.

NYT: Starkest Warning Yet

NYT: Starkest Warning Yet

The gathering risks of climate change are so profound that they could stall or even reverse generations of progress against poverty and hunger if greenhouse emissions continue at a runaway pace, according to a major new United Nations report. In the starkest language the IPCC has ever used, the expert panel made clear how far society remains from having any serious policy to limit global warming.

BI: Essays on Character and Opportunity

BI: Essays on Character and Opportunity

Richard Reeves provides an introduction to the Center on Children and Families’ Essay Series on Character and Opportunity: I defy you to find a richer set of writings on the philosophical, empirical and practical issues raised by a focus on character, and in particular its relationship to questions of opportunity. There are enthusiasts for the public endeavor of character cultivation as well as thoughtful skeptics. There are calls, from differing political perspectives, to give at least equal weight to the moral dimensions of character, as well as strong demands to honor individual free will and individual development. Two scholars draw attention to the gendered nature of character formation; others stress the importance of culture, social norms, and the impact of chronic stress in the early years. Construction of a policy agenda for the cultivation of character poses a stark challenge to the partisan culture of contemporary politics, but may also alleviate it, by reinvigorating community life.

DS: Freedom vs Stability

DS: Freedom vs Stability

There are many reasons to be gratified by the end of a dictatorship. It means that a criminal is no longer in a position of power, and there’s the prospect that democracy could take root in its stead. Some people also believe that anything is better than despotism. But the last decade has shown that there is something worse than dictatorship, worse than the absence of freedom, worse than oppression: civil war and chaos.

NYT: Defying An All-Seeing Eye

NYT: Defying An All-Seeing Eye

“Citizenfour” stands alone in evoking the modern state as an unseen, ubiquitous presence, an abstraction with enormous coercive resources at its disposal. It is everywhere and nowhere, the leviathan whose belly is our native atmosphere. What do we know about what is known about us? Who knows it? Can we trust them? These questions are terrifying, and so is “Citizenfour.”

NYT: Nation’s Confidence Ebbs

NYT: Nation’s Confidence Ebbs

In taking office during two overseas wars and the Great Recession, President Obama set out to restore society’s frayed faith in its public institutions, saying that the question was not whether government was too big or small, “but whether it works.” Six years later, Americans seem more dubious than ever that it really does.

NYT: Dark Market for Personal Data

NYT: Dark Market for Personal Data

It’s unrealistic to expect individuals to inquire, broker by broker, about their files. Instead, we need to require brokers to make targeted disclosures to consumers. Uncovering problems in Big Data (or decision models based on that data) should not be a burden we expect individuals to solve on their own.

TD: The Imperative of Revolt

TD: The Imperative of Revolt

Wolin, who wrote the books “Politics and Vision” and “Democracy Incorporated,” and Saul, who wrote “Voltaire’s Bastards” and “The Unconscious Civilization,” see democratic rituals and institutions, especially in the United States, as largely a facade for unchecked global corporate power.

TG: Why I Won’t Vote This Year – Or Any Year

TG: Why I Won’t Vote This Year – Or Any Year

Participation in the body politic is widely considered to be both a privilege and an imperative to the enlightened urban citizen. To choose otherwise is quite literally heresy – and heretics by and large have a difficult time of it in society. The platitudes I face as a non-voter are known to everyone, precisely because they are platitudes – People have marched for miles! or Immigrants crossed oceans! Understanding the Soviet Union and North Korea gives a bit of insight into human social psychology. No matter how absurd the state line, a huge majority of the populace can be found to promulgate it. Frankly I am baffled that those of us who were nerds in high school now defer to the winners of popularity contests.

NYT: Loss of Eden in London?

NYT: Loss of Eden in London?

The Warburg Institute here has trained generations of scholars, who liken its world-renowned library of Renaissance and post-Classical material to an intellectual paradise. Now many scholars fear for the Warburg’s future over a funding dispute with the University of London. In recent years the Warburg has had to pay the university, which is state-run, an increasingly large percentage of its annual budget to maintain the Bloomsbury mansion that it calls home. Warburg defenders fear this will push the institute into financial ruin.

HP: John Oliver On Drone Strikes

HP: John Oliver On Drone Strikes

If Barack Obama is concerned about the legacy of his presidency, he might want to take a look at Sunday’s episode of “Last Week Tonight.” Not thinking about drones is a luxury many people don’t have, a point made overwhelmingly clear by a clip of a 13-year-old Pakistani boy whose grandmother had been killed by a drone strike. In the clip, Zubair Rehman testifies that he no longer loves blue skies, he prefers grey skies. “The drones do not fly when the skies are grey.” That was enough for John Oliver. “When children from other countries are telling us that we’ve made them fear the sky,” he insisted, “it might be time to ask some hard questions.”

WP: Details About Drones

WP: Details About Drones

The White House is preparing a directive that would require federal agencies to publicly disclose for the first time where they fly drones in the United States and what they do with the torrents of data collected from aerial surveillance. Until now, the armed forces and federal law enforcement agencies have been reflexively secretive about drone flights and even less forthcoming about how often they use the aircraft to conduct domestic surveillance.

DS: Botched Execution

DS: Botched Execution

The horrific execution of Clayton Lockett by lethal injection this spring in Oklahoma took an astonishing 43 minutes to complete. Together with other botched killings, the incident has focused attention on the inexperience and incompetence that now accompanies many executions in America.

RE: 25% of Americans Wish To Secede

RE: 25% of Americans Wish To Secede

For the past few weeks, as Scotland debated the wisdom of independence, Reuters has been asking Americans how they would feel about declaring independence today, not from the United Kingdom, but from the mother country they left England to create. Almost a quarter of those surveyed said they were strongly or provisionally inclined to leave the United States, and take their states with them. The sense of aggrievement is comprehensive, bipartisan, somewhat incoherent, but deeply felt. This should be more than disconcerting; it’s a situation that could get dangerous.

TG: Google Wants To Control Our Lives

TG: Google Wants To Control Our Lives

Page and Brin were clear from the outset: their mission was “to organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”. The crucial thing about that sentence is that there’s no reference to the internet. In some sense, every person, every object, every thought in every brain, everything anyone ever does, is information. Page and Brin told us what Google was up to. We just didn’t take them literally enough.

NYT: Errors and Emissions

NYT: Errors and Emissions

Saving the planet would be cheap; it might even be free. But will anyone believe the good news? Where is the new optimism about climate change and growth coming from? It has long been clear that a well-thought-out strategy of emissions control, in particular one that puts a price on carbon via either an emissions tax or a cap-and-trade scheme, would cost much less than the usual suspects want you to think. But the economics of climate protection look even better now than they did a few years ago.

TD: The Coming Climate Revolt

TD: The Coming Climate Revolt

We have undergone a transformation during the last few decades—what John Ralston Saul calls a corporate coup d’état in slow motion. We are no longer a capitalist democracy endowed with a functioning liberal class that once made piecemeal and incremental reform possible. We are governed, rather, by a species of corporate totalitarianism, or what the political philosopher Sheldon Wolin describes as “inverted totalitarianism.” By this Wolin means a system where corporate power, while it purports to pay fealty to electoral politics, the Constitution, the three branches of government and a free press, along with the iconography and language of American patriotism, has in fact seized all the important levers of power to render the citizen impotent.

HRW: Liberty to Monitor All

HRW: Liberty to Monitor All

How large-scale US surveillance is harming journalism, law, and American democracy. The 120-page report documents how national security journalists and lawyers are adopting elaborate steps or otherwise modifying their practices to keep communications, sources, and other confidential information secure in light of revelations of unprecedented US government surveillance of electronic communications and transactions.

RE: US Minimum Wage Hike?

RE: US Minimum Wage Hike?

President Barack Obama’s push to raise the minimum wage, which has largely found success in liberal-leaning coastal states to date, could make headway in the conservative heartland in the November elections. Voters in several Republican-controlled states will consider ballot initiatives to raise the minimum wage above the national rate of $7.25 per hour.

PS: Let Mid-East Govern Itself

PS: Let Mid-East Govern Itself

After decades of cynical and often secret interventions by the US, Britain, France, Russia, and other outside powers, the Middle East’s political institutions are based largely on corruption, sectarian politics, and brute force. The damage in Libya, Gaza, Syria, and Iraq demands that a political solution be found within the region, not imposed from the outside.

SI: Xbox Controller Controls Giant Laser Cannon

SI: Xbox Controller Controls Giant Laser Cannon

Meet one of the U.S. Army’s newest toys: the High Energy Laser Mobile Demonstrator. It’s “basically a high-energy laser mounted on top of a big truck,” says Wired. It has an unusual feature, though: the laser cannon is controlled with an Xbox video game controller. There’s increasingly little distance between war games and actual war, in which drone pilots describe their jobs as “a lot like playing a video game.” ​

AJA: Age of Rentier Capitalism

AJA: Age of Rentier Capitalism

It is well known that globalization has put strong downward pressure on wages and benefits of workers in wealthy countries, as companies have offshored and outsourced labor to lower-wage locations and justified wage cuts to try to stay competitive. But politicians and economists have yet to come to terms with the fact that in the rich world the income distribution system itself has broken down irretrievably.

TG: Centre for the Study of Existential Risk

TG: Centre for the Study of Existential Risk

The four founders of the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk, cosmologist Martin Rees, Skype co-founder Jaan Tallinn, economic theorist Sir Partha Desgupta and philosopher Huw Price, are in the business of “horizon scanning” – identifying low-probability-but-high-consequence events – and are concerned mainly with risks we have created ourselves – the consequences of being too clever for our own good. One prominent risk is that artificial intelligence (AI) will outcompete our own for predominance, ultimately allowing AI to relate to humans much as humans currently do to chimpanzees. There is also the risk of the deliberate or accidental release of a virus with a modified genome, the adoption of stratospheric aerosol geo-engineering, and the use of 3-D printers to create military-grade weapons.

NYT: ISIS Antiquities Sideline

NYT: ISIS Antiquities Sideline

The territorial gains made by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria have provoked fears that archaeological sites in those countries are being attacked and looted. In extensive conversations with those working and living in areas currently under ISIS control, we learned that ISIS is indeed involved in the illicit antiquities trade, but in a way that is more complex and insidious than we expected.

DS: New Recycling Economy

DS: New Recycling Economy

Every piece of garbage can be turned into raw material that can be used in future products. With his influential Cradle to Cradle movement, Germany’s Michael Braungart espouses a form of eco-hedonism that puts smart production before conservation. In Braungart’s universe, every product is basically designed to either decompose without causing any harm or to be recycled without loss of quality. His vision is of a planet on which no garbage accumulates, because all waste becomes food.

PS: Trouble with Universal Education

PS: Trouble with Universal Education

The world is gearing up to establish a new set of goals for the next 15 years. Given limited resources, policymakers and international organizations must ask themselves: Where can we do the most good? Maximizing the impact of scarce resources on the lives of the world’s poorest people demands tough choices. In an ideal world, universal, high-quality education at all levels would be worth pursuing. But, amid competing demands for basic necessities like health care and potable water, narrower, more cost-effective education targets are essential.

AJA: Death of Our Clown

AJA: Death of Our Clown

Comedy, no less than tragedy, is cathartic, and catharsis requires us to delve deep into the barest and bloodiest facts of our existence. Humor is an antidote to — or at least an analgesic for — a condition we’re all suffering from. I would call this condition clarity, not depression; humor and depression are two different, but not mutually exclusive, responses to it. Depression condemns the world, and us, as hateful; laughter is a way of forgiving it, and ourselves, for being so.

W: Liking Everything on Facebook

W: Liking Everything on Facebook

The like and the favorite are the new metrics of success—very literally. Not only are they ego-feeders for the stuff we put online as individuals, but advertisers track their campaigns on Facebook by how often they are liked. Liking is an economic act. I like everything. Or at least I did, for 48 hours. Literally everything Facebook sent my way, I liked—even if I hated it. I decided to embark on a campaign of conscious liking, to see how it would affect what Facebook showed me. My News Feed took on an entirely new character in a surprisingly short amount of time. After checking in and liking a bunch of stuff over the course of an hour, there were no human beings in my feed anymore. It became about brands and messaging, rather than humans with messages…

AJ: School Nutrition Association

AJ: School Nutrition Association

A bitter fight erupted when the School Nutrition Association decided to oppose nutrition improvements to federally subsidized school meals. Michelle Obama has made the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 one of her top causes. The result is an unfortunate standoff between the White House and the SNA’s current leadership. Why did the SNA reverse its earlier position supporting healthier school meals?

DS: Gaza Youth Radicalization

DS: Gaza Youth Radicalization

Above all else, the recent Gaza conflict has demonstrated that there is no military solution to the problem. Every confrontation in recent years, each new round of reciprocal killings, has pushed more people to the radical fringes. There is no way around the need to improve living conditions in the Gaza Strip, and it is in Israel’s interest to recognize that imperative.

TG: Water the Next Oil

TG: Water the Next Oil

Making money from water? Is this what Wall Street wants next? Bottled mineral water have always existed alongside a robust municipal water system that delivers clean water to the home. This summer, however, myriad business forces are combining to remind us that fresh water isn’t necessarily or automatically a free resource. It could all too easily end up becoming just another economic commodity. At the forefront of this firestorm is Peter Brabeck, chairman and former CEO of Nestle.

TG: Crimes Against Humanity in Gaza

TG: Crimes Against Humanity in Gaza

Late last week, the White House decried Israel’s attack on a UN school in Gaza as “totally unacceptable” and “totally indefensible”, then proceeded to approve $225m in funding for its Iron Dome. On Monday, the US state department went further, calling the airstrikes upon a UN school “disgraceful” – and yet America provides Israel with more than $3.1bn every year, restocking the ability of the Israel Defense Force (IDF) to hit more schools, and to wage total war against an imprisoned people, because of their nationality.

FA: New World Order

FA: New World Order

Recent advances in technology have created an increasingly unified global marketplace for labor and capital. Some have argued that the current era of rapid technological progress serves labor, and some have argued that it serves capital. The real winners of the future will not be the providers of cheap labor or the owners of ordinary capital, both of whom will be increasingly squeezed by automation. Fortune will instead favor a third group: those who can innovate and create new products, services, and business models.

DS: The Children of War

DS: The Children of War

Ahmed is hungry. Eyes closed, he clutches his mother’s breast and drinks, oblivious to everything around him. He ignores the rattling of the ceiling fan, dangling precariously. And he doesn’t notice the dull thuds that cause the walls to shake and his mother, Marwat al-Asasma, to cringe. Sometimes his body trembles, and he balls his tiny hands into fists. Her son now weighs a little over three kilograms (6.6 lbs.), says al-Asasma, 18, and he is healthy and gaining weight. She sounds as if she can hardly believe what she is saying. Ahmed is just over two weeks old — born in the night when the Israelis sent their first tanks to the Gaza Strip border. Ahmed is both a child of the war and one of its victims. Ten days after he was born, he lost his father, his grandparents and his home. His mother doesn’t know how much is left of the family house. She remembers only dust and smoke, but is trying to forget even that.

BIJ: Afghanistan 1000+ Drone Strikes

BIJ: Afghanistan 1000+ Drone Strikes

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism and others have used open sources – media reports, court affidavits, NGO reports and independent field investigations – to piece together a strike-by-strike picture of more than 450 strikes in the US’s covert campaigns, revealing at least 2,681 reported deaths, including 480 people or more who are described as civilians.

MJ: Tracking US Weapons

MJ: Tracking US Weapons

Over the last decade, the United States has provided hundreds of thousands of small arms to the Afghan security forces. But the US and its Afghan counterparts are doing an inadequate job of tracking these weapons increasing the likelihood that they could wind up in the hands of the resurgent Taliban, which has recently made key military advances that are threatening Afghanistan’s fragile stability.

ALA: Facebook’s Data Mining

ALA: Facebook’s Data Mining

The reason Facebook would want data on manipulating users’ emotions should be obvious. It’s the reason the company has been moving in on social location apps, health tracking and the “quantified self” trend of turning one’s lifestyle into a report card of easily digestible numbers. To Facebook, any and all domains of human experience should be accessible for capture and monetization. By buying virtual reality start-up Oculus VR, Facebook is likely setting itself up to harvest and experiment with intimate data from that domain as well.

NYT: Making Government Fail Less

NYT: Making Government Fail Less

Most Americans don’t think of their government as particularly successful. Some of this mistrust reflects a healthy skepticism that Americans have always had toward centralized authority. But much of the mistrust really does reflect the federal government’s frequent failures. And yet there is some good news in this area, too – a flowering of experiments to figure out what works and what doesn’t.

FA: The State of the State

FA: The State of the State

In today’s established and emerging democracies, few people regard government as precious. This cynicism has become commonplace and yet it is actually rather odd. It assumes that the public sector will remain immune from the technological advances and forces of globalization that have ripped apart the private sector. It also ignores the lessons of history: government has changed dramatically over the past few centuries, usually because committed people possessed by big ideas have worked hard to change it.

TG: Best of Capitalism Over

TG: Best of Capitalism Over

The OECD has a clear message for the world: for the rich countries, the best of capitalism is over. For the poor ones – now experiencing the glitter and haze of industrialisation – it will be over by 2060. If you want higher growth, says the OECD, you must accept higher inequality. And vice versa.

PD: Smart Homes Are Creepy

PD: Smart Homes Are Creepy

“The dwellings of the future will make you calmer, safer, richer and healthier,” Time’s cover assured me, soothingly. But taking my head out of the tech press and reading such a broad, consumer level cover-all of the smarter home, I was nagged by the thought that a modern surveillance state isn’t so much being forced on us, as it is sold to us device by device, with the idea that it is for our benefit. Today, where we live, work and shop, who we know and communicate with and what we watch is already in play. With the smart home and its inevitable link into whatever wearable technology eventually becomes popular, we’ll be giving over data on what time we get home, what the climate is inside and outside our home, our diet, weight and hygiene habits, where we are in the house at any given moment, the actual time we go to bed, what lights we like to have turned on and what resources we consume. Calmer, safer, richer and healthier? Try, quantified, coddled, surveilled, and monetized.

WP: NSA Spying 90% on Ordinary People

WP: NSA Spying 90% on Ordinary People

Ordinary Internet users, American and non-American alike, far outnumber legally targeted foreigners in the communications intercepted by the National Security Agency from U.S. digital networks. Nine of 10 account holders found in a large cache of intercepted conversations were not the intended surveillance targets but were caught in a net the agency had cast for somebody else. The material, provided by Snowden to The Washington Post spans President Obama’s first term, a period of exponential growth for the NSA’s domestic collection.

PM: Pitchforks Coming for Plutocrats

PM: Pitchforks Coming for Plutocrats

Zillionaire Plutocrat Nick Hanauer calls for higher minimum wage: Seeing where things are headed is the essence of entrepreneurship. And what do I see in our future now? I see pitchforks. Our country is rapidly becoming less a capitalist society and more a feudal society. Unless our policies change dramatically, the middle class will disappear, and we will be back to late 18th-century France. Before the revolution.

PM: Myth of US Golden Age

PM: Myth of US Golden Age

The Obamians seem bewildered that the country is not more thankful to its government for having prevented another Great Depression. They saved the banks, and in doing so, they saved the economy from a once-in-a-hundred-year storm. And they proudly point out that all the money given to the financial sector has been more than repaid. But in making such claims, they ignore some critical realities.

WRI: People-Oriented Cities

WRI: People-Oriented Cities

Taking a transit-oriented development approach can make public transport not just viable, but effective in its implementation. Three key elements of urban design support quality public transport, and can help cities move towards a transit-oriented development model. City leaders must reshape the roadways connecting communities within cities; create density around public transport to fuel demand; and design facilities that ensure safe and user-friendly transport systems.

PS: The World Cup’s Sickening Message

PS: The World Cup’s Sickening Message

One billion people watched the opening match of the FIFA World Cup in São Paulo, Brazil, and hundreds of millions more will tune in at some point during the month-long tournament. For FIFA’s six major partners and the event’s eight official sponsors, this audience is nothing short of a gold mine. Indeed, they pay tens of millions of dollars in the hope that some of the magic of the “beautiful game” will rub off on their brands. For viewers, that is probably not a good thing. Sponsorship by companies like Budweiser, McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, and the food giant Moy Park brings millions of dollars to the game. But what message does it send to the global audience? Promoting alcohol, sugary drinks, and fast food may mean massive profits for corporations, but it also means worse health for individuals and a costly burden on countries’ health-care systems.

IPS: What Piketty Forgot

IPS: What Piketty Forgot

Piketty is right that our political economy favors the growth of inequality, and that inequality in turn poisons our politics. But while we should aspire to create a society that shares its prosperity, we need to address a much bigger gap than the one between rich and poor. We need to address the gap between what’s demanded by our planet and what’s demanded by our economy.

Oxfam: Ending Poverty and Suffering

Oxfam: Ending Poverty and Suffering

Two major injustices – inequality and climate change – are threatening to undermine the efforts of millions of people to escape poverty and hunger. By concentrating wealth and power in the hands of a few, inequality robs the poorest people of the support they need to improve their lives. And as climate change devastates crops and livelihoods, it undoes poor people’s efforts to feed their families.

BBC: Global Refugee Crisis

BBC: Global Refugee Crisis

The number of people living as refugees from war or persecution exceeded 50 million in 2013, for the first time since World War Two, the UN says. Large numbers of refugees and IDPs fleeing to new areas inevitably put a strain on resources, and can even destabilise a host country and the burden of caring for refugees is increasingly falling on the countries with the least resources.

WP: Actually, Miss USA Is Right

WP: Actually, Miss USA Is Right

Nia Sanchez, a black belt in taekwondo, waded into fraught waters when she told Miss USA judge Rumer Willis that teaching women self-defense could help reduce sexual assaults on college campuses. Within hours, some anti-rape activists were blasting Sanchez as victim-blaming and anti-feminist. In the face of what the American Medical Association has called an “epidemic” of sexual violence there are things all people can do to increase safety for ourselves and for one another. The White House was wrong to omit self-defense from its prevention recommendations to college campuses and Miss USA was right to endorse it.

TG: Legal Mass Surveillance

TG: Legal Mass Surveillance

The UK government’s most senior security official, Charles Farr, detailed how searches on Google, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, as well as emails to or from non-British citizens abroad, can be monitored by the security services because they are deemed to be “external communications”. It is the first time that the government has admitted that UK citizens, talking via supposedly private channels in social media such as Twitter direct messages, are deemed by the British government to be legitimate legal targets that do not require a warrant before intercepting.

AJA: Trickle Down Surveillance

AJA: Trickle Down Surveillance

Cell site simulators, also known as “stingrays,” are devices that trick cellphones into reporting their locations and identifying information. Initially the domain of the National Security Agency (NSA) and other intelligence agencies, the use of stingrays has trickled down to federal, state and local law enforcement. This sort of invasive surveillance raises serious questions about whether our tax dollars are funding violations of the U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment.

FPIF: Participatory Totalitarianism

FPIF: Participatory Totalitarianism

If surveillance was monaural during the Cold War and became stereophonic in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, it is now quadrophonic. It can’t be reduced to the activity of a single state or even a particular government-industrial complex. We are all now embedded in a veritable matrix of surveillance. It has become surround sound. In the Communist era, Hungarian writer Miklos Haraszti wrote about what he called the “velvet prison.” We are at home in the new surveillance state, for we barely register all the cameras, all the targeted advertising, all the intrusions into what had previously been considered sacred private space. We are not passive objects of observation. We are active subjects of our own YouTube channels.

NYT: War Gear for US Police

NYT: War Gear for US Police

During the Obama administration, according to Pentagon data, police departments have received tens of thousands of machine guns; nearly 200,000 ammunition magazines; thousands of pieces of camouflage and night-vision equipment; and hundreds of silencers, armored cars and aircraft.

NYT: What’s Lost as Handwriting Fades

NYT: What’s Lost as Handwriting Fades

Does handwriting matter? Not very much, according to many educators. But psychologists and neuroscientists say it is far too soon to declare handwriting a relic of the past. New evidence suggests that children not only learn to read more quickly when they first learn to write by hand, but they also remain better able to generate ideas and retain information. In other words, it’s not just what we write that matters but how – printing, cursive writing, and typing on a keyboard are all associated with distinct and separate brain patterns and each results in a distinct end product. Researchers have found that when children compose text by hand, they not only consistently produce more words more quickly than they on a keyboard, but express more ideas. There may even be a difference between printing and cursive writing – a distinction of particular importance as the teaching of cursive disappears in curriculum after curriculum.

AN: Obama Enemy of Press Freedom

AN: Obama Enemy of Press Freedom

While Attorney General Eric Holder recently pledged that under his watch, journalists will not go to jail, the administration has continued to use the judicial system to harass journalists into revealing their sources. Journalists and press freedom advocates say the administration’s war on journalists has chilled national security reporting, with potential sources afraid to speak to reporters for fear of being prosecuted.

AN: US Surveillance State

AN: US Surveillance State

Policy must assure the security of state authority and concentrations of domestic power, defending them from a frightening enemy: the domestic population. Information about the enemy makes a critical contribution to controlling it. Obama’s contributions have reached unprecedented levels.

AN: Social Death Penalty

AN: Social Death Penalty

  The Social Death Penalty: Why Being Ostracized Hurts Even More Than Bullying In the wake of Elliot Rodger, questions about social rejection take on new urgency. By Lynn Stuart Parramore, June 2 2014. In recent years, bullying and harassment at work and in school have been grabbing headlines, creating greater awareness. But there’s a […]

NYT: Faking Cultural Literacy

NYT: Faking Cultural Literacy

It’s never been so easy to pretend to know so much without actually knowing anything. We pick topical, relevant bits from Facebook, Twitter or emailed news alerts, and regurgitate them. What matters to us is not necessarily having actually consumed content but having a position on it. We come perilously close to knowledgeability that is really a new model of know-nothingness.

TN: US Race Segregation Getting Worse

TN: US Race Segregation Getting Worse

Progress is an essential tenet of America’s civic religion. But as with any religion, when faith is pitted against experience, faith generally wins. And at that point, optimism begins to look suspiciously like delusion. If the civil rights movement had been about getting black faces in new and high places, its work would now be done. But it wasn’t. It was about equality. And the problem is not that we still have a great deal of progress to be made or that progress is too slow—it’s that we are regressing. In many areas, America is becoming more separate and less equal.

AN: Outdoor Schools Make Kids Smarter

AN: Outdoor Schools Make Kids Smarter

The original kindergarten —the children’s garden—conceived by German educator Friedrich Froebel in the 19th century, was a place where children learned through play, often in nature. That idea is fast eroding. Instead children are focusing on a narrowing range of literacy and math. In the face of this indoor-ification of early childhood, a cultural and educational movement is emerging—focused on new approaches to nature-based education. The many skills children develop through play, particularly the self-control practiced and refined in imaginary play, are related to long-term academic achievement. Outdoor play can also remedy behavioral problems leading to lower arrest rates. Teachers and parents of children in nature preschools and forest kindergartens are finding that mastering puddles is just as important as learning letters in preparing children to find their way through the smartboard jungle.

NYT: Writing About a Life of Ideas

NYT: Writing About a Life of Ideas

When an intellectual dies, there are no heaps of flowers or public mournings. The odd wistful editorial will be written in upmarket newspapers; colloquia organized in ivy-clad colleges. Few Americans will know, for instance, that Ronald Dworkin, a formidable figure in American liberal philosophy, died last year.

NYT: Medicated Kids

NYT: Medicated Kids

More than 10,000 American toddlers 2 or 3 years old are being medicated for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder outside established pediatric guidelines, according to data presented on Friday by an official at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

TG: Greenwald Distrusts UK

TG: Greenwald Distrusts UK

There’s only one country that has been consciously excluded from Glenn Greenwald’s tour – in fact, only one country in the world that he says he absolutely will not visit. It is the UK. The wounds left by the detention under the Terrorism Act of his partner, Miranda, at Heathrow airport last August, are still open and deep.

FA: Killer Robots

FA: Killer Robots

Offensive “Terminator-style” autonomous robots that are programmed to kill could soon escape Hollywood science fiction and become reality. This actual rise of the machines raises important strategic, moral, and legal questions about whether the international community should empower robots to kill.

BBC: The Slow Death of Purposeless Walking

BBC: The Slow Death of Purposeless Walking

A number of recent books have lauded the connection between walking – just for its own sake – and thinking. Wordsworth was a walker. Charles Dickens was a walker. Henry David Thoreau walked and walked and walked. But are people losing their love of the purposeless walk? This is the era of the “smartphone map zombie” – people who only take occasional glances away from an electronic routefinder to avoid stepping in anything or being hit by a car. But you don’t have to be an author to see the value of walking. Walking requires a certain amount of attention but it leaves great parts of the time open to thinking.

AJA: 21st Century Capitalism Can’t Last

AJA: 21st Century Capitalism Can’t Last

Pitketty’s book presents a simple thesis: Unchecked, capitalism’s natural dynamics lead to an unequal concentration of wealth. This trend is increasing at a rapid rate; absent a wealth-destroying catastrophe such as war or depression or powerful new egalitarian political movements, we can expect that to continue. We’ve stumbled into another Gilded Age. Which leads to the obvious question: What can be done?

AJA: Water Privatization Despite Risks

AJA: Water Privatization Despite Risks

Humans can survive weeks without food, but only days or hours without water. Water is life. So what happens when private companies control the spigot? Evidence from water privatization projects around the world paints a pretty clear picture: Skyrocketing water prices, unsafe supply, failing infrastructure. These problems fall disproportionately on the most vulnerable among us. This is why public institutions, not private corporations, must lead the development of water systems and delivery.

NYT: Game of Drones

NYT: Game of Drones

Given the privacy breaches of Google and Facebook, and their collusion with N.S.A. spying, we can be forgiven for some skepticism about what happens when the omnivorous and omniscient tech behemoths acquire the extra-judicial killing machines. Can we really trust Google, who stole millions of the world’s books and whose Street View vehicles secretly scooped up data around the world, with drones?

AN: US Warp Speed Decline

AN: US Warp Speed Decline

If America needed a reminder that it is fast becoming a second-rate nation, and that every economic policy of the Republican Party is wrongheaded, it got one this week with the release of the Social Progress Index (SPI). America’s rapid descent into impoverished nation status is the inevitable result of unchecked corporate capitalism. By every measure, we look like a broken banana republic. In The World As It Is, Chris Hedges writes, “Our anemic democracy will be replaced with a robust national police state. The elite will withdraw into heavily guarded gated communities where they will have access to security, goods, and services that cannot be afforded by the rest of us. Tens of millions of people, brutally controlled, will live in perpetual poverty.”

WP: Secret Food Ingredients

WP: Secret Food Ingredients

Food manufacturers are routinely exploiting a “legal loophole” that allows them to use new chemicals in their products, based on their own safety studies, without ever notifying the Food and Drug Administration, according to a new report by an environmental and consumer advocacy group.

AN: US Inheritance Explosion

AN: US Inheritance Explosion

Inheritances and gifts have always played a big role in the distribution of wealth, accounting for about a quarter of total household wealth in the U.S. That’s a lot, but it may be nothing compared to what’s coming if we stay on the current path.

TG: Beware Surveillance Reform

TG: Beware Surveillance Reform

Stopping the government from holding onto of all Americans’ phone metadata would undoubtedly be a good thing for American privacy, but if you read between the legislative lines in the recent reform bills, the government might not be curtailing mass surveillance so much as permanently entrenching it in American law.

TG: Reforming the NSA

TG: Reforming the NSA

Ten months after Edward Snowden revealed that the NSA was collecting US telephone records in bulk, three sets of proposals have emerged to change the way the agency operates. All would end the data collection program in its current form, but there are crucial differences between the rival plans. We take a look at how the proposals compare.

AFP: When Bare Breasts Are a Problem But Violence Against Women is Not

AFP: When Bare Breasts Are a Problem But Violence Against Women is Not

The Femen group’s signature style of direct action is to show up at rallies or places in the news and bare their breasts, which typically are adorned with very direct slogans. The images generated from a Femen protest are often compelling and have real news value. Frequently, the photos capture male heavy-handedness as security forces or angry protesters confront the topless women. In early March AFP posted a picture of a Femen activist on its Facebook page but decided to censor the nipple to make sure not to violate Facebook’s nudity standards. But as several people commented under the picture, it is a strange paradox that it seems OK to show a photograph of violence against a woman, but not to let people see her chosen means of protest (toplessness.)

TD: The Data Snatchers

TD: The Data Snatchers

By 2020 there could be over 30 billion devices connected to the Internet. Once dumb, they will have smartened up thanks to sensors and other technologies embedded in them and, thanks to your machines, your life will quite literally have gone online. Techno-evangelists have a nice catchphrase for this future utopia of machines and the never-ending stream of information, known as Big Data, it produces: the Internet of Things. With the rise of the networked device, what people do in their homes, in their cars, in stores, and within their communities will be monitored and analyzed in ever more intrusive ways by corporations. Yes, imagine it. Welcome to a world where everything you do is collected, stored, analyzed, and, more often than not, packaged and sold to strangers — including government agencies.

AN: Police Kill More Than Terrorists Do

AN: Police Kill More Than Terrorists Do

Public indifference to “civilian” casualties in police actions highlights a disconnect: The public perceives rampant crime while the actual crime report suggests nothing of the sort. While the militarization of law enforcement has little or no relation to the falling crime rate, there is reason to fear that it is eroding our constitutionally protected rights

WHO: Air Pollution and Death

WHO: Air Pollution and Death

In new estimates released today, WHO reports that in 2012 around 7 million people died – one in eight of total global deaths – as a result of air pollution exposure. This finding more than doubles previous estimates and confirms that air pollution is now the world’s largest single environmental health risk.

AJA: Failure to Protect

AJA: Failure to Protect

The FISA court and intelligence committees were supposed to be bulwarks against the dangers of secret spying programs but the shortcomings of these institutions are now clear. It’s troubling to think about all the times the CIA interfered with congressional oversight without so much as a public peep from Feinstein or her colleagues.

PS: Innovation Enigma

PS: Innovation Enigma

Around the world, there is enormous enthusiasm for the type of technological innovation symbolized by Silicon Valley. In this view, America’s ingenuity represents its true comparative advantage, which others strive to imitate. But there is a puzzle: it is difficult to detect the benefits of this innovation in GDP statistics.

NYT: Unhealthy Meat Market

NYT: Unhealthy Meat Market

Factory farming has devastating consequences to animals, human health, and the socio-economic wellbeing of rural America. It’s easy to criticize the current model of industrial agriculture, far harder to outline a viable alternative. A starting point is to recognize bluntly that our industrial food system is unhealthy.

TG: Swearing Responsibly

TG: Swearing Responsibly

In Britain, fear of vulgarity is considered the preserve of the terminally vulgar. Britain leads the world in precious little these days, but it does, undoubtedly, set the standard for swearing, the very definition perhaps of being all mouth and no trousers. For this reason, squeamishness about swearing in the US is perceived by some as a collective expression of social unease.

Slate: Anti-Protest Bill

Slate: Anti-Protest Bill

In short, citizen protests puncture the pretty, patriotic illusion of a focus-grouped, Photoshopped media event, and replace it with the gritty patriotic reality of democracy in action. That’s why the teeny cosmetic changes to Section 1752, which purport to be about new kinds of security, are really all about optics.

NYT: CA Plastic Bag Ban

NYT: CA Plastic Bag Ban

A companion to shoppers for a half-century, the plastic bag is now under siege in California, where a growing number of policy makers have come to regard it as a symbol of environmental wastefulness. Lawmakers in Sacramento are trying to make California the first state to approve a blanket ban on this most ubiquitous of consumer products.

NYT: Lego Meta-Marketing

NYT: Lego Meta-Marketing

The brilliance of “The Lego Movie” lies in providing every piece to the modern branding puzzle, including the surface-level subversion. In this way, “The Lego Movie” graduates to a new skill level in the game of branding, an approach that’s at once more grandiose and more pernicious than ever. It should probably be a red flag that the most memorable line from “The Lego Movie” is pretty much the central message of any great marketing campaign: This product will deliver you from averageness. But somehow it still works. In the movie’s final moments, big tears stream down my face. I am weeping over a 90-minute infomercial. With enough cleverness and induced vertigo, the mad geniuses of branding never have to be the bad guys again. All they have to say is: You are special.

CP: On Academic Labor

CP: On Academic Labor

Noam Chomsky discusses issues related to the breakdown of our educational system, specifically he discusses hiring faculty off the tenure track, how higher education ought to be, “shared governance” and worker control, the alleged need for labor “flexibility”, the purpose of education, and the love of teaching.

BI: State of the Int’l Order

BI: State of the Int’l Order

The State of the International Order report assesses international cooperation in the economic, diplomatic and security realms five years after the global financial crisis and over a decade after the invasion of Iraq. In gauging the state of the order, we ask two questions: What are the material realities shaping the options faced by the great powers? What are the issue-by-issue interactions that are revealing or shaping the content of great power relations, and international order more generally?

NC: Creating the World We Want

NC: Creating the World We Want

People often want to know what the movement for social and economic justice wants. Occupy Wall Street issued its Declaration of the Occupation of New York City which laid out a series of grievances. But, in addition to knowing what we oppose, we need to define what we stand for. If we do not like big finance capitalism, what will take the place of the current economy?

NYT: Benefits of a Higher Wage

NYT: Benefits of a Higher Wage

Republicans sputtered with outrage when the Congressional Budget Office said that immigration reform would lower the deficit, strengthen Social Security and speed up economic growth. What Republicans fail to mention is that Tuesday’s report from the budget office, a federal nonpartisan agency, was almost entirely positive about the benefits of raising the minimum wage to $10.10 by 2016.

NC: Dangerous Ingredients

NC: Dangerous Ingredients

Putting aside GMOs for the moment, how many of the groceries sold at Walmart would never be stocked on Whole Foods shelves? The 78 ingredients on their blacklist end up comprising over 54% of all the foods sold in Walmart stores. What’s more, approximately 97% of the soft drinks/soda sold at Walmart contain ingredients that Whole Foods considers “unacceptable.”

TM: Shadows of Liberty

TM: Shadows of Liberty

Ninety percent of American media is controlled by five big, for-profit-conglomerates, creating a media monopoly of informational and social control never before possible. Shadows of Liberty reveals the hidden machinations of the news media, drawing into focus the vast mechanisms of censorship, cover-ups, and corporate control that have been built up over many decades.

AJA: Free Speech and Terrorism

AJA: Free Speech and Terrorism

Working toward social justice requires the courageous protest by a minority to help the majority gain the wisdom necessary to change; criminalizing social activity that leads to crucial discussions about how to minimize suffering and terror, and labeling that activity a form of terrorism, is contrary to the values necessary for a healthy democracy.

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