October 5, 2017 in 4,232 words

No awards for lightbulbs, mobile phones, and the internet (or autonomous vehicles, solar panels, and lithium-ion batteries)

Why is there no Nobel Prize in technology?

Sorry, Elon

As the world focuses its attention on this year’s recipients of the planet’s most prestigious prize, the Nobel, it feels like something’s missing from the list: technology.

Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel established the prizes more than century ago with the instruction that his entire estate be used to endow “prizes to those who, during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit to mankind.” The categories laid out in his will—physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, and peace—have remained the basis of the awards, and a prize for economics was added in 1968.

But life has changed dramatically in the 118 years since Nobel died. Since the first prize was given in 1901, the industrial era has passed and the information age is now well and truly upon us. Humanity has become an urban species, with more than half the world now living in cities, carbon pollution has pushed greenhouse gases to the highest concentrations ever recorded, and the mobile phone has become the quickest and biggest technology uptake in human history. Almost 4 billion people are now online, and since 2015, data flows have driven more global economic growth than the entire physical goods trade.

Technology is at the source of all these changes, yet there’s still no prize for technologists. No prizes for the automobile, lightbulb, plane, mobile phone, or the internet. None for the inventor of the modern combine harvester or the team that sequenced the first human genome. Despite being responsible for inventions that have fundamentally altered the course of human history, no recognition for the genius of Nikola Tesla or Thomas Edison.

‘Death spiral’: Tillerson makes nice but may not last long with Trump

The moment was as remarkable as it was unprecedented: A sitting U.S. secretary of state took to the microphone to pledge his fealty to the president — despite his well-documented unhappiness in the job and the growing presumption in Washington that he is a short-timer.

Rex Tillerson said Wednesday he would stay as long as President Trump wants him to, and Trump said he has “full confidence” in the former ExxonMobil chief executive. Shortly afterward, Tillerson’s spokeswoman also felt compelled to publicly deny an NBC News report that Tillerson had called the president a “moron,” and she said he was determined to remain in his job.

But Tillerson’s move on Wednesday to reassure Trump of his convictions may well be too little and too late for the long term, according to the accounts of 19 current and former senior administration officials and Capitol Hill aides, most of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to offer candid assessments.

The already tense relationship between the two headstrong men — one a billionaire former real estate developer, the other a former captain of the global oil industry — has ruptured into what some White House officials call an irreparable breach that will inevitably lead to Tillerson’s departure, whether immediately or not. Tillerson’s dwindling cohort of allies say he has been given an impossible job and is doing his best with it.

Our addiction to links is making good journalism harder to read


Go ahead and click—who knows what you’ll get?

One day in the not-too-distant past, a handful of scientists had a novel idea: connect computers around the world to make learning faster and easier. They built a simple framework of digital pages with hyperlinks from one to another. It turned into a pretty big deal.

The internet has revolutionized the way we communicate and learn. It has also been an unmitigated disaster for our brains.

We’re incapable of processing the infinite information with which we’re presented — yet we’re bombarded with more because our constant engagement translates into popularity, prestige and advertising dollars for publishers. Every time we open a browser or swipe a phone, we might as well be sitting down at a shiny, spinning slot machine.

The building blocks of the web have become its intellectual Achilles’ heel. Links have turned against us, and they’re making it impossible to read and learn.

I know, you got here via a link. There’s even one link in this article (it’s at the end, with a clearly defined destination, and you’ll know if it’s useful for you before you get there). Links are crucial for navigation and seem instinctively useful to journalism. But when they’re embedded within an article that should be a calm, focused learning experience, they are a gateway to distraction and information addiction.

Opinion / / Inexplicable Las Vegas Shooting Highlights Right-wing Addiction to Islamic Terror

Right-wingers such as Netanyahu and Trump use terrorism as tool to whip up support isolate rivals and win elections

U.S. First Lady Melania Trump, President Donald Trump, Vice President Pence and U.S. Second Lady Karen Pence on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, D.C., Oct. 2, 2017.

The man who perpetrated the horrific massacre in Las Vegas this week was converted to Islam before his name became known, and he continues to convert after his death as well. Numerous news and social media sites that cater to the right willingly succumbed to reports that 64-year-old Stephen Paddock of Mesquite, Nevada had turned into a devout Muslim without any of his relatives or acquaintances knowing about it. At first they relied on Israel’s Reshet Bet, which reported that Paddock was actually Samir al-Hajib, who converted at the age of 20. Then ISIS itself got into the act, anointing the killer as Abd al-Bar al-Ameriki, “a soldier in the service of Islam” who had answered the call to “harm the countries of the Crusader coalition.

The political motives of those who are desperately seeking a link between Paddock and Islam, from Donald Trump on down, are clear and obvious. A mass killing that has no connection to Islam gives American liberals a battering ram to assault right-wing support for free guns for all. Islamic terror, on the other hand, exempts the right from the need to provide excuses or explanations and gives it an instrument with which to whip up public rage, call for closing the ranks against a common enemy and condemn all those who don’t join the choir as collaborators who are stabbing America in the back.

Though the right hates to be reminded of it, radical Islam is often its best friend. America’s humiliation by Khomeini revolutionaries in Tehran helped Ronald Reagan beat Jimmy Carter in 1980. The war against Al-Qaida after the 9/11 atrocities pushed George Bush to a second term in 2004. A comprehensive study carried out by the Rand Corporation almost a decade ago found that terror attacks that were carried out within three months of elections added an additional 1.35 percent of the vote to the Israeli right, a bonus big enough to give the Likud’s Yitzhak Shamir the edge in the 1988 elections and to make Benjamin Netanyahu prime minister by a razor-thin margin in 1996. Perhaps more than any other leader in the world, Netanyahu is a prime example of how a talented and eloquent right-wing leader can climb to the top on the back of Islamic terror, and then stay there for what is beginning to seem like eternity.

But the reliance of the right on Islamic terror isn’t simply tactical. It is essential to its core identity and addictive as a hard drug. The existence of an evil and dangerous enemy buttresses the simplistic right wing view of the world as a battle between black and white, good and evil, for us or against us, with no middle ground in between. The battle against Islamic terror allows the right to foster nationalism, chauvinism and hatred of foreigners, which are all part of its essence as well as tools that serve its purposes.

Protecting Heroin Clinics From Prosecution

The next district attorney of Philadelphia plans to condone safe-injection sites, where people can use the drug under medical supervision.

Heroin paraphernalia at an encampment in Kensington, a neighborhood in Philadelphia. The text asks people to “tip” those who help administer injections.

The rolling green lawn, jungle gym, and quaint public library inside McPherson Square in the city’s Kensington neighborhood attracts both families from the neighborhood and people from across the country with opioid addictions. The small park, like the streets around it, has become a destination for so-called “drug tourists” in recent years, drawn by the plentiful supply of heroin sold here and the growing community of those addicted to it.

From her nearby stoop, 27-year-old Sherly Parede told me she regularly sees people injecting heroin in and around the park. “They usually do it in front of whoever,” she explained, though she doesn’t think her three small children have witnessed it. When they walk past someone nodding off, Parede said, “I just tell them they aren’t feeling well.”

Lately, stakeholders in Philadelphia have contemplated whether the city could shift this drug use out of sight and into safer environs by opening clinics where people can use heroin under the supervision of trained medical staff. Similar government-run facilities are found in Canada and Europe, and officials in Seattle, New York, and San Francisco—among others—are considering opening their own. But Philadelphia’s presumptive next district attorney thinks his city could take a different route—becoming the first in the country to have privately run clinics protected by the prosecutors’ office.

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney began weighing the prospect of city-run clinics earlier this year; he plans to send a delegation to observe an existing site this fall, likely one in Vancouver. Larry Krasner, the Democratic nominee for DA who’s expected to win his race in November, has proposed circumventing this exploratory process. After announcing his support for the clinics last month—a key victory for advocates—he told me he’d legally condone them in advance of any action from Kenney’s government.

Court orders Trump administration reinstate Obama emissions rule

Interior department had moved to delay to 2019 methane regulation governing oil and gas production on federal land.

Rule forces energy companies to capture methane burnt off or ‘flared’ at drilling sites on public lands.

Rebuffing the Trump administration, a federal judge on Wednesday ordered the Interior Department to reinstate an Obama-era regulation aimed at restricting harmful methane emissions from oil and gas production on federal lands.

The order by a judge in San Francisco came as the Interior Department moved to delay the rule until 2019, saying it was too burdensome to industry. The action followed an earlier effort by the department to postpone part of the rule set to take effect next year.

US Magistrate Judge Elizabeth Laporte of the northern district of California said the department had failed to give a “reasoned explanation” for the changes and had not offered details why an earlier analysis by the Obama administration was faulty. She ordered the entire rule reinstated immediately.

The rule, finalized last November, forces energy companies to capture methane that’s burnt off or “flared” at drilling sites on public lands during production because it pollutes the environment. An estimated $330m a year in methane is wasted through leaks or intentional releases on federal lands, enough to power about 5m homes a year.

5 Devastatingly Brilliant Insults (Involving Famous People)

Sick burns are not confined to the realms of skate parks and unsupervised kitchens. The internet has made it possible for anyone to slam a hated foe or rando with an incorrect opinion on the other side of the world. Weirdly, some of the people most adept at this sacred rite are celebrities. Consider these famous roast machines …

#5. Roger Ebert Savagely Dunked On A Pretentious Filmmaker

Back in 2003, director Vincent Gallo decided to make a movie about a motorcycle racer on the run from his demons and called it The Brown Bunny. You probably haven’t seen it, and we’re comfortable spoiling it because you’re also probably not going to watch it. There’s an awful lot of rape, and everything in it was a dream, and it is a terrible movie, and you’re welcome.

Also, the poster’s the wrong color.

Predictably, the film’s debut at the Cannes Film Festival visibly shook its audience. Critic Roger Ebert was in attendance, and would later report that Gallo himself apologized to journalists for putting them through the mess. But Gallo denied this, and later said: “I never apologized for anything in my life. I like the movie. I had 100% creative and financial control over it, and if I didn’t like it, I would have changed it … The only thing I am sorry about is putting a curse on Roger Ebert’s colon. If a fat pig like Roger Ebert doesn’t like my movie then I’m sorry for him.”

Ebert — who, to be fair, probably did devastate a few buffets in his time — didn’t take that kindly. Moreover, as a man with intimate familiarity with his own colon, he had a perfect angle for a response: “Gallo has put the heebie-jeebie on my colon and prostate. I am not too worried. I had a colonoscopy once, and they let me watch it on TV. It was more entertaining than The Brown Bunny.”

Lovely! And this isn’t just a series of jokes about poop-chutes (you can get those in any other Cracked article). No, something inspiring happened next! Gallo reconsidered his stance and made substantial edits to the movie. And Ebert re-reviewed it, and gave the new version a thumbs-up. It’s nice when things work out in the end, unlike most journeys involving the haunted passage that was Roger Ebert’s colon.

The right to bear arms: what does the second amendment really mean?

Its words have fueled centuries of debate – and not until 2008 did the supreme court clearly back an individual’s right to keep a weapon at home for self-defense.

Mourners in Newtown, Connecticut, hold signs during a solidarity vigil in memory of victims of the Las Vegas shooting.

The second amendment has become a badge and bumper sticker, a shield for gun activists and scripture for much of the American right. But like other cherished texts, it is not as clear as many make it out to be.

The amendment reads: “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”

For most of the republic’s lifespan, from 1791 to 2008, those commas and clauses were debated by attorneys and senators, slave owners and freedmen, judges, Black Panthers, governors and lobbyists. For some, the militia was key; for others the right that shall not be infringed; for yet others, the question of states versus the federal government. For the most part, the supreme court stayed out it.

“Americans have been thinking about the second amendment as an individual right for generations,” said Adam Winkler, a law professor at UCLA and author of Gunfight: The Battle over the Right to Bear Arms in America. “You can find state supreme courts in the mid-1800s where judges say the second amendment protects an individual right.”

But for the 70 years or so before a supreme court decision in 2008, he said, “the supreme court and federal courts held that it only applied in the context of militias, the right of states to protect themselves from federal interference”.

In 2008, the supreme court decided the District of Columbia v Heller, 5-4 , overturning a handgun ban in the city. The conservative justice Antonin Scalia wrote the opinion in narrow but unprecedented terms: for the first time in the country’s history, the supreme court explicitly affirmed an individual’s right to keep a weapon at home for self-defense.

Five things you could do right now to reduce gun violence in America

Political deadlock over gun control can make it feel like nothing will change but some actions could be taken today without a single vote in Congress.

One of the most dangerous myths of America’s gun debate is that passing federal gun control laws is the only way to prevent gun violence and save lives – and that therefore the issue is hopeless and nothing will change.

That’s a convenient excuse for apathy, but it’s not true. In fact, there are many different avenues to preventing gun violence. Very few of them rely completely on politicians in Washington. No matter where you live, there are steps you can take to prevent violence and make the people around you safer.

Here are five ways to reduce gun deaths and injuries in America that don’t require a single vote from Congress.

1. Demand that your city use data-driven strategies to reduce violence

More than 25% of America’s gun homicides happen in neighborhoods that contain just 1.5% of the country’s total population. The Live Free campaign and the Community Justice Reform Coalition are working to organize the communities most intensely impacted by violence. These activists believe that that making neighborhoods safer requires addressing gun violence, police shootings and criminal justice reform at the same time – not as competing issues.

2. Strengthen your state’s approach to guns and domestic violence

Tougher state-level gun laws for keeping firearms out of the hands of domestic violence abusers were associated with two fewer domestic gun homicides per state per year, according to a 2006 study. Experts say making sure police departments are enforcing these laws appropriately is also essential.

Las Vegas survivors furious as YouTube promotes clips calling shooting a hoax

‘When I see my wife fighting for her life with a gunshot wound to her chest and my daughter was also shot, it’s pretty conclusive evidence that it did happen’

YouTube said the video shown above did not violate its standards.

YouTube is promoting conspiracy theory videos claiming that the Las Vegas mass shooting was a hoax, outraging survivors and victims’ families, in the latest case of tech companies spreading offensive propaganda.

It’s only been days since a gunman inside the Mandalay Bay hotel opened fire on a music festival, killing 58 people and injuring more than 500. But videos questioning whether the shooting really happened and claiming that the government has lied about basic facts have already garnered millions of views on YouTube and are continuing to run rampant.

It appears YouTube is actively helping these videos reach wide audiences. Searching for “Las Vegas shooting videos” immediately leads to a wide range of viral videos suggesting that law enforcement and others have purposefully deceived the public. Some label the tragedy a “false flag”, a term conspiracy theorists typically use to refer to mass shootings they say are staged by the government to advance gun control.

Stephen Melanson, whose wife and daughter were both shot in the attack, told the Guardian he believed YouTube should take down videos suggesting the deadliest mass shooting in modern US history had been faked.

American History, Marked and Unmarked

A collection of photographs shows that reckoning with the past remains as urgent as ever.

Prayer for the Ancestors, Rockaway Beach, Queens, New York, 2010

Seven years ago, my brother Andrew began traveling around the United States, seeking out historic sites that were already memorialized—that is, clearly marked. But he soon discovered that some of the most interesting places of memory had no sign, no marker, no candlelit vigil. They remained unmarked. Andrew is a photographer; I’m a historian. We see the world through different lenses. But we both understood that just as people make their own history, they also make their own memory-practices. Some of the most powerful photographs in the book that our collaboration produced—Marked, Unmarked, Remembered—capture the collective efforts of individuals and communities to refuse to let memory rest or disappear.

Such active forms of commemoration come in many guises. It might be a contemplative moment of a former internee visiting a Japanese American internment camp from World War Two. Or the insistence of West Virginia coal miners that their community, and not the coal company responsible for the deaths of their fellow miners, should commemorate their fallen comrades. Another example is the impromptu memorial to Mike Brown thrown up like a revolutionary barricade on the streets of Ferguson.

The photographs here of the annual prayer for those who perished in the Middle Passage; of Juneteenth, the celebration of Texas slave emancipation in Galveston; and of Jesse Washington’s descendants’ demand for recognition on the 2016 centenary of his horrific lynching in Waco, Texas, all represent instances of the active, forceful, and insistent practice of remembering that marks, in these instances, the African American past. They serve as a reminder that memory is not just an internal process, but one that takes place in the world, and thus may provide hope and possibility while acknowledging a painful history. Erected with a purpose in mind, monuments and memorials remain mute and inert until imbued with meaning by human beings.

The Computer That Predicted the U.S. Would Win the Vietnam War

A cautionary tale about the dangers of big data.

Computers at the Combat-Operations Center at the headquarters of the North American Air-Defense Command

At just about the halfway point of Lynn Novick and Ken Burns’s monumental documentary on the Vietnam War, an army advisor tells an anecdote that seems to sum up the relationship between the military and computers during the mid-1960s.

“There’s the old apocryphal story that in 1967, they went to the basement of the Pentagon, when the mainframe computers took up the whole basement, and they put on the old punch cards everything you could quantify. Numbers of ships, numbers of tanks, numbers of helicopters, artillery, machine gun, ammo—everything you could quantify,” says James Willbanks, the chair of military history at U.S. Army Command and General Staff College. “They put it in the hopper and said, ‘When will we win in Vietnam?’ They went away on Friday and the thing ground away all weekend. [They] came back on Monday and there was one card in the output tray. And it said, ‘You won in 1965.’”

This is, first and foremost, a joke. But given the emphasis that Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara placed on data and running the number—I began to wonder if there was actually some software that tried to calculate precisely when the United States would win the war. And if it was possible that it once gave such an answer.

Video Goodnesses
and not-so-goodnesses

In the wake of Las Vegas, only one thing is certain, according to James Fallows: it will happen again.

Read the full article on The Atlantic: https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/…

John Oliver discusses the way the NRA not only works to prevent gun control, they work to prevent an informed discussion about gun control.

THANKS to HBO and Last Week Tonight for making this program available on YouTube.

A quick look at Puerto Rico’s hundred-year history of getting screwed with their pantalones on by the United States. With Javier Muñoz.

There’s so much incivility in politics today, we went to the experts to see how it’s really done.

THANKS to TBS and Full Frontal with Samantha Bee for making this program available on YouTube.

Seth takes a closer look at President Trump’s disastrous visit to Puerto Rico and the renewed debate over gun laws.

THANKS to NBC and Late Night with Seth Meyers for making this program available on YouTube.

As Russia continues spreading false information across social media, Michael Kosta explains that Americans are able to fight each other without other countries’ help.

THANKS to Comedy Central and The Daily Show with Trevor Noah for making this program available on YouTube.

The State Department’s Press Secretary wants you to know that Rex Tillerson didn’t call the President a ‘moron’… or any of these other oddly specific insults.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson boldly refuted allegations that he called the President a ‘moron’ by refusing to explicitly refute that he called the President a ‘moron.’

THANKS toCBS and The Late Show with Stephen Colbert for making this program available on YouTube.

It’s Hispanic Heritage Month. Or actually months, because it starts in September and ends in October. And surprisingly, that’s the least confusing part of recognizing Hispanic contributions to our country.


Che Guevara’s legacy still contentious 50 years after his death in Bolivia

The remote village where the Argentina-born revolutionary was executed is now a tourist attraction but the fortunes of his regional political heirs are on the wane

On 3 November 1966, a middle-aged Uruguayan businessman named Adolfo Mena González touched down in La Paz, Bolivia. He took a hotel suite overlooking the snowbound heights of Mount Illimani, and photographed himself – overweight, balding, lit cigar in his mouth – in the mirror.

In reality, however, he was none other than Ernesto “Che” Guevara – the Argentina-born revolutionary who helped topple Cuba’s US-backed dictator, lectured the United States from a UN lectern, penned treatises on Marxism and guerrilla warfare, and sought to export socialism worldwide.

Eleven months later, another image of Guevara would spread around the world, showing his scrawny, lifeless body on a stretcher, his full head of hair and beard unkempt, and his eyes wide open.

“They said he looked like Christ,” said Susana Osinaga, 87, a retired nurse who helped wash the dirt and blood off Guevara’s body. “People today still pray to Saint Ernesto. They say he grants miracles.”

Next Monday marks the 50th anniversary of Guevara’s death on 9 October 1967 – an event which Bolivia’s current left wing president, Evo Morales, will commemorate with a host of events including a “Relaunching of the Anti-Imperialist Struggle”.

Ed. More tomorrow? Probably. Possibly. Maybe. Not?