In the News 08.08.16 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
Monday 8th August, 2016
Why Being Bilingual Helps Keep Your Brain Fit
In a café in south London, two construction workers are engaged in cheerful banter, tossing words back and forth. Their cutlery dances during more emphatic gesticulations and they occasionally break off into loud guffaws. They are discussing a woman, that much is clear, but the details are lost on me. It’s a shame, because their conversation looks fun and interesting, especially to a nosy person like me. But I don’t speak their language. Out of curiosity, I interrupt them to ask what they are speaking. With friendly smiles, they both switch easily to English, explaining that they are South Africans and had been speaking Xhosa. In Johannesburg, where they are from, most people speak at least five languages, says one of them, Theo Morris. For example, Theo’s mother’s language is Sotho, his father’s is Zulu, he learned Xhosa and Ndebele from his friends and neighbours, and English and Afrikaans at school. “I went to Germany before I came here, so I also speak German,” he adds.
Read the rest of this article at Mosaic
An Isolated Tribe Emerges From The Rain Forest
Before Nicolás (Shaco) Flores was killed, deep in the Peruvian rain forest, he had spent decades reaching out to the mysterious people called the Mashco Piro. Flores lived in the Madre de Dios region—a vast jungle surrounded by an even vaster wilderness, frequented mostly by illegal loggers, miners, narco-traffickers, and a few adventurers. For more than a hundred years, the Mashco had lived in almost complete isolation; there were rare sightings, but they were often indistinguishable from backwoods folklore.
Flores, a farmer and a river guide, was a self-appointed conduit between the Mashco and the region’s other indigenous people, who lived mostly in riverside villages. He provided them with food and machetes, and tried to lure them out of the forest. But in 2011, for unclear reasons, the relationship broke down; one afternoon, when the Mashco appeared on the riverbank and beckoned to Shaco, he ignored them. A week later, as he tended his vegetable patch, a bamboo arrow flew out of the forest, piercing his heart. In Peru’s urban centers, the incident generated lurid news stories about savage natives attacking peaceable settlers. After a few days, though, the attention subsided, and life in the Amazonian backwater returned to its usual obscurity.
In the following years, small groups of Mashco began to venture out of the forest, making fleeting appearances to travellers on the Madre de Dios River. A video of one such encounter, which circulated on the Internet, shows a naked Mashco man brandishing a bow and arrow at a boatload of tourists. In another, the same man carries a plastic bottle of soda that he has just been given. Mostly, the Mashco approach outsiders with friendly, if skittish, curiosity, but at times they have raided local settlements to steal food. A few times, they have attacked.
The latest attack, last May, took the life of a twenty-year-old indigenous man, Leonardo Pérez, and this time the news did not subside. People from Pérez’s community wanted revenge, and the governor of Madre de Dios took the opportunity to rail about federal neglect of the area. The government needed to be seen to do something.
Read the rest of this article at The New Yorker
Why Bad Ideas Refuse To Die
In January 2016, the rapper BoB took to Twitter to tell his fans that theEarth is really flat. “A lot of people are turned off by the phrase ‘flat earth’,” he acknowledged, “but there’s no way u can see all the evidence and not know … grow up.” At length the astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson joined in the conversation, offering friendly corrections to BoB’s zany proofs of non-globism, and finishing with a sarcastic compliment: “Being five centuries regressed in your reasoning doesn’t mean we all can’t still like your music.”
Actually, it’s a lot more than five centuries regressed. Contrary to what we often hear, people didn’t think the Earth was flat right up until Columbus sailed to the Americas. In ancient Greece, the philosophers Pythagoras and Parmenides had already recognised that the Earth was spherical. Aristotle pointed out that you could see some stars in Egypt and Cyprus that were not visible at more northerly latitudes, and also that the Earth casts a curved shadow on the moon during a lunar eclipse. The Earth, he concluded with impeccable logic, must be round.
Read the rest of this article at The Guardian
Do Your Friends Actually Like You?
THINK of all the people with whom you interact during the course of a day, week, month and year. The many souls with whom you might exchange a greeting or give a warm embrace; engage in chitchat or have a deeper conversation. All those who, by some accident of fate, inhabit your world. And then ask yourself who among them are your friends — your true friends. Recent research indicates that only about half of perceived friendships are mutual. That is, someone you think is your friend might not be so keen on you. Or, vice versa, as when someone you feel you hardly know claims you as a bestie.
Corporate Allies? Think
Tanks Blur the Line
Think tanks are seen as independent, but their scholars often push donors’
agendas, amplifying a culture of corporate influence in Washington.
WASHINGTON — As Lennar Corporation, one of the nation’s largest home builders, pushed ahead with an $8 billion plan to revitalize a barren swath of San Francisco, it found a trusted voice to vouch for its work: the Brookings Institution, the most prestigious think tank in the world.
“This can become a productive, mutually beneficial relationship,” Bruce Katz, a Brookings vice president, wrote to Lennar in July 2010. The ultimate benefit for Brookings: $400,000 in donations from Lennar’s different divisions.
The think tank began to aggressively promote the project, San Francisco’sbiggest redevelopment effort since its recovery from the 1906 earthquake, and later offered to help Lennar, a publicly traded company, “engage with national media to develop stories that highlight Lennar’s innovative approach.”
And Brookings went further. It named Kofi Bonner, the Lennar executive in charge of the San Francisco development, as a senior fellow — an enviable credential he used to advance the company’s efforts.
“He would be a trusted adviser,” an internal Brookings memo said in 2014 as the think tank sought one $100,000 donation from Lennar.
Think tanks, which position themselves as “universities without students,” have power in government policy debates because they are seen as researchers independent of moneyed interests. But in the chase for funds, think tanks are pushing agendas important to corporate donors, at times blurring the line between researchers and lobbyists. And they are doing so while reaping the benefits of their tax-exempt status, sometimes without disclosing their connections to corporate interests.
Thousands of pages of internal memos and confidential correspondence between Brookings and other donors — like JPMorgan Chase, the nation’s largest bank; K.K.R., the global investment firm; Microsoft, the software giant; and Hitachi, the Japanese conglomerate — show that financial support often came with assurances from Brookings that it would provide “donation benefits,” including setting up events featuring corporate executives with government officials, according to documents obtained by The New York Times and the New England Center for Investigative Reporting.