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In the News 07.09.18 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

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In the News 07.09.18 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
@audreyrivet
In the News 07.09.18 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
@audreyrivet
In the News 07.09.18 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
@topshelfbeaute

Keep On Moving: The Bizarre Dance Epidemic of Summer 1518

It started with just a few people dancing outdoors in the summer heat. Arms flailing, bodies swaying and clothes soaked with sweat, they danced through the night and into the next day. Seldom stopping to eat or drink, and seemingly oblivious to mounting fatigue and the pain of bruised feet, they were still going days later. By the time the authorities intervened, hundreds more were dancing in the same frenetic fashion.

But this was not one of those 80s raves that began in a remote layby and ended in a muddy field. Rather, it’s one of the oddest epidemics to be recorded in world history. And it happened 500 years ago this summer in the French city of Strasbourg. It was there, over the course of three roasting-hot months in 1518, that several hundred people developed a compulsion to dance. The dancing went on and on until – to the horror of the crowds who gathered to watch – some of them collapsed and perished on the spot. Just what was happening?

Read the rest of this article at: The Guardian

Will Trump Be Meeting With His Counterpart — Or His Handler?

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On June 14, 2016, the Washington Post reported that Russian hackers had broken into the Democratic National Committee’s files and gained access to its research on Donald Trump. A political world already numbed by Trump’s astonishing rise barely took notice. News reports quoted experts who suggested the Russians merely wanted more information about Trump to inform their foreign-policy dealings. By that point, Russia was already broadcasting its strong preference for Trump through the media. Yet when news of the hacking broke, nobody raised the faintest suspicions that Russia wished to alter the outcome of the election, let alone that Trump or anybody connected with him might have been in cahoots with a foreign power. It was a third-rate cyberburglary. Nothing to see here.

The unfolding of the Russia scandal has been like walking into a dark cavern. Every step reveals that the cave runs deeper than we thought, and after each one, as we wonder how far it goes, our imaginations are circumscribed by the steps we have already taken. The cavern might go just a little farther, we presume, but probably not much farther. And since trying to discern the size and shape of the scandal is an exercise in uncertainty, we focus our attention on the most likely outcome, which is that the story goes a little deeper than what we have already discovered. Say, that Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort told their candidate about the meeting they held at Trump Tower with a Russian lawyer after they were promised dirt on Hillary Clinton; and that Trump and Kushner have some shady Russian investments; and that some of Trump’s advisers made some promises about lifting sanctions.

But what if that’s wrong? What if we’re still standing closer to the mouth of the cave than the end?

Read the rest of this article at: New York Magazine

Tuscany Tote in Midnight

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The Deep Roots Of Writing

Recent scholars of the history of writing describe what was first and foremost an administrative tool. According to their ‘administrative hypothesis’, writing was invented so that early states could track people, land and economic production, and elites could sustain their power. Along the way (their argument goes) writing became flexible enough, in how it captured spoken language, to be used for poetry and letters and, eventually, word games such as Mad Libs and fortune cookies.

The writing/state connection sailed out most recently in Against the Grain (2017) by James Scott, a political scientist at Yale whose goal is to overturn the usual story about how civilisation came to be. In his book, he draws from accumulated archaeological findings to show that large sedentary populations and grain agriculture existed long before the first states in both Mesopotamia and China. These operations came to be coopted by rulers, ruling classes and elite interests. The elite didn’t invent agriculture or urban living but fashioned the oft-told narrative giving them credit for these achievements. In his book, Scott assembles a political counter-narrative to up-end their story of progress and show how people were better off when they weren’t subjects.

Read the rest of this article at: aeon

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The Mind-Bendy Weirdness Of The Number Zero, Explained

The computer you’re reading this article on right now runs on a binary — strings of zeros and ones. Without zero, modern electronics wouldn’t exist. Without zero, there’s no calculus, which means no modern engineering or automation. Without zero, much of our modern world literally falls apart.

Humanity’s discovery of zero was “a total game changer … equivalent to us learning language,” says Andreas Nieder, a cognitive scientist at the University of Tübingen in Germany.

But for the vast majority of our history, humans didn’t understand the number zero. It’s not innate in us. We had to invent it. And we have to keep teaching it to the next generation.

Other animals, like monkeys, have evolved to understand the rudimentary concept of nothing. And scientists just reported that even tiny bee brains can compute zero. But it’s only humans that have seized zero and forged it into a tool.

So let’s not take zero for granted. Nothing is fascinating. Here’s why.

Our understanding of zero is profound when you consider this fact: We don’t often, or perhaps ever, encounter zero in nature.

Numbers like one, two, and three have a counterpart. We can see one light flash on. We can hear two beeps from a car horn. But zero? It requires us to recognize that the absence of something is a thing in and of itself.

“Zero is in the mind, but not in the sensory world,” Robert Kaplan, a Harvard math professor and an author of a book on zero, says. Even in the empty reaches of space, if you can see stars, it means you’re being bathed in their electromagnetic radiation. In the darkest emptiness, there’s always something. Perhaps a true zero — meaning absolute nothingness — may have existed in the time before the Big Bang. But we can never know.

Nevertheless, zero doesn’t have to exist to be useful. In fact, we can use the concept of zero to derive all the other numbers in the universe.

Kaplan walked me through a thought exercise first described by the mathematician John von Neumann. It’s deceptively simple.

Imagine a box with nothing in it. Mathematicians call this empty box “the empty set.” It’s a physical representation of zero. What’s inside the empty box? Nothing.

Now take another empty box, and place it in the first one.

How many things are in the first box now?

Read the rest of this article at: Vox

Spy For Us — Or Never Speak To Your Family Again

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ISTANBUL — Spying on behalf of the Chinese state went against everything O. believed in.

Yet even as he sat thousands of miles away in a quiet town in Sweden, he knew the police in his home country held something over him that could compel him to do just that — the freedom of his teenage son.

“What could I do?” O. said. “I told them, ‘My son is in your hands. He is the only thing that matters to me. I will do whatever you ask.’”

O. and his son belong to an ethnic group called the Uighurs, a Muslim minority group who make up close to half the population of Xinjiang, a sprawling region in China’s west. There, China’s government has built one of the world’s most sophisticated surveillance states. Measures used there include techniques like DNA collection, iris scans, and cellphone surveillance, and they are disproportionately targeted at minority groups. Hundreds of thousands of Uighurs have been sent to internment camps that are shrouded in secrecy over the past two years. None have been formally charged with a crime.

But if you’re Uighur, escaping China doesn’t mean you’ve escaped the surveillance state.

BuzzFeed News interviewed 10 people in the exiled Uighur community who were targeted by Chinese state security after they moved overseas. They come from all walks of life — from waitstaff and fruit sellers to businessmen and government officials. BuzzFeed News is not naming the majority of these people to avoid endangering their family members who still live in China, because the government regularly punishes Uighurs’ families for real or perceived transgressions committed while abroad. Their accounts, as well as dozens of WeChat and WhatsApp messages and voice recordings that they provided to BuzzFeed News, shed light on the methods and processes the rank and file of China’s security apparatus use in surveilling Uighur exiles and fomenting deep-seated mistrust within their communities.

That China spies on and pressures its exiles — particularly ethnic minorities and those involved in activities deemed political — is not new. China has used such tactics since at least the 1990s to put pressure on those it believes are seeking to undermine the state. But Uighur exiles, Western academics, and advocacy groups say this pressure campaign has gotten far more aggressive over the past two years and has been bolstered by digital surveillance tactics.

China has ramped up repression of Uighurs because of fears of separatism and extremism in Xinjiang, and Uighur militants were responsible for a series of knife and bomb attacks in public places in 2014 and have fought alongside extremists in Iraq and Syria. But rights groups say the government’s crackdown amounts to the collective punishment of millions of people over the actions of a handful.

Every person interviewed for this article said state security operatives told them their families could be sent to, or would remain in, internment camps for “reeducation” if they did not comply with their demands. It was a campaign, they said, that aimed not only to gather details about Uighurs’ activities abroad, but also to sow discord within exile communities in the West and intimidate people in hopes of preventing them from speaking out against the Chinese state.

Read the rest of this article at: BuzzFeed

P.S. previous articles & more by P.F.M.

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