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In the News 08.24.18 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

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In the News 08.24.18 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
@yourgirlmark
In the News 08.24.18 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
@yourgirlmark
In the News 08.24.18 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
@yourgirlmark

David Hogg, After Parkland

At 2:30 on February 14, David Hogg was not yet a spokesperson for radicalized young America or a renowned media savant or a resistance fighter or, to some, the encapsulation of everything terrifying about where the country is going, but a high-school senior crouched in a dark classroom while a gunman with an AR-15 ranged beyond the walls of his hiding place, slaughtering 17 people in six minutes. In the quiet aftermath, when the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School had stopped but before the SWAT team had given the all clear, the 17-year-old debate geek did what first came to mind: He detached himself from the situation by turning on his phone’s video recorder and, in a perfect simulation of the news correspondents he had watched in his bedroom for years, narrated the events that had just taken place. To an imaginary audience, Hogg explained that he, like many of his classmates in Parkland, Florida, had initially thought the massacre was a drill. “And then we heard more gunshots,” he said somberly, still in a crouch, his face in shadow, “and that was when we realized, This was not a drill.”

Read the rest of this article at: New York Magazine

In the News 08.24.18 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Why It’s Only Science That

Can Answer All The Big Questions

In the News 08.24.18 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Sience has proved itself to be a reliable way to approach all kinds of questions about the physical world. As a scientist, I am led to wonder whether its ability to provide understanding is unlimited. Can it in fact answer all the great questions, the ‘big questions of being’, that occur to us?

To begin with, what are these big questions? In my view, they fall into two classes.

One class consists of invented questions that are often based on unwarranted extrapolations of human experience. They typically include questions of purpose and worries about the annihilation of the self, such as Why are we here? and What are the attributes of the soul? They are not real questions, because they are not based on evidence. Thus, as there is no evidence for the Universe having a purpose, there is no point in trying to establish its purpose or to explore the consequences of that purported purpose. As there is no evidence for the existence of a soul (except in a metaphorical sense), there is no point in spending time wondering what the properties of that soul might be should the concept ever be substantiated. Most questions of this class are a waste of time; and because they are not open to rational discourse, at worst they are resolved only by resort to the sword, the bomb or the flame.

The second class of big questions concerns features of the Universe for which there is evidence other than wish-fulfilling speculation and the stimulation provided by the study of sacred texts. They include investigations into the origin of the Universe, and specifically how it is that there is something rather than nothing, the details of the structure of the Universe (particularly the relative strengths of the fundamental forces and the existence of the fundamental particles), and the nature of consciousness. These are all real big questions and, in my view, are open to scientific elucidation.

The first class of questions, the inventions, commonly but not invariably begin with Why. The second class properly begin with How but, to avoid a lot of clumsy language, are often packaged as Why questions for convenience of discourse. Thus, Why is there something rather than nothing? (which is coloured by hints of purpose) is actually a disguised form of How is it that something emerged from nothing? Such Why questions can always be deconstructed into concatenations of How questions, and are in principle worthy of consideration with an expectation of being answered.

I accept that some will criticise me along the lines that I am using a circular argument: that the real big questions are the ones that can be answered scientifically, and therefore only science can in principle elucidate such questions, leaving aside the invented questions as intellectual weeds. That might be so. Publicly accessible evidence, after all, is surely an excellent sieve for distinguishing the two classes of question, and the foundation of science is evidence.

Read the rest of this article at: aeon

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Facebook Fueled Anti-Refugee Attacks In Germany, New Research Suggests

ALTENA, Germany — When you ask locals why Dirk Denkhaus, a young firefighter trainee who had been considered neither dangerous nor political, broke into the attic of a refugee group house and tried to set it on fire, they will list the familiar issues.

This small riverside town is shrinking and its economy declining, they say, leaving young people bored and disillusioned. Though most here supported the mayor’s decision to accept an extra allotment of refugees, some found the influx disorienting. Fringe politics are on the rise.

But they’ll often mention another factor not typically associated with Germany’s spate of anti-refugee violence: Facebook.

Everyone here has seen Facebook rumors portraying refugees as a threat. They’ve encountered racist vitriol on local pages, a jarring contrast with Altena’s public spaces, where people wave warmly to refugee families.

Read the rest of this article at: The New York Times

In the News 08.24.18 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

The Plot Against America

In the News 08.24.18 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

The clinic permitted Paul Manafort one 10-minute call each day. And each day, he would use it to ring his wife from Arizona, his voice often soaked in tears. “Apparently he sobs daily,” his daughter Andrea, then 29, texted a friend. During the spring of 2015, Manafort’s life had tipped into a deep trough. A few months earlier, he had intimated to his other daughter, Jessica, that suicide was a possibility. He would “be gone forever,” she texted Andrea.

His work, the source of the status he cherished, had taken a devastating turn. For nearly a decade, he had counted primarily on a single client, albeit an exceedingly lucrative one. He’d been the chief political strategist to the man who became the president of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, with whom he’d developed a highly personal relationship. Manafort would swim naked with his boss outside his banya, play tennis with him at his palace (“Of course, I let him win,” Manafort made it known), and generally serve as an arbiter of power in a vast country. One of his deputies, Rick Gates, once boasted to a group of Washington lobbyists, “You have to understand, we’ve been working in Ukraine a long time, and Paul has a whole separate shadow government structure … In every ministry, he has a guy.” Only a small handful of Americans—oil executives, Cold War spymasters—could claim to have ever amassed such influence in a foreign regime. The power had helped fill Manafort’s bank accounts; according to his recent indictment, he had tens of millions of dollars stashed in havens like Cyprus and the Grenadines.

Manafort had profited from the sort of excesses that make a country ripe for revolution. And in the early months of 2014, protesters gathered on the Maidan, Kiev’s Independence Square, and swept his patron from power. Fearing for his life, Yanukovych sought protective shelter in Russia. Manafort avoided any harm by keeping a careful distance from the enflamed city. But in his Kiev office, he’d left behind a safe filled with papers that he would not have wanted to fall into public view or the wrong hands.

Read the rest of this article at: The Atlantic

How Tourists Are Destroying The Places They Love

In the News 08.24.18 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

There are many reasons a place attracts tourists — it might be the sun, the beach or the sights. Or perhaps just lavender and a Chinese television series. But why would someone who lives in faraway Riyadh, Abu Dhabi or Doha come to an Austrian village of just 10,000 inhabitants?

In a word: the weather. In summer, the maximum temperatures in Zell am See, a lakeside town in the Alps of western Austria, are usually just over 20 degrees Celsius (68 degrees Fahrenheit). In Riyadh, temperatures can often be over 40 degrees. Pleasant temperatures, water for swimming and snow in the mountains are all draws for tourists. And who wouldn’t prefer to cool off rather than sizzle?

In the city center, some restaurants have adapted by focusing more on these guests, offering menus in Arabic, pita bread and halal meat. Down at the lake, on the esplanade behind the Grand Hotel, crowds of largely Arabic tourists sit, enjoying their holiday.

Nadine Scharfenort is a geographer at the University of Passau in Germany. She has just completed a postdoctoral thesis called “The Conflict Potential of Arabic Tourism in Zell am See-Kaprun.” Scharfenort says that local residents are highly ambivalent about the presence of these tourists. Some are open-minded, stressing the positive aspects, like the fact that these tourists don’t drink alcohol. But others are bothered by headscarves and have general reservations about Arabs.

In the evening, as dusk settles over the lake, it starts to rain. The European tourists rush under the canopies and awnings of the adjacent hotels and restaurants. In front of the Grand Hotel, though, two small girls merrily jump into the puddles. For them, the rain is a highlight of their holiday.

The travel industry is probably the most important economic sector in the world. It’s far larger than the oil industry or the automotive industry and has an estimated turnover of 7 trillion euros a year, about 10 percent of global economic output. In addition to direct revenues, this staggering sum also includes related business sectors such as the hotel trade or the transport industry with all its aircraft, cruise ships and buses. It also includes souvenir shops and travel agencies.

In Spain, popular among holiday-makers, the travel industry accounts for fully 14.9 percent of the country’s gross domestic product. And in many nations — Greece, Portugal, Spain, France and the Czech Republic, for example — the number of people entering the country exceeds the number of inhabitants. This creates jobs and modest prosperity, but it also establishes a certain dependency, which can also be dangerous if, as seen in Turkey and Egypt in recent years, there is a sudden massive plunge in the number of travelers.

Tourists, though, have begun returning to both countries. After all, when it comes to vacation, we tend to ignore potential terrorist threats or human rights violations — as long as the price is right and the weather is nice.

Read the rest of this article at: Spiegel Online

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