In the News 07.27.18 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets


In the News 07.27.18 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
In the News 07.27.18 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
In the News 07.27.18 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

A Deadly Hunt for Hidden Treasure Spawns An Online Mystery

Everybody is searching for something. Paul Ashby’s search began with an unexpected phone call on July 8, 2017. It was a Saturday night in Townsend, Tennessee, a small town just outside Great Smoky Mountains National Park. An affable Army vet with gray hair, a goatee, and wire-frame glasses, Paul worked as a concierge at a rustic event space called the Barn. He was dressed in his usual top hat and coattails that night, greeting guests who were attending a wedding.

Paul had lived in Townsend, off and on, since 1974. In 1990, he separated from his wife and moved with their 4-year-old son, Eric, into a mobile home, then a small hilltop house nearby. He turned the modest two-bedroom home into a hippie retreat, teaching himself to make artisan cheese and hanging a purple sign with his favorite quote by the front door (“There is no path to peace … The path IS peace”). He’d often take his son trekking through the nearby hills and rafting down the Little River.

Read the rest of this article at: Wired

In the News 07.27.18 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

The Free Speech Panic: How
The Right Concocted A Crisis

In the News 07.27.18 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Everyone knows free speech is under attack in the UK. Revelling in their own victimhood, “snowflake” students not only refuse to debate ideas they disagree with, but actively seek to silence them. News outlets that challenge liberal opinion, such as the Daily Mail, become targets for online campaigns and boycotts. An entire generation of “millennials” is leaving university and entering the workforce without the emotional resilience to cope with disagreement. The danger posed by the “student Stasi” isn’t just tyranny on campus: core enlightenment values of individual liberty and reason are under threat.

This alarming narrative can now be found in news stories, political speeches and op-ed columns in Britain on a daily basis. A rising sense of panic has accelerated during the past three or four years, thanks to a succession of student “no-platforming” protests, targeting Germaine Greer, Boris Johnson, Peter Tatchell and Jacob Rees-Mogg, among others. The 2015 campaign to remove a statue of the imperialist Cecil Rhodes from Oriel College Oxford was quickly framed as evidence that student campaigns were seeking to rewrite history. The same year, the libertarian website Spiked launched a Free Speech University Ranking, which led to a Telegraph headline declaring “the suppression of free speech in university campuses is reaching epidemic levels”.

Government ministers have been eager to add their own voices to this moral panic. “Universities told to guarantee free speech” was splashed on the front page of the Times in October 2017, heralding the launch of a Office for Students (OfS), which now regulates the “market” for higher education. The then universities minister, Jo Johnson, declared that the regulator would fine or blacklist any institution that failed to protect freedom of speech. The Times’s leader roared its approval, declaring it “wrong for taxpayers’ money to be used for pandering to intellectual vulnerability when it should be building intellectual resilience”.

Read the rest of this article at: The Guardian

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To Remember, The Brain
Must Actively Forget

Going along with all that variety is now a growing appreciation that forgetting — the functional loss of memories — may also come in diverse forms. Past theories about forgetting mostly emphasized relatively passive processes in which the loss of memories was a consequence of the physical traces of those memories (what some researchers refer to as “engrams”) naturally breaking down or becoming harder to access; those engrams may typically be interconnections between brain cells that prompt them to fire in a certain way. This forgetting process could involve the spontaneous decay of connections between neurons that encode a memory, the random death of those neurons, the failure of systems that would normally help to consolidate and stabilize new memories, or the loss of context cues or other factors that might make it hard to retrieve a memory.

Now, however, researchers are paying much more attention to mechanisms that actively erase or hide those memory engrams.

One form of active forgetting that scientists formally identified in 2017 is called intrinsic forgetting. It involves a certain subset of cells in the brain — which Ronald Davis and Yi Zhong, who wrote the paper that introduced the idea, casually call “forgetting cells” — that degrade the engrams in memory cells.

This idea emerged after Davis, a neuroscientist at the Scripps Research Institute in Jupiter, Florida, and his colleagues reported giving fruit flies mild electric shocks while exposing them to an odor. The flies quickly learned to avoid the smell, associating it with the shock.

Read the rest of this article at: Quanta Magazine

In the News 07.27.18 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Meet The Anarchists Making Their Own Medicine

In the News 07.27.18 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

The first time I encountered Michael Laufer, he was throwing thousands of dollars worth of homemade medicine into a packed audience at Hackers on Planet Earth (HOPE), a biennial conference in New York City.

“Does anyone here suffer from anaphylactic shock and not have access to epinephrine?” Laufer asked the audience. A few hands went up and Laufer stuffed a homemade EpiPen into one of them. “That’s one of the original ones we made,” he said. “Use it well.”

After a few minutes of gloating about pharma bro Martin Shkreli “rotting at Fort Dix” for raising the price of Daraprim, a lifesaving HIV medicine, from $13 to $750, Laufer grew serious. “It’s been two years, but despite everything that’s happened, the price of Daraprim hasn’t changed,” he said. He reached into his pocket and produced a handful of white pills. “I guess I better hand out some more,” Laufer said as he tossed the Daraprim into the audience.

With a shaved head, dark beard, and an ever-present camo jacket, Laufer doesn’t look like the type of person you’d seek out for medical advice—but that’s exactly his point. As the founding member of Four Thieves Vinegar, a volunteer network of anarchists and hackers developing DIY medical technologies, Laufer has spent the last decade working to liberate life-saving pharmaceuticals from the massive corporations that own them. Laufer has no formal training in medicine and he’ll be the first to tell you he’s not a doctor. In fact, from a regulatory standpoint he’s more qualified to do mathematical work on nuclear weapons than treat patients. But Laufer’s never really been the type to let rules and regulations stand in his way.

I met Laufer at a bar across the street from HOPE after he finished his talk on DIY medicine. He was meeting with his Four Thieves collaborators who had flown in from all over the country to attend the conference and unveil the new medical technologies under development by the collective. Laufer kicked off the celebration with a toast.

“A toast to the dead, for children with cancer and AIDS,” Laufer said, raising a glass of bourbon and quoting the hip hop artist Felipe Andres Coronel, better known as Immortal Technique. “A cure exists, and you probably could have been saved.”

In the last decade, Four Thieves has run afoul of the Food and Drug Administration, billionaire pharma executives, doctors, and chemists at some of the United States’ most prestigious universities. Indeed, Laufer and his collaborators can’t stop pissing off powerful people because Four Thieves is living proof that effective medicines can be developed on a budget outside of institutional channels.

Read the rest of this article at: Motherboard

Behemoth, Bully, Thief: How The
English Language Is Taking Over The Planet

In the News 07.27.18 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

On 16 May, a lawyer named Aaron Schlossberg was in a New York cafe when he heard several members of staff speaking Spanish. He reacted with immediate fury, threatening to call US Immigration and Customs Enforcement and telling one employee: “Your staff is speaking Spanish to customers when they should be speaking English … This is America.” A video of the incident quickly went viral, drawing widespread scorn. The Yelp page for his law firm was flooded with one-star reviews, and Schlossberg was soon confronted with a “fiesta” protest in front of his Manhattan apartment building, which included a crowd-funded taco truck and mariachi band to serenade him on the way to work.

As the Trump administration intensifies its crackdown on migrants, speaking any language besides English has taken on a certain charge. In some cases, it can even be dangerous. But if something has changed around the politics of English since Donald Trump took office, the anger Schlossberg voiced taps into deeper nativist roots. Elevating English while denigrating all other languages has been a pillar of English and American nationalism for well over a hundred years. It’s a strain of linguistic exclusionism heard in Theodore Roosevelt’s 1919 address to the American Defense Society, in which he proclaimed that “we have room for but one language here, and that is the English language, for we intend to see that the crucible turns our people out as Americans, of American nationality, and not as dwellers in a polyglot boardinghouse”.

As it turned out, Roosevelt had things almost perfectly backwards. A century of immigration has done little to dislodge the status of English in North America. If anything, its position is stronger than it was a hundred years ago. Yet from a global perspective, it is not America that is threatened by foreign languages. It is the world that is threatened by English.

Behemoth, bully, loudmouth, thief: English is everywhere, and everywhere, English dominates. From inauspicious beginnings on the edge of a minor European archipelago, it has grown to vast size and astonishing influence. Almost 400m people speak it as their first language; a billion more know it as a secondary tongue. It is an official language in at least 59 countries, the unofficial lingua franca of dozens more. No language in history has been used by so many people or spanned a greater portion of the globe. It is aspirational: the golden ticket to the worlds of education and international commerce, a parent’s dream and a student’s misery, winnower of the haves from the have-nots. It is inescapable: the language of global business, the internet, science, diplomacy, stellar navigation, avian pathology. And everywhere it goes, it leaves behind a trail of dead: dialects crushed, languages forgotten, literatures mangled.

Read the rest of this article at: The Guardian

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