News 07.15.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets


News 07.15.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 07.15.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 07.15.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Sporting a buzz cut, prison blues and a chin-strap beard, the slim 24-year-old Floridian Brandon Hatfield leans sideways in a rolling office chair inside the St. Johns County Jail. With a warm Southern drawl and a crooked smirk, he says, “I remember half of what happened … and half of what didn’t.”

Hatfield finds it hard to separate the fact from the fiction of what took place on the night of Nov. 5, 2018, for a few reasons. That night, at a Best Western not far from the Fountain of Youth theme park in St. Augustine, America’s oldest city, he was drinking Jack Daniel’s. He’s sure the whiskey led to smoking weed, but he’s not as clear on how that led to fentanyl, Ecstasy and whatever else ended up in his toxicology report. He remembers the rest of the night in “blackout splatches,” which have since mixed with the stories he’s heard about himself: how he jumped into a crocodile pool at a local zoological park after hours, got bit by an American crocodile, and barely escaped with his life — but not his Crocs shoes, which were found floating in the water the next day. Next thing he knew, he was waking up “at the hospital shackled to a bed with my foot gnawed off.”

Read the rest of this article at: The Washington Post

News 07.15.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Social Physics

News 07.15.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

In Isaac Asimov’s novel Foundation (1951), the mathematician Hari Seldon forecasts the collapse of the Galactic Empire using psychohistory: a calculus of the patterns that occur in the reaction of the mass of humanity to social and economic events. Initially put on trial for treason, on the grounds that his prediction encourages said collapse, Seldon is permitted to set up a research group on a secluded planet. There, he investigates how to minimise the destruction and reduce the subsequent period of anarchy from 30,000 years to a mere 1,000.

Asimov knew that predicting large-scale political events over periods of millennia is not really plausible. But we all do suspend this disbelief when reading fiction. No Jane Austen fan gets upset to be told that Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy didn’t actually exist. Asimov was smart enough to know that such forecasting, however accurate it might be, is vulnerable to any large disturbance that hasn’t been anticipated, not even in principle. He also understood that readers who happily swallowed psychohistory would realise the same thing. In the second volume of the series, just such a ‘black swan’ event derails Seldon’s plans. However, Seldon has a contingency plan, one that the series later reveals also brings some surprises.

Asimov’s Foundation series is notable for concentrating on the political machinations of the key groups, instead of churning out page upon page of space battles between vast fleets armed to the teeth. The protagonists receive regular reports of such battles, but the description is far from a Hollywood treatment. The plot, as Asimov himself stated, is modelled on Edward Gibbon’s book The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (1776-89), and a masterclass in planning on an epic scale for uncertainty. Every senior minister and civil servant should be obliged to read it.

Read the rest of this article at: aeon

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Page, Arizona, has always been a small town. The 4 million visitors who come here annually, though, that’s new. For the past decade, locals have been mildly flummoxed about the massive surge of people to their home, with its population of fewer than 8,000 and somewhat remote locale. Nestled at the northernmost edge of the Arizona desert, it’s a solid two-hour drive from the Flagstaff airport and five from the larger hubs of Phoenix and Las Vegas.

Residents of Page do know, though, that many of those tourists come to see the same thing. On the night I arrive in early May, the bartender at the Courtyard Marriott cantina off the town’s main drag describes it to me thusly: “It’s rocks.”

I first see the rocks early the next morning with a tour group, which is the only way you are allowed to visit them. Before our guide tells us his name, which we find out is Anthony, he asks us the most crucial question of the day: “Do you all have iPhones?”

Read the rest of this article at: Vox

News 07.15.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

An Epidemic of Disbelief

News 07.15.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Robert spada walked into the decrepit warehouse in Detroit and surveyed the chaos: Thousands of cardboard boxes and large plastic bags were piled haphazardly throughout the cavernous space. The air inside was hot and musty. Spada, an assistant prosecutor, saw that some of the windows were open, others broken, exposing the room to the summer heat. Above the boxes, birds glided in slow, swooping circles.

It was August 17, 2009, and this brick fortress of a building housed evidence that had been collected by the Detroit Police Department. Spada’s visit had been prompted by a question: Why were police sometimes unable to locate crucial evidence? The answer lay in the disarray before him.

As Spada wandered through the warehouse, he made another discovery, one that would help uncover a decades-long scandal, not just in Detroit but across the country. He noticed rows of steel shelving lined with white cardboard boxes, 10 inches tall and a foot wide, stacked six feet high. What are those? he asked a Detroit police officer who was accompanying him. Rape kits, the officer said.

“I’m assuming they’ve been tested?” Spada said.

“Oh, they’ve all been tested.”

Spada pulled out a box and peered inside. The containers were still sealed, indicating that the evidence had never been sent to a lab. He opened four more boxes: the same.

“I tried to do a quick calculation,” he later told me. “I came up with approximately 10,000.”

Spada’s estimate was conservative. Eventually 11,341 untested rape kits were found, some dating back more than 30 years—each one a hermetically sealed testament to the most terrifying minutes of a woman’s life, each one holding evidence that had been swabbed or plucked from the most private parts of her body. And in all likelihood, some microscopic part of her assailant—his DNA, his identity—sat in that kit as well.

Or kits.

Eric Eugene Wilkes was known to Detroit police for robbery and carjacking. Not for rape. Yet Wilkes’s DNA was in boxes scattered throughout the warehouse, even as he walked free. His DNA first arrived there more than 18 years ago, after he raped a woman waiting for a bus on December 26, 2000. It next appeared after another rape four months later. Three days after that, police shelved the untested kit from his third victim.

Read the rest of this article at: The Atlantic

The Life-Changing Magic Of Making Do

News 07.15.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Several years ago, while living in London, England, my wife met Prince Charles at an event associated with the Prince’s Foundation, where she worked. She returned with two observations: First, the Prince of Wales used two fingers – index and middle – when he pointed. Second, Charles’s suit had visible signs of mending. A Google search fails to substantiate the double-barrelled gesture, but the Prince’s penchant for patching has been well documented. Last year, the journalist Marion Hume discovered a cardboard box containing more than 30 years of off-cuts and leftover materials from the Prince’s suits, tucked away in a corner at his Savile Row tailor, Anderson & Sheppard. “I have always believed in trying to keep as many of my clothes and shoes going for as long as possible … through patches and repairs,” he told Ms. Hume. “In this way, I tend to be in fashion once every 25 years.”

As it happens, double-breasted suits are rather on-trend. But more notable is Charles’s sartorial philosophy, which could not be timelier. The Prince comes from a tradition of admirable frugality – the Queen reuses gift-wrap – but his inclination to repair rather than replace, to wear his clothes until they wear out, is an apt antidote to our increasingly disposable times. Most modern consumers are not nearly so resourceful: The average Canadian buys 70 new pieces of clothing each year, about 60 of which ultimately wind up in a landfill. (Thrift stores only sell one in four pieces of donated clothing.) According to a British study, the average article of women’s clothing is worn seven times before it’s discarded.

Our bloated culture of consumption extends far beyond clothing. Each year, Canadian adults spend about $9,000 for consumer packaged goods – about twice as much as 25 years ago. We replace our smartphones every 25 months. We swap out TVs like toothbrushes. We browse for Instant Pots, pet-hair-removal gloves and spa bath pillows when we’re at dinner, when we’re driving and when we’re drunk. Shopping isn’t just convenient; it’s inescapable. The shiny and new is seldom more than a click and a day away.

Unsurprisingly, we are drowning in stuff. Despite the average Canadian home doubling in size over the past generation – and family size shrinking – the self-storage industry is booming, with nearly 3,000 jam-packed facilities nationwide. And that’s just the stuff we keep: Landfills are overflowing. China has stopped taking much of our recycling. Africa is refusing our used clothing. And the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is one-and-a-half times the size of Ontario – and growing. Worse yet, we are spending money we don’t have: The average Canadian has about $30,000 of non-mortgage debt. Ralph Waldo Emerson put it best: “Things are in the saddle, And ride mankind.”

We are increasingly desperate for a way out. For many, salvation has come via Marie Kondo, author of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Ms. Kondo’s KonMari method centres on a now-famous question: Does this thing I own spark joy for me? If not, it is to be discarded. Others have found emancipation via figures such as Leo Babauta, Dave Bruno and Tammy Strobel, avowed minimalists who own 50, 100 and 72 things, respectively.

Read the rest of this article at: The Globe And Mail

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