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News 09.20.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

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News 09.20.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
@_zoemarch
News 09.20.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
@laurengores
News 09.20.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
via @secretsofahostess

The neuroscientist was in the art gallery and there were many things to learn. So Eric Kandel excitedly guided me through the bright lobby of the Neue Galerie New York, a museum of fin de siècle Austrian and German art, located in a Beaux-Art mansion, across from Central Park. The Nobel laureate was dressed in a dark blue suit with white pinstripes and red bowtie. I was dressed, well, less elegantly.

Since winning a Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2000, for uncovering the electrochemical mechanisms of memory, Kandel had been thinking about art. In 2012 and 2016, respectively, he published The Age of Insight and Reductionism in Art and Brain Science, both of which could be called This Is Your Brain on Art. The Age of Insight detailed the rise of neuroscience out of the medical culture that surrounded Sigmund Freud, and focused on Gustav Klimt and his artistic disciples Oskar Kokoschka and Egon Schiele, whose paintings mirrored the age’s brazen ideas about primal desires smoldering beneath conscious control.

Read the rest of this article at: Nautilus

News 09.20.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 09.20.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

We live in a time of political fury and hardening cultural divides. But if there is one thing on which virtually everyone is agreed, it is that the news and information we receive is biased. Every second of every day, someone is complaining about bias, in everything from the latest movie reviews to sports commentary to the BBC’s coverage of Brexit. These complaints and controversies take up a growing share of public discussion.

Much of the outrage that floods social media, occasionally leaking into opinion columns and broadcast interviews, is not simply a reaction to events themselves, but to the way in which they are reported and framed. The “mainstream media” is the principal focal point for this anger. Journalists and broadcasters who purport to be neutral are a constant object of scrutiny and derision, whenever they appear to let their personal views slip. The work of journalists involves an increasing amount of unscripted, real-time discussion, which provides an occasionally troubling window into their thinking.

But this is not simply an anti-journalist sentiment. A similar fury can just as easily descend on a civil servant or independent expert whenever their veneer of neutrality seems to crack, apparently revealing prejudices underneath. Sometimes a report or claim is dismissed as biased or inaccurate for the simple reason that it is unwelcome: to a Brexiter, every bad economic forecast is just another case of the so-called project fear. A sense that the game is rigged now fuels public debate.

Read the rest of this article at: The Guardian

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Peter McNaughton, a professor of pharmacology at King’s College London, is a devoted optimist. He acknowledges that his positivity can sometimes seem irrational, but he also knows that without it he wouldn’t have achieved all that he has. And what he’s achieved is quite possibly monumental. After decades of research into the cellular basis of chronic pain, McNaughton believes he has discovered the fundamentals of a drug that might eradicate it. If he’s right, he could transform millions, even billions, of lives. What more could anyone hope for than a world without pain?

McNaughton, nearly 70, is long-limbed, grey-haired and bespectacled. Though he has lived in London for decades, his voice still carries the cheery cadence of his native New Zealand. He wears blue Levis and black Nikes and delights in a late-blooming informality after years of heading university departments and turning up in a suit. Now, running his own lab, he can dress as he likes. On a Friday morning in April he waited for his young team to arrive at the modern, red-brick building in south London where he conducts his research. (McNaughton is always the first to arrive.) Today the team was assembled to hear a presentation by Rafaela Lone, a Brazilian scientist, who had spent the past six months in McNaughton’s lab breeding mice with symptoms that mimic fibromyalgia, a long-term condition that causes widespread pain and chronic fatigue. Lone explained that her mother had suffered from fibromyalgia for seven years. Her life had been reduced to a misery of symptoms ranging from urinary-tract infections to intense sensitivity to cold. Some days were bear-able; on others she couldn’t get out of bed. “She learns how to hold the pain,” said Lone.

Read the rest of this article at: 1843

News 09.20.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 09.20.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

The paradox of the modern dictator is that he must create the illusion of mass support while turning the population into a nation of terrorised prisoners endlessly condemned to faking enthusiasm for their oppressor. Frank Dikötter, a brilliant historian with a prize-winning trilogy on Mao’s China behind him, takes eight of the most successful 20th-century dictators: Mussolini, Hitler, Stalin, Mao Zedong, Kim Il-sung, Nicolae Ceausescu, Papa Doc Duvalier and Mengistu, and shows with chilling brevity and clarity how this is done.

The road to dictatorship is depressingly predictable. Once power is stolen, the problem is to keep it. Anyone who might develop a separate power base must be struck down. Eradicate rivals, rule through force and fear. Trust no one, particularly family, friends and the army. Keep everyone on their toes with random executions, unpredictable policy changes and imaginative public tortures. So far, so historic. It could be a Shakespeare play. What distinguishes modern tyranny, Dikötter argues, is the cult of personality. Total control of the information space keeps the modern dictator in power.

Each dictator’s story is told one by one. They overlap and learn from each other, but all learn from Mussolini, pioneer of modern political theatre and master of propaganda. Actor, stage manager, orator and self-publicist, Mussolini allowed his ideology to remain vague while spending more than half of his time curating his image. Italy was a newspaper with Mussolini writing the front page every day. He knew that a picture of him taking flying lessons was worth any number of carefully argued editorials. After his first propaganda radio broadcast in 1925, 40,000 free radios were distributed to elementary schools between 1933 and 1938. By the onset of the Second World War, subsidised sets numbered 800,000 and loudspeakers had been installed in town squares. His message was inescapable.

The dictator must establish omnipresence. “Like a god, he observes you from every angle,” wrote a French journalist. There was no escaping the godlike gaze even in the bathroom, where Mussolini’s image was moulded into bars of soap. The lights were kept burning all night in his office. The legend of his all-seeing eyes was intensified by Goth-style eye make-up in posters, newsreels and the publicity shots included with his “personal” replies to 1,887,112 individual petitions. Mussolini considered himself the greatest actor in Italy. His performances were rehearsed endlessly in front of the camera. He was jealous of Greta Garbo.

Read the rest of this article at: New Statesman

News 09.20.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

That seems to be the emerging bipartisan consensus. “On the evidence we have, the meritocratic ideal ends up being just as undemocratic as the old emphasis on inheritance and tradition,” writes New York Times columnist Ross Douthat. “Our supposedly meritocratic system is nothing but a long con,” declares Alanna Schubach, a college-admissions coach, in Jacobin. “Merit itself has become a counterfeit virtue, a false idol,” argues Daniel Markovits, a professor of law at Yale University, in a new book, The Meritocracy Trap (Penguin Press). “And meritocracy — formerly benevolent and just — has become what it was invented to combat. A mechanism for the concentration and dynastic transmission of wealth and privilege across generations.”

An attack on meritocracy is invariably an attack on higher education, where meritocrats get sorted and credentialed. So the turn against meritocracy prompts big questions. Has meritocracy in fact failed? Is it time for universities to rethink the definition of merit, and, more broadly, higher education’s role in American life? Are meritocracy’s critics too sweeping in their indictment? Is it still — flaws and all — the fairest way to organize society? If we do away with it, what comes next?

We put these questions to 10 scholars and administrators from across the academy. Here are their responses.

Read the rest of this article at: The Chronicle Review

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

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