News 12.20.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets


News 12.20.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 12.20.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 12.20.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

began with—of all things—a newspaper article. In the fall of 1980, during the disastrous sixth season of Saturday Night Live, first-year writer Barry Blaustein’s father sent him a story out of Cleveland. The report focused on court-appointed administrator Donald R. Waldrip, who as part of a larger desegregation plan, had ordered the city’s mostly black high school basketball teams to diversify their rosters with more white players.

“The directive indicates that Cleveland basketball teams may eventually be chosen by casting directors from The White Shadow,” New York Times columnist George Vecsey wrote, name-checking the television series about a racially mixed Los Angeles high school squad. “But it does not live up to the highest values in sports.”

Desperate for material, Blaustein decided that this notoriously misguided attempt at integration would be the perfect thing to skewer in a sketch. He and his writing partner, David Sheffield, just needed someone they could pitch the idea to. Fortunately, they had a colleague itching for screen time.

Read the rest of this article at: The Ringer

News 12.20.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

EVERY MINUTE OF EVERY DAY, everywhere on the planet, dozens of companies — largely unregulated, little scrutinized — are logging the movements of tens of millions of people with mobile phones and storing the information in gigantic data files. The Times Privacy Project obtained one such file, by far the largest and most sensitive ever to be reviewed by journalists. It holds more than 50 billion location pings from the phones of more than 12 million Americans as they moved through several major cities, including Washington, New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Each piece of information in this file represents the precise location of a single smartphone over a period of several months in 2016 and 2017. The data was provided to Times Opinion by sources who asked to remain anonymous because they were not authorized to share it and could face severe penalties for doing so. The sources of the information said they had grown alarmed about how it might be abused and urgently wanted to inform the public and lawmakers.

After spending months sifting through the data, tracking the movements of people across the country and speaking with dozens of data companies, technologists, lawyers and academics who study this field, we feel the same sense of alarm. In the cities that the data file covers, it tracks people from nearly every neighborhood and block, whether they live in mobile homes in Alexandria, Va., or luxury towers in Manhattan.

One search turned up more than a dozen people visiting the Playboy Mansion, some overnight. Without much effort we spotted visitors to the estates of Johnny Depp, Tiger Woods and Arnold Schwarzenegger, connecting the devices’ owners to the residences indefinitely.

If you lived in one of the cities the dataset covers and use apps that share your location — anything from weather apps to local news apps to coupon savers — you could be in there, too.

If you could see the full trove, you might never use your phone the same way again.

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

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In the 1990s researchers announced a series of discoveries that would upend a bedrock tenet of neuroscience. For decades the mature brain was understood to be incapable of growing new neurons. Once an individual reached adulthood, the thinking went, the brain began losing neurons rather than gaining them. But evidence was building that the adult brain could, in fact, generate new neurons. In one particularly striking experiment with mice, scientists found that simply running on a wheel led to the birth of new neurons in the hippocampus, a brain structure that is associated with memory. Since then, other studies have established that exercise also has positive effects on the brains of humans, especially as we age, and that it may even help reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative conditions. But the research raised a key question: Why does exercise affect the brain at all?

Physical activity improves the function of many organ systems in the body, but the effects are usually linked to better athletic performance. For example, when you walk or run, your muscles demand more oxygen, and over time your cardiovascular system responds by increasing the size of the heart and building new blood vessels. The cardiovascular changes are primarily a response to the physical challenges of exercise, which can enhance endurance. But what challenge elicits a response from the brain?

Read the rest of this article at: Scientific American

News 12.20.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 12.20.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

For investigators, he was a gold mine, a complete reference book on the state’s murder industry. For the sicario, the government was a lifeline.

Of course, Mexico’s legal system wasn’t set up for this kind of arrangement.

The nation has only one official witness protection program, at the federal level, and few in law enforcement actually trust it. Leaks, corruption and incompetence have left it in shambles.

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

Death Of A Freelancer

The wreckage was still smoldering when Christopher Allen reached the wheat fields where 298 people had fallen to their deaths. Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur had exploded in the air, scattering bodies and hunks of plastic and metal across miles of Ukrainian countryside.

Chris picked his way through the debris, trying to take in every detail. He was torn between recording everything and keeping his eyes firmly on the ground, trying not to step on body parts. Some bodies had lost skin or limbs. Others were still strapped into their seats. “They look as if they are manikins, twisted, turned and rearranged,” he scribbled in his notebook, “their limbs bent at impossible angles, their skin like dull yellow plastic.”

Weeks earlier, the 23-year-old had told his nervous family back in the U.S. that he was going to Ukraine to witness history in the making. He wanted to become a journalist and to get as close to his story as possible. On July 17, 2014, he found himself one hour’s drive away from the biggest news story in the world. The death of nearly 300 people from 10 countries put the six-month war between Ukrainian forces and Russian-supported separatists back in international headlines.

As the news broke, Chris messaged editors from his hostel in Donetsk, the capital of separatist-controlled east Ukraine. “I’ll be at the site of the crash tomorrow morning and can help with reporting if you’re interested,” he wrote to several people he’d been hoping to work for. “[I’m] in Ukraine indefinitely should you need contributions.”

Read the rest of this article at: The Huffington Post

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

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