News 06.22.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets


News 06.22.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 06.22.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 06.22.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Deborah Fuller had just heard the sentences that were the closest she would get to justice.

In March 2016, her daughter Sarah died from an overdose of drugs that included Subsys: a tiny yet potent spray containing fentanyl, an opioid 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine. The day before her death, mother and daughter had chatted about her upcoming wedding. Sarah had already bought a garter. Deborah was planning to sew her veil.

The next morning, Sarah’s fiancé found her dead, keeled over on her face. “It was not a vision I would wish on anyone. We had to have her cremated because there was no way they could have made it so that she was recognisable,” Deborah recalls in an interview.

The former nursing assistant had first become addicted to opioids when she was prescribed them for fibromyalgia and neck and back injuries. After she recovered from the addiction, she visited a new doctor. With an Insys sales representative in the room, she was put back on opioids including Subsys — and within 20 days, her dose of the spray was tripled. Admitted to hospital for hyper-sedation, physicians recommended she stop using the spray — but her doctor continued to prescribe it.

Read the rest of this article at: Financial Times

News 06.22.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Fix your gaze on the black dot on the left side of this image. But wait! Finish reading this paragraph first. As you gaze at the left dot, try to answer this question: In what direction is the object on the right moving? Is it drifting diagonally, or is it moving up and down?

Remember, focus on the dot on the left.

It appears as though the object on the right is moving diagonally, up to the right and then back down to the left. Right? Right?! Actually, it’s not. It’s moving up and down in a straight, vertical line.

See for yourself. Trace it with your finger.

This is a visual illusion. That alternating black-white patch inside the object suggests diagonal motion and confuses our senses. Like all misperceptions, it teaches us that our experience of reality is not perfect. But this particular illusion has recently reinforced scientists’ understanding of deeper, almost philosophical truths about the nature of our consciousness.

“It’s really important to understand we’re not seeing reality,” says neuroscientist Patrick Cavanagh, a research professor at Dartmouth College and a senior fellow at Glendon College in Canada. “We’re seeing a story that’s being created for us.”

Most of the time, the story our brains generate matches the real, physical world — but not always. Our brains also unconsciously bend our perception of reality to meet our desires or expectations. And they fill in gaps using our past experiences.

All of this can bias us. Visual illusions present clear and interesting challenges for how we live: How do we know what’s real? And once we know the extent of our brain’s limits, how do we live with more humility — and think with greater care about our perceptions?

Rather than showing us how our brains are broken, illusions give us the chance to reveal how they work. And how do they work? Well, as the owner of a human brain, I have to say it’s making me a little uneasy.

Read the rest of this article at: Vox

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I’ve been thinking a lot about Edward Hopper. So have other stay-at-homes, I notice online. The visual bard of American solitude—not loneliness, a maudlin projection—speaks to our isolated states these days with fortuitous poignance. But he is always doing that, pandemic or no pandemic. Aloneness is his great theme, symbolizing America: insecure selfhoods in a country that is only abstractly a nation. “E pluribus unum,” a magnificent ideal, thuds on “unum” every day throughout the land. Only law—we’re a polity of lawyers—confers unity on the United States, which might sensibly be a Balkans of regional sovereignties had the Civil War not been so awful as to remove that option, come what may. Hopper’s region is the Northeast, from New York to parts of New England, but his perceptions apply from coast to coast. Born in Nyack in 1882, and dying in 1967 after living for half a century in an apartment on Washington Square, he couldn’t conceivably have developed as he did in any other culture. His subjects—atomized persons, inauspicious places—are specific to his time. But his mature art, which took two decades to gestate before consolidating in the nineteen-twenties, is timeless, or perhaps time-free: a series of freeze-dried, uncannily telling moments.

Though termed a realist, Hopper is more properly a Symbolist, investing objective appearance with clenched, melancholy subjectivity. He was an able draftsman and masterly as a painter of light and shadow, but he ruthlessly subordinated aesthetic pleasure to the compacted description—as dense as uranium—of things that answered to his feelings without exposing them. Nearly every house that he painted strikes me as a self-portrait, with brooding windows and almost never a visible or, should one be indicated, inviting door. If his pictures sometimes seem awkwardly forced, that’s not a flaw; it’s a guarantee that he has pushed the communicative capacities of painting to their limits, then a little bit beyond. He leaves us alone with our own solitude, taking our breath away and not giving it back. Regarding his human subjects as “lonely” evades their truth. We might freak out if we had to be those people, but—look!—they’re doing O.K., however grim their lot. Think of Samuel Beckett’s famous tag “I can’t go on. I’ll go on.” Now delete the first sentence. With Hopper, the going-on is not a choice.

Read the rest of this article at: The New Yorker

News 06.22.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 06.22.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

By the late summer of 1967, when I turned seven, we’d been living in the house for six years. By “we,” I mean my mother, two of my four older sisters, and my little brother. And although we shared the place with a rotating cast of other relatives, including my mother’s mother and an aunt and her two children, I always considered it my mother’s home. The house was in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn. Like all the moves my mother engineered or helped to engineer for our family, this one was aspirational. Despite the fact that Brownsville had begun its slow decline into drugs, poverty, and ghettoization years before, my mother’s house—the only one in her life that, after years of work and planning, she would even partly own—symbolized a break with everything we had known before, including an apartment in Crown Heights, with a shared bathroom near the stairwell, where, on Sunday nights, my mother would line her daughters up with freshly laundered towels so that they could take their weekly bath.

Privacy was something my sisters had to get used to. Our new house had doors and a proper sitting room, which sometimes served as a makeshift bedroom for visiting Bajan relatives. (My mother’s family was from Barbados.) The sister I was closest to, a poetry-writing star who wore pencil skirts to play handball with the guys, composed her verse amid drifts and piles of clothes and kept her door closed. My brother and I shared a smaller room and a bed. My mother had her own room, where the door was always ajar; she didn’t so much sleep there as rest between walks up and down the hall to watch and listen for the safety of her children.

The Brownsville summer of 1967 was like every other Brooklyn summer I’d experienced: stultifying. Relief was sought at the nearby Betsy Head Pool, and at the fire hydrants that reckless boys opened with giant wrenches. The cold water made the black asphalt blacker in the black nights. Gossip floated down the street from our neighbors’ small front porches and from stoops flanked by big concrete planters full of dusty plastic flowers. Nursing a beer or a Pepsi, the grownups discussed far-off places like Vietnam. So-and-So’s son had come back from there all messed up, and now he was on the methadone. Then the conversation would shift to the kids. Every kid in our neighborhood was everyone else’s kid. Prying, caring eyes were everywhere. Sometimes the conversation stopped—just for a moment—as girls in summer dresses passed. Men and women alike looked longingly at those girls, for different reasons, as they ambled down the street, pretending to pay no mind to the fine-built boys who called to them from a distance.

Read the rest of this article at: The New Yorker

News 06.22.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Even by the tumultuous standards of Donald Trump’s presidency, the rapid unraveling of U.S. institutions in the first half of 2020 has been remarkable. First came impeachment, laying bare how Trump and his allies withheld $400 million in military aid to Ukraine in order to convince that country’s leaders to investigate the family of Trump’s political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden. Even more shocking to those who still had faith in the U.S. Constitution to restrain Trump was the unwillingness of the Republican-dominated Senate to so much as hear all of the evidence against the president. Then came Trump’s audacious firing of Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland and Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, director for European Affairs with the National Security Council, both of whom testified during the impeachment inquiry. Even Vindman’s twin brother did not escape dismissal from his job at the NSC. The intelligence community Inspector General Michael Atkinson was next to be fired, one of five inspectors general to be dismissed in the last three months.

Impeachment and its aftermath were just the beginning. Arguably more consequential for millions of Americans was the Trump administration’s refusal to heed expert warnings about the spread of the novel coronavirus. Instead of replenishing stockpiles of protective equipment or rolling out a national testing strategy, the president downplayed the severity of the pandemic and falsely claimed that the United States was prepared to contain it. Misinformation spread by Trump (and repeated by his allies on Fox News) in the early days of the outbreak appears to have accelerated the spread of the virus, which has now claimed more than 100,000 American lives.

While the pandemic was still raging, yet another tragedy struck: white police officers in Minneapolis, Minnesota, brutally killed George Floyd, an African American man, touching off mass protests that still continue. A leader who once referred to white supremacists as “very fine people” was never going to make a presidential moment of this crisis. But Trump’s response to the unrest gripping many U.S. cities has been shocking even by his standards. He demonized the protesters, encouraged their tear-gassing (apparently for a photo op), and threatened to invoke the 1807 insurrection act in order to deploy the military against them.

Read the rest of this article at: Foreign Affairs

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