Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Drone Wars, Pepsi, and Dance Pop (Link Round-Up 5/30/12)

[via Chicagoist]

Egyptian student invents quantum physics space propulsion system
First, a little background: One of the strange quantum facts at work in Mustafa's engine idea is that there's no such thing as a vacuum, devoid of particles, waves, and energy. Instead the universe's supposedly empty spaces are filled with a roiling sea of particles and anti-particles that pop into existence, then annihilate each other in such a short space of time that you can't readily detect them.
Mexican cartel declares war on PepsiCo products
Again, it’s probably an extortion attempt. But another explanation involves rumors originating in the western states of Michoacán and Guanajuato — where the arson attacks occurred – that allege some of the company’s 14,500 delivery trucks are used by the federal security services for undercover intelligence operations. PepsiCo even issued a denial: “We repeat that in accordance with our code of conduct, all of our operations are carried out in the current regulatory framework and our vehicles and facilities are used exclusively to carry our products to our customer and clients,” read a company statement.
Japanese companies won't hire foreign-educated applicants
Notoriously insular, corporate Japan has long been wary of embracing Western-educated compatriots who return home. But critics say the reluctance to tap the international experience of these young people is a growing problem for Japan as some of its major industries — like banking, consumer electronics and automobiles — lose ground in an increasingly global economy.
Barack Obama justifies drone strikes (however he wants to)
They describe a paradoxical leader who shunned the legislative deal-making required to close the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay in Cuba, but approves lethal action without hand-wringing. While he was adamant about narrowing the fight and improving relations with the Muslim world, he has followed the metastasizing enemy into new and dangerous lands. When he applies his lawyering skills to counterterrorism, it is usually to enable, not constrain, his ferocious campaign against Al Qaeda — even when it comes to killing an American cleric in Yemen, a decision that Mr. Obama told colleagues was “an easy one.”
Even Eurovision can't cover up Azerbaijan's problems
The only problem is that the Azerbaijani government's goal of appearing to be an "actual European nation" ends with the appearance part. Sure, it's got the credentials: Azerbaijan was admitted to the Council of Europe in 2001, and its gross domestic product has been growing at an average of 10 percent for the past five years (a fantasy for many in the European Union) but it's also got this nasty habit of brutally silencing its press, jailing its dissidents, and arbitrarily confiscating land from its people.
Climate change killed the Indus Valley civilization
"Cities collapsed, but smaller agricultural communities were sustainable and flourished," Fuller said. "Many of the urban arts, such as writing, faded away, but agriculture continued and actually diversified."

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Sex, Israeli Race Riots, and Boy Scout Mormon Oil Lobbyists (Link Round-Up 5/26/12)

[via Reddit]

African immigrants injured in Israeli race riots
Danny Danon, who heads a lobby group which seeks to deal with the issue of illegal immigration, said the only solution to the problem would be to "begin talking about expulsion". 
"We must expel the infiltrators from Israel. We should not be afraid to say the words 'expulsion now'," he was reported as saying. 
Thousands of asylum seekers have arrived in Israel from Eritea and South Sudan, escaping poverty but also oppressive regimes and political instability.Most are bound for Europe, but find Libya blocked to them by the government and civil war.
How to write bullshit articles on the internet
Useful for all of us fake internet writers to remember: if, instead of reading your article, someone could just strike a humorous "The Thinker" pose and recite what their polite mom would say about the topic at hand, and that would be essentially the same thing that you say in your article, then no one needs to read your article, and you didn't need to write your article, and you don't need to exist, and we might as well all go out and get real jobs. So let's avoid that.
"Scumbag Steve" and Brisk Iced Tea - exploiting popular memes to advertise
"Friends over at Thoughtleadr, the social ad platform powering Imgur’s promoted image, connected the dots when Imgur was interested in experimenting with advertising. We took the opportunity to Brisk, because the audience was relevant and they’re proactive about doing cool, new things in social. We all collaborated to create content we felt would be entertaining, and add value to the community."
Sex therapy in India's conservative, globalized city of Chennai
‘True to my hunch, there were no sperms found in the vagina, which meant vaginal intercourse had not taken place at all. The surgery was cancelled once the pathologist wrote his report. The gynaecologist could not overrule him. I found out that the man did not even know where the vaginal opening was. He would simply lie on top of his wife and ejaculate between her thighs. They believed that was intercourse and were hoping to get a child. I had to tell him how to have sex.
The case that may force 1.2 million Canadians to be married against their will
De facto spouses are defined by Quebec’s law as two people who have been living together for a year or more without being married and who check the “couple” box on their income tax statement form. Quebec’s lawmakers have deliberately chosen not to give de facto couples the same rights and responsibilities that married couples have under the Law of Quebec, to preserve the freedom of choice. Upon the termination of a relationship, “no matter how long cohabitation has lasted, de facto spouses have no legal support obligation to each other, even if one spouse is in need and the other has a high income.” Quebec is the only province in Canada where spousal support payments are not recognized by law for de facto spouses.
Los Angeles bans plastic bags 
San Francisco approved the state’s first plastic bag ban in 2007, applying it only to supermarkets and pharmacies. Since then, officials have moved to expand the bag restrictions, which has drawn a legal challenge.

Despite initial grumbling from customers and business owners, people have gotten used to bringing their own bags, said David Assmann, a manager in San Francisco’s environment department. “I think it’s become part of the culture here,” he said.
The Mormon Boy Scout Oil Lobbyist that could be Romney's Chief-of-Staff 
Gerard often seems clinical, almost professorial, when he talks about the issues he lobbies for. (He asks four times during one interview whether he is boring me, and in a follow-up session in his downtown Washington office he is surprisingly equivocal on the subject of climate change.) But rivals shouldn't mistake his professionalism for lack of passion. Gerard loves a challenge, and nothing could be more of a battle than revamping Big Oil's image. "If I'm playing basketball," the 5-foot-9 Gerard explains, "I want to take on the team who's got the 7-foot-3 guy as opposed to the team that's got the 6-foot-5 guy. Why? Because he's tougher to beat."

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Rich, Poor, Protests, and Housing (Link Round-Up 5/23/12)


Why a Chinese company is buying your movie theater
In 2011, the country's box office grew 35 percent to $2 billion, making it the second largest international market behind Japan, according to the MPAA. The country's central planners have even grander ambitions for down the line. As the Wall Street Journal reports, the government wants to more than triple the number of domestic movie screens, from 6,300 to 20,000. It's also backing native production companies with the hopes that, one day, their films will be able to compete globally with Hollywood's wares. Meanwhile, according to the New York Times, Dalian Wanda's chief executive says his company intends to control 20 percent of the global theater market by 2020.
Chinese company buys land near small Michigan town to build a "Chinese" city
A group of mainland Chinese known as Sino-Michigan Properties LLC paid $1.9 million for 200 acres of farmland on Milan city limits in purchases this year and in 2011, according to local officials and property records.

Milan (pronounced MY-lan) is located on U.S. 23 a half-hour from the Ohio border and a short drive from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor — a destination favored by Chinese students.
George Lucas's fight for low income housing in his neighborhood
Tom Taylor, a member of the homeowners’ association board, said that responding to Mr. Lucas’s housing proposal was a delicate matter.

“I would say probably everybody has reservations about it, but nobody’s going to come out and say they don’t want it,” Mr. Taylor said.
TED talks about anything (but income inequality)
Anderson is using “partisanship” the same way idiotic centrist pundits like Thomas Friedman do: as a meaningless catch-all term for any political action or belief that they disagree with. “Nonpartisanship” is, as always, defined as “whatever I think is reasonable and correct.” Hanauer’s argument is certainly left-leaning, but it’s not “partisan” — the Democratic Party helped usher in our new Gilded Age, and its leaders do not have an anti-income-inequality platform, even if Democrats are more likely to speak out on the subject than Republicans.
There's effective protest, and then there's the anti-NATO demonstrations...
The protests that unfolded over the weekend, particularly over the last twenty-four hours, reflect the lack of a means-ends connection. Their listing from an identifiable objective, perceived lack of focus, and disparate employment of means are a function of not having an objective--even a grand one, like Gandhi's all-encompassing goal of an independent nation void of all forms of social violence--and thus being unable to calibrate their activities to that vision.
Liberals blew it in the Arab Spring 
The failure to organize a coherent political party has been the failing of liberal groups in many of the would-be democratic transitions of the last two decades. Boris Yeltsin helped bring down the former Soviet Union in the 1990s and was supported by many Russian liberals, but he never saw the need to create a political party and hoped to survive on his own charisma. Existing liberal groups squabbled among themselves and failed to form a single, durable party. Similarly, the young idealists in Ukraine who supported Viktor Yushchenko during Ukraine’s 2004 Orange Revolution did not go on to create a cohesive political party, and the Orange coalition itself fell apart amidst infighting between Yushchenko and prime minister Iulia Timoshenko.

By contrast, Islamist parties throughout the Middle East have survived over the years despite severe repression because they understand how to organize. This was not just a matter of selecting cadres and promoting an ideology; they also lived among the poor and would often provide social services directly to constituents. Political parties prosper because they stand for something: not just opposition to dictatorship, but a positive program for economic growth, social assistance, or help for farmers. If you were to ask a typical liberal Egyptian activist what their plan for economic development was, I’m not sure you’d get a coherent answer.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

NATO: Beyond the Protests (Link Round-Up 5/19/12)

[via Ashlee Rezin of Time Out Chicago]

NATO to debate the future of the War in Afghanistan
By the time Obama sent 33,000 more troops to Afghanistan in December 2009, years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan had drained Western resources and sapped resolve to build a viable Afghan state, especially after the killing of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden in May 2011. 
President Bronislaw Komorowski of Poland, which has some 2,500 troops in Afghanistan, said Friday that those giving financial aid will face “tough decisions” over whether to spend on security or other civilian needs.
Pakistan to be confronted over supply truck "price-gouging" at NATO summit
Thousands of trucks a day carrying supplies would go through multiple border crossings from Pakistan to Afghanistan, making the fees a potentially massive source of revenue for the cash-strapped government in Islamabad.

The U.S. has shifted deliveries to different routes through Russia and other countries to Afghanistan's north. But the massive withdrawals of equipment due to unfold over the next 21/2 years as troops leave the country will be "significantly" more difficult if routes in Pakistan aren't used, the Pentagon acknowledged in a report last month.
The two upcoming Hollywood films on the Bin Laden raid (you didn't ask for)
Of course, while money can influence elections, so can films. And the release of Geronimo wouldn't be the first time a Weinstein film was unveiled with the intention to influencing American voters. Weinstein famously unveiled Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 ahead of the 2004 Bush-Kerry election and, at the time, Moore was openly claiming that his film " is the atomic bomb of this campaign." 
In the case of Geronimo, it's possible that releasing it could prompt Sony to move up the date of Zero Dark Thirty causing a pre-election Osama bin Laden extravaganza. As of now, Sony says it has no plans of changing the release date of its film but you've got to think the temptation is there. 
Why banning a military biofuel program is stupid in the long run
The military is very active in this realm, beyond the solar panels in Afghanistan—only sensible, given that the Defense Department spends over $16 billion a year on energy, nearly all of it fossil fuels. The Navy is in a joint project with the Departments of Agriculture and Energy to invest $510 million to convert old factories into bioprocessing plants. The Air Force is experimenting with fueling some of its fighter jets with biofuels.

But these plans will go bust if the House committee’s ban becomes law. Almost all new technologies cost more than existing ones at first. The cost drops—sometimes drastically, sometimes below the cost of the old technology—only after they develop, after there’s demand for the product; and in some cases the demand in early stages comes only from very large enterprises, in most cases an enterprise as large as a government.
Making electricity from virus pressure
The scientists tested their approach by creating a generator that produces enough current to operate a small liquid-crystal display. It works by tapping a finger on a postage stamp-sized electrode coated with specially engineered viruses. The viruses convert the force of the tap into an electric charge. 
Their generator is the first to produce electricity by harnessing the piezoelectric properties of a biological material. Piezoelectricity is the accumulation of a charge in a solid in response to mechanical stress. 
The history of tacos
The Spanish conquistadors looked down on Native foods and tried to bring European foods with them. One of the reasons for this was religion. Corn was associated with Native deities, and wheat was the grain used for the holy Eucharist.
90 Percent of corn seeds are covered with Bayer pesticides
As I've written before, Bayer's neonicotinoid pesticides, which now coat upwards of 90 percent of US corn seeds and seeds of increasing portions of other major crops like soy, have emerged as a likely trigger for colony collapse disorder. Watch this NBC News report from last week linking bee kills in Minnesota to Bayer's highly profitable product.
6 signs you're addicted to Facebook
  • You spend a lot of time thinking about Facebook or plan use of Facebook. 
  • You feel an urge to use Facebook more and more. 
  • You use Facebook in order to forget about personal problems. 
  • You have tried to cut down on the use of Facebook without success. 
  • You become restless or troubled if you are prohibited from using Facebook. 
  • You use Facebook so much that it has had a negative impact on your job/studies.
And a link I just found via Facebook...

The Loneliest Whale in the World
Because this one whale’s song is totally different than any other whale’s, it’s easy to track it and hear how its voice changes over time. So now we know, for instance, that a whale’s voice gets deeper as it ages. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

A Loss For Words (Link Round-Up 5/15/12)


*I'm posting this trailer because this is the least likely post-apocalyptic Chicago possible.


Survey: Americans favor major cuts in military spending
Seventy-six percent of survey-takers, including 90 percent of Democrats and 67 percent of Republicans, say they would cut the Pentagon's budget. That places the majority of respondents at odds with Democratic President Barack Obama's policies and the proposed budgets of the majority Republican Party in Congress. Obama has essentially held defense spending steady at around $550 billion by cutting its recent rate of increase. The Republicans have proposed adding billions of dollars to the president's budget.

The Secret Service is running NATO security (hide the hookers)
What will be particularly interesting (read: alarming) is if the Secret Service starts to use the law to get at protests that are physically removed from the event. For instance, if a lawful protest that is within earshot of the summit gets rowdy enough that it "disrupts" the "orderly conduct of Government business or official functions," does that trigger the statute? We just don't know. The Secret Service certainly has the ability and obligation to secure the individuals it protects, but it also must permit lawful protest to be seen and heard. It cannot use H.R. 347 to "sanitize" the summit.
Italian anarchist group shoots kneecap of nuclear executive
"Science in centuries past promised us a golden age, but it is pushing us towards self destruction and slavery," the group wrote, adding: "With our action we give back to you a small part of the suffering that you scientists are bringing to the world."
2,800-year-old tablet hints at previously unknown Middle Eastern language
The 60 women (including the 45 with evidence of the previously unattested language) were almost certainly being deployed by the palace authorities for some economic purpose (potentially a female-associated craft activity like weaving). Indeed the text mentions that some of them were being allocated to specific local villages. 
Typical names, borne by the women – the evidence for the lost language – include Ushimanay, Alagahnia, Irsakinna and Bisoonoomay.
The Nepalese language that is about to die
Professor Pokharel describes Kusunda as a "language isolate", not related to any common language of the world. 
"There are about 20 language families in the world," he said, "among them are the Indo-European, Sino-Tibetan and Austro-Asiatic group of languages. 
"Kusunda stands out because it is not phonologically, morphologically, syntactically and lexically related to any other languages of the world.
Paper finds human languages decline as species disappear
"In many cases it appears that conditions that wipe out species wipe out languages," says lead author Larry Gorenflo at Penn State Institutes of Energy and Environment. "I think it argues for concerted conservation efforts that are integrated and try to maintain biodiversity and cultural diversity."

Friday, May 11, 2012

Dead Babies and Teleportation (Link Round-Up 5/11/12)

[via BuzzFeed]

The train is late? Blame Chicago.
Some of the causes of delay might have seemed outdated in the 20th century, much less the 21st, like manual switches that engineers have to throw after their trains have passed. Create is replacing them with electronic switches and online traffic control networks, but until then engineers at some points have to get out of their cabins, walk the length of the train back to the switch — a mile or more — operate the switch, and then trudge back to their place at the head of the train before setting out again.
South Korea finds ship smuggling capsules of human flesh
The capsules were made in northeastern China from dead babies whose bodies were chopped into small pieces and dried on stoves before being turned into powder, a statement from the Korea Customs Service said.

Customs officials refused to disclose where the babies came from or who made the capsules, citing possible diplomatic friction with Beijing. Chinese officials have been cracking down on the production of such capsules since last year.
Chinese physicists set 100 km teleportation record
Teleportation turns out to be extremely useful. Because teleported information does not travel through the intervening space, it cannot be secretly accessed by an eavesdropper.

For that reason, teleportation is the enabling technology behind quantum cryptography, a way of sending information with close-to-perfect secrecy.
Mayan calendar found that lasts beyond 2012
Explorers first reported the site of Xultun, once a large Maya center, in 1915. But it was only two years ago that National Geographic Society-funded archaeologists noted a small residential room partly exposed by looters. The room's walls proved to hold murals and small, delicate hieroglyphs inscribed in rows between paintings of scribes and rulers that not only corresponded to a 260 day ceremonial calendar and 365-day year, but the 584-day sky track of Venus and 780-day one of Mars.
Goodbye, Senate moderates
Mann said that in the highly politicized and polarized world of government service, within both the executive branch and on Capitol Hill, “It’s going to be difficult to find successors in both branches that will make the kind of commitments to learning, to appreciate the institution of which they are part.”

“I just don’t see much of that around anymore,” he said.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Tupac Forever-ish (Link Round-Up 5/7/12)


What the Tupac hologram says about his legacy (and his fans)
Instead of honoring Pac’s memory, we as a culture are Weekend At Bernie-ing the poor man, crudely manipulating his memory, legacy, image, and vocals to make it appear that he’s performing with Dre and Snoop at Coachella, collaborating with people he publicly despised, and churning out album after album despite having died while still in his mid-20s.
Latinos are now the most dedicated moviegoers in America
At CinemaCon last week, Chairman and CEO of the MPAA Chris Dodd gave a speech in which he drove home the importance of Latinos as a movie-going audience: “Latinos make up 16 percent of the U.S. population, but more than a quarter of the movie-going audience,” he noted. “I often say that movies matter to America. Well, when it comes to our rapidly growing Latino population, movies are very important. And the Latino community is one of the most important [ones] to theater owners.” 
... 
“With an African-American movie, you can have a hit just with African-American audiences, but so far, the answer has been no with Hispanics,” Universal president of marketing and distribution Adam Fogelson told Variety in 2009, when Fast’s fourth installment came out, with Latinos making up almost 50 percent of its audience — one helluva case study. “They have more interest in assimilating."
FOUR out of five black women are seriously overweight. One out of four middle-aged black women has diabetes. With $174 billion a year spent on diabetes-related illness in America and obesity quickly overtaking smoking as a cause of cancer deaths, it is past time to try something new.
Zynga’s problem is that they didn’t bother to make sure Draw Something had staying power, something you would think would be required to shell out $200M for a company. Speaking as one of those 5M who can no longer be bothered with the game, it just got to be more work than fun once the novelty of iPhone Pictionary wore off. Yes, five of my friends all told me to download it a month ago, but after a few weeks of back and forths with confusing and repetitive words, it just was too much of an effort to keep up with games. This is not “Words with Friends” where you can take a minute and pick out a word to play. Rather, you have to draw a picture or a series of pictures to get your concept across, which is about ten times as time consuming.
Should America sell coal to China?
The future of the American coal industry has huge national and global implications. Treating it as a handful of local zoning controversies is extremely misleading. But with Washington locked into what amounts to across-the-board gridlock that’s exactly what we’re going to get.
The Malay Muslim insurgency in southern Thailand
At the root of the conflict is the feeling among Malay Muslims that they lack proper political representation. They make up four-fifths of the population in the deep south. They often speak only Malay and are proud of their particular history. In contrast, only one of the governors in the three Muslim-majority provinces of Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat is a Malay Muslim, while the other two are Thai Buddhists. All are appointed by the government in Bangkok. Poverty and drug-running contribute to the problems in the south. But armed groups feed off a sense of political grievance and discrimination, says Muhammad Ayub Pathan of Deep South Watch, a local think-tank. Despite some signs of progress, he says, the younger generation is more radical than its parents—and just as much in favour of restoring the sultanate.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Just Leave Your Skin Alone, Okay? (Link Round-Up 5/2/12)

[via]

Bain Capital-types hate art history majors
At a nearby table we saw three young people with plaid shirts and floppy hair. For all we know, they may have been plotting the next generation’s Twitter, but Conard felt sure they were merely lounging on the sidelines. “What are they doing, sitting here, having a coffee at 2:30?” he asked. “I’m sure those guys are college-educated.” Conard, who occasionally flashed a mean streak during our talks, started calling the group “art-history majors,” his derisive term for pretty much anyone who was lucky enough to be born with the talent and opportunity to join the risk-taking, innovation-hunting mechanism but who chose instead a less competitive life.
Art history majors hate Bain Capital-types
On that note, Deacon said, "It's insane for people to think we're not returning to an age of kings, that the powers that be don't want to go back to being pharaohs, having us build their pyramids. We're existing in a time that's post-Declaration of Independence, that's post-Magna Carta. We exist in a twinkle of an eye of what some consider freedom. People are like, 'Slavery was abolished.' No, slavery was just outsourced."
Ashton Kutcher attacked for "brown face" (and all-around terrible acting) in potato chip ad


Vagina bleaching ad reignites skin color beauty debate in India

 

Mom arrested for bringing 5-year-old to tanning salon booth
Patricia Krentcil said she treats her tanning salon trips as an errand in which she brings along her daughter, but insists the booth lights were never exposed to the girl.

"It's like taking your daughter to go food shopping," she told NBC 4 New York at her Nutley, N.J. home after being released on $25,000 bail. "There's tons of moms that bring their children in."

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

May Day, May Day! (Link Round-Up 5/1/2012)

[via reddit]

Newt Gingrich celebrates worker solidarity by ending presidential campaign
A formal announcement that he is suspending the campaign, coupled with an endorsement for Mitt Romney, is on the calendar for Wednesday.
Bolivia nationalizes the electric grid (away from Spanish company)
Morales took advantage of the symbolism of May Day, the international day of the worker, to order troops to occupy installations of the company, a subsidiary of Red Electrica Corporacion SA

The president’s placing of another of what he deems basic services under state control comes as neighboring Argentina moves to take control of the country’s oil company, YPF, from the Spanish energy company Repsol SA, which had held a majority interest.
Ron Paul and Paul Krugman prove that debates are nearly useless
If you want to increase your understanding of a subject, public debates are worthless. But that's because that isn't their purpose. Their purpose is emotional appeal, and understanding actively gets in the way of that. Ron Paul already knows that. I hope Krugman does too.
How to read science news
4. Look at the original source of information. The source of the articles is an editorial, as noted. But one of these articles also provides a link to an actual research paper. The paper doesn't even address any of the "top 10" chemicals listed but instead is about cigarette smoking. News stories about this study describe it as linking smoking during pregnancy and autism. Yet the study abstract states that they did not identify a link, saying "We found a null association between maternal smoking and pregnancy in ASDs and the possibility of an association with a higher-functioning ASD subgroup was suggested." In other words: No link between smoking and autism. But the headlines and how the articles are written would lead you to believe otherwise.
Al-Qaeda smuggled plans with porn
What emerges from the document is a twin-track strategy -- with the author apparently convinced that al Qaeda needs low-cost, low-tech attacks (perhaps such as the recent gun attacks in France carried out by Mohammed Merah) to keep security services preoccupied while it plans large-scale attacks on a scale similar to 9/11. 
Those already under suspicion in Europe and elsewhere would be used as decoys, while others would prepare major attacks. 
That is yet to materialize, but Musharbash believes a complex gun attack in Europe is still on al Qaeda's radar.

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