10 Weekend Reads

Pour yourself some strong coffee, and settle in for our big list of long-form journalism — its time for weekend reads:

• How Humans Ended Up With Freakishly Huge Brains (Wired)
• This is the oddest finance story you will read this week: Vanguard Whistleblower Could Get Billions in Tax Dodge Complaint (Newsweek)
How to Decimate a City: Syracuse thought that by building a giant highway in the middle of town it could become an economic powerhouse. Instead, it got a bad bout of white flight and the worst slum problem in America. (The Atlantic) see also Why the Economic Fates of America’s Cities Diverged (The Atlantic)
• The Big Short Will Make You Furious All Over Again About 2008 (Vulture)
• ‘Unprecedented’: What ISIS Looks Like In America (NPR) see also How the Paris Attackers Honed Their Assault Through Trial and Error (NYT)
• The Absurd History of Nike Air Technology (Gizmodo)
• White Debt: Reckoning with what is owed — and what can never be repaid — for racial privilege. (NYT Magazine)
• Randall Munroe Of xkcd Answers Our (Not So Absurd) Questions (FiveThirtyEight) see also Chris Hadfield meets Randall Munroe: ‘Are we alone in the universe?’ (The Guardian)
• The Peculiar Ascent of Bill Murray to Secular Saint (NYT)
• You Won’t Live to See the Final Star Wars Movie (Wired) see also ‘Star Wars’ Strikes Back: Behind the Scenes of the Biggest Movie of the Year (Rolling Stone)

Be sure to check out our Masters in Business interview this weekend with Roger Lowenstein, author of When Genius Failed: The Rise and Fall of Long-Term Capital ManagementHis latest book is America’s Bank: The Epic Struggle to Create the Federal Reserve.



Carbon and Inequality

Source: Vox EU




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Discussions found on the web:
  1. ilsm commented on Dec 5

    There are al Qaeda/ISIS sympathizers in Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Iraq, Emirates and they go about their business with no problems. These al Qaeda/ISIS sympathizers are protected by NATO and the US.

    The places al Qaeda/ISIS sympathizers have real problems are Syria, Iran and Russia which NATO and the US call the “enemy”.

    How about the pentagon wasting a couple trillion bucks more bombing the foot soldiers of Saudi puppets?

    No fly zones………. to keep real threats to ISIS grounded.

    • ilsm commented on Dec 5

      Yes, it goes without saying US oil consumers are the world’s biggest funders of ISIS. Cheap oil and ARAMCO profits! Permanent war profits as well.

      US fund its targets, shoots to miss [the small targets], counts infantry body bags and we wring our hands over San Bernardino and Paris.

      Crocodile tears.

    • Winchupuata commented on Dec 6

      The US’s foreign policy is painfully short sighted, to get cheap oil and European destabilization (and the US calls itself an european ally, ha) it’s helping Islam’s 1400 year old goal, Islamization and overtake of Europe. North Africa, the Middle East and parts of Asia are already completely overtaken by Islam, and now Europe is next, thanks a lot US.

    • VennData commented on Dec 5

      How does GOP hero Netanyahu in the Middle of the Middle ​East set up their gun laws?


      Why didn’t Bibi mention this in his Congressional address or in his forty-five second silent stare at the UN?

      Netanyahu wants to take your gun right winger!

    • VennData commented on Dec 5

      More Than 80 Percent of Guns Used in Mass Shootings Obtained Legally


      ​Once we take care of that twenty percent, the problem’s licked.

  2. john farmer commented on Dec 5

    RE How Humans Ended Up With Freakishly Huge Brains:

    Chris McDougall, author of “Born to Run,” provides some great insight into how and why early humans developed. His theory on the evolutionary advantage that humans had over other animals: “…the one advantage we have in the wilderness — again, it’s not our fangs and our claws and our speed — the only thing we do really, really well is sweat.” Sweating enables the body to cool itself, which is needed for long-distance running. Humans are better endurance runners than any other animal.

    From his TED Talk:

    “Mystery number one is this: Two million years ago the human brain exploded in size. Australopithecus had a tiny little pea brain. Suddenly humans show up — Homo erectus — big, old melon-head. To have a brain of that size, you need to have a source of condensed caloric energy. In other words, early humans are eating dead animals — no argument, that’s a fact. The only problem is, the first edged weapons only appeared about 200,000 years ago.

    “So, somehow, for nearly two million years, we are killing animals without any weapons. Now we’re not using our strength because we are the biggest sissies in the jungle. Every other animal is stronger than we are — they have fangs, they have claws, they have nimbleness, they have speed. We think Usain Bolt is fast. Usain Bolt can get his ass kicked by a squirrel. We’re not fast. That would be an Olympic event: turn a squirrel loose — whoever catches the squirrel, you get a gold medal. So no weapons, no speed, no strength, no fangs, no claws — how were we killing these animals? Mystery number one.”

    More at the link below, including a recent TED Radio Hour feature and the original TED Talk.

    • Winchupuata commented on Dec 6

      “Biggest sissies in the jungle”? No wonder it’s a TED talk, sounds like he’s just trying to sound cool to his audience, which is basically what TED talks are anyway.

      I don’t think you can qualify an animal that hunts and kills bigger, faster and stronger animals than itself as sissie.

  3. RW commented on Dec 5

    Working the Refs: A weekend meander into agnotology.

    As our host here has posted multiple times it’s hard to beat the finance and economics fields for sheer numbers of authoritative media stars who get it wrong. True there is a fair bit of slop in those fields, memories tend to be short so the stars who got it wrong keep coming back to get it wrong again. Plaguing natural science with bad work and sowing doubt on findings that powerful interests dislike is trickier though, typically requiring real finesse and strong sponsorship.

    In the field of climate change denial there are few ‘stars’ with the longevity of Bjorn Lomborg; in a field where his astonishing output of quasiscientific bullshit ought to preclude any attention by anyone he is not only still consulted by otherwise credible media outlets but makes presentations to attendees of seminal events such as the recent climate conference in Paris. The following link is a letter to the FT written in protest to this latest presentation. Note that despite the strong tone of the letter, Lomborg is still treated with respect and an individual with standing.

    Time to walk away from once credible theories now shown to be untrue
    Sir, Bjorn Lomborg’s analysis of emission-cutting pledges made by rich and poor countries before the current UN climate summit in Paris has been comprehensively discredited, yet he continues to flog a dead horse and the Financial Times, surprisingly, continues to print articles based on it …

    If you have an FT subscription by all means follow the link. I don’t want to step on copyright so I’ll summarize the main part of the letter here. The writer notes her own credentials in global development and the clear awareness in the developing world that they will be the biggest losers if climate change progresses unaltered. The majority realize they can accomplish much by not passing through the carbon-intensive phase of development, focusing on low-carbon, higher technologies instead. She ends her letter by stating it may be difficult to admit error but it is really time for “Dr. Lomborg” to reject his theory that few nations actually meet their carbon pledges and attempting to actively work on slowing climate change at the levels required would harm developing nations more than aid them.

    NB: First of all, Lomborg has higher degrees in political science but, like Lord Monckton, no credentials of any kind in natural science. More to the point it has become clear over the years that sowing doubt regarding climate change and/or our ability to do anything about it is his raison d’etre, his mission. The extensive site at http://www.lomborg-errors.dk/ lays this out in great detail viz

    Bjørn Lomborg is a well-known personality in the environmental debate. He is the author of several books which, due to their copious lists of notes and references, appear very technical and scientific and therefore trustworthy. …
    When experts in the fields covered by Lomborg check his texts, they most often find that the evidence has been distorted. Danish biologist Kåre Fog has systematically over many years checked Lomborg´s texts against his sources and references and against other scientific literature. His conclusion is that Lomborg´s texts are systematically manipulated ….
    The web site Lomborg-errors has been established to document this claim. …

    Why is it essential to point out the errors?
    First, because in the handling of errors, Lomborg does not act like most persons would do. A normal person would apologize or be ashamed if concrete, factual errors or misunderstandings were pointed out – and would correct the errors at the first opportunity given. Lomborg does not do that. …
    Second, because you cannot evaluate Lomborg´s books just by reading them and thinking of what you read. For every piece of information in the books, you have to check if it is true and if the presentation is balanced. …Therefore, in principle, you can only evaluate the books after having checked all footnotes, read all references, and checked alternative sources. …
    Third, because the errors seem not to be inadvertent, but to follow a general pattern, they give a bias in a certain direction …There are many examples where the misleading seems to be deliberate …

    Take a look at the site and wander about at bit. If you ever wondered how a self-serving poseur and non-economist like Niall Ferguson continues to be cited as an authority on economics given the number of times he has been proven wrong you will be utterly dumbfounded by the vast array of Lomborg errors and wonder that he is not only cited in the press on climate science but actually still invited to give talks on the subject.

  4. Jojo commented on Dec 5

    Hours before San Bernardino shooting, doctors urged Congress to lift funding ban on gun violence research
    December 2

    On Wednesday morning, a group of doctors in white coats arrived on Capitol Hill to deliver a petition to Congress. Signed by more than 2,000 physicians around the country, it pleads with lawmakers to lift a restriction that for nearly two decades has essentially blocked the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from conducting research on gun violence.

    Joined by a handful of Democratic lawmakers, the doctors spoke about the need to view gun violence as a public health epidemic and research ways to solve it – as the country would with any disease causing the deaths of thousands of Americans each year.

    “It is disappointing that we have made little progress over the past 20 years in finding solutions to gun violence,” said Nina Agrawal, a New York physician and member of the advocacy group Doctors for America, according to the group’s Twitter feed.

    “As a pediatrician, I am deeply troubled that gun violence is a leading cause of death in children.” – Dr. Nina Agrawal #EndTheBan


  5. Jojo commented on Dec 5

    We need to take big money and lobbyists out of politics. I wonder if these politicians would vote differently if they were not owned by the NRA?
    The Senators Who Voted Against Background Checks Have Received $27 Million From the NRA
    December 04, 2015

    On Thursday evening, the Senate voted down two gun control proposals introduced by Democrats as legislative response to multiple mass shootings across the United States this week. The measures, put forward as amendments to an Obamacare repeal package, would have banned the purchase of firearms by individuals on the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Database and expanded background checks for firearm purchases to include weapons purchased at gun shows and online.

    On its surface, the proposals’ failure is the latest installment of the political stalemate between Democrats, who favor expansion of gun control legislation, and Republicans, who support the expansion of the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms. But beyond the stated philosophical differences between the parties — the votes fell almost entirely along party lines — the staunch opposition to the measures also highlight an important component of the battle over firearms in Congress: the influence of the National Rifle Association, particularly when it comes to financial support of candidates and their campaigns.

    According to a Mic analysis of political spending data collected by the Center for Responsive Politics, the NRA, —often cited as the most influential lobbying organization in the country — has spent a total of $27,205,245 in support of the 50 senators who voted against background check expansion on Thursday. That amount includes direct donations to their campaign committees, outside spending in support of the candidate — that is, political expenditures made independently of candidates’ committees — and outside spending against their opponents, spread across their entire political careers.


  6. Jojo commented on Dec 5

    Super news but the article did not address how much energy is required for this process.
    New Substance Is Harder Than Diamond, Scientists Say
    DEC. 3, 2015

    Until recently, diamond was the hardest known naturally occurring material. But a new physical process applied to carbon has uncovered a substance that a group of scientists say is even harder.

    Researchers at North Carolina State University say they have developed a technique for creating a substance they are calling Q-carbon, which represents a third phase, or distinct form, of carbon alongside graphite and diamond.

    The discovery could have many applications, notably in the fields of medicine and industry. But Jay Narayan, the lead scientist on the study, has made one claim about the technique that is certain to turn heads.

    “In 15 minutes, we can make a carat of diamonds,” Mr. Narayan said. A carat is 200 milligrams.


  7. VennData commented on Dec 5

    Another Republican lawyer and his “beliefs and theories”

    “…Lawyer David Chesley represents their family, and argued on Thursday that official information about the shooting should not be trusted. He even seemed to suggest the school shooting in Sandy Hook in 2012 may not have happened…”


    From now on I am a single issue voter. You are going to restrict guns to the way do everywhere else or your oppent gets my vote.

  8. Molesworth commented on Dec 6

    From vendata article, something no one is talking about…
    If all that data collection was supposed to root out the bad guys in advance, it didn’t work…

    An American Civil Liberties Union lawyer, Alex Abdo, noted the California shootings were another case where the NSA’s inspection of Americans’ phone records failed to stop the plot before it happened.

    “This could only be an example of the failure of that program,” Abdo said. “If this were a planned attack and the program did what they claimed it did at the time, they would have detected this attack. It’s not surprising the bulk-collection program didn’t detect it.”

  9. rd commented on Dec 6

    I assume that the same folks going after Vanguard will also be going after Amazon since Beals insists on doing that investment thingy instead of making a big profit and returning cash to shareholders.

    • rd commented on Dec 6

      Sorry. Auto-correct doesn’t recognize Bezos as a word.

  10. Winchupuata commented on Dec 6

    “White debt”
    “White guilt”
    “White privilege”

    What a load of bollocks, if you hate yourself that much do us all a favor and offer yourself in sacrifice to ISIS or some other lunatic group and spare us from this nonsense.

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