Thursday, May 21, 2015

Obama’s Twitter Debut, @POTUS, Attracts Hate-Filled Posts - NYTimes.com

Obama’s Twitter Debut, @POTUS, Attracts Hate-Filled Posts - NYTimes.com:



"WASHINGTON — When President Obama sent his inaugural Twitter post from the Oval Office on Monday, the White House heralded the event with fanfare, posting a photograph of him perched on his desk tapping out his message on an iPhone."



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Scientists Sample the Ocean and Find Tiny Additions to the Tree of Life - NYTimes.com

Scientists Sample the Ocean and Find Tiny Additions to the Tree of Life - NYTimes.com:



 "Climate change scientists have known for years that rising temperatures affect sea creatures, from the biggest fish to the microscopic plankton at the base of the ocean food chain."



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Workers Race to Clean Up Oil Spill on California Coast




Photo

Oil from a broken pipeline covered rocks near Refugio State Beach on Wednesday north of Goleta, Calif.CreditDavid Mcnew/Getty Images

GOLETA, Calif. — More than 6,000 gallons of oil have been raked, skimmed and vacuumed from a spill stretching across nine miles of California coast in a cleanup effort being carried out 24 hours a day, officials said on Thursday, but that is just some of the sticky, stinking sludge that escaped from a broken pipeline.
Investigators have found that up to 105,000 gallons may have leaked from the broken pipeline, and up to a fifth of that — 21,000 gallons — reached the sea, according to estimates.
Federal regulators were investigating the leak as workers in protective suits raked and shoveled black matter off the beaches, and as boats towed booms to corral the two slicks off the Santa Barbara coast.
The leak occurred in a pipe that was carrying crude from a large offshore rig toward refineries. The oil spilled into a culvert running under a highway and into a storm drain that emptied into the ocean.
The chief executive of the company that runs the pipeline, Plains All American Pipeline, apologized for the spill
Mr. Armstrong said that the company had received permission to continue the cleanup effort around the clock and vowed that workers “will remain here until everything has been restored to normal.”
Crude was flowing through the pipe at 54,600 gallons an hour at the time of the leak, the company said. Company officials did not say how long it leaked for before the spill was discovered and the pipeline shut down, or discuss the rate at which oil escaped.
Federal regulators from the Department of Transportation, which oversees oil pipeline safety, were investigating the leak, the pipe’s condition and whether there had been any regulatory violations.
The 24-inch pipe, built in 1991, had no previous problems and was thoroughly inspected in 2012, according to Plains. The pipe underwent similar tests about two weeks ago, though the results had not been analyzed yet.
There was no estimate on the cost of the cleanup or how long it would take.
A combination of soiled beaches and pungent stench of petroleum caused state parks officials to close Refugio State Beach and El Capitan State Beach, both popular campgrounds west of Santa Barbara, for the Memorial Day weekend.
Still, tourists were drawn to pull off the Pacific Coast Highway to observe the spill from overlooking bluffs.
“It smells like what they use to pave the roads,” said Fan Yang of Indianapolis, who was hoping to find cleaner beaches in Santa Barbara, about 20 miles away. “I’m sad for the birds — if they lose their habitat.”
Biologists were seen counting dead fish and crustaceans along sandy beaches and rocky shores.

The State Department of Fish and Wildlife banned fishing and shellfish harvesting for a mile east and west of Refugio beach, and it deployed booms to protect the nesting and foraging habitat of the snowy plover and the least tern, both endangered shore birds.
The coastal area is a habitat for seals, sea lions and whales, which are now migrating north through the area.
Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday declared a state of emergency because of the spill, a move that frees up additional state funding and resources to help in the cleanup effort.
The coastline was the scene of a much larger spill in 1969 — the biggest in American waters at the time — that is credited with giving rise to the American environmental movement.
Environmental groups used the spill as a new opportunity to criticize the use of fossil fuels and remind people of the area’s notoriety for oil spills.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Battle Is For The Customer Interface | TechCrunch

The Battle Is For The Customer Interface | TechCrunch:



 "Uber, the world’s largest taxi company, owns no vehicles. Facebook, the world’s most popular media owner, creates no content. Alibaba, the most valuable retailer, has no inventory. And Airbnb, the world’s largest accommodation provider, owns no real estate. Something interesting is happening."



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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

I Love My Hat!

Pakistani Investigators Raid Offices of Axact, Fake Diploma Company - NYTimes.com

Pakistani Investigators Raid Offices of Axact, Fake Diploma Company - NYTimes.com:



"KARACHI, Pakistan — Pakistani investigators on Tuesday raided the offices of Axact, a software firm in Karachi that has come under scrutiny for running a global diploma mill that has earned tens of millions of dollars through a network of fake online schools."



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Monday, May 18, 2015

Two Mexican Students: Two Life Paths

First the good news:

My friend Valentina Glockner, recently got her Ph.D. at the Anthropology Department of a first tier university in Mexico City: Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana-Iztapalapa. She is going to speak at her Alma Mater, about her work.

She is on her way to a brilliant academic career.

Now the sad news:

Her name was Sara A. Medina. She studied at East Aurora High School, from 2006 to 2010. I taught bilingual mathematics to her class, near my house in Warrenville, Illinois.

I found out about her death yesterday. 



She was a photographer with the Marine Corps, on a humanitarian mission to Nepal. She died in a helicopter accident, with other Americans, and Nepalese.

Life is full of events, some good, and some bad.

I feel admiration for Valentina's family, and sadness, and sorrow  for Sara's.

Both are the best that Mexico produces.

A Stand Against the Criminalization of Drugs by Claudio Lomnitz and Valentina Glockner

Guest Columnists: Claudio Lomnitz and Valentina Glockner
Media Notes
December 10, 2011


In Mexico there is a saying, of recent vintage: “If it doesn’t sound logical, it sounds metallic.”

What does it mean? Well, if the way an institution works doesn’t seem to make any sense, then someone is cashing in on it. Americans would be well-advised to learn this Sancho Panza-esque formula of vigilance.

Take drug policy, for instance. Drugs are a public health issue. Everybody knows that. And yet, they have been turned into a criminal matter. Three strikes, and rather than going to the hospital, you go to jail. Does that sound logical? Or can we make out the clear ring of silver behind the bumptious drug-crime hysteria?

Since the days when Ronald Reagan started the crusade against drugs, American prison populations have more than quadrupled, to approximately 2.3 million inmates. More than 3 percent of the American adult population is either in jail, on probation or out on bail . The bulk of these men and women have been convicted for drug-related offenses, and they are disproportionately African Americans and Latinos. Does that sound logical? Today, the State of California spends considerably more on prisons than on higher education. Does that?

There’s a ‘clinking, clanking, clunking sound,’ that makes that drug policy go’ round, and it comes from the business of security and prisons (clink!), the business of immigration control (clinkety-clink!), and with the business of selling arms (ca-ching!). All of these growing industries in a depressed economy.

Of course, decrying the corruption of public interest for the benefit of the few is not the job of the AAA, thank God.

Please scratch that.

Thank the fetish of your choice.

But there are institutionalized abuses that do come into the purview of this professional association. These include practices that promote ethnic, racial or national discrimination, human rights violations, and institutional arrangements that hinder the ability to practice ethnography. American drug policy does all three of those.

The connection between the criminalization of drugs and race relations within the United States is well-known , and we will not revisit it here, but the relationship between the criminalization of drugs and border inequalities deserves close attention.

Since Mexico began its—Washington supported—War on Drugs in 2006, there have been more than 40,000 drug-related violent deaths there. Mexico’s Movimiento por la Paz con Justicia y Dignidad claims 50,000. Back in 2006, Mexico’s homicide rate was around 9 per hundred thousand, which was only a little higher than that of the United States, and about a third of Brazil’s. Now, barely four years later, Mexico’s homicide rate is about that of Brazil. There has been no corresponding upsurge in drug killings in the United States in that period, despite the fact that most of the Mexican drug trade is geared to the US market. Is that logical? (Faint clink in the background).

The city of Ciudad Juárez is one of the most dangerous cities in the world – Bagdad is safer. But follow the drugs from Juárez to El Paso (if you can get across the fence without the help of a drug cartel), and you will find the second safest city in the United States. Is that logical? Buying, selling, and carrying guns is illegal in Mexico, but the business is protected in Texas and Arizona. Given America’s criminalization of drugs, is that logical? Then follow the money.

American drug policy has direct effects on discrimination against Mexicans and Central Americans. We do not know how much Mexico’s drug war has cost. It is not a simple calculus, as many of the expenses are incurred at the state and local levels, and indirect costs are many. At the federal level, though, budgetary expenditures in security increased from 4.8% of the budget in 2005 to 6.6% in 2010. It is safe to say that, with an official increase of 3.2 million people living in poverty in the 2008-2010 period, US drug policy stimulates Mexican migration to the United States, even as it contributes to the criminalization of the migrant. Human rights violations stemming from immigration policies in places like Alabama, Arizona, and Georgia are a legitimate concern for the AAA; so is the violation of human rights exposed by the recent Human Rights Watch’s report on the Mexican Drug War.

Finally, there is the direct implication of drug policy for the practice of anthropology.

Concerned with the implications of the drug war for the practice of anthropology within Mexico, we held a small focus-group meeting with 6 anthropology students from various Mexican institutions. Each author also had numerous private and a few collective discussions of these issues. Here are some of the points that were raised in these conversations.

American anthropologists who are familiar with Mexican anthropology know that field research has been central to the practice of the discipline there. Indeed, Mexico’s undergraduate programs have traditionally included a rigorous fieldwork component in the curriculum. Some of those field projects have either been cancelled or seriously stymied by lack of support and confusion as to how best to face the current situation of insecurity. Mexican students’ ability to do field research is seriously in jeopardy.

Several schools have taken informal measures to discourage field research in specific regions; others have eliminated individual fieldwork, and tried to substitute it with brief group expeditions. Teachers are often unsure of how to act in the face of rumors and press reports on insecurity in significant numbers in rural and urban communities. Curricular innovation is cautious and slow by design in Mexican universities, so there has not yet been an adequate general response to the new situation in the teaching of anthropological methods. Because safety conditions have deteriorated rapidly, most of these measures that teachers and students have taken are ad hoc, and have not yet been streamlined into formal policies. But safety concerns are there, and they are very real.

Mexico’s Colegio de Antropólogos y Etnólogos does not have an emergency hotline or publish tallies of anthropologists who have been killed, raped or kidnapped during fieldwork. It should; and so should the AAA. We do not yet have an organization that collects and denounces these facts, the way journalists do.

Protection against the new risks connected to fieldwork is a subject that came up insistently in our conversations. In Mexico, like everywhere else, students carry out the bulk of anthropological field-research. But they have no health and life insurance coverage to cover fieldwork risks. They are receiving little support, or even recognition of the need of support. Most publicly funded field research in Mexico is done by way of grants, with senior researchers hiring undergraduate and graduate student field researchers. These assistant positions generally carry no health and life insurance attached to fieldwork risks. Universities that foster student field research rarely provide health or life insurance coverage. Fieldworkers are unprotected.

It is time for American anthropologists to get actively involved in the movement for the decriminalization of drugs in the United States, and in the support of their colleagues south of the border. Currently, US drug-policy runs against American public interest, it has failed to reduce drug consumption, and its favorite remedy – prison – is worse than the sickness that it is meant to cure. American drug policy is ravishing Mexico, increasing immigration to the United States, and justifying discrimination against immigrants.

If these reasons prove to be insufficient to mobilize our association, we should add one final consideration: American drug policy is making the practice of anthropology in Mexico hazardous, at precisely the time when our research is most sorely needed.


Claudio Lomnitz, author of  Death and the Idea of Mexico, is professor of Anthropology at Columbia University.  He is currently completing a book on the Flores Magón brothers.

Valentina Glockner is a Ph.D. student in Anthropology at the Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana-Iztapalapa (Mexico) who has worked on immigrant and working children. Her doctoral dissertation is about the objectification and protection of “vulnerable children” by NGOs and the state in Mexico and India.

Indian Subcontinent’s Quake-Causing Collision Course - NYTimes.com

Indian Subcontinent’s Quake-Causing Collision Course - NYTimes.com:



"When an unstoppable force like the Indian subcontinent crashes into an immovable object like Asia, the consequences include the tallest mountains in the world and a cadence of earthquakes like the magnitude 7.8 one that struck Nepal last month and a major aftershock in the same region last week."



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Past Time to Reform Bretton Woods - NYTimes.com

Past Time to Reform Bretton Woods - NYTimes.com:



 "The reluctance of American and European officials to give developing nations a greater role in the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank risks making those institutions less relevant and effective than they could be."



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Sunday, May 17, 2015

Lake is Gone!

Brown’s Arid California, Thanks Partly to His Father - NYTimes.com

Brown’s Arid California, Thanks Partly to His Father - NYTimes.com:



 "LOS ANGELES — When Edmund G. Brown Sr. was governor of California, people were moving in at a pace of 1,000 a day. With a jubilant Mr. Brown officiating, California commemorated the moment it became the nation’s largest state, in 1962, with a church-bell-ringing, four-day celebration. He was the boom-boom governor for a boom-boom time: championing highways, universities and, most consequential, a sprawling water network to feed the explosion of agriculture and development in the dry reaches of central and Southern California."



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Friday, May 15, 2015

I know the type

I just read an article in the NYT about Bitcoin.

The bigger question brought up by this article in my mind, is whether or not, is it possible to be great without anybody knowing it?

There is a genius, Yitang Zhang, who solved an important problem in number theory, without anybody knowing of his important work, until he published it. I mean he was not in an Ivy League university, but in the University of New Hampshire. There is Srinivasa Ramanujan, who wrote to professor Hardy in England and was discovered. There is my friend, Raúl Herrera Márquez, who out of the blue, wrote an important Mexican History book, La Sangre al Río, that engages the late History Professor, Friedrich Katz, from the University of Chicago.

Let me tell you something, they were always extremely intelligent.

The question is then: How come nobody knows about them?

I leave that question open, but I know the type.


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