Is ISIS A Threat To Us? Ctd

Aug 27 2014 @ 10:29am
by Dish Staff

Daniel Berman considers Obama’s assessment of the threat ISIS poses, and his response to it, pretty much spot-on:

Obama’s remarks express a sense of proportion missing from alarmist claims that ISIS is on the verge of taking over Iraq or establishing an Islamic Caliphate. Contrary to these absurd warnings, ISIS is, as the President noted, engaged in a “regional power struggle” one in which its support is capped by its Sunni sectarian nature, which limits its maximum appeal to the 20% of Iraqis who are Sunni. Furthermore, Obama is correct to note that ISIS is far less of a direct threat to the United States than it is to Iran, Damascus, and Riyadh, and by extension Moscow. All have a much greater strategic interest in preventing a collapse of the Iraqi state, and all will therefore intervene directly to prevent such an eventuality, provided the United States does not do it for them. That said, if the United States is willing to pay the financial and military burden of stopping ISIS, Tehran and Moscow will be overjoyed, though that pleasure will not stop them from attempting to extract a political payment for allowing the US to do their own work for them. Obama appears determined to ensure that the US will not be left alone for the bill for what is in reality a geopolitical public service for the region.

Jack Shafer chastises most of his colleagues in the American press for taking Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s war rhetoric as gospel and accordingly overhyping that threat:

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Walter Bernstein, Still Kicking

Aug 27 2014 @ 10:03am
by Bill McKibben and Sue Halpern

Okay, admittedly, we can put a headline like that our post because we know Walter Bernstein, and chances are, so do you. Remember “You Were There?” (Probably not, you’re too young). Remember “Fail Safe?” “The Magnificent Seven?” Bernstein, who just turned 95, wrote the screenplays for all of them. How old is 95 in film years? Movies were just starting to talk when he would ditch school in Brooklyn to watch them.

Bernstein’s best known, though, for not working, at least under his own name: he was one of the many in Hollywood blacklisted during the 1950s for supposed communist ties. According to a remarkable encomium in Variety (the kind of thing that for once was published before someone dies, not after), his crimes included “supporting the Republican side in the Spanish Civil War, and advocating for the Russian War Relief Fund.” He spent those years trying to find work under pseudonyms, and he later wrote a memoir (“Inside Out”) and a great screenplay for The Front–which starred a then little known Brooklyn movie buff named Woody Allen.

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NSA Overshare

Aug 27 2014 @ 9:28am
by Sue Halpern

Back in March, in his virtual appearance at a TED conference in Vancouver, Edward Snowden said that the most shocking revelations from the documents he’d taken from the NSA were yet to come. On Monday, Ryan Gallagher and the team at First Look Media made good on that claim. Since at least 2010 and most likely before that, the NSA has been sharing 850 billion surveillance records with a dozen other government agencies including the DEA and the FBI through a Google-like search engine called ICREACH. When an FBI agent enters a scrap of information like a phone number, for example, the ICREACH search engine sends back everything in the NSA archives associated with that number–private chats, phone logs, photos and so on. According to the Intercept report, “Information shared through ICREACH can be used to track people’s movements, map out their networks of associates, help predict future actions, and potentially reveal religious affiliations or political beliefs.” While the database for ICREACH is, in theory, restricted to material obtained from foreign surveillance operations, in practice many of those operations have netted information on American citizens with no ties to terrorism:

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Legalize Opium?

Aug 27 2014 @ 9:02am
by Dish Staff


Gene Callahan suggests giving it a try:

My proposal offers the following advantages over the current situation:

  1. It allows us to test the waters of just how socially damaging full cocaine or heroin legalization might be, without simply plunging in head first. If simply legalizing coca leaves and opium produces droves of drugged-out zombies (which I don’t think it would), we could rule out full cocaine and heroin legalization, and even consider repealing this halfway legalization. If the effects are that bad, we can be sure that they would have been worse if we had legalized the harder forms of these drugs.
  2. A strong libertarian argument for full legalization (I say ”strong,” and not “decisive,” because I think there are significant counter-arguments here), is that many people are able to use these drugs in moderation without destroying their lives. … Well, these moderate, responsible users ought to find a milder, safer, and legal form of the drug they use to be a very welcome thing indeed. They could avoid the risk of arrest, of unregulated and adulterated street products that may contain dangerous additives, of job loss, and would enjoy a much greater ability to control their dosage.
  3. The considerations in point number two indicate what I think would be the greatest potential upside of this idea: its impact upon the economics of the trade in hard drugs. The shift in consumption predicted above would greatly lessen the demand for the more dangerous forms of these drugs.

In other opioid news, Olga Khazan examines a study finding that “the 13 states that had legalized medical marijuana prior to 2010 had a 25 percent lower rate of opioid mortality than those that didn’t”:

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by Dish Staff

Harold McGee contends that it has a long pedigree:

It was well established by 1924, when James H. Collins compiled The Story of Canned Foods. Collins noted that while the American industry – which started in the 1820s and took off during the Civil War – focused on mechanization and making locally and seasonally abundant seafood and vegetables more widely available, the European industry continued to rely on handwork and produced luxury goods for the well-off, who would age their canned sardines for several years like wine. Today, Rödel and Connetable, both more than 150 years old, are among the sardine makers that mark select cans with the fishing year and note that the contents “are already very good, but like grand cru wines, improve with age” for up to 10 years.

He adds, “I do hope that some restless, frontier-seeking food lovers will look past our present happy surfeit of small-batch pickles and fruit preserves and try their hands at canning age-worthy meats and fish.”

Eat More Salt?

Aug 27 2014 @ 8:01am
by Dish Staff


Studies showing that one’s preferred vice or guilty-pleasure condiment is actually good for you always have an audience. And so, here’s one for the salt-lovers out there. Sort of. Aaron E. Carroll explains (NYT):

Last year, experts convened by the Institute of Medicine assessed the evidence concerning sodium intake around the world. They agreed that efforts to reduce excessive sodium were warranted. But they cautioned that no such evidence existed to recommend a very low salt diet. They hoped that future research would assess the potential benefits of a diet where sodium intake was 1.5 to 2.3 grams per day.

The second New England Journal of Medicine study did just that. In addition to looking at high sodium diets, it also compared the health outcomes of those who had very low sodium diets. What they found was worrisome. When compared with those who consumed 3-6 grams per day, people who consumed less than 3 grams of sodium per day had an even higher risk of death or cardiovascular incidents than those who consumed more than 7 grams per day.

The key to health is (sadly) not pouring tremendous amounts of salt on absolutely everything. Writes Carroll:

It’s a cliché but true: In so many things moderation is our best bet. We have to learn that when one extreme is detrimental, it doesn’t mean the opposite is our safest course. It’s time to acknowledge that we may be going too far with many of our recommendations.

(Photo by Flickr user Lars K)

by Dish Staff

Mike Miley owns up to it in a fascinating essay about his experiences at the David Foster Wallace Archive at the University of Texas, confessing, “I came to Austin as a stalker, the kind of person who ought to be the recipient of a restraining order, not a research fellowship”:

The fellowship faintly disguises the fact that I am here to invade David Foster Wallace’s privacy, and that I took advantage of the Mellon Foundation to satisfy my personal compulsion to get as close to the inside of Wallace’s literary head as I could possibly get. What I failed to anticipate during all my academic grifting was how much peering into the dark recesses of Wallace’s skull would give me the howling fantods. What I wanted, I learned, was much more than I bargained for.

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Unliking Facebook

Aug 26 2014 @ 8:31pm
by Sue Halpern

Dislike Facebook

Anyone who has ever read Facebook’s privacy policy–and that probably would not include you–understands that it is not meant to protect your privacy, but provide Facebook and its clients with access to you, your habits, your contacts, your life. This kind of access is the lifeblood of Facebook (read: money), so attempting to indemnify itself against any claims of invasiveness is crucial. This, of course, has not exempted the company from lawsuits, as well as from less formal but no less vociferous user discontent. A quick search on the website of the Electronic Frontier Foundation is a lesson in the thrust and parry around privacy that’s accompanied Facebook’s remarkable insinuation into the culture.

Earlier this summer, a young Austrian law student named Maximilian Schrems filed a class action lawsuit against Facebook which has draw an unprecedented number of claimants.

As Malarie Gokey writes, 60,000 people have now joined young Schrems:

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by Dish Staff

Juan Cole finds the US response to yesterday’s revelation that Egypt and the UAE had carried out airstrikes in Libya pretty ironic:

According to the BBC, “the US, France, Germany, Italy and the UK issued a joint statement denouncing “outside interference” in Libya.” Seriously, guys? Except for Germany, these are the NATO countries that intervened in Libya in the first place, in large part at the insistence of an Arab League led by Egypt and the UAE! It is true that the UAE and Egypt don’t have a UN Security Council Resolution, which authorized NATO involvement (I supported the then no fly zone on those grounds). But the newly elected Libyan House of Representatives has openly called for international intervention against Libya’s out-of-control militias and it is entirely possible that the Libyan government asked, behind the scenes for these air strikes. In any case, “outside interference” isn’t the issue!

Claims that the airstrikes caught us unawares are also beyond belief:

“With as many Aegis-class ships as the U.S. Navy has in the Persian Gulf and Mediterranean, there is no possible way the UAE could pull this off without the U.S. knowing it,” said Christopher Harmer, a former Navy officer and an analyst with the Institute for the Study of War.

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Face Of The Day

Aug 26 2014 @ 7:23pm
by Dish Staff

China's Face-kini Becomes Unlikely Global Fashion Hit

A Chinese woman wears a face-kini while swimming on August 22, 2014 in the Yellow Sea in Qingdao, China. The locally designed mask is worn by many local women to protect them from jellyfish stings, algae and the sun’s ultraviolet rays. By Kevin Frayer/Getty Images.