Will Ukraine Vote West?

Oct 24 2014 @ 7:01pm

Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko is looking forward to a handy victory in Sunday’s elections, despite security concerns and the fact that most residents of separatist-held areas in the east will not be voting:

Poroshenko is seeking a mandate to press ahead with a plan for ending the conflict with separatists in Ukraine’s Russian-speaking eastern regions and establishing an understanding with Moscow while pursuing a course of European integration. Interfax news agency quoted him as saying on Thursday that he expected to be able to begin forming a new coalition by early next week that would be “pro-European, anti-corruption, without liars and populists.”

Stephen Sestanovich also predicts that mainstream, pro-Europe parties allied with Poroshenko will take a plurality or even a majority of seats, while the Communists and right-wing nationalist parties will be marginalized:

Recent polls show President Petro Poroshenko’s bloc likely to get 30% or so of the vote for party lists. (Half of the new Rada, or parliament, will be elected proportionally; the rest will be chosen in single-member districts.) Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk’s People’s Front may get around 11%, and it’s possible that together he and President Poroshenko will command a majority of seats.

On both the left and right, parties hoping to collect protest votes are being disappointed.

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Where America Eats

Oct 24 2014 @ 6:15pm

dish_diner

John Leavitt pens an ode to the True American Diner:

[N]ot all diners are exactly alike. There are vintage sleek bullet diners, modern silver-and-neon highway beacons, converted farmhouses, dusty desert truck stops, low-slung ranch-styles attached to motels, and mansard roof shoeboxes full of fake grapevines that resemble suburbian banks. Somewhere, there is neon. There are always leather or leather-ish clad booths in a True American Diner; without them, it’s just a breakfast joint. …

True American Diners exist in a bubble of no-nonsense egalitarianism; they exist outside socioeconomic distinctions, because there is something for everyone. There are always at least two retired people at the counter; they will never speak to each other or anyone else. Someone is on the run from the law; someone is the law. There are always at least two teenagers in a True American Diner and they are simultaneously talking about nothing and having The Most Important Conversation Of Their Lives. You wouldn’t go there for a special occasion, but you can always go there after one: proms, weddings, or funerals.

Without diners, where would outlaws stop to discuss bank robberies over coffee? Where would strippers go when they get off work? Where would covert agents talk about business with waffles or lovers arrange clandestine meetings? Without diners, are you even sure you’re in America?

(Hat tip: The Browser. Photo by liz west)

Ebola Reaches NYC, Ctd

Oct 24 2014 @ 5:44pm

Noam Scheiber contends that NYC officials clearly lied when insisting “Dr. Spencer acted entirely appropriately and responsibly”:

Despite the fact that Dr. Spencer presented a miniscule risk to anyone around him when he decided to ride the subway, go bowling, and frolic at the High Line Park on Wednesday, he obviously should not have been out and about. His decision to do those things forced the city to shut down and extensively clean the bowling alley in question and dispatch its “medical detectives” all over the city to figure out whom he may have come into contact with. Spencer’s wanderings probably also put a crimp in all the retail establishments along his Wednesday route. And they have generally required the city to manage the suddenly tormented psyches of millions of New Yorkers. It doesn’t seem like asking a guy to hang out in his apartment for a few weeks would have been too much to ask in order to avoid this mess. (On top of which, it’s become our policy in this country to quarantine anyone who had direct contact with an Ebola patient, as Dr. Spencer did repeatedly. Why should someone be exempt from this rule just because the contact happened outside the country?)

So, as I say, we were some lies told last night.

But, he admits, “I kinda think Cuomo et al were right to lie”:

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The NYPD is trying to determine whether a man who attacked four rookie police officers with a hatchet yesterday afternoon has links to terrorist organizations:

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A Shot At Democracy For Tunisia

Oct 24 2014 @ 4:43pm

Noah Feldman previews the upcoming legislative elections, the country’s first since ratifying its new constitution in January. The main contenders are the ruling Ennahda party, which espouses a moderate form of political Islam, and Nidaa Tounes, a secular party whose main appeal to many voters “is that it isn’t Ennahda”:

What will happen Sunday? Polls are relatively unreliable, but in general they have the two parties running close with Nidaa perhaps somewhat ahead. For Ennahda, the best result would be to win a plurality, then form a governing coalition with Nidaa or smaller secularist parties. … If Ennahda does win a plurality, expect the party to keep its promise of not running a presidential candidate. Ennahda knows that with a legislative plurality and the president from his own party, it would be too powerful and might well provoke a response.

If Nidaa wins a plurality, however, the situation will become more complicated.

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Mental Health Break

Oct 24 2014 @ 4:20pm

Some gender-bending family fun:

Epistemic Closure Watch, Ctd

Oct 24 2014 @ 4:00pm

A recent Pew survey showed a sharp ideological divide in media consumption. Nyhan disputes these findings:

[H]ave the predictions of widespread media echo chambers really come true? It’s hard to tell using questions like Pew’s, which ask people to self-report where they get their news. People can be biased in what outlets they choose to name or forgetful of the media they did consume in different settings and contexts. In particular, liberals or conservatives may be prone to exaggerating their exposure to ideologically consistent news outlets. Naming Fox or MSNBC in response to a question like the one Pew used may thus be more of a marker of tribal affiliation than a direct measure of news consumption.

The picture looks a lot brighter when social scientists have analyzed measures of people’s news consumption in the real world. It turns out that the media people are actually exposed to both online and offline is much more diverse and heterogeneous than people’s self-reports suggest.

Acid Burns In Isfahan

Oct 24 2014 @ 3:41pm

A series of acid attacks on women in Iran’s third-largest city prompted thousands to protest on Wednesday, denouncing the attackers and demanding that authorities take action. The attacks “had coincided with the passage of a law designed to protect those who correct people deemed to be acting in an ‘un-Islamic’ way”:

A local official said on Wednesday that “eight to nine” women had been attacked over the past three weeks by men on motorcycles who splashed them with acid in Isfahan, one of Iran’s largest urban centers and the country’s chief tourist destination. Some of the women were blinded or disfigured. The protesters — more than 2,000, according to the semiofficial news agency Fars — gathered in front of the local judiciary office and shouted slogans against extremists whom the protesters likened to supporters of Islamic State militants. They also called for the city’s Friday Prayer leader and the prosecutor to step down, witnesses said. Critics have long accused the Iranian authorities of playing down episodes that could embarrass leaders rather than investigating the cases.

Acid attacks on women are depressingly familiar events in Pakistan and Afghanistan, but rare in Iran. Rick Noack focuses on the new law, to which President Rouhani has come out in opposition:

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Smells Like Teen Misdemeanor

Oct 24 2014 @ 3:21pm

Gary Fields and John R. Emshwiller report on a shift in how adolescent misbehavior gets punished:

In Texas, a student got a misdemeanor ticket for wearing too much perfume. In Wisconsin, a teen was charged with theft after sharing the chicken nuggets from a classmate’s meal—the classmate was on lunch assistance and sharing it meant the teen had violated the law, authorities said. In Florida, a student conducted a science experiment before the authorization of her teacher; when it went awry she received a felony weapons charge.

Over the past 20 years, prompted by changing police tactics and a zero-tolerance attitude toward small crimes, authorities have made more than a quarter of a billion arrests, the Federal Bureau of Investigation estimates. Nearly one out of every three American adults are on file in the FBI’s master criminal database. This arrest wave, in many ways, starts at school.

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Facing Judgment

Oct 24 2014 @ 3:01pm

Edwards Trys to Gain Ground in Iowa

James Hamblin flags research on how people react to different kinds of faces:

There has been a recent boom in research on how people attribute social characteristics to others based on the appearance of faces—independent of cues about age, gender, race, or ethnicity. (At least, as independent as possible.) The results seem to offer some intriguing insight, claiming that people are generally pretty good at predicting who is, for example, trustworthy, competent, introverted or extroverted, based entirely on facial structure. There is strong agreement across studies as to what facial attributes mean what to people, as illustrated in renderings throughout this article. But it’s, predictably, not at all so simple.

Christopher Olivola, an assistant professor at Carnegie Mellon University, makes the case against face-ism today, in the journal Trends in Cognitive Sciences. In light of many recent articles touting people’s judgmental abilities, Olivola and Princeton University’s Friederike Funk and Alexander Todorov say that a careful look at the data really doesn’t support these claims. And “instead of applauding our ability to make inferences about social characteristics from facial appearances,” Olivola said, “the focus should be on the dangers.” …

Politics is a great example.

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