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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Beard Of The Week

Oct 24 2014 @ 2:55pm

Puberty On Hold

Oct 24 2014 @ 2:40pm

Jake Thomas discusses new options available to some transgender youth:

The country’s attitude toward the transgender community is shifting, with the once rarely-discussed topic moving further into mainstream conversation. The nascent acceptance of transgender people has important consequences for their medical care, and earlier this month, Oregon became the first state in the country to offer drugs that delay the onset of puberty for transgender adolescents enrolled in its Medicaid plan.

For 15 years, clinics in the U.S. and Europe that treat transgender children have prescribed these drugs to stop their bodies from maturing. The idea behind the treatment is twofold:

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Owned By Rent

Oct 24 2014 @ 2:19pm

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Megan McArdle responds to Chico Harlan’s piece on rent-to-own furniture and its impact on poverty:

You see this a lot in the annals of the working poor: People substitute debt for savings because it is too hard to accumulate savings in the face of demands on the money. This is especially true when your income is irregular, as it is for many of the people in the article. (You can see me talk more about that here.) Acquiring an obligation makes it much more likely that you will stick with the payments long enough to actually acquire the object, which is why people will pay nosebleed rates to borrow money or “buy” with plans such as rent-to-own.

The problem, of course, is that the irregular income that makes you partial to debt financing over saving is also the irregular income that makes you quite likely to default on your debts, trapping you in a high interest rate that is hard to emerge from. So while these articles are often framed around the size of the paycheck, it’s worth noting that the irregularity of low-income paychecks can be just as big a problem.

One reason Ryan Decker finds the story so “shocking is that their weekly payment exceeds the total cost of the sofa on which I’m sitting, which my wife found on Craigslist for $80 four years ago”:

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