Archives For: Premium

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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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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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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A week ago, the Nigerian government claimed that a ceasefire deal with the radical Islamic militant group would lead to the return of over 200 schoolgirls abducted from Chibok in April, but the girls not been returned as promised, and 25 more girls have been kidnapped in an attack on a town in northeastern Nigeria:

John Kwaghe, who witnessed the attack and lost three daughters to the abductors, and Dorathy Tizhe, who lost two, said the kidnappers came late in the night, forcing all the women to go with them, then later releasing the older ones. The attack cast further doubt on government reports that it has secretly reached a temporary ceasefire with the rebels in order to secure the release of more than 200 schoolgirls they are holding hostage. “We are confused that hours after the so-called ceasefire agreement has been entered between the Federal Government and Boko Haram insurgents, our girls were abducted by the insurgents,” Kwaghe said. “We urge the government to please help rescue our daughters without further delay, as we are ready to die searching.”

Chad, which brokered the truce, claims that the deal is still on, although some factions of Boko Haram are not abiding by it, and that the Chibok girls are still expected to come home once the details of a prisoner exchange are finalized. The new abduction, however, has cast serious doubt on the agreement. “Sadly,” writes Andrew Noakes, “there is now strong reason to believe the deal could be fake”:

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The End Of Gamer Culture?

Oct 24 2014 @ 1:05pm

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Many readers have warned me not to dip a toe into the gamergate debate, which, so far, we’ve been covering through aggregation and reader-input. And I’m not going to dive headlong into an extremely complex series of events, which have generated huge amounts of intense emotion on all sides, in a gamer culture which Dish readers know far, far better than I. But part of my job is to write and think about burning current web discussions – and add maybe two cents, even as an outsider.

So let me make a few limited points. The tactics of harassment, threats of violence, foul misogyny, and stalking have absolutely no legitimate place in any discourse. Having read about what has happened to several women, who have merely dared to exercise their First Amendment rights, I can only say it’s been one of those rare stories that still has the capacity to shock me. I know it isn’t fair to tarnish an entire tendency with this kind of extremism, but the fact that this tactic seemed to be the first thing that some gamergate advocates deployed should send off some red flashing lights as to the culture it is defending.

Second, there’s a missing piece of logic, so far as I have managed to discern, in the gamergate campaign. The argument seems to be that some feminists are attempting to police or control a hyper-male culture of violence, speed, competition and boobage. And in so far as that might be the case, my sympathies do indeed lie with the gamers. The creeping misandry in a lot of current debates – see “Affirmative Consent” and “Check Your Privilege” – and the easy prejudices that define white and male and young as suspect identities (because sexism!) rightly offend many men (and women).

There’s an atmosphere in which it has somehow become problematic to have a classic white, straight male identity, and a lot that goes with it. I’m not really a part of that general culture – indifferent to boobage, as I am, and bored by violence. But I don’t see why it cannot have a place in the world. I believe in the flourishing of all sorts of cultures and subcultures and have long been repulsed by the nannies and busybodies who want to police them – whether from the social right or the feminist left.

But – and here’s where the logic escapes me – if the core gamers really do dominate the market for these games, why do they think the market will stop catering to them? The great (and not-so-great) thing about markets is that they are indifferent to content as such. If “hardcore gamers” skew 7 -1 male, and if corporations want to make lots of money, then this strain of the culture is hardly under threat. It may be supplemented by lots of other, newer varieties, but it won’t die. Will it be diluted? Almost certainly. Does that feel like an assault for a group of people whose identity is deeply bound up in this culture? Absolutely. Is it something anyone should really do anything about? Nah. Let a thousand variety of nerds and post-nerds bloom. And leave Kenny McCormick alone. This doesn’t have to be zero-sum.

The analogy a reader made this morning between the end of gamer culture and the end of gay culture was really helpful to me. I’ve written and blogged a lot about the end of gay culture; and I’ve always tried to present both sides of the argument. Yes, I wouldn’t trade our freedom for the closeted, marginalized past; at the same time, it’s impossible not to feel some regret at the close-knit, marginalized, very distinctive solidarity gays have lost as a group, and some affection for a world, built defiantly to defend itself against outsiders, that is dissipating before our eyes and on our apps. I’m for integration and against identity politics. But do I miss what, say, leather bars once were – and feel very conflicted now that bachelorette parties come and go as they please in some of them? Do I harbor some traces of resentment at those who treat gay culture as some kind of straight playground, or at the mob of straight folks who will swamp any gay presence at next week’s once-very gay high heel race in Dupont Circle? Guilty as charged.

And look, many gamers were the bullied in high school; this was their safe space; it was a place they could call home. They now feel it slipping away, and it has unhinged some and disconcerted many, as a lot of mainstream culture has heaped scorn and ridicule on them at the same time. And I’m sorry, but I feel some sympathy here. That sympathy has, alas, been swamped by revulsion at the rhetoric and tactics that have come to define this amorphous movement. I haven’t, to continue the analogy, gone stalking bachelorettes or yelling obscenities at them. I just sigh and move on. But these people do have a point; they have long been ostracized and marginalized; their defensiveness exists for a reason; and, in the last couple of months, they have also been the target of truly out-there dismissals and vitriolic abuse – often from other men, and often from those who were not bullied in high school at all.

Am I wrong to detect in this pile-on another round of bullying of these people, of treating them as scum, of dismissing anything they might have to say? Here are Gawker’s Sam Biddle’s tweets last week:

Just to make sure his point wasn’t lost, he then facetiously tweeted:

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