July 5, 2015

Posted by orrinj at 1:48 PM


Iranians ready for new chapter as nuclear talks approach conclusion (Ian Black, 5 July 2015,l The Guardian)

"It is a big moment," said Sadegh Zibakalam, a prominent reformist academic. "In years to come people will refer to this agreement as a landmark in modern Iranian history. It is of crucial importance that Iran has said: 'OK, we are going to trust the west.' If we reach an agreement with the US - the Great Satan - on an issue that divided us for more than a decade, it will be a huge transformation."

The impending deal looks like a triumph for Hassan Rouhani, elected president two years ago in place of the divisive Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who ransacked government coffers to fund populist projects at home and outraged the world with his Holocaust denial. Still, everyone knows that Rouhani and his foreign minister, Javad Zarif, have the blessing of the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and that the government desperately needs the agreement. [...]

"This is so big that the timing is just a detail," said Majid Zamani, an investment banker. "We are at the point of no return in terms of even a limited peace between this country and the west. It is so big that it doesn't matter whether it takes another year or two to be able to resume business."

Zibakalam acknowledged there was a danger of wishful thinking as the moment nears in Vienna. Yes, first the deal has to be done. That will indeed be the end of a long and difficult chapter, full of historic resonances for Iranians and Americans alike. But a new one will open at once.

Posted by orrinj at 11:45 AM


Reproducibility: Don't cry wolf (Jan Conrad, 01 July 2015, Nature)

The past few years have seen a slew of announcements of major discoveries in particle astrophysics and cosmology. The list includes faster-than-light neutrinos; dark-matter particles producing γ-rays; X-rays scattering off nuclei underground; and even evidence in the cosmic microwave background for gravitational waves caused by the rapid inflation of the early Universe. Most of these turned out to be false alarms; and in my view, that is the probable fate of the rest.

Posted by orrinj at 10:32 AM


The Latest Sign That the Robot Uprising Is Nigh? Camel Racing (Amy Crawford, July 2015, SMITHSONIAN MAGAZINE)

Camel racing on the Arabian Peninsula dates to the seventh century, but not long ago the sport underwent a MacGyver-like upgrade: robot jockeys, retrofitted from cordless power drills and dressed in uniforms. British photojournalist Andrew Testa captured this race in Abu Dhabi. As the camels galloped at up to 40 miles per hour, he heard the whoosh of the robots' remotely controlled whips, two-foot strips of plastic attached to the drills' motor. The animals' owners sped alongside in SUVs, muttering encouragement through two-way radios. Camel racing has a troubled past. Child slaves often served as jockeys until the UAE outlawed their use in 2002, which led to robots becoming the industry standard, and though some critics might object to the whips, defenders argue that the practice is no different from horse racing.

Posted by orrinj at 8:15 AM


16 charts that illustrate America's global dominance (ANDY KIERSZ , Jul. 4, 2015, Business Insider)

It'll be fun to listen to the 2016 candidates bemoan our decline.

Posted by orrinj at 8:14 AM


Pakistani military says it achieved major victory in mountain assault (Tim Craig July 4, 2015, Washington Post)

Pakistan's military says it achieved a major strategic victory over Islamist militants hiding in the Shawal Valley, a thickly forested area bordering Afghanistan thought to be among the last few refuges here for al-Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban.

Pakistan's army chief, Gen. Raheel Sharif, visited the area on Friday to congratulate troops for clearing "all peaks" that surround the valley. Now, Sharif said, the army will begin a final assault on the lower elevations.

"We will not stop unless we achieve our end objective of a terror-free Pakistan," Sharif said in a statement.

Posted by orrinj at 8:00 AM


The U.S. Is Producing a Record Amount of Milk and Dumping the Leftovers (Lydia Mulvany, July 1, 2015, Bloomberg)

There's so much milk flowing out of U.S. cows these days that some is ending up in dirt pits because dairies can't find buyers.

Domestic output is set to be the highest ever for a fifth straight year. Farmers are still making money as prices tumble because of cheaper and more abundant feed for their herds. Supplies of raw milk are topping capacity at processing plants in parts of the U.S. and compounding a global surplus even with demand improving.

Seems like the industry should be doing a better job of getting people to replace their energy drinks with milk:

Milk as an Effective Post-Exercise Rehydration Drink [Shirreffs SM et al. Milk as an effective post-exercise rehydration drink.  Br J Nutr (2007)]

The effectiveness of low-fat milk, alone and with an additional 20 mmol/l NaCl, at restoring fluid balance after exercise-induced hypohydration was compared to a sports drink and water. After losing 1·8 (SD 0·1) % of their body mass during intermittent exercise in a warm environment, eleven subjects consumed a drink volume equivalent to 150 % of their sweat loss. Urine samples were collected before and for 5 h after exercise to assess fluid balance. Urine excretion over the recovery period did not change during the milk trials whereas there was a marked increase in output between 1 and 2 h after drinking water and the sports drink. Cumulative urine output was less after the milk drinks were consumed (611 (SD 207) and 550 (SD 141) ml for milk and milk with added sodium, respectively, compared to 1184 (SD 321) and 1205 (SD 142) ml for the water and sports drink; P,0·001). Subjects remained in net positive fluid balance or euhydrated throughout the recovery period after drinking the milk drinks but returned to net negative fluid balance 1 h after drinking the other drinks. The results of the present study suggest that milk can be an effective post-exercise rehydration drink and can be considered for use after exercise by everyone except those individuals who have lactose intolerance.

And like a difficult time for Coke to be introducing a premium milk.

Heck, I just buy the shelf-stable stuff at Dollar Tree.

Posted by orrinj at 7:11 AM


'Neglected Prophet' of Economics Got It Right (Leonid Bershidsky, 7/03/15, Bloomberg View)

[Silvio] Gesell was  born in Germany, made a modest fortune as an importer in Argentina. After he returned to Europe, he became finance minister of the short-lived Soviet Bavarian Republic in 1919, was arrested and charged with treason but acquitted. He kept publishing his works in Berlin until his death in 1930. John Maynard Keynes called Gesell "a strange, unduly neglected prophet" and described his bold idea as follows:

According to this proposal currency notes (though it would clearly need to apply as well to some forms at least of bank-money) would only retain their value by being stamped each month, like an insurance card, with stamps purchased at a post office. The cost of the stamps could, of course, be fixed at any appropriate figure. According to my theory it should be roughly equal to the excess of the money-rate of interest (apart from the stamps) over the marginal efficiency of capital corresponding to a rate of new investment compatible with full employment. The actual charge suggested by Gesell was 1 per mil. per week, equivalent to 5.2 per cent per annum. This would be too high in existing conditions, but the correct figure, which would have to be changed from time to time, could only be reached by trial and error.

This amounts to a tax meant to prevent money-hoarding. Cash would still be used as a medium of exchange, but it would lose its significance as a store of value. In a way, that's what central banks are trying to achieve when they keep lowering interest rates, sometimes breaching what is called the "zero bound." They want money to get out and work rather than languish in bank accounts, with the idea that spending will increase demand and thus inflation rather than deflation.

The Gesell tax has a side effect that is particularly relevant today: Those who still try to use "melting" money would be open to buying negative-interest bonds, as long as the interest they have to pay the issuer is lower than the stamp tax. That, apparently, is already beginning to happen in France. In a Bloomberg article, Alexandre Akhavi, chairman of the French Association of Corporate Treasurers' legal committee, said some institutional investors are still buying bonds with negative coupons because they offer security. That means these investors can't find a secure way to park their money that would offer even zero interest.

Posted by orrinj at 6:46 AM


Born On The Fourth Of July: How Louis Armstrong Taught Us to Swing (Nat Hentoff, 7/04/15, Daily Beast)

There has been no jazz musician so widely, deeply, durably influential as Louis. And no trumpet player who could do all he could do on the horn. Once, Louis told journalist Gilbert Millstein, "I'm playin' a date in Florida, livin' in the colored section and I'm playin' my horn for myself one afternoon. A knock come on the door and there's an old, gray-haired flute player from the Philadelphia Orchestra, down there for his health. Walking through that neighborhood, he heard this horn, playing Cavalleria Rusticana, which he said he never heard phrased like that before. To him it was as if an orchestra was behind it." 
And that reminded me of what happened one night in the early '30s, when a delegation of top brass from the Boston Symphony Orchestra--all of them unfamiliar with jazz but brought there by rumor of genius--stood in Louis Armstrong's dressing room and asked him to play a passage they had heard in his act. Louis picked up his horn and obliged, performing the requested passage and then improvising a dazzling stream of variations.

Shaking their heads, these "legitimate" trumpet players left the room, one of them saying, "I watched his fingers and I still don't know how he does it. I also don't know how it is that, playing there all by himself, he sounded as if a whole orchestra were behind him. I never heard a musician like this, and I thought he was just a colored entertainer." [...]

Before Louis Armstrong came to his blazing maturity in the '20s there had, of course, been other notable jazz soloists. Some, like Buddy Bolden in New Orleans, are forever misted in legend because they never recorded. Others, like King Joe Oliver and players in Chicago, New York, and then Southwest were often forcefully, pungently distinctive. But none had the sweep, the extended melodic imagination, and the rhythmic inventiveness of Louis. None could make simplicity so profound or high-register fireworks so dramatically cohesive. And none, above all, had ever before so dominated the jazz ensemble, whether small combo or big band. The first fully liberated jazz soloist, Armstrong hugely influenced soloists on all instruments, and he helped free all who followed. They were still part of a collectively swinging group, but they had a lot more space in which to stretch out for themselves.

Gunther Schuller, an instrumentalist and a composer, emphasized in Early Jazz the four salient elements which set Louis apart from all the jazz musicians who had preceded him: "... (1) his superior choice of notes and the resultant shape of his lines; (2) his incomparable basic quality of tone; (3) his equally incomparable sense of swing, that is, the sureness with which notes are placed in the time continuum and the remarkably varied attack and release properties of his phrasing; (4) and, perhaps his most individualistic contribution, the subtly varied repertory of vibratos and shakes with which Armstrong colors and embellishes individual notes. The importance of the last fact cannot be emphasized enough, since it gives an Armstrong solo that peculiar sense of inner drive and forward momentum. Armstrong was incapable of not swinging."

Back in New Orleans, when he was still a boy--who had learned to play trumpet in a waifs' home where he had been sequestered for celebrating New Year's Eve by shooting off a gun--Louis had already shown unmistakable signs that he was becoming a soloist unlike any New Orleans had ever heard or even imagined. Trumpeter Mutt Carey, known as the "Blues King of New Orleans" when Louis was a lad, once let the teenager take his chair in Kid Ory's band, one of the city's most crisply proficient combos.

"That Louis," Carey recalled, "played more blues than I ever heard in my life. It never had struck my mind the blues could be interpreted so many different ways. Every time he played a chorus it was different, and yet you knew it was the blues." [...]

It also took a lot of self-fortification for Louis to keep on coping with the Jim Crow that was an obbligato to his life. For many, many years, famed as he was in Europe, when he'd go on the road in his own country, only certain places, black places, would house and feed Louis and his band. All black jazz musicians, no matter how lauded for their contributions to America's "indigenous art form," were pariahs on the road until comparatively recent times. A member of the Count Basie band, which had just come off the road in the early '50s, told me: "Can you imagine what it feels like to begin pulling up to a gas station and see the attendant running like the hell to lock the men's room. No, you can't imagine it."

Posted by orrinj at 6:41 AM


Tesla S: car review : The electric Tesla S is a pure spark of inspiration. But how did it get so far ahead of the competition? (Martin Love, 5 July 2015, The Guardian)

The future doesn't arrive gently: it comes at a leap - a great galumphing jump that leaves you laughing with disbelief. I drove the Tesla S last week and it offers such revolutionary solutions to so many of the oily problems that bog most manufacturers down that you wonder what on earth they've all been doing. While they've been dozing, Elon Musk, the polymath gigabillionaire who invented PayPal, has set about changing the cars we drive - and the way we drive them. [...]

The car doesn't have a fuel tank, exhaust pipes, petrol cap or any of the other gubbins associated with an internal combustion engine. Being purely electric it only has one gear. Hit the throttle and the car accelerates in a soaring, totally silent, endless swoosh - it essentially does 0-140mph in first. It also doesn't have an ignition. There is no on or off. The car wakes up when you approach it (it detects that tiny Tesla in your pocket). You get in, select D, press the throttle and off you slip. When you stop, you just get out and walk away.

They just installed a Tesla charging station at the shopping mall in West Lebanon, NH.

Posted by orrinj at 6:38 AM


Japan joins US-Australia war games in NT and Queensland amid China dispute (Agence France-Presse, 5 July 2015)

The US and Australia kicked off a massive joint biennial military exercise on Sunday, with Japan taking part for the first time as tensions with China over territorial rows loom over the drills.

The two-week "Talisman Sabre" exercise in the Northern Territory and Queensland involves 30,000 personnel from the US and Australia practising operations at sea, in the air and on land.

About 40 personnel from Japan's army - the Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF) - will join the American contingent, while more than 500 troops from New Zealand are also involved in the exercise, which concludes on July 21.

Posted by orrinj at 6:33 AM


Why your smartphone takes better photographs than the Hubble space telescope (Monica Grady, 5 July 2015, The Guardian)

For those who keep up with the latest developments in space exploration, the last couple of years have offered a rich feast of images: from close-up pictures of water-worn pebbles on the surface of Mars to the views of galaxies at the edge of the visible universe, by way of the cratered surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. We are becoming almost blase with the seemingly daily occurrence of a fresh view of a star or planet.

Back on Earth, we are also no longer amazed by the instant communication of social media or the ability to watch films in high definition on our smartphones. Rather, we tend to complain if our mobile signal drops out when going through a tunnel on a train journey or the internet speed slows because it can't cope with the 10GB film you are streaming at the same time your kids are playing an online fantasy game ported through a server some thousand miles away. The latest developments in hi-tech communications incorporate 64bit architecture, 1GB RAM, 1.4 GHz speed, 20 megapixel cameras and so on. How does all this relate to the wonderful images produced by space instruments?

Looking at the technical specifications for the camera on the Hubble space telescope (HST), you are immediately in a different world. One of 16bit architecture. One of 48k memory and a speed of 1.25MHz. How antiquated! How ancient! How slow! How does the HST manage to produce anything at all? How come it isn't using the latest technology?

Posted by orrinj at 6:31 AM


US-led coalition carries out series of deadly strikes targeting IS militants in Raqqa (Associated Press July 5, 2015)

In a statement issued early Sunday, the coalition said it had conducted 16 airstrikes throughout Raqqa, destroying vital IS-controlled structures and transit routes in Syria.

An IS-affiliated militant website confirmed the strikes on the center of the city. It said 10 people were killed and dozens wounded. [...]

Raqqa is the de facto capital of the so-called Islamic caliphate declared a year ago by the Islamic State group in territories it controls in Iraq and Syria.

Posted by orrinj at 6:21 AM


Conversion reforms struck down by cabinet (ADIV STERMAN, July 5, 2015, Times of Israel)

The cabinet repealed Sunday an initiative that would recognize conversions to Judaism conducted by a wider circle of rabbis, and separately approved the transfer of authority over the country's rabbinical courts from the Justice Ministry to the Ministry of Religious Services.

The cancellation of the two initiatives will ultimately strengthen ultra-Orthodox oversight of Jewish-religious affairs in the state.

July 4, 2015

Posted by orrinj at 3:02 PM


Marco Rubio's Donor Obstacles: A Limited Base and Another Floridian (JEREMY W. PETERS and ASHLEY PARKER, JULY 3, 2015, NY Times)

Mr. Rubio has a notable disadvantage in the congested, fragmented field of Republican candidates: He has no natural national base of support to draw on, the way Senator Ted Cruz does with evangelical Christians or Senator Rand Paul does with libertarians.

And Mr. Rubio has been cut off from some of the financial support he received in his home state, Florida, when it elected him to the Senate in 2010: Many of the wealthy donors who propelled him to national political fame are sticking by Jeb Bush, the former governor.

It would help if he'd at least accomplished something in his career.
Posted by orrinj at 2:50 PM


NASCAR will not return to Donald Trump resort (Jeff Gluck, 7/03/15, USA TODAY)

NASCAR will not return to the Trump National Doral Miami resort for its postseason award banquets after Donald Trump's comments about Mexican immigrants this week.

NASCAR spokesman David Higdon said the decision was made Friday to hold the sport's Xfinity and Camping World Truck series banquets at another location, as well as the Sprint Cup Series' championship weekend news conference event.

That location has not been determined.

NBC, which is owned by the same company as Xfinity, severed its business relationship with Trump this week and Camping World CEO Marcus Lemonis vowed not to attend the banquet if it was held at a Trump property.

Posted by orrinj at 11:19 AM


Why July 4 is the birthday of American exceptionalism (Gary J. Schmitt, July 3, 2015, NY Post)

As was obvious to both the Founders who drafted and approved the Declaration, and the monarchies and despotisms that ruled the vast majority of the rest of mankind, the American declaration of these principles was a revolutionary moment not only for a sliver of the North American continent but, potentially, for the rest of the world.

The United States, initially weak relative to the other great powers in the world and, as such, disinclined to involve itself in the their conflicts, set itself inevitably on a course that is aptly captured in the title of Robert Kagan's history of early American statecraft, "Dangerous Nation."

Here, for the first time in history, was a government whose legitimacy explicitly rested on the claims of human nature and not on common blood, soil, language, religion or ancient tradition.

This is the true root of American exceptionalism and why it is more apt that we celebrate Independence Day on July 4 rather than July 2. It is the creed, the principles, of the Declaration that define the United States -- not our successful break from British rule.

President Obama was surely right when he said that other nations, such as the Greeks, no doubt "believe in Greek exceptionalism" just as Americans believe in American exceptionalism. But this is to confuse and conflate "exceptionalism" with day-to-day "nationalism" and to overlook just how revolutionary and transformative the American experiment in liberal self-government was, and has been.

Up to that moment, republican rule was an exception, and an exception that occasionally but rarely dotted the landscape of political rule through the centuries.

Today, through the growth of American power to support those universal principles -- and, lest we forget, through our own bloody test of a civil war to ensure their survival -- the world truly has been transformed, with exponential growth in liberal, democratic regimes.

...than the fact that our exceptionalism applies universally.

Posted by orrinj at 11:01 AM


What Did Lincoln Really Think of Jefferson? (ALLEN C. GUELZO, JULY 3, 2015, NY Times)

Lincoln, who was born less than a month before Jefferson left the presidency in 1809, had his own reasons for loathing Jefferson "as a man." Lincoln was well aware of Jefferson's "repulsive" liaison with his slave, Sally Hemings, while "continually puling about liberty, equality and the degrading curse of slavery." But he was just as disenchanted with Jefferson's economic policies.

Jefferson believed that the only real wealth was land and that the only true occupation of virtuous and independent citizens in a republic was farming. "Those who labour in the earth are the chosen people of God, if ever he had a chosen people," Jefferson wrote. He despised "the selfish spirit of commerce" for feeling "no passion or principle but that of gain." And he regarded banks with special suspicion as the source of all commercial evil. "Banks may be considered as the primary source" of "paper speculation," and only foster "the spirit of gambling in paper, in lands, in canal schemes, town lot schemes, manufacturing schemes and whatever could hit the madness of the day."

Lincoln, who actually grew up on a backwoods farm, saw little there but drunkenness, rowdyism and endless, mind-numbing labor under the rule of his loutish and illiterate father. He made his escape from the farm as soon as he turned 21, opened a store (which failed) and finally went into law, that great enforcer of commercial contract. "I was once a slave," he remarked, "but now I am so free that they let me practice law."

As an Illinois state legislator, Lincoln promoted a state banking system and public funding for canals and bridges. As a lawyer, according to colleagues, Lincoln was never "unwilling to appear in behalf of a great soulless corporation" -- especially railroads -- and had no compunction about recommending the eviction of squatters who farmed railroad-owned land.

As president, he put into place a national banking system, protective tariffs for American manufacturing and government guarantees for building a transcontinental railroad. Lincoln was Jefferson's nightmare.

Posted by orrinj at 9:11 AM


Finding hope in a trash can: How a North Korean boy kept himself from starving and made it to America (Elizabeth Tenety, July 1, 2015, LA Times)

It's hard to believe what Joseph Kim, then Kwang Jin, endured in the late-1990s and early 2000s, while here in America we were living through a tech boom, blasting songs from the Spice Girls and soaking in episodes of American Idol. But after the Great Famine hit in 1994, Kim, who was only four at the time, was left to spend most of his childhood living in near-starvation.

"Hunger is humiliation. But hunger is also evil," he writes after fantasizing about stealing food from a baby. "The weaker we grew, the less terrifying death seemed," he explains in the book.

[More inspiration: The surprisingly simple way Utah solved chronic homelessness and saved millions]

It's truly remarkable that Kim was able to live, surviving not through one particular act of heroism or generosity, but through a thousand small triumphs: a handful of stolen kernels of corn, a few calories from weed soup, the scraps of a meal left behind from a traveler. At points his belly swelled from hunger; at others his eyes bulged from starvation. Through years spent begging, stealing, hustling and trading, Kim found a way to survive, although many others did not. His father did not make it. 

Kim's devoted father, once a government official, died of starvation when Joseph was 13. His mother and sister, who would sneak him food, ultimately fled to China; they have not been heard from in 10 years. Now an American citizen and living in Brooklyn, Kim says in an interview that when he wonders why he survived, he thinks of the affection his family always showed him; love that gave him the hope to carry on.

"My definition of hope is not something philosophical or deep," Kim explains. "To me, hope is what kept me going and what still keeps me going."

"What I mean by hope can also mean resilience or 'don't give up.' For example, when I was homeless, I was digging through trash cans to look for food, but because there were so many other homeless kids doing the same thing, it was really difficult for me to tell myself I'd have to go to the next trash can, too. I knew that even to get to the next one, there is a probability that there wouldn't be anything. But I had to keep myself believing that there was hope in the next one. That was the only option that I had."

How can otherwise decent people believe this would be a better country if we kept such folk out until they won a green card lottery?

Posted by orrinj at 8:46 AM


How not to write about Iran (Ishaan Tharoor July 2, 2015, 

In a write-up published in January 1952, Time magazine named Iran's democratically-elected Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh  as "Man of the Year." The recognition was not particularly flattering. It sneeringly described Iran as "a mountainous land between Baghdad and the Sea of Caviar." And it went on to attack both Mossadegh's plan to nationalize Iran's oil -- at the expense of British and American energy interests -- and the leader's character.

Time actually called the Iranian politician "a strange old wizard."

A year later, the Ivy League buddies of Time's editors in the C.I.A. helped engineer a coup that ousted Mossadegh, scrapped Iran's fledgling democracy, and re-installed the country's monarchy as an American client. Memory of that event still informs the political conversation within Iran, but is rarely recognized in the West.

"In American media, it seems that either those wily Persians are calculating 'chess masters' outwitting the well-meaning Westerner," says Karami, "or they're bumbling idiots" who resent how "the West rules the Middle East."

To be sure, there are many negative things that should be said about Iran's political status quo -- where a repressive theocratic government curbs dissent, jails journalists and actively supports armed proxies elsewhere in the Middle East. But you don't need to start quoting Xenophon or Morier to get there.

"If you're writing about a country of more than 77 million people," says Kia Marakechi, news editor at Vanity Fair, "and the metaphors or signifiers you draw on come more from 'Aladdin' than a serious understanding of that nation's politics and culture, you should probably hand the assignment to someone else."

The Iran of the neocons' imagination isn't a real place.
Posted by orrinj at 8:23 AM


Early criticism of Jill Ellis turns to awe as U.S. reaches World Cup final (KEVIN BAXTER, 7/04/15, LA Times)

This is the largest and longest Women's World Cup in history. And it's being played across a continent-sized country on artificial turf. So Ellis planned for all that, sacrificing early results for later success.

She held the injury-plagued Alex Morgan out of the starting lineup in the first two games, for example, to have her available for the seventh. And she substituted liberally in the early going to prepare her bench for the late going.

"Those are little things," Wambach said. "But the smallest details can make a difference."

Nor was Ellis above throwing a feint in now and again, experimenting with half a dozen formations and starting the same lineup just twice in six games. By the time the U.S. arrived for its semifinal against top-ranked Germany, no one outside the locker room had any idea how the Americans would attack the game.

So when Ellis rolled out a lineup with Morgan as the lone striker in front of a five-woman midfield, it caught the Germans off guard.

The U.S. won, 2-0. [...]

Next, Ellis inserted 22-year-old Morgan Brian as a holding midfielder in the quarterfinal against China, confident she wouldn't melt under the pressure. She didn't, allowing captain Carli Lloyd -- the player who appeared most frustrated with Ellis' early decisions -- to push forward and join the attack.

So Ellis used Brian again in that role against Germany, and Lloyd scored the winning goal in both games -- by far the two best games the U.S. has played in the tournament.

The Americans, it seems, are peaking at the right time, just as Ellis said they would.

Once you get the defense organized in soccer, you allow the whole team to attack with confidence.  This team has allowed just one goal, and that early in their first game. They looked like they could have beat Germany 6-0.
Posted by orrinj at 8:17 AM


The Declaration of Independence: Translucent Poetry (Eva Brann, 7/04/15, Imaginative Conservative)

When American schoolchildren first discover that they have a place in the world they sometimes give their addresses a wonderful form. Transformed for our case, it would be: "Proper Name, St. John's College, Annapolis, Maryland, the United States of America, the North American continent, the Earth, the Solar System." That is the containing sequence of places in which we live and have our being. The effects of the document with which we are to concern ourselves tonight have pervaded or invaded each of them: "space," our planet, this land, this nation, this state, this city, this school. I might say right now that this diffusion of its power would not have astonished its author very much.

I shall not try to trace its influence on the largest realms, which began with its acknowledged role in the early, as yet innocent, days of the French Revolution. That attempt, I am convinced, would be tantamount to that of giving an account of modem politics. But I do want to point to its relation to the smallest realm, this college, whose immediately post­-revolutionary foundation was assisted by the four Maryland signers: by Paca, Carroll and Stone with subscriptions of money, and by Chase and Stone as members of the first Board of Visitors and Governors. We may therefore imagine that the college was conceived in a spirit much like that which later informed Jefferson's University of Virginia. And indeed it was originally to be the Western branch of the University of Maryland, committed by its charter to admitting students "according to their merit without requiring or enforcing any religious or civil test" and to preparing them "upon a most liberal plan" for discharging "the various offices of life, both civil and religious." But even if these original conditions and aims were to have to be termed "post-Revolutionary" rather than specifically Jeffersonian, it would still be demonstrable­--though not here and now--that our present program, a very pure realization of the founding intention, has more Jeffersonian elements than any other well-known college plan.

Now at Jefferson's university, the Declaration of Independence was to be the first of the "textbooks" prescribed by him as the "teaching norm" for the political education of young Americans. In this one instance Jefferson was the unashamed advocate of indoctrination--he intended the Declaration as a teaching tool for combatting certain anti-Republican "heresies." It is probably not necessary to be more liberal than Jefferson. Nonetheless let us say that the Declaration should not so much be taught as talked of at every American college, and above all, at this one.

It is consequently my ambition and my project for tonight to persuade those of you not already so convinced that this text must be to you, as students and as human beings in the world, a near and dear, a most personal concern.

I., B.

You may well be wondering--I would in your place--why a person audibly not native born should presume to have such an ambition. But consider: a naturalized citizen, like myself, is a citizen by a second, acquired nature, by deliberation and choice. Therefore, just as it is a natural stance for young natives to foster alienation in themselves so it may well be the proper business of those whose youth was alien to feel at home--and to reflect on that feeling.

Forgive me then if I began with a personal apology and continue with a personal prologue--it is after all my argument that the founding tradition should be a personal concern.

Posted by orrinj at 8:12 AM


The Detection Club : Review: Martin Edwards, 'The Golden Age of Murder' (Joseph Bottum, July 4, 2015, Free Beacon)

[W]hat Agatha Christie found was the formula for it all. Like a miniature blown up on to a larger canvas, she took the Arthur Conan Doyle-approved pattern of a 5,000-word Sherlock Holmes story and opened it up to an 80,000-word Golden Age novel. She developed the pleasant and deliberately unremarkable prose the new turn in the genre needed--"invisible prose," we might name it: a style that never rises or sinks enough for the reader to be distracted by becoming aware of the act of reading it. And she figured out how to set in the foreground the rule-bound logic of detective fiction, convincing readers that the author is playing fair.

The formula seems obvious now, but once upon a time it was new, and surprisingly few authors in the 1920s actually got it. Agatha Christie herself didn't understand at first what she'd achieved, and she followed The Mysterious Affair at Styles with a few spy stories, in the already fading mode of E. Phillips Oppenheim, thinking that thrillers would lead to popular sales. Even by the late 1920s, the British writers awake to the new formula numbered only in the dozens, and the most successful and professionally admired of them banded together to form a London dinner society called "the Detection Club." Such luminaries as Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, the Baroness Emma Orczy, Ronald Knox, R. Austin Freeman, and E.C. Bentley were among them, and they elected G.K. Chesterton as their first president.

It's here that Martin Edwards takes up the story in The Golden Age of Murder, his delightful new book about the Detection Club. Edwards traces the existence of the club from a crackpot idea of Anthony Berkeley's through the death of Dorothy Sayers in 1957. [...]

Edwards's deepest purpose, however, is to refute the charge of "cozy" that has hung over the Golden Age writers since a rebellious Englishman named Raymond Chandler moved to California and took to the pages of the Atlantic Monthly to denounce the whole project of British detective fiction in a famous 1944 essay called "The Simple Art of Murder." Chandler singled out A.A. Milne's 1922 The Red House Mystery, which is in truth an awful little book: Trent's Last Case rewritten without E.C. Bentley's gentle humor or the genre-busting twist of the final pages. But Chandler intended Milne to stand in for all the rest of the authors who he thought were being surpassed by the new, hardboiled style practiced by the likes of Dashiell Hammett and Chandler himself.

If The Golden Age of Murder has an enemy in its sights, Chandler is it, and Edwards relates all the haunted, naughty, and desperate biographical details of the Detection Club's members to show that they weren't prissy, namby-pamby people. They were well aware of the intricacies of sin and human deception, and their personal knowledge was echoed in the psychology and settings of their books.

Which might even be true. To the British Golden Age authors ("The crime novel, like the world itself, is ruled by the English," as Bertolt Brecht complained at the time), Chandler was unfair in any particular instance. Christie is darker than readers remember. Chesterton more profound. Berkeley wittier. Sayers more peculiar. But there really was a general tone to it all. Insofar as any tale of murder can be cozy, these books were cozy. They downplayed the dark horror of murder in order to play up the bright logic of detection. And it's on those grounds that the authors of the Detection Club should be defended--not, I think, on Edwards's grounds that their work had its own form of hardboiled realism.

...Hercule Poirot is well worth the time.  

Posted by orrinj at 8:08 AM


Panic wipes £2tn off Chinese shares (Phillip Inman, 3 July 2015, The Guardian)

China's efforts this week to stem the tide of losses on its main stock market failed on Friday when the Shanghai Composite index plunged a further 5.8%, taking the drop in share values to 28% since their June peak.

Panic selling wiped more than £2tn off the value of Chinese-listed companies and traders signalled the rout would extend into next week.

Posted by orrinj at 8:00 AM


 Baseball's greatest pitching duel (Chris Haft, July 2nd, 2015, MLB)

The mention of the San Francisco Giants' encounter against the Milwaukee Braves on July 2, 1963, seemed to amuse Willie McCovey.

"You're bringing it back to life?" said the Hall of Fame first baseman.

Resuscitation isn't necessary. That game endures in all its glory 52 years later, and it most surely will remain as singular as long as baseball exists. Hall-of-Famers Juan Marichal and Warren Spahn saw to that with their pitching mastery.

On a typically cool night at Candlestick Park, the Giants prevailed 1-0 on a 16th-inning home run by Willie Mays. That in itself made the game suitable for framing. But Marichal and Spahn shaped it into a true historical keepsake. They recorded complete games, with Spahn throwing 201 pitches and Marichal totaling 227.

"I think that was way too many," Marichal said in a telephone interview, still a perfectionist 40 years after his final game.

It's safe to assume that this game never will be duplicated. Pitchers are treated differently than when Marichal and Spahn roamed the earth. Customs are unlikely to revert to that flannel jersey era when starters were expected to complete their assignments. The term 'seven-inning pitcher' was a pejorative one.

"I was my own middle reliever, my own set-up man and my own closer," Spahn said, who completed 382 of his 665 starts.

July 3, 2015

Posted by orrinj at 8:17 PM


Syrian mosque blast kills at least 25 with al-Qaida links (Reuters, 3 July 2015)

An explosion at a mosque in Syria's Idlib province on Friday killed at least 25 members of the al-Qaida linked al-Nusra Front, the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said.

Just 14 years later, Al Qaeda is at greater risk from Islamicist terror than America is.

Posted by orrinj at 5:51 PM


Iran to US: Nuke deal could result in joint cooperation (GEORGE JAHN AND MATTHEW LEE July 4, 2015, Times of Israel)

Suggesting that Islamic extremism is a far greater threat to the world than his country's atomic activities, Zarif called for an end to "unjust economic sanctions" and for the West to join Iran in common cause against "the growing menace of violent extremism and outright barbarism."

"The menace we're facing -- and I say we, because no one is spared -- is embodied by the hooded men who are ravaging the cradle of civilization," Zarif said. He called for realignment from Iran's nuclear activities, saying it was time to "open new horizons to address important, common challenges."

Zarif and US Secretary of State John Kerry have taken the lead in the negotiations. In comments echoed by Zarif ahead of their renewed meeting on Friday evening, Kerry said the talks "are making progress." 

Posted by orrinj at 5:48 PM


Many New Teen Drivers 'Crash' in Simulated Driving Task (Carrie Myers, JULY 3, 2015, HealthDay News) 

Around four in 10 newly licensed teen drivers "crashed" in a simulated driving test, suggesting that many adolescents lack the skills they need to stay safe on the road, according to a new study.

Posted by orrinj at 5:41 PM


Europe's soft underbelly (Scott Sumner, 6/19/15, EconLog)

In one important respect southern Italy is different from Greece. Like eastern Germany, southern Italy is part of a larger and more prosperous fiscal union. For many decades, Italy has been doing the things that American progressives would recommend, pouring lots of fiscal stimulus into the south, to build up the economy. But nothing seems to work. Indeed from Greece to Italy to southern Iberia, the entire southern tier of Europe is doing quite poorly. But why? And what can America learn from the failure of Italian policies aimed at boosting the mezzogiorno?

American progressives will sometimes argue that we have much to learn from the successful welfare states in northern Europe. Perhaps that's true. But I'd have a bit more confidence in that claim if they could explain what we have to learn from the failed welfare states in southern Europe. Indeed I'd have more confidence in progressive ideas if they even had an explanation for the failed welfare states of southern Europe. But I don't ever recall reading a progressive explanation. Indeed the only explanations I've ever read are conservative explanations, tied to cultural differences.

Posted by orrinj at 5:36 PM


Japan launches fresh cash and diplomacy push to woo Mekong states (Michael Peel in Bangkok and Robin Harding in Tokyo, 7/02/15, Financial Times)

Shinzo Abe, prime minister, will play host at a summit in Tokyo this weekend to leaders of the "Mekong five" states, named for the river that flows through them from Japan's arch-rival China.

The premier's courting of Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar and Laos is part of a more active brand of diplomacy he is promoting in search of new export markets and an Asia governed by international laws.

Kuni Miyake, president of the Foreign Policy Institute think-tank in Tokyo, said Japan was aiming to counter Chinese diplomacy in the region by uniting the Mekong countries behind universal values such as freedom of the seas, at a time when Japan and other countries are in maritime territorial disputes with China. "By doing so we can counterbalance the Chinese push," Mr Miyake said.

Posted by orrinj at 5:14 PM


Whistle-blower: How doctor uncovered nightmare (Laura Berman, 6/10/15, The Detroit News)

From the blue yarns tucked in a woven basket to the earth-tone carpeting and the solidity of the stone fireplace, every detail of the Crittenton Hospital Cancer Center's waiting room helps anxious patients feel embraced by warmth and comfort. Even the vaulted ceiling, crafted of gleaming cherry wood, suggests a religious sanctuary, not a medical clinic.

Two years ago, before St. John Health System acquired it, this was the foyer to Dr. Farid Fata's clinic, a tasteful yet grand reception area linking his private clinic to the hospital. It was an arrangement that lent Fata seemingly special status and enhanced his reputation with patients.

Yet at 10 a.m. on July 1, 2013, Monica Flagg felt dread as she entered this space, a full year after a routine urine test showed an M protein spike that led her physician to refer her to Fata, a well-known oncologist and hematologist. She was 51, the executive director of a state-licensed nonprofit -- a competent woman facing the stress of a life-threatening illness.

She would wait close to two hours before being called for this, her first chemotherapy session.

A nurse opened the door for her. "Monica."

Inside the clinic, the designer surroundings faded as human chaos seeped in. The infusion nurses argued among themselves, uncertain about whether to deliver the treatment by injection or a slow drip. In the end, Flagg was given a single shot. By the time she returned home, she was exhausted and upset.

Later that day, she and her husband Stephen retreated to the deck outside their Rochester home, trying to relax. When a few raindrops splattered, she went upstairs to close the bedroom window. Turning back around, Flagg stumbled and fell on an open suitcase she had been unpacking.

Almost two years later, she still recalls the crunch of bone and her own anguish as she began to cry.

That sweltering Fourth of July week, Dr. Soe Maunglay, then 41, a Burmese-born oncologist newly settled in southeastern Michigan, was making hospital rounds for Fata, his employer. Soft-spoken and meticulous, Maunglay was wearing a suit jacket rather than a white lab coat, a habit he'd adopted from a Mayo Clinic-trained mentor.

An accident of timing, personal history, and incredible luck -- good and bad -- was about to unfold in Flagg's hospital room. The result would save lives and unleash a federal investigation into a long-esteemed physician, collapsing his elaborate medical empire, even as details about who uncovered the doctor's web of deceit, fraud and suffering remained unexplained.

Next month, before Fata is sentenced in a Detroit federal courtroom, Fata victims will describe the toll of being prescribed toxic medication and testing they didn't need. They will explain how their misplaced trust in a doctor they once revered tore apart their families, cost them the power to make choices about living or dying, and created lingering mental anguish and illness.

But it was Flagg's stumble over a suitcase, and Soe Maunglay's determined follow-through over the next weeks, that precipitated Fata's own fall.

Making Fata's rounds that July day, Maunglay checked for the first time on Flagg, hospitalized with two fractures in her left leg. Because Maunglay is a cancer doctor, he paid heed to her multiple myeloma diagnosis, the Velcade injection, and the medical record before him. It all triggered an internal alarm. .

"Who told you that you have cancer?" he asked her.

Fata's Michigan Hematology and Oncology Inc. (MHO) was the state's largest private cancer practice in 2013, with clinics in seven cities, its own pharmacy and diagnostic center, and 1,700 patients, virtually all of them assigned to Fata, the tireless physician. Those who needed proof of Fata's dedication could look to the doctor's work ethic -- he often labored past midnight -- or to the Swan for Life Foundation, a charity Fata established to help cancer patients and their families.

Today, MHO is gone and Fata is behind bars, awaiting sentencing for at least $34 million in fraudulent Medicare billings and a kickback scheme with a hospice. The criminal counts only hint at the human suffering behind the financial damages and raise questions about how Fata's schemes could go undetected so long, despite his many contacts, doctors, and huge roster of patients. As Brian McKeen, the malpractice lawyer now representing Flagg, says with outrage: "The one place a person should be safe is a hospital or doctor's office. [...]

Maunglay was stunned by what the hospital chart suggested. A cancer-free patient being given chemotherapy wasn't negligence; it was an atrocity. "It's oh my God, if he can do this to a person who has nothing. ..." he said one recent Saturday afternoon. "For me, one case like this was enough. How could a doctor do this? My father died of cancer. For most of us" -- he waved his arms -- "cancer is personal."

As a cancer specialist, he had a special understanding of the horror he was witnessing, its cruelty. Fata's choice of myeloma, a cancer of the plasma cells in bone marrow, bespoke a certain shrewdness, because of the subjectivity of diagnosis. It was a clever niche for false doctoring. "You cannot fake lung cancer," he says. "You cannot fake a tumor ..." But with this disease, a malevolent doctor could plausibly use the treatment itself as a smokescreen to obscure future questions.

Myeloma's early "smoldering" stage is signaled by relatively minor changes in blood chemistry. Maunglay and Dr. Craig Cole, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Michigan and myeloma specialist, say someone with an elevated M protein level is properly monitored through blood and urine testing. Flagg's was high enough to qualify as MGUS -- an entry-level condition that can be precancerous, but often is not.

Flagg was instead diagnosed for the more serious smoldering myeloma and singled out for Fata's brand of aggressive, unorthodox -- and very expensive -- treatment: she was subjected to three bone marrow biopsies and prescribed monthly intravenous immunoglobin injections (IVIG) that cost $4,000 each. Flagg despaired before every test, even fighting the diagnosis. "People would ask me how I was feeling. I felt fine. I had no symptoms!" she said.

July 2015
Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
      1 2 3 4
5 6 7 8 9 10 11
12 13 14 15 16 17 18
19 20 21 22 23 24 25
26 27 28 29 30 31