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In-N-Out Burger



In-N-Out Burger

The entertainment industry seeks the future in viral video.

Clockwise from top: the digital stars KingBach, Tyler Oakley, Brittany Furlan, Joey Graceffa, and Cam and Nash.

Hollywood and Vine

By Tad Friend

The entertainment industry seeks the future in viral video.

If you haven’t watched YouTube in a while—if you’ve joined the Amish, or you’re Edward Snowden—a lot has changed. Early on, the platform was a salmagundi of out-of-focus lifecasts. The viral hits were cats getting wet and one-offs like “Charlie Bit My Finger—Again!,” a 2007 video whose exposé of House of Atreus-style family strife has earned it more than eight hundred million views. (Spoiler alert: a baby bites his brother’s finger.) YouTube was adults with camcorders shooting kids being adorably themselves. It was amateur hour.

Nowadays, YouTube is almost alarmingly professional. It has millions of channels devoted to personalities and products, which are often aggregated into “verticals” containing similar content. The most popular videos are filmed by teen-agers and twentysomethings who use Red Epic cameras and three-point lighting to shoot themselves. And the platform’s stars behave in ways that are contingent upon a camera. For instance, they act. One of YouTube’s most visible shows—currently featured in magazine and subway-car ads everywhere—is an action series called “Video Game High School” that would be right at home on MTV.

So it wasn’t entirely surprising that some of the most eager participants at this summer’s VidCon, a conference celebrating YouTube, were those who’d been displaced from the platform’s dynamics: adults. Indeed, the conference felt like a May-December romance. Onstage at the Anaheim Convention Center, as the proceedings began, sat Jeffrey Katzenberg, the sixty-three-year-old C.E.O. of DreamWorks Animation. In the audience were more than a thousand middle-aged spectators—producers, agents, ad execs—as entranced as Katzenberg was by YouTube’s smorgasbord of “snackable content.” With the platform’s users watching more than six billion hours of video a month, and people consuming more than nine times as much digital video as they did in 2010, Hollywood planned to secure its own future by consummating a merger. Last year, DreamWorks bought AwesomenessTV, a company that manages YouTube stars, for thirty-three million dollars, and a wave of old-media investment followed.

 
Obama Calls Racism ‘Deeply Rooted.’ He’s Right.

Obama Calls Racism ‘Deeply Rooted.’ He’s Right.

By Jonathan Chait

In an interview with BET, President Obama said a number of things about the state of race relations that put him somewhat out of step with an increasingly pessimistic left. He argued that American racism was steadily weakening, that progress happens in frustratingly slow “increments,” and that contemporary race relations cannot be equated to those half a century ago — observations that, while true, may not be welcomed by those who suffer from racism’s continued existence.

But the furious backlash did not come from Obama’s left. It instead came from the right, in response to his statement, which I would consider banal, but which many conservatives deem outrageous, that racism is “deeply rooted.” Breitbart News accuses the president of “playing the race card more overtly than ever before.”

 ...............................

A historical legacy of segregated housing patterns and a huge gap in inherited wealth means that, even if white America had banished racial discrimination, racial inequality would persist for decades. What’s more, it is manifestly not the case that racial discrimination has mostly disappeared.

This is not some vague liberal notion, or merely an inference made by liberals to explain the persistent racial income gap. It is the inescapable conclusion of a vast trove of evidence. Employers are less likely to call back an equally qualified candidate whose résumé has a black-sounding name. Police in simulations are more likely to shoot black suspects. White medical staff are less likely to perceive pain by African-Americans. Despite having similar rates of marijuana use, blacks are more than three times as likely to be arrested for it.

 
Can Brain Drain Be Beneficial?

Can Brain Drain Be Beneficial?

Alexandra Ossola

Three years after the start of its new Science Without Borders program, Brazil isn't the only country benefitting.

Vinicius Munaldi Lube is from Vitoria, Brazil, a small city on the southeastern coast, about 300 miles north of Rio de Janeiro. He studied wood engineering, the discipline of using wood in the best ways for construction and manufacturing at Universidade Federal do Espírito Santo, until September 2012, when he started an internship at the University of British Columbia (UBC) in Vancouver. He was one of the first Brazilians to receive a grant from the new federal program Science Without Borders, which is designed to send 100,000 undergraduate and graduate students to international institutions to study the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math, or STEM.

Lube was thrilled to go to Vancouver. “I already knew UBC had the best department of wood science in the world,” he said. (He had been reading the names of UBC researchers in trade journals since he started college.) Lube had been working with oriented strand board, a type of pressed wood composite used in the majority of house frames in North America because of its strength and durability. “[This material] has a big problem if it rains during construction, so I wanted to know how to address that,” he said, hoping to make the material useful in places with heavy rainfall. “If I get some insight I can implement that in Brazil and use it more for construction there.”

............................

Although the long-term effects of the program won’t be seen for some time, educators around the world already agree with Lube: that Science Without Borders has been a huge success. Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff recently pledged to send another 100,000 students abroad starting in 2015. The program was a huge experiment in the effort to raise Brazil’s scientific prominence and boost its manufacturing economy—and it was expensive, costing the government over $2 billion U.S. dollars already. Science educators around the world can interpret Brazil’s program as a case study for how federal governments around the world are promoting STEM education and demonstrates just how international the disciplines have become. The number of Brazilian students who enrolled in international institutions, and the fact that they thrived there, indicate the program’s short-term success, which has some American educators wondering: Can the U.S. government ever sustain a program with the express purpose of sending its students away?

Since inflation and stagnation of its currency in the late 1980s, Brazil has been an economic powerhouse over the past decade. This year Brazil had the seventh-highest gross domestic product in the world and, as one of the “BRIC” countries, it’s positioned to play an even larger global role by 2050. With a wealth of natural resources ranging from minerals to lumber, Brazil has one of the strongest industrial sectors in the Americas, making up almost 30 percent of its GDP.

Even though Brazilian education emphasizes STEM fields, politicians and industry professionals wanted to see the country’s innovation taking a larger role on an international stage. Brazil has some of the top universities in Latin America, but policy makers quickly saw that giving its students training at could help boost the country’s mastery. So Science Without Borders, or Ciencia sem fronteiras, was born. In July, Rousseff said of the program: “This is a program designed to ensure Brazil is able to be innovative, and to generate interest in the sciences and the application of technology in all areas including industry and agriculture and especially to facilitate research in basic sciences.”

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The program was met mostly with enthusiasm, but some educators had concerns. Eduardo Gomez, now a professor of International Development and Emerging Economies at King's College London, wrote a critical op-ed for the BBC shortly after the program’s launch. He wondered if Brazilian students would try to stay in their foreign institutions instead of returning to Brazil and expressed concerns that the government was spending too much money on students who had already made it through the school system and not on the students earlier in their educational careers. “Before aspiring to build a world-renowned, technically sophisticated workforce, perhaps President Rousseff should invest more in her primary and secondary schools, where the future of Brazil's scientific and technological progress truly resides,” Gomez wrote.

Gomez is correct in arguing that  Brazil’s schools need attention; the country spends five times more on college students than on elementary-school students. But it’s not clear that more money would help. “The problems go much deeper than that,” said Jerry Davila, a professor of Brazilian history at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. “To give you an idea, across Brazil, elementary school education is handled by municipal governments and secondary education is handled by state governments. You don’t even have a single school system in most cities.” While various universities, he noted, are supported by a mix of funding sources, the best are federally funded. International educators have suggested that primary and secondary schools manage funds inefficiently at best (as Davila suggests), or corruptly at worst. A 2012 study indicated that deep problems in the infrastructure and facilities mean that increased funding won’t necessarily improve student achievement.

But Gomez’s other concern—that students would try to stay abroad—hasn’t emerged as much of an issue. (Lube is, by his own account, a rare exception.) The U.S. government grants Brazilian students a particular kind of visa that requires the student to return home after a designated period, Davila said. (Lube got special permission from the Brazilian government to continue his education in Vancouver.)

Despite the concerns, Science Without Borders appears to have been a success. “This is a brilliant thing the president of Brazil has done,” according to Allan Goodman, the president and CEO of the Institute for International Education, a New York City-based non-profit. Undergraduates get the education they need but still receive their degrees from their Brazilian institution. “[The program] is really efficient—it immediately satisfies the needs of employers,” he added.

 
iPod Classic: Apple’s dead music player prompts frenzy on eBay and Amazon

iPod Classic: Apple’s dead music player prompts frenzy on eBay and Amazon

 
Finding Happiness By “Flowing” With Life

Finding Happiness By “Flowing” With Life

By Robert Puff, Ph.D.

Flowing is really good for us. We have to listen to our bodies, listen to our souls, and flow with life. Then life goes well and we really can find the happiness that we seek.

The first step towards flow and flowing with life is to really simplify our life. We have to slow down and say, “What do I need?”  By having moments of stillness, we often come to clarity about what we need.  These needs may even change over time. For example, in my own life, with regard to my work,for many years I decided I would work three long days and then take four days off .  After a while, the days, particularly the three days at work, seemed to get longer and longer. I decided it was time for me to change that schedule and stop working three long days.  So instead, I began working four normal days. Now, as I continue to get older, what I’ve learned is that I do much better when my activities and my day is done earlier in the day and that I retire early. When I don’t work too late into the evenings, I do better. So now I’m in the process of slowing down my practice and not working as late. But I came to each of these discoveries in their own time by checking in, by taking time to see how I was doing. If we don’t take these times to check in and see how we’re doing, then we don’t know what we need.

 
Optimizing Soldier Performance

Optimizing Soldier Performance

By Michael D. Matthews, Ph.D. 

As the US Army reduces in size, it must improve its approach to selecting, training, and developing soldiers. Psychology is playing a critical role in this effort to optimize soldier performance and adaptability.

Traditionally, when the military down sized from a major war, it did so in the belief that it could – in the event of a new strategic threat – rebuild quickly through training new volunteers as well as drafted soldiers.  In 1940, for instance, the U.S. Army consisted of 269,023 soldiers.  Just five years later, it had grown to 8,266,373 soldiers. By 1950, at the beginning of the Korean conflict, the Army was down to 593,167 soldiers, but then rapidly expanded to 1,109,296 by 1955.  This cycle of raising a larger Army in response to external threat was seen again in response to Vietnam.  Since the end of the Cold War, the size of the Army has fluctuated much less, with about 500,000 active duty soldiers most years.

One reason the size of the Army has remained stable at a relatively small size is that modern weapons systems provide a lot more firepower than those used in the wars of the 20th century.  This allows smaller units such as a battalion to have greater combat power than larger units such as a division would have wielded in World War II.  These new weapons are very sophisticated and require months of training to develop expertise in their use.  So once the Army trains a soldier, there is a great cost in losing that soldier to the civilian economy or in their being impaired in their ability to do their job.

 
Inside Conservatives' 7 Million-Strong 'Digital Army'

 There are 7 million conservatives online and awaiting Republican primary candidates. (Shutterstock)

Inside Conservatives' 7 Million-Strong 'Digital Army'

“Without them, you ain’t gonna win...”

By Shane Goldmacher and Tim Alberta

The digital army sprung to life with a click of a mouse in a nondescript office park in Alexandria. Less than 10 miles away, at the White House, the phones began to light up. One call came into the switchboard and then another. Thousands of people flooded the phone lines.

It was early August 2014, and the callers were conservatives lambasting President Obama for promising what they described as "executive amnesty." The deluge of angry activists was not the work of a heavily coordinated national campaign, a pricey phone-banking operation, or really an exhaustive effort of any kind.

t resulted from a single post on Facebook.

 
Is the Gates Foundation Still Investing in Private Prisons?

Is the Gates Foundation Still Investing in Private Prisons?

By Alex Park

Bill and Melinda Gates' philanthropy won't say.

One year after Mother Jones reported on multi-million-dollar investments made on behalf of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation that appeared to contradict the foundation's mission, the philanthropy's trust will not say if one of its most controversial holdings is still on its books.

In its 2012 tax filing, the Gates Foundation Trust, which manages the foundation's endowment, reported a $2.2 million investment in the GEO Group, a Florida-based prison company. In its most recent tax forms, the Gates Foundation Trust listed an investment in the GEO Group worth more than $2 million.

In recent years, the GEO Group has faced accusations of detainee abuse and substandard care in multiple states. In 2012, Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Office of Detention Oversight reported that GEO Group's Adelanto facility near Los Angeles had committed "several egregious errors" in administering medical care to detainees. (GEO Group has repeatedly dismissed allegations of mistreatment.) More recently, a group of former immigrant detainees in Colorado sued the company for making them work around the prison for minimal pay, sometimes under the threat of solitary confinement. (The GEO Group said detainees were working under a "volunteer work program" and that its $1-per-day wages met federal standards.) The Gates Foundation Trust did not respond to requests for comment directed through a foundation spokesperson.

According to the Gates Foundation, Bill and Melinda Gates—the only members of the trust's board—have defined areas that the trust will not invest in, "such as companies whose profit model is centrally tied to corporate activity that [Bill and Melinda Gates] find egregious." Tobacco companies fall into that category
 
Up-and-comers are already jockeying ahead of Boxer's possible retirement.

Senator Barbara Boxer, D-CA, speaks during a press conference calling for the creation of an independent military justice system for deal with sexual harassment and assault in the military,on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on February 6, 2014. AFP PHOTO/Mandel NGAN        (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

California quake

By Alex Isenstadt

Up-and-comers are already jockeying ahead of Boxer's possible retirement.

A parade of ambitious California public figures, who’ve spent years itching for a shot at the state’s top political offices, are anticipating a shake-up of the state’s political hierarchy that could begin in a matter of weeks with the possible retirement of Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer. And some big names — including the mayor of Los Angeles — are already sizing up possible bids to succeed her.

Sources close to Boxer, 74, say the outspoken liberal senator will decide over the holidays whether to seek reelection in 2016 and will announce her plans shortly after the new year. Few of her friends believe she will run for a fifth term. Boxer has stopped raising money and is not taking steps to assemble a campaign. With Republicans taking over the Senate, she is about to relinquish her chairmanship of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

If she were to step aside, it would be the first big crack in the state’s upper political ranks in years. The last time the governorship was open was in 2010, when Jerry Brown, now 76, romped in a return to the job he first held more than three decades earlier. Boxer and California’s other senator, Democrat Dianne Feinstein, 81, were elected in 1992.

For a backlog of up-and-coming pols, their opportunity may finally be arriving — and it will be very hard to to pass up.

“There has been a bottleneck at the top,” said Mitchell Schwartz, a Democratic strategist who was Barack Obama’s California campaign director in 2008. “In a state of 37 million-plus [population] … elected officials either need to move up or they are out of the game and forgotten quickly.”

Democrat Eric Garcetti, the 43-year-old Los Angeles mayor, has had preliminary conversations about a possible campaign with Bill Carrick, a veteran political strategist in the state, according to one source. Carrick, who has served as Feinstein’s political adviser and helped guide Garcetti’s 2013 mayoral campaign, didn’t respond to a request for comment. A Garcetti spokesman, Jeff Millman, declined to address the discussions, saying only that the mayor “hopes and expects Senator Boxer will continue her strong leadership in the Senate.”

Others are being encouraged by supporters. At a New York City dinner last week sponsored by the League of Conservation Voters, liberal activists pressed Tom Steyer, the billionaire hedge-fund manager and environmentalist from San Francisco, to consider a bid. Steyer, who poured over $70 million into this year’s midterm election, gave a coy nonanswer in response, according to one person familiar with the exchange.

Most of the attention, though, is expected to center on a pair of rising stars: state Attorney General Kamala Harris, 50, and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, 47, both Democrats. For years, politicos have buzzed about a potential showdown between the two. Both hail from Northern California and rose through the ranks at the same time. They even share the same campaign consultant: Averell “Ace” Smith, a longtime Hillary Clinton adviser and top political hand in the state. In November, Harris and Newsom were easily reelected.

 
Israel Sends Warning to Assad, Russia and Iran With Damascus Airstrikes

Israel Sends Warning to Assad, Russia and Iran With Damascus Airstrikes

A meeting between Hezbollah and the Russian foreign minister might have been a trigger for Sunday’s bombings.

HAIFA, Israel—Israel carried out airstrikes in government-held territory near Damascus airport on Sunday, according to Syrian state-run media. It may have been a blow against weapons meant for Hezbollah, a militarized Lebanese political faction designated a terrorist group by the U.S. and its allies.

Al Jazeera English quoted Syrian state TV as saying “[T]he Israeli enemy attacked Syria by targeting two safe areas in Damascus province, namely the Dimas area and the area of Damascus International Airport” in the attack.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the West’s main source for information coming out of the embattled country, backed up the claim. The group said 10 explosions were heard near Dimas, which is very close to the Lebanese border.

The Daily Beast contacted an Israel Defense Forces spokesperson, who said it “does not comment on foreign reports.”

Israel has a history of strategically bombing targets in Syria, especially since the civil war there intensified and lawlessness became the norm. By May 2013, the Israeli air force had conducted three airstrikes inside Syria, in hopes of preempting the delivery of advanced weaponry to Hezbollah in southern Lebanon.

Though the bombings were not officially confirmed, then-Defense Minister Ehud Barak said that a strike in January 2013 was “proof that when we say something we mean it.” He went on to say that Syria should not be “allowed to bring advanced weapons systems into Lebanon.”

..............................

After several years of relative quiet on the Israel-Lebanese border, the rhetoric between Hezbollah and Israel has been heating up lately. On Dec. 5, a commander from the Iranian military, a major ally of both Hezbollah and Syria, boasted that missiles from the Lebanese group could “raze Israel to the ground.”

On Dec. 7, the Times of Israel reported that Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov had met with Hezbollah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, in order to discuss peace in Syria and Russian arms being delivered to the group in order to fight jihadists.

 
ISIS Has a Message. Do We?

ISIS Has a Message. Do We?

You can’t say ‘just say no’ to the Caliphate if you want to win back its converts and ward off new ones.

Denouncing murder and enslavement should be an easy task, but for Western governments determined to counter the narrative of the militants of the self-styled Islamic State, it is proving much trickier than they thought. Efforts mounted so far don’t seem to be stemming the flow of foreign recruits eager to join the caliphate of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi—nor have they done much to deny jihadists online opportunities to groom followers and market their ideology.

When foreign ministers from nearly 60 countries met in Brussels last week for the first get-together of the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State, widely known as ISIS or ISIL, they identified countering toxic jihadist ideology and restricting the flow of foreign fighters as objectives just as important to the defeat of the Islamic militants as overwhelming them on the battlefield in Syria and Iraq.

But while U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry argued at a news conference that militarily the coalition is making progress, maintaining that two months of airstrikes had damaged the capabilities of ISIS, making it much harder for the militants to operate, he cited no progress in the information war and offered no new ideas about how to counter militants adept at spreading their message using Western-based social media sites such as Twitter or Facebook.

Indeed, ISIS recently added SoundCloud to its arsenal. So now the jihadists are using what’s widely known as the “Audio YouTube” to upload streaming content to a service that boasts 175 million listeners a month.

Worries about the effectiveness of ISIS propaganda luring fighters from abroad— more than 15,000 foreign fighters are estimated to have been recruited, at least 3,000 of them Westerners—are driving Western concern. But counter-terrorism analysts and experts in de-radicalization say governments are relying too heavily on censorship. This not only runs into problems with civil libertarians, it’s just not very effective against jihadists who view their laptops as weapons and their cause as holy.

De-radicalization experts argue there is much more Western governments could do in counteracting the appeal of jihadist propaganda by being more creative and challenging jihadist ideas head on. In a recent report, the Quilliam think tank faulted Western authorities who seem to believe “their case is so obvious it does not need to be made.”

Nothing could be more off base where young militants and jihadi aspirants are concerned. They hold certain truths to be self-evident, starting with rejection of the authority structures in the governments of the West and the governments that the West supports in the Muslim world. If they accepted the status quo, they would not be so fascinated by people from backgrounds much like theirs who are fighting the tyrant Bashar Assad and cutting off the heads of non-believers in Syria and Iraq. If the message of the West is essentially, “let’s not do these bad things, let’s keep everything the way it is,” that’s not going to fly.

 
The death of Luke Somers and why hostage rescue missions often fail

The death of Luke Somers and why hostage rescue missions often fail

The mission to save American hostage Luke Somers was a failure before it even started. U.S. commandos got within 100 yards of the Yemeni compound before their cover was blown. It was night, but something, possibly a dog’s bark, possibly something else, alerted al Qaeda militants inside the compound where Somers was held. A gunfight erupted. And 30 minutes later, when the team departed the compound, carrying Somers and a wounded South African, it was too late. Both were soon dead.

What the mission lost when that dog started barking was the element of surprise. And in the business of rescuing hostages, one of the least successful kinds of special operation missions, surprise is everything.

“Rescue operations are the only type of military operation in which complete surprise is a precondition,” wrote Major General Shlomo Gazit, who headed Israeli intelligence when Israeli commandos rescued dozens of hostages held at Entebbe Airport by Palestinian militants in Uganda in 1976. “The critical element is always the feasibility of a surprise assault, for the key to success in any rescue operation is the ability to achieve complete surprise.”

This one didn’t have it. And including Somers and South African Pierre Korkie, 13 civilians were killed in the mission. Its failure has sparked fresh debate over U.S. hostage policy that doesn’t abide any negotiation with terrorists and can leave few options beyond staging dangerous rescue missions or watching the killings of captives.

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“Rescue missions are risky, both for the hostages and for the operators who carry them out,” wrote the Soufan Group’s Martin Reardon. “Lives are at stake, and it’s never an easy choice to give the ‘green light.’ But … leaders can’t always sit back and wait to see what happens. Sometimes, it’s less risky to act than not to.”

When they decide to act, four elements must work together, according to “Anatomy of a Rescue,” written by Carlos Perez in 2004.  They include: surprise, intelligence, operator skill and deception. “The historical cases show that in every instance any one of these four principles was overlooked, the operation was doomed,” according to Perez.

Each step requires meticulous planning, each element building on the last. Without intelligence, you can’t train, and without training you can’t pull off the proper deception. The paper reports on units who trained every day — blindfolded — memorizing how many steps it would take to cross a single room. “Hostage rescue operations by default are very complex endeavors and far from being simple,” Perez wrote. “The volatility of the situation, the political implications, the media coverage, and the national test of will, all provide a degree of complexity that must be tampered.”

 
Bush and C.I.A. Ex-Officials Rebut Torture Report

Bush and C.I.A. Ex-Officials Rebut Torture Report

 A long-awaited Senate report condemning torture by the Central Intelligence Agency has not even been made public yet, but former President George W. Bush’s team has decided to link arms with former intelligence officials and challenge its conclusions.

The report is said to assert that the C.I.A. misled Mr. Bush and his White House about the nature, extent and results of brutal techniques like waterboarding, and some of his former administration officials privately suggested seizing on that to distance themselves from the controversial program, according to people involved in the discussion. But Mr. Bush and his closest advisers decided that “we’re going to want to stand behind these guys,” as one former official put it.

Mr. Bush made that clear in an interview broadcast on Sunday. “We’re fortunate to have men and women who work hard at the C.I.A. serving on our behalf,” he told CNN’s Candy Crowley. “These are patriots and whatever the report says, if it diminishes their contributions to our country, it is way off base.”

These are “really good people and we’re lucky as a nation to have them,” he said.

Former intelligence officials, seeking allies against the potentially damaging report, have privately reassured the Bush team in recent days that they did not deceive them and have lobbied the former president’s advisers to speak out publicly on their behalf. The defense of the program has been organized by former C.I.A. leaders like George J. Tenet and Gen. Michael V. Hayden, two former directors, and John E. McLaughlin, a former deputy C.I.A. director who also served as acting director.

“Once the release occurs, we’ll have things to say and will be making some documents available that bear on the case,” Mr. McLaughlin said Sunday. Although he could not discuss details because of a nondisclosure agreement, in general he said the report “uses information selectively, often distorts to make its points, and as I recall contains no recommendations.”

General Hayden added that the former C.I.A. team objected to the Senate’s characterization of their efforts. “We’re not here to defend torture,” he said by email on Sunday. “We’re here to defend history.”

 
Poll: Race relations have worsened under Obama

Race relations worse under Obama

Poll: Race relations have worsened under Obama

By Charles Hoskinson

Most Americans think relations between white and black communities have gotten worse since President Obama was elected, according to a new Bloomberg Politics poll.

The poll released Sunday also revealed deep racial divides on recent decisions by grand juries in St. Louis County, Mo., and New York City declining to indict police officers in the deaths of unarmed black men.

In the Dec. 3-5 poll of 1,001 adults, 53 percent said race relations had gotten worse since Obama, the nation's first black president, took office in 2009. That figure included 56 percent of white respondents and 45 percent of black respondents.

Only 9 percent of respondents said race relations had gotten better under Obama, including just 3 percent who said they had gotten a lot better. Thirty-six percent said relations had stayed about the same.

 
Admire Kobe Bryant’s skills while you can

Lakers guard Kobe Bryant likely won't match Michael Jordan’s haul of six NBA championship rings, but he will pass Jordan for third on the league’s all-time scoring list very soon. Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

Admire Kobe Bryant’s skills while you can

By Christopher L. Gasper

Like most misunderstood and underappreciated artists, Kobe Bryant will be remembered more fondly when he is gone.

Years from now, basketball historians should look back in bewilderment that Bryant won only one NBA MVP award and Steve Nash, Bryant’s injured teammate, won two.

Make no mistake, Kobe Bean Bryant is an artiste. His canvas is 94 feet by 50 feet. His work is polarizing. He can be temperamental and enigmatic and tends to see the world through only his lens. Love him or hate him, appreciate the artist known as Kobe while you still can.

Now in his, gulp, 19th season and rounding the final corner of his career, the 36-year-old Bryant made what will likely be one of his final appearances in Boston on Friday night as the Celtics hosted the Los Angeles Lakers at TD Garden.

Kobe left here a 113-96 loser, his 22 points on 9-of-21 shooting not nearly enough to offset the inexperience, ineffectiveness, and apathy of this edition of the Lakers.

You had to feel bad for Bryant considering the squad of basketball bystanders the Lakers have surrounded him with in the winter of his career. Lakers coach Byron Scott said his team looked “disinterested in playing.”

 
Former CIA Director Braces for 'Torture Report'

Former CIA Director Braces for 'Torture Report'

Allen McDuffee

Anticipating a Tuesday release of a report from the Senate Intelligence Committee, Michael Hayden said it's is as if the agency "has been tried and convicted in absentia."

Former Central Intelligence Agency director Michael Hayden on Sunday rejected accusations that the agency lied about its use of so-called enhanced interrogation techniques just ahead of the release of the much anticipated "torture report" prepared by the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is expected Tuesday. Hayden also asserted that not only are the report's conclusions not true, but releasing it could be used as justification by terrorist organizations to attack U.S. personnel and facilities abroad, if released.

"To say that we relentlessly over an expanded period of time lied to everyone about a program that wasn't doing any good, that beggars the imagination," said Hayden on CBS' Face The Nation.

The report, which was only approved by the committee's Democrats (Republicans on the committee say they plan to release their own report), concludes that the CIA routinely exceeded legally allowable techniques to get information from detainees and that the techniques were not effective in obtaining it. Yet, the agency systematically lied to the White House, Congress and the Department of Justice about its efficacy in order to continue its operations.  

Still, Hayden, who headed the CIA for the final years of the Bush administration, said he studied the program when he took over in 2006 and was unwilling to end it. "At the end of the summer I recommended to President Bush that we reduce the program, that we reduce the number of techniques, but that the program had been so valuable that we couldn't stop it altogether," he said. "Even though now we had so much more intelligence on al-Qaeda from the detainees and other sources, even then the program had proven its worth...in conscience, I couldn't take it off the table."

 
Dianne Feinstein leaving intelligence job amid clash on tactics report

Dianne Feinstein

Dianne Feinstein leaving intelligence job amid clash on tactics report

As head of the Senate Intelligence Committee since 2009, Sen. Dianne Feinstein has spent hundreds of hours in secret briefings and seen thousands of pictures from battlefields in Syria, Iraq and Yemen. She keeps two images with her.

One shows a little girl wearing a gingham dress, white tights and black Mary Janes — but the girl's head is gone. Another is of a teenage boy, duct tape over his mouth, eyes bulging out, being forced to hold two severed heads.

"To me, it's what we are up against," Feinstein said in an interview. "It is a testament to pure evil."

The senior senator from California has spent more than 14 years on the Senate's most secretive committee, and through much of that time, she has defended the country's intelligence establishment.

She insisted that the National Security Agency was right to secretly collect data on huge numbers of telephone calls made by Americans. And she backed the CIA's covert use of Predator drones to conduct targeted killings in half a dozen nations.

But as she prepares to turn over the committee's gavel next month to Sen. Richard M. Burr (R-N.C.), Feinstein's tenure as chairwoman is closing amid an acrimonious fight over a project that pits her against the CIA. Her staff has completed a 6,000-page report evaluating and criticizing the agency's use during the George W. Bush years of harsh interrogation tactics, which President Obama and others have labeled as torture.

Since April, Feinstein has been fighting with the CIA and the White House to make public as much as possible of the report's 480-page executive summary.

In recent days, Feinstein and administration officials have resolved the final debates over how much will be blacked out of the public version of the report. Then on Friday, Secretary of State John F. Kerry, acting on behalf of the administration, called Feinstein to ask her to delay the release. Making the report public now would threaten the security of American personnel overseas, Kerry told her.

The request put Feinstein in an agonizingly difficult position — delay the release and run the risk that Burr and the Republicans will block the report after they take over in January, or go ahead and take the blame if Americans in foreign countries are harmed.

At the heart of the report is a review of 20 cases in which interrogators used brutality and inhumane treatment to produce what the CIA says was useful intelligence.

Leon E. Panetta, who served under Obama as CIA director from 2009 to 2011, wrote in his memoir, "Worthy Fights," that such methods should not have been used, but that the CIA got "critical intelligence" from them. "What we can't know — what we'll never know — is whether those were the only ways to elicit that information," Panetta wrote.

 
Hacked vs. Hackers: Game On

Hacked vs. Hackers: Game On

SAN FRANCISCO — Paul Kocher, one of the country’s leading cryptographers, says he thinks the explanation for the world’s dismal state of digital security may lie in two charts.

One shows the number of airplane deaths per miles flown, which decreased to one-thousandth of what it was in 1945 with the advent of the Federal Aviation Administration in 1958 and stricter security and maintenance protocols. The other, which details the number of new computer security threats, shows the opposite. There has been more than a 10,000-fold increase in the number of new digital threats over the last 12 years.

The problem, Mr. Kocher and security experts reason, is a lack of liability and urgency. The Internet is still largely held together with Band-Aid fixes. Computer security is not well regulated, even as enormous amounts of private, medical and financial data and the nation’s computerized critical infrastructure — oil pipelines, railroad tracks, water treatment facilities and the power grid — move online.

If a stunning number of airplanes in the United States crashed tomorrow, there would be investigations, lawsuits and a cutback in air travel, and the airlines’ stock prices would most likely plummet. That has not been true for hacking attacks, which surged 62 percent last year, according to the security company Symantec. As for long-term consequences, Home Depot, which suffered the worst security breach of any retailer in history this year, has seen its stock float to a high point.

In a speech two years ago, Leon E. Panetta, the former defense secretary, predicted it would take a “cyber-Pearl Harbor” — a crippling attack that would cause physical destruction and loss of life — to wake up the nation to the vulnerabilities in its computer systems.

No such attack has occurred. Nonetheless, at every level, there has been an awakening that the threats are real and growing worse, and that the prevailing “patch and pray” approach to computer security simply will not do.

So what happened?

The Wake-Up Call

A bleak recap: In the last two years, breaches have hit the White House, the State Department, the top federal intelligence agency, the largest American bank, the top hospital operator, energy companies, retailers and even the Postal Service. In nearly every case, by the time the victims noticed that hackers were inside their systems, their most sensitive government secrets, trade secrets and customer data had already left the building. And in just the last week Sony Pictures Entertainment had to take computer systems offline because of an aggressive attack on its network.

The impact on consumers has been vast. Last year, over 552 million people had their identities stolen, according to Symantec, and nearly 25,000 Americans had sensitive health information compromised — every day — according to the Department of Health and Human Services. Over half of Americans, including President Obama, had to have their credit cards replaced at least once because of a breach, according to the Ponemon Group, an independent research organization.

 
Kazuo Ishiguro: how I wrote The Remains of the Day in four weeks

Emma Thompson and Anthony Hopkins in the 1993 film adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro's Booker prize-winning novel The Remains of the Day.

Kazuo Ishiguro: how I wrote The Remains of the Day in four weeks

Kazuo Ishiguro

The author reveals how the Tom Waits song Ruby’s Arms served as inspiration for his Booker prize-winning classic novel

Many people have to work long hours. When it comes to the writing of novels, however, the consensus seems to be that after four hours or so of continuous writing, diminishing returns set in. I’d always more or less gone along with this view, but as the summer of 1987 approached I became convinced a drastic approach was needed. Lorna, my wife, agreed.

Until that point, since giving up the day job five years earlier, I’d managed reasonably well to maintain a steady rhythm of work and productivity. But my first flurry of public success following my second novel had brought with it many distractions. Potentially career-enhancing proposals, dinner and party invitations, alluring foreign trips and mountains of mail had all but put an end to my “proper” work. I’d written an opening chapter to a new novel the previous summer, but now, almost a year later, I was no further forward.

So Lorna and I came up with a plan. I would, for a four-week period, ruthlessly clear my diary and go on what we somewhat mysteriously called a “Crash”. During the Crash, I would do nothing but write from 9am to 10.30pm, Monday through Saturday. I’d get one hour off for lunch and two for dinner. I’d not see, let alone answer, any mail, and would not go near the phone. No one would come to the house. Lorna, despite her own busy schedule, would for this period do my share of the cooking and housework. In this way, so we hoped, I’d not only complete more work quantitively, but reach a mental state in which my fictional world was more real to me than the actual one.

Throughout the Crash, I wrote free-hand, not caring about the style or if something I wrote in the afternoon contradicted something I’d established in the story that morning. The priority was simply to get the ideas surfacing and growing. Awful sentences, hideous dialogue, scenes that went nowhere – I let them remain and ploughed on.

By the third day, Lorna observed during my evening break that I was behaving oddly. On my first Sunday off I ventured outdoors, on to Sydenham high street, and persistently giggled – so Lorna told me – at the fact that the street was built on a slope, so that people coming down it were stumbling over themselves, while those going up were panting and staggering effortfully. Lorna was concerned I had another three weeks of this to go, but I explained I was very well, and that the first week had been a success.

I kept it up for the four weeks, and at the end of it I had more or less the entire novel down: though of course a lot more time would be required to write it all up properly, the vital imaginative breakthroughs had all come during the Crash.

I should say that by the time I embarked on the Crash, I’d consumed a substantial amount of “research”: books by and about British servants, about politics and foreign policy between the wars, many pamphlets and essays from the time, including one by Harold Laski on “The Dangers of Being a Gentleman”. I’d raided the second-hand shelves of the local bookshop (Kirkdale Books, still a thriving independent) for guides to the English countryside from the 1930s and 50s. The decision when to start the actual writing of a novel – to begin composing the story itself – always seems to me a crucial one. How much should one know before starting on the prose? It’s damaging to start too early, equally so to start too late. I think with Remains I got lucky: the Crash came just at the right point, when I knew just enough.

Looking back, I see all kinds of influences and sources of inspiration. Here are two of the less obvious ones:

1) In the mid-70s, as a teenager, I’d seen a film called The Conversation, a thriller directed by Francis Ford Coppola. In it Gene Hackman plays a freelance surveillance expert, the go-to man for people who want other people’s conversations secretly taped. Hackman fanatically wants to be the finest in his field – “the greatest bugger in America” – but becomes steadily haunted by the idea that the tapes he gives to his powerful clients may lead to dark consequences, including murder. I believe the Hackman character was an early model for Stevens the butler.

2) I thought I’d finished Remains, but then one evening heard Tom Waits singing his song “Ruby’s Arms”. It’s a ballad about a soldier leaving his lover sleeping in the early hours to go away on a train. Nothing unusual in that. But the song is sung in the voice of a rough American hobo type utterly unaccustomed to wearing his emotions on his sleeve. And there comes a moment, when the singer declares his heart is breaking, that’s almost unbearably moving because of the tension between the sentiment itself and the huge resistance that’s obviously been overcome to utter it. Waits sings the line with cathartic magnificence, and you feel a lifetime of tough-guy stoicism crumbling in the face of overwhelming sadness. I heard this and reversed a decision I’d made, that Stevens would remain emotionally buttoned up right to the bitter end. I decided that at just one point – which I’d have to choose very carefully – his rigid defence would crack, and a hitherto concealed tragic romanticism would be glimpsed.

 
Astronauts lift our spirits. But can we afford to send humans into space?

US astronaut Bruce McCandless spacewalking, 1984.

Astronauts lift our spirits. But can we afford to send humans into space?

Robin McKie

The success of the Orion spacecraft test flight has paved the way for America to carry humans to Mars and beyond. Yet many scientists say that manned missions are expensive and unnecessary and that robot probes are the future.

America’s first step in its attempt to reconquer worlds beyond our planet ended in spectacular success on Friday. An unmanned version of its Orion spacecraft soared more than 3,000 miles into space before splashing down on target in the Pacific ocean. The flight was hailed by Nasa, which says that the spaceship is destined to be the first of a fleet that will carry humans to the Moon, Mars and beyond.

In many laboratories and research centres, this delight was shared by scientists. A return to sending men and women to other parts of the solar system – years after the US scrapped its last manned space vehicle, the shuttle – cannot come soon enough for them.

But for others, the test flight was viewed as a distinctly unhappy event. Putting humans into space is futile, expensive and ultimately harmful to real science, argue researchers who believe that robot craft represent the future of space exploration and are dismayed by the US’s commitment to return to expensive manned missions.

“For a while I thought president Obama was going to see sense and would wean America off its fascination with putting men and women into space by scrapping manned missions,” the Nobel laureate Steven Weinberg told the Observer. “Unfortunately, with the flight of Orion, that hope has now been dashed.”

Scientists like Weinberg point to missions such as Europe’s Rosetta and Philae probes which have successfully begun an exploration of Comet 67P. They argue that these missions represent the real future of the solar system’s exploration. Men and women will remain expensive nuisances when it comes to discovering other worlds, they say. Relatively cheap robot probes are the future.

The existence of these two camps – manned versus unmanned – reveal a deep division in attitude to space exploration. On one hand, enthusiasts such as astronomer Professor Ian Crawford of Birkbeck College, London, believe that, although modern robots are capable of highly sophisticated tasks, only humans can carry out some forms of exploration.

“We learned a great deal from the Apollo missions, but their landings were all confined to sites near the lunar equator on one side of the Moon,” he said. “The samples they returned to Earth were made up of rocks found lying around the surface. But on the far side of the Moon, there is a region where meteorite impacts have excavated material from deep below the lunar surface. If we could explore these regions and bring samples back to Earth, we will transform our understanding of how the Earth and its satellite, the Moon, formed in the distant past.”

 
Barking Dog Alerted Al Qaeda to Rescue Attempt

Barking Dog Alerted Al Qaeda to Rescue Attempt

By Mark Nicol and Martin Delgado for The Mail on Sunday

American hostage Luke Somers who was shot dead by his Al Qaeda captors during Navy SEAL rescue bid was 'seconds from safety' when dog's bark ruined plan.

A British-born American photographer kidnapped by Al Qaeda was just seconds from being rescued by US special forces before being shot dead by his captors yesterday.

US Navy SEALs, mounting a dramatic rescue bid, crept to within 100 yards of a compound in a remote mountain hideout in Yemen where the hostages were being held.

The mission was ordered by Barack Obama after terrorists had on Thursday threatened to kill photographer Luke Somers, 33, within 72 hours.

Mr Somers had moved to Yemen in 2011 to teach English but soon began photographing protests in the capital San’a and his images were published by the New York Times and BBC.

He was taken hostage in 2013 and sold to AQAP by local criminals.

Last night Mr Somers’s stepmother Penny Bearman, from Deal, Kent, said: ‘Luke was a talented photographer with a sensitivity for people and people’s lives.’

 
In Grief "Moving on" May Not Always Be the Solution

In Grief "Moving on" May Not Always Be the Solution

By David B. Seaburn, Ph.D., L.M.F.T.

When a parent loses a child, there is no "moving on," but there is "living with.

 
Is Expert Testimony In Court Cases Really Expert?

Is Expert Testimony In Court Cases Really Expert?

Expert testimony in many trials is pretty worthless. Each side presents an extreme set of opinions that in opposite ways distort the complex reality. The jury cancels them out or makes a pretty blind choice between them.

Many factors contribute to experts generating heat, not light.

First off, many alleged experts are simply not really all that expert and say things that are just dead wrong. The filters meant to eliminate errant opinion and junk 'science' don't work.

Second, the adversarial system cultivates expert allegiance bias. Consciously or unconsciously, expert opinions are strongly influenced by who is paying the bill http://www.psychologicalscience.org/index.php/news/releases/foren...

Third, juries often have to decide questions that are far beyond their competence. Which of the dueling experts to believe is more often determined by presentation skills and likability than the technical accuracy of the testimony.

Finally, the adversarial quality of the legal system demands that experts give black-and-white, yes-or-no answers to questions that often require a shades-of-gray, nuanced response. Even wise and unbiased experts mislead when they are forced to choose a yes or no when the best answer would be maybe or a little bit of both.

 
Limbaugh: GOP too timid on immigration

Limbaugh: Obama can heal racial tensions

Limbaugh: GOP too timid on immigration

“This is about two elections in which the people of this country are begging the Republican people to stop this man,” Limbaugh said on “Fox News Sunday,” insisting that November’s results showed that last year’s shutdown didn’t hurt the GOP.

“The essence of a poll is an election,” he said.

GOP lawmakers have coalesced around a plan that would fund most of the government through next September, with shorter-term funding for the Department of Homeland Security.

Limbaugh said the GOP reaction suggested to him that establishment Republicans, some of whom back the sort of immigration reform the Senate passed last year, agree with Obama’s recent actions, calling out former Gov. Jeb Bush (R) of Florida and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce by name.

“This is a trick,” he said. “The Republicans want what Obama wants on immigration.”

 
As Mark Wahlberg seeks a pardon, some aren’t ready to forgive.

HOLLYWOOD, CA - NOVEMBER 08: Actor Mark Wahlberg attends the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts And Sciences' 2014 Governors Awards at The Ray Dolby Ballroom at Hollywood & Highland Center on November 8, 2014 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

As Mark Wahlberg seeks a pardon, some aren’t ready to forgive.

By Maria Cramer and Nestor Ramos

To those who watched Mark Wahlberg transform from a skinny Dorchester delinquent to a Hollywood leading man, the actor deserves a pardon for beating a man outside a convenience store in 1988.

But to some who remember the havoc he wreaked in Boston almost three decades ago, the disclosure this week that Wahlberg is asking the state to erase his teenage offenses from the record is infuriating.

Nam Pham, executive director of VietAID, a Vietnamese community organization in Dorchester, said Wahlberg should first apologize directly to Thanh Lam, a Vietnamese man Wahlberg beat with a stick more than a quarter century ago. Wahlberg also screamed obscenities and racial epithets.

“If I were him I would want the scar on my record erased,” Pham said of Wahlberg. “But I would also ask if I could help erase the scars on the victim.”

................................

Wahlberg, 43, is one of at least 70 people who have applied for a pardon in the months before Governor Deval Patrick leaves office.

 
Why Jon Stewart Is Bad For America

Why Jon Stewart Is Bad For America

Why Jon Stewart Is Bad For America

By Ramon Lopez

‘The Daily Show’ comedian Jon Stewart negatively affects public discourse.

Jon Stewart’s impact on the media and politics is undeniable. “NBC Nightly News” anchor Brian Williams has noted that, when he presents a news story “Jon’s always in the back of my mind,” and that Stewart’s “The Daily Show” “hold[s] people to account, for errors and sloppiness…it’s healthy.” Stewart is often seen in this light—as a comedic check on the excesses of hypocritical politicians and the press that enables them. Stewart is a channel for the frustration many feel against those in power, and a voice for those without.

But for all the praise Stewart has received, some of it justly deserved, we should also discuss the negative impacts of “The Daily Show,” and of comedy-news programs more generally. Although immensely entertaining, irresistibly likeable, and at times informative, Stewart is doing great damage to the public discourse in this country. He is, of course, not the main culprit of this. But his approach is indicative of the national mood and illustrative of how not to engage with those we disagree with. “The Daily Show” is at fault in two primary ways: its reliance on caricatures and its promotion of cynicism.

“The Daily Show” is a comedy program. As Stewart himself has observed, if he cannot get his audience to laugh, he won’t stay on the air for very long. But it’s also a news program. Before Stewart took over “The Daily Show” in 1999 it mostly focused on pop culture. He transformed the show and in doing so introduced millions of young viewers to politics—viewers who might otherwise find traditional news sources boring and uninteresting. To many, this is good; the pleasure of humor opens the door to the at-times tedious process of political engagement. But how that door is opened matters quite a bit. The form a message takes cannot be disentangled from its effect on the listener.

Comedy by nature has difficulty with nuance. It often depends on broad brushes, hyperbole, and straw men. These are highly useful for producing a comedic effect—it magnifies and picks apart everyday items or experiences, so they no longer seem normal, but absurd. Comedy is a unique way of commenting on our condition, and its capacity to unveil everyday absurdities makes it ripe for commenting on the political and the social.

"Comedy can delegitimize the opposition. The picture it paints is often absurd, so paints characters as caricatures."

 
Liberals punch back at Dem criticism of ObamaCare

Liberals punch back at Dem criticism of ObamaCare

By Mike Lillis

Liberals on and off Capitol Hill are defending President Obama's healthcare law from the friendly fire of fellow Democrats.

The liberals say the criticisms from Sens. Charles Schumer (N.Y.) and Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) are not only flat wrong, but also pointless coming four years after the law’s passage.

"I disagree with both of them," said Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), who helped usher the bill into law as then-chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee. "I disagree with what they said, and I can't quite see a lot of value in it."

Schumer and Harkin – both of whom played an outsized role in crafting the legislation in 2009 and 2010 – have raised eyebrows in recent weeks by second-guessing the wisdom of their work. 

Schumer said the Democrats' timing was poor, arguing that party leaders should have used the momentum coming out of the Democrats' 2008 election sweep to focus on bread-and-butter economic issues.

“After passing the stimulus, Democrats should have continued to propose middle-class-oriented programs and built on the partial success of the stimulus,” Schumer, the Senate's third-ranking Democrat, said in a Nov. 25 speech at the National Press Club. “Americans were crying out for an end to the recession, for better wages and more jobs – not for changes in their healthcare."

Harkin took those jabs a step further this week, arguing that the policy itself is flawed because Democrats didn't fight hard enough for a public insurance option or a single-payer system, like that underlying Medicare.

“We had the power to do it in a way that would have simplified healthcare, made it more efficient and made it less costly, and we didn’t do it,” Harkin, the chairman of the Senate health committee, told The Hill. “So I look back and say we should have either done it the correct way or not done anything at all.

“What we did is we muddled through and we got a system that is complex, convoluted, needs probably some corrections and still rewards the insurance companies extensively,” he added.

Waxman fired back, saying the ObamaCare law was the best the Democrats could do given the resistance from centrist Senate Democrats and outright opposition from Republicans.

"What Sen. Harkin would have liked might have been better, but it couldn't have passed," Waxman said. "[And] I disagree with Sen. Schumer [in] that this was a very important accomplishment by this administration, and I think the Democrats and Sen. Schumer ought to be proud of it." 

Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), head of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, delivered a similar message, arguing that, while there are plenty of improvements that could be made to the law, the critics should focus their attention on getting those things done instead of questioning the value of the law as it stands.

"There are things that can make the bill better, more accessible and certainly more affordable," Grijalva said. "But in terms of saying we should have done something else, I think it's kind of late in the process." 

Grijalva said he agreed that Democrats should have pushed harder to lower the Medicare eligibility age and promote a public option "that would make the competitive situation on the exchanges much more to the benefit of taxpayers and individuals."

"[But] the only second-guessing that we can do now is to try to provide some fixes to those areas," he said.

 
After a Cancer Diagnosis, Learning to Let Go

Steven Petrow, left, at his graduation from University of California, Berkeley in 1985.

After a Cancer Diagnosis, Learning to Let Go

The stars may have been shining in Berkeley that late summer’s night, but I couldn’t see them. I was doubled over in my backyard, puking, with the gut-searing spasms of a chemo patient.

This was not how my life was supposed to be. Only six months earlier I had been following a well-ordered routine as a history grad student, up every day at 7 a.m. to walk the exact same route from my apartment on the Southside to the University’s outdoor pool. By 7:30, I’d be slicing through the crisp water with an even crisper stroke. From there, I’d head over to Doe Library, arriving precisely at 9:00. Afternoons were spent teaching undergrads, and more nights than most I fell asleep in my boyfriend Noah’s arms.

My routine gave me structure and comfort – the way I imagine a strait jacket might feel to someone who is not struggling to get out.

The first hint that my tidy life was in danger had come earlier that year when, on my nightly route home from the library, a man had stuck a pistol into my ribs, demanding my near-empty wallet (I was only a grad student!) and my cheap watch (ditto). He nuzzled the gun deeper into my side, roughly pushing me in the direction of People’s Park, a dark hole known for drug trafficking and violent crime.

No good can come of this, I realized as I quickly assessed the situation. A moment later I saw a car approaching and ran toward it, screaming for help. ”Stop or I’ll shoot!” I heard the gunman shout as I rolled over the car hood and landed on the pavement, more disoriented than hurt, as the sedan sped away. When I looked back to where the gunman had stood — no one. Into the park, disappeared.

For a few days after, this bungled assault sat with me as just another pedestrian example of urban crime. Lucky for me it hadn’t ended badly, and I returned to my regularly scheduled program. As it turned out, however, that wasn’t the last of it.

Unconsciously at first, then deliberately, I started taking different routes to and from campus, randomly making my way to the pool, to class, to the library. It was as if my well-ordered life, with its promise of comfort, predictability, even safety, was now in jeopardy.

A month later came the testicular cancer diagnosis – and with it the required removal of the offending malignancy. With no routine to fall back on, the morning of my surgery proved to be a complete improvisation. Up before dawn, I lingered in the shower, holding both testicles for the last time. It felt like I was saying goodbye to a lover who had betrayed me, but whom I still loved.

 
Obama diagnosed with heartburn after visit to Walter Reed

Obama diagnosed with heartburn after visit to Walter Reed

By Dan Berman

President Barack Obama has returned to the White House after an unscheduled visit Saturday afternoon to the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center to undergo a CT scan after complaining of a sore throat.

The CT scan was “normal,” the president’s physician, Dr. Ronny Jackson, said in a statement.

“The President’s symptoms are consistent with soft tissue inflammation related to acid reflux and will be treated accordingly,” Jackson said.

The president’s visit to Walter Reed was brief — he arrived at 2:37 p.m. and left at 3:11 p.m.

 
Inside the Pearl Harbor Attack

Inside the Pearl Harbor Attack

In the summer of 1940, the Pacific Fleet was moved from California to Pearl Harbor as a way to counter Japan’s aggressive actions in Southeast Asia. Still, far away from the rest of the world in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, life in Hawaii seemed untouched. The islands’ breezy tropical climate and warm ocean beckoned visitors. Yet on the horizon, foreboding clouds gathered over Asia and slowly drifted toward the islands. On December 7, 1941, the Japanese struck—and changed the world forever.

See photos from the Pearl Harbor attack.

 
In three minutes, two lives collide and a nation divides

"I just grabbed the top of my gun," the officer testified. (Alberto Cuadro/Post)

In three minutes, two lives collide and a nation divides

Marc Fisher, Kimbriell Kelly, Kimberly Kindy and Amy Brittain

Witnesses in the shooting of Michael Brown can’t agree on what they saw, and the evidence can’t settle the questions.

JUST BEFORE LUNCHTIME on Aug. 9 in Ferguson, Mo., a contractor who was losing a battle between his hatchet and some deep-set tree roots began to fuss and cuss. A stranger who was walking by watched the laborer for a bit and then offered some soothing words.

Why are you so riled up, Michael Brown asked. The Lord Jesus Christ can help you with your anger.

“Boy, you can grab a shovel and come down here and you can get picking at these roots,” the worker said.

Brown didn’t assist with the labor, but he hung around for half an hour. When he returned a little later, Brown, now with his friend Dorian Johnson, was rolling marijuana into lined notebook paper.

“You’re going to smoke it out of that?” the contractor asked.

“No, we’re going to go to the store and get some skins or a blunt or something,” Brown replied, and off he went to the Ferguson Market. To the contractor, Brown didn’t seem high, just “a little bit slow . . . just wanting to talk to somebody.”

 
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