When I was in school we got assigned Miss Lonelyhearts by Nathaniel West. The reason you assign a book like this to children is not because they’ll really understand it, or that you do, but because it’s really short.
It was about the first existentialist work I was exposed to and one of the bleakest.
While the write up in Wikipedia (and Sparks and Cliffs for that matter) focus on Miss Lonelyhearts and his sad moral existence and the metaphorical parallels to the Great Depression I couldn’t, and can’t to this day, read it without weeping over the plight of his correspondents-
Dear Miss Lonelyhearts–
I am in such pain I dont know what to do sometimes I think I will kill myself my kidneys hurt so much. My husband thinks no woman can be a good catholic and not have children irregardless of the pain. I was married honorable from our church but I never knew what married life meant as I never was told about man and wife. My grandmother never told me and she was the only mother I had but made a big mistake by not telling me as it dont pay to be innocent and is only a big disappointment. I have 7 children in 12 yrs and ever since the last 2 I have been so sick. I was operated on twice and my husband promised no more children on the doctors advice as he said I might die but when I got back from the hospital he broke his promise and now I am going to have a baby and I dont think I can stand it my kidneys hurt so much. I am so sick and scared because I cant have an abortion on account of being a catholic and my husband so religious. I cry all the time it hurts so much and I dont know what to do.
Miss Lonelyhearts threw the letter into an open drawer and lit a cigarette.
Dear Miss Lonelyhearts–
I am sixteen years old now and I dont know what to do and would appreciate it if you could tell me what to do. When I was a little girl it was not so bad because I got used to the kids on the block makeing fun of me, but now I would like to have boy friends like the other girls and go out on Saturday nites, but no boy will take me because I was born without a nose–although I am a good dancer and have a nice shape and my father buys me pretty clothes.
I sit and look at myself all day and cry. I have a big hole in the middle of my face that scares people even myself so I cant blame the boys for not wanting to take me out. My mother loves me, but she crys terrible when she looks at me.
What did I do to deserve such a terrible bad fate? Even if I did do some bad things I didnt do any before I was a year old and I was born this way. I asked Papa and he says he doesnt know, but that maybe I did something in the other world before I was born or that maybe I was being punished for his sins. I dont believe that because he is a very nice man. Ought I commit suicide?
The cigarette was imperfect and refused to draw. Miss Lonelyhearts took it out of his mouth and stared at it furiously. He fought himself quiet, then lit another one.
Dear Miss Lonelyhearts–
I am writing to you for my little sister Grade because something awfull hapened to her, and I am afraid to tell mother about it. I am 15 years old and Gracie is 13 and we live in Brooklyn. Gracie is deaf and dumb and biger than me but not very smart on account of being deaf and dumb. She plays on the roof of our house and dont go to school except to deaf and dumb school twice a week on tuesdays and thursdays. Mother makes her play on the roof because we dont want her to get run over as she aint very smart. Last week a man came on the roof and did something dirty to her. She told me about it and I dont know what to do as I am afraid to tell mother on account of her being liable to beat Grade up. I am afraid that Gracie is going to have a baby and I listened to her stomack last night for a long time to see if I could hear the baby but I couldn’t. If I tell mother she will beat Gracie up awfull because I am the only one who loves her and last time when she tore her dress they Joked her in the closet for 2 days and if the boys on the blok hear about it they will say dirty things like they did on Peewee Conors sister the time she got caught in the lots. So please what would you do if the same hapened in your family.
Well, that didn’t help at all. But nothing really does, you just forget for a while.
Maybe it’s just that time of year when the time and light change and the pressure of the Holiday season, the sense that another big tick has just tolled on your life clock.
This is mere introduction to the two best Science and Technology posts I found this week which happen to be tremendously depressing. On the other hand I could be beating you about the head every week about Climate Change and Mass Extinction so there is that.
The law that entropy always increases holds, I think, the supreme position among the laws of Nature. If someone points out to you that your pet theory of the universe is in disagreement with Maxwell’s equations – then so much the worse for Maxwell’s equations. If it is found to be contradicted by observation – well, these experimentalists do bungle things sometimes. But if your theory is found to be against the second law of thermodynamics I can give you no hope; there is nothing for it but to collapse in deepest humiliation.
–Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington, The Nature of the Physical World (1927)
“I am lonely, will anyone speak to me”: Inside the saddest thread on the internet, ten years later
Tori Telfer, Salon
Wednesday, Nov 19, 2014 06:58 PM EST
This October, a guest user logged onto moviecodec.com – a technical Q&A forum for media file playback and conversion – to post a cry for help on one of the site’s off-topic forums. “[I’]m so lonely,” wrote the user, “feeling sad please anyone talk to me.” It was an almost word-for-word replica of the thread’s title, written 10 years and thousands of posts earlier: “i am lonely will anyone speak to me.” The thread’s creator was also a guest, who logged in as “lonely” in 2004. A decade ago, due to the freakishly searchable title and the fact that the site was already optimized for maximum Google search exposure, the thread went viral. Within days, it was the No. 1 result for “I am lonely” on Google, and hundreds of anonymous lonely hearts were flocking to the forum to commiserate, console and weep.
Today’s bigger, flashier Internet means lonely people don’t have to turn to a random off-topic thread on a tech site to assuage their feelings of isolation. “[The thread] no longer receives as much traffic as it used to receive, and I believe that is mostly due to there now being many more sites and sources on the Internet dealing with loneliness,” says Lundgren. The lonely can take a Loneliness Quiz from Psych Central or join the Campaign to End Loneliness. They can listen to sad arias on Spotify while ordering near-limitless amounts of comfort food from GrubHub. If loneliness is cured by distraction and a sense of interconnectivity, the Internet is a much better place for the lonely today.
But has the Internet also turned crueler? More isolating? Lundgren seems to think so, calling Internet forums “generally more harsh and less helpful than 10 years ago.” (And it’s not just forums. “The distribution system for our beastliness has gotten so much better because we have the Internet now,” said satirist Andy Borowitz on NPR in 2010.) Why the bad turn? “Because as a whole people have become more hurried, more goal-oriented, and less helpful on the Internet,” says Lundgren. “People don’t ‘hang out’ and help each other the same way as before.” If this is true, the “i am lonely” thread reflects this shift. Though the overall tone remains empathetic and helpful, a sense of solidarity, of us-vs.-them, has been lost. As one guest user wrote in August, “This thread signifies the very volatile nature of society. Look at the replies people were getting a decade ago after they confided to a forum that they were lonely and look at the replies people get now … SADDENING.”
Whether or not the Internet is the dark source of all our loneliness is a fiercely debated topic. It’s like the chicken-or-egg conundrum, or the tree-falling-in-the-forest question. Does the Internet cause loneliness, or do lonely people choose the Internet? If one solitary nerd has a thousand online friends, is he still alone in real life?
No one has been able to answer the question conclusively. A 1998 study called the “Internet Paradox” is still an apropos descriptor of the whole mess. We use the Internet to communicate, but is it killing “real” communication? We chat with old crushes on Facebook, but should we really be taking out our headphones and talking to the cute guy in the checkout line? Terrifying think pieces about the links between technology and dying alone are, ironically, all over the Internet; in Public Culture, Zeynep Tufekci points out that this is mostly an “appeal to moral panic,” as there’s not a lot of empirical research to support these hypotheses. But there’s a reason we see a headline about Facebook causing loneliness and think, yes, that makes sense. It’s not empirical, but it’s intuitive. Everybody knows the sort of gnawing ache that hits when you find yourself online late at night. You feel … like a loser. And you want to see if anyone else is out there.
The “i am lonely” thread provides affecting – if inconclusive – contributions to the Internet loneliness debate. On the one hand, without the Internet, where would the lonely Vegas housewife “alone in [her] room and longing for company” go to vent? On the other hand, would user “depresico” have a better life if the Internet didn’t exist? “Another thing for my loneliness is those freaking computers,” depresico writes. “[I] just happend to have my computer as my best friend since i wasnt that socially related to the outer world but now i realized how much i had missed” [all sic]. Another user mourns the sadness of using technology to connect to people “who may not even exist.”
The crux of the Internet loneliness debate isn’t actually the Internet; it’s the tension between Internet reality and real world reality. There’s a sense in which the Internet is somehow fake, and that the real world is better, but we go online to talk about it anyway, hovering in that space between technological connection and physical connection. It’s illogical to think of the Internet as separate from the real world – we’re still regular people communicating regular things on it – and yet we constantly differentiate between the two. Lundgren, for instance, believes that loneliness can only be solved in the latter. “The Internet will never suffice,” he says. “You need to actually talk to and see people in real life to feel like a real person.” In other words, there’s a fear that a person on the Internet is somehow less real than an unplugged one. And the fear of talking to people “who may not even exist” on the Internet is a relevant, though surreal, worry. If the original poster, “lonely,” logged off forever and never came back to the thread, how much value do we get from thinking of them as a real person with a real life and real loneliness? For all intents and purposes, hasn’t “lonely” become just another search term, another bit of code?
Twine, the Video-Game Technology for All
By LAURA HUDSON, The New York Times
NOV. 19, 2014
Perhaps the most surprising thing about “GamerGate,” the culture war that continues to rage within the world of video games, is the game that touched it off. Depression Quest, created by the developers Zoe Quinn, Patrick Lindsey and Isaac Schankler, isn’t what most people think of as a video game at all. For starters, it isn’t very fun. Its real value is as an educational tool, or an exercise in empathy. Aside from occasional fuzzy Polaroid pictures that appear at the top of the screen, Depression Quest is a purely text-based game that proceeds from screen to screen through simple hyperlinks, inviting players to step into the shoes of a person suffering from clinical depression. After reading brief vignettes about what the main character is struggling with – at home, at work, in relationships – you try to make choices that steer your character out of this downward spiral. The most important choices are those the game prevents you from making, unclickable choices with red lines through them, saying things like “Shake off your funk.” As your character falls deeper into depression, more options are crossed out. You can’t sleep; you can’t call a therapist; you can’t explain how you feel to the people you love. In the depths of depression, it all feels impossible.
Twine games look and feel profoundly different from other games, not just because they’re made with different tools but also because they’re made by different people – including people who don’t have any calcified notions about what video games are supposed to be or how they’re supposed to work. While roughly 75 percent of developers at traditional video-game companies are male, many of the most prominent Twine developers are women, making games whose purpose is to explore personal perspectives and issues of identity, sexuality and trauma that mainstream games rarely touch on.
Although plenty of independent games venture where mainstream games fear to tread, Twine represents something even more radical: the transformation of video games into something that is not only consumed by the masses but also created by them. A result has been one of the most fascinating and diverse scenes in gaming. The very nature of Twine poses a simple but deeply controversial question: Why shouldn’t more people get to be a part of games? Why shouldn’t everybody?
One of the most prominent and critically acclaimed Twine games has been Howling Dogs, a haunting meditation about trauma and escapism produced in 2012 by a woman named Porpentine. The gameplay begins in a claustrophobic metal room bathed in fluorescent light. Although you can’t leave, you can “escape” once a day by donning a pair of virtual-reality goggles. Each time, you’re launched into a strange and lavishly described new world where you play a different role: a doomed young empress learning the art of dying; a scribe trying to capture the beauty of a garden in words; a Joan of Arc-like figure waiting to be burned on a pyre. And each time you return to the metal room, it’s a little dirtier and a little more dilapidated – the world around you slowly decomposing as you try to disappear into a virtual one.
“When you have trauma,” Porpentine says, “everything shrinks to this little dark room.” While the immersive glow of a digital screen can offer a temporary balm, “you can’t stay stuck on the things that help you deal with trauma when it’s happening. You have to move on. You have to leave the dark room, or you’ll stay stunted.”
This year, Porpentine released Everything You Swallow Will One Day Come Up Like a Stone, a game about suicide. One of her most moving games, it also remains one of the most obscure – largely because she distributed it for only a single day.
“This game will be available for 24 hours and then I am deleting it forever,” she wrote during its brief availability. “Suicide is a social problem. Suicide is a social failure. This game will live through social means only. This game will not be around forever because the people you fail will not be around forever.”
The concept for the game is tremendously simple. A number counter is set to zero, with plus and minus buttons beneath it to make the number bigger or smaller. “I counted this high,” it begins, and then the game is just that: counting up, though the purpose of doing so isn’t clear at first. I’ve played it four or five times now and never made it all the way through without crying.
Sometimes, nothing happens when you click to the next number; other times, words appear like stray thoughts. “Who would you miss if they were gone for a day?” it asks at one point. Keep clicking, and the word “day” is replaced by “month,” then by “year” and finally “forever.” Sometimes it asks you questions. Sometimes it tells you stories. At one point it quotes from the suicide note of a Czech student who killed himself by self-immolation, later from a news report about a woman who committed suicide after being raped. “This is the game,” it says.
The numbers start to feel like days, and the rhythm of clicking feels like passing time, like checking off days on a calendar. It isn’t always “fun,” per se; sometimes, when you click 10 or 15 times in a row and see nothing but an empty screen, a little part of you wonders when it’s going to end. But you keep on clicking. After all, what other choice do you have? It feels like surviving.
But somewhere around the number 300, the game decides to throw you for a loop. Click the wrong link – or the right one? – and it catapults you suddenly into the tens of millions. The moment you see it, your guts twist with panic; the space between where you were and where you are becomes a vast numeric desert, and the idea of clicking millions of times to get back seems impossible. You won’t be able to do it, you think for a moment – you’ll just have to quit the game. Then you remember you’re playing a game about suicide.
“That’s what it feels like to wake up insane or with trauma,” Porpentine said. “It’s like, Oh, God, how do I get back there? It feels like it’ll take a million days to get back, a million steps. That is the crisis. ‘Will I ever be the same again?’ And you won’t.”
Science and Technology News and Blogs
- A Time for Revisiting Real Fears, by George Johnson, The New York Times
- This Map of the Huge Asteroid Vesta Is the Best Geologic Look Ever, by Kelly Dickerson, Space.com
- Is Russian Mystery Object a Space Weapon?, by Mike Wall, Space.com
- Parallel Worlds Could Explain Wacky Quantum Physics, by Kelly Dickerson, Live Science
- Hackers Can Steal Data Wirelessly From PCs That Aren’t Even Online, By Gwen Ackerman, Bloomberg News
- Scientists discover two new particles at Large Hadron Collider, By Amina Khan, Los Angeles Times
- Six Decades Left to Eliminate All CO2 Emissions, UN Says, By Alex Morales, Bloomberg News
- Oil Spills Linked to Decline in Texas Sea Turtle Population, by: Enozia Vakil, American Live Wire
- Mystery Object in Space: A Rogue Black Hole or Strange Supernova?, by Calla Cofield, Space.com
- John Hodgman is “baffled” Uber exec wasn’t fired, says he won’t use Uber, by Sarah Gray, Salon
- A Comet Did It! Mystery of Giant Crater Solved, By Tia Ghose, Live Science
Science Oriented Video!
The Obligatories, News, and Blogs below.
Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when
we’re not too hungover we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED)the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.
I would never make fun of LaEscapee or blame PhilJD. And I am highly organized.
This Day in History
Takata’s Switch to Cheaper Airbag Propellant Is at Center of Crisis
By HIROKO TABUCHI, The New York Times
NOV. 19, 2014
The new airbag propellant was supposed to be the next big thing for Takata in 1998. An engineer for the company, Paresh Khandhadia, declared it “the new technological edge” in an interview with a trade magazine then.
Based on a compound called tetrazole, it was seen as a reliable and effective compound for inflating airbags. Yet despite the fanfare, by 2001 Takata had switched to an alternative formula, ammonium nitrate, and started sending the airbags to automakers, including Honda.
That compound, according to experts, is highly sensitive to temperature changes and moisture, and it breaks down over time. And when it breaks down, it can combust violently, experts say.
“It shouldn’t be used in airbags,” said Paul Worsey, an expert in explosives engineering at the Missouri University of Science and Technology. The compound, he said, is more suitable for large demolitions in mining and construction. “But it’s cheap, unbelievably cheap,” he added.
More Than a Battle, Kobani Is a Publicity War
By TIM ARANGO, The New York Times
NOV. 19, 2014
For Washington, Kobani is a crucial public test of President Obama’s strategy of combining American air power with local ground forces. For the Islamic State, it is a test of its image of inevitability and invincibility, and a tool for recruiting jihadists.
But of all those with an interest in Kobani, there is arguably no party as invested as the fractious Kurdish diaspora, which has pulled together in the hope of creating a homeland among the rolling farms and pistachio orchards that are still technically part of Syria.
At this point, “the strategic significance is because of the psychological and the publicity importance,” said Eliot A. Cohen, a military historian at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies and an official in the administration of President George W. Bush.
A Sudden Schism Emerges Between Abe and the Bank of Japan Governor
By JONATHAN SOBLE, The New York Times
NOV. 19, 2014
Mr. Abe announced on Tuesday that he would postpone a planned tax increase that Mr. Kuroda had long supported. Higher taxes are vital to taming Japan’s national debt, Mr. Kuroda argues, and some are calling Mr. Abe’s reversal a stab in the back.
“Prime Minister Abe has betrayed Kuroda and the Bank of Japan and chosen victory over scruples,” Soichiro Tahara, a prominent political commentator and journalist, wrote on Wednesday in a piece posted on the website of the Asahi Weekly magazine. In addition to delaying the second and final phase of the tax increase by a year and a half, to April 2017, Mr. Abe called a snap election for next month. Analysts believe his Liberal Democratic Party will win.
Mr. Kuroda said on Wednesday that the economy was still fundamentally on a path to growth, despite data on Monday that showed that Japan slipped into recession in the third quarter.
Gross domestic product contracted at an annualized rate of 1.6 percent, the data showed. That followed a 7.3 percent plunge in the previous quarter, after the first stage of the sales tax increase. The blow to consumer spending from the increase led to the recession and persuaded Mr. Abe to delay the second phase.
Mr. Kuroda now appears to be focused on holding Mr. Abe to a pledge to stick to the new 2017 timetable no matter what obstacles the economy throws up. The plan is to balance the budget, excluding interest payments on the debt, by 2020. Many economists say that is unrealistic, but Mr. Kuroda said on Wednesday that it was crucial to try.
N.S.A. Phone Data Collection Could Go On, Even if a Law Expires
By CHARLIE SAVAGE, The New York Times
NOV. 19, 2014
“I believe that if we do not pass this bill, the metadata program is at risk because the 215 program sunsets next year,” Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, said in Tuesday night’s debate. But that premise may be incorrect. If the summer arrives and the program is facing a shutdown, Mr. Obama could invoke the provision to ask the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to keep it going.
Several executive branch officials said the administration had not been studying that option and expressed doubt that Mr. Obama would take such a step, or that the Surveillance Court would agree to it if he tried. Still, the mere existence of a potential way for the program to keep going without congressional action could recast the debate.
Among other things, it could dampen any sense of solace felt by privacy advocates who supported the bill, the U.S.A. Freedom Act, and its revisions of the bulk data program, but who believed that if Congress remained gridlocked, the program was certain to disappear.
And it potentially transforms the politics of what could happen if the expiration date is reached without new legislation, giving congressional Republicans a way to try to shift the blame for any risk created by letting the program lapse to Mr. Obama, if the president does not use the provision to try to keep it going.
The law says that Section 215, along with another section of the Patriot Act, expires on “June 1, 2015, except that former provisions continue in effect with respect to any particular foreign intelligence investigation that began before June 1, 2015, or with respect to any particular offense or potential offense that began or occurred before June 1, 2015.”
Michael Davidson, who until his retirement in 2011 was the Senate Intelligence Committee’s top staff lawyer, said this meant that as long as there was an older counterterrorism investigation still open, the court could keep issuing Section 215 orders to phone companies indefinitely for that investigation.
NBC pulls Bill Cosby sitcom amid renewed sexual assault allegations
Ed Pilkington and Esther Addley, The Guardian
Wednesday 19 November 2014 14.39 EST
An NBC spokesperson, Rebecca Marks, told Associated Press that the project “is no longer under development”, with no further embellishment.
NBC’s decision not to move forward with the pilot takes the storm that has been gathering around Cosby to a new force factor. It is the fourth, and by far the most important, media appearance or deal to have been severed, beginning with a cancelled visit to the Queen Latifah Show last month, and followed by the dropping of his slot on the Late Show with David Letterman that had been scheduled for this week.
Hours before NBC confirmed it was pulling the plug, Netflix said it had postponed a special broadcast marking the actor’s 77th birthday. The streaming channel did not give reasons for delaying transmission of the tribute broadcast, which was scheduled for 28 November, issuing a curt statement that read: “At this time we are postponing the launch of the new standup comedy special Bill Cosby 77.”
The TV channels where Christmas never comes too early
Brian Moylan, The Guardian
Wednesday 19 November 2014 11.36 EST
One of cable’s not-so-dirty little secrets is that holiday programming is a huge ratings boon. Hallmark Channel’s ratings are up 76% in their target demographic of women aged 25-54 since the start of November. They estimate to reach about 75 million viewers this holiday season.
ABC Family is another big player, and they start their 25 Days of Christmas stunt on 1 December. Salaam Coleman Smith, executive vice-president of strategy and programming, says that their December programming reaches about 100 million viewers a year. “25 Days of Christmas is easily ABC Family’s highest-rated period of the year,” she says. “Our primetime performance during the stunt drew roughly twice as many viewers as any other month in 2013.”
The other major player in the Christmas cable free-for-all is Lifetime, which has already started their Christmas movie bonanza but refused to talk to me about their upcoming projects because of this article I wrote likening their original programming to internet clickbait. Their original movie offerings this season include An En Vogue Christmas, starring members of the 90s R&B group, which premieres 22 November, and Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever which premieres 29 November. It is based on the beloved internet meme.
With the stakes so high around Christmas programming, Hallmark Channel spends all year developing their slate of original movies. Vicary says they have about 100 original movies in the vault now, and are adding 15 new movies this season, their most ever. The started debuting a new movie each Saturday and Sunday from the start of November, and won’t stop until children are hearing click click click up on the rooftop. Last Saturday Hallmark unveiled their tentpole (Yule log?) for the year, Northpole, in which a single mother (Saved by the Bell’s Tiffani Thiessen) has to help Santa (Robert Wagner) save Christmas while also falling in love with her son’s teacher (Cougar Town’s Josh Hopkins, who also stars in the ever-repeating 12 Men of Christmas on Lifetime). Vicary says each original movie costs somewhere between $1m and $7m to produce.
If you couldn’t tell, there is a certain formula to all of these movies that is somewhat appealing. They usually feature actors familiar from older hit shows or sitcoms in situations where they are not only saving the actual holiday but either the local mall, a beloved store being taken over by big business, or a friend with an illness. If there is not a husband and wife rediscovering their love, there are two unlucky singles finding romance where they least expect it. In either scenario there will be mistletoe. These are the kind of stories where love conquers all, family always comes first, and Christmas is nothing short of magical.
CIA Director John Brennan considering sweeping organizational changes
By Greg Miller, Washington Post
November 19 at 8:54 PM
CIA Director John Brennan is considering sweeping organizational changes that could include breaking up the separate spying and analysis divisions that have been in place for decades to create hybrid units focused on individual regions and threats to U.S. security, current and former U.S. intelligence officials said.
“It’s a major deal,” said a former senior CIA official who has worked with Brennan. Asked for an example of a previous reorganization that was similar in scale, he replied, “I don’t think there has been one.”
At issue is a basic structure that has been in place since the agency’s inception, with employees divided by function among four major directorates. The best known are the National Clandestine Service, which sends case officers overseas on spying missions and carries out covert operations, and the Directorate of Intelligence, which employs thousands of analysts whose main job is to provide insight on global developments to President Obama and other policymakers. Others include a directorate focused on science and technology, and a fourth handles logistics for operations abroad.
Hybrid organizations such as the CTC tend to be “consumed with the operational challenges of the moment,” Hayden said. “But you also have to pay attention to creating the basic skills, knowledge and databases” – areas of tradecraft that have been the domain of traditional directorates.
Others cited additional concerns, including the potential for analysts’ judgment to be clouded by working so closely with the operations side. “The potential for corruption is much greater,” said a former U.S. intelligence official who worked at the CTC. “If you have analysts who are directly involved in helping to guide operations, there is the possibility for them to get too close to the issue and be too focused on trying to achieve a certain outcome.”
Still, several CIA veterans said that risk can be managed and more than offset by other advantages that come from melding analysts with operatives. Doing so can give analysts deeper understanding of the motivations and reliability of sources. Trained to be skeptics, analysts can also help case officers see flaws in operational plans.
Such collaboration proved critical in the search for Osama bin Laden and has given rise to an expanding career category for analysts known as “targeters” who help identify individuals for the clandestine service to recruit, apprehend or, in extreme cases, kill.
Oil and gold price plunge does not signal a global recession, experts say
Debbie Carlson, The Guardian
Wednesday 19 November 2014 14.13 EST
What could possibly cause several different kinds of commodities – from oil to gold to silver – to drop at the same time?
The simple reason for the dip in commodities prices, these experts say, is that we have too much of a good thing: too much gold; a bumper crop of corn; a glut of iron ore because the big three producers, Rio Tinto, Vale and BHP Billiton have all increased output. In crude oil, members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries keep pumping out oil, while US production is at its highest level since 1986.
This embarrassment of riches is what commodity producers thought they wanted. They spent the past several years investing in infrastructure and technology to produce more goods, getting more barrels of oil, more ounces of gold, or more bushels per acre, said Rob Haworth, senior investment strategist for US Bank Wealth Management.
Asia and Europe are suffering from weaker economies – in some cases, flirting with new recessions in Japan and the Eurozone – which, in turn, means that demand for all of that oil and gold and iron is dropping.
“The market has to absorb both [weak demand and high supply] at the same time,” said US Bank’s Haworth. “With either one, we would have seen somewhat weaker prices; with both the market is really having to adjust.”
That lack of demand is why the commodity markets aren’t forecasting bad times in the future; they’re mirroring the current dark “mood” of the commodity investor, said analysts at Citi Research in a research note from 16 November.
American Pigs Are Too Fat for Holiday Ham
By Lydia Mulvany, Bloomberg News
Nov 19, 2014 7:00 PM ET
Eating ham has never been more expensive than this year, partly because U.S. pigs are too fat.
Hogs in the U.S. weigh the most ever after farmers fed them longer to make up for losses caused by a virus that killed millions of piglets. While heavier hogs means more pork per animal, their hind legs exceed the size used for producing the 7-pound spiral-cut, half hams that are the most popular for family meals during year-end holidays.
Half of annual ham consumption by Americans occurs at Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners, and retail prices through September were up 24 percent this year to a record $3.389 a pound, the most recent government data show. The increase was fueled by the virus, which shrank the domestic herd and reduced the number of hogs slaughtered this year by 5.2 percent, boosting costs for meat buyers including Noodles & Co. (NDLS)
“This year has been a struggle for people that sell half hams because heavier hogs are coming to market,” Brian Mariuz, chief financial officer of HoneyBaked Ham Co.‘s Michigan division, said by telephone from Troy, Michigan. The unit runs 74 of HoneyBaked’s more than 400 U.S. stores. “Seven-pound hams are in the highest demand and in the lowest supply.”
Obama refuses to close door on torture
by Faiza Patel, Al Jazeera
November 19, 2014 2:00AM ET
This year President Barack Obama rejected two excellent opportunities to close the door on the shameful use of torture and cruelty by the United States. First, his administration has resisted attempts by Senate investigators to release a coherent version of their report on torture by the Central Intelligence Agency. Such refusals have led to speculation that they have sought to delay matters so that Republicans can block its release after they take control of the chamber in January. Second, the Obama State Department said last week that the Convention Against Torture requires it to prevent torture only in places that the U.S. “controls as a governmental authority.”
More strikingly, the U.S. didn’t explain whether it believed that torture and cruel treatment was forbidden worldwide under domestic law or under the torture treaty. This distinction is important. The brutal tactics employed by the U.S. after 9/11 have led many observers to question its commitment to postwar human rights treaties. Both allied and hostile nations were watching to see if Obama acknowledged that the U.S. was bound by global torture standards. His answer did not reassure them.
The Obama administration, however, has taken the position that only people within its governmental authority – for example, at the Guantánamo Bay detention facility or aboard U.S.-flagged aircraft and ships – are covered by legal restrictions against torture and cruel treatment. This stance is better than that of the previous administration, which argued that the ban simply didn’t apply to operations abroad. But it provides little comfort to those over whom the U.S. exercises control but who are technically under the authority of another country. For instance, the prisoners held at the U.S. air base in Bagram, Afghanistan, where the United States calls the shots even though it exercises only partial legal control, may be out of luck. The CIA black sites that Obama shut down? Probably not covered either.
The administration’s legal parsing is somewhat hard to accept, because under domestic law, including the 2005 Detainee Treatment Act, the U.S. is forbidden from subjecting any person under its “physical control” to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, no matter where they are. As the president’s own former top international lawyer has argued, it requires no change in law or policy to acknowledge that such conduct is forbidden under the torture treaty as well.
- High Court Judge Rules UK Government Not Entitled to Immunity from Claims Brought by Torture & Rendition Victim, by Kevin Gosztola, Firedog Lake
- The Unexpected Way Local Marijuana Taxes Can Impact Public Health, by Jon Walker, Firedog Lake
- Uber Investigating Executive For Tracking Reporter Using Uber Data, by DSWright, Firedog Lake
- Did Obama’s Beloved “Moderate” FSA Fighters Flee Aleppo?, by Jim White, emptywheel
- Wisconsin as a Frontier of School Privatization: Will Anyone Notice the Looting?, by Yves Smith, naked capitalism
- The facts about cardiac arrest and resuscitation (CPR), by Dr. Mark Thomas M.D., AmericaBlog
- Have You Ever Done Anything To Stop Our Government From Torturing People? You Can, Down With Tyranny
- Can the US political system deal with climate change?, by joe shikspack, The Stars Hollow Gazette
- Middle School Principal Suspended Over Unannounced School Shooter Drill, by Timothy Geigner, Tech Dirt
- FISA Judge To Yahoo: If US Citizens Don’t Know They’re Being Surveilled, There’s No Harm, by Tim Cushing, Tech Dirt
- Torturer on the Ballot, by David Swanson, Washington’s Blog
- And Now the Richest .01 Percent, by Robert Reich
- Ratmach Needs Our Help, by: thatsdrfreak, The Stars Hollow Gazette
- Fighting Big Money in Politics, by: TMC, The Stars Hollow Gazette
- The Tar Sands White Elephant, by: ek hornbeck, DocuDharma