I was determined to make my Easter amazing. I pulled out my favorite book (The Diary of Anne Frank), made my favorite meal (quail), and sat on my porch to watch the day fade away. Unfortunately I faded away too, and when I woke up there was a trail of ants running up my leg to the quail I’d spilled on my lap.
Ted Wilson Reviews The World #230. Easter 2014 gets 2 out of 5 stars. (via therumpus)
There I was, standing amid the lush green forests in the eastern Congo countryside, as two men in military camouflage pointed an assault rifle at me, taking away my cameras and computer. I imagined they wouldn’t kill us right after they tossed my passport and wallet — they took the money I had in it — at my feet. They let me keep my bag of clothes because it may have been too heavy for them to carry. A part of me wanted to beg the robbers to let me keep all the memory cards and hard drives, but I immediately realized that keeping my mouth shut would probably be the best way to stay alive.
A photographer remembers being robbed in Congo. But then, he was welcome in Rwanda. (via washingtonpost)


An ‘abomination’: Slaughter in the mosques and churches of Bentiu, South Sudan.

To quote George Packer’s essay on the anniversary of the Rwandan genocide: 

We have kept saying “never again,” but it keeps on happening, again and again—in Syria today, in the Central African Republic tomorrow. 


File this one under “who knew?!” - Thomas Jefferson and John Adams were not only founding fathers, but huge Shakespeare fans and travel buddies:

"In April I786 Adams recorded in his Diary an account of the trip he and Jefferson made to Stratford-upon-Avon. Among other tourist attractions they were shown, “an old wooden chair in the chimney corner where [Shakespeare] sat. We cut off a chip according to custom. A mulberry tree that he planted has been cut down, and is carefully preserved for sale.” The note expresses disappointment that nothing is “preserved of this great genius which is worth knowing; nothing which might inform us what education, what company, what accident, turned his mind to letters and the drama”, and concludes with the observation that Shakespeare’s “wit, fancy, his taste, and judgment, his knowledge of nature, of life and character, are immortal.”

See also when John Adams and Benjamin Franklin shared a bed and fought over the window


Germs Rule the World

In 1882, Robert Koch discovered that a bacterium was behind the world’s leading cause of death: tuberculosis (TB). This brilliant combination of investigative logic and savvy microscopy refuted the conventional wisdom that TB was an inherited disease, or some form of cancer. Rather, TB was caused by a particularly wily and insatiable germ. This finding didn’t just accurately identify the agent behind the world’s leading cause of death. It also established an essential new paradigm for medicine.

There are those diseases that are caused by bacteria (and later, viruses), such as tuberculosis, typhoid and typhus fevers, and diphtheria; and those diseases caused by the body’s own failures, such as heart disease and cancer. For more than a century, this distinction has served as a sharp and clear line in our understanding of disease. But it is a distinction that may be on the verge of being itself replaced. Germs, it seems, may be at the root of more disease than we have given them credit for.

Read more. [Image: Alfred Eisenstaedt/AP]


Scientists cannot hope to prevent or cure neurological disease without a solid understanding of what makes healthy brains tick. But the human brain is an intricate, mysterious machine. Every second, billions of neurons flash electrochemical signals across trillions of synapses. 

One year ago today, President Obama announced the BRAIN (Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies) Initiative, a $300 million collaborative research project with the ambitious goal of mapping every neuron in the human brain, with the long-term hope of unraveling the neurological causes of diseases like Parkinson’s to autism, which today remain hidden within the black box of the human brain. Today, as part of that effort, scientists at the Allen Institute for Brain Science in Seattle have produced some of the most detailed brain maps that we have seen so far. 

Incredible Maps Capture the Genetics and Connections of the Brain


From Iraq War veterans who committed suicide after being turned away from mental health treatment to botched surgeries and fatal neglect of elderly veterans, the Department of Veterans Affairs paid out more than $200 million for nearly 1,000 veterans’ wrongful death cases in the decade after 9/11. 

Read the new investigation from reporter Aaron Glantz and see our map for wrongful death cases in your area.

The history of the movie trailer


Filmmaker IQ has a nice exploration of the history of the movie trailer. And yes, they actually used to play at the end of (i.e. “trail”) the film.

Coming into the 1960s, a new generation of star directors began to redefine the trailer - among them was the legendary Alfred Hitchcock. Instead of showing scenes from the movie, Hitchcock, who had become quite well known to audiences from his “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” TV series, cashed in on his celebrity… taking audiences on a tour using his gallows humor style in this trailer for 1960’s Pscyho.

The reemergence of Cubism in film and commercial art in the 1960s was not lost on another emerging filmmaker - Stanley Kubrick. Having experimented with fragmented cutting styles in the trailer to 1962’s Lolita, Kubrick comes back strong in 1964’s “Dr. Strangelove” with a trailer that I consider one of the most bold and brazen pieces of movie advertising ever made.

The Dr. Strangelove one is brilliant. 

Don’t Listen to Google and Facebook: The Public-Private Surveillance Partnership Is Still Going Strong

If you’ve been reading the news recently, you might think that corporate America is doing its best to thwart NSA surveillance. Google just announced that it is encrypting Gmail when you access it from your computer or phone, and between data centers. Last week, Mark Zuckerberg personally called President Obama to complain about the NSA using Facebook as a means to hack computers, and Facebook’s Chief Security Officer explained to reporters that the attack technique has not worked since last summer. Yahoo, Google, Microsoft, and others are now regularly publishing ” transparency reports,” listing approximately how many government data requests the companies have received and complied with. On the government side, last week the NSA’s General Counsel Rajesh De seemed to have thrown those companies under a bus by stating that—despite their denials—they knew all about the NSA’s collection of data under both the PRISM program and some unnamed “upstream” collections on the communications links. Yes, it may seem like the the public/private surveillance partnership has frayed—but, unfortunately, it is alive and well. The main focus of massive Internet companies and government agencies both still largely align: to keep us all under constant surveillance. When they bicker, it’s mostly role-playing designed to keep us blasé about what’s really going on. The U.S. intelligence community is still playing word games with us. The NSA collects our data based on four different legal authorities: the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) of 1978, Executive Order 12333 of 1981 and modified in 2004 and 2008, Section 215 of the Patriot Act of 2001, and Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act (FAA) of 2008. Be careful when someone from the intelligence community uses the caveat “not under this program,” or “not under this authority”; almost certainly it means that whatever it is they’re denying is done under some other program or authority. So when De said that companies knew about NSA collection under Section 702, it doesn’t mean they knew about the other collection programs. The big Internet companies know of PRISM—although not under that code name—because that’s how the program works; the NSA serves them with FISA orders. Those same companies did not know about any of the other surveillance against their users conducted on the far more permissive EO 12333. Google and Yahoo did not know about MUSCULAR, the NSA’s secret program to eavesdrop on their trunk connections between data centers. Facebook did not know about QUANTUMHAND, the NSA’s secret program to attack Facebook users. And none of the target companies knew that the NSA was harvesting their users’ address books and buddy lists. These companies are certainly pissed that the publicity surrounding the NSA’s actions is undermining their users’ trust in their services, and they’re losing money because of it. Cisco, IBM, cloud service providers, and others have announced that they’re losing billions, mostly in foreign sales. These companies are doing their best to convince users that their data is secure. But they’re relying on their users not understanding what real security looks like. IBM’s letter to its clients last week is an excellent example. The letter lists five “simple facts” that it hopes will mollify its customers, but the items are so qualified with caveats that they do the exact opposite to anyone who understands the full extent of NSA surveillance. And IBM’s spending $1.2B on data centers outside the U.S. will only reassure customers who don’t realize that National Security Letters require a company to turn over data, regardless of where in the world it is stored. Google’s recent actions, and similar actions of many Internet companies, will definitely improve its users’ security against surreptitious government collection programs—both the NSA’s and other governments’—but their assurances deliberately ignores the massive security vulnerability built into its services by design. Google, and by extension, the U.S. government, still has access to your communications on Google’s servers. Google could change that. It could encrypt your e-mail so only you could decrypt and read it. It could provide for secure voice and video so no one outside the conversations could eavesdrop. It doesn’t. And neither does Microsoft, Facebook, Yahoo, Apple, or any of the others. Why not? They don’t partly because they want to keep the ability to eavesdrop on your conversations. Surveillance is still the business model of the Internet, and every one of those companies wants access to your communications and your metadata. Your private thoughts and conversations are the product they sell to their customers. We also have learned that they read your e-mail for their own internal investigations. But even if this were not true, even if—for example—Google were willing to forgo data mining your e-mail and video conversations in exchange for the marketing advantage it would give it over Microsoft, it still won’t offer you real security. It can’t. The biggest Internet companies don’t offer real security because the U.S. government won’t permit it. This isn’t paranoia. We know that the U.S. government ordered the secure e-mail provider Lavabit to turn over its master keys and compromise every one of its users. We know that the U.S. government convinced Microsoft—either through bribery, coercion, threat, or legal compulsion—to make changes in how Skype operates, to make eavesdropping easier. We don’t know what sort of pressure the U.S. government has put on Google and the others. We don’t know what secret agreements those companies have reached with the NSA. We do know the NSA’s BULLRUN program to subvert Internet cryptography was successful against many common protocols. Did the NSA demand Google’s keys, as it did with Lavabit? Did its Tailored Access Operations group break into to Google’s servers and steal the keys? We just don’t know. The best we have are caveat-laden pseudo-assurances. At SXSW earlier this month, CEO Eric Schmidt tried to reassure the audience by saying that he was “pretty sure that information within Google is now safe from any government’s prying eyes.” A more accurate statement might be, “Your data is safe from governments, except for the ways we don’t know about and the ways we cannot tell you about. And, of course, we still have complete access to it all, and can sell it at will to whomever we want.” That’s a lousy marketing pitch, but as long as the NSA is allowed to operate using secret court orders based on secret interpretations of secret law, it’ll never be any different. Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and the others are already on the record as supporting these legislative changes. It would be better if they openly acknowledged their users’ insecurity and increased their pressure on the government to change, rather than trying to fool their users and customers.
For several decades indigenous activists in the United States and Canada have criticized museums for mishandling sacred indigenous artifacts and displaying objects without the permission of tribal leaders. Until the 1990s most museums paid little attention to these concerns. They rarely sought indigenous input into museum exhibits, and when they did, it was usually long after planning for an exhibit was complete.
An extract from Cultural Anthropolgy ”Michael Ames and Collaborative Museum Exhibits” (via oupacademic)
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