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How to be truly inclusive of non-binary genders at work 3

Because of China, Britain did not enter the American Civil War 9
New NSF awards will bring together cross-disciplinary science communities 12
Be simple and slow in speech 15
Why We Must Still Defend Free Speech 17
The Channel Tunnel that was never built 22
America Will Trust Driverless Cars When They Deliver Pizza 30
J.R.R. Tolkien's Mother 33
Angular Geometry: Colorful Daily GIFs from the Mind of Tyler Haywood 35
Why and when did tomatoes lose their flavour? 34
An Architectural Rescue Gone Wrong 47
Why do some companies ban certain words? 55
New Miniature Mobile Homes Created From Balsa Wood by Vera van Wolferen 60
The Rape of Nanking 69
Towering Charcoal Portraits of Women by Clio Newton 72
A New Typology of American Neighborhoods 79
An easy way to read more each year 83
The Endless Rules of Burning Man 87
What does remembering the “Little Red Riding Hood” story tell about your cognition? 92
Footage of Over 30 Hummingbirds Splashing in a Birdbathby Christopher Jobson on August 24, 2017 97
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The amazing fertility of the older mind 98

From Guatebad to Guate¬worse 104
How Bon Iver Saved Eau Claire 107
Photos tell intimate stories of human despair, loss and ultimately, resilience in Latin America 111
Orwell Versus Huxley 121
The smell of Alzheimer’s 124
Fasting against diabetes 126
The Books We Don’t Understand 127
Gunfighting in The Old West 132
Plasticity in the macrophage activation states 135
Immigrants were the backbone of the Revolutionary Army 139
The Hardening of Consciousness 141
A Public Park in Taipei Welded From Recycled Light Posts 148
Lizard-bot spins its coiled tail to move easily through sand 153
The Great Africanstein Novel 154
Innovative New Playscape Designs by MONSTRUM Appear in Playgrounds Around the World 160
Famous 600-Year-Old Nova Pinpointed in Modern Day 167
Indonesia & China: The Sea Between 171
Accumulation: A Dramatic Concentric Tunnel of Light Patterns by Yang Minha 175
Doubts raised about CRISPR gene-editing study in human embryos 177
Beloved & Condemned: A Cartoonist in Nazi Germany 180
Monumental Pastel Drawings of Endangered Icebergs by Zaria Forman 189
Massive genetic study shows how humans are evolving 195
India: Assassinating Dissent 198

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How to be truly inclusive of non-binary genders at work

Growing recognition of non-binary genders may require a change in the way we understand identity and
the words we use, especially in the workplace

 By Jessica Holland

30 August 2017

“I’m sure there were people who didn’t like it or get it,” says Quinn Nelson. “They were
just weird and awkward.”

The 24-year-old sociology student at the University of Calgary, Canada, is describing what
it was like to come out to colleagues as non-binary — neither male nor female — a few
years ago, and, in the process, to explain that gender isn’t simply a choice between two

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Quinn Nelson's colleagues weren't all sure what to do when they came out as non-binary at work (Credit:
Elizabeth S. Cameron/Quinn Nelson)

“Non-binary” is the umbrella term for people who understand their gender as both male
and female, neither, or somewhere in between, as well as those who are agender, gender
fluid or another gender entirely. Nelson, like many others in this diverse group, prefers to
be referred to using gender-neutral words, such as “they,” rather than “he” or “she.”

From 2, to 58, to infinity

In the past few years, there has been growing recognition of people who fall outside
traditional gender definitions. Facebook extended its list of gender options from 2 to 58 in
2014 before allowing users to use their own custom descriptions the following year. Many
countries have also begun to formally recognise non-binary genders.

While there is not a lot of data available about this population, the proportion of UK
citizens who ticked neither or both gender boxes was 0.4% in both the 2001 and 2011
Census. The UK is currently consulting on how to capture data on non-binary genders in
the 2021 Census.

They felt that there was something they needed to do, but weren’t’t sure what it was

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Despite growing awareness of non-binary genders — 50% of millennials believe gender is

a spectrum according to a 2015 Fusion poll — it’s still common for openly non-binary
people, like Nelson, to feel uncomfortable at work.

“Non-binary” describes people who consider their gender as both male and female, neither, or somewhere in
between, as well as those who are agender or fluid (Credit: Getty Images)

“I imagine that [my colleagues] felt that there was something they needed to do, but
weren’t sure what it was,” says Nelson. “And I didn’t know what it was, either.”

A survey published by online magazine Beyond the Binary in March 2017 shows only 1%
of the 225 non-binary people polled felt “completely protected” by current equalities
legislation at work and 42% had suffered a negative experience related to their gender
identity in the workplace. Examples of these negative experiences cited by respondents
included being mocked, misgendered, barred from using office toilets and having job
offers rescinded after coming out.

“I found that pretty concerning,” says J Fernandez, the magazine’s editor. “If you don’t
feel safe for most of your day, that’s obviously having a really poor effect on your mental

Feeling safe

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Fernandez uses both they/their and he/his pronouns, and isn’t currently out about gender
identity to colleagues at their day job. This isn’t unusual, according to a 2016 Scottish
Trans Alliance survey, which found just 4% of non-binary people always felt comfortable
sharing their gender identity at work, and 90% were worried their identity wouldn’t be

“I am very afraid of coming out as non-binary at work,” Fernandez says. “I think the lack
of overt inclusion of non-binary people has made me more scared than I ought to be.
Having a very clear policy that says ‘non-binary people are welcome and these are the
positive steps we're taking,’ that would make people less afraid.”

If you don’t feel safe for most of your day, that’s obviously having a really poor effect on your mental health

These fears are not unfounded. London-based writer, drag artist and radio show host Ray
Filar found this out after emailing colleagues at a magazine they worked for at the time, to
explain their gender identity and what language to use when referring to them.

“I don’t think pronouns are the be-all and end-all of trans inclusion,” Filar says. “But they
are a basic courtesy.”

Non-binary actor Asia Kate Dillon (right) as Taylor Mason, the razor-sharp non-binary hedge fund intern on
TV series Billions (Credit: Alamy)

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Despite this, Filar found a few colleagues ignored the guidance or “simply refused to
remember what I’d said.” After being “misgendered repeatedly for two years,” Filar quit
the organisation. Following this experience, Filar wants workplaces to implement policies
that deal with transphobic discrimination and prejudice.

“Make significant, repeated training and education a part of working,” Filar suggests, “and
offer trans employees and freelancers a clear grievance process that won't backfire on
them for using it.”

For employers unsure where to start in implementing these policies, Fernandez advises
approaching a trans organisation for advice,such as Gendered Intelligence and the Scottish
Trans Alliance.

“It doesn’t have to be a big, scary thing,” Fernandez says. “And if you have any trans or
non-binary employees, just talk to them and find out what would make their lives easier. It
might be as simple as reassuring them that it’s OK to wear something different or go by a
different name.”

Colleagues can also play their part in creating a non-binary-friendly environment, adds
Fernandez. “What’s helped me is people being mindful, respecting me, using the right
pronouns, apologising when they mess up, but not making a big deal out of it, just getting
along with it.

“A lot of people are afraid of asking a person who is non-binary, ‘What pronouns do you
prefer?’ but it’s just the best way to respect a person, like you'd ask a person their name if
you didn't know it.”

Steps to take

If employers are pro-active in welcoming people of all gender identities and expressions,
the positive effects can ripple outwards.

Quinn Nelson moved on to work as a cashier at a small natural-food chain, and this time,
rather than coming out after starting work, Nelson was open about their gender identity
during the interview process, and found the atmosphere much more welcoming. That’s not
to say it was always easy. One customer told Nelson they would “make a good drag
queen” and another complained to management about “men wearing women’s clothing.”

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Pronouns aren't the only factor in trans inclusion, but they are a basic courtesy, says London-based writer,
drag artist and radio show host Ray Filar (Credit: Ray Filar)

But there were also positive experiences. Once, a customer complimented the pin badge
Nelson wore with their pronouns on it, and said that they’d have to tell their friend to get
one. One male-assigned child wearing nail varnish was excited to notice that Nelson had
painted nails too. “I could see them beaming at me because they felt more comfortable
with themselves,” Nelson says. “I cry sometimes when talking about that, and I cried when
it happened too.”

This moment of connection only occurred, Nelson says, because they felt comfortable
enough to be fully themselves at work.

“It would be lovely if I got a job somewhere and the management system already had non-
binary gender options,” Nelson says. “Or there were already gender-neutral washrooms, so
I don’t have to educate people, so I can feel comfortable working there. It’s frustrating
having to do so much extra work as soon as you get hired.


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Because of China, Britain did not enter the American Civil War

Today's selection -- from Autumn in the Heavenly Kingdom by Stephen R. Platt. In the 1860s, America was a
huge market for British imports and exports, and notably imported most of the cotton for its all-important
textile industry from the American South. The American Civil War, including the blockade of Southern ports,
was therefore devastating for Britain's economy. There was every reason to expect Britain to provide
significant financial and military aid to the Confederacy, which could readily have brought a different
outcome to that war. But it did not. The reason? China:

"Americans should know about the Taiping Rebellion [the Chinese civil war lasting from 1850 to 1864] ...
because it helps to illuminate the wider effects of the U.S. Civil War far beyond America's borders. The
simultaneity of the Chinese and American civil wars was no trivial matter, and one of my underlying
arguments in this book is that the launching of hostilities in the United States in 1861 helped shape the final
outcome of events in China, by forcing Britain's hand. The United States and China were Britain's two largest
economic markets, and to understand Britain's role in either war we need to remember that it was faced with
the prospect of losing both of them at the same time. Order had to be restored on one side or the other, and
while Britain could have intervened in the United States to reopen the cotton trade, ... it chose to launch itself
into the civil war in China instead. In hindsight, the British prime minister would point to his country's
intervention in China as being the reason why Britain could survive economic ruin while it allowed the U.S.
Civil War to run its full and natural course unmolested. Or in other words, Britain's neutrality in the U.S. Civil
War came at the expense of abandoning it in China. ...

A scene of the Taiping Rebellion

"The [London] Times' belie[ved] that China, together with India, would be Britain's salvation from the U.S.
Civil War. 'If it be fated that America must pass away from us as a profitable customer,' its editors wrote a
few weeks later, '... then China and India together promise to rise up in its place, and to help us to pass,
although painfully, through our difficulty.' Britain could now break free of its dependence on the United
States ('with her prohibitory tariffs, her smoking mounds of burning cotton, her impoverished people, and her
inevitably approaching bankruptcy') by turning instead to Asia, where the real potential for the future lay. And
although Britain was suffering from 'the evil effects of having relied too confidently' on the United States,
thankfully, they wrote, 'the good seed we sowed, and harrowed, and watered in the Far East is springing up
and bearing fruit.' ...

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"The Times ... declared that the only route to Great Britain's economic survival lay down the path of the
Taiping's [the rebels fighting against China's Qing rulers] annihilation. The rebels had become a 'dragon who
interferes between us and our golden apples.' It was a simple humanitarian issue, as the editors now explained
to their readers: if the tea market in Shanghai and Ningbo should be ruined by the Taiping, the British
government would have to raise the tax rate on tea in order to preserve its much-needed revenue from the
trade. That would bring great hardship to the tea-drinking lower classes of English society, including those
who were already starving from the collapse of the textile industry in Lancashire. ... So intervention was a
matter of humanitarian relief, not just for the peasants of China but also for England's own poor. And even
putting aside the matter of the suffering of the common people, they insisted that the fundamental economics
alone, 'as a matter of pounds, shillings, and pence,' dictated 'that this dragon who interferes between us and
our golden apples should be killed by somebody.'

"But the editors of the London Times [claimed] that the Taiping were a humanitarian menace -- and that it
would therefore be to England's honor to help the Qing government restore order to its empire -- quickly
withered in the face of the dark news [of British atrocities] coming back from Asia. ...

"Anti-British sentiment in the northern states [of America] was running high in the summer of 1862, thanks to
the obvious preference for the Confederacy on the part of Palmerston, Russell, and other leading members of
the British government. Absent the as-yet-unissued Emancipation Proclamation, British sympathizers could
frame the American war as being one of national liberation, rather than a war over slavery (which both sides
still allowed). Many liberals in Britain celebrated the resistance of the South against northern tyranny, perhaps
none quite so blatantly as William Gladstone, the chancellor of the Exchequer, who would all but throw in his
lot with the Confederates the following October by telling a cheering audience in Newcastle, 'There is no
doubt that Jefferson Davis and the other leaders of the South have made an army; they are making, it appears,
a navy; and they have made what is more than either -- they have made a nation.'

"In contrast to the British government's clear sympathy for the southern rebels in the United States -- who at
that point held the upper hand in their war -- northern journalists used the bloody news [of Britain's military
intervention against the Taiping] in China to flog Britain ("John Bull") for being perfectly willing to hire itself
out to a brutal, barbaric regime in order to put down a movement far more innocent than the slaveholding

"The Saturday Evening Post ... printed a passage from the account of [British] atrocities and concluded from it
that 'it does not become Englishmen to affect any great degree of horror at the necessarily distressing
incidents of the present American rebellion, when their own history -- from the first to the last -- is such a
constant record of blood, blood, blood!' "

author: Stephen R. Platt

title: Autumn in the Heavenly Kingdom: China, the West, and the Epic Story of the Taiping Civil

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publisher: Vintage

date: Copyright 2012 by Stephen R. Platt

pages: xxiv, 284-285, 288-289, 334-335

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New NSF awards will bring together cross-disciplinary science communities to develop foundations of
data science

TRIPODS awards are NSF's first major investment toward Harnessing the Data Revolution, one of '10 Big
Ideas for Future NSF Investments'

Sham Kakade is Washington Research Foundation Data Science Chair at the University of Washington.

 Credit and Larger Version

August 24, 2017

The National Science Foundation (NSF) today announced $17.7 million in funding for 12 Transdisciplinary
Research in Principles of Data Science (TRIPODS) projects, which will bring together the statistics,
mathematics and theoretical computer science communities to develop the foundations of data science.
Conducted at 14 institutions in 11 states, these projects will promote long-term research and training activities
in data science that transcend disciplinary boundaries.

"Data is accelerating the pace of scientific discovery and innovation," said Jim Kurose, NSF assistant director
for Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE). "These new TRIPODS projects will help

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build the theoretical foundations of data science that will enable continued data-driven discovery and
breakthroughs across all fields of science and engineering."

Technological advances and unprecedented access to computing infrastructure have resulted in an explosion
of data from different sources. The availability of these data -- their volume and variety, and the speed at
which they are collected -- is transforming research in all fields of science and engineering. Through
Harnessing the Data Revolution, one of the "10 Big Ideas for Future NSF Investments," the foundation seeks
to support fundamental research in data-driven science and engineering; shape a cohesive, federated, national-
scale approach to research data infrastructure; and develop a 21 st century data-capable workforce.

The TRIPODS awards will enable data-driven discovery through major investments in state-of-the-art
mathematical and statistical tools, better data mining and machine learning approaches, enhanced
visualization capabilities and more. These awards will build upon NSF's long history of investments in
foundational research, contributing key advances to the emerging data science discipline, and supporting
researchers to develop innovative educational pathways to train the next generation of data scientists.

"TRIPODS will accelerate the development of modern foundations of data science through a truly
transdisciplinary collaboration between mathematicians, statisticians and theoretical computer scientists,
while also creating opportunity for fundamental development to occur in finding solutions to important data
science challenges in the domain sciences," said Jim Ulvestad, NSF acting assistant director for Mathematical
and Physical Sciences (MPS).

TRIPODS is a partnership between NSF's CISE and MPS directorates. NSF's Established Program to
Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) also co-funded one of the projects.

A portfolio supporting another of NSF's Big Ideas, Growing Convergent Research, contributed $1.1 million to
the new TRIPODS awards, co-funding three of them. Convergence is the integration of knowledge,
techniques and expertise from multiple fields to address scientific and societal challenges. To build an
ecosystem that truly supports convergent science, NSF seeks to strategically invest in research projects and
programs that are motivated by intellectual opportunities and important societal problems. The goal is that
everyone, not just scientists and engineers, will benefit from the convergence of the physical sciences,
biological sciences, computing, engineering and the social and behavioral sciences.

The TRIPODS Phase I awards announced today will support the development of small collaborative
institutes. A future TRIPODS Phase II is planned to support a smaller number of larger institutes. Phase II
will select awardees through a second competitive proposal process from among the Phase I institutes, as well
as any new collaborative partners Phase I awardees bring on board.

The award titles, principal investigators and institutions for the TRIPODS Phase I projects are listed below:

 UA-TRIPODS: Building Theoretical Foundations for Data Sciences: Hao Zhang, University of

 Foundations of Model Driven Discovery from Massive Data: Jeffery Brock, Brown University
(Convergence and EPSCoR co-funding)

 Berkeley Institute on the Foundations of Data Analysis: Michael Mahoney, University of California,

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 TRIPODS: Towards a Unified Theory of Structure, Incompleteness and Uncertainty in

Heterogeneous Graphs: Lise Getoor, University of California, Santa Cruz

 From Foundations to Practice of Data Science and Back: John Wright, Columbia University

 TRIPODS: Data Science for Improved Decision-Making: Learning in the Context of Uncertainty,
Causality, Privacy, and Network Structures: Kilian Weinberger, Cornell University (Convergence

 Transdisciplinary Research Institute for Advancing Data Science (TRIAD): Xiaoming Huo, Georgia
Institute of Technology

 Collaborative Research: TRIPODS Institute for Optimization and Learning: Katya

Scheinberg, Lehigh University; Han Liu, Northwestern University; Francesco Orabona, State
University of New York at Stony Brook

 Institute for Foundations of Data Science (IFDS): Piotr Indyk, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

 Topology, Geometry, and Data Analysis (TGDA@OSU): Discovering Structure, Shape, and
Dynamics in Data: Tamal Dey, The Ohio State University

 Algorithms for Data Science: Complexity, Scalability, and Robustness: Sham Kakade, University of

 Institute for Foundations of Data Science: Stephen Wright, University of Wisconsin-Madison

(Convergence co-funding)


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Be simple and slow in speech

Today's encore selection -- from Zhu Xi's Reading of the Analects by Daniel K. Gardner. Confucius (551 -
479 BCE), a Chinese thinker and social philosopher whose influence extends to the present, attempts to define
goodness. In the Analects, his definition of goodness starts with the "golden rule," but he takes his concept
further, famously stating that to be good one must be "resolute and firm, simple and slow in speech." [Note:
Most current historians do not believe that any specific documents can be said to have been written by

"The Master said, 'To be resolute and

firm, simple and slow in speech, is to
approach true goodness.' (Analect 13.27
[17]). Commentator Wang Su said, 'Gang
[resolute] is to be without desire; yi
[firm] is to be determined and daring; mu
is to be [simple]; na [slow] is to be slow
in speech. To be possessed of these four
qualities is to approach true goodness.' ...

" 'Simple and slow in speech' becomes

almost a refrain in the teachings of
Confucius. For instance, in 12.3 he says,
'The person of true goodness is restrained
in speech.' Throughout the text he
repeatedly cautions his followers not to
mistake eloquence for substance as in
1.3: 'The Master said, Artful words and a
pleasing countenance have little, indeed,
to do with true goodness.' ...

"Zhu ... wants to understand why this is

so. The answer for him is partly that
restraint in speech indicates a general
self-restraint, which, in turn indicates that
one's original mind-and-heart with its
Confucius endowed true goodness has been
preserved and not won over by selfish
desires. ... For Zhu, words that are not simple but, rather, are 'artful' are evidence that one has become
interested in 'adorning oneself on the outside in an effort to please others, a matter of human desire's having
grown dissolute.' "

author: Daniel K. Gardner

title: Zhu Xi's Reading of the Analects: Canon, Commentary, and the Classical Tradition

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publisher: Columbia University Press

date: Copyright 2003 Columbia University Press

pages: 75-76

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Why We Must Still Defend Free Speech

David Cole


This article will appear in the next issue of The New York Review.

Evelyn Hockstein/The Washington Post/Getty Images

White nationalists marching on the University of Virginia campus, Charlottesville, August 2017

Does the First Amendment need a rewrite in the era of Donald Trump? Should the rise of white supremacist
and neo-Nazi groups lead us to cut back the protection afforded to speech that expresses hatred and advocates
violence, or otherwise undermines equality? If free speech exacerbates inequality, why doesn’t equality, also
protected by the Constitution, take precedence?

After the tragic violence at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, on August 12, these
questions take on renewed urgency. Many have asked in particular why the ACLU, of which I am national
legal director, represented Jason Kessler, the organizer of the rally, in challenging Charlottesville’s last-
minute effort to revoke his permit. The city proposed to move his rally a mile from its originally approved
site—Emancipation Park, the location of the Robert E. Lee monument whose removal Kessler sought to

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protest—but offered no reason why the protest would be any easier to manage a mile away. As ACLU offices
across the country have done for thousands of marchers for almost a century, the ACLU of Virginia gave
Kessler legal help to preserve his permit. Should the fatal violence that followed prompt recalibration of the
scope of free speech?

The future of the First Amendment may be at issue. A 2015 Pew Research Center poll reported that 40
percent of millennials think the government should be able to suppress speech deemed offensive to minority
groups, as compared to only 12 percent of those born between 1928 and 1945. Young people today voice far
less faith in free speech than do their grandparents. And Europe, where racist speech is not protected, has
shown that democracies can reasonably differ about this issue.

People who oppose the protection of racist speech make several arguments, all ultimately resting on a claim
that speech rights conflict with equality, and that equality should prevail in the balance. * They contend that
the “marketplace of ideas” assumes a mythical level playing field. If some speakers drown out or silence
others, the marketplace cannot function in the interests of all. They argue that the history of mob and state
violence targeting African-Americans makes racist speech directed at them especially indefensible. Tolerating
such speech reinforces harms that this nation has done to African-Americans from slavery through Jim Crow
to today’s de facto segregation, implicit bias, and structural discrimination. And still others argue that while it
might have made sense to tolerate Nazis marching in Skokie in 1978, now, when white supremacists have a
friend in the president himself, the power and influence they wield justify a different approach.

There is truth in each of these propositions. The United States is a profoundly unequal society. Our nation’s
historical mistreatment of African-Americans has been shameful and the scourge of racism persists to this
day. Racist speech causes real harm. It can inspire violence and intimidate people from freely exercising their
own rights. There is no doubt that Donald Trump’s appeals to white resentment and his reluctance to
condemn white supremacists after Charlottesville have emboldened many racists. But at least in the public
arena, none of these unfortunate truths supports authorizing the state to suppress speech that advocates ideas
antithetical to egalitarian values.

The argument that free speech should not be protected in conditions of inequality is misguided. The right to
free speech does not rest on the presumption of a level playing field. Virtually all rights—speech included—
are enjoyed unequally, and can reinforce inequality. The right to property most obviously protects the
billionaire more than it does the poor. Homeowners have greater privacy rights than apartment dwellers, who
in turn have more privacy than the homeless. The fundamental right to choose how to educate one’s children
means little to parents who cannot afford private schools, and contributes to the resilience of segregated
schools and the reproduction of privilege. Criminal defendants’ rights are enjoyed much more robustly by
those who can afford to hire an expensive lawyer than by those dependent on the meager resources that states
dedicate to the defense of the indigent, thereby contributing to the endemic disparities that plague our criminal
justice system.

Critics argue that the First Amendment is different, because if the weak are silenced while the strong speak, or
if some have more to spend on speech than others, the outcomes of the “marketplace of ideas” will be skewed.
But the marketplace is a metaphor; it describes not a scientific method for identifying truth but a choice
among realistic options. It maintains only that it is better for the state to remain neutral than to dictate what is
true and suppress the rest. One can be justifiably skeptical of a debate in which Charles Koch or George Soros
has outsized advantages over everyone else, but still prefer it to one in which the Trump—or indeed Obama—
administration can control what can be said. If free speech is critical to democracy and to holding our

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representatives accountable—and it is—we cannot allow our representatives to suppress views they think are
wrong, false, or disruptive.

Should our nation’s shameful history of racism change the equation? There is no doubt that African-
Americans have suffered unique mistreatment, and that our country has yet to reckon adequately with that
fact. But to treat speech targeting African-Americans differently from speech targeting anyone else cannot be
squared with the first principle of free speech: the state must be neutral with regard to speakers’ viewpoints.
Moreover, what about other groups? While each group’s experiences are distinct, many have suffered grave
discrimination, including Native Americans, Asian-Americans, LGBT people, women, Jews, Latinos,
Muslims, and immigrants generally. Should government officials be free to censor speech that offends or
targets any of these groups? If not all, which groups get special protection?

And even if we could somehow answer that question, how would we define what speech to suppress? Should
the government be able to silence all arguments against affirmative action or about genetic differences
between men and women, or just uneducated racist and sexist rants? It is easy to recognize inequality; it is
virtually impossible to articulate a standard for suppression of speech that would not afford government
officials dangerously broad discretion and invite discrimination against particular viewpoints.

But are these challenges perhaps worth taking on because Donald Trump is president, and his victory has
given new voice to white supremacists? That is exactly the wrong conclusion. After all, if we were to
authorize government officials to suppress speech they find contrary to American values, it would be Donald
Trump—and his allies in state and local governments—who would use that power. Here is the ultimate
contradiction in the argument for state suppression of speech in the name of equality: it demands protection of
disadvantaged minorities’ interests, but in a democracy, the state acts in the name of the majority, not the
minority. Why would disadvantaged minorities trust representatives of the majority to decide whose speech
should be censored? At one time, most Americans embraced “separate but equal” for the races and separate
spheres for the sexes as defining equality. It was the freedom to contest those views, safeguarded by the
principle of free speech, that allowed us to reject them.

As Frederick Douglass reminded us, “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never
will.” Throughout our history, disadvantaged minority groups have effectively used the First Amendment to
speak, associate, and assemble for the purpose of demanding their rights—and the ACLU has defended their
right to do so. Where would the movements for racial justice, women’s rights, and LGBT equality be without
a muscular First Amendment?

In some limited but important settings, equality norms do trump free speech. At schools and in the workplace,
for example, antidiscrimination law forbids harassment and hostile working conditions based on race or sex,
and those rules limit what people can say there. The courts have recognized that in situations involving formal
hierarchy and captive audiences, speech can be limited to ensure equal access and treatment. But those
exceptions do not extend to the public sphere, where ideas must be open to full and free contestation, and
those who disagree can turn away or talk back.

The response to Charlottesville showed the power of talking back. When Donald Trump implied a kind of
moral equivalence between the white supremacist protesters and their counter-protesters, he quickly found
himself isolated. Prominent Republicans, military leaders, business executives, and conservative, moderate,
and liberal commentators alike condemned the ideology of white supremacy, Trump himself, or both.

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When white supremacists called a rally the following week in Boston, they mustered only a handful of
supporters. They were vastly outnumbered by tens of thousands of counterprotesters who peacefully marched
through the streets to condemn white supremacy, racism, and hate. Boston proved yet again that the most
powerful response to speech that we hate is not suppression but more speech. Even Stephen Bannon, until
recently Trump’s chief strategist and now once again executive chairman of Breitbart News, denounced white
supremacists as “losers” and “a collection of clowns.” Free speech, in short, is exposing white supremacists’
ideas to the condemnation they deserve. Moral condemnation, not legal suppression, is the appropriate
response to these despicable ideas.

Some white supremacists advocate not only hate but violence. They want to purge the country of nonwhites,
non-Christians, and other “undesirables,” and return us to a racial caste society—and the only way to do that
is through force. The First Amendment protects speech but not violence. So what possible value is there in
protecting speech advocating violence? Our history illustrates that unless very narrowly constrained, the
power to restrict the advocacy of violence is an invitation to punish political dissent. A. Mitchell Palmer, J.
Edgar Hoover, and Joseph McCarthy all used the advocacy of violence as a justification to punish people who
associated with Communists, socialists, or civil rights groups.

Those lessons led the Supreme Court, in a 1969 ACLU case involving a Ku Klux Klan rally, to rule that
speech advocating violence or other criminal conduct is protected unless it is intended and likely to produce
imminent lawless action, a highly speech-protective rule. In addition to incitement, thus narrowly defined, a
“true threat” against specific individuals is also not protected. But aside from these instances in which speech
and violence are inextricably intertwined, speech advocating violence gets full First Amendment protection.

In Charlottesville, the ACLU’s client swore under oath that he intended only a peaceful protest. The city cited
general concerns about managing the crowd in seeking to move the marchers a mile from the originally
approved site. But as the district court found, the city offered no reason why there wouldn’t be just as many
protesters and counterprotesters at the alternative site. Violence did break out in Charlottesville, but that
appears to have been at least in part because the police utterly failed to keep the protesters separated or to
break up the fights.

What about speech and weapons? The ACLU’s executive director, Anthony Romero, explained that, in light
of Charlottesville and the risk of violence at future protests, the ACLU will not represent marchers who seek
to brandish weapons while protesting. (This is not a new position. In a pamphlet signed by Roger Baldwin,
Arthur Garfield Hays, Morris Ernst, and others, the ACLU took a similar stance in 1934, explaining that we
defended the Nazis’ right to speak, but not to march while armed.) This is a content-neutral policy; it applies
to all armed marchers, regardless of their views. And it is driven by the twin concerns of avoiding violence
and the impairment of many rights, speech included, that violence so often occasions. Free speech allows us
to resolve our differences through public reason; violence is its antithesis. The First Amendment protects the
exchange of views, not the exchange of bullets. Just as it is reasonable to exclude weapons from courthouses,
airports, schools, and Fourth of July celebrations on the National Mall, so it is reasonable to exclude them
from public protests.

Some ACLU staff and supporters have made a more limited argument. They don’t directly question whether
the First Amendment should protect white supremacist groups. Instead, they ask why the ACLU as an
organization represents them. In most cases, the protesters should be able to find lawyers elsewhere.
Many ACLU staff members understandably find representing these groups repugnant; their views are directly
contrary to many of the values we fight for. And representing right-wing extremists makes it more difficult
for the ACLU to work with its allies on a wide range of issues, from racial justice to LGBT equality to

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immigrants’ rights. As a matter of resources, the ACLU spends far more on claims to equality by
marginalized groups than it does on First Amendment claims. If the First Amendment work is undermining
our other efforts, why do it?

These are real costs, and deserve consideration as ACLU lawyers make case-by-case decisions about how to
deploy our resources. But they cannot be a bar to doing such work. The truth is that both internally and
externally, it would be much easier for the ACLU to represent only those with whom we agree. But the power
of our First Amendment advocacy turns on our commitment to a principle of viewpoint neutrality that
requires protection for proponents and opponents of our own best view of racial justice. If we defended
speech only when we agreed with it, on what ground would we ask others to tolerate speech they oppose?

In a fundamental sense, the First Amendment safeguards not only the American experiment in democratic
pluralism, but everything the ACLU does. In the pursuit of liberty and justice, we associate, advocate, and
petition the government. We protect the First Amendment not only because it is the lifeblood of democracy
and an indispensable element of freedom, but because it is the guarantor of civil society itself. It protects the
press, the academy, religion, political parties, and nonprofit associations like ours. In the era of Donald
Trump, the importance of preserving these avenues for advancing justice and preserving democracy should be
more evident than ever.

—August 24, 2017

1. *

The leading collection of essays advancing this critique is Mari J. Matsuda, Charles R. Lawrence III,
Richard Delgado, and Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, Words that Wound: Critical Race Theory, Assaultive
Speech, and the First Amendment(Westview, 1993). For a thoughtful defense of hate speech regulation on
liberal premises, see Jeremy Waldron, The Harm in Hate Speech (Harvard University Press, 2012). ↩

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The Channel Tunnel that was never built

The ‘Chunnel’ may be the UK’s most famous underwater tunnel, but the British have been trying to dig to
Europe since 1880 – and plans still remain for a second Channel Tunnel.

 By Chris Baraniuk

The Channel Tunnel linking Britain and France holds the record for the longest undersea
tunnel in the world – 50km (31 miles) long. More than 20 years after its opening, it carries
more than 10 million passengers a year – and more than 1.6 million lorries – via its rail-
based shuttle service.

What many people don’t know, however, is that when owner Eurotunnel won the contract
to build its undersea connection, the firm was obliged to come up with plans for a second
Channel Tunnel… by the year 2000. Although those plans were published the same year,
the tunnel still has not gone ahead.

The second ‘Chunnel’ isn’t the only underwater tunnel to remain a possibility. For
centuries, there have been discussions about other potential tunnelling projects around the
British Isles, too. These include a link between the island of Orkney and the Scottish
mainland, a tunnel between the Republic of Ireland and Wales and one between Northern
Ireland and Scotland.

Some of these tunnels yet may happen: even the Channel Tunnel built for the railway in
the 1980s was the culmination of nearly 200 years of thought and discussion.

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At the time, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s own preference was for a road
tunnel, not the current railway service. She liked the idea, some believe, because cars
“represented freedom and individualism”.

Despite Margaret Thatcher’s wishes to the contrary, the Channel Tunnel was not built as a road tunnel
(Credit: Alamy)

But Thatcher’s project was considered unsafe, says Eurotunnel spokesman John Keefe.
It’s one thing to send trains through the tunnel at wide intervals; it’s quite another to allow
hundreds of drivers through in an endless stream. Should a crash or pile-up occur 15 miles
out to sea, it would be very hard to rescue those trapped in the chaos.

“It was considered not the right thing to do, even though Margaret Thatcher pushed very
hard for it,” says Keefe.

The prime minister compromised. “She said, ‘All right, I’ll go along with the safety
argument, I’ll accept that, but as technology improves I want a commitment to plan a
second tunnel – a road tunnel’,” Keefe adds, paraphrasing. Even when the plans
were made and released more than 20 years after the prime minister’s demand, they were
still considered too risky. But that might change.

One of the major problems – noxious fumes from hundreds of vehicles – will become less
of an issue with the rise of hybrid and electric cars, says Keefe. Safety, too, may be a more
minor concern, because autonomous driving technology already allows some experimental

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cars to pilot themselves along motorways. They could theoretically do the same in an
undersea tunnel, potentially reducing the chances of a crash or jam.

Workers excavate rock in the Channel Tunnel in 1989, 8km from the UK coast (Credit: Alamy)

If technology does evolve in these ways, then plans for a second tunnel could be revived.
“I think it’s highly likely that conversations like this will take place in the coming 10 or 20
years,” Keefe says.

Alan Stevens at the UK’s Transport Research Laboratory agrees. He suggests that by the
2030s technology may have reached a critical point.

“You’d have to say only automated vehicles of a certain standard, and ones that could
move together – then you’d get a nice flow through your tube,” he says. “It’s certainly
something that I think will be thought about.”

Tunnel vision

The first meaningful attempt to build a tunnel across the English Channel happened much
earlier than most people think.

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In 1880, a century before the modern project got underway in 1988, work started on
experimental tunnels at the base of Abbot’s Cliff near Folkestone. Creating an undersea
connection with France across the English Channel was something that had been talked
about since the early 1800s, and supporters included Napoleon Bonaparte.

In some places, the men worked with hand tools. But they also had an ingenious
contraption with them – a tunnel boring machine. As compressed air in the machine’s
motor forced the rotary head into action, tough rock in front would fall away.

In 1880, the South Eastern Railway Company used boring machines of the type shown here to tunnel an
undersea connection with France (Credit: Alamy)

Keefe is one of relatively few people today to have visited the site. Deep inside the warren,
the aging tubes carved out by the boring machine are mostly featureless, though there is
one piece of Victorian graffiti scratched into the rock: “THIS TUNNEL WAS BEGUNUG
N [sic] in 1880” – signed “WILLIAM SHARP”.

“They look like you imagine an old Cornish tin mine to look like,” says Keefe, describing
the place. “They’re low wooden [beams], pretty intact and pretty dry. But they are nothing
like what you really need to run an international undersea tunnel.”

The venture was typically ambitious for the time, says Graeme Bickerdike, rail engineer
and editor of engineering history website Forgotten Relics. “Nothing seemed to faze the

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Victorians,” he says. “They had a vision of the transformational nature of railways and
they clearly saw a link to the continent being critical to that vision.”

But it was not to be. Beyond the technical challenges, there were political fears about
building a direct connection to a country with which Great Britain had so frequently been
at war. Sir Edward Watkin, who was in charge of the excavations, at one point suggested
that in the event of conflict the entrance to the tunnel could be collapsed with a mine wired
to a button somewhere – perhaps even as far away as London.

Although the 1880 tunnel never was completed, the Channel Tunnel intersected with the century-old version
during its construction (Credit: Alamy)

Tunnel fever is still with us. Recently, the idea of a Welsh-Irish link was mulled in a 2014
document by the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (Cilt). The report argued
that by 2035, such a connection could be a “serious topic of debate”. But the proposal has
“not gone much further since”, says Andrew Potter, who chairs Cilt’s Cymru-Wales
committee. Part of the problem is that it would be an exceptionally long connection – at
100km (62 miles) or so it would be roughly twice the length of the Channel Tunnel.

Further north from there, a much shorter distance – between 10 and 25km (6 to 15 miles) –
exists between various coastal points in Scotland and Northern Ireland. That’s short
enough to build a bridge across, though the cost would certainly amount to a few billion
pounds. Still, that hasn’t stopped the idea of a tunnel or bridge being mooted by politicians
in both countries in recent years.

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In the meantime, British tunnelling expertise is being put to good use elsewhere. The most
obvious example is London’s Crossrail, which is the largest civil construction project in
Europe. A smaller but significant project will soon follow – the Lower Thames
Crossing will connect Essex and Kent, in part via a new tunnel under the River Thames.

Today, London’s Crossrail project is using UK tunnelling expertise (Credit: Alamy)

And further afield, British engineers are also assisting with the development of another
major venture: the Fehmarn Belt Fixed Link. Linking the Danish island of Lolland with
the German island of Fehmarn, the tunnel will feature an 18km (11 mile) undersea portion.
Construction is due to start as early as the end of 2017.

Richard Miller of engineering consultancy Ramboll UK, which is Danish-owned, explains

that the tunnel will be pre-fabricated on land, floated out to position and then lowered into
a trench on the seabed. This is known as an immersed tube, or IMT, design and has been
used before, including for the Sydney Harbour Tunnel in Australia.

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The Sydney Harbour Tunnel, whose entrance is shown here, uses the same immersed tube design that other
large projects will use (Credit: Alamy)

“The casting is on land, so there’s no construction in the ground in dirty wet holes,” says
Miller. The Channel Tunnel and Crossrail’s tunnels, by contrast, were created using a
cylindrical tunnel boring machine (TBM).

Pipe dreams

The Channel Tunnel came in at £4.65bn (£8.5bn, or $11bn, today) and the Fehmarn Belt
Fixed Link will probably cost more than 7bn euros ($8.2bn).

That hasn’t stopped some dreaming, though. Take Elon Musk’s Hyperloop – a proposed,
ultra-fast mode of transport in which pods lifted by magnetic levitation are propelled along
tubes. If it ever becomes commercially viable, some have wondered whether it could one
day link Europe and the United States with a gigantic tube spanning the Atlantic Ocean.

“Some of the really interesting tunnels they’re looking at now are variations of floating
tunnels, so the tunnel isn’t on the seabed, it’s floating within the water body,” says Miller.

That might make a trans-Atlantic connection a little more feasible, but there would still be
extreme costs involved and, of course, safety issues. How to evacuate passengers if a pod
stalls half-way between continents?

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John Keefe can’t resist pondering the notion, though. “What a brilliant, brilliant idea,” he
says. But he acknowledges the huge hurdles any such design would face.

Even so, perhaps there is reason to be hopeful.

“Our tunnel was a dream for 200 years,” he says. “Maybe 200 years ago, the channel
looked as big a challenge to Napoleon’s engineers as crossing the Atlantic does today.”


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Order up. (Ford)

America Will Trust Driverless Cars When They Deliver Pizza


AUG 30, 2017

It’s a match made in heaven.

By now, you’ve heard more than enough about humanity’s anxieties over driverless cars. We don’t know
whom an autonomous vehicle would sacrifice in an unavoidable fatal collision, or even if we trust them
enough to let go of the wheel while we read the news. But the road robots are here with a peace offering that
America can’t ignore: pizza.

Starting Wednesday, Domino’s and Ford are partnering up for a tasty test of the future, experimenting with a
single self-driving Ford Fusion that’ll make deliveries around Ann Arbor, Michigan. Over the next six weeks,
random customers can opt in to get their pies delivered by the car, which sports a touchscreen interface for
customers to retrieve their order. The car will appear to be self-driving, with a just-in-case driver onboard
along with sensors to help researchers watch how people handle these self-service pizza wagons. Not since
Little Caesars introduced its little mascot with an imperial appetite has pizza had the chance to normalize
something so world-changing.

So you have to wonder: is this the warm, greasy key to the luddite’s heart? Here’s some half-baked
hypothetical hot takes about this brave new world.

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Start me up. This driverless experiment is about more than undercutting your roommate’s stockpile of
DiGiorno—it’s about testing our reaction to driverless tech. “We're developing a self-driving car not just for
the sake of technology,” Ford’s vice president of autonomous vehicles Sherif Marakby told reporters last
week. “There are so many practical things that we need to learn.” Just pay no mind to people behind the tinted
windows, taking notes on how dumbly you interactwith a driverless delivery car.

If autonomous vehicles can show us that they’re doing their jobs well, then maybe people will ease up to the
idea that they can carry us, too. Then again, if a high-profile accident occurs, it could have an unwanted
*ahem* domino effect on public opinion.

Would you walk all the way outside for pizza? (Ford)

A new twist on the last-mile problem. Here’s Domino’s President Russell Weiner describing the new frontier
in pizza transport:
“The majority of our questions are about the last 50 feet of the delivery experience. For instance, how will
customers react to coming outside to get their food?” Gripping. How will people solve this new door-to-street
transportation challenge? What mode will they choose: sandals, sneakers, or slippers? Will this produce a new
household-based sharing economy where people make retrieval part of their payment? Or perhaps you’ll pay
extra for a drone to drop it right on your doorstep.

Drive-through disruption! When the automobile became ubiquitous, it necessitated the creation of the drive-
through window. If automation means fewer people driving in cities, now we could see city design put things
in reverse. With lower delivery costs, everyone’s apartment practically has a pizza place right downstairs!
Who needs mixed-use development when you can get a three-topping pizza for $7.99 with no tip?

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Another bonus from autonomous anonymity: shielding customers from the embarrassment of repeat pizza
binges. Without human interaction, no longer will you run into the same pizza guy for the second or third time
this week.

Rain or snow. Domino’s wants to see if people will retrieve their food in bad weather—and we’re still not too
sure how driverless cars can handle those conditions. But bigger climate concerns are also no laughing matter:
the pilot program in Ann Arbor has a heater that can carry just 4 pizzas and 5 sides. Will the Domi-No-
Driver gag actually reduce gas consumption? Or will it just increase the number of trips, exacerbating
emissions and choking us with traffic? If these small-scale deliveries only replace bicycle couriers for short
trips, it will just make things worse.

The end of deliverymen. This question is a double-edged pizza cutter. On the one end, there’s the potential fix
for the problem of pizza redlining—where the perceived danger of neighborhoods dissuades drivers from
dropping off pizza. As we saw last year with Amazon’s same-day delivery maps, there are many
more excuses to exclude a neighborhood from a service. But using the last four digits of your phone number
on a car-mounted keypad means it’ll take more to access its munchies. These delivery cars aren’t exactly at
the same level of risk for robbery as drivers.

And with GPS tracking, there’s less of an excuse for breaking the promise of “30 minutes or less” to
customers. But not everybody’s nice to robots.

On the other hand, there’s a huge potential for job losses. Weiner says he could see his company’s 100,000
drivers taking on different roles, but it’s difficult to see how the company absorbs that many people. Here’s
how he described the trade-off, according to the Detroit Free Press:

"What our drivers have seen is when we come out with innovations, more people order pizza and when more
people order pizza ... that increases demand, which will require us to hire more people," Weiner said. "And
frankly, there are some places where maybe your driver will not want to drive."

Without drivers, there’s also no pressure from stoners to accept weed as a tip. But we might have to bid
farewell to the awesome Domino’s motorcycle wheeliesor delightful stories of the daily heroism of pizza
deliverers. Not only that, the (probably) heavily regulated driverless future means the end of the line for pizza
delivery pranks a la Spicoli in Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Talk about a buzzkill.

Andrew Small


Andrew Small is a freelance writer in Washington, D.C. and a former editorial fellow at CityLab.


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J.R.R. Tolkien's Mother

Today's encore selection -- from The Fellowship by Philip

Zaleski and Carol Zaleski. British author J.R.R. Tolkien
[known to his family as Ronald], famed as the author of The
Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, lost his father in 1896
when he was four and his mother when he was twelve:

"Mabel gave Ronald more than a lovely world in which to

grow up; she gave him an array of fascinating tools to
explore and interpret it. We know little of her own
education, but she clearly valued learning and vigorously set
about transmitting what she knew to Ronald. She instructed
him in Latin, French, German, and the rudiments of
linguistics, awakening in him a lifelong thirst for languages,
alphabets, and etymologies. She taught him to draw and to
paint, arts in which he would develop his own unmistakable
style, primitive and compelling, Rousseau with a dash of
Roerich. She passed on to him her peculiar calligraphy; he
would later master traditional forms and invent his own. She
tried to teach him piano, although that proved a failure. And
she introduced him to children's literature, including Alice's
Adventures in Wonderland, The Princess and the
Mabel Tolkien Goblin, The Princess and Curdie, and Andrew Lang's
collections of fairy tales. In George MacDonald he
encountered goblins and, although he did not realize it at the
time, Christian mythopoesis; in Lang's retelling of bits of the Old Norse Volsunga saga he met Fáfnir the
dragon, a creature that excited his imagination like no other, and the prototype of Smaug of The Hobbit: 'The
dragon had the trade-mark Of Faeriewritten plain upon him ... I desired dragons with a profound desire.' It
was his first baptism into the enchantments of Faerie, an otherworldly realm just touching the fringes of
ordinary life and leading, in its farthest reaches, to the outskirts of the supernatural.

"Bequeathing interests and skills to offspring is a means of ensuring continuity in the face of death, and we
can read in Mabel's intense tutoring of her children a response to her husband's early demise. She may have
sensed, too, that her own life would not last long. But Mabel wished to give her children more than the
metaphorical immortality of transmitted gifts; she wished to give them true eternity. This she accomplished in
1900, by bringing herself and her two boys into the Roman Catholic Church [a controversial and unpopular
move in Anglican England]. ...

"We have no record of why Mabel decided to join the Roman church; some will read in it a longing for
hierarchy or authority, perhaps a replacement for a missing husband; others will see it as a genuine conversion
of mind and soul. Whatever the motive, the act was not taken lightly. ... A further unraveling of her life
instantly ensued. This time, she must have anticipated it: the Baptist Tolkiens and the Unitarian and Methodist
Suffields united in furious denunciation of the conversions. Only one or two family members supported the
sisters. May's staunchly Anglican husband commanded her to renounce her new faith (she turned, instead, to
Spiritualism) and severed the small allowance he had been sending Mabel. The next few years proved bitterly
hard for Mabel, as she and her children moved into a succession of dreary residences, struggling to survive on

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the paltry remains of Arthur's estate, the result of his amateur investments in South African mining ventures.

"Leon Edel, speaking of one of Tolkien's contemporaries, Leonard Woolf, who lost his father when he was
eleven, commented that 'there is no hurt among all the human hurts deeper and less understandable than the
loss of a parent when one is not yet an adolescent.' Tolkien was twelve when Mabel died. In a 1941 letter to
his son Michael, he remembered her as a 'gifted lady of great beauty and wit, greatly stricken by God with
grief and suffering, who died in youth (at 34) of a disease hastened by persecution of her faith.' These notes of
admiration and bitterness accompanied his memories of his mother all his life. At age seventy-three, he
reiterated the theme, describing, again to Michael, her death 'worn out with persecution' in 'rented rooms in a
postman's cottage at Rednal.' In Tolkien's mind, the cruel shunning that Mabel suffered after her conversion
led inexorably to her fatal disease, and she thus became for him not just a beloved mother but a Job figure, a
saint, and a martyr, even a type of Christ, a selfless victim whose death gave life to those whom she loved and
who loved her. Mabel appears in his fiction in countless sacrificial figures, a gallery of quasi Christs:
Galadriel the Elven queen, who willingly surrenders her power for the good of Middle-earth; Gandalf the
wizard, who submits to death to save his companions; Aragorn the king, who puts his rightful rule and very
life to the ultimate test; Arwen (and her ancestor Luthien Tinuviel), who gives up her immortality for love;
and the hobbits Frodo and Sam, companions in sacrifice. The bitterness of death, the sweetness of faith, the
ransom to be paid in blood; thanks in large measure to Mabel's indelible presence in his consciousness, these
would become keynotes of Tolkien's imaginative world. ...

"Mabel's death transformed Tolkien's life. She had responded to the loss of her husband, to poverty, to
disease, and to family cruelty with boldness and ingenuity, by opening herself to others, especially to her
children and to her Church, pouring into these precious vessels her knowledge, hope, and devotion. Ronald
responded to the same afflictions -- plus the additional discovery that he and Hilary must now live with
Beatrice Suffield. Mabel's widowed sister-in-law, an insensitive woman who had no affection to spare for her
young, bereft, and brooding Catholic charges -- by closing in upon himself, by inventing private languages,
landscapes, creatures, and worlds, eventually composing a personal mythology of exceptional richness and

author: Philip Zaleski and Carol Zaleski
title: The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings: J.R.R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Owen Barfield,
Charles Williams
publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

date: Copyright 2015 by Philip Zaleski and Carol Zaleski

pages: 17-21
All delanceyplace profits are donated to charity and support children’s literacy projects.

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Angular Geometry: Colorful Daily GIFs from the Mind of Tyler Haywood

by Kate Sierzputowski on August 25, 2017

Over four years ago, designer Tyler Haywood started posting GIFs on Tumblr under the name Angular
Geometry. Haywood liked the process so much, he’s never stopped posting, creating a new custom GIF for
his blog every single day. The GIFs are related to his interest in motion graphics, focusing on the tiny but
captivating movements of Rubik’s Cube-like structures, rippling water, and dazzling rainbows.

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“I have always thought of Angular Geometry as a sketchbook,” Haywood shares with Colossal. “Just open it
up and see what happens. Every day is a fresh start, so there is no need to worry all that much. Sometimes I
will scroll through my archive of over 1500 GIFs and see patterns or ideas that come through in my art that I
didn’t realize were there in the moment of creation. It is an interesting catalog of my subconscious in some

His digital “sketchbook” just celebrated its four year anniversary, making him officially the longest running
daily GIF artist on Tumblr. You can see more of his GIFs on his site Angular Geometry.

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Sistema de Infotecas Centrales Universidad Autónoma de Coahuila

Infoteca’s E-Journal No. 418 november 2017
Sistema de Infotecas Centrales Universidad Autónoma de Coahuila

Infoteca’s E-Journal No. 418 november 2017
Sistema de Infotecas Centrales Universidad Autónoma de Coahuila

Infoteca’s E-Journal No. 418 november 2017
Sistema de Infotecas Centrales Universidad Autónoma de Coahuila

Infoteca’s E-Journal No. 418 november 2017
Sistema de Infotecas Centrales Universidad Autónoma de Coahuila

Infoteca’s E-Journal No. 418 november 2017
Sistema de Infotecas Centrales Universidad Autónoma de Coahuila

Why and when did tomatoes lose their flavour?

Daniel Marino August 30, 2017

I am sure that all of you have had table conversations about the flavour of tomato fruits: “These tomatoes
have no taste” complained the little boy; “When I was a child tomatoes were much better, now they are
tasteless” said the grandmother; “The ones I grow in my backyard are hundred times better” stated the
brother-in-law; etc.

In this context of familiar and social hopelessness and disappointment, the team of Harry Klee at the
University of Florida started an ambitious research project to try to find the lost flavour of tomato fruit. An
important outcome of this project was recently published in Science journal in collaboration with researchers
from six other research centres of USA, Israel, China and Spain 1.

Postharvest practices, such as collecting the fruits before they are fully ripe and refrigeration, are known to
negatively affect flavour. However, even by the use of exactly the same agronomic and postharvest practices,
modern varieties have less flavour than their relative ancestors, known as heirloom varieties. Heirloom
varieties are overall less uniform, have lower yields and are more susceptible to diseases. Modern varieties
have been selected for their resistance to diseases, their high yield and their firmness, which makes fruits to
ripen slowly and is essential for their transport. They have not based on their flavour, mostly because
analyzing flavour is much more complex and expensive compared to determining yield (Tieman et al.,
2017; 2).

Infoteca’s E-Journal No. 418 november 2017
Sistema de Infotecas Centrales Universidad Autónoma de Coahuila

Figure 1. List of the major tomato volatiles, their concentrations and their characteristics odours. A) Heirloom
tomato collection and B) volatile list (Published in Wang and Seymour, 2017 from Harry Klee lab website)

Flavour is the sum between taste and olfaction and is given by a complex mixture of compounds. Taste is
provided by sugars and acids that activate taste receptors and volatile compounds are responsible for
activating olfactory receptors. Both are essential and necessary to get a satisfactory experience eating a
tomato. For instance, the refrigeration of tomatoes alters the volatile content of the fruit without altering its
sugar content and reduces consumer liking 3.

Tieman et al., (2017) provided what they called a “chemical genetic roadmap”, which is the explanation of
some of the steps necessary to help the commercial tomato recover its flavour. In that work, the team of Harry
Klee selected and studied 398 modern, heirloom and wild accessions of tomato (Tieman et al., 2017). They
analyzed their composition in sugar (glucose and fructose) and acids (citric and malic) together with a total of
27 different volatiles that potentially can affect flavour. Besides, 101 of those accessions were evaluated by
consumer panels. The correlation of all the data generated allowed identifying 28 chemicals that were
associated with consumer liking and flavour intensity. Moreover, it appeared that 13 flavour-associated
volatiles were significantly reduced in modern varieties relative to heirloom varieties. Thus, indicating that
the loss of flavour could be attributed to the dilution in volatiles content. Importantly, these traits associated
with volatile chemicals seem to be lost at random during multiple selection cycles for fruit size. Thus, this
should be correctable by selecting varieties with the proper alleles of genes controlling the synthesis of these
molecules (Tieman et al., 2017).

To try to identify those alleles the authors sequenced the genomes of the mentioned 398 tomato population
and identified close to two million genetic variations between accessions (single-nucleotide polymorphisms;
SNPs). Then, to study whether any of those SNPs were associated with flavour they performed Genome Wide
Association Studies (GWAS) and found a total of 251 associations for 20 different traits including the content
of sugar and certain volatile compounds. In parallel, a similar study was done in an independent collection of
tomato varieties in Israel and also in a population of tomato lines derived from a cross between a modern
high-yield variety (line FLA 8059) and a high-flavour low-yield variety (Maglia Rosa Cherry).

Infoteca’s E-Journal No. 418 november 2017
Sistema de Infotecas Centrales Universidad Autónoma de Coahuila

Ripe tomatoes produce hundreds of volatiles and their interactions provide the aroma of the fruit, with a direct
impact on flavour. Not all those volatiles are positive for flavour. For instance, Tieman et al., (2017) found a
genetic locus on chromosome 9 associated with the content of guaiacol and methylsalicylate, which
negatively contribute to consumer liking. In that locus, is located the gene named E8, which is the most
abundantly expressed gene during fruit ripening 4. Tieman et al. generated antisense lines for E8 and analyzed
its volatile compounds observing a different pattern of volatile emission; thus, confirming a potential function
of E8 in flavour control. However, the precise mechanism of E8 action remains to be studied.

Figure 2. Genetic interaction between sugar content and weight of fruit. GWAS of SNPs associated with total
soluble solids in the 398-accessions population (A) QTLs associated with glucose and fructose in the F2
population generated from the cross between FLA 8059 and Maglia Rosa Cherry (B) and sugar content versus
fruit weight in the same F2 population (C). (Modified from Tieman et al., 2017).

Regarding sugar content, the authors observed a negative correlation between fruit size and sugar content and
with the GWAS identified that an extracellular invertase, named Lin5, was associated with sugar content
(Figure 2). The generation of transgenic tomatoes with different alleles of Lin5 and confirmed its role in fruit
sugar content

Besides, the authors also identified a number of candidate loci associated with 15 of the chemicals that
contribute to consumer liking and 6 chemicals that contribute to flavour intensity. These findings open new
avenues for breeding programs to reintroduce those important genes/alleles for fruit flavour that are still in the
wild varieties and heirlooms. Moreover, the selection of the desirable alleles could have an important impact
in consumer liking without affecting yield, since these volatiles are produced in such tiny amounts that its
positive selection is not expected to affect the overall energetic metabolism of fruit. Regarding sugar content,
it appears that its increase will have a negative impact on fruit size; nevertheless, consumers are willing to get
minimally smaller fruits with better taste and indeed, now many people pay extra to buy plum and cherry
tomatoes, which are much smaller but taste better.


1. Tieman D, Zhu G, Resende MFR Jr, Lin T, Nguyen C, Bies D, Rambla JL, Beltran KSO, Taylor M,
Zhang B, Ikeda H, Liu Z, Fisher J, Zemach I, Monforte A, Zamir D, Granell D, Kirst M, Huang S
and Klee H (2017). A chemical genetic road map to improved tomato flavour. Science 355:391–
394. ↩

Infoteca’s E-Journal No. 418 november 2017
Sistema de Infotecas Centrales Universidad Autónoma de Coahuila

2. Wang D and Seymour GB (2017) Tomato flavor: Lost and Found? Molecular Plant 10:782-784. ↩

3. Zhang B, Tieman DM, Jiao C, Xu Y, Chen K, Fei Z, Giovannoni JJ and Klee HJ (2016). Chilling-
induced tomato flavor loss is associated with altered volatile synthesis and transient changes in DNA
methylation. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 113:12580–12585. ↩

4. Deikman J, Kline R and Fischer RL (1992) Organization of Ripening and Ethylene Regulatory
Regions in a Fruit-Specific Promoter from Tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum). Plant
Physiology 100:2013-2017. ↩

nce+%28Mapping+Ignorance%29Daniel Marino

Daniel Marino got his PhD in Biological Sciences in the Public University of Navarra (UPNA). After a 5-year
postdoctoral period in France he is now an Ikerbasque Reseach Fellow in the Plant Biology and Ecology
Department of the University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU). His research is focused on the plant
response to environmental changes (biotic and abiotic)

Infoteca’s E-Journal No. 418 november 2017
Sistema de Infotecas Centrales Universidad Autónoma de Coahuila

Closed since 2011, Orange County Government Center will finally reopen next month but it is nothing short
of a missed design opportunity. Mark Byrnes/CityLab

An Architectural Rescue Gone Wrong


AUG 29, 2017

A Brutalist complex meant to represent progressive government through ambitious design is no longer. What
happened to Paul Rudolph’s Orange County Government Center?

There was a brief moment when it looked like the vacant Government Center in Orange County, New York,
was on its way to a thoughtful restoration—a rare win for advocates of preserving the often-unpopular icons
of Brutalist architecture.

Built in 1971 in the village of Goshen, the striking complex is composed of three buildings with 87 roofs; it’s
revered for its audacious design and recognized as one of architect Paul Rudolph’s very best public projects.

After closing in 2011 in the wake of hurricane-related damage, Government Center will finally reopen this
October, fresh from a $74 million restoration effort that architects, preservationists, and local lawmakers had
battled over for several years. Now that the project nears completion, it’s already clear that the polarizing
results may end up pleasing none of the various sides involved in the debate. How did such an important
American building get such a bad makeover?

Infoteca’s E-Journal No. 418 november 2017
Sistema de Infotecas Centrales Universidad Autónoma de Coahuila

The answer boils down to local politics, clashing design visions, and a sobering reality: There’s something
sadly diminished in the kind of architecture American government chooses for itself today.


In the mid-1960s, Rudolph sat comfortably at the top of any list of best practicing American architects. He’d
built his reputation on stunning Modernist homes in Florida but had shifted the focus of his practice to the
public realm, creating a series of highly visible Brutalist complexes in the Northeast.

In Goshen, he brought a little bit of both with him, using uniquely arranged windows that resembled
his Milam Residence in Jacksonville, and bushammered concrete blocks as seen in so many of his academic
and government buildings. Government Center was supposed to be one-stop-shop for the county’s public
services, and Rudolph conceived it as a dynamic space. Architect Sean Khorsandi, a Paul Rudolph
Foundation board member, told CityLab in 2015 that Rudolph wanted the project to be “a symbol of a
different regime.” The building’s bold, angular forms signaled the start of a brash, progressive chapter for
local government to the judges, legislators, and citizens who stepped inside.

A rendering of Paul Rudolph’s design for Orange County Government Center from a 1963 presentation. It
was approved for construction in 1966. (Paul Rudolph/Library of Congress)

The final design was approved by the Orange County Board of Supervisors in 1966. Tim Rohan, author
of The Architecture of Paul Rudolph, notes that the timing of design—amid the social upheavals and civil
rights progress of the mid-1960s—informed the architect’s vision. “This project moved courts into the
modern age and conveyed an appropriate dynamism, when they were becoming concerned with social justice
issues,” he says.

Infoteca’s E-Journal No. 418 november 2017
Sistema de Infotecas Centrales Universidad Autónoma de Coahuila

Construction had mostly wrapped up by 1970, the same year Goshen had become the single county seat and
Orange County elected its first ever county executive, a Republican by the name of Louis Mills. At the time,
Rudolph said that the building “should last 100 years.”

But soon after work was completed, problems emerged.

Scenes from inside the Orange County Government Center in 1970. (Paul Rudolph/Library of Congress)

The architect’s public sector prospects dried up in the early ‘70s, as government budgets dissolved and the
postwar enthusiasm for modernism began to fade. The flaws in the final product certainly didn’t help.
Workers complained that there wasn’t enough space. Visitors complained that it was too hard to find where
they needed to go. And the buildings leaked, though less dramatically than Rudolph’s Niagara Falls Library

Rudolph was asked by the county legislature in 1975 to contribute to a settlement payout in response to a
lawsuit filed by the general contractor on the project. In 1977, his final year in office, Mills issued a
memorandum to the legislature’s Finance Committee expressing concern over the complex’s appearance and
lack of maintenance funds.

Government Center’s decline only continued. Those same courtrooms that were supposed to usher in a new
era of progressive justice were declared unfit for use by the state Court Facilities Capital Review Board in
1997, the same year Rudolph died. A traditionalist-style courthouse opened next to the complex in 2000, with
other offices moving into the space left behind.

In 2002, new county executive Ed Diana, a Republican, first announced his interest in completely replacing
the facility. Legislature Democrats pushed back, and while Diana conceded at the time, it was clear he wanted
the building gone.

Infoteca’s E-Journal No. 418 november 2017
Sistema de Infotecas Centrales Universidad Autónoma de Coahuila

In 2010, Diana dropped his plan to build a $114 million Government Center, and would instead explore
options for replacing some or all of the complex. The Paul Rudolph Foundation asked the New York State
Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) shortly after if the buildings would be eligible for listing on the State and
National Registers of Historic Places. SHPO informed Diana that it would.

“It’s strangely brazen, but for what purpose I don’t know.”

But just one week later, Hurricane Irene hit Goshen. Tropical Storm Lee hit shortly after. Diana, while giving
a press tour of the flooding and mold in Government Center, said at the time, “As far as I’m concerned, we’ll
never occupy it again.”

Diana asked again for a total demolition and replacement of the complex. In 2012, thanks in part to a backlash
from preservationists—including a petition of over 2,000 signatures from around the world, according
to World Monuments Fund—the plan failed to get a two-thirds majority vote from the county legislature.
Shortly after, The Times Herald-Record published a post-Irene analysis of the building from FEMA which
Diana did not share with the legislature before voting on the Government Center’s fate. It disputed the county
executive’s claim that the complex was unusable as a result of the storm. Instead, it concluded that a majority
of its damages were the result of questionable construction quality, poor design detailing, years of deferred
maintenance, and a poorly done renovation in 2009.

FEMA determined that a county consultant usedinappropriate methods to evaluate air samples for mold. As
for roof damages, “any maintenance performed was very poorly accomplished,” FEMA concluded, “and often
with materials inappropriate for the particular application.”

County consultants had estimated $10.5 million in damages from Irene. FEMA, after first offering $500,000
in aid for Government Center, eventually awarded the county $3.6 million.

In the middle of all of this arrived designLAB, a Boston-based firm that was already working on another
Rudolph renovation. “We were in the construction phase at UMass Dartmouth, completely renovating the
main campus library’s building systems,” says Robert Miklos, founder of designLAB. “We learned about the
controversy in Goshen and wrote an open letter to the legislature letting them know that we were
economically renovating a building from the same era and architect. A group of them came from Goshen to
Dartmouth and toured the building.” They left impressed.

The designLAB scheme for Orange County Government Center, which received an “Unbuilt Architecture
Award” from the Boston Society of Architects in 2015. (designLAB)

Miklos and designLAB joined Clark Patterson Lee on the project and was first asked to put together a new
building assessment study, followed by a reuse study for all three buildings. Some political maneuvering
intervened, however. “The majority of Republicans wanted it torn down, and the Democrats were for saving
it,” Miklos says. Eventually, a compromise was reached: The most problematic of the three buildings would
be looked at for replacement while working through a budget for a full renovation within the county’s target
figure of $60 million.

Diana was on board with the legislature-approved plan by December 2013, his final month as county
executive. But project estimates increased to $85 million in early 2014; designLAB quietly resigned from the
project after the state’s review for historic buildings was ignored in the design process. Clark Patterson Lee’s
design called for demolishing and replacing one of Rudolph’s buildings entirely and stripping the corrugated

Infoteca’s E-Journal No. 418 november 2017
Sistema de Infotecas Centrales Universidad Autónoma de Coahuila

concrete block facades of the other two; it was criticized by SHPO. Even though Orange County never
registered the complex for historic designation, the project couldn’t receive FEMA money for the project
without adhering to state preservation guidelines.

In 2014, Gene Kaufman offered to buy the the Rudolph-designed complex, convert it into an arts center with
housing, and build a new government center next to it. (Gwathmey Siegel Kaufman)

With the complex at risk, Gene Kaufman, a New York architect, offered his own idea to save it. He had
recently purchased the Gwathmey Siegel firm after the death of Charles Gwathmey and offered to buy the
complex and turn it into artist lofts, apartments, and gallery space. Kaufman’s plan would allow Orange
County to move into a brand-new government center next door on a current surface lot. Using the example of
Gwathmey Siegel’s widely praised renovation of Rudolph’s Yale Art and Architecture Building in New
Haven, Kaufman, Miklos recalls, “claimed to be an expert on Paul Rudolph but knew nothing about him… it
unraveled the whole process.”

Kaufman, however, stands by his efforts. “The government’s intention was to go out and destroy it and they
never changed their mind,” he says. “My proposal was to keep it the way it was and build a new complex. It
was a win-win.”

Infoteca’s E-Journal No. 418 november 2017
Sistema de Infotecas Centrales Universidad Autónoma de Coahuila

“They did a different version of what we proposed,” says Bob Miklos. “I’ve seen the pictures. It’s not a
successful solution. It doesn’t do Rudolph’s building justice.” (Mark Byrnes)

A year later, Kaufman’s plan was scrapped, leaving Clark Patterson Lee with the last proposal standing.
Meanwhile, designLAB’s schematic proposal for the site ended up winning an “unbuilt architecture”
awardfrom the Boston Society of Architects. A lawsuit by local residents to block demolition was
dismissed in June 2015. “This is one of Rudolph’s great buildings,” Kaufman adds. “It’s a shame. What
happened in Goshen represents a tremendous diminution government plays in promoting good architecture
and good development.”

Miklos says that their removal of the original corduroy blocks in the remaining 1971 buildings was
unnecessary. “There was mold after the building flooded because the drywall was wet, but they determined
the concrete block was the problem. In fact, we did a lot of research to determine the block was not the

As for the new building, “they did a different version of what we proposed,” says Miklos. “I’ve seen the
pictures. It’s not a successful solution. It doesn’t do Rudolph’s building justice.”


The village of Goshen, settled in 1714, will never be confused for a bastion of brash design. Charming homes
and small-scale civic buildings—including Goshen Town Hall, a former school Noah Webster taught at in the
1780s—dot a quiet road leading up to the southern side of Government Center. Stately properties with vast
lawns face the east side of the complex along Main Street.

With a sizable public setback and modest building height, Rudolph’s design carefully inserts itself into the
historical landscape; despite its starkly modern appearance, it also connects to its neighbors. “It reached out
directionally with the independent gateway that framed views of the town,” says Tim Rohan. “It was an
aesthetic gesture, was one that engaged with its surroundings.”

Infoteca’s E-Journal No. 418 november 2017
Sistema de Infotecas Centrales Universidad Autónoma de Coahuila

While not obvious and perhaps even unintentional, the ends of those jutting rectangular forms on the north
and south ends of his work resemble the Main Street vista of the old Orange County Clerk’s building nearby.

The current county executive Steven Neuhaus, a Republican, disagrees: He tells CityLab that it “was not
keeping with” the town’s traditional architecture.

A new, tinted glass wall allows Rudolph’s design and its Main Street neighbors to define the east side of the
center. (Mark Byrnes)

Work on Clark Patterson Lee’s cladded and glass-enveloped addition is now wrapping up on the site. Same
for the remaining two original buildings, which have been stripped down to their bones and re-dressed as
duller versions of themselves.

One side of Government Center’s new addition apologizes for itself through a tinted glass curtain wall,
allowing for the reflections of Rudolph’s work and older buildings across Main Street to still define the view.
On the south and west ends, however, there’s less glass and nowhere to hide. The new primary entrance,
facing a surface lot, resembles a hastily designed new high school for an affluent suburb. This side of the
building stretches from the courthouse on the north end, to the now-renovated Rudolph building on the south
end. From this view, there is no relationship with and no respect for Rudolph’s design. “It’s strangely brazen,
but for what purpose I don’t know,” says Rohan. “I wonder how people who decried the Rudolph scheme as
too modern, acontextual, and unsuitable for this historic town could find this new building better.”

Infoteca’s E-Journal No. 418 november 2017
Sistema de Infotecas Centrales Universidad Autónoma de Coahuila

When asked if he has any regrets about the outcome of this project, Neuhaus says he wishes the legislature
had “authorized a complete demolition and construction in a more traditional architectural format” right after
Diana shut down the building. “But my number-one priority once the design was chosen by the legislature,
was to bring the project in on time and on budget and let Orange County’s residents have a centralized place
to access many governmental services.”

While giving a construction tour of the new building to the press earlier this year, Neuhaus touted the project
for the fact that it was happening at all. Government services, spread around town since the fall of 2011, will
be back under one roof again. “Just for the public to see that progress is being made and we're heading in the
right direction would be, I think, a positive message,” he said at the time.

And that appears to be as much as you’re allowed to ask of government, which continues to shrink in size and
shrivel in stature across much of the U.S., long since Rudolph ran out of public works to build.

What exists now in Goshen is a civic building that says, “At least it’s something.” What it replaces thought so
much more of itself, and everyone who entered.

About the Author

Mark Byrnes



Mark Byrnes is a senior associate editor at CityLab who writes about design, history, and photography.

Infoteca’s E-Journal No. 418 november 2017
Sistema de Infotecas Centrales Universidad Autónoma de Coahuila

Why do some companies ban certain words?

Can banning some corporate terms and replacing them with buzzier or more positive-sounding alternatives
do any good?

 By Mark Johanson

Apply for a job at Davio’s, a small chain of Italian-style steakhouses in the US, and you’ll
never hear one extremely common workplace term: employee. That’s because CEO Steve
DiFillippo has banned its use.

“I think ‘employee’ is an awful word,” he says. “Who wants to be an employee? It just

isn’t something you strive toward.” Instead, those who work for DiFillippo are known as
‘inner guests.’

“A lot of servers and cooks go from restaurant to restaurant trying to find their way; we
stop that,” he explains. “They come here and realise they’re in a different place where
they’ll be treated differently.”

For DiFillippo, banning the word is both a way of empowering his ‘inner guests’ and
explaining the company’s core values to its ‘outer guests’ (the diners).

Infoteca’s E-Journal No. 418 november 2017
Sistema de Infotecas Centrales Universidad Autónoma de Coahuila

Banned words and suggested phrases are often employed to keep customer service consistent and personal
(Credit: Getty Images)

The restaurateur is hardly alone in his desire to challenge the status quo. Montreal-based
software company GSOFT recently banned the term ‘human resources’ for being too
impersonal, replacing it with a department of culture and organisation charged with
“harmonising collective action.” Meanwhile the term networking is now verboten at
British property development and investment company Allied London (instead, workers
can attend ‘talking shop’ events).

But can banning one traditional term and replacing it with a buzzier alternative really do
any good? Or does muddying the pool of workplace jargon with double speak just make it
all more complicated for everyone involved?

Sherpas, prophets and evangelists

To understand the rise in banned words it helps to first look at the proliferation of new and
creative corporate terms, from the ‘sandwich artist’ who makes your lunchtime sub to the
‘genius’ at the Apple store who sets up your iPhone. Tech companies have become
particularly adept at this, with ‘innovation sherpas’ at Microsoft, ‘fashion evangelists’ at
Tumblr and ‘digital prophets’ at AOL.

A linguistic twist can provoke some healthy engagement and introspection

Infoteca’s E-Journal No. 418 november 2017
Sistema de Infotecas Centrales Universidad Autónoma de Coahuila

Dan Cable, a professor of organisational behaviour at London Business School, says that
while he doesn’t necessarily think that having a title like ‘imagineer’ will make engineers
at Walt Disney any more creative, he does believe a linguistic twist can provoke some
healthy engagement and introspection.

“If you can get individuals to think about how they add unique value to a company, then
just a word or two can serve as a constant reminder to them: you are necessary, you are
valuable, you have a purpose,” he says.

By hiring, say, ‘inner guests’ instead of employees, “it’s possible you could attract a
different sort of person and get them thinking certain thoughts even before they join the
company,” says Cable. His research shows that, beyond making a splash in
recruiting, creative job titles can be important vehicles for both reducing
stress and energising workers.

Branding the workplace

The trend towards manipulating workplace language and ethos is largely driven by
millennials, who, research shows, seek a greater purpose out of work than their
predecessors. Outright word bans and suggested terms take this to the next level.

Company-wide bans have usually dealt with words or phrases that could bring negative
associations to a brand. Documents released in 2014 as part of a General Motors'
settlement with the US government revealed that the company had coached engineers to
avoid 69 incendiary words and phrases, including ‘defect,’ ‘flawed’ and ‘death trap.’

And according to a 2011 report in the Wall Street Journal, which assessed confidential
training manuals and a recording of store meetings, Apple coached workers at its retail
stores to avoid words like ‘unfortunately,’. Instead, Apple’s ‘geniuses’ were told to say ‘as
it turns out’ to sound less negative when an issue arose.

Tech site Gizmodo, which also looked at a confidential employee manual, noted that
Apple employees were also forbidden from using phrases such as ‘bug’ or ‘crash’ where
‘not responding’ was preferable. Meanwhile, ‘warm’ was preferred over ‘hot’ when
describing a product that was giving out heat.

More recent bans are much more nuanced and have come about with words, titles and
phrases that are perceived as too rigid or not reflective of the company culture.

Cable says the act of banning a word is often an elaborate form of self-branding that sends
a message both externally to the public and internally to the workers. When, for example,
you rid your company of a customer service department and replace it with a group of
‘happiness heroes,’ as social media management platform Buffer did, you do so to
separate the us (young, progressive) from the them (old, uninspired).

Infoteca’s E-Journal No. 418 november 2017
Sistema de Infotecas Centrales Universidad Autónoma de Coahuila

When you start banning words and replacing them with something else it can be a little Orwellian

When names become dated

Lisa Merriam, a New York City-based brand consultant and author of Merriam's Guide to
Naming, says that setting language rules can often backfire. “When companies attempt to
be cool, it’s sort of like your dad trying to be cool: It’s the opposite. It’s cringingly
embarrassing,” she says.

Merriam adds that, by changing the jargon – and job titles in particular – to reflect our
current age, workers are ultimately making themselves invisible to future recruiters with
“cool titles that truly don’t age well.”

The practice of switching up traditional job titles for more creative-sounding roles can often create more
problems than it solves (Credit: Getty Images)

A recent survey of 1,000 UK adults asked them to identify whether 18 job titles from the
tech industry were real or fake. The result: Cloud Master (a 1980s computer game) was a
more plausible sounding occupation than six of the nine actual tech jobs.

Henry Goldbeck, President of Vancouver-based Goldbeck Recruiting, highlighted this

issue in a LinkedIn post. Potential employers aren’t doing a keyword search of their

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Sistema de Infotecas Centrales Universidad Autónoma de Coahuila

candidate database for accounting ‘ninjas’ or ‘rock stars,’ he argued. They’re looking for

Perhaps more importantly, Merriam believes, you have to tread carefully with banning
anything in the workplace, particularly in today’s charged environment.

“When you start banning words and replacing them with something else it can be a little
Orwellian,” she notes. “By choosing new words to replace clear, known and understood
words you can also create confusion or mistrust and may inspire employees to feel scorn
for the company.”

When it comes to product issues and customer complaints, negative-sounding words are often discouraged in
favour of more optimism-inducing phrases (Credit: Getty Images)

Infoteca’s E-Journal No. 418 november 2017
Sistema de Infotecas Centrales Universidad Autónoma de Coahuila

New Miniature Mobile Homes Created From Balsa Wood by Vera van Wolferen

by Kate Sierzputowski on August 24, 2017

Dutch artist Vera van Wolferen (previously here and here) imagines new designs for homes on-the-go,
producing miniature balsa wood models of tiny houses that teeter on the top of sedans or contain wheels to
propel themselves on the road. The sculptures, which she refers to as Story Objects, are intended to allude to
narratives, and are often built with the addition of cotton to serve as clouds or tiny puffs of chimney smoke.
The rest of the miniature house is left as minimal as possible, van Wolferen focusing on the architecture of the
object rather than a complicated color scheme.

Infoteca’s E-Journal No. 418 november 2017
Sistema de Infotecas Centrales Universidad Autónoma de Coahuila

You can see a 360 degree video for a piece she’s titled Jeep Safari for the Cultural Anthropologist in the video
below, and view more of her miniature homes on her Instagram, Facebook and Behance.

Infoteca’s E-Journal No. 418 november 2017
Sistema de Infotecas Centrales Universidad Autónoma de Coahuila

Infoteca’s E-Journal No. 418 november 2017
Sistema de Infotecas Centrales Universidad Autónoma de Coahuila

Infoteca’s E-Journal No. 418 november 2017
Sistema de Infotecas Centrales Universidad Autónoma de Coahuila

Infoteca’s E-Journal No. 418 november 2017
Sistema de Infotecas Centrales Universidad Autónoma de Coahuila

Infoteca’s E-Journal No. 418 november 2017
Sistema de Infotecas Centrales Universidad Autónoma de Coahuila

Infoteca’s E-Journal No. 418 november 2017
Sistema de Infotecas Centrales Universidad Autónoma de Coahuila

Infoteca’s E-Journal No. 418 november 2017
Sistema de Infotecas Centrales Universidad Autónoma de Coahuila


Infoteca’s E-Journal No. 418 november 2017
Sistema de Infotecas Centrales Universidad Autónoma de Coahuila

The Rape of Nanking

Today's selection -- from Chiang Kai-Shek by Jonathan Fenby. The so-called "Rape of Nanking" witnessed
atrocities that were among the most horrifying in the history of war. It was part of the Second Sino-Japanese
War, which began in 1937 when Imperial Japan invaded China under Chiang Kai-Shek. Casualties in that war
were estimated at between 20 and 35 million people. Nanking was the capital of the Republic of China and
was upriver from Shanghai, China's wealthiest and most important commercial city, which had already fallen
to the Japanese:

The corpses of massacred victims on the shore of the Qinhuai River with a Japanese soldier standing nearby

"The Rape of Nanking was unique as an urban atrocity not only for the number of people who died but also
for the way the Japanese went about their killing, the wanton individual cruelty, the reduction of the city's
inhabitants to the status of subhumans who could be murdered, tortured, and raped at will in an outburst of the
basest instincts let loose in six weeks of terror and death. The death toll was put at 300,000 -- some accounts
set it even higher, though one source for the former figure, Harold Timperley of the Manchester Guardian,
used it to refer to deaths in the Yangtze Valley as a whole.

"On the first day, a Japanese division killed more than 24,000 prisoners of war and fleeing soldiers. On the
wharves by the river, coolies threw 20,000 bodies into the Yangtze before being killed themselves. Behind its

Infoteca’s E-Journal No. 418 november 2017
Sistema de Infotecas Centrales Universidad Autónoma de Coahuila

white flags and Red Cross symbols, the foreign Safety Zone proved weak protection: indeed, by concentrating
refugees there, it inadvertently provided a big target for the killers; the 'good Nazi of Nanking', the German
John Rabe could only roam the streets trying to rescue individuals in his path.

"There were no imperial orders, as such, for the Rape of Nanking, and General Matsui gave senior officers a
scathing rebuke after he entered the city for the victory parade on 17 December. But the general left for
Shanghai two days later and, though he insisted there that misconduct must be severely punished, his words
had no discernible effect. Any Chinese was liable to be a target. People were roped together and machine-
gunned, doused with kerosene and set on fire. Thousands were buried alive -- or put in holes up to their necks
and then savaged by army dogs. Others were frozen to death after being thrown into icy ponds. Japanese
soldiers used Chinese for bayonet practice. Civilians were nailed to boards and run over by vehicles,
Mutilation, disembowelling and eye gouging took place before executions. People were sprayed with acid, or
hung up by their tongues. Medical experiments were conducted in a former hospital where Chinese, known as
'logs', were injected with germs and poisons. Women, young and old, pregnant and ill, were raped in
enormous numbers, and then killed, some with sticks rammed into their ******s. Foetuses were ripped from
the bodies of expectant mothers. Other women were taken to so-called 'comfort houses' set up for the soldiers,
who called the inmates 'public toilets'.

"Japanese newspapers recorded a competition between two lieutenants to behead 100 Chinese with their
swords. When they both passed the mark, it was not clear who had got there first, so the contest was extended
to 150. One of the lieutenants described the competition as 'fun', though Japanese newspapers noted that he
had damaged his blade on the helmet of a Chinese he cut in half. Revelling in their savagery, Japanese
soldiers took photographs of the massacres and sent them to Shanghai to be developed; Chinese staff in the
photographic shops passed copies to Rhodes Farmer who forwarded them to Look magazine in America in
evidence of the horror.

"As the Nationalist capital, Nanking was obviously an important target where the Japanese wanted to achieve
maximum humiliation of their adversary. But the sustained mass bestiality can better be explained -- if it can
be rationally explained at all -- by the tensions that had built up in the army since the Shanghai battle erupted,
by the knowledge of the Japanese troops that they were heavily outnumbered by the Chinese in the city, by
the callousness bred in the previous four months -- and, above all, by the dehumanisation of the Chinese
which had become part of the psyche of the Imperial Army. The invaders saw the people around them as
lower than animals, targets for a bloodlust which many, if not all, their commanders felt could only spur their
men on to fight better. In his diary, one soldier described the Chinese as 'ants crawling on the ground ... a herd
of ignorant sheep'. Another recorded that while raping a woman, his colleagues might consider her as human,
but, when they killed her, 'we just thought of her as something like a pig'.

"It seems certain that the Emperor in Tokyo knew at least the outline of what was going on. His uncle was in
command, and Japanese newspapers reported the execution contests among officers as if they were sporting
events. Hirohito still hoped that China could be defeated with one big blow, which Nanking might provide."

author: Jonathan Fenby

Infoteca’s E-Journal No. 418 november 2017
Sistema de Infotecas Centrales Universidad Autónoma de Coahuila

title: Chiang Kai-Shek: China's Generalissimo and the Nation He Lost

publisher: Carroll & Graf Publishers

date: Copyright 2003 by Jonathan Fenby

pages: 307-309

All delanceyplace profits are donated to charity and support children’s literacy projects.

Infoteca’s E-Journal No. 418 november 2017
Sistema de Infotecas Centrales Universidad Autónoma de Coahuila

Towering Charcoal Portraits of Women by Clio Newton

byChristopher Jobson on August 28, 2017

Swiss artist Clio Newton has been hard at work on a series of larger-than-life portraits of women portrayed
entirely with compressed charcoal. The towering drawings can reach nearly 8 feet tall and capture near
photographic detail of her subject’s faces, hair, and bodies. Several of the new portraits will be on view in an
upcoming show at Benjamin Eck Galerie in Munich titled ‘Realism‘ that opens September 14, 2017. You can
read an interview with Newton on Quiet Lunch and see more of her recent work and studio photos
on Instagram. (via Supersonic Electronic, Gaks Designs)

Infoteca’s E-Journal No. 418 november 2017
Sistema de Infotecas Centrales Universidad Autónoma de Coahuila

Infoteca’s E-Journal No. 418 november 2017
Sistema de Infotecas Centrales Universidad Autónoma de Coahuila

Infoteca’s E-Journal No. 418 november 2017
Sistema de Infotecas Centrales Universidad Autónoma de Coahuila

Infoteca’s E-Journal No. 418 november 2017
Sistema de Infotecas Centrales Universidad Autónoma de Coahuila

Infoteca’s E-Journal No. 418 november 2017
Sistema de Infotecas Centrales Universidad Autónoma de Coahuila

Infoteca’s E-Journal No. 418 november 2017
Sistema de Infotecas Centrales Universidad Autónoma de Coahuila

Infoteca’s E-Journal No. 418 november 2017
Sistema de Infotecas Centrales Universidad Autónoma de Coahuila

The new Whole Foods in Harlem, widely seen as a harbinger of gentrification. Kathy Willens/ AP

A New Typology of American Neighborhoods


AUG 29, 2017

Research identifies seven pathways of urban change. The most common one is very little change at all.

Gentrification and the rise of suburban poverty, the decline of the Rustbelt and the comeback of Pittsburgh
and Detroit: If there is one constant in urban life it would seem to be the ongoing process of urban and
neighborhood change. Yet a majority of neighborhoods are staying much the same, according to a new
studyby the geographer Elizabeth Delmelle.

The study takes a detailed, data-driven look at precisely how American cities and neighborhoods have
changed in recent decades. It identifies the basic types of American neighborhoods, the main contours of their
change, and the kinds of metros where different types of neighborhoods predominate.

To get at these issues, the study uses advanced clustering and mapping algorithms to group American
neighborhoods by type in the 50 largest US metros. The study examines 18 key variables driving

Infoteca’s E-Journal No. 418 november 2017
Sistema de Infotecas Centrales Universidad Autónoma de Coahuila

neighborhood change between 1980 and 2010, including race, housing type, and other socioeconomic

Strikingly, the most common neighborhood type, comprising over half of the census tracts studied, is
neighborhoods that have experienced limited change. But such stable places tend to attract less attention than
neighborhoods undergoing dramatic change, such as those which are gentrifying rapidly. It’s interesting how
a few prominent examples of neighborhoods undergoing major transformations can skew our perception of
urban change more generally.

The study also matches types of neighborhoods to specific metros across the country. While every large metro
contains many, if not all, of the basic neighborhood types, many metros are dominated by a particular type of
neighborhood, or a particular combination of types. In some cases, these metro groups are in the same region,
as the map below shows. But in other cases, metros with similar trajectories of change would seem to have
little in common, appearing in groups with surprising peers.

The study ultimately identifies seven groups of metros based on the dimensions and trajectories of their
neighborhood change.

Large metros categorized by type (Delmelle et. al)

Infoteca’s E-Journal No. 418 november 2017
Sistema de Infotecas Centrales Universidad Autónoma de Coahuila

Stability: The first group is comprised of metros whose neighborhoods have changed relatively little over the
past three decades. These neighborhoods have experienced relatively low levels of densification and tend to
be divided into either wealthy white neighborhoods or poor black neighborhoods, indicating the
intergenerational transmission of race and class based advantage and disadvantage. They are most prevalent in
old metros in the Northeast and Midwest, including Boston, Hartford, Buffalo, Cincinnati and Indianapolis.

New South: The second group is made up of Sunbelt metros like Nashville, Orlando, Tampa, Charlotte, and
Las Vegas. These fast-growing metros have a relatively high proportion of single family home
neighborhoods, but also include many neighborhoods that have transitioned from single family to multi-
family neighborhoods in recent years. These diverse, densifying neighborhoods reflect a growing preference
for urban living, particularly among more educated households.

Hispanic Destinations: These metros lining the southern border, including Miami, Tucson, and San Diego,
have attracted large numbers of Hispanics during the study period. They include many poor Hispanic
neighborhoods, some of which have shifted from mixed black and Hispanic to mainly Hispanic in recent

Emerging Multi-Ethnic: The fourth type of metro is made up of neighborhoods that are transitioning from
being predominantly white, Hispanic or Asian—including both blue-collar and wealthier neighborhoods—to
more mixed-race, multi-ethnic places. These neighborhoods are located in metros like Denver, Portland, and
Dallas with strong regional economies. This trend follows research indicating that predominantly Hispanic
and Asian neighborhoods are more likely than black neighborhoods to be racially integrated.

Persistent Poverty: The fifth metro type consists of a high concentration of neighborhoods where African
Americans have been persistently disadvantaged and poor. These are the kinds of neighborhoods William
Julius Wilson chronicled in his book The Truly Disadvantaged and where the sociologist Patrick Sharkey
observed generations of families essentially “stuck in place.” These neighborhoods are found in Rustbelt
metros like Detroit, Chicago, Cleveland, Milwaukee, and St. Louis as well as New Orleans, with long
histories of racial segregation. As the study puts it, “Except for New Orleans, these cities were all destinations
of the great migration and the patterns of racial segregation that were carved out during that period have
proved durable through time.”

Immigrant and Educated: This unlikely grouping of metros includes Salt Lake City, Minneapolis-St. Paul,
Raleigh and Grand Rapids. What these metros share in common is a high concentration of neighborhoods
populated by high-skill recent immigrants. While these neighborhoods have changed a great deal due to the
newcomers, other neighborhoods in these cities contain stable, wealthy white neighborhoods and stable low-
income neighborhoods.

New Old South: The last group of metros is characterized by stark divides between wealthier white
neighborhoods, black high poverty neighborhoods, and older suburbs than have become more diverse and
poorer. These neighborhoods are most common in larger, older metros like Washington, D.C., Atlanta,
Memphis, and Richmond.

These categories are of course broad generalizations about race and socioeconomics that gloss over the
multiplicity of demographics that inhabit cities, including rich blacks, poor whites, and middle-income
Hispanics, among so many others. Nonetheless, this study helps us better understand the predominant trends
shaping America's large metros. In particular, concentrations of wealthy whites and poor blacks or Hispanics
persist, signaling the perpetuation of clusters of concentrated racial advantage and disadvantage.

Infoteca’s E-Journal No. 418 november 2017
Sistema de Infotecas Centrales Universidad Autónoma de Coahuila

The study cuts through many of the most persistent memes of contemporary urbanism to show the many
different types of neighborhoods and the many faceted nature of urban change. Some places have become
more diverse, while others have remained highly segregated over a long period of time. Some have become
gentrified, and many others have stayed persistently poor. Some suburbs have become poorer, more diverse
and infused with a large share of immigrants; others have gotten whiter and richer. When all is said and done,
our dominant narratives of neighborhood transformation appear to be based on relatively small numbers of
outliers. Indeed, for all the ink spilled on this subject, the reality is that the majority of American
neighborhoods have not changed much at all in the past few decades.

About the Author

Richard Florida



Richard Florida is a co-founder and editor at large of CityLab and a senior editor at The Atlantic. He is the
director of the Martin Prosperity Institute at the University of Toronto and Global Research Professor at New
York University.

Infoteca’s E-Journal No. 418 november 2017
Sistema de Infotecas Centrales Universidad Autónoma de Coahuila

An easy way to read more each year

With the time you spend commuting every day, you could read dozens of books every year. Pádraig Belton
asks, is there a perfect medium for the length of your ride to work?

 By Pádraig Belton

25 August 2017

Over the past few decades, commuting times have risen dramatically in most major cities.
As inner-city property prices have mounted, many workers are moving further to city
peripheries for lower costs – but those searching for cheaper rents are encountering longer
commutes. The number of Brits spending two hours a day commuting, for example, had
increased by 72% in a decade, according to a 2015 study.

Indeed, the most recent studies available find the typical Londoner spends an average of
six hours and 10 minutes each week commuting, while the average New Yorker clocks in
slightly more, at six hours and 18 minutes.

Meanwhile, millennials are reading more than their older counterparts. According to a Pew
study, 72% of 18- to 29-year-old readers in the US have reada print book in the previous
year, more than any other age group. At the same time, a third of book buyers under
44 want to spend less time on digital devices, says the Codex Group, which specialises in
book audience research. Print book sales have risen in each of the three last years,
following a period of stagnation.

Publishers are well aware of both these trends, and are actively chasing the 'commuter
read'. Penguin has started publishing small-sized books “designed to pick up, pocket, and

Infoteca’s E-Journal No. 418 november 2017
Sistema de Infotecas Centrales Universidad Autónoma de Coahuila

go”, says Philippa Cowburn, a spokeswoman. In a similar vein, Oxford University Press
has released a selection of 35,000-word titles, formatted in specialised block paragraphs
which aim to make it easier to find your place again after forced breaks in concentration.

If we consider that the average adult reads about 300 words a minute, in the six hours you
might commute each week, you could read some 108,000 words, and still have enough
time left to check in and update your Twitter. That’s about the length of Wuthering
Heights, Gulliver's Travels or Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Of course, that’s
assuming you’re riding on public transport and have the elbow room to open a book.
Those behind the wheel have no such option – unless they’re listening to audiobooks, that

Even short commutes can be used successfully to read more. So BBC Capital asked: what
are the best ways to read, and the best things to read, for your particular commute?

15 minutes or less

Poetry is well-suited to a short commute, says professor Wiebo Brouwer, a

neuropsychologist at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands. He says short
commutes best fit "texts with a shorter time scale, like news items or short poems.

"Finishing such a short text offers a moment of choice after, either to read a new short
item, to prepare for transfer, or to start a conversation," he says.

Another route in is flash fiction. Works of 1,000 words or fewer, these stories can fit into a
journey of a stop or two, says Irish flash fiction author Adam Trodd. A good place to start
would be Sleep is a Beautiful Colour, an anthology launched in June this year, in
celebration of Flash Fiction Day.

For other morsel-sized reading, publishers are printing concise books with extracts from
longer works, such as Penguin’s Great Ideas series, or short topic overviews, such as MIT
Press's Essential Knowledge and Bloomsbury’s Object Lessons.

30 minutes or less

For 30-minute journeys, short story collections are ideal. Joseph Kennedy, deputy head of
bookshop at Oxford University Press suggests ‘masters of the form’ such as Anton
Chekhov and Katherine Mansfield, and 'new masters’ like Lorrie Moore.

"I personally prefer interconnected stories," says publisher Meike Ziervogel, who runs
Peirene Press in London. She recommends Breach by Olumide Popoola and Annie
Holmes, The Beggar Maid by Alice Monroe, All That Man Is by David Szalay.

Infoteca’s E-Journal No. 418 november 2017
Sistema de Infotecas Centrales Universidad Autónoma de Coahuila

Also fitting nicely into this category are The Canterbury Tales, The Decameron, and One
Thousand and One Nights, all of them late-mediaeval collections of stories placed within a
frame story, each meant to be enjoyed at a different sitting.

Alternatively, OUP's Very Short Introductions "might be perfect for, say, Ealing to
Chancery Lane", or Brooklyn to Midtown Manhattan or other half-hour commutes, says
publisher Luciana O’Flaherty.

She recommends reading non-fiction in the morning and fiction in the evening. For those
coming to London, she suggests starting out with classics set along your commute. "Read
about Martians invading Surrey as you come in from Richmond. Or The Mark on the Wall
from Virginia Woolf, for short pieces on London," she says.

45 minutes or less

For commutes this length, the serial novel really comes into its own. Books like
Dickens' Pickwick Papers – the first real publishing phenomenon – appeared in
installments (19 in the case of Pickwick), so reading them episode-by-episode is returning
to their origin.

Wilkie Collins's The Moonstone, the first full-length detective novel, was also serialised
by Charles Dickens in a magazine he edited, All the Year Round.

The Three Musketeers appeared initially in serial form in a newspaper, too. So too did
Henry James's Portrait of a Lady and The Ambassadors, as well as Harriet Beecher
Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin.

Epistolary novels, which are told through letters and diary entries, fit well into 45-minute
commutes, too: Dracula and Samuel Richardson's Clarissa, or more recently Aravind
Adiga's The White Tiger.

60 minutes or more

You lucky commuter – journeys of this length allow enough time to immerse yourself in
longer works. "When beginning in a new novel, quite a lot of reading time might be
required to build up the internal context for interpreting and appreciating the separate
elements of the story, and in a short commute the build up will be incomplete," says
professor Brouwer.

Dipping in and out of a lengthy novel duing short journeys, a "commuter

might consider that the disappointment of being torn out of the story is worse than the gain
of learning only slightly more about the events described in the novel," he says.

Infoteca’s E-Journal No. 418 november 2017
Sistema de Infotecas Centrales Universidad Autónoma de Coahuila

At this length, most recent winners of major prizes begin to roll into view – like 2016
Booker winner, Paul Beatty's The Sellout, or the 2015 winner, Marlon James's A Brief
History of Seven Killings.

For a non-intimidating entry into this category, try referring to a well-curated list, like The
100 Favourite Novels of Librarians (Pride and Prejudice comes tops), the Modern
Library's 100 Best Novels of the 20th Century (Ulysses), or the Norwegian Book Clubs'
Top 100 Works in World Literature (Don Quixote).

Practice makes perfect

Focusing on reading during short commutes means learning to ignore some stimuli, like
people around you or a hot rail carriage – and concentrate on the task at hand, says Dr
Tade Thompson, a British consultant psychiatrist and novelist.

“To facilitate this, it helps to make it a habit," says Dr Thompson. Commitment,

consistency, and regularity helps to facilitate the brain pathways associated with reading,
he says. So keep doing it, and you'll get better at it.

With a bit of practice, you never know – your commute may turn out to be the part of the
day you most look forward to.

Infoteca’s E-Journal No. 418 november 2017
Sistema de Infotecas Centrales Universidad Autónoma de Coahuila

The Temple, one of the central (temporary) landmarks of Burning Man's Black Rock City. Christine Grillo

The Endless Rules of Burning Man


AUG 30, 2017

If you love bureaucracy, Black Rock City is the alternative desert utopia for you.

Last year, I appeared at the gates of Burning Man aboard a 24-foot-truck loaded with enough gear to keep a
dozen people alive in the desert for a week. My campmates and I were greeted by a lissome young woman
wearing pasties and leather booty shorts, who commanded us to open our truck for inspection. This would
turn out to be the first of a great many interactions with one of the famed counterculture event’s lesser-known
signature features: its relentless bureaucracy.

Infoteca’s E-Journal No. 418 november 2017
Sistema de Infotecas Centrales Universidad Autónoma de Coahuila

My traveling companion, Virgil, turned off the ignition and opened our truck for the gate-girl, who, despite
the perkiness and pasties, struck him as officious. “Oh, no,” she said, frowning at the cord of firewood in the
back. “We can’t have wood chips,” she explained. “Wood chips are MOOP.”

MOOP, or Matter Out of Place in Burner argot, is frowned upon, as it must be meticulously removed after the
event by hundreds of volunteers, by hand, in the hundred-degree heat. The Burning Man fixation on MOOP is
born in part from a leave-no-trace philosophy (one of its Ten Principles), but it’s also a defensive posture
against the Bureau of Land Management and the state of Nevada, both of which seem to be torn between
wanting to smite the heathen bacchanal and wanting to charge more every year for the Special Recreation
Permit Burning Man needs to exist. Last year, the Bureau’s final tab of charges, which included the permit,
the 84 officers on site, accommodations, labor and other charges, came to $2.8 million. (The
organization disputed the bill.)

The festival has been held on the shadeless alkali flats of Black Rock Desert, a national conservation area,
since 1990. To call the environment inhospitable is an understatement. Every year, the temporary Black Rock
City—home to 70,000 souls last year—is built with almost a conquistadorial glee by men and women hell-
bent on imposing a form of civilization upon the lifeless playa, hauling in generators and propane and water
and lumber and porta-potties. (And art, of course.)

A sculpture on the playa in 2016. (Christine Grillo)

Infoteca’s E-Journal No. 418 november 2017
Sistema de Infotecas Centrales Universidad Autónoma de Coahuila

As with permanent cities, the construction and maintenance of this municipal infrastructure requires an
elaborate regulatory apparatus—and for the greater good, the regs must be enforced. When you imagine
Burning Man, you might picture naked people riding bikes and making out and setting things on fire—and,
indeed, that’s exactly what you’ll see if you attend. But, for a psychedelic, safety-third debauch, Burning Man
has an awful lot of rules.

Our next brush with law enforcement came a few minutes later, when a Nevada state police car pulled us over
for the suspicious temporary license plates on the truck, which Virgil had purchased three days earlier. The
officer quizzed Virgil on drugs. Do you have any marijuana? Hash? Heroin? Cocaine? LSD? Mushrooms?
Ecstasy? Molly?

Having no idea what his campmates had stowed in the back of the truck, Virgil answered “No” to everything.

“Burning Man is a drug-free event,” said the officer.

He wanted to let the dog search the truck.

“Are you asking me if I consent?” asked Virgil.

“No, sir, we don’t need your consent,” said the officer.

After the dog circled our truck three times, we were let go.

Once safely inside the gates, the policing continues: Undercover cops roam the event in search of
lawbreakers, sidling up to makeshift bars to see if they can get served alcohol without ID and striking up
conversations about drugs with strangers. There’s a strain of paranoia inside the camp—anyone who stopped
in and chatted about drugs was suspect. Burning Man also has its own law enforcers—the Black Rock
Rangers, a volunteer militia that will yell at you for riding your bike recklessly. But, like real-world police,
the Rangers are also de facto social workers, tasked with dealing with mental health problems and all manner
of drug emergencies. They will take you to a dark, quiet space when you’re tripping too hard.

As the event has grown, Black Rock City has become more like a real-world municipality, albeit one that’s
whiter, wealthier, and more circular than most American cities of its size. Its lawmaking body is the Burning
Man Organization—often referred to as the Org, or more jokingly as the Borg. Like many municipal entities
or large corporations, the Org has a fondness for bloodless bureaucratese. Witness sentences like this, one of
many similar ones to be found on the official Burning Man website: “As part of the organization restructuring
efforts, several subcommittees were formed to decentralize management and to include more key stakeholders
in decision-making.”

“Some of what you see here is built on a mountain of coke. Don’t climb on nothing.”

The Org exists to contend year-round with creating the annual report, securing the permit, updating the
bylaws (a 10-page document in 2017) and managing diplomatic relations with Pershing County, Washoe
County, the Nevada Highway Patrol, the Nevada Department of Transportation, the Nevada Department of
Public Safety, and nearby tribal reservations. To keep its grip on the playa, Black Rock City enforces a
rigorous regulatory framework that goes far beyond wood chips. Along with fireworks, firearms, and drones,
other items explicitly prohibited at Burning Man include dogs, feathers, and two-ply toilet paper.

Infoteca’s E-Journal No. 418 november 2017
Sistema de Infotecas Centrales Universidad Autónoma de Coahuila

Even potable water can be MOOP, as we learned. Our camp had purchased a 500-gallon tank of water, but the
hose hook-up was leaking a tiny bit. That leak drew the attention of the Leave No Trace people, who came by
with their clipboards, and we tried to puzzle out how potable water, which evaporates in two hot seconds,
could possibly be considered MOOP.

The Leave No Trace lady with the clipboard invited us to be lectured by her. “May I have the gift of your
attention please?” she asked. “Let me tell you about some things that are MOOP that you may not know are
MOOP,” she began. Included in her list were glitter (even the biodegradable kind, because it takes too long to
biodegrade), alcohol that you spill from your cup, and hair that might come loose from your hairbrush. Your
gated community’s homeowner’s association has nothing on Burning Man when it comes to bylaws.

The Department of Public Works, which builds the entire city in the month before the event kicks off, has its
own rules, too. My campmate, who goes by the name Jupiter on the playa, had been there for weeks before
we arrived, growing his beard and building stuff. The Number One DPW rule, he told me, is that if you’re on
the crew, you’re required to be an asshole. “Seriously,” said Jupiter. “I know some guys that got in trouble
because they were being too nice.”

Climb at your own risk. (Christine Grillo/CityLab)

Infoteca’s E-Journal No. 418 november 2017
Sistema de Infotecas Centrales Universidad Autónoma de Coahuila

The DPW manages to engineer some amazing structures—last year they built a series of lighthouses—but
they might not pass code in the real world. Another rule—although it’s more of a personal guideline—that I
learned from Jupiter: “Some of what you see here is built on a mountain of coke. Don’t climb on nothing.”

Alongside the official rules there’s a far longer list of tacitly understood guidelines, designed to keep
attendees under a modicum of control. Many such rules govern sexual behavior. Don’t go into the Orgy Dome
expecting a free-for-all, for example—it has the same rules as sex clubs in the default world, so no single men
allowed. Consent is perhaps Rule Number 1 on the playa, and it’s a good one: Again and again, you will hear
that “communication is the best form of lubrication.” Sexytime friends are urged to disclose information
about health status, but they are not allowed to use the word “clean” when what they mean is that they
currently have no known diseases. To be clean is to imply that others are dirty, and at Burning Man, no one is

Other unofficial rules involve simple personal safety. At night, you must wear blinky lights. If you don’t wear
blinky lights, you will be run over by people on bicycles. Tripping on hallucinogens or having sex in the
middle of the playa are not excuses—wear a blinky. As one friend put it, “Don’t be a dark-wad.”

The Burning Man economy is all about decommodification—one of the Ten Principles—so you are expected
to present gifts in random acts of kindness. This, too, is subject to formal regulations. One camp wanted to
play Bacon Fairy in the morning, but they didn’t have a permit from the health department to do so. Another
camp served coffee and tea but was not allowed to serve milk—again, health department rules. Still another
camp brought 500 pounds of meat and 1,000 pounds of hickory wood, as well as a giant smoker, and served
smoked meat at sunset. (They had secured a permit ahead of time.) I witnessed the surprise health department
inspection on that one: the chef, in his standard attire of assless chaps, showed the inspector his food safety
protocol and passed with flying colors.

There’s a certain dissonance in watching all these free spirits and seekers, who come to the playa to flee the
stifling norms of quotidian American life, walking around with clipboards in a hyper-regulated city of
bureaucracy and surveillance. But it’s also a miraculous display of the human capacity for self-organization in
the face of challenging conditions, and reminder of what regulations are supposed to be for—keeping each
other safe and alive. Even the most avant-garde artists and high-minded hippies need to drink, eat, sleep, and
poop without poisoning each other, or the planet. Humans need rules. Given the current appetite for de-
regulation that the current federal government favors, it’s worth remembering this.

Sometimes, even Burners chafe against The Man that they have become. Several years ago, I was able to hang
out with a guy who had been employed by the Burning Man Organization. It was a coveted position, with
shower privileges and dining hall privileges and wifi. But he had quit. When I asked him why, he said,
without hesitation, that it was the walkie-talkie that did him in. “It’s a leash,” he said. “I don’t come to
Burning Man to be on a leash.”

About the Author

Christine Grillo @GRILLOCM

Christine Grillo is a science writer at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health; her work has
appeared in Audubon, The New York Times, and the Utne Reader.

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What does remembering the “Little Red Riding Hood” story tell about your cognition?


Paola Falanga is pursuing an M.Sc. degree in Psychology at the University of Napoli. Paola did an internship
at Trinity College Dublin (Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience and School of Psychology) under the
auspices of the Erasmus+ program.

Adrià Rofes holds a PhD in Cognitive Neuroscience and an MSc in Clinical Linguistics. He worked at the
University of Trento (Italy), the University of Groningen (The Netherlands), and Macquarie University
(Australia). He is now at Trinity College Dublin (Ireland) as part of the Global Brain Health Institute.

Do you remember the “Little Red Riding Hood” story – the beloved fairy tale that your parents used to read to
you before bed? Besides putting you and many other children across the globe to sleep, this story is a great
“spontaneous speech” resource to assess language impairments in people with neurological disorders. An
interesting way to use a fairy tale? Let us see how this is done.

What is spontaneous speech?

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We use “spontaneous speech” when we tell a friend about our holidays or when we discuss the last book we
read. With the word “spontaneous” we indicate something that occurs by its own motivation rather than by
external forces, and with the word “speech” we describe the ability to express thoughts and emotions using
language1. “Spontaneous speech”, then, refers to the use of oral language in everyday settings – something
that many of us do every day, all the time. Spontaneous speech has been used by clinicians and researchers for
long now, as the types of questions that patients are asked to answer are relatively easy to respond to, and the
task itself is very rapid to administer. In clinical and research settings, spontaneous speech can be elicited in
different structured ways, including the use of fairy tales like the Little Red Riding Hood 1:

 Describing pictures or telling fairy tales (e.g., Little Red Riding Hood)

 Role playing (e.g., pretending to phone a friend, talking to him and inviting him to go to the movies)

 Discussing hobbies and experiences (e.g., What will you do on the next holidays?)

 Describing procedures (e.g., How do you make coffee? How do you shower?)

How does spontaneous speech differ from formal testing?

Spontaneous speech is a useful way to study aspects of everyday language use that are of difficult access with
regular language assessments. Regular assessments are composed of “formal tasks” such as object
naming (saying the name of an object when seeing a picture, for example, “apple” when seeing a picture of an
apple) or sentence comprehension (reading a short sentence, such as “The cat is chased by the dog”, and
pointing to an image correctly describing the sentence). Just as an example, in a sentence comprehension task
like the one above, people with language impairments are required to concentrate on a specific sentence and
on the words forming the sentence. Now, what kinds of spontaneous speech measures do we need to look at to
assess language impairments?

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Quantitative analysis of spontaneous speech measures

Prins and Bastiaanse (1) indicated that spontaneous speech can be analyzed qualitatively and quantitatively
Qualitative methods require researchers and clinicians to assess how fluent or how many grammatical errors
the patient makes on a scale from 1 to 5. Quantitative analyses, instead, require researchers and clinicians to
count the number of words per minute as a way to understand fluency and look at the number of grammatical
errors (e.g., using a gerund instead of a finite verb in the sentence “*She wearing a red hood”). None of these
methods is perfect, and choosing one method instead of another ultimately depends on the study goals. For
example, qualitative methods are ecological instruments but generally they do not fulfil requirements for
reliability and validity, whereas quantitative methods usually do fulfil these requirements, but they are
extremely time-consuming.

Here we will focus on quantitative methods in people with neurological disorders. Let us imagine, for
example, that we ask someone to describe the delicious breakfast that Little Red Riding Hood brought
grandma on the basket:

“Little Red Riding Hood brought grandma lots of treats. She had hazelnuts, almonds, honey and ba ban ban
bana banan banan bananas (that is a conduit d’approche, where we find fragments of the word banana, until
we find the whole word), no wait … there were no bananas in the basket (we have a self-correction and a
pause here!), emh ehm… I mean… (these are two hesitations and a filler), I mean apples, there were apples in
the basket!”

This example highlights that in spontaneous speech speakers often change the structure of the sentence,
interrupt the discussion and start over again, and add and/or replace words they have already said 23. To use a
quantitative method, first, we should have a sample of spontaneous speech. Currently, there is no agreement
as to how many words should a spontaneous speech sample have (1). Some researchers and clinicians used
150 words, others 300 words and others analyzed the whole sample. Despite that, once we have a spontaneous
speech sample, we can explore multiple measures. The list of variables and errors can be endless. Here are
some examples:

 fluency (speech rate the number of words spoken per minute)

 lexical diversity (the vocabulary richness)

 word retrieval (how many nouns, verbs, adjectives appear in the speech sample)

 syntactic complexity (the number of main and subordinate clauses, sentence length)

 errors (e.g., phonological errors [“papple” for “apple”], lexical errors [“banana” instead of “apple”]
and syntactic-grammatical errors [“the cat eat” for “the cat is eats”]).

Quantitative analysis of spontaneous speech in people with neurological disorders

Spontaneous speech has been used to look at differences between healthy individuals and people with
neurological disorders. Sometimes, these differences are difficult to grasp by only listening to a person with a
neurological disease. However, when analyzed properly, these differences may respond to typical patient
reports of difficulties making sentences, finding words, or making sense of a conversation. Here we present

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some examples of how spontaneous speech has been studied in people with stroke, Alzheimer’s disease,
Parkinson’s disease, Levy body spectrum disorder, and Multiple sclerosis.

Rossi and Bastiaanse (3) studied verb production in Italian speakers with stroke. The authors asked
participants to describe a picture and telling a story and found that participants produced fewer verbs and also
showed a reduction of word choice compared to healthy controls. This leads the authors to discuss verb
impairments in people with stroke, not only in formal tasks but also in more naturalistic settings.

Singh, Bucks, and Cuerden4 studied spontaneous speech in eight people with probable Alzheimer’s
Disease and eight healthy participants. The task was to speak for 20-45 minutes about themselves.
Quantitative analysis showed that individuals with Alzheimer’s disease had naming difficulties, decreased
fluency (producing a reduced amount words per minute) and produced many phonological paraphasias
compared to healthy individuals.

Vanhoutte, De Letter, Corthals, Van Borsel and Santens 5 examined language skills in people
with Parkinson’s disease. Participants were asked to retell the text “Meneer Meijer” from a Dutch therapeutic
program 6, however, with several adaptations in order to reduce memory and attention demands. Vanhoutte et
al. found out that people at advanced stages of Parkinson’s disease had a reduction in lexical diversity in
verbs, but not in nouns, highlighting a verb/noun dissociation. This has long been a topic of interest in the
Neuroscience of Language.

Ash et al.7, studied speech production in people with Levy body spectrum disorder. The authors asked
participants to tell a story after having a look at a child book, composed of a sequence of 24 drawings with no
text. Quantitative analysis showed reduced speech rate, extended pausing, and additional time relative to a
group of non-brain-damaged participants.

Arrondo, Sepulcre, Toledo, and Villoslada 8 investigated spontaneous speech in people with Multiple
Sclerosis, as these people have been shown to have low results in different linguistic tasks. Arrondo et al.
asked participants talk about their life for about half 30 minutes. Results showed a decrease in the number of
words and in sentence length in this population compared to non-brain-damaged participants. Additionally,
the authors argue that the person administering the task had to interact more with people with multiple
sclerosis, in order to keep the conversation moving, as opposed to people without brain impairment.

In summmary, the use of spontaneous speech analysis for language assessments in people with different
neurological has many advantages over more widely methodologies but also some caveats. Among its
advantages, and in comparison with formal tasks, spontaneous speech resembles language abilities in daily
life, it is easy to administer and fast to respond to, and the data allows a systematic and objective analysis of
basic parameters of language production. Unfortunately, at this stage, some of its disadvantages are that the
analysis of spontaneous speech is very time consuming and that it requires the input of a trained expert 9.
Fortunately, spontaneous speech analyses have been used to assess the language processing of people with
multiple neurological disorders and, luckily, automatic transcription and other analysis tools are under way,
which should make quantitative this assessment technique much faster and replicable than it is today 1011.


1Some scholars draw a difference between “speech” and “language”. In that sense, “speech” represents the
capacity to understand and say phonemes and the ways in which sentences are produced (e.g., intonation,

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prosody, accents), and “language” represents the capacity to understand and say words. In this article,
however, we will not draw such difference.


1. Prins, R. & Bastiaanse, R. (2004). Analysing the spontaneous speech of aphasic

speakers. Aphasiology, 18, 1075-1091. ↩

2. Rossi, E., & Bastiaanse, R. (2008). Spontaneous speech in Italian agrammatic aphasia: a focus on
variability and verb production. Aphasiology, 22, 347-362. ↩

3. Ward, W. (1989). Understanding spontaneous speech. In proceedings of the workshop on Speech

and Natural Language (pp. 137-141). ↩

4. Singh S., Bucks S. R., & Cuerden J.M. (2001). Evaluation of an objective technique for analysing
temporal variables in patients with Alzheimer’s spontaneous speech. Aphasiology, 15, 571-583. ↩

5. Vanhoutte, S., De Letter, M., Corthals, P., Van Borsel, J. & Santens, P. (2012). Quantitative analysis
of language production in Parkinson’s disease using a cued sentence generation task. Clinical
Linguistics & Phonetics, 26, 863-881. ↩

6. Bonta, E., & Sistermans-Theunisse, J. (1993). Logotherapia: taaltherapie voor afasiepatiënten: een
linguistisch oefenprogramma. Lisse, The Netherlands: Swets-Zeitlinger. ↩

7. Ash, S., McMillan, C., Gross, R., Cook, P., Gunawardena, D., Morgan, B., Boller, A., Siderowf, A.,
Grossman, M. (2012). Impairments of speech fluency in Levy body spectrum disorder. Brain &
Language, 120, 290-302. ↩

8. Arrondo, G., Sepulcre, J., Toledo, J., & Villoslada, P. (2010). Narrative speech is impaired in
Multiple Sclerosis. European Neurological Journal, 2, 11-18. ↩

9. Papathanasiou, I., Coppens, P., Potagas, C. (2013). Aphasia and related neurogenic communication
disorders. Burlington: Jones & Bartlett Learning. ↩

10. Jarrold, W., Peintner, B., Wilkins, D., Vergryi, D., Richey, C., Gorno-Tempini, M. L., & Ogar, J.
(2014, June). Aided diagnosis of dementia type through computer-based analysis of spontaneous
speech. In Proceedings of the ACL Workshop on Computational Linguistics and Clinical
Psychology (pp. 27-36). ↩

11. Fraser, K., Rudzicz, F., Graham, N., & Rochon, E. (2013). Automatic speech recognition in the
diagnosis of primary progressive aphasia. In Proceedings of the Fourth Workshop on Speech and
Language Processing for Assistive Technologies (pp. 47-54). ↩

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Footage of Over 30 Hummingbirds Splashing in a Birdbathby Christopher Jobson on August 24, 2017

Youtuber WildWingsLA has a special birdbath setup specifically for hummingbirds outside their Beverly
Hills home. Known for being territorial, it’s rare to see so many birds at once, but at times the frame fills with
dozens of them. Fun fact: a group of a hummingbirds is called a charm. (via Laughing Squid)

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The amazing fertility of the older mind

It’s never too late to learn – if you go about it in the right way.

 By David Robson

If you ever fear that you are already too old to learn a new skill, remember Priscilla
Sitienei, a midwife from Ndalat in rural Kenya. Having grown up without free primary
school education, she had never learnt to read or write. As she approached her twilight
years, however, she wanted to note down her experiences and knowledge to pass down to
the next generation. And so, she started to attend lessons at the local school – along with
six of her great-great-grandchildren. She was 90 at the time.

We are often told that “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” – that the grizzled adult
brain simply can’t absorb as much information as an impressionable young child’s. Many
people would assume that you simply couldn’t pick up a complex skill like reading or
writing, at the age of 90, after a lifetime of being illiterate.

The latest studies from psychology and neuroscience show that these extraordinary
achievements need not be the exception. Although you may face some extra difficulties at
30, 50 – or 90 – your brain still has an astonishing ability to learn and master many new
skills, whatever your age. And the effort to master a new discipline may be more than
repaid in maintaining and enhancing your overall cognitive health.

Wax tablets

But there hasn’t always been such an optimistic view of learning brand new skills from
scratch as a grown adult.

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The prevailing, pessimistic, view of the ageing mind can be traced back to the Ancient
Greeks. In his treatise De Memoria et Reminiscentia, Aristotle compared human memory
to a wax tablet. At birth, the wax is hot and pliable, but as it cools it becomes too tough
and brittle to form distinct impressions – and our memory suffers as a result.

 Read more: What’s the prime of your life?

Millennia later, scientists’ understanding of the brain appeared to echo this view.
Neuroscientists even use a word to describe the brain’s adaptability – neuroplasticity – that
directly recalls the malleable wax of Aristotle’s “tabula rasa”, and as we age, we were
thought to lose much of that plasticity.

Childhood, in particular, was thought to be the “critical period” to make those impressions.
By the end of the critical period, the brain’s circuits begin to settle, making it far harder to
learn many complex new skills.

Compelling evidence for this theory appeared to come from people learning a second
language. Young children brought to a new country seemed to find it far easier to reach
fluency than their older siblings or parents, for instance.

Yet a closer look at the data paints a somewhat rosier picture. Analysing the census
records of immigrants, Ellen Bialystok at York University in Toronto showed that the
immigrants fluency appeared to decline very gradually with the age at arrival, rather than a
drop off a cliff predicted by a critical period. And that may have been partly due to the fact
that the children simply had moreopportunities to master the language, with the support of
schools and their classmates. Or perhaps children are simply less inhibited and aren’t so
scared about making mistakes.

Just consider the case of Aleksander Hemon. Originally from Sarajevo in then-Yugoslavia,
he found himself stranded in the US on the outbreak of the Bosnian war in 1992 – despite
having little command of English. “I had this horrible, pressing need to write because
things were happening. I needed to do it the same way I needed to eat, but I just had no
language to write in,” he later told the New York Times. And so he set about embracing
the language on the streets around him. Within three years, he had published his first piece
in an American journal, a path that eventually led to three critically acclaimed novels, two
short story collections, a book of autobiographical essays, and a MacArthur Genius

Hemon’s profound mastery of expression should have been near impossible if language
acquisition had to fall within a critical period for us to achieve true fluency. But his sheer
determination and the urgency of the situation fuelled his power to learn.

Admittedly, children may still find it easier to master certain skills, particularly those that
revolve around the fine-tuning of our perception. A linguist may struggle to exactly match
a native’s accent, while a new musician may never be able to acquire the refined

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perception of “absolute pitch” shown by stars like Ella Fitzgerald or Jimi Hendrix. But as
Hemon shows, you can still be an award-winning novelist without sounding like a native,
and many accomplished musicians do not have perfect pitch. Amazing progress is still
possible in many different fields, and adults may find that they can make up for some of
the deficits with their greater capacity for analysis, self-reflection – and discipline.

The scientific literature is now dotted with case studies of older adults performing amazing
mnemonic feats, including a septuagenarian who learnt to recite all 10,565 lines of John
Milton’s Paradise Lost for public performance. Such extended neuroplasticity also seems
to be reflected in more recent studies of the brain’s anatomy, revealing that the adult brain
is far more fertile than expected, and more than capable of sprouting the connections
necessary for profound learning.

Keeping in shape seems to be particularly important for maintaining that plasticity, as

exercise helps to release a flood of neurotransmitters and hormones that are known to
promote the growth of new brain cells and synapses.

Adults are often reluctant to learn new skills - but the ability to learn new skills, from languages to art, is still
well within reach (Credit: Getty)

A simple lack of confidence may present the biggest barrier – particularly for older
learners, past retirement, who may have already started to fear a more general cognitive

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Through a string of recent experiments, Dayna Touron at the University of North Carolina
at Greensboro has shown that older adults (60 and over) frequently underestimate the
power of their own memories, leading to some bad habits that fail to make the best use of
their minds.

In one (deliberately tedious) study, Touron’s participants had to compare a reference table
of word pairings (like ‘dog’ and ‘table’) with a second list, and then identify which words
had not appeared in the original table. The word pairings were not difficult to learn, and by
the end most people – of all ages – would have been able recite them. But the older adults
– aged 60 and over – were more reluctant to rely on their memory, preferring instead to
laboriously cross-reference the two tables, even though it took significantly more time. For
some reason, they weren’t confident that they had learnt the pairs accurately – and so took
the more cautious, but time-consuming, strategy.

In another experiment, the participants had to work through a list of calculations, with
many of the sums appearing repeatedly through the list. The younger participants soon
started to recall their previous answers, while the older subjects instead decided to perform
the calculations from scratch each time. Again, this did not seem to reflect an actual hole
in their memory – many could remember their answers, if they had to, but had simply
chosen not to. “We do see some adults who come into the lab and who never shift to using
their memory,” says Touron. “They say they know the information, they just prefer not to
rely on it.”

By asking her participants to keep detailed diaries of their routine, Touron has shown this
habit of “memory avoidance” may limit their cognitive performance in many everyday
activities. Older people may be more likely to rely on GPS when driving, for instance –
even if they remember the route – or they may follow a recipe line by line, rather than
attempting to recall the steps.

Eventually, that lack of confidence may become a self-fulfilling prophecy – as your

memory skills slowly decline through lack of use. On the plus side, she has found that
simply giving the older adults feedback on their performance – and underlining the
accuracy of their memory – can encourage them to rely more on their recall. “I think it
does offer an optimistic picture,” she says.

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Sometimes life circumstances force adult learners over mental hurdles, like the immigrants at this ESL
migrant centre in Connecticut. (Credit: Getty)

Break through those psychological barriers to learning, and you may soon see some
widespread and profound benefits, including a sharper mind overall. As evidence, Touron
points to research by Denise Park at the Center for Vital Longevity at the University of
Texas at Dallas.

Park first divided her 200 participants into groups and assigned them to a programme of
different activities for 15 hours a week for three months. Some were offered the
opportunity to learn new skills – quilting, digital photography, or both – that would
challenge their long-term memory and attention as they followed complex instructions.
Others were given more passive tasks, such as listening to classical music or completing
crossword puzzles, or social activities – such as field trips to local sites of interest. At the
beginning and the end of the three months, Parks also gave the participants a memory test.

Of all the participants, only the subjects learning the quilting or the photography enjoyed a
significant improvement – with 76% of the photographers showing a higher score at the
second memory test, for instance. A later brain scan found that this seemed to be reflected
in lasting changes to circuits in the medial frontal, lateral temporal, and parietal cortex -
areas associated with attention and concentration. Overall, the more active pastime of
learning a new skill led to the more efficient brain activity you might observe in a younger
brain, while the passive activities like listening to music brought no changes. Crucially,

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these benefits were long-lasting, lingering for more than a year after the participants had
completed their course.

Park emphasises that she still needs to replicate the study with other groups of participants.
But if the results are consistent with her earlier findings, then the brain boost of taking up a
new hobby may trump so-called “brain training” computer games and apps, with study
after study finding that these programs fail to bring about meaningful benefits in real life.

Although the specific activities that Park chose – photography or quilting – may not appeal
to everyone, she suspects the same benefits could emerge from many other hobbies. The
essential point is to choose something that is unfamiliar, and which requires prolonged
and active mental engagement as you cultivate a new set of behaviours. “it’s important
that the task is novel and that it challenges you personally,” Park says. If you are a pianist,
you might find greater benefits from learning a language say, than attempting to pick up
the organ; if you are a painter, you might take up a sport like tennis.

You may be surprised by how much you enjoy the challenge itself. “The participants got
more confidence in themselves,” Park says. One man went on to take photographs for his
local newspaper; another woman had at first reluctantly attended the quilting class, despite
having no real interest in the skill. She still wasn’t convinced by the end, but her successes
had nevertheless inspired her to take up a new hobby – painting – instead. “I didn’t like
quilting, but I had learnt how to learn,” she told Park.

So why not give it a go yourself and attempt to stretch your mind beyond its comfort
zone? As Priscilla Sitienei – the 90-year-old Kenyan great-great-grandmother – put it:
“Education has no age limit.”


David Robson is a freelance writer. He is @d_a_robson on Twitter.

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From Guatebad to Guateworse

Two young girls watch television from their holding area where hundreds of mostly Central American
immigrant children are being processed and held at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Nogales
Placement Center (Credit: AP/Ross D. Franklin)

Today's selection -- from Tell Me How It Ends by Valeria Luiselli. One key source of immigration from
countries such as Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala to the United States is children trying to escape the
horrors of gang violence, most notably the MS-13 and Barrio 18 gangs. Tragically, many children who
succeed in escaping to the U.S. find those same gangs are firmly entrenched here as well:

"[In interviewing immigrant children escaping to the U.S.,] one of the questions that we dug into most
consistently had to do with the gangs all the children talked about during court screenings: the Mara
Salvatrucha 13 (MS-13) and the Barrio 18 (or Calle 18). ...

"[When we ask questions about the gangs,] many of the children, especially the older ones, break down. ...
The teenagers have all been touched in one way or another by the tentacles of the MS-13 and Barrio 18, or
other groups like them, though the degree of their contact and involvement with pandilleros varies. The teen-
age girls, for example, are not usually coerced into gangs but are often sexually harassed by them or recruited
to be girlfriends. Boys are told that their little sister, cousin, or girlfriend will be raped if they don't man up
and join. ...

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"[One child named] Manu tells me a confusing, fragmented story about the MS-13 and their ongoing fight
against the Barrio 18. One was trying to recruit him. The other was going after him. One day some boys from
Barrio 18 waited for him and his best friend outside their school. When Manu and his friend saw them there,
they knew they couldn't fight. There were too many of them. He and his friend walked away, but they were
followed. They tried running. They ran for a block or two, until there was a gunshot. Manu turned around --
still running -- and saw that his friend had fallen. More gunshots followed, but he kept running until he found
an open store and went inside.

"[After Manu escaped to the U.S., while] preparing [his juvenile] status application, ... everything runs
smoothly until the lawyers ask if Manu is still enrolled in school. He is, he says. He's at Hempstead High
School [in Long Island]. But he wants to leave as soon as possible.

Migrant Routes from Central America to the United States, 2016

"Why? they want to know. They remind him that if he wants to be considered for any type of formal relief, he
has to be enrolled in school. He answers slowly and in a low voice, but perhaps more confidently than when I
first met him in court, months ago. He looks down at his clasped hands now and again as he talks. Hempstead
High School, he tells us, is a hub for MS-13 and Barrio 18. I go cold at hearing this statement, which he

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delivers in the tone one might use to talk about items in a supermarket. He's afraid of Barrio 18 but doesn't
want to join MS-13, either, even though they are not as bad. ...

"Indeed, it turns out Manu has good reasons to be afraid. Members of Barrio 18 beat him up. When he tells
me about this incident, he is missing his two front teeth. ... [He says] Hempstead is a s**t-hole full of
pandilleros, just like [his home town of] Tegucigalpa.

"Between Hempstead and Tegucigalpa there is a long

chain of causes and effects. Both cities can be drawn on
the same map: the map or violence related to drug
trafficking. ... Official accounts in the United States --
what circulates in the newspaper or on the radio, the
message from Washington, and public opinion in general
-- almost always locate the dividing line between
'civilization' and 'barbarity' just below the Rio Grande. ...
[but Hempstead] is a broken community that has served
as a stage for the Bloods and the Crips for more than
forty years. ...

"One day in court I tried to explain the phrase 'de

Guatemala a Guatepeor' -- from Guatebad to Guateworse
-- to a lawyer. In translation the phrase loses some of its
meaning, but it can be glossed this way: almost five
Crime Victimization and Migration Intentions, 2014 thousand kilometers separate Tapachula, the Guatemala-
Mexico border town from which [the immigration train]
departs, from New York. Hundreds of thousands of kids
have made the journey, tens of thousands have made it to the border, thousands to cities like Hempstead. Why
did you come to the United States? we ask. They might ask a similar question: Why did we risk our lives to
come to this country? Why did they come when, as if in some circular nightmare, they arrive at new schools,
in their new neighborhoods, and find there the very things they were running from?"

author: Valeria Luiselli

title: Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay in 40 Questions

publisher: Coffee House Press

Copyright 2017 by Valeria Luiselli

pages: 45-46, 73-74, 81-83, 87-88

All delanceyplace profits are donated to charity and support children’s literacy projects

Infoteca’s E-Journal No. 418 november 2017
Sistema de Infotecas Centrales Universidad Autónoma de Coahuila

Downtown revival: Eau Claire is now Wisconsin's second-fastest growing city. Andrea Paulseth
/Volume One

How Bon Iver Saved Eau Claire


The small Wisconsin city is enjoying a cultural revival, thanks to its gorgeous setting, a few well-placed
boosters, and a knack for smart development.

Justin Green lived in Austin, Texas, most of his life. He opened a music studio there, got married, and had
two kids. But by 2016, the 31-year-old felt it was time to leave behind the heat, crowds, and costs of the
state’s fast-growing capital.

He thought about Madison, Wisconsin, with its strong music scene. But bands kept telling Green to look
further north, to Eau Claire. The town is known to indie music fans as the home of the Eaux Claires Music &
Arts Festival, a two-day event co-founded and curated by singer-songwriter Justin Vernon of the band Bon
Iver, who grew up there. So Green and his wife paid a visit.

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“We were just like, ‘Holy shit! This place is awesome,’” says Green, who moved to Eau Claire and opened
his new studio a year ago. “I got that vibe that this was what Austin used to be before it blew up—an actual
small-town feel in a fairly large-sized city.”

The story of Eau Claire, a Wisconsin town seated at the confluence of the Chippewa and Eau Claire rivers,
mirrors that of many industrial towns in the upper Midwest and Rust Belt: Founded in the mid-19th century,
lumber drove its early growth. Manufacturing took over in the early 20th century and sparked an extended
boom. But by the 1980s, the town’s economic fortunes were shifting. In 1992, the Uniroyal tire plant closed,
putting more than 1,350 out of work. As with many smaller cities, retail started to shift to the city’s edge. By
2002, when Eau Claire journalist Nick Meyer founded the local culture magazine Volume One, “downtown
had been left for dead,” he says.

But Eau Claire began to reawaken. City officials started cleaning up blighted properties on the waterfront, and
in 2003, Royal Credit Union, a local banking outfit that once serviced Uniroyal employees, chose an old
industrial site at the rivers’ confluence for its new headquarters. The city quickly built a showcase park on the
water across the street. With a gorgeous setting, a Saturday farmers’ market, and a concert series, the aptly
named Phoenix Park gave downtown signs of life.

After industry fled, Eau Claire embraced its riverfront. (Andrea Paulseth /Volume One)

The tipping point came in 2012: Arts advocates, the city, the state, and the University of Wisconsin-Eau
Claire (UWEC) joined forces on the $85 million Confluence Arts Center. Previous big projects proposed for
downtown had failed to gain approval, but Confluence’s critical mass of partners overcame some mild
opposition. When it’s completed next year, across from Phoenix Park, it’ll have two theaters, apartments,
retail space, and a pedestrian plaza, along with artist and technical training facilities.

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According to the city, the Confluence Center has sparked $120 million in nearby investment. Once it was
greenlit, craft breweries, locavore restaurants, and boutique hotels started springing up downtown. JAMF, a
fast-growing tech firm that makes software for Apple, built its new HQ next to Phoenix Park. The old
Uniroyal plant is now Banbury Place, a business incubator with 125 tenants and 500 jobs. And in 2015, Justin
Vernon launched the first Eaux Claires Festival in the woodsy outskirts of town. In 2017, the event featured
headliners Paul Simon, Chance the Rapper, Feist, and Wilco. What Meyer calls “the Bon Iver factor”has
helped draw a wave of national attention to the town over the last year.

But Eau Claire’s biggest project is still in the planning stages: a 34-acre riverfront recreation and sporting
complex to be shared by UWEC, the local YMCA, and the Mayo Clinic. Eau Claire’s population,
approaching 70,000, has increased nearly 18 percent since 1990: The town is growing faster than all
Wisconsin cities except Madison.

“Right now out my window I can see the construction cranes building the Confluence Center, and it’s kind of
the heartbeat of the progress here,” says Meyer, who launched the Phoenix Park concert series in 2006.
“Today we’ve got all the momentum.”

That momentum is drawing new residents from from the Twin Cities, Milwaukee, Chicago, and further afield.
Elizabeth de Cleyre and her husband moved here from Portland in December after attending last year’s Eaux
Claires festival. Their Portland rent shot up in early 2016, providing a key incentive.

“We felt very comfortable here,” says de Cleyre, a freelance writer who’s opening a bookstore with two
partners, one of whom just arrived from Oakland. “We felt like the city was prioritizing arts and culture,
fostering a creative economy.”

For other ex-industrial towns looking to follow in Eau Claire’s footsteps, locals cite several critical factors
that helped spur the turnaround.

First, it embraced its setting—by building along its riverfront, long seen as a place for industry, and adding
new parks on the two lakes in town and new trails in the surrounding hills and forests. Second, the city
cultivated a culture of collaboration. “Maybe it’s a ‘Midwest nice’ thing,” says Meyer. Many key figures
work together on boards and know each other, and there’s a sense now that the rising tide will lift all boats.
“When a community is on its way up, there’s no sense protecting what’s yours.”

Phoenix Park came about because Royal Credit Union built its HQ across the street from the riverfront, rather
than right on it—handing the city the ideal park space. The Confluence might be billed as an amenity for the
city’s arts scene, but it went forward because business leaders convinced city officials that it was a good
economic development tool, says UWEC Chancellor James Schmidt: “We’re able to do more with less when
diverse partners come together.”

Schmidt’s employer is the third key. UWEC’s 11,000 students—nearly a 6th of the town’s population—give
the city a steady stream of educated young professionals and well-connected local boosters: Most major Eau
Claire projects are linked to UWEC alums, from Bon Iver’s Vernon to former Royal Credit Union CEO
Charlie Glossklaus. UWEC also helped nurture the city’s deep musical roots and speed the city’s cultural
revival. In the 1960s, jazz composer Dominic Spera led the UWEC jazz program to national prominence. In
April, Downbeat named UWEC the best undergraduate big band in the U.S.—for the seventh time. The Eau
Claire area has a dozen live music venues and hosts 6 major music festivals; in addition to Bon Iver, bands
like Arms Aloft and Laarks have also found success in recent years.

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A pre-Eaux Claires Festival block party downtown. (Luong Huynh/Volume One)

To Meyer, Vernon’s Eaux Claires festival is the crown jewel of the city’s reawakening. Its 20,000-plus
attendees deliver about $7 million in annual economic impact. “It draws great crowds and great media
attention. It spreads the word that something is really happening in this little Wisconsin town.”

Just how much more is likely to happen? The limits of Eau Claire’s boom may be geographical: The city is
somewhat remote—90 miles from Minneapolis, the nearest major city, and more than 240 to Milwaukee, with
just 2 daily flights from O’Hare arriving at the local airport. Northern Wisconsin winters are long and often
brutal. It’s also not yet clear whether these new upmarket businesses will succeed over the longer term—and
how the town might change if they do.

“What keeps me awake is how fragile all this is,” says Meyer. “How long can we sustain this energy? Are the
jobs there to support people if they keep coming here? Do we have entrepreneurial ideas that can scale?
That’s going to take a few years to play out.”

David Lepeska @DLEPESKA

David Lepeska is a freelance journalist based in Chicago.

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Photos tell intimate stories of human despair, loss and ultimately, resilience in Latin America

Photos By Sebastian Liste. Writer Jon Lowenstein August 28

Children play on the beach by an abandoned chocolate factory in Salvador de Bahia, Brazil, in 2009.
(Sebastian Liste/Noor)

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A boy jumps off an abandoned chocolate factory in Salvador de Bahia, Brazil, in 2011. (Sebastian

The next installment of In Sight’s series “PHOTOGRAPHERS edit PHOTOGRAPHERS” pairs NOOR
photographers Jon Lowenstein and Sebastian Liste. In this installment, American photographer Lowenstein
has made selections from Spanish photographer Liste’s body of work from South America. Here’s what
Lowenstein wrote about his colleague’s work. It has been lightly edited for clarity:

Latin America as a region is one of the most beautiful and fascinating places on Earth. It is also as a region
one of the most violent. The local population from Brazil to Mexico lives with a level of state-sponsored and
social violence that reaches absurd levels. It is this violence that Sebastian Liste has chosen to document. Not
the moment of impact, but the aftermath – how it tears apart communities and destroys lives. How the
violence and poverty of a region transcends borders and seeps into everyday life, and slowly over years and
years, tears apart the very fabric that makes life meaningful. As one young gang member recently told me in
Chicago, “Once someone kills somebody who is very close to you it’s impossible to forgive.” They are the
enemy, yet no one should have to live afraid of their very neighbors, afraid of the police, afraid of going out
in the daytime for fear of assaults, robberies, or being extorted. It is this violence, the fear, and the subsequent
pain that Liste shows so eloquently and intimately. He goes where few people go unless they live there to tell
these intimate stories of human despair, loss and, ultimately, resilience.

Liste’s work recalls a particularly harrowing scene I witnessed in Guatemala City a few years back. A father
had bought his 20-something son a motorcycle with his earnings from having worked as an undocumented
immigrant in the United States. They went for a celebratory ride one Sunday evening – the end of a long
workweek. In a case of mistaken identity, the two were shot through the chest by a Mara gang member. The
father, riding tandem in back had saved the son as the bullet entered him first. Outside the hospital, the

Infoteca’s E-Journal No. 418 november 2017
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younger sister was crying inconsolably. Various family members tried to comfort her but ultimately she
remained alone, wailing to the night, holding onto the fence, and waiting. The brother would survive, but the
violence had taken this young girl’s father. Liste finds a way to bring us to these types of situations and
maintain his humanity. It is strong, necessary and meaningful work.

Members of a local militia in Guerrero look for missing students in Guerrero, Xaltianguis, Mexico, in 2014.
(Sebastian Liste/NOOR)

Infoteca’s E-Journal No. 418 november 2017
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Tanks roll down the street during Venezuelan Independence Day celebrations at the Paseo de los Próceres de
la Patria in April 2013, the same day Nicolás Maduro became president. (Sebastian Liste/NOOR)

Infoteca’s E-Journal No. 418 november 2017
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A girl rides her donkey near Saubara on the shore of All Saints Bay, Bahia, Brazil, in December 2009. Her
family and dozens of others are part of a landless movement and have been fighting for a plot of land for
several years. (Sebastian Liste/NOOR)

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Thirteen-year-old Vanessa is reunited with her mother in Salvador de Bahia, Brazil, in February 2011.
Vanessa’s mother abandoned her when she was 6 years old. A few years later, Vanessa started to prostitute
herself to survive. (Sebastian Liste/NOOR)

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In the Vista Hermosa Prison in Ciudad Bolívar, Venezuela, gay inmates run the prison laundry and do the
cooking; otherwise they are confined to their quarters, separated from the prison’s common areas. Ezekiel
(who also goes by Maritza) hopes to be a model one day. (Sebastian Liste/NOOR)

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Fifteen-year-old Zizinha holds her 6-month-old son in Salvador de Bahia, Brazil, Jan. 2, 2011. A few years
ago she turned to prostitution and doesn’t know who the child’s father is. (Sebastian Liste/NOOR)

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A child living in an abandoned chocolate factory in Salvador de Bahia, Brazil, looks out of a window in the
factory’s courtyard. (Sebastian Liste/NOOR)

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Mass graves discovered by federal police in the outskirts of Iguala, Mexico, in November 2014, during an
operation to find the bodies of 43 missing students from Raul Isidro Burgos de Ayotzinapa College.

Infoteca’s E-Journal No. 418 november 2017
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Orwell Versus Huxley

Today's encore selection -- from Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show
Business by Neil Postman. The first half of the 20th century saw two competing visions of the future from
British authors George Orwell (1903-1950) and Aldous Huxley (1894-1963). Though it came 17 years later,
Orwell's dystopian novel 1984 is better known; however, Huxley's Brave New World has proven more
relevant. Written in the shadow of Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin, 1984 shows a world ruled by an oligarchical
dictatorship with perpetual war, pervasive government surveillance and incessant public mind control. Set in
2540 AD, Brave New World was published in 1932 and began as a parody of H. G. Wells' optimistic and
utopian novel Men Like Gods. Neil Postman contrasted the two visions in the foreword to his 1985
classic Amusing Ourselves to Death:

"We were keeping our eye on 1984. When the year came and [Orwell's] prophecy didn't, thoughtful
Americans sang softly in praise of themselves. The roots of liberal democracy had held. Wherever else the
terror had happened, we, at least, had not been visited by Orwellian nightmares. But we had forgotten that
alongside Orwell's dark vision, there was another -- slightly older, slightly less well known, equally chilling:
Aldous Huxley's Brave New World.

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"Contrary to common belief even among the educated, Huxley and Orwell did not prophesy the same thing.
Orwell warns that we will be overcome by an externally imposed oppression. But in Huxley's vision, no Big
Brother is required to deprive people of their autonomy, maturity and history. As he saw it, people will come
to love their oppression, to adore the technologies that undo their capacities to think.

"What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no
reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would
deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to
passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would
be drowned in a sea of irrelevance.

"Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture,
preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy. As Huxley
remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to
oppose tyranny 'failed to take into account man's almost infinite appetite for distractions.' In 1984, Huxley
added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting
pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we hate will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we love will ruin us.

"This book is about the possibility that Huxley, not Orwell, was right."

Infoteca’s E-Journal No. 418 november 2017
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author: Neil Postman

title: Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business

publisher: Penguin Books

date: Copyright Neil Postman 1985

pages: xix-xx

All delanceyplace profits are donated to charity and support children’s literacy projects.

Infoteca’s E-Journal No. 418 november 2017
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The smell of Alzheimer’s

Rosa García-Verdugo September 6, 2017

Credit: Nick Youngson

Diagnosis is one of the trickiest steps in disease management for many diseases, ranging from some types of
cancer to rare diseases or neurodegenerative disorders, like Alzheimer’s for instance. Even though we have
been hearing long about the disease, to date the only reliable diagnosis comes from a postmortem brain
analysis and the finding of amyloid plaques in it. One of the biggest challenges of Alzheimer’s research is to
come up with a reliable screening/diagnostic method that would help treat the early symptoms and aim to stop
the progression of the disease.
Recently a Canadian team of researchers has reported 1 that smell problems could be an early diagnostic sign
of the disease. The concept, however, is not new: a relationship between memory loss and smell problems has
been known for long. This is not such a surprising link since the olfactory bulb (behind the sense of smell)
and the entorhinal cortex (identification of doors) are among the brain regions that are earlier affected by the

Just a simple gesture could help Alzheimer’s


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To prove their point, the researchers recruited around 300 patients with familial risk of Alzheimer’s and tested
their odour discerning ability by means of sniff tests. Of those 300, 100 agreed to get their spinal fluid
regularly tested for Alzheimer’s proteins.

When looking the results from the smell tests and the findings on spinal fluid, the researchers found a
correlation between the smell identifying issues and the amount of Alzheimer’s related proteins in the spinal

However, it is important to note that correlation is not causation. That means, that even when a positive
relationship between the 2 factors could be found, there is no clear explanation or mechanism known for it
and therefore the extent of the diagnostic potential of smell tests relative.

It is definitely too soon to start thinking about a single smell test for Alzheimer’s diagnosis, but it is a finding
that brings hope to the completion of a diagnostic battery test for Alzheimer’s.


1. Marie-Elyse Lafaille-Magnan et al (2017) Odor identification as a biomarker of preclinical AD in

older adults at risk Neurology doi: 10. 1212/ WNL. 0000000000004159 ↩

Rosa García-Verdugo

Rosa studied Biochemistry at University of Oviedo and, after working for a while in immunology at the
Center for Biological Research (CIB) and another brief period of systems biology at the Center for Genomic
Regulation (CRG), she eventually got her PhD in systems neurobiology at the Max-Planck-Institute of
Neurobiology in Munich. Her research deals with neuronal plasticity in mouse visual cortex and big 2-photon

 Website:

 Twitter:@starvingneuron

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Fasting against diabetes

Rosa García-Verdugo April 24, 2017

Credit: sriram bala

Diabetes is a disease typically associated with old age, especially when speaking of type 2, characterized for
insulin resistance, and associated with obesity and therefore, more likely to occur in old age.

A recent couple of papers published in Cell1 and Science Translational Medicine 2 point to the healing
potential of a fasting-mimicking diet for resetting pancreatic insulin producing cells, which are rendered
inactive in type 1 diabetes and at latest stages in type 2 diabetes. The cycling diet in mice involved 4 days of
fasting-like diet a week. Mice on this diet regained healthy insulin production, reduced insulin resistance and
demonstrated more stable levels of blood glucose, thus reverting the symptoms of the disease.

Further experiments showed that these diet cycles turned gene expression in pancreatic cells to developmental
stages, thus regenerating healthy insulin-producing beta cells. Since in vitro experiments of fasting on human
pancreatic cells also showed the same pattern of “rejuvenated” gene expression, this simple intervention holds
great potential to treat humans. Moreover, they showed that a fasting-mimicking diet reduced risks for cancer,
diabetes, heart disease and other age-related diseases in human study participants who followed the special
diet for five days each month over three-months, thus calling for regulation and implementation of such
nutritional interventions for patients with diabetes.

Once again we see that adopting fasting diets can lead to health improvements, and even though in these
studies no effects on longevity were tested, it is to be expected that relieving the effects of diabetes and its
related diseases would lead to an extended lifespan and improved healthspan.


1. Cheng et al. Fasting-mimicking diet promotes Ngn3-driven β-cell regeneration to reverse diabetes.
Cell, 2017 DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2017.01.040 ↩

2. Wei et al. Fasting-mimicking diet and markers/risk factors for aging, diabetes, cancer, and
cardiovascular disease. Sci Transl Med. 2017 Feb 15;9(377). doi: 10.1126/scitranslmed.aai8700. ↩

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The Books We Don’t Understand

Tim Parks

Nikos Economopoulos/Magnum Photos

Aherontas River, Epirus, Greece, 1989

What is going on when a book simply makes no sense to you? Perhaps a classic that everyone praises. Or
something new you’re being asked to review, something a publisher has warmly recommended.

I don’t mean that you find the style tiresome, or the going slow; simply that the characters, their reflections,
their priorities, the way they interact, do not really add up. You feel you’re missing them in the dark. And
your inevitable reaction, especially if you are an experienced reader, is that this must be the author’s fault. He
or she is not a good observer of life.

The most dramatic example of this in my reading career is, or was, Ulysses. Leopold Bloom knows that his
wife is planning to betray him with the vulgar braggart Blazes Boylan. It’s something he deeply cares about.
It is distressing and humiliating. Yet he spends page after page reflecting on all kinds of other things, thinking
of puzzles and puns, marvelling over shop window displays, sounds, and smells.

I first read the book in my teens, then again at university in my twenties. I could appreciate that Bloom might
not feel able to confront his wife, but I could not imagine that the distressing situation, with all its

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implications for his future life, would not be hammering in his head through the day. Surely a betrayal like
this would occupy his entire mind in the most urgent and obsessive fashion. Hence it seemed to me that the
book’s plot had been set up in the most casual manner merely as a vehicle for Joyce’s “stream of
consciousness,” an opportunity to write page after lyrical page about the ordinary world. Had the book only
just been published and had I had been asked to write one of the first appraisals, my review would have been,
to say the least, mixed. But then if we look at early reviews of many novels now considered masterpieces, we
find, perhaps among the many positive responses, frequent examples of experienced readers who, in the best
of faith, simply missed the point.

Here is the great critic John Middleton Murry writing about D. H. Lawrence:

Women in Love is five hundred pages of passionate vehemence, wave after wave of turgid, exasperated
writing impelled towards some distant and invisible end; the persistent underground beating of some dark and
inaccessible sea in an underworld whose inhabitants are known by this alone, that they writhe continually,
like the damned, in a frenzy of sexual awareness of one another. Their creator believes that he can distinguish
the writhing of one from the writhing of another…. To him they are utterly and profoundly different; to us
they are all the same.

Murry cannot see what differentiates Lawrence’s characters; as a result the melodrama makes no sense to him
and the plot becomes tedious. His failure is all the more curious in that he and Lawrence were actually
friends; one would have supposed that Murry was all too aware of Lawrence’s obsessions. After
teaching Women in Love for many years, I find the characters to be almost over-defined, close to schematic.
As a couple, Gudrun and Gerald cannot escape from a logic of conflict; one must dominate the other. They
live in fear of being overcome by the other. That is what a relationship is for them: war. In contrast, Birkin
and Ursula are aware of the dangers of conflict. They live in fear that they will fall into the trap the other
couple has fallen into. It’s all painfully clear. Fear is everywhere and always related to conflict, in one way or
another. But Murry, though he was a fine critic and in many ways describes the book well, can’t see it. It
hasn’t occurred to him that there are people who live in this way.

The same is true of this anonymous contemporary of Thomas Hardy’s, reviewing his great novel The Return
of the Native in The Spectator in 1879:

Mr. Hardy’s tragedy seems carefully limited to gloom. It gives us the measure of human miserableness, rather
than of human grief—of the incapacity of man to be great in suffering, or anything else, rather than of his
greatness in suffering…. The hero’s agony is pure, unalloyed misery, not grief of the deepest and noblest
type, which can see a hope in the future and repent the errors of the past.

In particular, the reviewer has problems with the character who in many ways is the soul of the book:

[The] coldly passionate heroine, Eustacia Vye, never reproaches herself for a moment with the inconstancy
and poverty of her own affections. On the contrary, she has no feeling that anything which happens within her
has relation to right and wrong at all, or that such a thing as responsibility exists.

“Coldly passionate” is an excellent summing up of Eustacia’s character. The critic has read carefully and
receptively. But he can’t accept that such people exist, or that if they do they should be put forward to us in
novels as deserving of our attention and sympathy. Various hints—“repent,” “responsibility”—suggest that he
thinks of life in moral terms, good and evil, and expects to see it represented in this way. He can’t get over the
fact that Hardy appears to move in a different world of feeling, a world in which Eustacia’s desire for intense

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living at all costs is natural and even endearing, entirely overriding moral concerns. Unable to respond
positively to this, the reviewer becomes prescriptive, appealing to traditional notions of what “tragedy” should
be and complaining that Hardy has got his formula wrong.

Can anything useful or enlightening be said about such misunderstandings or blind spots? Certainly, in the
case of Thomas Hardy, one can say it was fairly common to misunderstand him in this way, demanding a
morality that wasn’t there. “Has the common feeling of humanity against seduction, adultery and murder no
basis in the heart of things?” protested the reviewer Mowbray Morris against Tess of the D’Urbervilles. “Jude
the Obscene,” thundered another reviewer. Could it be then that we have an indication here that a writer is out
of line with the zeitgeist. Or in other cases, where everyone else gets a book—Ulysses—and you don’t, that
you’re out of line. You live in a different world.

Some years ago, reading a book of systemic psychology, I came across the idea of “the enigmatic episode.”
The idea is simple enough. Two people from quite different backgrounds meet and become involved in a
relationship. Attracted erotically perhaps, each fascinated by the other, they become good friends. Then
something occurs—meeting the other’s parents perhaps, participating in a political movement, contemplating
some particular sexual activity—that reveals to them that they have quite different outlooks on life. Not just
that they don’t agree, but that they don’t, as we say, understand where the other is coming from; the other
person’s position is inexplicable, perhaps threatening.

In her book Semantic Polarities and Psychopathologies in the Family, the Italian psychologist Valeria Ugazio
draws on two characters in Milan Kundera’s novel The Unbearable Lightness of Being to explain the idea:

[Franz and Sabina’s] relationship is marked from the very beginning by enigmatic episodes: Kundera calls
them “words misunderstood” and develops a short glossary of them…

Sabina asked Franz at a certain point: “Why don’t you sometimes use your strength on me?” Franz replied:
“Because love means relinquishing strength.” And Sabina realized two things: firstly, that Franz’s words were
noble and just; second, that with these words Franz disqualified himself in her eyes as a sexual partner.

Franz often told Sabina about his mother, perhaps with a sort of unconscious calculation. He imagined that
Sabina would be attracted by his capacity for faithfulness and thus would have been won over by him. Franz
did not know that Sabina was attracted by betrayal, and not by faithfulness.

When Sabina told him once about her walks in cemeteries, Franz shuddered with disgust. For him, cemeteries
were “bone and stone dumps,” but for her they provided the only nostalgic memory of her country of birth,

Franz admired Sabina’s homeland. When she told him about herself and her Czech friends, Franz heard the
words prison, persecution, tanks in the streets, emigration, posters and banned literature, and Sabina appeared
even more beautiful because behind her he could glimpse the painful drama of her country…. Sabina felt no
love for that drama. Prison, persecution, banned books, occupation and tanks were ugly words to her, devoid
of the slightest romantic intrigue.

For Franz and Sabina to go on being a couple beyond the first phase of intense erotic attraction, each will
have to open up and change, learn to see the world differently. But since, as Ugazio, points out, not everyone
is eager to step outside the positions they have grown up with, many relationships will founder on the hazards
of “words misunderstood.” So Franz and Sabina eventually break up. Yet that is not quite the end of the

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matter. After they have parted, Sabina begins to miss Franz. In the Montparnasse Cemetery she suddenly
finds herself able to see, perhaps even to feel, cemeteries the way Franz did. To understand where he was
coming from. Then she wishes she hadn’t been so impatient with him. The enigmatic episode has prompted a
moment of growth.

Is there an analogy with the way we read? Could the book that initially seems plain wrong to us be precisely
the one that allows us to understand something new about other people? Let’s suppose that when we begin a
novel, the invitation to share a story, to get close to a group of characters, works as an erotic charge. We are
drawn in. The opening pages of novels can be wonderfully seductive. “All happy families are alike; each
unhappy family is unhappy in its own way,” Tolstoy starts Anna Karenina. I’m not sure I really agree with
either side of this aphorism, but who could resist such a promising proposition? “It was a bright cold day in
April and the clocks were striking thirteen,” Orwell announces, introducing us to the world of 1984. How can
we not read on? “All children, except one, grow up,” opens Peter Pan. We want to know who that one is.
Giovanni Verga’s great story “Black Bread” has one of the most immediately engaging first sentences I
know: “No sooner did neighbour Nanni close his eyes, and the priest still there in his stole, than war broke out
between the children over who should pay the costs of the funeral, so that the priest was sent off with his
aspersorium under his arm.”

Once we have been hooked, then so long as the narrative moves along and intrigues us we won’t have too
much trouble dealing with things that don’t make sense to us. On the contrary, any early perplexities will
come across as exotic, part of the fascination. But eventually, with some novels at least, we will balk. After a
hundred or two hundred pages, we will start to feel that this just doesn’t add up. Early reviews of, but also
many more recent responses to, Lawrence’s Sons and Lovers offer an excellent example. As long as the novel
dwelled on Paul Morel’s fearful infancy, his growing up in the shadow of his parents’ violent conflict, readers
were sympathetic. But as the timid boy moves into adulthood many bailed out, as indeed I remember my
mother bailed out when I encouraged her to read the book.

“To our grief and our amazement,” wrote a reviewer in The Nation “the book suffers a sea-change, and not
into something rich and strange, but into something—the terms must, paradoxically, be used for all this
stretch of startling verbal frankness—thin and commonplace. As we feel this more and more decidedly, as we
revolt in weariness from the incessant scenes of sexual passion…”

One wonders if sometime later this reader grasped that Paul has identified the fear that characterized his
childhood, a fear that inhibits him in every way, above all sexually, as his primary enemy. He is determined to
overcome fear, determined to open up to life’s impulses rather than shrinking from them. So the second half
of Sons and Lovers is in a very obvious, even optimistic relation to the first.

So much is said about the “uses of literature,” which almost always have to do with our becoming more
liberal and compassionate in response to reading about injustice. I very much doubt whether our behavior
changes for the good in this way. All the same, by drawing us into visions that are quite different from and
alien to our own, novels may, even if we initially throw them down in disgust, open our eyes to different
worlds of feeling from our own. Many years later, on a third or fourth reading of Ulysses, since studying and
then teaching English literature kept forcing me back to it, I did eventually begin to sympathize with Leopold
Bloom. Where Stephen Dedalus simply “will not serve” and is eternally resentful of anyone who has claims
on him, always determined to come out on top, Bloom is more than happy to serve his wife, to cook her
breakfast and to pick up the books she drops on the floor, perhaps because he has an inner, intellectual life to
retreat to where he feels comfortable and at home. His is the pathos of the generous loser, the man determined
not to be resentful, and in this regard he is Stephen’s opposite. In the end it is precisely this generosity of
Bloom’s that keeps Molly saying yes to him even when attracted to others. And although this would never be

Infoteca’s E-Journal No. 418 november 2017
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my mode of operation, long mulling on the book got me to feel his was an authentic position—that there
really are people like this, and the character is not just an excuse for endless pages of poetic cerebration.

I remember similarly changing position on Nicholson Baker’s The Fermata (1994). When I initially reviewed
this story of a man who uses his magical ability to stop everyone else’s lives while he remains active merely
to undress pretty women and masturbate at the sight, it had seemed to me a rather embarrassing exercise in
literary erotica. But after being unkind to Baker in print, I gradually realized that what his novel was about
was the conflicting desires of wanting to live life to the full, to be utterly transgressive, yet at the same time
never to damage anyone, never to leave the slightest trace of oneself on others—to remain, that is, if not quite
pure, at least utterly innocuous. And this suddenly seemed interesting to me as a way of seeing fiction in
general, a vicarious, sometimes transgressive experience that does no damage.

Not that every novel we dislike will eventually prove instructive. Far from it. But where we find ourselves
confronted with complete enigma—Peter Stamm’s Seven Years(2010) was another novel whose characters
initially seemed to be behaving in ways that made no sense to me—it is perhaps worth giving the author the
benefit of the doubt, or coming back to the book after putting it down for a while. Certainly it was worth
going back to Stamm. For unlike the people we make our lives with, novels need not be threatening. They
will not bitch about our slowness to appreciate that they have quite other values than ours. And though we
may never be able to accept those values, it is fascinating, and useful, to appreciate that there are people who
move in quite different worlds of feeling from our own.

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Gunfighting in The Old West

Today's selection -- from

Cattle Kingdom by Christopher Knowlton.

Hollywood notwithstanding, there was not much gunfighting in the Old West:

"But it was no accident that [legendary lawman and showman] Wild Bill Hickok chose to carry a
sawed-off shotgun to defend himself after [a] shootout ... in Abilene. A shotgun was a much better
weapon than a revolver in a gunfight, and it easily surpassed the six-shooter as an aid to law
enforcement. The historian Lewis Atherton cited the case of perhaps the most successful law-
enforcement officer of the cattle era, Nathaniel K. Boswell, a former drugstore owner who served as a
sheriff in the Territory of Wyoming for a decade beginning in 1869, while doubling as deputy U.S.
marshal at Laramie. Boswell later became a long-serving chief detective for the Wyoming Stock
Growers Association.


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Butler "Wild Bill" Hickok and "His weapon of choice was a Parker or Remington
double-barrel shotgun, not a six-shooter. (The pump
shotgun was not introduced by Winchester until 1893.)
Boswell never engaged in reckless shootouts, choosing
instead to conceal himself before apprehending
culprits. Consequently, he never failed to make an
arrest and never let an arrested man escape.
Furthermore, he never received so much as a scratch
during his many years of service, earning a deserved
reputation for both bravery and resourcefulness. So
much for the image of the lawman as a daring
gunslinger! This myth, largely invented by the press,
later became a staple of the western, both on television
and in the movies. Most cattlemen who lived long
enough to watch these programs considered them
'highly unrealistic in their use of gun play.'

"In fact, most cowboys did not carry weapons at

all. If they did own an expensive six-shooter, it was
William F. "Buffalo Bill" Cody in 1873, likely the Colt Single-Action Army, introduced in 1873
dressed for the stage and known as 'the Peacemaker.' Its price -- a hundred
dollars per pair -- would have been a huge amount of
money for a cowboy. The cowboy who did own a
revolver usually kept it in his bedroll because a loaded
six-shooter worn around the waist was both
cumbersome and heavy when riding or walking. And most cowboys knew that wearing a six-shooter
in a cattle town was an invitation to gunplay; most preferred to avoid altercations. Cowboys tended to
settle a dispute with a fistfight. A revolver was best used to kill snakes, put wounded animals out of
their misery, or signal for help. As Leon Clare Metz wrote in The Encyclopedia of Lawmen, Outlaws,
and Gunfighters, 'The image of the ordinary Western cowboy as a fast and accurate gun-fighter has
practically no validity.' ...

"Some cowboys simply disliked guns. Surprisingly few ever saw actual gun violence in the towns
that they visited. Indeed, cowboys were highly motivated to stay out of trouble. If caught
committing a crime, they faced the most rudimentary and arbitrary forms of criminal justice. The
local justice of the peace or the police-court judge handled all minor cases, and these men were, as
likely as not, also the local saloonkeepers. District judges, who handled federal and state crimes,
from robberies and holdups to rapes and murder, served the larger territories. But these judges had to
travel vast distances to dispense justice, and they struggled to convene juries; an offender had no
guarantee of a timely trial, let alone a fair one. ...

"Life might be cheap in a cattle town, and the law only erratically enforced, but the towns were hardly

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deadly if you went about your business and took care to avoid trouble. In fact, no one was killed in
Abilene in 1869 or 1870. Ironically, no one died in a cattle-town gunfight until the arrival of the
sheriffs and marshals, who were hired to prevent such murderous acts. Even in Dodge City's worst
year, 1878, only five men died in gunfights. The historian Robert Dykstra counted only forty-five
homicides in all of the Kansas cattle towns during the cattle era, an annual average of 1.5 homicides.
Thirtynine were from shotguns, and only six from handguns. Of the forty-five victims who suffered
bullet wounds, less than a third returned fire. ...

"The eastern readers of dime novels would have been shocked to discover how little gunfighting
actually went on in the cattle towns."

To subscribe, please click here or text "nonfiction" to 22828.

Cattle Kingdom: The Hidden History of the Cowboy West

Author: Christopher Knowlton

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Copyright 2017 by Christopher Knowlton

Pages 53-56

If you wish to read further: Buy Now

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Plasticity in the macrophage activation states

Invited Researcher September 4, 2017

Author: Rosario Luque-Martín is pursuing a Ph.D. at the Department of Medical Biochemistry, Academic
Medical Center, University of Amsterdam (The Netherlands)

The immune system is composed of a considerable variety of cell types with different functions. One of the
most important cells involved in the innate immunity are the macrophages. These cells have a wide spectrum
of functions: from bacteria-killing function to wound healing properties. Classically the macrophages
according to their functions have been classified in M1 and M2. The M1 or classical activated
macrophages are related to defence function: Pro-inflammation and bacterial-killing functions carried out by
the production of oxygen and nitrogen reactive species, the phagocytosis and the activation of other players of
the immune system. The M2 are also known as alternatively activated macrophages and they have very
different functions from the M1. Oppositely to the M1, they have wound healing functions and reduction of
inflammation among other capacities. In order to activate a macrophage to each of these states different
stimulus could be used, either in vivo or in vitro. For M1 the cytokine IFNγ in combination with LPS (a part
of the bacterial wall) are needed. In the case of M2, the cytokines IL-4 and IL-13 are the signals used to
induce this phenotype.

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Figure 1.
Source: Zanluqui NG, Wowk PF, Pinge-Filho P (2015) Macrophage Polarization in Chagas Disease. J Clin
Cell Immunol 6:317. doi: 10.4172/2155-9899.1000317

The M1 and M2 states are not closed boxes, and the idea that the macrophages are dispersed in a scale of
greys from the more pro-inflammatory phenotype to the more anti-inflammatory phenotype is becoming the
more accurate way to define their state. Being this said, the use of M1 and M2 terms are used here to make
easier the explanation; understanding M1 as IFNγ+LPS activated macrophages and M2 as IL-4 activated

Even though the M1 macrophages are a really important defence in the immune system, these macrophages
are also connected to a variety of diseases like autoimmune diseases, chronic inflammation, atherosclerosis,
IBD (inflammatory bowel disease), etc. The M2 are also associated with diseases like cancer, where they are
associated with a tumour protecting it from the rest of the immune system. These diseases and their
association with different macrophages phenotypes are the reason why the capacity of changing this
activation states could be really interesting in the treatment of different diseases. Having this idea in mind our
group leaded by Professor Menno de Winther explored the possibility of changing an M1 activated
macrophage into an M2 activated macrophage in a study performed by the team of Jan Van den Bossche 1.

For the experiments done in this study of plasticity between the M1 and M2 states, macrophages received a
previous M1 stimulus (IFNγ+LPS) and then an M2 stimulus (IL-4), only an M2 stimulus (IL-4) or not
stimulus at all. To check if the macrophages pre-treated were able to change from M1 to M2, different genes
characteristic from M2 activated state were analysed, along with surface markers also associated with an M2
state. This idea was tested in vivo and in two in vitro models: bone marrow derived macrophages from mice
and human macrophages derived from monocytes isolated from peripheral blood.

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For both systems the results were similar. In mouse, the genes characteristic for M2 activation
(Cdh1, Cdh1,Chi3l3, Mrc1 and Retnla) have a lower expression in the “transformed” M1 to M2 macrophage.
In the human, the same results were found; The human genes characteristic for M2 macrophages
(CCL22, CCL24, CD200R, CD206, FCER2)were lower in the pre-treated with M1 stimulus M2 macrophages
than in the direct M2 macrophages, only treated with IL-4. A similar result was found again in the 2 species
for the surface markers, lower expression in the pre-treated M2 than in the direct M2 macrophage. Being
these markers for mouse CD71, CD206 and CD301, and CD23, CD200R and CD206 for humans. These same
results were found in the in vivo model for this study. These discoveries would mean that a full
transformation into an M2 macrophage is not possible if the macrophage has been stimulated towards M1
previously, meaning that these cells are not as plastic as it could be expected.

This affirmation, as normally happens in science, leads to another question: Why macrophages once they are
activated to M1 cannot change to M2? The answer is in the metabolism.

It is known that M1 and M2 macrophages have a different metabolism; basically, the paths that they used to
obtain energy from the nutrients that the cell receives are different.

The M1 or classical activated macrophages preferably perform aerobic glycolysis as the source of energy and
molecules for biosynthesis. They use glucose and throw the glycolysis they generated a high amount of
NADPH. This NADPH is a molecule that thanks to the enzyme NAPDH oxidases can be used in the
production of reactive oxygen species (ROS). As it was mentioned before the production of this ROS is
important in the defence-related functions of the M1 macrophages as the ROS kill bacteria. On the contrary,
the M2 macrophages don’t have a high range of consumption of glucose as their way to obtain energy and
molecules is based on fatty acid oxidation. As a summary is quite accurate to say that the M1 has a glycolytic
metabolism whereas M2 has a fatty acid oxidative one 2. In order to be able to change from one state to the
other macrophages should be able to reprogram the metabolism, an M1 should change to a more oxidative
metabolism and the M2 to a more glycolytic one.

Figure 2. Source: Luke A.J. O’Neill (2016) A Metabolic Roadblock in Inflammatory Macrophages Cell
Reportsdoi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2016.09.085

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The study of how the metabolism change in the model we used showed that the M2 macrophages have the
capacity to change from a more oxidative metabolism to a glycolytic one, what makes them a plastic cells in
terms of metabolism. This affirmation is not true for the M1, as they can’t change from a glycolytic to an
oxidative metabolism.

The main organelle needed to perform the metabolism of the fatty acid in the cells in the mitochondria. This
organelle produces energy through the respiratory chain formed by four complexes that transfer electrons by
redox reactions between them with the aim of obtaining energy in form of ATP molecules. After M1
polarization, the activity of the complexes II and I is suppressed and dampened in complexes II and IV, this
situation is not reversible which causes that the M1 can’t change to an M2 phenotype.

With this study, an insight into the importance of the metabolism in all the aspects of the study the human
body is shown.


1. Van den Bossche, Jan et al.(2016) Mitochondrial Dysfunction Prevents Repolarization of

Inflammatory Macrophages. Cell Reports doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2016.09.008 ↩

2. Timo Gaber, Cindy Strehl & Frank Buttgereit (2017) Metabolic regulation of inflammation. Nature
Reviews Rheumatology doi:10.1038/nrrheum.2017.37 ↩

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Immigrants were the backbone of the Revolutionary Army

Today's selection -- from Valiant Ambition by Nathaniel Philbrick. The American Revolutionary army, the
army that contested the British in the Battle of Brandywine and suffered through the bitter winter at Valley
Forge, was composed primarily of immigrants:

"By that winter, the famed 'Spirit of 1776' had long since passed. Now that the Revolution had become a long-
term war, most American males had decided to leave the job of fighting for their nation's liberty to others. A
quota system had been instituted by which each of the states was responsible for providing a designated
number of soldiers to the Continental army. In Connecticut, for example, the militiamen in a community were
divided into groups (known as squads) according to how much taxable property they owned, with each squad
responsible for providing a soldier to the army. A very rich person might have a squad of his own while three
less wealthy citizens might make up another squad. If, as was usually the case, no one in the squad was
willing to serve in the army, they hired a substitute, which was how [fifteen-year-old] Joseph Plumb Martin
ended up back in the army.

"As it turned out, Martin, having been born in America, was the exception. After the Battle of Brandywine, a
British officer listed the nationality of the rebel prisoners. If this list is any indication, most of the soldiers in
Washington's army had been born not in America but in England, Ireland, and Germany, with only 82 of the
315 prisoners (approximately 25 percent) listed as native born. This meant that while the vast majority of the
country's citizens stayed at home, the War for Independence was being waged, in large part, by newly arrived
immigrants. Those native-born Americans who by mid-1777 were serving in the army tended to be either
African Americans, Native Americans, or what one historian has called 'free white men on the move,' such as
Joseph Plumb Martin.

"They did not have the education and social standing of the zealous patriots who had served during the early
years of the Revolution, but they would become the battle-hardened backbone of the Continental army. They
would also earn their commander's unwavering respect and even affection. Like Washington, they were in
this war until the end.

"On December 18 Washington ordered his army to begin building 'soldiers' huts' in the hill-surrounded
hollow of Valley Forge. Just sixteen by fourteen feet, with log walls that were six feet high and with a single
wooden fireplace in the back, each structure was to house twelve men. But building accommodations was the
least of his army's problems. By the end of December, Washington had no way to feed his men. 'Unless some
great and capital change suddenly takes place,' he wrote, his army of approximately twelve thousand men
'must inevitably be reduced to one or other of these three things: starve, dissolve, or disperse.'

"Due, in large part, to the neglect of Congress (not to mention the apathetic performance of the outgoing
quartermaster, Thomas Mifflin), the army's support system had been allowed to collapse. The steady supply
of meat and other provisions that was to have flowed into Valley Forge on a daily basis had stopped almost
completely. Regiment after regiment took up the call of 'NO MEAT! NO MEAT!' as officers worried that
they might soon have a full-scale mutiny on their hands.

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"The needless suffering of the army at Valley Forge prompted Washington to address Congress with
uncharacteristic candor and emotion. 'I can assure those gentlemen,' he wrote to President Henry Laurens,
'that it is a much easier and less distressing thing to draw remonstrances in a comfortable room by a good
fireside than to occupy a cold bleak hill and sleep under frost and snow. ... Although they seem to have little
feeling for the naked and distressed soldier, I feel superabundantly for them, and from my soul pity those
miseries, which it is neither in my power to relieve or prevent.'"


author: Nathaniel Philbrick

title: Valiant Ambition: George Washington, Benedict Arnold, and the Fate of the American Revolution

publisher: Penguin Books

date: Copyright 2016 by Nathaniel Philbrick

pages: 187-190

All delanceyplace profits are donated to charity and support children’s literacy projects.

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The Hardening of Consciousness

Riccardo Manzotti and Tim Parks

Private Collection/Bridgeman Images/Artists Rights Society, New York

Jean Cocteau: The Ram, mid-twentieth century

How much of our current worldview, our social organization, our collective psychology, or simply our
attitude to life, depends on how we understand consciousness? The dominant view, which assumes that all our
conscious experience is an internal, largely concocted representation of an unknowable outside world,
underwrites a number of assumptions: perhaps most importantly, that the human subject is radically split from
the object, hence quite autonomous; and again that, unable to perceive the world “as it is,” we need science to
give us any solid facts we may have.

—Tim Parks

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Tim Parks: Riccardo, today I want to take time out from the further development of your hypothesis—that
conscious experience is identical with that part of reality that our bodies are able, as it were, to pick up—to
focus on the present state of the consciousness debate. In our last conversation, you accused the status quo of
being an orthodoxy that does not bear examination and that borders on a religious faith upheld by a collective
act of wishful thinking. Can you justify these accusations?

Riccardo Manzotti: To understand the present impasse in this debate, we’ll have to focus on the man who
more than any other has determined the way in which we think about consciousness for the last twenty years,
David Chalmers.

Parks: Okay: Australian philosopher, born 1966, presently at NYU, who in 1996 came out with the famous,
endlessly quoted definition of consciousness as “the hard problem.” I’d have thought you would be thanking
him for bringing the issue to the fore.

Manzotti: Perhaps. Though, as Galen Strawson has exhaustively shown in a fine article in the Times Literary
Supplement in 2015, consciousness was never not to the fore. What matters for us, though, is that in his
book The Conscious Mind: In Search of a Fundamental Theory (1997), Chalmers laid out the terms of the
consciousness debate in a way that simultaneously excited everyone while more or less guaranteeing that no
progress would be made.

Parks: Quite an achievement. To be honest, I can’t recall ever hearing anything negative about Chalmers’s
work. I had the impression that he was universally appreciated for his broad understanding of the issues and
commendably affable willingness to consider different approaches. Please tell us exactly what his position is.

Manzotti: I’m afraid that’s not something I or anyone else can easily do. There is no “exact” position, which
is precisely why he does not excite much criticism or real debate. Over the last twenty years Chalmers has
dabbled with panpsychism, dualism, emergentism, physicalism, Russellian monism, and even

Parks: That’s a lot of isms. But there must be something specific that you object to. You can’t complain if
someone offers an overview of various lines of thought.

Manzotti: Let me reply with a few words from the great philosopher Alfred North Whitehead: “When you are
criticizing the philosophy of an epoch, do not chiefly direct your attention to those intellectual positions,
which its exponents feel it necessary explicitly to defend. There will be some fundamental assumptions,
which adherents of all the variant systems within the epoch unconsciously presuppose. Such assumptions
appear so obvious that people do not know that they are assuming because no other way of putting things has
ever occurred to them.” Essentially, when Chalmers so dramatically announced “the hard problem,” insisting
that we had no solution to the question of consciousness, he simultaneously assumed that the constraints
governing any enquiry into it were already well defined and unassailable.

Parks: Well, there must be constraints, surely.

Manzotti: Of course. But when you’re making no progress it’s important to go back and examine them from
time to time. After that famous 1996 conference Chalmers was given huge credit by the intellectual
community. But instead of moving us forward, he has kept us in a stalemate.

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Parks: So what are these rules, assumptions, or constraints that Chalmers subscribes to?

Manzotti: I’ll name three, though they’re all connected.

1) Consciousness is invisible to scientific instrumentation; hence,

2) Consciousness is a special phenomenon governed by its own special laws; hence,
3) It will take a great deal of time and money to fathom these special laws, but if you trust us scientists we
will get there in the end.

Parks: Come on! Your third point can’t possibly be a part of a philosophical debate.

Manzotti: I didn’t say debate, I said assumptions. Point three is a consequence of points one and two and
extremely attractive to any scientific community on the lookout for funding.

Parks: So, within these constraints—an assumption of the invisibility of consciousness to scientific
instruments and its consequent special status in nature—and accepting that he has no “exact position,” what
are Chalmers’s crucial ideas?

Manzotti: The idea that conditions everything else is that we can and must distinguish between consciousness
and the physical world.

Parks: Please spell this out clearly. I feel we’ve arrived at something important.

Manzotti: Chalmers, and the status quo in general, split the world in two: consciousness is invisible to
observation and measurement, it is qualitative; the physical world, on the other hand (which includes the brain
itself), is measurable, observable, and quantitative. Chalmers called the invisible part the “phenomenal mind”
and the visible, or measurable, the “cognitive mind.”

Parks: I don’t quite get this. He’s split the world but both sides of the split are “mind”?

Manzotti: By the “phenomenal mind” he means our consciousness, our experience, our feelings, and so on.
By the cognitive mind he means our interaction with the world, the functional machinery of the brain. A ball
comes toward me and my hand reaches to catch it, for example. The brain does what it needs to. That’s
cognitive. But my awareness of the ball-catching experience, which is my conscious experience, is

Parks: Chalmers separated the two.

Manzotti: That was the central idea. Doing so, he made Thomas Nagel’s claim that it would be possible to
know every detail of the physical world while still not knowing what it is like to be conscious into a dogma.
The same divide has been echoed in one way or another by most philosophers and scientists. Ned Block
contrasted “access consciousness” with “phenomenal consciousness.” Stevan Harnad distinguished between
functioning and feeling. So, just as consciousness was placed in the spotlight, it was also removed from the
reach of science. Consciousness and cognition emerged as two separate fields of inquiry; you could happily
look at one while ignoring the other.

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Parks: Isn’t this pretty much the same divide made by Galileo and Descartes? I mean Galileo’s claim that
“tastes, smells, colors exist only in the sensitive body” while “quantities, numbers, and relations” exist in the
physical world.

Manzotti: Of course, and Chalmers on a number of occasions has espoused dualist positions, the idea that the
world is divided into separate “realms of reality.”

Parks: Example?

Manzotti: Well, in his 2014 TED Talk, which you can find online, he says: “Right now you have a movie
playing inside your head. It’s an amazing movie, with 3D, smell, taste, touch, a sense of body, pain, hunger,
emotions, memories, and a constant voice-over narrative. At the heart of this movie is you, experiencing this,
directly. This movie is your stream of consciousness, experience of the mind and the world.”

Parks: The world is going on in our heads, not out there.

Manzotti: Right. This is Cartesianism in modern terms. We even have a mysterious “you” watching the
movie, a sort of updated homunculus, the little guy inside enjoying the show.

Parks: Not exactly. He says, “at the heart of the movie is you, experiencing it directly.”

Manzotti: If you are experiencing the movie then you are separate from it, and the only way to experience
movies is to watch them. And what you are watching, notice, is not the world, but a film. This is Descartes’s
theater or Plato’s shadows in the cave all over again. But it’s hardly worth trying to nail Chalmers down on
this; there are no silver screens in the brain and no little folk lapping up the action. What matters is the
consequence of this approach: the philosopher is happy to have cordoned off a realm that scientists can’t
touch—consciousness. The scientist is happy that with consciousness removed from the scene he can do his
neuroscience without being obliged to find evidence for the philosopher’s claims. Meanwhile, the layman is
flattered by the notion of a mental inner world to which he alone has access, as if our every waking moment
wasn’t largely governed by the world our bodies move in. Everyone is happy, but no progress can be made.

Parks: Does Chalmers have no defense against your objections?

Manzotti: Originally, he put forward something he calls “the dual aspect theory of information.” According to
this view, information has a double nature (an idea that has been recently revamped by Giulio Tononi). On the
one hand, it is a sequence of bits without qualities, the on/off setting of elements arranged in sequences that
we’re all familiar with. On the other, it can metamorphose, in our brains, into colors, smells, sounds, feelings
and so on—the rich nature of our lives. So again he contrasts a causally effective realm that science can know
and a phenomenal mental realm it can’t.

Parks: So how does this double nature of information come about?

Manzotti: The theory doesn’t say.

Parks: There must be a hypothesis.

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Manzotti: The idea is that if you have enough bits, vast quantities of information, such as might be produced
by the 85 billion neurons in the brain with their trillions of connections, and if you organize them in a
particular way, then a critical point will be reached at which the transformation occurs: bits become qualia,
which is to say experience, colors, smells, and so on.

Parks: Why would that happen?

Manzotti: The theory doesn’t say.

Parks: I suppose the point is that our computers are filled with images and music that have rich qualities
created from bits. So why not our brains?

Manzotti: Tim, you disappoint me. We discussed this in an earlier dialogue. Computers are ingenious devices
that exploit electronic states to control other devices—screens and loudspeakers—that make images and
sounds. There are no images or sounds literally inside your computer, the way there are coins in your pocket.
Information does not exist as a physical substance. It is a word we use, a form of shorthand if you like, to
describe a process that allows a message to go from sender to receiver. However, in this theory, information,
understood as the multiplication and arrangement of bits, at a certain point metamorphoses into conscious

Parks: Rather as if information suddenly became a form of soul or self.

Manzotti: No comment.

Parks: What research is being done to verify this hypothesis?

Manzotti: The idea is to develop more and more complex computers with numbers and arrangements of
connections similar to those of the brain, until consciousness “emerges.” But no one will take the risk of
making a clear prediction that could be tested, so it’s hard to say at what point the approach could ever be
proved wrong. When nothing happens, you just keep adding more computing power.

Parks: Time and money… But what about the brain itself? I know that Chalmers has done a lot of work on the
philosophical aspects of the neural correlates of consciousness, the neural activity that corresponds to our
various experiences.

Manzotti: Sure. Underpinning the double aspect theory of information, we have the assumption, subscribed to
by many, that neurons “produce” consciousness.

Parks: Tell me more about this.

Manzotti: That’s it. There isn’t any more. It’s an assumption.

Parks: Oh, come on. The wonderful maps of the brain, the correlation between these particular neurons and
this particular aspect of experience. It’s a sophisticated enterprise.

Manzotti: No one has more admiration than myself for the extraordinary research done to explore the brain
and its immensely complex activities. Extremely sophisticated tools have been developed and used with great

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ingenuity and patience. However, the essential underlying idea here is simply that neurons
produce consciousness. It’s as crude as that. We are simply asking the brain to do what the soul once did. Of
course, what neuroscience has actually shown is how neurons consume chemicals, absorb other chemicals and
release them, produce and fire off electrical charges, and so on. In many situations such activities occur in
strict relation to certain experiences we have. But then, so do the activities of many other cells in the body.
And so do the external things we experience.

Parks: So advocates of this idea have no understanding as to why electricity and chemicals should have or
produce the qualities of experience?

Manzotti: None at all.

Parks: A dualist water-into-wine situation again.

Manzotti: Not exactly. Water is a real liquid, wine is a real liquid. You kind of figure there might be some
trick to do this. The relation between neuronal activity and, say, the sound of a violin seems a tougher
proposition altogether.

Parks: Essentially, then, in Chalmers’s framework consciousness remains a step beyond physical reality and
as a result awareness, selfhood, individual experience, whatever, are all quite separate from the world.

Manzotti: An ordinary man, uncontaminated by this debate, will very likely suppose that his experience is
part of the world, in that it is affected at every moment by the world—his body, the environment—and affects
the world in turn when he responds to it. But many scientists and philosophers have tried to show that in fact
consciousness is, as they say, epiphenomenal, meaning its presence or absence is immaterial to the physical
world and to what our body does.

Parks: I suppose that’s why philosophers came up with the conundrum they call “the philosophical zombie,”
the idea that there could be people, beings, who behave exactly as we do but lack consciousness. They
function, but they don’t feel.

Manzotti: Yes. Chalmers himself put the zombie at the center of the debate. Because once you accept that
such a thing is logically possible, you accept the split between experience and the physical world, which
become incommensurable. Consciousness isn’t necessary to describe human behavior nor can you get at it
from outside in any way, so no progress in understanding what it is can ever be made.

Parks: But if consciousness isn’t strictly necessary and doesn’t connect with the world, why would it have
developed, in evolutionary terms? Why would natural selection have taken us that way?

Manzotti: Quite.

Parks: As you said earlier, though, Chalmers has considered many other approaches.

Manzotti: He has been very open. Yet, just as when a writer establishes a powerful new style that others
follow, each with their different agendas, so the options Chalmers has considered – panpsychism, for
example, or Russellian monism – have all been drawn into the characteristic Chalmeresque zeitgeist.

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Parks: Can you, in closing, offer some summary of what is at stake here, some urgent reason why this debate
must be moved on?

Manzotti: Man has always liked to think of himself as being at the center of the universe, a special being. Any
science that suggests he isn’t has always been resisted, from Copernicus’s demonstration that the earth moved
around the sun, and on through all those discoveries that eroded Man’s claim to special status: evolution,
genetics, and so on. In declaring consciousness the “hard problem,” something extraordinary, and separating
it from the rest of the physical world, Chalmers and others cast the debate in an anti-Copernican frame,
preserving the notion that human consciousness exists in a special and, it is always implied, superior realm.
The collective hubris that derives from this is all too evident and damaging. We should get it straight once for
all: there are no hard problems in nature, only natural problems. And we are part of nature.

This post has been corrected. There are approximately 85 billion neurons in the human brain, not three billion.

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A Public Park in Taipei Welded From Recycled Light Posts

by Kate Sierzputowski on December 6, 2016

From the mass of Taipei’s urban waste comes the project “Swings Park,” a public playground area
constructed from dozens of unwanted lamp posts. The project is a collaboration between Taipei-based design
studio City Yeast and Spanish art collective Basurma, two groups that aim to produce experimental design as
positive activations for a city’s infrastructure and its residents. Fabricated in response to Design Capital 2016,
the project was one of six selected proposals from the contest whose mission is to provoke urban evolution
through public design.

The playground, located directly below one of the city’s busiest overpasses, is painted bright yellow—a way
to break from the monotony of the surrounding architecture. In addition to swings built at four different
heights, the structure also includes a multifunctional platform and two hammock-like nets, providing areas for
both activity and respite.

“Swings Park” will be kept in its current location through 2017. You can learn more about Design Capital
2016’s selected proposals on their website. (via designboom, Popup City)

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Lizard-bot spins its coiled tail to move easily through sand

Ready to go for a spin Darbois Texier, B. , Ibarra, A., & Melo, F. By Lakshmi Supriya

Why invent something you can borrow from nature? Creating the right motion for a robot to move well
through sand or snow is a tricky problem, but one that nature solved long ago. By borrowing from biology, a
new robot with a rotating coiled tail can move through loose powders at a good clip, making it useful
for search and rescue missions or exploration.

Many bacteria use rotation to help them move through gooey fluids, powered by propeller-like tails.
Similarly, seeds of some plants such as geraniums have a coiled appendage called an awn that helps push
them deeper into the soil.

Enthused by these natural approaches, Baptiste Darbois Texier and his colleagues at the University of
Santiago in Chile 3D-printed a plastic robot that can twist itself through granular substances. It is 12
centimetres long, with a hemispherical head and a helical tail. When moving, the head stays still as the tail

“Moving into granular media is made difficult because there is no cohesion between grains,” says Texier, just
like the wheels on your car rotate when stuck in sand without moving the vehicle forwards. The rotation of
the coil cuts through this fine material, reducing drag and enabling the robot to progress.

Robots like this could be used for activities such as collecting environmental information in areas that are
inaccessible to people – for example, in disaster zones, battlefields or space – says Wonjung Kim at Sogang
University in Seoul, South Korea, who studies helical locomotion in seed awns.

Journal reference: Physical Review Letters, DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.119.068003

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The Great Africanstein Novel

Namwali Serpell

Olivia Arthur/Magnum Photos

Amuria, Uganda, 2008

The title of Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi’s magisterial first novel, Kintu—first published in Kenya in 2014,
then in the US this year by the Oakland-based press Transit Books—is a Luganda word. Luganda is a Bantu
language spoken in Uganda; Bantu is a proto-language that just means people; there are languages derived
from it all across the African continent. In Zambia, where I’m from, we spell this word chinthu. In both

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countries, it is pronounced chin-two and it means “thing.” In ancient Buganda mythology, however, Kintu is
also the name of the first man, the equivalent to the Judeo-Christian Adam. The implications of this titular
oxymoron—a word that means both “thing” and “man”—begin to unfold in the opening pages of Makumbi’s

There’s a knock at the door. A woman opens it to four local officials, who rouse her man, Kamu, from sleep
and lead him outside for questioning. He assumes they’re there on behalf of a creditor but when they reach a
marketplace, they bind his hands. Kamu protests: “Why are you tying me like a thief?” A mob swirls into
being like a weather formation, the word thief flying “from here to there, first as a question then as a fact.”
Kicks and blows begin to rain down on him, from both the elderly and the young. Arrivals to the scene ask,
“‘Is it a thief?’ because Kamu had ceased to be human.” He tries to hold on to his humanity: “Kamu decided
he was dreaming. He was Kamu Kintu, human. It was them, bantu. Humans. He would wake up any minute.”
He does not.

The account of Kamu’s abrupt, arbitrary death on Monday, January 5, 2004, and the subsequent fate of his
corpse in the bureaucratic torpor of Kampala’s morgue, recurs in short fragments at the start of each of the
novel’s five sections, which tell the stories of other members of the scattered Kintu clan. First, we jump back
three centuries to its first generation, headed by Kintu Kidda, a ppookino, or governor, of the Buddu province
in the eighteenth-century Buganda Kingdom. In a moment of irritation, Kintu slaps his adopted son, a
Rwandan, and the boy falls down dead. His men bury the body improperly: “the grave was narrow and
shallow. They used a stick to measure Kalema’s length, but while the stick fit into the grave, Kalema did not.
They crammed him in.” In their haste, the men do not even realize that they have buried the boy beside
a burial shrub for dogs. The tragic repercussions of this desecration—“the curse was specific: mental illness,
sudden death, and suicide”—ripple across the centuries through the lives of Kintu’s descendants.

Like Charles Dickens or Gabriel García Márquez, Makumbi ranges widely across time and social strata; her
knowledge of Ugandan culture seems as precise as a historian’s. We meet Suubi Kintu, a young woman who
grows up in a compound, perpetually on the brink of starvation, but is eventually integrated into a middle-
class family. Kanani Kintu and his wife, Faisi, members of an evangelical group, the Awakened, bear a twin
son and daughter with an uncomfortably close relationship. Isaac Newton Kintu, the product of rape and
named for the last lesson his mother learned in school before she dropped out, gets trapped into marriage;
when his wife dies, seemingly of AIDS, he anguishes over whether to learn his own HIV status. Miisi Kintu, a
writer raised by colonial priests (the “white fathers”) and educated abroad, returns to a postcolonial Kampala
still feeling the aftershocks of dictatorship and the bush war of the early Eighties, which killed some of his
children. With its progression through generations and its cyclical returns to genetic inheritance—hay fever,
twins, madness—Kintu’s structure feels epic.

Kintu continually diverts us from this straightforward path of a curse and its aftermath, however, as well as
from our preconceptions about Africa. The polygamous eighteenth-century governor wants nothing more than
to be with the woman he loves; the Awakened couple experience their enviably passionate sex life as a
torment; the spiritual leader of a ritual cleansing is so “anglicized” that the assembled family members doubt
his efficacy. Social class is defined neither by strict stratification nor by upward mobility, but by extreme
volatility—economic fates rise and fall almost at random. Servant girls become educated women, sons of
professors come to live in slums.

Makumbi’s depiction of local culture also bears little resemblance to standard notions of African
“authenticity.” Her Uganda is an unabashed amalgam of Europe and Africa, in everything from cooking to
spiritual possession to mental health to sexual mores. As Makumbi said in an interview:

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We are both Europeanized and Ugandan. We speak both traditional languages and English. Someone goes to
church, but then will go to the traditional healer. Someone is a scientist but will have an intense spiritual life.
We have this saying in Uganda: “God help me, but I’m going to run as well.” We think two ways at once.

In the novel, Miisi conjures an image of African postcolonialism that captures this sensibility. He pictures the
black torso of the continent but stripped of its limbs, which have been replaced with European ones. “We
cannot go back to the operating table and ask for the African limbs,” he writes. “Africa must learn to walk on
European legs and work with European arms. As time goes by, children will be born with evolved bodies.”
Makumbi’s portmanteau for this Gothic image enacts the very grafting it describes: Africanstein.

Kintu cannot but be in some sense the story of a people, the Ganda, and a nation, Uganda. But its politics are
personal. Idi Amin and the bush wars emerge in conversation, in acts of mourning. The ins and outs of the
ancient Buganda Kingdom’s secessions and coups seem incidental to the personal tragedy of Kintu Kidda, his
wives, and their children. Makumbi has said that she intentionally skipped the nation’s colonial history: “The
almost complete lack of colonization was deliberate…. To me colonization was my grandfather’s quarrel.”
So, without the usual lenses of class, culture, and colonialism—without “Queen and Country,” so to speak—
how are we to read this “African” novel?

Yves Salmon

Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi, 2014

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Africa contains more countries, languages, ethnic groups, and genetic variation than any other continent. We
are united solely by our history of division. Yet African novelists are inevitably stuffed next to each other on
panels and bookshelves. We are asked bafflingly broad questions about “African literature,” “African
history,” and “African politics,” or lazy and predictable ones about poverty, disease, and war. It’s a gift, in
some ways. Who wouldn’t want to be compared to greats like Chinua Achebe and Wole Soyinka, rather than
the latest batch of contemporaries? Who wouldn’t want to feel relevant to real world issues? But it gets old.
“Africa is not a country,” we’ve become accustomed to saying. Our fictions are neither about the continent as
a whole, nor do they address only this limited set of Western stereotypes about it.

Oddly enough, despite all this generalizing and pigeonholing, African writers are rarely thought to speak to
the universal—in the philosophical sense rather than the platitudinous one. But if, as Makumbi noted at an
event in Brooklyn last June, the origin of the human species is probably East Africa, then why can’t Kampala
be the center of a profoundly universal inquiry? As its two-faced title—man/thing—suggests, Kintu does in
fact have a grand philosophical question in mind. The novel forces us to reckon over and again with what it
means to be kintu, to be man, or human. This question plays out across certain boundaries: between men and
women, between twins, between life and death, between “mankind” and “animalkind,” between good and
evil, between human and supernatural worlds, between foreigners and family, and, of course, between humans
and objects.

In the part of the novel set in the Buganda Kingdom, gender is the most significant boundary. Kintu Kidda
struggles with the demands placed on him as “seed dispenser” to dozens of wives across his province: “He
knew the snare of being a man. Society heaped such expectations on manhood that in a bid to live up to them
some men snapped.” In a hilarious scene, elders gather to offer advice to a groom about how to be a man in
bed: how to recognize “false noises,” how to interpret your wife’s restlessness, how many times a night
you’re to satisfy her. This eighteenth-century section of the novel is the frankest about sex, including non-
heterosexual sexuality—a cannily oblique critique of the recent spate of laws against homosexuality across
Africa, justified by the erroneous notion that colonialism brought it here. In Kintu, when a king murders a
bisexual warrior, it’s due to envy of his prowess: “The fact that he was a warrior who made both men and
women groan beneath him had propped Ssentalo’s manliness to unprecedented heights.” Another gender-
bending character, Gitta, is described as a “pugilistic bride… whose feet grasped the earth like a man’s.”

These questions of identity are set alongside other questions of what constitutes a manin the broader sense of
a person: “Tradition claimed that identical twins were one soul who, failing to resolve the primal conflict in
the self, split—and two people were born.” The older twin is seen as the original, the younger as a copy, but
they’re perceived as a single entity. This model of personhood has social repercussions when Kintu prefers a
younger twin and initially refuses to marry her sister. “They’re one person,” their parents protest in perplexity.
He marries both but when one wife commits suicide, Kintu is so distraught that he asks her sister if they
switched places:

“I mean, who, which one of you twins was buried?”

“Your wife.”

“I know, but which one?”

Centuries later, Kintu’s descendant, Suubi, faces a similar confusion about herself. She keeps seeing a woman
who looks exactly like her, and who even wears an old dress Suubi discarded. She eventually learns that her
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Suubi’s sense of herself, but her sense of being alive at all, especially after she has a near-fatal brush with

Death is always around the corner in this novel. Isaac Newton lives in an HIV-status limbo—“We’re all
dead,” his friend tells him. “It’s a question of who goes first.” A boy grows so used to seeing corpses during
the war that he sees them as ants: “You swept away the ones that were killed the day before and still others
came out the following day.” A life in poverty can also bring humans close to the condition of beasts. Suubi
compares herself to a stray cat and develops such thick calluses from walking barefoot that rats nibble the
dead skin off her feet at night. This animality lurks within, as in the case of the Awakened couple trying to
keep their lust at bay: “Sex was the one act during which the human in humanity was erased and man became

What makes a man is an ethical question, too. The opening scene of Kamu’s death as an “it, a thief” is in
effect a moral meditation: “Is a human slayable just like that?… People are not human anymore and all the
buntu is gone.” When Kintu Kidda visits the seat of the Buganda empire, the king, Kyabaggu, has just killed
his brother to steal the crown; in contrast to that brutal act, Kintu notes, “on this occasion, Kyabaggu was
human.” Humanity is also a question of what philosophers call the problem of “moral luck”: Why do bad
things happen to good people? Why are bad people sometimes rewarded? This is a version of the old spiritual
crux of original sin.

Makumbi’s one revision to the originary myth of the Ganda is that the curse comes from the first man, not the
first woman. But the novel’s Adamic figure, Kintu Kidda, is not a bad man, nor even a fatally flawed one—he
is neither overreactive nor prone to striking the weak. No woman or creature tempts him to evil. While
Kintu’s act of violence is foreshadowed and consequential, it is essentially an accident. His friend tries to
reassure him: “Journeying is like that. Some are allowed, some are not. We all slap our children. They don’t
drop dead.”

But notions of causality are continually upended in this way in Kintu. A man squeezes a pimple and dies days
later; a man indignantly says thief and a mob kills him in the street; a girl follows a man into the bush and
later discovers an unaccountable scar scooped out of her thigh. Makumbi’s prose registers these chance and
supernatural events with an uncanny matter-of-factness:

That night Kalema returned. He was much younger though. He stood shy, at a distance, his thumb in his
mouth. His cloth had faded.

“You’re dead,” Kintu rebuked. “What have you come back for?”

Here we see Makumbi probing at the borders between life and death, human and supernatural worlds, but also
between sanity and madness. Later, we encounter Miisi’s prophetic visions—“A man stands above him. Miisi
feels imposed upon because he cannot see past the man. The man is covered with bees”—and too-lucid
childhood memories before we learn that he himself is skeptical of their veracity.

Miisi, whose sons teasingly call him muzungu (the Bantu word for “white man”), continually tries to
reconcile his life in Uganda with the “cerebral knowledge” he picked up from his education in Russia and
England. He only feels “one with himself” when he wears his traditional floor-length tunic: “A kanzu made
him feel authentic: African, Ganda, a muntu.” Muntu is another word for “person”—it is the singular
of bantu, people—but the word bears a derogatory postcolonial trace. It means, more precisely, “black man.”
As Makumbi has noted, the myth of Kintu resonates with the biblical story of Ham, whose skin was allegedly

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stained black as a punishment. It is doubly fitting that Miisi is obsessed with his own shadow, which “squat[s]
beside” him or “spr[ings] up” like “a giant.”

These manifold tensions about what constitutes a human explode in the novel’s climax: the Kintu clan’s ritual
cleansing held over Easter weekend, which aligns beliefs common to both Buganda spirituality and
evangelical Christianity, like speaking in tongues and blood sacrifice. During the ceremony, a woman is
possessed by a spirit: “she did not own her body anymore.” She spins violently on the ground, breaking
fingers and wrist bones; the spiritual medium falls to the ground with no pulse, but his assistant “cannot say
he’s dead.”

Miisi completely loses his grip on reality and starts wearing a Western-style waistcoat and coat over
his kanzu. In his dishevelment, he comes to resemble his ancestor with that strange thing/person name, Kintu.
Miisi becomes a man “floating in two worlds.” Which two worlds? Boyhood and manhood, past and
present, muntu and muzungu, Europe and Africa? “I know who I am,” Miisi tells his daughter, “We are not
even Hamites. We are Bantu.” But she thinks, “He is now a different person.” In the end, he is riven by his
divisions, “in the middle world between sanity and insanity.”

To survive being human, Kintu suggests, is to hold all these divisions together, gently, to “just be.” This
argument about personhood is radical because it rejects a long philosophical tradition of considering
“humanity” as a matter of self-containment and integrity, of what the human excludes. It is also radical
because Makumbi centers this argument in Uganda. But what better place, with its arbitrarily sketched
borders, its pliable myths and cultures, its originary status—cradle of the first human/thing—to stage an
interrogation of personhood? As Makumbi has remarked in passing about living as an immigrant in the UK:
“Out here you are Ugandan. At home you are just human.”

Kintu by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi was recently published in the US by Transit Books.

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Innovative New Playscape Designs by MONSTRUM Appear in Playgrounds Around the World

by Christopher Jobson on August 29, 2017

For the last several years, Danish design firm MONSTRUM (previously) has constructed wildly imaginative
playscape features for playgrounds around the world with an intense focus on both artistic and architectural
quality. The playgrounds are designed and built locally in their large studio just outside Copenhagen and then
shipped in components to sites around Denmark, Sweden, Russia, and even Dubai. The design studio has a
strong background in theatrical set design which lends itself to their thematic playscapes, one of our recent
favorites being the “Justin Beiver” playround in Partille, Sweden. Collected here is a sampling of designs
from the last few years, but you can see more on their website.

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Famous 600-Year-Old Nova Pinpointed in Modern Day

By Charles Q. Choi, Contributor | August 30, 2017 01:00pm ET

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Today, the nova that lit skies on March 11, 1437, shows an ejected shell of hot hydrogen gas. This image was
taken with the Carnegie Swope 1-meter telescope in Chile. The star that incited the nova is indicated with red
tick marks; it's off-center today, but was located at the red plus mark back in 1437, researchers said.

Credit: K. Ilkiewicz/J. Mikolajewska

After decades of hunting, astronomers have tracked down the origin of a nova first recorded by Korean royal
astrologers nearly 600 years ago.

This finding is the oldest-known example of such a stellar explosion with an accurately pinpointed location,
the new study's researchers said, and it could help shed light on the nature of novas, and on the way that about
three-quarters of all stars evolve.

On March 11, 1437, Korean astronomers detected what seemed like a bright new star in the night sky. As
recorded in the "Veritable Records of the Reign of King Sejong," a detailed chronicle of the reign of a king
who ruled Korea from 1418 to 1464, the explosion lay close to a star in what is now thought of as the tail
of the constellation Scorpius. The outburst, now known as Nova Scorpii AD 1437, was seen for 14 days
before vanishing. [Know Your Novas: Star Explosions Explained (Infographic)]

The study's researchers sought to find out what the nova looks like now — but to do that, they needed to
pinpoint its location in the modern sky.

"I've spent more than 30 years hunting it," said study lead author Michael Shara, curator in charge of
astrophysics at the American Museum of Natural History in New York.

How is a supernova different from a hypernova? Learn about the different types of exploding stars that
astronomers have identified in this infographic.

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Credit: by Karl Tate, Infographics artist

The details of the star explosion suggested it was a classical nova — a nuclear explosion that happens in
binary star systems. "Roughly 75 percent of all stars are in binary star systems," Shara told

In a classical nova, one member of the binary is a white dwarf — a superdense, Earth-size core of a dead
star that is left behind after its star has exhausted all its fuel and shed its outer layers. The sun and most sun-
like stars will one day become white dwarfs.

The nova occurs after a white dwarf siphons too much fuel from its companion star, which eventually leads to
a nuclear detonation.

Much remains a mystery about the aftermath of novas. Novas leave their stars intact, unlike more powerful
supernovas. And once a cataclysmic variable — the duo of white dwarf and companion star — goes nova,
more novas can theoretically explode there in the future. However, a great deal is unknown about how
cataclysmic variables act between nova events, and the researchers knew that finding the modern-day trace of
a past nova could help shed light on the structures' life cycle.

When the researchers first looked about three decades ago where the records seemed to say the nova was, they
could not find it: "It turns out we were looking in the wrong place," Shara said. "When it comes to analyzing
ancient records, it can be a challenge interpreting them correctly."

"None of the ancient records we looked at gave the stars in the constellation names or numbers," Shara added.
"We initially thought the nova was supposed to be located between two certain stars in the constellation, when
the nova was actually the next two stars over. When we relaxed our criteria as to where to look in the
constellation, we found the nova in 90 minutes."

In the new study, the scientists analyzed data recently collected by the Southern African Large Telescope and
the Las Campanas Observatory's Swope and du Pont telescopes. They also examined digital versions
of photographic plates from Harvard archives that captured more than a century's worth of images of the sky.

The researchers discovered a shell of debris likely left behind by a nova in the constellation Scorpius. When
they calculated the motions of stars in that area, they discovered a binary system that was in exactly the right
position to create that shell nearly 600 years ago.

Though they look serene and silent from our vantage on Earth, stars are actually roiling balls of violent
plasma. Test your stellar smarts with this quiz.

The archival photographic plates also revealed that in the 1930s and 1940s, this binary system gave off brief,
smaller, dimmer eruptions known as dwarf novas. These findings support an idea that Shara and his
colleagues proposed about 30 years ago — that binary systems that give off classical novas also give off
dwarf novas, and are not separate entities, as some had previously suggested, Shara said.

"The analogy I use here is that of a caterpillar and a butterfly," Shara said. "If humans only lived a few days,
it's not clear we'd unravel the fact that caterpillars and butterflies are the same creatures — we'd need to live
much longer. In much the same way, the time scale to go from a classical nova to a dwarf nova looks to be
somewhere between two and five centuries."

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"We think an old nova and a dwarf nova are basically the same system, just seen at different stages of
development," Shara said. "By understanding classical novae and dwarf novae, hopefully we'll get a better
understanding of binary stars, which make up most stars in the universe."

Future research can investigate other novas recorded in antiquity to learn more about their evolution, Shara
said. "We'd want to find at least a half-dozen novas to enable us to say with greater certainty if all old novae
become dwarf novae," he said.

The scientists detailed their findings in the Aug. 31 issue of the journal Nature.

Follow Charles Q. Choi on Twitter @cqchoi.

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Indonesia & China: The Sea Between

Philip Bowring

Kenzaburo Fukuhara-Pool/Getty Images

Indonesian President Joko Widodo and Chinese President Xi Jinping, Yanqi Lake, China, May 15, 2017

Indonesia has long been cautious in confronting China’s claims in the South China Sea, so its announcement
on July 14 that it was renaming a part of the area the “North Natuna Sea” may have come to many as surprise.
The new name encompasses a region north of the Natuna islands that partly falls within the infamous “nine
dash line,” by which China claims the sea stretching fifteen hundred miles from its mainland coast almost to
the shores of Malaysia, the Philippines, Brunei, Vietnam, and Indonesia. China immediately demanded a
retraction—which it will not get.

The naming was a reminder of how seriously Indonesia treats its position as the seat of ancient trading
empires and location of some of the world’s strategically most important straits—Melaka, Sunda, Lombok,
and Makassar. Since he was elected in 2014, President Joko Widodo has made maritime issues central to
Indonesia’s foreign policy, building up its navy, arresting dozens of foreign ships caught fishing illegally, and
taking a quiet but firm stand on sea rights. Although not a populist vote-winner, the policy is generally
approved, particularly by the military, which since the war of independence against the Dutch has seen itself
as the guardian of the integrity of the nation and its internationally recognized status.

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The naming also came shortly before the sixtieth anniversary of a pronouncement that has had a profound
impact on the whole world. On December 13, 1957, the Indonesian government unilaterally declared that it
was an “archipelagic state,” claiming sovereignty over all the waters within straight baselines between its
thousands of far-flung islands. Though the young republic was in no position to enforce it, this was a
revolutionary move: at the time, Western powers asserted that territorial seas were limited to three miles, and
that otherwise foreign ships, military included, had complete freedom of movement.

Mike King

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Twenty-five years of international negotiation followed, culminating in the 1982 United Nations Convention
on Law of the Sea, defining rights and obligations relating to sea boundaries and resources, and rights of
“innocent passage”—not endangering the security of the coastal state—through straits and internal and
territorial seas. It accepted the archipelagic state principle, and made twelve-mile territorial seas and two-
hundred-mile “exclusive economic zones,” or EEZs—which give exclusive rights for fishing and exploitation
of seabed resources—the global norm. (The United States in practice accepts the Convention, as clarified by a
subsequent 1994 agreement, but has never ratified it.)

Although Indonesia has no island disputes with China, its stance on the Natuna waters allies it with the other
littoral nations in facing up to China (though the Philippines under President Duterte currently appears to
prefer Chinese money to sovereignty over its seas). Last year, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The
Hague applied the Convention to rule decisively for the Philippines in its claim against Chinese actions within
its EEZ, including driving out Philippine fishing boats, and building structures on rocks and shoals that did
not have the status of islands. In doing so, the court rejected China’s claims to the whole sea and by
implication the waters of North Natuna.

Do not imagine that the term “South China Sea” ever implied Chinese ownership. It is a Western construction
that dates to about 1900. Previously, European maps referred to it as the China Sea, and before that as part of
the Indian Sea. When the Portuguese arrived there in the early sixteenth century they called it the Cham Sea,
after the maritime kingdom of coastal Vietnam. Other names at various times include Luzon Sea and (by early
Arab traders) the Clove Sea. To China it has long been the South Sea and to Vietnamese the East Sea. The
Philippines now refers to it as the West Philippine Sea.

“Malay seas” is another term that has been applied to it and its immediate neighbors, the Java, Sulu, and
Banda seas. The South China Sea itself is predominantly a Malay sea, as defined by the culture and language
group of the majority of people living along its shores. Until European imperialism from the sixteenth century
onward gradually snuffed out these trade-based kingdoms and sultanates, they were the region’s principal

Earlier, the Sumatra-based Srivijaya kingdom held similar sway through its control of the Melaka straits and
hence all seaborne trade between China and the Spice Islands with India, Arabia, and beyond. It was during
this era that ships from the archipelago brought the first colonists to Madagascar, leaving a language and
genetic imprint that remains to this day. They also traded across the Indian ocean to Africa and Yemen.

The first Romans known to have visited China did so by sea via India and the Malay peninsula. Trade spread
Buddhism to Sumatra and Java, where by the fifth century it was flourishing to such an extent that Srivijaya
attracted Chinese monks, who then traveled on to Sri Lanka and India. Chinese traders occasionally visited
countries to the south, but did so on “barbarian” ships based out of Champa, Funan (in the Mekong delta),
Java, Borneo, or Sumatra. Some of these ships were fifty meters long and capable of carrying five hundred
people, according to contemporary Chinese sources.

Trade with China boomed during the seventh through tenth-century Tang dynasty, an era of peace and
progress. As Chinese were barred from going overseas, trade brought large numbers of Indian, Malay,
Persian, and Arab merchants to settle in the southern Chinese ports Guangzhou and Quanzhou, and prosperity
to the ports of Sumatra, Java, and the Malay peninsula.

It was not until the Southern Song era, when northern China was under Central Asian rule, that Chinese began
to participate directly in the trade, and even then it was often not in their own ships. The Yuan dynasty that
followed further relaxed restrictions on Chinese participation in trade, but also invaded Java when the King of

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Singasari in east Java refused to pay tribute to the emperor Kublai Khan. The invasion was a disaster. What
Kublai wanted was political submission that went beyond the so-called “tribute” missions sent by trading
states to the imperial court. Contrary to what is often assumed, these missions mostly had no political
implications. They were most frequent at a time when port rivalries were most intense. Tribute was a payment
to receive preference for trading in China, and it also applied in reverse: Chinese traders visiting the
Philippines had to bring gifts for local chiefs in order to be allowed to trade.

Kublai’s imperial ambitions were partly taken up by the Ming dynasty with the despatch between 1405 and
1433 of seven huge fleets under Muslim eunuch Zheng He to demonstrate Chinese power throughout the
southern and western seas, demanding local rulers acknowledge the supremacy of the emperor. But the
voyages had scant strategic value and were too costly to be sustained. Nor did they contribute much to the
development of China’s trade. By then, small settlements of Chinese traders could be found in Java and
Sumatra ports, some as a result of purges of Muslims in Quanzhou, but they were still only minor players
when, a mere eighty years after the last Zheng He voyage, the Portuguese arrived to conquer Melaka, the
Malay Muslim city which was the leading entrepôt of the region.

This was to be the start of more than four centuries of European influence, with Spain, the Netherlands,
Britain, and the US following the Portuguese and in time converting commercial presence in the region into
economic dominance and political control. The Dutch in Batavia (Jakarta) took trade way from Java’s other
ports. Makassar, a beacon of free trade and religious tolerance, was also subdued by the Dutch. After the
British took control of Singapore in 1824 and opened it to all comers, the ports of Sumatra and the
peninsula—Aceh, Palembang, etc.—slowly faded until almost obliterated.

The role of overseas Chinese in regional trade grew steadily as colonial cities such as Batavia, Manila, and
then Singapore offered opportunities for engagement in the local economy as well as regional trade. Then the
mining and plantation booms of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries attracted hundreds of thousands
of Chinese migrants, who formed their own trading networks around the region. Meanwhile, the biggest
businesses of all were Western-owned. Thus by the time of independence after 1945, the once trade-based
states of the region saw their commerce in alien hands.

None of this was the doing of China itself. It was the work of enterprising Chinese leaving an overcrowded
country. At no point since Zheng He had a Chinese government been actively involved in the seas that it now
claims on the basis of history. Any actions it takes now to press those claims against its neighbors have the
potential to arouse communal feeling, never far below the surface, against commercially dominant ethnic
Chinese communities in those countries. The naming of North Natuna is a sign that the world’s largest
archipelagic state will stand firm, encouraging the Philippines and Malaysia to do likewise, until China’s bout
of arrogance abates and it can treat its 400 million maritime neighbors as equals, acknowledging their
seafaring and trading history.

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Accumulation: A Dramatic Concentric Tunnel of Light Patterns by Yang Minha

by Christopher Jobson on September 4, 2017

New media artist Yang Minha recently completed work on this dizzying light tunnel installed outside the
main gate of Le Méridien Seoul in South Korea. Titled Accumulation, the piece is comprised of rotating
square panels that display an ongoing sequence of 6 geometric patterns based on six concepts: rise, flow,
accumulation, dimension, light, and overlap. You can see more of Minha’s digital work on his website.
(via Prosthetic Knowledge)

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Doubts raised about CRISPR gene-editing study in human embryos

Alternative explanations challenge whether technique actually fixed a genetic mutation as claimed.

 Ewen Callaway

H. Ma et al./Nature

Eight-cell human embryos from an August study that reported success in using CRISPR to remove a deadly

Doubts have surfaced about a landmark paper claiming that human embryos were cleared of a deadly
mutation using genome editing. In an article1 posted to the bioRxiv preprint server on 28 August, a team of
prominent stem-cell scientists and geneticists question whether the mutation was actually fixed.

The 2 August Nature paper2, led by reproductive biologist Shoukhrat Mitalipov at the Oregon Health and
Science University in Portland, described experiments in dozens of embryos to correct a mutation that causes
a heart condition called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.

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In contrast to previous human-embryo editing studies, Mitalipov’s team reported a high success rate at
correcting a disease-causing mutation in a gene. The team claimed that the CRISPR–Cas9 genome editing
tool was able to replace a mutant version of the MYBPC3 gene carried by sperm with a normal copy from the
egg cell, yielding an embryo with two normal copies. Mitalipov’s team also introduced a healthy version of
the gene along with the CRISPR machinery, but they found that the corrected embryos had shunned it for the
maternal version.

But there is reason to doubt whether this really occurred, reports a team led by Dieter Egli, a stem-cell
scientist at Columbia University in New York City, and Maria Jasin, a developmental biologist at Memorial
Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. George Church, a geneticist at Harvard Medical School in
Boston, Massachusetts, is another co-author.

In their bioRxiv paper, Egli and Jasin and their co-authors say that there is no plausible biological mechanism
to explain how a genetic mutation in sperm could be corrected based on the egg’s version of the gene. More
likely, they say, Mitalipov’s team failed to actually fix the mutation and were misled into thinking they had by
using an inadequate genetics assay. Egli and Jasin declined to comment because they say they have submitted
their article to Nature.

“The critique levelled by Egli et al. offers no new results but instead relies on alternative explanations of our
results based on pure speculation,” Mitalipov said in a statement.

Shared concerns

But other scientists contacted by Nature's news team shared the Egli team's concerns. (Nature’s news team is
editorially independent of its journal team.) Reproductive biologist Anthony Perry at the University of Bath,
UK, says that after fertilization, the genomes of the egg and sperm reside at opposite ends of the egg cell, and
each is enshrouded in a membrane for several hours. This fact, Perry says, would make it difficult for
CRISPR-Cas9 to fix the sperm’s mutation based on the egg’s version of the gene, using a process called
homologous recombination. “It’s very difficult to conceive how recombination can occur between parental
genomes across these huge cellular distances,” he says.

Egli and Jasin raise that issue in their paper. They suggest that Mitalipov’s team was misled into believing
that they had corrected the mutation by relying on a genetic assay that was unable to detect a far likelier
outcome of the genome-editing experiment: that CRISPR had instead introduced a large deletion in the
paternal gene that was not picked up by their genetic assay. The Cas9 enzyme breaks DNA strands, and cells
can attempt to repair the damage by haphazardly stitching the genome together, often resulting in missing or
extra DNA letters.

That explanation makes sense, says Gaétan Burgio, a geneticist at the Australian National University in
Canberra. “In my view Egli et al. convincingly provided a series of compelling arguments explaining that the
correction of the deleterious mutation by self repair is unlikely to have occurred.”

Another possibility Egli’s team raise is that the embryos were produced without a genetic contribution from
sperm, a process known as parthenogenesis. Mitalipov’s team showed that the paternal genome was present in
only 2 out of the 6 embryonic stem cell lines they made from gene-edited embryos.

Robin Lovell-Badge, a developmental biologist at the Francis Crick Institute in London, says that it is
possible that there is a “novel or unsuspected” biological mechanism at work in the very early human embryo

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that could explain how Mitalipov’s team corrected the embryos’ genomes in the manner claimed. He would
first like to hear from Mitalipov before passing judgement. “It simply says that we need to know more, not
that the work is unimportant,” Lovell-Badge says of Egli and Jasin’s paper.

In the statement, Mitalipov’s said his team stands by their results. “We will respond to their critiques point by
point in the form of a formal peer-reviewed response in a matter of weeks.”




1. Egli, D. et al. Preprint at (2017).

Show context

2. Ma, H. et al. Nature 548, 413–419 (2017).

Show context

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Beloved & Condemned: A Cartoonist in Nazi Germany

Elke Schulze

E. O. Plauen/New York Review Comics

Erich Ohser became internationally famous for his comic strips in the
1930s, but the carefree world of his Father and Son gives little hint of
the fate that would be suffered by its creator. After Ohser was driven to
take his own life, his friend Erich Kästner wrote: “We’re going to mourn
him by celebrating his drawings.” Ohser was a passionate graphic artist
whose versatile talent spanned many techniques: pencil, India ink,
writing ink, watercolor, and colored pencil. Alongside his journalistic
cartoons and illustrations, a large body of work ranges from freehand
portraits and landscapes to nudes and studies of people observed in

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E. O. Plauen, circa 1930s

Born in Vogtland in 1903, he spent his childhood and youth in the newly
prosperous industrial town of Plauen. Here, following his father’s
wishes, he studied to be a locksmith; for the rest of his life he would
recall this period as drudgery. The town paid particular attention to the
cultivation and advancement of drawing—this specialty was related to
the international success of “Plauen lace,” a brand name covering a
range of openwork textiles. Ohser’s talent was recognized early;
encouraged by his teachers, he made the move to Leipzig in 1920, and
soon became a confident and successful student. He was awarded a
scholarship and had his first one-man show in Plauen.

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He was tall, heavy-set, and hard of hearing. Those close to him

described him as humorous, awkward, curmudgeonly. The author Hans
Fallada speaks of “an elephant who could walk a tightrope.”

In Leipzig Ohser met the writer Erich Kästner, and a productive

friendship and collaboration developed between them. They achieved
their first joint success while Ohser was still in art school at the well-
respected Akademie für graphische Künste und Buchgewerbe, and
Kästner was establishing himself as a newspaper wit. Even as a student
Ohser gained recognition as a book illustrator and newspaper cartoonist.
He contributed drawings to Kästner’s articles and books: three of
Kästner’s early poetry collections appeared with illustrations and cover
designs by Ohser.

Ohser also met the newspaper editor Erich Knauf, who published both
Kästner’s writings and Ohser’s drawings. As an influential journalist
and poet, Knauf became a formative voice in the Weimar Republic.
Erich Ohser, Erich Kästner, and Erich Knauf were united in their world
view and in their aesthetic convictions.

All three preferred economy of form and brevity of wit. Their eye was
radically modern and unsentimental, with a severely analytical
perspective on the contemporary—expressed graphically in Ohser’s
case. At the Leipziger Akademie, Ohser had experimented with all the
genres and techniques of drawing. He soon developed a signature style,
which varied with the subject: from the emphatically artless, scratchy
line of his caricatures and illustrations to his more ingratiating cartoons
and comics, from the color of a few exploratory drawings to the rigorous
black-and-white of his unbound sheets.

Following their initial successes, the “three Erichs” relocated to Berlin at

the end of the 1920s. If Leipzig was a literary town, Berlin was a
newspaper town, and it became their stage and artistic home—for Knauf
and Ohser it would be the last. Knauf’s great panache and fresh ideas as
the new editor of the publishing house Büchergilde Gutenberg led to its
flowering; Ohser became an important cartoonist and illustrator for him.
Ohser’s illustrations for the popular Russian humorist and satirist
Mikhail Zoshchenko’s Die Stiefel des Zaren (The Czar’s Boots) in 1930
were received with particular enthusiasm.

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Caricature by E. O. Plauen from Vortwärts, 1932

Ohser had studied the great traditions of European graphics and

caricature. Adapting these inspirations to his own style, he earned a
reputation as a caricaturist long before the artistic and political
upheavals of his time created the necessity for his pen name, E. O.
Plauen. An alert observer, he was bitingly critical of the excesses of
political extremism in the Weimar Republic. Kästner’s fourth volume of
poetry, Gesang zwischen den Stühlen (Song Between Two Stools),

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appeared in 1932 with Ohser’s design, and caused a nationwide

sensation, as the previous books had done.

Ohser was particularly aggressive in using his skills as an artist against

the emerging National Socialists. In his drawings he exposed the
megalomania of Hitler and Goebbels and depicted their cohorts as gangs
of dull-witted thugs, employing all the weapons of caricature:
exaggeration and distortion, one-sided emphasis and intentional
grotesquerie. The blunt visual language he developed for this purpose is
parsimonious but effective. The originals of these caricatures, many of
them published in Vorwärts, do not survive; Knauf and Ohser are said to
have burned them in the spring of 1933 for fear of persecution.

Their concern was not unjustified. With the rise of the Nazis, the “three
Erichs” all had to make compromises in order to stay in Germany and
survive. By this time Ohser had a family: he married his one-time fellow
student, Marigard Bantzer (herself an artist and children’s book
illustrator), in December 1931. Their marriage was soon followed by the
birth of their son, Christian.

E. O. Plauen/New York Review Comics

After Hitler took power 1933, Ohser’s ridicule of the Nazis made it
almost impossible for him to find work. Thus it was a stroke of luck

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when the editor of the Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung asked him for ideas for
a comic strip. Ohser’s proposal, a strip about the day-to-day adventures
of a good-natured father and his imaginative and unruly son, won him
over. Ohser’s well-known and canny new editor was able to pull strings
at the Propaganda Ministry allowing him to work—as long as he used a
pseudonym, and worked only on nonpolitical newspaper comics. Ohser,
who was not only a great inventor of gags and funny stories but also
liked to play with language and dialect, remembered his Vogtland
beginnings: Erich Ohser from Plauen became “E. O. Plauen.” Though
this pen name was originally intended simply as a safety measure, it
became so popular that the artist’s real name was practically forgotten.

The strips that Ohser delivered every week between 1934 and 1937
quickly won him an audience of millions and brought him financial
success and prominence. Father and Son were not superheroes, but
rather, as a contemporary critic remarked, “circus acrobats of life,”
inhabiting a humane utopia. Father and Son made its creator famous
during his time, but he was unable to avoid official appropriation: Father
and Son was used to advertise the Nazis’ annual Winterhilfswerk charity
drive. Similarly, the marketing of Ohser’s characters was sometimes a
frustration to him, a situation he referenced in the strip as it wound
down. Ohser’s creations were duplicated, imitated, took on an
uncontrollable life of their own. Father and Son, like their creator, could
not escape the evils that beset them.

E. O. Plauen/New York Review Comics

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He ended the strip in 1937, but kept the pseudonym and continued to
work on cartoons, caricatures, and illustration. With his subtle humor
and lighthearted pen he addressed the entire range of issues covered in
the illustrated magazines—sports, new technology, sex roles,
celebrities—striking his own idiosyncratic note.

In 1940 he was given the opportunity to work for Joseph Goebbels’s

newly launched newspaper Das Reich. Ohser eventually accepted—in
part because, with the outbreak of World War II, employment at
Goebbels’s paper ensured he would not be drafted. So Ohser drew
political caricatures of the enemies of the Reich, while still trying to
differentiate between the Nazi regime and his beloved Germany.
Privately steadfast in detesting National Socialism and increasingly
disillusioned about the war, Ohser was walking a fraying tightrope.

E. O. Plauen/New York Review Comics

Ohser felt that characterizations like “pretty” or “ugly” were a priori

suspect and particularly inappropriate in an artistic context, if not plain
wrong. The comprehensive reviews of his large one-man show in Berlin
in 1942 demonstrate that Ohser’s drawing found recognition compatible
with his principles. For example, Werner Fiedler wrote in the Deutsche
Allgemeine Zeitung:

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Plauen’s gift is to look as though he doesn’t have one. This charming

con man convinces us he has forgotten everything he ever knew about
composition, anatomy, and the load-bearing behavior of biological
structures, because he has moved to a new phase, one of innocence.

Ohser himself spoke out in 1943 in his In Defense of the Art of


If you draw, the world becomes more beautiful, far more beautiful.
Trees that used to be just scrub suddenly reveal their form. Animals that
were ugly make you see their beauty. If you then go for a walk, you’ll be
amazed how different everything can look. Less and less is ugly if every
day you recognize beautiful forms in ugliness and learn to love them….
Don’t be bamboozled by the virtuosity of artists, which in many cases is
terribly hollow…. Vanity always trips us up—it’s very human…. A
small drawing that comes from the eye and the heart is worth more than
sixty square feet of inhibited, dishonest hack work.

Like the other two Erichs, Ohser considered himself a patriot and hoped
the nightmare would soon end. Knauf and Kästner had found refuge
working in film, also believing the era could be weathered. But the war
was coming home to Germany’s civilians—all three men lost their
homes to bombings. Ohser and Knauf found shelter in a building on the
edge of devastated Berlin. There, imagining they were safe, they aired
their resentment and desperation in jokes about Hitler, Goebbels, and the
hopeless war—and were denounced by their neighbors. They were
arrested in the spring of 1944, and quickly sentenced to death. Ohser
eluded his executioners and committed suicide the night before the
hearing. He was just forty-one years old. His friend Erich Knauf was
executed a month later. Kästner was the only one of the “three Erichs”
to survive the Third Reich.

With pencil in hand, Erich Ohser explored his world, again and again
finding the comic and grotesque aspects of any situation. Even after his
tragic end, his art endures, as does the encouragement he gave us to
rediscover his world and ours.

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E. O. Plauen/New York Review Comics

Adapted from the afterword to Father and Son, by E.O. Plauen,

translated by Joel Rotenberg, recently published by New York Review

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Monumental Pastel Drawings of Endangered Icebergs by Zaria Forman

by Kate Sierzputowski on September 1, 2017

“Whale Bay, Antarctica no.4″ (In progress), Soft Pastel on paper, 84″ x 144”, 2016

Zaria Forman (previously here and here) creates incredibly realistic drawings of Antarctica’s icebergs,
producing large pastel works that capture the sculptural beauty of the quickly shrinking forms. This past
winter, the artist had the opportunity to be side-by-side with the the towering ice shelfs, observing their
magnitude aboard the National Geographic Explorer during a four week art residency.

The residency gave her the opportunity to further embody the natural formations, providing a new perspective
to create her large-scale drawings.

“Many of us are intellectually aware that climate change is our greatest global challenge, and yet the problem
may feel abstract, the imperiled landscapes remote,” says Forman. “I hope my drawings make Antarctica’s
fragility visceral to the viewer, emulating the overpowering experience of being beside a glacier.”

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Forman has a solo exhibition of her work titled Antarctica opening at Winston Wächtergallery in Seattle on
September 9 and running through November 4, 2017. You can watch a timelapse of Forman completing her
drawing Whale Bay, Antarctica no.4 in the video below. (via Juxtapoz)

“Whale Bay, Antarctica no. 2,” Soft pastel on paper, 50″ x 75″, 2016

Infoteca’s E-Journal No. 418 november 2017
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“Whale Bay, Antarctica no. 1,” Soft pastel on paper, 60″ x 90″, 2016

“Cierva Cove, Antarctica no. 1,” Soft Pastel on paper, 60″ x 90″, 2017

Infoteca’s E-Journal No. 418 november 2017
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“Risting Glacier, South Georgia no. 1,” Soft pastel on paper, 84″ x 144″, 2016

“Lemaire Channel, Antarctica,” Soft pastel on paper, 44″ x 60″, 2015

Infoteca’s E-Journal No. 418 november 2017
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“B-15Y Iceberg, Antarctica no. 1, Soft Pastel on paper,” 72″ x 72″, 2017

Infoteca’s E-Journal No. 418 november 2017
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“B-15Y Iceberg, Antarctica no.2″ (In progress), Soft pastel on paper, 60″ x 90”, 2017

Infoteca’s E-Journal No. 418 november 2017
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Massive genetic study shows how humans are evolving

Analysis of 215,000 people's DNA suggests variants that shorten life are being selected against.

 Bruno Martin

06 September 2017

Ira Block/NGC

Human populations are evolving to improve fitness in unexpected ways.

A huge genetic study that sought to pinpoint how the human genome is evolving suggests that natural
selection is getting rid of harmful genetic mutations that shorten people’s lives. The work, published in PLoS
Biology1, analysed DNA from 215,000 people and is one of the first attempts to probe directly how humans
are evolving over one or two generations.

To identify which bits of the human genome might be evolving, researchers scoured large US and UK genetic
databases for mutations whose prevalence changed across different age groups. For each person, the parents’
age of death was recorded as a measure of longevity, or their own age in some cases.

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“If a genetic variant influences survival, its frequency should change with the age of the surviving
individuals,” says Hakhamanesh Mostafavi, an evolutionary biologist at Columbia University in New York
City who led the study. People who carry a harmful genetic variant die at a higher rate, so the variant becomes
rarer in the older portion of the population.

Mostafavi and his colleagues tested more than 8 million common mutations, and found two that seemed to
become less prevalent with age. A variant of the APOE gene, which is strongly linked to Alzheimer’s disease,
was rarely found in women over 70. And a mutation in the CHRNA3 gene associated with heavy smoking in
men petered out in the population starting in middle age. People without these mutations have a survival edge
and are more likely to live longer, the researchers suggest.

This is not, by itself, evidence of evolution at work. In evolutionary terms, having a long life isn’t as
important as having a reproductively fruitful one, with many children who survive into adulthood and birth
their own offspring. So harmful mutations that exert their effects after reproductive age could be expected to
be ‘neutral’ in the eyes of evolution, and not selected against.

But if that were the case, there would be plenty of such mutations still kicking around in the genome, the
authors argue. That such a large study found only two strongly suggests that evolution is “weeding” them out,
says Mostafavi, and that others have probably already been purged from the population by natural selection.

Links to longevity

Why these late-acting mutations might lower a person’s genetic fitness — their ability to reproduce and
spread their genes — remains an open question.

The authors suggest that for men, it could be that those who live longer can have more children, but this is
unlikely to be the whole story. So scientists are considering two other explanations for why longevity is
important. First, parents surviving into old age in good health can care for their children and grandchildren,
increasing the later generations’ chances of surviving and reproducing. This is sometimes known as the
‘grandmother hypothesis’, and may explain why humans tend to live long after menopause.

Second, it’s possible that genetic variants that are explicitly bad in old age are also harmful — but more
subtly — earlier in life. “You would need extremely large samples to see these small effects,” says Iain
Mathieson, a population geneticist at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, so that’s why it’s not yet
possible to tell whether this is the case.

The researchers also found that certain groups of genetic mutations, which individually would not have a
measurable effect but together accounted for health threats, appeared less often in people who were expected
to have long lifespans than in those who weren't. These included predispositions to asthma, high body mass
index and high cholesterol. Most surprising, however, was the finding that sets of mutations that delay
puberty and childbearing are more prevalent in long-lived people.

To see a genetic link to delayed childbearing is intriguing, says Jonathan Pritchard, a geneticist at Standford
University in California. The link between longevity and late fertility has been spotted before, but those
studies could not discount the effects of wealth and education, because people with high levels of both tend to
have children later in life. The latest genetic evidence makes Pritchard think there is an evolutionary trade-off
between fertility and longevity, which had previously been studied only in other animals. “To actually find
this in humans is really pretty cool,” he says. “I think it's a really nice study.”

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Studying ongoing evolution in humans is notoriously difficult. Scientists who want to observe selection
directly would need to measure the frequency of a mutation in one generation, and then again in all that
generation’s children and, better still, grandchildren, says Gil McVean, a statistical geneticist at the University
of Oxford, UK. “That would be very hard to do well,” he says. “You would need vast samples”.




1. Mostafavi, H. et al. PLoS Biol. 15, e2002458 (2017).

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India: Assassinating Dissent

Mukul Kesavan

Sonali Pal Chaudhury/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Protesters holding signs showing the murdered journalist Gauri Lankesh, Kolkata, India, September 7, 2017

Gauri Lankesh was the editor of a weekly tabloid published in Kannada, the main language of the southern
Indian state of Karnataka. She was murdered on the fifth of September at the gate of her house in Bangalore,
shot in the head and chest at close range. Her killers got away on motorcycles. This gangland-style
assassination of a journalist would have made a stir in any case, but coming as it did after a series of political
murders, it resonated across India and beyond its borders.

From the moment she died, the press reported her death not as an individual event but as the fourth in a
sequence of assassinations; to the names Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare, and M.M. Kalburgi,
journalists now added Gauri Lankesh. Politically they were all left-leaning, strongly rationalist, hostile to
Hindu orthodoxy, and convinced that right-wing majoritarianism was the mortal enemy of republican
democracy. They were also public intellectuals who chose to write in their mother tongues: Dabholkar and
Pansare wrote in Marathi, Kalburgi and Lankesh in Kannada. They spoke to a vernacular readership beyond
the reach of the country’s English media, with its pan-Indian but paper-thin Anglophone audience. Each of
them was shot dead by men on motorcycles with homemade pistols who got away.

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India has always been a dangerous place for journalists. The Hindi journalist Ramchandra Chhatrapati, who in
2002 first published the anonymous letter accusing Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, the recently jailed cult leader,
of rape, was shot and killed weeks after his story ran. More than thirty journalists have been killed in the state
of Assam in the last thirty years. In the newly created state of Jharkhand, with its mining mafias, being a
journalist is a conspicuously dangerous business: four journalists have died there since 2000 and no one has
been convicted of their murders. Malini Subramaniam, a freelance journalist, was hounded out of Bastar in
the state of Chhatisgarh by a vigilante group acting in concert with the local police because her reports on the
Maoist insurgency didn’t fit the government’s counterinsurgency narrative. In Madhya Pradesh, a central
Indian state, a scandal about corruption in a government-administered examination board was dwarfed by the
horror of its aftermath: nearly forty people associated with the scandal as culprits or witnesses died seemingly
unnatural deaths, and in 2015, a journalist investigating the case the case died in mysterious circumstances.

These incidents are classic examples of violent censorship, of concealment by murder. But the killings of
Dabholkar, Pansare, Kalburgi, and Lankesh don’t seem to be instrumental violence designed to silence
inconvenient revelations. While it’s reasonable to be concerned about the impact of these killings on free
speech and journalism, to see them primarily as an extreme form of censorship is to underestimate the
enormity of the crime. Their murders look more like ideological assassinations designed to punish intellectual

AP Images (far left)

Narendra Dabholkar, 2008; Govind Pansare, circa 2014; and M.M. Kalburgi, circa 2014

Lankesh was a muckraking reporter and editor who was also a polemical left-wing critic of Hindu
majoritarian politics at every level, regional and national. Dabholkar was a rationalist and atheist married to a
Muslim woman who had made the debunking of Hindu godmen and their claims his life’s work. Pansare was
a member of the Communist Party of India, a lawyer and trade union leader who energetically contested
majoritarian readings of Indian history. Kalburgi was an epigraphist and scholar whose special field was the
literature of a religious sect in Karnataka, the Lingayats. In the struggle over Lingayat identity there were two
sides: a conservative one that embraced brahminical Hinduism and a radical one that saw Lingayats as a
distinct minority that ought to resist assimilation. Kalburgi outraged the conservatives; he was threatened,
forced to recant his views, and eventually murdered. Gauri Lankesh was, like Kalburgi, a Lingayat, and she
took his side in this dispute. She was flamboyantly opposed to Hindutva, the majoritarian nationalism
sponsored by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). We don’t know who killed these four—apart from some

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preliminary arrests no one has been formally charged with any of these murders—but given the uniform way
in which they were killed, it’s reasonable to assume that they were punished for their ideological positions.

The intimidation or murder of inconvenient journalists is part of a much wider violent tendency. Since
Narendra Modi became prime minister, India has seen a spate of targeted assaults on poor Muslims and
Dalits, plebeian groups who deal in hides and skins and cattle and meat. Dalits dealing in cow hides have been
systematically thrashed by vigilantes, encouraged by the present regime’s commitment to cow protection.
Muslims have been dragged from their homes and beaten to death on the suspicion of having eaten beef.
Muslims involved in the cattle trade have been bludgeoned to death on public highways as they begged for
their lives, or strung up on trees and lynched.

The deaths of Dabholkar, Pansare, Kalburgi, and Lankesh weren’t just murders; they were lynchings, no
different from the killings carried out by cow vigilantes. Middle-class commentators in India sometimes make
the mistake of separating violence against intellectuals from violence against working people. Whether all
four executions can be laid at one door, or whether their uniform modus operandi indicates copy-cat killings,
there is a ritual quality to these murders. They are the Indian equivalents of the machete murders of
rationalists and secularists in Bangladesh, where the Islamist right makes public examples of dissenting
Muslims, condemned as apostates. Apostasy isn’t a condition generally associated with Hinduism, but
Hindutva’s remaking of Indian nationalism in the image of India’s religious majority has helped define it: the
self-hating Hindu as anti-national traitor.

The function of political violence is to let bigotry slip sideways into public conversations. Every lynching, no
matter how horrifying, becomes, in time, a matter of debate. Gauri Lankesh’s killing was a case in point.
Hours after her death, a television journalist tweeted that she got what was coming to her. A businessman
from the prime minister’s home state, Gujarat, achieved viral notoriety by tweeting that a “bitch died a dog’s
death and set all the puppies yelping in tune.” This was especially notable because Prime Minister Modi
followed him on Twitter. And despite the chorused outrage this tweet provoked, Modi continued to do so.
What began as a general condemnation of Lankesh’s murder turned into a whispering campaign about her
sympathy for insurgent Maoists, her conviction for defamation, her falling out with her brother, and under this
sustained, posthumous inquisition, Gauri Lankesh became fair game: a martyred heroine to some, a
treacherous virago to others.

Liberals have been accused of blaming the murder on the BJP and its affiliated organizations without a proper
investigation or evidence. It is entirely possible that Gauri Lankesh’s murderers had nothing to do with these
specific groups, that perhaps it was the position she took on Lingayat assimilation that got her killed. But
knowing the identity of her murderers is less important than understanding what they were doing. For the
inquisitors who ordered her killing, Gauri Lankesh was a witch. The driveway ambush was a public burning.

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