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Links: June 2016

A Gunfight in Guatemala

Crazy story: Sebastian Rotella. Art direction: David Sleight. Animation: Christopher Park.

Police Building Apartments

Lately my favorite part of my commute is passing this building.

Here’s The Powerful Letter The Stanford Victim Read To Her Attacker

Having too much to drink was an amateur mistake that I admit to, but it is not criminal. Everyone in this room has had a night where they have regretted drinking too much, or knows someone close to them who has had a night where they have regretted drinking too much. Regretting drinking is not the same as regretting sexual assault. We were both drunk, the difference is I did not take off your pants and underwear, touch you inappropriately, and run away. That’s the difference.

Sipping fireball is not your crime. Peeling off and discarding my underwear like a candy wrapper to insert your finger into my body, is where you went wrong. Why am I still explaining this.

You realize, having a drinking problem is different than drinking and then forcefully trying to have sex with someone? Show men how to respect women, not how to drink less.

Lastly you said, I want to show people that one night of drinking can ruin a life.

A life, one life, yours, you forgot about mine. Let me rephrase for you, I want to show people that one night of drinking can ruin two lives. You and me. You are the cause, I am the effect.

Someone who cannot take full accountability for his actions does not deserve a mitigating sentence. It is deeply offensive that he would try and dilute rape with a suggestion of “promiscuity”. By definition rape is not the absence of promiscuity, rape is the absence of consent, and it perturbs me deeply that he can’t even see that distinction.

As this is a first offence I can see where leniency would beckon. On the other hand, as a society, we cannot forgive everyone’s first sexual assault or digital rape. It doesn’t make sense. The seriousness of rape has to be communicated clearly, we should not create a culture that suggests we learn that rape is wrong through trial and error.

Siteleaf 2.0

If you make websites, you’ll want to check this out, just launched by the bright minds at Oak Studios.

Your brain does not process information and it is not a computer

The information processing (IP) metaphor of human intelligence now dominates human thinking, both on the street and in the sciences. There is virtually no form of discourse about intelligent human behaviour that proceeds without employing this metaphor, just as no form of discourse about intelligent human behaviour could proceed in certain eras and cultures without reference to a spirit or deity. The validity of the IP metaphor in today’s world is generally assumed without question.

But the IP metaphor is, after all, just another metaphor – a story we tell to make sense of something we don’t actually understand. And like all the metaphors that preceded it, it will certainly be cast aside at some point – either replaced by another metaphor or, in the end, replaced by actual knowledge.

Misleading headlines notwithstanding, no one really has the slightest idea how the brain changes after we have learned to sing a song or recite a poem. But neither the song nor the poem has been ‘stored’ in it. The brain has simply changed in an orderly way that now allows us to sing the song or recite the poem under certain conditions. When called on to perform, neither the song nor the poem is in any sense ‘retrieved’ from anywhere in the brain, any more than my finger movements are ‘retrieved’ when I tap my finger on my desk. We simply sing or recite – no retrieval necessary.

This part loses me. How can that info be reproduced without reference and with such clarity if it hasn’t been – in some sense – stored?

This is inspirational, I suppose, because it means that each of us is truly unique, not just in our genetic makeup, but even in the way our brains change over time. It is also depressing, because it makes the task of the neuroscientist daunting almost beyond imagination. For any given experience, orderly change could involve a thousand neurons, a million neurons or even the entire brain, with the pattern of change different in every brain.

Worse still, even if we had the ability to take a snapshot of all of the brain’s 86 billion neurons and then to simulate the state of those neurons in a computer, that vast pattern would mean nothing outside the body of the brain that produced it.

Americans Are Pissed — This Chart Might Explain Why

Overall, median net worth is down about 21%. The only reason the median didn’t fall more was because net worth for the top 10%, those with 2013 incomes over $154,600, rose nearly 75%.

This is not a few families getting in over their heads. This is a tsunami threatening to drown the American dream.

Which Rock Star Will Historians of the Future Remember?

Almost anything can be labeled “rock”: Metallica, ABBA, Mannheim Steamroller, a haircut, a muffler.

The symbolic value of rock is conflict-based: It emerged as a byproduct of the post-World War II invention of the teenager, soundtracking a 25-year period when the gap between generations was utterly real and uncommonly vast. That dissonance gave rock music a distinctive, nonmusical importance for a long time. But that period is over. Rock — or at least the anthemic, metaphoric, Hard Rock Cafe version of big rock — has become more socially accessible but less socially essential, synchronously shackled by its own formal limitations. Its cultural recession is intertwined with its cultural absorption. As a result, what we’re left with is a youth-oriented music genre that a) isn’t symbolically important; b) lacks creative potential; and c) has no specific tie to young people. It has completed its historical trajectory. Which means, eventually, it will exist primarily as an academic pursuit. It will exist as something people have to be taught to feel and understand.

But removing the centrality of songwriting from the rock equation radically alters it. Rock becomes a performative art form, where the meaning of a song matters less than the person singing it.

Inside the shadowy world of America’s 10 biggest gunmakers

A damning collection of dirty dealings within the international industry serving America’s thriving firearms market.

Sturm Ruger’s largest shareholders are mutual fund giant Vanguard Group and a private investment firm, London Company of Virginia, which has assets worth $10.6 billion, including holdings in ammunition, cigarettes, missiles, and caskets.

After New York state enacted stricter gun laws in 2013, Remington laid off workers at its 200-year-old factory there and moved production to Huntsville, Alabama, where it gets $69 million in state and local subsidies—or about $14 for every Alabama resident.

“He’s got a lot of skeletons,” former Glock executive Peter Manown said in court after pleading guilty to stealing from the company. “He’s done, in my mind, a lot of things that are much worse than what Jannuzzo and I did. He makes roughly $200,000 a day—he personally. He spends money on mistresses, on houses, on sex, on cars. He bribes people. He’s just a bad guy.”

Gun Control Isn’t Obama’s Failure. It’s Ours.

For as much as Americans support stricter gun laws, we lack the kind of dedicated, organized effort that could translate that mood into policy.

Why It’s Hard to Get Bible-Belt Teens to Use IUDs

Only 24 states require public schools to teach students about sex, and only 20 require that information to be accurate. In Texas, the majority of school districts still teach abstinence as the best and only option.

Facebook is wrong, text is deathless

Bet for better video, bet for better speech, bet for better things we can’t imagine – but if you bet against text, you will lose.

Interview With a Woman Who Recently Had an Abortion at 32 Weeks

We did start to talk about names. We were researching great warriors, because it felt right that this guy should have a warrior name, considering the odds he was fighting. His working name was Spartacus, which was supposed to be a fill-in until we came up with something else. On my Google calendar, my due date said “SPARTACUS!”

He was telling us once how we can’t allow refugees into this country because we’ll end up with Sharia law in small-town America. And I keep thinking about that—that crazy idea—because what do we have now? Abortion law is Christian Sharia law, based on religion and emotion.

Soda tax passes, Philadelphia becomes first big city in nation to enact one

First two paragraphs: “Philly did a thing that people outside Philly will notice!” Validation issues much?

The Forrest Gump of the Internet

To many of the younger folks I talk to these days – even techies – the open web seems to be a foreign concept.

“I realized there are dot-com people and there are web people,” she wrote on her blog at the time. “Dot-com people work for start-ups injected with large Silicon Valley coin, they have options, they talk options, they dream options. They have IPOs. They’re richer after four months of ‘web’ work than many web people who’ve been doing it since the beginning. They don’t have personal sites. … They don’t get personal.”

She continued. “Web people can tell you the first site they ever saw, they can tell you the moment they knew: This, This Is It, I Will Do This. And they pour themselves into the web, with stories, with designs, with pictures. They create things worth looking at, worth reading, worth coveting, worth envying, worth loving.”

I proposed that Medium is trying to be the Whole Foods of content. He laughed.

“Maybe we are,” he said. “Not that Whole Foods is perfect, and we’re not perfect either, but we are trying to figure out how to optimize for satisfaction and nourishment, not just activity or calories.”

The day we discovered our parents were Russian spies

Alex tells me that he sometimes wonders why his parents decided to have children at all. “They live their lives like everyone else, making choices along the way. I am glad they had a cause they believed in so strongly, but their choices mean I feel no connection to the country they risked their lives for. I wish the world wouldn’t punish me for their choices and actions. It has been deeply unjust.”

The Monster at the End

He’ll hint that tonight, although I’m not wearing cardboard, I am again dressed in a costume. It’s clever, sure, but you’re starting to see through him by now. You know what it is to get dressed.

Why you shouldn’t exercise to lose weight, explained with 60+ studies

There are three main components to energy expenditure, Kravitz explained: 1) basal metabolic rate, or the energy used for basic functioning when the body is at rest; 2) the energy used to break down food; and 3) the energy used in physical activity.

We have very little control over our basal metabolic rate, but it’s our biggest energy hog. “It’s generally accepted that for most people, the basal metabolic rate accounts for 60 to 80 percent of total energy expenditure,” Kravitz said. Digesting food accounts for about 10 percent.

That leaves only 10 to 30 percent for physical activity, of which exercise is only a subset. (You can read more about this concept here and here.)

“It’s not nothing, but it’s not nearly equal to food intake — which accounts for 100 percent of the energy intake of the body,” Kravitz said. “This is why it’s not so surprising that exercise leads to [statistically] significant, but small, changes in weight.”

But as researchers put it in an article in BMJ, “You cannot outrun a bad diet.”

The evidence is now clear: Exercise is excellent for health, but it’s not important for weight loss. The two things should never be given equal weight in the obesity debate.

Genesis P-Orridge on pandrogyny and the political apocalypse

Most of the records we make do have a patch that goes with them, and we encourage people to make their own. It’s a uniform but it’s also individual. Everyone is unique, but everyone is the same. There’s something about that tension that fascinates me. It is uniform non-conformity.

America’s gun problem is so much bigger than mass shootings

The shock and horror that follows mass shootings has led to an obsessive focus on the dangers of military-style rifles – even though rifles of any kind were used in less than 3% of gun murders in 2014, according to FBI data.

A tunnel focus on mass shootings has also fueled the public perception that mental illness is driving gun violence. But experts caution that even miraculously curing all schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and major depression in American might only lead to a 4% reduction in overall violence.

A debate conducted in the aftermath of mass shootings has also prompted a huge public investment in guarding and fortifying public schools against shootings, even though the typical school can expect to see a student homicide only once every 6,000 years, according to safety expert Dewey Cornell.

To save the greatest number of lives, it’s the everyday violence – not just the mass shootings – that we need to prevent.

Social Justice Warriors Aren’t a Problem in Metal. But Assholes Are.

In 2016, no music is inaccessible. You listen online and if you like it, you show up. Acting like there’s a moral component to being troo is just something people who liked something first tell themselves when they confuse taste with ethics. Liking Manila Road in 1985 isn’t the same as marching at Selma, so maybe take it down a notch. People, being people, will always have complicated reasons for what they enjoy. And perhaps some people will enjoy the social aspects of a music more than the sounds, but aesthetics are wild and we live in the sensual world and it’s safe to assume that if they didn’t at least enjoy metal they’d be at another scene. There are easier ways to drink. And caring about another person’s motivations for liking what they like is some bullshit unless it’s personally affecting you.

Satan doesn’t care if you’re an Islamophobe but Kissinger is totally into it.

I want my country back

This was a working-class revolt, but it is not a working-class victory.

I’ve already had people telling me it won’t be long before a new Kristallnacht, and people like me had better go back – where? I was born in London.

Brexit is terrifying — and no, not because of the economics

You can see how badly this could go. Instability in Europe rocks the US economy. The recession elects Donald Trump. Trump’s rejection of international institutions and norms further destabilizes the global economy, which leads to the election of right-wing populists in key countries like Germany and France, who deliver the coup de grace to the EU. This creates further economic instability, breeding further discontent, which pushes voters even further to the extremes.

Bill Cunningham, Legendary Times Fashion Photographer, Dies at 87

He wanted to find subjects, not be the subject. He wanted to observe, rather than be observed. Asceticism was a hallmark of his brand.

Dean Baquet, The Times’s executive editor, said: “He was a hugely ethical journalist. And he was incredibly open-minded about fashion. To see a Bill Cunningham street spread was to see all of New York. Young people. Brown people. People who spent fortunes on fashion and people who just had a strut and knew how to put an outfit together out of what they had and what they found.”

The Industrial Revolution, climate change, and Brexit

Industrial Revolution → colonialism → climate change → unrest → Brexit

A university cannot justify its admissions policies with broad generalizations. Instead, administrators must articulate concrete reasons for pursuing diversity — for example, to prepare students for a diverse society or promote cross-racial understanding on campus. Colleges can establish panels to study whether and why those issues are important to fulfilling their educational goals, as Texas did.

Universities should assess whether these interests can be accomplished through race-neutral means. Schools could analyze what their student bodies would look like if they stopped considering race and instead pursued other initiatives, like increasing financial aid or focusing on socio-economic status. These analyses will position universities to better understand how race-neutral admissions practices would affect their student bodies and to determine whether the changes would be consistent with their mission.

Even if colleges conclude that race-consciousness is necessary at a given time, they cannot assume that it will always be so. They should periodically reassess whether their admissions plans remain legal and effective, and also re-examine every few years whether the conclusions of previous studies remain valid.

But the most important task for universities in the months and years ahead is one that we are uniquely well suited to perform: to help society at large — not only our own campus communities — better understand the painful and still-unresolved historical context within which the need for affirmative action exists. This context includes a public education system that remains nearly as segregated and unequal today as it was at the time of Brown more than six decades ago.

Here’s the full transcript of Jesse Williams’ amazing BET Awards Speech

Freedom is always coming in the hereafter. But you know what, though? The hereafter is a hustle. We want it now.

Black Flag and Punk’s Psychic Imprint

Unbearable sensitivity was expressed with unanswerable power.

a graphic identity that amounted to a kind of poetic molestation.

In Pettibon’s flyers a personal netherworld of imagery seemed to conjoin with the Californian id at its most chaotic level.

“In retrospect the Black Flag/SST story looks like a cultural analogue to the Manson-Weathermen-S.L.A.-Black Panther-Nixon White House-People’s Temple endgame—art just had more life in it than crime or politics or religion.”

Bad Manager

I’m coming to believe that, in managing others, frustration is the rule rather than the exception.

America’s Profound Gender Anxiety

The law is an imperfect tool for shaping culture—a back-up cudgel for times when softer methods of persuasion don’t work. The fact that legislators in overreach-hating, small-government-loving states like Mississippi and North Carolina have resorted to the law to protect their notions of gender shows the depth of their panic about these ambient cultural shifts.

If transgender people are able to use the bathroom of their choice, that suggests women are perfectly safe when former men, or women who have masculine characteristics, enter their intimate spaces. “Part of the threat here is that women are saying they do not need protection from men. That has long been a source of anger for men and women who believe in this notion of female submission to male authority,” said Griffith. At least in part, “men who are supporting this are reasserting a protective role.”