Best of the Best:
The Psychiatric Drug Crisis [Gary Greenberg via The New Yorker] (9/3/13)
Despite their continued failure to understand how psychiatric drugs work, doctors continue to tell patients that their troubles are the result of chemical imbalances in their brains. As Frank Ayd pointed out, this explanation helps reassure patients even as it encourages them to take their medicine, and it fits in perfectly with our expectation that doctors will seek out and destroy the chemical villains responsible for all of our suffering, both physical and mental. The theory may not work as science, but it is a devastatingly effective myth. Whether or not truthiness, as one might call it, is good medicine remains to be seen. No one knows how important placebo effects are to successful treatment, or how exactly to implement them, a topic Michael Specter wrote about in the magazine in 2011. But the dry pipeline of new drugs bemoaned by Friedman is an indication that the drug industry has begun to lose faith in the myth it did so much to create. As Steven Hyman, the former head of the National Institute of Mental Health, wrote last year, the notion that “disease mechanisms could … be inferred from drug action” has succeeded mostly in “capturing the imagination of researchers” and has become “something of a scientific curse.” Bedazzled by the prospect of unraveling the mysteries of psychic suffering, researchers have spent recent decades on a fool’s errand—chasing down chemical imbalances that don’t exist. And the result, as Friedman put it, is that “it is hard to think of a single truly novel psychotropic drug that has emerged in the last thirty years.”
Bull Rides, War Injuries, And The Holocaust: The Plot Of Nicholas Sparks’ ‘The Longest Ride,’ As Written By Critics [Vince Mancini on FilmDrunk] (4/10/15)
Sophia loves art, as she explains: “I love art. I love everything about it.” (AV Club)
This guy’s “old-school” and says so. (“Call me old-school,” Luke says.) (Chicago Tribune)
The Final Insult in the Bush-Cheney Marriage [Peter Baker on The New York Times] (10/10/13)
[I]f it was a partnership of enduring and controversial consequences, it was also one that was widely misunderstood. That their final hours together would be consumed by a private argument over the pardon of Scooter Libby underscores the distance the two men had traveled. Over the course of conducting hundreds of interviews with key players in the Bush White House, including Cheney, and examining thousands of pages of never-released notes, memos and other internal documents, I came to see a relationship that differs substantially from the commonly accepted narrative. Even in the early days, when a young, untested president relied on the advice of his seasoned No. 2, Cheney was hardly the puppeteer that critics imagined. To the extent that the vice president exerted outsize influence in the first term, he became more marginalized over the course of the second, as Bush sought new paths to right his troubled presidency.
The Craft Beer Movement [Phil Balliet on Priceonomics] (10/1/13)
In 1919, however, Prohibition struck a blow to the American brewing tradition by making the production, distribution and sale of alcohol illegal throughout the United States. It wasn’t the end of beer in America, but it was a bigger setback than many realize. When the 21st Amendment ended Prohibition in 1933, it only legalized home-wine making. A clerical error omitted the very important phrase “and beer.” This meant that while breweries selling beer could open for business, homebrewers remained outlaws for another forty-five years until President Carter signed amending legislation in 1978. For some Americans, the wait has been even longer. Because the federal statute left brewing laws up to each state to determine individually, states have been legalizing homebrewing in waves ever since. Homebrewing did not become legal in all 50 states until this July. This partly explains why we’re now enjoying such phenomenal growth in the industry. Over the past thirty-odd years, the number of homebrewers in America has skyrocketed to over one million and the number of craft breweries has grown by almost three-thousand percent. Now, a brewery opens for business almost every day of the year.
Cinnabon President Kat Cole: Hustling the Gut Bomb [Duane Stanford on Bloomberg Businessweek] (9/26/13)
Within days, Cole was on a flight to Sydney, with a layover in Los Angeles, where she grabbed a peek at Venice Beach. She spent 40 days in Australia opening the restaurant. She had to hire and train waitresses, some of whom didn’t show. She had to get grown men and women to believe she was qualified. “It was life-changing,” she says. “It was chaotic.” On the way home, Cole bought every business magazine she could find and read them all. At the time, Cole considered Hooters a temporary stop as she worked toward an engineering degree from the University of North Florida and planned for law school. Within a month, Hooters asked her to go to Mexico to open its first Central American location. Then came Argentina and two U.S. states. She opened five stores overall. “I came back to school and was failing because I hadn’t been there,” she says. By 1999, after she spent a year and a half opening stores, a Hooters vice president asked her to apply for a job managing employee training from headquarters in Atlanta. Cole, then 20, wore a suit to the first interview, even though it was over the phone from the office at the restaurant where she waited tables. “I just wanted to feel more professional,” she says. She became a vice president at 26 and would eventually assist analysts and bankers with due diligence on the chain’s sale to private equity. She still didn’t have a college degree. To remedy that, Cole enrolled in the Georgia State University Executive MBA program. Without an undergraduate degree, she had to take the GMAT. Along the way, she drew the usual loaded questions about how she progressed so fast. Cole points out that she had one male boss in 15 years at Hooters.
In Orthodox Jewish Divorce, Men Hold All the Cards [Abigail Jones on Newsweek] (4/8/15)
The trial for Epstein, David Epstein, Goldstein and Stimler began February 18 in federal court in Trenton, New Jersey. In addition to that FBI sting, the indictment drew on a kidnapping in November 2009, when a victim was lured from Brooklyn to Lakewood, tied up in a van, assaulted and shocked with a stun gun until he agreed to give his wife a get. A second kidnapping allegedly took place on October 17, 2010, when David Epstein and accomplices tied up a victim and beat him into giving the get. On August 22, 2011, David Epstein and others allegedly barged into a man’s home and assaulted him and his roommate, punching them in the face, handcuffing and blindfolding them, and binding their legs. Epstein’s alleged kidnapping service is neither a crazy aberration nor a hot new trend in Brooklyn’s Orthodox neighborhoods. Beat-downs and kidnappings are a long-whispered-about last resort for agunot who face years chained to men who won’t let them go. Controlled by husbands who manipulate their position, wield emotional and legal power, and leverage their marriages for their own gain, these women are a gruesome example of domestic abuse. Who, then, are the real villains in this story?
The Snowden Leaks and the Public [Alan Rusbridger on The New York Review of Books] (11/21/13)
It is harder than you might think to destroy an Apple MacBook Pro according to British government standards. In a perfect world the officials who want to destroy such machines prefer them to be dropped into a kind of giant food mixer that reduces them to dust. Lacking such equipment, The Guardian purchased a power drill and angle grinder on July 20 this year and—under the watchful eyes of two state observers—ripped them into obsolescence. It was hot, dusty work in the basement of The Guardian that Saturday, a date that surely merits some sort of footnote in any history of how, in modern democracies, governments tangle with the press. The British state had decreed that there had been “enough” debate around the material leaked in late May by the former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. If The Guardian refused to hand back or destroy the documents, I, as editor of The Guardian, could expect either an injunction or a visit by the police—it was never quite spelled out which. The state, in any event, was threatening prior restraint of reporting and discussion by the press, no matter its public interest or importance. This was par for the course in eighteenth-century Britain, less so now.
The Hidden Technology That Makes Twitter Huge [Paul Ford on Bloomberg Businessweek] (11/7/13)
Why America Has a Mass Incarceration Problem, and Why Germany and the Netherlands Don’t [Mike Riggs on The Atlantic City Lab] (11/12/13)
To understand America’s epidemic of over-incarceration, it helps to look to countries that don’t having our problem. In Germany and the Netherlands, for example, incarceration rates per capita are nearly 90 percent lower than in the U.S.: 79 per 100,000 residents in Germany and 82 per 100,000 residents in the Netherlands, compared to 716 per 100,000 residents in the United States. As those numbers suggest, Germany and the Netherlands do things a bit differently. A recent report [PDF] from the Vera Institute of Justice explains that the differences are both philosophical and practical. “Resocialization” and rehabilitation are central to the Dutch and German models, whereas the American model focuses on retribution and isolation from society. In Germany and the Netherlands, this means prison conditions are more humane, fines are preferred over incarceration, solitary confinement is rarely used, and sentences are far shorter than in the U.S. Both European countries even have laws governing solitary confinement: it “cannot exceed in any given year four weeks in Germany and two weeks in the Netherlands per individual offender.”
The Nuclear Fusion Arms Race Is Underway [Sam Roudman on Motherboard on Vice] (10/28/13)
[S]cientists today are much closer to creating fusion energy than they were 40 years ago. And while most large public research projects are still decades from producing a reactor that can compete in the marketplace, a number of private companies have jumped headlong into the fusion race. Propelled by advances in engineering and science, changes in public funding, and tens of millions in high-risk high-tech investment dollars, they’re betting they can create a scalable, sellable reactor in less than a decade…Fusion energy is produced by forcing two atoms together in a super hot gas called a plasma. It’s a process already familiar to all of us, since it powers the sun. A common approach for making fusion energy is to put two isotopes of Hydrogen—Deuterium with one neutron, and Tritium with two neutrons—under enough pressure and heat to make them merge, becoming an isotope of helium. But as they combine, a neutron spins off and creates heat. Harness enough heat, and you can operate a power plant with a renewable source of nuclear energy that produces little to no radioactive waste.
Chicago Teen Dodges Daily Violence Threat for Hoop Dream [Elizabeth Campbell and Louise Kiernan on Bloomberg News] (11/5/13)
At 16, Edward is a rising star at Chicago’s Simeon Career Academy, the South Side high school that produced guard Derrick Rose of the National Basketball Association’s Chicago Bulls and the No. 2 college recruit last season, Duke University’s Jabari Parker. He’s also a teenager in one of the city’s most violent neighborhoods. He and his parents don’t just have to negotiate the usual concerns about injuries, eligibility and scholarships. They have to protect his life. The toll of Chicago’s gun violence surrounds the family. Last summer, they saw a man die next to their Washington Park apartment building, killed in a spray of bullets moments before Edward’s mother, Nafeesah, was about to walk out the door. His sister’s high-school lab partner was shot to death outside a Simeon game in January. And Edward’s own grandfather was shot two years ago just a few yards from this porch.
Khamenei controls massive financial empire built on property seizures [Steve Stecklow, Babak Dehghanpisheh and Yeganeh Torbati on Reuters] (11/12/13)
The 82-year-old Iranian woman keeps the documents that upended her life in an old suitcase near her bed. She removes them carefully and peers at the tiny Persian script. There’s the court order authorizing the takeover of her children’s three Tehran apartments in a multi-story building the family had owned for years. There’s the letter announcing the sale of one of the units. And there’s the notice demanding she pay rent on her own apartment on the top floor. Pari Vahdat-e-Hagh ultimately lost her property. It was taken by an organization that is controlled by the most powerful man in Iran: Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. She now lives alone in a cramped, three-room apartment in Europe, thousands of miles from Tehran.
Blockbuster Video: 1985-2013 [Alex Pappademas on Grantland] (11/7/13)
Even now, it’s hard to feel warm feelings for a Blockbuster. The company was a Borg-cube dedicated to pushing big-time Hollywood product. They frowned on NC-17 movies and foreign films and employees with long hair. If you wanted those things, you could go somewhere else, until you couldn’t, because Blockbuster also frowned on sharing any marketplace with a “somewhere else.” They transformed the home-video business by plowing under the competition, then failed to adapt fast enough as that business continued to change. Mourning them is like mourning some big, dumb robot that has succumbed to rust after standing all night in the rain.
Master of Many Trades [Robert Twigger on Aeon Magazine] (11/4/13)
So, say that we all have at least the potential to become polymaths. Once we have a word, we can see the world more clearly. And that’s when we notice a huge cognitive dissonance at the centre of Western culture: a huge confusion about how new ideas, new discoveries, and new art actually come about. Science, for example, likes to project itself as clean, logical, rational and unemotional. In fact, it’s pretty haphazard, driven by funding and ego, reliant on inspired intuition by its top-flight practitioners. Above all it is polymathic. New ideas frequently come from the cross-fertilisation of two separate fields. Francis Crick, who intuited the structure of DNA, was originally a physicist; he claimed this background gave him the confidence to solve problems that biologists thought were insoluble. Richard Feynman came up with his Nobel Prize-winning ideas about quantum electrodynamics by reflecting on a peculiar hobby of his — spinning a plate on his finger (he also played the bongos and was an expert safe-cracker). Percy Spencer, a radar expert, noticed that the radiation produced by microwaves melted a chocolate bar in his pocket and developed microwave ovens. And Hiram Maxim, the inventor of the modern machine gun, was inspired by a self-cocking mousetrap he had made in his teens.
How General Motors Was Really Saved: The Untold True Story Of The Most Important Bankruptcy In U.S. History [Jay Alix via Forbes] (11/18/13)
In the popular version of the company’s turnaround story, as GM teetered toward liquidation in 2009, an Obama-appointed SWAT team, led by financier Steven Rattner, swept in and hatched a radical plan: Through a novel use of the bankruptcy code they would save the company by segregating and spinning out its valuable assets, while Washington furnished billions in taxpayer funds to make sure the company was viable. The real GM turnaround story, significant in saving the auto industry and the economy, is contrary to the one that has been published. In fact, the plan that was developed, implemented and then funded by the government was devised inside GM well before President Obama took office. In what follows, the inside story of this historic chapter in American business unfolds, laying bare the key facts. GM’s extraordinary turnaround began long before Wagoner went to Washington in search of a massive loan to keep GM alive. My involvement in that story began in GM’s darkest days, five years ago on Sunday, Nov. 23, 2008, when I visited Wagoner at his home that morning, presenting a novel plan to save General Motors.
The Tequila Curse [Ted Genoways on Bloomberg Businessweek] (10/17/13)
To slake North America’s seemingly bottomless thirst (sales have almost tripled since 1995), and to meet growing demand in Asian and European markets, tequila producers have tripled the production of pure agave over the past decade through new growing, production, and distillation methods. But these methods, scientists warn, have left the region vulnerable to severe ecological impacts. Connoisseurs, meanwhile, complain that tequilas produced by the new methods are of such low quality that they can be enjoyed only by the frozen margarita crowd. After decades of focusing exclusively on increased foreign sales, tequila producers may finally be forced to ask: How big is too big?
You can increase your intelligence: 5 ways to maximize your cognitive potential [Andrea Kuszewski on The Scientific American] (3/7/11)
First of all, let me explain what I mean when I say the word “intelligence”. To be clear, I’m not just talking about increasing the volume of facts or bits of knowledge you can accumulate, or what is referred to as crystallized intelligence—this isn’t fluency or memorization training—it’s almost the opposite, actually. I’m talking about increasing your fluid intelligence, or your capacity to learn new information, retain it, then use that new knowledge as a foundation to solve the next problem, or learn the next new skill, and so on. Now, while working memory is not synonymous with intelligence, working memory correlates with intelligence to a large degree. In order to generate successfully intelligent output, a good working memory is pretty important. So to make the most of your intelligence, improving your working memory will help this significantly—like using the very best and latest parts to help a machine to perform at its peak. The take-home points from this research? This study is relevant because they discovered:
1. Fluid intelligence is trainable.
2. The training and subsequent gains are dose-dependent—meaning, the more you train, the more you gain.
3. Anyone can increase their cognitive ability, no matter what your starting point is.
4. The effect can be gained by training on tasks that don’t resemble the test questions.
Je Regrette [Carina Chocano on Aeon Magazine] (10/16/13)
In a culture that believes winning is everything, that sees success as a totalising, absolute system, happiness and even basic worth are determined by winning. It’s not surprising, then, that people feel they need to deny regret — deny failure — in order to stay in the game. Though we each have a personal framework for looking at regret, Landman argues, the culture privileges a pragmatic, rationalist attitude toward regret that doesn’t allow for emotion or counterfactual ideation, and then combines with it a heroic framework which equates anything that lands short of the platonic ideal with failure. In such an environment, the denial of failure takes on magical powers. It becomes inoculation against failure itself. To express regret is nothing short of dangerous. It threatens to collapse the whole system. In starting to lay out the possible uses of regret, Landman quotes William Faulkner. ‘The past,’ he wrote in 1950, ‘is never dead. It’s not even past.’…Not surprisingly, it turns out that people’s greatest regrets revolve around education, work, and marriage, because the decisions we make around these issues have long-term, ever-expanding repercussions. The point of regret is not to try to change the past, but to shed light on the present. This is traditionally the realm of the humanities. What novels tell us is that regret is instructive. And the first thing regret tells us (much like its physical counterpart — pain) is that something in the present is wrong.
Reagan Revolution Misses Tax Fiefdoms Flourishing in U.S. [Tim Jones and John McCormick on Bloomberg News] (10/28/13)
In Illinois, which has the 11th highest state and local tax burden in the U.S., overlapping government agencies managing everything from mosquito abatement to fire protection collect billions of dollars, employ tens of thousands and consume resources that could help pay pension deficits and $7.5 billion in outstanding government bills. “The big focus is on Washington D.C. and deficits and tax increases,” said Dan Cronin, chairman of the DuPage County board in the longtime Republican stronghold west of Chicago. “But people frequently overlook a significant chunk represented by under-the-radar government — quiet, sleepy, unaccountable.” Across the country, there are 38,266 special purpose districts, or government units distinct from cities, counties and schools, each with its own ability to raise money. Since President Ronald Reagan declared in his 1981 inaugural address that government “is not the solution to our problem — government is the problem,” their numbers have jumped 32 percent.
Curiously Strong Remains:
- The Order of Things [Malcolm Gladwell on The New Yorker] (2/14/11)
- Where Nokia Went Wrong [James Surowiecki on The New Yorker] (9/3/13)
- Mindless: The new neuro-skeptics. [Adam Gopnik on The New Yorker] (9/9/13)
- /How the Pentagon’s payroll quagmire traps America’s soldiers [Scot J. Paltrow and Kelly Carr on Reuters] (7/2/13)
- Castro: ‘Oswald Could Not Have Been the One Who Killed Kennedy’ [Jeffrey Goldberg on Bloomberg News] (11/20/13)
- Quantum mechanics made relatively simple [Kottke.org] (11/13/13)
- Princeton’s Meningitis Crisis Cuts Through the Usual Vaccine Red Tape [Justin Bachmann on Bloomberg Businessweek] (11/19/13)
- Little Big Man [William D. Cohan on Vanity Fair] (December 2013)
- The Gladwell pivot [Mark Seidenberg via The Language Log] (10/28/13)
- How the Terrible, Insufferable Six-Day Water Fast Made Me a New Man [Ben Marcus on Gentlemen’s Quarterly] (September 2013)
- The Secrets of Bezos: How Amazon Became the Everything Store [Brad Stone on Bloomberg Businessweek] (10/10/13)
- Grad Students: The Few, the Proud, the Indebted [Jordan Weissmann on The Atlantic] (10/9/13)
- The Forest Mafia: How Scammers Steal Millions Through Carbon Markets [Ryan Jacobs on The Atlantic] (10/11/13)
- Who Should Invest in Startups? [Alex Mayyasi on Priceonomics] (9/27/13)
- Chinese Philosophy Lifts Off in America [Carlin Romano on The Chronicle of Higher Education] (9/23/13)
- A New Theory on “Mark Twain” [Daniel Hernandez on The Los Angeles Review of Books] (9/26/13)
- Lee Harvey Oswald, Disappointed Revolutionary [Peter Savodnik via The Wall Street Journal] (10/5/13)
- The Chive’s Smut With a Smile [Claire Suddath on Bloomberg Businessweek] (10/13/13)
- Jeff Bezos’s League of Shadows [Brad Stone on Bloomberg Businessweek] (10/17/13)
- Jay Z Has the Room [Lisa Robinson on Vanity Fair] (November 2013)
- What You Need to Know About the Toxins in Your Groceries [Deborah Blum, Veronique Greenwood, Tasha Eichenseher, Kate Gammon on Discover Magazine] (8/30/13)
- Why have young people in Japan stopped having sex? [Abigail Haworth on The Guardian] (10/20/13)
- The Cardiologist Who Spread Heart Disease [David Armstrong on Bloomberg News] (10/24/13)
- Is Funeral Home Chain SCI’s Growth Coming at the Expense of Mourners? [Paul M. Barrett on Bloomberg Businessweek] (10/24/13)
- The Woman Behind the Men Behind the Financial Crisis [Sheelah Kolhatkar on Bloomberg Businessweek] (10/28/13)
- How the iPod President Crashed: Obama’s Broken Technology Promise [Ezra Klein on Bloomberg Businessweek] (10/31/13)
- India Breast Cancer Surge Hinders Private Exams for Women [Jason Gale on Bloomberg News] (10/29/13)
- Thailand’s Rural Boom Yields Mercedes and $6,000 Jacuzzis [William Mellor and Supunnabul Suwannakij on Bloomberg News] (10/28/13)
- Britain Is Experimenting With a Glowing, Seemingly Self-Aware Bike Path [John Metcalfe on The Atlantic City Lab] (10/30/13)
- Riding the Hashtag in Social Media Marketing [David Seagal on The New York Times] (11/2/13)
- 12 Unusually Placed Sports Venues [The World Geography]
- An Article Has A Lifespan Of 37 Days, And Other Findings From Pocket [David Zax on Fast Company] (11/1/13)
- How a secretive panel uses data that distorts doctors’ pay [Peter Whoriskey and Dan Keating on The Washington Post] (7/20/13)
- The Lonely Guy [Todd Pudrum on Vanity Fair] (11/20/13)
- The Story Behind Why AOL CEO Tim Armstrong Fired An Employee In Front Of 1,000 Coworkers [Nicholas Carlson on Business Insider] (11/6/13)
- The Exciting World of Insurance [Alex Mayyasi on Priceonomics] (11/7/13)
- Getting Down to Big Business: A Conservative American Romance [Rick Perlstein on The Nation] (11/12/13)
- Using Chaos Theory to Predict and Prevent Catastrophic ‘Dragon King’ Events [Adam Mann on Wired] (10/29/13)
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