Archive for December, 2015



Best of the Best:

Machines Are Better Than Humans at Hiring the Best Employees [Rebecca Greenfield on Bloomberg News] (11/17/15)

Looking across 15 companies and more than 300,000 hires in low-skill service-sector jobs, such as data entry and call center work, NBER researchers compared the tenure of employees who had been hired based on the algorithmic recommendations of a job test with that of people who’d been picked by a human. The test asked a variety of questions about technical skills, personality, cognitive skills, and fit for the job. The applicant’s answers were run through an algorithm, which then spat out a recommendation: Green for high-potential candidates, yellow for moderate potential, and red for the lowest-rated. First, the researchers proved that the algorithm works, confirming what previous studies have found. On average, greens stayed at the job 12 days longer than yellows, who stayed 17 days longer than reds. The median duration of employees in these jobs isn’t very long to begin with, about three months…Often hiring managers, possibly because of overconfidence or bias, don’t listen to the algorithm. Those cases, it turns out, lead to worse hires. When, for example, recruiters hired a yellow from an applicant pool instead of available greens, who were then hired at a later date to fill other open positions, those greens stayed at the jobs about 8 percent longer, the researchers found. The more managers deviated from the testing recommendations, the less likely candidates were to stick around.

Why a Billionaire CEO Takes Life Lessons From a Samurai [Pavel Alpeyev and Takashi Amano on Bloomberg News] (11/16/15)

Billionaire Masayoshi Son has been celebrating the birthday of someone dear to him — the maverick samurai who inspired him to drop out of high school. The chief executive of SoftBank Group Corp.  traveled to Kochi, a provincial capital on the smallest of Japan’s major islands and the birthplace of Sakamoto Ryoma, a 19th century samurai much loved in Japan, but little-known elsewhere, who helped modernize the nation’s government and economy. About 1,000 people gathered to mark the occasion…Son said his life was changed when, at 15, he read a book about Ryoma, whose cosmopolitan worldview inspired Son to leave high school a year later to travel to the U.S…Ryoma, born the son of a low-ranking samurai in 1835, played a key role in ending Japan’s 300-year isolation as part of the movement to overthrow the Tokugawa shogunate. He is credited with establishing the nation’s first trading company and helping Japan to become a naval power. He was murdered at age 33 by still-unknown assassins loyal to the shogun…Despite his ubiquity in Japanese popular culture — he even has an asteroid named after him — Ryoma is largely unknown to overseas audiences more familiar with samurai archetypes from the feudal period he helped end.

A sour end to the year of Zardes: what we learned from USA’s World Cup qualifiers [Graham Parker on The Guardian] (11/18/15)

The popular clamor for Darlington Nagbe to get his chance in a US shirt rather overshadowed an equally significant debut in St Louis. Matt Miazga does not occupy a position on the field where he will ever solve the USA’s yearning for an attacking playmaker, but he is a highly rated young center back, he is in form for his club team New York Red Bulls, and he has all the makings of becoming a regular first team starter in at the back when he gets his chance. He’s also a poster child for Klinsmann’s emphasis on cycling players through the youth teams – in fact his rapid promotion has seen Miazga play for the Under-20s, Under-23s, and now full national team in the space of this calendar year. And while it’s possible Miazga’s insertion into the game against St Vincent & Grenadines may have had more to do with making sure he was tied to the USA before being tempted by Poland, for whom he is also eligible, it’s also not hard to see him becoming a key player in the USA defensive set up for the rest of this World Cup campaign.

Islamic State’s Goal: “Eliminating the Grayzone” of Coexistence Between Muslims and the West [Murtaza Hussein on The Intercept] (11/17/15)

The Islamic State is deeply unpopular among Muslims. Like their non-Muslim compatriots, French Muslims recoiled with disgust at the recent atrocities in Paris. Indeed, several of them were killed in the attacks. As such, it would be both perverse and counterproductive to lump them together with ISIS and blame them for the group’s actions. Similarly, it would be absurd to treat refugees, many of whom are fleeing the Islamic State’s draconian rule in Iraq and Syria, as though they too are responsible for the crimes of the group. Doing so would grant the Islamic State a propaganda coup, implicitly endorsing the group’s narrative of Muslims and Westerners collectively at war with one another. Instead, in response to an attack intended to sow xenophobia, Western countries should reaffirm unity for their own Muslim populations and honor their best values by continuing to accept refugees without religious discrimination. Simultaneously, they should also recommit to the military effort against Islamic State enclaves in Iraq and Syria, making clear that there is no contradiction to embracing Muslims at home while fighting terrorists abroad. Such an approach would show resilience in the face of violence, while fatally undermining ISIS’ Manichean narrative of “a world divided into two camps.”

Does alcohol really make you better in bed? [Sally Adams on The Guardian] (11/17/15)

Reviewing these articles and the corresponding research studies has made me think about the issues involved in studying sex and alcohol and in reporting and interpreting research findings. There are many complex individual differences in the psychological and physiological factors that influence the response to both sex and alcohol. The association between sex and alcohol is dependent upon alcohol dosage, alcohol expectancy, and measurement of alcohol and sexual behaviour. In terms of dose, there may be an optimal amount of alcohol to induce these positive effects on sexual arousal or performance. Once past that threshold the effects may be more negative. This notion is supported by the biphasic nature of alcohol, with stimulant effects as blood alcohol concentration increases, but depressant effects as it decreases again. Alcohol expectancy can also impact sexual behaviour during intoxication. Simply believing that drinking alcohol increases sexual arousal may lead to actual arousal during intoxication. Expectancies about alcohol consumption are a key element of research examining the effects of alcohol on any behaviour. It is important that research determines the impact of both the direct pharmacological effects and expectation. Finally, the way alcohol use is measured can impact on the association with sexual behaviour. The administration of alcohol in an experimental study versus self-report of alcohol use by drinkers is likely to yield different study findings. Furthermore, it is very difficult to directly measure sexual behaviour. Most studies have to rely on self-report of sexual arousal and performance or use proxy measures such as cardiovascular and physiological function.

A surprisingly difficult question for Facebook: Do I have boobs now? [Hannah Jane Parkinson on The Guardian] (11/3/15)

The social network Facebook and picture-sharing service Instagram, which it owns, have a community-standards policy on nudity which permits male nipples but not female ones. It states: “We remove photographs of people displaying genitals … we also restrict some images of female breasts if they include the nipple.” Now that prejudice is being challenged.

Everything you think you know about happiness is wrong [Jess Whittlestone on Quartz] (10/25/15)

For all the focus we devote to happiness, we rarely spell out what it means. In fact, there are multiple ways we might interpret “happiness.” One important distinction is between intense, short-term forms of happiness—excitement, euphoria—and less intense, but perhaps more stable, feelings of calmness and contentment. Receiving a compliment from someone you really like might feel fantastic for a few hours, but it’s likely to dissipate in a day or so. By contrast, feeling like you having meaningful and supportive relationships in your life can give you a lower, but much more consistent, happiness boost. In an interesting paper in the Journal of Consumer Research, researchers distinguished between two different kinds of happiness—calm and excitement—and found that they were experienced differently depending on the time frame the person was thinking in. When we’re focused on the present, we’re more likely to feel happiness in the form of calmness; when we’re focused on the future, we’re more likely to feel excitement.

The First Paris Massacre [Eric Margolis] (11/21/15)

Last week’s massacre in Paris was not, as almost every writer mistakenly claimed, the worst atrocity in the City Of Light since World War II. As the renowned Mideast expert Robert Fisk quickly pointed out, an even worse atrocity occurred in Paris 54 years ago, on 17 October, 1961. Paris chief Maurice Papon, a former Vichy official, who had sent over 1,000 Jews to their deaths during the war, unleashed his brutal riot squads on 30,000 Arab demonstrators calling for the independence of Algeria from French colonial rule. In an orgy of killing, some 200 Algerians were killed. Many were beaten senseless, then thrown from the Pont St. Michel bridge into the Seine River. 11,000 Algerians were arrested and cast into internment camps or a sports stadium. I was in Paris when this mass killings occurred. Six months later, I was again visiting Paris when four retired French generals tried to stage a coup d’etat against the government of President Charles de Gaulle and Prime Minister Michel Debré which planned to grant Algeria independence after 132 years of French colonial rule.

Black Tape at Harvard Law [Randall Kennedy via The New York Times] (11/27/15)

Racism and its kindred pathologies are already big foes; there is no sustained payoff in exaggerating their presence, thus making them more formidable than they actually are. Disturbing, too, is a related tendency to indulge in self-diminishment by displaying an excessive vulnerability to perceived and actual slights and insults. Some activists seem to have learned that invoking the rhetoric of trauma is an effective way of hooking into the consciences of solicitous authorities. Perhaps it is useful for purposes of eliciting certain short-term gains. In the long run, though, reformers harm themselves by nurturing an inflated sense of victimization. A colleague of mine whose portrait was taped over exhibited the right spirit when he jauntily declared that it would take far more than tape to slow him down.

The Statue of Liberty Was Born a Muslim [Michael Daly on The Daily Beast] (11/18/15)

The Statue of Liberty was originally conceived as a Muslim peasant woman and was to have stood at the approach to the Suez Canal, a lantern in her upraised hand serving as both lighthouse and a symbol of progress. But the sculptor, Frederic Auguste Bartholdi of France, proved unable to sell the idea to the khedive of Egypt, Ishma’il Pasha. Bartholdi remained determined to erect a colossus on the scale of the one in ancient Rhodes. He sailed to America with drawings of the Muslim woman transformed to the personification of Liberty.

The Statistical Dominance of Dr. Seuss  [Dan Kopf on Priceonomics] (11/11/15)

It is probably no coincidence that the pinnacle of Seuss’s career coincided with the baby boom. Louis Menand of the New Yorker points out that the year The Cat in the Hat was released was the same year (1957) that the largest cohort of children was born in American history (4.3 million). Geisel is the Beatles of children’s literature, an institution of popular art whose place in the culture is cemented by its relationship to the country’s largest generation. Geisel’s continued popularity is also likely a manifestation of the ingenious ways Random House, his publisher, has marketed his work. The company connects many of his books to major calendar events: Oh the Places You’ll Go for high school and college graduations. How the Grinch Stole Christmas for, you guessed it, Christmas. The Lorax for Earth Day. Horton Hears a Who for the newly created Anti-Bullying Day. Random House has also continued to publish Dr. Seuss’s unfinished works posthumously, which keeps Seuss relevant. Seven new books have been published after his death, including 2015’s What Pet Should I Get, which debuted at number one on the New York Times Children’s Books Bestseller list. Seuss also benefits from the relative timelessness of children’s literature. While only one of the authors with more than one book in the Barnes and Noble adult fiction bestsellers list is by an author not working today, Harper Lee, the children’s books bestsellers lists are littered with names of artists that haven’t produced new work in decades. Authors like Geisel, Bill Martin, Jr. (Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See), Margaret Wise Brown (Goodnight Moon) and P.D. Eastman (Are You My Mother) still have considerable readership. Children’s literature is different because, up to a certain age, the main consumer, the child, is at the mercy of his or her parents. For the parent, reading children’s books is an exercise in nostalgia. A chance to revisit the works that you were devoted to as a child.

Nation’s $1 Billion Bioterrorism System Is Unreliable [David Willman on The Tribune News Service via Governing Magazine] (11/23/15)

The nation’s main defense against biological terrorism _ a $1 billion network of air samplers in cities across the country _ cannot be counted on to detect an attack, according to a new report by the Government Accountability Office. The BioWatch system, introduced with fanfare by President George W. Bush in 2003, has exasperated public health officials with numerous false alarms, stemming from its inability to distinguish between harmless germs and the lethal pathogens that terrorists would be likely to unleash in an attack. Timothy M. Persons, the GAO’s chief scientist and lead author of the report, said health and public safety authorities “need to have assurance that when the system indicates a possible attack, it’s not crying wolf.” Homeland Security Department officials cannot credibly offer that assurance, he said.

40% of Millennials OK with limiting speech offensive to minorities [Jacob Poushter on Pew Research Center] (11/20/15)

American Millennials are far more likely than older generations to say the government should be able to prevent people from saying offensive statements about minority groups, according to a new analysis of Pew Research Center survey data on free speech and media across the globe. We asked whether people believe that citizens should be able to make public statements that are offensive to minority groups, or whether the government should be able to prevent people from saying these things. Four-in-ten Millennials say the government should be able to prevent people publicly making statements that are offensive to minority groups, while 58% said such speech is OK. Even though a larger share of Millennials favor allowing offensive speech against minorities, the 40% who oppose it is striking given that only around a quarter of Gen Xers (27%) and Boomers (24%) and roughly one-in-ten Silents (12%) say the government should be able to prevent such speech…Overall, our global survey found that a majority of Americans say that people should be able to say offensive things about minority groups publicly. Two-thirds of Americans say this, compared with a median of 35% among the 38 nations we polled. In the U.S., our findings also show a racial divide on this question, with non-whites more likely (38%) to support government prevention of such speech than non-Hispanic whites (23%).

This War Will Destabilize The Entire Mideast Region And Set Off A Global Shockwave Of Anti-Americanism vs. No It Won’t [The Onion] (3/26/03)

George W. Bush may think that a war against Iraq is the solution to our problems, but the reality is, it will only serve to create far more. This war will not put an end to anti-Americanism; it will fan the flames of hatred even higher. It will not end the threat of weapons of mass destruction; it will make possible their further proliferation. And it will not lay the groundwork for the flourishing of democracy throughout the Mideast; it will harden the resolve of Arab states to drive out all Western (i.e. U.S.) influence. If you thought Osama bin Laden was bad, just wait until the countless children who become orphaned by U.S. bombs in the coming weeks are all grown up. Do you think they will forget what country dropped the bombs that killed their parents? In 10 or 15 years, we will look back fondly on the days when there were only a few thousand Middle Easterners dedicated to destroying the U.S. and willing to die for the fundamentalist cause. From this war, a million bin Ladens will bloom. And what exactly is our endgame here? Do we really believe that we can install Gen. Tommy Franks as the ruler of Iraq? Is our arrogance and hubris so great that we actually believe that a U.S. provisional military regime will be welcomed with open arms by the Iraqi people? Democracy cannot possibly thrive under coercion. To take over a country and impose one’s own system of government without regard for the people of that country is the very antithesis of democracy. And it is doomed to fail. A war against Iraq is not only morally wrong, it will be an unmitigated disaster.

Dominicans of Haitian descent turned into ‘ghost citizens’, says Amnesty [Alan Yuhas on The Guardian] (11/19/15)

The Dominican Republic has violated the human rights of tens of thousands of people by stripping several generations of citizenship, according to a scathing new report by Amnesty International. The report details decades of discriminatory practices codified into laws that have turned Haitians and their DR-born children into “ghost citizens”. These stateless people lack identity papers for work, healthcare, schooling or the right to live in either nation on the island…Since the 1990s, Dominican authorities have created a “legal maze” of bureaucracy to recover their papers, the group said, noting a 2013 court ruling that rendered stateless anyone born in the country to an undocumented foreign parent. The ruling was enforced retroactively to 1929, leaving as many as four generations of Dominicans of Haitian descent stateless and without valid documents.

Why Self-Driving Cars Must Be Programmed to Kill [Technology Review] (10/22/15)

Imagine that in the not-too-distant future, you own a self-driving car. One day, while you are driving along, an unfortunate set of events causes the car to head toward a crowd of 10 people crossing the road. It cannot stop in time but it can avoid killing 10 people by steering into a wall. However, this collision would kill you, the owner and occupant. What should it do? One way to approach this kind of problem is to act in a way that minimizes the loss of life. By this way of thinking, killing one person is better than killing 10. But that approach may have other consequences. If fewer people buy self-driving cars because they are programmed to sacrifice their owners, then more people are likely to die because ordinary cars are involved in so many more accidents. The result is a Catch-22 situation. Bonnefon and co are seeking to find a way through this ethical dilemma by gauging public opinion. Their idea is that the public is much more likely to go along with a scenario that aligns with their own views…Bonnefon and co say these issues raise many important questions: “Is it acceptable for an autonomous vehicle to avoid a motorcycle by swerving into a wall, considering that the probability of survival is greater for the passenger of the car, than for the rider of the motorcycle? Should different decisions be made when children are on board, since they both have a longer time ahead of them than adults, and had less agency in being in the car in the first place? If a manufacturer offers different versions of its moral algorithm, and a buyer knowingly chose one of them, is the buyer to blame for the harmful consequences of the algorithm’s decisions?”

NFL Owner Stan Kroenke Wants to Take Over L.A. [Ira Boudway on Bloomberg News] (11/18/15)

Things ended poorly for Jim Alabach, who worked for Kroenke for 28 years, beginning as an intern in 1985 and eventually rising to development manager at the Kroenke Group. Alabach helped find land, secure permits, and build stores. When he decided to leave two years ago, he and Kroenke shared ownership in three buildings in downtown Columbia, Mo. In 2011, the two borrowed $5.4 million from a local bank to finance the properties. After Alabach left, according to legal filings in a dispute between the two, Kroenke stopped making payments and, instead of renewing the loan or agreeing to sell the buildings and pay it off, he bought the loan from the bank, declared default, and demanded that Alabach pay the remaining $5 million in debt, plus $250,000 in late penalties—hardball tactics that may prove perfectly legal. The money was inconsequential to Kroenke, but potentially ruinous for Alabach. Inflicting harm, Alabach alleges in a breach-of-contract suit, was the point. “You can’t be in business with people like that,” Alabach’s attorney writes of Kroenke. Kroenke’s attorney didn’t respond to requests for comment.

‘I was fresh meat’: how AA meetings push some women into harmful dating [Darlena Cunha via The Guardian] (9/22/15)

Hankel said it was an expensive four-week rehabilitation center that finally helped her; a luxury most people suffering addictions cannot afford. She said many of the cheaper options focus on AA as their major recovery tool, and don’t address the underlying problems that may be causing destructive behaviors. At her facility, she was set up with a personal therapist who paid attention to the specific issues beneath her addiction. If people in rehab programs only focus on their dependencies, they are only scraping the surface of the problem, painting over a broken-down foundation without fixing the splintering wood beneath, Hankel explained. Without delving down to the root of the problem, it becomes more likely to grow again…[T]he National Association of Drug Court Professionals (NADCP) said the way they mandate recovery has already undergone vast changes in recent years. While it’s still not perfect, Terrence Walton, the NADCP’s chief of standards, said the courts mandate professional treatment before recommending a peer support group to facilitate long-term recovery. He also said that drug courts no longer specify AA/NA as the support group that must be attended, as was the case a decade ago.

Sounds like a hit: the numbers game behind Spotify cover songs [Lizzie Plaugic on The Verge] (9/8/15)

Spotify and, to a lesser degree, other streaming platforms have paved the way for hundreds of musicians to make businesses out of covering popular songs. These artists aren’t all as well known as the kids from Glee or Weird Al; in fact, you probably wouldn’t recognize any of them even if you saw them standing on a stage. Some hope covers will help them stand out in the endless landscape of hopefuls trying to carve out a space online, and that the millions of Spotify users searching for a big hit will find them instead. Others are singer-songwriters who tried to hack it as original solo artists only to find out that it’s way easier to make a living reimagining songs people already know. No matter what they hope to gain, they’ve found a niche in large streaming platforms, capitalizing on the intersection of huge audiences, broad search algorithms, and limited distribution deals that can leave fans searching in vain for high wattage stars.

In 35 States, Young People Are Dying From Drug Overdoses at Double the Rate [Mattie Quinn on Governing Magazine] (11/19/15)

In every single state, the rate of young people dying from drug overdoses increased in the past decade, according to a report released Thursday by Trust for America’s Health. In the past 12 years, the overdose rate for people ages 12 to 25 has more than doubled in 35 states and quadrupled in five. Back in 1999, not one state had a drug overdose rate of more than 6.1 per 100,000 young adults. Fast forward 14 years, and one heroin epidemic later, and 33 states had drug overdose deaths of 6.1 per 100,000 or higher from 2011 to 2013. The national average is now 7.3 per 100,000 youths. West Virginia, New Mexico and Utah have the highest rates of young adult overdose deaths, with each around 12 deaths per 100,000 youths in 2013. This is more than five times higher than South Dakota, North Dakota and Nebraska, which had rates around 3 deaths per 100,000 teens and young adults. There are some positive developments, however. Smoking tobacco is at an all-time low among young adults (at 9 percent nationally); underage drinking in high school has gone down (from 45 percent to 35 percent); and illicit drug use among 12- to 17-year-olds has decreased 13 percent since 2009. The rise of heroin and other opiates is one explanation for the decreased use of other substances. Some other illicit drugs, like cocaine and methamphetamine, have become less popular, said Jeff Levi, executive director of Trust for America’s Health.

How CS Lebowski fans set up their own football club … and honoured The Dude [Chloe Beresford on The Gentleman Ultra via The Guardian] (11/18/15)

The Ultras Lebowski were unsatisfied with modern football and the distance placed between fans and club. Some, but not all, had been Fiorentina ultras in the past. CS Lebowski evolved from a club called AC Lebowski, who were infamous for being unsuccessful. In one season they conceded 99 goals and were frequently bottom of the league. The idea of a new club was dreamed up by three friends sitting on a bench and, in 2010, these ultras set about realising the dream of a club owned by the fans, with a horizontal structure. This model is unique in Italy; anyone who has a €20 season ticket has a say in the running of the club and the decision-making process is democratic. A recent documentary on Italian TV perfectly illustrated the passion and principles of those involved with the club. The programme shows fans cooking dinner and eating together before every match, doing work on the pitch, and tells of an overall budget of €70,000 – 70% of which is raised internally through fundraising events. Team photos are always taken with the fans behind them in the Curva Moana Pozzi because the “fans are the players and the players are the fans”…A romantic idea this may be, but the remarkable thing about the Grigionero is that they have translated these ideals into success. Starting in the very bottom tier of Italian football, the first team have achieved two promotions in five years. Their model is inclusive, having established three teams in addition to the first team: a women’s team, junior team and an amateur team.

Beirut, Also the Site of Deadly Attacks, Feels Forgotten [Anne Barnard on The New York Times] (11/15/15)

Ali Awad, 14, was chopping vegetables when the first bomb struck. Adel Tormous, who would die tackling the second bomber, was sitting at a nearby coffee stand. Khodr Alaa Deen, a registered nurse, was on his way to work his night shift at the teaching hospital of the American University at Beirut, in Lebanon. All three lost their lives in a double suicide attack in Beirut on Thursday, along with 40 others, and much like the scores who died a day later in Paris, they were killed at random, in a bustling urban area, while going about their normal evening business. Around the crime scenes in south Beirut and central Paris alike, a sense of shock and sadness lingered into the weekend, with cafes and markets quieter than usual. The consecutive rampages, both claimed by the Islamic State, inspired feelings of shared, even global vulnerability — especially in Lebanon, where many expressed shock that such chaos had reached France, a country they regarded as far safer than their own. But for some in Beirut, that solidarity was mixed with anguish over the fact that just one of the stricken cities — Paris — received a global outpouring of sympathy akin to the one lavished on the United States after the 9/11 attacks. Monuments around the world lit up in the colors of the French flag; presidential speeches touted the need to defend “shared values;” Facebook offered users a one-click option to overlay their profile pictures with the French tricolor, a service not offered for the Lebanese flag. On Friday the social media giant even activated Safety Check, a feature usually reserved for natural disasters that lets people alert loved ones that they are unhurt; they had not activated it the day before for Beirut…The implication, numerous Lebanese commentators complained, was that Arab lives mattered less. Either that, or that their country — relatively calm despite the war next door — was perceived as a place where carnage is the norm, an undifferentiated corner of a basket-case region.

Can farms be good for nature without being organic? [Karl Mathiesen on The Guardian] (11/18/15)

In the UK, 80 non-organic farms have signed up to the conservation grade (CG) scheme. This requires them to turn 10% of their land over to habitat specifically targeted at supporting their local ecology. In return, farmers brand their products with a “Fair to Nature” accreditation and can charge a premium for them. Research by the University of Reading (and partly funded by the Conservation Grade organisation) published on Wednesday in the Journal of Applied Ecology found that CG farms support 20% more plant and butterfly species than farms that work on the now discontinued EU-funded Entry-Level Stewardship (ELS) programme.

A “Double-Shot” of Cheating [Dr. Marisa Cohen on The Science of Relationships] (10/1/15)

In the famous paradigm used by Buss, Larsen, Westen, and Semmelroth,4 college aged participants were forced to choose between two alternatives when asked, which behavior is more distressing?: (a) your partner forming an emotional attachment with another individual or (b) your partner having sex with this other individual. Females largely found the thought of their partner forming an emotional entanglement with another individual more painful, while males selected the sexual infidelity option as being more troublesome. From an evolutionary perspective, this difference is due to the selection pressures placed on the individuals of each gender. Women fear that when a man has become emotionally involved with another, these women may lose some of the resources they have secured from their male partners. The man, however, fears that if the woman is having sex outside of the relationship, he is expending his resources on kin that potentially are not his, and as such paternity certainty becomes very important. Basically both are weary of a circumstance in which their genetic offspring are not getting the resources needed. Jealousy may have evolved as a result of the unique reproductive challenges that our ancestors faced. Men, in particular, had to struggle with paternity certainty. Women, on the other hand, respond with jealousy when they suspect that the resources provided by their men and reserved for their offspring are being diverted elsewhere. Therefore, they would worry most when their mates develop emotional connections with others as this signals the potential to re-allocate the resources to new women. However, not everyone agrees with this summary. Social-role theorists argue that the evolutionary-based argument is incorrect and the data are a result of the nature of the format in which the participants were polled. The “double-shot hypothesis” suggests that when forced to select an answer, participants will pick the infidelity choice they assume co-occurs with the other type of infidelity, meaning that they will choose the option that they feel incorporates the other.6 Specifically, men make the assumption that for a woman to have sex with someone, she must have already fallen in love; women suspect that for a man to have fallen in love, he must have already had sex with that outsider. Once the forced choice was removed and participants were able to rate their views on infidelity on a continuous scale (a scale of 1 to 5 indicating how upsetting they found the infidelity to be), gender differences disappeared. This demonstrates that the differences may partially have been a result of the question format.

Drones may predate Obama, but his resolute use of them is unmatched [Alice Ross on The Guardian] (11/18/15)

The first drone strike took place within weeks of the September 11 attacks, but the unmanned aerial weapons system came of age under Barack Obama. It was Obama who stepped up the most controversial use of drones, using them beyond internationally recognised war zones to conduct hundreds of strikes in the lawless regions of Yemen, Pakistan and Somalia…Obama and his team seized on these capabilities: in 2009, his first year in the White House, Obama carried out more such strikes in Pakistan than Bush had during his entire presidency. The following year, strikes hit Pakistan’s tribal regions at a rate of more than two a week. Concrete details on all aspects of these secretive campaigns, waged by the CIA and Joint Special Operaitons Command (JSOC), are elusive – Obama himself did not even mention drone strikes publicly until 2012. But independent monitoring groups such as the Bureau of Investigative Journalism and the New America Foundation estimate that the US has conducted almost 400 such strikes since Obama entered the White House. This is not an arm’s-length project for the president. Senior officials have described on condition of anonymity how Obama, who holds the 2009 Nobel peace prize, personally signs off on the “kill list” and is often briefed on individual strikes.

Obama’s drone war a ‘recruitment tool’ for Isis, say US air force whistleblowers [Ed Pilkington in New York and Ewen MacAskill in London on The Guardian] (11/18/15)

The joint statement – from the group who have experience of operating drones over Afghanistan, Iraq and other conflict zones – represents a public outcry from what is understood to be the largest collection of drone whistleblowers in the history of the program. Three of the letter writers were sensor operators who controlled the powerful visual equipment on US Predator drones that guide Hellfire missiles to their targets…In one of the most widely publicised errors, the US government was accused by one of its own officials of making an “outrageous mistake” in October 2011 when it killed the US citizen Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, the 16-year-old son of Anwar al-Awlaki, an al-Qaida leader who was also a US citizen and was killed by a CIA drone two weeks previously.

Mythbusting Singleness with Dr. Bella DePaulo [excerpted from How We Live Now: Redefining Home and Family in the 21st Century. on pp. 244-246 of Chapter 8, “There’s Nothing Sweeter Than Solitude.” by Bella DePaulo via The Science of Relationships] (10/15/15)

In the stories we tell each other about the workings of society, it is the married people and the traditional families who are holding us all together. Single people—especially those who live alone—are the isolates, holed up in their apartments, lonely and friendless. Yet when social scientists do systematic research, they find something quite different: singles look more like Dan Scheffey than the caricatures. Results of several studies—some of them based on representative national surveys—show that it is the single people, and not the married ones, who are creating and sustaining the ties that bind us. Single people are more likely than married people to do what it takes to keep grown siblings together. They also spend more time helping, encouraging, and socializing with neighbors and friends. Singles are more likely to live with relatives than married people are, and they do more than their share of caring for aging relatives and others in need. Asked the question “Do you currently or have you ever regularly looked after someone, for at least three months, who is sick, disabled, or elderly?,” it was the single people, more often than the married, who said yes. Single people also visit their parents more and exchange help with them more, even when their parents are still relatively young and healthy…The finding that single people—especially those who have always been single—are more connected to family and friends than married people holds up for people who have children and people who don’t. It is true for men and women, whites and nonwhites, poor people and rich people. Compared with people who live with others, single people and solo dwellers are also more engaged in the life of the cities and towns where they live. They take more music and art classes, participate in more public events and civic groups, go out to dinner more often, and pursue more informal social activities. I was impressed by the solo dwellers I interviewed, but not everyone’s personal story is an inspiring one. There are miserable and lonely and narcissistic people who live alone just as there are miserable and lonely and narcissistic people who live with spouses, kids, and other relatives or friends.

Groupies revisited: the women with triple-A access to the 60s [Kathyrn Bromwich on The Guardian] (11/15/15)

A new book, Groupies and Other Electric Ladies, brings together Wolman’s photos and contact sheets, the original magazine text – including no-holds-barred interviews with the girls – and new essays. The casual attitude with which the women discuss their pursuit of the most desirable “cats” is matched only by the casually disparaging attitudes of the journalists and musicians towards the girls…Central to the scene was Pamela Des Barres, known as “Queen of the Groupies” and widely acknowledged as the inspiration behind Penny Lane in Cameron Crowe’s 2000 film Almost Famous. “We were muses to the bands,” she says. “It wasn’t all about bedding men, it was more about being around that creative force. We understood and appreciated their music, so they wanted us around.” Wolman adds that the influence was mutual: many musicians started dressing like the groupies, with stars and jewellery: “just look back at pictures of the Rolling Stones”.

“Parents Are Less Happy”: Fact or Fiction? [Andrew Willis Garcés on The Science of Relationships] (10/19/15)

Critics have noted that the authors of most such studies didn’t mean to say that having children causes parent unhappiness, but the headlines are often written that way anyway. Rachel Margolis, coauthor of the study that rippled through the news media last month, confirmed to Greater Good that her research was not intended to measure parent happiness, and added: “We’ve actually found that happiness increases just before you have a child, decreases just after you have your first child, and then comes up to the level you were at before the birth, generally.” The research of Sonja Lyubomirsky Ph.D and her colleagues on human happiness suggests that the real news is much less inflammatory than meets the eye. Dr. Lyubomirsky has written for Psychology Today on common myths about happiness, and for Time Magazine summarizing her research on parent happiness: “Our analysis revealed that certain types of parents (e.g., young parents and parents with small children) are particularly unhappy, while other types (e.g., fathers, married parents, and empty nesters) report especially high life satisfaction, happiness, or meaning. In other words, whether or not children go hand in hand with happiness depends on many factors, including our age, marital status, income and social support, as well as whether our children live with us and have difficult temperaments. Whether we ourselves were securely attached to our own parents is even a factor.”

Kasich Would Create Federal Agency to Promote ‘Judeo-Christian’ Values [Tom Troy on via Governing Magazine] (11/18/15)

Mr. Kasich’s campaign called Tuesday’s appearance a major national security speech. He said he would create an agency to promote Western values. “U.S. public diplomacy and international broadcasting have lost their focus on the case for Western values and ideals and effectively countering opponents’ propaganda and disinformation. I will consolidate them into a new agency that has a clear mandate to promote the core Judeo-Christian Western values that we and our friends and allies share,” Mr. Kasich said. He said those values are human rights, democracy, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and freedom of association.

Life after Breakup: An International Survey [Morris, C. E., Reiber, C., & Roman, E. via Science of Relationships] (10/22/15)

To better understand life after breakup, researchers surveyed 5,705 people in nearly 100 countries about their breakups and experience of grief afterwards. The most common reason for breaking up was “lack of communication.” Women were more likely to initiate a breakup; those who were broken up with experienced more grief than initiators. Post-relationship grief was more severe emotionally (e.g., anxiety, depression) than physically (e.g., insomnia, weight change). Among those who were dumped, women reported slightly more emotional and physical consequences than men, although post-relationship grief was high for both men and women.

“I Hope My Boyfriend Don’t Mind It”: The Implications of Same-Sex Infidelity in Heterosexual Relationships [Dr. Amanda Denes, Dr. Jennifer Bevan and Dr. Pamela Lanutti on The Science of Relationships] (11/17/15)

Generally when committed romantic partners kiss someone besides their partner, this is considered a form of cheating. Yet female-female kissing by heterosexual women does not seem to garner the same negative response, perhaps due to the varying reasons women report engaging in such behavior. Some heterosexual women report kissing other women as part of the college social scene or for men’s attention, while others do so to experiment or explore potential same-sex desires.1 A 2012 study found that both women and men perceive women who kiss other women in heterosexual spaces (for example, bars that heterosexual individuals frequent) as more promiscuous than those who kiss a man, and that women and men perceive such women as more likely to be heterosexual than bisexual or lesbian. In some ways, this last finding may suggest that women and men do not always perceive female-female kissing as necessarily an expression of women’s same-sex desire. So then what happens when individuals in heterosexual romantic relationships engage in more extreme forms of infidelity, such as sex, with someone of the same sex?…To address this, an emerging line of research has explored responses to same-sex infidelity. Such research has revealed that women and men are less jealous of same-sex versus different-sex infidelity and that compared to women, men are more distressed by different-sex sexual infidelity compared to women. Conversely, women report being more upset by men’s same-sex versus different-sex infidelity…We also found that men generally respond more negatively to a female partner’s different-sex versus same-sex infidelity, feeling more anger with different-sex infidelity and more sexual arousal with same-sex infidelity. Men also report that they would be more likely to end the relationship in response to different-sex infidelity compared to same-sex infidelity. Women also reported that they would feel more negative emotions (such as anger, hurt, and generally being upset) in response to different-sex versus same-sex infidelity, but women were more likely to report that they would terminate the relationship in response to same-sex infidelity. How can we explain and understand these findings? First, these results may be related to the findings noted earlier regarding female-female kissing—the fact that there is not an equivalent framework for people to understand men’s same-sex sexual behavior (and that such behavior is less often depicted in the media) may mean that women have a difficult time accepting or acknowledging men’s same-sex infidelity. This may also mean that female partners may assume that a male partner who engages in same-sex infidelity may identify as gay, prompting the woman to terminate the relationship. Second, men may be more permissive of women’s same-sex infidelity due to the media’s fetishization of female-female sexual behavior and our society commonly depicting female-female displays of sexuality as being for men’s pleasure.

How Thailand Became a Global Gender-Change Destination [Jason Gale on Bloomberg News] (10/26/15)

The Southeast Asian nation is at the forefront of the growing practice of transgender surgery, capitalizing on decades of know-how, low-cost health care, and a ready supply of surgeons trained to perform the male-to-female procedures…Gender-affirming surgery, as it’s known in the transgender community, is a small but growing niche in Thailand’s medical tourism industry, which attracts more than 2 million visitors a year. Those patients generated about 140 billion baht ($4 billion) in revenue last year, an 18 percent increase on 2013.

Fighting Terrorism Was the Biggest Weakness of the Bush Administration [Jonathan Chait on New York Magazine] (11/13/15)

Chris Whipple’s revelations about the CIA’s urgent, ignored pleas to focus on the threat from Al Qaeda before 9/11 flesh out an increasingly consistent portrait drawn by Kurt Eichenwald and other reporters. A broad and consistent body of evidence had persuaded intelligence officials that Al Qaeda was poised to carry out a devastating attack against the United States. It was not just the famous August memo, “Bin Laden determined to strike in U.S.” — the one Bush dismissed at the time as ass-covering — but a much longer and more desperate campaign to wake up Bush’s inner circle. Whipple reports, “Months earlier, starting in the spring of 2001, the CIA repeatedly and urgently began to warn the White House that an attack was coming.” But the Bush White House was dominated by neoconservatives, who were ideologically fixated on the threat posed by states and dismissed the threat of non-state actors.

Goldman: These Are the Brands That Millennial Women Love [Julie Verhage on Bloomberg News] (11/16/15)

In terms of winners, the team listed 20 brands on a “Love List” which is comprised of the names that score high in terms of affinity, word of mouth, and familiarity. There is quite a bit of good news for seven select names on this list. The likes of MAC, Free People, Sephora, PINK, Victoria’s Secret, Forever 21, and H&M have posted high results for three years straight. For the up-and-comers, Goldman has a “Brands Rising” list, which shares 20 names that have high rankings in terms of affinity and familiarity among millennials but are still “off the radar” for the broader population. Goldman says these names are worth watching as brands on the list tend to “show momentum” in subsequent years. Names taking high marks on this list are Topshop, Nasty Gal, Free People, and Kate Spade.

Dojo Pizza, Restaurant and Karate Non-Profit, Raided by FBI [Lindsay Toler on St. Louis Magazine] (10/23/15)

Police and the FBI were back at MRCKA’s Dojo Pizza today after a raid last month that was reportedly part of a human trafficking investigation. St. Louis officials have condemned the restaurant/dojo/former church building where seven girls were found to be living, according to KMOV. Dojo Pizza violated 38 building codes, including a code that restricts buildings from being used as boarding houses, and the pizza shop was infested with rodents and insects. The underage girls were living and working at Dojo Pizza because their parents were either homeless or in jail, and they were not being paid or given proper food, according to court documents reviewed by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.  The girls also had untreated lice, bed bugs and sprains, and they they had access to firearms in the building…The thrill of eating at Dojo Pizza comes from knowing that the place probably couldn’t exist anywhere outside St. Louis. Surrounded by a working-class and increasingly Bosnian neighborhood and just down the street from the city’s first ever skate park, Dojo Pizza launched in April 2014 as a nonprofit pizza restaurant housed inside a former United Methodist church, staffed by children in karate uniforms. Diners sit on high-backed, upholstered, dark wooden pews beneath stained glass windows. You’re supposed to pronounce the restaurant’s title acronym MRCKA, which stands for Ma-ji Christian Karate Association, like you’re sippin’ Southern Comfort on the Fourth of July: “MER-cuh.” The owner, a charming but oft-bankrupt preacher with a shady past, told me the pizza oven was donated by a student in the dojo who inherited it from a dead uncle. The whole experience feels like a martial arts-themed vacation bible school, but with pizza. How did this open in the first place? I wondered. And how long can it last? Apparently, not last [sic] much longer.

Mixing it Up: The Upside of Interracial Relationships [Dr. Tim Loving on The Science of Relationships] (9/30/15)

In the summer of 2013, General Mills did something apparently unthinkable: they depicted an interracial (i.e., mixed-race) couple and their biracial daughter in a Cheerios ad. Despite being almost 50 years removed from the landmark civil rights Supreme Court ruling in Loving v Virginia, which legalized interracial marriage, the backlash observed in response to the Cheerios ad reminded all who were paying attention just how stigmatized and polarizing the topic of interracial relationships remains…Interestingly, although most people are aware that support from society, particularly family and friends, for one’s relationship is a key component (i.e., generally necessary, but not necessarily sufficient) of a healthy, satisfying romance, the prevalence of interracial relationships and marriages has increased dramatically over the past 40 years…In their first study, they asked almost 250 undergraduates, all of whom were in dating relationships (24% dating interracially) to complete several measures via questionnaire. Participants rated themselves and their partners on how descriptive a number of desirable characteristics were of them. The research team focused on four broad categories of desirable characteristics, which they labeled: (a) Cerebral (e.g., intelligence), (b) relational (e.g., trustworthy), (c) vibrancy (e.g., confident, exciting), and (d) attractiveness (e.g., sexy, well-groomed). The primary objective of this first study was to determine whether individuals in interracial relationships, versus those in intraracial (i.e., same race) relationships, viewed themselves and their partners as having more desirable characteristics. Providing initial evidence that individuals involved in interracial relationships do so because different-race partners are more attractive partners (in terms of their desirable characteristics), individuals in interracial relationships rated their partners as more cerebral, relational, and attractive than did those in intraracial relationships; however, there were no differences in the ratings of self-attributes. But the first study only included perceptions of partners – and it is possible that people in interracial relationships might justify their relationships by exaggerating the positive qualities of their partners. Thus, in the next study the researchers recruited 100 couples (29% interracial) and asked couple members to rate themselves on the same desirable characteristics (recruiting couples rather than individuals provided a much larger sample of people involved in an interracial relationship). This time the interracial partners rated themselves as more cerebral and attractive than did those in intraracial relationships. The ratings for vibrancy and relational characteristics were in the same direction, but were not statistically significant. This second study does a better job of addressing subjectivity concerns by focusing on ratings people make of themselves versus the ratings they make of their partners. In the final study the researchers wanted to take it one step further — by testing whether outsiders perceived those in interracial relationships as more attractive than those in intraracial relationships. This time they had 101 couples (31% interracial) come into the lab to be photographed. The researchers then had a group of 10 individuals rate the physical attractiveness of those 202 individuals (i.e., 101 couples X 2) without having any knowledge of the photographed subjects’ relationships. Guess what? The 10 raters judged those in interracial relationships as more attractive individuals compared to those in intraracial relationships. Collectively, these studies provide some understanding for why individuals are attracted to partners of a different race, despite the intolerance they will likely face once involved with such an individual. Specifically, those open to mixed-race relationships are more attractive people and attractive relationship partners than those in same-race relationships.

How To Tell Good Studies From Bad? Bet On Them [Christie Aschwanden on FiveThirtyEight] (11/9/15)

They found that compared to simply asking experts to predict the likelihood that studies will be reproduced, asking them to bet money on the outcomes improved the accuracy of the guesses. The researchers began by selecting some studies slated for replication in the Reproducibility Project: Psychology — a project that aimed to reproduce 100 studies published in three high-profile psychology journals in 2008. They then recruited psychology researchers to take part in two prediction markets. These are the same types of markets that people use to bet on who’s going to be president. In this case, though, researchers were betting on whether a study would replicate or not. Before each prediction market began, participants (47 actively took part in the first market, 45 traded in the second) were asked two questions: How likely do you think it is that each hypothesis in this market will be replicated, and how well do you know this topic? They were then given points worth a total of $100 to bet on whether the studies in their prediction market would replicate. A replication was considered successful if it produced a result, with a p-value of less than 0.05, in the same direction as the original result. Players entered the market with 10,000 points each and could buy and sell contracts for each hypothesis. If a replication succeeded, then its share paid 100, but if the replication failed, then it paid nothing. “If you believe the result will be replicated, you buy the contract, which increases the price,” said the study’s lead author, Anna Dreber, an economist at the Stockholm School of Economics. “If you don’t believe in a study, then you can short-sell it.”…The prediction market correctly called nearly three-quarters (71 percent) of the attempted replications, 39 percent of which succeeded in the reproducibility project. By comparison, the survey conducted before the market began correctly predicted the result of only 58 percent of the replication studies. The prediction market anticipated a finding’s reproducibility better than asking the same bunch of experts to put their best guesses in a hat. Why? “The beauty of the market is that we allow people to be Bayesian,” Dreber said. People come in with some prior belief, but they can also follow prices to see what other people believe and may update their beliefs accordingly. While the survey required everyone to provide an estimate for every study, participants in the market could focus their bets on the studies they felt most sure of, and as a result, rough guesses didn’t skew the averages as much. Finally, putting money at stake motivated people to try harder to find the right answer and reveal what they really think.

Altar, Mexico: how the ‘migrant oasis’ for would-be border crossers became a trap [Rory Carroll on The Guardian] (10/14/15)

It has been dubbed a migrant “oasis”. Times change. These days it feels more like a trap. Organized crime groups routinely extort, kidnap and kill migrants, turning the town and surrounding desert into a high-stakes gamble. One roll of the dice gets you into the US. Another leaves your bones bleaching in the sand…Two rival factions of the Sinaloa cartel known as Los Memos and Los Salazar are waging a murderous war for control, leaving dozens dead this year in and around the town of Sonoyta, down the highway from Altar. Grisly photographs in the local press show their latest innovation: dynamiting captives…It was not always like this. In the 1980s and early 1990s local smugglers known as coyotes would lead groups through the thinly guarded border around Mexicali, Nogales and other urban centres, making small detours into wilderness. When the US ramped up border security after 9/11, coyotes switched to remoter routes through the desert, turning Altar, 60 miles from Arizona, into a major migrant hub. By 2007 several thousand reportedly passed through daily, a human wave which transformed the sleepy agricultural town. Instead of tilling fields of cucumber, melon and asparagus locals catered to the influx with minivans, hotels, flophouses, packed lunches and hiking supplies. The mafia promptly muscled in, demanding a cut.

GoFundMe Gone Wild [Judith Newman on New York Times] (11/6/15)

Given the frequency of the email solicitations, and the level of intimacy expected in the exchanges (another would-be author offered “immortality” to one lucky donor by writing her into her novel for $1,000), it’s not quite like ordering on Amazon. It’s more like Amazon stops by your house for a drink and at midnight is still chatting, while you try not to glance at your watch. I wanted to find a sociologist to comment on this phenomenon. When I searched for “sociologist” and “GoFundMe,” I came across this: “Send a sociologist to GDC!” Apparently a gamer working toward her Ph.D. in sociology needed money to attend a conference to complete her work on gender performance in rock music video games. That wasn’t what I was looking for.

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