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Abhilash R
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I was beginning to think there might not be one this year, but it's finally here!

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I normally tell people to calm down when they hear about the outbreak of the latest horrific disease or potential problem or the like. 99% of the time, this is the media getting ahead of itself. After seeing this data about the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, I think we may be seeing the 1% here. As the author of this article puts it:

"I’ve spent enough time around public health people, in the US and in the field, to understand that they prefer to express themselves conservatively. So when they indulge in apocalyptic language, it is unusual, and notable.

When one of the most senior disease detectives in the US begins talking about “plague,” knowing how emotive that word can be, and another suggests calling out the military, it is time to start paying attention."

That is, to put it mildly, alarming. Fortunately, there are concrete suggestions about things which can avert disaster right now: in fact, dealing with situations like this is one of the things the military is best at, and dropping in, establishing large field hospitals, setting up various infection-control protocols, and the like could make the difference between an out-of-control epidemic that ravages the planet and something which ends relatively quickly. 

The graph of most interest is the one on the right, below, showing cases per day in three countries. Sierra Leone seems to be stabilizing slowly; Guinea is showing oscillations, which probably has to do with hospital visitation patterns and waves of panic in the population; but the really scary line is the one from Liberia. You can recognize it as the one that's pointing sharply upwards. This likely has a lot to do with the increasing urbanization of West Africa, as Ebola has a much easier time spreading in dense cities than in small villages.

Given that we are looking at an estimate of 77,000 to 277,000 cases by the end of the year if we don't do anything, and that this could easily lead to mass political instability -- which would then spread Ebola carriers left and right, and turn a regional issue into a global one -- perhaps now would be a really good time for our political leaders to invest in some goddamned catastrophe aversion.

Really, on the priorities list, this is much more likely to be a threat to our governments' (and people's) collective interests than ISIS.  

Via several.

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Darn, I had just discovered this myself on my last flight! And now it's public knowledge :-/

Also, yet another blow to Lucy, the movie.

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Excellent write up by Yonatan on one segment of this weekend's Last Week Tonight With John Oliver!
John Oliver had a great piece talking about income inequality in the US, and how people perceive it. The key point, which he does a great job of explaining, is how people perceive laws which protect the rich at their own expense as being in their favor, in case they might become rich in the future: there's a profound psychology behind that. As he puts it, "I can clearly see this game is rigged... which is what's going to make this so sweet when I win this thing!"

There are actually many deeper levels to this thought which he doesn't go in to, but which also affect us deeply. The belief that "most people who want to get ahead can make it if they are willing to work hard" -- held by 60% of Americans according to a Pew study -- has as its other side the implication that if you don't get ahead, that means you personally failed.

Apart from the obvious implications this perspective has for policy (are the poor poor because they didn't try hard enough?) this has individual consequences. Michael Kimmel pointed out a very interesting one in the context of gender: to be a (white) man in the US (especially if you come from a "traditional" American home) carries with it a very strong version of this norm, that if you work hard, play by the rules, don't whine, don't ask for things, and so on, you'll succeed: the reward will be a good job, a home, a family, the respect of other men. This is the social status of maleness: it has nothing to do with your genitals, it has to do with being accepted and respected as a man. That's just the same sort of thing that John Oliver is talking about, but with extras on it: it's a belief that if you work hard, and sacrifice a lot, you'll succeed, and thus get the respect of your peers.

So what happens, in this story, if the economy is in the dumps, or if the factories close, or for any one of twenty other reasons you don't succeed? Not only do you not succeed, but you lose your status as a man: which is to say, you lose one of the things that's most core to your self-identification. You lose (you expect) the respect of your peers. The problem with this vision is that it ties absolutely everything up into one basket, and tells you that success or failure is entirely your fault. Which would be a lot better if that were actually true; but (coming back to the economics again), it really isn't, especially today. Most people could never afford to buy the house they grew up in -- not because of anything they did, but because of the relative trajectories of real estate prices and wages. Houses simply cost a lot more than they once did, which is another way of saying that wealth (things you own) is steadily becoming more valuable than your labor. Which is great if you inherit the house, but not so great if you don't -- or if, say, you lose that house in a foreclosure, which therefore not only costs you your home, but that large asset which can give you income (e.g. in the form of not having to pay rent yourself) in the future. 

The myth that we "have never been a nation of haves and have-nots; we are a nation of haves and soon-to-haves" (as Sen. Rubio puts it) is captivating, but it doesn't actually make economic sense: Unless the total wealth of the country is increasing quickly enough for literally everyone to be getting not just richer, but enough richer to make a qualitative class leap, it would be physically impossible for this to work. And -- as John Oliver points out, and really, why are you reading this instead of listening to him? He's much funnier than I am -- that belief can be used by crafty politicians to fleece you.

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Lego makes everything better.
The stage is set for Germany vs Argentina and the final of the 2014 #WorldCup  But what have been your highlights?

Here are ours: brick-by-brick

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Maybe he got a little carried away...
American student in Germany gets stuck in vagina sculpture; has to be 'delivered' by firefighters.

An American idiot got stuck in a sculpture called Chacán-Pi by Fernando de la Jara in the German city of Tübingen. He had to be rescued by 22 firefighters.

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OK, Verizon wants Netflix to pay for the internet connection. What am I paying for, then, exactly?
Verizon Sends Netflix Cease & Desist Over Streaming Quality Warnings

Here comes the legal team ... I guess "Big Red" can't handle the truth. 

( Full Story via The Verge - )

#Verizon   #Netflix   #Streaming   #NetNeutrality   #Internet  

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Chalk up another one to the noodleheads in the Patent & Trademark Office. (Although, in their defense, this is probably more of a poor application of the Trademark, than a bad Trademark itself.)
"This may be the biggest legal controversy to engulf the mathematical constant pi since that time in 1897 when the Indiana legislature tried to declare it equal to 3.2:"
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