How to keep the peace with your conservative relatives this holiday: Complain together! The family that kvetches together … makes it through dinner without any tears … together
Help these kids today: America’s quiet homelessness nightmare is 1.3 million homeless students. This Christmas, homeless data is changing in shocking ways: Fewer people on streets, but a record for homeless kids
How to win Christmas arguments: Salon’s guide to defeating your crazy right-wing uncle. Your right-wing uncle is all excited to talk about politics this Christmas. Lucky you!
Bill O’Reilly ruined Christmas: Why his nonsense undermines the holiday I love. With every predictable rant by the human outrage machines, the holiday loses a little magic for me. Here’s why.
“The Nutcracker’s” disturbing origin story: Why this was once the world’s creepiest ballet. From pedophilic godfathers to gruesome seven-headed mice, the first versions of the classic ballet were — different.
The most awkward sex ever? 8 epic holiday hookup tales. “I asked if he wanted to have sex — while he was talking about his dad having a stroke”
Terrifying gifts from the 22nd century: The hottest holiday presents for a post-apocalyptic tomorrow. The world will be way scarier by then, but there are still plenty of fun options for Christmas
Via NYTimes.com: ‘Steven Pinker is every bit the populist. All but three of his nine books are aimed at the general public (“The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined” is available in 21 formats and editions; the CD comes out this week). Dr. Pinker’s teaching is similarly accessible. Just look at the test questions here, culled from one of his Harvard courses, “Psychological Science.” He explains his approach: “The questions that psychology tackles are the ones that obsess us in everyday life: family relations, sexuality, kindness and aggression, the reliability of knowledge. Not surprisingly, many concepts in academic psychology have crossed over into popular culture, such as conditioning, Freudian psychoanalysis and cognitive dissonance. Exams that invoke these memes test whether students understand the theories well enough to reason about them when they are presented away from a familiar textbook context and are applied to real life.” ‘
Take the ten-question quiz; how did you do?
Via IFLScience: ‘Opposable thumbs gave ancient humans a huge evolutionary advantage by allowing for use of tools. More recently, these thumbs also allow for people to quickly type on screens of smartphones and other touchscreen devices. A new study has found that this recent widespread mode of communication is actually changing the way thumbs and the brain talk to one another, demonstrating the plasticity of the human brain. Arko Ghosh of the University of Zurich is lead author of the paper, which has been published in Current Biology.’
Via National Geographic: ‘Krampus, a half-goat, half-demon of centuries-old Austrian lore who’s known for beating naughty people around Christmastime, is having a moment.’
This NYTimes editorial reads, in part:
‘…Americans have known about many of these acts for years, but the 524-page executive summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report erases any lingering doubt about their depravity and illegality: In addition to new revelations of sadistic tactics like “rectal feeding,” scores of detainees were waterboarded, hung by their wrists, confined in coffins, sleep-deprived, threatened with death or brutally beaten. In November 2002, one detainee who was chained to a concrete floor died of “suspected hypothermia.”
These are, simply, crimes. They are prohibited by federal law, which defines torture as the intentional infliction of “severe physical or mental pain or suffering.” They are also banned by the Convention Against Torture, the international treaty that the United States ratified in 1994 and that requires prosecution of any acts of torture.
So it is no wonder that today’s blinkered apologists are desperate to call these acts anything but torture, which they clearly were. As the report reveals, these claims fail for a simple reason: C.I.A. officials admitted at the time that what they intended to do was illegal.
In July 2002, C.I.A. lawyers told the Justice Department that the agency needed to use “more aggressive methods” of interrogation that would “otherwise be prohibited by the torture statute.” They asked the department to promise not to prosecute those who used these methods. When the department refused, they shopped around for the answer they wanted. They got it from the ideologically driven lawyers in the Office of Legal Counsel, who wrote memos fabricating a legal foundation for the methods. Government officials now rely on the memos as proof that they sought and received legal clearance for their actions. But the report changes the game: We now know that this reliance was not made in good faith.
No amount of legal pretzel logic can justify the behavior detailed in the report. Indeed, it is impossible to read it and conclude that no one can be held accountable. At the very least, Mr. Obama needs to authorize a full and independent criminal investigation.
‘Starting a criminal investigation is not about payback; it is about ensuring that this never happens again and regaining the moral credibility to rebuke torture by other governments. Because of the Senate’s report, we now know the distance officials in the executive branch went to rationalize, and conceal, the crimes they wanted to commit. The question is whether the nation will stand by and allow the perpetrators of torture to have perpetual immunity for their actions.’
Via Pacific Standard: ‘At, I suspect, every single correctional facility in the U.S., a drug network something like the one I’m about to outline operates and prospers. Take it from me—I was recently released from federal prison after spending 21 years of my life inside.
While you may read about the drug smuggling ventures that are busted, you’re unlikely to hear so often about the operations that are successful. To help explain one of these systems, I got in touch with a man I’ll call “Divine.” He’s a black, 50-something, very suave type of hustler, clean cut and ripped up from working out. A native New Yorker, his prowess as a drug dealer is even celebrated in hip-hop’s lyrical lore. He is now doing life in the feds. But his occupation in prison brings him money and power, and the all-important prestige of being The Man. He agreed to anonymously break down how it all works for Substance.com.’
Via Pacific Standard: ‘Healing the brain with the Grateful Dead.’
Via The Verge: ‘Male northern white rhino dies of old age in San Diego, pushing the animal one step closer to extinction.’
I posted awhile back about the fact that there were only six of these magnificent beasts left. But why did the world wait to that point to sound the alarm?
Via Salon.com: ‘As many of us wade through the horror of the Senate torture report, it’s hard not to think back to a time when the man who ran the country explained to us in plain language what he was doing. I’m talking about Vice President Dick Cheney, of course, the official who smoothly seized the reins of power after 9/11 and guided national security policy throughout his eight years in office. He was one of the most adept bureaucratic players American politics has ever produced and it’s his doctrine, not the Bush Doctrine, that spurred government actions from the very beginning.’
Sorry to expose you yet again to this nightmare-inducing visage. Why? Because, while Bush was risible, this man was execrable. And, with another round of US Presidential campaigning kicking off, can the American people grasp that those who forget the lessons of history are condemned to repeat them?
Via Medium: ‘Check All That Apply.’
Via DailyEntertainment.me: ‘Words that make you wonder why anyone would ever come up with them.’