Reaction of the rich to the Notre Dame fire teaches us a lot about the world we live in

Gettyimages 1137479452’If two men in a world of more than 7 billion people can provide €300million to restore Notre Dame, within six hours, then there is enough money in the world to feed every mouth, shelter every family and educate every child. The failure to do so is a matter of will, and a matter of system.

The failure to do so comes from our failure to recognise the mundane emergencies that claims lives all around us every single day. Works of art and architectural history and beauty rely on the ingenuity of people, and it is people who must be protected above all else.

Brick and mortar and stained-glass might burn, but they do not bleed, and they do not starve, and they do not suffer. Humans suffer. Everywhere in the world, from Paris to Persepolis, people are suffering. But their suffering is every day. It does not light up a front page, and it does not inspire immediate donations from the world’s wealthiest men.…’


Empathy Might Not Be the Antidote To Poisonous Political Polarization

Invisibilia empathy 08f5be3ee2f41bfc617bdd59bd38fafe0e825b0f s1600 c85In fact, it might reinforce tribalism:

’Researchers who study empathy have noticed that it’s actually really hard to do what we were striving for in my generation: empathize with people who are different than you are, much less people you don’t like. But if researchers set up a conflict, people get into automatic empathy overdrive, with their own team. This new research has scrambled notions of how empathy works as a force in the world. For example, we often think of terrorists as shockingly blind to the suffering of innocents. But Breithaupt and other researchers think of them as classic examples of people afflicted with an “excess of empathy. They feel the suffering of their people.”

Breithaupt called his new book The Dark Sides of Empathy, because there’s a point at which empathy doesn’t even look like the kind of universal empathy I was taught in school. There is a natural way that empathy gets triggered in the brain — your pain centers light up when you see another person suffering. But out in the world it starts to look more like tribalism, a way to keep reinforcing your own point of view and blocking out any others.…’


I’m not really surprised at this finding, as I think connections to our in-group are evolutionarily hardwired and empathy is the currency for those affiliations. But it inherently entails excluding the Other. The conceit of universal empathy attempts to force the human round peg into the square hole. 

Florida Man Killed by World’s Most Dangerous Bird

1555348076273 797px Cassowary head frontal

’A Florida man was killed by “the world’s most dangerous bird” last Friday, becoming one of the few known cases of death-by-cassowary in modern history.

The victim was identified as Martin Hajos, a 75-year-old man who owned a farm near Alachua, according to the Gainesville Sun. On Friday morning, Hajos was rushed to UF Health Shands Hospital “under a trauma alert,” and later succumbed to undescribed injuries.

“He was doing what he loved,” said a woman who claimed that Hajos was her fiance.

Emergency responders said that Hajos was killed by a cassowary, a large and flightless relative of the emu with a dangerous reputation and, most notably, weaponized feet punctuated by talons up to five inches long.

Cassowaries are ratites, belonging a group of birds characterized by their inability to fly. Native to tropical forests in Australia and New Guinea, they can reach heights of more than five feet and weigh up to 135 pounds.

“It looks like it was accidental,” Alachua County Fire Rescue deputy chief Jeff Taylor told the Gainesville Sun about the incident. “My understanding is that the gentleman was in the vicinity of the bird and at some point fell. When he fell, he was attacked.”…’

Via Motherboard

Ariana Grande’s PTSD Brain Scan

AgbrainPseudoscience and Psychobabble:

’The brain became a celebrity this week when Ariana Grande shared the results of a scan of her brain seemingly showing signs of severe PTSD:

Is there any science behind this?

Not really.

The source of the scan isn’t clear but I’m 99% sure that the image was taken at one of Dr Daniel Amen‘s controversial clinics. Amen uses similar graphics in his brain scans. If it is an Amen scan, then the ‘blobs’ seen on Grande’s brain represent areas of increased or decreased cerebral blood flow (CBF) as assessed using a method called SPECT. SPECT is a fairly old neuroimaging methodology that forms the heart of Amen’s network of clinics.

Bear in mind that the blobs on an image like this are statistical illustrations. A scan like this is not a photograph or x-ray of structural changes, and without knowing the context in which the scan was taken and the methods used to analyze it, it doesn’t mean much.

Most psychiatrists and neuroscientists would not use SPECT or any other type of brain scan to diagnose PTSD. Dr Amen claims to be able to do so, and in 2015 published a paper reporting on this, but I wouldn’t put much faith in it.…’

Via Neuroskeptic

Raffi, the King of Children’s Music, Takes on Trump

10 raffi w700 h467 2x’If you grew up in the ’80s and ’90s, have children, or have ever been to a kid’s birthday party, then you’ve probably heard the Canadian crooner’s timeless bangers “Baby Beluga” and “Banana Phone.”

Raffi’s saccharine melodies and lyrics actually read like discrete guides on how to live and love with dignity, starting at childhood. With an adult’s ear, the chorus of Raffi’s biggest hit — “Baby beluga in the deep blue sea / Swim so wild and you swim so free” — appears to be about learning how to individuate while still feeling safe and held by your caretakers. It’s a valuable message, even for adults. The last line of “Everything Grows,” an ode to the universality of the life cycle, is, “Mamas do and papas too / everything grows.” It’s a subtle reminder to parents that while we may be done with the physical part of our growth, emotional growth is a lifelong journey.

But learning to live with dignity means learning about what it’s like to live without it and the nefarious forces that try to take it away. … In recent months, the 70-year-old singer has gained a bit of attention for his active, politically engaged Twitter feed where many posts are accompanied with the dissenter’s slogan du jour: #Resist and #ResistFacism. Raffi’s outspokenness around Trump and his policies goes back to when he was elected. Just last week the singer called Trump unfit for office, racist, and misogynistic. In December he said we must “fight fascism with everything we’ve got.” Seemingly trite, the addition of Raffi’s voice to the American political landscape is actually invaluable — the singer-songwriter is the premier emissary for children and his positions carry with them an incredible weight. And the children, after all, are the future.…’

Via New York

Moving Day at the Hells Angels Clubhouse

1920px Hells Angels clubhouse East VillageAfter 50 years, Angels vacate notorious Greenwich Village headquarters brownstone for new digs in former Baptist church on Long Island.

’“The parties used to be great,” Nancy said. “Until the explosion.” In 1990, a garbage-can firecracker killed a fourteen-year-old boy. Over the years, the East Village Angels both caused and prevented mayhem. In 1994, the Times characterized this mayhem, part “lore and part police reports,” as “countless decibel-cranking parties, LSD-laced misadventures, drug deals, orgies and random acts of violence against passers-by.” In recent years, parking-space tussles resulted in beatings and a shooting; a woman who pounded on the door, screaming, was badly beaten. In 1978, the chapter president, Vincent (Big Vinny) Girolamo, of plaque fame, allegedly pushed his girlfriend off the roof, to her death. (He died, of stab wounds, before he could stand trial.) Innumerable bad vibes were doled out after unwanted bench-sitting, dog-peeing, and photography incidents. But, from the scuzz era to the N.Y.U.-and-condos era, club members also defended their neighbors; the Angels’ block was considered the safest around.

“I haven’t heard anybody say ‘Good riddance,’ ” Janet said.

“I’ll miss the way they decorated at Christmas,” Nancy said.

“They used to break people’s cameras,” Janet said. In the Instagram age, unwanted photography had skyrocketed.…’

Via The New Yorker (thanks to Boing Boing)