"An important component in the construction of the sense of self…"

Special Nerves Register the Emotional Context of a Pleasurable Touch:

“Scientists announced a study today that shows humans have a special set of nerves for feeling pleasure at a mother’s caress or a lover’s embrace.

These nerves are sensitive to the soft touch of fingers gliding over a forearm or a parent’s soothing hand, but not to rough touches, jabs or pinches. Scientists speculate that the nerves might be designed to guide humans toward tenderness and nurturing — a theory bolstered by the fact that the nerves are wired to the same brain areas activated by romantic love and sexual arousal. Although these special nerves, which have thin fibers and send relatively slow signals to the brain, had been identified in animals and humans, their role had been unclear…” Washington Post [thanks, Norton!]

A Plague on the White House:

“A dead crow discovered on the White House grounds was infected with West Nile virus, health officials said after the bird was tested.

The crow is one of two found near a fountain on the South Lawn this week. The first was discovered late Sunday by Secret Service officers, who then found the second early Monday….An additional 45 dead birds in the city have tested positive for West Nile so far this year, according to the city’s Health Department.” Boston Globe

The Culture of Liberty:

Mario Vargas Llosa:

“Cries of Western cultural hegemony are as common as they are misguided. In reality, globalization does not suffocate local cultures but rather liberates them from the ideological conformity of nationalism.” Foreign Policy

OTOH (from June, 2000): Assault of the Earth:

‘Sitting in the Phoenix offices one recent afternoon, the essayist Pico Iyer smiles and admits that his new book — The Global Soul: Jet Lag, Shopping Malls, and the Search for Home — might be a bit “discombobulating.”

No kidding. The literary equivalent of a red-eye flight, the book flits between Los Angeles and Atlanta, Hong Kong and Toronto, England and Japan in an attempt to fathom the human cost of globalism.

As Iyer sees it, our shrinking planet — with its drop-of-a-hat intercontinental travel — has led to a new breed: the Global Soul, a “full-time citizen of nowhere” who dashes around the planet in a sort of cultural limbo. “His memories might be set in airports that looked more and more like transnational cities,” Iyer writes, “in cities that looked more and more like transnational airports. Lacking a binding sense of `we,’ he might nonetheless remain fiercely loyal to a single airline.” ‘ Boston Phoenix

Antsy Up:

Ant-bite case yields $5.35M award: “A 79-year-old woman who was found swarmed by fire ants at the nursing home where she lived was awarded $5.35 million by an Alabama jury.

Linda Law, an employee of Greystone Retirement Community in Huntsville, Ala., made the shocking discovery when she entered Lucille Devers’ darkened room to deliver clean laundry. Ants covered Devers’ body, her bed and the walls of her room. Devers, who was sitting, stood up and Law saw ants flowing from her mouth, nose, ears and hair.” National Law Journal [via Romenesko’s Obscure Store]

The State of Starbucks:

How Much Is Too Much? “Perhaps it means something that in San Francisco, there are now more Starbucks outlets than publicly traded Internet companies. Everybody knows that one day the franchise’s caffeinated growth rate will have to slow, but the numbers argue that it might not be soon.” One Morgan Stanley analyst indicates the saturation point beyond which further growth would hurt the company might not come until there are 3 stores for every 100,000 in the North American population. And then there’s the rest of the world… Business 2.0

Cosmic freeway …

…could transform space travel: “An elaborate matrix of paths scattered throughout the entire solar system can dramatically cut the amount of power needed for spacecraft to explore our celestial neighborhood, NASA announced this week…

Past space wanderers have already tested the space road, including asteroids and comets. Comet Shoemaker-Levy, for example, collided with Jupiter “when it took an off-ramp toward the giant gas planet,” NASA said.

Some scientists theorize that a killer asteroid traveled along the highway when it smacked into Earth and wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. ” CNN