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The Lost Children of Tuam / New York Times
A sensitive child, familiar with the sting of playground taunts, Catherine nevertheless decides to repeat a prank she saw a classmate pull on one of these children. She balls up an empty candy wrapper and presents it to a home baby as if it still contains a sweet, then watches as the little girl’s anticipation melts to sad confusion. Everyone laughs, nearly. This moment will stay with Catherine forever. After classes end, the home babies hurry back down the Dublin Road in two straight lines, boots tap-tap-tapping, and disappear behind those Gothic walls. Sometimes the dark wooden front door is ajar, and on her way home Catherine thrills at the chance of a stolen peek. Beyond those glass-fanged walls lay seven acres of Irish suffering. Buried here somewhere are famine victims who succumbed to starvation and fever a century earlier, when the home was a loathed workhouse for the homeless poor. But they are not alone. Deep in the distant future, Catherine will expose this property’s appalling truths. She will prompt a national reckoning that will leave the people of Ireland asking themselves: Who were we? Who are we? At the moment, though, she is only a child. She is walking home to a father tending to the cattle and a mother guarding a secret, away from the Irish town whose very name conjures the buried dead.
Chinatown's Ghost Scam / New Yorker
Wang Jing was so ashamed of what had happened to her that, for the first hour of our conversation, in June, at the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office, she made no eye contact, as if doing so would break some spell and prevent her from finishing her story. She spoke haltingly in Mandarin, the only language we shared; she’d have been more comfortable in Cantonese or Taishanese, the dialect of the small city in Guangdong Province on whose rural outskirts she was born. But, more than that, she seemed unused to being listened to in any language. She asked me not to use her real name and had brought along her son, who is in his late twenties. He sat impassive but watchful, accustomed, like many children of immigrants, to making sure that his mother wasn’t taken advantage of. [...] The first reports of what have become known as blessing scams appeared in the Chinese media around the turn of the century. In 2002, there were more than eight hundred incidents in Hong Kong, leading the police to establish a dedicated task force. Investigators determined that the suspects were middle-aged women, working in crews of three or four, and that almost all of them came from southern coastal provinces, whose proximity to the wealth of Hong Kong and Taiwan creates tempting opportunities for criminals. The scammers travelled first to Taiwan and other cities across Asia, and then to Chinese communities in the United States, Canada, and Australia. In the summer of 2012, in San Francisco, there were more than fifty incidents, which netted an estimated $1.5 million in cash and goods.
'I Forgot My PIN': An Epic Tale of Losing $30,000 in Bitcoin / Wired
It was 6:30 in the morning. My 14-year-old daughter, Jane, was in London on a school trip, and my older daughter, Sarina, was at college in Colorado. My wife Carla and I were getting ready to leave for the airport to take a vacation in Tokyo. As I was rummaging through my desk drawer for a phone charger, I saw the orange piece of paper with the recovery words and PIN. What should I do with this? If our plane plowed into the ocean, I’d want my daughters to be able to get the bitcoins. The coins had already nearly tripled in value since I bought them, and I could imagine them being worth $50,000 one day. I took a pen and wrote on the paper: "Jane, if anything happens, show this paper to Cory. He’ll know what to do with it. Love, Dad (“Cory” is Cory Doctorow, my friend and business partner at my website, Boing Boing. He’s not a bitcoin enthusiast, but I knew he’d be able to figure out how to retrieve the master private key from the word list.) I took the paper into Jane’s bedroom, stuck it under her pillow, and we took a Lyft to LAX. [...] That morning, bleary eyed, I started looking into ways to get my bitcoins back that didn’t involve recalling my PIN or recovery words. If I’d lost my debit card PIN, I could contact my bank and I’d eventually regain access to my funds. Bitcoin is different. No one owns the bitcoin transaction network.
The war against Pope Francis / The Guardian
Pope Francis is one of the most hated men in the world today. Those who hate him most are not atheists, or protestants, or Muslims, but some of his own followers. Outside the church he is hugely popular as a figure of almost ostentatious modesty and humility. From the moment that Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio became pope in 2013, his gestures caught the world’s imagination: the new pope drove a Fiat, carried his own bags and settled his own bills in hotels; he asked, of gay people, “Who am I to judge?” and washed the feet of Muslim women refugees. But within the church, Francis has provoked a ferocious backlash from conservatives who fear that this spirit will divide the church, and could even shatter it. This summer, one prominent English priest said to me: “We can’t wait for him to die. It’s unprintable what we say in private. Whenever two priests meet, they talk about how awful Bergoglio is … he’s like Caligula: if he had a horse, he’d make him cardinal.” Of course, after 10 minutes of fluent complaint, he added: “You mustn’t print any of this, or I’ll be sacked.” This mixture of hatred and fear is common among the pope’s adversaries. Francis, the first non-European pope in modern times, and the first ever Jesuit pope, was elected as an outsider to the Vatican establishment, and expected to make enemies. But no one foresaw just how many he would make.
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The Wonder Drug for Aging (Made From One of the Deadliest Toxins on Earth) / Bloomberg
There’s no easy way into Allergan’s Botox laboratories in Irvine, Calif. And once you’re inside there’s no quick way out. But first things first: Here’s a waiver acknowledging that within 18 to 36 hours of entering the secured labs, you could develop symptoms including double vision, difficulty speaking, arm or leg weakness, and eventual paralysis of your respiratory system. Try not to worry. Assume you sign the form and move on. The initial entryway is fitted with keycard-activated doors, beyond which are more doors guarded by PIN pads, followed by still more keycard entry points and more PIN pads. There are only a few people at work or walking around. Deep inside, behind double-paned windows, are still more glass barriers and, finally, metal-enclosed workstations. Everything is under video surveillance. All activity is measured and monitored. Guards watch the comings and goings from a room filled with banks of screens. All this scrutiny and precaution isn’t there to protect Allergan’s wildly popular drug from competitors, though it is worth protecting—last year, Botox generated $2.8 billion in sales. Rather, the security exists because the drug that can take years off a person’s appearance by erasing wrinkles also happens to be made with one of the most toxic substances known to science.
An Icy Conquest / New York Review of Books
The brutal story of Jamestown scarcely fits the pageant of success that students are often taught in the condensed version of early American history that starts in 1492 when Columbus sailed the ocean blue and then jumps to the Pilgrims’ safe landing at Plymouth Rock in 1620 and their peaceful celebration of the first Thanksgiving the following year. But in his deeply researched and exciting new book, A Cold Welcome, the historian Sam White focuses on the true stories of the English, Spanish, and French colonial expeditions in North America. He tells strange and surprising tales of drought, famine, bitterly cold winters, desperation, and death, while anchoring his research in the methods and results of the science of climate change and historical climatology. [...] The half-century that led up to the founding of permanent settlements saw, as White notes, “one of the steepest declines in Northern Hemisphere temperatures in perhaps thousands of years.” His fresh account of the climatic forces shaping the colonization of North America differs significantly from long-standing interpretations of those early calamities.
What Experts Know About Men Who Rape / New York Times
Prostitution Reduces Rape / Marginal Revolution
By the end of the summer, Dr. Smithyman had completed 50 interviews, which became the foundation for his dissertation: “The Undetected Rapist.” What was particularly surprising to him was how normal these men sounded and how diverse their backgrounds were. He concluded that few generalizations could be made. Over the past few weeks, women across the world have recounted tales of harassment and sexual assault by posting anecdotes to social media with the hashtag #MeToo. Even just focusing on the second category, the biographies of the accused are so varied that they seem to support Dr. Smithyman’s observation. But more recent research suggests that there are some commonalities. In the decades since his paper, scientists have been gradually filling out a picture of men who commit sexual assaults.
In short, a wide variety of evidence from different authors, times and places, and experiments shows clearly and credibly that prostitution reduces rape. This finding is of great importance in considering how prostitution should be rationally regulated.
The N.F.L.’s Most Valuable Player Might Be ... a Punter? / New York Times
Greg Zuerlein kicks for the Los Angeles Rams, but on a cloudless afternoon here last month, he played the role of a receiver practicing his sideline footwork. Standing a few feet inbounds, he waited for spirals to soar his way. The first ball sailed beyond his grasp, but when the next arced toward him from about 40 yards away, Zuerlein merely extended his arms to secure it. For the next, he shuffled a few feet to his right to grab it. To catch another, he barely moved. As the Rams’ three quarterbacks performed passing drills on an adjacent field, Johnny Hekker pointed toward Zuerlein and raised his arms in triumph. Hekker had punted those balls. He easily could have thrown them. Since entering the league in 2012, Hekker, 27, has come to dominate as a punter like few others. He confounds opponents by marrying distance, direction and hang time to smash records, last year compiling what is regarded as the best punting season in N.F.L. history.
Using particle physics, scientists find hidden structure inside Egypt's Great Pyramid / Los Angeles Times
An international team of scientists has discovered a large hidden cavity within Egypt’s Great Pyramid of Giza, and they did it by looking for muons — particles sent to Earth by cosmic rays from space.
Google’s AI thinks this turtle looks like a gun, which is a problem / The Verge
I've sent something similar before, but there are some interesting new details here:
From self-driving cars to smart surveillance cams, society is slowly learning to trust AI over human eyes. But although our new machine vision systems are tireless and ever-vigilant, they’re far from infallible. Just look at the toy turtle above. It looks like a turtle, right? Well, not to a neural network trained by Google to identify everyday objects. To Google’s AI it looks exactly like a rifle. This 3D-printed turtle is an example of what’s known as an “adversarial image.” In the AI world, these are pictures engineered to trick machine vision software, incorporating special patterns that make AI systems flip out. Think of them as optical illusions for computers.
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The various approaches to time travel in movies & books / Kottke
Using a number of hand-drawn diagrams, minutephysics goes over the various types of time travel featured in books and movies like Primer, Harry Potter, Back to the Future, and Looper. The video covers free will, do-overs, alternate timelines, multiple selves, time machines within time machines, and many other things.
Guy Makes A Commercial For His Girlfriend's Used '96 Honda, And It's Absolutely Brilliant / Digg
Max Lanman's girlfriend was looking to sell her car, a 1996 Honda Accord with 141,095 miles, so he stepped up to the plate to help out. Big time.
Prop Town: The Fake Rooftop Suburb that Hid a Whole WWII Airplane Factory / 99% Invisible
Boeing’s aircraft manufacturing facilities were critical to the World War II efforts of Allied forces. But the unexpected attack on Pearl Harbor stoked fears of potential aerial assaults by Japanese forces. Some factories put up camouflage netting to disguise structures, but the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers took things a big step further on top of the Boeing Plant 2 in Seattle, crafting an entire faux neighborhood.
People matching artworks / Kottke
Photographer Stefan Draschan spent hours hanging around museums waiting for people who matched in some way the artwork around them.