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Extensive Data Shows Punishing Reach of Racism for Black Boys / New York Times

Black boys raised in America, even in the wealthiest families and living in some of the most well-to-do neighborhoods, still earn less in adulthood than white boys with similar backgrounds, according to a sweeping new study that traced the lives of millions of children. [...] According to the study, led by researchers at Stanford, Harvard and the Census Bureau, income inequality between blacks and whites is driven entirely by what is happening among these boys and the men they become. Though black girls and women face deep inequality on many measures, black and white girls from families with comparable earnings attain similar individual incomes as adults. [...] The authors, including the Stanford economist Raj Chetty and two census researchers, Maggie R. Jones and Sonya R. Porter, tried to identify neighborhoods where poor black boys do well, and as well as whites. “The problem,” Mr. Chetty said, “is that there are essentially no such neighborhoods in America.” The few neighborhoods that met this standard were in areas that showed less discrimination in surveys and tests of racial bias. They mostly had low poverty rates. And, intriguingly, these pockets — including parts of the Maryland suburbs of Washington, and corners of Queens and the Bronx — were the places where many lower-income black children had fathers at home. Poor black boys did well in such places, whether their own fathers were present or not. “That is a pathbreaking finding,” said William Julius Wilson, a Harvard sociologist whose books have chronicled the economic struggles of black men. “They’re not talking about the direct effects of a boy’s own parents’ marital status. They’re talking about the presence of fathers in a given census tract.” [...] Other studies show that boys, across races, are more sensitive than girls to disadvantages like growing up in poverty or facing discrimination. While black women also face negative effects of racism, black men often experience racial discrimination differently. As early as preschool, they are more likely to be disciplined in school. They are pulled over or detained and searched by police officers more often. [...] Black men raised in the top 1 percent — by millionaires — were as likely to be incarcerated as white men raised in households earning about $36,000.

The Boy Who Lived on Edges / Outside

Schell had often heard of the dead man. At 31, Adam Roberts was one of the most aggressive freeskiers in the Northwest. A ski model and an aspiring professional who’d attracted the interest of gear companies, Adam seemed to be everywhere in the mountains, the graceful sine wave of his turns interrupted only by long drops from tall cliffs. He was of modest height, with a weight-room torso and a voice so gentle it could sound feminine. Mutton chops thick enough for gray jays to nest in bracketed a wide smile. He frequently wore nail polish, sometimes dyed his brown hair, and rarely pursued money. People who met him often came away using the word “charismatic.” Some thought him reckless. The caller that morning told Schell he was a friend of Adam’s who’d heard about his death. “I know you can’t tell me detailed information,” the man said. “But I’d just like to ask one question.” “What’s your question?” “I want to know if Adam was skiing alone, or if he had a partner with him.” “It’s my understanding that he was with a partner,” Schell said. The caller sighed, then said something that struck Schell as odd. “I feel a lot better hearing that.” He was worried Adam had gone into the mountains alone, in the hope that he would be swept away.

To Catch a Predator / New York

The NYPD’s top sex-crimes investigator tried to bust Harvey Weinstein three years ago. Then the DA stepped in. [...] On April 1, five days after Battilana had filed her complaint, Bashford conducted an interview with her. The next day, sources say, Vance’s office sent its own investigators to Battilana’s apartment. There, according to Bock, they aggressively questioned her roommates. Was Battilana a prostitute? Did she bring home lots of strange men? Was she a stripper? The DA’s office also reviewed video from the apartment building’s surveillance cameras, which would enable them to create a record of Battilana’s personal life. “When she found out about this, the victim became afraid,” recalls Bock. “She began to cry.” According to Bock, Osgood believed that Vance and his office were actively working to discredit Battilana. So the chief and his team decided to take an extraordinary step. “We decided we’re going to hide the victim,” Bock says. “From the DA.” On April 2, under the direction of Osgood, the SVD put Battilana in a hotel, registering her under a false name. For the next five nights, she was kept safe from Vance’s investigators, first at the Franklin Hotel, then at the Bentley. A 22-year-old woman had come forward to accuse one of the most powerful men in Hollywood of sexual abuse, and the police decided she needed protection — not only from her alleged assailant, but from the elected official responsible for prosecuting him.

----- 2 stars -----

The quest to save Stephen Hawking's voice / San Francisco Chronicle

Wood explained something so improbable that Dorsey had trouble understanding at first: Hawking was still using the CallText 5010 speech synthesizer, a version last upgraded in 1986. In nearly 30 years, he had never switched to newer technology. Hawking liked the voice just the way it was, and had stubbornly refused other options. But now the hardware was showing wear and tear. If it failed entirely, his distinctive voice would be lost to the ages. [...] Thirty years old? He thought. Oh, my God. It wouldn’t be easy. They might have to locate the old source code. They might have to find the original chips and the manuals for those chips. They couldn’t buy them anymore, the companies don’t exist. Solving the problem might mean mounting an archaeological dig through an antiquated era of technology. But it was for Stephen Hawking. “Let’s get it done,” Dorsey said.

Fifteen Years Ago, America Destroyed My Country / New York Times

No one knows for certain how many Iraqis have died as a result of the invasion 15 years ago. Some credible estimates put the number at more than one million. You can read that sentence again. The invasion of Iraq is often spoken of in the United States as a “blunder,” or even a “colossal mistake.” It was a crime. Those who perpetrated it are still at large. Some of them have even been rehabilitated thanks to the horrors of Trumpism and a mostly amnesiac citizenry. (A year ago, I watched Mr. Bush on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” dancing and talking about his paintings.) The pundits and “experts” who sold us the war still go on doing what they do. I never thought that Iraq could ever be worse than it was during Saddam’s reign, but that is what America’s war achieved and bequeathed to Iraqis.

On the Hunt for the Lost Wonders of Medieval Britain / Atlas Obscura

When, sometime between the 9th and 12th centuries, a native son took up the task of listing the Wonders of Britain, he included a lake with 60 islands in it and a fountain of salt, a levitating altar and a shape-shifting royal burial mound—all told, 26 natural phenomena and small miracles. These wonders were concentrated into two areas of Britain—in the north, toward Scotland, and to the west, in what’s now Wales—places where Celtic tribes still held sway after years of Saxon incursions had eroded their territory. The list’s unknown author came from those lands, probably the Welsh border region, and though he was writing in a time of rising Saxon power, his heart seemed to lie with Celtic traditions that were in danger of disappearing. This is “Dark Age” history, often overlooked in the rush from the Romans to the Renaissance, with details forgotten or recorded only in legend. The Wonders of Britain, too, have disappeared from memory. According to the manuscript curators at the British Library, “few actual geographic features” known today match the list’s descriptions. But if the broad outlines of medieval political divisions linger over modern Britain, some of the wonders are still hiding there, too. Evans, a senior lecturer in the geography department at the University of Leeds and self-proclaimed “expert in nothing,” started trying to track them down more than a decade ago.

Everyone Tries To Dodge The Tax Man, And It Keeps Getting Easier / FiveThirtyEight

The bipartisan flirtation with avoiding taxes, through both legal and illegal means, threatens a tax system that is already bringing in historically low levels of revenue and that pays for everything from social security to military preparedness. Three foes in particular are enabling tax dodgers, making their ploys more common and more damaging: reduced support for the IRS, new incentives for people to become cheaters and widening partisan distrust. [...] There may be no purer example of D.C. dysfunction than the effort to underfund the IRS. That’s because the IRS isn’t like other agencies; when you cut its funding, you actually lose money. Every dollar devoted to the IRS budget generates four to five dollars in new revenue.

Tanzania’s rogue president / Economist

Sacking minor officials in front of an audience is only one part of Mr Magufuli’s authoritarian populism. Since coming to power in the country of 55m on the east coast of Africa in 2015, Mr Magufuli, nicknamed “the bulldozer” from his time as roads minister, has bashed foreign-owned businesses with impossible tax demands, ordered pregnant girls to be kicked out of school, shut down newspapers and locked up “immoral” musicians who criticise him. A journalist and opposition party members have disappeared, political rallies have been banned and mutilated bodies have washed up on the shores of Coco Beach in Dar es Salaam, the commercial capital. Mr Magufuli is fast transforming Tanzania from a flawed democracy into one of Africa’s more brutal dictatorships. It is a lesson in how easily weak institutions can be hijacked and how quickly democratic progress can be undone.

The Dark Rule Utilitarian Argument for Science Piracy / Slate Star Codex

But I can also think of an argument why Sci-Hub isn’t unethical. The reason I don’t pirate Black Panther is because, if everyone pirated movies, it would destroy the movie industry, and we would never get Lego Black Panther IV: Lego Black Panther Vs. The Frowny Emoji, and that would make people sad. But if everyone pirated scientific papers, it would destroy Elsevier et al, and that would be frickin’ fantastic. [...] Thus Dark Rule Utilitarianism: “If I did this, everyone would do it. If everyone did it, our institutions would collapse. But I hate our institutions. Therefore…”

Here are the weird beauty secrets of the ad industry's food stylists / Wired

Mary Valetin's secret weapon is a Jiffy clothes steamer. "You have to have a steamer with you at all times," the Chicago-based food stylist says. "The one I like to use has a single nozzle. It's strong enough and hot enough to melt cheese again but it is not going to boil everything off of your set." Valetin, you see, is a food stylist and has worked on shoots for Kraft, Starbucks, the American Egg Board, Lipton Tea and a host of other household names. [...] "The side facing away from the camera looks like a freaking construction site," Wardle says. "Literally with scaffolding: there's cardboard holding up the layers, you have skewers going in like miniature two-by-fours holding it up at the back, there are cotton balls sticking out the back." [...] "For beer we use a lot of shaving foam," Mesquita says. "Sometimes we use those capsules for anti-acid capsules to promote some more sparkling." Wardle says: "I have been known to spray Scotch Guard all over toast, English Muffins and pancakes."

Can Electrically Stimulating Your Brain Make You Too Happy? / The Atlantic

It is a good question, but I was a little surprised to see it as the title of a research paper in a medical journal: “How Happy Is Too Happy?” Yet there it was in a publication from 2012. The article was grappling with the issue of how we should deal with the possibility of manipulating people’s moods and feelings of happiness through brain stimulation. If you have direct access to the reward system and can turn the feeling of euphoria up or down, who decides what the level should be? The doctors or the person whose brain is on the line?

----- 1 star -----

This Fidget Spinner Rube Goldberg Machine Is Mesmerizing / Digg

Fidget spinners have never been more useful.

Sheriff Takes Food from Prisoners, Locks up Whistleblower / Marginal Revolution
I also saw this a couple weeks ago and had a similar reaction (while I did pick up that it was legal, things are worse than I had thought):

A sheriff in Alabama bought a house using money that was budgeted to feed jail inmates. When I saw this headlined a week ago I assumed that this was a run-of-the-mill story about white collar fraud and I ignored it. Yesterday, prodded by new developments, I investigated further. The truth is much worse than I had imagined. What the sheriff did was perfectly legal.

Stunt pilot restarts his single engine in the nick of time / Kottke

I always feel a little silly when I click through to watch videos with titles like “Plane Miraculously Flies To Safety After Sudden Engine Failure”, like I’m indulging in clickbait, a sugary online snack when I’m supposed to be consuming healthier fare. [...] But this one in particular is worth a look because all the drama lasts for less than a minute and the first person view from the camera (which is mounted on the pilot’s head) puts you right into the cockpit. One of the coolest things about wearable cameras like the GoPro is that ability to put the viewer into the action, to create a visceral sense of empathy with that person doing that thing. That pilot’s eyes are our eyes for those 60 seconds. You see the engine fail. Your arm reaches out to the controls and attempts to address the problem. You pull the plane up into a glide. You look around for somewhere to ditch. Ah, there. You turn the plane. You keep trying to restart the engine… I don’t know about you, but my palms were pretty sweaty by the time that video was over.

Are You Secretly Tired of Sharing at Restaurants? / New York Times

Sharing, the argument goes, is more communal, lets diners taste more dishes and is more in tune with the way large swaths of the world eat. So who could possibly be against it? Well, me, for starters. It has gotten to the point where my wife, Joanna, has to apologize on my behalf before virtually every meal these days, to both servers and table mates, sheepishly explaining, “He doesn’t like to share.” Leaving aside the possibility that I am either tone-deaf or a selfish jerk, let’s take a look at how we got here in the first place.

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