----- 3 stars -----

Reality TV’s Wildest Disaster / New Yorker
"A group of twenty-three skilled strangers would live in the wilderness, isolated from the world, for a year. 'Eden' would be austere and searching. There would be no tasks, evictions, or prizes. The cast members would build their own shelters and hunt and grow their food while a small embedded crew and a rig of remote cameras observed every minute of the embryonic society. The project was the work of Keo Films, a production company that had never made a reality show. 'It certainly set out to be a pure experience,' Ian Dunkley, who helped commission 'Eden' for Channel 4, told me recently. 'Genuinely, we did not know how it would pan out.' "

Losing It in the Anti-Dieting Age / New York Times
"Chambers told Benovitz that they needed to figure out what was going on and how to fix it before the February board meeting. Benovitz got to work. She traveled the country, interviewing members, former members and people they thought should be members about their attitudes toward dieting. She heard that they no longer wanted to talk about 'dieting' and 'weight loss.' They wanted to become 'healthy' so they could be 'fit.' They wanted to 'eat clean' so they could be 'strong.' If you had been watching closely, you could see that the change had come slowly. 'Dieting' was now considered tacky. It was anti-feminist. It was arcane. In the new millennium, all bodies should be accepted, and any inclination to change a body was proof of a lack of acceptance of it. 'Weight loss' was a pursuit that had, somehow, landed on the wrong side of political correctness. People wanted nothing to do with it. Except that many of them did: They wanted to be thinner. They wanted to be not quite so fat. Not that there was anything wrong with being fat! They just wanted to call dieting something else entirely."

Is Anybody Home at HUD? / New York
"A long-harbored conservative dream — the 'dismantling of the administrative state' — is taking place under Secretary Ben Carson. [...] The story of the Trump administration has been dominated by the Russia investigations, the Obamacare-repeal morass, and cataclysmic internecine warfare. But there is a whole other side to Trump’s takeover of Washington: What happens to the government itself, and all it is tasked with doing, when it is placed under the command of the Chaos President? HUD has emerged as the perfect distillation of the right’s antipathy to governing. If the great radical-conservative dream was, in Grover Norquist’s famous words, to 'drown government in a bathtub,' then this was what the final gasps of one department might look like. [...] More upsetting for many ambitious civil servants than the scattered nays coming from the tenth floor, though, was the lack of direction, period. Virtually all the top political jobs below Carson remained vacant. Carson himself was barely to be seen — he never made the walk-through of the building customary of past new secretaries. 'It was just nothing,' said one career employee. 'I’ve never been so bored in my life. No agenda, nothing to move forward or push back against. Just nothing.' "

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

How Fossil Fuel Money Made Climate Change Denial the Word of God / Splinter
"In 2005, at its annual meeting in Washington, D.C., the National Association of Evangelicals was on the verge of doing something novel: affirming science. Specifically, the 30-million-member group, which represents 51 Christian denominations, was debating how to advance a new platform called 'For the Health of a Nation.' The position paper—written the year before An Inconvenient Truth kick-started sense of public urgency around climate change—included a call for evangelicals to protect God’s creation, and to embrace the government’s help in doing so. The NAE’s board had already adopted it unanimously before presenting it to the membership for debate. At the time, many in the evangelical movement were uncomfortable with its close ties to the Republican anti-environmental regulation agenda. [...] 'Evangelicals don’t want themselves identified as the Republican Party at prayer,' the historian and evangelical Mark Knoll said at the time in support of the platform. He was wrong. The rank-and-file membership rejected the effort. Like the oil and utilities industries, they decided that recognizing climate change was against their political interests."

Six Charts To Help Americans Understand The Upcoming German Election / FiveThirtyEight
A good primer: "You may have heard rumblings about a populist party poised to gain power in Germany’s election on Sept. 24 — or maybe you just heard that there’s an election coming up. To better prepare you for the news coming out of Deutschland over the next few weeks, we’re offering some answers to a few basic questions about the election."

My IRB Nightmare / Slate Star Codex
This would be an amusing read if it weren't a bit disturbing: "There’s a screening test for bipolar disorder. You ask patients a bunch of things like 'Do you ever feel really happy, then really sad?'. If they say 'yes' to enough of these questions, you start to worry. Some psychiatrists love this test. I hate it. Patients will say 'Yes, that absolutely describes me!' and someone will diagnose them with bipolar disorder. Then if you ask what they meant, they’d say something like 'Once my local football team made it to the Super Bowl and I was really happy, but then they lost and I was really sad.' I don’t even want to tell you how many people get diagnosed bipolar because of stuff like this. [...] So I complained to some sympathetic doctors and professors, and they asked 'Why not do a study?' Why not do a study? Why not join the great tradition of scientists, going back to Galileo and Newton, and make my mark on the world? Why not replace my griping about bipolar screening with an experiment about bipolar screening, an experiment done to the highest standards of the empirical tradition, one that would throw the entire weight of the scientific establishment behind my complaint? [...] As bad as it was working for an obsessive-compulsive boss in an insane bureaucracy, at least it had the advantage that – when nitpicking push came to ridiculous shove – you were going to be super-ready to be audited. I hoped. Like an idiot. [...] I feel like a study that realistically could have been done by one person in a couple of hours got dragged out into hundreds of hours of paperwork hell for an entire team of miserable doctors. I think its scientific integrity was screwed up by stupid requirements like the one about breaking blinding, and the patients involved were put through unnecessary trouble by being forced to sign endless consent forms screaming to them about nonexistent risks. I feel like I was dragged almost to the point of needing to be in a psychiatric hospital myself, while my colleagues who just used the bipolar screening test – without making the mistake of trying to check if it works – continue to do so without anybody questioning them or giving them the slightest bit of aggravation."

Bill Browder's Testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee / The Atlantic
Donald Trump Jr.’s Russia Meeting Was Allegedly About the Magnitsky Act. What the Hell Is the Magnitsky Act? / Mother Jones
I'm very (very) late on this, but I finally caught up and found it pretty interesting. This first piece is Browder's prepared statement to the Senate; some context: "The financier Bill Browder has emerged as an unlikely central player in the ongoing investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 elections. Sergei Magnitsky, an attorney Browder hired to investigate official corruption, died in Russian custody in 2009. Congress subsequently imposed sanctions on the officials it held responsible for his death, passing the Magnitsky Act in 2012. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s government retaliated, among other ways, by suspending American adoptions of Russian children. Natalia Veselnitskaya, the Russian lawyer who secured a meeting with Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort, was engaged in a campaign for the repeal of the Magnitsky Act, and raised the subject of adoptions in that meeting. That’s put the spotlight back on Browder’s long campaign for Kremlin accountability, and against corruption—a campaign whose success has irritated Putin and those around him."
"That request led Magnitsky to uncover a massive, Kremlin-linked tax fraud scheme involving 23 companies and hundreds of millions of dollars. In short, corrupt law enforcement and tax officials used documents seized in the office raid to draw up fake charters transferring ownership of Hermitage companies to a known criminal. Unbeknownst to Browder or Hermitage, officials then filed three lawsuits against those fake companies for breaching contracts (which were themselves falsified). Judges in the three suits awarded damages totaling exactly $230 million, meaning that Hermitage’s balance sheet no longer showed a profit. This meant the thieves could apply for a rebate on the taxes originally paid by Hermitage. The application for the $230 million refund—the largest in Russia’s history—was filed on Christmas Eve 2007 and approved the same day. Browder and Magnitsky reported Magnitsky’s findings to Russian authorities, filing multiple criminal complaints. Magnitsky testified against the police officers who raided Hermitage’s offices. A couple of weeks later, he was arrested in Moscow, charged with tax evasion, and jailed. He was pressured to give evidence against Hermitage in exchange for his freedom. When he refused, he was kept in jail for 11 months before his death."

Venezuela Is Collapsing / Slate
"To discuss the recent events in Venezuela, I spoke by phone with Terry Lynn Karl, a professor emeritus of political science and Latin American studies at Stanford University and the author of The Paradox of Plenty: Oil Blooms and Petro-States. During the course of our conversation, which has been edited and condensed for clarity, we discussed how Maduro differs from Chávez, what the United States should and shouldn’t do to resolve the crisis, and why oil is a curse."

The Tater Tot Is American Ingenuity at Its Finest / Eater
"This was Nephi’s stage, his grand debut. Two stories below the dining room where all of the members of the 1954 National Potato Convention were sidling up to tables, talking shop, hungry for breakfast, Nephi was bargaining with the head chef. In his bag he had carried 15 pounds of his new creation all the way from Oregon, and he wanted them cooked and served. What better test audience than a group of potato men? After some bribing, the chef agreed. The innovation was cooked, placed in small saucers, and distributed on the tables as samples. 'These were all gobbled up faster than a dead cat could wag its tail,' Nephi Grigg would write 35 years later. The golden potatoes had been cut into bite-sized pieces and fried, and they were a hit. Tater Tots were born."

Deprovincializing Philosophy / Los Angeles Review of Books
"Peter Adamson’s Philosophy in the Islamic World marks a revolution: it redraws the map of the history of philosophy in a fundamental way. [...] To be sure, in an era of increasingly specialized handbooks and companions, this single-authored series is in itself a testament to intellectual daring. But the volume under consideration does much more than fill gaps; it compels us to reconceptualize the history of philosophy as a whole and the nature of philosophy in the Islamic world in particular. [...] Adamson deliberately wrote a book on 'philosophy in the Islamic world,' not on 'Islamic philosophy.' This points to a further important innovation of his account: he doesn’t divide up the material artificially according to religious affiliation — Muslim, Jewish, and Christian. The intellectual space I’ve outlined above, following al-Ghazālī, is one that Jews and Christians shared. While Christians mainly contributed to kalām and falsafa, Jews were eager to take up the full gamut of emerging new intellectual discourses. Thus, we find Jewish mutakallimūn like Saadia Gaon, Jewish falāsifa like Abraham ibn Daud and Maimonides, Jewish Sufis like Baḥya ibn Paqūda and Abraham ben Maimonides, and Jewish appropriations of Shīʿite concepts — for example in Judah Halevi. Indeed, thinkers in the Islamic world often felt more affinity to members of rival religions who shared their intellectual commitments than to co-religionists who did not."

I Set a Defendant Free And Got Blamed When He Raped Someone / The Marshall Project
"Here was my dilemma: The Constitution presumes people charged with a crime to be innocent, but it also allows for bail to be set. This inconsistency is considered by judges across the country every single day. To me, the records showed Lewis had not been convicted of a violent offense in more than 20 years. And failure to register is not itself a violent crime. So after hearing from both lawyers, I decided to follow the constitutional presumption of release. [...] After some semi-polite back and forth, she agreed that the article’s headline and placement and the photo of me next to the perp weren’t fair. She asked what she could do to make it right. So I invited her to sit next to me on the bench at a normal high-volume arraignment calendar — to see what I see, to view the documents I consider, and to hear the lawyers and clients as I hear them. After consulting with her paper, she agreed."

Talking to My Daughter About Charlottesville / Catapult
Teaching White Students Showed Me The Difference Between Power and Privilege / BuzzFeed
"My memory here is certain but not sharp: I am passing the playground’s plastic slide, and Molly’s arm is there, close to mine, and her arm is not the same as my arm. And here I confess: I want that for my daughter. I don’t want to shield her, exactly; I want to hand her an heirloom, bequeath a moment of acknowledging race on her own terms, before the world rushes in to lay it all bare. I want for my girl to have just one she’s-not-the-same-as-me moment. Then I want the curtains to close, and I want the memory kept safe, hidden away backstage before she hears the drunk in the crowd call Obama an ape, before the adoring fan tosses a bouquet of microaggressions at her feet. Perhaps you will find me naïve, at best, as you and I know this one moment can’t save us from the others."
"For a few months, while on parole in Maryland, Brown worked two jobs and sent money back to his girlfriend, his mother, and his daughter in Poughkeepsie. Eventually Brown moved back to New York and traveled to Maryland once a week to meet with his PO. When money for bus rides got tight, Brown missed one week, then another week, and another. His PO told him he understood that Brown didn’t want to leave his daughter and money was tight, but he’d have to arrest him when he reentered Maryland for unlawfully crossing state lines while on parole. A warrant was issued for Brown’s arrest. One winter night in 2004, I got a call from Brown’s fiancé, Ella. Earlier that day, Brown called my office and told me he wouldn’t make our City League basketball game because he had to take his daughter, Bria, to the carnival. 'Keece, they got Brown,' she said. 'Can you take me to see him? You’re a professor. They’ll listen to you. Can you talk to him?' [...] Before and after Brown got out, white colleagues routinely put their hands on my back and called me lucky. They meant that Southern black boys like me were more likely to end up incarcerated than working beside wonderful white faculty at so-called elite liberal arts colleges. I looked in the eyes of those colleagues and routinely shook my head."

I Doped Like Maria Sharapova And It Was Actually Pretty Great / Deadspin
"I never even thought about taking performance enhancing drugs—my ambitions just aren’t that grand, and I’m frankly too lazy to go to the trouble. But as the publisher of an independent tennis magazine, I am asked about Sharapova’s ban all the time. Was it fair? Did the drugs actually help her performance? When a friend who had been traveling in Riga jokingly brought me back a box of Mildronats, a Latvian brand of the generic drug meldonium, it seemed like a good way to find out. For the record, meldonium is not illegal (or 'scheduled') in America, nor is it banned specifically by the USTA. But it is a heart drug I don’t need that came with instructions written solely in Latvian. The English-language recommendations for use—helpfully sent to me by someone who follows my tennis podcast—indicated that I should take two 250mg capsules on days of high-intensity training, and double that in competition. So that’s what I did. And guess what? This drug rules."

Uber's New CEO / Stratechery
"The deeper takeaway, though, is that Khosrowshahi has demonstrated the patience and resolve to fix problems at their root. In the case of Uber, the business may be in better shape than Expedia’s was (pending the fixing of finance, of course), but as this year has made clear the culture needs a fundamental reworking, not simply a fresh coat of paint. Khosrowshahi seems like an ideal candidate to take on the problem at a fundamental level, and has already shown at Expedia that he is willing to walk the walk on issues of sexism in particular. It is easy to mock Uber and the ridiculous CEO selection process that resulted in Khosrowshahi getting the job. Even the final selection process itself was a joke: in the span of 24 hours the presumed favorite shifted from Immelt to Whitman to the surprise selection of Khosrowshahi, with Uber reporters literally changing their stories by the minute as board members leaked like sieves in an attempt to rally public opinion to their sides. Without question Uber has been horrifically served by its board of directors — all of them. And yet, the company has landed on a candidate that I am quite enthused about, and that, I think, is a reminder of just why Uber is so compelling. So many tech startups blather on about changing the world; Uber actually is, for the better. To that end, I would argue that one of Kalanick’s greatest failings was in his inability to sell Uber: the company offers a compelling service for riders, an economically attractive one for drivers (who drive by choice), and makes the cities within which it operates better. That the company has managed to become a pariah is the most powerful testament there is to Kalanick’s failure as CEO."

Investors poured millions into a storage network that doesn’t exist yet / Ars Technica
Quite cool: "A blockchain-based cloud storage technology called Filecoin has already raised $52 million from investors. The company is poised to raise millions more on Thursday when it begins selling units of its bitcoin-like cryptocurrency to a larger set of wealthy investors. Filecoin aims to disrupt conventional cloud-based storage platforms from Amazon and others. If it succeeds, the technology could be worth billions of dollars. But the company will need to overcome some significant hurdles first. First and foremost, Filecoin's technology doesn't actually exist yet."

'China has conquered Kenya': Inside Beijing's new strategy to win African hearts and minds / Los Angeles Times
"Gitonga, 43, flipped through the channels, and Chinese programs filled the screen: an old kung fu movie, a Chinese news broadcast, a Chinese documentary about Japan’s wartime atrocities, most dubbed into English. Gitonga was elated. His new digital TV package gave him better reception than he’d once thought possible in Kajiado, a small town on the savannah where Masai tribesmen wander past rickety storefronts and goats cluster in the shade. 'I didn't know about China before,' he said. 'I can say it's good. They have changed this country in a big way, very fast.' "

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

What it feels like to conduct an auction / Christie's
"I am standing in the Christie’s rostrum — a copy of the famous original designed by Thomas Chippendale — a pen in one hand, the gavel in the other, looking down on a sea of expectant faces. 'Welcome to the Post-War and Contemporary Art day auction,' I say, attempting a smile while furiously clenching my buttocks — a technique, I have been reliably informed, that stops one’s hands from shaking. What makes a good auctioneer? It is the first question that Hugh Edmeades, Christie’s international director of auctioneering, asks those who have signed up to his one-day course."

Graphing the hidden thresholds of everyday life / Kottke
"Unendurable line is a short film by Daihei Shibata which shows the movement of objects like springs, magnetically attracted objects, spinning tops, and stacked blocks accompanied by a real-time graph of the movement. A bit tough to explain…just watch it."​

6 Surprising Things You Didn't Know About North Korea / National Geographic
Clickbait headline, but there are some great videos
Especially this one: "Explore the North Korean capital of Pyongyang in this intriguing time-lapse of a city rarely seen by foreigners."

Richard Dawkins Offers Advice for Donald Trump, and Other Wisdom / Scientific American
Light but interesting: "The biologist and atheist, whose latest book was released this week, talks about the reliability of science, artificial intelligence, religion and the president"

What's in that $5 Bottle of Trader Joe's or Target Wine? / Vinepair
"If the grapes are overripe and lacking in acidity, lab technicians add some tartaric acid. Unpleasant or uninteresting flavors can be covered up with oak chips or dust. Wines without tannic structure can get a dose of tannin powder. Batches that are too boozy can have some water thrown in. If that dilutes the flavor and color, that can be fixed with Mega Purple, the Gravy Master-esque catch-all of industrial wine."​

French cities are Roman sites rather than by the sea / Marginal Revolution
"Here is the amazing fact: today, 16 of France’s 20 largest cities are located on or near a Roman town, while only 2 of Britain’s 20 largest are. This difference existed even back in the Middle Ages. So who cares? Well, Britain’s cities in the middle ages are two and a half times more likely to have coastal access than France’s cities, so that in 1700, when sea trade was hugely important, 56% of urban French lived in towns with sea access while 87% of urban Brits did."​

This Optical Illusion Will Make You Rethink Your Understanding Of 'Circles' / Digg
"The point is, you probably are familiar with the concepts of 'circles' and 'round'. So please allow this strange image of five perfect circles (we promise) to warp your reality."

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