“Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that 'my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.'” — Isaac Asimov
Dramatic weather events happened this past week in many parts of the Northern Hemisphere. There were wildfires in Greece, Scandinavia, and the Western U.S.Flooding followed record rainfalls in the Northeast. And dangerous heat waves settled over the Southwest, Japan, and the U.K.
When the news is full of stories on extreme weather, it’s hard not to wonder: Is this what climate change looks like?
Climate scientists say yes — though it’s complicated.
Take wildfires, for example.
“We see five times more large fires today than we did in the 1970s,” says Jennifer Balch, professor in geography and director of Earth Lab at the University of Colorado Boulder.
Wildfires are part of the ecosystem of the American West, and scientists expect a certain number of them under normal average conditions. But what global warming does, says Balch, is change the backdrop against which they happen.
“Fire season is about three months longer than it was just a few decades ago,” she says. “We’ve seen a 2-degree Fahrenheit increase across the Western U.S. Snowpack is melting earlier, and what that’s doing is essentially opening up the window for fires to happen over a much longer period of time.”
Overall, weather and climate disasters in the U.S. caused more than $300 billion in damages in 2017, shattering previous records. Though that’s not all climate — those increased costs are partly the result of development and sprawl.
Andreas Prein is a research scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado. He studies how extreme weather — especially thunderstorms and heavy downpours — might change in the future.
“What we see from climate change is that you lose a lot of these very moderate and light rainfall storms and replace it with very intense storms,” he says. Over the last 50 years, the number of really big rainstorms has increased by as much as 70 percent.
Antoinette Russell vividly recalls the first time she was led to believe she would finally meet her father as a free man. He called her up on a prison phone, his voice shaking with excitement, and told her: “I’m coming home!”
That was 17 years ago. Since then, every two years, she’s been put through the same agonizing drill. “He’d call saying the same thing: ‘I’m coming home,’” she said, speaking at her home in Montgomery, Alabama.
“It got to the point where I said, ‘Daddy, I don’t want to hear that any more. I get my hopes up thinking you’re going to be released and then you’re not. It kills me every time.’”
A thousand miles away in Deer Park, Long Island, Diane Piagentini is trapped in exactly the same traumatic cycle, connected to the same man. “Every two years the Band-Aid gets ripped off your heart and you have to recall everything that happened and play it over and over again,” she said.
The unbearable pain felt by these two women may bear comparison, but there the similarities end: they have nothing in common when it comes to their desires about what should happen to him.
Russell hopes her father will be given his freedom. Piagentini prays he rots in his cell until the end of time.
“He needs to stay in prison for the rest of his life. When you commit a heinous crime like that, you deserve only the death penalty.”
The focus of both women’s attention is Antoinette Russell’s father, Jalil Muntaqim, who is known in maximum security prison by his birth name, Anthony Bottom, and ID number, 77A4283.
A former member of the Black Panther party and its underground wing the Black Liberation Army, he has spent almost 47 years in prison for his part in the 1971 murders of two New York city police officers. One of those officers was Joseph Piagentini, Diane’s husband.
Muntaqim is one of 19 black radicals, including two women, who are still imprisoned 40 or more years after they were arrested for violent acts related to the black liberation struggle. Next year the longest-serving inmate, Romaine “Chip” Fitzgerald, will have been locked up for half a century. The oldest, Sundiata Acoli, is 81.
Since 2000, a further 10 black radicals have succumbed to ill health and died in prison.
The 19 incarcerated militants were all part of the 1970s black revolutionary movement. They fought for black power, they were convicted of killing for it – though many profess their innocence – and today they are still imprisoned for it.
As they grow older, and the length of their incarceration ticks up, the ethical battle over what to do with these men and women grows ever more intense. Just last week there was a stunning development, reported here for the first time: Robert Seth Hayes, like Muntaqim a former member of the Black Panthers and Black Liberation Army was released last Tuesday, aged 69, from the same New York maximum security prison.
Hayes had been imprisoned for 45 years for the murder of a New York city transit officer, Sidney Thompson, during an encounter at a Bronx station in 1973. He was convicted and sentenced to 25 years to life.
He became eligible for parole in 1998, but every two years he was told the same thing: despite a clean prison record, he remained a threat to society in the eyes of the parole board. It was only on his 11th attempt, 20 years later and with his health rapidly failing, that he convinced them he was worthy of rehabilitation.
Hayes’ freedom further ups the ante, forcing authorities in New York and across the country to consider fundamental questions: is there such a thing as rehabilitation for those found guilty of killing police officers in the cause of black revolution? Do they have to renounce their politics to merit release? Or is the US criminal justice system singling them out for especially harsh treatment and never-ending captivity as political prisoners, as the men and women themselves contend?
Over the past two years I have interviewed eight black liberationists who have all experienced prolonged prison time.Through prison visits, letters and emails, the militants told surprisingly similar stories of how they had coped spending almost their entire adult lives in cells and of the long road to an elusive freedom. Six are among the 19 who remain incarcerated to this day.
Photo: Erin Hooley/Chicago Tribune/TNS via Getty Images
THE LATEST TECHNOLOGIES promise cops the ability to whip out a smartphone, take a snapshot of a passerby, and instantly learn if that person is in an immigration or gang database.
A federal broadband program, designed after 9/11 to improve first responder communication during emergencies, will enhance this sort of capability and integrate it into an internet “super highway” built specifically for police and public safety. The program, called FirstNet, is already expanding the surveillance options available to law enforcement agencies across the country.
According to publicly available documents, as well as interviews with program participants, stakeholders, and government researchers, FirstNet will help agencies like U.S. Customs and Border Protection communicate with local police, deliver more information to officers’ hands, accelerate the nascent law enforcement app industry, and provide public safety agencies with new privileges and powers over AT&T’s commercial broadband network.
The program will also hasten these agencies’ migration from public radio frequencies to encrypted broadband networks, potentially eliminating one resource that local newsrooms and citizens have historically relied upon to monitor police and first responders.
President Trump‘s attorney Rudy Giuliani hit the Sunday morning show circuit to go on the offensive following escalating speculation that Trump’s former longtime attorney and personal fixer, Michael Cohen, may turn on the president.
Giuliani insisted to Fox News’s Chris Wallace that he doesn’t believe the president’s camp is “at war” with Cohen, but his charges that Cohen is a “liar,” a “manipulator” and a “scoundrel” suggested otherwise.
“He’s a bad liar because he lies in contradiction to tapes and he lies in contradiction to what I just said is probably supported by anywhere from two to five witnesses,” he added.
Cohen is under investigation in New York’s Southern District for possible bank fraud and campaign finance violations. He has appeared increasingly willing to cooperate with investigators in recent weeks, and the revelation that Cohen secretly recorded conversations has raised questions about what incriminating information he may have on the president.
Cohen raised the stakes when he reportedly claimed that then-candidate Trump knew of his son’s plans to meet with a Russian lawyer at Trump Tower during his 2016 presidential campaign. Cohen indicated he is willing to tell as much to special counsel Robert Mueller. The president and his allies have repeatedly denied having known about the sit-down.
Giuliani on Sunday sought to quell speculation over whether there are additional recordings featuring Trump.
Giuliani told CBS’s “Face the Nation” that Trump’s legal team is aware of 183 separate conversations that Cohen recorded. Of those, he said Trump is “discussed at any length” on 11 or 12, and is only recorded on one tape.
CNN aired audio from that tape last week, which features Cohen and the president discussing the possibility of purchasing the account of a former Playboy model who alleges she had an affair with Trump in 2006.
But the CNN tape clears Trump of wrongdoing in that matter, Giuliani argued. The lawyer said Cohen’s propensity to record conversations made Cohen’s Trump Tower claim suspect.
“If he taped everything else, why the heck didn’t he tape this? It’s not on tape,” he said on Fox.
A new generation of celebrities is selling out concerts, starring in commercials, and amassing huge Instagram followings. But none of them exist—corporeally, anyway. In recent years, and starting in Japan, technology and social media have spawned a digital demimonde of computer-generated stars, ranging from fake musicians and models to company mascots who appear as holograms (like Betty Crocker, with AI). When they’re not entertaining you, they’re trying to convince you of their humanity, and even the more cartoonish among them have fleshed-out personalities. In a way, it’s the purest expression of celebrity, which has always been an elaborate illusion. CGI starlets, though, “are much easier to control,” says Ryan Detert, CEO of the branding firm Influential. Except when they misbehave.
The (Im)material Girl
She’s not really fooling anyone—Hatsune Miku is a schoolgirlish, turquoise-haired anime mascot designed by a Japanese software company to sell a voice synthesizer. As consumers began using the product to compose original music, Miku became a sensation. For years now, she’s been performing at massive IRL concerts, where her hologram “sings” those fan-written songs.
The Virtual Unknown
In 2011, the Japanese girl group AKB48 announced its newest member, 16-year-old Aimi Eguchi. Nobody had ever heard of her. When Aimi started showing up in ads and commercials for a popular Japanese snack company, fans got suspicious. Finally, AKB48 had to admit that Eguchi didn’t exist: She was a publicity ploy, created through a digital mashup of other band members’ faces.
In her two-plus years on Instagram, the selfie-snapping 19-year-old Lil Miquelahas racked up more than a million followers, partnered with Prada, and promoted causes like Black Lives Matter. Brud, a tech startup that has taken some credit for Miquela, calls her an artificially intelligent robot, though earlier this year Miquela went rogue and cut ties “with my managers.” Now she calls herself a free agent.’
This is America: When celebrity culture merges with science denialism, you get public health crises
In our post-truth era, scientific illiteracy has morphed into science denialism. Today, people simply declare their own truths. As a consequence, science is losing its platform as a source of truth. Meanwhile, a pervasive celebrity culture — in which celebrities are considered trusted “experts” solely because of their fame — has poisoned the idea of what constitutes expertise.
Nowhere is the merger of these two trends more evident than in our embrace of “celebrity science,” which, because it often involves issues of health, might not only be misleading but harmful. Some celebrities actually do have science backgrounds; Mayim Bialik, who has a PhD in neuroscience, springs to mind. Unfortunately, many celebrities have waded into debates within fields in which they have neither expertise nor training, perhaps unintentionally injecting doubt into scientific certainty and often even harming public health efforts. Here are a few of the worst celebrity offenders.
Anti-vaccine crusaders Jenny McCarthy, Jim Carrey, Kristin Cavallari and Rob Schneider: The anti-vaccine crowd frequently falls back on the claim that vaccines cause autism, despite more than two dozen studies clearly showing that vaccination does not increase the incidence of autism. Nor did it make a whit of biological sense that vaccines would.
Gwyneth Paltrow: Paltrow is probably best known for her promotion of vaginal steaming, jade eggs and cleansing enemas. Paltrow believes that vaginal steaming with mugwort balances female hormones and cleanses the uterus. Apart from the fact that mugwort isn’t a hormone and vaginal steam will never reach the uterus, vaginal steaming can cause burns and bacterial infections. The jade eggs placed in the vagina to enhance muscle tone put users at risk of toxic shock syndrome, and the “toxin-removing” colonic enemas Paltrow prescribes, which have no proven benefit in otherwise healthy people, can cause dehydration, infections, vomiting and, worst of all, bowel perforations.
Suzanne Somers: Somers has become a one-woman industry, promoting megavitamins, supplements and minerals, as well as skin-care, weight-loss, and detoxification products on her website. When Somers says use her hormone replacement therapy because it’s “all natural” and isn’t going to cause the sort of problems that regular hormone replacement therapy cause, that’s bad advice. If a product causes a physiological response, it doesn’t matter whether it’s synthesized in a laboratory or derived from nature — it still has the same effect, which means that it can also have the same negative consequences. Also, antioxidants like Vitamin A, Vitamin E and the mineral selenium given in quantities vastly in excess of the recommended daily allowance actually increase the risk of cancer and heart disease.
A beloved childhood teddy bear comes to life and wants to rekindle his friendship with the grown man who, as a child, once played with him? You would be right to assume that foul-mouthed diatribes, toilet humour and randy situations are about to be had: this indeed sounds like another Ted sequel. But no, this is a tasteful Disney production and the bear in question is not a vulgar Bostonian voiced by Seth MacFarlane but Winnie the Pooh, and the boy who’s grown up is none other than Christopher Robin, played by Ewan McGregor. Christopher Robin is in a funk and has lost the whimsy of his youth, so of course his onetime nursery companion needs to step in and help him find some magic again. That may sound derivative and a tad depressing, but chin up: if Finding Neverland’s Marc Forster at the helm doesn’t make you think this story is in capable hands, then perhaps the three credited names on the screenplay will: an accomplished troika of Listen Up Philip writer-director Alex Ross Perry, Hidden Figures co-writer Allison Schroeder, and Tom McCarthy, the director of the best picture-winning Spotlight. Maybe the Silly Old Bear will have something new to say after all? Released 3 August in the US, Mexico, Sri Lanka and South Africa and 17 August in the UK, Iceland and Poland. (Credit: Walt Disney Studios)
Spike Lee’s last major feature, Chi-Raq, was one of his absolute best. That film was shockingly overlooked by both audiences and critics, but already this new work is getting more attention: BlacKkKlansman won the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival in May. It stars football player-turned-actor John David Washington (yes, Denzel’s son) as Ron Stallworth, a Colorado Springs police detective – the first black cop in the city’s history – who affects a “white”-sounding voice over the phone to dupe David Duke, the leader of the Ku Klux Klan, into letting him join the hate group. Adam Driver plays a fellow cop who assumes Stallworth’s identity for an in-person initiation into the KKK, where he’ll go undercover and find out about the group’s criminal intentions. Here’s the thing: it’s a true story. The real-life Stallworth published a book about this extraordinary exploit in 2014 and Lee optioned it for development the next year. Look for this one to be a hit. Released 9 August in Australia, 10 August in the US, 16 August in Saudi Arabia and 24 August in the UK, Ireland and Norway. (Credit: Focus Features)
Crazy Rich Asians
“I wanted to introduce a contemporary Asia to a North American audience.” That’s what author Kevin Kwan told The Daily Beast not long after the publication of his novel Crazy Rich Asians, about the lifestyles of the rich and fabulous in his native Singapore. In this new film adaptation produced by the team led by producer Nina Jacobson that brought the Hunger Games books to the big screen, Constance Wu plays a US economics professor who discovers that her boyfriend’s family is one of Singapore’s richest and is caught in a web of schemes and secrets: more Dynasty than Fifty Shades of Grey. In the hands of director Jon M Chu, this should be a confection of colour and camp, every lushly appointed scene brimming with high-threadcount fun. It also heralds the arrival of a new star, Henry Golding, as Wu’s love interest – Golding is a presenter on BBC World News’ programme The Travel Show – along with established talents such as Michelle Yeoh, Awkwafina, Ken Jeong and Ronny Chieng. The fact that major studio Warner Bros is the distributor is a welcome sign that, after countless fits and starts, Hollywood may really be getting serious about diversity – although, according to reports, one Hollywood producer suggested to Kwan that the protagonist be reimagined as a white woman. Released 15 August in the US and Portugal, 22 August in The Philippines and Singapore and 31 August in Cambodia and Lithuania. (Credit: Warner Bros Pictures)
The Little Stranger
Sarah Waters’ Gothic thriller was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2009. This complex story of a country doctor returning to the manor house he visited as a child when his mother worked there as a housemaid and finding it haunted by ghosts literal and figurative now becomes the latest in the “elevated horror” film trend. Lenny Abrahamson earned a best director Oscar nomination as the film-maker behind 2015’s Room – directing a horror movie may seem like a strange follow-up, but he does seem determined to lift the genre out of “things that go bump in the night” clichés. The most obvious sign of that is the cast he’s put together: Domhnall Gleeson as the doctor, whose work with a disfigured war veteran (Detroit’s Will Poulter) and his sister (Ruth Wilson), draws him into the family intrigue of matriarch Charlotte Rampling. Expect this adaptation to provoke some goosebumps – and some thoughtful reflection too. Released 30 August in Hungary, the Czech Republic and Portugal and 31 August in the US. (Credit: Focus Features)
It’s not yet clear which conditions will be investigated during the collaboration, but one example showed how the collaboration might work: the two companies’ previous collaboration on the gene LRRK2, which is linked to some cases of Parkinson’s disease, Forbes reported.
Only about 10,000 of the 1 million Americans with Parkinson’s disease have the disease because of LRRK2. So, GlaxoSmithKline has to test about 100 Parkinson’s patients to find just one potential candidate. However, 23andMe has already provided 250 Parkinson’s patients who have agreed to be re-contacted for GlaxoSmithKline’s clinical trials, which may help the pharmaceutical company develop the drug much faster, Forbes reported.
However, not everybody is on board with 23andMe’s new partnership. If a person’s DNA is used in research, that person should be compensated, said Peter Pitts, president of the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest.
“Are they going to offer rebates to people who opt in, so their customers aren’t paying for the privilege of 23andMe working with a for-profit company in a for-profit research project?” Pitts said to NBC.
In addition, even though 23andMe gets the consent of its customers to use their genetic data, it’s unlikley that most people are aware of this.
“The problem with a lot of these privacy policies and Terms of Service is that no one really reads them,” Tiffany C. Li, a privacy expert and resident fellow at Yale Law School’s Information Society Project, told Tom’s Guide, a Live Science sister site. “You are paying to help the company make money with your data.”