Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Are we over weight yet? New guidelines aim to reduce obesity stigma in health care

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Sara FL Kirk, Angela Alberga, and Shelly Russell-Mayhew write in The Conversation:

The 2019 report from Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam focused on addressing different forms of stigma. Included in the report was one form of stigma — obesity or weight stigma — that has proven remarkably difficult to overcome. We are hoping to change that.

As a team of researchers from across Canada, we have previously written about the harm that weight bias causes. Now, and for the first time, we are ensuring that the newly updated Canadian Clinical Practice Guidelines for obesity management include explicit guidance to reduce weight bias and obesity stigma among health professionals and policy-makers. The newly released guidelines also provide information for the public on advocating for change.

New guidelines reframe weight debate

With recommendations and key messages aimed at health professionals, policy-makers and people living with obesity, we hope that this guidance will help to reframe the weight debate. Shifting the emphasis from weight to health will help us reduce the prevalence and impact of weight bias and stigma.

The guidance is an important step forward because of the systemic nature of stigma and how different stigmas intersect, as highlighted in Dr. Tam’s report. In the United States, the prevalence of weight-based discrimination has increased by 66 per cent over the past decade, and is comparable to rates of racial discrimination, especially among women.

Our health-disrupting environment

Misrepresentations abound that frame obesity as a problem arising from a lack of willpower, or from laziness or greed. We use the language of war, viewing obesity as a battle, or something that needs to be fought.

The danger with this language is that it demonizes obesity and by extension, those experiencing obesity-related complications. This, in turn, affects their care. The new guidance seeks instead to humanize people with obesity, and ensure that they receive appropriate support.

The thing is, it’s not just about obesity. It is now well established that a complex web of factors affect every single one of us, regardless of weight status. We are all exposed to a health-disrupting environment. This manifests as excess body fatness in some, or as chronic disease markers in others.

None of us is immune to these powerful environmental prompts. Just like Sisyphus in Greek mythology was doomed to keep pushing a rock up a hill, only for it to roll back down again, our health-disrupting environment means that, as individuals, we are constantly pushing a boulder of health hazards up a ramp of social determinants.

It takes an enormous amount of cognitive effort to adopt and maintain healthy behaviours, such as being active or eating healthy foods, when everything around us is modelling the opposite. In essence, healthy behaviours are abnormal behaviours within our modern environment and unhealthy behaviours the default.

Furthermore, body weight and energy regulation are significantly controlled by genetics and neural networks, more so than our personal food and exercise choices.

Supporting health

Rather than focusing on a person’s weight status, we should turn our attention to supporting every individual to achieve their best health.

Health-care providers, and others, need to: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 August 2020 at 7:34 pm

Is This the Beginning of the End of American Racism?

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Perhaps the ugly and highly visible epidemic of obvious racism in the US has an upside. Ibram X. Kendi writes in the Atlantic:

Marine One waited for the president of the United States on the South Lawn of the White House. It was July 30, 2019, not long past 9 a.m.

Donald Trump was headed to historic Jamestown to mark the 400th anniversary of the first representative assembly of European settlers in the Americas. But Black Virginia legislators were boycotting the visit. Over the preceding two weeks, the president had been engaged in one of the most racist political assaults on members of Congress in American history.

Like so many controversies during Trump’s presidency, it had all started with an early-morning tweet.

“So interesting to see ‘Progressive’ Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run,” Trump tweeted on Sunday, July 14, 2019. “Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came. Then come back and show us how it is done. These places need your help badly, you can’t leave fast enough.”

Trump was referring to four freshman members of Congress: Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, a Somali American; Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, an African American; Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, a Palestinian American; and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, a Puerto Rican. Pressley screenshotted Trump’s tweet and declared, “THIS is what racism looks like.”

On the South Lawn, Trump now faced reporters and cameras. Over the drone of the helicopter rotors, one reporter asked Trump if he was bothered that “more and more people” were calling him racist.

“I am the least racist person there is anywhere in the world,” Trump replied, hands up, palms facing out for emphasis.

His hands came down. He singled out a vocal critic, the Reverend Al Sharpton. “Now, he’s a racist,” Trump said. “What I’ve done for African Americans, no president, I would say, has done … And the African American community is so thankful.”

It was an absurd statement. But in a twisted way, Trump was right. As his administration’s first term comes to an end, Black Americans—indeed, all Americans—should in one respect be thankful to him. He has held up a mirror to American society, and it has reflected back a grotesque image that many people had until now refused to see: an image not just of the racism still coursing through the country, but also of the reflex to deny that reality. Though it was hardly his intention, no president has caused more Americans to stop denying the existence of racism than Donald Trump.

II.

we are living in the midst of an anti-racist revolution. This spring and summer, demonstrations calling for racial justice attracted hundreds of thousands of people in Los Angeles, Washington, New York, and other large cities. Smaller demonstrations erupted in northeastern enclaves such as Nantucket, Massachusetts, and Bar Harbor, Maine; in western towns such as Havre, Montana, and Hermiston, Oregon; in midsize cities such as Waco, Texas, and Topeka, Kansas; and in wealthy suburbs such as Chagrin Falls, Ohio, and Darien, Connecticut.

Veteran activists and new recruits to the cause pushed policy makers to hold violent police officers accountable, to ban choke holds and no-knock warrants, to shift funding from law enforcement to social services, and to end the practice of sending armed and dangerous officers to respond to incidents in which the suspect is neither armed nor dangerous. But these activists weren’t merely advocating for a few policy shifts. They were calling for the eradication of racism in America once and for all.

The president attempted to portray the righteous demonstrations as the work of looters and thugs, but many of the people watching at home didn’t see it that way. This summer, a majority of Americans—57 percent, according to a Monmouth University poll—said that police officers were more likely to use excessive force against Black “culprits” than they were against white ones. That’s an increase from just 33 percent in December 2014, after a grand jury declined to indict a New York City police officer in the killing of Eric Garner.

What’s more, by early June, roughly three out of four Americans were saying that “racial and ethnic discrimination” is a “big problem” in the United States—up from only about half of Americans in 2015, when Trump launched his presidential campaign.

It would be easy to see these shifts as the direct result of the horrifying events that have unfolded in 2020: a pandemic that has had a disproportionate effect on people of color; the video of George Floyd dying beneath the knee of an impassive Minneapolis police officer; the ghastly killing of Breonna Taylor, shot to death in her own home.

Yet fundamental shifts in American views of race were already under way before the COVID-19 disparities became clear and before these latest examples of police violence surfaced. The percentage of Americans who told Monmouth pollsters that racial and ethnic discrimination is a big problem made a greater leap from January 2015 (51 percent) to July 2016 (68 percent) than from July 2016 to June 2020 (76 percent). What we are witnessing right now is the culmination of a longer process—a process that tracks closely with the political career of Donald Trump.

III.

in the days leading up to Trump’s attack on Omar, Pressley, Tlaib, and Ocasio-Cortez, Fox News slammed the “Squad,” especially Omar. All four had been publicly sparring with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi over a $4.6 billion border-aid package that they thought did not sufficiently restrain Trump’s immigration policies.

Yet Pelosi promptly defended her fellow Democrats on July 14, 2019. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 August 2020 at 6:11 pm

How the Pandemic Defeated America

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Ed Yong  writes in the Atlantic:

How did it come to this? A virus a thousand times smaller than a dust mote has humbled and humiliated the planet’s most powerful nation. America has failed to protect its people, leaving them with illness and financial ruin. It has lost its status as a global leader. It has careened between inaction and ineptitude. The breadth and magnitude of its errors are difficult, in the moment, to truly fathom.

In the first half of 2020, SARS‑CoV‑2—the new coronavirus behind the disease COVID‑19—infected 10 million people around the world and killed about half a million. But few countries have been as severely hit as the United States, which has just 4 percent of the world’s population but a quarter of its confirmed COVID‑19 cases and deaths. These numbers are estimates. The actual toll, though undoubtedly higher, is unknown, because the richest country in the world still lacks sufficient testing to accurately count its sick citizens.

Despite ample warning, the U.S. squandered every possible opportunity to control the coronavirus. And despite its considerable advantages—immense resources, biomedical might, scientific expertise—it floundered. While countries as different as South Korea, Thailand, Iceland, Slovakia, and Australia acted decisively to bend the curve of infections downward, the U.S. achieved merely a plateau in the spring, which changed to an appalling upward slope in the summer. “The U.S. fundamentally failed in ways that were worse than I ever could have imagined,” Julia Marcus, an infectious-disease epidemiologist at Harvard Medical School, told me.

Since the pandemic began, I have spoken with more than 100 experts in a variety of fields. I’ve learned that almost everything that went wrong with America’s response to the pandemic was predictable and preventable. A sluggish response by a government denuded of expertise allowed the coronavirus to gain a foothold. Chronic underfunding of public health neutered the nation’s ability to prevent the pathogen’s spread. A bloated, inefficient health-care system left hospitals ill-prepared for the ensuing wave of sickness. Racist policies that have endured since the days of colonization and slavery left Indigenous and Black Americans especially vulnerable to COVID‑19. The decades-long process of shredding the nation’s social safety net forced millions of essential workers in low-paying jobs to risk their life for their livelihood. The same social-media platforms that sowed partisanship and misinformation during the 2014 Ebola outbreak in Africa and the 2016 U.S. election became vectors for conspiracy theories during the 2020 pandemic.

The U.S. has little excuse for its inattention. In recent decades, epidemics of SARS, MERS, Ebola, H1N1 flu, Zika, and monkeypox showed the havoc that new and reemergent pathogens could wreak. Health experts, business leaders, and even middle schoolers ran simulated exercises to game out the spread of new diseases. In 2018, I wrote an article for The Atlantic arguing that the U.S. was not ready for a pandemic, and sounded warnings about the fragility of the nation’s health-care system and the slow process of creating a vaccine. But the COVID‑19 debacle has also touched—and implicated—nearly every other facet of American society: its shortsighted leadership, its disregard for expertise, its racial inequities, its social-media culture, and its fealty to a dangerous strain of individualism.

SARS‑CoV‑2 is something of an anti-Goldilocks virus: just bad enough in every way. Its symptoms can be severe enough to kill millions but are often mild enough to allow infections to move undetected through a population. It spreads quickly enough to overload hospitals, but slowly enough that statistics don’t spike until too late. These traits made the virus harder to control, but they also softened the pandemic’s punch. SARS‑CoV‑2 is neither as lethal as some other coronaviruses, such as SARS and MERS, nor as contagious as measles. Deadlier pathogens almost certainly exist. Wild animals harbor an estimated 40,000 unknown viruses, a quarter of which could potentially jump into humans. How will the U.S. fare when “we can’t even deal with a starter pandemic?,” Zeynep Tufekci, a sociologist at the University of North Carolina and an Atlantic contributing writer, asked me.

Despite its epochal effects, COVID‑19 is merely a harbinger of worse plagues to come. The U.S. cannot prepare for these inevitable crises if it returns to normal, as many of its people ache to do. Normal led to this. Normal was a world ever more prone to a pandemic but ever less ready for one. To avert another catastrophe, the U.S. needs to grapple with all the ways normal failed us. It needs a full accounting of every recent misstep and foundational sin, every unattended weakness and unheeded warning, every festering wound and reopened scar.

Apandemic can be prevented in two ways: Stop an infection from ever arising, or stop an infection from becoming thousands more. The first way is likely impossible. There are simply too many viruses and too many animals that harbor them. Bats alone could host thousands of unknown coronaviruses; in some Chinese caves, one out of every 20 bats is infected. Many people live near these caves, shelter in them, or collect guano from them for fertilizer. Thousands of bats also fly over these people’s villages and roost in their homes, creating opportunities for the bats’ viral stowaways to spill over into human hosts. Based on antibody testing in rural parts of China, Peter Daszak of EcoHealth Alliance, a nonprofit that studies emerging diseases, estimates that such viruses infect a substantial number of people every year. “Most infected people don’t know about it, and most of the viruses aren’t transmissible,” Daszak says. But it takes just one transmissible virus to start a pandemic.

Sometime in late 2019, the wrong virus left a bat and ended up, perhaps via an intermediate host, in a human—and another, and another. Eventually it found its way to the Huanan seafood market, and jumped into dozens of new hosts in an explosive super-spreading event. The COVID‑19 pandemic had begun.

“There is no way to get spillover of everything to zero,” Colin Carlson, an ecologist at Georgetown University, told me. Many conservationists jump on epidemics as opportunities to ban the wildlife trade or the eating of “bush meat,” an exoticized term for “game,” but few diseases have emerged through either route. Carlson said the biggest factors behind spillovers are land-use change and climate change, both of which are hard to control. Our species has relentlessly expanded into previously wild spaces. Through intensive agriculture, habitat destruction, and rising temperatures, we have uprooted the planet’s animals, forcing them into new and narrower ranges that are on our own doorsteps. Humanity has squeezed the world’s wildlife in a crushing grip—and viruses have come bursting out.

Curtailing those viruses after they spill over is more feasible, but requires knowledge, transparency, and decisiveness that were lacking in 2020. Much about coronaviruses is still unknown. There are no surveillance networks for detecting them as there are for influenza. There are no approved treatments or vaccines. Coronaviruses were formerly a niche family, of mainly veterinary importance. Four decades ago, just 60 or so scientists attended the first international meeting on coronaviruses. Their ranks swelled after SARS swept the world in 2003, but quickly dwindled as a spike in funding vanished. The same thing happened after MERS emerged in 2012. This year, the world’s coronavirus experts—and there still aren’t many—had to postpone their triennial conference in the Netherlands because SARS‑CoV‑2 made flying too risky.

In the age of cheap air travel, an outbreak that begins on one continent can easily reach the others. SARS already demonstrated that in 2003, and more than twice as many people now travel by plane every year. To avert a pandemic, affected nations must alert their neighbors quickly. In 2003, China covered up the early spread of SARS, allowing the new disease to gain a foothold, and in 2020, history repeated itself. The Chinese government downplayed the possibility that SARS‑CoV‑2 was spreading among humans, and only confirmed as much on January 20, after millions had traveled around the country for the lunar new year. Doctors who tried to raise the alarm were censured and threatened. One, Li Wenliang, later died of COVID‑19. The World Health Organization initially parroted China’s line and did not declare a public-health emergency of international concern until January 30. By then, an estimated 10,000 people in 20 countries had been infected, and the virus was spreading fast.

The United States has correctly castigated China for its duplicity and the WHO for its laxity—but the U.S. has also failed the international community. Under President Donald Trump, the U.S. has withdrawn from several international partnerships and antagonized its allies. It has a seat on the WHO’s executive board, but left that position empty for more than two years, only filling it this May, when the pandemic was in full swing. Since 2017, Trump has pulled more than 30 staffers out of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s office in China, who could have warned about the spreading coronavirus. Last July, he defunded an American epidemiologist embedded within China’s CDC. America First was America oblivious.

Even after warnings reached the U.S., they fell on the wrong ears. Since before his election, Trump has cavalierly dismissed expertise and evidence. He filled his administration with inexperienced newcomers, while depicting career civil servants as part of a “deep state.” In 2018, he dismantled an office that had been assembled specifically to prepare for nascent pandemics. American intelligence agencies warned about the coronavirus threat in January, but Trump habitually disregards intelligence briefings. The secretary of health and human services, Alex Azar, offered similar counsel, and was twice ignored.

Being prepared means being ready to . . .

Continue reading. There’s more — and no paywall.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 August 2020 at 4:09 pm

San Marzano tomatoes in a good lunch salad

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These are not DOM San Marzano tomatoes, which must be grown in a specific region of Italy that boasts volcanic soil that (presumably) enhances the flavor (terroir and all that), but certainly the San Marzano variety: two chambers only.

I got them at a little store that mostly sells bulk foods — it’s where I buy kamut, for example. It’s within walking distance and since I have a lightweight 18L backpack that stuffs into a pocketable pouch, I used my Nordic walking poles.

Of course I had to try the tomatoes, and for lunch:

about 1 cup steamed broccoli pieces
1 San Marzano tomato halved lengthwise and cut across into pieces
1/4 cup cooked split peas (I cooked them like beans: soaked overnight, then simmered until tend and drained)
1/4 cup cooked intact whole-grain kamut
8-10 pitted Kalamata olives
about 1.5 tablespoons Braggs Vinaigrette
1 tablespoon Eden Foods Ume Plum Vinegar

I tossed that well, then sprinkled over it about 1.5 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes for the cheese flavor.

The broccoli, peas, kamut, and olives were straight from the fridge, so it was a refreshing salad for a summer day.

I also got a lot of lentils (organic green and also Du Puy) because the supermarket was out, about a pound of black beans, almost a quart of raw cashews (2 cups of which are now soaking to make creamy cashew sauce, which I’ll use in lieu of yogurt in the recipe in this post). And I got a big bag of fresh basil leaves, so I can use them in that recipe instead of the parsley I was going to substitute.

I also picked up for The Wife a tub of their hazelnut butter (ingredients list: BC-grown hazelnuts, period).

Man, that was a tasty salad. I thought about a sprinkling of roasted pumpkin seeds, but it was fine without.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 August 2020 at 3:09 pm

After a Year of Investigation, the Border Patrol Has Little to Say About Agents’ Misogynistic and Racist Facebook Group

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No surprise, since I believe the Facebook group expresses the views of Border Patrol leadership and certainly the views of Border Patrol culture. A.C. Thompson reports in ProPublica:

Brian Hastings, a top Border Patrol official, stared grimly at the television cameras.

It was July 1, 2019, and Hastings was facing down a scandal: News reports had revealed that Border Patrol agents were posting wildly offensive comments and memes in a secret Facebook group.

Agents had shared crudely manipulated images of men sexually assaulting Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a New York Democrat and frequent antagonist of the Border Patrol; joked about migrants who died while trying to enter the United States; and made racist insults about Central Americans. The group called itself “I’m 10-15,” Border Patrol radio code for “aliens in custody,” and included some 9,500 current or former agents.

Critics of the agency — already concerned about the separation of migrant families and deplorable conditions in detention facilities — saw the vulgar Facebook posts as further evidence that a culture of casual racism and misogyny was festering within the Border Patrol.

On national TV that day, Hastings vowed that any agent who engaged in online misconduct would be held accountable. “We take all of the posts that were put out today very seriously,” said Hastings, who was then the chief of law of enforcement operations for the patrol and now oversees the Rio Grande Valley sector. “Each one of these allegations will be thoroughly investigated.” The internal affairs unit of Customs and Border Protection, the agency that oversees the Border Patrol, had already opened an investigation, he said.

Within days, the horrified leaders of the powerful House Committee on Oversight and Reform announced a separate probe of the group, whose existence was first exposed by ProPublica.

But now, more than a year later, after one of the most sweeping internal investigations in the history of the agency, CBP has provided little new information about “I’m 10-15” or its efforts to address toxic attitudes within the ranks. Instead, it has released a basic summary of its findings. The agency has not said who was behind the group or its most egregious posts. And it has not explained how such a group — whose members included Carla Provost, then the highest-ranking official in the Border Patrol — had existed for nearly three years without any sort of intervention from patrol brass.

And in Congress, the oversight committee said its work has been derailed by a lack of cooperation from CBP leaders, who have refused to provide congressional investigators with the names of employees who made offensive posts or even identify the agents who’ve been disciplined.

“More than a year after the existence of the group was reported, CBP continues to obstruct a congressional investigation into the results of the agency’s findings, blatantly shielding agents that have dehumanized immigrants and fostered a culture of cruelty and violence,” said Rep. Veronica Escobar, a Democrat representing El Paso, Texas, who was mocked by agents in “I’m 10-15” posts.

Last month, the agency told the Los Angeles Times that it had investigated 138 employees, eventually deciding to fire four of them, suspend 38 without pay and issue warnings or reprimands to more than two dozen. CBP investigators cleared 60 agents of any wrongdoing.

But CBP has not revealed the exact offenses that led to this wave of firings and other sanctions, nor has it disclosed the key facts — such as name, rank or location — about the employees who’ve been disciplined. Such information could reveal troubling clusters of agents or supervisors at a particular station and whether the terms of the discipline were appropriate. The agency has long maintained that it is barred by federal privacy law from identifying employees who’ve been found guilty of misconduct, and it typically does not disclose the names of front-line Border Patrol agents.

In response to questions from ProPublica about the terms of the suspensions it has imposed, a CBP spokesperson would only provide general answers. “We are not able to share specific details, however, suspensions generally range from three to 14 days,” the spokesperson said.

Under the terms of the Border Patrol’s union contract, suspensions of up to 14 days are considered relatively minor punishment, while those that extend beyond two weeks are deemed to be more serious.

While CBP has not named the employees it fired, Border Patrol sources said that one of those who was ousted is Waldemar Ortiz, an agent who worked at the station in Deming, New Mexico. The sources requested anonymity because they had gone outside of the official chain of command to share information.

A former U.S. Marine, Ortiz posted comments suggesting that Border Patrol agents lock undocumented migrants in shipping containers, according to The Intercept, which obtained a huge trove of content from the Facebook group. The specific actions that led to the agent’s ouster remain unclear.

One source said Ortiz, who has enlisted the support of the National Border Patrol Council, the union representing the nation’s roughly 20,000 Border Patrol agents, could potentially win his job back at an upcoming arbitration hearing. Ortiz did not respond to a request for comment from ProPublica, nor did union President Brandon Judd.

The union has condemned the offensive Facebook posts, saying the “inappropriate content” is not representative “of our employees and does a great disservice to all Border Patrol agents, the overwhelming majority of whom perform their duties honorably.”

ProPublica has not learned the names of the other three employees who’ve been fired or whether they’ll be appealing their firings.

At an unrelated court hearing last year in San Francisco, an attorney for CBP, Laura Myron, argued that documents identifying Border Patrol agents accused of misconduct should not be released to the public. . .

Continue reading. There’s more, and no paywall.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 August 2020 at 12:33 pm

Vegetarians/vegans and stroke risk

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This is a very interesting video. For one thing, it shows how “adjusting” can be done to undermine the actual findings of a study: that happens when you “adjust” factors in the causal change and not irrelevant facts. Worth watching.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 August 2020 at 11:31 am

Roomful of Teeth perform Caroline Shaw’s “Partita for 8 Voices”

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The NY Times has a good column offer selections of 21st century music. The first example is this partita, which I like:

Written by LeisureGuy

5 August 2020 at 11:16 am

Posted in Music

Border Patrol Launches Militarized Raid of Borderland Humanitarian Aid CampORDERLANDS HUMANITARIAN AID CAMP

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The US Border Patrol is out of control: a government-sanctioned and protected band of arrogant armed bullies and thugs. Ryan Devereaux reports in the Intercept:

CAMOUFLAGED U.S. Border Patrol agents in armored vehicles launched a nighttime raid on a humanitarian aid camp in southern Arizona on Friday. Agents zip-tied volunteers’ hands behind their backs, shouted at them with rifles raised, and confiscated their cellphones, as well as the organization’s medical records. At least two helicopters hovered above the camp and a film crew documented the operation on the ground. Agents moved through camp structures and arrested more than 30 undocumented immigrants who were receiving treatment after trekking through the desert in the middle of heat wave.

The humanitarian group, No More Deaths, a faith-based organization out of Tucson, believes the operation was likely part retaliation, part violent publicity stunt. The raid marked the second time in two years that the Border Patrol descended on one of No More Deaths’ aid stations immediately after the group published materials that cast a negative light on the border enforcement agency.

On Wednesday, the group shared documents regarding a remarkably similar raid on the same camp three years ago, which showed the Border Patrol’s national union clamoring for a crackdown on No More Deaths. On Thursday, less than 24 hours after the documents were posted online, Border Patrol entered the camp without a warrant and took an undocumented woman into custody. The agency then surrounded the location and set up a checkpoint to detain and search volunteers as they came and went. The camp remained surrounded until Friday’s raid.

Montana Thames, who gathered accounts from the detained volunteers, described the operation as a militarized show of force that featured the same Border Patrol tactical teams that were recently deployed to suppress protests in Portland, Oregon. According to Thames, who is also a No More Deaths volunteer, when agents entered the camp in Arivaca, Arizona, roughly 10 miles north of the border, they claimed that they had a warrant but refused to show it. “They pretty aggressively got people out of there and then trashed the camp,” Thames told The Intercept on Saturday. In addition to the aircraft hovering above the camp, volunteers reported the use of at least two dozen marked and unmarked vehicles, ATVs, and armored personnel carriers.

Some of the agents looked to be members of the Border Patrol’s BORTAC teams, the same commando-style units that were filmed bundling protesters into unmarked cars in Portland, volunteers said — photos from the raid appear to back up those claims. According to Thames, members of the tactical unit raised their rifles and shouted at volunteers while they were zip-tied. The decision to wait until nightfall to conduct the operation felt deliberate and produced “unnecessary trauma” for the migrants receiving care and volunteers alike, Thames said: “They started rolling in when the sun was setting, raided the camp when it was dark, and created a lot more fear and chaos.” . . .

Continue reading. There’s more (and there’s no paywall).

I was just reading a review of a book about the Stasi — the East German secret police. The Border Patrol has a similar cullture but with no need to keep it secret.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 August 2020 at 10:02 am

Summer Storm and a badger brush — with the Lupo

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This soap has (in spades) the petrichor fragrance I (wrongly) anticipated to find in Declaration Grooming’s After the Rain. After the Rain seems to be the aftermath of a gentle late-spring shower in meadowed woodland, whereas Summer Storm portrays, as the name implies, the aftermath of a sudden summer thunderstorm — the Esperanto word fulmotondro neatly names it: fulmo means lightning, tondro means thunder, and fulmotondro is a thunderstorm.

That’s the kind of storm — a sudden rush of cool wind on a still hot day, large raindrops plopping into the dust, and the sudden crack of thunder as a bolt of lightning leaps across the sky just before the deluge begins in the sudden darkness that just moments ago was full daylight — that Summer Storm olfactorily presents.

The badger brush is a Rooney’s Finest in Style 2. It has an interesting feel on the face: a crisp and almost crunchy attack from the fluffy but quite resilient knot. The lather inflates the knot, keeping the bristles somewhat separate, so that contributes to the feeling. And the lather was excellent.

The Lupo’s blade feel is quite noticeable — in the foreground, but non-threatening. (I don’t get nicks with this razor, despite the pronounced blade feel — probably in part because I take care to maintain a good blade angle and keep the cap in contact with my skin.) Three passes left my face totally smooth, and a generous splash of Summer Storm completed the job. No storms in sight here: a bright and sunny daywith no clouds overhead.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 August 2020 at 9:20 am

Posted in Shaving

Very cool chess problem

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Written by LeisureGuy

4 August 2020 at 7:45 pm

Posted in Chess

Award-winniing infographics

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Take a look. For each infographic, right-click and choose “open image in a new tab” so you can magnify it.

Written by LeisureGuy

4 August 2020 at 4:34 pm

Posted in Daily life

Herodotus’s wheel

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Barry Strauss writes in New Criterion:

Herodotus is the historian of freedom. The founder of history as a literary genre, he is one of two Greek geniuses who have set the agenda of Western historiography for twenty-five hundred years. The other, of course, is Thucydides. We tend to think of them as a balancing act: Herodotus is the historian of the Persian Wars, Thucydides the historian of the Peloponnesian War; Herodotus chronicles the rise of Greece, Thucydides its decline; Thucydides is the hard-nosed proto-political scientist, Herodotus the softer, more open-ended proto-anthropologist. In truth, there is nothing soft about Herodotus. He is the chronicler of the habits of the human heart that make freedom worth fighting for and make it possible to defeat despotism. He is equally the connoisseur of human frailty who knows every step of the slippery slope that leads right back to despotism. There is no more important book for students of the Western past to read.

It is not an easy read, however, because Herodotus is also the historian of complexity. The word “history” comes from the Greek historia, “inquiry.” Herodotus states at the outset that his work displays the fruit of his inquiries. They were not few in number. The rise and fall of empires, the chronicles of Babylon, Egypt, Lydia, and Persia; the life of the Greek city-state; the ins and outs of everyday affairs from Italy to India, the will of the gods and the lies told by mortals all march across the five-hundred-odd pages of his great book. The historian’s style is charmingly—and maddeningly—discursive. In one short paragraph, for example, he describes the history of relations between two states including the sealing of a military alliance, an oracle, a past diplomatic mission, the negotiations for the acquisition of gold for a statue of Apollo, and the current location of the statue.

Herodotus seems never to be able to resist an anecdote. Has any historian ever had a better eye for vivid detail? Yet his anecdotes have a point. There is so much laughter and sheer joy in the Histories that it is easy to forget the tragedy. “Human prosperity never remains constant,” says Herodotus. Great states become small and small great, and so he studies both. More important, states are nothing more than the men and women who make them. Herodotus recognizes the terrible complexity of things but he is not a relativist. The gods are just. They want men to live justly and moderately, and so character counts above all. Affairs of state reflect the actions of individuals, so Herodotus constantly weaves back and forth from a cast of thousands to lone actors, and from kings on their thrones to forgotten faces in the crowd of a small city-state.

Herodotus’s inquiries reflect the seriousness of his theme. Rather than simply following his curiosity, he wants to understand what was at stake in the conflict between Greeks and Persians. As he writes at the outset, “May the great and wonderful deeds—some brought forth by the Hellenes, others by the barbarians—not go unsung; as well as the causes that led them to make war on each other.” He also states particular concern with preservation; he writes, he says, in order “that human events … not fade with time.” Something that he does not state, but which would have been clear to any Greek, was his debt to Homer, the national poet. Like the author of the Iliad, Herodotus sets his story in the clash of East and West. It was an old conflict, antedating the Greco-Persian Wars—and they in turn were not new. By Herodotus’s day those wars had lasted on and off for over a century, far longer than the ten years of the Homeric Trojan War. Yet each war tested a proposition that was instantly recognized: for Homer, glory; for Herodotus, freedom.

Like the subject of the Odyssey, Herodotus was a great traveler. Although he spent much of his life in Athens, he was born and raised in Anatolia (what is today Turkey), and finally settled in a Greek colony in southern Italy. His hometown, Halicarnassus (today Bodrum), was a port peopled by Greeks, Persians, and Carians (an Anatolian people). A tyranny governed the city. According to ancient biographical tradition, Herodotus played a part in an unsuccessful revolution and so was forced into an exile’s life. No doubt, but like Odysseus, Herodotus would probably have been bored at home. He traveled with gusto: through Anatolia and Greece, and to Egypt, Phoenicia, North Africa, Italy, and possibly the Black Sea. To get a sense of the span of his world, consider this: Halicarnassus was later conquered by Alexander the Great, while Thurii, the Italian city where Herodotus spent his last years, was later conquered by Spartacus.

No one should approach the wide world of Herodotus without a guide. Thanks to Robert B. Strassler, the editor of the Landmark Herodotus, we now have as fine a historical introduction to the Histories as we could imagine. This splendid book now takes its place alongside Strassler’s excellent Landmark Thucydides as a monument of accessible scholarship.1

I have been using the Landmark Thucydides (in paperback) in the college classroom for the last decade and my students can attest to its value. The Landmark Herodotus is just as good, if not better. Andrea L. Purvis’s translation is accurate and readable and accompanied by generous notes on every page. The text is bracketed by prefaces, an introduction, a dated outline, and by twenty-one appendices written by classical scholars.

The 127 maps are a dream. The many photographs are gorgeous. The index alone is magnificent, from the sharks off Greece’s Mount Athos to the ostrich-skin shields of the Makai (a North African people), from the self-sacrifice of the Greek youths Cleobis and Biton to the siege of the Assyrian city of Nineveh, from the slaves sent as tribute to the Persian king Darius to the Spartan response to omens—and that is just from the letter s.

The Landmark Herodotus greatly eases the reader’s navigation of the Herodotean sea of details.  . .

Continue reading. There’s more.

I have and have read the Landmark Herodotus and it deserves the highest praise.

Written by LeisureGuy

4 August 2020 at 3:06 pm

Posted in Books

Sharpologist shaving brush roundup

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Written by LeisureGuy

4 August 2020 at 11:34 am

Posted in Shaving

Avoid refined and highly processed foods

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From an article in Medium by Dana Smith:

In one recent study published in the journal PLoS One, people who changed their diets for three weeks to follow a modified Mediterranean diet centered on fruit, vegetables, whole grains, fish, and nuts were able to improve their depression scores.

The researchers, from Macquarie University in Australia, write that a reduction in processed foods as a result of the diet change contributed the most to the improvement in symptoms. Exactly how diet influences people’s mood is unclear, but one theory is that processed foods cause inflammation in the body, which also affects the brain. Another possibility is that diet’s influence on the gut microbiome results in changes to the brain.

I have avoided refined food for a long time now, and after also eliminating meat, dairy, and eggs I feel even better. (I also of late have avoided alcohol — a refined food if there ever was one.)

My cooking routine makes it easy: I keep in the fridge a batch of cooked beans and a batch of cooked intact whole grain (currently brown lentils and kamut respectively), and periodically I cook a stew of fresh vegetables and greens. I have beans and grain at each meal, along with greens and vegetables, and I also eat three pieces of fruit and a bowl of berries each day. I’m just back from the supermarket and I got apples, mandarin oranges, plumcots, and bananas. I get a large (4-lb) box of frozen mixed berries (raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries) and thaw a bowl each evening for a treat. I also eat at least 1/4 cup of walnuts a day, and generally a small handful of roasted redskin peanuts (no salt — I avoid salt). I grind a tablespoon of flaxseed and include that with breakfast.

This has all become very easy — easy to cook and, since I have the fridge well-stocked with cooked food, easy to prepare a meal.

Today I’m branching out a bit with a recipe from the Washington Post that looks good: “Beat the heat with this quick-cooking skillet of garlicky beans, broccoli and pesto.” I’ve noted the modifications I made because some ingredients were not available.

For the pesto

• 1/2 cup lightly packed fresh basil leaves [no basil at store; will use Italian parsley – LG]*
• 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
• 1/4 cup water, plus more as needed
• 1/4 cup roasted, unsalted almonds (may substitute toasted sunflower seeds) [I’ll use roasted pumpkin seeds – LG]
• 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
• 2 garlic cloves, chopped
• 1 teaspoon nutritional yeast (optional) [I’ll go with 1 tablespoon: more cheese-like flavor – LG]
• 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste [skip — I don’t add salt to my food – LG]

*Update: Don’t have to use parsley after all — see this post, which includes a good salad recipe.

For the broccoli and beans

• 1 head broccoli (about 1 1/2 pounds), thick stalk removed
• Boiling water [a cinch since I have an electric kettle – LG]
• 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
• 4 garlic cloves, crushed or minced
• 3 cups (from two 15-ounce cans) lima beans (may substitute chickpeas or any white beans), drained and rinsed
• 12 cherry tomatoes, halved
• 1 small zucchini (4 ounces), coarsely grated
• 1 tablespoon pure plain coconut yogurt (optional; may substitute plain dairy yogurt) [see below – LG]
• 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
• 1/4 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper, plus more to taste

And my addition:

• 1 cup cooked intact whole grain wheat or rye [I’m using kamut (khorosan wheat)]

I went with chickpeas since (a) I have them on hand and (b) store had no lima beans (which are not al that nutritious anyway).

Instead of the yogurt, I’m thinking a creamy cashew sauce.

For the pesto, just put everything into a blender and blend until smooth. If you have an immersion blender with the beaker that usually comes with one, you can use that since the amount is relatively small.

Cut the broccoli into small, bite-size pieces (the smaller, the better). Transfer the broccoli to a heatproof bowl and cover with the boiling water (this blanches the broccoli). Let stand until the broccoli is crisp-tender, 2 to 3 minutes, then drain.

In a large skillet [I’ll use my Stargazer 12″, now my favorite – LG] over medium heat, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until it softens, about 2 minutes. Stir in the broccoli, lima beans and tomatoes [and cooked wheat or rye – LG], and cook, stirring, until warmed through, about 2 minutes. Stir in the pesto, zucchini, yogurt (if using), zest, and pepper. Taste and season with more salt and pepper if needed. Serve warm.

Written by LeisureGuy

4 August 2020 at 9:17 am

Omega 20102 boar brush with Colonia and the Maggard V2OC

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Until I finally grasped the excellence of the Omega Pro 48 (10048), I generally recommend this Omega 20102, another very nice brush with a handle that strikes me as better (in terms of aesthetics). However, the loft of the 20102 is not quite so long as the Pro 48’s, so I realize now that some of the gentle springy resilience is lacking when I used the 20102 this morning. (The comments to yesterday’s shaving post include some insights on accepting and thus appreciating experience.)

Still, it was quite a good shave, thanks in part to the Maggard V2 open-comb, here mounted on one of Maggard’s handles. This is the same head as the Parker 24 or 26 but the Maggard handle is better. Colonia shaving soap makes a very nice lather, and the 20102 does indeed do a good job.

Three passes, smooth face, and a good splash of Floïd aftershave: ready for the day.

Written by LeisureGuy

4 August 2020 at 7:24 am

Posted in Shaving

Assorted cherry confectionery

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I wish the ideograms were translated.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 August 2020 at 2:33 pm

Posted in Food, Video

“Exit, Voice, and Loyalty” @50

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Jeremy Adelman writes in PublicBooks.org:

For two turbulent years, General James Mattis was President Donald Trump’s defense secretary. It was little secret that Mattis had profound disagreements with the president’s foreign policy decisions and strongly disapproved of his character, which ultimately led to the general’s resignation, in late 2018. But after leaving the DOD, Mattis went silent and refrained from publicly critiquing Trump. Until June 3. In the midst of a pandemic, and after days of watching the militarized suppression of legal and peaceful protests in cities across America, Mattis finally spoke out. “I have just watched this week’s unfolding events, angry and appalled,” he wrote in a statement published by The Atlantic, alluding to the dispersal of peaceful protesters in Lafayette Square with tear gas and rubber bullets. “Never did I dream that troops … would be ordered under any circumstance to violate the Constitutional rights of their fellow citizens—much less to provide a bizarre photo op for the elected commander-in-chief, with military leadership standing alongside.”

Mattis’s outrage spurred many other establishment figures and organizations to denounce the repression and side with America’s homegrown, Black-led democracy movement. In what will surely go down as a critical moment in recent times, Mattis exhibited the power of voice—in this case the voice of a decorated, hard-to-dislike onetime loyalist—in shaping history.

Voice is to modern politics what DNA is to genetics. The strength of a democracy—and the measure of autocracy—can be gauged by the extent to which citizens are able to express themselves. One work that has deeply influenced how we think about voice is Albert O. Hirschman’s Exit, Voice, and Loyalty: Responses to Decline in Firms, Organizations, and States. Now enjoying its 50th anniversary, it is a classic in the history of human sciences. But can a classic book of the fevered 1960s speak to us in our modern fevered times?

As Facebook and Amazon partition the attentional marketplace and politics turns tribal, the institutions governing modern life appear deaf to the clamor. What is so agonizing about the global street protests today is that there is a sinking feeling that the police will not change their ways, that gun lobbies will continue to pump the marketplace with ammunition, and that carbon-based fuels will dominate our energy options. When the Trump presidency ends, and the toll of years of toxicity and mismanagement becomes clear, we are going to need guidance on how to move forward. Can Exit, Voice, and Loyalty help us?

Exit, Voice, and Loyalty was conceived when the United States was at the height of its global power. It was the 1960s; civil rights, feminism, and consumer movements were on the march. Hirschman was optimistic about what lay ahead. He assumed that governments and firms would take heed of what they were hearing from the citizens who were agitating for change.

But by the late 1960s, as Hirschman traveled to Stanford for his fellowship at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences (CASBS), there were early warning signs that all was not well. He had recently published a study of the World Bank. One of the case studies was a project in Nigeria. His field notes were full of jottings about farmers complaining about freight rates, merchants grousing about cheating tax collectors; the air in Nigeria in 1966 was thick with tension. Yet Hirschman’s observations made little difference in his hopeful analysis. Soon after, a horrible civil war erupted in Biafra. Hirschman was shocked and dismayed. What was the value of social science if it failed to heed its own evidence of a looming crisis? He went to CASBS in search of understanding. During his stay, the great French psychologist Serge Moscovici delivered a paper on the role of small groups (including early Christians, suffragists, and the first Nazis) in swaying majorities. How did people who were marginal, disenchanted, and persecuted convince others of the value of their perspective? And what about the opposite: cases where people remained loyal to institutions (such as governments waging unpopular wars in the Mekong Delta) that had stopped listening to their constituents?

At the time, one example of how small groups could influence larger ones was the rising consumer movement. Hirschman struck up a correspondence with the crusading consumer activist Ralph Nader; they formed a mini mutual-adoration club. Nader became famous for his campaign against Chevrolet and its Corvair model, which had been implicated in a series of deadly accidents. Nader used testimonies from lawsuits against Chevrolet to mount a public campaign to indict the model and its maker. His work led to the 1966 National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act, a milestone in government commitment to consumer safety and the creation of the (now disarrayed) protectionist state. Later, “Nader Raiders” mobilized successfully to reform the Federal Trade Commission and get it to pay more attention to consumer safety. Hirschman took note. This expression of consumer citizenship struck him as a model for reforming capitalism.

Exit, Voice, and Loyalty was influenced by all of these inputs: Hirschman’s misjudgment in Nigeria; Moscovici’s analysis of the power of small groups that speak loudly; and Nader and the consumer movement. The book is like a road map through the intricacies of disappointment. What to do when your government stops listening, your car dealer sells you lemons, or the local public school cuts after-school music to save some money? For Hirschman, there were three options. One was exit. You could leave your country. (Hirschman was familiar with this option. He had fled tyranny, war, and intolerance on many occasions, starting in the spring of 1933, when he fled the Nazi takeover in Germany at age 17.) You could give up on Chevy and buy a Ford. You could withdraw from the public school and opt for a private one. In our day, examples of exit include General Mattis’s resignation from Trump’s cabinet, the decision by the majority of Britons to part ways with the European Union, and the flight of 70 million refugees worldwide from persecution and obscene neglect.

Another option was voice: expressing anger in a letter to the editor or making a complaint to the sales rep or, as many of the students at Stanford were doing the year Hirschman was in residence, protesting the Vietnam War. When demonstrators clashed in the streets of Paris and outside the Democratic Party convention in Chicago in 1968, or marched on Washington in the summer of 1963 to push for equal rights for African Americans, they exercised what Hirschman called voice: proclaiming one’s discontent loudly and publicly, in the hope that rulers got the message and changed their ways. In our day, we see voice when citizens hang a banner over a police station in Seattle declaring, “This Space Is Now Property of the Seattle People,” or pressure the governor of New York to make public the records of abusive police officers, or take to the streets of Beirut to denounce a corrupt and kleptocratic regime.

There was a third option: stay loyal. Hirschman didn’t think too much about loyalty. It wasn’t really an active option, more like a default setting. To this day, it remains the weakest conceptual leg of his famous tripod.

In the five decades since its publication, Exit, Voice, and Loyalty has been viewed as a guide to understanding how and why people squared up to the disappointments in their ruling institutions. It’s how I read it as a graduate student observing the explosion of voice in a democratizing Latin America in the 1980s. Indeed, it was how Hirschman himself read his own book amid the stream of essays that reprised its concepts to explain the fall of East Germany or the jostling between private and public medical systems. It was a book that helped us think about how to force institutions to change. We did not read it for insights about institutions themselves.

Nowadays, it’s our institutions that are in deep, deep trouble. Too often their leaders resist change, waiting for the outcry of the moment to blow over. Big organizations go through the motions of listening, make the right noises, but usually do nothing.

How can we get the ossified organizations of modern life to respond? Doing so requires a different reading of Exit, Voice, and Loyalty. Sure, we remember the famous trifecta of concepts mentioned in the title. But there are other recurring words all through the text that are equally important: “recuperating,” “recovery,” and “renewal.” They are the counterpoints to the decay and decline that figure in the book’s subtitle.

Whether organizations can swing from decline to recuperation depends on . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more.

Later in the article:

For decades, the takeaway was that we needed effective voice. But over time, market solutions to common problems became the policy orthodoxy. We let rulers extol the virtue of exit options: if you don’t like your school, start a charter; if you don’t like public health systems, enjoy the manifold benefits of private insurance; and if you don’t like your state, leave (though good luck getting a visa). So we watched as institutions developed artful ways to dodge their civic and public commitments.

There was an additional step in Hirschman’s argument. . .

Written by LeisureGuy

3 August 2020 at 2:20 pm

Jennifer Rubin proposes some questions to ask Republican candidates for Senator

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This list is from her column in the Washington Post:

  • Are you supporting the lawsuit to take away all Obamacare protections for people with preexisting conditions? If not, what have you done about it?
  • Couldn’t we have avoided Trump’s bungling of the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 150,000 people in the United States, if you voted to impeach him?
  • Isn’t refusal to confront Russia on bounties for killing U.S. troops a betrayal of our men and women serving overseas? If you had removed the president for betraying our national security regarding Ukraine, he wouldn’t be repeating that pattern now, would he? Do you regret your vote?
  • You voted for a $2 trillion tax cut on the promise it would pay for itself. It didn’t come close. Should we reverse it? How can you then oppose spending a similar amount on support for unemployed Americans, state and local governments, and voting by mail?
  • Will you denounce attempts to undermine mail-in voting? Will you pledge to recognize the results of the election and rebut efforts to delegitimize it?
  • Has the administration “succeeded” in fighting the coronavirus? Why haven’t you insisted on a national testing and tracing program?
  • Was it appropriate to send without the permission of the governor unidentified federal forces to gas and attack protesters in Portland, Ore.? What did you do about it?
  • Why did you vote to confirm Cabinet officials such as Scott Pruitt for the Environmental Protection Agency (only Collins voted against him), Tom Price for the Department of Health and Human Services, Ryan Zinke for the Interior Department and Alexander Acosta for the Labor Department — all of whom left office under the cloud of ethics violations (including Acosta, for his participation in Jeffrey Epstein’s plea deal)?
  • Is the economy in better or worse shape in January 2015, when your term began?
  • When have you condemned Trump’s racist rhetoric?
  • Have we “won” the trade war against China? If not, why haven’t you reclaimed Congress’s power over tariffs?
  • What reason do voters have to believe you would stand up to Trump if he is reelected?

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 August 2020 at 2:04 pm

Landmark Math Proof Clears Hurdle in Top Erdős Conjecture

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Erica Klarreich writes in Quanta:

Apair of mathematicians has solved the first chunk of one of the most famous conjectures about the additive properties of whole numbers. Proposed more than 60 years ago by the legendary Hungarian mathematician Paul Erdős, the conjecture asks when an infinite list of whole numbers will be sure to contain patterns of at least three evenly spaced numbers, such as 26, 29 and 32.

Erdős posed thousands of problems over the course of his career, but the question of which number lists contain evenly spaced numbers (what mathematicians call arithmetic progressions) was one of his all-time favorites. “I think many people regarded it as Erdős’ number-one problem,” said Timothy Gowers of the University of Cambridge. Gowers, who won the Fields Medal in 1998, has spent many hours trying to solve it. “Pretty well any additive combinatorialist who’s reasonably ambitious has tried their hand at it,” he said, referring to the branch of mathematics to which the conjecture belongs.

As a rule, a denser list of numbers has a higher chance of containing arithmetic progressions than a sparser list, so Erdős proposed a simple density test: Just add up the reciprocals of the numbers on your list. If your numbers are plentiful enough to make this sum infinite, Erdős conjectured that your list should contain infinitely many arithmetic progressions of every finite length — triples, quadruples and so forth.

Now, in a paper posted online on July 7, Thomas Bloom of Cambridge and Olof Sisask of Stockholm University have proved the conjecture when it comes to evenly spaced triples, like 5, 7 and 9. The pair has shown that whenever a number list’s sum of reciprocals is infinite, it must contain infinitely many evenly spaced triples.

“This result was kind of a landmark goal for a lot of years,” said Nets Katz of the California Institute of Technology. “It’s a big deal.”

One set whose reciprocals sum to infinity is the primes, those numbers divisible by only 1 and themselves. In the 1930s, Johannes van der Corput used the special structure of the primes to show that they do indeed contain infinitely many evenly spaced triples (such as 17, 23 and 29).

But Bloom and Sisask’s new finding means that you don’t need a deep knowledge of the primes’ unique structure to prove that they contain infinitely many triples. All you need to know is that prime numbers are abundant enough for the sum of their reciprocals to be infinite — a fact mathematicians have known for centuries. “Thomas and Olof’s result tells us that even if the primes had a completely different structure to the one they actually have, the mere fact that there are as many primes as there are would ensure an infinitude of arithmetic progressions,” wrote Tom Sanders of the University of Oxford in an email.

The new paper is 77 pages long, and it will take time for mathematicians to check it carefully. But many feel optimistic that it is correct. “It really looks the way a proof of this result should look,” said Katz, whose earlier work laid much of the groundwork for this new result.

Bloom and Sisask’s theorem implies that as long as your number list is dense enough, certain patterns must emerge. The finding obeys what Sarah Peluse of Oxford called the fundamental slogan of this area of mathematics (originally stated by Theodore Motzkin): “Complete disorder is impossible.”

Density in Disguise

It’s easy to make an infinite list with no arithmetic progressions if you make the list sparse enough. For example, consider the sequence 1, 10, 100, 1,000, 10,000, … (whose reciprocals sum to the finite decimal 1.11111…). These numbers spread apart so rapidly that you can never find three that are evenly spaced.

You might wonder, though, if there are significantly denser number sets that still avoid arithmetic progressions. You could, for example, walk down the number line and keep every number that doesn’t complete an arithmetic progression. This creates the sequence 1, 2, 4, 5, 10, 11, 13, 14, … , which looks pretty dense at first. But it becomes incredibly sparse as you move into higher numbers — for instance, by the time you get to 20-digit numbers, only about 0.000009% of the whole numbers up to that point are on your list. In 1946, Felix Behrend came up with denser examples, but even these become sparse very quickly — a Behrend set that goes up to 20-digit numbers contains about 0.001% of the whole numbers.

At the other extreme, if your set includes almost all the whole numbers, it will definitely contain arithmetic progressions. But between these extremes is a vast, largely uncharted middle. How sparse can you make your set, mathematicians have wondered, and still be sure that it will have arithmetic progressions?

Erdős (perhaps in collaboration with the Hungarian mathematician Pál Turán, some say) provided one possible answer. His condition about the sum of reciprocals is a statement about density in disguise: It turns out to be the same as saying that the density of your list up to any number N is at least approximately 1 over the number of digits in N. In other words, it’s OK for your list to grow sparser as you go out along the number line, but only if it does so very slowly: Up through 5-digit numbers your list should have density at least about 1/5; up through 20-digit numbers it should have density at least about 1/20; and so forth. Provided this density condition is met, Erdős conjectured, your list should contain infinitely many arithmetic progressions of every length.

In 1953, Klaus Roth started mathematicians on a path toward proving Erdős’ conjecture.  . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 August 2020 at 1:25 pm

Posted in Math

And for a less rosy view of military culture: The Pentagon Wasn’t Ready for Gamers to Push Back

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Matthew Gault reports in Vice:

Last week, House Democrats almost stopped the Pentagon from using Twitch as a recruitment tool. The House voted down the measure, but that Congress discussed cutting Military funding at all signals a change in the relationship between civilians and the military. The Pentagon, facing a shortage of skilled recruits, turned to video games and online streaming to find new troops. As is so often the case with the U.S. Military, it was unprepared for the theater it was operating in.

In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, the U.S. military became sacrosanct in American life. Celebrities who were critical of the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan paid a heavy career price. Movies critical of the war were box office failures, even if they even made it to theaters at all. Video games like America’s Army —another attempt by the military to recruit via video games—passed through the culture with little criticism. People could criticize then-President George Bush, but the sense was that we should leave the military out of it and let them do their jobs.

After almost two decades of blank checks for the military and little critique even in the face of abject failure, the real costs of the United States’ open-ended wars are still coming into view. The war in Afghanistan has cost trillions of dollars and killed more than 100,000 Afghans. Civilian and Military leadership have known for years that the Afghanistan War is a lost cause that’s cost untold lives, but the war grinds on. Add to this the U.S. military’s use of torture, the expansion of the domestic surveilance state using technology pioneered in conflict zones, and the ongoing use of drones to assassinate enemies and it’s easy to see why many people have lost trust in the American military.

In the chaos that is a Twitch chat room, the U.S. Army and Navy esports teams encountered something they weren’t used to: some skepticism. There’s a diversity of views and opinions on Twitch that more closely map the real world than the sheltered world of the media the Pentagon is used to dealing with. On Twitch there is no deferential news mediaflag-waving entertainment media, or sports leagues taking money to “salute service”.

As the U.S. Military struggles to train and retain skilled soldiers, especially as COVID-19 has killed traditional avenues of recruitment, it has increasingly looked to digital spaces—and especially those inhabited by gamers—to fill the ranks. According to the military, it needs gamers. Drones aren’t easy to operate and, increasingly, all branches of the armed forces need skilled soldiers to do complex tasks. According to the Navy’s Twitch recruiting guide, the skills of the gamer are “the same skillsets used in fields in nuclear engineering, aviation, special warfare, cryptology and counterintelligence.”

The Air Force, Navy, Army, and National Guard are all fielding esports teams and running Twitch channels. The U.S. Marines Corps, alone among the branches, has said it wouldn’t field a team. But the Marines Corps is still involved. It sponsors tournaments and has a partnership deal with Esports Stadium Arlington in Texas. The Pentagon wants gamers but it doesn’t understand how to talk to them.

The various branches of the military have been working esports programs for years, but trouble started in July when . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 August 2020 at 12:13 pm

Posted in Games, Memes, Military

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