When presenting the groundbreaking report “Our Common Future” to the U.N. General Assembly in 1987, former Prime Minister of Norway and current Deputy Chair of The Elders Gro Brundtland spoke out on the need for a new way of doing business. “We must break away from our sectoral ways of viewing economy and ecology. We must learn to accept the fact that environmental considerations and economic growth are parts of a unified management of our planet. The one is dependent on the other.”
As we prepare to head to COP21, those words ring more true than ever. Representatives from more than 190 national governments will meet to negotiate a new international agreement on climate change. This chance to reduce global greenhouse-gas emissions and mitigate the threat of climate change represents the biggest economic and social opportunity of all time.
Eight Ball in the corner pocket? Not on Alex Bellos’ billiard table. It has no corner pockets—indeed, it has no corners whatsoever. Bellos, a British journalist who covers sports and mathematics, combined his two obsessions to create a unique game that he dubbed Loop.
While working on his book The Grapes of Math, Bellos became fascinated by the ellipse. “The shape has these wonderful geometrical properties that we’ve known about since the ancient Greeks,” he says. Instructors frequently illustrate these properties by describing how balls would rebound on an elliptical pool table. Bellos decided to bring that thought experiment to life, refining a set of rules for a two-player game that takes full advantage of the shape.
Loop requires a cue ball, three colored balls, and an elliptical table with one uncharitably small pocket. The billionaire quantitative investor David Harding—a noted benefactor of worthy scientific causes—underwrote the five-figure cost of a single luxuriously appointed Loop table. “If any American billiard companies want to produce more, I’d love to work with them,” Bellos says.
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A top government official with energy industry holdings huddles in secret with oil company executives to work out the details of a potentially lucrative “national energy policy.” Later, that same official steers billions of government dollars to his former oil-field services company. Well-paid elected representatives act with impunity, routinely trading government contracts and other favors for millions of dollars. Meanwhile, ordinary citizens live in fear of venal police forces that suck them dry by charging fees for services, throwing them in jail when they can’t pay arbitrary fines or selling their court “debts” to private companies. Sometimes the police just take people’s life savings leaving them with no recourse whatsoever. Sometimes they steal and deal drugs on the side. Meanwhile, the country’s infrastructure crumbles. Bridges collapse, or take a quarter-century to fix after a natural disaster, or (despite millions spent) turn out not to be fixed at all. Many citizens regard their government at all levels with a weary combination of cynicism and contempt. Fundamentalist groups respond by calling for a return to religious values and the imposition of religious law.
Animals dying peacefully of old age is rarely newsworthy, but the death of Nola the northern white rhino at the San Diego Zoo on Sunday made international headlines. Nola was one of only four northern white rhinos left on Earth; her death is a real-time window on extinction.
In fact, that extinction has been happening for a long time. Starting in the early 20th century, poachers in search of rhino horns hunted the species from the thousands to the hundreds to, by the 2000s, the tens. The last sighting of a wild northern white rhino in Africa was in 2006.
Nola died on Sunday morning, when a lingering infection caught up with her. “Nola’s condition worsened and we made the difficult decision to euthanize her,” said the San Diego Zoo in a statement. “We’re absolutely devastated by this loss.” And now there are three—all too old or ill to reproduce, all under armed guard at a Kenyan conservancy.
First, there’s the loud “we need to ban encryption” push that immediately spawned hundreds of articles and opinions strongly pushed by current and former intelligence officials the day or two after the attacks, despite the government quietly admitting there was no evidence that the attackers used encryption to communicate. It was a masterful PR coup: current and former intelligence officials got to sit through a series of fawning interviews on television where they were allowed to pin any of their failures on Edward Snowden and encryption – the bedrock of privacy and security for hundreds of millions of innocent people – with virtually no pushback, or any critical questions about their own conduct.
The entire encryption subject became a shiny scapegoat while the truth slowly trickled in: as of Tuesday, it was clear that American and/or French intelligence agencies had seven of the eight identified attackers on their radar prior to the attacks. The attackers used Facebook to communicate. The one phone found on the scene showed the terrorists had coordinated over unencrypted SMS text messages – just about the easiest form of communication to wiretap that exists today. (The supposed ringleader even did an interview in Isis’s English magazine in February bragging that he was already in Europe ready to attack.) …
As dishonest as the “debate” over encryption has been, the dark descension of the Republican party into outright racism and cynically playing off the irrational fears of the public over the Syrian refugee crisis has been worse. We now know the attackers weren’t Syrian and weren’t even refugees. It was a cruel rumor or hoax that one was thought to have come through Europe with a Syrian passport system, but that was cleared up days ago. But in the world of Republican primaries, who cares about facts? …
It doesn’t matter that the US has a robust screening system that has seen over 750,000 refugees come to the United States without incident – the Republican-led House has now voted to grind the already intensive screening process to a virtual halt (they were disgracefully joined by many Democrats). Chris Christie said the US should refuse widows and orphans. Rand Paul introduced a law to bar the entire Muslim world from entering the US as refugees. Donald Trump has suggested he would digitally track every Muslim in the country.
@ THE GUARDIAN