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Scientific A-Team saving the world

Martin Rees, Huw Price, Partha Dasgupta and Jaan Tallinn in the Great Court of Trinity College

Scientific A-Team saving the world

 Andrew Martin

They don't look like Guardians Of The Galaxy-style superheroes. But the founders of the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk may be all that stands between us and global catastrophe.

Cambridge, some time after the end of term. Demob-happy undergraduates, dressed for punting and swigging wine from the bottle, seem not so much to be enjoying themselves as determinedly following rites of passage on the way to a privileged future. I am heading towards the biggest, richest and arguably most beautiful college: Trinity. Of the 90 Nobel prizes won by members of Cambridge University in the 20th century, 32 were won by members of Trinity. Its alumni include Isaac Newton, Wittgenstein, Bertrand Russell and six prime ministers.

The porter's lodge is like an airlock, apparently sealed from the tribulations of everyday life. But inside the college, pacing the flagstones of what is called – all modesty aside – Great Court, are four men who do not take it for granted that those undergraduates actually have a future. They are the four founders of the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk (CSER), and they are in the business of "horizon scanning". Together, they are on alert for what they sometimes call "low-probability-but-high-consequence events", and sometimes – when they forget to be reassuring – "catastrophe".

Martin Rees

At their head is a 72-year-old cosmologist, Martin Rees. The honorifics jostle at the start of his name: he is Professor Martin Rees, Baron Rees of Ludlow, OM FRS. He is the Astronomer Royal, a fellow of Trinity, formerly a master of the college and a president of the Royal Society. In newspaper articles, he is often described simply as Britain's "top scientist". In 2003, Rees published a book called Our Final Century. He likes to joke that the reason his book was published in the US as Our Final Hour is because "Americans like instant gratification". In the book, he rates the chances of a "serious setback" for humanity over the next 100 years at "50-50". There is an asteroid named after him – 4587 Rees. I can't help thinking, in light of his apocalyptic concerns, that it would be ironic if 4587 Rees crashed into the Earth.

5 Dirty Little Secrets about Getting a PhD

5 Dirty Little Secrets about Getting a PhD

By Gregg Murray, Ph.D.

So you’re thinking about getting a PhD? See these dirty little secrets about getting a PhD, which may save you years of work and thousands of dollars.

2. The school should pay you. I’ve been told by promising students more than once that they weren’t going to grad school because they didn’t have the money. While most students pay out of their own pockets (or their parents’) for their master’s degrees, many PhD programs offer small “salaries” to their better doctoral students. These come in the form of teaching, graduate, or research assistantships (TAs, GAs, or RAs). While you wouldn’t want to live long-term on a TA’s salary, it’s often enough to pay your share of the rent and buy more than ramen noodles. And as an added bonus, many PhD programs often waive tuition for students with assistantships.   

Nato to create spearhead force to counter Russia

Nato to create spearhead force to counter Russia

Ewen MacAskill in Brussels

Anders Fogh Rasmussen

Around 4,000 troops will have capacity to 'travel light but strike hard', according to Nato

Leaders from the 28 Nato countries are expected to approve the plan at the alliance's summit in Wales when the Ukraine crisis tops the agenda on Friday. The Nato secretary-general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, said the force, drawn on rotational basis from Nato allies, could be in action at "very, very short notice".

Rasmussen described it as a mixture of regular troops and special forces that could "travel light but strike hard". It would be supported by air and naval forces as needed. He declined to say how many troops would be engaged but Nato officials said it would number around 4,000 and would be expected to deploy to any alliance member country within 48 hours.

Ted Cruz wants U.S. citizens fighting with Islamic State banished from country

Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas Republican, said he thinks an American jihadists fighting with Islamic State militants should be exiled from the country, but some conservatives say the militansts should be stripped of their U.S. citizenship for joining the extremist group. (Associated Press)

Ted Cruz wants U.S. citizens fighting with Islamic State banished from country

 By Kellan Howell - The Washington Times

Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas Republican, told a crowd of 3,000 at a conservative summit in Dallas that Americans fighting with Islamic State militants should be exiled from the country saying, “we need to not let into this country any American who is fighting with ISIS.”

But some conservative politicians say that banishing American jihadists doesn’t go far enough, and that those who leave the country to fight for militant groups like the Islamic State, Hamas, or al Qaeda should be stripped of their citizenship.

On Friday, former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown, who is running for a U.S. Senate seat in neighboring New Hampshire, called for Congress to pass legislation to strip “homegrown terrorists” of their American citizenship.

“One of the greatest threats facing the homeland today is the mayhem that will happen when hundreds of American ISIS fighters return to the United States to spread their terror here. Their goal is to march down Pennsylvania Avenue and plant a flag at the White House, and mass killing is their means for achieving that goal,” Mr. Brown said in a statement Friday.

Republicans may shift immigration debate to protecting jobs

Republicans may shift immigration debate to protecting jobs

 By Stephen Dinan and S.A. Miller - The Washington Times

An effort is underway to push the Republican Party to rethink its close ties to business groups on immigration, with conservatives arguing that the way to fight immigration-reform proposals is to focus on how they would force Americans into a tougher competition for jobs.

Bolstered by recent polling that suggests voters are worried about the competition, some conservatives have argued the Republican Party should adopt a populist-style pro-worker message heading into the 2014 election, taking advantage of a renewed focus on immigration amid the surge of illegal immigrant children jumping the border.

The secret torment of Joni Mitchell

The secret torment of Joni Mitchell

Unflinching memoir reveals how reclusive 70s icon battles with a disease that makes her skin crawl, is haunted by stalkers and the heartache of giving her daughter up for adoption.

By Caroline Howe

Inner thoughts: Joni and Malka Marom, in 1973, on their way to visit fellow Canadian singer Neil Young at his ranch just south of San Francisco. At that time he was the biggest-selling solo artist in the world. Decades later she would co-operate with Marom to publish a series of interviews with her in a very rare memoir

She was the darling of the west coast music scene during the seventies. With a string of highly publicized affairs - Graham Nash of Crosby, Stills and Nash, Jackson Brown, James Taylor and Warren Beatty – and a back catalogue of song standards, Joni Mitchell defined an era in the music industry known as much for its sexual excess as its creativity.

But though her years of success have left her financially wealthy, today there is little about Mitchell to suggest they have brought her lasting joy.

She no longer sings – 61 years of smoking have taken their toll on her famously sweet and supple voice. At the age of 70 she is disenchanted with American society she dismisses as ‘like Velveeta,’ the music industry which she finds abhorrent and consumed by her own angsts and paranoias.

This is the startling reality revealed in Joni Mitchell, In Her Own Words Conversations with Malka Marom (published by ECW Press), and out this month, it is an unflinching insight into the eight-times Grammy winning singer/songwriter’s lifelong battle with chronic illness, the pain of giving up her daughter for adoption, paranoia and a rare disease that literally makes her feel like her skin is crawling.

Heartache: Mitchell was haunted by the heartbreak of giving up her daughter, Kilauren Gibb (pictured together above), for adoption in 1965. They briefly reunited later, but it did not last

She played the ukulele at a coffeehouse in Calgary for money to smoke, bowl, go to a movie or eat a pizza. She was teaching herself to play the ukulele from a Pete Seeger instruction book.

Next stop on the coffeehouse circuit was Toronto where she fell pregnant to a boyfriend who left her three months later, and living in a house full of starving artists. Her meals consisted of Ingersoll cheese spread and Hovis loaf.

'I'd come through such a rough, tormented period as a destitute, unwed mother. It was like you killed somebody. I had some serious battles for a twenty-one-year-old', she told Marom. 'The following year I made a bad marriage in an attempt to keep my child'.

But she was haunted by the memory of her parents, who she thought should never have been together, and gave up the baby, a girl called Kilauren, for adoption in 1965. The marriage did not last much longer.

Her song, 'Both Sides Now', recorded by more than one thousand other artists, was triggered by her broken heart, and the loss of her child. 

Her darkest days seemed to be over and soon she was in Los Angeles, and was signed to Reprise Records in 1968 and then to Asylum. Her first album, 'Joni Mitchell', established her songwriting style.

Her second album, 'Clouds', recorded while she was living with her latest lover, Graham Nash, after leaving David Crosby, featured hits 'Chelsea Morning' and 'Both Sides Now'. Her personal life may have been messy, but it was inspiring the hits.

'Maybe I'm a courtesan or something': Mitchell had numerous marriages and also well-publicized affairs, including with Graham Nash (pictured together at The Big Sur Folk Festival held at the Eselen Institute on September 15 1969). She now lives alone as a recluse in either her sprawling estate in LA or British Columbia

Mitchell says of her love life: 'Maybe I'm a courtesan or something'. Between 1977 and 1980, she was involved with Don Alias, a jazz percussionist who worked with jazz greats and introduced her to his musical world and the Afro-Cuban musicians. They would come around to the house they shared and jam in the living room. That would lead to her working with jazz bassist Charles Mingus.

Two years later, Mitchell married longtime producer and bassist Larry Klein from 1982 to 1994 who worked on her best-selling albums during those years. He worked on her 1994 Grammy-winning album ‘Turbulent Indigo’ that chronicled the end of their marriage when he started going out to dinner with the new girl singers coming up behind her. Mitchell had discovered she was pregnant after believing she was infertile from an earlier infection. 

She wanted the baby badly and Larry was excited to be a father but he was off to a recording date in England. Joni suffered a miscarriage and Larry left her in the painful aftermath.

Always searching for something – for meaning and purpose, she said: 'I've had the experience of poverty, middle class, now extreme wealth and luxury, and that's difficult too'.

Now she is alone. Mitchell lives like a recluse, dividing her time between a home she built in a remote area of British Columbia and an equally isolated sprawling villa high up in Bel Air, California, overlooking Los Angeles.

While living luxuriously between two homes, she's adamantly negative on America and the industry that made her so successful.

'America is like really into Velveeta (the processed cheese). Everything has to be homogenized. Their music should be homogenized, their beer is watered down, their beauties are all the same. The music is the same track'.

But it's in America that her music is playing in department stores and in elevators. Joni Mitchell has become the soundtrack to millions of lives, and the royalties from those songs have made her very wealthy.

She once turned down playing a one-night gig in Las Vegas that would have earned her a million dollars.

She recounts: 'It was just a seedy little place in the desert where you poured your money down a big hole…it was the kiss of death for serious music'.

Confidante: Joni Mitchell with Malka Marom in 2006. Marom, friends with Joni for more than forty years, recorded conversations with the singer for her only memoir

Her increased irritability and intolerance she attributes to Morgellons. And she is still tormented by insomnia, from the years of being stalked in LA. She calls it 'personal chronic situations of tension. And stalker after stalker after stalker in my yard. A lot of Manson-type butcherous stalkers.

'I'm the night watchman. I can't sleep until it's light outside. I am scared of the dark'. But she has no fear in British Columbia where there are wolves and coyotes and a neighbor who's like an uncle.'

'I am just an idiot'

'I am just an idiot'

American software engineer forced to deny he is the hacker who stole 101 celebrities' nude photos after he tried to resell them

Denial: Bryan Hamade, 26, has denied stealing nude photos from celebrities' iCloud accounts after being identified as the hacker online

Bryan Hamade, 26, who works for Southern Digital Media in Lawrenceville, Georgia, was named as the source of the leak after he tried to sell intimate pictures of actress Jennifer Lawrence online.

Mr Hamade posted some of the pictures on social networking website Reddit under the username BluntMastermind and allegedly tried to sell them for $100 each. But he was forced to deny he was the original hacker after internet users on file sharing website 4chan – where the original pictures appeared - identified his real name.

Admitting he had been an ‘idiot’, he insisted he had lied about being the original hacker and said the photo he had tried to sell was a fake.

He told the Daily Mail: ‘I am not behind this. I lied to someone on reddit to try and get bitcoins with a photoshopped picture. ‘4chan thinks it's me for because of the photoshopped post I made. I am not a hacker. I have no idea how the hell someone could hack into all those accounts.’

Drone reveals scale of Apple campus

Drone reveals scale of Apple campus

Apple campus 2 construction

Video shows vast scale of Apple's new Norman Foster-designed Campus 2, scheduled for completion at the end of 2016

Fenced off from the world by high walls, Apple’s fast-developing “Space Ship” campus, designed by British architect Norman Foster, has been kept from prying eyes since breaking ground earlier this year. Unless, that is, you own a drone with a camera.

The 2.8 million square foot complex designed by Foster will see Apple consolidate its headquarters into one giant glass ring, complete with underground parking, forests surrounding the complex incorporating 300 different species and solar panels and fuel cells for acquiring 70% of the building’s energy requirements.

Inside the ring will be a private forest with outdoor dining areas, while the campus will cater for 13,000 employees responsible for office duties, research and development.

Jennifer Lawrence hack: iCloud security explained

Jennifer Lawrence hack: iCloud security explained

Jennifer Lawrence stars in new film Silver Linings Playbook, alongside Bradley Cooper.

By Rhiannon Williams

After pictures of Hollywood star were leaked in a wide-scale celebrity hack, we examine how you can best protect your Apple data

 Apple launched its iCloud in 2011 to wirelessly back up its users data. When activated, information including photos, emails, apps and contacts from iPhones and iPads is automatically stored in the system, which is accessible from any internet-connected device via the owner's Apple ID.

Access to iCloud is via a username and password, but given the scale of the leak, it's fairly unlikely the hacker merely guessed each celebrity's details.

Hackers often exploit the 'forgot my password' feature, which sends an email to the email address registered with the account prompting the user to enter a new password. If the hacker had access to the email account, they could change the password to one of their choosing through guessing the answers to their security questions. Given the high profiles of the victims, finding out their mother's maiden name or the name of the street on which they grew up (both typical question examples) could be considerably easier than attempting to hack a less famous person.

According to Apple, using a strong password is 'the most important thing you can do to help keep your data secure'. Apple ID passwords must have a minimum of 8 characters, not contain more than three consecutive identical characters, and include a number, an uppercase letter, and a lowercase letter. Using a unique password - e.g. not repeating the same phrase for multiple accounts - which is sufficiently difficult to guess is your best chance of avoiding someone exploiting your data.

Apple's two-step verification method prompts users attempting to log into an iCloud account from a device not previously linked to the account to enter a four digit pin code, greatly increasing the security of your information.

Users can also turn off access to iCloud through their Settings menu on their iOS device, or choose to make archived copies of the data in order to retrieve it at a later date.

Five Ways Writing Can Make You Braver and Happier

Five Ways Writing Can Make You Braver and Happier

By Harriet Lerner, Ph.D.

These writing tips can show you where you want to go, and how you can get there. Start by picking one challenge from the list of five.

From death row, Ft. Hood shooter requests to join Islamic State

From death row, Ft. Hood shooter requests to join Islamic State

 From death row, Ft. Hood shooter requests to join Islamic State


The former U.S. Army psychiatrist sentenced to die for the 2009 Ft. Hood shooting that killed 13 and wounded dozens more has released a letter saying he wants to become a citizen of the militant group Islamic State, according to a letter.

Nidal Malik Hasan addressed a handwritten letter to Islamic State leader Abu Bakr Baghdadi, requesting citizenship with the group, according to Fox News, which obtained a copy of the letter this week.

“It would be an honor for any believer to be an obedient citizen soldier,” Hasan wrote in the letter, verified for the Los Angeles Times by attorney John Galligan on Saturday.

Nidal Malik Hasan

Has Football Jumped the Shark?

Last January, in The New York Times Magazine, Steve Almond detailed his worries about the effects of the violence in football, and suggested that America might find more productive ways to spend its Sundays. His inbox was soon filled with angry letters. Almond’s correspondents agreed: he was a pantywaist, and possibly not even a man. Several missives, he says, “made reference to my vagina.”

Undeterred, Almond doubles down on his argument in Against Football: One Fan’s Reluctant Manifesto, an informed broadside in which he contends that the sport encourages bloodlust, bigotry, and other antisocial behaviors. Televised games, he says, should be preceded by parental-discretion-is-advised messages, and tackle football ought to be outlawed for those 15 and under.

“I happen to believe that our allegiance to football legitimizes and even fosters within us a tolerance for violence, greed, racism, and homophobia,” Almond writes.

He must really want some more hate mail.

Jennifer Lawrence, More Celebs Have Alleged Nude Photos Leak In Massive Hack

Jennifer Lawrence, Ariana Grande, Victoria Justice, More Celebs Have Alleged Nude Photos Leak In Massive Hack

Jennifer Lawrence, More Celebs Have Alleged Nude Photos Leak In Massive Hack

Rachel Zarrell

The leak appears to have originated on 4chan’s /b/ board. 

Fact-Checking the Sunday Shows

By Steve Contorno and Katie Sanders

From Obama's lack of strategy against ISIS to Rick Perry's indictment, PunditFact checks the talking heads against the record.
It's Still Not the End of History

It's Still Not the End of History

  By Timothy Stanley and Alexander Lee

25 years after Francis Fukuyama's landmark essay, liberal democracy is under threat. Can it bounce back?

Most of us in the West are liberals, whether we admit it or not. We want equal rights for all, reject racial differences, cherish the freedom of worship while preserving the freedom to disagree, and seek an economic order that suits the ambitions of the individual. But there’s a growing sense that liberalism isn’t delivering at home and that it’s not as popular as we think it ought to be in the developing world. The problem is that hubris has blinded its defenders to the crisis consuming liberalism’s identity, leaving them unable or unwilling, to respond to pressing challenges around the world.

Twenty-five years ago this summer, Francis Fukuyama announced the “end of history” and the inevitable triumph of liberal capitalist democracy. His argument was simple: Democracy would win out over all other forms of government because the natural desire for peace and well-being set nations on a path to progress from which it was impossible to divert. If a state—even a Communist state—wished to enjoy the greatest prosperity possible, it would have to embrace some measure of capitalism. Since wealth-creation depends on the protection of private property, the “capitalist creep” would invariably demand greater legal protection for individual rights.

As many critics pointed out, Fukuyama’s logic was a bit too reminiscent of the pseudo-Hegelian historical determinism that Marxists and Fascists deployed to disastrous effect earlier in the 20th century, but when his article appeared in The National Interest, it was hard to disagree with him. The Berlin Wall was about to fall, the Soviet Union was collapsing, and the world was clamoring for the consumerist boom in an orgy of free-market excitement. Everything seemed to suggest that only liberal capitalist democracy allowed people to thrive in an increasingly globalized world, and that only the steady advance of laissez-faire economics would guarantee a future of free, democratic states, untroubled by want and oppression and living in peace and contentment.

Today, it’s hard to imagine Fukuyama being more wrong. History isn’t over and neither liberalism nor democracy is ascendant. The comfy Western consensus he inspired is under threat in ways he never predicted. A new Cold War has broken out. China’s “Marxist capitalism” suggests you can have wealth without freedom. And the advance of ISIS may herald a new, state-oriented Islamic fundamentalism.

But most disturbingly, the connection between capitalism, democracy, and liberalism upon which Fukuyama’s argument depended has itself been broken. In the wake of the credit crunch and the global economic downturn, it has become increasingly clear that prosperity is not, in fact, best served either by the pursuit of laissez-faire economics or by the inexorable extension of economic freedoms. Indeed, quite the opposite.
Bills player tweets 'Blame ESPN' for Michael Sam not getting job
Scots Get Skittish About Going It Alone


Scots Get Skittish About Going It Alone As Independence Vote Looms


Faced with the economic reality of independence, many Scots are approaching the referendum nervous about breaking up with the U.K.

 Next month, Scots will go to the polls to decide if they should end their political union with the United Kingdom and become an entirely self-governing nation. It would be the first time Scotland has seized independence since the blood-soaked era of William Wallace and Robert the Bruce seven centuries ago.

Scotland has had its own parliament since 1999, which allows it control over health, education and justice but not fiscal and monetary policy, defense or foreign policy. Connolly certainly isn’t buying the pro-independence argument that Scotland would emulate its booming Scandinavian neighbors if it was given total control over its destiny. “Alex Salmond has been watching too much Braveheart,” he said. “All this talk of us being the new Norway is all very well, but 25 percent of Norwegians aren’t Buckfast-drinking jakeys.” 

For those unfamiliar with the local tongue, he was suggesting that Scotland has a larger than average street-drinking fraternity, many of whom are partial to the notoriously strong fortified wine.

The “Yes” campaign says this sense of pessimism found even in the patriotic Highlands is unfounded and has been stoked by opponents who are desperate to bully and scare the Scots into submission. They claim London-based politicians like British Prime Minister David Cameron, have deliberately undermined Scottish confidence in order to safeguard the status quo. Worse than that, they accuse Cameron of using Britain’s global embassy network to cajole governments around the world into telling Scotland they won’t be able to stand on their own two feet.

Beijing's Hong Kong Ruling Sparks Protests

Beijing's Hong Kong Ruling Sparks Protests

ByJenny W. Hsu, Chester Yung and Jeffrey Ng

Hong Kong pro-democracy legislators heckled a top Chinese official on Monday as he sought to explain Beijing's position on how the city should elect its leader, while police and demonstrators scuffled outside the venue.

Dozens of pro-democracy politicians disrupted remarks by Li Fei, deputy secretary-general of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, China's rubber-stamp parliament, which decreed on Sunday that candidates for Hong Kong's top leadership post must be approved by a committee heavily loyal to Beijing.

Legislators shouted slogans and held up signs saying "breach of promise" and "shameful." A few of them were escorted out by the police, while some were dragged out.

 Pro-democracy voices in Hong Kong have threatened a mass civil-disobedience campaign if they weren't offered "genuine choice" in 2017 elections, and 23 legislators said Sunday they would veto Beijing's proposal in the 70-seat Hong Kong legislature, where it needs two-third approval. By constituting a bloc of more than a third, the city's 27 pro-democratic legislators hold effective veto power.

Decaying Guantánamo Defies Closing Plans

At the prison in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, last month, two detainees conversed through layers of fences.

Credit Damon Winter/The New York Times

Decaying Guantánamo Defies Closing Plans


More than 12 years after the Bush administration first sent detainees to the prison in Cuba, tensions are mounting over whether President Obama can close it before leaving office.

One sweltering afternoon last month, a Boeing C-17 military transport plane arrived at the American naval base here. It had come to take six low-level detainees to new lives in Uruguay after 12 years of imprisonment.

Days before, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. had called Uruguay’s president, José Mujica, pressing him to resettle the men. The foreign leader had offered to accept the detainees last January, but by the time the United States was ready for the transfer this summer, Mr. Mujica was worried that it would be politically risky to follow through because of coming elections in his country, according to Obama administration officials.

After four days of frantic negotiations between the two governments as the plane sat on the tarmac, the C-17 flew away without its intended passengers.

Although President Obama pledged last year to revive his efforts to close Guantánamo, his administration has managed to free just one low-level prisoner this year, leaving 79 who are approved for transfer to other countries. It has also not persuaded Congress to lift its ban on moving the remaining 70 higher-level detainees to a prison inside the United States.

Five myths about California’s drought

Five myths about California’s drought

California is experiencing its third-worst drought in 106 years, resulting in idled cropland and soaring water prices. Since the state produces almost 70 percent of the nation’s top 25 fruit, nut and vegetable crops, California’s pain could soon hit the rest of the country through higher food prices. Will conservation and new water-saving technologies be enough to weather this dry period? 

Ron Paul Dons 9/11 Truther Tin Foil

Ron Paul Dons 9/11 Truther Tin Foil

By Olivia Nuzzi

The former Congressman – and father of the frontrunner for the GOP presidential nomination – thinks the government is keeping secrets about 9/11.

Former Rep. Ron Paul believes that the government knew beforehand, in detail, about the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, and that the information has been kept from the public in a classified section of the 9/11 commission report. 

When the host of Money and Markets, Charles Goyette, recently said that it is "shocking that the American people are prohibited from knowing the whole truth about 9/11," Paul countered: "Boy, that's for sure. It's shocking, but then, when you stop and think about it, shouldn't we expect this from our government? Which is really sad." 

Paul admitted of his beliefs: "It's politically very risky to talk about it," particularly when your son is in the process of trying to run for president, which Paul's son, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, is.


Reasonable man that he is, Paul conceded that the U.S. government probably didn't actually plot 9/11 because, you know, that would be crazy: "Does [foreknowledge of the attacks] prove that our president and others actually sat down and laid the plans and did this? I don't think it does, but I think it does show that one of the reasons why they want to cover it up is because they don't want to say, the FBI and the CIA were, at the time, spending $40 billion a year to spy on everybody to make us safe and secure, and therefore they really messed up, so they had to hide that." 

Paul then offered that "our own government did more harm to the liberties of the American people than Bin Laden did."

Drugs as the New Parents

Drugs as the New Parents

By Mark Goulston, M.D., F.A.P.A.

Are downers replacing comfort lacking from moms and uppers replacing encouragement lacking from dads?

How to Build Better Teachers

How to Build Better Teachers

Mastering the craft demands time to collaborate—just what American schools don't provide.

By Sara Mosle

Teaching dwarfs every other profession that requires a college degree. Nationwide, 3.7 million schoolteachers serve grades K–12—more than all the doctors, lawyers, and engineers in the country combined. Teacher shortages, once chronic, abated during the recession, when layoffs were widespread, but will soon return with a vengeance. Fully half of all teachers are Baby Boomers on the brink of retirement. Among novice teachers, who constitute an increasingly large proportion of the remaining workforce, between 40 and 50 percent typically quit within just five years, citing job dissatisfaction or more-alluring prospects. Given this drain at both ends of the teaching pipeline, schools will likely need to hire more than 3 million new teachers by 2020. That is an enormous talent hole to fill.

Yet the United States has, if anything, too many teacher-training programs. Each year, some 1,400 of them indiscriminately churn out twice as many graduates as schools can use. Program quality varies widely, so many would-be teachers don’t suit schools’ needs. In a scathing 2006 report, Arthur Levine, a former president of Columbia University’s Teachers College, accused many education schools of being little more than a “cash cow” for their hosting institution. Among the problems he highlighted were exceedingly “low admission standards,” a “curriculum in disarray,” and faculties “disconnected” from the realities of the classroom.

Once hired, many teachers are left to sink or swim. In recent years, several states have adopted controversial accountability measures, known as “value added” metrics, with a view toward winnowing out poor performers who haven’t produced student improvement on standardized tests; helping teachers hone their craft has seldom made it onto the agenda. But perhaps we’re finally ready to focus attention on the far bigger and more important question of how to attract and retain the top teachers we want.

Insurance for End-of-Life Talks Makes Gains

Dr. Joseph Hinterberger discussed end-of-life care with Mary Ann Zebrowski. If reimbursed, “I’d do one of these a day,” he said.

Credit Heather Ainsworth for The New York Times

Insurance for End-of-Life Talks Makes Gains


Private insurers have begun reimbursing doctors for “advance care planning,” and such talks could be covered for Medicare patients as early as next year.

Five years after it exploded into a political conflagration over “death panels,” the issue of paying doctors to talk to patients about end-of-life care is making a comeback, and such sessions may be covered for the 50 million Americans on Medicare as early as next year.

Bypassing the political process, private insurers have begun reimbursing doctors for these “advance care planning” conversations as interest in them rises along with the number of aging Americans. People are living longer with illnesses, and many want more input into how they will spend their final days, including whether they want to die at home or in the hospital, and whether they want full-fledged life-sustaining treatment, just pain relief or something in between. Some states, including Colorado and Oregon, recently began covering the sessions for Medicaid patients.

But far more significant, Medicare may begin covering end-of-life discussions next year if it approves a recent request from the American Medical Association, the country’s largest association of physicians and medical students. One of the A.M.A.’s roles is to create billing codes for medical services, codes used by doctors, hospitals and insurers. It recently created codes for end-of-life conversations and submitted them to Medicare.

Iraq and Syria’s cultural heritage face new threat from fanatics

Iraq and Syria’s cultural heritage face new threat from fanatics

By Emily Sharpe

Fears grow that social media savvy Islamic State is exploiting monitors’ lists

The full extent of Islamic State (IS) iconoclasm remains uncertain as the militants dig in to consolidate the ground they have gained in northern Iraq and Syria. Meanwhile, scholars in the West attempting to monitor destruction of cultural heritage by IS are increasingly concerned that social media sites recording the historic mosques, tombs and archaeological sites most at risk could be being monitored by the jihadist group, inadvertently becoming a useful tool for the extremists and their demolition squads. 

How I Spent 4 Hours at O’Hare

How I Spent 4 Hours at O’Hare

So let me tell you about my great trip to Chicago. I saw some cool public art, was wowed by a towering brachiosaurus from the Field Museum of Natural History, had a locally brewed beer at the famed Billy Goat Tavern, ate a masterful Chicago-style hot dog, ordered takeout from a famed local chef, browsed in a local bookstore and bought a gift for my mom that she raved about.

My stay cost $24.84, lasted three hours and 52 minutes, and occurred entirely within Terminal 1 of O’Hare International Airport.

Like everyone, I hate layovers. So facing a long stop en route from New York to Vancouver recently, I decided to grant myself a frugal $25 of spending money, and see if I could have a Chicago — let’s call it Chicago-esque — experience.

Some will point out that it’s possible to spend $0 on a four-hour layover, if you bring your own food, drink from a water fountain, and read a book the whole time. Well, maybe for you it is. Left to my own devices for four hours with that plan, I’d read two pages, start fooling around with my phone, then come up with creative justifications of how I deserve an Auntie Anne’s cinnamon sugar pretzel, a glass of wine, a good meal or all three — leaving me bloated and depressed on my next flight.

The beer shopping was rather depressing — prices were both high and pretax weird: $8.83 for a Bud Light, $9.93 for a Sam Adams. Paying that to sit in an airport bar seemed excessive, especially the bar right in the food court across from Manchu Wok, which provided a complimentary odor of gloppy orange chicken. (And yes, even the odor was gloppy.) Even worse was the Goose Island Pub, which would have been my top choice, local angle and all. But the selection was minuscule compared with its other Chicago locations, and the cheapest beer on tap was “about $10,” said the bartender, and the one I wanted, a Belgian ale called Matilda, was “about $15.” Obviously, I walked out.

College Football Is Back!


Roger Staubach, America's Quarterback

Roger Staubach, America's Quarterback

The former quarterback on the Cowboys, his famed pass and his success in the real-estate game

The sport has changed dramatically since his days on the field, Mr. Staubach says. For one, a lot more money is in the game. "TV was not what it is today, and that's driven up revenues more than anything," he explains. Now, the NFL takes in about $5 billion a year from TV and media deals. Through a collective bargaining agreement with the league's owners, players get a certain percentage of that revenue.

Players also pass the ball more than they used to. "Now you really have to get someone out of college who can throw," says Mr. Staubach. "You have to run in the NFL, but they throw the ball probably 30% more than we did."


During his career, Mr. Staubach had six major concussions, but he says he hasn't felt any lasting effects. While other former players have claimed problems like dementia and depression after their careers were over, he doesn't fault the NFL for any issues. "I just don't believe our doctors knew that my concussion could cause dementia someday," he says. "The game itself is a brutal game, with big guys hitting each other, so if you play the game, you take the risk."


Mr. Staubach attributes some of his success in business to the skills he learned at the Naval Academy and on the field. He started working in real estate in the off-season while he was a rookie player. He didn't know how long his sports career would last, so he took a job at a real-estate company to make sure he could support his children.

In 1977, he started his own real-estate firm, which primarily helped corporations locate facilities. Because it was a service company and not a development company, Mr. Staubach says he was able to weather the housing bust in Dallas better than many developers because his clients still needed services—if only to move to smaller offices amid downsizing.

In 2008, Mr. Staubach sold his company to Jones Lang LaSalle for $613 million. By that time, he had expanded his firm to 68 offices and 1,800 people around the country.

Bitcoin's Earliest Days


Bitcoin's Earliest Days

By Paul Vigna

When Satoshi Nakamoto released bitcoin in January 2009, few people took notice, and of those people, even fewer grasped its significance. One that did was Hal Finney.

Mr. Finney, then 53, was an engineer and developer working at a tech company called PGP Corp. in Silicon Valley, which focused on encryption systems. He designed things like an anonymous remailer, an email system that used cryptography techniques to encrypt messages. Mr. Finney was also a member of the cypherpunks, a community of libertarian and even anarchist-leaning techies that formed in the 1990s and were focused on utilizing cryptography to thwart encroaching attacking on personal privacy.

Mr. Finney died on Thursday at age 58 from complications related to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, after a nearly five-year fight. He was diagnosed in August 2009.

With Manziel, Cleveland Envisions a Revival

Johnny Manziel, with Coach Mike Pettine during a preseason game, said, “I don’t look at it as I was drafted to come in Day 1 and save the franchise.”

Credit Tony Dejak/Associated Press


Johnny Manziel has spurred ticket and merchandise sales as well as hopes that the Cleveland Browns may someday win a title, something that hasn’t happened since 1964.

Manziel’s arrival in Cleveland fueled a spike in ticket sales, sponsorships and merchandise. Traffic on the team’s website has skyrocketed, and the team drew record television ratings for its preseason games. Radio talk shows barely have time to discuss the return of LeBron James, Cleveland’s other athletic savior, to the Cavaliers.

The Browns finished 4-12 last season and have not had a winning record since 2007. Brian Hoyer, a Cleveland native, was named the Week 1 starting quarterback, the 20th quarterback since the team resumed play in 1999, but the flashy Manziel is the one who has been hailed as the man who will rejuvenate a moribund franchise.

Rich Luker, who runs a sports polling agency, said Manziel was as popular as Robert Griffin III and Peyton Manning were before their first games, and as heralded as the strait-laced Tim Tebow.

“He is the bizarro Tim Tebow,” Luker said.

Islamist militia storms US embassy compound in Tripoli, take dip.

'The Dawn of Libya' Islamist militia storms US embassy compound in Tripoli

An Islamist-allied militia group says it has 'secured' a U.S. Embassy compound in Libya's capital, more than a month after American personnel evacuated from the country over ongoing fighting.

An Associated Press journalist walked through the compound Sunday after the Dawn of Libya, an umbrella group for Islamist militias, invited onlookers inside. 

Windows at the compound had been broken, but it appeared most of the equipment there remained untouched.

A commander for the Dawn of Libya group said his forces had entered and been in control of the compound since last week. 

Horsing around: One Dawn of Libya militiaman is seen here leaping from an embassy balcony down into the swimming pool below

Libya is being racked by factional violence as the armed groups which helped topple Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 turn their guns on each other in a struggle to dominate politics and the country's vast oil resources.

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