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Are Security Cameras Smart Enough?

Are Security Cameras Smart Enough?

Internet cameras can easily record everything that happens around the house, Geoffrey Fowler writes. But can a webcam really keep you safe?

 
'I'm back, Obama'

sotloff

'I'm back, Obama'

ISIS executioner Jihadi John taunts President as he beheads second US journalist, Steven Sotloff . . . and then threatens to kill a British man next.

In the video entitled 'A Second Message to America,' Sotloff appears in a orange jumpsuit before he is beheaded by an Islamic State fighter. The executioner appears to be the same man who killed Foley – known as ‘Jihadi John’ - and tells the camera: 'I’m back, Obama, and I’m back because of your arrogant foreign policy towards the Islamic State.”

The executioner points his knife menacingly at the camera as he speaks. Clad in the same black garb he wore during Foley’s execution, the killer has a pistol strapped under his arm in a shoulder holster. The black flag of the Islamic State can be seen waving in the background.

Sotloff calmly read a statement moments before his murder: ‘I’m sure you know exactly who I am by now and why I am appearing.;

He tells the camera: ‘Obama, your foreign policy of intervention in Iraq was supposed to be for preservation of American lives and interests, so why is it that I am paying the price of your interference with my life?’

While he speaks, a militant calmly holds a knife at his side and stands next to Sotloff.

The man believed to be Jihadi John also says: ‘As your missiles continue to strike our people, our knife will continue to strike necks of your people.’

 
Islamic State claims to behead 2nd American

Islamic State claims to behead 2nd American

Greg Miller 

A new video attributed to the Islamic State terrorist group purports to show the beheading of U.S. journalist Steven Sotloff, marking the second such execution in recent weeks.

The video shows a bound Sotloff being held at knifepoint by a black-clad militant against a desert backdrop that appears similar to the one shown in a video released last month depicting the beheading of American journalist James Foley. The video was obtained by the SITE Intelligence Group, an organization that tracks the online postings of Islamist militant groups.

Sotloff, a 31-year-old freelance journalist, had written for Time magazine, Foreign Policy and other publications. He was believed to have been taken captive shortly after entering Syria in 2013.

 
10 things to know about the Cloud

10 things to know about the Cloud

By LUCY MCCALMONT

An iPhone is pictured. | AP Photo

6. Reports vary for how many current iCloud users there are, with estimates reaching as high as 450 million, according to Barron’s. In a quarterly earnings report last April, Apple said the number of iCloud users increased from 250 million in January to 300 million by April, TechCrunch reported at the time.

 
George Clooney's publicist denies Obama was invited to actor's wedding

'The president has more important things to do'

George Clooney's publicist denies Obama was invited to actor's wedding

 By Darren Boyle

The screen star, centre left, will marry Ms Alamuddin, centre right, at his Lake Como holiday home 

George Clooney is expected to marry his British girlfriend Amal Alamuddin at his $40 million Lake Como holiday home later this month.

US President Barack Obama has not been invited to Hollywood actor George Clooney's wedding to human rights lawyer Amal Almuddin. The actor's publicist dismissed a story in the National Enquirer that President Obama would travel to Italy to attend the star's wedding. 

A spokesman for Clooney told the New York Post: 'The president was not invited. He has more important things to do.'

 
Infrastructure Cracks as Los Angeles Defers Repairs

Infrastructure Cracks as Los Angeles Defers Repairs

The scene was apocalyptic: a torrent of water from a ruptured pipe valve bursting through Sunset Boulevard, hurling chunks of asphalt 40 feet into the air as it closed down the celebrated thoroughfare and inundated the campus of the University of California, Los Angeles. By the time emergency crews patched the pipe, 20 million gallons of water had cascaded across the college grounds.

The failure of this 90-year-old water main, which happened in July in the midst of a historic drought, no less, was hardly an isolated episode for Los Angeles. Instead, it was the latest sign of what officials here described as a continuing breakdown of the public works skeleton of the second-largest city in the nation: its roads, sidewalks and water system.

With each day, it seems, another accident illustrates the cost of deferred maintenance on public works, while offering a frustrating reminder to this cash-strained municipality of the daunting task it faces in dealing with the estimated $8.1 billion it would take to do the necessary repairs. The city’s total annual budget is about $26 billion.

Los Angeles’s problems reflect the challenges many American cities face after years of recession-era belt-tightening prompted them to delay basic maintenance. But the sheer size of Los Angeles, its reliance on the automobile and, perhaps most important, the stringent voter-imposed restrictions on the government’s ability to raise taxes have turned the region into a symbol of the nation’s infrastructure woes.

“It’s part of a pattern of failing to provide for the future,” said Donald Shoup, a professor of urban planning at U.C.L.A. “Our roads used to be better than the East Coast; now they are worse. I grew up here. Things are dramatically different now than they used to be.”

 
Inside Anonymous
 
National Guard sets up along the Texas border for a role that isn’t clear

National Guard sets up along the Texas border for a role that isn’t clear

Antonio Olivo

Troops dispatched by Gov. Rick Perry are just the latest force in an increasingly fortified zone.

The National Guard was dispatched to the border with great fanfare by Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R), who declared in July that he was forced to act because of a string of failures by the federal government in addressing drug smugglers and an influx of unaccompanied Central American minors who had flooded across the border in recent months.

As of last week, 400 guardsmen had arrived. A total of 1,000 are expected to gather in the coming weeks, concentrated in this stretch of border on Texas’s southernmost tip, running through the Rio Grande Valley from Brownsville to McAllen. This region has been seen as especially vulnerable to illegal crossings.

The rollout of the troops has offered Perry a chance to strike a tough tone on illegal immigration as he ponders a run for president in 2016 — and seeks to undo the political damage from a failed 2012 run in which conservatives attacked him as soft on the issue.

In his previous run, Perry told rivals opposed to giving illegal-immigrant children in-state college tuition that “I don’t think you have a heart.” Now, as he presides over his state’s National Guard deployment and blasts President Obama’s record on border security, Perry is positioning himself as a border hawk with views closely aligned with the core Republican voters who will play a big role in choosing the party’s 2016 White House nominee.

But now that the guardsmen have arrived, their exact role, besides keeping watch on the brush, is not entirely clear.

 
Democrats distancing themselves from President Obama as midterms approach

Democrats distancing themselves from President Obama as midterms approach

BY Adam Edelman 

President Obama was in Milwaukee Monday to speak at LaborFest.

President Obama spent Labor Day in Wisconsin, opening the campaign season in a battleground state with a tight race for governor — but the Democrat at the top of the ticket there was nowhere to be seen. Mary Burke, who is battling to unseat Republican Gov. Scott Walker, decided to steer clear of Obama’s visit to LaborFest, an annual salute to organized labor held in Milwaukee. She became the latest in a parade of Democrats in tight races who have tried to create space between themselves and a President with weak poll numbers.
 
On Sidelines, Researchers See C.E.O.s

 

Arkansas’ Bret Bielema earned $3.2 million last year, but won only three games.

On Sidelines, Researchers See C.E.O.s

 

In late 2012, Arkansas hired Bret Bielema as its football coach, paying him a salary of $3.2 million a year, plus bonuses, making him one of the best-compensated coaches in his industry and his state’s highest-paid employee.

During Bielema’s first season, the Razorbacks won their first three games before losing their last nine, prompting some fans to wonder whether Arkansas had overpaid him. One fan took to Facebook to sarcastically thank the coach for the three wins: “Good job, Bielema, here’s $3 million dollars for that.” Another posted on Twitter that the coach should share his paycheck with his players who “get paid nothing but bring $ to the university.”

 

“Coaches are running large programs that have tremendous value,” said Randall S. Thomas, a law and business professor and one of the authors of the study. “They are creating great value, and they are being paid for creating that value.”

He added that coaches compare “quite directly to public company C.E.O.s.”

In universities’ zest to compete, many routinely court coaches as if they were recruiting a new chief executive: offering millions of dollars, the power to hire and fire others, and even the use of a private jet. A result is that big paydays are hardly unusual in college football, in which head coaches, win or lose, have been among the biggest financial beneficiaries of the ballooning amount of cash flowing into the industry.

Nick Saban, the coach at Alabama, receives personal use of a private jet each year, in addition to his pay. Les Miles at Louisiana State has a provision in his deal that will automatically make him the highest-paid coach in the Southeastern Conference, by $1,000, should he coach his squad to another national championship.

“If one believes that C.E.O. compensation is set by the market at an appropriate level, and that employment contracts reflect this equilibrium, then one should reach the same conclusion about football coaches,” wrote Thomas and co-author, R. Lawrence Van Horn, an associate professor of economics and management. The professors shared with The New York Times a draft of their report, which has not been published or peer-reviewed.

To be sure, there are significant differences between a football coach and a chief executive, some of them acknowledged by the authors. One divergence is that coaches often have higher fixed salaries, while compensation for chief executives tends to be heavily influenced by performance. In addition, executive pay is also supposed to be closely monitored by experts on company boards. In some cases, the boards even have the power to take back pay that was promised to executives in previous awards. And the chief executives are often paid a substantial part of their compensation in company stock — which can fall in value if the firm underperforms — something that does not exist in college football, at least as it stands.

 
The Cesarean-Industrial Complex

Michaela Rehle/Reuters

The Cesarean-Industrial Complex

Sarah Yager

The procedure is expensive and risky. Could it also jeopardize babies' long-term health?

 
Apple Criticized After Hacking of Celebrity Photos

Apple Criticized After Hacking of Celebrity Photos

Apple said it is investigating the security on its iCloud service after the accounts of celebrities were hacked, leading to the publication of nude photos and videos. James Lyne, Sophos global head of security research, explains how the cloud is safe, but Apple left its customers vulnerable in this situation. 

 
4chan: The 'shock post' site that hosted the Jennifer Lawrence photos

Jennifer Lawrence. (AFP/Getty)

Jennifer Lawrence. (AFP/Getty)

The 'shock post' site that hosted the Jennifer Lawrence photos

Terrence McCoy

With complete anonymity, “4chan” users operate beyond the norms of decency.

For all its cultural relevance, it’s possible you’ve never heard of 4chan. It’s not much to look at. Just a few pixels blinking on a page like something out of “Duck Hunt.”

The outdated design, however, belies its influence. Called one the “darkest corners of the Web” by a New York Times writer and the “ninth circle of Hell,” 4chan twins the irreverent with the abhorrent, birthing wildly popular memes such as Lolcats while simultaneously hosting some of the most prurient content on the Internet.

Its army of anonymous users anointed founder Christopher Poole Time Magazine’s Most Influential Person of 2009 by manipulating the poll. It gamed Google Trends, forcing a racial slur to its No. 1 spot. And one of its users, which number more than 7 million, was once investigated for spilling the contents of Sarah Palin’s e-mail.

But this weekend 4chan shot into headlines like never before. On Sunday evening, one or many 4chan users dumped what appeared to be a trove of private, nude photographs of numerous celebrities including Jennifer Lawrence and Kate Upton. The exact provenance of the images remains murky, like almost everything involving 4chan, which deploys fleets of anonymous users who vie for site supremacy by one-upping each other with outrageous material.

The trove of celebrity pictures was about as outrageous as it gets, perhaps the most intrusive, intimate pictures ever circulated publicly of celebrities. They quickly spilled to Reddit, where thousands purveyed it under the handle of “the Fappening” — “fap” means to masturbate — before the news reached Buzzfeed and the rest of the viral media gang.

 
Read This Before Having an Affair

Read This Before Having an Affair

By David Braucher, L.C.S.W., Ph.D.

Read This Before Having an Affair. We can get easily lost in the “Bermuda Triangle of Love.”

 
Artists over 50: better late than ever?

JMW Turner's War. The Exile and the Rock Limpet

Artists over 50: better late than ever?

As a new exhibition of late-period Turners opens at Tate Britain, curator Sam Smiles asks if it's time art outgrew its obsession with age

By the end of the year Britain will have seen three major exhibitions devoted to the work of artists at the end of their careers – Matisse, Turner and Rembrandt. Add to these the poignant last paintings currently on view in Tate Modern's Malevich exhibition, and we have an extraordinary opportunity to reflect on the phenomenon of late work in the visual arts. It's a common belief, after all, that the last works of great creative artists are more profound than anything they produced in the rest of their careers. So-called "late work" is often the most radical and the most mysterious art of its time, quite at odds with contemporary voices, and we have come to relish it for just this intransigence and non-conformity.

Yet the idea that late works are especially significant would have astonished our forebears. Less than 200 years ago, late-life creativity was almost a contradiction in terms. The traditional view was of a three-stage development from apprenticeship to mastery and then to creative decline – if the artist managed to survive into old age.

Rembrandt''s Self Portrait (1669)

Rembrandt's Self Portrait (1669), painted when he was 63. 

Artists weren't the only ones whose last works were deemed to be inevitably inferior. It was accepted as a universal phenomenon, and in the 19th century the new science of statistics seemed to confirm this story of peak and decline. George Miller Beard's Legal Responsibility in Old Age (1874), for example, proposed that 70% of the work of the world is completed before the age of 45, 80% before 50 and hardly anything worthwhile in any field is accomplished thereafter.

Goethe's last works were also highly admired as an example of radical invention in old age, leading to the formal identification of old-age style (Altersstil) as a specific aesthetic phenomenon. By the end of the 19th century "late work", "late style" and "old-age style" began to establish themselves within the lexicon.

The phrase "the late work" is now routinely applied to the final phase of many artists' careers, from Michelangelo to Picasso. The old prejudice has been overcome and we accept that the late work, far from declining, may be as significant as anything else in the oeuvre, may even be the most important work some artists ever produced. While this has been a welcome rebalancing of attitudes, it has occasionally led unwary commentators to make general statements about the nature of "late work" in the abstract as though it is always and everywhere the same phenomenon. But why should that be so?

 
Stolen Celebrity Nude Photos: Stop Blaming the Victims!

Stolen Celebrity Nude Photos: Stop Blaming the Victims!

By Travis Langley, Ph.D.

Should 101 celebrities like Jennifer Lawrence have "known better"? When a hacker steals their private, encrypted photos and distributes them online, fault should be easy to assign. The victims did nothing wrong here, so why do people even discuss this issue of blame? Is hindsight bias at work in this manifestation of the just-world phenomenon, or is schadenfreude afoot?

 
A Call for a Low-Carb Diet

A Call for a Low-Carb Diet

By ANAHAD O’CONNOR

A major study upends long-held notions about a healthy diet, showing that avoiding carbohydrates and eating more fat contributes to weight loss and fewer cardiovascular risks.

People who avoid carbohydrates and eat more fat, even saturated fat, lose more body fat and have fewer cardiovascular risks than people who follow the low-fat diet that health authorities have favored for decades, a major new study shows.

The findings are unlikely to be the final salvo in what has been a long and often contentious debate about what foods are best to eat for weight loss and overall health. The notion that dietary fat is harmful, particularly saturated fat, arose decades ago from comparisons of disease rates among large national populations.

 
Are American Troops Already Fighting on the Front Lines in Iraq?

top-box

Are American Troops Already Fighting on the Front Lines in Iraq?

The Pentagon is denying that U.S. troops are fighting ISIS on the ground in Iraq—but eyewitness accounts and Kurdish officials tell a different story.

The role of American Special Operations Forces in Iraq has remained hidden even while the U.S. air war expands. As momentum against ISIS picks up, they may be emerging from the shadows. In a pitched battle on Monday, Kurdish Peshmerga, backed by American airpower and what appeared to be U.S. troops, struck at ISIS positions in the strategic crossroads of Zumar.

Scenes from Monday’s battle provide a tentative but valuable glimpse into the evolving role of special operations troops and how that might be playing out on the ground in Iraq.

Contacts in the Kurdish intelligence service and Peshmerga leadership confirmed what we saw. “Yes,” one commander replied to our questions. “German and American forces are on the ground here. “They are helping to support us in the attack.”

“There are no U.S. troops on the ground in or around Zumar.” The Pentagon told The Daily Beast on Monday night. Captain Rick Haupt, a spokesman for U.S. Central Command, which has control over military operations in the Middle East, denied that U.S. troops were involved in the fighting but confirmed U.S. aircraft “performed one strike destroying several vehicles in the vicinity of Zumar” on Monday.

Kurdish officials told The Daily Beast a different story. Ranking members of the Kurdish military and intelligence service said that one team of U.S. Special Operations was on the ground in Zumar along with several German counterparts, working in conjunction with Peshmerga units. According to the Kurdish sources, U.S. and German special operations teams had taken up positions in Zumar that allowed them to coordinate with U.S. aircraft.

 
How Good Relationships Can Make You Stronger

How Good Relationships Can Make You Stronger

By Gwendolyn Seidman, Ph.D.

One thing that relationship research has taught us is that good relationships are good for us. In fact, having strong relationships is a better predictor of mortality than any other healthy lifestyle behavior. But why are relationships so beneficial? A new review of the research unlocks the secrets of how good relationships help us flourish.

 
Beyond 'no means no': the future of campus rape prevention is 'yes means yes'

emma sulkowicz mattress

Beyond 'no means no': the future of campus rape prevention is 'yes means yes'

Jessica Valenti

Jessica Valenti

Survivors from California to New York say universities are failing students. But a once-in-a-generation moment is here

While most students at Columbia University will spend the first day of classes carrying backpacks and books, Emma Sulkowicz will start her semester on Tuesday with a far heavier burden. The senior plans on carrying an extra-long, twin-size mattress across the quad and through each New York City building – to every class, every day – until the man she says raped her moves off campus.

“I was raped in my own bed,” Sulkowicz told me the other day, as she was gearing up to head back to school in this, the year American colleges are finally, supposedly, ready to do something about sexual assault. “I could have taken my pillow, but I want people to see how it weighs down a person to be ignored by the school administration and harassed by police.”

Sulkowicz is one of three women who made complaints to Columbia against the same fellow senior, who was found “not responsible” in all three cases. She also filed a police report, but Sulkowicz was treated abysmally – by the cops, and by a Columbia disciplinary panel so uneducated about the scourge of campus violence that one panelist asked how it was possible to be anally raped without lubrication.

Apparently even an Ivy League school still doesn’t understand the old adage of “no means no”.

 
Does More Sex Lead to Greater Happiness?

Does More Sex Lead to Greater Happiness?

By Gad Saad, Ph.D.

You want to maximize your happiness? Read the results of two studies that have examined the sex-happiness link

 
Why Obama Won't Act on Immigration

top-box

Why Obama Won't Act on Immigration

Conservatives and liberals both assume that the president will eventually halt the deportation of millions of illegal immigrants through an executive order. They’re wrong.

For the last several weeks, in Washington and the nation’s immigrant communities, the assumption was that President Obama would circumvent Congress and use his executive power to spare millions of illegal immigrants from deportation by offering them temporary legal status. 

The assumption was wrong. As I’ve maintained for months, this rumored plan to overhaul the immigration system through an executive order is not going to materialize. Not after the November elections, and not at any point during this administration.  

The details of exactly what Obama would do and how many people stood to get legal status were unsettled. But the message was clear: Obama was finally ready to keep a promise made long ago to deliver immigration reform—and primed to go it alone. The president said as much in late June, when he declared his frustration with congressional inaction on the issue and vowed to do whatever he could to fix the problem.

 
Years of Rape and ‘Utter Contempt’ in Britain

Years of Rape and ‘Utter Contempt’ in Britain

Credit Tom Jamieson for The New York Times

By KATRIN BENNHOLD

In Rotherham, a poor town in northern England, at least 1,400 children were lured into a network of sexual exploitation while the police looked the other way.

It started on the bumper cars in the children’s arcade of the local shopping mall. Lucy was 12, and a group of teenage boys, handsome and flirtatious, treated her and her friends to free rides and ice cream after school.

Over time, older men were introduced to the girls, while the boys faded away. Soon they were getting rides in real cars, and were offered vodka and marijuana. One man in particular, a Pakistani twice her age and the leader of the group, flattered her and bought her drinks and even a mobile phone. Lucy liked him.

The rapes started gradually, once a week, then every day: by the war memorial in Clifton Park, in an alley near the bus station, in countless taxis and, once, in an apartment where she was locked naked in a room and had to service half a dozen men lined up outside.

She obliged. How could she not? They knew where she lived. “If you don’t come back, we will rape your mother and make you watch,” they would say.

 At night, she would come home and hide her soiled clothes at the back of her closet. When she finally found the courage to tell her mother, just shy of her 14th birthday, two police officers came to collect the clothes as evidence, half a dozen bags of them.

But a few days later, they called to say the bags had been lost.

 
Cali. poll: Obama sinks to record low

President Barack Obama is pictured. | AP Photo

Cali. poll: Obama sinks to record low

By JONATHAN TOPAZ

Up until now, his approval rating in the state hadn’t dropped below 50 percent since 2011.

President Barack Obama’s approval rating in California has reached a record low, a new poll shows.

According to a Field Poll released Tuesday, 45 percent of California voters approve of the president’s job performance, while 43 percent disapprove. Obama’s approval rating in the state has been at 50 percent or above during the last year, and Tuesday’s results show his approval rating down five points since June.

 
Leaks of nude celebrity photos raise concerns about security of the cloud

Leaks of nude celebrity photos raise concerns about security of the cloud

The leaking of hundreds of private and intimate photographs of Hollywood celebrities cast new doubt on the security of popular online storage sites Monday as investigators probed for explanations of the high-profile breach.

Privacy experts joined Hollywood publicists in denouncing the leaks, which flooded Web sites over the weekend with nude images of more than a half-dozen A-list actresses and performers, including Oscar winner Jennifer Lawrence, star of “The Hunger Games” and “Silver Linings Playbook.”

The breach — regarded as one of the most wide-ranging involving celebrities — has spurred concerns about the security of photographs, videos and documents that millions of Americans store in popular Internet “cloud” accounts. Lawrence’s photographs allegedly were obtained from a personal iCloud account, a service operated by Apple and often used to automatically store photos taken by a user’s mobile phone.

 
'Your cowardly lack of leadership has left a gaping hole'

Seal Team Banner2.jpg

'Your cowardly lack of leadership has left a gaping hole'

Parents of SEAL Team Six soldier killed in action call for President Obama's resignation in searing open letter about his handling of ISIS

By Ashley Collman

Billy and Karen Vaughn also lost their only-son Aaron Carson Vaughn in 2011, when the SEAL Team Six soldier's Chinook helicopter was shown down over Afghanistan. Now the couple are calling on President Barack Obama to step down, citing his reaction to the Foley video and 'lack of leadership' in confronting ISIS.

On Monday, the Vaughns wrote a letter, calling out Mr Obama's decision to go golfing after holding an important press conference on the Foley video.

'As Commander-in-Chief, your actions - or lack thereof - Mr President, cost lives.

'As you bumble about in your golf cart, slapping on a happy face and fist-pounding your buddies, your cowardly lack of leadership has left a gaping hole — not only in America’s security — but the security of the entire globe.

'As you bumble about in your golf cart, slapping on a happy face and fist-pounding your buddies, your cowardly lack of leadership has left a gaping hole,' the Vaughns said of President Obama's decision to play a round after holding a press conference on the Foley tragedy

'America has always been exceptional. And she will be again. You, Mr President, are a bump in the road,' they wrote.

 
Pentagon expands Africa footprint

French soldiers with a Harfang drone in Niger. (AFP/Getty)

Pentagon expands Africa footprint

Craig Whitlock

A second drone base in Niger highlights growing counterterrorism coordination with France to counter jihadists in destabilized Africa.

After months of negotiations, the government of Niger, a landlocked West African nation, has authorized the U.S. military to fly unarmed drones from the mud-walled desert city of Agadez, according to Nigerien and U.S. officials.

The previously undisclosed decision gives the Pentagon another surveillance hub — its second in Niger and third in the region — to track Islamist fighters who have destabilized parts of North and West Africa. It also advances a little-publicized U.S. strategy to tackle counterterrorism threats alongside France, the former colonial power in that part of the continent.

 
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.

 
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