CRF Blog

Merriam-Webster’s Words of the Year 2019

by Bill Hayes

Merriam-Webster has published its list of the Top 10 Words of 2019.         

1/10: Quid pro quo

The investigation into President Trump’s phone conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky became something of a vocabulary lesson for many Americans, and the term quid pro quo was heard countless times from newscasters, pundits, politicians, and the president himself. Major spikes of lookups occurred on September 25th, October 17th and 18th, and November 20th, for a year-over-year increase of 644%.

We define quid pro quo as “something given or received for something else,” and “a deal arranging a quid pro quo.” The literal translation from New Latin is “something for something.”

The current use dates to the late 16th century. In its initial use, a now-obsolete sense from the beginning of that century, quid pro quo referred to something obtained from an apothecary when one medicine was substituted for another. Such substitutions could be either accidental or fraudulent. Soon after its apothecary sense the word took on a more general meaning of substitution. Today, the term is most often encountered in legal contexts. [more]

52 things I learned in 2019

by Bill Hayes

For Medium, Tom Whitwell lists (with links to his sources for each) 52 things I learned in 2019.

1. Each year humanity produces 1,000 times more transistors than grains of rice and wheat combined. [Mark P Mills]

2. The maths of queuing are absolutely brutal and counter-intuitive. [John D Cook]

3. Emojis are starting to appear in evidence in court cases, and lawyers are worried: “When emoji symbols are strung together, we don’t have a reliable way of interpreting their meaning.” (In 2017, an Israeli judge had to decide if one emoji-filled message constituted a verbal contract) [Eric Goldman]

4. Harbinger customers are customers who buy products that tend to fail. They group together, forming harbinger zip codes. If households in those zip codes buy a product, it is likely to fail. If they back a political candidate, they are likely to lose the election. [Simester, Tucker & Yang]

5. Baijiu is the world’s most popular spirit, with 10bn litres sold each year, almost entirely in China. The second most popular spirit in the world is vodka, with just 5bn litres sold. [Feyi Fawehinmi] [more]

6 Apps to Find Awesome Podcast Recommendations to Listen to

by Bill Hayes

In case for some reason you are in need of podcast recommendations, MakeUseOf has a list of 6 Apps to Find Awesome Podcast Recommendations to Listen to.

November/December political cartoons

by Bill Hayes

The USA Today network has posted 137 political cartoons from November and December 2019.

For how to use editorial cartoons in the classroom, see Teaching With Editorial Cartoons.

Politico’s Cartoons for This Week

by Bill Hayes

See Politico’s selection of this week’s political cartoons from across the country and the political spectrum.

For how to use editorial cartoons in the classroom, see Teaching With Editorial Cartoons.

A tiny pharmacy is identifying big problems with common drugs

by Bill Hayes

The Washington Post reports that A tiny pharmacy is identifying big problems with common drugs, including Zantac.

The escalating global recall of Zantac, the heartburn pill that once ranked as the world’s best-selling drug, has its roots not in government oversight or a high-profile lawsuit, but in a tiny online pharmacy here whose founders feared that U.S. drugs might not be as safe as people think.

The pharmacy, Valisure, is a start-up with only 14 full-time employees. But since its scientists alerted American regulators that Zantac and its generic form, ranitidine, contained a chemical thought to cause cancer, more than 40 countries from Australia to Vietnam have either stopped sales, launched investigations or otherwise stepped in to protect consumers from possible health risks.

In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration this month confirmed unacceptable levels of the chemical, N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA), in some ranitidine products — including in some syrups taken by babies. FDA officials have urged people not to panic, because the levels of NDMA are similar to the amount found in grilled and smoked meats. The agency is still investigating and asking companies to recall ranitidine and a similar drug, nizatidine, if they discover unacceptable amounts of NDMA. The agency’s testing suggests Pepcid, Tagamet, Nexium, Prevacid and Prilosec do not contain the chemical. [more]

Should America Be Worried About Political Violence? And What Can We Do to Prevent It?

by Bill Hayes

The Carnegie has issued a new report titled Should America Be Worried About Political Violence? And What Can We Do to Prevent It? (PDF). It includes an executive summary, 10 Takeaways (shown below), links to further resources, and summaries of four sessions with scholars.

10 TAKEAWAYS

1. The time to stop violence is before it begins. Targeted violence builds on itself due to reprisal, but also because seeing others act on latent desires makes those desires feel more acceptable. Support for violent groups rises immediately after incidents of targeted violence, and when it declines it re-levels at a higher rate than before.

2. Philanthropy in this arena is thin and concentrated in a few areas. It has so far overlooked a number of arenas the workshop highlighted as vital, particularly:

Altering in-group norms that can normalize and lead to violence, for elites and political leaders, rank-and-file partisans, and those at risk of committing violence;

Preparation for local officials in pre-violence prevention and planning;

Training law enforcement and Attorneys General in de-escalatory tactics and laws to reduce violence;

Community resilience work for targeted communities;

Helping perpetrators and those at risk of perpetration leave violent groups; and

Improving data on communities at risk of targeted violence in the U.S., gaps in assistance, and incidents of targeted violence with bipartisan agreement.

3. Interventions need to focus on multiple points of influence to reduce violence, including political leaders and elites who normalize violent rhetoric and actions as well as individuals who might directly commit violence. Promoters and perpetrators of violence are not the same, though they can be mutually reinforcing. Therefore, neither can be addressed alone.

4. Interventions work best from the local level upward, not the top-down. Violence happens in a locality and people will draw on the assets in their locality to prevent it, so resilience and prevention are both highly localized – though with the right resources, local interventions can be replicated, adapted, and scaled. Mapping warning factors can help predict where violence is most likely to occur so that resources can be directed ahead of time toward prevention.

5. Local communities need assistance to plan ahead of time to prepare for and respond to targeted violence and potential violence. Separating protesters and counter-protesters, swiftly arresting perpetrators, deterring militias, and training police in respect and de-escalation dampen ardor for confrontation. Legal challenges against violent groups can also reduce their momentum.

6. We must all speak against violence, but party leaders and elite influencers from both parties are particularly important in speaking against incitements to violence. Because people respond to in-group norms and violence is stronger on the far right, politicians and leaders who support President Trump play a particularly strong role in shaping or censoring violent behavior.

7. Moderates willing to work across communities and temper their own groups are the first to be intimidated and silenced as extremism grows; they need particular support.

8. Media interventions should train journalists to complexify their story lines. Coverage that counts every issue as a win or loss for one side increases the temperature. Build on journalists’ incentives to offer surprising or positive stories that emphasize ambivalent attitudes and focus on multifaceted identities to humanize fellow Americans.

9. People seeking to engage with violent far-right groups are also far more likely to click on mental health ads. We should increase resources to off-ramp potentially violent individuals who are seeking help and belonging and finding it in violence.

10. Based on historic and overseas trends, we should focus on violence just after elections and intimidation beforehand rather than election day itself. In the U.S., violence spiked for the two weeks after the 2016 election. Research suggests that winning makes supporters feel more justified in using violence, while losing might provoke anger, particularly if elections are contested. Preparation now can help mitigate these risks in 2020. [more]

Some Colleges Have More Students From the Top 1 Percent Than the Bottom 60. Find Yours.

by Bill Hayes

The New York Times’ Upshot has a database showing that “38 colleges had more students from the top 1 percent than the bottom 60 percent.” The database lets you see where any college ranks: Some Colleges Have More Students From the Top 1 Percent Than the Bottom 60. Find Yours.

READ.THINK. ACT. Reading List

by Bill Hayes

READ.THINK. ACT. Reading ListUniversity Presses from around the world publish thousands of books each year. For the past eight years, the Association of University Presses has celebrated University Press Week and has listed books on a theme. This year’s theme is “Read. Think. Act.” The association says this theme is particularly apt “as many citizens around the globe continue to engage in important debates that will influence vital decision-making in the months ahead; in fact, this year’s UP Week will begin exactly one year to the day before the 2020 Election Day in the U.S. Through this positive theme AUPresses members worldwide seek to encourage people to read the latest peer-reviewed publications about issues that affect our present and future — from politics to economics to climate change to race relations and more — and to better understand academic presses’ important contribution to these vital areas of concern.

Below are a few of the books on the Read. Think. Act. Reading List, with a link to the full list.

The Athenian Citizen: Democracy in the Athenian Agora (Agora Picture Book 4), By Mabel Lang (American School of Classical Studies at Athens)

Truths and Lies in the Middle East: Memoirs of a Veteran Journalist, 1952–2012, By Eric Rouleau (American University in Cairo Press)

From Turtle Island to Gaza, By David Groulx (Athabasca University Press)

Enemy of the People, By Marvin Kalb (Brookings Institution Press)

There Is No Planet B: A Handbook for the Make or Break Years, By Mike Berners-Lee (Cambridge University Press)

Naming Our Sins: How Recognizing the Seven Deadly Vices Can Renew the Sacrament of Reconciliation, Edited by Jana M. Bennettand David Cloutier (Catholic University of America Press) [more]

James Madison’s Zigzag Path

by Bill Hayes

In James Madison’s Zigzag Path for the New York Times Book Review, Susan Dunn reviews The Three Lives of James Madison by Noah Feldman.

As the Harvard Law School professor Noah Feldman demonstrates in his illuminating and absorbing political biography, “The Three Lives of James Madison,” Madison would remain in ongoing dialogue and conflict with himself for the rest of his life. Feldman explores Madison’s reactive and improvisational thinking as it played out in the three uniquely consequential roles, or “lives,” he had — as constitutional architect and co-author with Alexander Hamilton and John Jay of the “Federalist Papers,” political partisan and wartime president. The new nation, an idea still in progress, would inevitably call for reassessment, flexibility and innovation, and Feldman skillfully navigates the zigzag path of Madison’s recalibrations. Except for his position on the issue of slavery, which Madison’s allegiance to his planter class would cause him to consistently blur in a fog of words, he adjusted his theoretical ideas and practice of politics to the continuous flux of events. [more]

Recent Political Cartoons

by Bill Hayes

See Cagle’s collection of recent political cartoons.

For how to use editorial cartoons in the classroom, see Teaching With Editorial Cartoons.

Treepedia

by Bill Hayes

A project of MIT’s Senseable City Lab, Treepedia “measures the canopy cover in cities” around the world. A work in progress, it still has listed quite a few cities and lets you compare them with each other.

How Saudi Arabia Makes Dissidents Disappear

by Bill Hayes

Writing in Vanity Fair, Ayman M. Mohyeldin looks at How Saudi Arabia Makes Dissidents Disappear.

Prince Khaled bin Farhan al-Saud sat in one of the few safe locations he frequents in Düsseldorf and ordered each of us a cup of coffee. With his close-cropped goatee and crisp gray suit, he looked surprisingly relaxed for a hunted man. He described his constant fear of being abducted, the precautions he takes when venturing outside, and how German law enforcement officials routinely check on him to make sure he is all right.

Recently, bin Farhan, who rarely grants interviews to Western reporters, had incensed the kingdom’s leaders with his calls for human rights reforms — an unusual grievance for a Saudi prince. What’s more, he spoke openly of his desire to establish a political movement that might eventually install an opposition leader, upending the kingdom’s dynastic rule.

As we sat over coffee, he relayed a story that at first sounded innocuous. One day in June 2018, his mother, who lives in Egypt, called him with what she thought was good news. The Saudi Embassy in Cairo had contacted her, she said, and had a proposal: The kingdom wanted to mend relations with the prince and was willing to offer him $5.5 million as a goodwill gesture. Since bin Farhan was struggling financially (reportedly due, in part, to a dispute with the ruling family), his mother welcomed this chance for a reconciliation. But as tempting as the overture was, he claimed he never considered it seriously. And when he followed up with Saudi officials, he realized the deal had a dangerous catch. They had told him he could collect his payment only if he personally came to a Saudi embassy or consulate. That immediately set off alarm bells. He declined the offer.

Two weeks later, on October 2, 2018, bin Farhan saw a startling news report. Jamal Khashoggi — the Saudi Arabian journalist and Washington Post columnist who had been writing articles critical of his homeland and working clandestinely to undermine some of the government’s social media initiatives — had gone to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to pick up paperwork required for his pending marriage. Minutes after his arrival — as revealed in leaked audiotape transcripts compiled by Turkish authorities — Khashoggi was tortured and strangled by a Saudi hit squad. His body was then presumably carved up with a bone saw, the remains later carted away. The assassination was condemned by nations around the world, though Donald Trump, Jared Kushner, and others in the Trump administration are still on close terms with the Saudi leadership and have continued to conduct “business as usual” with the kingdom. In June, in fact, President Trump hosted a breakfast for Mohammed bin Salman, the country’s crown prince and de facto leader, and at a press session went out of his way to praise him: “I want to congratulate you. You’ve done a really spectacular job.”

Among those present at the consulate the day Khashoggi was killed was Maher Abdulaziz Mutreb, a close aide to Mohammed bin Salman, colloquially referred to as M.B.S., who since 2015 has been steadily consolidating power. Mutreb, according to the transcripts, made multiple calls during the ordeal, possibly to Saud al-Qahtani, the kingdom’s cybersecurity chief and overseer of clandestine digital operations. He may have even phoned M.B.S. himself, who was singled out this spring in a scathing U.N. report, which found “credible evidence” that he was likely complicit in Khashoggi’s “premeditated execution” — an accusation the country’s minister of state for foreign affairs called “baseless.” Mutreb — well-known in diplomatic circles, and one of the advisers who accompanied M.B.S. on his high-profile visit to the United States last year — gave a particularly chilling sign-off: “Tell yours: The thing is done. It’s done.”

Bin Farhan was dumbstruck as he watched television news shows and saw surveillance-camera footage of Khashoggi’s last hours alive. The prince realized all too clearly: By refusing to go to a Saudi consulate to pick up his payment, he might have narrowly avoided a similar fate.

Omar Abdulaziz, like bin Farhan, is a Saudi dissident. An activist living in Canada, he had been an associate of Khashoggi’s. [more]

What the Medicare for All Fight Is Really About

by Bill Hayes

In Debatable, the New York Times looks at issues of the day,offering either short explanations or differing short opinion pieces (with links to more explanations or opinions). A recent Debatable looked at the following:

The debate: Is single-payer health care, to use Ms. Warren’s words, “the gold standard” or, as Senator Amy Klobuchar puts it, “a pipe dream”?

The moderates, led by Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg, believe that Medicare for All is needlessly heavy-handed and prohibitively expensive.

Mr. Sanders and Ms. Warren say that replacing private insurance is the only way to guarantee every American affordable health care as a human right. [more]

Politico’s Cartoons for This Week

by Bill Hayes

See Politico’s selection of this week’s political cartoons from across the country and the political spectrum.

For how to use editorial cartoons in the classroom, see Teaching With Editorial Cartoons.

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