Man on the Spot #35: The Sixth Extinction, CIA detentions and more

Posted by on March 19, 2014 in Events | 0 comments

cubaSeeking the Keys to Longevity in ‘What Makes Olga Run?’


Among the potential anti-aging elixirs Mr. Grierson explores, exercise appears most potent. This old standby doesn’t just keep hearts pumping and muscles strong; studies suggest it may protect the mind, too, by promoting the formation of neurons in the hippocampus — a part of the brain associated with memory. “For building cognition, Sudoku is a shovel, and exercise is a bulldozer,” Mr. Grierson writes.

Without a Trace: ‘The Sixth Extinction,’ by Elizabeth Kolbert

By AL GOREFEB. 10, 2014

Extinction is a relatively new idea in the scientific community. Well into the 18th century, people found it impossible to accept the idea that species had once lived on earth but had been subsequently lost. Scientists simply could not envision a planetary force powerful enough to wipe out forms of life that were common in prior ages.

Why Putin Doesn’t Respect Us

putinMARCH 4, 2014 Thomas L. Friedman

What disturbs me about Crimea is the larger trend it fits into, that Putinism used to just be a threat to Russia but is now becoming a threat to global stability. I opposed expanding NATO toward Russia after the Cold War, when Russia was at its most democratic and least threatening. It remains one of the dumbest things we’ve ever done and, of course, laid the groundwork for Putin’s rise.

Computer Searches at Center of Dispute on C.I.A. Detentions


The intelligence committee finished its 6,000-page report on interrogation and detention last December, but the report has not been declassified in part because of a continuing dispute with the C.I.A. over some of its conclusions. In June, Mr. Brennan gave the committee a 122-page response, which challenged both facts in the report as well as the investigation’s overarching conclusion that the C.I.A.’s interrogation methods carried out in the years after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks yielded little valuable intelligence.

But in December, Senator Mark Udall of Colorado, a Democratic member of the committee, revealed that the C.I.A. had carried out its own internal review of the interrogation program, a study that he said had come to many of the same conclusions that the Senate’s investigation had.

Who’s the Villain Here?

MARCH 5, 2014 Nicholas Kristof

Republicans should be pointing to Obama’s genuine giant foreign policy failure — Syria — and not Ukraine. The right’s demands that Obama confront Putin also seem odd because many on the right have praised Putin and his traditional values. The American Conservative suggested in December that Putin might be “one of us,” and Rudy Giuliani lately hailed Putin’s decisiveness and said: “That’s what you call a leader.” Giuliani’s proposed solution to the Ukraine crisis: “We push him around. That’s the only thing a bully understands.”

Voting Dates Are Set for National Elections in India


India’s national elections are a huge administrative undertaking involving 11 million government workers, 930,000 polling stations and 1.7 million electronic voting machines, with administrative costs expected to exceed $645 million. The Election Commission sends personnel and supplies to every corner of India using cars, trains, planes, elephants, mules, camels and boats, said V. S. Sampath, the chief election commissioner.

Osteoporosis Gets Younger: Risk to Bones From Treating Other Diseases

By Laura Landro

According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, nine million adults in the U.S. have osteoporosis and an additional 43 million have low bone mass, or osteopenia, which increases their risk of osteoporosis and broken bones. The foundation projects that by 2030, the number of adults over age 50 with osteoporosis and low bone mass will grow by more than 30% to 68 million.

The Archipelago of Pain

MARCH 6, 2014: David Brooks

We don’t flog people in our prison system, or put them in thumbscrews or stretch them on the rack. We do, however, lock prisoners away in social isolation for 23 hours a day, often for months, years or decades at a time. Yet inflicting extreme social pain is more or less standard procedure in America’s prisons. Something like 80,000 prisoners are put in solitary confinement every year.

The Cuban Evolution


It is more surprising to discover that even those near the bottom, like Ms. Pupo, seem to be focusing on the positives. Eyeing the success of others, many seem relieved to know it’s possible. As one Cuba scholar told me, “They have aspirations they never used to have.” Those a little closer to the top, though, don’t like to talk about how they got there. Ms. Pupo’s neighbor in the yellow house provided me with coffee but refused to be formally interviewed, or named. “Es complicado,” he said. (If there is a catchphrase in Havana these days, that would be it.)

The Compassion Gap MARCH 1, 2014

SOME readers collectively hissed after I wrote a week ago about the need for early-childhood interventions to broaden opportunity in America. I focused on a 3-year-old boy in West Virginia named Johnny Weethee whose hearing impairment had gone undetected, leading him to suffer speech and development problems that may dog him for the rest of his life. “You show a photograph of a fat woman with tons of tattoos all over that she paid for,” one caller said. “And then we — boohoo — have to worry about the fact that her children are not cared for properly?”

Take Blood Pressure in Both Arms


It may be a good idea to get a blood pressure reading in both arms rather than just one. A difference in those readings, a new study suggests, is an independent risk factor for heart disease.

Florence_Nightingale_CDV_by_H_LenthallFar More Than a Lady With a Lamp


Its first sentences changed my idea of Florence Nightingale forever: “It may seem a strange principle to enunciate as the very first requirement in a hospital that it should do the sick no harm. It is quite necessary, nevertheless, to lay down such a principle.” As true today as it was 150 years ago — acerbic, witty and clear. What would she have thought of the Affordable Care Act? She would have liked its emphasis on public health, on data and on adequate care for everyone. There’s just one thing she would have missed — her belief that caring for the sick is not a business but a calling.

World’s Biggest Arms Importer, India Wants to Buy Local


India ranks eighth in the world in military spending. Among the top 10 weapons buyers, only Saudi Arabia has a less productive homegrown military industry. China, by contrast, has been so effective that it is beginning to export higher-technology arms. But Mr. Joshi said India’s government needed to get out of manufacturing. “Our defense industrial base is hopelessly out of date,” he said. “It needs to be dismantled and handed over to the private sector.”

Transformers Expose Limits in Securing Power Grid

By Rebecca Smith: Updated March 4, 2014 4:59 p.m. ET

The U.S. electric grid could take months to recover from a physical attack due to the difficulty in replacing one of its most critical components.

The U.S. electric grid could take months to recover from a physical attack because it would be so hard and expensive to replace critical transformers if they were destroyed. Rebecca Smith reports on the News Hub. Photo: AP.

The glue that holds the grid together is a network of transformers, the hulking gray boxes of steel and copper that weigh up to 800,000 pounds and make it possible to move power long distances. Transformers were badly damaged in an attack on a California substation last year, and government reports have warned for years that saboteurs could cause sustained damage to the grid by targeting the massive machines.

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