Links 8/3/15

Links for you. Science:

Drought, flooding, disease – climate change is already threatening the source of our caffeine fix. Are we facing the end of coffee as we know it?
Absurd Creature of the Week: The Two-Foot-Wide Sea Star That’s Basically a Bear Trap
Using DNA to Fight Dog Owners’ Discourtesy in Brooklyn (BUT IS IT ARTISINAL SEQUENCING?)
Golden rice paper pulled after judge rules for journal (note that the data aren’t in question; the issue is IRB violations)
An ancient skull found in Australia suggests our ancestors modified their skulls. Some people still do it today, but why?


Say farewell to old Boston (excellent; on the failed 2024 Olympics bid)
Who is your IT outsourcing firm working for? (important; probably relevant to anyone whose job is dependent on IT)
Does Zimbabwe Really Need Trophy Hunting?
Ted Rall: LAPD Convinced LA Times To Fire Me After I Criticized Cops
Here’s the 2022 Winter Olympics Venue, In The Middle of Winter
What It’s Like to Have the Oldest Phone in San Francisco (I was a relatively late adopter of the iPhone, and I agree that it’s not intuitive at all)
This Alabama jail really did torture an inmate with a Burmese python
Sunrise in the Allston Railyard
San Francisco Middle Schools No Longer Teaching ‘Algebra 1′ (SF should be teaching basic arithmetic better so this isn’t a problem–in my limited experience, most ‘algebra’ problems are arithmetic problems)
I won at science (funny; file under Black Swan)
Training Officers to Shoot First, and He Will Answer Questions Later (if officers are never culpable, then the solution is to not allow them to carry guns)
Harvard professor warns of infrastructure woes
Shame of methadone use clouds heroin addicts’ recovery

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The American Swastika In More Ways Than One

This weekend, a bunch of white people decided to rally at Stone Mountain, Georgia, to defend their heritage, which, according to them, includes the Confederate flag as well as a carving that celebrates Civil War soldiers–which was completed as a big ‘screw-you’ to those who opposed segregation (boldface mine):

Noe said there are strong historical connections between Stone Mountain and white supremacists, segregationists and neo-Confederates.

“For 40 years, it had these pretty obvious Klan overtones,” he said.

The mountain’s former owner, Samuel Venable, took an active role in reviving the Klan, which re-established itself in 1915 with a cross-burning on Stone Mountain’s peak. Within five years, the Klan had an estimated 5 million supporters nationwide and was a formidable terror organization for decades.

The iconic carving was conceived around the same time, with sculptor Gutzon Borglum’s original design featuring Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee leading his troops and KKK members. Borglum was fired from the job and another sculptor hired, but by 1928 only Lee’s head was finished.

The project remained shelved until the 1950s, when interest picked back up amid the growing civil rights movement and a massive Southern white backlash.

The state purchased the land for $2 million in 1958 and Gov. Marvin Griffin signed legislation creating the Stone Mountain Memorial Association, which would shepherd the project to completion in 1972.

But it’s about heritage, not hate, right? Well (boldface mine):

Across the parking lot, Allan Croft, a bearded Dalton resident, debated Southern history with a group of young black men.

“Yeah, we didn’t want our daughters to marry you and we didn’t want our children to go to school with you,” he said. “But you’ve got to realize something, your parents didn’t want it, either.”

Croft blamed integration and the civil rights movement on “Communist Jews” and said accused Charleston shooter Dylann Roof “should have went to the synagogue, because that’s the enemy of all of us.

Keep in mind that the protestors were asked to be on their best behavior.

(By the way, if he votes, I wonder which party he typically supports? Probably not the one liked by “Communist Jews”.)

But somewhere on a college campus, someone on the left said something really stupid so both sides do it, and all that:

Aurielle Marie said she showed up at the rally Saturday afternoon after a string of racial epithets were hurled at her as she walked in the park. Marie wasn’t buying rally-goers’ “heritage, not hate” mantra, particularly after learning that some black women with their children at the park also allegedly were being harassed by name-callers.

…Richard Rose, president of the Atlanta NAACP, said his organization did not counter-protest the rally out of fear their members “would be met with violence from anyone who flies the flag of hate.” However, he said the organization finds the carving “particularly galling” considering Atlanta’s historical prominence in the civil rights movement.

It’s still a fucking swastika. With all that entails.

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Links 8/2/15

Links for you. Science:

There are nearly 50 elephants in this photograph. At recent rates of slaughter, this is how many die every 11 hours.
This Beautiful But Destructive Fish Is Resorting to Cannibalism
Possibly the worst press release on the microbiome ever: Greenlaw and Ruggiero and the third brain.
The viral idea that kale is bad for you is based on incredibly bad science
Synonymous genetic variation in natural isolates of Escherichia coli does not predict where synonymous substitutions occur in a long-term experiment


Double Genocide: Lithuania wants to erase its ugly history of Nazi collaboration—by accusing Jewish partisans who fought the Germans of war crimes (“…“Holocaust denial” is being replaced by a seemingly respectable “Holocaust obfuscation.” Lithuania and other Eastern European countries are embracing a “double genocide” theory that posits that both the Nazis and Soviets committed genocide. …By positing twin genocides, Lithuanians become victims—and “Judeo-Bolsheviks” become perpetrators—in a second, mirror-image holocaust.”)
Flag waving on hallowed ground
Calvin Seibert Sculpts Impressive Modernist Sandcastles
Beauty in some storms
Why Was Sandra Bland Still in Jail? She couldn’t pay her bond. How a bail system the Justice Department has called unconstitutional may have contributed to her death.
Pope Francis is not a feminist: Why Catholicism’s liberal icon falls far short on women’s issues (leaving aside the fight between authors, interesting information about the Catholic Church)
Under the Bridge: The Crime of Living Without a Home in Los Angeles
The invisible network that keeps the world running
10-Foot Traffic Lanes Are Safer—and Still Move Plenty of Cars
New England Scram Chowder (video; Seth Meyers is uncharacteristically funny)
Taste as taste
Massachusetts sues Florida doctor over unlicensed penis injections at Framingham clinic

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Observed on T Street, between 13th and 14th, Shaw, D.C.:


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Solving the Urban Housing Crisis Requires a Suburban Solution

One of the many annoyances when urban policy is discussed is the conflation of cities with metropolitan areas. Sometimes, commentators will mean the city sensu stricto, while, at other times, city actually means metropolitan area (Richard Florida does this far too often). This isn’t just a semantic issue–how terms are defined can ‘define away’ solutions. Which leads us to this post by Ben Adler (boldface mine):

It would be wonderful if the nation’s problems with sprawl and housing unaffordability could be solved by upzoning in a few cities like New York, San Francisco, Boston, and Washington, D.C. Unfortunately, those cities are not actually the primary driver of these problems and they cannot solve them on their own.

Take a step back and think about where most Americans actually live versus the elite who write for the national media. Almost three times as many people live in the suburbs of the 51 largest major metro areas than in the inner cities. When young journalists — who are disproportionately likely to live in cities — talk about the high cost of housing in San Francisco and New York, they often conflate the problems of the metropolitan regions and the central cities. Most people in “San Francisco” don’t live in San Francisco. They live in the suburbs of San Francisco, which are hideously expensive: four of the 10 towns with the highest home prices in the U.S. are Bay Area suburbs.

San Francisco’s and New York’s (also very expensive) suburbs have much lower-density zoning restrictions than the cities themselves. New York City is more than 10 times denser than its suburbs. Most suburban areas allow only detached houses with big yards. The suburbs also have more parking-space requirements and segregated uses that make walking unpleasant or impractical and force people to drive. That’s why the average resident of New York’s suburban Great Neck, Long Island has twice the carbon footprint of the average Manhattanite. That’s also why — despite all the hype about gentrification and the high cost of inner-city housing — Manhattan, like New York City’s other boroughs and like San Franciso, has a lower median household income than any of its surrounding suburban counties. The suburbs are just as unaffordable as the inner cities, even more so when you factor in the cost of owning a car and driving everywhere. Metro areas like New York and San Francisco are economically strong and culturally desirable, so even without any market restrictions, it would be hard for housing supply to keep pace with demand. Development restrictions may make it even worse, but that’s an even bigger problem in the suburbs than in the cities.

Long Island is also much more conservative and Republican than New York City is. Liberals are actually better than conservatives about allowing more density in their communities. Polling also shows that liberals are far more likely than conservatives to say they would accept a smaller home in order to live in a walkable urban environment.

As I’ve noted before, the cost of transportation is something that also needs to be considered in housing prices:

While these cities have cheaper housing than San Francisco, much of that cost advantage disappears when you factor in the cost of transportation in car-dependent sprawl. As Derek Thompson noted in The Atlantic in 2012: “Housing in Houston isn’t so bad — it’s the 8th most affordable large city to own a home in. But … factor in transportation, and it’s the 8th least affordable large city to live. On the other hand, dense expensive cities like San Francisco, Boston and New York are considerably more affordable when you add in transportation costs because of their superior public transit.” Insofar as Houston is cheaper than San Francisco, it’s not because Houston hasn’t restricted development. It’s because not as many people want to live in Houston as San Francisco, Houston’s wages are lower, and the cost of driving leaves Houstonians with less income to bid up the price of housing.

While the solution is to increase the density of the inner suburbs, that probably won’t happen, since zoning laws won’t allow that to happen. A cynic might argue these zoning laws exist to prevent the construction of housing that potentially could be used to house the poor (or people who look poor [wink wink]), though there’s compelling evidence that’s not cynicism, but brutal reality.

Posted in Housing, Transportation | 1 Comment

Links 8/1/15

Links for you. Science:

Scientists have synthesized a new compound that ‘mimics’ exercise. Could a workout pill be far behind? (we’ll see…)
“Do you need a Ph.D. for that?”
Uncovering Secrets of the Sphinx
Intermingled Klebsiella pneumoniae Populations Between Retail Meats and Human Urinary Tract Infections


The pure products of America (must-read)
Public Art That Isn’t Garbage, but Collects It
The growing wealth gap that nobody is talking about
Why Angry, Entitled Man-Children Pick on Women
Why Conservatives Are So Desperate to Debunk One Hillary Clinton Chart
How to Fix Our Interstates. Hint: Not with more asphalt. (interesting)
Person First Project – Nick
After rise in minimum wage, Seattle bartender receives ‘Why I don’t tip’ card instead of cash (the idea that someone might make $30,000/yr really seems to piss some people off)
Republicans threatening to shut down government over doctored Planned Parenthood videos
Chicago: Why Didn’t Arne Duncan Use the Lab School as a Model for Reform?
The Underachievement School District 2015 Edition Part I
How conservative media helped the far-right take over the Republican Party
Thoughts on Grabthar’s Hammer
Big Data vs. Big Gladwell
Wife of Murdered Cop Wakes Up to Prison System and How Drug War Led to Husband’s Death
Always Count On EMILY’s List To Back Wretched Conservative Women Against Progressive Men– Iowa Edition

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Exuberant Shopping

Observed on 18th Street, between Belmont and Columbia Roads, Adams-Morgan, D.C.:

Shopping happy

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