Wednesday, January 18, 2017
Jane Qiu in Nature:
Giant pandas and the distantly related red pandas may have independently evolved an extra ‘digit’ — a false thumb — through changes to the same genes. The two species share a common ancestor that lived more than 40 million years ago. Giant pandas (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) are distant relatives of other bears, whereas red pandas (Ailurus fulgens) are more closely related to ferrets. Both species subsist on a diet composed almost entirely of bamboo, with the help of a false digit. The pandas’ ‘thumbs’ — which are actually abnormally enlarged wrist bones — allow both species to grip and handle bamboo with remarkable dexterity. But “exactly how such evolutionarily distant animals evolved such a similar lifestyle and body form has long been a mystery,” says Steve Phelps, a geneticist at the University of Texas at Austin.
In a new study, Wei Fuwen and Hu Yibo, conservation geneticists at the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Zoology in Beijing, and their colleagues, produced the first genome sequence of the red panda and compared it with the giant panda genome. This comparison turned up a list of 70 genes that showed signs of evolutionary change in both species. Two of the genes, DYNC2H1 and PCNT, are important for limb development, and mutations in these genes can cause bone and muscle abnormalities, including extra digits, in mice and humans. Both pandas also share single amino-acid changes in the proteins encoded by DYNC2H1 and PCNT that are not found in 60 other mammal species. The researchers propose that these changes could have contributed to the pandas’ false thumbs.
In 1988, former altar boy Martin Scorsese said “I’m a believer, but I’m struggling.” His film The Last Temptation of Christ had just released to much criticism in Christian circles. One defender was the Reverend Paul Moore, the Episcopal Bishop of New York. In a letter to The New York Times, Moore praised Scorsese’s provocative representation of Christ, writing that much like the Spanish painters of the 16th and 17th centuries, Scorsese depicted Christ “as an agonized, suffering body on the cross.” Moore said he was “moved” by Scorsese’s film.
Moved enough to gift Scorsese with a book: Silence, a 1966 novel by Shūsaku Endō. The director would soon buy the film rights to the book, but “got sidetracked doing other films.” Yet Scorsese “was always going back to the book” because it gave him “a kind of sustenance that I have found in only a very few works of art.” Now, finally, the film has reached theaters—like a long withheld confession.
I can’t help but compare Scorsese’s gestation of the film with Gustave Flaubert’s The Temptation of Saint Anthony, finished in 1872 but started nearly 30 years earlier.
The vast majority of writers leave no lasting posthumous trace. They die, and their work, successful as it may have been in its time, simply fades away. A lucky few—the Dickenses, Trollopes, Woolfs— end up firmly ensconced in the culture, their major works widely read, their minor ones remaining in print, and even their ephemera published. Then there’s the middle ground: the writers who are known for one or two pieces drawn from a vast body of work that is otherwise almost wholly forgotten.
Such a one is Thomas De Quincey, whose phantasmagoric memoir Confessions of an English Opium Eater has been handed from poets to trippers in an unbroken skein since the it was first published in 1822. De Quincey wrote many hundreds of thousands of words in addition toConfessions—the complete edition of his works prepared by a US publisher in his later years ran to twenty-two volumes—but it’s not inappropriate that Confessions is what he’s remembered by: opium was his regrettable lodestar, rivaled only, perhaps, by Wordsworth. But whereas he soured on Wordsworth and moved beyond him, opium kept him in its grip for a lifetime.
“Opium was the making of De Quincey,” writes Frances Wilson in Guilty Thing, her absorbing new biography.
A good way to come at John Berger (1926-2017) is to do it by mistake or serendipity, to discover him in the wrong box. At least that was my story, as a music critic who never studied art. Individual, unmanaged, unmediated discovery, an outsider’s discovery, probably suits him best. Not the kind that happens in a curriculum. He didn’t like school!
He has a reputation for appealing to the young, though I’m glad I came to him late. Subsequently I have taught Berger’s work to young critics. It hasn’t always gone well. It takes time to get it right. No single essay or book defines him. Some see him as digressive or humorless—the sort of guy who in the Fifties would lead a review of a show by Henry Moore, his former teacher, in this way: “The development of Henry Moore’s sculpture is a tragic example of how the half-truths on which so much Modern Art has been based eventually lead to sterility and—in terms of appreciation—mass self-deception.” Or, in the Seventies, the sort of guy who would address the tacit power-politics of the zoo (in “Why Look at Animals?”), but not without dilating first on Rousseau, Homer, and Descartes.
But at other times, especially during the Eighties and after, he could write about art in the form of intimate speech but with total clonking certainty, as if to suggest that collaborative thoughts about a painting, or any human achievement really—not with another critic or some kind of licensed expert but with your spouse or child or friend—were the most significant thoughts you could have.
Tuesday, January 17, 2017
Paul Rosenberg in Salon:
George Lakoff didn’t start off in the world of politics. He was a founding father of cognitive linguistics, starting with his 1980 book, “Metaphors We Live By“ (co-authored with philosopher Mark Johnson). The book showed how immediate, concrete experience — bodily orientation, physical movement, and so on — structures our understanding of more complex and abstract experiences via “conceptual metaphors” such as “Consciousness Is Up,” “Love Is a Journey,” etc.
Facing the rise of Newt Gingrich in the 1990s and bewildered by how he and other liberals could not make logical sense of conservative ideology (what do gun rights, low taxes and banning abortion have in common?), Lakoff found an answer in conceptual metaphors derived form two contrasting family models explicated by Diana Baumrind as authoritarian (“strict father” in Lakoff’s terms) and authoritative (“nurturant parent”), as described in his 1996 book, “Moral Politics.” His 2004 book, “Don’t Think of an Elephant: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate,” drew on a wider range of cognitive science and gained a mass audience, but failed to fundamentally change how liberals and Democrats approach politics, as was richly illustrated by the recent election of Donald Trump.
But Lakoff is nothing if not persistent, and has penned an election postmortem like no other, “A Minority President: Why the Polls Failed, and What the Majority Can Do.” It rearticulates the arguments of his earlier books — including others like “The Political Mind,” Whose Freedom?“ and Philosophy in the Flesh — along with fresh analysis and new insights that push hard for opening up a new realm of possibilities, instead of retrenching, retreating or repeating strategies and tactics that have failed in the past. In it, Lakoff displays both an intimate familiarity with detailed examples and a broad-based visionary outlook.
Jeremy Bernstein in Inference Review:
Enrico Fermi came to Harvard to give the Loeb Lectures in the fall of 1953. I was eager to meet him. I admired his work, of course, but I also thought there might be a distant family connection between us. My aunt had given me the impression that after Fermi’s arrival in the United States in 1939, she and members of the Fermi family had become the best of friends. When I ran into Fermi in the hallway of the Harvard physics building, I mentioned my aunt. Fermi gave me a chilly stare, and, without saying a word, walked away. Some years later, I described this encounter to someone who knew Fermi very well. He was not surprised.
During his visit, Fermi was persuaded to give an informal talk to a journal club formed under the guidance of Roy Glauber. Then a young assistant professor, Glauber would later win a Nobel Prize. He had gotten to know Fermi at Los Alamos during the war. I had hoped that Fermi would discuss the meson experiments being conducted at the University of Chicago. His talk went no further than describing an elementary problem in quantum theory. Most of us could have given the same lecture. With the exception of Paul Martin, we remained silent. Martin was the most brilliant of the graduate students; he objected to the approximations Fermi had made. Fermi gave a second lecture. Martin was still not satisfied. And a third. At that point, Martin gave up. Fermi would have continued until he had beaten Martin into submission.
The Pope of Physics is an account of Fermi’s life and times. Gino Segrè and his wife, Bettina Hoerlin, have written their account from the inside out; they knew a good many people who knew Fermi. Hoerlin’s father, Herman Hoerlin, worked with Fermi at Los Alamos, and Segrè’s uncle, Emilio Segrè, had been one of Fermi’s original collaborators in Rome. Both Segrè and Hoerlin could regard Fermi as a familiar presence.
Mohammed Hanif in the New York Times:
The army chief of Pakistan recently confirmed the death sentence of Saad Aziz, a business-school graduate and restaurant manager who was convicted of killing my friend Sabeen Mahmud. Sabeen, who was 40 then, ran The Second Floor in Karachi, a cafe where many writers and artists, including me, got their first break. It was also a hub for activists advocating controversial, often lost, causes. She was shot dead on April 24, 2015, minutes after a talk she had organized about the disappearance of Baloch activists, allegedly at the hand of Pakistan’s military intelligence agencies.
Chances are that after the requisite technical appeals to higher courts and a plea for mercy to the president of Pakistan, Aziz will hang. There are even stronger chances that we’ll never know for sure why he killed Sabeen.
Aziz was sentenced to death by a military court last May. The media weren’t allowed to cover the trial. There is no detailed judgment. We’ll never get to hear what Aziz may have said in his defense or about his motives.
Was he a lone killer, or acting on someone’s behalf? Was Sabeen killed for taking a stand against the Pakistani Taliban and their supporters in the mainstream? For defying the powerful military establishment? Because she insisted on drawing red hearts on walls around the city to mark Valentine’s Day?
Video length: 19:41
It’s hard to describe in a word what Kirk Franklin does for a living. Franklin, forty-six, is the most successful contemporary gospel artist of his generation, but he isn’t a singer. He plays the piano, but only intermittently onstage, more to contribute to the pageantry than to show off his modest chops. Above all, he is a songwriter, but in performance and on his albums his role more closely resembles that of a stock character in hip-hop: the hype man. The best hype men—Flavor Flav, Spliff Star, the early Sean (P. Diddy) Combs—hop around onstage, slightly behind and to the side of the lead m.c., addressing the microphone in order to ad-lib or to reinforce punch lines as they rumble by. But a hype man is, by definition, a sidekick, and while most of the sound in Franklin’s music comes from elsewhere—usually, a band and an ensemble of singers—he is always and unquestionably the locus of its energy and intention.
When I first saw Franklin perform live, last spring, at the newly renovated Kings Theatre in Brooklyn, he stood at center stage, spotlit, rasping out preachy interjections whenever his singers paused for breath. The theatre had the grandeur of a cathedral: blood-red velvet curtains framed the stage; golden ceilings, patterned with blue-and-purple paisleys, soared over vaudeville-era balconies and plush seats. During “I Smile,” a bouncy, piano-propelled anthem to joyful resilience against life’s troubles, Franklin punctuated the chorus with a rhythmic series of shouts: “I smile”—“Yes!”—“Even though I’m hurt, see, I smile”—“Come on!”—“Even though I’ve been here for a while”—“Hallelujah!”—“I smile.”
I was flown across the Atlantic to meet my new employers. In downtown Washington, I was surprised by the ubiquity of fresh-faced young men, their blue short-sleeved buttondowns tucked neatly into khakis. Lincoln Group had its headquarters above an Indian grocery on K Street; a small placard in the building’s foyer read: VISITORS TO LINCOLN GROUP/ IRAQEX, 10TH FLOOR, SHOULD BE ANNOUNCED IN ADVANCE. On the tenth floor, electricians wired lights in some rooms while in others suited men conferenced behind glass walls. The company’s head of human resources, who had only just been hired herself, told me with a weary smile that things had been crazy lately.
Paige Craig popped in to see me as I filled out work papers in a tiny waiting room. Shaking my hand with a mighty grip, he uttered something to the effect of “welcome aboard.” He was very well built, with short, tidy hair and the tight khaki trousers and shirt of a military man. As he strode away, he seemed purposeful. Bailey, by contrast, was baby-faced and slight, his sandy-brown hair cut in a Bill Gates bob. In his comer office, we chatted about Oxford. He had studied economics and management at Lincoln College. When I asked whether his college had inspired the company’s new name, he shrugged. “Partly,” he said cryptically. He did say that Lincoln Group was rapidly expanding and that it offered incredible opportunities for bright young people like me: stock options were available to employees after just three months, and I might consider staying on after the summer. Christian Bailey hadn’t yet been to Iraq himself. Although he had planned numerous trips, he said, something always came up that kept him in D.C.
The biggest problem for me is that the theater of the age I live in has almost always tried to be “innovative” and “modern.” And that supposed innovation and modernity often consists in such infelicities as these: if it’s a classic work, you almost never see that work, but a version, adaptation, or recreation by some sly contemporary who thus pockets all the money, given that Sophocles, Shakespeare, Lope de Vega, Molière, Goldoni, and other such luminaries are all out of copyright. These adaptations generally involve the destruction of the classic work: some dispense with verse, if there is any; others dress Julius Caesar, Mark Antony, and Brutus in suit and tie, or as Nazi bigwigs, or have them run around naked throughout the entire play (although there is also a fashion for dressing everyone in a kind of hideous sack, so that they all look the same); there are those who prefer to have the characters prancing around a completely bare stage, screaming loudly, or on a stage equipped with a ramp or a tent or a net they can dangle from. Actors are usually told to be either “very natural” or “very artificial,” but the result is always the same, namely, their complete inability to speak the words audibly and in a way that captures the interest of the audience, who end up being so distracted by the actors’ howls, phoney pauses, incomprehensible songs or litanies, and imperfect diction (as well as looking to their own protection, because actors often hurl water or even fireworks into the audience) that they take little notice of what the actors are trying to communicate verbally. In the theater nowadays, it’s almost impossible, regardless of whether it’s relevant or not, to escape (a) hysterical, meaningless dancing, perhaps so that the audience can enjoy some “physical movement”; (b) a more or less “savage” or vaguely medieval scene, along the lines of some kind of revelry or peasant hoedown, or a lynching perhaps, or a gang rape, or a bit of group cannibalism—and whichever option they choose, none of them impresses or seems remotely believable; (c) somersaults, pirouettes, and juggling with a bit of mime thrown in, and there’s nothing I loathe more than mime and juggling (no need, I hope, to explain why).
So by sixteen we move in packs
learn to strut and slide
in deliberate lowdown rhythm
talk in syn/co/pa/ted beat
because we want so bad
to be cool, never to be mistaken
for white, even when we leave
these rowdier L.A. streets—
remember how we paint our eyes
flash our legs in nylons
sassy black high heels
or two inch zippered boots
stack them by the door at night
next to Daddy’s muddy gardening shoes.
by Amy Uyematsu
from Poetry Outloud
Poetry Foundation, 2005
Paula Span in The New York Times:
Judith Katherine Dunning had been waiting anxiously for California to adopt legislation that would make it legal for her to end her life. The cancer in her brain was progressing despite several rounds of treatment. At 68, she spent most of her day asleep and needed an aide to help with basic tasks. More centrally, Ms. Dunning — who, poignantly, had worked as an oral historian in Berkeley, Calif. — was losing her ability to speak. Even before the End of Life Option Act became law, in October 2015, she had recorded a video expressing her desire to hasten her death. The video, she hoped, would make her wishes clear, in case there were any doubts later on. “She felt she had completed all the important tasks of her life,” recalled her physician, Dr. Michael Rabow, director of the symptom management service at the University of California, San Francisco. “When she could no longer communicate, life was no longer worth living.”
In recent months, this option has become available to a growing number of Americans. Last June, aid-in-dying legislation took effect in California, the most populous state. In November, Colorado voters approved a ballot measure by nearly a two-thirds majority. The District of Columbia Council has passed a similar law, and the mayor quietly signed it last month. Aid in dying was already legal in Washington, Vermont, Montana and Oregon. So even if the District of Columbia’s law is blocked, as a prominent Republican representative has threatened to do, the country has arrived at a remarkable moment: Close to 20 percent of Americans live in jurisdictions where adults can legally end their lives if they are terminally ill and meet eligibility requirements. The laws, all based on the Death With Dignity Act Oregon adopted in 1997, allow physicians to write prescriptions for lethal drugs when patients qualify. The somewhat complicated procedure involves two oral requests and a written one, extensive discussions, and approval by two physicians. Patients must have the mental capacity to make medical decisions.
Monday, January 16, 2017
by Holly A. Case
The first and last time I saw Zygmunt Bauman was in October 2011. The Polish sociologist had come to Jena where he was one of the star participants, along with the Hungarian philosopher Ágnes Heller, at a workshop on "Approaches to Postmodernity from the East." As the organizers of the conference repeatedly emphasized, Bauman and Heller did not merely write about modern European history, they were modern European history. They were invited to reflect on their mid-century experiences—of the Holocaust, Stalinism, dissidence—in light of what they (we) know now. The conceit seemed straightforward enough, but as the German historian Reinhart Koselleck wrote, "modernity only became recognizable as a new time once expectations distanced themselves ever more from all previous experiences." In other words, nothing ever turns out like you expect.
Although at the time I had not read Bauman's work, the particular tragicomic trajectory of the workshop left a deep impression on me. I reported on it at length to a German acquaintance in a series of emails, and even wrote a poem about Bauman's role. (Historians are not, in general, renowned for their poetry; it will soon become clear why.) When I saw the announcement of Bauman's death last week, it brought to mind that October five years ago. The following are excerpts from my letters (translated from the mediocre German) and the poem, along with passages from Bauman's own writings. The "exchange" that emerges is meant not as an in memoriam, but as a sign of life and a continuation of thought, an attempt to follow his example.
A couple of hours before twilight
a gibbous moon rose in the east
over the serpentine spine of the mountain
a bright hole in a bluegrey scrim,
just there without reason,
as uncomplicated and expected
as a shard of granite on the slope of a talus,
as common as the little moons that rise
above the cuticles of each finger
of your familiar hands, as singular,
as sure as the hidden sun it mirrors,
and I wondered at what the ancients thought
as it appeared and disappeared
regular as breath, opulent as a third eye,
as crisp as the feel of a January breeze
slapping my cheek as I cross the bridge
from here to there. I’m as stupefied
as they must have been,
even though I’ve been told this bright hole
is no more than dust and rock
tethered by a wrinkle in space
which holds it in a groove of time
like a stylus spiraling in black vinyl
sending mute tunes
hushed as the sure breath
that billowed from our mouths
as we threw row cover
over the kale
by Carl Pierer
Of the many properties a space can have, one of the most intuitively clear seems to be connectedness. Connectedness appears to be the simple property of hanging together in one piece. But how do we make this notion precise? On the one hand, we could think of it as the property that we can reach any point in the space without stepping outside. That is, in other words, that there is a path from any given point to any other point in the space. So, this would make the letter "o" connected, while the letter "i" wouldn't be. This notion corresponds to the topological notion of path connectedness. We say that a space is path connected if for any two points in the space there exists a continuous path from one to the other (which lies entirely inside the space).
On the other hand, we can think of connectedness in slightly different terms. The notion is perhaps clarest if we think about a musical melody. Somehow a succession of sounds turns into a melodic whole, which hangs together in a meaningful way. Breaking up the melody, interrupting it at any one point, can – provided the melody is complex enough – create two full, individual melodies, or one full melody and a somewhat incomplete, unresolved one, or two incomplete succession of notes. If the melody doesn't break into two simpler, shorter melodies, then at least one of the pieces will carry a certain tension that points beyond itself to a resolution of the harmonic build-up. If this is the case, we can think of the melody as in some way the simplest meaningful whole – there is no natural way to separate it into meaningful simpler pieces. This is the second notion of connectedness.
With some poetic licence, we can link the idea of an unresolved melody to the notion of openness, whilst a resolved melody would correspond to closedness, in topological terms. This identification has to be taken with a grain of salt, however, for the two notions – to a topologist – are not opposites. A set can be both open and closed or neither. What does justify the idea, however, is that an unresolved melody, much like an open set, points to a resolution that lies beyond itself: the tone that would form a complete whole, or the limit point that would render the set not open. In any case, we get the second notion of connectedness as a space that does not break up into two, non-empty and non-intersecting, open sets. To translate this into the language of melodies would be to say that a melody is connected if the only way to break it up is that there is one full, simpler melody and one unresolved.
Sopheap Pich. Wall Structure No. 2, 2015.
Bamboo, rattan, and wire.
Digital photograph by Sughra Raza at the Asia Society Hong Kong Center, Jan 15, 2017, thanks to Amna Naqvi who recommended the visit!
by Emrys Westacott
- it keeps you away from morally corrupting temptations;
- it cultivates virtues like self-sufficiency and hardihood;
- it makes one better able to cope with adversity;
- it is the surest path to happiness since it curtails misguided desires and directs us toward enjoying simple pleasures
- it helps us focus on what really matters in life, like love, friendship, and our relationship with nature.
One idea that has come to the fore in recent times is that living simply is better for the environment. The basic argument is pretty straightforward. Industrialization and population growth have massively increased the impact of human beings on the natural environment. Much of this impact is negative: smog; acid rain; polluted rivers, lakes and seas; contaminated groundwater; litter; garbage dumps; toxic waste; soil erosion; deforestation; extinction or threatened extinction of plant and animal species; habitat destruction; reduced biodiversity; and perhaps most significant of all in the long term, global warming. Consumerism, extravagance, and wastefulness increase the damage being done; living frugally and simply, by contrast, reduces one's ecological footprint.
Reduce, reuse, recycle. This is the familiar slogan shared by both frugal zealots and environmentalists. Books, articles and blogs abound advocating "ecofrugality" and advising us how to simultaneously save money and the environment by following practices such as walking or cycling instead of driving, drying clothes on the line, buying used items whenever feasible, and so on
Such measures, in addition to saving money, reduces the consumption of energy either directly, as when you turn off unnecessary lights, or indirectly by reducing demand for the production of new commodities. And as ecofrugalist Keith Heidorn says: "Reduction of waste in any form is a win for the environment. Reduction of material and energy use is a win for the planet and all life forms."
Critics and skeptics, however, can point out that simplicity is not always green.
by Brooks Riley
by Richard King
And, now, of the world's latest experiment in Universal Basic Income, which a whole array of public figures, from Elon Musk to Yanis Varoufakis, agrees is A Bloody Good Idea.
As do I. But the fact that so many people are agreeing makes me wonder what is being agreed upon, and upon what basis the agreement has been reached. In particular: Why are right-libertarians and uberwealthy business types and even some conservatives pulling on the gloves and pads and going out to bat for an idea more usually associated with the material left? Can an idea that attracts support from Charles Murray and the American Enterprise Institute really have moral merit? I mean, can it?
I think it can, but it's important to consider the very different assumptions that are being employed in the arguments over UBI, which, in case you've just returned from a two-year yoga and ice-fishing retreat in Ittoqqortoormiit, is a scheme whereby all citizens receive an unconditional flat-rate sum from the state or other public institution. It's important because those assumptions will shape not only what kind of UBI we may get (if we're lucky enough to get one at all) but also where such a scheme might lead in terms of other redistributive arrangements. If UBI is a means to an end, what end are we aiming at?
Very different ones, obviously. I'll state, briefly, the business and conservative/right-libertarian cases for a UBI as I understand them, before outlining in a bit more detail the radical or leftwing case. I hope the latter, as well as being more persuasive, will also serve as a critique of the assumptions underlying the first two cases.
by Sue Hubbard
This is my first art review of 2017 and, in the last few months, the world has changed dramatically. It's hard not to look at everything through the prism of Donald Trump's election as leader of (for now, at least) the free world. Culture is taking on new metaphors and resonances. Optimism, hope and humour? Can there still be a place for them? Are such emotions still possible or even appropriate as we stand on the cliff top looking out, like stout Cortez on a peak in Darien, towards the stormy seas of the future?
Born in 1931 the Californian artist John Baldessari was honed by the zeitgeist of the 1960s, that decade of revolt, revolution, muddled thinking and creativity. The granddaddy of conceptual art he's known for his magpie appropriations of painting, photography and language. In an increasingly prosperous post-war world his concerns were to dismantle old shibboleths and stretch early 20th century artistic boundaries to see how elastic they could become. Iconoclasm was the name of the game. By the early 1990s he was a celebrity. A 1990 retrospective organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), Los Angeles, travelled across the United States and Canada. With wit and irony he deconstructed the processes of contemporary artistic practice to include language. "I guess", he said, "it's fundamental to my work that I tend to think of words as substitutes for images. I can never seem to figure out what one does that the other doesn't do, so it propels me, this kind of bafflement." His aim has been to be as "disarming as possible", whilst establishing or deconstructing meaning through juxtaposition. By beguiling his viewers he's offered his own laconic visual commentary. Often citing semiotics and, in particular, Claude Lévi-Strauss's structuralism, as a major influence on his treating language as sign and on his deliberate play between word and image, he's taken phrases from art manuals and quotes from celebrated art critics and painted them onto the surfaces of his canvases. For him there has been no reason why a 'text' painting shouldn't be just as much a 'work of art' as a nude or a still life. Everything has been up for grabs.
Looking at this new show at the Marian Goodman Gallery in London I couldn't decide whether John Baldessari is, now, a dinosaur - irrelevant to the current political and social landscape of this new autocratic post-truth world - or a sensitive barometer of it.
Sunday, January 15, 2017
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in the New York Times:
In 1776, Thomas Jefferson’s friend Senator Richard Henry Lee expressed both of their opinions when he asserted in Congress, referring to Muslims and Hindus, that “true freedom embraces the Mahometan and the Gentoo as well as the Christian religion.” In 1777, the Muslim kingdom of Morocco became the first country in the world to formally accept the United States as a sovereign nation. In 1786, when the United States needed protection from North African pirates who were stealing ships and enslaving crews, it signed the Treaty of Tripoli, which stated that “the government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion, as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquillity of Musselmen.” In 1785, George Washington declared that he would welcome Muslim workers at Mount Vernon. In 1786, Jefferson triumphed in his Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom in Virginia, by persuading the Legislature to overwhelmingly reject attempts to include Jesus Christ as the religious authority in the bill. Jefferson later declared that this was one of his three greatest accomplishments.
Clearly, some of our founding fathers were very comfortable extending religious freedom to include Islam. They should have been. Islam didn’t just show up in America one day like an excited tourist. America imported it when we brought slaves over from Africa, an estimated 20 percent of whom were Muslim.
Ashutosh Jogalekar in The Curious Wavefunction:
Beth Mole in Ars Technica:
In a new 400-page analysis that blows through the current state of scientific knowledge on the health risks and benefits of marijuana, one of the strongest conclusions is that it can effectively treat chronic pain in some patients.
The sweeping report, released Thursday by the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine, covered more than 10,000 scientific studies and came to nearly 100 other conclusions. Those mostly highlight unanswered questions and insufficient research related to health effects of marijuana, as well as several risks. However, the firm verification that marijuana does have legitimate medical uses—supported by high-quality scientific studies—is a significant takeaway in light of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s decision in August to maintain marijuana’s listing as a Schedule I drug. That is, a drug that has no medical use.
The new report also strongly concludes that the Schedule I listing creates significant administrative barriers for researchers wishing to conduct health research on marijuana and its components—an issue Ars has previously reported on.
“It is often difficult for researchers to gain access to the quantity, quality, and type of cannabis product necessary to address specific research questions on the health effects of cannabis use,” concluded the authors, a panel of experts led by Marie McCormick, a pediatrician and public health researcher at Harvard.
In a public presentation of their findings, the report’s authors repeatedly refused to comment on the DEA’s scheduling of marijuana, noting that the issue was outside the scope of their scientific review.