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n2doc

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The inside story of MIT and Aaron Swartz

More than a year after Swartz killed himself rather than face prosecution, questions about MIT’s handling of the hacking case persist

By Marcella Bombardieri

CAMBRIDGE — The mysterious visitor called himself Gary Host at first, then Grace Host, which he shortened for his made-up e-mail address to “ghost,” a joke apparently, perhaps signaling mischievousness — or menace. The intruder was lurking somewhere on the MIT campus, downloading academic journal articles by the hundreds of thousands.

The interloper was eventually traced to a laptop under a box in a basement wiring closet. He was Aaron Swartz, a brilliant young programmer and political activist. The cascade of events that followed would culminate in tragedy: a Secret Service investigation, a federal prosecution, and ultimately Swartz’s suicide.

But in the fall of 2010, Swartz was still a stranger in the shadows, and the university faced a hard question: How big a threat was the “ghost” downloader? And a harder one: What should be done about him?

Answering those questions would prove a particularly knotty puzzle for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a place long supportive of the free flow of information and so famously friendly to pranks, known in MIT lingo as hacks, that a book published by the MIT Museum in the 1990s offered pranksters such tips as “always have two ways to run.”

more

http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2014/03/29/the-inside-story-mit-and-aaron-swartz/YvJZ5P6VHaPJusReuaN7SI/story.html?s_campaign=sm_tw

Researchers are giving psychedelics to cancer patients to alleviate their despair, and it's working

by Linda Marsa

On a bone-chilling morning in February last year, Nick Fernandez bundled up and took the subway from his Manhattan apartment to the Bluestone Center for Clinical Research, which is located in an art deco-style building on the Upper East Side. A 27-year-old graduate student in psychology with dark, wavy hair and delicate, bird-like features, Fernandez was excited and nervous. He had eaten a light breakfast consisting of a bagel and industrial-strength coffee in preparation for another journey he was about to take. Fernandez had signed up to be a subject in a New York University study into the use of psilocybin, the psychoactive ingredient in hallucinogenic mushrooms, to relieve mental anguish in people with terminal or recurrent cancer.

Fernandez hoped that the drug would lift the shroud of melancholy and free-floating anxiety that had enveloped him ever since he was diagnosed with leukemia in 2004 during his senior year in high school. Two and a half years of almost continuous chemotherapy vanquished the disease, but left him drained and traumatised. The former soccer star dropped more than 50 lbs from an already lean frame. ‘It was pretty brutal and forces you to grow up fast,’ said Fernandez, who became intensely interested in spiritual philosophy during this period, and went on to dabble in psychedelics in college. For years afterward, every sneeze and sniffle, every day that he felt tired or out of sorts, filled him with an unshakeable dread that the cancer had returned. When he heard the study mentioned on a radio show, he immediately signed up.

Jeffrey Guss and Erin Zerbo, the two NYU psychiatrists who would quietly monitor Fernandez’s progress throughout the day, greeted him when he arrived. After they took his vital signs, Fernandez changed into sweat pants and a shirt, and settled into a converted dental exam room that had been transformed into a hippie-style sanctum: tricked out with fresh flowers and fruits, a comfy sofa littered with plush pillows, Buddhist and shamanistic totems, and a high-tech sound system. Stephen Ross, an associate professor of psychiatry at NYU and the lead investigator for the study, made a brief appearance in the trip room. He was holding a glass vial that had been retrieved earlier that morning from a massive safe located inside a high-security storage room. It contained a single white capsule, and no one could be sure if it was a placebo – a dummy pill – or a 30 milligram dose of synthesised psilocybin.

‘Good luck,’ Ross said, handing Fernandez the pill, which he washed down with water that he drank from a large antique chalice. Then he slipped on the headphones, put on a face mask to block out the light, lay down on the couch and waited.

more


http://aeon.co/magazine/altered-states/psychedelics-relieve-cancer-patients-despair/

After the Wars: A Legacy of Pain and Pride

Written by Rajiv Chandrasekaran

More than half of the 2.6 million Americans dispatched to fight the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan struggle with physical or mental health problems stemming from their service, feel disconnected from civilian life and believe the government is failing to meet the needs of this generation’s veterans, according to a poll conducted by The Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The long conflicts, which have required many troops to deploy multiple times and operate under an almost constant threat of attack, have exacted a far more widespread emotional toll than previously recognized by most government studies and independent assessments: One in two say they know a fellow service member who has attempted or committed suicide, and more than 1 million suffer from relationship problems and experience outbursts of anger — two key indicators of post-traumatic stress.

The veterans are often frustrated with the services provided to them by the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Pentagon and other government agencies. Almost 60 percent say the VA is doing an “only fair” or “poor” job in addressing the problems faced by veterans, and half say the military is lagging in its efforts to help them transition to civilian life, which has been difficult for 50 percent of those who have left active service. Overall, nearly 1.5 million of those who served in the wars believe the needs of their fellow vets are not being met by the government.

“When I raised my right hand and said, ‘I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America,’ when I gave them everything I could, I expect the same in return,” said Christopher Steavens, a former Army staff sergeant who was among 819 vets polled. He served in Iraq in 2003 and in Kuwait two years ago, where he was injured in a construction accident. Upon leaving the Army last summer, he filed a claim with the VA, seeking medical care and financial compensation. He has not yet received a response.

more

http://www.washingtonpost.com/sf/national/2014/03/29/a-legacy-of-pride-and-pain/

Obamacare is not universal health care

By Max Romano

Mary is single, in her late 50s, widowed and earning about $2,000 a month cleaning bathrooms downtown. She's had no health insurance for the last decade, but she's received medical care when she needed it at free clinics and emergency rooms.
But now it's the era of Obamacare, and Mary hears that she has to buy health insurance. We check her options on Maryland Health Connection, the state's online health insurance exchange:

The cheapest "bronze plan" is only $2.20 per month, which will avoid a year-end fine for being uninsured, but it pays for little up until the $6,000 deductible. The "silver plans" cost $130 to $360 per month with a $900 annual deductible, but for those she'd have to choose between a health savings account, a limited HMO provider network, a 40 percent or a $40 co-pay, and many other confusing options.

None of it sounds like straightforward "affordable care" to her.

This isn't a story about error messages or frozen screens. Website crashes make news; they don't make history. This is about the real implications of Obamacare, about which ideas work in real life and which just sound good on paper.


Read more: http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/opinion/bs-ed-obamacare-medicare-20140326,0,5129108.story

Hubble Image: Magnifying the Distant Universe (big space pic)


Galaxy clusters are some of the most massive structures that can be found in the Universe — large groups of galaxies bound together by gravity. This image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope reveals one of these clusters, known as MACS J0454.1-0300. Each of the bright spots seen here is a galaxy, and each is home to many millions, or even billions, of stars.

Astronomers have determined the mass of MACS J0454.1-0300 to be around 180 trillion times the mass of the sun. Clusters like this are so massive that their gravity can even change the behavior of space around them, bending the path of light as it travels through them, sometimes amplifying it and acting like a cosmic magnifying glass. Thanks to this effect, it is possible to see objects that are so far away from us that they would otherwise be too faint to be detected.

In this case, several objects appear to be dramatically elongated and are seen as sweeping arcs to the left of this image. These are galaxies located at vast distances behind the cluster — their image has been amplified, but also distorted, as their light passes through MACS J0454.1-0300. This process, known as gravitational lensing, is an extremely valuable tool for astronomers as they peer at very distant objects.

This effect will be put to good use with the start of Hubble's Frontier Fields program over the next few years, which aims to explore very distant objects located behind lensing clusters, similar to MACS J0454.1-0300, to investigate how stars and galaxies formed and evolved in the early Universe.

http://www.nasa.gov/content/goddard/hubble-magnifying-the-distant-universe/index.html#.Uzhj6FzWRua

Plutocracy without end: Why the 1 percent always defeats the middle class

There are more of us than them. But income inequality keeps getting worse -- and there is sadly no end in sight
THOMAS FRANK

I’ve been writing about what we politely call “inequality” since the mid-1990s, but one day about ten years ago, when I was traveling the country lecturing about the toxic curlicues of right-wing culture, it dawned on me that maybe I had been getting the entire story wrong. All the economic developments that I spent my days bemoaning—the obscene enrichment of the CEO class, the assault on the regulatory state, the ruination of average people—were very possibly not what I thought they were. When I talked about these things, I assumed they were an outrage, an affront to the affluent nation I still believed we were; once the scales fell from our eyes and Americans figured out what was happening, I argued, we would yell “stop,” bring this age of folly to a close, and get back to middle-class prosperity as usual.

What hit me that day was the possibility that my happy, postwar middle-class world was the exception, and that the plutocracy we were gradually becoming was the norm. Maybe what was happening to us was a colossal reversion to a pre-Rooseveltian mean, and all the trappings of ordinary life that had seemed so solid and so permanent when I was young—the vast suburbs and the anchorman’s reassuring baritone and the nice appliances that filled the houses of the working class—were aberrations made possible by an unusual balance of political forces maintained only by the enormous political efforts of its beneficiaries.

Maybe the gravity of history pulled in the exact opposite direction of what I had always believed. If so, the question was not, “When will we get back to the right order of things,” but rather, “Would we ever stop falling?”

Today, of course, the situation has grown vastly worse. The subject of inequality is discussed everywhere; there are think tanks and academic conferences dedicated to it; it has become socially permissible for polite people to wonder about the obscene gorging of those at the top. Sooner or later the question that everyone asks, upon discovering just how much of what Americans produce goes to the imbeciles in the penthouses and executive suites, is this: How much further can this thing go?
more

http://www.salon.com/2014/03/30/plutocracy_without_end_why_the_1_percent_always_defeats_the_middle_class/

Lawsuit: Man Arrested, Searched For Marijuana Solely For Having Colorado License Plate


Boise, Idaho (CBS SEATTLE) – An Idaho state trooper arrested and fully searched a 70-year-old Washington man’s vehicle solely because he had a Colorado license plate – a state where marijuana is legal – a federal “license plate profiling” lawsuit alleges.
Darien Roseen was driving along I-84 between his second home in Colorado and Washington state on Jan. 25 when Idaho State

Trooper Justin Klitch “immediately” pulled out from the Interstate median and began “rapidly accelerating” to catch up to Roseen, according to the complaint in a Courthouse News Service report. Exiting at a designated rest area, Roseen says he became “uncomfortable” that Klitch had followed him though he not “done anything wrong.”

After pulling Roseen over, Klitch reportedly failed to explain why he made the stop, although he later said he made the stop because Roseen failed to use his signal when pulling off on the exit, and because he bumped the curb. Klitch rejected Roseen’s reason for pulling into the rest area, telling him, “You didn’t have to go to the bathroom before you saw me … I’m telling you, you pulled in here to avoid me.”

The complaint states that Klitch asked Roseen why his eyes “appeared glassy,” while failing to ask him for his proof of insurance, registration, or returning to his vehicle to verify Roseen’s license. He then accused Roseen of “having something in his vehicle that he should not have.”

more

http://seattle.cbslocal.com/2014/03/28/lawsuit-man-arrested-searched-for-marijuana-solely-for-having-colorado-license-plate/

Black death was not spread by rat fleas, say researchers

Vanessa Thorpe

Archaeologists and forensic scientists who have examined 25 skeletons unearthed in the Clerkenwell area of London a year ago believe they have uncovered the truth about the nature of the Black Death that ravaged Britain and Europe in the mid-14th century.

Analysis of the bodies and of wills registered in London at the time has cast doubt on "facts" that every schoolchild has learned for decades: that the epidemic was caused by a highly contagious strain spread by the fleas on rats.

Now evidence taken from the human remains found in Charterhouse Square, to the north of the City of London, during excavations carried out as part of the construction of the Crossrail train line, have suggested a different cause: only an airborne infection could have spread so fast and killed so quickly.

The Black Death arrived in Britain from central Asia in the autumn of 1348 and by late spring the following year it had killed six out of every 10 people in London. Such a rate of destruction would kill five million now. By extracting the DNA of the disease bacterium, Yersinia pestis, from the largest teeth in some of the skulls retrieved from the square, the scientists were able to compare the strain of bubonic plague preserved there with that which was recently responsible for killing 60 people in Madagascar. To their surprise, the 14th-century strain, the cause of the most lethal catastrophe in recorded history, was no more virulent than today's disease. The DNA codes were an almost perfect match.

more

http://www.theguardian.com/science/2014/mar/29/black-death-not-spread-rat-fleas-london-plague

The Bitter Tears of the American Christian Supermajority

by Chase Madar


The most persecuted minority in the United States is not Muslims, African-Americans or immigrants. It’s our Christian supermajority that’s truly oppressed.

Verily, consider three anecdotes from the past few weeks.

On March 2, three Baptist ministers in Akron, Ohio, arranged for the local police to mock-arrest them in their churches and haul them away in handcuffs for the simple act of preaching their faith. A video was posted on YouTube to drum up buzz for an upcoming revival show. A few atheist blogs object to uniformed police taking part in a church publicity stunt, but far more people who saw the YouTube video (24,082 views), in Ohio and elsewhere, took this media stunt as reality — confirmation of their wildest fears about a government clampdown on Christianity.

On Feb. 26, Arizona’s conservative Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed a bill that would have allowed businesses to refuse services to people who violate their sincerely held religious beliefs — for example, gays and lesbians. Fox News pundit Todd Starnes tweeted that Christians have been demoted to second-class citizenship in Arizona, an opinion widely shared on the right-wing Christian blogosphere, which sees Brewer’s veto as a harbinger of even greater persecution to come.

And the feature film “Persecuted,” a political thriller about a federal government plan to censor Christianity in the name of liberalism, is due out in May. Featuring former Sen. Fred Thompson and Fox News host Gretchen Carlson, the movie received a rapturous reception at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference on March 10 and is of a piece with other Christian films such as “God’s Not Dead,” about a freshman believer bullied into proving the existence of god by an atheist professor.

more

http://america.aljazeera.com/opinions/2014/3/christians-persecutioncomplex.html

Christie, Walker court Jewish Republican donors in Las Vegas

Two of the nation's highest-profile Republican governors on Saturday called for more aggressive leadership on America's challenges abroad, emphasizing their support for Israel as they courted powerful Jewish donors.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker also stoked speculation about their own presidential ambitions as they gave frustrated Republicans advice on how to reclaim the White House in 2016 after losing two straight elections.

The Republican speakers at the Republican Jewish Coalition's annual spring gathering largely avoided criticizing U.S. President Barack Obama by name in remarks that were thick with rhetoric faulting Obama's foreign policy while offering few specifics.

"We cannot have a world where our friends are unsure of whether we will be with them and our enemies are unsure of whether we will be against them," Christie said. "In New Jersey, nobody has to wonder whether I'm for them or against them."

more

http://www.haaretz.com/jewish-world/jewish-world-news/1.582782
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