Quick hits (part I)

1) Al Qaeda has taken to funding its activities by kidnapping Westerners and holding them for ransom rather than just killing them.  It’s quite lucrative.  The US and British governments do not pay ransom.  That does actually seem to lead to less kidnappings, but if you are kidnapped– not pretty.  Excellent NYT story and excellent Fresh Air interview.

2) The idea that the NFL comes down so heavily on marijuana use is just absurd and stupid.  Some good questions from the recent case of Josh Gordon:

But once you look at the details of the case, the questions get bigger than whether a wide receiver smoked weed. For instance: Why does this sport need to test people using a standard along the same lines as the U.S. military’s? Why is Josh Gordon treated like a paroled criminal for his entire career after testing positive twice? Do they really test him 10 times a month? Does it make sense to treat marijuana users the same way we treat PED users? Is there anyone at the NFL who saw the positive test and thought it might be too inconclusive to publicly ban a star player for an entire year? Does it make sense for the NFL to be testing players for marijuana at all? What does the league gain from prosecuting people like this?

3) Speaking of the devil weed, USA today tries to make it look much scarier than heroin.  As you know, it’s not.  Great example of how to lie with statistics.  Good catch in Vox.

4) Fish are way smarter than we give them credit for and they certainly feel pain.  Surely some of the beliefs to the contrary help us deal with the barbaric ways in which we treat ocean creatures.

5) The economics of surfing are good for Africa.  Time for a surfin’ safari, DJC and JCD.

6) My friend Leah Friedman used to write for the N&O.  Budget cuts cost her her job, but now she’s kicking butt as an organizer.  And offering helpful tips.

7) Nice editorial from the Charlotte Observer on all the craziness the Republicans in Raleigh brought us this term.

8) South Korea gets good results from its students on international comparison tests, but absolutely crushes their souls to get there.  It’s horrible.  Nice piece in the NYT magazine (my best player on the Blasters is here because his MD/PhD parents left Korea to give their sons the decent childhood that they were denied).

9) Making choices is tough.

10) The NYT is finally calling all the post 9/11 torture conducted by the US government, “torture.”  Bout time, to say the least.

11) Love this Vox video on the movement of the US population as visualized through the changing population center of the US.

12) This Foot Locker ad is pretty awesome.  (and clearly shows evidence of benign violation).

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