Quick hits (part I)

1) How could I not love the NYT feature, “How to raise a reader.”  Alas, I wish my oldest was willing to read more novels and fewer Dungeons and Dragons guidebooks.  (At least he has good taste in blogs).

2) How the prosperity gospel (oh how I hate the prosperity gospel for being so obviously at odds with the real one) explains Evangelical support for Trump.

3) Meant to include last week.  Deborah Tannen on how absurd it is that Republicans were hanging on the fact that Trump said to Comey he “hopes” that Comey could let the Flynn investigation go.  When I say to my kids, “I hope you get off the computer and ready to go in five minutes” they know its an order.  Language is a lot more than just word choice.

4) I’ll be honest, the latest research is not encouraging for diet soda.

People who drink diet sodas daily have three times the risk of stroke and dementia compared to people who rarely drink them, researchers reported Thursday.

It’s yet another piece of evidence that diet drinks are not a healthy alternative to sugary drinks, and suggests that people need to limit both, doctors said…

The researchers accounted for age, sex, education, overall how many calories people ate, diet quality, physical activity, and smoking.

If I were not already a regular soda drinker, I would be wary of starting.  But as a very healthy (by every objective measure) diet soda drinker, I’m not stopping now.  Also, I still believe that used responsibly (i.e., not, “oh, I had Diet Coke, now I can have cake for dinner) diet soda is probably preferable to consuming all that sugar in regular soda.

5) Of course most new terrorist attacks show how utterly pointless Trump’s travel ban is.  That is, pointless except as xenophobic symbolism appealing to the Republican base.

6) Speaking of stupid Trump policies– undoing Obams’s Cuba policy is stupid, stupid, stupid.  And doing it in the name of human rights– just after his visit to Saudi Arabia– is extraordinarily dishonest.

7) Not every day I link to the Hindu Times, but the latest research on genetic immigration into the Indian sub-continent is really interesting:

The thorniest, most fought-over question in Indian history is slowly but surely getting answered: did Indo-European language speakers, who called themselves Aryans, stream into India sometime around 2,000 BC – 1,500 BC when the Indus Valley civilisation came to an end, bringing with them Sanskrit and a distinctive set of cultural practices? Genetic research based on an avalanche of new DNA evidence is making scientists around the world converge on an unambiguous answer: yes, they did.

This may come as a surprise to many — and a shock to some — because the dominant narrative in recent years has been that genetics research had thoroughly disproved the Aryan migration theory. This interpretation was always a bit of a stretch as anyone who read the nuanced scientific papers in the original knew. But now it has broken apart altogether under a flood of new data on Y-chromosomes (or chromosomes that are transmitted through the male parental line, from father to son).

Lines of descent

Until recently, only data on mtDNA (or matrilineal DNA, transmitted only from mother to daughter) were available and that seemed to suggest there was little external infusion into the Indian gene pool over the last 12,500 years or so. New Y-DNA data has turned that conclusion upside down, with strong evidence of external infusion of genes into the Indian male lineage during the period in question.

The reason for the difference in mtDNA and Y-DNA data is obvious in hindsight: there was strong sex bias in Bronze Age migrations. In other words, those who migrated were predominantly male and, therefore, those gene flows do not really show up in the mtDNA data. On the other hand, they do show up in the Y-DNA data: specifically, about 17.5% of Indian male lineage has been found to belong to haplogroup R1a (haplogroups identify a single line of descent), which is today spread across Central Asia, Europe and South Asia. Pontic-Caspian Steppe is seen as the region from where R1a spread both west and east, splitting into different sub-branches along the way.

8) I did not follow the case of the texting-encouraged suicide till I read about the verdict yesterday.  Technology aside, the case raises so many fascinating legal issues around responsibility, culpability and free will.

9) The Gif (always soft “g” to me!) is thirty years old and going strong.  Pretty cool history of the matter in Wired.

10) How Amazon purchasing Whole Foods may signal the end-of-the-line for an increasing number of cashiers.

11) Also led me to a link on a Neil Irwin story from last year on how Walmart paying it’s employees more has been good for business:

As an efficient, multinational selling machine, the company had a reputation for treating employee pay as a cost to be minimized.

But in early 2015, Walmart announced it would actually pay its workers more.

That set in motion the biggest test imaginable of a basic argument that has consumed ivory-tower economists, union-hall organizers and corporate executives for years on end: What if paying workers more, training them better and offering better opportunities for advancement can actually make a company more profitable, rather than less?

It is an idea that flies in the face of the prevailing ethos on Wall Street and in many executive suites the last few decades. But there is sound economic theory behind the idea. “Efficiency wages” is the term that economists — who excel at giving complex names to obvious ideas — use for the notion that employers who pay workers more than the going rate will get more loyal, harder-working, more productive employees in return. [emphasis mine]

12) It’s not inherently wrong for Megyn Kelly to interview Alex Jones, but as she’s actually done it– as Julia Belluz nicely argues– is all wrong:

Reporting on Jones makes sense; he has indeed gained prominence since the last election. But a serious sit-down interview was a poor choice of format for covering him. It’s extremely difficult to have a reasonable exchange with a person who regularly rants and spews nonsense, as Jones does. It’s like running a straight one-on-one with a climate change denialist or someone who refuses to accept the Holocaust happened.

Jones doesn’t live in reality, and Kelly’s interview risks validating him and disseminating his bullshit. It doesn’t leave space for context and debunking.

It also sends the message that in an era of “fake news” and a president who regularly attacks the media, hoaxers like Jones are worthy of an hour of primetime TV to share their ideas.

If Jones’s words didn’t have dangerous real-world consequences, it wouldn’t matter much that he’ll soon have this megaphone. But they do — from spurring people to violent action to undermining institutions such as the media, science, and government.

13) Did you know about the giant, lost, medieval-era city on the outskirts of St. Louis? Me neither.

14) Just to be clear, any parent who would yell at the lifeguard for telling their kid not to run at the pool is a horrible parent.

15) A very nice interview explaining what the hell is going on with Qatar.

16) The story of a Maine woman who was attacked by a rabid raccoon and drowned it in a puddle is pretty amazing.

17) Even if you are not a Duke basketball fan, you might enjoy the story of the man with Downs Syndrome (recently passed away) who was a fixture behind Coach K and the Duke bench for decades.

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About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

7 Responses to Quick hits (part I)

  1. R. Jenrette says:

    #4 Why not drink ice tea or ice coffee? If you must, add a teaspoon of sugar.
    Now, about fruit juice being healthy – not. A glass of fruit juice has the sugar content of all the fruits squeezed to make it. Not just of one individual fruit. And it has little if any of the fiber. And often it has sugar added.
    That’s why promoting fruit juice for babies and children probably accounts for the great appetite for sugary food.

    • Steve Greene says:

      Because I don’t like how they taste and I really like how Diet Dr Pepper tastes. And, I’m healthy. Try and have my kids stick with mostly milk and water.

  2. Mika says:

    #8 Apropos responsibility, culpability and free will, did you see this one?

  3. ohwilleke says:

    #7 This conclusion has been widely accepted outside of India for a long time but the evidence has just grown so overwhelming that no other conclusion is possible. The cutting edge is not to determine if this happened or not , but to ferret out the details.

  4. Jason says:

    I went to the Cahokia site last year! It’s… a little boring. But imagining its bustling past while there was fun. It’s discussed in 1491 by Charles Mann, which I could have sworn you had read.

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