Archive | March 22, 2014

Death in Transition

PIC: Claus Ableiter (CC)

PIC: Claus Ableiter (CC)

A few months ago, I wrote a short series titled Approaching Death as a way of exploring grief rituals for my upcoming book with Elliott and Thompson (DEATH’S SUMMER COAT). Regardless of where we live or who we are, we must make preparations for the end that awaits us all. Historically, this was a problem of space and health as well as grief and loss. While our ancestors had to bear the burden of sorrow for a missing friend just as we, they also had to deal with pressing practical concerns–such as, what do we do with the body? To leave it lying would attract pestilence; to burn it would use fuel, to bury it would require workable soil. And so, in each culture, burial differs due to climate and geography as well as spiritual practice and cultural assimilation. As part of a series on the Daily Dose, I provide a brief look at death-in-transition–something that many cultures, from Borneo to India to Egypt have in common.… Read the rest

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Meet Bangkok’s ‘Mexican’ Gangsters

From Coconuts TV comes this look into the lifestyles of Bangkok’s self-described “Mexican gangsters.” The young men say that they picked up the style from YouTube videos, and have now formed their own gang. The members that they interview seem more like cosplayers than hardcore gangbangers to me: “During the day I work in an office. At night I’m a Mexican gangster” sounds pretty similar to “By day I’m Katie the customer service rep. At night I’m a steampunk princess!”

I’m not hatin’, though. Glad these guys are having fun. Wonder what real gangstas think of their Thai admirers?

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Federal Reserve President: ‘QE Was A Massive Gift Intended To Boost Wealth’

So sayeth Richard W. Fisher, President and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, according to Tyler Durnden writing at Zero Hedge:

With Bernanke gone, the remaining Fed members knowing full well they will be crucified, metaphorically of course (if not literally) when it all inevitably comes crashing down, are finally at liberty with their words… and the truth is bleeding out courtesy of the president of the Dallas Fed, via Bloomberg.

FISHER SAYS QE WAS A MASSIVE GIFT INTENDED TO BOOST WEALTH
Which incidentally coincides with Bernanke’s heartfelt “admission” that “my natural inclinations, even if it weren’t for the legal mandate, would be to try to help the average person.” As long as helped to boost the wealth of the non-average billionaire., all is forgiven. “The result was there are still many people after the crisis who still feel that it was unfair that some companies got helped and small banks and small business and average families didn’t get direct help,” Bernanke said.

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Alex & Allyson Grey Break the Set on Psychedelics, Transcendentalism and Visionary Art

Abby Martin speaks with Alex & Allyson Grey, the most prolific psychedelic artists in the world, discussing the role of transcendentalism, spirituality and entheogenic drugs have played in their art and personal lives, as well as their work on the Chapel of Sacred Mirrors.

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The Fiefdom Will Soon Be Complete: Wall Street Buying Up Farmland

PIC: LOC (PD)

PIC: LOC (PD)

Not merely satisfied with purchasing our foreclosed homes en masse and charging us to rent them back (thanks to a crisis they created), Wall Street has set their sights on America’s fertile soils. Sing it with me! This land is their land, this land is their land…

Via Tom Philpott at Mother Jones:

In a couple of posts last fall, I showed that corporations don’t do much actual farming in the United States. True, agrichemical companies like Monsanto and Syngenta mint fortunes by selling seeds and chemicals to farmers, and grain processors like Archer Daniels Midland and Cargill reap billions from buying crops cheap and turning them into pricey stuff like livestock feed, sweetener, cooking oil, and ethanol. But the great bulk of US farms—enterprises that generally have razor-thin profit margins—are run by independent operators.

That may be on the verge of changing. A recent report by the Oakland Institute documents a fledgling, little-studied trend: Corporations are starting to buy up US farmland, especially in areas dominated by industrial-scale agriculture, like Iowa and California’s Central Valley.

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Inside the NSA’s Secret Efforts to Hunt and Hack System Administrators

Leaked documents taken from one of the NSA’s internal message boards lay out how they go about targeting and taking down System I-hunt-sys-adminsAdministrators.

Via The Intercept:

Across the world, people who work as system administrators keep computer networks in order – and this has turned them into unwitting targets of the National  SecurityAgency for simply doing their jobs. According to a secret document provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, the agency tracks down the private email and Facebook accounts of system administrators (or sys admins, as they are often called), before hacking their computers to gain access to the networks they control.

The document consists of several posts – one of them is titled “I hunt sys admins” – that were published in 2012 on an internal discussion board hosted on the agency’s classified servers. They were written by an NSA official involved in the agency’s effort to break into foreign network routers, the devices that connect computer networks and transport data across the Internet.

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Let’s End Unboxing Videos

One of the oddest manifestations of the Cult of Conspicuous Consumption are “unboxing” videos. Just search “unboxing” and you’ll find tons of YouTubers documenting every stage of unpacking a newly purchased product (even incredibly banal ones) as if it were a rare and delicate archaeological artifact, and often with the same breathless exuberance such a discovery might elicit. I don’t hate them, though. I’ve watched a few, and I think that they appeal to the curious, always foraging monkey brain that’s still lurking under all of that fancy-pants upjiggered human temporal cortex.

In any case, I think that this guy nailed the worst attributes of unboxing videos. Funny stuff.

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What Americans Spend on Illegal Drugs

Number of Chronic Users of Cocaine, Heroin, and Meth (based on NSDUH) (RAND/ONDCP)

Number of Chronic Users of Cocaine, Heroin, and Meth (based on NSDUH) (RAND/ONDCP)

The RAND Corporation has prepared a facts and figures filled report for the White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) entitled “What America’s Users Spend on Illegal Drugs: 2000-2010.” Make of it what you will (RAND and ONDCP aren’t exactly the most trusted institutions), but there’s plenty of interesting and thought-provoking information. You can find a PDF with the entire report here; this excerpt is from the executive summary:

A sense of scale is a prerequisite to thinking sensibly about illicit drug markets. For example, knowing whether a country consumes tens, hundreds, or thousands of metric tons (MTs) of a prohibited substance is critical for understanding the impact of a three-MT seizure at a border crossing. But decisionmakers need more than a sense of scale; they also need figures with enough precision to be able to determine whether the markets have become larger or smaller over time.

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