Another dramatic rescue at sea – this time it’s an elephant

Following my post earlier today about the 10 people rescued from drowning off the coast of Florida, I came across a news report of another dramatic rescue yesterday, this time of a wild elephant. Elephants are good swimmers but one of them seemed to have been caught in a tide and dragged 8 km out to sea off the northeast coast of Sri Lanka. It was spotted desperately trying to keep its trunk above water in order to breathe.
[Read more…]

A miracle? No, an act of human courage and solidarity

Many of you would have heard or read about the incredible rescue of people who had been caught in a rip tide off the coast of Florida. Two young boys Noah and Stephen Ursrey were initially caught up by the tide and when other people became aware of their distress and tried to help them, they too got caught in the strong tide so that in the end 10 people were in danger of drowning. There was no lifeguard on duty.
[Read more…]

Why are these books worth so much?

I have written before of my puzzlement at the huge advances paid by publishers for books by politicians and celebrities because I could not see how these books could possibly be interesting enough to recoup in sales what the publishers seemed to expect. At least when it comes to politicians, there is a ready-made market of their own political parties and partisan groups that may buy these books in bulk as gifts to be given out to loyalists. And when it comes to celebrities in the arts and sports worlds, there does seem to be a fascination with what they are ‘really’ like, an appeal that completely eludes me.
[Read more…]

Another exciting episode of ‘Adventures With Ordinary People’ by David Brooks

In a recent column, David Brooks of the New York Times describes the structural barriers that have been created that separate the rich from the rest of us and prevent the poor from making progress. He starts out reasonably enough.

Upper-middle-class parents have the means to spend two to three times more time with their preschool children than less affluent parents. Since 1996, education expenditures among the affluent have increased by almost 300 percent, while education spending among every other group is basically flat.

The most important is residential zoning restrictions. Well-educated people tend to live in places like Portland, New York and San Francisco that have housing and construction rules that keep the poor and less educated away from places with good schools and good job opportunities.

[Read more…]

Sam Harris digs himself deeper

Ben Norton writes that Sam Harris, the self-styled ‘centrist liberal’, moves further and further into the warm embrace of the xenophobes.

In language eerily reminiscent of the rhetoric of the fascist far right, New Atheist pundit Sam Harris has called for reducing the number of Muslims in society, warning on the January episode of his popular podcast, “You can’t have too many Muslims in your culture if you want it to remain enlightened.”
[Read more…]

How far can this go?

I have not been writing that much about the administration of Donald Trump with its daily diet of outrageous and contradictory things that he and members of his administration say on the record (usually via Twitter), and the news reports based on leaks from anonymous sources within the administration about all the dubious activities that he and his family members and others have been engaged in. It seems to be better to wait for actual facts to emerge rather than try to follow the twists and turns of rumors and speculations.
[Read more…]

The case of the kidnapped and missing student

Perhaps because of my memories of being a new graduate student in the US, my attention was drawn to the strange and sad case of a Chinese student Yingying Zhang, who came to the US for graduate studies in April and disappeared soon after on June 9. What is puzzling is that footage from street security cameras show her waiting at a bus stop and then getting into a car that stopped for her. The car’s owner has since been identified as being until recently a promising physics graduate student and he has been taken into custody.
[Read more…]