Keremeos Highway, 1951.

In 1951, the Children of Light commune of British Columbia believed the end was near, but the group lived to a ripe old age. In the aforementioned year, several dozen members of the sect boarded themselves up in a Keremeos farmhouse and awaited doomsday. It never arrived. They soon left town and eventually relocated in Arizona. Two stories follow: One from the 1951 Brooklyn Daily Eagle about the “end of the world” and a coda four decades later from the 1995 Los Angeles Times.


From the January 6, 1951 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

Keremeos, B.C. — Thirty-five members on an unorthodox religious sect barricaded 11 days in a five-room farmhouse waited today for the end of the world in two more days.

The sect has been in cramped, self-imposed exile near here under the leadership of a gaunt, 60-year-old farm woman, Mrs. Agnes Carlson, since the day after Christmas.

The ‘Children of Light’ sealed themselves off from the outside world to await what they predict will be ‘doomsday’ on Jan. 8.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police, worried about sanitary conditions in the barricaded house because of overcrowding, have kept a close watch outside.

The only person known to have left the house since the group went into seclusion ‘to await the end of the world’ was a widow who walked out after the group asked her to surrender her wedding ring, police said.”


From the 1995 Los Angeles Times:

“The story of how they traveled from a Pentecostal church in tiny Keremeos, B.C., in 1951 to this isolated patch of southwestern Arizona desert, a 100-mile drive from Phoenix, is proof that they are God’s chosen, members say.

Prompted by a divine vision, a Pentecostal preacher and former businesswoman led about 40 followers out of Keremeos and on a journey throughout Canada and the United States. They preached at churches and communes about the apocalypse and the importance of repentance.

The group picked up and lost people along the way. They found a destination when the words ‘Agua Caliente’ appeared in fire-like letters in the sky to Elect Gold, the preacher.

Evidence that God was with them continued, in a donation that helped them buy the land in 1965, in a desert dotted by brush and surrounded by rocky foothills near Gila Bend.

Further proof, they say, is in the water source they found on the property, the date palm orchards and the thriving gardens of beets, carrots, cabbages and pomegranates.

The Children do nothing to recruit new members, although over the years a number of travelers have temporarily lived at the commune.

With Elect Gold said to be nearly 100 years old and bedridden by illness, Elect Star has assumed the role as leader of the sect.

They welcome occasional visitors. On a recent afternoon, three retired couples from the Midwest who drove four miles off a paved road to reach the commune were given a tour by Elect Joel, an 85-year-old former honky-tonk musician from Indiana.

Later, Elect Joel entertained the guests by playing ‘Sweet Georgia Brown’ on the living room piano. Another member of the sect handed out bowls of homemade date and banana ice cream.

‘I think the sun will stop shining before this fades out,’ Elect Philip said. ‘We may look a little worn out, but God still has work left for us to do.'”

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If memory serves, at the conclusion of the 2011 documentary Page One: Inside the New York Times, the young Media Desk reporter Tim Arango was off to Iraq to run the publication’s Baghdad bureau, which then seemed a sleepy-town beat. It awoke like a rough beast with ISIS, sadly, and Arango has done an insightful Ask Me Anything at Reddit about his experiences in the country we destabilized for no good reason. A few exchanges.



Do you think our influence in Iraq with the Iraq War was negative?

Tim Arango:

Yes, there is no other way to see it. Everything that is occurring in Iraq today is related the American legacy there. The forerunner of ISIS was created to oppose the American occupation, and many of its leaders were in American detention facilities in Iraq. On the other side of the ledger, as it pertains to Iraqi politics, you see the American legacy. The U.S. basically chose Maliki, whose sectarian politics alienated many Sunnis, creating the fertile ground for ISIS to sweep in to these areas. And many of those Maliki policies that have pushed aside the Sunnis were started by the Americans. Excluding Sunnis from political life? that has its origins in the American De-Baathification policy. Maliki’s security policy of conducting mass arrests of Sunni men in the name of fighting terrorism? the U.S. did that too. So at every turn in the Iraq story now you see the American legacy at play.



As a reporter, do you think your safety in Iraq or how you cover the country has changed since 2010?

Tim Arango:

It has changed a great deal. When I first arrived in 2010 the entire country was open to me. I could – and did – go to falluja for lunch, on a whim. Now most of the country is off limits. We can be in Baghdad, the south and the kurdish region in the north. Just about everything else is a no-go.



Do you believe that there’s anything in particular about the muslim religion that drives people towards violence? I’m not saying it’s a toxic religion, or that religion can somehow turn people into terrorists, but why do you think it’s more common, nowadays, for terrorists to be somehow affiliated to muslim faiths, and not other religions?

Tim Arango:

No. Every religion has its extremists. Nearly every Iraqi I have ever met has been welcoming and hospitable to me, they are appalled by what is happening in their country.



What will it actually take to restore Iraq to a suitable state again? It seems so far down the tunnel now!

Tim Arango:

That is going to be a long project. it’s going to take peace in syria, and within iraq the first step is for sunnis to push out ISIS from their communities. But more importantly, Iraq, if it is ever to achieve peace and prosperity, will need a serious reconciliation effort. There may be no more traumatized society in the world than Iraq, and it goes back decades. Iraqis will need to learn to forgive one another for the past if they are ever to move on.•


Speaking of autonomous vehicles, GM is aiming for 2017 to have leading-edge semi-autonomous function. From Jerry Hirsch at the Los Angeles Times:

“GM is to offer what it is calling ‘Super Cruise’ in a new Cadillac model that [GM’s chief executive Mary] Barra didn’t name.

The system will allow drivers to switch the vehicle into a semi-automated mode in which it will automatically keep the car in its lane, making necessary steering adjustments, and autonomously trigger braking and speed control to maintain a safe distance from other vehicles.

‘With Super Cruise, when there’s a congestion alert on roads like California’s Santa Monica Freeway, you can let the car take over and drive hands-free and feet-free through the worst stop-and-go traffic around,’ Barra said. ‘And if the mood strikes you on the high-speed road from Barstow, California to Las Vegas, you can take a break from the wheel and pedals and let the car do the work.'”

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Fully autonomous cars may be further up the road, but smart, connected cars are something we could do right now if common standards were achieved and infrastructure updated. Some of the benefits from the Economist:

“Some parts of the transformation are already in place. Many new cars are already being fitted with equipment that lets them maintain their distance and stay in a motorway lane automatically at a range of speeds, and recognise a parking space and slot into it. They are also getting mobile-telecoms connections: soon, all new cars in Europe will have to be able to alert the emergency services if their on-board sensors detect a crash. Singapore has led the way with using variable tolls to smooth traffic flows during rush-hours; Britain is pioneering ‘smart motorways,’ whose speed limits vary constantly to achieve a similar effect. Combined, these innovations could create a much more efficient system in which cars and their drivers are constantly alerted to hazards and routed around blockages, traffic always flows at the optimum speed and vehicles can join up into ‘platoons’ on the motorways, travelling closer together, yet with less risk of crashing. …

If cars are to connect, new infrastructure will have to be built. Roads and parking spaces will need sensors to monitor them; motorways will need dedicated lanes for platooning. But this will not necessarily be expensive. Upgrading traffic signals so they can be controlled remotely by a central traffic-management system is a lot cheaper than building new roads.”

From a blog post about longevity by Peter Diamandis, one of the true believers behind Singularity University, who thinks humans may soon outlive all their troubles–or at least their old ones:

“One of the companies I co-founded earlier this year Human Longevity Inc. (HLI), is working on increasing the healthy, active human lifespan even further.

Our goal is to make 100 years old the ‘new 60.’

Imagine being able to maintain esthetics, mobility and cognition for an extra 40 years. I co-founded HLI along with Dr. Craig Venter (the first person to sequence the human genome and create the first synthetic life form) and Bob Hariri, MD/Ph.D, one of the world’s leading pioneers in stem cells.

What decisions would you make differently today if you knew you would most likely live to be 150? How would you think about your 50s, or 60s? How would you evaluate your career arcs, or investments, or even the area in which you live?”


You can’t currently bring the water to L.A. or you bring L.A. to the water, as Jake Gittes was told. The severe California drought has transformed the city’s ubiquitous swimming pools from oases into threats. From Rory Carroll in the Guardian:

“Some cities have turned off fountains and rationed water until – unless – rains come. California has given local agencies the authority to fine those who waste water up to $500 a day. Environmentalists are depicting green lawns – another symbol of the middle-class dream – as reckless.

Against that backdrop, private swimming pools can appear indulgent, if not selfish. The average uncovered pool in LA loses about 20,000 gallons to evaporation per year.

Those with leaks can lose an additional 700 gallons daily, according to [UC Santa Barbara media studies professor Dick] Hebdige. His essay for the 2012 Backyard Oasis exhibition on southern Californian pools was entitled, ‘HOLE … swimming … floating … sinking … drowning.’

Christopher Hawthorne, the Los Angeles Times architecture critic, said private pools represented a bold 20th-century effort to cleave the metropolis from the natural world, specifically the Pacific.

‘Increasingly that brashness looks misplaced or antique; instead we seem at the mercy of forces beyond our control when it comes to water,’ he noted last month. ‘The swimming pool – like the surface parking lot, the freeway, the lawn and the single-family house – is rapidly fading as a symbolic and cultural marker of Los Angeles.’

As you descend into LA, arguably the second most striking thing about the city – after the endless, concrete vastness – is the number of turquoise pools. Big and small, rectangular and square, round and oval, thousands glint in the sun.

There are an estimated 1.1m pools in California.”

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Andrew Carnegie was among the wealthy philanthropists who funded public libraries in America so that learning wasn’t limited to just the school day. He got no arguments, of course. Bill Gates, who wants to change curriculum, has unsurprisingly had a bumpier ride. A champion of Common Core and the force behind the multidisciplinary Big History courses designed by Australian educator David Christian, Gates and his good intentions have raised the question of whether a billionaire’s influence should have a seat in the classroom itself. While I would have personally loved taking Big History in high school, the issue is a real one. From Andrew Ross Sorkin of the New York Times:

“Beginning with the Carnegies and the Rockefellers, billionaires have long seen the nation’s education as a willing cause for their philanthropy — and, with it, their own ideas about how students should learn. The latest crop of billionaires, however, has tended to take the line that fixing our broken educational system is the key to unlocking our stagnant economy. Whether it’s hedge-fund managers like Paul Tudor Jones (who has given tens of millions to support charter schools) or industrialists like Eli Broad (who has backed ‘blended learning’ programs that feature enhanced technology), these philanthropists have generally espoused the idea that education should operate more like a business. (The Walton Foundation, backed by the family that founded Walmart, has taken this idea to new heights: It has spent more than $1 billion supporting various charter schools and voucher programs that seek to establish alternatives to the current public-school system.) Often these patrons want to restructure the system to make it more efficient, utilizing the latest technology and management philosophies to turn out a new generation of employable students.

For many teachers, [American Federation of Teachers President Randi] Weingarten explained, this outside influence has become off-putting, if not downright scary. ‘We have a really polarized environment in terms of education, which we didn’t have 10 years ago,’ she said. ‘Public education was a bipartisan or multipartisan enterprise — it didn’t matter if you were a Republican or Democrat or elite or not elite. People viewed public education as an anchor of democracy and a propeller of the economy in the country.’ Now, she said, ‘there are people that have been far away from classrooms who have an outsize influence on what happens inside classrooms. Beforehand, the philanthropies were viewed as one of many voices in education. Now they are viewed — and the market reformers and the tech folks — as the dominant forces, and as dissonant to those who work in schools every day. She took a deep breath and softened her tone: ‘In some ways, I give Bill Gates huge credit. Bill Gates took a risk to get engaged. The fact that he was willing to step up and say, ‘Public education is important,’ is very different than foundations like the Walton Foundation, who basically try to undermine public education at every opportunity.’

Gates appears to have been chastened by his experience with the A.F.T. When he speaks about his broader educational initiatives, he is careful to mention that the change he supports comes from the teachers, too. ‘When Melinda and I go on the road and talk to teachers, it’s just so clear there is a real hunger for this,’ he said. ‘If you can take a teacher and give him or her the help to become a great teacher, everyone benefits: the kids, the teacher, the community, the unions. Everyone.’

Gates resists any suggestion that Big History is some sort of curio or vanity project. But some of this earlier antipathy has raised skepticism about his support of the Big History Project. ‘I just finished reading William Easterly’s The Tyranny of Experts,’ says Scott L. Thomas, dean of the School of Educational Studies at Claremont Graduate University in California. ‘It’s about philanthropists and their effect on the poor globally. It’s this exact idea that here you have this ‘expert’ in the middle’ — that is, Gates — ‘enabling the pursuit of this project. And frankly, in the eyes of the critics, he’s really not an expert. He just happens to be a guy that watched a DVD and thought it was a good idea and had a bunch of money to fund it.'”


Louis C.K. hating on Common Core:

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The Woodlands, a master-planned suburb of Houston established in 1974, was the bleeding edge of quantified smart homes, as each unit was wired and connected.

BEDBUGS FOR MALICE – $30 (Bedstuy Bushwick)

Hi! New York can be a pretty difficult place to live! As they say, if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere!

I’ve lived here almost a full calendar year, and have found that it’s super difficult to keep positive. There are so many things trying to keep you down – the subway track work, craigslist roommate scams, reappearing enemies from college, ex girlfriends finding out your account info…That said, I recently moved into a room that happens to be infested with bedbugs. Luckily for me, I’m not allergic, and barely notice them. My girlfriend, however, is blaming me for HER infestation, even though it’s totally NOT. MY. FAULT. I really didn’t know we had them, and by the time we found it, it was too late. She broke up with me. Unfortunately she was also my boss, so I need to find a new job.

So, I’m trying to make my challenges and hardships work FOR me instead of AGAINST me. I need some extra ca$h, and if I can help-a-bruthah out while I’m doin it, the more the merrier!

I’m aware that it’s impossible to live in this city without fucking someone over. So, I am selling my bedbugs and bedbug eggs for people to use against people. You can let it roam in their bag, their home, etc etc. I am simply selling bedbugs, how you use them is your business.

I will package them up so that they both a) live and b) stay in their container.

Tesla has quickly built the kind of brand loyalty that even out-grades Apple at the height of Steve Jobs’ second go around as guru-in-chief. Why? An explanation of the emotional pull of Elon Musk’s EVs, from Tamara Rutter at USA Today:

“Another way that psychologists explain brand loyalty is through emotional connection. All of the most recognizable brands today have one thing in common: They make an emotional connection with consumers. One of the easiest ways for a brand to do this is by standing for something. In fact, a study by marketing research firm CEB found that rather than being loyal to a company per se, people are loyal to what that company represents.

Tesla wins major points in this regard because it is passionately dedicated to promoting mass adoption of electric vehicles in hopes of one day solving our planet’s energy problem. People feel good about driving a Tesla because they no longer need to buy gas, and as a bonus, they’re helping the planet in the process.

Many Tesla drivers have launched meet-ups or social gatherings for fellow owners and enthusiasts to connect with one another. There are also dozens of meet-up groups around the world for electric-car enthusiasts in general. The important takeaway here is that creating sustainable energy solutions is an increasingly important cause today, one to which millions of people are committed.”

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No matter how many more stories Margaret Atwood writes in her life, the one she is currently working on will be her last, in a sense. The last one read for the first time, anyhow. The author’s current work will be buried in a time capsule for 100 years as part of a deep-future project which runs counter to our insta-culture. From Alison Flood at the Guardian:

“Depending on perspective, it is an author’s dream – or nightmare:Margaret Atwood will never know what readers think of the piece of fictions he is currently working on, because the unpublished, unread manuscript from the Man Booker prize-winning novelist will be locked away for the next 100 years.

Atwood has just been named as the first contributor to an astonishing new public artwork. The Future Library project, conceived by the award-winning young Scottish artist Katie Paterson, began, quietly, this summer, with the planting of a forest of 1,000 trees in Nordmarka, just outside Oslo. It will slowly unfold over the next century. Every year until 2114, one writer will be invited to contribute a new text to the collection, and in 2114, the trees will be cut down to provide the paper for the texts to be printed – and, finally, read.

‘It is the kind of thing you either immediately say yes or no to. You don’t think about it for very long,’ said Atwood, speaking from Copenhagen. ‘I think it goes right back to that phase of our childhood when we used to bury little things in the backyard, hoping that someone would dig them up, long in the future, and say, ‘How interesting, this rusty old piece of tin, this little sack of marbles is. I wonder who put it there?'”

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From the July 26, 1910 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

Canton, O. — Because they wanted to be ‘bad men’ and also needed to treat their sweethearts, John Warner and Ray Metcalf, each 11 years old, committed 600 burglaries. They were arrested here yesterday and after confessing to their misdeeds led the police to a disused coal cellar where they had cached the major part of their plunder.

A diamond ring was recovered which they had sold for 20 cents, and a gold watch had been disposed of for 15 cents.

Their operations extended from East Liverpool to Lorain, and according to their confessions, borne out by police reports, in one day they entered as many as seventy-five houses.”

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In John Reed’s Financial Times piece about the Israeli historian Yuval Noah Harari, who’s written Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, the scholar essentially argues that our species won out over Neanderthals because we were better at narrative, that double-edged sword. An excerpt:

“The book is, at its heart, an extended thesis about what has made humans such a successful species. In Harari’s view, at the dawn of history homo sapiens shared, along with Neanderthals and other early humans, some winning attributes – a big brain, the ability to walk upright – but they sat somewhere in the middle of the food chain, and were no shoo-in to become masters of the world.

What allowed humans to become history’s most successful species, he argues, was our ability to construct and unify small groups behind certain ‘fictions’ – everything from national legends and organised religion to modern value systems like human rights, and the modern limited liability company with thousands of employees and vast credit lines at its command.

Any band of Neanderthals, Harari suggests, can raise a few dozen people for a hunt but humans can tell the stories needed to ensure co-operation in groups of 150 or more – numbers large enough to organise mass hunting using prepared traps, raise modern armies, or subdue the natural world.

Also woven into this theory of humankind are his own convictions about eating meat. Sapiens devotes large sections to unsparing accounts of the domestication and factory farming of cows, pigs and chickens. This, he contends, has made them some of the most genetically ‘successful’ creatures in history but the most miserable too.”


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From James Camp’s Guardian grab bag of notes about a Werner Herzog appearance in Brooklyn:

“To his audience at the opera house, he described film-making as a ‘pilgrimage.’ In person, as on screen or page, he is off the wall and over the top and beyond the pale. He is a pilgrim on his way to a place that is really an idea: too far.

‘Ski-jumping,’ Herzog said. ‘It was the fever dream of my adolescence.’

He played clips of airborne jumpers in slow motion and commanded Brooklyn to scrutinise their faces.

Their lips rippled in alpine winds.

Herzog said: ‘The ecstasy of solitude!’

Holdengräber reminded him of the dictum, attributed to Blaise Pascal, that opens Lessons of Darkness, Herzog’s 1992 documentary: ‘The collapse of the stellar universe will occur – like creation – in grandiose splendour.’

Herzog repeated it. He said, ‘Actually, Pascal didn’t write that. I wrote that.’

Holdengräber said: ‘But it sounds so very like Pascal.’

‘Pascal should have written it,’ Herzog said, of the 17th-century philosopher. ‘That’s why I signed his name.'”


Herzog’s original German-language 1974 profile of ski-jumper Walter Steiner:

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  • Man Allegedly Admits To Putting Semen In Co-Worker’s Coffee
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  • Father Of 34 Children Explains Why He Didn’t Get A Vasectomy
  • Penis = $$$
  • Teen Marries Dog To Ward Off Curse
  • Day Care Workers Fired After Encouraging Toddlers To Fight (VIDEO)
  • MURDER MOST FOWL! Police Chief Decapitates Boy’s Pet Chicken
  • Man Helps Elderly Woman Rescue Cats, Then Stabs Her To Death: Cops
  • Man Charged With Baking Friend’s Dog To Death In Oven
  • Nope, Betty White Is Not Dead


10 search-engine keyphrases bringing traffic to Afflictor this week:

  1. thomas mann interview in the new york times 1955
  2. british taxi driver george king who went to mars
  3. joan didion writing about newt gingrich
  4. why did egypt become the cradle of civilization?
  5. p.w. singer on cyberwar
  6. steve jobs on computers in the classroom
  7. footage of earthworm robots
  8. tv appearances by gloria swanson in her later years
  9. helen gurley brown interview
  10. manfred clynes who coined the term cyborg
As sad as it was that Joan Rivers passed away this week, perhaps it's best she didn't revive. After not getting any oxygen to her brain for five or ten minutes, she likely would have been a...

As sad as it is that Joan Rivers passed away this week, perhaps it’s best she didn’t revive. After not getting any oxygen to her brain for several minutes, she likely would have been little more than a…


  • Watson has moved from providing known answers to the unknown.
  • We probably need to redefine the meaning of “job.”
  • Globalization has caused income inequality to rise within nations.
  • Chuck Todd isn’t sure that President Obama is emotionally disengaged.
  • Štefan Klein has designed an honest-to-goodness flying car.
  • Peter Thiel thinks we’ve lost our edge technologically.
  • A brief note from 1911 about a bad meal.

Even viruses leave digital trails in this wired world, so the Ebola outbreak is being tracked, in part, by the sorting and sifting of online data. It’s epidemiology via e-waste. From Simon Engler at Foreign Policy:

“Patrick Sawyer, Nigeria’s first Ebola patient, collapsed at the international airport in Lagos on July 20. This Wednesday, more than six weeks later, the World Health Organization (WHO) said that it was monitoring at least 200 Nigerians for infection related to Sawyer’s case. Sawyer, a Liberian-American who had traveled from Monrovia, had carried the often-fatal disease to Africa’s most populous country, hundreds of miles from its origin. It was as if he had slipped through a crowd.

Fortunately for the people of Nigeria, crowds leave traces, even when the individuals within them disappear. As Ebola spreads, some epidemiologists are beginning to analyze those traces to guess where outbreaks might occur. They’re not only gathering data from diseased neighborhoods and hospitals. They’re also using sources like flight data, Twitter mentions, and cellphone location services to track the disease from afar. Researchers, in short, are sifting through the detritus of mobile lives to map the spread of an unprecedented outbreak.

Some of the results have been surprising in their accuracy.”

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I didn’t need Slavoj Žižek’s New York Times op-ed to tell me that ISIS isn’t a group of commendable anti-colonialism freedom fighters but just a band of gutter-level losers–thanks for the 411, Doctor IQ–but the theorist does make a good point about the fugazi fundamentalism of the Rolex-wearing, new-media savvy savages. These beheaders aren’t emblematic of the roughly 1.5 billion Muslims who are peaceful, productive people all over the world, but are instead a perverted pastiche of the present and the past. From Zizek:

“The well-known photo of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the ISIS leader, with an exquisite Swiss watch on his arm, is here emblematic: ISIS is well organized in web propaganda as well as financial dealings, although these ultra-modern practices are used to propagate and enforce an ideologico-political vision that is not so much conservative as a desperate move to fix clear hierarchic delimitations. However, we should not forget that even this image of a strictly disciplined and regulated fundamentalist organization is not without its ambiguities: is religious oppression not (more than) supplemented by the way local ISIS military units seem to function? While the official ISIS ideology rails against Western permissiveness, the daily practice of the ISIS gangs includes full-scale grotesque orgies, including robberies, gang rapes, torture and murder of infidels.”


Here, you babies, here’s your blessed flying car that you don’t even need! Štefan Klein has created the much-buzzed-about Aeromobil 2.5, with the autopilot version promised for next year. Soon you won’t have to drive or fly, and you’ll have more time to download hacked photos of nude celebrities, because their nipples are superior. From Jeremy Kingsley at Wired UK:

“Flying cars haven’t taken off yet, but there’s a good reason, says Slovakian designer Štefan Klein: good cars would make bad planes, and vice versa. Cars need to be wide and heavy, planes narrow and light. Klein, who is the cofounder and chief designer at Aeromobil which makes a Slovakian flying car, claims his creation is as roadworthy as it is airworthy. ‘It’s its own category,’ he says.

Weighing just 450kg and powered by a 100hp, light-aircraft-standard Rotax 912 engine, the Aeromobil 2.5 (above) reaches 160kph on the ground. Press the ‘transform’ button and a rear-mounted propeller fires up, the wings fold out to span 8.2m, and in under 200m of grass runway, the plane takes off at 130kph. A single engine — one of the vehicle’s patented components — powers both driving and flying. Other patents include the lightweight wings and a steering wheel that’s the same for both modes. ‘We are trying to invent parts that don’t already exist,’ Klein says.

He started thinking about flying cars 25 years ago in his native Bratislava, in then Czechoslovakia before the Velvet Revolution — a flying car could escape to western Europe.”

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The excellent opening of Alan Feuer’s New York Times article about the twisty, seven-year investigation that brought down the eye-popping operation of the largest pot dealer in the history of New York City, Jimmy Cournoyer, the Tony Montana of marijuana:

“One day in January 2007, the disgruntled ex-girlfriend of a Queens pot dealer walked unprompted into the district office of the Drug Enforcement Administration on Long Island. Sitting down with an agent, she bitterly gave vent: Her former boyfriend, the father of her child, was selling weed.

As a rule, the drug agency isn’t in the business of settling romantic scores, but the woman, who had shown up with her child in tow, was adamant that her onetime lover was a major player in the city’s wholesale marijuana trade. A group of federal agents started looking into the man.

What began that day with a woman scorned unfolded over the next seven years into an investigation that went beyond the wildest imaginings of the agents assigned to it, an elaborate case that led to the discovery, and subsequent arrest, of a surprising quarry: an international criminal who is now described as the biggest marijuana dealer in New York City history.

That man, a French Canadian playboy named Jimmy Cournoyer, spent almost a decade selling high-grade marijuana in the city, trafficking the drug through a sprawling operation that moved from fields and factories in western Canada, through staging plants in suburban Montreal, across the United States border at an Indian reservation and finally south to a network of distributors in New York. Along the way, Mr. Cournoyer, a martial-arts enthusiast with a taste for fast cars, oversaw an unlikely ensemble of underlings, a company of criminals that came to include Native American smugglers, Hells Angels, Mexican money launderers, a clothier turned cocaine dealer in Southern California and a preppy, Polo-wearing Staten Island gangster.”

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Chuck Todd, who grows irate, just did an Ask Me Anything at Reddit in advance of taking over Meet the Press. One exchange about the perception that President Obama has become emotionally disengaged:


Do you think the President has emotionally checked out of the White House already? Any chance you will ask him about his seemingly lackluster attitude lately and press him on how his personal struggles may negatively shape our Country’s future during such challenging times?

Chuck Todd:

I’ve heard this from a lot of Obama observers, not just from folks who don’t know him, but from folks who think they DO know him. That said, sometimes when the news is as horrid as it is right now, with his polls in the tank… folks end up assuming that all of this is impacting him more than maybe it is. Perhaps if we were in his shoes, we’d feel depressed or lackluster so we assume he must too… I always am leery of trying too hard to put a politician on the couch. But you aren’t alone in thinking this.”

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Predictive sentencing (likely unconstitutional) is already a reality in America, as is predictive policing. Right now the anti-crime efforts focus on algorithms crunching numbers, but in the longer run brain imaging and genetic testing could be used to identify the potentially hyperviolent or criminal, which, of course, sounds more troubling than lawlessness itself. From Henrick Karoliszyn at Aeon:

“These early predictive systems are only the start. In years to come, many legal experts speculate, brain scans and DNA analysis could help to identify potential criminals at the young age of three. Some evidence for the approach came in 2009 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences: researchers from the US and the UK tested 78 male subjects for different forms of the so-called ‘warrior gene’, which codes for the enzyme monoamine oxidase A (MAOA), a gene that breaks down crucial neurotransmitters in the brain. One version of MAOA works efficiently; but another version breaks down brain chemicals only sluggishly, and has long been linked to aggression in observational and survey-based studies. Some researchers held that, in war-prone societies, up to two-thirds of individuals had the low-activity gene – versus the more typical percentage of just one-third, found in the more peaceful nations of the world.

To see if this controversial hypothesis held up in the lab, researchers asked the same 78 subjects to take a second test. They were to hurt individuals they believed had stolen money from them by ordering varying amounts of painful hot sauce in their food. (In reality, the ‘thief’ was a computer, so no person was actually hurt.) The findings yielded the first empirical proof that those with the low-activity form of the gene – the warriors among us – did indeed dish out more pain.

These findings soon found their way into criminal court: in 2009, at a trial in Tennessee, the defendant Bradley Waldroup was accused of killing his wife’s friend – by shooting her eight times and slicing her head open – and then slicing his wife again and again with a machete. Yet despite the glaring evidence, he avoided a first-degree murder conviction based in part on the warrior gene defence. He had it.”

Jim Bakker’s prayers are answered less often now. A far cry from a world of theme parks and network-level TV production values, the minister, who never fully got up after falling from grace, today resides 30 miles from Branson, Missouri, hosting low-rent religious shows in a hotel theater, in which he hawks freeze-dried food and survival gear at trumped-up prices to Christians awaiting the apocalypse. At 74, he’s a preacher for preppers. The programs, as amateurish as they are disturbing, are recorded and shown on religious cable stations. They play like infomercials for the end of the world.

His son, Jay Bakker, who’s become a far more progressive holy man after surviving myriad addictions, is the latest guest on Marc Maron’s WTF podcast. It’s a fascinating conversation about an American family like few others. Just one interesting tidbit: The elder Bakker was the original host of The 700 Club and was elbowed aside by station owner Pat Robertson, who had never been a minister but wanted the spotlight for himself. Listen here.

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Just because you’ve made a lot of money, that doesn’t mean you have all the answers. In fact, when buffeted by wealth, you’re unlikely to even identify the right questions. Case in point: libertarian technologist Peter Thiel, who thinks a lack of innovation will doom humankind. We’re certainly at risk from climate change and those melting icebergs, but I don’t think we’ll perish from want of ambition. Such big-idea projects may currently be too out of balance in favor of the private sector, but moonshots abound. From Roger Parloff at Fortune:

“When people look into the future, Thiel explains to me, the consensus is that globalization will take its course, with the developing world coming to look like the developed world. But people don’t focus on the dark, Malthusian reality of what that will mean, absent major technological breakthroughs not currently in any pipeline.

‘If everyone in China has a gas-guzzling car, we’ll have oil at $10 per gallon and enormous pollution,’ he observes.

But that’s just the start, because without growth there will also be increasing political instability. Instability will lead to global conflict, and that in turn may lead to what in a 2007 essay he referred to as ‘secular apocalypse’—total extinction of the human race through either thermonuclear war, biological contagion, unchecked climate change, or an array of competing Armageddon scenarios.

‘That’s why,’ he says, with characteristic understatement and aplomb, ‘I think the stakes in this are not just, ‘Are we going to have some new gadgets?’”

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