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Music Review: "Pressure" by My Brightest Diamond

| Mon Sep. 15, 2014 6:35 AM EDT

TRACK 1

"Pressure"

From My Brightest Diamond's This Is My Hand

ASTHMATIC KITTY

Liner notes: The fourth MBD album gets off to a rousing start with this joyful brew of marching-band rhythms, xylophone, brass, and Shara Worden's big, operatic voice.

Behind the music: An alumna of Sufjan Stevens' band, Worden's résumé includes collaborations with David Byrne, Matthew Barney, the Blind Boys of Alabama, and the Decemberists.

Check it out if you like: Brainy art-poppers, meaning St. Vincent, tUnE-yArDs, or Joanna Newsom.

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Lia Ices' Newfound Urgency

| Mon Sep. 15, 2014 6:00 AM EDT

Lia Ices
Ices
Jagjaguwar

Ices

After displaying her mastery of mesmerizing dream-pop on 2011's Grown Unknown, Lia Ices adds a shot of energy to the mix on this charming third album. Though recorded piecemeal at studios around the country, Ices feels focused and cohesive, with the leadoff track "Tell Me" setting the tempo, setting a typically lush melody to a thumping party beat. Ices is still happily indebted to Kate Bush—witness the meditative seven-minute "Waves"—but jaunty songs like "Higher" show she has the confidence to play around with her sound and not settle for ambient-music clichés. If this bracing newfound urgency indicates a willingness to court a larger audience a la Lykke Li, more power to her.

Music Review: "Is What It Is" by She Keeps Bees

| Mon Sep. 15, 2014 5:35 AM EDT

TRACK 10

"Is What It Is"

From She Keeps Bees' Eight Houses

FUTURE GODS

Liner notes: Smokey and languid, Jessica Larrabee croons defiantly, "Be not completely consumed/Do not surrender," on this hazy ballad, with kindred spirit Sharon Van Etten singing backup.

Behind the music: Larrabee fronted the Philadelphia band the English System before teaming with drummer Andy LaPlant to form the Brooklyn-based duo.

Check it out if you like: Moody chanteuses (Cat Power, Angel Olsen, PJ Harvey).

How Should the NFL Handle Domestic Violence Cases in the Future?

| Sun Sep. 14, 2014 12:07 PM EDT

I was browsing the paper this morning and came across an op-ed by sports writer Jeff Benedict about Ray Rice and the NFL's problem with domestic violence. After the usual review of the league's egregious mishandling of the Rice incident over the past few months, we get this:

So this nagging truth remains: It should not take a graphic video to get the NFL to do the right thing. For too long the NFL has had an antiquated playbook when it comes to players who commit domestic violence.

....NFL players aren't like men in the general population, especially in the eyes of children. Rather, NFL players are seen as action heroes who epitomize strength, athleticism and toughness. That's why so many kids emulate them. And that's why one instance of a celebrated player using his muscle to harm a woman is too many.

Etc.

I read to the end, but that was about it. And it occurred to me that this piece was representative of nearly everything I've read about the Rice affair. There was lots of moral outrage, of course. That's a pretty cheap commodity when you have stomach-turning video of a pro football player battering a woman unconscious in an elevator. But somehow, at the end, there was nothing. No recommendation about what the NFL's rule on domestic violence should be.

So I'm curious: what should it be? Forget Rice for a moment, since we need a rule that applies to everyone. What should be the league's response to a player who commits an act of domestic violence? Should it be a one-strike rule, or should it matter if you have no prior history of violence? Should it depend on a criminal conviction, or merely on credible evidence against the player? Should it matter how severe the violence is? (Plenty of domestic violence cases are much more brutal than Rice's.) Or should there be zero tolerance no matter what the circumstances? How about acts of violence that aren't domestic? Should they be held to the same standard, or treated differently? And finally, is Benedict right that NFL players should be sanctioned more heavily than ordinary folks because they act as role models for millions of kids? Or should we stick to a standard that says we punish everyone equally, regardless of their occupation?

Last month the NFL rushed out new punishment guidelines regarding domestic violence after enduring a tsunami of criticism for the way it handled Rice's suspension. Details here. Are these guidelines reasonable? Laughable? Too punitive? I think we've discussed the bill of particulars of the Ray Rice case to exhaustion at this point, so how about if we talk about something more concrete?

Given the circumstances and the evidence it had in hand, how should the NFL have handled the Ray Rice case? And more importantly, how should they handle domestic violence cases in general? I'd be interested in hearing some specific proposals.

This Is Why You Should Never Take Moral Lessons From Films You Stopped Watching Halfway Through

| Sat Sep. 13, 2014 2:08 PM EDT

Jordan Belfort (aka the Wolf of Wall Street) went to the 92nd St. Y to talk about how great and innocent and redeemed he is. The whole night was a predictable shit show with casual sexism and the like, but this bit struck me as particularly funny:

Belfort said people should realize that the actions portrayed in the film were bad and not something they should follow. "If you're in this audience and you can't go to see The Wolf of Wall Street and realize that that's bad, then there's something wrong with you. You are fundamentally screwed up. It's obvious," Belfort said. Belfort said that he idolized Gordon Gekko's character in Oliver Stone's Wall Street. He said that had perhaps Gekko fallen, then he would have felt differently. "At least in The Wolf of Wall Street, I lose everything. My life is destroyed. I go to jail," Belfort said.

In the end of Wall Street, Charlie Sheen wears a wire and narcs Gekko to the feds. Gekko is sentenced to more than a decade in prison and, upon his eventual release, a year of hard Shia.

How Superbugs Hitch a Ride From Hog Farms Into Your Community

| Sat Sep. 13, 2014 6:00 AM EDT
If you walk this line, you might just get MRSA in your nose.

Factory-scale farms don't just house hundreds of genetically similar animals in tight quarters over vast cesspools collecting their waste. They also house a variety of bacteria that live within those unfortunate beasts' guts. And when you dose the animals daily with small amounts of antibiotics—a common practice—the bacteria strains in these vast germ reservoirs quite naturally develop the ability to withstand anti-bacterial treatments.

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria leave these facilities in two main ways. The obvious one is meat: As Food and Drug Administration data shows, the pork chops, chicken parts, and ground beef you find on supermarket shelves routinely carry resistant bacteria strains. But there's another, more subtle way: through the people who work on these operations.

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Unredacted Court Docs Reveal Yahoo's Name and Other Top-Secret Stuff

| Fri Sep. 12, 2014 5:59 PM EDT

Yahoo has just released 1,500 pages of previously classified documents relating to its legal challenge to the government's warrantless wiretapping program. Yahoo lost the case in 2008 and was ordered to cooperate with National Security Agency or face a $250,000 fine for every day that it withheld its customers' data. The ruling in Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which was released to the public only in heavily redacted form, became a legal precedent for the warrantless wiretapping program that was later revealed by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Today, based on a successful appeal by Yahoo, a slightly less redacted version of that court ruling finally became public.

Below, I've posted the more lightly redacted version released today as well as the redacted version of the ruling released in 2008. A side-by-side reading of the two documents may offer some insight into how the government has sought to cover up the true nature of its surveillance activities, or it might just be an example of how little has changed.

The new version of the ruling is notable for what it doesn't disclose: Key evidence presented by the government. A block of text that had previously been removed from the ruling still does not fully explain why warrantless searches are necessary to thwart terrorists:

Scanning the 1,500 pages of newly unsealed documents will take a while. Here are few examples of new information contained in the partially unredacted ruling:

  • The name of the plaintiff (Yahoo) and its law firm
  • A footnote defining the term "surveillance" to mean "acquisitions of foreign intelligence information." But part of the definition of the term still remains redacted.
  • The date when the government moved to force Yahoo to comply with the order (November 21, 2007)
  • A mention of "linking procedures" (defined as "procedures that link [redacted] targets.") as a one of the safeguards against unreasonable searches

You can help us out by pointing out any other interesting tidbits in the comments; we'll note additional highlights here if we find anything worth noting.

The slightly less redacted ruling released today:

 

 

 

The original redacted court ruling:

 

 

 

The Great State Of California Will Not Be Split Into Six Mediocre States

| Fri Sep. 12, 2014 5:55 PM EDT

One day a lemming will fly. That day is not today:

Backers of a much-publicized initiative to split California into six separate states failed to collect enough valid signatures to qualify the measure for the November 2016 ballot. the secretary of state's office said Friday.

Supporters of the Six Californias measure sponsored by Tim Draper, a Silicon Valley venture capitalist, turned in more than 1.13 million signatures. But a statewide sampling showed that only 752,685 of them were from voters registered in California, short of the 807,615 needed to qualify for the ballot, the secretary of state said.

Happy Friday!

Friday Cat Blogging - 12 September 2014

| Fri Sep. 12, 2014 2:55 PM EDT

A few of you have written to ask if we plan to get another cat. The answer is probably yes, but not immediately.  And what does "not immediately" mean? There's no telling. A new cat could walk into our lives tomorrow, or it might take a little while longer. We'll see.

In the meantime, my mother's cats continue to be perky and photogenic, and ever since she learned how easy it is to take pictures with her iPad and email them directly to me, I've been getting more photos of her brood. Below you can see the latest. Mozart has pretty plainly settled in to alpha cat status, and Ditto just as plainly isn't quite sure he's happy about that. But it's too late. Ditto has the bulk, but I think Mozart has whatever indefinable feline quality it is that makes him boss. It's his house now.

See for Yourself Just How Damn Complicated the Middle East Has Become

| Fri Sep. 12, 2014 1:49 PM EDT
mid east relationship chart
David McCandless/The Information Is Beautiful Project

Behold, the Middle East! If we could just understand what all the strong countries, the falling-apart countries, the unrecognized-countries, the "non-state actors", and the outside powers all thought of each other, we might be able to chart a clear way forward, right? Don't get your hopes up, although the latest project by British data visionary David McCandless is a really valiant effort to make sense of it all nonetheless.

McCandless' charted 38 regional players— from Afghanistan to Yemen, Al Qaeda to the European Union— and connected each to its major friends and enemies. The result is a tangled ball that illustrates the enormously complicated relationships in the region. (You can parse each actor's relationships on the full, interactive version on McCandless' site, Information Is Beautiful, which you should really check out.) 

McCandless calls this work an "ongoing, evolving diagram," so it may be missing a few connections (Russia's close, getting closer relationship with Iraq, for instance). If you have more ideas, he welcomes input at the email address posted on his site.