Annalee Newitz: Are We In The Early Stages Of A New Mass Extinction? It's Complicated 2014-04-23
If you stay awake at night wondering about the worst thing that could ever happen, I have an answer for you. It's called a mass extinction. Basically, it's a real-life apocalypse, where over 75 percent of all species on the planet die out over a million years -- a blink of an eye in geological time. Now there's mounting evidence that we're entering a new mass extinction today.
Over the past half-billion years that life has wandered across our planet, we've already suffered through five mass extinctions. You've probably heard about the most famous mass extinction, which happened about 65 million years ago at the end of the Cretaceous period when an asteroid smashed into the planet and wiped out most of the dinosaurs. In previous mass extinctions, however, there were equally impressive natural disasters, ranging from rapid ice ages and continent-wide wildfires, to mega-volcanoes. In each of these catastrophes, most life in the world died out, replaced over the next few million years by whole new ecosystems of animals and plants. No matter how much of the planet burned or was buried in ice, life rose again.
When I was researching my book, Scatter Adapt and Remember: Humans Will Survive a Mass Extinction, I talked to a lot of scientists about a fundamental mystery -- how any did any animals and plants make it through these devastating times? Their answers gave me a window on what it would have been like to live through one of these mass extinctions. What became clear right away was that these disasters all have one thing in common. No matter what their initial causes, they ultimately killed so many life forms with climate and habitat changes. Even the asteroid that took out the dinosaurs did most of its damage to life not from an instant flash-cooking of the planet, but during the long nuclear winter that followed. All the debris from the meteor impact shot into the upper atmosphere, creating thick clouds that blotted out the sun and decimated plant life. And that changed ecosystems all across Earth.
If you were one of the animals who survived that catastrophic explosion and had to face the changes that followed, you would have seen a world that was dying with a whimper. Climate changes are devastating because they destroy the food webs that link every life form on the planet in a network of eaters and eaten. When sunlight was blocked by a cloud layer 65 million years ago, a primary source of food died with all those plants. Then the herbivores, plant eaters, began to starve; and the carnivores starved when their prey succumbed to famine too.
Among the survivors were animals who could adapt quickly to their new environments, spreading out into new territories unlike anything they'd dealt with before. Life would have been a series of constant, unpleasant surprises for the small, furry shrew-like mammals who made it beyond the Cretaceous. Part of their adaptability involved being able to eat a variety of foods. This trait would come in handy during an era when food sources were unstable and changing rapidly.
No matter what set off these mass extinctions -- and there's reason to believe that most of them had multiple causes -- they all ended the same way. Millions of species died because their habitats changed, which caused their food sources to disappear. Mass extinctions are nothing like the glorified super-cleanse of a mythical apocalypse. They are ugly, slow, and terribly complicated.
There are many signs today that we may be in the early stages of a new mass extinction. The climate is changing very rapidly, plus we're seeing an extraordinary number of extinctions among land animals. It's possible that this sixth mass extinction cycle began roughly 15,000 years ago, with the dieoffs of megafauna like mammoths and giant sloths in the Americas.
Are we doomed? I don't think so. Unlike animals who lived through previous mass extinctions, humans can actually see it coming. Using science, we can study previous mass extinction survivors and learn from them what we'll need to survive -- and perhaps even prevent the worst effects of the next catastrophic wave of extinctions. One of humanity's greatest strengths is our adaptability. We've spread out into every corner of the planet, making icy mountains and arid deserts into our homes. Best of all, we are capable of planning for the future, and making changes now that will benefit our species in centuries to come.
Given what we know of previous mass extinction scenarios, it's clear that our biggest dangers come from habitat changes that undermine food security. So our first step toward survival has to be exploring alternative fuels that don't load our atmosphere with habitat-changing carbon. In previous mass extinctions, volcanoes and fires did the work of our industrial revolution, raising temperatures and ocean acidity without any human intervention. This time around, we need to intervene, and fast. By reducing carbon emissions, we can slow down the changes that will eventually destroy our food supplies.
When thinking about the future of our survival, I often consider the words of one mass extinction expert I spoke with. A quiet man named Peter Roopnarine, he works at the California Academy of Sciences, researching now-extinct food webs. Essentially, he studies what happens when a mass extinction is making the world starve. He told me that death is what leads to death. The more life forms go extinct, the more knock-on extinctions you'll get from that fraying food web. He believes that maybe there's a tipping point, perhaps around the time when 40 percent of all species have died out, when the death toll rises in a sudden spike and hits that 75 mark that's the gateway to a mass extinction event.
Death is what leads to death. When animals and plants go extinct around us, each one causes more extinctions. But the flip side is also true. Mass extinctions do not happen overnight. Each step we take toward saving our environments and the lives in them, the closer we come to saving the world -- and ourselves.
I talk about the small (and giant) steps we can take to create a more survivable future for humanity in my book, Scatter, Adapt and Remember: How Humans Will Survive a Mass Extinction.
Dean Baker: Judith Rodin: Director Of The Day 2014-04-23
Co-authored with Arthur Phillips, research associate at the Center for Economic and Policy Research
Directorships, 2008 - 2012: 3 Total director compensation, 2008 - 2012: $3,209,317* Average annual director compensation, 2008 - 2012: $641,863 Average compensation per full year of service as director: $229,237
Judith Rodin is president of The Rockefeller Foundation, which held $3.7 billion in assets as of its 2012 annual report. That year, the foundation distributed $130 million in grants and charitable activities while taking in a net investment income of $283 million. Previously, Rodin was the first woman to lead an Ivy League university as president of the University of Pennsylvania from 1994 to 2004. After leaving Penn, where she had earned her undergraduate degree, she was named President Emerita. She also served as provost of Yale University for two years.
Rodin's bio boasts participation in the World Economic Forum, the Council on Foreign Relations, and the Clinton Global Initiative. She also is a member of the White House Council for Community Solutions. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo named Rodin to co-chair the NYS 2100 Commission, whose mission is to improve the capacity of the state's infrastructure to withstand natural disasters. She chairs the commission with Felix Rohatyn, the former investment banker who in 1975 was picked by then-governor Hugh Carey to take over New York City's finances, a precursor to today's emergency managers in Detroit and elsewhere.
Rodin has been a director of Comcast, the world's largest media and communications company, since 2002. Over the past four years, 2010-2013, Rodin and the board paid CEO Brian L. Roberts, the son of the company's founder, just over $118 million. GMI Ratings, which publishes risk assessments of publicly traded companies, has found Comcast to be of "Very High Concern" regarding its executive pay. Rodin has chaired the company's compensation committee since 2005.
Rodin has also sat on Citigroup's board of directors since 2004. At the 2012 annual meeting, shareholders voted by a margin of 55-45 percent to reject the board of directors' CEO pay package. Less than 3.0 percent of CEO pay packages received a no vote from shareholders that year. Rodin, though not on the compensation committee, was the company's longest-tenured returning director at the time of the vote. Since the end of the recession, Citigroup's stock has performed much worse than the market average.
Rodin's other recent directorship was at AMR Corporation, the former American Airlines parent company, where she had served since 1997. In November 2011, AMR filed for bankruptcy and in 2013 merged with US Airways.
*Due to AMR's 2011 bankruptcy filing, the company did not file a proxy statement with the SEC for that year; therefore, Rodin's compensation totals do not include her 2011 compensation from AMR.
Soraya Chemaly: 10 Ways Society Can Close The Confidence Gap 2014-04-23
Female lack of confidence is a big topic of conversation this week in the wake of the publication of Katty Kay's and Claire Shipman's new book, The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance.
The truth is, while I'm happy for any conversation about gender gaps that need closing, I'm not interested in teaching adult women how to become more confident. We've had decades, even centuries, of confident women. We aren't dealing with status and the fact that men, universally, have more of it. We aren't dealing with how our systems endlessly reproduce this reality, especially when we tell women to adapt to male norms of expression and behavior in order to be successful. I want women to keep the confidence they have as young girls. The confidence we, collectively, crush.
The benchmark for this female loss of confidence is eternal male overconfidence, and that overconfidence has real costs. Why do men assume they are so great? It's not our brain chemistry. It's not a confounding mystery. Men assume they are so great BECAUSE WE KEEP TELLING THEM THEY ARE. We know that overconfidence is an issue and that male disappointment in the face of unrealistic expectations is a big problem. Where are our best-selling books telling men to be a little more humble about their abilities? Or books discussing how widespread tolerance for men's overestimation of their own abilities may be detrimental to them and those around them? Including at school and work?
We've known about this gap for ages. "Something" happens to create it, roughly between the ages of 4 and 14. That "something" will not be significantly offset by individual girls and women pulling themselves up by the bootstraps. That "something" is good old-fashioned sexism expressed in gendered socialization and a default cultural preference for institutionalized male domination of public life. It starts when we are born and is cultivated in homes and in schools, on screens and on fields.
Girls are ceding public space before they even have a chance to engage. We don't call this a girl crisis when, quite clearly, it is. By the time boys and girls leave high school and enter college, boys are twice as likely to say they are prepared to run for office. As teenagers, girls are six times as likely to experience anxiety and depression. Probably because, in addition to a whole host of other things, it's seriously cognitively disjunctive to grow up hearing "girl power" marketing babble and have to terms with quite evident marginalization and historical erasure. The confidence gap is a symptom of a bigger rite of passage for girls: the inflection point when self-objectification and internalized sexism settle into a girl's psyche because, to put it in market terms, cultural capital is so unevenly distributed. That entirely gendered ceding of self is what all this confidence gap closing is about.
If we want adult women to be more confident; to negotiate for a job, equal pay and promotions more effectively; and to become leaders and run for office, her is what we need to do:Stop telling girls to be "little ladies" and "good" girls who help with chores, wait their turns, do not display pride, express anger or be demanding as children. Politeness and taking turns, two highly-ranked lessons we teach girls in particular, are not virtues in the public sphere.
Examine implicit biases and stop interrupting and talking over girls. This is something that parents and teachers do twice as often to girls as to boys. You know what this teaches? That girls' words and thoughts are not as important or valued. The most powerful illustration of the effects of gender on perceptions of importance, competence and speech are the experiences of people who undergo sex changes. In the wake of Larry Summers' "women can't do math" controversy several years ago, scientist Ben Barres wrote publicly about his female-to-male transition experience. After transitioning, he gave a well-received scientific speech and overheard a member of the audience explain that "his work is much better than his sister's," referring to when he was Barbara Barres. Notably, he concluded that one of the major benefits of being male was that he could now "even complete a whole sentence without being interrupted by a man."
Stop promoting the idea that masculinized expression is superior and that women have to emulate it to be successful. The expectation that women be gender bi-lingual, or code switch, is a function of being part of a muted group. The kind of confidence that many people advocate just means a woman has work very hard to overcome sexist gender incongruities to succeed. Nip American male "boys will be boys" entitlements in the bud by holding boys and girls to the same standards of self-regulation as children.
Understand that our country's early childhood math gap, an indicator of so much else in society and achievement of "success," is larger than others' and that is related not to girl's inability to do math, but to higher male status. I spoke to a boy crisis in education crisis author recently who revealed, despite writing several books, that he was had done no cross-cultural examination of math aptitude.
Don't be apathetic about challenging schools to teach women's history. Despite girls' higher academic achievements, girls are leaving schools feeling less secure in their abilities. Girls go into our schools with assuredness and ambition, but they don't leave them that way. Boys however, suffer no degradation of confidence in school. All of this takes place in schools contorting themselves over misunderstandings of the boy crisis in education. Boy crisis in education proponents struggle to justify their concerns when they don't seem to correlate with men's higher levels of confidence, pay, political ambition or any number of other metrics that we gauge success by. The erasure of women's past accomplishments and struggles is depriving boys and girls both of the imagination to see women as powerful agents of change. By suppressing this history, we fail to prepare them for citizenship, we actively make them culturally illiterate, we undermine our ability to create an effective workforce that provides equal opportunity and leverages the talents of all people and we fail to grow adults who can think critically. Can you or children you know answer one or two of these six very basic questions pertaining to women's historic work. The "confidence gap" will never close until everyone is equally fluent in this history as they are with our male dominated one.
Don't tolerate the everyday sexism of male control of religious leadership. This alone would yield seriously positive results for girls and women's confidence. Why wouldn't you reject any notion of God that incorporates the idea that women cannot speak to and for God on equal terms as a man? What kind of ridiculous message is that to send children? There are alternatives everywhere if you want to find them.
Challenge institutions that employ sexual objectification. Not just the blatant sort in advertising and media, but the insidious kind that is part of conventional thinking. For example, dress codes and purity ideals.
Make gender awareness and critical media literacy skills a priority in education. Media is a psychic gift to boys, especially, in the U.S., white boys. It's a lifetime legacy to look around and see yourself represented in diverse, multidimensional ways. Wearing clothes.
Stop focusing on individual women and their choices and spend time on what systemic change has to happen to close this gap. All the confidence in the world will change nothing fundamentally unless we have wholesale cultural will to create institutionalized parity. What too many people are choosing to infer from books like Kay's and Shipman's, or other such as Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In, is that women's lack of confidence is all in our heads. That is not the authors' intent, but it's a popular outcome.
The fact that our competence and credibility are questioned is not in our heads. It's in the workplace, in courts, in law enforcement, in doctors' offices, and in our political system. Women, even those with excessive belief in their own abilities, are expected to prove their qualifications and have more of them. We need more qualifications in order to be paid fairly and to succeed. People and institutions demand it. Managers overwhelmingly distrust women who request flextime. People don't trust women to be bosses, or pilots, or employees. In Pakistan, the controversial Hoodooed Ordinance still requires a female rape victim to procure four male witnesses to her rape or risk prosecution for adultery. That may sound extreme and "other," until you think about how our own rape shame trajectories work. When is the last time you saw sad news about a rapist killing himself out of shame? Of course, women are trusted to be mothers, the largest pool of undervalued, economically crucial labor.
Men wake up, look in the mirror and feel perfectly confident talking about virtually anything because they can. That's not a gross oversimplification.
Improving individual female confidence will not address the fact that when boys and men speak we think what they have to say is more important. Boys and men know this because we teach them, and everyone else, that what they do and say is more important. It's so easy to see. A study about gender and online interactions showed that on list serves, topics introduced by men have a much higher rate of response. On Twitter, men are retweeted two times more often than women. There's no shortage of confident women on Twitter.
I may have a great deal of confidence, but that does not mean the same thing as thinking others will as well. Nor does my confidence affect that of the boys and men around me. The amount of times I have been in meetings and had men talk over me, ignore me, interrupt me and repeat what I say as though I'd never uttered a word is genuinely staggering. I've had teenage boys write me to explain my area of expertise to me. Just now, a man I've never met stopped at my table, asked me what I was writing and made what he termed "helpful suggestions." It's why Rebecca Solnit's coining the term "mansplaining" resonated culturally. Every woman in the world has experiences this.
Telling women to operate more like men in the public sphere, change their speech, change their hair, change their clothes and change their style of expression will only amplify androcentric norms. If we want to close the confidence gap, of course it helps to talk to women about self-doubt, but really closing this gap, as with all the others -- pay, safety, rights -- requires structural changes in every institution we live with. That's a matter of collective will that we are still painfully lacking. I predict that feminism will die, well, at least a dozen more times before that happens.
Danielle Cadet: Why We Aren't Changing The 'once You Go Black' Headline 2014-04-23
I work in the media and I write about race. It's a lethal combination that leaves me open to unsolicited feedback and criticism and, sometimes, racist attacks. But I do it because I've always thought race is one of those topics we still don't know how to discuss in this country, and I take great pride in being one of the people who is trying to figure that out.
But something happened yesterday that reminded me how incredibly complicated things can get when privilege and ignorance meet social media.
Last week, Black Voices published a story entitled "Proof That Once You Go Black, You Never Go Back," as a celebration of famous interracial couples and love in general, with a tongue-in-cheek headline. Yesterday, Salon writer Mary Beth Williams took issue with that headline and decided to make it her mission to publicly shame The Huffington Post for writing such a ghastly -- and in her opinion, racist -- story.
Jesus fucking Christ, HuffPo. pic.twitter.com/VI2ysVJ9Rj-- Mary Beth Williams (@embeedub) April 22, 2014
When friends of mine sent me the inevitable "Have you seen this?" chat, I initially wrote off Williams as a rabble-rouser who completely missed the point of the article and didn't deserve any further attention. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. But as the conversation continued, I realized she missed the mark entirely.
Williams has criticized The Huffington Post in the past, and sometimes rightfully so. However, she completely ignored the implications of the conversation she decided to take on; a conversation about a culture she obviously knows very little about but felt she could authoritatively police and discuss.
She wrote a piece titled "HuffPo's Worst Headline?" in which she offers a scathing review of the post and chastises the editorial team's lack of tact. Fair enough.
However, it's painfully obvious that not only is Williams unfamiliar with the "once you go black, you never go back" phrase itself, she's ignorant to the colloquial nature of the statement within black culture as a whole. She failed to do a little bit of research and understand that while the phrase may have origins in the blaxploitation era, it has evolved into an empowering statement that represents a prideful celebration of how wonderful African Americans really are. In short, black people are so great, once you love one of us you will love all of us. It is a phrase that celebrates blackness in the same way the phrases "black don't crack" or "black girls rock" do. People who use it are not looking to put other races down; they are simply complimenting a race that has historically been subjected to criticism for centuries.
Don't get me wrong, I'm totally aware that the statement could be misread and misconstrued. It could be seen as a fetishizing or over-sexualizing of African-American bodies, a challenge the community has grappled with since slavery. One could assume that we're reducing these loving relationships and these individuals to the single quality of their race. For the record, Robert De Niro is likely with Gloria Hightower because she's an incredible woman, not simply because she's black. The point is black men and woman can, in fact, be incredible -- a revelation some people in this country haven't come to accept or understand just yet.
Not only did Williams fail to offer any of those examples as a substantive reason for her argument, she fails to acknowledge the evolution of the phrase and how it can also be seen as a celebration of black beauty and interracial love. This is obvious in her literal interpretation of the phrase that not only has a white person who falls in love with a black person "gone black" but they are in fact "never going back." Let's be frank, plenty of white people go back to dating white people after dating a black person. It's not a hard and fast rule. It's a saying.
In her article, Williams fails to acknowledge that the post was specifically published in the Black Voices section of the site. However, she makes it a point to identify Jessica Dickerson, the writer of the article -- who in fact happens to be a product of an interracial marriage herself. Not only is Dickerson not clueless about race and the world, she is actually a perfect example of exactly "how beautiful love can be, no matter what the color of your skin is."
But despite all of these facts, Williams felt emboldened enough to authoritatively dictate and police the conversations in a community she apparently knows very little about. She uses a condescending tone, chastising our editorial team for playing off of a statement with a history she's seemingly unaware of. Her privilege has veiled her perspective so much that she doesn't even take the time to ask if black people are offended. Instead, she states that of course all people MUST be offended by such a ghastly statement.
Later, she pointed out that the headline hadn't been changed.
Pssst HuffPo still hasn't changed the headline. Enjoy the crazy now before they wise up! http://t.co/hM8KBMA073-- Mary Beth Williams (@embeedub) April 22, 2014
But what she failed to realize is there is in fact no "wising up" that needs to take place. The story was intended for a community that understood the use of the phrase, and it was written in a way that celebrated love regardless of race. Changing the headline would only alienate the community Black Voices is serving, because, quite frankly, it made some white people uncomfortable. While we wholeheartedly acknowledge that on The Huffington Post platform, Black Voices stories are sure to appeal to non-black readers, we maintain that our audience should be our first priority and that we should draw the line between writing for our community and alienating it.
Every media outlet makes mistakes, and I'll be the first to acknowledge them when we do. However, I don't feel this was one of them. People of all races will differ in opinions, which they are well within their right to do. But opinions are served best when they are informed, and it is quite clear that Mary Beth Williams was not.
Chelsea Manning: A Statement On My Legal Name Change 2014-04-23
Today is an exciting day. A judge in the state of Kansas has officially ordered my name to be changed from "Bradley Edward Manning" to "Chelsea Elizabeth Manning." I've been working for months for this change, and waiting for years.
It's worth noting that both in mail and in person, I've often been asked, "Why are you changing your name?" The answer couldn't be simpler: because it's a far better, richer, and more honest reflection of who I am and always have been: a woman named Chelsea.
But there is another question I've been asked nearly as much: "Why are you making this request of the Leavenworth district court?" This is a more complicated question, but the short answer is simple: because I have to.
Unfortunately, the trans* community faces three major obstacles to living a normal life in America: identity documentation, gender-segregated institutions, and access to health care. And I've only just jumped through the first one of these hurdles.
In our current society it's the most banal things, such as showing an ID card, going to the bathroom, and receiving trans-related health care, that keep us from having the means to live better, more productive, and safer lives. Unfortunately, there are many laws and procedures that often don't consider trans* people, or even outright prevent them from doing the sort of simple, day-to-day things that others take for granted.
Now I am waiting on the military to assist me in accessing health care. In August I requested that the military provide me with a treatment plan consistent with the recognized professional standards of care for trans health. They quickly evaluated me and informed me that they had come up with a proposed treatment plan. However, I have not yet seen their treatment plan, and in over eight months I have not received any response as to whether the plan will be approved or disapproved, or whether it follows the guidelines of qualified health professionals.
I'm optimistic that things can -- and certainly will -- change for the better. There are so many people in America today who are open and willing to discuss trans-related issues. Hopefully today's name change, while so meaningful to me personally, can also raise awareness of the fact that we trans* people exist everywhere in America today, and that we must jump through hurdles every day just for being who we are. If I'm successful in obtaining access to trans health care, not only will it be something I have wanted for a long time myself, but it will open the door for many people, both inside and outside the military, to request the right to live more open, fulfilled lives.
Thank you, Chelsea Manning
*Note: Chelsea prefers "trans*" (with an asterisk) to denote not only transgender men and women but those who identify outside a gender binary. For a better understanding of transgender people and the issues important to them, we recommend checking out GLAAD's "Transgender 101" blog.
For instructions on writing to Chelsea to tell her of your support, click here.
This post originally appeared on ChelseaManning.org.
Judge H. Lee Sarokin: My Friendship With A Convicted Murderer: Rubin 'hurricane' Carter 2014-04-23
Rubin "Hurricane" Carter telephoned me a few days ago and said: "I want yours to be the last voice I hear before I pass away, because you were the one who gave my life back to me. I love you man."
We both cried. He died a few days later. Twenty-eight years ago, I issued an order freeing Rubin Carter from prison after he had served 19 years for murders that I am convinced he did not commit. His call in April came as a surprise to me, because he has called to thank me on November 7th every year -- all 28 years -- on the anniversary of his release.
His case came to me on an application for a writ of habeas corpus. Before my decision I never saw or met the man. But after the decision and the endless appeals by the prosecution -- ultimately to the United States Supreme Court, I came to know him. He is the greatest testament to the human spirit of anyone I have ever known. His conviction cost him his career as a boxer, his family and his freedom, and yet he never uttered a word of bitterness. Even facing death, he was upbeat and trying to cheer me up at the news of his terminal illness.
He devoted himself and his life to others who had been wrongly convicted. We spoke together at law schools and to a variety of audiences. He was always in good humor* and appreciative of whatever invitation or opportunity was presented to him to speak of the importance of habeas corpus review and the dangers of convicting the innocent. He never failed to carry with him and display the writ that had freed him. The movie about his life, The Hurricane, provided him with some notoriety, but he never lost his humility or his love for his new found freedom. He was always the messenger. His descriptions of the horrendous life of prisoners made listeners have empathy even for the guilty.
To the very end he was positive. He spoke only of his life after prison and what he hoped he had accomplished. There are books written about him and his resolve never to surrender his pride and dignity even while in prison. Despite repeated solitary confinements, he refused to bow to certain prison rules because it would have represented an acknowledgment that he belonged there -- something he refused to do. I know that there are still some out there that think he was guilty, but the man I knew was gentle, caring and courageous. I have often said that if he was lying to me over all of these years, he is a better actor than Denzel Washington. I was honored to know him and be his friend.
*As evidence of his sense of humor, he sent me a picture of a huge fish he had caught with the inscription: "Dear Judge -- Without you this fish would still be alive. Love Rubin"
Leanne Scorzoni: A Hymn To Boston 2014-04-23
The Boston Marathon course is long. Hilly.
The first half rolls through sleepy towns most of us don't know exist. Past ponds and wetlands, train tracks and ice cream stands. Scenes of American life so perfect they look staged. Little girls in red wagons hand me orange slices. Bikers drinking beer astride their motorcycles give me high fives and scream my name plastered across my chest. We run past the man who blasts sports radio and writes out the current Red Sox score on a chalkboard for the runners.
I had grown up being a spectator so I knew how unpredictable the Boston course combined with New England weather could be. But I was not running for time, I was not in competition. My singular goal was to cross the finish line sprinting. After last year's bombing and all the precautions that came with it, my marathon mantra was simple: worst-case scenario for everything. I used layers of sunblock and Vaseline all over my body. Every downhill I pretended to run like I was on eggshells. Every uphill I bent my knees and leaned into it. When the temperature climbed, every two water stops I dumped water over my head. As arrogant as it sounds Heartbreak Hill was easy, but only because I was prepared for how bad it would be.
After the bombs went off last year I grieved long before my toes stepped to this year's starting line. I screamed with my relatives who grew up attending the marathon with me, all of us raging about the fact someone could do this to the people of our city. I cried with Muslim friends and spoke at masjids about why the marathon had such a special place in the hearts of Bostonians. I've never felt I was an ambassador for anything. I was only completing a personal dream and raising money to fight pediatric cancer. To be a representative for an entire religion is insulting to everyone that came before me. I simply told my own story as a Boston runner who happened to be Muslim. I spoke into microphones from Washington and Connecticut, smiled into cameras that broadcasted to Dubai, Amman and Jeddah. I made sure Fox News spelled my name correctly, and shook every reporter and cameraman's hand firmly enough to make an impression. With every quote, picture and publication I steeled myself for negative reactions that never came.
My feet crossed the finish line of the 118th Boston Marathon in a time of 5:14:17. I'm sure there have been people before me that have compared running a marathon to giving birth. The universal symbolism of a body and mind working together and locked in a bubble of pain and raw emotion. There is blood, sometimes a lot. Runners sob to the sky, others laugh hysterically as their mind starts to grow weak. A few weave and sway across the pavement as their legs give out for the first time, the final time, continuously. I was surprised to find none of that existed for me on Marathon Monday. All the pain sloughed off the further I ran. But what I felt as I gritted my teeth and sprinted the last 50 yards past the line on Boylston Street was the humanity all around me. In my final steps I saw my mother's tears and her pink jacket. My sunburned best friend hugging me, screaming without words. My friend from Saudi Arabia yelling my name and waving a water bottle over his head, liquid spilling down his shirt. The roar of the crowd, a living organism reaching out to wave, to touch, a mass of life emotionally present with me. The reverence of that. The gratefulness of that from one human to another.
As Bostonians we took back our city, we ran to heal and move forward. We did not run as men or women, Christians or Muslims, elites or Average Joes. We ran as a city, we ran as a collective of humanity in its finest hour. And I am truly humbled and blessed to say that this year out of all years, I am a Boston Marathon finisher, and I am Boston Strong.
Heather Mayer Irvine: Running Back To Boston 2014-04-23
The buildup to the 118th running of the Boston Marathon was intense, and it started on the evening of April 15, 2013 -- a day that will forever mark the world's greatest marathon. Boston Strong became a rallying cry, not just in a city still reeling from an attack on Patriots' Day, but across the country and around the world.
I ran my first marathon on April 15, 2013. Having grown up cheering on the runners in Natick, I was excited for my first to be Boston. I hit my sub-four goal with a time of 3:56:42. And I raised more than $5,000 for the American Liver Foundation's Run for Research team. I didn't plan on coming back unless I qualified (3:35 or better for my age and gender). Those who know me know I stick to a plan.
But as I turned off Boylston Street and onto Clarendon at 2:50 p.m., the bombs went off, and my plan changed. Of course I had to come back in 2014 -- it was going to be a race like no other.
So for another year I trained. I fundraised. I shaved seven minutes off my Boston time in New York last November (on a course where personal records are hard to come by).
I cried when I watched coverage, read articles, saw pictures of that fateful day at 2:50 p.m., exactly 10 minutes after I crossed the finish line. But they weren't true cries. My throat choked up. Tears came. But I held them back. I gritted my teeth and embarked on yet another training journey, during the winter of the Polar Vortex.
As the months and weeks leading up to April 21, 2014 went by, I started prepping myself mentally. I knew this was going to be an amazing race, but I kept forgetting how emotional it would be. How hard it would be to turn onto Boylston Street and run by the site of two bombings.
The week before the big day, I ran in Stage 308 of the One Run for Boston, a relay started last year by three Brits. Runners ran from Los Angeles to Boston to honor the fallen. On April 11, I joined about 20 other runners for a 9-mile run from the World Trade Center to Harlem. I cried at the start. A memorial to commemorate those lost on Sept. 11 and running for those affected by the Boston Marathon bombings? It was too much. But we ran. And it was an incredible experience. It got me even more psyched for Boston.
In the early morning of April 21, the 36,000 runners in Athletes' Village in Hopkinton stopped their nervous chatter and put down their Vaseline and bananas to observe a moment of silence, reflecting on the events of April 15, 2013. I welled up but then refocused on the task at hand: 26.2 miles to Boston.
We all knew the weather was going to be rough (high of 66 degrees). I had my goals (3:30-3:40), but mostly wanted to enjoy the race and finish strong. Dare I say it, Boston Strong?
The crowds were like nothing I've ever witnessed before. We really did come back stronger than ever.
I ran hard but even until mile 18, when I hit the Newton Hills. The heat was getting to me, and I started slowing as I crested Heartbreak Hill. I knew my 3:30 was gone, but that was OK. Today wasn't really about that, as much as my competitive self tried to fight back. "Enjoy every step," I kept saying. "Every painful step."
Once I saw the Citgo sign looming in the distance, I was rejuvenated. I knew what was waiting for me, as I turned right on Hereford and left on Boylston. So I pressed on, gritting my teeth with every step.
I couldn't have prepared myself for Boylston Street, with the finish line in sight, "just" 385 yards down the road. The crowd put the Wellesley Scream Tunnel and Boston College kids to shame. Faster and faster I sped down Boylston. This is it. My GPS watch lost reception -- who cares? I looked up at the cameras (I still don't know how the picture came out -- ugly, I'm sure) and nearly collapsed over the finish line.
I fell into the arms of a volunteer as she carried me to the medical tent. They gave me fluids, congratulated me ("Why do you do this for us crazies?" I asked). Once I got my color back and caught my breath, they dismissed me. I meandered along Boylston, receiving my coveted medal and a blanket.
I was amazed I had been so strong emotionally. My focus was on the crowd and the finish line. I thought I would break down as I passed Marathon Sports, where the first bomb went off. But I didn't. The crowd was carrying me.
But then I turned onto Clarendon Street, and I lost it. I started crying hysterically. I thought I was going to collapse. This is where I saw the bombs go off. This is where I thought they were cannons, generators. I hyperventilated into the jacket of a volunteer (a U.S. Marshall). She didn't talk. She just hugged me. As I started to regain composure, she told me she lost a cousin in Iraq. I started bawling again. Where did this come from? As I tried to process why this was happening, it dawned on me: I never really cried. This was my closure: nearly the same time and place that started it all a year ago.
I will still grieve, every April 15, every Boston Marathon. But a weight has been lifted -- one I never knew I was carrying. My legs cry in pain every time I move, but my heart is lighter.
The Boston Marathon hurt me last year. But that same great race made me stronger and gave me back my finish line. And with it, a new PR of 3:42:34.
Gordon Braxton: Those Who Avidly Defend Manhood Are Often Its Biggest Traitors 2014-04-23
We don't often acknowledge it, but I believe that most men possess some measure of discomfort with the cultural climate around sexual violence. Long before I consciously acknowledged this spirit in myself, possessed the language to articulate this spirit to others, or had the courage to share this spirit, I was aware that I spent a good deal of time feeling uncomfortable. I was uncomfortable hanging with my boys as they discussed the pursuit of women in the same manner as a hunter might describe his search for prey. And I was uncomfortable when they shared the fruits of the hunt through sensationalized expositions devoid of any acknowledgement that they were discussing encounters with actual human beings. The world told me that "boys will be boys," and that this type of fraternization was wholly distinct from the actions of rapists. But my spirit disagreed and hinted that we were sheltering those men, if not altogether grooming ourselves to join their ranks. For a time, I found peace with ignoring my spirit of resistance because doing otherwise would open me to accusations of betraying both my gender and often my race.
I had to learn that for every man who might criticize me for acknowledging these inner thoughts, there is another that can admit to having similar feelings. I also had to learn that holding my gender to higher standards does not constitute betrayal. Rather, those who most avidly defend manhood are often its biggest traitors. Their defenses of men often deflect any responsibility for sexual violence and regard men as near-mindless machines that can do nothing more than rely on behavioral scripts in order to determine the wishes of intimate partners. Women who submit similar reductions of men are often branded as stereotyping man-haters for their troubles. Men cannot criticize women for stereotyping men in this fashion, when we ourselves are guilty of so much reductionism in our own defense. Additionally, defenses that rely on myopic readings of men are subtly racist when applied to men of color.
The logic in defending men based on their inabilities also runs counter to the prowess typically professed by men -- their "game" if you will. To let many men tell it, they are experts at deciphering the intentions of women and wooing them towards a mutual attraction, but this confidence quickly disperses when it comes to discussion of sexual assault. There, we are passionately told that men are not mind readers and women need to communicate explicitly if their intent is to be understood. In this arena, men presumably need their intimate partners to do nothing less than fight them if they are to have any indication that something is wrong. Never mind men's ability to infer from body language, context, dialogue or anything that a capable and empathetic being could utilize.
It's worth calling men out on these inconsistencies. Since we spend so much time speaking to our ability to read women, it's worth reminding men that decades worth of data on sexual violence suggests that we are not nearly as good at reading women as we might claim. Either this or the more insidious interpretation that a good many of us are perfectly aware that we are engaging in non-consensual sexual activity and just don't care. If you read such an interpretation as unfairly malicious towards men, then I hope that you would follow up on your faith in manhood and join the women and men engaged in the critical work of training boys to become more accomplished wielders of the empathy and reason that we know them to possess.
This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post and Take Back the Night in conjunction with Sexual Assault Awareness Month. To learn more about Take Back the Night and how you can help prevent sexual violence, visit here. Read all posts in the series here.
Need help? In the U.S., visit the National Sexual Assault Online Hotline operated by RAINN. For more resources, visit theNational Sexual Violence Resource Center's website.
Thrillist: 26 Restaurant Secrets Only Servers Know 2014-04-23
Like it or not, waiters and waitresses wield tremendous power over your life, from determining your seating position on a hot date to making you wait extra-long for a check on a terrible Tinder date. They also know secrets. Lots of secrets. About your food. About your style. About your libido. And unless you've spent time serving food and drinks to the unknowing, you'll never be in on the wealth of knowledge floating around the restaurant... until now. We consulted servers from across the nation to spill their dirty secrets about your favorite restaurants.
Next time you're lambasting your waiter about your order, remember that they know more than you think.
Editor's note: The anecdotes below are are direct quotes taken from servers throughout the United States and representing a wide range of restaurants. They don't reflect the opinions of Thrillist or the author... although we only just learned what a ramekin is.
Your order wasn't screwed up because of a clerical error
"We've all been drinking. Period."
It's very, very obvious that you're on a first date
"Ordering for that girl with the shifty eyes, who keeps looking at her phone, was your first misstep, but rest assured you've given most of the staff a giggle."
Your wandering eye is not subtle
"We know you're looking over the menu at our racks, and we will exploit your perviness by flirting for tips."
If you don't like your drink, you might be a hero
"Sorry you mistook a Manhattan for a Cosmo, but don't be surprised if your order is messed up again after you send it back... mainly because we just quaffed the drink you rejected, and we're still thirsty."
More: 16 ways you're making your waiter/waitress hate you
Your service animal is a big, furry lie
"We know your service animal is just a pet. You're not fooling anyone. We're just paid to be nice and are hoping you'll tip more if it poops on the floor."
You can totally score with the bartender
"If you've been giving him eyes, he's probably already asked us about you."
Complaining won't cause someone to spit in your food
"Nobody does that. They just make fun of you. And maybe burn your steak a little."
Your server knows whether you're going to get laid
"Your date isn't wearing underwear. That's why we keep dropping stuff on the floor."
Your problems are just a waiting game
"The manager doesn't really care about your problem. She's just waiting to see how little she has to comp you."
Learn why you should never order a water with lemon, what the servers do with your leftovers, why bribery might not be the best way to get a seat, and way, way more -- all on Thrillist.com!
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Follow Thrillist on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Thrillist
Nafees Syed: Thrive Meets Drive 2014-04-23
Since I met Arianna Huffington last week, I've been thinking about the obnoxious roommate in my head. In her book Thrive, Arianna draws attention to the voice in our head, the "obnoxious roommate," who feeds us insecurities and doubts. It was no coincidence that I met Arianna during her conversation last week with Amy Chua at Yale Law School, where fear of failure can be a strong motivator. Sometimes the roommate's voice is someone else (Tiger mom, anyone?), but most of the time it's you. And it still gets me. Why haven't I published more articles this semester? I'm being lazy. I'm just not as super-human as so-and-so, who can survive on four hours of sleep and churn out twice as much.
Thrive teaches us to evict this obnoxious roommate. It is the book you are glad someone immensely successful wrote, because it validates what we can all intuitively understand. It is a book of evidence we can wave triumphantly at a world that now values stress over productivity. This coming weekend, the Thrive conference in New York City attempts to do just that. Arianna reminds us that we need to nurture ourselves to be successful. That it isn't smart to be sleep-deprived. That we have become workaholics and need to wean ourselves off as a society before we spiral into failure. But how can we silence the obnoxious roommate in order to thrive, when that same critic generates our drive?
As I walked through the campus of my alma mater, Harvard, this past weekend, I recalled the strength of that incessant voice. In an environment where you are graded in comparison to your peers, every hour you sleep or relax is an hour behind your peer who's going to get that higher grade. Our conversations would often include a competitive banter of all of the things we have to do: I see your three exams, two papers, and two interviews and raise you my three exams, two papers, two interviews, and a marathon! We were at the same time afraid of failing at our massive workloads, and proud that we were the type of people to take on so much.
This is the stuff of The Triple Package. While there has been criticism of Amy Chua and Jed Rubenfeld's new book, few have disputed the major premise that successful people are driven. One of the most distinguishing characteristics of successful people is that they are good at controlling impulses. They are Aesop's ant, when people around them seem to be having more fun -- for now. There's that voice again, telling you not to take that nap when you have a project to ace. This impulse control is coupled with an odd partnership between insecurity and confidence that you are endowed with special talents and privileges. Everyone has a talent or skill to contribute to the world, and some of us are conscious of or have the means to discover it. Privilege is something that's harder to come by, but those of us who have or acquire it often know we must take advantage of it.
The opposite side to that coin is the fear that we won't live up to our talents and opportunities, a self-doubt I have seen plague even very successful people I know. It's the possibility that we are bluffing to ourselves about our own potential. That's the doubt that drives us up and away from failure.
But if that's all that generates your drive, it is exhausting and unfulfilling, is the crux of Thrive. I have seen this in my own life. We spend the formative years of our lives in education, from pre-K up. Now school, not just the workplace, has become a place of hours crunching. By the time I finished college, I was burned out of school and felt lost. I had lost sight of what I actually wanted to do with my life by trying to do everything.
Then I started to recharge. I began valuing even more the things that kept me grounded -- my family, friends (whom I had neglected in my busyness), and prayer. In Islam, the day is broken up into five parts for prayer. As Muhammad Ali famously noted: "If a man takes five showers a day, his body will be clean. Praying five times a day helps me clean my mind." You are forced to leave aside the mundane stresses of the world in that fifteen minutes to attain the "sweetness of prayer," a humble state of mind before God. I have come to value even more the meaning of the gentle physical movements, the words of worship, and the reflective supplication afterwards.
Arianna, who is deeply spiritual, devotes a large chunk of her book to prayer and even reflecting on our own mortality. It is a breath of fresh air from most books on success. In the constant work-cycle of today's world many of us dismiss the value of meditation, service to others, and reflection. At times, we even feel guilty for the time we spend doing it.
By carving out time away from being busy, I have been able to think clearly about my long-term goals. I have avoided jumping on the treadmill when I know that I should keep going at my own pace. And while I can still feel guilty about it, I sometimes slow down to soak in the moment.
So what happens when thrive meets drive? The way I see it, you stand between the two and hold both tightly by the shoulder. It takes a lot of self-control to find the right balance. You need enough drive to not become complacent, but enough thrive to realize what it's all for. Where is the passion, where is the you, if you live a life without well being, wisdom, wonder, and giving? People with money and power are on a precarious two-legged stool, according to Thrive. We as a society need to add a third one if we want to be successful and sustainable. While it will take a bit more time for our society to grasp this understanding, you can start with yourself.
This isn't psychobabble, it's your life. Here's to living it to the fullest.
Alexandra Zaslow: A Letter To 'the Boss' 2014-04-23
Dear Bruce Springsteen,
It was 2002, I believe, and you were on your Rising Tour in Detroit -- where I'm originally from. My father, being the fan that he was, liked to splurge on General Admission tickets. I didn't blame him. There's no sight quite like watching each droplet of sweat leave your forehead and land on the chords of your guitar.
And I inarguably had the best seat in the house.
My sisters and I would take turns watching the concert from my dad's shoulders. Imagine it: a breezy night in the mosh pit of Comerica Park at eye level with The Boss, feeling the security of my dad's warm embrace.
Magical is the only word I could use to describe it.
At one point, I felt like it was just me, you and my dad in that arena. After watching your sweat seep through the bandana wrapped around your forehead and spotting each speck of dirt splashed on your sneakers, I looked back at the stadium and saw the mega crowd going nuts for you.
It was at that moment that I knew you were special. I've adored and admired you ever since.
The truth is, I might've been kicked out of my house if I didn't. As soon as I walked down to my basement, there you were: a life-sized poster that caught my dad's eye when he was walking past a storefront window in Chicago. Since then, you've been an honorary member of our family.For my father's 40th birthday, my mom threw him a Mexican-themed Springsteen bash thrown at the local Mexican restaurant. We all wore bandanas and only rocked out to your music all night. My mom also had this sign made: But wait, it gets better.
My mom had a special cake made with my dad's face on your body. (Excuse my little sister's look of misery in the photo below. I promise she was having a great time that night.) You really have been with us through it all.
When we were road tripping to visit relatives, it was your music that was in the car with us. You were laughing in my kitchen while watching my family form a conga line around the house to the tune of "Without You."
You were down the Jersey Shore with us as all of my cousins performed our own rendition of "Mary's Place." You were in the studio with my sister as she recorded our family's all time favorite song, "Thunder Road."
I woke up to your voice blasting through the speakers every Saturday morning as I tiptoed downstairs to find my parents dancing around the family room. Instead of getting mad at them for waking my teenage self up early on a weekend, I'd join in.
You've been with me through some thrilling highs and also stuck with me through some extreme lows.
You were right there next to me as I recited the lyrics of "You're Missing" in my eulogy at my dad's funeral. As I went on to grieve, you promised me everything was going to be alright through each strum of your guitar.
Every time my dad talked about one of your songs, it was like he was giving me a lesson.
His passion was most evident when teaching me how to appreciate the beauty of the song "Thunder Road." It was then that I learned what a love song is supposed to sound like. I give credit to my dad, who sat me down and taught me every note and every lyric. We sat there and listened until the very end as you and Mary drive away. I was carried by the movement of the music in the final moments of the song.
My dad thought that "Drive All Night" was one of the most romantic songs in history, so he had "I'd drive all night" engraved in my mom's wedding band. That way, she could carry your words with her wherever she went. (You true Bruce fans will know that it doesn't get much more romantic than that).
After my dad died, I received a lot of condolence wishes. All were very sweet and greatly appreciated, but it was yours that got me.
In April of 2012, my sister and I attended our first Springsteen concert since we lost our dad. It was your first tour without Clarence Clemons -- which, of course, added to the high level of emotions we were feeling that night. To pay respect to the "big man who joined the band," you said just what I needed to hear at that very moment:
"We're missing a few people here right now. But if you're here, and we're here, they're here tonight."
So, Bruce, thanks for your music and for all of the memories you helped my family build. And thanks for always being there when sometimes no one else was.
You're a loyal friend.
Alexandra Nicole Zaslow
Terry O'neill: "i Don't Want To Be That Girl": The Story Of Why I Don't Tell Stories About Sexual Assault 2014-04-23
This is a personal story about why I don't like to tell personal stories about sexual assault and domestic violence. My misgivings became clear to me about a dozen years ago, when I got a disturbing phone call from a former law student of mine at Tulane University.
The summer after her second year of law school, this young woman had gone to South Carolina for a clerkship in a really great law firm. She told me that while she was there, the manager of the clerkship program raped her. It turned out that this man had a reputation for picking one woman from every summer's group of clerks and sexually assaulting her, or having consensual sex. Whichever way it went, that's what he did every summer.
My former student told her parents, who immediately demanded legal action. At first the firm's leaders said they were stunned and appalled, but over the next weeks and months things changed. It's something I've seen time and again in instances of sexual assault. In the first few weeks, the community really supports the rape victim, but then there is a shift and the rape victim becomes isolated while the community circles around to defend the perpetrator. This New York Times story about a flawed rape investigation involving a star college athlete is just one example of what I mean.
I could hear the anguish in my former student's voice. She was afraid that pursuing a legal claim against the perpetrator would distract her from focusing on her final year of law school. She knew that in law school, grades are everything. They follow you throughout your entire career. Employers want to know what rank you had at graduation, and if you wanted a top job, it had better be high.
And then she said something very interesting.
"It's not just my law school career that I need to protect," she said. "I don't want to be that girl. I don't want all that people know about me is I got raped. I'm afraid that if I go public, that's all I'll be -- a rape victim."
When she said that, I immediately identified with her. It was 30 years before I started to talk openly about my own experience with domestic violence.
I graduated law school, made partner in a tough firm, made tenure at a top law school, worked in politics, became a leader in women's rights -- I want people to know those things about me. I don't want people to think that I'm a loser who got mixed up with a creep who hits.
This is what makes it so difficult for women to come forward, and why I'm so uncomfortable with media requests for women to tell their personal stories on the air or in print. They need to understand that they're asking a lot from women who have a personal story. Instead of putting a big scarlet "R" for Rapist on the forehead of the perpetrator you are putting a big "RV" for Rape Victim on the woman -- forever.
I eventually started speaking openly because I thought that my experience could be useful. I was involved in the opening in suburban Washington of a Family Justice Center, which is a place that provides a full range of services to families impacted by domestic violence. The question was frequently asked, "What do victims need?"
I found myself saying, "Well, let me tell you something, first of all they need to be identified as way more than victims. It's not about calling them a survivor, it's about calling them capable individuals, good mothers, skilled achievers, talented women -- it's about recognizing in them all the other things they are."
I've been thinking about all this a lot lately as NOW is working to help pass Senator Kirsten Gillibrand's Military Justice Improvement Act, which takes decisions over whether a case goes to trial out of the military chain of command. Women in the military frequently decide not to report sexual assault because they -- quite rationally -- fear that doing so will cause their careers to come to an end. Not only will they be labeled as a rape victim, they'll also be called "difficult" because they came forward.
Women who take the courageous step of telling their stories need to be heard, not stigmatized. I don't mind talking about my own experiences, but personally, I prefer policy. I want to bring whatever talent and ability I have as an advocate to press for policy solutions to things like sexual assault and domestic violence. At NOW, we don't want to just get people's attention; we want to bring about lasting change.
So you won't see a lot of personal stories about sexual assault and domestic violence on the NOW website. I'll talk to you about what I went through, but it won't be the first thing you hear from me -- or the only thing you remember.
This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post in conjunction with Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Read all posts in the series here.
Need help? In the U.S., visit the National Sexual Assault Online Hotline operated by RAINN. For more resources, visit theNational Sexual Violence Resource Center's website.
The Daily Meal: You'll Never Believe What People Put On Pizza Around The World 2014-04-23
There's so much more to pizza than cheese -- people will really put anything from pineapple, to mashed potatoes, to macaroni and cheese (no, really) on a pizza. Visitors to the Minnesota State Fair have even admitted to indulging in a deep-fried corn-dog pizza! Surprisingly, these choice toppings are still fairly palatable in comparison to some.
Click Here to see the Complete List of Things You Won't Believe That People Put on Pizza Around the World
Pizza may have originated in Italy but these days it's a truly global dish, arguably one of the world's favorite foods, popular from Korea, to Brazil and everywhere in between. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently noted that about one in eight Americans consumes pizza on any given day, and mostly as dinner.
It's reasonable then, that people will try to combine it with some of their other favorite foods like spare ribs, perhaps, or even hamburger meat (or in some cases the whole hamburger). Then there are some combinations like the baked beans pizza from the U.K. that push the envelope out a little further.
Also in the U.K., you'll find an array of chocolate pizza offerings. Some are actually pizzas made from gourmet chocolates, and others throw chocolate chips and cream cheese on a pizza crust... an interesting choice either way.
Back in the U.S., Missouri locals take advantage of cicada season by baking up the bugs into a cheesy pizza masterpiece. Incidentally, they also (briefly) make a popular cicada ice cream, which Missouri conservation officials are none too keen on.
What strange toppings would you put on your pizza? Prawns? Crocodile? Kangaroo? Read on to see what unusual toppings people are putting on their pizzas around the world.
-- Serusha Govender, The Daily Meal
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Michel Bauwens: Beyond Jeremy Rifkin: How Will The Phase Transition To A Commons Economy Actually Occur? 2014-04-23
In his new book, Jeremy Rifkin focuses on the value crisis of contemporary capitalism based on the revolution in marginal costs which destroys the profit rate. He concludes that this will mean that the economy and society will re-orient itself around collaborative commons, with a more peripheric role for the market dynamics. In this, Jeremy Rifkin joins the founding charter of the P2P Foundation, which was precisely created in 2005 to observe, study and promote this transition.
Past historical phase transitions, say the transition from the Roman Empire slave-based system to feudal serfdom, or the transition of feudalism to capitalism, where not exactly smooth affairs, so it may be un-realistic to expect a smooth and unproblematic phase transition towards a post-capitalist social order.
To get a better understanding of how this transition could occur, we can do two things. First, we can look at past transitions, such as transition to feudalism, and ask ourselves what this means for the current one; second, we can look at the micro-economy of the already existing commons economy, and perhaps deduce from this the future outlines of the social order to come. Follow me in these two explorations.
1. What we can learn from Rome
Most historical empires followed the process outlined by the 14th century Islamic historian Ibn Khaldun: at a certain stage of development, the benefits of the expansion are no longer sufficient to outpace the rise of the costs of managing complexity, the empire starts to decline and is taken over by neighboring 'barbaric' tribes ... But Roman transition did much more than that: it created an entirely new economic and social system. Faced with the crisis of Roman globalization, i.e. a dearth of slaves and gold, Roman emperors and the more intelligent parts of the elite, switched to the emerging coloni system, i.e. a system of land-bound agrarian serfs.
The transition dynamic can be summarized as:
1) a crisis occurs in the dominant system; 2) an exodus occurs at the bottom of society in the producing class (from slaves to serfs, from serfs to labor, from labor to peer producer); 3) a section of the managerial class orients itself to the new mode of value creation and distribution.
Hence the paradox that it is actually a section of the former ruling class that funds and creates the new modalities. Reality check today: the economic meltdown is causing an exodus of labor to freelance status, unemployment and peer production; a section of capital, netarchical capital, invests in the commons and sharing-based social media. Think IBM, which has morphed to a certain degree into a Linux-based consulting company; think Facebook, paradoxically enabling and empowering self-organization and p2p social logics on a global scale.
A second factor, based on the resource crisis of the Roman Empire, is a transition from economies of scale, to economies of scope, i.e. 'doing more with the same thing.' Hence, the feudal system relocalized production in local domains, the Catholic Church and its monasteries created a global open design community at the scale of Europe, and the monks mutualized the physical infrastructures of production and became the engineers of the first medieval industrial revolution (Gimpel, Jean. The Medieval Machine: The Industrial Revolution of the Middle Ages). Note that this was NOT a smooth transition, and took almost five centuries of instability before its consolidation after the first European Revolution of 975 (the Peace of God movement led by the monks which created the new feudal social order that would blossom in the 10th to 13th centuries).
Reality check today: the free software, free culture, open design and hardware movements are mutualizing knowledge, while the sharing economy and the hackerspace/makerspace/fablab/coworking movements are mutualizing physical infrastructures. Just as after the 5th century, the transition towards economies of scope has started.
The third lesson is crucial: political and social revolution is preceded by the emergence, within the old system, of the new productive system and its value logic. Not the other way around, as the socialist and marxist tradition has claimed. Today, in the very womb of capitalism, the new mode of production, the new way of value creation and distribution, is already emerging and growing, but under the domination of the old system still, but, as its logic is fundamentally different of the logic of capital, it cannot possibly be subsumed forever, and prepares the ground for a structural transformation. This structural transformation, or 'phase transition', will make the emergent subsystem into the new dominant logic. Today, the economy based on common knowledge pools is already estimated at 1/6th of GDP in the US (17 million workers). Netarchical capitalism, the forces of capital that are funding and enabling the transition towards the collaborative commons, though under their own conditions, are a increasingly strong sector of the economy, but their very parasital mode of operation (i.e. expropriation of nearly 100% of the value created by human cooperation), makes it impossible for them to be the next ruling class. A capitalism that doesn't pay its value creators simply cannot exist in the long term as a stable system. This is why Jeremy Rifkin is entirely correct in his prediction for the future.
2. Looking at the already existing collaborative commons economy.
So what is the existing commons economy? It's the economy of commons-oriented peer production, first described by Yochai Benkler in The Wealth of Networks. It consists of productive communities of contributors, paid or unpaid, who are contributing, not to privatized knowledge, but to common pools of knowledge, code and design, which fuels a new commons-oriented economy. It's the economy of open knowledge, free software, open design and open hardware, more and more connected to practices of open and distributed manufacturing. It's the economy fueled by the exodus from waged labor, into a freelance economy of young urban knowledge workers, who live from the market economy, but produce more and more for open knowledge pools.
It has a fairly clear institutional structure that prefigures the commons society to come.
Unlike proprietary capitalism, the value is deposited by a community of contributors in a common pool ; this is the core of the new value creation; this is the sphere of abundant knowledge that can be shared and reproduced at marginal cost; the infrastructure of cooperation is empowered and enabled by a new type of for-benefit associations, which do not command and control the production, but make it possible. They are most often foundations, like the Apache Foundation or the Gnome Foundation; around this is constituted a entrepreneurial coalition of enterprises, which provides employment to an increasing number of peer producers: 75% of linux contributors are paid by enterprises who operate on the market , and create market value on top of the commons. Other forms of peer-driven economies are constituted around distributed labor (crowdsourcing), social media (Facebook, Twitter). This new form of netarchical capital (the hierarchy of the network, hence 'net'-'archical') that at the same time enables and empowers social cooperation and collective value creation through sharing and the commons, also captures the value.
In this transitional model, still capital-based but already working around a commons that has an entirely different logic, that is already no longer a commodity, that is already no longer based on a command hierarchy, that is based on the self-allocation of effort through a distribution of tasks instead of a division of labor. In the more extreme variants of this model, we see 100% of the value creation carried out through free human cooperation, but also 100% of the value capture done by the proprietary platform owners. This 'value crisis', where no value flows back to the value creators, clearly show that it is a transitional model, not bound to last. How could a capitalism function, where none of the created value returns to the value creators. Who will buy the products ?
Hence the increasing contradiction in a system where the ability to directly create use value in the commons rises exponentially, but the capacity to monetize these efforts only grows linearly, and is captured without return in terms of livelihood.
Thus the need to harmonize the value distribution mode, in an increasingly dysfunctional capitalism, with the value creation mode. Bottom-up, the new type of enterpreneurs are experimenting with new types of open business models, which recognize the characteristics of the commons. But this will not be enough, restoring the value loop between value creation and value realization will be the key challenge of the phase transition.
3. Facilitating the transitions
The most interesting experiment is happening in Ecuador, where the author of this article has been asked to be the research director of a research project to plan a national transition towards a social knowledge economy. It is the first time that a nation-state recognizes the necessity of such a transition.
They have asked a team of research to create a framework and ten policy papers, that create both the material and immaterial conditions to re-orient the economy, and hence the social and economic system, around open knowledge commons in every field of social, economic and political activity. Following Rifkin's lead, the internet of knowledge creation, driven by common-based pools; could be matched with an internet of energy and manufacturing. Imagine that the neo-colonial economy of Ecuador, which still experts raw material like oil and bananas with low added value, and has to import consumption and production goods with high added value, would develop its own domestic industries, by combining cooperation with global open design communities, and local communities of practice (say in the field of open agricultural machine design and production), and would actually produce these tools and machines locally, close to the place of need. Today, in the neoliberal globalized economy, the cost of transportation is three times the cost of production, and IP-based profits trump the profits in material production. This is why open hardware can be produced consistently at about one eight of the cost of production of proprietary hardware. Imagine that a country like Ecuador, would systematically follow the advice of Joshua Pearce in his book, Open Source Lab (Pearce, Joshua M. Open-Source Lab. Elsevier, 2013), which shows how scientific labs can be built at about 10% of the cost, by systematically opting for open scientific instruments ? It is to early to tell to which degree Ecaudor will indeed follow the recommendations, but that it is contemplating such a transition, shows that the maturity of the emerging mode of production, is much more advanced than most analysts believe. This national effort is already matched by remarkable experiences at the local (city) and regional level in different parts of the world.
4. In conclusion: some recommendations
Our own recommendation is the following (in detail here): open design communities should move to the use of reciprocity-based commons licenses, which unlike the General Public License, allows for the creation of cooperative and reciprocity-based forms of material production, i.e. 'ethical', 'not-for-profit' enterpreneurial coalitions, formed by the commoners themselves. Once constituted, the members of such coalitions, operating in solidarity around the same commons, could move forward to new practices such as open book accounting and open supply chains. If this were done, peer production would become capable of insuring its self-reproduction outside of the sphere of the accumulation of capital.
Through mutual coordination, the already existing, stigmergy-based mutual coordination of 'immaterial' production, would become applicable to material production. In other words, the system of allocation of resources through market price signals, as well as the internal planning that takes place in large enterprises, would be matched by an emerging sphere that would allocate resources through mutual coordination. If the micro-economic model that we discussed in section 2 would grow to become a societal model, we would see that the core of society would have become a productive civil society, organized around contributory commons; we would see that the state would have been transformed into a Partner-State, which like the micro-economic for-benefit associations, would enable and empower autonomous social production on a societal scale; finally, a post-capitalist market economy would have been constituted by ethical enterpreneurial coalitions, who would use their surplus and profit to realize their social goals.