Air Force Scientist Spilled No Secrets. He Still Went to Prison.

3 days ago

It takes a good while for J. Reece Roth to answer the door at his home on the west side of Knoxville. A former electrical engineering prof at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, where he was also the director of the Plasma Sciences Laboratory, Roth will be 81 in September and has hip, knee, and heart problems, which have slackened him down quite a bit.

Of course, the four years he spent in prison for violating the Arms Export Control Act didn’t do him many favors, either.

Former students and contemporaries describe Roth as something of a pioneer in the field of plasma physics. When he was accused in 2006 of divulging sensitive technological data to two foreign nationals, Roth had been working on research for the U.S. Us air force, developing thrusters that used atmospheric plasma gas–something typically created only under highly controlled laboratory conditions–to improve the flight performance of unmanned aerial vehicles, or dronings. It’s been almost 15 years, but Roth is still noticeably upset about the style things went down.

” I was handled by the government in a way that has basically intimidated researchers all over the country as far as carrying forward applications[ of my technology ],” he says.

The twist is , none of what Roth disclosed was classified. And the foreign nationals weren’t spies, the latter are grad students. But as is typical with sensitive DoD research, foreign citizens were explicitly forbidden from working on the project without a special license from the federal government. By allowing Ph.D. candidates Xin Dai, from China, and Sirous Nourgostar, from Iran, to participate, Roth violated a once-obscure corner of U.S. exportation law that considers describing, demonstrating, or explaining certain things to a foreign citizen, even one that’s standing next to you in Tennessee, to be an illegal “export.”

Another of Roth’s violations resulted from a trip-up he took to China with a laptop containing files from the Air Force project, even though forensic exams afterward indicated those files were never opened while he was there. During that same trip-up, he asked a student to email him some files. Roth said he was having trouble connecting to the internet, and told the student to send them to the account of a Chinese professor at the university he was visiting.

” Even a blank sheet of paper from that research was export-controlled .”

After six hours of deliberation, the jury convicted Roth on 18 out of 18 countings, including conspiracy, wire hoax, and exporting defense articles and services without a license. The two foreign graduate students were never accused of wrongdoing , nor were they ever suspected of any.

As a former associate of Roth’s told The Daily Beast:” It’s simple. Because this was a military contract, it was a contractual designation[ to restrict participation to U.S. citizens only] and that’s what bolt everything into the ground. Because even a blank sheet of paper from that research was export-controlled .”

American counterintelligence officials have long advised about snoops on campus, and according to recent congressional witnes by current and former U.S. counterintelligence officials, foreign intelligence services are more active than ever within the academic community. There is a ” small but significant percentage” of international students and faculty sent to the U.S. to steal military and civilian research, as journalist and author Daniel Golden testified before the House Science Committee in April, citing a DoD finding that the use of academics by foreign intelligence agencies has tripled over the past two decades.

” Without going into details that I cannot divulge, I can reinforce the fact it is a longstanding issue ,” retired CIA operations officer Charles Goslin told The Daily Beast.” Typically, universities get full compensation from the governments sending those students to the U.S. to analyze and then return with cutting edge the investigations and IP. So, the incentive to keep the cash coming in outweighs the incentive to follow closely the students from those countries .”

As the Trump administration threatens to impose what could turn out to be the most prohibitive restrictions on foreign students’ access to U.S. universities in modern history, exclusive new interviews with figures from the Roth case shed additional light on just how serious the government is about keeping American defense technology out of the incorrect hands.

Roth was born in 1938 in Chartiers, Pennsylvania, near Pittsburgh. He got his bachelor’s at MIT before going on to Cornell for his doctorate. Roth then ran at NASA until 1978, when he left to teach at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. Formal and a bit stiff, yet quite friendly and accessible, Roth speaks in a rich baritone and chooses his terms carefully.

Although he rarely gets away much anymore, Roth traveled to China extensively in years past. Two of his books had been translated into Chinese, and he always got a steady river of an applicant for students there who were eager to study with him. Roth speaks extremely highly of the Chinese scientists he has fulfilled, and was made an honorary professor at the renowned University of Electronic Science and Technology of China in Chengdu and Beijing’s elite Tsinghua University in 1992 and 2006.

China is as much of an espionage menace, if not even more so, than Russia, a former intelligence operative from countries around the world in Eastern Europe told The Daily Beast.

” They are extremely effective in using their former citizens, or Americans with Chinese roots or relatives in China ,” the ex-spy said.” They have no limits with fund, and the Chinese government can guarantee resettlement to China and financial support if the person or persons they recruited is captured or busted by local authorities. And of course, “there dont” extradition from China .”

The Chinese government has also established Confucius Institutes, which trace a direct link to China’s Communist Party, at more than 100 universities across the U.S. counterintelligence officials have warned that the Confucius Institutes can be used for espionage, and as former intelligence analyst Peter Mattis recently told The Washington Post , they are part and parcel of the Chinese Communist Party’s ” united front work ” propaganda endeavours against the party’s detractors.

In fact, Chinese influence is of such fear to U.S. counterintelligence officials, they reportedly warned Donald Trump son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner last year that Wendi Deng Murdoch, ex-wife of News Corp CEO and founder Rupert Murdoch, could be working for China’s intelligence services.

Surely is conscious that Chinese espionage does exist, Roth insists the intentions of his Chinese equivalents, by and large, were pure.

” The contacts I had were normal scholarly the relations with colleagues at universities in other countries who simply wanted to exchange information ,” Roth told The Daily Beast in his first interview since being released from prison in 2015.” With the possible exception of my trips to China, the information transfer was pretty much two-way and I don’t think it was motivated by any said he wished to spy on, or take, U.S. technology .”

Needless to say, people targeted by foreign intelligence sometimes don’t know that they’ve been compromised. And spies often don’t was like “spies.” In the post-Roth epoch at UT, the administration advises students and faculty working on export-controlled projects not to even send documents to campus transcript centres where foreign nationals might be working.

Universities have a challenge in blending a culture of academic liberty with restrictions on intellectual property, said Will Mackie, one of the two government attorneys who prosecuted Roth. Mackie emphasizes the importance of academic research to the U.S. economy, and says exportation control laws are not meant to restrict research, but to protect it.

Roth’s situation” was totally preventable ,” his onetime attorney explained.” He never stated that he was totally ignorant of the rules, so that was not a defense … The idea is that he thought that these rules were unnecessary and he also tried to say that he knew this technology better than the regulators and it was something that he didn’t think should be controlled .”

Roth had a route about him that didn’t build people want to go to bat for him when he was carried into court, others said. Daniel Max Sherman, who analyse under Roth before going on to work alongside him, remembered Roth’s tendency to take credit for everything developed in his lab whether it was his idea or not, generating” numerous instances, even legal consequences, over whether or not he owned a certain piece of intellectual property .”

” Roth had such an attitude that basically he had created something special and great ,” Sherman told The Daily Beast.” He would go to these national meetings and tell people they were stealing his ideas, or that he had already thought of it and if they’d simply read Chapter 7, Section 2 of his book …”

In Roth’s case, authorities had been tracking at the least one of his two foreign-born graduate deputies from virtually the moment he first set foot on American soil.

Born in Tehran in 1976, physicist Sirous Nourgostar had always admired Roth’s work from afar. A alumnu of Tehran’s Alborz High School, which was founded by American missionaries in 1873, Nourgostar arrived in the United States in August 2005 to analyze under Roth’s tutelage. Ultra-hardline Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had taken office a few days earlier, and U.S.-Iranian relations were particularly tense.

Nourgostar told The Daily Beast he was questioned and fingerprinted by immigration officials upon arrival at Los Angeles International Airport. Although he had a valid F1 student visa, Nourgostar claims officers threatened to turn him away and send him back to Iran. For reasons he never makes fully clear, Nourgostar was eventually cleared for entry and stimulated his way to Tennessee for the autumn semester.

In the meantime, the FBI paid Roth a visit and requested information about, among other things, the kinds of chemicals and instruments Nourgostar would have access to in his laboratory. A few days after Nourgostar got to township, he says he was also questioned by the FBI. Before they could get started, Nourgostar preemptively assured them that he wasn’t religion or observant. The agents cut him off right away, saying they weren’t allowed to talk about that sort of thing.

” The head of the FBI team told me,’ Look, I know who you are. All I can tell you at this moment is that this is not about you .'”
— Sirous Nourgostar

Eight months later, while Roth was off lecturing in China, the FBI raided his laboratory. Nourgostar watched a team of armed agents label, photo, and cart away everything from computers to lab notebooks as evidence. He says he had no idea why the FBI was there, and they wouldn’t give him any details.

” I supposed perhaps I did something wrong, I was very scared ,” Nourgostar recalled.” Then the head of the FBI team told me,’ Look, I know who you are. All I can tell you at this moment is that this is not about you .'”

When Roth flew back to the Countries from China a few days later, customs agents in Detroit pulled him out of line and copied the contents of his laptop’s hard drive. Nourgostar said Roth called him before catching his connecting flight home to Tennessee, explaining that he had been stopped and questioned. He asked how things were back at the lab, and Nourgostar broke the news to him that the FBI had confiscated most of its contents.

When Roth’s connecting flight landed in Knoxville, agents from the FBI, Customs& Border Protection, and the Department of Commerce seized the laptop itself and a thumb drive. After a two-hour interrogation, Roth said he was allowed to go home; he was not apprehended at that time.

Months went by while the FBI interviewed everyone in Roth’s orbit. According to an as-yet unpublished memoir by Daniel Max Sherman, a friend of his who worked at the Pentagon sent an email promoting him to try not to worry too much.

” It’s uncomfortable, but you did nothing wrong; Roth did … The authorities will figure it out. Regrettably, it will cause you some distress for a period of time and your work will be on a watch list ,” the friend wrote.

Roth wound down whatever research he had left, reviewing newspapers for scientific journals, and getting ready to retire. He vowed to battle and beat this thing. But Nourgostar had been called to testify before a grand jury and knew that Roth was actually in very deep shit.

” I wasn’t supposed to talk or give any feedback about participating in the grand jury, so I could not tell him anything ,” Nourgostar said.” The route he was talking to us, that they don’t have anything, well, all of a sudden there was an indictment .”

Roth was given a day and date to turn himself at the FBI’s Knoxville Field Office to be formally apprehended. Roth was handcuffed and fingerprinted; agents took a Dna sample.

” It was more like an office appointment with a physician than anything else ,” Roth said.” I demonstrated up at the stated place and period; there weren’t any sirens, I wasn’t dragged out of my house or anything like that .”

Nourgostar claims the FBI told him during questioning that they viewed this case as one that would send a” strong message to other universities that we are serious about this kind of thing .”

” There are a few people willing to hazard prison for their principles. He’s one of them .”
— Thomas Dundon

The drone project” from the beginning had a component in it that I knew, something was not right ,” Nourgostar said,” but at the time, I was a fresh student ,” and felt that it would be better to not make any waves.

Nourgostar wound up taking the stand against Roth, calls his former mentor” an amazing prof I had in my life ,” and described his short stint in Roth’s lab largely as” an exceptional experience .”

” He was a true true educator who wanted to have some sort of legacy left behind ,” said Nourgostar.” I haven’t been able to find anyone else like that man .”

Nourgostar and others describe Roth as somewhat stunted emotionally, possessing virtually childlike social skills.

He set himself at a disadvantage from the beginning, antagonizing the feds from the very beginning of the investigation, according to defense attorney Thomas Dundon, who represented Roth in court and received permission from Roth to speak openly to The Daily Beast about the lawsuit.

Immediately after he was stopped at the airport, but before “hes having” hired Dundon, Roth began calling and emailing federal examiners to defend his position. That is, that academic researchers should be able to use the best and the brightest students as they wish , no matter where they’re from. The investigation would continue for the next three years.

” We started off with Dr. Roth having presented his perspective in the matter more than one time, and in writing on at the least one occasion, to a variety of people ,” said Dundon, explaining the enormity of the task he faced after Roth retained him.” I would not recommend any client do that .”

Roth, who said he had in fact submitted debriefing reports to the CIA after past trip-ups to China, was personally outraged by the insinuation that he couldn’t be trusted to safeguard the integrity of his research, Dundon recollected. Use foreign nationals on a restricted military contract was bad, but Roth taking sensitive information on his laptop to China and having restricted material sent to him via email there was what really stuck in the government’s craw, said Dundon.

Roth absence a full understanding of the internet, and didn’t appreciate the fact that his data could have been intercepted by the Chinese government, something we now know is standard operating procedure, Dundon said. Whether or not Chinese agents or any of Roth’s Chinese university colleagues actually got access to this material, Dundon doesn’t know.

” I don’t recall there being any proof, but I do recall that the government expressed concern about that ,” he said.

” I admired Dr. Roth for being willing to stand up for his principles ,” Dundon said.” I don’t see that very often in my business. A plenty of people would perhaps “say its” misplaced. Nevertheless, there are a few people willing to danger prison for their principles. He’s one of them .”

Daniel Max Sherman was a student of Roth’s at UT before going into business with him. Now 47 and living in Chattanooga, Sherman exudes an unmistakable cynicism about the world.

Born in rural Dayton, Tennessee, to a mommy who had turned 18 only a few days earlier, Sherman never fulfilled “his fathers”. He got his contact info a while back, but never actually got in touch.

” I grew up with a long list of stepfathers, almost all cases with military backgrounds ,” Sherman explained.” The first father I remember was a drill sergeant for the Army and he was not a nice man .”

Sherman, who is speaking publicly about the occurrence for the first time, left home during his senior year of high school, primarily to escape his mother’s third spouse, an alcoholic Marine Corps drill instructor. Sherman’s grandmother managed to cobble together enough fund for him to attend UT, and one of his high school teachers devoted him a few hundred bucks for textbooks.

Sherman was the director of plasma sciences at a small, publicly traded company in Knoxville called Atmospheric Glow Technologies( AGT ). Roth was a minority partner. Located in a commercial park 20 minutes west of downtown Knoxville, the offices are less than a 10 -minute drive from Reece Roth’s home.

AGT was spun off from UT to develop commercial applications for Roth’s plasma actuator design. In fact, Sherman, who co-owns the patent, says the actuator” in this particular form was a design that resulted during my Master’s in 1995. At that time, Dr. Roth was my advisor .” Roth reportedly offered to let Sherman take full credit, but Sherman, Roth, and a third collaborator are listed as co-inventors.

AGT existed with two basic fund mechanisms, Sherman explained. One followed the traditional commercial model, creating money from outside investors. The other came from the federal government. Sherman was the one who wrote the bulk of those proposals, making most of the initial ideas after which he said other people’s names would unavoidably also be” slapped on .”

” As one of[ my former colleagues] at Oak Ridge[ National Laboratory] to present to me,’ Daniel, I can’t send this pen to Iran .'”
— Daniel Max Sherman

Still, the issues to remains: Why would Roth risk his reputation, his career, and his freedom only to hire a couple of foreign alumnu research deputies? Is it truly that hard to find competent American Ph.D. nominees?

” Dr. Roth’s lab was constantly filled with foreign nationals ,” said Sherman.” His book had been translated into foreign languages and they respected him and most Americans couldn’t stand working for him, he was such an ass .”

Dan Golden, author of Spy Schools: How the CIA, FBI, and Foreign Intelligence Secretly Exploit America’s Universities , was the first person to interview Roth when he went to prison in 2012 and has written about the suit extensively.

” I think it flattered his vanity to have students who had admired him from afar and who could remind him about what a major figure “hes in” China, because he’s not a man without ego ,” Golden told The Daily Beast.” So, that’s the specific reason. More broadly, there’s a plethora of foreign graduate student in American science departments .”( He also points out the ironic disconnect between UT’s vigilance in turning in Roth while at the same time seeming less alert to the myriad issues posed by hosting a Confucius Institute on campus .)

It was Sherman who ultimately acquiesced to Roth’s demand that Xin Dai, his Chinese student, be hired onto the drone project. However, he insisted that all limited material be kept away from Dai and handled by an American student, Truman Bonds. A noble theory, but one that unfortunately did not work in practice, according to Sherman.

As Dai neared graduation and Roth announced that he wanted Nourgostar to take his place, Sherman finally set his foot down.

” It had been made clear to me that it truly wouldn’t be a good idea ,” said Sherman.” As one of[ my former colleagues] at Oak Ridge[ National Laboratory] explained to me,’ Daniel, I can’t send this pen to Iran .'”

When Sherman told Roth he would do whatever it took to block the hire, Roth sought support from the university’s supervisor of faculty research contracts. She advised Roth to speak to the school’s newly-hired exportation control policeman, who was more than a little alarmed not only by the notion of hiring an Iranian national for a project that was very obviously subject to serious regulations, but also that a Chinese national had previously been spent a year illegally working on the project without anyone knowing it. Roth left for China, the export control policeman called authorities, and that’s when everything began to collapse.

According to most everyone involved, Roth dismissed multiple warns from various people about his hiring of foreign students, insisting all the while that the university’s non-discrimination policy overrode federal exportation law.

During the trial, Roth flatly refused to consider negotiating a plea bargain, insisting he had done nothing incorrect. The jury plainly believed otherwise, finding that Roth acted with the requisite intent.

” The greatest injury, my friends would say, is that by the time I left prison, I had turned my back on invention “
— Daniel Max Sherman

Backed into a corner, Sherman agreed to plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate the Arms Export Control Act. The magistrate sentenced him to 14 months. He did his time as inmate #32207-074 at a federal prison camp in Florence, Colorado, alongside former Enron CFO Andy Fastow, who worked in the barbershop.

Sherman says he took the deal in hopes that he could” put this shitstorm behind me and try to eventually rebuild a life, which I haven’t .”

” What does a offender do when they get out of incarcerate ?” he says when asked if he still practices physics.” They do building. I do remodeling and building, that pays the majority of my bills .”

Xin Dai got his Ph.D. in electrical engineering in 2006, and now works as a patent lawyer in Palo Alto. He did not respond to multiple requests for remark. Sirous Nourgostar is working as a researcher in the University of Wisconsin Madison’s Department of Nuclear Engineering. Truman Bonds is the president of a firm in Knoxville, which is successfully commercializing a carbon fiber oxidation project Sherman says he started back at Atmospheric Glow. Reached by email, Bonds declined to comment.

Atmospheric Glow was charged as a company, and pleaded guilty to 10 countings of conspiracy. On April 1, 2008, the firm declared bankruptcy. A few months later, AGT’s assets were sold off to a Connecticut firm for $125,000 cash, plus $ 200,000 in stock.

In the end, Sherman fell only short of earning his doctorate. Once the federal investigation began, the Air force stopped communicating with the AGT team. When the Ph.D. committee realized there would be no way for Sherman to publish his results, they told him it wasn’t worth going any further.

” The greatest damage, my friends would say, is that by the time I left prison, I had turned my back on invention ,” Sherman said.” I found a wealthy philanthropist here in town who wanted me to take over a high-tech project kind of as a pastime, and I did that for a little while until he passed away, and I haven’t done science since .”

Both Sherman and Roth speak about their plasma research with noticeable pride, although they both say it has largely disappeared.

” I will tell you that all the inventions that we came up with, to this day are still not being discussed in the public literature ,” said Sherman.” The technology could literally be 100 times more electrically efficient and 10 times stronger, but no one talks about it .”

” The technology in the U.S. has not advanced nearly as quickly and over as broad a scope as I think it should have ,” said Roth, who lists a number of civilian uses that haven’t yet been fully explored, including sterilization and decontamination in the medical and agricultural fields.

” At the time I was jailed, there were a bunch of tests showing that plasma actuators could reduce the drag on[ wind turbine blades] up to 30 percent ,” Roth explained.” In aerodynamic words, that’s a big decrease in drag. Over the last 50 years, they’ve been spending millions to get the drag on airfoils down simply a few percentage at a time .”

” If we can reduce the espionage and steal done by a small minority, we could get the benefit of the majority, who don’t .”
— Daniel Golden

On the other hand, Tom McLaughlin of the Air Force Academy says Roth’s technology, which he describes not as a brand-new discovery, but a clever “tool” based on the dielectric hurdle discharge plasma first reported by Ernst Werner von Siemens in 1857, had already reached what he considers to be its practical restrictions, at the least for his purposes.

” It was difficult to make it work at aerodynamic velocities of interest to us ,” McLaughlin told The Daily Beast.” It would at very low velocities but the faster you got, the less effective it became. I don’t think the occurrence led to the demise of the technology, we played out the technology and procured it wasn’t doing everything we thought it would .”

Dan Golden was glad that Dai and Nourgostar have stayed to make lives in America, saying that this is precisely the point that people often overlook when they talk about the danger of espionage at U.S. universities: The great majority of Chinese( and other) students who come to the States and earn their Ph.D.s stay for at the least five years after getting their doctorate. Some stay a lot longer than that, said Golden, entailing their inventions stay here, too.

” If you cut off China, you lose the benefit of all the research they do when they’re here. If we can reduce the espionage and steal done by a small minority, we could get the benefit of the majority, who don’t .”

The experience has obviously left an indelible impression on Roth, whose spouse Helen watches Tv in the other room as he recounts events more than a decade in the past like they happened yesterday.

Today, Roth’s life tends toward the ludditistic. He has a cell phone, but if he wants to set something in writing, he sends a letter. He has refused to get online since leaving prison for fear of” the potential misrepresentation of any kind of message they happen to come up with through these dragnets that they perform on people’s correspondence .”

Roth views his case as having been” politically motivated ,” and doesn’t think investigators had the necessary level of scientific sophistication to fully comprehend the nuances involved. If they had, he doesn’t believe he ever would have been hauled into court in the first place.

” Some of those attorneys were involved in pursuing people who were making bootleg alcohol and that was the kind of prosecution that they seemed to go after ,” Roth says.” I think they attribute China’s technical success to their stealing our technology, when in fact the Chinese are perfectly capable of developing and originating their own .”

Read more:

Spooky! Messages from the beyond or merely coincidence? | Oliver Burkeman

9 days ago

Weve all heard eyebrow-raising narratives so whats really going on?

In 1944, a British soldier battle in Italy was knocked unconscious by shell fragments. That same day in Monmouthshire, he later recollected, my wife was washing up after lunch. My daughter, aged two and a half, to whom I was only a name, was playing with some bricks on the kitchen floor. She suddenly got to her feet, gone over to my wife, said Daddys been hurt, and went back to her bricks.

This eyebrow-raising tale appears in Connecting With Coincidence, a new book by the psychiatrist Bernard Beitman along with so many others it becomes easier to keep ones eyebrows permanently raised. Beitman has one of his own: in 1973, he found himself inexplicably choking at his kitchen sink merely to learn, the next day, that his father had choked on his own blood and died at the same moment .~ ATAGEND

The rationalist in me knows this all comes down to the law of truly large numbers, which states that, given a large enough sample, many seemingly unlikely things become downright probable. Even presuming the soldiers memories were accurate, so many fought in the second world war that its virtually inevitable a few would have odd tales. Beitman tells of one therapist who dreamed of an ex-patient lying immobile in a beach shack; subsequently, he learned that one week after that dream, that patient had taken an overdose in a seaside hotel and nearly died. Spooky! But less so when you factor in the patients the therapist didnt dream about not to mention all the other therapists with no such anecdotes to relate.

Still, Beitman makes an intriguing lawsuit for approaching coincidences as if they werent simply random, whatever your notion. Connecting With Coincidence is full of people taking such happenings as signs, telling them who to marry, whether to have kids or get divorced and it serves them rather well. One widow injures her finger while gardening, forcing hospital staff to cut away her wedding ring, which she takes as a sign from her “husbands ” that its OK to date again. A message from beyond the grave? Presumably not. Did she subconsciously arrange the trauma herself? Perhaps. But Im not sure it matters: either way, the incident smoothed a transition shed been struggling to make.

All very unscientific, I know. But the truth is that the biggest personal decisions in life cant be made in scientific way anyway; there are too many variables involved. Yet we often do seem to know, just below the surface of awareness, whats best for us and noticing how we respond to bizarre coincidences can provide clues to that subconscious knowledge.

One of Beitmans patients, his marriage on the rocks, has a thrilling encounter with an old girlfriend in a bar, which he seems to take as a sign he should recommit to his marriage. Why not as a sign that he should leave his wife? Both interpretations work, but only one had meaning for him. Its odd to ask whether such coincidental encounters genuinely entail anything, as if theyd need to be choreographed by some cosmic force-out. Who says thats what meaning entails?

oliver.burkeman @theguardian. com

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How to actually talk to a woman wearing headphones | Martha Mills

10 days ago

Martha Mills: How to talk to a woman wearing headphones, without seeming like a terrifying harasser

An article has surfaced from the quagmire of bilge the hell is The Internet and it has caused , not without reason, a small tornado of outrage. Written as dating advice for The Modern Man( a misnomer if ever there were one ), it promises a solution to the hot n horny down-on-their-luck young bucks of the world who face the tedious obstacle of a woman wearing headphones, because how dare she. And no, it isnt a parody.

You can read it in its full entitled glory, or stick with me as I dissect each grubby, jaw-dropping hallucination of psychopathic awfulness. Its going to be quite a ride.

How to Talk to a Woman Who is Wearing Headphones

These days, many females walk around playing with a smartphone or tablet device and are often wearing headphones and listening to music at the same time.

Yet, that doesnt mean you cant talk to them.

Of course , not all women are open to being approached because not all women are single and looking.

However, if a woman wearing headphones is single and hoping to meet a boyfriend( or even a new devotee ), she will almost always be happy to take off her headphones to give you an opportunity to create a spark with her.

The author, one Dan Bacon, could have saved us all a lot of bother here by answering his How to with Dont. Sadly he seems to have missed some basic behavioural science here; you assure, the very reason I and many other women wear headphones isnt as a trivial obstacle to some throbbing hormone mountain , nor as a challenge for those blessed with an abundance of ego. Its a defense. A defence against the aural onslaught of modern lifeand especially the leering advances of said pulsating hormone mountains. In short, we wear them because we dont want to be talked to. Its basic physics actually – we fill our ear pits to stop you from get in.

But back to Dan 😛 TAGEND

What to Do to Get Her Attention

1. Stand in front of her( with 1 to 1.5 meters between you ).

2. Have a relaxed, easy-going smile.

3. Is she hasnt already looked up at you, simply get her attention with a wave of your hand. Wave your hand in her direct line of vision so she cant ignore it.

4. When she looks at you, smile and point to her headphones and say, Take off your headphones for a minute and pretend to be taking headphones off your head, so she fully understands.

If she doesnt understand( most women will ), simply gesture that you want to talk to her by briefly pointing backward and forward from you to her and say, I want to talk to you for a minute.

In most cases, you wont have to go to that extreme, but some daughters are shy and will be hesitant to take the headphones off right away because they are feeling a lot of nervousness and exhilaration about what is happening.

5. Then, do what we call Acknowledging the Awkwardness by rapidly mentioning something about the awkwardness of the moment( insure the conversation example below ), to demonstrate you understand that approaching a woman in this way isnt the most common of experiences for either party.

This helps set her at ease and know that you are a cool guy who she can relax and open up to.

I dont know if these five steps are a common thing, but I have personally experienced this several times. At step 1 I know what you are doing and Im dismissing you, hoping the ground will open up and take one of us to the depths of somewhere Hellish, which would be more pleasant than such a situation is developing to be. By step 3 Im not feeling aroused and Im not feeling flattered as Dan later tells his readers I will be – Im feeling harassed. Straight up, dictionary definition harassed.

By step 4 Ive learnt that you cant understand a basic body language brush-off and are therefore a direct threat to my personal safety. My brain is in oppose or flight, checking for escape roads, its trying to figure out just how aggressively youre going to react to any further action I take to extract myself from a situation altogether not of my own making and it is praying they use a flattering photo of me on the news , not that one when my front-facing camera went off accidentally that time.

According to step 5, the fact you have bullied me into one of the most awkward and scary moments of my life builds you a cool guy. Mr Bacon clearly has difficulty spelling. It begins with a t, Dan.

Heres Dans interpretation of how the conversation goes once a human has use his infallible five-point Jedi mind trick to bludgeon a woman from her blissful state of aural security:

You :[ Smile in a friendly, confident manner] Hey I know its not normal for people to talk to someone with headphones in, but I was strolling along and saw you and thought wow, shes a cutie, I have to say hi. Im Dan, whats your name? Woman :[ Usually flattered by the compliment and impressed by your confidence to approach her like that] Jessica. You :[ Add in some humor] Coolnice to meet you Jessica. I dont normally talk to daughters with headphones, but your big green headphones were just calling out to me. Woman :[ Most likely laughing, smiling and enjoying the interaction ]. You :[ Let her know that you have something to do/ somewhere to go, so she understands that youre not going to stand there talking to her for 30 minutes] Anyway, so Im just out doing a bit of shopping at the moment. Im on my route to a store up the street. Hows your day going so far?

In his scenario, Jessica has just been waiting her whole life to be blessed with the attention of a complete stranger who misstep hunched shoulders, darting eyes and rictus for giggling and smiling.

Heres how it plays out in real life. Trust me, Ive been it, insured it and spoken to the survivors:

Him : I see you dont want to be talked to but I find you physically attractive and Im constructing that your problem.

Her : Please leave me alone.


With advice like this out there, its hardly any surprise, is it? These lonely men so desperately in search of conquests have been given permission, blessed with the entitlement to go forth and pluck their bounty employing but five humble steps. So imagine their horror and indignation when that which has been promised doesnt want to be plucked and tells them to sling their greasy hook.

Next Dan listings the five mistakes men attain when approaching a woman who is wearing headphones. Sadly not one of them is to sod right off.

Points 1, 4 and 5 are fairly inoffensive, generic dating guff( be confident, be engaging, be flirty ), but oh boy, just try and get your noggin round points 2 and 3.

2. Allowing her to dismis him

Headphones are a great barrier between a person and the rest of the world.

That being said, if a guy wants to get a womans attention he needs to show confidence by being determined to get her to stop listening to the music and chat to him to him.

If a guy has a weak vibe or presence about him, a woman usually wont give in to his request for her to remove the headphones.

Women love to test guys to see how confident they truly are and a favorite test of women is to ignore a guys attempts to converse with her and find what he will do next. Will he walk away in shame, or will he remain calm and continue talking to her in a confident, easy-going manner?

This is her style of gauging his interest in her and also a way of determining whether he is mentally and emotionally strong enough for a girl like her.

If a guy devotes up at the first sign of resistance, most women will be to turn by his mental and emotional weakness as a man.

3. Allowing her to take control of the interaction

No matter how confident or challenging a woman might behave, she still dreams of fulfilling a guy who is more confident than her. A woman doesnt want to be forced to control an interaction with a guy( i.e. call the shots, boss him around ), but she will if she has to.

Controlling an interaction with a woman is not about bossing her around, being arrogant or being too assertive. Instead, you simply need to assume the role of the man and let her be the woman. In other terms, build her feel girly around you because you think, behave and feel( your vibe) so masculine.

The advice here is basically No doesnt mean no, it entails keep going until you get what you want – the screaming will stop eventually. Because apparently thats what women want – and forms the basis for a million rape defence lawsuits. Trust me, when we tell you to go away we arent testing your measure as a human, were testing how quickly your legs can carry you in an offward direction.

Put Dans advice into any other scenario for the true jaw-drop factor: Shopkeepers may lock their doors at night, but if you want a pint of milk, only hammer on the door until they open up. Theyll be flattered.

I appreciate the world of mating is hard but please, for the love of humanity, learn this: because we are want, doesnt mean you can have. Women are not commodities to be hunted and won, and if you have no luck find someone to bump pink bits with, thats your problem , not our flaw for not adhering to the playbook regulations. Its a playbook we never signed up for and its only a game if both teams actually know theyre playing.

Nowhere in his advice does Dan tell his disappointed man-babies how to handle rejection with grace, because the advice is simply not to accept it. This attitude is why I and countless other women have been been chased down the street, followed home, physically constrained, spat at, verbally abused and generally made to feel like garbage, merely for trying to exist.

So when, I hear the whiny pissbabies ask, when am I allowed to approach hot single women? Simple.

If a woman has her headphones in, the answer is never – and before you bleat on about ooh, what if theres a fire ?, shell reek it, even through all your bulls ** t. If youre in a bar or party, her flirtatious smile may be the come-on youre go looking for, but be prepared to accept that you read it wrong, politely wish her a good evening and toddle back up out of her life without 20 minutes of awkward pawing, insisting she let you buy her a rohypnoltini. But how about this; take up a hobby, ask your friends if they know of someone looking to date or( brace yourself for a whopper of a revelation) if youre looking for a horde of single, eligible girls all looking for friendship-maybe-more in one convenient place, try a dating site.

Anyway, coming soon from Dan Bacon, How To Talk To A Woman Through A Fog Of Pepper Spray. Probably.

Martha Mills is on Twitter as @mittendamour

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‘ It’s not about your age, it’s about your notions ‘: the teen power listing

15 days ago

Meet 25 young activists, scientists, artists, athletes, entrepreneurs and big thinkers shaping your future

Harley Bird, 14, Tring, UK

An actors life is hard: its just one audition after another, and you have to grow a wall-thick skin to deal with all the rejection. For Bird, however, things went a little differently: she was signed to the Alphabet Kidz agency just before her sixth birthday and two weeks later beat hundreds of other young actors to land the lead role in a 1.4bn show.

She is the voice of Peppa Pig, the eponymous piglet who enjoys dressing up and jumping in muddy puddles. Bird, who in real life has two pet pigs (called, of course, Peppa and George), has now voiced Peppa Pig for eight years. Early on, she was too young to read the scripts, but that didnt stop her winning a Bafta at nine.

The show, while simple in its format of five-minute episodes, has taken the world by storm and is now shown in 180 territories and broadcast in 40 different languages. Not bad for a first role. Were there any clues that this one audition would lead to a starring role in a global franchise? Bird has said she doesnt understand it herself. I just auditioned and they said my voice matched. because it is quite husky.

Mihir Garimella, 16, Pennsylvania

Mihir Garimella won the 2014 Google Computer Science award. Photograph: Courtesy of Mihir Garimella

Some teens might be grossed out by a bowl of bananas starting to rot and attract flies; high school student Garimella came up with a potentially life-saving idea. The flybot a tiny, flying robot that avoids obstacles by mimicking the way a fruit fly avoids threats and moving obstacles could be used in search-and-rescue missions in dangerous environments, and went on to win the Google Computer Science award in 2014. Garimella has since turned his hand to everything from robotic violin tuners to algorithms that could help doctors diagnose brain tumours.

Shubham Banerjee, 15, California

Shubhan Banerjee, founder of Braigo Labs. Photograph: Bloomberg via Getty Images

When Banerjee turned his Lego bricks into a braille printer for the blind for a school science project, it wasnt just the famous toy company that was singing the then 12-year-olds praises. The product, which made computing more affordable for millions of visually impaired people, also caught the attention of Intel, and the award-winning Braigo Labs (an amalgamation of Lego and braille) was born. Hes solving a real problem, and he wants to go off and disrupt an existing industry, Edward Ross, director of inventor platforms at Intel, has said. Thats really what its all about.

Benjamin Kickz Kapelushnik, 16, Florida

Benjamin Kapelushnik: sneaker broker to the stars. Photograph: Complex

What started as a hobby, buying rare trainers and selling them on to classmates, is now a lucrative enterprise. A sneaker broker to the stars (Chris Brown and Drake are fans), Kapelushnik has accumulated 5,000 pairs and is well on his way to making his first million.

Rayouf Alhumedhi, 15, Germany

Rayouf Alhumedhi. emoji designer. Photograph: Courtesy of Rayouf Alhumedhi

While chatting with her friends on social media, this Saudi teen living in Germany realised there was no emoji to represent her, so she designed one. Now shes campaigning to get it added to phones (its currently being considered by the Unicode Consortium). In this day and age, representation is extremely important, Alhumedhi said. People want to be acknowledged. There are so many Muslim women in this world who wear the headscarf. It might seem trivial, but its different when you see yourself on the keyboard around the world.

Willow Smith, 16, California

Willow Smith: youngest artist signed to Jay Zs record label. Photograph: Broadimage/REX Shutterstock

After making her acting debut at the age of seven alongside her father in I Am Legend, the daughter of Hollywood golden couple Will and Jada Pinkett Smith has forged her own way, becoming the youngest artist signed to Jay Zs record label, Roc Nation, at 10 remember Whip My Hair? Since then, shes swapped the smiley, happy, preteen style for a cooler, pared-back, Instagram-friendly aesthetic. She has starred in a Marc Jacobs ad, and this year Karl Lagerfeld made her his muse, photographing her for Chanel AW16. She and her older brother, Jaden (star of Netflixs The Get Down, directed by Baz Luhrmann), have been dubbed the coolest teens on the planet.

Sasha Obama, 15, Washington DC

Sasha Obama has had a unique global education. Photograph: Getty Images

Barack and Michelle Obamas youngest has lived her teen years in the White House (she was seven at her fathers inauguration), but stays down to earth: she spent the summer working on the till in a seafood shack (even if secret service agents sat at the tables outside). Her awkward moments have been captured the world over (most recently when Malia, 18, was snapped giving Sasha a sarcastic thumbs up as her little sister spoke to actor Ryan Reynolds at a Canadian state dinner).

More importantly, Sasha has had a unique global education, meeting Malala Yousafzai at the White House, and helping her mother promote womens education in Liberia and Morocco. In this years Thanksgiving message, the outgoing president described his daughters as funny, smart, humble and extraordinary young women. All eyes on the next-gen Obamas.

Maddie Ziegler, 14, Pennsylvania

Maddie Ziegler: thrust into the limelight aged eight. Photograph: Bryan Steffy/Getty Images

The pint-sized dancer was thrust into the limelight aged just eight, when she starred on US reality show Dance Moms. But she reached a global audience thanks to Australian singer Sia, who cast her in the video for Elastic Heart. Four videos, several world tours and stage appearances later, Ziegler has become more recognisable wearing her cropped blond Sia wig than sporting her natural hair. She has modelled for Ralph Lauren and become a judge on the junior version of So You Think You Can Dance.

Brooklyn Beckham, 17, London and Los Angeles

Next year Brooklyn Beckham will be bringing out a photography book. Photograph: Richard Isaac/Rex/Shutterstock

Photographing the Burberry campaign, skateboarding through his mother Victorias Dover Street store and hooking up with Hollywood ingenue Chlo Grace Moretz; the eldest Beckham kid couldnt attract more attention if he had followed his father, David, on to the football pitch. Last week, Beckham announced to his 8.8m Instagram followers that next year he will be bringing out What I See, a photography book published by Penguin Random House. If even a small proportion of his social media followers buys the book, he has a bestseller on his hands.

Kiara Nirghin, 16, Johannesburg

This year, as South Africa suffered its worst drought since 1982, a Johannesburg schoolgirl came up with a potential solution. Nirghin found an orange peel mixture had better water-retaining properties than existing super-absorbent polymers, which are usually expensive and non-biodegradable. Her invention, which aims to help farmers save both money and crops, is made up of waste products from the juice manufacturing process, including discarded orange and avocado peel; it won Nirghin a $50,000 scholarship at the annual Google Science Fair.

Yara Shahidi, 16, Minnesota

Yara Shahidi: star of acclaimed comedy Black-ish. Photograph: Matt Baron/BEI/Shutterstock

The half-Iranian star of acclaimed comedy Black-ish (a sitcom about an upper-middle-class African American family) is passionate about media diversity: We are in the middle of a representation renaissance, she has said. She is constantly in conversation about keeping roles for women and people of colour multifaceted and representative of our true nature.

Flynn McGarry, 17, New York

Flynn McGarry: has taken up residency in New Yorks Kava espresso bar. Photograph: Courtesy of Eureka

Sick of being cooked kid food by his parents, McGarry took matters into his own hands with a little bit of help from The French Laundry Cookbook. By 11, he was hosting a supper club in his mums kitchen, cooking progressive American cuisine; at 15, he was charging $160 a head for his eight-course tasting menu. He has now taken up residency in New York espresso bar Kava, under the name Eureka, where his 16-course feasts are becoming the stuff of legend.

Gavin Grimm, 17, Virginia

Grimm didnt plan to become the poster boy for a national fight for equal rights for transgender students, but when his school wouldnt allow him to use the boys toilets, a long legal battle ensued. The result, now in the hands of the supreme court, could have implications for young trans people all over the US. That I have the opportunity to ensure that, hopefully, fewer kids or anybody will have to go through this in the future makes me feel good, Grimm said.

Katie Griffiths, Josie Baldwin, Emily Bowes and Alex Hill, all 16, Stratford-upon-Avon

These Stratford Girls grammar school pupils were shocked to discover that young LGBT people are at much higher risk of depression and suicide; two years ago they teamed up to create the Im Okay app, giving support and information to young people exploring their sexuality and gender. Thousands of people have since downloaded the app from the Google Play store; it won a national Apps for Good award in 2014.

Jeffery Xiong, 16, Texas

The USs second youngest player to become a chess grandmaster, Xiong stormed on to the scene aged 14 and snatched first place at the 24th Chicago Open. He played his first game at five, when he decided to join a friend who was playing by himself. Xiong carried on until he was the worlds under-20 champion, at just 15.

Krtin Nithiyanandam, 16, Surrey

Krtin Nithiyanandam won the Google Science Fair prize. Photograph: Newsquest

In 2015, Nithiyanandam won the Google Science Fair prize for developing a test to diagnose Alzheimers 10 years before any symptoms appear. An antibody is injected that then attaches to proteins present in the earliest stages of the disease; the injection contains fluorescent particles that can be picked up on a brain scan.

This early diagnosis could help families prepare for the future and ensure that existing drugs are used to better effect, Nithiyanandam explained. The Surrey schoolboy is now tackling the treatment of triple negative breast cancer, a rare form found in 15-20% of women with breast cancer. It doesnt respond to drugs, and must be treated with a risky combination of surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. Most cancers have receptors on their surface that bind to drugs like tamoxifen, but triple negative doesnt, Nithiyanandam explained. Working at home and in his school lab, he has found a way to block a protein that prevents those receptors from forming, thus turning this type of breast cancer into one that responds to drugs. Science isnt about your age, its about ideas, he told Wired magazine.

Mone Davis, 15, Philadelphia

Mone Davis: the first African American girl to play in the Little League World Series. Photograph: AP

Formerly a Little League baseball pitcher, Davis was the first African American girl to play in the Little League World Series, and the first female to pitch a winning game. The baseball (and basketball) prodigy was spotted at the age of seven while playing with her older brothers. Since releasing her memoir last year, Mone Davis: Remember My Name, she has designed trainers to raise money for Plan Internationals Because I Am A Girl campaign, aimed at helping lift girls in the developing world out of poverty.

Ben Pasternak, 17, Australia

Dubbed the next Mark Zuckerberg, Pasternak created the chart-topping app Impossible Rush (a colour-matching game) that was downloaded more than 1.3m times and made him a tech star at just 15. That success allowed him to secure just under $2m in funding from major Silicon Valley investors, move to Manhattan and launch his own startup, Flogg. He had noticed that friends were increasingly selling unwanted items to people they knew through Facebook, rather than to strangers on Gumtree or eBay. Yet Facebook wasnt really doing anything to look after their user experience. So he created an app that allows users to buy and sell items through their Facebook connections with a swipe left or right; the Sydney Morning Herald described Flogg as the love child of Tinder and eBay.

Lewys Ball, 17, London

‘F* ck you, bible-thumper’: Pro-abort Nation contributor goes altogether unglued

25 days ago

@JoshuaHol Dehumanizing victims is the first step. Slaveholders called them property. Nazis called them subhumans. Abortionists tell “cells.”

— EJ Hill (@ RicochetEJHill) March 29, 2017

The abortion debate got a fresh jolt late last night when California prosecutors announced that they were charging the Center for Medical Progress’ David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt with 15 felony countings for undercover reporting that blew the lid off of Planned Parenthood’s organ trafficking. The pro-life community speedily rose to CMP’s defense, but it seems that the media by and large haven’t managed to speak out on the activists’ behalf. One member of the media who has spoken out is The Nation and Rolling Stone contributor( and Politics and Reality Radio host) Joshua Holland, only he’s speaking out on behalf of abortion. In a series of disturbingly nasty tweets, he accidentally uncovered just how depraved the pro-abortion motion truly is:

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Brain experimentations on primates are crucial, tell eminent scientists

27 days ago

Two nobel laureates among 400 scientists who sign letter rejecting claims that use of primates is no longer medically useful

More than 400 scientists including two Nobel laureates have signed a letter stating that brain experimentations on primates is vital to medical advances, in response to claims that they are cruel and no longer useful.

Last week, Sir David Attenborough and the primatologist Dame Jane Goodall called for an aim to the use of non-human primates in certain neuroscience experiments, telling medical progress in this area could now be made without the use of monkeys.

In a letter to the Guardian, scientists including the Nobel laureates Sir John Gurdon and Sir John Walker, repudiated this claim, arguing that primate research was still critical for developing therapies for dementia and other debilitating illnesses.

Neurodegenerative illness are a major and growing scourge of our ageing population, Walker told the Guardian. If we are to find ways for prevention and remedy, continued experimental access to primates under carefully controlled conditions is essential.

The latest round in the long-running debate on animal research was triggered by a research paper, which concluded that there was no longer any need for experimentations on primates involving movement restraint or fluid deprivation.

The review, by the campaign group Cruelty Free International( formerly the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection ), suggested the need for such experimentations had been superseded by modern brain imaging techniques, such as MRI, and by the ability to attain records from patients brains during surgery.

Speaking in support of the findings, Attenborough told the Independent: The recognition that apes, surely, and to an extent other primates, are so akin to ourselves, and can suffer so much, as we are capable of, has transformed our attitude, or should have transformed our posture, to using them for our own benefit.

Goodall, who has examined wild chimpanzees in Tanzania over fives decades, told: To restrict these primate relatives of ours to laboratory enclosures and subject them to experiments that are often distressing and painful is, in my opinion, morally wrong.

However, scientists conveyed their concern that the importance of primate research had been played down.

Sir Colin Blakemore, an eminent neuroscientist and signatory of the Guardian letter, told: In the past year alone, research on monkeys has helped efforts to create new inoculations and treatments for Ebola, Zika and Aids, to develop new cholesterol-reducing narcotics to prevent heart disease, and to design prosthetic devices for seriously disabled people. Somehow, we need to balance moral responsibility to human being against moral obligations to animals.

Roger Lemon, emeritus professor at University College London, said the CFI review appeared to place animal welfare above that of patients. The newspaper suggests that all the work done in primates could be done in seriously ill patients. It suggests that they dont have that much respect for ill people.

Research on primates accounts for less than 0.1% of all animal research in the UK and this figure has been following a downward tendency for the past few decades. In 2015, 3,612 procedures were carried out on primates, out of 4,142, 631 total procedures on all species( figures are given by procedure rather than by animal ).

The US National Institutes of Health announced last year that it would end the use of chimpanzees in medical research. Research on great apes( chimps, gorillas and orangutans) has been banned in the UK since the 1980 s, but other primates, such as marmosets and macaques continue to be used in neuroscience experimentations, including in the development of new drugs.

For instance, scientists at Kings College London estimate that around 80% of all drugs for the therapy of Parkinsons were originally tested at the marmoset laboratory there. But some research carried out on primates relates to more basic questions about the organisation of the brain, for instance, how memory or the visual system works.

Vicky Robinson, the chief executive of the National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research( NC3Rs) said that both sides of the debate had been disingenuous about the value of the work.

One over-exaggerates the state of the available alternatives and the other generalises the medical benefits that research use these animals has delivered, she told. It is time for a great deal more transparency from both sides. Anything else undermines the social sciences as well as downplaying the animal welfare concerns associated with such experiments.

Dr Katy Taylor, the director of science at Cruelty Free International, told: The employ of non-human primates in neuroscience experimentations is a hugely controversial area of research with profound ethical and moral fears. An increasing number within the scientific community topic the morality and value of subjecting monkeys to such substantial high levels of suffering suffering that can involves invasive brain surgery, water deprivation, physical coercion and physical restraint.

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Pope Francis to call International Space Station

29 days ago

Pope Francis will become the second pontiff to speak to astronauts orbiting the earth with live streamed video call

The voice of Pope Francis will be heard on the International Space Stationwhen he makes a call to its astronauts.

The pope is due to speak to the crew at 1400 BST, including 60 -year-old Italian Paolo Nespoli, who is on his third space mission. The video call is likely to be streamed online on Nasa TV and the Vatican’s YouTube channel.

The ISS, which has been continuously occupied since 2000, is currently crewed by six cosmonauts. Alongside Nespoli there are three Americans and two Russians orbiting the Earth.

Francis is not the first pontiff to reaching for the stars. His predecessor, Benedict XVI, “ve called the” ISS in 2011, when Nespoli was also part of the crew.

Italian astronaut Paolo Nespoli will take his second bellow from a Pope while in space Photograph: European Space Agency via AP

Francis has been an outspoken critic of humans’ consequence on the environment, writing in a 2015 encyclical:” The Ground, our home, is beginning to look like an immense piling of filth.

” The human environment and the natural environment degenerate together; we cannot adequately combat environmental degradation unless we attend to causes related to human and social degradation. In fact, the deterioration of the environment and of society affects the most vulnerable people on the planet .”

He is expected to return to the topic on Thursday.

Pope Benedict XVI speaks to astronauts on the ISS in 2011

In his 2011 bellow, which lasted about 20 minutes and can still be viewed online, Pope Benedict asked the ISS crew and visiting Space Shuttle astronauts how their unique standpoint on the Earth affected their beliefs.

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Can you accept being in the wrong?- Personality quiz | Ben Ambridge

1 month, 13 days ago

Intellectual humility is associated with curiosity, thoroughness and courage

How far are you prepared to accept that you are in the wrong? A new examine shows there are a lot of benefits to humility, even though its a rarity in this time of Trump and Brexit. To measure your own, simply answer the following question : On a scale of 1( not at all) to 5( very much ), to what extent do you accept that your faiths and postures may be wrong ?

If you said 4 or above, then you are above average to its implementation of intellectual meeknes( the entail score in an internet sample of 400 participants was around 3.75 ). This is good news. A study from Duke University in North Carolina found that intellectual humility is related to a large number of positive qualities, including curiosity, independence, attentiveness, carefulness and thoroughness, as well as courage and perseverance; qualities that are traditionally associated more with braggadocio than humility.

A follow-up study found that participants scoring high on intellectual meeknes dedicated more favourable ratings to both pro- and anti-religion essays, regardless of their own religion views. A second study found that intellectually humble participants were more willing to vote for legislators who changed their position on a particular issue.

If you said 3 or below, then you are lacking in intellectual humility. Have you ever was just thinking about a career in politics?

A fully referenced version of such articles is available at benambridge. com . Order Are You Smarter Than a Chimpanzee ? by Ben Ambridge( Profile Books, 12.99) for 11.04 at

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Life after the bomb: exploring the psychogeography of Hiroshima

1 month, 16 days ago

On the anniversary of Hiroshimas nuclear destruction, a walk through the citys memorial park discloses a complex mixture of desolation and rehabilitation

Hiroshima is flourishing. It has a population outshining 1.19 million, a burgeoning gourmet scene, towering luxury shopping mall, and a trendy night life. It is a city of vibrant green boulevards and open spaces, entangled by the braided tributaries of the ta River. However it also represents a city of memorialisation. Over 75 monuments, large and small, bud like delicate mushrooms in parks and on sidewalks, scattered across the city as if by the wind. Whilst the city grows and evolves, the memory are still in Hiroshima as first place on Earth where nuclear weapons were used in warfare, on 6 August 1945.

The number of fatalities is not known, due wartime population transience and the extermination of records in the blast. Calculates are in the region of 135, 000 people, approximately equivalent to the population of Oxford. It is therefore unsurprising that many locals have Hibakusha veterans in their families. The Hibakusha community preserve a living collective memory of the bomb, sharing their atomic folktales similarly to the Kataribe storytellers, as a cautionary modern myth against nuclear war.

It was assumed that nothing would grow within the bleak blast-zone for 75 years. Photo: Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum/ AFP/ Getty Images

It was assumed that nothing would grow within the bleak 1. 6km blast-zone for 75 years. However, surrounding prefectures donated trees to Hiroshima. Fresh stems promptly pushed through the damaged ground, plants took root, and the branches of the Hibaku-jumoku, the survivor trees, unfurled leaves of weeping willow and oleander from budded stems. The city has been rehabilitated, and it is challenging to imagine it as a place of devastation. Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park is a lush focal point of this re-greening process, and a unique human ecosystem has leapt up among the gingko trees and sussurating cicadas.

The park has its own distinctive psychogeography, providing a public space for complex feelings and experiences to be explored by locals and tourists. International guests feature prominently around the larger commemorations and cenotaph. They ring the delicate origami crane bell-pull within the Childrens Peace Monument, take a few photographs of the cenotaph, stroll beside the Peace Pond, and then across the river to the -Abomb dome.

Tattered peace cranes adorn a memorial. Photo: B. Alexis-Martin

Distance is no indication of personal connection, and victims of Hiroshima have originated from across the USA, China and South East Asia. Thousands of Koreans died in Hiroshima: the men were forcibly conscripted and the women performed their exercise of comfort females. The monument and Cenotaph to Korean Victims are festooned with brightly coloured flowers and receive a constant trickle of guests, many of whom are Korean. Swags of peace cranes garland the smaller commemorations dotted about the park, and the fragrance of sandalwood and citron lingers, as incense is illuminated and local heads are respectfully bowed. Japanese schoolchildren come here to learn, and they sit in the shade of the trees at midday in civilised huddles, to eat lunch and chatter.

One of the park shrines. Photo: B. Alexis-Martin

Many visit to reflect upon the atrocity of the bombing, but this attitude is not universal. I learned this during an encounter with an American man at the Ground Zero memorial, tucked away on a side-street beyond the boundaries of the park. We smiled at one another, as he shared his reasons for visit, proclaimed the power of the bomb to end the war, and the American soldiers, including his grandpa, whose lives were saved by this action. He was grateful for the bomb, but I was shocked at the style he had decided to make an emotional connection with this place.

However, the local community has a deep and profound connection to the park. Volunteers in distinctive uniforms meticulously preserve the place on a daily basis. This voluntary care of space intensifies, as Hiroshima Peace Day depicts near. Visit the park at 6am towards the end of July, and you are able to discover hordes of elderly people from the Senior University, wearing sunhats and brandishing trowels. They crouch above the ground, plucking weeds from the clay with gloved thumbs. Whilst they garden, trails of elegantly dressed office workers bisect the park at intervals, carrying files and parasols in exquisitely gloved hands. Commuting to run, this stretching of land has become another familiar part of the rhythm of their daily lives.

There are also spaces of conflict and deviance here. The Uyoku dantai are the Japanese extreme-far right. They call themselves the Society of Patriots and traveling about in dark vans painted with worrying slogans. War crime denialists, they support historical revisionism, resist socialism and want Japan to join the nuclear circus. Regrettably, they cannot be arrested due to the protection of freedom of ideology by the Constitution of Japan. So they jeer from the sidelines of the park, and organise protests outside the -ADome on Hiroshima Peace Day. To the consternation of many, they have been gaining popularity in recent years.

Elderly humen play board games such as Shogi and Go. Photograph: B. Alexis-Martin

However, there is also a place of elation concealed within this park, on a dusty corner of dry ground behind the public toilets. Here, a group of elderly Japanese humen fulfill every week-day morning, to squat on battered wooden chairs and play board games. Some, but not all, are Hibakusha, but all of them appear relaxed, and laugh loudly as they engage in drawn-out combats of Shogi and Go. They have created their own friendly-yet-private space within this park. As dusk situateds in, they pack up their board games and fold up their little chairs and tables to go home. The cicadas grow louder, and a calmness determines over the park as twilight descends. Small clusters of local adolescents gather and relax in the evenings warmth. Faint voices of dialogue gradually dwindle to nothingness and the day draws to a close, reclaimed by the stillness of night. Our day in the park may be over, but the collective memory of the Hiroshima bombing forever remains.

With gratitude to Professor Bo Jacobs at Hiroshima Peace Institute, and with love to the extraordinary Hibakusha of Hiroshima and their families worldwide.

Becky Alexis-Martin is a Senior Research Fellow at the University of Southampton, with expertise in the culture and social effects of nuclear defense. She writes on the lives of nuclear test veteran families, and the cultural and social significance of nuclear places and spaces.

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Hawking won the world’s respect- and gave disabled people like me hope | Frances Ryan

1 month, 24 days ago

Growing up disabled, I had few role models. But this brilliant, witty scientist helped change negative stereotypes, tells Guardian columnist Frances Ryan

As with most of the famous figures whose passing now makes us via a news alert on our phones, I never satisfied Stephen Hawking. In the vastness of the entire world, you could say I was one speck and he was another. And yet I thought of him as a continual presence in my life, who- perhaps paradoxically, in the light of his illness , not to mention of his work on time- would always be there, somehow.

Growing up incapacitated in Britain, I didn’t have many role models. There are hardly any statues of disabled leaders , no great lives with chronic disability documented in the history books. As a child, it’s easy to believe that disabled people have never genuinely existed, and that when they did, it was as cripples to be pitied or onus on society. In Hawking, we had a figure- brilliant, witty, kind- who confounded the negative stereotypes and the low expectations so often forced on those of us with a disability.

Play Video

Cosmology’s brightest star Stephen Hawking dies aged 76- video

He wasn’t without faults( accusations of sexism were notable ). He was also afforded possibilities- from wealth to healthcare to being non-disabled throughout school- that clearly enabled his success, opportunities too few young disabled people, facing cuts to multiple strands of support, enjoy today. But his groundbreaking research, as well as tireless commitment to the NHS and concern over Brexit, established him as someone who, though physically stripped of his voice, should be listened to.

In the hurry to eulogise a figure such as Hawking the risk is that the media coverage either fails to acknowledge his disability- and to dismiss him being a disabled person is as regressive as a white person saying they” don’t see colour”- or falls into condescending cliches and objectification. Within hours of the news of his death transgres, I considered headlines that reflected the( often well-intentioned) negative attitudes that so often plague discussions of disabled people: ones of “inspiration”, ” overcoming disability” and references to “tragedy”. BBC Radio 5 Live asked listeners if Hawking had “inspired” them- a question unlikely to be posed about non-disabled academics. The Daily Mail referred to his” total disability” while at the other aim of the spectrum, John Humphrys use Radio 4′ s tribute segment to ask:” Did the science community cut him a lot of slack because he was so desperately disabled ?”

Even the Guardian’s obituary mentioned how” despite his terrible physical circumstance, he almost always remained positive about life “, as if it was a surprise that a world-renowned scientist with a loving family could ever find happiness. Cartoonists illustrated him in heaven- a place Hawking did not believe existed- standing up, as if ultimately free from his wheelchair( an invention, much like his voice synthesiser, that actually empowered him to engage with society ). Even sentiments such as” He didn’t let his disability define him”- as Marsha de Cordova, darknes disabilities minister( and herself disabled) tweeted– verge on repeating the ingrained notion that disability is an inherently negative thing: a part of identity that, unlike race or sexuality, should be played down.

This is not to say that Hawking’s disability didn’t help shape him. The thought that he had a sharply limited life expectancy- it was originally believed he would die within two years of his motor neurone cancer diagnosis- by all accounts inspired Hawking to enjoy the present, and spurred on his hunger for scientific discovery. But to reduce a world-famous academic’s existence to one of misfortune and pluck respects neither the reality of a disabled life nor the love, success, witticism and fulfilment that clearly marked Hawking’s. It remind you of the countless “inspirational” memes and posters that throughout their own lives featured Hawking’s image- often using his body as inspiration for non-disabled people (” If he can succeed, so are you able !”) or criticising “lesser” disabled people (” The only disability is a bad attitude “). Hawking, like all of us, deserves more than lazy, ableist tropes.

Amid all the tributes to Hawking’s contribution to scientific discovery, I would like to remember what he contributed- perhaps unknowingly- to many disabled people: a sense of pride, encouragement and hope. This was a genius who gained the world’s respect from his wheelchair. Hawking’s achievements alone will not have begun to overrule deep-seated prejudice, but he has played a significant part in changing the misconceptions that still routinely mark too many disabled people’s lives. Hawking’s lesser-known lesson is one I hope others growing up disabled will be left with: we can all reach for the stars.

* Frances Ryan is a Guardian columnist

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