Sunday, 30 July 2017

Ten frivolous, trivial or simply interesting items I have come across

Mind maps: the beauty of brain cells – in pictures
via the Guardian

The 19th-century Spanish scientist Santiago Ramón y Cajal, the father of modern neuroscience, was one of the first people to unravel the mysteries of the structure of the brain – and he made stunning drawings to describe and explain his discoveries.
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It’s harder than ever to teach Islamic art – but never more important
via 3 Quarks Daily: Kishwar Rizvi in the Washington Post

At prayer in the mosque, Damascus, Syria. April 27, 1908.
Stereograph. (Library of Congress)

Every year, I take the students from my Islamic architecture course to visit the Islamic art collections at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York so they can see the cultural artifacts we’ve discussed in class. In 2013, we stopped to look at an aerial photograph of the 9th-century Great Mosque of Samarra, taken by the British Royal Air Force 100 years ago. The black-and-white image shows the vast scale of the mosque, renowned for having one of the tallest minarets in the world, at approximately 170 feet.
Someone remarked, “Wasn’t this the minaret that was installed with American snipers fighting Iraqi rebels in 2005, and blown up later?” Silence dropped over the group, and we moved on.
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2 million gallons of molasses wreaked havoc in Boston in 1919
via Boing Boing by Futility Closet

In 1919 a bizarre catastrophe struck Boston's North End: A giant storage tank failed, releasing 2 million gallons of molasses into a crowded business district at the height of a January workday. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll tell the story of the Boston Molasses Disaster, which claimed 21 lives and inscribed a sticky page into the city's history books.
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This would be funny except for the loss of life and livelihoods.

How has map reading changed since the 1600s?
via OUP Blog by James W. Cortada

Literacy in the United States was never always just about reading, writing, and arithmetic. Remember in the 1980s and 1990s the angst about children becoming “computer literate”? The history of literacy is largely about various types of skills one had to learn depending on the era in which they lived. Some kept their name, but changed in substance. Map literacy is one of those.
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Wired for memory: how your brain remembers by completing patterns
via Medium: Mark Humphries in The Spike

You’re a beautiful machine. Watch:
“To be or not to __”
“Take a look at the lawman, beating up the wrong ___, oh man…”
“You can take your ___ and shove it up your ____”
Automatically, your brain filled in all those missing words. Whether there’s a right answer (‘be’, ‘guy’), or a psychologically insightful one (who got “cantaloupe” and “iguana” for the last one? Just me then), your brain fills in the missing bits. It completes patterns.
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Piece of ice in river forms perfect circle
via Boing Boing by Mark Frauenfelder

It looks like a big piece of ice started spinning in a river current. As it rotated, irregular chunks broke off until it formed a circle.
Continue to see video

Restoring a 17th Century Map and the Stories It Tells Us
via Scholarly Kitchen by David Crotty
The National Library of Scotland received a crumpled plastic bag, filled with fragments of something, that had been found stuffed up a chimney. The bag contained a 17th century map, which had decomposed over the years into a state resembling confetti. The restoration job done by the library is nothing short of astonishing, and the accompanying video below provides an interesting look at the map as a historical document, more important for the stories it tells us about the world at its time than the geography it presents.
Watch the story

Nitrous, weed, opium and peach-pits: the intoxicants of 18th C England
via Boing Boing by Cory Doctorow

Historical novelist Debra Daley posts a master guide to the intoxicants of 18th century England, which ranged from modern favorites (laughing gas, cannabis) to historic classics (laudanum) to ratafia, "a sweet liqueur flavoured with peach or cherry kernels," which contained cyanogenic glycosides that broke down into fatal, insanity-causing hydrogen cyanide.
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Anne Brontë: the sister who got there first
Seen as less passionate than Emily, less accomplished than Charlotte, Anne is often overlooked. But her governess Agnes Grey is a clear model for Jane Eyre
via the Guardian by Samantha Ellis
Sharp critic of a class-ridden society … Charlie Murphy as Anne Brontë in BBC1’s To Walk Invisible.
 Sharp critic of a class-ridden society … Charlie Murphy as Anne Brontë in BBC1’s To Walk Invisible. Photograph: BBC/Matt Squire
Anne Brontë started writing her first novel some time between 1840 and 1845 while she was working as a governess for the Robinson family, at Thorp Green near York. I imagine she must have made her excuses in the evenings, and escaped the drawing room, where she had to do the boring bits of her pupils’ sewing, and often felt awkward and humiliated – excluded from the conversation because she was not considered a lady, yet not allowed to sit with the servants either, because governesses had to be something of a lady, or how could they teach their pupils to be ladies?
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Take a butcher’s at this: a new history of slang
via The New Statesman by Lynne Truss
Vulgar Tongues: an Alternative History of English Slang gathers material from a mind-boggling range of sources – but still leaves you wanting more.
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Tuesday, 25 July 2017

The rise and fall of life-wide learning for adults in England

an article by Alan Tuckett (University of Wolverhampton, UK) published in International Journal of Lifelong Education Volume 36 Issue 1-2 (2017)


This article analyses policy and practice in social and cultural education for adults in England in the post Second World War era, beginning with the flowering of municipal adult education and the expansion of university extra-mural provision.

It tracks the emerging policy focus on extending participation to under-represented groups, and on securing a rich breadth of curriculum (life-wide learning), which flowered in the 1990s. It maps, and deprecates the subsequent narrowing of public investment to an increasingly utilitarian focus on qualifications for labour market participation with the rise of Treasury (finance ministry) influence on adult learning policy from 2003.

Evidence of the wider benefits that derive from participation in learning is used to re-assert the case for publicly accessible lifelong, life-wide education for adults.

Wikipedia editing and information literacy: a case study

an article by Lydia Dawe and Ainslie Robinson (University of Notre Dame Australia, Fremantle, Australia) published in Information and Learning Science Volume 118 Issue 1/2 (2017)


This paper aims to evaluate the success of a Wikipedia editing assessment designed to improve the information literacy skills of a cohort of first-year undergraduate health sciences students.

In this action research case study (known hereafter as “the project” to differentiate this action research from the students’ own research), students researched, wrote and published Wikipedia articles on Australia-centric health topics. Students were given a pre- and post-test to assess levels of self-confidence in finding, evaluating and referencing information. Student work was also analysed in terms of article length and quantity and the type of information sources used.

Tests revealed that students’ self-confidence in their information literacy skills improved overall. Analysis of student work revealed that students wrote longer articles and incorporated more references than expected. References used were of appropriate quality relevant to the article despite minimal instructions.

There are few studies that investigate information literacy development through Wikipedia editing in Australian universities. This study shows that Wikipedia editing is an effective way to carry out student assessment prior to essay writing and an innovative platform to improve information literacy skills in undergraduate students.

Towards age-friendly work in Europe: a life-course perspective on work and ageing from EU Agencies

The EU’s population and workforce are ageing. This has implications for employment, working conditions, living standards and welfare.

A new report shows how information from four agencies, including Cedefop, can support policy-making that is both complementary and greater than the sum of its parts.

The report draws on the agencies’ expertise in each of their areas and covers the different challenges associated with the ageing workforce and considers innovative solutions.
  • Cedefop explores how vocational education and training can be used to support active ageing at work.
  • EU-OSHA presents policy examples of integrated approaches to occupational safety and health for an ageing workforce.
  • Eurofound examines working conditions for workers of all ages, related work sustainability outcomes and how the right policies can foster longer working lives.
  • EIGE provides a gender perspective on the issue of the ageing workforce and discusses the different challenges that men and women face.
Full report Towards Age-friendly Work in Europe(PDF 90pp)

Thursday, 20 July 2017

No more robot wars in London

a post by Torsten Bell published by Resolution Foundation on 2 May 2017

“The robots are coming to take our jobs”, the Evening Standard told Londoners in December 2016. In case that didn’t depress their readers enough, the article went on to spell out the coming doom: “The sheer pace of change in computational power and grinding efficiencies of automation will alter or eliminate many of our jobs, far faster than we anticipate.”

And then, to ensure the anxiety was sufficiently widespread, they reminded their middle-class readers that “many of the relatively fortunate in the professional class in London will face upheavals too”.

Anxiety about the impact of robots on the world of work has been a hot topic across Western countries for several years. You couldn’t move at Davos last year without seeing grown men (it’s always men) with their heads in their hands predicting the end of work. Bill Gates is so worried that he has called for a robots tax.

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Scale of pangolin slaughter revealed – millions hunted in central Africa alone

a article by Damian Carrington (Environment editor) for the Guardian published on 20 July 2017

A ground pangolin. Pangolins are one of the world’’s most endangered species, some estimate that over one million of them are killed every year for their scales, meat and blood.
A ground pangolin. Pangolins are one of the world’s most endangered species, some estimate that over one million of them are killed every year for their scales, meat and blood.
Photograph: Adrian Steirn/Barcroft Images

The true scale of the slaughter of pangolins in Africa has been revealed by new research showing that millions of the scaly mammals are being hunted and killed.

Pangolins were already known to be the world’s most trafficked wild mammal, with at least a million being traded in the last decade to supply the demand for its meat and scales in Asian markets. Populations of Asian pangolins have been decimated, leaving the creatures highly endangered and sharply shifting the focus of exploitation to Africa’s four species.

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I had thought to include this story in with the "frivolous" or "merely interesting" stories in my composite posts but this so incensed me that I though I would pass it on separately.

Capturing unmet needs

a post by Simone Vibert for DEMOS published on 21 June 2017

Demos has a long-standing interest in the social and financial impact of disability and health conditions. People living with serious health conditions can face a significant financial burden, a large part of which is the extra costs resulting from looking after one’s health or undergoing treatment. In new research released today,[1] Demos found that people with motor neurone disease (MND) incur average regular costs of £9,645 per year – this includes care costs, increased energy bills, travel in areas where public transport is inaccessible, and so on. They also incur one off costs (such as adapting their home or vehicle so it is wheelchair accessible) which typically amount to at least £2,175 over the course of the disease.

The scale of the extra costs we uncovered are staggering. However, our experience in assessing the financial impact of disability and health conditions has taught us that extra costs are only one side of the story. It is also vital to capture the hidden extent of unmet need: the things people go without in order to manage their finances.

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It is not a pretty story.

Ten more of the slightly quirky items from the world of published material

How to Be Civil in an Uncivil World
via 3 Quarks Daily: James Ryerson in the New York Times

Americans seem to be forever undergoing a “crisis” of civility. Year after year, we’re told that the norms dictating decent behaviour are eroding; that we’ve lost sight of the basic regard we owe our fellow participants in public life; that the contentiousness of our culture threatens to undermine our democracy.
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Benjamin Franklin and the sea
via OUP Blog by David E Curtis

Everyone knows about Benjamin Franklin. His revolutionary electrical experiments made him famous, and the image of the kite-flying inventor spouting aphorisms have kept him so for more than two centuries. His Autobiography could be considered a founding document of the idea of America, the story of a poor but bright young indentured servant who eventually became so famous he appeared before kings and on our money. Printer, journalist, community organizer, natural philosopher, satirist, diplomat – Franklin’s skill with language and his ability to shape it to personal, national, and scientific purposes are unparalleled in American history.
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Watch hypnotic egg-breaking machines for ten minutes
via Boing Boing by Andrea James
These three different egg-breaking and separating machines have slightly different tasks, but they are all equally hypnotic.
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The old oak: a year in the life of a tree – photo essay
The seasons change, but the tree remains: Christopher Thomond has been photographing a single, 200-year-old Lancashire oak throughout 2016
Oak tree in Greenmount November 2 2016
When Guardian photographer Chris Thomond volunteered to spend a year photographing a tree, he spent “a mad couple of weeks auditioning trees” – sending photos of them to his picture editors. “Many were an hour away from my home and we realised we needed something nearby. As I was driving along one day, 10 minutes from my house on the edge of Manchester, I saw a farmer repairing a fence and said, ‘You probably think I’m bonkers, but have you got any nice-looking trees?’ He was a bit wary but then he said, ‘I think I’ve got just the one. People are forever photographing it.’ It just went from there.”
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Maxime Causeret’s gorgeous animation shapes order from chaos
via Boing Boing by Andrea James

Break out your headphones for this one. Maxime Causeret has created a beautiful animation for Max Cooper's instrumental track “Order from Chaos”. Seemingly random elements slowly coalesce into lifelike forms as the track moves from raindrops to increasingly complex sounds.
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The Life and Death of Schrodinger’s Cat, and What It Really Means
via Big Think by Scotty Hendricks
Article Image
Schrodinger’s cat is one of the most famous thought experiments in all of science. The source of countless jokes, t-shirts, and pseudo-intellectual conversations. The idea is this: if a cat is put into a box with an elaborate quantum booby trap then when we open the box the trap will either be activated and kill the cat or not be activated at all. Quantum Physics says the cat should be in “superposition” while we are not looking at it, just like the rest of the quantum system. Meaning the cat is both alive and dead at the same time until we look at at! Zombie cat!
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I know nothing about quantum physics but I do know a cute kitten picture when I see one.

Ballerina: the animated kids’ film that gets to the pointe of ballet
via the Guardian by Lyndsey Winship
Ballet XXL … the animated film Ballerina.
Ask any ballet dancer about the film Black Swan and you’ll immediately get a groan that falls somewhere between disdain and disgust. They’re tired of the myths about ballet being a world of competition and cruelty, of freakishly talented and freakishly driven dancers – never mind that there’s some truth in that.
Ballet both feeds on its myths – of it being exceptional and otherworldly – and is constantly trying to demolish them. And each new fiction adds another layer in the popular imagination, even an unassuming, entertaining children’s animation such as Ballerina, the French-Canadian film which follows orphan Félicie on her quest to be a dancer.
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Here’s how hand-printed books get those marble-patterned pages
via Boing Boing by Andrea James

Paper marbling is alive and well at Oberlin College’s Letterpress Studio. Alex Fox filmed his friend Jones Pitsker demonstrating a couple of techniques.
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I can do marbling but not like this. Mine is much more hit and miss – mostly miss.

Shame on you
via Arts & Letters Daily: by Firmin deBrabander in AEON
Unburdening ourselves online can feel radical and liberating. But is baring and sharing all as emancipatory as it seems?
There’s a well-known contradiction in the way many of us behave online, which is this: we know we’re being watched all the time, and pay lip service to the evils of surveillance by Google and the government. But the bounds of what’s considered too personal, revealing or banal to be uploaded to an app or shared with a circle of social media ‘followers’ seems to shrink by the day. When faced with an abundance of digital toys that offer magical levels of connectivity and convenience, many of us succumb to a ‘giddy sense that privacy is kind of stupid’, as the writer Gary Shteyngart wrote in The New Yorker in 2013.
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Will malfunction or incompetence start World War Three?
via Boing Boing by Andrea James

Eric Schlosser’s book and film Command and Control look at the terrifying prospects of nuclear friendly fire, where one of America’s nukes detonates on US soil. It also looks at what might happen if a false alarm gets relayed to a trigger-happy general or President. He starts this New Yorker piece with a terrifying story from June 3, 1980:
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Wednesday, 19 July 2017

‘It seems at the moment my career is dependent on factors outside of my control’: reflections on graduates’ experiences of employment and career enactment in an era of economic uncertainty and austerity

an article by Tony Leach (York St John University, UK) published in British Journal of Guidance & Counselling Volume 35 Issue 2 (2017)


This paper explores contested notions of the purpose of education and careers work. The research for the paper examines public sector employee reactions to notion of a psychological contract breach, when cuts in funding put their jobs and careers at risk.

It argues that, in this environment, the search for career fulfilment can be marked by feelings of cruel optimism, wicked problems and broken expectations.

The findings are then used to present the case for further research, firstly, to address the notion of possible selves, as individuals explore alternative identity affirming career opportunities; and secondly, the impact of changes in public policy on the processes of psychological contracting between students and staff in further and higher education.

Evidence-based practice in autism educational research: can we bridge the research and practice gap?

an article by Karen Guldberg (University of Birmingham, UK) published in Oxford Review of Education Volume 43 Issue 2 (2017)


In order to develop deeper and better understandings of what constitutes effective educational practices, and to bridge the gap between research and practice, there is a need for a paradigm shift in autism educational research. The contribution of this paper is to examine the key methodological challenges that stand in the way of autism educational research impacting on practice.

This research field is dominated by experimental research designs that evaluate the impact of ‘interventions’ that focus on developing the skills, knowledge, and understanding of pupils with autism.

For educational research to have an impact on the lives of individuals with autism, their families, and the practitioners who work with them, movement towards a more balanced range of methodologies is needed.

This needs to include methodologies that situate the knowledge base of practitioners on a par with the knowledge base of researchers, drawing on the evidence base from the classroom itself, and bringing in the perspectives and views of individuals with autism, their families, and the practitioners who work with them.

Full text (PDF)

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Ten "frivolous" items for you

Hidden Logic of Genes In Genesis?
via Big Think by Jag Bhalla
Article Image
“The story of Eden is a greater allegory than man has ever guessed.”
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Young, British and black: opposing race discrimination
via The National Archives Blog by Sarah Castagnetti
On 15 September 1973 Mr Lorne Horsford went out to the Mecca Palais dance hall in Leicester with his girlfriend. Mr Horsford was refused entry despite being sober and adhering to the required dress code. His girlfriend, Sue Kepka, was allowed to go in.
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A little over 40 years ago black men were being refused entry to dance halls because they were black. This despite the law saying this was illegal.
I guess this is history for some and this NA post will add to their knowledge of what went on.

Why stepping on Legos hurts like hell
via Boing Boing by David Pescovitz
My kids haven't played with Lego in years but somehow the tiny bricks manage to crawl out of the woodwork, waiting for me like caltrops on a dark road. The pain such a tiny colourful piece of plastic can cause for a bare foot is truly indescribable. This episode of “Today I Found Out” explains why.
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An Orphaned Sewing Machine
via 3 Quarks Daily: Laurel Thatcher Ulrich in Harvard Magazine

The orphaned Singer sewing machine
Photograph courtesy of Harvard University's Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments
Every object tells a story, and most objects tell many stories. Some can help us transcend boundaries between people, cultures, and academic disciplines to discover crosscurrents in history. Allow me to make that argument by examining a common object, an “orphaned” sewing machine. Several years ago, my colleague Ivan Gaskell and I decided it would be interesting to have students look at one of the landmark inventions of the nineteenth century – a sewing machine. The first sewing machines were patented about 1845. By 1900 they were as common as a cell phone might be today – and just as much a model of innovation and social transformation. When we couldn’t find a sewing machine in any of Harvard’s museums, I called a curator who had been cataloguing Harvard’s so-called “ephemeral collections”, things kept in offices, dormitories, or classroom buildings. She said Harvard did not have a sewing machine, but she did and she would be happy to let me use it.
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Archaeologist defies sceptics in pursuit of lost city of Trellech
After facing years of doubts, Stuart Wilson’s claim that he has found medieval city on English-Welsh border is being listened to
via the Guardian by Steven Morris
One of the artefacts found at the site
One of the artefacts found at the site.
Photograph: Wales News Service

The first clue was provided by moles. As the creatures burrowed beneath a farmer’s field close to the border between England and Wales, they threw up fragments of what appeared to be medieval pottery.
Stuart Wilson, an archaeology graduate who was working in a toll bridge booth, took a gamble and bought the field for £32,000 when he could have been investing in his first house.
Over the past 15 years he and a hardy band of volunteers have painstakingly unearthed what they believe are the remains of a sprawling medieval city.
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FBI thought Pete Seeger was a commie
via Boing Boing by Rob Beschizza

Legendary folk singer, activist and countercultural icon Pete Seeger died in 2014 at the age of 94, but we’re only now learning that the FBI thought he was a communist as a young man.
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25 Words Coined by Nineteenth-Century Authors
via Daily Writing Tips by Mark Nichol
Read for yourself!

The Hit Aesthetic
via 3 Quarks Daily by Misha Lepetic
At a recent cocktail party, the conversation turned to conspiracy theorists and how to engage them. I offered a strategy that has served me fairly well in the past: I like to ask my interlocutor what information they would need to be exposed to in order to change their minds about their initial suspicion. To be clear, I think of this more as a litmus test for understanding whether a person has the capacity to change their minds on a given position, rather than an opening gambit leading to further argument and persuasion. Climate change is a good example: What fact or observation might lead a person to consider that global warming is happening, and that human economic activity is responsible for it? It is actually quite surprising how often people don’t really have a standard of truth by which they might independently weigh the validity of their argument. Of course, in today’s ‘post-truth’ world, I suspect that it is just as likely that I might be told that nothing can change a person’s mind, since everything is lies and propaganda anyway.
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Arnold Spielberg (Steven’s dad) developed the first computer to run BASIC in 1964
via Boing Boing by Mark Frauenfelder
Arnold Spielberg (Steven’s father) developed the computer that first ran the BASIC programming language on May 1, 1964. Here's an interview with 99-year-old Arnold on the exciting early days of computers.
I wish I could say “ah yes, I remember it well” but having started in computing on leaving college in 1961 I was more concerned with producing babies than computer programs by 1964.

Why did Britain's first road atlas take you to Aberystwyth?
via The New Statesman Blog by Manjit Kumar
Alan Ereira's new The Nine Lives of John Ogilby tells the story of a remarkable book – and its remarkable creator.
John Ogilby was a talented dancer with a bright future. Performing at White Hall Palace in February 1619, the 18-year-old leapt higher than ever to impress the watching James I and his queen. But then, crashing to the floor with a torn ligament, Ogilby never danced again. It was one of many misfortunes he overcame in a remarkable life. He went on to become a theatrical impresario, the deputy master of the revels in Ireland, a poet, a translator and a publisher of ancient classics. He even organised the public celebration of Charles II’s coronation. He was also an accomplished soldier, sailor and spy, as Alan Ereira reveals in this entertaining account of his “lives” and times.

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Ten somewhat frivolous items for your delectation

Take a butcher’s at this: a new history of slang
via The New Statesman by Lynne Truss
’Appy talkin’: Audrey Hepburn as Eliza and Rex Harrison as Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady
Vulgar Tongues: an Alternative History of English Slang gathers material from a mind-boggling range of sources – but still leaves you wanting more.
In 1950, the postwar crime reporter Percy Hoskins (of the Daily Express) published a book whose title was appropriated by a British television series in the late 1960s and 1970s. This book – No Hiding Place! – promised to be “the full authentic story of Scotland Yard in action”, and it remains a compulsive read today, not least for its helpful guide to underworld slang, presented in an appendix “for the benefit of the young detective”.
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Artisans revive the polissoir, a nearly-forgotten woodworking tool
via Boing Boing by Andrea James

André Roubo’s series on carpentry called L'Art du Menuisier mentions a polissior, a small device made of broom straw for polishing wood. In the two centuries since Roubo’s book, the device had faded from memory until a couple of years ago, when Don Williams recreated one from an illustration in Roubo’s book. It turned out to work amazingly well.
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Researchers “Translate” Bat Talk. Turns Out, They Argue – A Lot
via 3 Quarks Daily: Jason Daley in Smithsonian
Plenty of animals communicate with one another, at least in a general way – wolves howl to each other, birds sing and dance to attract mates and big cats mark their territory with urine. But researchers at Tel Aviv University recently discovered that when at least one species communicates, it gets very specific. Egyptian fruit bats, it turns out, aren’t just making high pitched squeals when they gather together in their roosts. They’re communicating specific problems, reports Bob Yirka at
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Roman history and the dangers of nostalgia
via A Don’s Life by Mary Beard
I’m not sure how we should feel about ancient Rome becoming an increasingly popular comparison for modern politics: both a mixture of delight and fear, I guess… and with a recognition that these comparisons tend to come in waves, and will retreat again soon.
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Ralph Steadman: The gonzo marksman
via The New Statesman by Xan Rice
In the summer of 1970, a 34-year-old Welsh artist with a shock of prematurely white hair and a thick, moustache-less goatee was asked by the Times to draw political cartoons during the general election campaign. Idealistic and mistrustful of authority, Ralph Steadman saw little that was likeable or even distinguishable in the Conservative Party’s Edward Heath and Labour’s Harold Wilson. But he had four children to support from a recently ended marriage and needed a steady income, so he accepted the assignment – and got on with causing offence.
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A Tree in Winter
via 3 Quarks Daily by Brooks Riley
If I could hug a tree a day without seeming a complete idiot, I would. Trees matter to me now – how fast they grow, how full their crowns, how tall they are, how odd their leaves, how extraordinary their shapes, how thick their trunks, how nearby they are. This late interest has crept up on me, and taken hold in ways I am trying to understand.
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Watch how incredibly delicate Japanese gold leaf is made and applied
via Boing Boing by Andrea James
If you end up at some fancy event this month where gold leaf decorates the food, that gold leaf will be far thicker than traditional Japanese hand-pounded gold leaf, which can be as thin as 0.0001 millimeters. See how it’s made in the fascinating video.
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The Big Thing People Get Wrong About Their IQ Scores
via Big Think by Robby Berman
Article Image
How many brilliant people do you know who are nonetheless capable of making ridiculous mistakes? Maybe that’s even you. The thing is, intelligence is complicated. There are different kinds: Someone who’s a genius at music may be be a total washout in social circumstances, a brilliant philosopher may not be able to remember actors’ names, and so on.
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What can a Medieval climate crisis teach us about modern-day warming?
via the Guardian by Andrew Simms
In Europe’s ‘bleak midwinter’ of 1430-1440, medieval society made dramatic changes in response to food shortages and famine caused by exceptional cold. What lessons can we learn from history?
A Russian man shovels grain at a farm in Vasyurinskoe during the country’s worst drought in decades in August 2010.
 A Russian man shovels grain at a farm in Vasyurinskoe during the country’s worst drought in decades in August 2010. Photograph: Mikhail Mordasov/AFP/Getty Images
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Hands across the pages: the stories of the world’s most beautiful books via The New Statesman by Peter Parker
Meetings With Remarkable Manuscripts by Christopher de Hamel allows us to see inside the books most of us will never get the chance to open.
Some books are so old and valuable that most readers will never get to see them ­except when opened at a single spread in a glass display case. As Christopher de Hamel (the custodian of the treasure-house Parker Library at Corpus Christi, Cambridge) observes, even now that many rare books have been digitised, there is no satisfactory substitute for sitting at a desk and turning these ancient pages yourself, “touching hands” with their creators and the long-vanished world in which they lived.
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The new generation electronic monitoring programme

a press release from the National Audit Office published on 12 July 2017

“The case for a huge expansion of electronic monitoring using GPS was unproven, but the Ministry of Justice pursued an overly ambitious and high risk strategy anyway. Ultimately it has not delivered. After abandoning its original plans, the Ministry’s new service will now, ironically, be much closer to its existing one. Even if it launches in 2018, it will still be five years late. The Ministry has learnt costly lessons from its failings but significant risks still remain.”
Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office

Full press release (HTML)

Full report (PDF 51pp)

Hazel’s comment:
I am almost fearful of saying anything about this.
Promising programmes of work are cancelled for lack of support, now this mess!

Diarrhoea, vomiting, sudden death ... cholera's nasty comeback

an article in the Guardian published on 12 July 2017

Eradicated for a century in some parts of the world, Alexandra Ossola looks at the history of a disease that has infected 246,000 people in Yemen in eight months.

Citizens of Marseille dance around a fire that has been lit to destroy the pestilence during the city’s cholera epidemic in 1865
Citizens of Marseille dance around a fire lit to destroy the pestilence during the city’s cholera epidemic in 1865. Photograph: Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images

Mohammad Shubo is motionless when he is wheeled into the clinic. He had started experiencing diarrhoea and vomiting that morning; by evening, he had no pulse.

In an effort to rehydrate him quickly, the nurses give Shubo an IV of saline solution. His reanimation seems almost uncanny – within half an hour he is able to sit up and speak. He spends the next two days at the hospital to rehydrate and convalesce before returning to his cramped quarters. If Shubo had arrived at the clinic just 10 minutes later he would have died, a nurse says.

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Are You Keeping Busy to Avoid Your Feelings?

an article for the World of Psychology blog by Margarita Tartakovsky

Something really upsetting happened yesterday. But you have too much to do to think about it.

In fact, it always seems like you have too much to do. Naturally, you refocus on your to-do list. Maybe you even add another seemingly necessary commitment. After all, that networking event is important.

So is the charity function. So is coaching your friend’s summer soccer league. So is helping to plan your colleague’s retirement party. So is that speaking gig and writing an article for that newsletter. So is baking cookies for your book club. So is working an hour later on most days.

Continue reading it is, of itself quite a short read but there are several links which take you to more in-depth material.

How to support a depressed partner while maintaining your own mental health

an article from the Guardian on 10 July 2017

Looking after someone with chronic depression can be hard, as Poorna Bell discovered when her husband became ill. The first rule, she says, is to look after yourself.

Illustration of couple lying on bed
‘If your partner is depressed, you have to look after yourself or you won’t be any use to them.’
Illustration: Nick Shepherd

There is no lightning-bolt moment when you realise you are losing your sense of self; just an absence. When you are caring for someone you love, your wants and needs are supplanted by theirs, because what you want, more than anything, is for them to be well. Looking after a partner with mental health problems – in my case, my husband Rob, who had chronic depression – is complicated.

Like many people, Rob and I were not raised in a society that acknowledged, let alone spoke about, depression. The silence and stigma shaped how he dealt with his illness: indeed, he struggled with the very idea of being ill. He told me fairly early on in our relationship that he had depression, but I had no idea what this entailed – the scale, the scope, the fact that a chronic illness like this can recur every year and linger for months.

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Want to know how society's doing? Forget GDP – try these alternatives

an article by Mark Rice-Oxley published in the Guardian on 27 January

Crude financial instruments dominate the headlines, but it’s metrics like grain price and inequality ratio that really reflect the world we live in

Industrial plant in China
‘Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere goes up every year. If this carries on for another couple of decades, people won’t be inspecting their portfolios – they’ll be foraging in the woods.’ Photograph: Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

Here are the week’s leading indicators.
  • The Dow Jones industrial average topped 20,000 points for the first time.
  • British GDP grew 0.6% in the final quarter of 2016.
  • The FTSE 100 and Germany’s DAX 30 persisted close to record highs, while US GDP softened slightly.
Bored yet? I am. As a former financial journalist, I’m well acquainted with the merry-go-round of indicators that blip in and out of our lives like digital dopamine, telling us how well we’re doing.

As a human being, I’m increasingly alarmed that these are just irrelevant numbers that have little or no bearing on how well we are really doing.

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Why are women who have escaped prostitution still viewed as criminals?

an article by Julie Bindel published in the Guardian on 12 July 2017

Women who have got out of the sex trade dread criminal record checks when they go for jobs. But now there’s a chance those records could be expunged.

Upset woman
‘Despite decades of campaigning to change the law, women in street prostitution are still ending up in court in higher numbers than ‘kerb crawlers’.’
Photograph: Cultura RM/Leon Harris/Getty Images/Cultura RM

In 1996, while helping organise a major conference on male violence against women and girls, I met Fiona Broadfoot. Fiona had recently stopped being involved with prostitution and ran a phone line offering support to women also wishing to escape the sex trade. She told me she had “dozens” of offences for street soliciting, and we spent many hours discussing how to change the law so that prostituted women and men would be no longer treated as criminals. A group of feminists, including Broadfoot, set up a re-education scheme for punters two years later in an attempt to put the onus on the perpetrators, and launched a campaign to decriminalise those unfortunate enough to be caught up in the sex trade.

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What is Corporate Manslaughter and How Does it Work?

a post by Cathryn Evans for the RightsInfo blog on 11 July 2017

Interviewed on Radio 4 following the Grenfell Tower fire, MP David Lammy attacked the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, stating: “This is the richest borough in our country treating its citizens in this way. We should call it what it is: It’s corporate manslaughter”.

While the investigation into the fire is still ongoing, and criminal liability (if any) for the fire has yet to be established, it’s still always worth taking a look at the offence of corporate manslaughter and its history.

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Green grabbing debate and Madagascar: did we learn anything?

an article by Thorkil Casse (Roskilde University, Denmark), Fara Lala Razafy (WWF DRC, Goma, DRC, Congo) and Zachary Wurtzebach (Colorado State University, USA) published in International Journal of Sustainable Development Volume 20 Number 1/2 (2017)


Green grabbing is a scholarly critique of conservation efforts. Scholars of green grabbing argue that many conservation strategies – such as the designation of protected areas and the creation of market-based conservation mechanisms – are designed with the intent to dispossess local peoples and capitalise natural assets.

First, to provide some context on the green grabbing debate, we discuss the trade-offs between conservation and development objectives. In addition, we refer briefly to the broader land grabbing debate of which green grabbing is a sub-component.

Second, we question the theoretical foundations of green grabbing, the concepts of primitive accumulation and commodification of nature.

Third, we compare data collected by the green grabbing scholars and conservation NGOs from the very same site in Madagascar.

We conclude that rigorous post-intervention stakeholder analysis, rather than pre-intervention analysis, is needed to effectively evaluate conservation outcomes, and that research on conservation strategies should pay attention to the role of the state, and the heterogeneity of local communities.

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Cyber Security Breaches Survey 2017

I’ve just been reading Privacy & Data Protection (Volume 17 Issue 5 (April/May 2017). An analysis of the above report published by the DCMS forms the subject of Expert Comment by Bridget Treacy, a partner at global law firm Hunton & Williams.

Ms Treacy tells us that it unsurprising that 61% of businesses view cyber security as an important issue.

What is surprising, both to Ms Treacy and to me, is that viewing security seriously and doing something about risk are two very different things. Specifically, the report notes that:
  • only 37% have segregated wireless networks, or any rules around the encryption of personal data;
  • 33% have a formal policy that covers cyber security risks, and only 32% document these risks in business continuity plans, internal audits or risk registers;
  • 29% have made specific board members responsible for cyber security;
  • a mere 20% have required staff to attend cyber security training in the last twelve months, with non-specialist staff being particularly unlikely to have attended;
  • although 19% of businesses are worried about their suppliers’ cyber security, only 13% require suppliers to adhere to specific cuber security standards or good practice; and
  • only 11% have a cyber security incident management plan in place.
You can access the full report here (PDF 66pp)

Ms Treacy, writing in a personal capacity, ends her article by commenting that “These are worrying conclusions for all of us who regularly entrust our personal data to UK companies for processing.”

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Why do women so rarely make it in the financial sector?

The Fawcett Society’s blog started a new series in April of this year.

Speakers’ Corner, gives a voice to anyone up against gender discrimination in their everyday lives. Here, author and journalist Iona Bain, gives some insight into her experiences working as a woman in the financial sector.

“A few weeks ago, I attended an investment dinner hosted by a high-profile fund house, which shall remain nameless. A sad, but not uncommon sight greeted me; half a dozen fund managers were addressing the financial media – and all were men. Some were interesting; others… not so much.
“To say that this was an event designed to whip up media enthusiasm for investing, which is not the easiest of jobs in this uncertain climate, believe me, I came away with a gnawing feeling that a vital piece of the jigsaw was missing. Oh yes! A female perspective.”

Continue reading

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

The social media revolution: Sharing and learning in the age of leaky knowledge

an article by Paul M. Leonardi (Technology Management Program, UC Santa Barbara, United States) published in Information and Organization Volume 27 Issue 1 (March 2017)

  • Social media are ushering in an era of leaky knowledge,
  • Enabling knowledge to leak out from the pipes through which it travels to distant corners of the organization – and to vistas beyond the organization – presents a whole new set of opportunities and challenges for the management of organizational knowledge.
  • Yet for such a revolution to occur, individuals need to willingly contribute knowledge by communicating with others through social media and following the communications of others so that they can retrieve knowledge.
  • Although the motivation of contribution and retrieval is a perennial obstacle for knowledge sharing, the affordances of the social media that are just now entering many workplaces may provide unique and improved abilities at overcoming these obstacles.

This paper suggests that social media may be useful for knowledge sharing because they are leaky pipes for communication – the directionality and content of a particular message is visible to people not involved in it.

However, social media are only useful for knowledge sharing if some people contribute knowledge that can leak from them and others retrieve knowledge that is leaking. I draw on interviews with employees from a financial services firm to develop a typology of reasons why new employees would not want to contribute what they know to a social media or retrieve from it knowledge contributed by others.

Then, I use existing theory on knowledge sharing in organizations, coupled with recent writings about social media affordances, to develop propositions about how these barriers to knowledge sharing might be effectively overcome through strategic use of the social media affordances themselves.

Labour exploitation and work-based harm

Labour exploitation and work-based harm

Labour exploitation is a highly topical though complex issue that has international resonance for those concerned with social justice and social welfare, but there is a lack of research available about it. This book, part of the Studies in Social Harm series, is the first to look at labour exploitation from a social harm perspective, arguing that, as a global social problem, it should be located within the broader study of work-based harm.

Written by an expert in policy orientated research, he critiques existing approaches to the study of workplace exploitation, abuse and forced labour. Mapping out a new sub-discipline, this innovative book aims to shift power from employers to workers to reduce levels of labour exploitation and work-based harm. It is relevant to academics from many fields as well as legislators, policy makers, politicians, employers, union officials, activists and consumers.

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Sunday, 2 July 2017

Public-sector service provision for older people affected by homelessness in England

an article by Sarah Alden (Dept of Sociological Studies, University of Sheffield, UK) published in Ageing & Society Volume 37 Issue 2 (February 2017)


This paper assesses provision for older people affected by homelessness in England, giving regard to research findings, such as those developed through a pathways model, which show that the experiences of this group are qualitatively distinct when compared to younger households.

Current conceptualisations of older age held by Local Authority Housing Option Service professionals are considered, alongside factors relating to government policy and resource issues. It was found that some practitioners adopted an age-blind approach when assessing older groups, despite this being contrary to policy guidance on assessing vulnerability in England.

Further, services and housing options aimed at older groups were viewed as inadequate due to a mixture of lack of awareness, targeting and resources.

It is concluded that assessment of vulnerability based on older age is complex, as whilst gerontological discourse may discourage viewing age as a number, homelessness scholars stress that rooflessness causes poor health conditions consistent with premature ageing.

It is therefore asserted that policy makers must focus greater attention to developing suitable provision for older service users and look to incorporate a richer conceptualisation of how older age may impact upon the homelessness experience.

Employee turnover forecasting for human resource management based on time series analysis

an article by Xiaojuan Zhu, William Seaver, Rapinder Sawhney, Shuguang Ji, Bruce Holt, Gurudatt Bhaskar Sanil and Girish Upreti (University of Tennessee, Knoxville) published in Journal of Applied Statistics Volume 44 Issue 8 (2017)


In some organizations, the hiring lead time is often long due to responding to human resource requirements associated with technical and security constrains. Thus, the human resource departments in these organizations are pretty interested in forecasting employee turnover since a good prediction of employee turnover could help the organizations to minimize the costs and impacts from the turnover on the operational capabilities and the budget.

This study aims to enhance the ability to forecast employee turnover with or without considering the impact of economic indicators. Various time series modelling techniques were used to identify optimal models for effective employee turnover prediction.

More than 11-years of monthly turnover data were used to build and validate the proposed models.

Compared with other models, a dynamic regression model with additive trend, seasonality, interventions, and a very important economic indicator effectively predicted the turnover with training R2 = 0.77 and holdout R2 = 0.59.

The forecasting performance of optimal models confirms that time series modelling approach has the ability to predict employee turnover for the specific scenario observed in our analysis.

Election 2017: What jobs do UK workers actually do?

A blog post by Laura Gardiner for Resolution Foundation which has more to do with the labour market than that election!

Politicians of all parties spend election campaigns fighting for the votes of what they call “ordinary” or “hardworking” people.
And with record numbers of people in work in the UK, there are more of us that fit into that category than ever before.
But what exactly do the UK’s workers do and what might be on their minds when they head out to vote?

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Saturday, 1 July 2017

Are we ethical? Approaches to ethics in management and organisation research

an article by Emma Jeanes (University of Exeter Business School) published in Organization Volume 24 Issue 2 (March 2017)


We are currently witnessing two concurrent trajectories in the field of research ethics, namely the increasingly explicit and formalised requirements of research governance and the ongoing debate around the implicit nature of ethics, which cannot be assured by these methods, and related – for some – the role that reflexivity can play in research ethics.

This article seeks to address two questions.

First, given the focus of these discussions is often theoretical rather than on practice, how do our colleagues engage with research ethics and what is their ethical position?

Second, given reflexivity is typically focused on knowledge construction, to what extent does it influence (if at all) their ethics throughout the research process?

Interviews were undertaken with senior colleagues who have established modes of research practice and ethical approaches. Drawing on understandings of reflexivity and ethics, this article explores an ethical subjectivity that was typically reflective and sometimes reflexive and was usually related to personal rather than procedural ethics.

It demonstrates contrasting ethical concerns of society, participant and researcher community, and how some researchers saw their ethical obligation as focused on producing meaningful research at the expense of more traditional concerns for the research participant.


From slime to fake news: ten items to interest you

A Brainless Slime That Shares Memories by Fusing
via 3 Quarks Daily: Ed Yong in The Atlantic

Sometimes, Audrey Dussutour enters her lab in Toulouse to find that one of the creatures within it has escaped. They tend to do so when they’re hungry. One will lift the lid of its container and just crawl out. These creatures aren’t octopuses, which are known for their escape artistry. They’re not rats, mice, flies, or any of the other standard laboratory animals. In fact, they’re not animals at all.
They are slime molds —yellow, oozing, amoeba-like organisms found on decaying logs and other moist areas.
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It turns out classical musicians were basically rock stars
via Boing Boing by Caroline Siede
In this new episode of the Cracked series “Everything Boring Is Awesome”, the show digs into the secretly insane, raucous world of classical music.
Watch and enjoy

Looking at the stars
via OUP Blog by Geoff Cottrell

The ancient Greek philosophers believed that the Sun, Moon, planets, and stars were mathematically perfect orbs, made from unearthly materials. These bodies were believed to move on perfectly symmetric celestial spheres, through which a backdrop of fixed stars could be seen, rotating majestically every 24 hours. At the centre was the motionless Earth. For the Greeks, the power of reason was more important than observation. Some 2000 years later, this was the prevailing cosmology when the telescope appeared on the stage.
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Watch water dissolve M&Ms into gorgeous patterns
via Boing Boing by Andrea James
Beauty of Science decided to dissolve M&Ms in water, and the result is surprisingly spectacular. It's like watching solar flares or the birth of a nebula. Be sure to watch in 4K!
Check it out here

Six Wives in the archives: Howard’s end
via The National Archives Blog by Neil Johnston and Marianne Wilson
… we are taking a closer look at some of the documents held at The National Archives relating to the complicated nature of Katherine Howard’s sexual relationships and the reaction of the court to these revelations.

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Mark the Janitor, and Other Anecdotes
via 3 Quarks Daily by Hari Balasubramanian
I've noticed that it isn't easy to strike up a meaningful conversation with someone who doesn't fit into your professional or social circle. Even among strangers we look for clues and – understandably – seek out people with whom we might have something in common. This behaviour appears to erect subtle barriers between groups of people who live or work in the same physical space – say the same neighbourhood or even the same building – but hardly interact.
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Visiting Albrecht Dürer’s house
via the Lone Wolf Librarian

Despite landmines, snakes and dodgy gin, Iraq is an archaeological paradise
Undergoing chemical, biological and nuclear weapons training in preparation for Iraq was nerve-wracking, but excavating here has been a revelation
via the Guardian by Mary Shepperson
Test trenches: expect the unexpected. And then try to explain it.
Test trenches: expect the unexpected. And then try to explain it.
Photograph: Mary Shepperson
Before the very first time I was going to excavate in Iraq, back in 2012, I have to admit I was a little apprehensive; I mean who wouldn’t be? Thankfully the university running the project completely allayed my fears by sending me on a chemical, biological and nuclear weapons training-day, followed up with a course on unexploded ordnance and not stepping on landmines. After this I was so wholly put at ease that I thought about maybe staying at home instead.
Continue reading
An archaeological paradise? Definitely. Be aware, though, that this article is a time suck for those interested in history.

Aliens May be Woven into the Fabric of Nature and Even Ourselves
via Big Think by Philip Perry
Article Image
It’s a simple question on the lips of every sci-fi fan since the dawn of the genre. Why haven’t we found alien life? This is known as the Fermi Paradox, named after physicist Enrico Fermi. It’s the idea that the sheer multiplicity of Earth-like planets should produce life somewhere and with a high probability, an alien civilization, if not several. So why haven’t we found them or why haven’t they found us? Several theories have been posited.
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The Long and Brutal History of Fake News
Bogus news has been around a lot longer than real news. And it’s left a lot of destruction behind.
via Arts and Letters Daily: Jacob Soll in Politico
The fake news hit Trent, Italy, on Easter Sunday, 1475. A 2 ½-year-old child named Simonino had gone missing, and a Franciscan preacher, Bernardino da Feltre, gave a series of sermons claiming that the Jewish community had murdered the child, drained his blood and drunk it to celebrate Passover. The rumors spread fast. Before long da Feltre was claiming that the boy’s body had been found in the basement of a Jewish house. In response, the Prince-Bishop of Trent Johannes IV Hinderbach immediately ordered the city’s entire Jewish community arrested and tortured. Fifteen of them were found guilty and burned at the stake. The story inspired surrounding communities to commit similar atrocities.