Adonis Diaries

Archive for September 2015

New iPhone 6S? Review of this Apple Smartphone

“We have changed everything about these new iPhones.”

Sherif Mktbi shared The Verge.
Apple is introducing the iPhone 6S, an updated version of its flagship smartphone with an identical design and a bundle of new features.

Apple is introducing the iPhone 6S, an updated version of its flagship smartphone with an identical design and a bundle of new features. Chief among them is a pressure-sensitive display, enabling a feature that Apple calls 3D Touch. 3D Touch allows you to press down on the iPhone’s screen to pull up new menus, activate shortcuts, and generally interact with the device in new ways. Apple’s Taptic Engine is also built into the phone to provide feedback. The features will also appear in the new iPhone 6S Plus.

While the iPhone 6S maintains the same design and 4.7-inch display size as the iPhone 6, it’s being offered in a new color: rose gold. There had been some earlier talk that Apple might offer the phone in pink, and it’s easy to see why there was some confusion — rose gold can look very pink in the right light. The phone is also built out of several new materials. It’s using a new aluminum, which Apple says is its own custom alloy. And its display is now covered with a new glass, the same Ion-X that’s used on the Apple Watch Sport. You can bet that these changes are, at least in part, designed to make the phone less prone to bending.

3D Touch enables two new ways to interact with the iPhone, which Apple is calling “peek” and “pop.” Peek allows you to press on app icons and other buttons to pull up shortcuts directly into specific features. Pressing on the Camera app, for instance, offers the option to jump right into taking a selfie. Pressing on the Facebook app gives you the option of updating your status, taking a photo, checking in, or starting a search. Pop allows you to pull up overlays of photos and videos without actually having them take over the screen; once you move away, you’ll be right back to where you were before.

The iPhone 6S is also running on a new 64-bit processor, Apple’s A9. As usual, Apple isn’t giving the nitty gritty details of the processor, but it says that it’s going to be 70 percent faster at CPU tasks and 90 faster at GPU tasks, in both cases over the iPhone 6’s A8 processor.

Apple is putting a 12-megapixel rear camera in the new iPhone. This is the first time that Apple has bumped its camera’s megapixel count since the iPhone 4S in 2011. It’s long held that it wasn’t worth adding pixels because it would lead to noisier images, but Apple claims that it’s now managed to make the change without doing that.

The camera is also now capable of recording 4K video, and it’s supposed to have an improved autofocus in all cases. It also says that the camera has an improved autofocus. One thing that hasn’t changed? The lens still protrudes from the back of the phone.

The front camera is getting a change, too. It’s now a 5-megapixel camera, and Apple has figured out a neat way of giving it a flash: the phone’s display just lights up really bright — apparently up to three times brighter than it usually would. It’ll also customize the color that it flashes to match the ambient lighting of the environment a photo is being taken in.

You’re also going to be taking a lot more videos with this new phone. Apple is introducing a feature called “live photos,” which will capture a short clip of video alongside every photo that you take. You can turn the feature off, but it’s on by default, capturing a second and a half to both sides of every photo.

A 12 megapixel image is still captured right in the middle. It’s a pretty neat idea — even if HTC and others tried features like this years ago — but there’s one reason to be worried about it: storage. All that video is going to take up a lot of space, regardless of how “space efficient” Apple claims they’ll be

Apple is also demonstrating new animated wallpapers on the phone — those may be part of iOS 9 in general, however.

The iPhone 6S is also supposed to be getting faster wireless speeds over both Wi-Fi and LTE. Apple says that Wi-Fi should be twice as fast, and LTE is improving with the addition of more bands, now up to 23. Touch ID is also supposed to be improved on this model of the iPhone. Apple didn’t go into a lot of detail there, but presumably it’ll be faster or more accurate than the sensor on the iPhone 5S and iPhone 6.

The new iPhone will be available starting at $199 on a two-year contract, starting at 16GB of storage and going up to 64GB and 128GB for $100 more per tier. But most carriers are moving away from two-year contracts and over to payment plans now, so Apple is offering some of those, too.

The 6S will be available for $27 per month. But there’s another more interesting payment plan: for $32 per month, you can lease an iPhone and then return it for a new model every single year. It also includes the AppleCare+ warranty from Apple.

Pre-orders begin September 12th, with sales beginning September 25th.

How American Jewish leaders are confronting anti-Muslim bigotry in the presidential race

Why restricting the issues to the Jewish leaders, and how the Jews in Israel respond to these corny questions?

Last Sunday, Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson, who is running second in national pollssaid he did not consider Islam to be “consistent with the Constitution”

And thus “would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation.”

The previous Friday, a man in New Hampshire told Donald Trump, who is running first, that “We have a problem in this country, it’s called Muslims,” then asked, “Can we get rid of them?” Trump’s reply: “We’re going to be looking at that and plenty of other things.”

this Sept. 22, 2015

When CNN asked fellow candidate Ted Cruz whether he agreed with the questioners’ sentiments, the Texas senator refused to answer. “The American people,” he explained, “are not interested in the food fight that reporters are trying to stir up.”

Candidate Rick Santorum would not answer either. “People are entitled to their opinions,” he declared, “whether I disagree with it or agree with it really isn’t the point. The point is that they have the right to say it.” (To their credit, candidates Jeb Bush, Chris Christie and Lindsey Graham criticized Trump’s response).

As it happens, the last few weeks have also witnessed a spate of attacks on American Muslims and their houses of worship: a rock thrown through a mosque window in Nebraska, a burned cross on the lawn of a mosque in upstate New York, racist graffiti on a mosque in Tennessee.

And, most famously, the arrest of a Muslim high school student in Texas who brought his homemade clock to school.

Imagine for a second that this was happening to us. (He means the Jews)

What would American Jews be saying to each other if the man running second for a major party’s presidential nomination had just said that Jews were unfit for the presidency and Judaism was incompatible with the Constitution?

What would we be saying if three prominent presidential candidates refused to condemn the idea that American Jews constituted a “problem” that needed to be gotten “rid of?”

Imagine the mood in synagogue on Yom Kippur on the week these hateful, near-genocidal, anti-Semitic slurs were being broadcast across cable TV.

Then imagine that the same presidential candidates who trafficked in, or excused, anti-Semitism, adored Muslims and Islam. (Mind you that all these are hypothetical imaginations, meant to convince you otherwise)

Imagine if Cruz, while studiously avoiding synagogues, spoke frequently at American mosques.

Imagine if Trump boasted about the fact that his daughter had converted to Islam.

Imagine if polls showed that while only 47 percent of Republicans would vote for a Jew for president, 95 percent would vote for a Muslim.

If this were the America in which we lived, how would we want American Muslims to respond to their privilege and our demonization?

During the current epidemic of anti-Muslim bigotry, that’s the standard to which American Jews should be holding ourselves. And we’re not meeting it. It’s not even close.

Yes, American Jewish groups do sometimes criticize Islamophobia. (Very occasionally)

The Anti-Defamation League, to its credit, has called Carson’s comments “deeply troubling.”

But five years ago, when Muslims proposed building an Islamic Community Center near the World Trade Center, much of whose space would be devoted to interfaith dialogue, the ADL came out in opposition.

The organization has never apologized for so spectacularly betraying its mission of fighting bigotry. Abraham Foxman, who made the decision, remains the ADL’s National Director Emeritus.

The Zionist Organization of America regularly hosts speeches by Pamela Geller, a woman so fanatically anti-Muslim that she defends Josef Stalin’s deportation of Chechens and the Serbian genocide in Bosnia.

The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, which rejected J Street’s application, considers ZOA a member in good standing.

The Republican Jewish Coalition’s most prominent member is Sheldon Adelson, who has said all the world’s terrorists are Muslim, called Palestinians an “invented people” and proposed dropping a nuclear bomb on Iran. 

The American Jewish establishment should loudly denounce any politician who demonizes an entire religious group. But how can it do so when one of its biggest benefactors does the same thing?

American Jewish leaders cannot effectively confront the anti-Muslim bigotry marring the 2016 presidential race because they cannot effectively confront the anti-Muslim bigotry in their own ranks.

That’s not just a failure of moral courage. It’s a failure of moral imagination. It shouldn’t be hard for American Jews to imagine ourselves on the other side when politicians scapegoat a vulnerable minority.

But privilege can be a narcotic.

On Monday, after a weekend in which Trump and Carson’s hateful words dominated the news, the websites of the Presidents Conference, the American Jewish Committee, the Jewish Federations of America, and AIPAC said nothing on the topic at all.

The message: It’s not our problem.

We claim to be a people with a long memory. Sometimes, sadly, it’s not long enough.

Note: In Israel, the extremist Jews have been bombing, and putting on fire the Mosques, and invading the Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.

The Jews in Israel and elsewhere would also refuse to have a Moslem or a Christian be President of Israel. No different from the Islamic States. Or the European Christian States.

What kinds of a Revolution the Lebanese are Ready for?

Why do many Lebanese let themselves and their country be buried under trash?

Why is the general worldview/behavior – except for few individuals and movements who are trying to deconstruct it – quietist, conformist, and ostrich or zombie like?

Why isn’t there a collective upheaval that would gather all Lebanese?

Is Lebanon ready for a revolution?

These are questions my Lebanese and non-Lebanese students ask, questions I keep on asking myself, questions that do not lend themselves to an easy answer, but engaging with them may facilitate critical assessment of the prospects for a sustainable change.

I will certainly not implicate myself in entrenching the neo-orientalist/neo-colonialist caricature of Southwestern Asian societies as incapable of self-government, and Southwestern Asian populations as uncivilized and backward, with a genetic pool incapable of mutation, stuck in mythical dark ages.

One answer could be the following, as Patricio Aylwin Azocar states:

“Ordinary men and women may often feel unmotivated to exert their citizenship, either because they cannot tell the difference between the different alternatives, or because they have lost faith in the political classes, or because they feel that the really important issues are not in their power to decide”.

A second answer could be the deification of the political party, the sectarian community and the zaim.  (Actually all the Zaims have shrines)

As the well-known poet Adonis described it:

“the sacralisation that colors and creeps into politics, turning parliamentarians, ministers and other public servants into demi-gods, their ideologies into gospels and political parties into sects. Indeed, over the past decades, the legacy of multiple wars in Lebanon, including hypermnesia, and paradoxically the tabula rasa mentality and national strategy, have produced in the minds of a good many Lebanese the illusion that somehow “somebody” – the warlord, the zaim, the political party, the sectarian community/belonging – but not the State (or the embodiment of the common management of our diversity), can provide for ALL needs (if not now, certainly in the future)…”

So why make much effort to fulfill what used to be considered in practice (or are considered in the Constitution) the responsibilities of any citizen?

When human beings become ICONS, such as most Lebanese political leaders and public figures, they cultivate and entrench political iconolatry, and that iconolatry is internalized by the common people.

A third answer could be agoraphobia, or the fear of leaving one’s comfort zone: the home, the family, the job, the religious institution, the past with its glories or painful memories, and even, the trash.

This type of phobia is like a prison of one’s own making with invisible lines that cannot be crossed. People who are afraid become permanently disabled, dependent on others’ assistance.

Where does this fear come from? Non-formal and formal education, media propaganda, traumas in the domestic sphere and war traumas…

Other answers could be easily defined and added.

The outcome would still be the same: a national disaster.

However, the time is not yet for defeatism. “If beyond hopelessness there is hope, I am hopeful” (Elias Khoury).

Hope because even if I believe most Lebanese are not ready for a revolution when this revolution is thought as a general upheaval à la Française or an Arab Spring type of revolution or even a Gandhi style revolution, change-making has already started.

Indeed, agents of dialogue, non-governmental organizations, academics, artists and activists, in Lebanon and in the Lebanese diaspora, have been contributing since the 1990s to raising awareness about the necessity of reforming the social-political system and of finding solutions to numerous crises such as the economic, environmental, cultural…

They have already started the desacralisation process.

(Mainly the militia leaders such as Nabih Berry, Walid Jumblat, Rafic Hariri, Samir Gea3ja3… who are still in control and ruling this rotten system)

What we are witnessing nowadays in Lebanon is one of the many physical manifestations of this desacralisation.

The next step would be to continue on expanding the process, while always keeping in mind the necessity of building dialogue platforms.

Desacralisation does not mean ‘getting rid of the iconodules, agoraphobics, ostriches and zombies’, but building alternatives (ideas and practices) where a unity in a diversity of voices would be reached.

Pushing someone who isn’t ready for change is traumatizing. It is neither successful nor humane. The contrary of building strength within and encouraging exploration that feels wanted and welcome when time arrives.

Street protests are certainly a must, but aren’t enough.

Non-formal and formal education should accompany the demonstrations, and short-term expectations should be coupled with long-term ones.

For the majority of Lebanese to understand what is the value of change, to be able to heal their wounds, to stop cushioning themselves against the rawness of life by staying in controlled boxes ‘safe’ from unwanted intrusion, to choose challenge and the unknown over the known, and to embrace constructive discomfort, time, patience, and multiple continuous knowledge productions and acts for peace, justice and equality are needed.

Lebanon’s road from denizenship (chattel mentality in practice) to citizenship is long, winding and full of detours.

We’ll get there eventually!

Note: What alternative worthy values may unite us?


The way I comprehend the current issues in Lebanon:

1. Hezbollah is comfortable attacking in 4 particular fronts that are related to the security and political stability of Lebanon: Israel, Islamist terrorist movements (Al Nousra and ISIS), securing the Lebanese borders from the onslaught of these extremist groups and supporting the army, and focusing on its security within Lebanon.

2. Hezbollah refused to get involved directly in the deep and hot potatoes of fassad (highway and systematic thievery of this militia political system), simply because it would hamper and alienate him in the rickety participation in this system

3. Hezbollah wished that the Tayyar of General Aoun would handle the fassad issues.

The Tayyar did a good job uncovering this endemic problems in the parliament and in the successive governments for years, until he realized that he is unable to carry out this struggle single headedly.

All the political parties united to handicap the Tayyar as representative of the second largest group of deputies in the parliament. Instead, the Tayyar changed direction toward the Constitution front.

4. The Youth movements finally decided to focus on the fassad.

5. Ironically, the Tayyar decided Not to open lines of communications, discussions and negotiation with the Youth movements in order to become a valuable expert in these hot files.

I’m left with this feeling that No political parties in Lebanon is serious about any kinds of reforms in the fassad front

Everybody decided to support science and climate change? Pope included

On June 18, Pope Francis issued the encyclical Laudato Si: On care for our common home.

The letter has been widely praised for supporting the science on climate change.

But it goes much further than many expected in documenting the phenomenal changes that our planet is undergoing, beyond climate.

And the story of how the Pope has integrated science and religion (not always the easiest of companions, let’s face it) indicates, to me at least, a profound shift in world view. (Paradigmatic shift on minding the sustainable issues for survival)

Patsy Z shared this link TED, September 24, 2015 ·
The case for climate action as a moral imperative.

The Pontifical Academy of Sciences has been bringing together climate scientists, economists and scholars pretty much since Francis’ papacy began in March 2013.

My colleagues, professors Paul Crutzen, Veerabhadran Ramanathan and John Schellnhuber, have been part of a new level of dialogue between Earth system scientists and the Vatican.

In April of this year, I attended a one-day scientific workshop on the moral dimensions of climate change and sustainable humanity.

At that workshop, which included economist Jeffrey Sachs and Sir Partha Dasgupta of Cambridge University, Cardinal Peter Turkson reminded us that “we are traversing some of the planet’s most fundamental natural boundaries.”

Turkson was using language referring to research on planetary boundaries led by my group, the Stockholm Resilience Centre, and carried out together with leading global sustainability scientists across the world.

First published in 2009 (and updated in a paper for Science in January), our work was initiated by growing alarm at the scale of human influence on Earth.

Indeed, humans, predominantly in wealthy nations that consume the most, are now the prime drivers of change in the Earth system.

We are altering the carbon, water and nitrogen cycles; we are changing the chemistry of the ocean. Only last week, researchers announced further evidence that we are in the midst of a sixth mass extinction of life on Earth. (I had published the article on the 6th mass extinction many months ago)

Firmly grounded in this science, Pope Francis’ encyclical suggests — in line with our analysis — that planetary stewardship must now be the foundation of our values, beliefs and economic systems. It is a remarkable document on the moral imperative of climate action, as well as a call for a new journey of hope and dignity for all world citizens.

Again, these moral statements are surprisingly well aligned with scientific evidence. There is now mounting evidence that a grand transformation of our economic system will deliver both greater wellbeing for all and a sustainable future.

As several of us at the April meeting pointed out, it is the current economic model, known as business-as-usual — not sustainable transformation — that presents the high-risk path for humanity.

Business-as-usual stands little chance of delivering wellbeing to a world of perhaps 9 billion people by 2050. It is only by transforming to a sustainable world that Earth has a chance of continuing to support social and economic development to meet rapidly growing demands for health and wealth.

One of the ways to do that is to aim for zero emissions from fossil fuels by around the middle of the century. This is possible; the technology is available and investment in renewables is accelerating.

Pope Francis has made this careful intervention at a critical time. 2015 is unique.

In July, world leaders meet to discuss how to finance sustainable development. In September they meet again to agree on 17 global goals for development. And in December, they come together once more to hammer out a climate deal.

In April, the Earth League, a group of concerned scientists which I have the privilege of chairing, released the Earth Statement outlining the essential elements of a climate deal.

This has been endorsed by Desmond Tutu and members of the World Council of Churches and Religions for Peace. Religious leaders are mobilizing around these global environmental challenges.

2015 is a once-in-a-generation chance to overcome inertia and chart out a sustainable path for all.

The Pope’s intervention adds substantial weight to push for a more positive outcome than previous disappointments. Not least, because the window of opportunity is closing fast.

When Temporary sticks in the consciousness as Permanent: How can any reform be applied?

The term Temporary is stuck in our consciousness to mean Permanent.

Every law, every reform idea has Temporary attached to it. And it means: Forget about carrying out even a medium-term project or reform

And nobody is fooled.

All political parties and social organization in Lebanon invariably claim that what they are putting forth is certainly a temporary measure.
This has been going on since our faked Independence in 1943.

In Palestine, the political “leaders” would claim that the Jewish settlements are temporary. The exodus is temporary. The refugee status is temporary…

Nobody is fooled.
Even those organization who claim to be radical, when you scratch them a little they will say: “This system cannot be changed in the short term. The people are Not ready for change…”

And this enduring sectarian and feudal system has been weaving a life of its own for the last 80 years.

And Temporary has become the worst fatal term used in this region, to connote pragmatism.
As if any sane person believe that anything is that permanent.

The garbage crisis is in its 2nd month and the temporary solution is not a viable one. The politicians fake to be listening to the Youth movements in its frequent marches and sit-in, they meet and even negotiate with the Youth movements, then the militia leaders negotiate an alternative resolution that satisfies their long-term interests.

The shortage in electricity is temporary and it has been dragging for 40 years. Until it is pressured to be privatized for a single $

The shortage in potable water is temporary and it has been dragging for 40 years. Until it is pressured to be privatized for a single $.

Trains have been dismantled over 70 years ago, and three dozens of employees receive their monthly stipends supposedly to maintain the train lines that have been stolen decades ago.

Have you read any law in any developed State that say: “This law is temporary?”
You reform and let the vital people in the society resume the reforms

We are launching this preemptive war. We will be in and out in no time. And the occupation continues for decades

We are allied to this country that has the worst human rights records, until the oil wells dry up.

Everything is temporary in our consciousness: Except emigrating to greener pastures

With one way ticket

On the White Gold road of Lebanon: Any sand left?

Sur la route de l’or blanc au Liban

Alors que le pays se voit emporter par le va et vient de la vague du changement démographique, géopolitique régional et au moment où les ordures s’étalent tout le long des routes et s’enchaînement pour former un réseau puant et envahissant, me voilà écrire sur les salines du Liban.

Une escapade vers des endroits historiques où l’air marin est rempli de senteur d’algues

C’est un voyage dans le Akkar qui m’a amené à visiter les salines de Cheikh Zennad situées à quatre kilomètres de la frontière nord syrienne.

Le spectacle de grands marais salants se dévoile au bruit des vagues méditerranéennes sur un fond d’une montagne imposante qui recule pour permettre à une plaine fertile de s’étendre.


Lire la Suite: Sur la route de l’or blanc au Liban | Libnanews

Pour suivre la route du sel au Liban, il faut se diriger nord à Enfé, petit village au charme attrayant situé entre mer et oliveraies.

Ici, dans une petite baie rocheuse qui cache des anciens vestiges, les salines ont été transformées au fil des années de guerre en petits chalets pour le plaisir d’une baignade.

La peinture bleue et blanche couvrant les façades de ces constructions évoque un spectacle pittoresque des îles grecques.

A quelques mètres plus loin, un vieux monastère Notre Dame de la Garde  semble surveiller les quelques marais salants qui l’entourent.

Une visite à l’intérieur de ce monastère orthodoxe est un must; sa petite cour et les murs de son église qui furent couverts de peinture murale dans les années 90, en font tout le charme.

Le paysage de salines abandonnées ou peu exploitées est décevant. La production du sel marin est minime et les éoliennes qui pompaient l’eau de la mer dans les bassins ont disparu.

Arrivée au village de Cheikh Zennad au-delà de Tripoli, de grands bassins récoltant le sel marin s’étendent à l’ouest de la plaine du Akkar.

Ici, la main d’œuvre humaine aide le soleil et le vent à extraire cet or blanc qui nous vient de la mer et perpétue une production ancestrale en voie de disparition.

Texte et photos : Raghida Samaha


Secret to better work?

“If you raise your level of positivity, then your brain performs significantly better.

Your intelligence rises, your creativity rises, your energy levels rise.”

Patsy Z shared this link TED

The happy Secret to better work?
We believe that we should work to be happy, but could that be backwards?|By Shawn Achor

When I was seven years old and my sister was just five years old, we were playing on top of a bunk bed.

I was two years older than my sister at the time but it meant she had to do everything that I wanted to do, and I wanted to play war.

So we were up on top of our bunk beds. And on one side of the bunk bed, I had put out all of my G.I. Joe soldiers and weaponry. And on the other side were all my sister’s My Little Ponies ready for a cavalry charge.

0:38 There are differing accounts of what actually happened that afternoon, but since my sister is not here with us today, let me tell you the true story — which is my sister’s a little on the clumsy side.

Somehow, without any help or push from her older brother at all, Amy disappeared off of the top of the bunk bed and landed with this crash on the floor. I nervously peered over the side of the bed to see what had befallen my fallen sister and saw that she had landed painfully on her hands and knees on all fours on the ground.

I was nervous because my parents had charged me with making sure that my sister and I played as safely and as quietly as possible. And seeing as how I had accidentally broken Amy’s arm just one week before — heroically pushing her out of the way of an oncoming imaginary sniper bullet, for which I have yet to be thanked, I was trying as hard as I could — she didn’t even see it coming — I was trying hard to be on my best behavior.

And I saw my sister’s face, this wail of pain and suffering and surprise threatening to erupt from her mouth and wake my parents from the long winter’s nap for which they had settled.

So I did the only thing my frantic seven year-old brain could think to do to avert this tragedy.

And if you have children, you’ve seen this hundreds of times. I said, “Amy, wait. Don’t cry. Did you see how you landed? No human lands on all fours like that. Amy, I think this means you’re a unicorn.”

Now, that was cheating, because there was nothing she would want more than not to be Amy the hurt five year-old little sister, but Amy the special unicorn.

Of course, this option was open to her brain at no point in the past. And you could see how my poor, manipulated sister faced conflict, as her little brain attempted to devote resources to feeling the pain and suffering and surprise she just experienced, or contemplating her new-found identity as a unicorn. And the latter won.

Instead of crying or ceasing our play, instead of waking my parents, with all the negative consequences for me, a smile spread across her face and she scrambled back up onto the bunk bed with all the grace of a baby unicorn — with one broken leg.

What we stumbled across at this tender age of just five and seven — we had no idea at the time — was going be at the vanguard of a scientific revolution occurring two decades later in the way that we look at the human brain.

We had stumbled across something called positive psychology, which is the reason I’m here today and the reason that I wake up every morning.

When I started talking about this research outside of academia, with companies and schools, the first thing they said to never do is to start with a graph.

The first thing I want to do is start with a graph. This graph looks boring, but it is the reason I get excited and wake up every morning. And this graph doesn’t even mean anything; it’s fake data.

If I got this data studying you, I would be thrilled, because there’s a trend there, and that means that I can get published, which is all that really matters.

There is one weird red dot above the curve, there’s one weirdo in the room — I know who you are, I saw you earlier — that’s no problem. That’s no problem, as most of you know, because I can just delete that dot.

I can delete that dot because that’s clearly a measurement error. And we know that’s a measurement error because it’s messing up my data.

So one of the first things we teach people in economics, statistics, business and psychology courses is how, in a statistically valid way, do we eliminate the weirdos.

How do we eliminate the outliers so we can find the line of best fit? Which is fantastic if I’m trying to find out how many Advil the average person should be taking — two.

But if I’m interested in your potential, or for happiness or productivity or energy or creativity, we’re creating the cult of the average with science.

If I asked a question like, “How fast can a child learn how to read in a classroom?” scientists change the answer to “How fast does the average child learn how to read in that classroom?” and we tailor the class towards the average. (Cannot compute without a reference number)

If you fall below the average, then psychologists get thrilled, because that means you’re depressed or have a disorder, or hopefully both. We’re hoping for both because our business model is, if you come into a therapy session with one problem, we want to make sure you leave knowing you have ten, so you keep coming back.

We’ll go back into your childhood if necessary, but eventually we want to make you normal again. But normal is merely average. (Belief system matches the community customs and idiosyncrasies)

And positive psychology posits that if we study what is merely average, we will remain merely average.

Then instead of deleting those positive outliers, what I intentionally do is come into a population like this one and say, why?

Why are some of you high above the curve in terms of intellectual, athletic, musical ability, creativity, energy levels, resiliency in the face of challenge, sense of humor?

Whatever it is, instead of deleting you, what I want to do is study you. Because maybe we can glean information, not just how to move people up to the average, but move the entire average up in our companies and schools worldwide.

The reason this graph is important to me is, on the news, the majority of the information is not positive. In fact it’s negative.

Most of it’s about murder, corruption, diseases, natural disasters. And very quickly, my brain starts to think that’s the accurate ratio of negative to positive in the world.

This creates “the medical school syndrome.” During the first year of medical training, as you read through a list of all the symptoms and diseases, suddenly you realize you have all of them.  

I have a brother in-law named Bobo, which is a whole other story. Bobo married Amy the unicorn. Bobo called me on the phone from Yale Medical School, and Bobo said, “Shawn, I have leprosy.”

Which, even at Yale, is extraordinarily rare. But I had no idea how to console poor Bobo because he had just gotten over an entire week of menopause.

We’re finding it’s not necessarily the reality that shapes us, but the lens through which your brain views the world that shapes your reality. And if we can change the lens, not only can we change your happiness, we can change every single educational and business outcome at the same time.

I applied to Harvard on a dare. I didn’t expect to get in, and my family had no money for college.

When I got a military scholarship two weeks later, they let me go. Something that wasn’t even a possibility became a reality. I assumed everyone there would see it as a privilege as well, that they’d be excited to be there.

Even in a classroom full of people smarter than you, I felt you’d be happy just to be in that classroom. But what I found is, while some people experience that, when I graduated after my four years and then spent the next eight years living in the dorms with the students — Harvard asked me to; I wasn’t that guy.

I was an officer to counsel students through the difficult four years.

And in my research and my teaching, I found that these students, no matter how happy they were with their original success of getting into the school, two weeks later their brains were focused, not on the privilege of being there, nor on their philosophy or physics, but on the competition, the workload, the hassles, stresses, complaints.

When I first went in there, I walked into the freshmen dining hall, which is where my friends from Waco, Texas, which is where I grew up — I know some of you know this. When they’d visit, they’d look around, and say, “This dining hall looks like something out of Hogwart’s.”

It does, because that was Hogwart’s and that’s Harvard. And when they see this, they say, “Why do you waste your time studying happiness at Harvard? What does a Harvard student possibly have to be unhappy about?”

Embedded within that question is the key to understanding the science of happiness. Because what that question assumes is that our external world is predictive of our happiness levels, when in reality, if I know everything about your external world, I can only predict 10% of your long-term happiness.

90 percent of your long-term happiness is predicted not by the external world, but by the way your brain processes the world. And if we change it, if we change our formula for happiness and success, we can change the way that we can then affect reality.

(Construct an illusory external world? Which will convince us that the living is Not that bad, that fairness and compassion are the rules?)

What we found is that only 25% of job successes are predicted by IQ, 75 percent of job successes are predicted by your optimism levels, your social support and your ability to see stress as a challenge instead of as a threat.

I talked to a New England boarding school, probably the most prestigious one, and they said, “We already know that. So every year, instead of just teaching our students, we have a wellness week. And we’re so excited.

Monday night we have the world’s leading expert will speak about adolescent depression. Tuesday night it’s school violence and bullying. Wednesday night is eating disorders. Thursday night is illicit drug use. And Friday night we’re trying to decide between risky sex or happiness.”

I said, “That’s most people’s Friday nights.”  

Which I’m glad you liked, but they did not like that at all. Silence on the phone. And into the silence, I said, “I’d be happy to speak at your school, but that’s not a wellness week, that’s a sickness week. You’ve outlined all the negative things that can happen, but not talked about the positive.”

The absence of disease is not health.

Here’s how we get to health: We need to reverse the formula for happiness and success. In the last three years, I’ve traveled to 45 countries, working with schools and companies in the midst of an economic downturn. And I found that most companies and schools follow a formula for success, which is this: If I work harder, I’ll be more successful. And if I’m more successful, then I’ll be happier. That undergirds most of our parenting and managing styles, the way that we motivate our behavior.

And the problem is it’s scientifically broken and backwards for two reasons.

Every time your brain has a success, you just changed the goalpost of what success looked like. You got good grades, now you have to get better grades, you got into a good school and after you get into a better one, you got a good job, now you have to get a better job, you hit your sales target, we’re going to change it.

And if happiness is on the opposite side of success, your brain never gets there. We’ve pushed happiness over the cognitive horizon, as a society. And that’s because we think we have to be successful, then we’ll be happier.

But our brains work in the opposite order.

If you can raise somebody’s level of positivity in the present, then their brain experiences what we now call a happiness advantage, which is your brain at positive performs significantly better than at negative, neutral or stressed.

Your intelligence rises, your creativity rises, your energy levels rise. In fact, we’ve found that every single business outcome improves.

Your brain at positive is 31% more productive than your brain at negative, neutral or stressed. You’re 37% better at sales. Doctors are 19 percent faster (that’s troubling), more accurate at coming up with the correct diagnosis when positive instead of negative, neutral or stressed.

Which means we can reverse the formula. If we can find a way of becoming positive in the present, then our brains work even more successfully as we’re able to work harder, faster and more intelligently. We need to be able to reverse this formula so we can start to see what our brains are actually capable of.

Because dopamine, which floods into your system when you’re positive, has two functions.

  1. it make you happier,
  2. it turns on all of the learning centers in your brain allowing you to adapt to the world in a different way.

We’ve found there are ways that you can train your brain to be able to become more positive.

In just a two-minute span of time done for 21 days in a row, we can actually rewire your brain, allowing your brain to actually work more optimistically and more successfully.

We’ve done these things in research now in every company that I’ve worked with, getting them to write down three new things that they’re grateful for for 21 days in a row, three new things each day.

And at the end of that, their brain starts to retain a pattern of scanning the world not for the negative, but for the positive first.

(And when this happy brain will recognize and deal with the negative unjust and and undignified behaviors of people in control?)

Journaling about one positive experience you’ve had over the past 24 hours allows your brain to relive it. Exercise teaches your brain that your behavior matters.

We find that meditation allows your brain to get over the cultural ADHD that we’ve been creating by trying to do multiple tasks at once and allows our brains to focus on the task at hand.

And finally, random acts of kindness are conscious acts of kindness.

We get people, when they open up their inbox, to write one positive email praising or thanking somebody in their support network. (That’s what the inboxes were meant to be: Just praise. Otherwise, no one will care to retain anyone)

And by doing these activities and by training your brain just like we train our bodies, what we’ve found is we can reverse the formula for happiness and success, and in doing so, not only create ripples of positivity, but a real revolution.

U.S. State Department “Welcomes” News That Saudi Arabia Will Head U.N. Human Rights Panel

On the basis that this worst State in Human Rights records will desist and improve?

Last week’s announcement that Saudi Arabia — easily one of the world’s most brutally repressive regimes — was chosen to head a U.N. Human Rights Council panel provoked indignation around the world.

That reaction was triggered for obvious reasons.

  1. Not only has Saudi Arabia executed more than 100 people already this year, mostly by beheading (a rate of 1 execution every two days), and
  2. not only is it serially flogging dissidents,
  3. but it is reaching new levels of tyrannical depravity as it is about to behead and then crucify the 21-year-old son of a prominent regime critic, Ali Mohammed al-Nimr, who was convicted at the age of 17 of engaging in demonstrations against the government.
Glenn Greenwald posted this Sept. 23 2015

Most of the world may be horrified at the selection of Saudi Arabia to head a key U.N. human rights panel, but the U.S. State Department most certainly is not.

Quite the contrary: its officials seem quite pleased about the news.

At a State Department briefing yesterday afternoon, Deputy Spokesperson Mark Toner was questioned by the invaluable Matt Lee of AP, and this is the exchange that resulted:

QUESTION: Change topic? Saudi Arabia.

MR. TONER: Saudi Arabia.

QUESTION: Yesterday, Saudi Arabia was named to head the Human Rights Council, and today I think they announced they are about to behead a 21-year-old Shia activist named Muhammed al-Nimr. Are you aware of that?

MR. TONER: I’m not aware of the trial that you — or the verdict — death sentence.

QUESTION: Well, apparently, he was arrested when he was 17 years old and kept in juvenile detention, then moved on. And now, he’s been scheduled to be executed.

MR. TONER: Right. I mean, we’ve talked about our concerns on the capital punishment cases in Saudi Arabia in our Human Rights Report, but I don’t have any more to add to it.

QUESTION: So you —

QUESTION: Well, how about a reaction to them heading the council?

MR. TONER: Again, I don’t have any comment, don’t have any reaction to it. I mean, frankly, it’s — we would welcome it. We’re close allies. If we —

QUESTION: Do you think that they’re an appropriate choice given — I mean, how many pages is — does Saudi Arabia get in the Human Rights Report annually?

MR. TONER: I can’t give that off the top of my head, Matt. (What does Toner keeps in his Top?)

QUESTION: I can’t either, but let’s just say that there’s a lot to write about Saudi Arabia and human rights in that report. I’m just wondering if you — that it’s appropriate for them to have a leadership position.

MR. TONER: We have a strong dialogue, obviously a partnership with Saudi Arabia that spans, obviously, many issues. We talk about human rights concerns with them. As to this leadership role, we hope that it’s an occasion for them to look at human rights around the world but also within their own borders.

QUESTION: But you said that you welcome them in this position. Is it based on [an] improved record? I mean, can you show or point to anything where there is a sort of stark improvement in their human rights record?

MR. TONER: I mean, we have an ongoing discussion with them about all these human rights issues, like we do with every country. We make our concerns clear when we do have concerns, but that dialogue continues. But I don’t have anything to point to in terms of progress.

QUESTION: Would you welcome as a — would you welcome a decision to commute the sentence of this young man?

MR. TONER: Again, I’m not aware of the case, so it’s hard for me to comment on it other than that we believe that any kind of verdict like that should come at the end of a legal process that is just and in accordance with international legal standards. (And if there is no such legal progress? No defense lawyers…)

QUESTION: Change of subject?

MR. TONER: Sure.

That’s about as clear as it gets.

The U.S. government “welcomes” the appointment of Saudi Arabia to a leadership position on this Human Rights panel because it’s a “close ally.”

As I documented two weeks ago courtesy of an equally candid admission from an anonymous “senior U.S. official”: “The U.S. loves human-rights-abusing regimes and always has, provided they ‘cooperate.’ …

The only time the U.S. government pretends to care in the slightest about human rights abuses is when they’re carried out by ‘countries that don’t cooperate.’”

It’s difficult to know whether Mark Toner is lying when he claims ignorance about the case of al-Nimr, the regime critic about to be beheaded and crucified for dissident activism, which he engaged in as a teen.

Indeed, it’s hard to know which would be worse: active lying or actual ignorance, given that much of the world has been talking about this case.

The government of France formally requested that the Saudis rescind the death penalty.

Is it really possible that the deputy spokesperson of the U.S. State Department is ignorant of this controversy?

Either way, the reluctance of the U.S. government to utter a peep about the grotesque abuses of its “close ally” is in itself grotesque.

But it’s also profoundly revealing. The close U.S./Saudi alliance and the massive amount of weapons and intelligence lavished on the regime in Riyadh by the West is one of the great unmentionables in Western discourse.

(The Guardian last week published an editorial oh-so-earnestly lamenting the war in Yemen being waged by what it called the “Saudi-led coalition,” yet never once mentioned the rather important fact that the Saudis are being armed in this heinous war by the U.S. and U.K.)

It took a letter to the editor from an Oxfam official to tell The Guardian that the West is not being “complacent” about the war crimes being committed in Yemen, as The Guardian misleadingly claimed, but rather actively complicit.

It’s not hard to understand why so many of the elite sectors of the West want everyone to avert their eyes from this deep and close relationship with the Saudis. It’s because that alliance single-handedly destroys almost every propagandistic narrative told to the Western public about that region.

As the always-expanding “War on Terror” enters its 14th year, the ostensible target — radical, violent versions of Islam — is fueled far more by the U.S.’s closest allies than any of the countries the U.S. has been fighting under the “War on Terror” banner.

Beyond that, the alliance proves the complete absurdity of believing that the U.S. and U.K.’s foreign policies, let alone their various wars, have anything to do with protecting human rights or subverting tyranny and fanaticism.

And it renders a complete laughingstock any attempts to depict the U.S. government as some sort of crusader for freedom and democracy or whatever other pretty goals are regularly attributed to it by its helpful press.

Note: over 1,000 Hajj died trampled and 2,000 injured. The real cause was that the son of the monarch was going counter to traffic in this narrow lane leading to Mena, escorted by 200 soldiers and 150 police officers. They had closed entrances and exits for the convoy safety.




September 2015

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