Harvard is something of a national institution, and its admissions policies have become everyone’s business

Wednesday, January 31st, 2024

Harvard admissions should be more meritocratic, Steven A. Pinker, Contributing Opinion Writer, opines:

Thanks to its tax-exempt status, federal funding, and outsize role as a feeder school to the American elite, Harvard is something of a national institution, and its admissions policies have become everyone’s business.

Others argue that holistic admissions are necessary to avoid a class of grinds and drudges. But elite universities should be the last to perpetuate this destructive stereotype. It would be ludicrous if anyone suggested that Harvard pick its graduate students or faculty for their prowess in athletics or music or improv comedy, yet these people are certainly no shallower than our undergraduates.

In any case, the stereotype is false. The psychologists Camilla P. Benbow and David Lubinski have found that precocious adolescents with sky-high SAT scores grew up to excel not only in academia, medicine, business, and technology, but also in literature, drama, art, and music.

Instead of “holistic admissions,” I suggest using a transparent formula that is weighted toward test scores and high school grades, adjusting it by whichever other factors can be publicly justified, such as geographic and socioeconomic diversity, and allowing for human judgment in exceptional cases. (I recognize the arguments for including race, but that has been judged unconstitutional, so the issue is moot.)

Hellfire does not tidily disintegrate the target as in a video game

Tuesday, January 30th, 2024

Swarm Troopers by David HamblingCofer Black, head of the CIA’s counterterrorist Center, requested that the Predator be armed, David Hambling reports (in Swarm Troopers), and USAF General John Jumper requested a demonstration of a Predator that could “find a target, then eliminate it”:

Hellfire was chosen because it was a proven, mature missile with many years of successful service. In fact, mature is something of an understatement: Hellfire was positively middle-aged, dating back to the Nixon administration in 1974.


Hellfire has laser guidance, so the target needs to be marked with a laser designator right up until the missile hits. It is highly accurate, usually hitting within half a meter of the aim point, but it can take a while to arrive. Hellfire is faster than the speed of sound, but fired from a range of six miles, it still takes about twenty seconds to reach the target.


Hellfire is uncomfortably large to hang off a Predator but small compared to anything else available in the inventory. At the time, the Air Force’s smallest guided bomb was five hundred pounds.


The other challenge when firing a Hellfire from a Predator is the unavoidable two-second time lag caused by satellite communications. This means the laser spot effectively takes two seconds to move, so the Predator can only engage a stationary target in this mode. To hit a moving target, the operator uses targeting software to lock on to a moving vehicle; the software keeps the laser spot in place, an indirect way of engaging the target with its own risks if the system fails.


Hellfire does not tidily disintegrate the target as in a video game but leaves recognizable bodies and body parts around ground zero.


If fired in a straight line, Hellfire’s supersonic speed means the target will not hear it coming.


Hellfire may be precise, but it is not surgical. The twenty-pound high-explosive warhead can cause major “collateral damage,” killing innocent bystanders or building occupants when the target is a single terrorist.

Worse, the long time of flight means there is the risk of somebody wandering into the target area after the missile has been launched.

“Hellfire” supposedly comes from heliborne laser, fire-and-forget missile.

Having garbage-strewn subways that effectively serve as mobile homeless shelters is no way to run a public transit system

Monday, January 29th, 2024

It’s always jarring to come home to the US, Chris Arnade notes, often from much poorer countries, to find that our infrastructure is infinitely worse:

But it was what happened after I left the airport that convinced me that America, and especially NYC, is broken.


The train, to be fair, was on time. But it was filthy. The carriages were mostly empty, except for three or four homeless guys in each who were either sleeping or passed-out. The dozen or so of us who got on at the first stop chose our seats carefully, positioning ourselves close to each other, for safety, and as far as possible from the sprawled-out guys and their piles of trash and puddles of urine.


I thought about Sofia, where the subways and buses — and other public spaces and resources — are so much cleaner, safer, and smoother. Where workers simply wanting to get to their jobs don’t have to deal with navigating the mentally ill, addicted and desperate every day. For context, the GDP of Manhattan alone is about nine times that of the entire nation of Bulgaria. But NYC’s problems only seem to be getting worse, especially for those who have the least. I don’t have to take the subway; I have the cash for an Uber. But I try to see, and to understand a little, the world as most people see and understand the world.


Eventually, that morning, a guy covered in old vomit and carrying a cane, his trousers only just above his knees, got onto the subway train, and went up and down each carriage, hitting every sleeping or passed-out guy on the legs, yelling at them to move on, to give the rest of us some space. Everyone else pretended it wasn’t happening, hoping it wouldn’t go south, focusing instead on the floor or their phones.


But having garbage-strewn subways that effectively serve as mobile homeless shelters is no way to run a public transit system. It isn’t fair on the riders who don’t have the money to avoid the subway. It also isn’t fair on the homeless, who are being encouraged — or at least not discouraged — to hang out on crowded trains, maximising the chances that bad stuff will happen.


One of the forces that influenced LA authorities, though they won’t admit it, is homelessness. They built La Sombrita, rather than a proper bus shelter, for the same reason NYC is taking benches out of Port Authority: they don’t want people to sleep there. It’s something you see more and more in American cities: a locking down of public spaces in an attempt to deal with the growth of the homeless population. A removal of resources for the majority, because of concerns over “misuse” by less than 1% of residents.


To get big-brained about it, something like La Sombrita could only happen in a high-regulation/low-trust society like the US. If regulations massively limit both bottom-up and top-down solutions, and if those solutions are expected to protect against all sorts of bad behaviour, you end up building the least to mitigate the worst — building things the majority doesn’t want, or doesn’t find useful.

The high-regulation part of the US is usually couched in the language of safety, but it’s really about not allowing organic growth, which is messy — even though, people being people, it tends to result in things the majority really wants. Ecuador, by contrast, is a low-regulation (although low-trust) society: here, you get ad hoc, bottom-up solutions. If there is a bus stop in the middle of nowhere, without natural shade around it, riders rig an umbrella to a pole, or throw some old seats under a tree. In the US, such solutions would be dismantled within days.

But also, in places like Quito, bus stops attract street vendors, who come with umbrellas, making people feel safer by their very presence. LA has some of that, but it’s against the letter of the law, and vendors are constantly hassled with fines, or threats of shutdowns. My favourite taco place was closed down twice during my short stint in LA, for bureaucratic reasons. All this is to say that in Quito getting the bus is a much more pleasant experience than in LA — even though the latter city is roughly 1,000 times richer than Ecuador, and the latter has its own serious troubles.

Regulations themselves aren’t the problem, though. Germany, like much of northern Europe, is a high-regulation society, but it’s also high-trust, compared to the US. Here, nice and fully functional things are built without fear of misuse. For Americans, who have both a high-regulation and low-trust society, this is all rather depressing; it’s the combination that means we can’t have nice things.

Vacations will kill you

Sunday, January 28th, 2024

Elon Musk by Walter IsaacsonMusk’s ouster as PayPal CEO allowed him to have his first weeklong holiday from work, Walter Isaacson explains (in his biography of Elon):

After getting back to Palo Alto in January 2001, Musk started feeling dizzy. His ears were ringing, and he had recurring waves of chills. So he went to the Stanford Hospital emergency room, where he started throwing up. A spinal tap showed he had a high white blood cell count, which led the doctors to diagnose him with viral meningitis. It’s generally not a severe disease, so the doctors rehydrated him and sent him home.

Over the next few days he felt progressively worse and at one point was so weak he could barely stand. So he called a taxi and went to a doctor. When she tried to take his pulse, it was barely perceptible. So she called an ambulance, which took him to Sequoia Hospital in Redwood City. A doctor who was an expert in infectious diseases happened to walk past Musk’s bed and realized that he had malaria, not meningitis. It turned out to be falciparum malaria, the most dangerous form, and they had caught it just in time. After symptoms become severe, as they had in Musk’s case, patients often have only a day or so before the parasite becomes untreatable. He was put into intensive care, where doctors stabbed a needle into his chest for intravenous infusions followed by massive doses of doxycycline.

The head of human resources at X.com went to visit Musk in the hospital and sort out his health insurance. “He was actually only hours from death,” the executive wrote in an email to Thiel and Levchin. “His doctor had treated two cases of falciparum malaria prior to treating Elon—both patients died.” Thiel remembers that he had a morbid conversation with the HR director after learning that Musk had taken out, on behalf of the company, a key-man life insurance policy for $ 100 million. “If he had died,” Thiel says, “all of our financial problems were going to be solved.”


Musk remained in intensive care for ten days, and he did not fully recover for five months. He took two lessons from his near-death experience: “Vacations will kill you. Also, South Africa. That place is still trying to destroy me.”

DJI might deplore the military use of its drones, but its new FlyCart 30 delivery drones looks perfect for delivering ordnance on target

Saturday, January 27th, 2024

DJI, based in Shenzhen, China, dominate the consumer drone industry, David Hambling notes, with an estimated 70%+ of the global market:

In particular their Mavic range of affordable drones which fold up small enough to fit in a cargo pocket are outstanding platforms for rock-steady aerial videos or swooping shots of scenery. Mavics also make great battlefield scouts, and both sides in the conflict have used the drones heavily for reconnaissance and intelligence gathering, spotting hidden targets from miles away.

Small drones also multiply the effectiveness of artillery: by precisely directing rounds on target, drones make artillery five to ten times as effective. Everything from 155mm howitzers to 30mm automatic grenade launches now uses drone guidance, and they assist tanks to score indirect-fire kills from long range in a way that was previously impossible.

And of course, small drones are used as bombers. 3D printed bombing rigs arm small quadcopters with one or two grenades (typically Russian VOG-17 or American M433 “Golden eggs”) to drop into foxholes or trenches, or through hatches to destroy abandoned vehicles.

DJI deplores the military use of their drones. The company banned sales of their products in both Ukraine and Russia in April 2022 and has issued several strongly-worded statements, but these have been ignored.

But in Ukraine, ‘Mavik’ is now a generic term for any small drone, just as ‘Hoover’ and ‘Fridge’ were applied to any product of a certain type. In October 2023, Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal claimed his country bought 60% of the Mavic drones produced,DJI immediately denied this claim, and it does seem unlikely as DJI produce millions of drones and Ukraine’s purchases are likely to be in the hundreds of thousands, but it gives an idea of how significant they are.

DJI might deplore the military use of its drones, but its new FlyCart 30 delivery drones looks perfect for delivering ordnance on target:

With eight rotors on four arms, the FlyCart30 can haul up to 30 kilos/66 pounds a distance of ten miles, or carry lesser payloads greater distances. The control range is given as 13 miles, but extra features allow one-button transfer to a second operator.

Top speed is 45 mph, and the drone can fly in winds of up to 27 mph.

A mass of safety features include automatic radar and visual obstacle avoidance day or night, and a parachute which deploys if the engines fail, so the drone will always make a soft landing.

For deliveries, the FlyCart30 can carry a 70-liter cargo pod – a container the size of a suitcase – or, if there is no landing site, it can lower a payload on a winch while the drone hovers 60 feet above.

Like the Mavics, FlyCart30 folds up for easy transport. No international price has been announced, but last year the drone was advertised in China for just $17,000.


Ukraine’s heavy drones have recently taken on a new role as minelayers. Their engineers have developed a special fuse so a mine can be dropped from the air and only arm itself after it has handed. The drones can lay mines on roads or tracks from several miles away. They can also repair gaps in minefield where Russian engineers have started to clear a path.


The larger capacity also opens up the possibility of new types of attack drone. Several developers have already come up with stabilised weapon mounts for drones, such as the Baduga rifle system which comes with a high-powered rifle with 60 rounds. It can reliably hit a human-sized target with one shot from 200 meters. The Baduga system complete with a rifle and ammo weights less than 20 pounds.

In 2021, Nammo test-fired their M72 anti-armor rocket from a heavy drone. M72s weigh about eight pounds each, so FlyCart could carry a whole rack of them, benefitting from being able to attack the thin top armor.

The FlyCart could also act as a drone carrier, a mothership for multiple FPV attack drones. Both Ukraine and Russia have experimented with this concept, but an affordable heavy lift platform would make it far more feasible.

Drug and chemical warfare was sort of a parallel arms race

Friday, January 26th, 2024

Tripping on Utopia by Benjamin BreenUC Santa Cruz historian Benjamin Breen’s Tripping on Utopia: Margaret Mead, the Cold War, and the Troubled Birth of Psychedelic Science tracks the souring of the idealism once associated with the study of psychedelic drugs in the 20th century:

More concretely, it focuses on the intertwined lives of two cultural anthropologists — Mead and Gregory Bateson, who were married for 14 years — and the extraordinary circle of social scientists, psychoanalysts, artists and spies who gathered around them from the 1930s through the ’70s.


People in the ’20s and ’30s genuinely thought science could, for instance, lead to the formation of a world government.

Mead and Bateson thought that scientists would lead the vanguard of a revolution in bringing the wisdom and the experiences of other cultures into the modern world, the creation of a sort of global culture that would allow for some form of transcendence. World War II really changed their view.

So there was a strong belief that in the aftermath of the atomic bomb that the way to win a war was to never end up in actual combat. Psychological warfare was the way to go — you know, basically the idea of game theory. For instance, the American side imagined, “What if the Soviets have a mind-altering drug and they give it to the president of the United States or slip it into the ambassador to Moscow’s drink?” That concern actually prompted parallel work by the CIA and the U.S. military. Drug and chemical warfare was sort of a parallel arms race alongside the nuclear arms race.

And that is what we mostly associate today with MKUltra. But it was much bigger than that. There were many other programs. and I barely scratched the surface. For instance, the idea of dropping aerosolized LSD over cities was something people thought about, but also [to use it] as a tool of diplomacy, a way of interrogating suspected double agents, even as a way of inuring Americans in the State Department. There were many layers of paranoia.

Generating Power on Earth From the Coldness of Deep Space

Thursday, January 25th, 2024

On a clear night you’ll feel your body cool; some of that cooling is heat radiating into space:

Removing heat this way can cool that object down tens of degrees below the temperature of its surroundings.

We can exploit the temperature difference by turning it into electricity through thermoelectric power generation. The working principle behind a thermoelectric generator is the Seebeck effect, which describes how a material develops a voltage difference in response to a temperature differential across it. We can manipulate the Seebeck effect in semiconductors by the controlled addition of impurities, or dopants.


With the ambient environment as a hot reservoir, we can use the coldness from deep space to create the cold reservoir. To do this, we send heat out to space using what we call an emitter, which cools itself to a lower temperature than its surroundings. That’s a phenomenon known as radiative cooling. Then, a thermoelectric generator situated between the cold emitter and the now-hotter ambient surroundings can produce electricity.

The emitter’s job is to radiate the heat out beyond Earth’s atmosphere. But the atmosphere is transparent only to photons of certain wavelengths. Within the mid-infrared range, which is where heat radiation from typical earthbound objects is concentrated, the most applicable atmospheric transmission band is in the 8- to 13-micrometer-wavelength range. Even some simple emitters send out heat radiation at these wavelengths. For example, if it’s insulated from ambient surroundings, black paint emits enough radiation within that band to cool a surface down by 10 degrees Celsius when exposed to the night sky.

In the wavelength range outside 8 to 13 mm, the atmosphere bounces back a substantial amount of radiation. During the daytime, solar radiation comes into the equation. More-advanced emitter designs aim to avoid the incoming radiation from the atmosphere and sunlight by ensuring that they absorb and emit only within the transparency window. The idea of using such a wavelength-selective emitter for radiative cooling dates back to the pioneering work of Claes-Göran Granqvist and collaborators in the 1980s. Just as an engineer designs a radio antenna with a specific shape and size to transmit over a certain wavelength in a certain direction, we can design an emitter using a library of materials, each with a specific shape and size, to adjust the wavelength band and direction for heat radiation. The better we do this, the more heat the emitter ejects into space and the colder the emitter can get.

Glass is a great material for an emitter. Its atomic vibrations couple strongly to radiation around the 10-micrometer wavelength, forcing the material to emit much of its heat radiation within the transmission window. Just touch a glass window at night and you’ll feel this cooling. Adding a metallic film to help reflect radiation skyward makes the emissions—and the cooling—even more effective. And structures can be specifically designed to strongly reflect the wavelengths of sunlight.


Putting all these optimizations together, we calculated that the maximum achievable power density for this technology is 2.2 W/m2. This power density is a lot lower than what can be generated with solar cells under sunlight. However, when sunlight isn’t readily available, this is pretty good; it’s significantly higher compared to what can be achieved with many other ambient energy-harvesting schemes. For example, it’s orders of magnitude more than the less than 1 mW/m2 that can be harvested from ambient radio waves.

We all want the pill

Wednesday, January 24th, 2024

Rethinking Diabetes by Gary TaubesThe Guardian reviews Gary Taubes‘ Rethinking Diabetes: What Science Reveals About Diet, Insulin, and Successful Treatments

Gary Taubes is probably the most single-minded person I have ever met. In 2002, when he was a little-known science journalist and author of two books on scientific controversies, an article of his was published in the New York Times, headlined: What If It’s All Been a Big Fat Lie? In it, he argued that the low-fat dietary advice of the previous couple of decades wasn’t only incorrect, but actively dangerous and the reason for, as he put it, the “rampaging epidemic of obesity in America”. For Taubes, dietary fat wasn’t a problem at all. Instead, the real danger was carbohydrate, he asserted, sparking a backlash, and fuelling the ongoing conversation about what constitutes a “healthy diet”. He wasn’t the first to assert that carbs were bad (Robert Atkins got there before him), but perhaps because of his serious and scientific background — he has a physics degree from Harvard and studied aerospace engineering at Stanford — he has been a polarising figure, with as many ardent followers as detractors.


Before the discovery of insulin in the 1920s, diet was the only way to manage diabetes and although various options were tried by early practitioners, low-carb was, says Taubes, among the most popular (with medics, at least). Insulin was a gamechanger. Not only did it almost magically save the lives of children with type 1 diabetes, who would often arrive at hospital comatose and die swiftly afterwards, but it also meant that people with diabetes of both types could eat a more or less normal diet.


What Taubes would like to see is low-carb diets being offered alongside or instead of diabetes medications. “When insulin therapy started in the 1920s, they had no idea what the long-term side-effects were or what the long-term consequences of living with diabetes were [because most people with type 1 died],” he says. “Then doctors find out that it’s just easier to let patients eat whatever they want and give them drugs to cover them. Then it’s another five, 10 or 20 years before they start seeing the long-term complications, which they think of as long-term complications of the disease.” What he wishes scientists at the time had concluded was: “The reason we’re keeping them alive is insulin therapy. So what we’re seeing is the long-term complications of the disease as controlled by insulin therapy, and the insulin therapy might be causing the complications as much as the disease is.

“By the late 1930s, you have this tidal wave of diabetic complications: the heart disease, the atherosclerosis, the neuropathy, the kidney failure, the blindness, amputations. And nobody ties it back.” By then, the low-carb diet had fallen far from favour. “Nobody wants to eat a diet. So nobody’s being told: ‘Look, if I give you insulin, I’m going to keep you alive until you’re 30, especially if I give you a lot of insulin and you do eat your carbs. But if I tell you not to eat the carbs and we minimise the insulin use — which for type 2 could be no insulin — I might keep you alive as long as anyone else in your family.’”

In the book, which is laden with references, studies and dense historical detail, Taubes mentions case records from the 1700s in which patients on low-sugar diets beg for a medical solution, suggesting that the preference for medication over a highly prescriptive diet has been with us for a long time. “If you’re told, a pill or a diet, we all want the pill. But if you’re told a pill or a diet and the diet will keep you healthy and the pill will give you a chronic degenerative disorder where you’re still going to have these horrible complications, they are just going to be 20 to 30 years later… the pill is going to be easier, because it always is. But if you change the diet, it’s not a hypothetical change: you can put your diabetes into remission, you can stop taking these medications.”

The Pentagon abandoned plans for a “Distinguished Warfare Medal” that would be awarded to drone pilots

Tuesday, January 23rd, 2024

Swarm Troopers by David HamblingIn 2013, David Hambling reports (in Swarm Troopers), the Pentagon abandoned plans for a “Distinguished Warfare Medal” that would be awarded to drone pilots who had an impact on combat operations while not actually serving on the front line:

Congress had attacked the new medal, which would rank higher than a Bronze Star or Purple Heart, as “a disservice to our service members and veterans who have, or who currently are, serving overseas in hostile and austere conditions.”

I’m reminded of how militaries have always lionized stalwart heavy infantry, who held the line, rather than skirmishers.

The average IQ was 100, at least four standard deviations below theirs

Monday, January 22nd, 2024

Miraca U. M. Gross proposes an experimental study:

Let us take a child of average intellectual ability, and when he is 5 years old, let us place him in a class of children with severe intellectual disabilities, children whose IQs are at least four standard deviations lower than his. The child will stay with this group for the duration of his schooling and he will undertake the curriculum designed for the class, at the level and pace of the class.

We will carefully observe and assess at regular intervals his edu- cational progress, his feelings about school, his social relationships with classmates, and his self-esteem. We will also observe the child’s parents and their interactions with the child’s teacher, school, and school system. They will, of course, have had no say in the child’s class or grade placement.

As one cannot generalize from a sample of one, the study will be replicated with 60 children in cities, towns, and rural and remote areas across the nation.

If this proposal appalls you, rest easy. Such a study will never be undertaken. No education system would countenance it. No ethics committee would approve it.

Instead, I will report some findings from a real-life study that is ongoing and that mirrors the hypothetical study described above. This study of 60 young Australians with IQs of 160 and above is in its 22nd year, and the majority of the subjects are in their mid- to late 20s. Like the children in the hypothetical study, the majority undertook their entire schooling in classes where the average IQ was 100, at least four standard deviations below theirs. These children, and their parents, were less than happy. The education systems were unresponsive and no ethics committee raised a whisper, as this treatment is common practice in Australia, as well as in the United States.


In the 1920s and 1930s, school systems grade-advanced gifted students much more readily than they do now; by the time they grad- uated from high school, 10% of Terman’s entire subject group had skipped two grades and a further 23% had skipped one (Terman & Oden, 1947). By contrast, the majority of the exceptionally and pro- foundly gifted children in the present study have been retained with age peers for the entirety of their schooling, and few of their schools have actively structured socialization opportunities for them.


The considerable majority of young people who have been radically accelerated, or who accelerated by 2 years, report high degrees of life satisfaction, have taken research degrees at leading universities, have professional careers, and report facilitative social and love relation- ships. Young people of equal abilities who accelerated by only 1 year or who have not been permitted acceleration have tended to enter less academically rigorous college courses, report lower levels of life satisfaction, and in many cases, experience significant difficulties with socialization.

Entrepreneurs are actually not risk takers

Sunday, January 21st, 2024

Elon Musk by Walter IsaacsonWhat struck Elon Musk’s colleagues at PayPal, Walter Isaacson explains (in his biography of Elon), was his willingness, even desire, to take risks:

“Entrepreneurs are actually not risk takers,” says Roelof Botha. “They’re risk mitigators. They don’t thrive on risk, they never seek to amplify it, instead they try to figure out the controllable variables and minimize their risk.” But not Musk. “He was into amplifying risk and burning the boats so we could never retreat from it.” To Botha, Musk’s McLaren crash was like a metaphor: floor it and see how fast it goes.

That made Musk fundamentally different from Thiel, who always focused on limiting risks. He and Hoffman once planned to write a book on their experience at PayPal. The chapter on Musk was going to be titled “The Man Who Didn’t Understand the Meaning of the Word ‘Risk.’ ” Risk addiction can be useful when it comes to driving people to do what seems impossible. “He’s amazingly successful getting people to march across a desert,” Hoffman says. “He has a level of certainty that causes him to put all of his chips on the table.”

Twenty Years of Blogging!

Saturday, January 20th, 2024

As our Slovenian guest recently pointed out, I’ve been posting to this blog for 20 years! My very first post was about some news that hit a bit close to home: Foreign Scientists Are Stranded By Post-9/11 Security Concerns. (It looks like Dr. Heng Zhu was allowed back into the country. He’s at Hopkins now.)

I would recommend going back and skimming through the archives, but none of the monthly archives before September, 2006 seem accessible. Sigh. I may have to do some SysAdmin work…

In the early days, I was largely sharing Yahoo! News stories that I would’ve emailed a friend. At some point, I had dozens (or hundreds?) of RSS feeds in Google Reader. Now my feed is Twitter — pardon, X.

I’ve enjoyed sharing interesting ideas this whole time, but I particularly like having a searchable database of all these things that I can return to.

So, how long have you guys been swinging by? And why?

The drugs found online are not cheap due to the risk of delivery in the war zone

Friday, January 19th, 2024

Russian soldiers are getting hard drugs delivered to their trenches in Ukraine, according to the independent Russian news outlet Verstka:

Mephedrone, amphetamines, and alpha-PVP, known as “salt”, are among the substances that Russian soldiers on the frontline take, with effects including paranoia and hallucinations, the report said.


Access to the drugs is easy, according to Verstka, as they are either sold by locals, brought in by the men themselves, or found on the Telegram messaging app.

However, the drugs found online are not cheap due to the risk of delivery in the war zone, one soldier told the outlet. Three syringes of an illegal substance could cost about 15,000 rubles ($150), he said.

This is not the first time a report has outlined drug use among Russian troops.

In a report in May, the British think-thank Royal United Service Institute said that Russian soldiers often appear to be “under the influence of amphetamines or other narcotic substances” on the battlefield.

European immigrants returned to their home countries in huge numbers between 1908 and 1925

Thursday, January 18th, 2024

The Jews were not like the Poles, Italians or Germans who arrived with them in New York harbor:

Polish or German families sent their young men ahead of the family to establish themselves and make the family’s arrival more comfortable. Italians who found the immigrant life too difficult returned to their home country in large numbers.

But Jews behaved differently. Once they decided to leave, they sold everything, boarded ships and arrived on America’s shores as whole families. They knew they would not be returning.

During the Panic of 1907, 300,000 Italian immigrants returned home to Italy.


European immigrants returned to their home countries in huge numbers between 1908 and 1925: 57% of Italians, 40% of Poles, 64% of Hungarians, 67% of Romanians and 55% of Russians.

Among Jews, the figure was just 5%.


In 1910, when the US had already absorbed some two million East European Jews, New York Immigration Commissioner William Williams ended his annual report with a warning: “The time has come when it is necessary to put aside false sentimentality in dealing with a question of immigration, and to give more consideration to its racial and economic aspects and in deciding what additional immigrants we shall receive, to remember that our first duty is to our country.”


In 1921, the US Congress decided to act. It passed the Emergency Quota Act and then the 1924 Quota Act, severely reducing Jewish immigration from over 120,000 per year to under 3,000 a decade later.

These places don’t want you

Wednesday, January 17th, 2024

Troubled by Rob HendersonRob Henderson was more than a little surprised to discover that none of the major bookstores in New York City or San Francisco would host an event for his new book, Troubled: A Memoir of Foster Care, Family, and Social Class:


All inquiries either outright declined or ignored altogether.

I scanned the websites of some of these bookstores. They are hosting events for authors with 2,000 Twitter/X followers and, in several cases, little to no online or cultural footprint beyond a perch at one of the many dying legacy media outlets.


I have 136,000 followers on Twitter/X. I have nearly 50,000 subscribers on this Substack. My writing has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Boston Globe, Psychology Today, and many other mainstream outlets. I broke myself in half to enlist in the military and then study at Yale and Cambridge.


If you grow up poor and aren’t willing to pledge fealty to the right causes, these places don’t want you. If you grew up poor, remake your fortunes, and then speak truthfully about the factors that fuel success (hard work, determination, sacrifice) rather than the factors elites speak about (luck, systemic forces, privilege), then these places don’t want you.


The kinds of people who work in these spaces claim to be open-minded. They claim they want to elevate and center voices from marginalized communities.

That’s what they claim.

Let me repeat a stat that doesn’t get shared enough:

Three percent of kids in the foster system graduate from college.


One of us somehow manages to join that minuscule group. And build a large enough platform to communicate about his experiences. And write a book about the obstacles so many young people face. A book that has been warmly endorsed by people across the political spectrum. A book that has received positive early reviews from professional reviewers. One of us manages to miraculously reach a position to communicate the difficulties of sidelined and struggling kids across the country.

But the people who run bookstores aren’t interested in hosting a conversation about it. Apparently, the people who run bookstores are more afraid of confronting my past than I am.