• Routinely sleeping less than six or seven hours a night demolishes your immune system, more than doubling your risk of cancer. Insufficient sleep is a key lifestyle factor determining whether or not you will develop Alzheimer’s disease. Inadequate sleep—even moderate reductions for just one week—disrupts blood sugar levels so profoundly that you would be classified as pre-diabetic. Short sleeping increases the likelihood of your coronary arteries becoming blocked and brittle, setting you on a path toward cardiovascular disease, stroke, and congestive heart failure. Fitting Charlotte Brontë’s prophetic wisdom that “a ruffled mind makes a restless pillow,” sleep disruption further contributes to all major psychiatric conditions, including depression, anxiety, and suicidality.Perhaps you have also noticed a desire to eat more when you’re tired? This is no coincidence. Too little sleep swells concentrations of a hormone that makes you feel hungry while suppressing a companion hormone that otherwise signals food satisfaction. Despite being full, you still want to eat more. It’s a proven recipe for weight gain in sleep-deficient adults and children alike. Worse, should you attempt to diet but don’t get enough sleep while doing so, it is futile, since most of the weight you lose will come from lean body mass, not fat.Add the above health consequences up, and a proven link becomes easier to accept: the shorter your sleep, the shorter your life span. The old maxim “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” is therefore unfortunate…the World Health Organization (WHO) has now declared a sleep loss epidemic throughout industrialized nations. It is no coincidence that countries where sleep time has declined most dramatically over the past century, such as the US, the UK, Japan, and South Korea, and several in western Europe, are also those suffering the greatest increase in rates of the aforementioned physical diseases and mental disorders…Within the brain, sleep enriches a diversity of functions, including our ability to learn, memorize, and make logical decisions and choices. Benevolently servicing our psychological health, sleep recalibrates our emotional brain circuits, allowing us to navigate next-day social and psychological challenges with cool-headed composure. We are even beginning to understand the most impervious and controversial of all conscious experiences: the dream. Dreaming provides a unique suite of benefits to all species fortunate enough to experience it, humans included. Among these gifts are a consoling neurochemical bath that mollifies painful memories and a virtual reality space in which the brain melds past and present knowledge, inspiring creativity…A balanced diet and exercise are of vital importance, yes. But we now see sleep as the preeminent force in this health trinity. The physical and mental impairments caused by one night of bad sleep dwarf those caused by an equivalent absence of food or exercise. It is difficult to imagine any other state—natural or medically manipulated—that affords a more powerful redressing of physical and mental health at every level of analysis…

    tags: sleep sleepdeprivation neuroscience health brain memory learning immunity cancer dementia Alzheimer’s diabetes heart cardiovascular stroke depression anxiety suicide appetite mortality dreaming bookreview

  • Taxis are not the only area where competition has been allowed to take a back seat. Take the concentration of market power that occurred in the banking sector after the financial crisis, largely prompted by the merger of Lloyds TSB and HBOS.The CMA has placed its faith in limp behavioural remedies and backed away from any muscular changes such as break-ups.Or the telecoms sector, where the regulator allowed BT, the old national network, to buy EE and create a preponderant mobile operator without proposing any material steps to redress its evident market power.A recent study by the Social Market Foundation shows how the cumulative effect of market concentration increasingly threatens consumers’ interests.Out of 10 key markets accounting for 40 per cent of consumer spending, it found that eight — including groceries, mobile phones, gas and current accounts — were concentrated, meaning they were dominated by a small number of large companies.Only the car industry and the mortgage market were genuinely open, with no single operator in the former sector controlling more than 15 per cent of the market. Meanwhile, in telephone landlines, BT has about 80 per cent.Concentration and competition are not the same thing. In some sectors, such as groceries, it can be possible to have both because of the ease of switching.But in many sectors the concentrated market power erodes competition to the detriment of consumers.The lack of competition in banking, for instance, costs customers £6bn a year, or £116 each, according to a competition inquiry in 2016. In the energy sector, another inquiry found that Britons are paying £1.7bn too much each year for their power. Despite official investigations galore, neither has been addressed.Like the famous line about empire, Britain appears to be acquiring oligopolies in a fit of absence of mind. It is a dangerous inattention.For these concentrations do not just hit consumers in the wallet. They exact a cost in terms of public loss of confidence in private business and free markets. A state that believed in either would bust more trusts.

    tags: competition regulation monopoly UK economics telecoms taxi energy utility mortgage banking services CMA platformmarkets Uber taxavoidance TfL London

  • So how did he do it? We could all do with knowing, because the world is full of stubborn-minded people who need to be persuaded to change their views about important things.Part of the story is simple persistence: Prof Thaler’s first behavioural economics paper was published in 1980; he has been banging this drum for a long time.More important was that Prof Thaler fully understood what he was criticising. It is all too easy to attack those with whom we disagree based on the haziest idea of what they think and why they think it. But he grasped perfectly why his fellow economists embraced rationality, and the arguments (good and bad) they used to defend it. Prof Thaler engaged honestly and thoughtfully with the mainstream.His third technique was to look at the facts — not only clever statistics, but everyday facts about human existence. We find snack food hard to resist. We divide up money into separate mental accounts — rainy-day money, an entertainment budget, money for food, money for clothes. If we find a fine old bottle of port in the attic, we might refuse to sell it for hundreds of pounds, even though we would not dream of spending a three figure sum on a bottle of anything. Having secured agreement on these facts, he then moved to arguing that they might matter.Finally, Prof Thaler engaged people’s sense of curiosity. His long running series “Anomalies”, published in the widely-read scholarly Journal of Economic Perspectives, would often begin with a puzzle — some piece of behaviour or pattern in the data that simply didn’t make sense from the mainstream point of view. He would then explore the puzzle, extend it, and consider various possible solutions.Economists would talk about these anomalies in faculty coffee rooms. They would, at Prof Thaler’s invitation, send in their own suggestions. Rather than telling his opponents they were wrong, Prof Thaler would present a conundrum and invite everyone to discuss it together. One of his critics, the great Chicago economist Merton Miller, was reduced to complaining that Prof Thaler’s anomalies were a distraction from serious modelling because they were simply too interesting.

    tags: RichardThaler behaviouraleconomics economics Nobel persuasion influencing TimHarford

  • tags: MilkyWay galaxy astronomy

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  • Far-right leaders are correct that immigration creates problems; what they miss is that they are the primary problem. The greatest threat to liberal democracies does not come from immigrants and refugees but from the backlash against them by those on the inside who are exploiting fear of outsiders to chip away at the values and institutions that make our societies liberal…

    Anti-Semitic and xenophobic movements did not disappear from Europe after the liberation of Auschwitz, just as white supremacist groups have lurked beneath the surface of American politics ever since the Emancipation Proclamation. What has changed is that these groups have now been stirred from their slumber by savvy politicians seeking to stoke anger toward immigrants, refugees and racial minorities for their own benefit. Leaders from Donald Trump to France’s Marine Le Pen have validated the worldview of these groups, implicitly or explicitly encouraging them to promote their hateful opinions openly. As a result, ideas that were once marginal have now gone mainstream…

    Cultural and demographic anxiety about dwindling native populations and rapidly increasing immigrant ones lies at the heart of these parties’ ideologies. In America, Representative Steve King, Republican of Iowa, worries about the impossibility of restoring “our civilization with somebody else’s babies.” In Europe, the right frets about who’s having the new German or Danish babies and the fact that it’s not white Germans or Danes — a social Darwinist dread popularized by the German writer Thilo Sarrazin, whose best-selling 2010 book, “Germany Abolishes Itself,” warned that barely literate Muslims were poised to replace the supposedly more intelligent German race.

    The leader of the Netherlands’ newest far-right party fears that Europe will not exist “as a predominantly white-skinned, Christian or post-Christian, Roman-law-based kind of society” a few decades from now. “If I go to a museum, and I look at these portraits, they are essentially people like me that I can see. In 50 years it won’t be,” he worries.

    France, more than any other country, has been the source of these ideas…

    Just as Mr. Trump has plenty to say about Islamic State attacks but generally has no comment about hate crimes against Indians, blacks and Muslims, the European far-right is quick to denounce any violent act committed by a Muslim but rarely feels compelled to forcefully condemn attacks on mosques or neo-Nazis marching near synagogues on Yom Kippur.

    Those who worry that a godless Europe and an immigration-friendly America are no match for Islamic extremists have ignored an even greater threat: white nationalists.

    Their ideology is especially dangerous because they present themselves as natives valiantly defending the homeland. Because they look and sound like most of their co-citizens, they garner sympathy from the majority in ways that Islamists never could. White nationalism is in many ways a mirror image of radical Islamism. Both share a nostalgic obsession with a purist form of identity: for one, a medieval Islamic state; for the other, a white nation unpolluted by immigrant blood.

    If the influence of white nationalists continues to grow, they will eventually seek to trample the rights of immigrants and minorities and dismiss courts and constitutions as anti-democratic because they don’t reflect the supposed preferences of “the people.” Their rise threatens to transform countries that we once thought of as icons of liberalism into democracies only in name.

    tags: extremism nationalism racism rightwing Western polarisation politics intolerance identity

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  • The case, which is in pretrial motions, is perhaps the best example to date of how Internet-connected, data-collecting smart devices such as fitness trackers, digital home assistants, thermostats, TVs and even pill bottles are beginning to transform criminal justice.

    The ubiquitous devices can serve as a legion of witnesses, capturing our every move, biometrics and what we have ingested. They sometimes listen in or watch us in the privacy of our homes. And police are increasingly looking to the devices for clues…

    The prospect has alarmed privacy advocates, who say too many consumers are unaware of the revealing information these devices are harvesting. They also point out there are few laws specifically crafted to guide how law enforcement officials collect smart-device data.

    Andrew Ferguson, a University of the District of Columbia law professor, says we are entering an era of “sensorveillance” when we can expect one device or another to be monitoring us much of the time. The title of a law paper on the topic put the prospect this way: “Technology is Killing Our Opportunity to Lie.”

    The business research company Gartner estimates 8.4 billion devices were connected to the Internet in 2017, a 31 percent increase over the previous year. By 2020, the company estimates there will be roughly three smart devices for every person on the planet

    The future of evidence

    The Dabate case is just one of a handful in which law enforcement officials have resorted to smart-device sleuthing.

    In September 2016, an Ohio man told authorities he awoke to find his home ablaze, but police quickly suspected he set the fire himself. They filed a search warrant to get data from his pacemaker.

    Authorities said his heart rate and cardiac rhythms indicated the man was awake at the time he claimed he was sleeping. He was charged with arson and insurance fraud.

    tags: technology Fitbit wearable crime detection internetofthings surveillance privacy

  • Why is America the only wealthy nation that doesn’t guarantee essential health care for all? (We’ve made a lot of progress under Obamacare, but not enough, and the Trump administration is doing its best to kill it.) Why do we have much higher poverty than our economic peers, especially among children, and much higher infant mortality despite the sophistication of our medical system?

    The answer, of course, comes down to politics: We are uniquely unwilling to take care of our fellow citizens. And behind that political difference lies one overwhelming fact: the legacy of slavery. All too often, white Americans think of the social safety net not as something for people like themselves fallen on hard times, but as a giveaway to Those People…

    This isn’t idle speculation. If you want to understand why policies toward the poor are so different at the state level, why some states offer so much less support to troubled families with children, one predictor stands out: the African-American share of the population. The more blacks, the less compassion white voters feel.

    tags: USculture UShistory USracism slavery Krugman discrimination racism

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  • >>>

    What happens if big companies control who has access to the marketplace of ideas?

    Whether your concern is anti-competitive business practices, or the preservation of free speech, one thing that we have to grapple with is that we are both the raw material and the end consumer of what is being sold online. We are the product.

    Given that, we might want to think much more carefully about three things. First, the extent of information that we reveal and all the myriad ways in which it can be used. Second, whether the products and services we receive in exchange for our data are worth it, or whether the terms of the exchange should be reconsidered. And third, how governments may shift the rules of the new digital playing field, and what it will mean for capitalism in the 21st century.

    tags: data barrierstoentry market marketfailure dataprotection privacy SiliconValley LinkedIn HiQ competition regulation technology law

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