Friday, September 19, 2014
If philosophy questions everything, surely it must also question the periodization of its own history. Professional historians themselves tend to agree that the imposition of periods on the past –premodern, Renaissance, early modern, and so on– is always to some degree arbitrary, even if it is also impossible to imagine how we could describe the past without any periodization at all. The bounding off of temporal regions in this way is made all the more problematic if we wish to consider the past from a global perspective, rather than simply focusing on a single region, since the rationale for periodization in one place might not apply in another. However artificial the notion of the ‘medieval’ period is, we may nonetheless say with certainty that this notion is more usefully applied to Europe than to, say, South America: there is nothing ‘medieval’ about the 10th century in Peru (nor, strictly speaking, is there any meaningful sense in which Peruvians can be said to have experienced the 10th century). There is also nothing medieval about what we often call ‘medieval Islamic philosophy’. Whether or not we may see the period between the 8th and the 12th centuries as a ‘Golden Age’, a term that implies a subsequent decline, it is in any case a mistake to see the period of flourishing of ibn Rushd in Iberia, or of ibn Sina in Central Asia, as a relative void between antiquity and modernity. It was certainly not experienced by the people who lived it as ‘between two ages’, and nor, within the context of Islamic history, is there any interesting sense in which this period was a transitional one.
To be considered a serious artist in late-19th-century America, you had to have studied in a European, academic workshop, testing your brushtrokes among the masters of the continent. But art is nothing if not transformation, and almost as soon as American artists embraced the European traditions, they rebelled against it. Taking a cue from the French Impressionists who made their debut in their own private exhibition in 1874, these Americans grappled for a style that reflected the new realities of the post-war industrial American city.
It is this journey—from the European tradition of impressionism to the avant-garde movement of Modernism—that will be on display at the Smithsonian Affiliate Peoria Riverfront Museum from September 26 through January 11, 2015. Featuring works spanning from the 1880s to 1950s, the exhibition "Impressionism Into Modernism: A Paradigm Shift in American Art," covers the Industrial Revolution, two world wars and a depression—all of which shaped the way American artists worked. "I felt that it would be interesting and appropriate to use American impressionism as a jumping off point as the story of the process of American artists embracing change," says Kristan McKinsey, the show's curator. "It's a time where American artists are moving away from academic art traditions and looking to create an art that was original and not derivative of European art."
When I was a child, my favorite room at home was the library, a large oak-paneled room with all four walls covered by bookcases—and a solid table for writing and studying in the middle. It was here that my father had his special library, as a Hebrew scholar; here too were all of Ibsen’s plays—my parents had originally met in a medical students’ Ibsen society; here, on a single shelf, were the young poets of my father’s generation, many killed in the Great War; and here, on the lower shelves so I could easily reach them, were the adventure and history books belonging to my three older brothers. It was here that I found The Jungle Book; I identified deeply with Mowgli, and used his adventures as a taking-off point for my own fantasies.
My mother had her favorite books in a separate bookcase in the lounge—Dickens, Trollope, and Thackeray, Bernard Shaw’s plays in pale green bindings, as well as an entire set of Kipling bound in soft morocco. There was a beautiful three-volume set of Shakespeare’s works, a gilt-edged Milton, and other books, mostly poetry, that my mother had got as school prizes.
Medical books were kept in a special locked cabinet in my parents’ surgery (but the key was in the door, so it was easy to unlock).
Saskya Jain in MoreIntelligentLife:
I don’t remember thinking of running away when I asked Ram Singh, our house help, to get my small grey suitcase from the storeroom. We were living in a government flat surrounded by a big garden in the centre of New Delhi. I was five or six years old, and it was the first of many long summer holidays. My classmates had all fled from the heat—abroad, mostly. The school fees sapped my parents’ income and, with both of them working full-time, the only prospect of travel was accompanying my father to meetings in nearby Jaipur. So began what turned into a ritual of sorts. Every day I would arrange a varying selection of belongings in the empty stomach of my suitcase—only to unpack them all a little while later.
To fill our own empty stomachs, my family relied on Ram Singh’s limited repertoire of roti, sabzi, dal and chawal—unleavened flatbread, fried or curried vegetables, lentils and rice. My brother and I often ate by ourselves, and we knew that, of the four, only the roti lent itself to mid-meal entertainment. It could be torn in half if a ship’s hold needed to be loaded up with potato bricks, okra beams or chickpea crates. It could be attached to each ear, to make a pair of giant earrings such as we had seen dangling from certain aunties’ rubbery lobes. With just one bite, a solo roti could become Krishna’s lethal chakra, which he’d spin around his finger on Sunday-morning episodes of “The Mahabharata” before using it to slice off his enemy’s heads. But despite our best efforts, lunch rarely brought us more than 15 minutes closer to the end of the holidays. I was often in our garden, watching aeroplane trails wrinkle the clear blue sky. The promise of discovery wrapped in the idea of travel appealed to me. I started telling my parents that I had lived in America in my previous life, before I was born into our family. They encouraged me to tell them stories of my prenatal adventures; it took me some time to figure out that their queries were motivated by something other than a keen interest in geography.
Kenneth Chang in The New York Times:
Artificial sweeteners may disrupt the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar, causing metabolic changes that can be a precursor to diabetes, researchers are reporting. That is “the very same condition that we often aim to prevent” by consuming sweeteners instead of sugar, said Dr. Eran Elinav, an immunologist at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, at a news conference to discuss the findings. The scientists performed a multitude of experiments, mostly on mice, to back up their assertion that the sweeteners alter the microbiome, the population of bacteria that is in the digestive system. The different mix of microbes, the researchers contend, changes the metabolism of glucose, causing levels to rise higher after eating and to decline more slowly than they otherwise would.
The findings by Dr. Elinav and his collaborators in Israel, including Eran Segal, a professor of computer science and applied mathematics at Weizmann, are being published Wednesday by the journal Nature. Cathryn R. Nagler, a professor of pathology at the University of Chicago who was not involved with the research but did write an accompanying commentary in Nature, called the results “very compelling.” She noted that many conditions, including obesity and diabetes, had been linked to changes in the microbiome. “What the study suggests,” she said, “is we should step back and reassess our extensive use of artificial sweeteners.”
Thursday, September 18, 2014
Steven Poole in The Guardian:
"Prediction is very difficult," the great Danish physicist Niels Bohr was fond of saying, "especially if it's about the future." This book doesn't in fact claim to teach you how to predict what is really unpredictable – such as the weather in a month's time, or the next turn of the roulette wheel. It might more honestly, but less seductively, have been titled How to Predict the Sort-of Predictable Behaviour of People Who Are Trying to Act Randomly. This is actually much more interesting than the bland paradox of the given title. When they want to act unpredictably, it turns out, people deviate from true randomness in ways that can be recognised. According to Poundstone's vivid account, this was first rigorously demonstrated by a family of "outguessing machines" created by mathematicians and engineers at Bell Labs in the 1950s.
The outguessing machines played a very simple game. Every round, both machine and human player pick one of two choices: heads or tails, left or right. It is decided beforehand that if the choices match, one player scores a point, whereas if they are different, the other player scores. What happens is that, over dozens of rounds, humans fall into unconscious patterns that a computer can recognise, and therefore anticipate. In this way, with only 16 bits of memory (16 ones or zeroes), a machine by the information theorist Claude Shannon was able to beat all comers. To call this "outsmarting" the humans is perhaps a bit of a stretch, but it is what Poundstone means by the term when he goes on to apply it to different areas. Indeed there are a surprising number of areas where a similar kind of "outguessing" strategy can be fruitful. Rock, Paper, Scissors is a random game, but because most people deviate from true randomness, it is possible to have a strategy. ("A player who loses is more likely to switch to a different throw the next time," Poundstone explains as an example.) In tennis, too, most players alternate their directions of serve too regularly, so Poundstone recommends using a wristwatch or heart-rate monitor to properly randomise them.
Tim Parks in the New York Review of Books:
In the age of the Internet, do we really need footnotes to reference quotations we have made in the text? For a book to be taken seriously, does it have to take us right to the yellowing page of some crumbling edition guarded in the depths of an austere library, if the material could equally well be found through a Google search? Has an element of fetishism perhaps crept into what was once a necessary academic practice?
I have just spent three days preparing the text references for a work of literary criticism for Oxford University Press. There were about two hundred quotations spread over 180 pages, the sources being a mix of well-known nineteenth- and twentieth-century novels, very much in the canon, some less celebrated novels, a smattering of critical texts, and a few recent works of psychology. Long-established practice demands that for each book I provide the author’s name, or the editor’s name in the case of a collection of letters or essays, the translator’s name where appropriate, the publisher, the city of publication, the date of publication, and the page number. All kinds of other hassles can creep in, when a book has more than one volume for example, or when quoting from an essay within a collection of essays, perhaps with more than one editor, more than one translator, more than one author. Since the publisher had asked me to apply the ideas I develop in the book to at least one of my own novels there are even three quotations to be referenced from Cara Massimina, a noir I wrote way back in the 1980s.
Joe Henrich and his colleagues are shaking the foundations of psychology and economics—and hoping to change the way social scientists think about human behavior and culture.
Interesting article from last year by Ethan Watters in Pacific Standard:
In the summer of 1995, a young graduate student in anthropology at UCLA named Joe Henrich traveled to Peru to carry out some fieldwork among the Machiguenga, an indigenous people who live north of Machu Picchu in the Amazon basin. The Machiguenga had traditionally been horticulturalists who lived in single-family, thatch-roofed houses in small hamlets composed of clusters of extended families. For sustenance, they relied on local game and produce from small-scale farming. They shared with their kin but rarely traded with outside groups.
While the setting was fairly typical for an anthropologist, Henrich’s research was not. Rather than practice traditional ethnography, he decided to run a behavioral experiment that had been developed by economists. Henrich used a “game”—along the lines of the famous prisoner’s dilemma—to see whether isolated cultures shared with the West the same basic instinct for fairness. In doing so, Henrich expected to confirm one of the foundational assumptions underlying such experiments, and indeed underpinning the entire fields of economics and psychology: that humans all share the same cognitive machinery—the same evolved rational and psychological hardwiring.
The test that Henrich introduced to the Machiguenga was called the ultimatum game.
More here. [Thanks to Yohan John.]
How he would have hated it – to be remembered as a centenarian. The youth with the violin and the spate of fresh words. He is best remembered as a walker-writer of genius. Like nearly everyone of his generation Laurie Lee had little option but to tread life out. First to the elementary school, its limitations forgiven, then the walks to sex, to love, to battle. These would keep him young in his own eyes until he died. It was not a bad way to deal with the years, to walk them out. To be the lad with the fiddle on life’s highway. But his lasting music was in the way he wrote in a carefully crafted hand which couldn’t tell prose from poetry.
Born in Slad, Gloucestershire in 1914, a village that lay in shade and caught little of the sun, he simply walked out of it one midsummer morning. It was not an original thing to do at the time, vagrancy being common. Patrick Leigh Fermor was eighteen when he set out for Greece. But their circumstances were vastly different. Lee’s first stop was a London building site. Neither would have heard about John Clare’s walk from Epping to Peterborough with bleeding feet. Theirs had an enchantment about it. However, there were dark companions, a whole army of them pushing prams piled with bedding, men in khaki greatcoats, women in headscarves, tramps, loners who trod from workhouse to workhouse. And cyclists free as birds but with few useful destinations. The bike had destroyed the parish boundary and its old demands. Shorts, Aertex shirts and Penguin books in the saddlebag, but not for Laurie Lee. He “took to the road” in 1934. The fields on either side of the road were cultivated but behind them lay an agricultural depression as bad if not worse than the workless backstreets of towns.
In the last years of her life, Martha began to lose her feathers. Sol Stephan, General Manager of the Cincinnati Zoo, where Martha spent most of her years, began collecting the feathers in a cigar box without much idea of what he would do with them. Martha lived a sedentary life at the zoo. Her cage was 18 feet by 20 feet — she had never known what it was to fly free. When Martha’s last friend George (who was also named for a Washington) died in 1910, Martha became a celebrity. She watched the people passing by, alone in her enclosure, and they watched her. Martha ate her cooked liver and eggs, and her cracked corn, and sat. On the outside of her cage, Stephan placed a sign announcing Martha as the Last of the Passenger Pigeons. Visitors couldn’t believe that Martha really was the last. They would throw sand inside the cage to make her walk around.
Martha died on a September afternoon in 1914, one hundred years ago. Her elderly body was sent to the Cincinnati Ice Company and frozen in a 300-pound block of ice. They put the frozen Martha on a train to the Smithsonian, where she could be mounted and stuffed. Martha was displayed at the Smithsonian between the 1920s and 1950s. For a while, she sat next to an unnamed male passenger pigeon that had been shot in 1873. Later, she was displayed alone.
Billy Bragg in The Guardian:
For me, the most frustrating aspect of the debate on Scottish independence has been the failure of the English left to recognise that there is more than one type of nationalism. People who can explain in minute detail the many forms of socialism on offer at any demo or conference seem incapable of differentiating when it comes to nationalists.
Confronted by someone recently who claimed to believe that there was no difference between the Scottish National party and the British National party, I can’t help wondering if this is wilful – like the Daily Mail’s insistence that anyone who wants to see a fairer society must be a Stalinist.
In the past months, I have found myself arguing with comrades who don’t understand how someone who wrote new lyrics to The Internationale can possibly be in favour of an independent Scotland. You’re betraying the working class of Britain they tell me. What about international solidarity?
It baffles me as to why they should feel that voting against the Westminster status quo is an act of class betrayal. People who marched for CND in the 1980s are now telling me I am wrong to support a decision that may force the UK to give up its nuclear weapons.
It seems to be a very English viewpoint.
In Scotland, Wales and Ireland nationalism is the name given to the campaign for self-determination. James Connolly gave his life for the nationalist cause; John MacLean, perhaps the greatest leftwinger that Scotland has produced, was in favour of independence and campaigned for a Scottish parliament.
Both recognised that the British state was highly resistant to reform, and that the interests of working people were best served by breaking with the United Kingdom.
But, in a sense, more important than the articles are the advertisements — the porn of the art world. This is where the art world does its peacocking, more out in the open than anywhere else. Inside the glossy 410 pages (shininess is fine for magazines), there are the ads. Lots of them. By my count, there are 287 full pages of ads in all. That’s 70 percent of the magazine. A whopping 73 of these are from New York galleries — a greater percentage than in previous recent seasons. The rates for these pages vary, are based on different things, and presumably slide for different galleries. (The person long in charge of all this isArtforum co-publisher Knight Landesman, one of the smartest, most nimble, and stylish people in the art world. Landesman mystically seats this fancy dinner party within every issue — cliques, hierarchies, and pecking orders on full view.) Full-page, four-color ads run around $5,000 or $6,000. If the ad falls within the first 20 percent of the mag, the rate can go up to $7,000 or $8,000. I love that a magazine is doing well. But with advertising costing so much, it must be hell these days for small and midsize gallerists to pay as much or more than my annual salary for a year’s worth of art ads. And this is only for one issue of one magazine.
Ijlal Naqvi in Tanqeed:
The introduction of independent power producers in Pakistan marks a key transition to a new logic of infrastructure development, one in which the role of the private sector is enhanced and a fairly rigid ideology of governance involving commercialization, corporatization, and an expanded role for the private sector has become the new orthodoxy. In Hashim bin Rashid’s periodization, this moment signifies a shift from the state-led developmental era to the neoliberal era. However, in evaluating current trends in the power sector, one can see how the logic of the developmental state has reasserted itself against some of the shortcomings of the policy reforms implemented from 1994 onwards.
Jerome Groopman in The New Yorker:
For almost thirty years, William Kuhens worked on Staten Island as a basketball referee for the Catholic Youth Organization and other amateur leagues. At seventy, he was physically fit, taking part in twenty games a month. But in July of 2013 he began to lose weight and feel exhausted; his wife told him he looked pale. He saw his doctor, and tests revealed that his blood contained below-normal numbers of platelets and red and white blood cells; these are critical for, respectively, preventing bleeding, supplying oxygen, and combatting infection. Kuhens was sent to the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, in Manhattan, to meet with Eytan Stein, an expert in blood disorders. Stein found that as much as fifteen per cent of Kuhens’s bone marrow was made up of primitive, cancerous blood cells. “Mr. Kuhens was on the cusp of leukemia,” Stein told me recently. “It seemed that his disease was rapidly advancing.”
...Stein treated him with four courses of chemotherapy, to no significant effect. The only options were experimental. Stein had sent a sample of Kuhens’s bone marrow to be analyzed for the presence of thirty or so gene mutations that are known to be associated with blood cancers. The tests revealed one notable mutation, in a gene that produces an enzyme called IDH-2.
...This past spring, Kuhens entered the drug trial and received his first dose. Within weeks, the leukemic-cell count in his bone marrow had fallen from fifteen per cent to four per cent, and his counts of healthy blood cells improved markedly; he has been in complete remission for four months.
For a Stone Girl at Sanchi
half asleep on the cold grass
night rain flicking the maples
under a black bowl upside-down
on a flat land
on a wobbling speck
smaller than stars,
the size of a seed,
hollow as bird skulls.
light flies across it
–never is seen.
a big rock weatherd funny,
old tree trunks turnd stone,
split rocks and find clams.
all that time
two flesh persons changing,
clung to, doorframes
in a rubble of years.
this dream pops. it was real:
and it lasted forever.
by Gary Snyder
Wednesday, September 17, 2014
A secret question hovers over us, a sense of disappointment, a broken promise we were given as children about what our adult world was supposed to be like. I am referring not to the standard false promises that children are always given (about how the world is fair, or how those who work hard shall be rewarded), but to a particular generational promise—given to those who were children in the fifties, sixties, seventies, or eighties—one that was never quite articulated as a promise but rather as a set of assumptions about what our adult world would be like. And since it was never quite promised, now that it has failed to come true, we’re left confused: indignant, but at the same time, embarrassed at our own indignation, ashamed we were ever so silly to believe our elders to begin with.
Where, in short, are the flying cars? Where are the force fields, tractor beams, teleportation pods, antigravity sleds, tricorders, immortality drugs, colonies on Mars, and all the other technological wonders any child growing up in the mid-to-late twentieth century assumed would exist by now? Even those inventions that seemed ready to emerge—like cloning or cryogenics—ended up betraying their lofty promises. What happened to them?
History is being rewritten in eastern Europe. The glorification of the SS is not a marginal hobby confined to a few isolated nutters. In 2012, no less a man than the Latvian president, Andris Berzins called upon his countrymen to honour the men of the Waffen SS; they had fought for their country, after all. If Soviet crimes like the Katyn massacre were once whitewashed, manipulated, relativized, now there is a tendency to do the same with crimes against the Soviet Union. But stylising the Soviet construct as the number- one atrocity of the 20th century, as the unrivalled superlative of evil, has the effect, whether intentionally or not, of exonerating Nazism. Robert Jungk once spoke of the "Napoleonization of Hitler", a phenomenon that is already well advanced: in Latvia it is not unlikely that you'll find people identifying with Hitler and Nazism as champions against the greater evil, communism.
Not daring to voice the ultimate consequence of this is the same as distinguishing between the heinous crime that was Nazism and other manifestations of fascism, justifying them on grounds of defending national sovereignty. The unabashed claims now being made in eastern Europe about Pilsudski or Horthy are the sort of things we will perhaps soon hear in Italy about Mussolini, in Austria about Englebert Dollfuss and in Spain about Francisco Franco.
Second acts there may or may not be, but American epilogues go on forever. Scott and Zelda’s friends from the Jazz Age would doubtless have spit up into their morning coffee—or, more likely, into teacups filled with bathtub gin—to find the pair, almost a century after their meeting, not a poignant footnote to an ill-named time but an enduring legend of the West, a subject adaptable for movies and novels and probably paper dolls and ice shows. Already by the late fifties, the critic Edmund Wilson, who had known Fitzgerald since their Princeton years and had the exasperated affection mingled with disdain that we have for old friends who become famous, had marvelled that Fitzgerald in death had become a variant of the Adonis of Greek myth, taking on “the aspect of a martyr, a sacrificial victim, a semi-divine personage.” Wilson, who served Fitzgerald beautifully as a literary executor, thought it was absurd that his drunken, often silly college friend could become a dying-and-reviving god—which is surely how Dylan Thomas’s and Percy Shelley’s friends felt about a similar transformation in those afterlives, and doubtless how Adonis’ friends felt about him, too.
And here we are, in another season, with more new books that are in one way or another new treatments of the Fitzgerald myth: Zelda and Scott courting, Zelda and Scott in New York frolicking in the Plaza fountain, Zelda and Scott in the South of France taking lovers and the sun, and, finally, both of them bereft and alone, she in a sanatorium in North Carolina, he in the Garden of Allah hotel, in Hollywood.
Rachel Donadio in the New York Times:
In France, they say they’re puzzled by the humor. In Germany, they say it will be difficult to market. Martin Amis’s latest novel, “The Zone of Interest,” a satire set in a concentration camp during the Second World War, is having trouble gaining traction in Europe, where his longtime French and German publishers have rejected it.
The novel was published by Jonathan Cape in Britain in August to strong reviews and will be released in the United States by Knopf on Sept. 30. By turns a love story and a meditation on Nazi horrors written with self-consciously grotesque humor, “The Zone of Interest” takes place in the fictional Kat Zet I, the same fictional branch of Auschwitz where Mr. Amis set his 1991 novel, “Time’s Arrow.” The new book is certainly not the first work of fiction to treat the Holocaust with dark humor. But in Europe, where there has been particular sensitivity recently to a rise in anti-Semitic incidents, publishers this time seem squeamish.
In a telephone interview, Mr. Amis, whose books routinely come out in France and Germany, said he was “surprised and disappointed” by the publishers’ reactions. “But you never quite know what motivates them.”
In France, the storied house Gallimard declined to publish the novel because “it wasn’t very convincing,” said Marie-Pierre Gracedieu, Mr. Amis’s editor there. “It was for literary reasons.”
Sam Badger, Giorgio Cafiero and Foreign Policy In Focus in The Nation:
Qatar’s 1.8 million foreign workers—who vastly outnumber the country’s 300,000 native citizens—are frequently deprived of wages, trapped into permanent debt, exposed to hazardous working conditions and denied the right to unionize. Approximately 1,000 foreign workers have died in Qatar since 2012, according to Qatar’s government. Independent human rights organizations claim that the figure is even higher.
Amid growing international calls to pull the Cup from Qatar, Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani has promised new reforms aimed at safeguarding workers’ rights. It remains to be seen whether he is serious.
The large-scale use of foreign labor is widespread throughout the monarchies of the Persian Gulf, where traditional royal elites, businesses and private individuals have accrued high levels of wealth despite the region’s small domestic workforce. Bolstered by its natural gas exports, Qatar, for example, has the highest gross domestic product per capita of any country in the world. Through energy exports and financial services, the five other members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)—Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates—have also cultivated substantial financial reserves.
Maryn McKenna in Wired:
The Ebola epidemic in Africa has continued to expand since I last wrote about it, and as of a week ago, has accounted for more than 4,200 cases and 2,200 deaths in five countries: Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal and Sierra Leone. That is extraordinary: Since the virus was discovered, no Ebola outbreak’s toll has risen above several hundred cases. This now truly is a type of epidemic that the world has never seen before. In light of that, several articles were published recently that are very worth reading.
The most arresting is a piece published last week in the journal Eurosurveillance, which is the peer-reviewed publication of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (the EU’s Stockholm-based version of the US CDC). The piece is an attempt to assess mathematically how the epidemic is growing, by using case reports to determine the “reproductive number.” (Note for non-epidemiology geeks: The basic reproductive number — usually shorted to R0 or “R-nought” — expresses how many cases of disease are likely to be caused by any one infected person. An R0 of less than 1 means an outbreak will die out; an R0 of more than 1 means an outbreak can be expected to increase. If you saw the movie Contagion, this is what Kate Winslet stood up and wrote on a whiteboard early in the film.)
The Eurosurveillance paper, by two researchers from the University of Tokyo and Arizona State University, attempts to derive what the reproductive rate has been in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
Thomas B. Edsall in the NYT:
Under the aegis of the “Moving to Opportunity” program, begun during the first administration of Bill Clinton, the Department of Housing and Urban Development randomly selected a large pool of low-income families with children living in public housing in Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles and New York. Ninety-eight percent of the families were headed by women; 63 percent were black, 32 percent Hispanic, and 3 percent white; 26 percent were employed, 76 percent were receiving welfare, and families had an average income of $12,709 in 2009 dollars.
These families, 4604 of them, to be exact, were then divided into three groups. An experimental group of 1,819 families was offered “Section 8 rental assistance certificates or vouchers that they could use only in census tracts with 1990 poverty rates below 10 percent”; 855 accepted the offer and became part of the study. A second group of 1,346 families was offered more traditional “Section 8” rent subsidy vouchers that could be used in anyneighborhood; 848 accepted.
A control group composed of 1,439 families stayed in public housing and became part of the study. The purpose of the relocation initiative, according to Department of Housing and Urban Development, was to test the “long-term effects of access to low-poverty neighborhoods on the housing, employment and educational achievements of the assisted households.” Researchers also studied how relocation affected the health of those who accepted vouchers.
A paper published in the May 2013 issue of the American Economic Review, “Long-Term Neighborhood Effects on Low-Income Families: Evidence From Moving to Opportunity,” found that after 10 to 15 years, moving out of high-poverty public housing through the M.T.O. program showed mixed results.
There were some positive developments, according to the primary author of the paper, Jens Ludwig, a professor of economics at the University of Chicago and the project director for a final assessment of the M.T.O. program. Ludwig and his six co-authors found improvement in “several key adult mental and physical health outcomes.” These included significantly lowered risk of diabetes and obesity, as well an improved level of “subjective well-being.”
But the Ludwig study also found that “changing neighborhoods alone may not be sufficient to improve labor market or schooling outcomes for very disadvantaged families.” Ludwig reported that this particular form of assistance from HUD –a housing voucher that allowed recipients to move into a “low poverty” area – had “no consistent detectable impacts on adult economic self-sufficiency or children’s educational achievement outcomes, even for children who were too young to have enrolled in school at baseline.”
With a Pen
A child will come to understand the meaning in their name
A tribe will retrace their pathway to the beginning of their totem
A people might preserve their culture for tomorrow’s generations
A simple prophecy in graffiti on a city wall, some rock paintings. . .
In a songbook a poet might begin an existence
Injustice will begin to see his nemesis in the distance
The simplest words might inspire a mother’s strength for her children
When love and laughter are prescribed for a family as their medicine
Planets in rotation in a cypher will write life a hook
Didn’t Ayi Kwei preserve our history in the pages of unpublished books?
Matigari told of the wisdom alive in one’s reading of the modern stars
The tales of freedom in this hunger that houses burning butterflies
Bantu liked our beauty and consciousness in the depth of apartheid
Oa Magogodi mic’d it in our first language, spoken word
We recite it on stages and pages upon which the unspoken will be heard
If in the beginning was the word, then someone must have understood that with a pen
A lonely heart will dwell in remembrance, the beauty of life with a loved one
A politician will authorize the massacre of protestors taking a father from a daughter and son
A starved soul will protest silently against that which has made him weak
A writer will alter the language a people’s consciousness speaks
An oppressive system will draw up title deeds depriving people of their ancestral home
I will write all night to inspire you and go back home all alone
An officer will incarcerate a man that refuses to bribe him and
A sick mind will stab to death another life with a pen
An artist will dwell in solitude with a pen
Politicians will steal many ballot boxes with a pen
Voices will not be silenced by violence with a pen
Ideas won’t die unseen
Recorded for tomorrow with a pen
Retrieved from yesterday with a pen
Yet today some will be too afraid to hold a pen in their hand
by Tswarelo Mothobe
publisher Poetry International, 2014