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Inside the Dangerous Mission to Understand What Makes Extremists Tick

Inside the Dangerous Mission to Understand What Makes Extremists Tick—and How to Change Their Minds

On a cool winter’s day in early 2014, the American academic Nafees Hamid was invited for tea at the second-story at the Barcelona apartment of a young Moroccan man. It started well enough; they sat down at the kitchen table, chatting amiably in French while two acquaintances of the host sat nearby in the living room. Halfway through the conversation, though, things took a turn. “He started saying things like, ‘Why should we trust any Westerner?’” Hamid recalls. “‘Why would we not kill every one of them? Why should I even trust you—you are an American—sitting here? Why should I even let you out of my apartment?’” The man briefly left the kitchen and went into the living room to speak to the others in Arabic, a language in which Hamid is not fluent. But he repeatedly heard one word he did know: munafiq—a term that, at best, means hypocrite; at worst, “enemy of Islam.”

“I realized that they were talking about me, and that this was going in the wrong direction,” says Hamid, who had arrived hoping to coax the Moroccan to participate in a study.

As quietly as possible, he opened the second-story window and jumped out, his fall cushioned by the awning of a fruit stand below. Adrenaline spiking, he bolted to the safety of a crowded train station a few blocks away.

Field research on jihad has its hazards. Hamid, now 36, had come to the apartment knowing—from a questionnaire he had already filled out—that the Moroccan man harbored extremist inclinations. The effort was part of a larger project to discover the roots of radicalization and what might cause someone to fight or die—or kill—for their beliefs.

But the work goes on, a part of a larger undertaking by an unusual network of policy experts and international scientists, many of whom have their own harrowing tales of escaping danger or navigating dicey situations in pursuit of groundbreaking research. Recently, the group published the first brain-imaging studies on radicalized men and young adults susceptible to radicalization. The private research firm behind the group’s work, Artis International, is officially headquartered in Scottsdale, Ariz., but doesn’t truly have a base. Its academics and analysts operate from far-flung places, tapping an array of funding from various governments, the U.S. military and academic institutions. The central goal of the firm is to advance peace by figuring out what motivates people to become violent—and how to reorient them toward conflict resolution, or prevent them from becoming violent in the first place.


Over the following weeks, the team analyzed the data. As expected, the men expressed greater willingness to fight and die for their sacred values than for their nonsacred values. More interesting were what parts of the brain appeared involved with each question. When participants rated their willingness to sacrifice for their sacred values (defending the Qur’an, for example), parts of the brain linked to deliberation (the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, inferior frontal gyrus and parietal cortex, which Pretus describes as parts of the fronto-parietal or “executive-control network”) were far less active than when they rated their willingness to kill and die for issues they cared about less (like the availability of halal food in public schools). Dr. Oscar Vilarroya, the lead neuro-scientist on the team, says this indicates that humans don’t deliberate about their sacred values: “We just act on them.”


Long article, but a very worthwhile read.

Sequoyah, the U.S. state that almost existed

It was planned as a Native American-governed state, until politicians folded Indigenous lands into Oklahoma—a decision that still impacts life there today.

Its name is derived from a Choctaw term for “red people,” yet Oklahoma’s nickname—the Sooner State—comes from the white settlers who descended on it to claim Native lands. That tension is nothing new: Once divided into one territory for whites and another for Native Americans, Oklahoma has not buried the legacy of its frontier past.

In July 2020, the Supreme Court ruled that, despite its location inside a U.S. state, much of eastern Oklahoma is an Indian reservation. The landmark decision is the latest foray in a long battle over who should own and inhabit Oklahoma’s prairies and mesas—a battle that almost led to Oklahoma becoming two different states.

The conflict was born in the southeastern United States, the ancestral lands of the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Muscogee (Creek), and Seminole people that spanned from modern-day North Carolina to Mississippi. In the late 18th and 19th centuries, the white settlers who flooded the area dubbed these nations the Five Civilized Tribes due to their willingness to develop economic and social ties. Nonetheless, these white newcomers pressured the U.S. government to push Native Americans out of their lands.

1890--Much of eastern Oklahoma—originally designated to be Indian land—was taken from Indigenous people in the process of statehood.

1907-June 2020--Today, Native Americans live in all parts of Oklahoma. However, very little of the state is technically a reservation.

As of July 2020--In July 2020, the Supreme Court ruled that much of eastern Oklahoma fell within an Indian reservation. The ruling meant that Native Americans living in that territory were under the legal jurisdiction of their own nation rather than the state of Oklahoma. Legal experts believed non-native populations would not be affected.

In 1830, Congress passed the Indian Removal Act, which allowed then president Andrew Jackson to grant Native American tribes land out west in exchange for their ancestral lands. Under duress, the Five Tribes signed a variety of treaties ceding their lands in exchange for promises like an 1833 treaty that guaranteed “a permanent home to the whole Creek nation of Indians.”

Though many went without resistance, others refused and were driven from their homes at gunpoint. Between 1830 and 1850, about 100,000 Native Americans were relocated—a forced migration known as the Trail of Tears.


Some pieces of this I had not heard previously, so quite interesting.

Petit Pli kids clothing expands to fit as children grow

Most parents would agree: children grow up far too quickly. But they grow out of their clothes even quicker. A London-based designer wants to change that with a range of outerwear for kids that grows as the child does.

Called Petit Pli - French for 'little pleat' - the garments have an innovative pleat system that lets them expand in multiple directions but also contract back to their original size.

"It's designed for continuous fit adjustment, so it'll never be a little bit too short or a little bit too long," designer Ryan Mario Yasin, a graduate of the Royal College of Art in London, told Reuters. "It's always changing its shape and morphing with the child even in motion. So as the child is running around the pleats are deforming in both directions either folding together or expanding, and moving in synchrony with the child."

According to Yasin, children grow seven clothes sizes during their first two years, meaning parents are left with a lot of clothes that have barely been worn before they're too small for the child. Petit Pli was designed to save parents money and to reduce the waste in the fashion industry, he said.

With a background as an aeronautical engineer specialising in deployable structures, Yasin said his outfits embed a special structure in fabric that was inspired by the ancient Japanese art of origami.

"This is really engineering meets fashion. I've taken my knowledge of materials and folding origami and applied that to a product which is aimed at reducing the waste in the fashion industry," he said.

Petit Pli has been designed for children aged from four months to 36 months, and the expanding fabric eliminates discrepancies in children's sizes so they're always the perfect fit. Yasin said he approached the durability of his garments by regarding children as 'extreme athletes'; always on the move and in need of clothes that can keep up.

"It's super lightweight so you can layer it on top of your clothes at any time of the year. It's windproof and waterproof with a hydrophobic coating," said Yasin.

The patent-pending pleating process has been rigorously tested to prove that the pleats won't fall out with use, and the garments are even machine washable.

Yasin is now working on different sizes and designs and looking for commercial partners to scale-up production to bring Petit Pli to market.

How far would you go for fast food?

Turtle Humor

They still have the moves.

At 91 and 94 years old.....

How Geologists Collect Lava Samples From Volcanoes

Wow. Freaky.

We don't get many sloth videos here.....

The End of Oil is Near--The pandemic may send the petroleum industry to the grave

THIS PAST SPRING, coastlines around the globe took on the feel of an enemy invasion as hundreds of massive oil tankers overwhelmed seaports from South Africa to Singapore. Locals and industry analysts alike used the word armada—typically applied to fleets of warships—to describe scenes such as when a group of tankers left Saudi Arabia en masse and another descended on China. One distressed news article proclaimed that a “floating hoard” of oil sat in tankers anchored across the North Sea, “everywhere from the UK to France and the Netherlands.” In April, the US Coast Guard shared an alarming video that showed dozens of tankers spread out for miles along California’s coast.

On May 12, Greenpeace activists sailed into San Francisco Bay to issue a challenge to the public. In front of the giant Amazon Falcon oil tanker—which had been docked in the bay for weeks, loaded up with Chevron oil—they unfurled a banner reading, “Oil Is Over! The Future Is Up to You.”

The oil industry has turned the oceans into aquatic parking lots—floating storage facilities holding, at their highest levels in early May, some 390 million barrels of crude oil and refined products like gasoline. Between March and May, the amount of oil “stored” at sea nearly tripled, and it has yet to abate in many parts of the world.

This tanker invasion is only one piece of a dangerous buildup in oil supply that is the result of an unprecedented global glut. The coronavirus pandemic has gutted demand, resulting in the current surplus, but it merely exacerbated a problem that’s been plaguing the oil industry for years: the incessant overproduction of a product that the world is desperately trying to wean itself from, with growing success.

Today, the global oil industry is in a tailspin. Demand has cratered, prices have collapsed, and profits are shrinking. The oil majors (giant global corporations including BP, Chevron, and Shell) are taking billions of dollars in losses while cutting tens of thousands of jobs. Smaller companies are declaring bankruptcy, and investors are looking elsewhere for returns. Significant changes to when, where, and how much oil will be produced, and by whom, are already underway. It is clear that the oil industry will not recover from COVID-19 and return to its former self. What form it ultimately takes, or whether it will even survive, is now very much an open question.

Under President Donald Trump, the United States has joined other petroleum superpowers in efforts to maintain oil’s dominance. While government bailout programs and subsidies could provide the lifeline the industry needs to stay afloat, such policies will likely throw good money after bad. As Sarah Bloom Raskin, a former Federal Reserve governor and former deputy secretary of the Treasury, has written, “Even in the short term, fossil fuels are a terrible investment. . . . It also forestalls the inevitable decline of an industry that can no longer sustain itself.”


Clearly, leaving Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, and Mohammed bin Salman in charge of a global solution is a sure way to lock in a world order tied to oil. The extent to which governments are already stepping in to provide the capital that is otherwise draining from the industry is a testament to Big Oil’s remaining political prowess. Led by President Trump and Republicans in Congress, oil and gas companies in the United States had, by June, received billions of dollars in both direct federal COVID-19 benefits and indirect payouts through new Federal Reserve pandemic-relief spending, according to my own calculations for Sierra.


Las Vegas Paiute Tribal Council's message to the US Senate and President Trump.



The Desert National Wildlife Refuge and the Sheep Mountain Range within it are known to us Paiutes as Nah’gah Kai. It is a landscape mountain range that holds special meaning for our people, a landscape that is central to our Nuwuvi history, stories, and beliefs, a landscape that has been under constant attack by the United States Air Force for decades. Cultural sites, bighorn sheep, and the endangered desert tortoise are among the many other precious resources central to our people’s ways and culture that are found within the refuge—and which long have been within the bombing practice area of air force pilots. Now, the air force is pushing to ramp up its destruction of our people’s history and culture by seeking to expand by 300,000 acres its bombing range within the Desert National Wildlife Refuge. It is critical that Congress ban the expansion of bombing that air force leaders are seeking to include in the National Defense Authorization Act, as the expansion would inflict permanent damage on this sacred site and violate our tribal sovereignty.

In 2018, the Moapa Band of Paiutes wrote and passed a resolution that opposed the expansion of the Nevada Test and Training Range into the refuge. The Las Vegas Paiute Tribe passed a similar resolution in 2019. These resolutions rejected the expansion of the bombing range, and the air force’s jurisdiction within the desert refuge. Both were both passed unanimously by the Tribal Councils and are the words and will of the Tribes. As sovereign nations, our Tribes must be acknowledged and respected.

Western expansion has historically reduced the ability of Southern Paiutes to use the expansive lands we consider our homeland. The creation of reservations further reduced the Tribes’ ability to use the land for travel and subsistence. So much has been taken from the Indigenous people of this land.

The United States government cannot justify the continued destruction, loss of history, and bombing of irreplaceable artifacts. The sacred sites within the refuge are central to our people’s traditions and identity. The Tribes have worked alongside cultural preservation experts, other Tribal communities, and conservationists to push back against the plans to expand military testing into the refuge. Tragically, these efforts to preserve our history and ancestral lands continue to be eclipsed by the agenda of the military-industrial complex.

The air force already controls nearly 3 million acres of land in Nevada—leaving our Tribal communities with limited access to our traditional resources and historical places. Currently, even without the air force having primary jurisdiction of the land, our Tribes have limited access to our ancestral lands and cultural sites. The air force has not upheld its promises to Native people nor acted in trust as stewards of our people, lands, and culture. That has been made abundantly clear by the severe damage of Pintwater Cave, which holds a special place in our religious beliefs and stories. Pintwater Cave held artifacts dating back thousands of years with an importance to our culture that can never be replaced. Bombing our sacred sites is the opposite of stewardship.

Also, the air force will only allow two trips a year to this site, with only 15 participants per trip to these places that are vital to our telling of history and identity. With more than 20 Tribes and a limited number of participants, the Southern Paiute people’s ability to pass down our culture, traditions, history, and knowledge is severely impaired.


Things haven't changed much in a couple hundred years....
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