February 10, 2017

Foreign Policy - Backing Into World War III 18min

Think of two significant trend lines in the world today. One is the increasing ambition and activism of the two great revisionist powers, Russia and China. The other is the declining confidence, capacity, and will of the democratic world, and especially of the United States, to maintain the dominant position it has held in the international system since 1945. As those two lines move closer, as the declining will and capacity of the United States and its allies to maintain the present world order meet the increasing desire and capacity of the revisionist powers to change it, we will reach the moment at which the existing order collapses and the world descends into a phase of brutal anarchy, as it has three times in the past two centuries. The cost of that descent, in lives and treasure, in lost freedoms and lost hope, will be staggering. ... Where exactly we are in this classic scenario today, how close the trend lines are to that intersection point is, as always, impossible to know. Are we three years away from a global crisis, or 15? That we are somewhere on that path, however, is unmistakable. ... Both seek to restore the hegemonic dominance they once enjoyed in their respective regions. For China, that means dominance of East Asia, with countries like Japan, South Korea, and the nations of Southeast Asia both acquiescing to Beijing’s will and acting in conformity with China’s strategic, economic, and political preferences. ... For Russia, it means hegemonic influence in Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia, which Moscow has traditionally regarded as either part of its empire or part of its sphere of influence. Both Beijing and Moscow seek to redress what they regard as an unfair distribution of power, influence, and honor in the U.S.-led postwar global order. ... The democratic order has weakened and fractured at its core. Difficult economic conditions, the recrudescence of nationalism and tribalism, weak and uncertain political leadership and unresponsive mainstream political parties, and a new era of communications that seems to strengthen rather than weaken tribalism have together produced a crisis of confidence not only in the democracies but in what might be called the liberal enlightenment project. That project elevated universal principles of individual rights and common humanity over ethnic, racial, religious, national, or tribal differences. It looked to a growing economic interdependence to create common interests across boundaries and to the establishment of international institutions to smooth differences and facilitate cooperation among nations. Instead, the past decade has seen the rise of tribalism and nationalism, an increasing focus on the Other in all societies, and a loss of confidence in government, in the capitalist system, and in democracy. ... Both the crises of the first half of the 20th century and its solution in 1945 have been forgotten. As a consequence, the American public’s patience with the difficulties and costs inherent in playing that global role have worn thin.

National Geographic - Unlocking the Healing Power of You 17min

Whether it takes the form of a touch of the Holy Spirit at a Florida revival meeting or a dip in the water of the Ganges, the healing power of belief is all around us. Studies suggest that regular religious services may improve the immune system, decrease blood pressure, add years to our lives. ... Religious faith is hardly the only kind of belief that has the ability to make us feel inexplicably better. ... just as a good performance in a theater can draw us in until we feel we’re watching something real, the theater of healing is designed to draw us in by creating powerful expectations in our brains. These expectations drive the so-called placebo effect, which can affect what happens in our bodies as well. Scientists have known about the placebo effect for decades and have used it as a control in drug trials. Now they are seeing placebos as a window into the neurochemical mechanisms that connect the mind with the body, belief with experience. ... How does a belief become so potent it can heal? ... Most astonishingly, placebos can work even when the person taking them knows they are placebos.

The New York Times - The Parachute Generation 16min

Even as U.S.-China relations have slipped toward mutual antagonism, the flood of Chinese students coming to the United States has continued to rise. Roughly 370,000 students from the mainland are enrolled in American high schools and universities, six times more than a decade ago. Their financial impact — $11.4 billion was contributed to the American economy in 2015, according to the Department of Commerce — has turned education into one of America’s top “exports” to China. ... It is a strange historical moment when the elites of a rising power send their only sons and daughters, products of China’s former one-child policy, to the schools of a geopolitical rival. Yet the idea of a liberal Western education exerts an almost talismanic hold over China’s ruling classes. While the country’s educational emphasis on rote memorization churns out some of the world’s best test-takers, many Chinese families harbor worries that diverge sharply from those of the tiger parents of popular conception. They fret about the toll competition exacts from their coddled offspring; they wonder if their child’s creativity is being stifled. ... In 2005, only 641 Chinese students were enrolled in American high schools. By 2014, that student population approached 40,000 — a 60-fold increase in a single decade

Inc. - How This Unlikely Nightlife Impresario Bounced Back After Hitting Rock Bottom 13min

Thompson has spent more than two decades in a notoriously punishing business, rolling the dice on one "eatertainment" experience after another. The high school dropout-turned-busboy-turned-restaurateur's highs have included a Cuban supper club and an upscale pool hall, while his lows involved a French brasserie and the loss of a successful bar due to poor financial decisions. But in 2010, Punch Bowl came to him with such clarity it made his previous ventures seem like practice runs. Seven years prior, he had hit financial and personal rock bottom, almost abandoning an industry that sees 60 percent of new ventures fail within their first year. ... While Dave & Buster's earns, on average, some $245 per square foot, Punch Bowl is ringing up $340 per square foot. The chain's 2016 revenue is on track to exceed $49 million. And in the next two years, Thompson is slated to more than double Punch Bowl's footprint with 10 new locations. Each will cost roughly $5 million, colonizing audacious spaces like part of a former airport in Colorado, a historic boxing arena in Southern California, and 30,000 square feet of warehouse space in the achingly hip precinct of Bushwick in Brooklyn, New York.

Sportsnet - The Next Babe Ruth 16min

Shohei Otani is the greatest thing to happen to baseball in a century. Not only is he Japan’s best pitcher—featuring a high-90s fastball and three strong secondary offerings—he’s also one of the country’s best hitters. Blessed with a towering frame and unteachable athleticism, Otani dominates on the mound and absolutely rakes at the plate. He’s a staff ace who hits in the heart of the order on the days between his starts. ... He’s a player many scouts believe is ready to step into MLB today as a front-of-the-rotation starter or an everyday outfielder with a middle-of-the-order bat—or maybe both. ... Outside of a couple brief, failed experiments, no one on this side of the Pacific has even tried what Otani is doing in a century—and certainly no one has done it as successfully. Ruth isn’t just a tall comparison for Otani—he’s the only comparison. ... Yes, Otani, a multi-millionaire and one of the most recognizable celebrities in Japan, lives in a dorm not unlike the one you inhabited during university. ... He says instead of going out, he fills his free time reading about training and nutrition or watching films about sports