The Amazing Brain
November 22, 2019
“He who has learned to disagree without being disagreeable has discovered the most valuable secret of negotiation.”
“Negotiation is not an act of battle; it’s a process of discovery. The goal is to uncover as much information as possible.
– Chris Voss
One Man’s Recycling Is Another Man’s Treasure
It’s been said that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. That’s exactly what Jack “Tato” Bigio, CEO of UBQ materials is counting on. Bigio says the start-up has developed a process that will revolutionize recycling, save the planet from being buried in trash, and earn a profit in the end. “The magic that we’re doing is we’re taking everything — the chicken bones, the banana peels. We take this waste, and we convert it.”
The upcycling magic happens inside a small factory in a tree-lined kibbutz in Israel, where giant machines convert tons of organic household waste destined for landfills into sustainable bio-based materials — tiny pseudo-plastic pellets — that can be used to manufacture thousands of everyday products like trays and packing crates. UBQ claims its material is clean, cost effective, and recyclable — the Greenest thermoplastic material on the planet.
The company is also turning skeptics into converts. A Greek chemical engineer who is president of the International Solid Waste Association visited UBQ’s plant and came away convinced. “If we want to advance to a more sustainable future, we don’t only need new technologies, but new business models. [Here] we have a byproduct worth a very good price in the market,” he said.
Scientists at Dow Chemical scoffed at UBQ’s claims, until a call last month with company executives. Now they’re keeping a more open mind. “Although we remain skeptical, we look forward to evaluating UBQ products and continuing to learn more about the UBQ technology…” the group said in a statement. Should the technology prove commercially viable, “it could be a game changer for the global environment.”
- Israel’s attorney general announced on Thursday evening that he plans to indict Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on charges emanating from three separate corruption cases. The charges — for bribery, fraud and breach of trust — mark the first time in the country’s history that a sitting PM will face indictment in criminal investigations. A formal indictment could still be months away as Israel’s parliament remains deadlocked.
- A former government official who once served as a Netanyahu cabinet secretary said: “It is a very sad day for Israel and for me personally.” He added that the decision to indict “is not a matter of politics, of right and left.”
- Netanyahu and his allies have tried delegitimizing the investigations, since they first became public in January 2017, by continually characterizing the legal process as a media-fueled witch hunt. Speaking in Jerusalem on Thursday night, Netanyahu described the charges as “an attempted coup against a Prime Minister.” (CNN)
A Hospital Where Every Room Is An Emergency Room
- The findings from an independent investigation ordered by the British government in 2017 could become the biggest maternity scandal in the history of Britain’s National Health Service.
- Investigators found that during the period from 1979 to 2017, major staff failings at medical facilities making up the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust resulted in dozens of stillbirths, deaths of newborns, and of women who had just given birth. The report also cited more than 50 cases of injuries. (NYT)
China’s Growing Debt Problem
- China may not grant its citizenry any of America’s individual freedoms, but as its economy slows it’s definitely borrowing from the US in one major way: Beijing is ramping up its bankruptcy process to deal with failing businesses.
- After years of the government pumping out financial support to keep the economy humming and workers happy, the days of debt-reckoning have clearly arrived.
- The country added new tribunals this year and now has more than 90 US-style specialized bankruptcy courts to help sort through a morass of corporate debt that at an earlier time would have been absorbed by state banks and other creditors. China’s system draws on US chapter 11 provisions, with the goal of allowing companies to restructure under court protection to keep businesses alive and pay creditors over time.
- But reorganizing or liquidating companies is proving to be a very messy process indeed, marred by near-riotous disagreements, protests and disarray. The country has a steep learning curve in the bankruptcy process. (WSJ)
Additional World News
- One in Four Europeans Holds Anti-Semitic Views, Survey Shows (WSJ, $)
- At Odds With Labour, Britain’s Jews Are Feeling Politically Homeless Once Labourites practically by birth, they are feeling an anti-Semitic chill, leaving many stuck with a choice among lesser evils in the election. (NYT, $)
- Extinction Rebellion Co-Founder Apologizes for Holocaust Remarks (NYT, $)
- Man who filmed beheading of Syrian identified as Russian mercenary (Guardian)
- Syrian regime targets hospital and refugee camp, killing at least 22 (Guardian)
- Google Hires Firm Known for Anti-Union Efforts: After nearly two years of unrest, the company appears to be cracking down on employee activism. (NYT, $)
- TikTok’s Chief Is on a Mission to Prove It’s Not a Menace: Alex Zhu, the head of the Chinese-owned viral video app, is trying to assuage Washington’s fears. “I am quite optimistic,” he said. (NYT, $)
The Actual Minority Report
- In Yakima Washington, the number of Latinos has doubled in a generation and now makes up almost half of the population of 94,000. This central Washington valley community exemplifies what is revealed by the New York Times analysis of changing demographics in the US: that in nearly 100 metropolitan areas, nonwhites comprise the majority of the young population while non-Hispanic whites are the majority of residents over the age of 45. (NYT)
Type A, Type B, Type Oh No
- Last month the Atlantic told of a new study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology that revealed people in different regions of the US exhibited different psychological traits. Demography researchers who studied a range of empirical data concluded that the US could be divided into three distinct psychological regions.
- This month the magazine offers up The Three Personalities of America, based on research by University of Cambridge psychologist Jason Rentfrow and involving almost 2,100 US counties. The catalyst for the study was the rise of Donald Trump.
- Rentfrow and his co-authors focused on one of the “big five” personality traits: neuroticism, a tendency to feel depressed or anxious and to respond more severely to stress. The study authors compared the level of neuroticism in each county with whether those counties later voted for Trump in the 2016 election. The researchers found a correlation between neuroticism and support for Trump; the same pattern was also found with Brexit votes.
- Based on this correlation, the psychologists speculate that neuroticism is a force that attracts people to populist candidates and ideas. The more people in a certain region tend to worry, the more politicians can tap into those worries and drum up support for their populist messages. While stereotypical characterizations certainly don’t apply to all people in a region, this and other of Rentfrow’s work could ultimately help Americans understand themselves and each other a little better. (Atlantic)
- A Real Minority Report: Digital Billboards Are Tracking You. And They Really, Really Want You to See Their Ads. (Consumer Reports)
The Bay Area’s Burning Problem
- California has been plagued with wildfires that have cropped up all over the Golden State. In other bad news, many of its cities are announcing sharp increases in homelessness, and the data from San Francisco suggests the real picture may be much worse. This year The City reported it had counted 8,011 homeless people, a 17 percent increase over 2017. (NYT)
- As someone who has lived in San Francisco for a bit more than five years now my feeling is that “we broke this city with rock and classical music.”
- A 17-Mile Hike to Unite San Francisco: A motley alliance decided a single trail could unite this divided city. A sixth-generation native sets out to walk it. (NYT, $)
Additional USA News
- Why Money (Usually) Can’t Buy You A Successful Campaign (NPR)
- 5 Takeaways From The 5th Democratic Debate (NPR)
- Re-greening: can Louisville plant its way out of a heat emergency? (Guardian)
- Google latest tech giant to crack down on political ads as pressure on Facebook grows (Guardian)
- The White Nationalist Websites Cited by Stephen Miller (NYT, $)
- U.S. Navy Presses On With Board Review Of SEAL Eddie Gallagher Despite Trump’s Tweet (NPR)
The Amazing Brain
- The surgical procedure known as a complete anatomical hemispherectomy —removal of half the brain — was first developed in the 1920s to treat malignant brain tumors. But the operation’s success in children who have brain malformations, intractable seizures, or diseases where damage is confined to half the brain has astonished scientists. After the procedure many of the children are able to walk, talk, read and do everyday tasks, and roughly 20 percent of them go on to find gainful employment as adults.
- Now research published Tuesday in the journal Cell Reports suggests the reason some individuals recover so well from the surgery is because the remaining half of the brain reorganizes. Scientists have identified the variety of networks that pick up the slack for the removed tissue, including some of the brain’s ‘specialists’ that learn to operate like ‘generalists.’ (NYT)
- Can Babies Learn to Love Vegetables? No diet has been more obsessively studied, more fiercely controlled, or more anxiously stage-managed than baby food. Yet we still get it wrong. (New Yorker, $)
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