The Dissipation of Language

Compliments of Vox

“The limits of my language,” the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein once posited, “mean the limits of my world.” Explaining everything within the limits of the world is probably too ambitious a goal for a list like this. But here are 23 maps and charts that can hopefully illuminate small aspects of how we manage to communicate with one another.


The basics

  1. Indo-European language roots

    Minna Sundberg, a Finnish-Swedish comic artist, created this beautiful tree to illustrate both the relationships between European and central Asian languages generally, as well as a smaller but still striking point: Finnish has less in common with, say, Swedish than Persian or Hindi do. The latter two are Indo-European language, even if they branched off more quickly, whereas Finland is Uralic.

  2. The languages of Wikipedia

     

    This map shows the language in which the plurality of Wikipedia articles on a given country are written. Some countries match up. Articles about European countries tend to be mostly written in their languages (though intriguingly Catalan is the plurality language for articles about Spain, perhaps because of an old breakaway competitor to Wikipedia in that country). Same goes for East Asian countries and the US.
    But a whole lot of countries are most commonly written about in English, and not just countries where English is a major language. There’s not much reason for English to be the most common language for articles about Mongolia, for example. Out of all the world’s Arabic speaking countries, only Syria appears to have Arabic as its most common Wikipedia language.
    German has footholds in Bolivia, Uruguay, and Namibia. These make some degree of sense; Germany colonized Namibia until World War I (committing the first modern genocide in the process) and a small German-speaking population remains today, while Bolivia and Uruguay have small German-speaking communities that migrated in the late 19th and 20th centuries. But really, most articles about Bolivia ought to be in Spanish.

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Hidden cameras reveal airport workers stealing from luggage

Compliments of CNN

Inside a plane at Miami International Airport, baggage handlers are going on a shopping spree with passengers’ bags.

What they don’t know is that they are being recorded on a hidden camera. The Miami-Dade Police Department set up the camera as part of an ongoing police investigation into luggage thefts by the very airport workers who are supposed to get bags safely onto planes.

“It’s a problem we all face,” said police Lt. Pete Estis. “We will continue to be proactive until we can see that the claims of pilfering through luggage will actually decrease.”

And these insider thefts just don’t happen in Miami. A CNN analysis of passenger property loss claims filed with the TSA from 2010 to 2014 shows 30,621 claims of missing valuables, mostly packed in checked luggage. The rest occurred at security checkpoints. Total property loss claimed: $2.5 million.

John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York topped the list of airports with the most claims of thefts from luggage, followed by Los Angeles International, Orlando International and Miami International, according to the data.

The problem has been so serious at JFK that in 2013, El Al Airlines set up a hidden camera in a baggage hold. The camera showed baggage handlers stealing items on flights bound for Israel, including a $5,000 Seiko watch, iPhones, an iPad, cameras, gold rings and cash. Six of those arrested pleaded guilty to possession of stolen property or petty larceny and the seventh suspect’s case was sealed, according to the Queens District Attorney’s Office.

The high-profile case, though, didn’t stop the thefts. Two more baggage handlers at JFK were arrested in 2014 after authorities said they stole two designer handbags from a suitcase, and then tried to sell them on eBay.

Then, in December, seven more JFK baggage handlers were charged with stealing valuables from checked luggage. The items were stolen from suitcases of passengers traveling to or from Hawaii, Japan, Johannesburg, London, Bangkok, Dubai, Milan and various U.S. cities.

In Miami, which aggressively goes after luggage thieves, police have arrested 31 baggage handlers and ramp workers since 2012, including six so far this year.

Police set up a hidden camera inside the belly of a plane last year and caught baggage handlers rifling through luggage and stealing various items.

Another hidden camera caught a baggage handler rummaging through bags in a secure luggage room inside the airport while a security guard looked the other way.

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Tulsa reserve deputy charged with manslaughter

Compliments of USA Today 

A white, reserve sheriff’s deputy was charged Monday in Oklahoma with manslaughter in the death of an unarmed black suspect whose shooting while on the ground at officer’s feet was captured on videotape.

Second-degree manslaughter charges were filed against reserve deputy Robert Charles “Bob” Bates, 73, in the shooting death of Eric Courtney Harris, 44, District Attorney Stephen Kunzweiler’s office in Tulsa said.

“Mr. Bates is charged with Second-Degree Manslaughter involving culpable negligence. Oklahoma law defines culpable negligence as ‘the omission to do something which a reasonably careful person would do, or the lack of the usual ordinary care and caution in the performance of an act usually and ordinarily exercised by a person under similar circumstances and conditions,'” Kunzweiler said in a statement.

The release of the dramatic video has fueled controversy surrounding the shooting of an unarmed suspect who was already on the ground. It follows a public outcry over a series of cases around the country in which unarmed black men died at the hands of police in places including Ferguson, Mo., North Charleston, S.C., and New York City.

Bates has been a reserve deputy since 2008 and was assigned to the sheriff’s Violent Crimes Task Force, the district attorney said.

Earlier in the day, Tulsa County Sheriff Stanley Glanz described Bates as a longtime friend who made “an error” last week when he fatally shot an unarmed man trying to flee deputies during an undercover operation to retrieve stolen guns, the Tulsa Worldreported. The newspaper said Bates had donated thousands of dollars in equipment to the sheriff’s department since signing on in 2008 as an unpaid reserve deputy.

“He made an error,” Glanz said. “How many errors are made in an operating room every week?”

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FDA and the Company loopholes for our food quality

Compliments of The Center of Public Integrity

Why doesn’t the government know what’s in your food? Because industry can declare on their own that added ingredients are safe. It’s all thanks to a loophole in a 57-year-old law that allows food manufacturers to circumvent the approval process by regulators. This means companies can add substances to their food without ever consulting the Food and Drug Administration about potential health risks.

Rebecca Fattell was enjoying breakfast at a hotel in Berlin last summer when, after a few bites of a roll, her mouth started to itch, her gums started to hurt and before long, hives covered her skin.

“My face, trunk, arms, legs,” Fattell said, “they were all beet red.”

She rushed to the emergency room.

Fattell, who is allergic to peanuts, is vigilant about what she eats and had been assured by hotel staff that her breakfast didn’t contain any. Hidden in the pastry, however, was lupin flour, which is made from a peanut-related legume that caused her reaction.

“I’m extremely careful,” said the 23-year-old New Yorker. “I just had no idea about lupin.”

Lupin is considered a “major food allergen” in Europe and must be labeled accordingly on packaged foods. In the United States, where lupin is less commonly used, there is no such requirement, leaving Fattell and others who suffer from peanut allergies vulnerable.

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Social Justice based suicide on Capital Hill

Compliments of the Washington Post 

Robert Bishop, a 47-year-old real estate developer from Annapolis, Md., had just snapped a selfie early Saturday afternoon at the West Front of the U.S. Capitol when he heard the pop.

He looked up and saw a woman clasping her hand to her mouth.

“He just shot himself,” she said.

Behind Bishop, a man lay on his side. Nearby, police say, were a roller briefcase, a backpack and a sign. Officers drew their guns and rushed forward.

“He was not moving. He did not move at all,” said Bishop, who was there to meet his daughters to see the cherry blossoms.

The violence shattered a beautiful spring day and threw the Capitol into a nearly three-hour lockdown as authorities pursued the possibility of a broader threat.

Melani Ross, 50, of Alexandria, Va., said she had just walked down from the Capitol when she smelled what she thought was gunpowder. She initially thought “it was just fireworks or something,” but then she saw people running down the steps and children crying.

“It was like a throng,” Ross said.

But officials ruled out any larger plot. “There seems to be no nexus to terrorism or anything related to that,” said U.S. Capitol Police Chief Kim Dine. The East Front of the Capitol reopened just before 4 p.m. But Lt. Kimberly Schneider, spokeswoman for the U.S. Capitol police, said an area near the building’s lower West Terrace will remain “closed until further notice as we continue our investigation.”

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‘Robot chef’ aimed at home kitchen

Compliments of BBC

Moley Robotics is demonstrating its concept at this year’s Hannover Messe – a big trade fair for industrial technology held annually in Germany.

The cooking machine learns by capturing the movements of a human in the action of preparing a meal.

These movements are then turned into commands that drive a sophisticated pair of robot hands.

Tim Anderson, the 2011 BBC Masterchef champion, is training the robo-chef.

At the Hannover Messe, he has got the machine making a crab bisque.

“It’s the ultimate sous-chef,” Mr Anderson told BBC News.

“You tell it to do something – whether it’s a bit of prep or completing a whole dish from start to finish – and it will do it. And it will do it the same every single time.”

The product is still two years away from market. Moley wants to make the unit slightly more compact, and give it a built-in refrigerator and dishwasher.

The robot could then do everything from assembling and chopping all the ingredients, doing the cooking on the hob or in the oven, and finishing up by cleaning the dirty pans.

“We want people to be comfortable with this device,” says Moley’s Mark Oleynik.

“It’s not an industrial device; it’s not a device that works at 10-times normal speed. No, it’s a device that moves like you move, and at the same speed as you do.”

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US Forest Service investigates expired permit Nestle uses to draw water out of California for bottled water

Compliments of San Jose Mercury News

The U.S. Forest Service is investigating an expired permit that Nestle has been using to draw water out of a national forest in Southern California for its bottled water business.

An investigation by the Desert Sun found that Nestle Waters North America’s permit to transport water across the San Bernardino National Forest expired in 1988. The water is piped across the national forest and loaded on trucks to a plant where it is bottled as Arrowhead 100 percent Mountain Spring Water.

“Since this issue was raised and I became aware of how long that permit has been expired, I have made it a priority to work on this reissuance project,” San Bernardino National Forest Supervisor Jody Noiron told the newspaper (http://desert.sn/1FxDKiB ) Friday.

The process of renewing the permit requires an environmental review, which can take between 18 months to more than two years to complete.

Environmentalists have raised concerns about the expired permit and the lack of government oversight in tracking the water being tapped amid the state’s ongoing drought.

Nestle, the largest producer of bottled water in the U.S., said it monitors its water use and the environment around the springs where water is drawn.

Nestle Water spokeswoman Jane Lazgin told the newspaper that the company will work with federal officials during the permit renewal process.

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‘Free-range children’ taken into custody again in Maryland

Compliments of The Washington Post 

The two Montgomery County children who were picked up last year while walking home alone were taken into custody again Sunday, authorities said.

The children of Danielle and Alexander Meitiv were taken into custody by county police at a park about 5 p.m. and turned over to the Child Protective Services agency, said Capt. Paul Starks, the county police spokesman. The children’s mother said they were released to the couple at 10:30 p.m. Sunday.

The parents said the children, who are 10 and 6 and have been described as “free-range children,” had been expected home at 6 p.m. Sunday. When that time passed, the parents said, they began looking for them.

“We have been searching for the kids for hours,’’ the mother said in a Facebook posting. They learned of the children’s whereabouts about 8 p.m. The mother said they later spent about a half-hour at the CPS offices in Rockville without being allowed to see them.

Starks said police were dispatched after a stranger saw the unaccompanied children in the park near Fenton and Easley streets. He said police took the children to the CPS office.

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Study concludes: companies with low wages leave taxpayers end up with the rest of the bill

Compliments of The Washington Post 

Nicole Beth Wallenbrock has a PhD in French literature and a part-time job teaching at the City University of New York, but her wages barely cover the cost of living for her and her son. She has been on food stamps for six months, she told PBS in February, and relies on help from her family and public assistance programs to get by.

“I have to accept whatever I can get,” she said. “It’s depressing. It makes me feel like a failure in a lot of ways.”

Wallenbrock is among millions of working Americans whose low wages are supplemented by government support. Families in which at least one member is working now make up the vast majority of those enrolled in major public-assistance programs like Medicaid and food stamps, according to a new study. It’s a “hidden cost” of low-wage work, researchers say, and it costs taxpayers about $153 billion a year.

According to researchers, this is the first time anyone has calculated how much is spent providing assistance to workers whose wages don’t cover their families’ expenses. The study, from the University of California at Berkeley’s Center for Labor Research and Education, found that most spending on public assistance goes not to the unemployed but to members of working families.

“When companies pay too little for workers to provide for their families, workers rely on public assistance programs to meet their basic needs,” Ken Jacobs, chair of the Labor Center and co-author of the report, said in a statement.

Jacobs blames low wages, which he says are increasingly insufficient to meet the cost of living. According to the report, wages for the bottom 10 percent of workers are 5 percent lower than they were in 1979, once adjusted for inflation. Between 2003 and 2013, inflation-adjusted wages haven’t increased for anyone in the bottom 70 percent of earners. The decline in employer-provided health insurance, which fell about 10 percent in that period, adds to low-income workers’ expenses.

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Sex trafficking survivor says police were among hundreds of abusers

Compliments of ABC Denver

She survived years of abuse and exploitation at the hands of sex traffickers and now she’s telling her story.

Jessa Dillow-Crisp told an audience at the Colorado State Capitol, during Human Trafficking Awareness and Advocacy Day, that her victimization began when she was a child.

“I was a little girl and was sexually abused by family members,” she said. “I had to pose for pornographers and was sold to countless men on a daily basis.”

The young woman said she was trafficked domestically in Canada, where she grew up, and in the United States.

She couldn’t go to police because they were some of her abusers.

“There was gang raping,” she said. “The police officer who handcuffed me and raped me, told me I would be put in jail if I opened my voice.”

Dillow-Crisp said it got worse.

“I had somebody very close to me tortured and she eventually died in front of my eyes,” she said with emotions rising. “This stuff happens and I’m here to tell you the reality of its existence.”

Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman told the audience that most people think human trafficking happens on the other side of the world, not here in Colorado.

“We know differently,” Coffman said.

The attorney general said Colorado has seen an increase in trafficking numbers and that geography plays a role.

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Ascending Consciousness

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