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Among the more fascinating facts discovered in Brookings analyst Neil Ruiz's research on the geography of foreign students in the U.S. is where they decide to stay after they get their degree.

A plurality stay in New York City — or move there.

New York, it turns out, is very sticky. Foreign students are more likely to stay in New York City after graduation than anywhere else in the country. We all love New York, and it's the biggest city in the country, but there's no reason why it should be so magnetic, unless the city (and New York state) do things to make it attractive for foreign students to stay there after they study....  More»

 

How does a biologist, or a computational neuroscientist, possibly have the wherewithal to stay current on all aspects of his field?

Nature, one of the world's top journals for peer-reviewed scientific breakthroughs, does what it can to encourage cross-discipline knowledge sharing by publishing non-technical essays from the leading lights in particular fields. For a lay person, this is often the best way to become current, very quickly, on very difficult subjects.

This week's topic, when boiled down to its essence, is: how small, how fast, how powerful can computers possibly get?...  More»

 

"There are no boots on the ground."

I don't care for the phrase. Never did. Wearing boots is what combat forces do in certain circumstances. Using it as synecdoche for "troops in harm's way" warps the scope of what the U.S. military does. It may also give the Pentagon an easy out, because certain forces wear sneakers, not boots.

A very brave Ford Sypher, writing for The Daily Beast, saw suspiciously Western-looking commandos race by him in their heavy trucks, and was given word by his Kurdish escorts that these were indeed foreigners:

Contacts in the Kurdish intelligence service and Peshmerga leadership confirmed what we saw....  More»

 

Forget summer. The best books for political junkies usually arrive with the turning of the leaves. Here are three of the juiciest and most interesting titles that soon will be available for your purchase.

Next week, the peripatetic Lawrence Wright will publish Thirteen Days in September: Carter, Begin, and Sadat at Camp David, a sure-to-be riveting, moment-by-moment history of a time when peace was both the means to an end and an end in itself, and when political leaders could be brave and forgo politics, grudges, religious attachments, and even the strong lure of national myth-making....  More»

 

Shares of Apple's stock bounced up three percent when Tim Cook unveiled the latest evolution of the iPhone on Tuesday, and then felt gravity when, later in the presentation, he introduced the Apple Watch to the world. The verdict of the market? Hard to say. I was watching the stock price of one of the iPhones' carriers. T-Mobile's shares dropped about 1.66 percent today, to 30.28.

I'd had a sense that T-Mobile is the company best positioned to take quick advantage of consumer stuff-lust to get the latest iPhone (and with it, in January, the Apple Watch....  More»

 

President Obama will make the case tonight for his decision to unleash the U.S. military on the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the al Qaeda off-shoot that has torn through territory in the Mideast and proclaimed itself the stewards of a new caliphate.

Obama has used the bully pulpit to explain his choices before, but this speech belongs in a category that includes three other major foreign policy issues — his 2009 explanation for a temporary troop surge in Afghanistan, his 2011 decision to assist NATO in ousting Moammar Gadhafi, and his decision last year not to seek congressional permission to bomb Syria (and his subsequent decision...  More»

 

Under what authority is President Obama going to war against ISIS, the omnivorous octopus that has ruthlessly gobbled up territory in the Middle East? His advisers cite the 2002 Authorization for the Use of Military Force against al Qaeda. That's somewhat confusing, because al Qaeda has become an ISIS antagonist.

Indeed, there is quite a bit about the fight against ISIS that remains opaque. What is it "we" are doing, exactly? Does it compare to what we've already done in Iraq and in Afghanistan? If the threat is not imminent, why would we want to do anything?...  More»

 

Finally, an honest answer from the U.S. government about the likelihood of Americans ever fighting on the ground in Iraq against ISIS:

We're going to defeat ISIS. That's what we're going to do. We're going to do it together. We're going to bring in coalition forces. We don't think it's going to need big units, like the 101st Airborne Division, the 1st MEF, we don't believe that, but it may require our special capabilities, soldiers, and intelligence officials, going downrange, if you will, to make sure that we are effective in what we're going to do.

Kudos to the presidential speechwriter for injecting some clarity and perspective....  More»

 

When we iPhone users download the latest iOS software update, the first thing many of us do is scour geek websites for lists of hidden, cool features. And sure enough, there are dozens of such lists already, because iOS8 is packed with helpful goodies. I've read nearly all of these lists, and below I've distilled what I think are the most useful hidden features — the stuff that gets lost behind the glamor of, say, enhancements to the camera app, widgets, intuitive keyboards, Continuity, and third-party app-sharing.

1. Automatic notifications for important emails....  More»

 
September 19, 2014, at 9:15 AM

The Atlantic's Conor Friedersdorf says I give President Obama too much leeway to wage war without having to explain why. That's not exactly my position.

For the record, I think the president should ask Congress for its approval on his ISIS campaign. I also think the 2002 Authorization For the Use of Military Force against al Qaeda and associates should be declared null and void. These are not political judgments; they are judgments based on my evaluation of what seem to be the most persuasive arguments. And I am open to revising them.

I also think that the president's constitutional authority is broad enough to cover a campaign like this without going...  More»

 

When it comes to White House security, I'm an amateur. Though I've written quite a bit about the United States Secret Service, there's a lot I don't know about the complicated, multi-layered web of security procedures and protocols that compromise the White House Security Plan.

That said, you don't have to be an expert to know that the uproar over Friday's breach is understandable, and that the concern about Secret Service tactics is quite kosher. Some of the speculation about what should have been done, however, defies common sense. So let's roll through some of the questions — some good, some bad — that naturally arise in the wake of this ...  More»

 
September 25, 2014, at 9:04 AM

Chief Warrant Officer John A. Walker, who died in federal prison late last month at the age of 77, was the most consequential spy in American history. Over the course of seven years, from 1967 to 1975, he turned over some of the country’s most significant military secrets to the Soviet Union. When he retired, his friend, Jerry Whitworth, continued where he left off. Walker was arrested in 1985. His wife Barbara turned him in.

Walker’s motive was money. He spent lots on prostitutes and lots more to try and keep his wife happy. When a woman looked at him crossways, a fellow sailor said, "he would unzip his breeches" in a heartbeat....  More»

 

Why is the White House protected by an entity called the "Uniformed Division of the Secret Service?" The naming convention is important. It certifies that its officers are not regular Secret Service agents. Depending on what you associate with the word "uniformed," you might think they perform a service function somehow — but they don't.

They regularly interact with the public, something most special agents don't do.

Their history is also unique. What is now the U.D. has ping-ponged between the Secret Service and other law-enforcement entities in the Washington area for more than a century....  More»

 

On November 11, 2011, Oscar Ortega-Hernandez opened the driver's side window of his S.U.V. and fired high-velocity rounds from a semi-automatic rifle at the White House as he drove past the complex on Constitution Avenue. This week, The Washington Post published an article suggesting that the Secret Service ignored contemporaneous reports that his bullets struck the executive mansion. At Tuesday's hearing, director Julia Pierson struggled to explain why it took agents four days to discover that, yes, the White House was Ortega-Hernandez's target.

An internal timeline of the Secret Service's response obtained by TheWeek....  More»

 
October 3, 2014, at 3:35 PM

With Secret Service Director Julia Pierson out, and the Joe Clancy interregnum upon us, there will be a lot of calls for the Secret Service to go back to the way things were. Back when the Secret Service had a sterling reputation. Back when, apparently, no one ever cut corners. No one ever hid discipline problems. When presidential events were secured airtight. A time when the Secret Service brooked no compromise. When it was independent enough to do its job without a big bureaucracy to interfere. When Secret Service agents looked like Secret Service agents....  More»

 

A top Secret Service official ordered its Washington Field Office to protect an employee whose family had been threatened by a neighbor, a job that probably fell outside the scope of the agency's general duties, the Department of Homeland Security's inspector general has concluded. But the "welfare check," as described by the Secret Service, lasted for parts of only five days, and none of the agents who conducted the protective surveillance in 2011 believed that the security of president or White House was compromised.

In the context of the Secret Service scandals, it's hard to know how this will play....  More»

 

Here's a story you won't read.

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The American public health system has largely contained the exceptionally deadly Ebola virus, despite early mistakes and some confusing public statements from official voices.

No person who contracted the disease in the United States has died. A Texas nurse who treated Thomas Eric Duncan, an Ebola patient from Liberia, has been upgraded to "good" condition. A second nurse, Amber Vinson, remains "weak," according to her mother, but is recovering.

Duncan's fiance, Louis Troh, shows no signs of the disease after a three week quarantine....  More»

 
October 23, 2014, at 10:04 AM

In August, after a Ferguson, Missouri police officer shot and killed a young, unarmed black man named Michael Brown, the reaction by local residents, civil rights activists, and the media instantly went nuclear. The DNA of our political and legal systems rest on principles of equality and color-blindness, and here was yet another example of a major genetic mutation that we've been unable to fix: young black men being murdered by the police because they're young and black. Still. Even in 2014, this happened, at a time when adults are supposed to be racially enlightened....  More»

 

The series of events the internet has called "Gamergate" might be a seminal moment for the gaming community in America.

The Week's Ryan Cooper has a good summary of what Gamergate actually is, and how real valuable consumer products brands aren't able to figure out the core of the controversy.

Aside from a few articles, the mainstream media has also stayed away from Gamergate, perhaps because editors think it's an insular, self-referential controversy that says nothing about society at large. Perhaps it's because the media doesn't really get gamers and doesn't know how to cover them....  More»

 

As a diet soda addict, I knew this day would come. The day when science showed me the error of my assumptions. The day that my brain's quest for a guilt-free sugar fix would slowly begin to die.

In the latest issue of the journal Nature, scientists report a startling finding. Artificial sweeteners like saccharin (used in the military's field rations), sucralose (Splenda), and aspartame (Diet sodas) changed the microbiome inside mouse intestines so dramatically that they induced hyperglycemia — glucose intolerance — the very syndrome that these fake sugars are marketed to prevent....  More»

 

The Democrats don't turn out for midterm elections, and figuring out why can be quite confusing.

For example: you might hear someone say, "The demographics just don't work in Democrats' favor."

Why don't they?

- "For example: the Republican Party's constituency – older, whiter, male – comprise a higher percentage of the midterm vote than they do during general elections."

Well, those demographics did not matter as recently as 2006, when Democrats regained control of the House of Representatives and self-identified at 51 percent of the electorate....  More»

 
November 4, 2014, at 10:03 AM

How could the same country that voted for Barack Obama in 2008 sharply turn on him so quickly in 2010? In 2014, same question. The generic explanation: There are two different electorates.

In an earlier post, I made the case that demographics should really be only the start of any explanation about why Democrats are probably going to do poorly tonight. At most, demographics help explain why Republicans do better than they should, all other things being equal.

A related myth here is that Democrats do poorly in midterm elections generally. In 1998, they did not....  More»

 

Voters are angry. They are blisteringly, face-purplingly, unbearably mad. They're sore at President Obama. Frustrated with the Republicans in Congress. Wary of the candidates. Fed up with the system. Angry at the media.

But there are plenty more takeaways from the midterms. And they offer hints about the tenor of our politics to come.

First, the electorate was not overwhelmingly Republican or conservative, even though it was relatively more conservative than the country as a whole. In fact, from the national exit poll: 58 percent of those surveyed believe that undocumented immigrants should receive a legal pathway to citizenship....  More»

 

The election cycle in 2016 will be tough for GOP Senate incumbents. The GOP will be defending 24 Senate seats to the Democrats' 10. And yes, Hillary Clinton, if she runs for president, will be formidable. And voters clearly do like gays, a higher minimum wage, a social safety net, and even health care reform. Sounds like good news all around for the Democrats, right?

Well, don't expect the 2016 election to be a blueberry cake walk for Democrats.

Point: Republicans have adapted rapidly to the Democratic technological advantage that's added a point or two to Democratic margins in tight races....  More»

 
November 7, 2014, at 9:33 AM

Open warfare has broken out in the Democratic Party over just how much President Obama's low approval rating led to a midterm drubbing, and whether the White House did too much, too little, or didn't care, to reduce his drag on the ticket.

Republicans did everything but obtain search warrants to find out how close their opponents were to President Obama. Some guilt-by-association was inevitable, but instead of accepting it and then pivoting, a bunch of Democratic candidates hemmed and hawed, temporized and made themselves look silly.

When Alison Lundergan Grimes, the Kentucky Secretary of State running against Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell...  More»

 

For as long as I've been reading about alien conspiracies, it's been an accepted article of faith among believers that the government was the enemy of the people and was conspiring with an alien race, or simply with other governments in our world, to keep evidence of a sentient extraterrestrial presence hidden.

In 2012, authors Richard Dolan and Bryce Zabel became instant iconoclasts within the believer community when they published a book, After Disclosure, that laid out meticulously what the government should do to prepare the public for the "disclosure" of the conspiracy....  More»

 

Although not as well known as the Rose Garden, the magnolias planted at the White House by Andrew Jackson, or the elm and sycamore plots commissioned by Frederick Law Olmstead, or other north lawn greenery, are just as iconographic.

On September 19, at two critical moments after Omar Oscar Gonzales jumped over the north lawn fence, responding Secret Service officers assumed that an imposing row of landscape architecture would hinder his progress.

Dome-shaped bushes, between four and five feet high and more than 10 feet in circumference, ring the north lawn drive that passes underneath the north portico....  More»

 

What is the best way for President Obama to protect the millions of undocumented immigrants who could gain legal status from his planned executive order?

Let staunch conservatives in the House shut down the government.

Though Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), soon to be the majority leader, has come down squarely against the tactic, some colleagues, old and new, see it as the only way to force the president to back down.

They reason that Republican leaders subscribe to these Beltway nostrums: (a) that the immigration boil will somehow be lanced during the rump Congress; (b) that the Republican brand can somehow accept the grant of legal status to millions...  More»

 

The Good Wife is ostensibly a show about the law. It's set in a law firm. Its characters are lawyers. Each episode features a legal cliffhanger that's solved in 48 minutes of fine television writing.

But the show, at its heart, has always been about politics. Its name comes from the iconic image of protagonist Alicia Florrick standing mute at a press conference next to husband Peter, the powerful state's attorney in Cook County, who has just admitted to having an affair with a prostitute. Shades of Eliot Spitzer.

As the wronged woman who must start her career anew to take care of her family while her husband serves his jail time, Julianna Margulies...  More»

 

Although more than 70 percent of its beneficiaries say they are happy with the coverage they receive, ObamaCare has been unpopular for two reasons among Republicans who otherwise support expanded health care coverage.

One was that their congressional leaders decided not to join the crusade for health care and leverage their participation by imposing their own cost constraints on the law, choosing instead to try to kill it before it was born. That was their mistake: it passed, with an expansion of Medicaid and only a small nod to entitlement reform....  More»

 
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