Perhaps the most divisive aspect of HBO's police procedural True Detective is the philosophical musings of detective Rust Cohle, a moody brooder of uncanny sleuthing ability played by Matthew McConaughey. "I think human consciousness is a tragic misstep in human evolution," Cohle says in an early episode, to give you an example of the nihilistic tinge of his outlook.
Critics, at best, have been ambivalent about True Detective's philosophical component, which has also received its fair share of mockery. A friend once succinctly parroted Cohle's views on religion as: "Religion is the opiate of the masses, bro."
But perhaps Cohle's philosophical worldview, as written by show creator Nic Pizzolatto, is more sophisticated than we think. That's the claim made by Jon Baskin at The Point, who describes the show's central premise as: "What if Nietzsche were a police officer in present-day New Orleans?"
Now, one might certainly disagree with [Cohle's] ideas — not only do they conflict with common sense, and with our common experience of the world, they are also subject to serious philosophical objections. However to dismiss them as shallow or nonsensical is not only irresponsible, it risks completely missing the challenge the show poses to us in the form of Rust's character. [The Point]
For fans of the show, it's an interesting and pretty convincing essay. I would just posit that perhaps people have trouble taking Cohle seriously because he's played by a guy whose most famous movie line is this: "That's what I like about these high school girls; I get older, they stay the same age."
Archaeologists in Belize have uncovered an ancient Mayan citadel, and its layout is fascinating.
The researchers used light detection and ranging (LiDAR) laser technology to locate the citadel in the ancient Mayan city known as El Pilar, which had about 20,000 residents. The city's construction began around 800 B.C.E.
The citadel is unlike previous discoveries at El Pilar, though. Anabel Ford, the lead archaeologist on the discovery, told Popular Archaeology that the citadel "does not meet with any traditional expectations."
— ancient-origins (@ancientorigins) March 29, 2015
The site doesn't include a "clear open plaza" or a "cardinal structure orientation," Ford noted, which would have been typical of Mayan centers. Ford also found it odd that the citadel features "no evident relationship" to other structures at the El Pilar site. The citadel does feature four temple-like buildings and terraces that are arranged in a way suggesting they are "defensive fortifications," Ancient Origins notes.
The archaeologists plan to continue excavating the citadel site and performing carbon dating of nearby organic materials. The researchers don't yet know whether the citadel dates to the pre-classical period, before 250 B.C.E., or if it was built long after the other buildings at El Pilar, in the Classic (200 to 1,000 C.E.) or post-Classic (after 1,200 C.E.) periods. Dating the citadel could also help the archaeologists understand what it was used for and why it was isolated from the rest of El Pilar.
Warplanes bombed Yemen and its capital, Sanaa, Sunday night and Monday, extending the Saudi-led coalition's airstrikes on the Houthi rebels and their allies for a fifth day. "It was a night from hell," a Yemeni diplomat told Reuters, explaining the bombing in and around Sanaa, which sent residents fleeing to outlying villages.
The bombing hasn't stopped the Houthis and allied loyalists of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh from advancing on Aden, the southern port designated de facto capital by Saudi-backed President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi. In the BBC News video below, Al Hayat reporter Baria Alamuddin explains the geopolitics and local politics of Saudi Arabia's military incursion into its neighboring country. —Peter Weber
On Monday, Comedy Central named Jon Stewart's replacement as host of The Daily Show — and it probably wasn't someone on your short list. Trevor Noah, a 31-year-old South African comedian, made his debut on the show only in December, and his segments usually involve making Stewart look ignorant or foolish when it comes to world news in general and Africa in particular.
When he got the call, "you don't believe it for the first few hours," Noah told The New York Times from Dubai, where he is on tour. "You need a stiff drink, and then unfortunately you're in a place where you can't really get alcohol." For his part, Stewart said he is "thrilled for the show and for Trevor," and that he may "rejoin as a correspondent just to be a part of it!!!"
As for how The Daily Show landed on Noah, Comedy Central's Michele Ganeless said: "We talked to women. We talked to men. We found in Trevor the best person for the job.... You don't hope to find the next Jon Stewart — there is no next Jon Stewart. So, our goal was to find someone who brings something really exciting and new and different." They certainly accomplished the "new and different" part. Now, let the second-guessing begin.
Watch the first of Noah's three appearances below. —Peter Weber
A new study to be published in next month's issue of the journal Environmental Health Perspectives found that DNA from antibiotic-resistant bacteria in Texan cattle have become airborne. The DNA could then spread to humans and make the treatment of infections more difficult.
The study authors, who are environmental toxicology researchers at Texas Tech University, believe the bacteria may be capable of staying airborne for long periods of time and traveling significant distances, Time reports.
The researchers studied airborne particulate matter from 10 cattle feedlots in Texas over a six-month period. They found that the air downwind of the yards contained significant amounts of microbial communities with antibiotic-resistant genes. The scientists believe the genes become airborne after cow excretions become dust and are transported through the air.
"This is the first test to open our eyes to the fact that we could be breathing these things," study author Phil Smith told The Texas Tribune. Humans can already come into contact with antibiotic-resistant DNA through water or meat, but the findings suggest that feedlots may be bringing another DNA transfer risk into the picture.
In a new Reuters/Ipsos poll, 34 percent of Republicans called President Obama an imminent threat to the United States, versus 25 percent who ranked Russian President Vladimir Putin and 23 percent who viewed Syrian President Bashar al-Assed as that dangerous. The online survey, conducted March 16-24, asked the 1,083 Democrats and 1,059 Republicans to assign a number to countries, groups, and individuals, with 1 being no threat and 5 being an imminent threat.
Obama wasn't the only domestic threat: 27 percent of Republicans gave 5 scores to Democrats, and 22 percent of Democrats similarly ranked the GOP as an imminent threat. "There tends to be a lot of demonizing of the person who is in the office," sociologist Barry Glassner tells Reuters. "The TV media here, and American politics, very much trade on fears."
There were some bipartisan fears, too: 58 percent of all respondents ranked Islamic State an imminent threat and 43 percent said the same of al Qaeda; Iranian leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was viewed as a top threat by only 27 percent of respondents. Find more results at Reuters.
Last November, before Australia hosted a group of world leaders at a koala-hugging G20 summit, a staffer in the country's Department of Immigration and Border Protection accidentally emailed the passport numbers and other personal information about President Obama and 30 other world leaders to the local organizers of the Asian Cup soccer tournament, The Guardian reports.
"The cause of the breach was human error," the director of the Visa Services Support and Major Events department wrote in an email asking for guidance from Australia's privacy commissioner. The unidentified bureaucrat "failed to check that the autofill function in Microsoft Outlook had entered the correct person's details into the email 'To' field. This led to the email being sent to the wrong person." The compromised information included the "name, date of birth, title, position nationality, passport number, visa grant number, and visa subclass held relating to 31 international leaders," the official noted, adding that the Asian Cup people deleted all copies of the email.
The Guardian obtained the email through Australia's freedom of information law, noting that the visa manager's decision to not inform the world leaders about the breach — "Given that the risks of the breach are considered very low and the actions that have been taken to limit the further distribution of the email, I do not consider it necessary to notify the clients of the breach" — may violate some of the countries' privacy laws. For more details, read the entire email, or The Guardian's report.
On Sunday, with a hard deadline for a framework agreement on its nuclear program two days away, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi told the Iranian media that Iran will not ship its enriched uranium to Russia or anywhere else for conversion to rods incapable of fueling atomic weapons. "The export of stocks of enriched uranium is not in our program," he said. "There is no question of sending the stocks abroad."
Western diplomats noted that there are other ways of rendering Iran's nuclear fuel unusable in weapons, such as diluting it or turning it into pellets inside Iran. Outside experts disagree on how much of a setback this is for the talks, or even whether shipping the uranium abroad was ever really on the table. The issue of Iran's stockpile hasn't been part of this final round of negotiations, an unidentified senior State Department official said in a statement. "There have been viable options that have been under discussion for months, including shipping out the stockpile. But resolution is still being discussed."
Talks are expected to continue up until the deadline at the end of March 31.