April 3, 2014 |
KABUL, Afghanistan - The last time Abdullah Abdullah ran for president of Afghanistan the election devolved into a bloody farce. Votes cast in some areas in 2009 exceeded the number of voters. One in 5 ballots nationwide was tossed out because of fraud. Thirty-one people died in insurgent attacks. Days before a runoff against President Hamid Karzai, Abdullah withdrew from the race, fearing more fraud in the incumbent's favor. Five years later, the Karzai era is ending, as is the dominant role of the United States in Afghan life.
March 30, 2014 |
The defining feature of human brains is the size and complexity of the cortex, which provides the underpinnings of rationality for our actions. But just because we have more developed cortexes doesn't mean we are always rational decision-makers. We humans constantly find ourselves loving the wrong person, buying things we don't have the money for and believing that fad diets consisting of nothing but sundaes will work. To be human is to hope against hope. When it comes to decision-making and risk assessment, we tend to think in an asymmetrical manner that feeds an optimistic outlook and denies discouragement.
March 16, 2014 |
This year was always going to be a difficult one for Democrats, as they battle to keep their five-seat majority in the Senate. But in recent months, the political landscape has grown bleaker. Let's start with the basics: Democrats have more seats at risk this year than Republicans do. Of the 36 Senate seats up for election (including three midterm vacancies), 21 are held by Democrats. And seven of those Democratic seats are in Republican-leaning "red states" that Mitt Romney won in 2012: Alaska, Arkansas, Louisiana, Montana, North Carolina, South Dakota and West Virginia.
February 8, 2014 |
Bill Gates wants you to feel much better about the future of mankind. Things are looking up, he says, way up. "By almost any measure, the world is better than it has ever been," Gates wrote in his annual letter chronicling the work of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, through which he plans to give away most of the fortune he made from Microsoft. "People are living longer, healthier lives. Many nations that were aid recipients are now self-sufficient," he wrote. "By 2035, there will be almost no poor countries left in the world.
January 18, 2014 |
The Museum of Contemporary Art continues to take steps toward pulling itself out of a deep, nearly six-year slump that almost sank the once widely acclaimed institution. With $100 million in endowment pledges and an ambitious plan to up that ante by 50%, MOCA announced the hiring of a new director this week. One can greet the appointment of Philippe Vergne, 47, with cautious optimism. L.A. wants its MOCA back. Vergne's job is to deliver it. Vergne faces the desperate need - and the golden opportunity - to rebuild a critically important institution battered by long-standing administrative mismanagement.
January 16, 2014 |
"The Rocket" winds through the mountains of northern Laos, the contemporary drama carrying a touch of fable and a powerful sense of place. Ahlo (Sitthiphon Disamoe), the 10-year-old at the center of the movie, makes an appealing rooting interest, not only because he's sparky and resourceful but also because he challenges the superstitious antipathy of his grandmother, who believes he's cursed. Displaced from their village by a dam project - after viewing a heartlessly chipper corporate video on the wonders of relocation - Ahlo and his family find themselves in a barren field of tents.