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An artist's concept of what it would be like to stand on the surface of exoplanet TRAPPIST-1f. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle (IPAC).

I only realized it was serious when I got to prison.

Profiles of Syrian teenagers who inadvertently sparked the country's civil war with relatively innocuous political graffiti.
↩︎ The Globe and Mail

Since 2006, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has deported hundreds of thousands of immigrants on chartered planes, effectively running its own airline, ICE Air Operations

ICE Air Operations—with agency hubs in Louisiana, Arizona, Florida, and Texas—transported 930,435 detainees at an average of $8,419 per flight-hour for charters, including crew, fuel, and maintenance, said the Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security in an audit of the program (pdf) conducted between October 2010 and March 2014. The agency paid $464 million for charter flights in that period.

Credit: Tony Hisgett.

After two years of poor endowment performance, schools are starting to shy away from hedge funds.

While the stock market rose last year, college endowments dropped by two percent—largely because of a bad year by the hedge funds that schools increasingly shackle themselves to in hopes of capturing the same huge gains seen by endowments at Ivies with their own in-house funds. 

Last year the University of California garnered attention for deciding to quit some hedge fund relationships. This came after news got out that the state had been paying billions in fees for average performance.

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To use the Forex terminology, Trump is a cyclical correction of the market... It must be repeated that this is a long-standing American political tradition, deeply rooted in national mentality, which by chance drifted into the shadow after the Cold War. 

A nuanced Russian view of Trump's significance. "Russia actually wanted to see such a president in the United States, not Trump personally but his type, understandable and not overly disposed towards political correctness. The dream has come true."
↩︎ Global Affairs

The Islamic State is getting more sophisticated at weaponizing drones, stoking fears of attacks on civilians.

Officials say the terrorist group has crossed a threshold with its use of unmanned aircraft, using them to drop bombs on Iraqi troops.

But what comes next, and what follows that, is where people are really concerned.

The threat to troops is serious enough to prompt US and Iraqi commanders to issue warnings to soldiers near the front lines. But a far bigger worry, U.S. officials say, is the potential for future attacks against civilians. Islamist militants have long discussed the possibility of using drones as remote-controlled missiles that can deliver explosives or even unconventional weapons such as deadly nerve agents. In recent weeks, the notion of terrorist drones has moved a step closer to reality, terrorism experts say.


File under the curiously entertaining: A brief history of the laundry chute.

The early linen chute was a kind of integral space modeled after those waste, mail, and ash chutes that were fashioned in parallel with chutes of industrial size. An 1891 article in The New York Times describes the recent appearance of “A Chute to the Laundry” built into tenement houses by an ingenious architect. The author adds, perhaps facetiously, that “occupants who have lived in blocks provided with similar postal conveniences will be cautioned against sending their correspondence to be washed.”

Credit: David Wright

The small Japanese town of Oji appears to have a new mascot, partially in a bid to develop tourism: a quadcopter doggy drone named Yukimaru.

Rear your children to be atheists or agnostics—fine. But turning them loose on the world with no concept of right and wrong is unacceptable.

A fascinating, controversial, occasionally brilliant, occasionally naive, and very long conversation with polymath/computer scientist/conservative/humanist David Gelernter.
↩︎ The Atlantic

Witness the Glory Hole Spillway at Lake Berryessa. Aka, "this is what happens when engineers build stuff to try to prevent dams from flooding."

For the first time in a decade, January and February have brought so much rain that the lake in the Napa Valley area north of San Francisco has maxed out its water capacity. To prevent flooding, this 72-foot-wide concrete funnel is sucking down the excess. Hundreds of locals have gathered to watch the show and take photos and videos since it started on Friday. And the show isn’t over. More storms are expected toward the end of the week, and the flow may continue for up to two weeks.

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