White America seems to be in a funk these days. The economy may be growing, the unemployment rate may be down, the Bureau of Labor Statistics may assure us—no, really, disbelieve your lyin’ eyes—that the recession is long over, but according to the 2015 American Values Survey conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute, less than half of white Americans believe that the country’s best days lie ahead. Most blacks and Hispanics, noting a marked improvement in the nation’s culture since the 1950s, do not share this pessimism. The despondency is race specific.
The epic poem Layla and Majnun is arguably the most famous love story in the Middle East, and yet many Westerners have never heard of it. It is the tale of two teenagers who fall deeply in love but are tragically kept apart, even until death. After Layla’s father rejects Qays’s request for her hand in marriage, Qays wanders the desert expressing his undying love through poetry.
Back in the day—way back in the day—young people went to sea to seek fame and fortune, or at least escape the boredom and poverty of the crofter’s hut or the squalor of early factories. But while the commercial sailing fleet is long gone, it remains more than a vivid memory in the Bay Area, where a dedicated crew of mariners isn’t just taking young people down to the sea in ships—they’re building a ship that will take them down to the sea in style, a tall ship based on the designs of a legendary 19th century naval architect.
Posted on September 13, 2016 - 11:06am
Berkeley Law professor Jesse Choper first got into horse racing in 1969, when he and his friend’s father, a district attorney outside of New York, took a trip to the track. At first, Choper didn’t really get the appeal: “I never did understand how a person who worked really hard, I mean long hours, would take off a whole afternoon in the middle of a week to go to the races…. But then I did.”
Posted on September 12, 2016 - 10:38am
The public, the press and many politicians (at least on the right) can’t stop fulminating over Hillary Clinton’s use of a personal email server to conduct government business when she was Secretary of State. Little attention has been paid, however, to the IT systems that are supposed to guide, support and monitor functionaries with security clearances.
Posted on September 8, 2016 - 3:12pm
In a letter to the editor in The New York Times last October, Susan Neely, president of the American Beverage Association, wrote: “Taxes on beverages do not improve public health.”
Posted on September 7, 2016 - 11:40pm
What’s in the brain that ink may character
Which hath not figured to thee my true spirit
King of hell no quarrel have I left thee
No lovely maid who gleaned in fields or skies
One pair of lines above is the work of Shakespeare. The other was written by a computer. Can you tell which is which?
Posted on August 30, 2016 - 12:54pm
Emily Burns was driving north from the Bay Area one day, idly woolgathering, when it hit her.
“Western sword ferns,” she recalls thinking. “They’re twice as big in the northern end of their range as in the southern end. And it struck me that it had to be due to water availability. The fact that it’s wetter in Redwood National Park in Humboldt County than, say, Lime Kiln Creek on the Big Sur coast translates as larger ferns in the north. It all seems obvious now, but there was nothing in the literature on it.”
Posted on August 24, 2016 - 2:50pm
In Apulia, Italy’s boot heel, the olive tree is sovereign.
“Olive trees pretty much cover the entire province,” says Rodrigo Almeida, an associate professor in Berkeley’s Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management. “The olive tree defines Apulia’s identify. The people have a deep emotional connection to their trees. Families plant them to mark the births of their children. They cherish them.”
Posted on August 15, 2016 - 12:41pm
The California Legislature’ recent decision to establish a firearms research center in the University of California system has stimulated the expected response: Public health and gun control advocates are heartened and Second Amendment stalwarts are up in arms. But both sides profess to be in accord on one point: The need for reliable data on guns. Where they differ, of course, is on the definition of reliable data.
Posted on June 22, 2016 - 3:21pm
The West Coast has moved a step closer to a functional earthquake early warning system with MyShake—a phone app that’s now ready for download on Android phones and headed for Apple phones as well.
Posted on February 2, 2016 - 11:41am
From the peculiar to the passionate, the alarming to the inspiring, 2015 never left us at a loss for words, or story ideas.
Posted on December 30, 2015 - 1:24pm
If you have the feeling that “wildfire season” is anything but seasonal these days, you’re right. Drought and climate change are combining to make wildfires a year-round phenomenon in the Golden State and much of the West, a trend that already is changing the character of our forests and straining government budgets.
Posted on September 11, 2015 - 2:39pm
It was Berkeley in the 1920s. “The Fighting Swede” was driving through town, feeling even more pugnacious than usual. That’s because he was drunk. The Swede had carved out a reputation as a barroom brawler in the waterfront dives on both sides of the Bay, and he was always more than willing to defend his title—especially when he had a snootful of booze.
So he didn’t feel particularly tractable when a cop pulled him over at Ashby and San Pablo.
In the quest for natural gas, fracking companies may be pumping acutely toxic chemicals into the ground. Or maybe not. The problem is, no one knows.