The world is loud. As a partial result of this, the typical human aging process involves hearing loss that ranges from mild to severe. And though that loss can be a big problem—”blindness separates people from things,” Helen Keller said, while “deafness separates people from people”—it’s one that has a solution: Get a hearing aid.
It’s a solution that should be both easy and obvious. At this point, hearing aids are relatively advanced; digital technology means that the devices have gotten very good at filtering out background noise, minimizing feedback, and emphasizing human voices in noisy environments. The little machines have become adept, as one audiologist puts it, at making "soft sounds audible, average sounds average, and loud sounds okay to hear."
The main problem with hearing aids, though, has less to do with technology and more to do with culture: Many people who need the aids don’t want to get them. They associate them with age. They associate them with ailment. They associate them with the ailment that comes with age. As a result, in a society that values youth above almost all else, the people who can benefit most from hearing aids are often the ones least likely to take advantage of them.
While hearing aid manufacturers have responded to this by designing devices that are as small as possible and custom-fitted to the ear canal, one company has come up with another solution: a hearing aid that is integrated into smartphones. Starkey Hearing Technologies recently launched Halo, a hearing device that syncs with iPhones and iPads. The technology, the company says, doesn’t just amplify hearing; it also allows users to listen to music, sync movies, receive phone calls, and chat over Facetime. It allows for geotagging according to specific places—so, for example, it calibrates itself to the volume of a user’s favorite restaurant or coffee shop. It joins devices across wireless networks. It’s a medical-tech answer, basically, to the broad aspiration of the connected home.
Read more. [Image: TruLink/Starkey Hearing Technologies]
The future is vast, and scifi provides but a tiny porthole to see it.
Read more. [Image: Library of Congress]
The 1965 document is a touchstone in the debate over black culture and the War on Poverty. The author’s call for full employment and a welfare state, however, is mostly forgotten.
Read more. [Image: Library of Congress]
The story of Four Weddings and a Funeral’s success is about as likable as the movie itself: With a name that sounds like a working title the producers forgot to change, the low-budget tale of a bumbling bachelor somehow broke the box office, made an overnight international star out of Hugh Grant, and earned a Best Picture nomination.
How did a film (in U.S. wide release 20 years ago this week) shot over one month for four million dollars end up grossing more money than any British film made before it? The answer may lie in the movie’s refreshing take on romance. In an era of glossy erotic dramas ruling the box office (Basic Instinct, Indecent Proposal, Sliver etc.) filmgoers were apparently ready to watch a bunch of awkward British patricians attempt, and usually fail, to navigate sex and love. Grant’s endearing Charles at one point even mutters to Andie MacDowell’s Carrie, “Oh God, for a minute there I thought I was in Fatal Attraction.”
From the first, expletive-laden line (“Oh fuck, fuck fuck… fuck”) in Richard Curtis’s screenplay, the British sitcom writer immediately lets you know that he’s not telling another tale of the quietly restrained customs and code of the British aristocracy. In his high society the affluent are self-deprecating and foul-mouthed—the most repeated words in the movie are “fuck” and “splendid.”
Read more. [Image: MGM]
Earlier this week, journalism’s most prestigious award, the Pulitzer Prize for public serice, was given to two newspapers for their exposés of mass surveillance by the U.S. government. The award citation praised the Washington Post for “its revelation of widespread secret surveillance by the National Security Agency, marked by authoritative and insightful reports that helped the public understand how the disclosures fit into the larger framework of national security.” The Guardian was recognized for “aggressive reporting” that helped “to spark a debate about the relationship between the government and the public over issues of security and privacy.”
Edward Snowden, who supplied the leaked documents that enabled the reporting, characterized the award as “a vindication for everyone who believes that the public has a role in government,” and praised “the efforts of the brave reporters and their colleagues who kept working in the face of extraordinary intimidation, including the forced destruction of journalistic materials, the inappropriate use of terrorism laws, and so many other means of pressure to get them to stop.”
NSA apologists spoke out too.
Read more. [Image: Reuters]
What right should students have to talk about God in homework, assemblies, club meetings, and graduation speeches? This is the question at stake in a new law in Tennessee and other states across the country. On Thursday, Governor Bill Haslam signed the Religious Viewpoints Anti-Discrimination Act, which affirms that religious students should have the same free-speech rights as secular ones. At first, this might seem uncontroversial; religious expression has always been protected by the First Amendment. So why did two Republican state legislators feel the need to write the bill?
"Christian conservative groups have for many years been frustrated by what they see as a hostile environment for religion in public schools," said Charles Haynes, the Director of the Religious Freedom Education Project at the Newseum. "They are convinced—with some justification—that there’s a lot more that public schools can be doing to protect religious expression."
In Tennessee, legislators pointed to one case in particular as the motivation for creating the bill. In October, a teacher told a Memphis fifth grader that she couldn’t write about God in an essay about “her idol.” In defiance, ten-year-old Erin Shead wrote two essays—both about the Almighty, although only one was about Michael Jackson—and her mom sought legal help. The elementary schooler was later allowed to turn in her God essay (and earned a score of 100%, as local news organizations dutifully reported at the time).
Read more. [Image: Reuters]
Among the world’s many politicians to be regularly called a narcissist, Vladimir Putin may be given the label the most, and with the most serious intent, especially since the Sochi Olympics and the Russian invasion of Crimea. During a recent segment on the PBC NewsHour, for example, New York Times columnist David Brooks stated that U.S. attitudes toward Putin have “hardened to an amazing degree” and the current administration now views him as a “narcissistic autocrat.” Zbigniew Brzezinski, Jimmy Carter’s national security adviser, has accused Putin of “narcissistic megalomania.” The Financial Times referred to the Sochi Olympics as “Putin’s narcissistic self-tribute.”
Photos of the Russian president scuba-diving, piloting a plane, behind the wheel of a race car, demonstrating his skill in martial arts, and baring his chest on horseback only contribute to this view and evoke the predictably derisive response: Putin is a narcissist.
But is it accurate to describe Putin as a narcissist in the clinical sense of the word? Can an understanding of the psychological roots of narcissism help us to gain deeper insight into the man and how we should respond to his aggression, rather than using the label to deride him?
Read more. [Image: Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP]
Marcus Burke, author of Team Seven and a former college athlete, learned from Carter G. Woodson that teaching yourself is just as important as being taught in the classroom.