It’s OK, Envy Your Neighbour

Despite what a really old book may imply, envy can be OK. In english the word envy seems to mean one thing but in other languages envy has multiple meanings and thus when thinking about envy we require more nuance. Sure enough, modern thinkers point out that we need to modify our conception of envy to fully articulate what the word means.

It turns out that some forms of envy can make us better people.

Richard Smith, a psychologist at the University of Kentucky who began studying envy in the nineteen-eighties, writes that the feeling typically arises from a combination of two factors. The first is relevance: an envied advantage must be meaningful to us personally. A ballerina’s beautiful dance is unlikely to cause envy in a lawyer, unless she once had professional dancing aspirations of her own. The second is similarity: an envied person must be comparable to us. Even though we’re both writers, I’m unlikely to envy Ernest Hemingway. Aristotle, in describing envy, quotes the saying “potter against potter.” When we admire someone, we do so from a distance. When we envy someone, we picture ourselves in their place. (Smith’s work, in turn, was inspired by a 1984 paper on “social-comparison jealousy,” by the psychologists Peter Salovey and Judith Rodin.)

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Watch Naomi Klein Talk About Capitalism

Irving K. Barber Learning Centre Lecture presented by the Vancouver Institute. Webcast sponsored by the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre. Naomi Klein is the author of the critically acclaimed #1 international bestsellers, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism and No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies which have each been translated into more than 30 languages. She is a contributing editor for Harper’s Magazine, a reporter for Rolling Stone, and a syndicated columnist for The Nation and The Guardian.

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Iceland Wants to Help Journalists Expose Real Threats

Iceland continues on it’s quest to be the ‘Switzerland of data‘ and is extending its program to do so for journalists. Part of the country’s plan to become a haven for people exposing the immoral and questionable behaviour of powerful people is already in action. Iceland is quickly achieving its goal of not only protecting data but also protecting people who analyze and process that data.

The motivation for Iceland to lead this charge comes out of a first-hand knowledge of how devastating a lack of transparency can be. Iceland’s financial crash of 2008 was catastrophic to the country, and few had answers until Wikileaks began publishing documents the local reporters were legally blocked from airing. The general public, justifiably feeling robbed, saw Wikileaks as the purveyor of important knowledge that they were being denied.

While there is much to do, IMMI has not been without successes. In 2013, IMMI helped pass the Information Act, which helped broaden the public’s access to information as well as source protection, thus nudging some of IMMI’s core goals forward. A few days after our meeting, IMMI joined with other organizations to repeal Iceland’s 75-year-old blasphemy law, making blasphemy no longer an illegal act in the country.

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The Science Behind How Nature Changes Your Brain

Talking a walk amongst plants is good for you in many ways, but why? This questions recently bothered some neuroscientists and they set out to answer it. It turns out that exposure to nature changes the way blood flows in our brain in a way that makes us feel better.

Then the scientists randomly assigned half of the volunteers to walk for 90 minutes through a leafy, quiet, parklike portion of the Stanford campus or next to a loud, hectic, multi-lane highway in Palo Alto. The volunteers were not allowed to have companions or listen to music. They were allowed to walk at their own pace.

Immediately after completing their walks, the volunteers returned to the lab and repeated both the questionnaire and the brain scan.

As might have been expected, walking along the highway had not soothed people’s minds. Blood flow to their subgenual prefrontal cortex was still high and their broodiness scores were unchanged.

But the volunteers who had strolled along the quiet, tree-lined paths showed slight but meaningful improvements in their mental health, according to their scores on the questionnaire. They were not dwelling on the negative aspects of their lives as much as they had been before the walk.

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White House Planning to Close Guantanamo Bay’s Infamous Torture Centre

Guantanamo Bay on the beautiful island of Cuba sounds like a great place if you don’t know anything about it.

We do know what happens there and it’s immoral and likely illegal (probably even worthy of investigation by the International Criminal Court which the USA hasn’t ratified). The USA has been operating a prison there which is internationally known for shackling prisoners to floors, hunger strikes, and of course torture. As a result of the inhumane practices at Guantanamo Bay America’s “war on terror” has been mocked because it raises the question about who is causing the terror.

President Obama has tried to close the prison before because of it’s morally repugnant treatment of humans but other American politicians think the prison is needed. After years of trying Obama may achieve one of the promises he was elected on in 2008.

President Barack Obama, who leaves office in less than 18 months, has battled for years with lawmakers over his pledge to close Guantanamo by bringing to trial some detainees and holding others in the U.S. as prisoners of war, while arranging to send the least dangerous ones home or to third countries.

In recent months, the administration has sent several detainees from Guantanamo to countries including Oman and Qatar, and the U.S. is seeking additional options for transfering more prisoners, Earnest said at the White House.

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